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God Against the Gods: The History of the War Between Monotheism and Polytheism

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As conflicts over religious extremism dominate our front pages, the bestselling author of The Harlot by the Side of the Road presents a work of history that could not be more timely: a surprising look back at the origins of religious intolerance during the tumultuous fourth century. This is the epic story of how classical paganism, with its tolerance for many deities and As conflicts over religious extremism dominate our front pages, the bestselling author of The Harlot by the Side of the Road presents a work of history that could not be more timely: a surprising look back at the origins of religious intolerance during the tumultuous fourth century. This is the epic story of how classical paganism, with its tolerance for many deities and beliefs, lost a centuries-long struggle with monotheism and its chauvinistic insistence on belief in one God. With his trademark blend of wit and scholarship, Kirsch traces the war of God against the gods from its roots in Ancient Egypt to its climax during the last stand of paganism the tumultuous fourth century, when two passionate, charismatic, and revolutionary Roman emperors, the Christian Constantine and the pagan Julian, changed the course of history and shaped the world we live in today.


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As conflicts over religious extremism dominate our front pages, the bestselling author of The Harlot by the Side of the Road presents a work of history that could not be more timely: a surprising look back at the origins of religious intolerance during the tumultuous fourth century. This is the epic story of how classical paganism, with its tolerance for many deities and As conflicts over religious extremism dominate our front pages, the bestselling author of The Harlot by the Side of the Road presents a work of history that could not be more timely: a surprising look back at the origins of religious intolerance during the tumultuous fourth century. This is the epic story of how classical paganism, with its tolerance for many deities and beliefs, lost a centuries-long struggle with monotheism and its chauvinistic insistence on belief in one God. With his trademark blend of wit and scholarship, Kirsch traces the war of God against the gods from its roots in Ancient Egypt to its climax during the last stand of paganism the tumultuous fourth century, when two passionate, charismatic, and revolutionary Roman emperors, the Christian Constantine and the pagan Julian, changed the course of history and shaped the world we live in today.

30 review for God Against the Gods: The History of the War Between Monotheism and Polytheism

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ian "Marvin" Graye

    One True God or Many? This is a study of the 2,000 year war between polytheism and monotheism, which ended in the victory of religions like Christianity, Judaism and Islam. I wish I could say I appreciated the book more than I did. I'm intuitively sympathetic to the approach of the author. However, I just don't think he did justice to a great subject. It's a Bit of a God's Breakfast While it's an interesting narrative in the style of historian Tom Holland, it seems that Kirsch is first and foremost One True God or Many? This is a study of the 2,000 year war between polytheism and monotheism, which ended in the victory of religions like Christianity, Judaism and Islam. I wish I could say I appreciated the book more than I did. I'm intuitively sympathetic to the approach of the author. However, I just don't think he did justice to a great subject. It's a Bit of a God's Breakfast While it's an interesting narrative in the style of historian Tom Holland, it seems that Kirsch is first and foremost a journalist who is heavily reliant on quotation of professional historians and secondary materials. He brings little to the cut and paste job in terms of insight or analysis. Each chapter has a main heading, a sub-heading and an appropriate epigraph. The body of each chapter also contains catchy headings. The problem is that they seem to have been superimposed on the text after it was written, as if the first draft was all text and someone was brought in afterwards to prettify it. The body of the chapters is often haphazard and doesn't always achieve what the chapter headings set out to achieve. Chapter 1 (sub-headed "A Young Pharaoh’s Experiment in Monotheism and Why It Failed"), which is of particular interest to me, totally failed to explain the reasons for its failure. Indeed, Akhenaton features in less than half of the chapter. Rigorism and Zealotry Beats Tolerance If the book can be summarised in one sentence, it would belong to Freud: "Religious intolerance was inevitably born with the belief in one God." Implicit in this sentence is Kirsch’s view that monotheism has a dark side, that of rigorism and zealotry attached to the belief that there is Only One True God. He extrapolates that this same rigorism and zealotry "can be found in all totalitarianism, and nowhere more terribly than in such modern and supposedly secular phenomena as Nazism and Communism". In contrast, Kirsch argues convincingly that paganism was not crude and demonic, that the classical culture of Greece and Rome was a pagan culture, and that it was tolerant in nature, precisely because it was polytheistic and accepting of gods and cultures of all types, whether they were sourced locally or from afar. What Do You Believe? The study proceeds on the basis that "something deep in human nature prompts us to imagine the existence of a power greater than ourselves," whatever we call it or them. Atheism is almost totally ignored, except to the extent that Kirsch points out that the first use of the term was against Christian monotheists. As an atheist, I don’t believe that any gods exist. However, I maintain that the existence or non-existence of God is within the realm of "belief", not scientific fact. I accept that if you believe in a God, then it exists for you. The Pendulum of the Gods In the past, I have used Akhenaton as my avatar, because it is evidence for me that the belief in one God rather than many is a social construct that is a product of the times. Kirsch documents the swinging of the pendulum from 1364 B.C.E. to 415 C.E. He shows how the momentum for one belief over another was personalized in individual historical figures. However, nowhere does he contemplate that all of the participants might have been wrong. That said, Kirsch forcefully makes the point that tolerance of diversity is more important for society than enforcement of conformity, particularly in matters of opinion and belief.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Clif Hostetler

