Damned Good Company is a Profiles in Courage for humanists – a book to make humanists proud of themselves.
An April, 2009 story from the Dallas Morning News tells of local atheists who bought billboards saying “Don't believe in God? You are not alone.” “Our purpose is not to convert anybody,” said Terry McDonald, who was responsible for the campaign. “The intention is to let people who already don’t believe know they’ve got company.”
Throughout history, men and women around the world have listened to the prevailing wisdom of what God was supposed to have said and what God wants us to do. They have seen those who claim a lock on that wisdom given free reign to run society as they see fit – or, as they would have it, as God ordains. Every now and then someone has the gumption to say “No! The emperor isn’t wearing any clothes! I don’t believe you speak for God, and I am not going to do what you say.”
Their stories inspire those today who want to stand up to the Christian Right, the Muslim fanatics, the oppressiveness of Catholic and Jewish orthodoxy, the rising Hindu Taliban, and everyone else who claims the God-given right to tell the rest of us what to do.
Damned Good Company will tell twenty dramatic tales of conflicts between God experts and humanist rebels, from earliest times through the 21st century, featuring all major religions around the world. The song remains the same: Han Yu’s banishment from the 9th century Chinese court for questioning the worship of the Buddha’s finger mirrors Baruch Spinoza’s expulsion from his 17th century Amsterdam Jewish community for questioning Moses’ authorship of the Torah. By contrast, Talleyrand never believed in God, but used religion shamelessly to advance his political ambition – exactly as Mussolini did a century later, and as the book will argue Barack Obama is doing today.
Rudyard Kipling wrote that “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” These twenty stories will juxtapose heroes with villains to illuminate the battles over claims to divine authority in a way that readers will not forget. Darrow and Bryan faced each other in a courtroom; Julian and Augustine never met, but promoted world-views diametrically apart. Nehru and Gandhi are more often considered friends than opponents, but their religious differences were profound, with tragic consequences that have yet to play out.
Can't wait to read it? Well, you'll have to; it's still in progress. While waiting, you can read a new article every month in my blog relating a current headline or anniversary to a scandal of religious history.
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