Synergy Magazine Review

Away with All Gods!

Bob Avakian
Insight Press

Away with All Gods is a powerful and erudite critique of religion and superstition and a rousing call to place our trust in reason and the scientific method. While it is clear that Avakian comes from a Marxist background we should not hold that against him. It is too easy to reject a book because of a authors political leanings, one way or another, rather than actually engaging with its content and allowing its arguments to rise or fall on their own merit. Avakian intelligently argues his case with reason and passion and while at times using some of the vocabulary of his background, at no time did I feel did he sacrifice his reason for ideology.

In my mind as I followed his presentation I found his work extremely insightful and perceptive. I especially liked the way Avakian did not just offer a critique of religion but offered a positive view of rationalism and the scientific method, making it clear that not only is religion irrational and superstitious but is dangerous in that it creates political suppression and stymies progress. Unusual for an atheist work and in marked difference to works of Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins Avakian went further to explore the way in which religion is used to sustain the status quo and as a reactionary force by political power mongers. I especially found the exploration of religion and imperialism persuasive.

Avakian begins the book with a stinging critique of the Bible, Christianity, then moves onto Judaism and Islam. This critique takes up about half the book and is extremely comprehensive, it is quite clear here that Avakian has studied these religions extensively and is able to offer an informed analysis of their beliefs and practises. Not much is left standing after he is finished.

The next section offers a formidable exploration of the relationship between religion and all forms of political suppression from slavery to patriarchy, the denial of equal rights to gays to racism. His exploration of patriarchal values in the Bible is especially informative as is the connection he makes between the suppression of human rights by religion. This is especially significant since so many people like to claim that the "Abrahamic" religion gave the West human rights and dignity for the individual when in reality it is quite clear these rights were only for a limited minority i.e. the white male heterosexual religious adherent.

The final section of the book is quite outstanding as it takes a different tack. Avakian has cut a swath through superstition and religion, but that is not enough, he wants to show what can be used to replace it. Atheism is not nihilism and Avakian offers us an excellent exposition on the value of reason, the scientific method and the ability to have a sense of awe about life itself without the need for spirituality.

Avakian stands against the irrationalism and shows us how dangerous it really is, from terrorists and extremists to the subtle effect religion has on human rights and progress. He stands against not only religion and superstition but for reason and science and shows us what an alternative way of living can really be like. More importantly he shows us the revolutionary potential of finally doing away with all gods and what such a new world could look like.

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