    This book credits the Reign of Akhenaten (c.1364-1347 BCE) of Egypt with being the first recorded monotheist. That will come as a surprise to those who think of monotheism as being the gift to the world from the Hebrews. The Hebrews deserve credit for keeping the idea alive since Egypt reverted to their traditional polytheism after Akhenaton's death. Freud proposed that Moses was not a Jew but an Egyptian, "Moses conceived the plan of finding a new people, to whom he could give the religion that This book credits the Reign of Akhenaten (c.1364-1347 BCE) of Egypt with being the first recorded monotheist. That will come as a surprise to those who think of monotheism as being the gift to the world from the Hebrews. The Hebrews deserve credit for keeping the idea alive since Egypt reverted to their traditional polytheism after Akhenaton's death. Freud proposed that Moses was not a Jew but an Egyptian, "Moses conceived the plan of finding a new people, to whom he could give the religion that Egypt disdained." (view spoiler)[ The following are my thoughts, not from the book: I'm actually intrigued with this idea that the myth of Moses may have originated from the tale of refugee monotheists feeing Egypt after Akhenaton's death. If you conflate the old tale about the tidal effects of a tsunami following the c.1600 BCE Minoan eruption of Thera (a.k.a. parting of the sea) with ancient stories about the c.1650 BCE forced exit of the Hyksos (a.k.a. Canaanites forced to leave Egypt) and then add the c.1350 BCE experiences of monotheists escaping Egypt after Akhenaton's death (a.k.a. wandering in the desert), and then with a touch of imaginative hyperbole it could easily result in the Exodus story about the Children of Israel. Moses is a name of Egyptian origin as are many names within the Israeli priestly Tribe of Levite. I propose that a group of Egyptian monotheists ingrained themselves into the social structure of the primitive people of the Canaanite highlands and set themselves up as the priestly class. Have you ever noticed that the Levites are the only one of the twelve tribes that didn't have their own traditional territory? Since they were from Egypt they were probably literate and began writing things down which included the local traditional tales of the origin by a person from the city of Er. End of my inserted thoughts. (hide spoiler)] A reading of the Old Testament account of the Israel reveals repeated problems with their people reverting to the worship of idols (i.e. polytheism). This book follows this history that demonstrates that the concept of monotheism didn't come naturally to the Israelites. The coverage of history covered by this book continues through the early Christian period through the persecutions under emperor Nero, destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, and then the "Great Persecution" under Diocletian. Much of this book's material is focused on the lives and reigns of Constantine the Great (272–337 CE) and Julian the Apostate (331-363 CE). Constantine is known for ending the Diocletian persecution of Christians and the initiation of generally favorable treatment given to Christians. Contrary to widely held perceptions, he did not make Christianity the official religion of the Empire. Julian as emperor tried to revive worship of the traditional gods of Rome. He did not persecute the Christians, however there were some instances where mobs encouraged by his actions did violence to Christians. It's interesting to speculate where history may have headed had Julian been able to remain in power for as many years as Constantine. Constantine had been in power about thirty-one years and Julian only two. After the death Julian the Roman Empire reverted to its move toward Christianity and Theodosius I (c. 346-395 CE) took the step of elevating Christianity to the legal status of state religion. Monotheism versus polytheism, it's been a long history. Was monotheism a winner? Ironically, Post Enlightenment's tolerance and acceptance of individual choice regarding matters of religion—or no religion—is much more akin to the social environment of the polytheistic (a.k.a. pagan) world of classical Greece and Rome than to the intolerance of the late Roman Empire and Medieval era when Christianity was the state religion. The following quotation is taken from the end of this book.... the blessings of Judaism, Christianity and Islam far outweigh—and, we must hope, will long outlast—the curse of religious fanaticism that is implicit in the very notion of the Only True God. But it is also true that we make a mistake when we write off the pagan tradition as something crude and demonic. After all, the values that the western world embraces and celebrates—cultural diversity and religious liberty—are pagan values. And so, even when we congratulate ourselves on being the beneficiaries of twenty centuries of "ethical Monotheism," we might pause and ponder how the world would have turned out if the war of God against the gods had ended with an armistice rather than the victory of the Only True God.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Rick

    Jonathan Kirsch writes his history with a clear distaste for monotheism. I think that is clear from the start. But, he is also very clear about the reason for his distaste, which is that monotheism, with its absolute insistance on the worship of the One True God, brought religious intolerance into existence. The rest of the book is a very good explication of this main thesis, which will make one question the accidents of history that left us with this monstrosity that has encircled the globe wit Jonathan Kirsch writes his history with a clear distaste for monotheism. I think that is clear from the start. But, he is also very clear about the reason for his distaste, which is that monotheism, with its absolute insistance on the worship of the One True God, brought religious intolerance into existence. The rest of the book is a very good explication of this main thesis, which will make one question the accidents of history that left us with this monstrosity that has encircled the globe with its conquistadors and missionaries, wiping out the diverse store of divine imaginationings of the indigenous peoples of the Earth. He also makes a very good point about the natural symbiosis of the notion of a single devotion to One God in Heaven with the totalitarian notion of One Leader on Earth. This dangerous idea is still at work in various places around the globe, where leaders who crave absolute power do so by claiming a special relationship with the absolute power in heaven. Or, this insidious idea may manifest its dangerous influence when an entire nation, even a democratic one, claims to be the recipient of a special providence and therefore a mandate from heaven for whatever selfish actions it seeks to justify. I think Kirsch's book invites us to consider the world as it was before such thinking was prevalent--a world that was full of different people worshiping different gods--and no one having any problem with that at all.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Amy Freese

    (I borrowed this book from my local public library.) I have to say that I am just a little surprised at how quickly I read through this book! It was just that interesting for me. I was raised with a Baptist teaching and as an adult I have learned there are many sides to Christianity which I was not taught. Many of the Bible stories did inspire my imagination as a child, but in no manner different from Walt Disney. It was the same level of awe and mystery for me. In the middle grades I developed a (I borrowed this book from my local public library.) I have to say that I am just a little surprised at how quickly I read through this book! It was just that interesting for me. I was raised with a Baptist teaching and as an adult I have learned there are many sides to Christianity which I was not taught. Many of the Bible stories did inspire my imagination as a child, but in no manner different from Walt Disney. It was the same level of awe and mystery for me. In the middle grades I developed a keen interest in archaeology, especially in a Biblical format. In high school I grew more fond of certain historical periods and cultures. I feel it may be safe to say that my person is a theologian and philosopher at heart. This is why I chose to read this particular book. I am glad that I did. I found the writing style very clear and easy to understand. It is not riddled with "big" words, you do not need a degree to understand it! Mostly, this is a scholars book. For those with the questions of "Why?...How?" this is perfectly written! The reader is given clear views and referenced quotes to show both sides of the fence. Where there are opinions on a matter, the author includes multiple ones. Normally, any writing with military and political info in it is nearly impossible for me to read without falling asleep! I did not have that issue here, maybe due to the intrigue of the historical players being written about. I learned many things with this book, it is an eye-opener for one raised like me. This is the first I have read by Jonathan Kirsch, but I promise you it is NOT the last! I headed out to the library today on a mission for another one!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Adam

