I was asked to review a book recently. It was not for publication or distribution but a friend, who I care about, had simply asked me to read and comment on a book she had read which had made a big impact on her. She didn’t say if the impact was negative or positive, so I was given a clean slate and approached it with an open mind.
I have to confess that I don’t read a lot and am amazed by friends who can devour several books in a day, who carry a pile with them on holidays and have their kindles loaded up with, what seems like, whole libraries. The little I read tends to be more in the non-fiction than in the fiction section and I often re-read books a number of times. I am also a slow reader. My English teacher, at school, tried to teach me to skim read but I never learned and now I don’t want to. I prefer to savour the language and the thought and to remember the phrasing and give time for the ideas to sink in. So this was a special and a tough task.
The book was not new. It was first published in 1995 and is reputed to be an international best seller, but it was one of the worst books I have ever read. The writer claims to have had a revelation or series of revelations over some years, directly from God, in which god speaks in everyday language with words of wisdom, stories and humour, contemporary references and many quoted words and verses, mainly from the Bible. But unlike other recognisable forms of literature, with parables, myths and allegory etc, this writer clearly wants the reader to believe that it was in fact God who was speaking directly to him. This is made clear in the introduction. “It happened to me” he says “I mean that literally” and “it was for everyone and had to be published”. He describes it as “gods latest word on things”. Now I have known and heard of many people who claim to have heard God speaking directly to them and I have no reason to doubt that these have been true and real experiences but, in each case, God was speaking to the individual and usually over something specific like a decision or a direction or a calling. In this book, the writer maintains that God is not only speaking directly to him but charges him with telling the message, spreading the word to others and specifically to do this by writing the books, of which there are three. “You will make of this dialogue a book, and you will render my words accessible to many people. It is part of your work” If he is to be believed and if he is accurately reporting what God was saying, then the Bible is deeply flawed from beginning to end and Jesus was either deluded, mad or simply a fraud.
It would not be difficult to catalogue the ridiculous, bizarre and contradictory claims that are made throughout the book, but here are just some of them:
1) There is no right or wrong only love and fear
2) God is not the creator he is merely the observer
3) There was no such thing as the ten commandments
4) There is no sin
5) There was no need for sacrifice
6) There is no heaven
7) There is no hell
8) There is no devil
9) Self is all there is
10) We are gods or in the process of becoming gods
11) Jesus is a master on a level with Krishna and Buddha.
12) All the gospel writers lived and wrote their accounts long after Jesus had died
13) We only suffer because we chose to. At any moment we could stop suffering. We could be healed, we could be perfectly at peace and happy if we chose to be.
I can well understand why people would be drawn to this book especially if they have been hurt, disillusioned or damaged in some way with organised religion. It would make them feel better about themselves but so would morphine or heroin or alcohol, for a time. The book is poison.
On the cover, were a number of review quotes. From the Mail on Sunday; “An extraordinary book“ I couldn’t put it down”.
It was extraordinary; I couldn’t get it into the bin fast enough.