3 out of 4 stars
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Mythic Worlds and the One You Can Believe In by Harold Toliver is a non-fictional criticism of religion, myth and other unverified concepts. Throughout the book, the author has resolutely stated his opinions about how humans have used the art of deception since time immemorial and called out the hypocrisy of preachers and followers alike. He has used science and logic to back his statements and has made great efforts to educate readers and help them understand how to use their reasoning faculties to be able to differentiate reality from creative misconceptions.
Toliver quotes Petronius in the prologue of this book: Mundus vult decipi decipiature ergo – “People want to be deceived, therefore deceive them”. The entire objective of this book, here forth, is to refute all supernatural beliefs by labeling them as lies. He has reduced myth and religion, across cultures, to illusions and has talked of how illusions serve the purpose of getting jobs done. People fear what they do not know. Those who possess the talent of understanding these weaker sides of humans have waged psychological warfare with deception as their biggest weapon for centuries and its creative scope just results in grander exhibitions each time. The market for lies never runs dry, nor do its buyers. He says the aim of these people is to convince, not explain as it’s human nature to seek comfort more than knowledge.
For Toliver though, its either black or white. If something can be scientifically proven, then it’s the truth. Otherwise, it’s all lies. And he has made it clear through several references and statements throughout this book. Consequently, he has also talked about his observations of human nature and why some people would rather rely on myth than logic. One observation of his that I found very interesting was how myths and beliefs passed on through tradition are considered more reliable than the beliefs of others. It got me thinking about all race, religion and cultural divides that taint our societies. People would rather stay divided in the name of faith than united in the name of logic!
The thing that amazed me the most about this book is the kind of research that has been done. Every time there was a statement, it was followed by established facts and sound logic to support it. However, it feels overdone after a while. Or maybe this book wasn’t for me, as after a while I felt like the book was a collection of references and sarcastic remarks that were heavily technical. I found the book interesting but it definitely was testing my patience at times when I had to look up stuff separately on the internet.
In my opinion, pursuers of knowledge that is aided by substantial proof, don’t blindly believe in myths and lore as it is. So, if this book is meant to circulate among huge scholars for their entertainment then it would serve the purpose well. But if the aim was to educate people who don’t take a lot of interest in science, then it went too technical. Judging by the second half of the title of this book “The One You Can Believe In”, I feel the target audience was the latter, in which case the approach of this book isn’t serving its purpose. If you don’t have an in-depth knowledge of scientific, philosophical or literary studies, then this book needs extra supplementary readers to explain all the references and how it’s relevant to the author’s arguments.
The editing of this book was fine. There were few issues but they don’t interfere with the flow of reading and some of the grammar issues might have been there because the writing style of this book seems colloquial. For not catering to the target audience I will be taking one star away and rate this book 3 stars out of 4. In general, the book is quite insightful and entertaining for science buffs. Anyone who isn’t sensitive to religious criticism can have a fun time reading this.
Mythic Worlds and the One You Can Believe In
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