    An interesting history of the battle and cultural turning point from polytheism to monotheism. Jonathan Kirsch first gives a quick history of early civilizations attempts at monotheism then spends the rest of the book detailing the rise of Emperor Constantine and Christianity then the rise of Emperor Julian and Paganism. The interesting parts of the book happen when we get glimpses of how monotheistic thought became the prevalent religion amongst latter day Romans. The early "Pax Romana", the pe An interesting history of the battle and cultural turning point from polytheism to monotheism. Jonathan Kirsch first gives a quick history of early civilizations attempts at monotheism then spends the rest of the book detailing the rise of Emperor Constantine and Christianity then the rise of Emperor Julian and Paganism. The interesting parts of the book happen when we get glimpses of how monotheistic thought became the prevalent religion amongst latter day Romans. The early "Pax Romana", the peace of Roman", relied on many religions, even ones of conquered lands, to be given the same amount of respect no matter what your individual belief was. Christians and Jews were seen as threats to the peace since they refused to even acknowledge other gods but theirs, thus thumbing their nose at Rome. Then we get the Christian martyrs with the lions tearing them apart gladiator style and the Jews being exiled to some far off land. All this changed when Emperor Constantine found it's easier to control the masses with a single religion rather than many. It's also easier to conquer other kingdoms when your army thinks they were ordained by one god. These one-god armies were filled with a martyrs spirit and died willingly for their lord. Constantine never openly said he was Christian, at least not until he was on his deathbed, but knew the power of wielding the name of one god. After Constantine died, Julian, his nephew, took the throne and tried converting Rome back to paganism and almost succeeded but got a spear rammed through him a little too early in his imperial career. After him was another Christian Emperor and the rest, as they say, is history. A good informative book. It's obvious the author knows a lot about Constantine-era Rome because he goes on tangents about all the backstabbing and plotting going on in the courts. Anyway, it's interesting.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Paul Fidalgo

    Kirsch writes on a terribly important subject, if only he would keep his focus upon it. The first half or so of God against the Gods is an eye-opening exploration of the differences and conflicts between monotheistic and polytheistic religions, and certainly concludes that the polytheists, while not perfect, were on the whole *far* more tolerant and far less murderous than the Abrahamic religions that sought to eradicate them. Almost equally valuable is the history lesson Kirsch provides, weavin Kirsch writes on a terribly important subject, if only he would keep his focus upon it. The first half or so of God against the Gods is an eye-opening exploration of the differences and conflicts between monotheistic and polytheistic religions, and certainly concludes that the polytheists, while not perfect, were on the whole *far* more tolerant and far less murderous than the Abrahamic religions that sought to eradicate them. Almost equally valuable is the history lesson Kirsch provides, weaving threads of connection between the monotheism we understand today and its probable birth in ancient Egypt. We learn particularly about the somewhat final showdown in Rome between Christians (Constantine and descendants) and pagans (Julian). If only it were so. Though a fascinating read in and of itself, the book becomes a kind of historical narrative about Constantine-era political intrigue. Yes, the religious aspect is central, but the book careens from an overview of the conflict between two theologies to a truncated history book on the bloody chess game played between Roman Augusti and Caesars. I would love to read that book, but not here. Certainly there was more to explore beyond Julian concerning mono-vs.-polytheism, even into the modern world. Why stop so short? In all, a worthwhile read, though expect to go somewhat off track halfway through.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Julie Dawson

    They were accused of sacrificing their infant children, engaging in orgies, and performing all sorts of evil acts. They hid behind closed doors in secret, engaging in what others thought were demonic rites. They were the early Christians. It was interesting to see how classical pagans viewed the early Christians, and realize that the very things Christians were accused of are the same things Christians accuse pagans of today. Kirsch does a wonderful job of putting the battle of monotheism and po They were accused of sacrificing their infant children, engaging in orgies, and performing all sorts of evil acts. They hid behind closed doors in secret, engaging in what others thought were demonic rites. They were the early Christians. It was interesting to see how classical pagans viewed the early Christians, and realize that the very things Christians were accused of are the same things Christians accuse pagans of today. Kirsch does a wonderful job of putting the battle of monotheism and polytheism in perspective, explaining not only what really happened, but why. One is left wondering what kind of a world we would live in today if Julian, Constantine's heir, had lived long enough to achieve his goals of restoring polytheism. Kirsch does a fine job of exploring the political reasons for the rise of Christianity, and shows how Constantine used Christianity as just another tool in his arsenal to hold onto control. Modern Pagans would be well served to read this book and understand how classical pagans tried to embrace all beliefs without being judgemental. And modern monotheists would be well served to read this as a warning of the bloodshed that ensues when one so vehemently believes that one is right that they can justify killing over it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Travis Swart

