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Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind Kindle Edition
'If great books encourage you to look at the world in an entirely new way, then Dominion is a very great book indeed . . . Written with terrific learning, enthusiasm and good humour, Holland's book is not just supremely provocative, but often very funny' Sunday Times History Book of the Year
Christianity is the most enduring and influential legacy of the ancient world, and its emergence the single most transformative development in Western history. Even the increasing number in the West today who have abandoned the faith of their forebears, and dismiss all religion as pointless superstition, remain recognisably its heirs. Seen close-up, the division between a sceptic and a believer may seem unbridgeable. Widen the focus, though, and Christianity's enduring impact upon the West can be seen in the emergence of much that has traditionally been cast as its nemesis: in science, in secularism, and yes, even in atheism.
That is why Dominion will place the story of how we came to be what we are, and how we think the way that we do, in the broadest historical context. Ranging in time from the Persian invasion of Greece in 480 BC to the on-going migration crisis in Europe today, and from Nebuchadnezzar to the Beatles, it will explore just what it was that made Christianity so revolutionary and disruptive; how completely it came to saturate the mind-set of Latin Christendom; and why, in a West that has become increasingly doubtful of religion's claims, so many of its instincts remain irredeemably Christian. The aim is twofold: to make the reader appreciate just how novel and uncanny were Christian teachings when they first appeared in the world; and to make ourselves, and all that we take for granted, appear similarly strange in consequence. We stand at the end-point of an extraordinary transformation in the understanding of what it is to be human: one that can only be fully appreciated by tracing the arc of its parabola over millennia.
From the Back Cover
THE GREATEST STORY EVER TOLD
'Definitely my book of the year' Bernard Cornwell
'A rich and compelling history of Christendom . . . A masterpiece of scholarship and storytelling, Dominion surpasses Holland's earlier books in its sweeping ambition and gripping presentation' John Gray, New Statesman
'An absorbing survey of Christianity's subversive origins and enduring influence is filled with vivid portraits, gruesome deaths and moral debates . . . Holland has all the talents of an accomplished novelist' Terry Eagleton, Guardian
'Terrific: bold, ambitious and passionate' Peter Frankopan, author of The Silk Roads
'Fizzing with insights and challenges . . . a feast of intellectual entertainment' Christopher Hart, Sunday Times
- ASIN : B010RGSEC2
- Publisher : Little, Brown Book Group; 1st edition (5 Sept. 2019)
- Language : English
- File size : 16471 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 753 pages
- Best Sellers Rank: 11,434 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer reviews:
About the author
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 18 March 2021
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First, in those areas where I have more specialized knowledge, the author’s treatment seemed to me poor, and it led me to wonder what he might have done in other areas of his discussion with which I was less familiar. For example, his discussion of ideas about human rights by the UN treated it as if it was simply continuous with older Christian ideas about natural law. This is really not the case: the story is a lot more complex. Second, Marx’s ideas were presented by stressing the parallels in his work with religious ideas. This is an idea that has been much discussed; but it is superficial as a reading of Marx and, in the end, not really helpful in understanding the character of Marx’s work.
Second, my real worry – and why I think that the book is, in the end, rather silly - was that the author tends to treat almost everything that has come up during the course of Western intellectual history as ‘Christian’. The problems with this are that, on the one side, for an idea to have content, it has to rule out other things; but for Holland to call something ‘Christian’ becomes almost without content just because what he includes is so promiscuous. On the other, it means that when, say, early Quakers objected to slavery, this is taken as Christian – despite the fact that it is not clear what is specifically ‘Christian’ about it. The doctrinal basis of it would hardly pass any test of Christian orthodoxy. While those who avowed Christianity up to that point (including, indeed, what we know of Jesus’s own attitudes) did not seem to see there as being anything incompatible between Christianity and slavery as an institution, at all.
I think that Holland is probably correct that there is a sense in which secular Western people have been influenced by specifically Christian ideas in ways that they are not aware of. This was certainly my experience, when I discussed a range of issues, over many hours, with a Muslim historical sociologist of religion. But these issues, it seems to me, have to be discovered by way of the exploration of differences with others with different backgrounds, rather than by way of proceeding as Holland does.
All told, this is a worthwhile read for those who like serious, long but readable books. But it is something to be treated with considerable caution.
I also ended up feeling strangely sympathetic to the Calvinists... which was not something I was expecting!
What's so interesting about Holland is that he lost his faith when younger but, through his work on late Antiquity, has come to see just what an extraordinary revolution in human thought Christianity actually heralded. He has seen how fundamentally it changed social, moral and political order. And how the modern West is utterly complacent about it - at worst, even hostile.
This thesis is entirely compelling and the evidence abundant. Slightly dry at points but overall fascinating, hugely varied (from Classical Antiquity and the strangeness - to modern eyes - of the ancient world) and wholly compelling.
Strongly recommended - I have distributed copies to various friends already.