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Resistance to Christianity

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Member Reviews

More flagrant and fascinating than an encyclopedia has any business being.

"I want to challenge the view of those who dehumanize history, seeing it as fated and fatal: hence my wish to pay homage to those who refused to give in to the idea that history moves toward some inevitable outcome." - Raoul Vaneigem

The translation is very good. The author covers many groups and people at a breakneck pace so if you aren't familiar with them already (who is) it will feel more like rapid summaries. It doesn't deep dive likely due to the magnitude of what the book already sets out to cover. Hence the name change for the translation: Encyclopaedia. I tried my best to keep up but just like the author says "I am not an expert in anything" and "do no more than satisfy a personal own curiosity." I accepted this readily and took down notes of certain names or events that interested me enough to look up on my own time, or took the author's word for it.

There is a staggering amount of research that goes into making a book like this, and while it's not-all-together objective it had me clapping a hand over my mouth at times. You would think this read would be dry as hell. It's not.

Thank you to the publisher for allowing me to read this book early in return for my honest thoughts and review.

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Although I don't practise, being raised in a predominantly Catholic country has left me fascinated by Christianity and its doctrines. Thus, I found this book on the various heresies decried by the Church throughout history to be informative and presented fluidly, without the usual drag of religious textbooks.

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An exceptional book exploring the subject of heresy in the context of the growth of Christianity. I know this is a translation and sometimes this can be detrimental to the original text, however this is a good attempt. As the subject is complex and very open to perception of the reader, I felt it was written clearly and quite accessible to the interested reader. Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for the opportunity to review Resistance to Christianity. A solid 4 stars.

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I should come to terms with the fact that I won't finish Raoul Vaneigem's "Resistance to Christianity". I liked the promise of it so much: heresy! Groups struggling for their freedom! Doctrinal controversy! A chronological encyclopedia from the oldest times and until the modern age! It sounded perfect.

Alas, Raoul Vaneigem does that thing the French intellectuals often do (and Romanian intellectuals follow in their footsteps, except tripping over their feet): he assumes readers are already in the know.

It's not immediately obvious. You start out by feeling that everything makes sense, that the words flow, that you've got this and it'll be an interesting read; except later on, you get lost. Who were these people? Who were those people? What are these events mentioned? How does it all fit together? You either already know the history of official belief from ancient times until the 18th c., or you need another encyclopedia to figure out this "Chronological Encyclopedia".

(And there's also the small issue of Vaneigem positioning himself very clearly in the anti-Christian camp, which does raise a question about his objectivity regarding the people and events involved. Not that I'm very *pro*-Christian myself, but one has to sometimes grudgingly admit that, even obeying official doctrines, sometimes Christians may have felt free and done some good and worthwhile things (even scholarship) with their lives.)

I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for the free ARC received in exchange for an honest review. I honestly hoped this would be both illuminating and helpful to me, and it might only be vaguely helpful.

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I have read this book through the NetGalley program, and I thank the editors for allowing me access to this book. This is a translation of the original book „La Résistance au christianisme” by Raoul Vaneigem, and the translation done by Bill Brown is, as far as I could see, very good - the only nitpick I had is the fact that Strabo was made to die very young (the translator didn't notice that Strabo was born in the BCE/BC but died in the CE/AD).

Now, about the contents of the book. I really appreciate the topic, and I find it a very useful book, however, I have to note some issues with Mr. Vaneigem's approach. First of all, his position is quite clear - he's judgmental, mean, and obviously an atheist. He has, by no means, the scientific coldness that such a topic requires - he rails on in a deluge of critique for the original Jewish culture and the later developments of Christianity. His arguments are not unsound, but he lacks a certain distance that would make his text a lot more useful as a source for studies.

Also, I would criticize the seeming lack of structure, and the lack of context, explanation, and in-place source attribution. The text is navigating eras, jumping from year to year, from decade to decade, from century to century and even era without regard for some logical ordering. There is order and structure in Mr. Vaneigem's approach, but definitely not an order and structure that we'd find anywhere else, or we'd easily see or understand. The text becomes, therefore, hard to follow. It's unclear what is the focal point for each of the book's chapters, and what's the intention behind this ordering. The point becomes unclear, Mr. Vaneigem's text has to be deciphered at the higher level before being understood at a lower level. It's easy to lose the train of thought while reading this book.

And the next point to criticize, for certain, is the speed with which so many things are delivered. Some interpretations feel exaggerated, some just rushed, and so much information is delivered at a great pace that it's almost impossible to follow and verify his statements. Is he right or is he making up stuff? If he has ten new things to verify in each paragraph, reading Mr. Vaneigem's book becomes quite a chore. And while I do appreciate that some expediency is needed, perhaps a reorganization of the content following threads as they appear in chronological order would make it easier for the reader as well as for the researcher using his book as a starting or middle point.

But as far as I could tell the information feels legitimate. Expect, however, a very partial lens to be placed over that information.

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"Resistance to Christianity" by Raoul Vaneigem is an insightful journey through the annals of history, unearthing the often-overlooked narratives of heresy that have challenged conventional Christian doctrine. Vaneigem's meticulous scholarship spans from the inception of the Bible to the contentious theological disputes of the fourth century, all the way to the revolutionary Levellers and Jansenists of the early modern era. This revelatory work delves deep into the relentless battle for natural liberty against Christian oppression, offering an unapologetic exploration of resistance that has persisted for nearly two millennia. Bill Brown's masterful translation brings this major contribution to English-speaking readers, showcasing Vaneigem's brilliance as a historian and social theorist. "Resistance to Christianity" is a remarkable testament to human freedom, making it a compelling, incisive, and exhilarating work of radical thought.

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