    Johnathan Kirsch’s God Against the Gods is primarily a historical survey of ancient Bible history and that of the early days of the Christian church with a focus on Constantine and his adoption of Christianity as the official Roman religion. However, it is from the perspective of how this impacted paganism throughout the centuries. Throughout the book, Kirsch focuses on his objective of painting paganism in as nice a light as possible and downplaying some of its more-evil history and beliefs, wh Johnathan Kirsch’s God Against the Gods is primarily a historical survey of ancient Bible history and that of the early days of the Christian church with a focus on Constantine and his adoption of Christianity as the official Roman religion. However, it is from the perspective of how this impacted paganism throughout the centuries. Throughout the book, Kirsch focuses on his objective of painting paganism in as nice a light as possible and downplaying some of its more-evil history and beliefs, while at the same time playing up the nastier perspectives on monotheism (Judeo-Christianity) and painting it in the worst light possible. In doing this, I think he tries to dissuade people from wanting to believe in God and the Bible, but I’ve seen far more well-crafted arguments than those presented in this book. One major theme is how Kirsch shakes his fist at the evils wrought by monotheism such as the Crusades and the Inquisition, yet he never asks if the actions of these so-called Christians were really in line with Jesus’ teachings and example. In fact, he barely mentions Jesus anywhere, let alone his values and teachings; this is a very convenient omission in a book critiquing, in part, the history of Christianity as it intersected with paganism. Judgment of the merits and truth of Christianity should be directed at the character and teachings of Jesus, not at the fallible humans who seek to exploit religion for their own ends. Kirsch’s historical attacks can’t come close to defaming the real meaning and truths of Christianity. Early on in the book, Kirsch looks at the early days of monotheism under Moses and addresses the harsh practices of the prophet and of God in upholding his Law and in enforcing this new concept of mono-theism. Yet he seems to miss that the Israelites freely accepted God’s Law along with all its harsh punishments for disobedience. They could have said “No,” but they didn’t. God warned them of what they were agreeing to, so it was not wrong or unjust for God or Moses to carry out punishment, even death for disobedience. They were an immature and unruly rabble of slaves saturated by Egyptian culture and religion. They were children who would only respond to harsh guidance. Kirsch also asserts that Israel was commanded to enforce the Covenant laws/monotheism on others and kill them for disobeying—this was not so. Kirsch’s writing is full of this fact bending to serve his own ends. Israel did not go spreading their religion by the sword, and their purge of Canaan was not about enforcing the Covenant; it was about serving God’s judgment for centuries of absolute wickedness (Deut. 9:4-6). The Covenant was for the people of Israel and was to be enforced in their own society. There was never any intent to convert the Canaanites to monotheism—God had given them their chance to clean up their act and He wanted them and their evil gone! No different than us purging the evil of so-called ISIS today (except that God didn’t command it)—the entire world recognized their evil, so they need to go! On a different note, the early parts of the book are one big sugar-coating of paganism, and a diversion from what the Bible was condemning—Kirsch throws out red herrings left and right. He follows a pattern of briefly admitting biblical paganism was guilty of what God and the Prophets spoke out against, only to quickly downplay it or turn the attention to Classical Paganism and how “innocent” and “civilized” it was—not deserving of such biblical condemnation. For example, he freely admits that ancient pagan cultures were prone to the barbaric practice of child sacrifice. He tries to redirect attention and downplay this when he says “But classical paganism cannot be charged with the practice of human sacrifice of the kind that is described in the Bible.” As if this somehow redeems all paganism from the taint of human sacrifice. The fact remains that pagans of biblical times used to sacrifice children and the Bible/prophets rightly condemned it! And while it may not have been blatant religious sacrifice, Kirsch conveniently ignores the Greco-Roman culture’s common practice of exposure (leaving unwanted babies to die in the elements), which lasted well past Jesus’ time and beyond. The end result of their belief system was still to devalue and murder children. Christianity is directly responsible for the end of such practices. Classic paganism is not so innocent in this regard as Kirsch would have us believe. While Kirsch does manage in all this sugar coating to make classical/modern paganism to appear much less wicked than the practices of biblical times, he overlooks a very serious issue. If Yahweh/Jesus does exist, then any worship of other gods, no matter the ritual involved, is sinful—if it’s killing babies or “harmless” lighting of incense to a false, non-existent god, it is still wrong according to the one true God and His Word. Sin against God is sin against God, no matter how one looks at it or tries to make light of it. And if there is only Yahweh, He does not approve of worship of false gods in any manner—it’s an insult to our creator who alone is worthy of our praise and gratitude. If Yahweh doesn’t exist, and any gods that we can dream up exist, then sure, I can admit paganism is much less harmful than it used to be. I would argue that this is the case primarily because of the residual Christian values remaining in Western culture especially. Where Kirsch totally lost his credibility with me, though, was the section called “Pious Fraud” starting page 71. He heavily twists the truth about the story of Josiah and his religious reforms (2 Kg. 22 & 2 Chr. 34). In these chapters we learn how Josiah rediscovers the Book of the Law, or “Torah,” and that he and the nation of Israel had been severely disobeying God’s covenant through their many immoralities and worship of false gods. Kirsch tries to tear Josiah down by claiming through mere conjecture that he fraudulently fabricated the book of Deuteronomy in order to help him consolidate his power and enforce monotheism on the Jews. Kirsch displays either severe ignorance of scripture and Jewish history/language (even the surrounding context of the story) or willingness to contort it for his own arguments. Either way, this confirmed to me that Kirsch is hardly a trustworthy academic or historian, and I found the history of the rest of his book to be suspect with only the motivation of showing the plight of the pagan over the centuries.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sridhar Tiruchendurai

    A good introduction to the first to fourth century CE History books mention Constantine but not much about Julian. The devious ways of mono theisms with their control of the administration has pretty much erased the real history of the world. The values of the Western world are primarily pagan in their origin, yet pagans are looked down upon due to the influence of Christianity in academic works. This book introduces the conflicts that continue to today in which mono theisms try to manipulate the t A good introduction to the first to fourth century CE History books mention Constantine but not much about Julian. The devious ways of mono theisms with their control of the administration has pretty much erased the real history of the world. The values of the Western world are primarily pagan in their origin, yet pagans are looked down upon due to the influence of Christianity in academic works. This book introduces the conflicts that continue to today in which mono theisms try to manipulate the thinking and values of the society.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mike Day

    Excellent overview of the conflicts between paganism and Christianity from the time of Christ until the death of Julian the Apostate. I really liked this book, though I disagree strongly with several of the conclusions made by the author. He clearly stressed the many weaknesses of Christianity and monotheism while emphasizing the strengths of paganism, and while I agree with what he calls "pagan values" - cultural diversity and religious liberty, I find these alive and well in the Christian trad Excellent overview of the conflicts between paganism and Christianity from the time of Christ until the death of Julian the Apostate. I really liked this book, though I disagree strongly with several of the conclusions made by the author. He clearly stressed the many weaknesses of Christianity and monotheism while emphasizing the strengths of paganism, and while I agree with what he calls "pagan values" - cultural diversity and religious liberty, I find these alive and well in the Christian tradition as well. As an American, I find these to be American values. His statement on p. 282 that Nazisim and Communisim are "supposedly secular phenomena" is false. Of course Nazism and Communism are secular phenomena. There is nothing to suppose, but this doesn't fit Kirsch's narrative, so he had to stick that in there. All of Kirsch's material on Julian was excellent and it has inspired me to read some books on Julian. I really identify with Kirsch's portrayal of Julian, and I found myself empathizing with this historical figure. All of Kirsch's material on Constantine was also first rate. I really appreciated his approach to this man. For these things, I give Kirsch four stars. So I didn't like Kirsch's overall conclusions, and I also found his Old Testament scholarship to be lacking, but if he cited scholars on the Old Testament, he would have had to abandon some of his views regarding monotheism, and this would not have fit the direction he wanted to go with this book. But it was still a good book!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Bruce

    Perhaps the world would have been a much better place by now if monotheism had lost to polytheism. It was not until the advent of monotheism that we get Holy Wars and the killing of people because they did not believe in what one thought was the 'true faith.' Until the third and fourth centuries people were allowed to pretty much worship as they pleased, whichever gods and/or goddesses they wanted without fear of being tortured or killed. Paganism did not know of heresy, it was only with biblica Perhaps the world would have been a much better place by now if monotheism had lost to polytheism. It was not until the advent of monotheism that we get Holy Wars and the killing of people because they did not believe in what one thought was the 'true faith.' Until the third and fourth centuries people were allowed to pretty much worship as they pleased, whichever gods and/or goddesses they wanted without fear of being tortured or killed. Paganism did not know of heresy, it was only with biblical monotheism that worshiping the wrong god was a crime punishable by death. It was when the "Christians" were able to use the power of the state that we have people being forced to believe and worship in a certain way or face death. While the modern world generally condemns the Taliban, they are only doing what the "Christians" of the Dark Ages did, destroy learning and force individuals to believe as they do.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kole

    The book was...OK. The book is separated into two books. Book one dealt with the war between monotheism and polytheism from the time of Egypt to a little after the time of Christ. Book two dealt more with Constantine and Julian. The author seems to have a disdain or dislike for Christianity and monotheism. He always seemed to stress and state these views in a negative way in the way he would write about them and with the words chosen to describe. I didn't always agree with his conclusions either The book was...OK. The book is separated into two books. Book one dealt with the war between monotheism and polytheism from the time of Egypt to a little after the time of Christ. Book two dealt more with Constantine and Julian. The author seems to have a disdain or dislike for Christianity and monotheism. He always seemed to stress and state these views in a negative way in the way he would write about them and with the words chosen to describe. I didn't always agree with his conclusions either. For example, Abraham being the first Christian monotheist or with the Israelite's getting monotheism from the Egyptians, specifically one Pharaoh. Book one, to me, felt like it missed the mark. I did like the way he wrote about Paganism. He helped me to understand better its strengths and values. Something which I haven't really considered before. I did like book two. I gained a deeper understanding of Constantine and Julian. This is where I really liked the book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mephistia

    This book was fascinating. It covered the decline of Hellenism and the rise of Christianity in ancient Rome, all the while examining the core differences between Hellenism and Christianity. Namely, that the polytheistic approach of Hellenism is essentially tolerant and kind (accepting of all beliefs and approaches to worship), while the monotheistic approach of Christianity is essentially rigid and intolerant (accepting of only one way to correctly worship and be blessed). I honestly didn't expe This book was fascinating. It covered the decline of Hellenism and the rise of Christianity in ancient Rome, all the while examining the core differences between Hellenism and Christianity. Namely, that the polytheistic approach of Hellenism is essentially tolerant and kind (accepting of all beliefs and approaches to worship), while the monotheistic approach of Christianity is essentially rigid and intolerant (accepting of only one way to correctly worship and be blessed). I honestly didn't expect that when I picked it up. I thought it would be something anti-pagan listing all the reasons why monotheism triumphed. Instead it was a great read that focused on the historical elements of the rise of Christianity, debunked some pervasive myths and was just overall interesting. I 100% recommend this for anyone interested in theology or history.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Meen

    If we must have religion and theisms--and apparently we are inevitably magical thinkers--I hate the arrogance of having JUST ONE god, and how that kind of thinking so clearly, so stridently defines an in-group and an out-group. Now, we do seem inevitably also to form up into "us & them," but damnit, religious justifications for it are so insidious, so exculpating, so hard to argue against. (A really good examination of this thesis is Regina M Schwartz's The Curse of Cain: The Violent Legacy of M If we must have religion and theisms--and apparently we are inevitably magical thinkers--I hate the arrogance of having JUST ONE god, and how that kind of thinking so clearly, so stridently defines an in-group and an out-group. Now, we do seem inevitably also to form up into "us & them," but damnit, religious justifications for it are so insidious, so exculpating, so hard to argue against. (A really good examination of this thesis is Regina M Schwartz's The Curse of Cain: The Violent Legacy of Monotheism.)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Carlos

    This was quite an interesting book that sought to answer the question “what did we lose when monotheism won?”. Kirsch writes honestly and openly about the “pagan” culture of polytheists that promoted tolerance and inclusion. By tracing the development of monotheism, from Akhenaten to the Jewish and Christian faiths, Kirsch highlights not only how strange the concept was but how hostile it was from its very beginning. Kirsch also seeks to go beyond the scandalized descriptions of pagan rituals th This was quite an interesting book that sought to answer the question “what did we lose when monotheism won?”. Kirsch writes honestly and openly about the “pagan” culture of polytheists that promoted tolerance and inclusion. By tracing the development of monotheism, from Akhenaten to the Jewish and Christian faiths, Kirsch highlights not only how strange the concept was but how hostile it was from its very beginning. Kirsch also seeks to go beyond the scandalized descriptions of pagan rituals that have come down to our day and instead uncover what these rites were truly like and highlight how similar they were to the rites that monotheists would go on to adopt. He subsequently focuses on the ascendance of Christians within the Roman empire and highlights the reigns of Constantine the Great, his sons and the brief rule of Julian to examine their approach in balancing the Christians’ monotheism with the polytheistic majority of the empire. All in all, this was quite an informative book that openly talked about the dark side of monotheism as well as the bright side of polytheism.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ernest Spoon

    Monotheism is humanity's worst invention ever, I am wont to say. This book by Jonathan Kirsch does nothing to dispel that notion. Of course things are not so simple but, as Kirsch delineates, the institutionalization of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman imperial family, ie Constantine the Great and his heirs, was also the birth of the modern totalitarian state. The byword, throughout. is "rigorism." "...rigorism and zeal that characterized the war of God against the god (sic) can Monotheism is humanity's worst invention ever, I am wont to say. This book by Jonathan Kirsch does nothing to dispel that notion. Of course things are not so simple but, as Kirsch delineates, the institutionalization of Christianity as the official religion of the Roman imperial family, ie Constantine the Great and his heirs, was also the birth of the modern totalitarian state. The byword, throughout. is "rigorism." "...rigorism and zeal that characterized the war of God against the god (sic) can be found in all totalitarianism, and nowhere more terribly than in such modern and supposedly secular phenomena as Nazism and Communism..." "...The new rigorists include Jews, Christians and Muslims, and the atrocities of September 11 are only the most recent examples of the violence that men and women are inspire to commit against their fellow human beings by their true belief in the Only True God."

  17. 4 out of 5

    Andy Alexis

    This is a fascinating book, which focuses primarily on the historical side of the shift to monotheism. It ends after Emperor Julian the Apostate, pagan nephew of Emperor Constantine. The book makes a lot of good points about how monotheism and religious intolerance go hand in hand, and totalitarianism and mob rule played an important role in the stamping out of polytheism. This book is a good companion to the similarly named books "How Jesus Become God" by Bart Ehrman and "When Jesus Became God: This is a fascinating book, which focuses primarily on the historical side of the shift to monotheism. It ends after Emperor Julian the Apostate, pagan nephew of Emperor Constantine. The book makes a lot of good points about how monotheism and religious intolerance go hand in hand, and totalitarianism and mob rule played an important role in the stamping out of polytheism. This book is a good companion to the similarly named books "How Jesus Become God" by Bart Ehrman and "When Jesus Became God: The Struggle to Define Christianity during the Last Days of Rome" by Richard Rubenstein. I think the writing in Kirsch's book is better than either of the other two books, but all three are worth reading.

  18. 5 out of 5

    K.M. Ecke

    This book explores the real-world development of one of the most impactful theological innovations in human history -- the concept of a single jealous god. Jonathan does an excellent job showcasing the realities of this social evolution within a compelling narrative that portrays all players involved with scathing clarity. With the Roman Empire as its main historical backdrop we see the expressions of monotheism ranging from early martyrdom to propagandized persecution of its enemies, always temp This book explores the real-world development of one of the most impactful theological innovations in human history -- the concept of a single jealous god. Jonathan does an excellent job showcasing the realities of this social evolution within a compelling narrative that portrays all players involved with scathing clarity. With the Roman Empire as its main historical backdrop we see the expressions of monotheism ranging from early martyrdom to propagandized persecution of its enemies, always tempered with the fanaticism we know in our modern world. Both intriguing and revelatory this book will explain elements of our world that you may never have considered.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Mayuresh

    Refreshing read Backed by meticulous research, this book provides a glimpse on the rise of monotheism and how it emerged as the key religious belief in Europe. Book is well-written and shares a balanced perspective and is littered with personal stories and anecdotes. It also illuminates the probable motivations of behind historical decisions made. The language is rich yet easy to understand. Overall, it makes up for a compelling read for anyone interested in this topic.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kristin

    Kirsch offers an unusual perspective on the histories of paganism and Christianity that is, in many ways, eye-opening. I don’t completely agree with him - I think he exaggerates some things in order to make his argument - but in doing so he provides a much-needed alternative viewpoint of religious history. I’ll be incorporating some of this the next time I teach early Christianity.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Koushik

    Superb book Great insight into the past events which changed the whole course of history and still has deep impact in the present and will continue to have in the future.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Joanna Radov

    Wonderfully done! Good amount of information without being overwhelming or tangential. Consistent and fluid argument that investigated both sides of the history. Just overall a very good book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Gautham Shenoy

    Worshiping many Deities, having multiple modes of worship was a natural thing in the ancient world. Then how did the insistence on one Supreme Deity, one way of worship, one moral framework come from ? Jonathan Kirsch in his book "God Against the Gods" addresses this question by tracing the origins of Monotheism, from Egypt to Judea to the Roman Empire where it took root and decided religious affairs of the western world over the next millennia and half. The book narrates the origins of Monothei Worshiping many Deities, having multiple modes of worship was a natural thing in the ancient world. Then how did the insistence on one Supreme Deity, one way of worship, one moral framework come from ? Jonathan Kirsch in his book "God Against the Gods" addresses this question by tracing the origins of Monotheism, from Egypt to Judea to the Roman Empire where it took root and decided religious affairs of the western world over the next millennia and half. The book narrates the origins of Monotheism from the recorded history : An Egyptian Pharaoh named Akhetaten who imposed the worship of a single God named Aten on the entire Egyptian empire, prohibiting worship of any other deities, on temples to any other deities. Further more, this God wasn't represented in Human form, but merely as Solar Disc. However, Egypt's tryst with Monotheism didn't last long as it reverted to its old religion after the death of Akhetanen. From Egypt, the book takes us to Judea where King Josiah discovers ancient scroll containing the Law handed down to Moses by Yahweh. Following its discovery the King initiates a religious reforms to wipe off the incorrect Pagan elements. It also brought about a critical correction with respect to sacrifices to Yahweh: henceforth they would be restricted to the temple of Jerusalem. Subsequent subjugation of Judea by the Roman empire which prompted the famous Maccabean Revolt is then described. We learn how this revolt was one of the first instances which began the weaponization of martyrdom. Moving on, we enter the main part of the book : the story of two Kings, who were champions of Monotheism and Polytheism respectively, whose actions had tremendous influence on the western world for centuries. The story of Constantine the Great who was the first Roman Emperor to champion Christianity (despite being baptized only on his deathbed), who in his 30 years of reign made many concessions that allowed the Church to take a firm foothold in the Roman world. Constantine hosted the council of Nicaea which aimed at unifying the various differences among the various Christian sects. He also moved the capital from Rome to Constantinople, in some ways indicating a break from the past. He was succeeded by his three sons who carried out a blood purge killing all of Constantine's relatives except for their young nephews Gallus and Julian. His son Constantius II became the first Roman emperor to pass edict criminalizing worship of Hellenic Deities. The last part of the book focuses on the life of Constantine's nephew Julian (called as Julian the Apostate by the Christian authors), who was lucky to not have been assassinated by his cousins and who was brought up under a house arrest. In his childhood, rather fortuitously, he was introduced to the old Gods and Goddesses which resulted in him becoming a secret Pagan who was initiated into the worship of a number of deities including Mithra, Cybele and Helios. Eventually he went on to become a Caesar to his cousin Constantius II and finally he became the emperor of the Roman Empire. The book describes how Julian, after becoming the King tried to restore the Hellenic way of worship by reinstating the public rituals and worship to the numerous deites of the Roman empire which were banned by Constantius II. He tried to stem the spread of Christianity by depriving it of any state support .He passed many edicts that would have resulted in a death knell for Christianity, had it not been for his short reign of just 18 months. His death fighting the armies of the Persian King Shapur is poignantly described in the book. The book is an easy read. Kirsch complements his narrative with a good number of anecdotes from ancient writers, both Christian and Pagan. This book provides a very good introduction into the lives of Constantine and Julian, which is what prompted me to read it in the first place. If Catherine Nixey's "The Darkening Age" provided a glimpes into the destruction of the classical world at the hands of Christianity, Kirsch's book provides a very good introduction to the political conditions that made it possible for Christianity from being a persecuted religion at the beginning of the 4th century under Diocletian to go on to become the state religion under Theodosius by the end of the fourth century. Constantine's 30 year rule was what laid the foundation for the Holy Roman Empire, and Julian's short rule of two years, while it shook that foundation, wasn't able to make any permanent dent to it.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Eswar

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Provided historic context to monotheism vs polytheism fight and why militancy rises more in monotheistic religions (they only believe one god so all other gods are fake, wrong and/or sinful). Learned a lot about the Christian skepticism to Paganism but hoped it would shine more light on similarities between monotheistic religions (Islam, Judaism, Christianity).

  25. 5 out of 5

    Yifan (Evan) Xu (Hsu)

    The book was recommended by statistic and finance professors of IUB during college years. It wan't until after graduation that I started to read it, and its interesting stories certainly refreshed my memories of joys i had in statistical and finance classes. But as reading progressed, the book unveiled profound thoughts of the author: the evolution of human's understanding of risk and risk management.      Throughout the book, a few figures representing classic theories are given adequate exposu The book was recommended by statistic and finance professors of IUB during college years. It wan't until after graduation that I started to read it, and its interesting stories certainly refreshed my memories of joys i had in statistical and finance classes. But as reading progressed, the book unveiled profound thoughts of the author: the evolution of human's understanding of risk and risk management.      Throughout the book, a few figures representing classic theories are given adequate exposure to readers. John Graunt established the doctrine of statistics; Daniel Bernoulli found it was imperative for a person to have probability and utility analysis in decision making; Abraham de Moivre discovered normal distribution from observation of numerous distributions of random events; Francis Galton invented regression analysis. But classic theories entail limitations. For instance, the tendency to overly rely on regression is nowhere recommended in this book. Instead, the author attributes president Hoover's failure to predict the Great Depression to excessive reliance on historical regression to forecast the future; the same attitude is given to Public's prediction of stock price in 1950S which was based on past regression and thus omitted future upward trends.      In later chapters, new theories mostly prevailed in post-WWII era emerge. Chaos theory, which challenges the regression and normal distribution theory in academic field, failed to dorminate the industry's practice in the same way as it opponents did. Another theory is Black-Scholes model, which has been used extensively for derivatives and real option valuations in derivative and stock markets. Thus, an inference from the book would be that the evolution of risk theories reflected the evolution of American economy, a transformation from manufacturing economy to service economy, in which the nature of risk has changed.      The book also raises a philosophical question of whether humans are really risk averse. The answer, according to the author, is no. Humans are not risk-averse, but loss-averse. Everyone is a loss prevention practitioner, and loss aversion guides each's daily actions. This contention is true on the ground that humans are motivated only by pursuit of happiness or avoidance of disguit. Fear of loss and uncertainty is one example of the later.      But our understanding of risk conquers the fear of unknown and leads us to accept uncertainty of life and probability in daily decision making. Such tolerance and scientific measurement of risk allow human to predict and live lives with a sense of security, which then makes religion obsolete in certain spiritual and psychological aspects. Science replacing religion to deal with fear of uncertainty is what the title "Against the gods" implies.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Eric Villalobos

    Before anything, I want to say that I liked the book. I found it informative and interesting. That being said, I have issue with Kirsch's black-and-white depiction of Monotheism and Polytheism. Monotheism is inherently intolerant and the core value of Polytheism is religious tolerance, according to Kirsch. The book is generally about the war between Christianity and Classical Paganism in ancient Rome with some background and some other examples of early Monotheism at the beginning. I understand Before anything, I want to say that I liked the book. I found it informative and interesting. That being said, I have issue with Kirsch's black-and-white depiction of Monotheism and Polytheism. Monotheism is inherently intolerant and the core value of Polytheism is religious tolerance, according to Kirsch. The book is generally about the war between Christianity and Classical Paganism in ancient Rome with some background and some other examples of early Monotheism at the beginning. I understand that this causes Kirsch's examples to be limited, but for that reason he cannot go and make over-arching generalizations about Monotheism and Polytheism both of which have manifested far beyond Classical Paganism, Egyptian and Persian Mythology (his only real references to Paganism) and Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, which aside from a chapter on Akhenaton, he treats as the only real manifestations of Monotheism. His limited examples I can deal with. He doesn't have to talk about Sikhism, the Baha'i Faith, movements within Hinduism, and some tribal religions, but only as far as he doesn't equate the term "Monotheism" with "intolerance", which he practically does in the beginning chapters. Worse still, Kirsch dismisses any evidence to the contrary of this tolerant vs. intolerant dichotomy that he sets up. Any persecution directed towards Monotheists by Polytheists is just an exception to the rule that Polytheists uphold freedom of religion. On page 76, Antiochus IV, who persecuted the Jews by looting the Temple at Jerusalem, installing a statue of Zeus in the Holy of Holies, and banning circumcision and other rites, among other things, is introduced as "[more closely resembling] a Monotheist like Akhnaton or Josiash than any of his fellow pagan kings." On page 150, when Constantine says that the acts of the Great Persecution perpetuated by Pagan Kings was "altogether alien to our clemency" Kirsch puts words in the mouth of Constantine by adding immediately afterwards "to put it another way, they were more fitting to a rigorous monotheism than an open-minded polytheism." Although it can generally be agreed that Monotheism as expressed in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is less tolerant than Polytheism which is generally more tolerant, to ignore the grey areas in completely unfair. I'd also like to mention that on occasion there is a hinting at a linear model of religion, that is that religion starts off as animism then progresses towards polytheism, then inevitably turns into Monotheism. This model has now been rejected in the field of religious studies. I emphasize, though, that there is only a hinting here and there of this model along with citations from thinkers that perpetuated this model (i.e. his references to Frazer's "The Golden Bough").

  27. 5 out of 5

    Vegantrav

    God Against the Gods depicts the emergence and eventual triumph of monotheism over polytheism in the West. It begins with Pharoah Akhenaton, who attempted (and failed) to transform Egypt from a polytheistic society to one that worshipped only the sun god, spends substantial time on the history of Judaism, and then focuses, for most of the book, on the ascendancy of Christianity during the fourth century. What I found most interesting was the story of Emperor Julian, whom later Christian historian God Against the Gods depicts the emergence and eventual triumph of monotheism over polytheism in the West. It begins with Pharoah Akhenaton, who attempted (and failed) to transform Egypt from a polytheistic society to one that worshipped only the sun god, spends substantial time on the history of Judaism, and then focuses, for most of the book, on the ascendancy of Christianity during the fourth century. What I found most interesting was the story of Emperor Julian, whom later Christian historians dubbed Julian the Apostate. Julian was a nephew of Constantine the Great, and he became emperor of the Roman Empire following the death of his cousin, Constantius. Julian had been raised as a Christian, but he despised this religion as his Christian cousins murdered his father, brother, and other cousins. Upon becoming emperor, Julian tried to reverse the Christian tide begun by Constantine and Constantius. Unlike Constantius, who was rather intolerant of the polytheistic traditions that were still widespread throughout the Greco-Roman world, Julian was an affable, tolerant pagan who allowed the Christians to continue to practice their religion. Julian restored the pagan rituals and traditions back to their place of former prominence and ended persecution of non-Christians. He also extended Roman toleration to the Jews and intiated a project to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. Sadly, Julian died at age 32 in battle with the Persian Empire, and his efforts came to naught as he was succeeded by a Christian; soon thereafter Christianity was made the official religion of the empire with the polytheistic traditions all outlawed, and then the Dark Ages began. One cannot help but wonder how different Western civilization would have been had Julian not died so young and had been able to continue his effort to restore the polytheistic traditions of the pre-Constantine era. It seems highly unlikely that the Christian Church would have achieved such great power and influence had Julian lived and been able to choose a successor who would carry on his legacy.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bob Anderson

    This book is split into two sections: the first discusses the emergence of monotheism in the ancient Near East and its doctrinal disputes with the pagan cultures of the time, and the second chronicles, in a more historical than religious studies fashion, the various reigns of Constantine and his successors, ending with the pagan Julian. It’s not a comprehensive overview of the conflict between polytheism and monotheism, even in the the limited context of the ancient Near East. For example, the a This book is split into two sections: the first discusses the emergence of monotheism in the ancient Near East and its doctrinal disputes with the pagan cultures of the time, and the second chronicles, in a more historical than religious studies fashion, the various reigns of Constantine and his successors, ending with the pagan Julian. It’s not a comprehensive overview of the conflict between polytheism and monotheism, even in the the limited context of the ancient Near East. For example, the ancient polytheism of the Jewish people is barely touched upon, and the polytheistic culture that Islam supplanted is no more than a single clause (the book not discussing Islam at any length). The author’s clear focus is the religious politics of these Roman emperors, and the rest of his material is written in service to that. He does have interesting details on the actual practices of the pagans; puritans and libertines existed alongside each other in that tradition, and its syncretic nature caused many practices that originally honored a single deity to migrate to other cults. The idea of paganism as a deviant, degrading religion is, as Kirsch argues, a later judgment in propaganda from the Christian mainstream. Kirsch’s attempt to clarify exactly what the different sides of the ideological divide were is the best feature of this book. He treats the pagans not as bogeymen, without the perspective that since they lost, they were wrong. We see their belief that these Christians were atheists (coining the term for them), rejecting the proper gods, and we see the syncretism that both groups practiced, and continue to practice. And Kirsch almost glows with admiration for the last pagan emperor of Rome, Julian, whose book learning and satiric pen did him no good when he got into a land war in Asia. The best of this book is in the first four chapters; they serve as a decent introduction to the religious differences in the ancient Near East. The rest, I could take it or leave it, as Roman political history isn’t one of my passions. Kirsch writes decently though never brilliantly, so your enjoyment of this book will depend entirely on your interest in the subject.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Matt McCormick

    As many other reviewers have commented, the topic is fascinating but the literary product left much to be desired. A central theme - polytheists were accommodating and generally non-violent while monotheists were rigorous non-accommodating and violent - while true - was superficial and too often repeated. A reader who chooses this topic is likely looking for a much deeper analysis of why monotheism triumphed. The author presents a cursory list of possibilities 1) the polytheistic religions where As many other reviewers have commented, the topic is fascinating but the literary product left much to be desired. A central theme - polytheists were accommodating and generally non-violent while monotheists were rigorous non-accommodating and violent - while true - was superficial and too often repeated. A reader who chooses this topic is likely looking for a much deeper analysis of why monotheism triumphed. The author presents a cursory list of possibilities 1) the polytheistic religions where losing the public interest as they failed to offer enough emotional support 2) the monotheists where passionate and interesting and so drew the curious to investigate thus expanding their base, 3) for a basically unexplained reason a powerful general who became a more powerful emperor associated himself with the christian monotheists and propelled their ascension simply by not purging them from existence through the force of the armed government. The author seemed to rely on far too many light quotes by various historians without providing a deeper context for their positions or even a justification as to why we should respect their opinions. One gets the impression of the author as story teller rather than educator. When I finished the book I felt like I had consumed a piece of store-bought coconut cream pie. Coconut` cream pie is fine as it goes, but one made in the home kitchen by a professional baker who understands their craft and how to maximize and order the ingredients is a joy to consume. Mr. Kirsch, meet Sara Lee.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jacki

    In God Against the Gods, Kirsch examines the histories of mono and polytheism to shine light on little known facts. With a brief discussion of the failure of monotheism in ancient Egypt, Kirsch focuses much of his work on Classical Greece and Rome. I had high hopes for this book, hopes that were not met and I found myself unable to completel the book. While I applaud Kirsch for attempting to shine light on the ancient pagan world and how monotheism began, I was often confused by his judgemental s In God Against the Gods, Kirsch examines the histories of mono and polytheism to shine light on little known facts. With a brief discussion of the failure of monotheism in ancient Egypt, Kirsch focuses much of his work on Classical Greece and Rome. I had high hopes for this book, hopes that were not met and I found myself unable to completel the book. While I applaud Kirsch for attempting to shine light on the ancient pagan world and how monotheism began, I was often confused by his judgemental stance on all pagans not Roman or Greek and his need to use modern monotheistic morals as a basis of judging ancient pagans. Quite often, those pagans of Northern Europe were referred to as barbarians and we were reassured that the pagans of Greece could be prudes as well, as if this made them okay. I was not expecting a book attempting to enligthen us on how polytheism was overtaken by monotheism to hold so much judgement against so many of the ancient pagan cultures. Nor was I expecting the cultures that were considered okay to be judged based on modern Christian standards. To be honest, I really wasn't look for any judgement what's so ever. I felt Kirsch was just as close-minded as many who write from the monotheistic perspective, and I was greatly disappointed.

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