By Luis Granados
The power that comes from religious authority has been at the center of all human societies from time immemorial–but those claims of sovereignty have been disputed for just as long. In Damned Good Company: Twenty Rebels Who Bucked the God Experts, author Luis Granados explores twenty cases, from Socrates to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, of brave challenges against those claiming a special authority from God.
Damned Good Company is a book about people, not about God. People who have preached about God, taken money for sharing what they say they know about God, and ordered others about to enforce what they claim to be God’s will–and a small band of heroes who stood up to them.
In short, Damned Good Company is a Profiles in Courage for humanists.
Some of the twenty heroes of Damned Good Company are well-known: Erasmus, Voltaire, Thomas Paine, Clarence Darrow, Atatürk, Nehru, Steve Biko. Others are not: people like Han Yü, banished from the ninth century Chinese court for questioning the worship of the Buddha’s finger, and Lucy Harris, who came within an inch of deflating Mormonism before it got off the ground.
Each hero is contrasted with a villain of his or her time and place: either a God expert like Martin Luther or Joseph Smith or a cynical politician like Mussolini, who never believed in God but exploited religion shamelessly to advance his political ambition.
The stories in Damned Good Company will 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 a God-given right to tell the rest of us what to do.
This enhanced ebook has been extensively researched, with over 1,100 footnotes. It takes full advantage of state-of-the-art features with over 100 pictures, online reader comments, linked videos, and hundreds of useful web links.
Chapter 1: Socrates vs. Euthyphro
Socrates ridiculed Athens' leading God expert, and wound up paying for his insolence with his life.
Chapter 2: Julian vs. Augustine
The Roman Emperor Julian "the Apostate" tried to end the monopoly of Christianity, only to be assassinated by a soldier now revered as a saint.
Chapter 3: Han Yü vs. Hsien-Tsung
One of ninth century China's most powerful government officials suffered grievously for questioning the veneration of the Buddha's finger bone.
Chapter 4: Umayyad vs. Hashimite
Islam: the product of a clash of Arabian dynasties with dramatically different views on the role of religion in government
Chapter 5: Frederick vs. Gregory
Scientist, diplomat, constitution-maker, poet, bon vivant, the Emperor Frederick II tried to kickstart Europe's Enlightenment 500 years ahead of schedule
Chapter 6: Zhu Di vs. the Mandarins
Long before Columbus, China's emperor sent an astonishing fleet on a quest to expand human knowledge -- only to be thwarted by outraged God experts
Chapter 7: Erasmus vs. Luther
Two challengers to the Pope's authority emerged in the 16th century: Martin Luther, who thought he knew more about God than the Pope did, and Erasmus, who thought he knew less
Chapter 8: Spinoza vs. Zevi
One 17th century Jew launched the modern secular movement; another bamboozled millions with his claim to be the Messiah
Chapter 9: Caroline vs. Smallpox
Queen Caroline introduced smallpox inoculation to Europe by using it her own children. She had to fight Protestant God experts every step of the way.
Chapter 10: Voltaire vs. the Jesuits
How France's greatest writer brought down its mightiest religious institution -- by defending a heretic who had already been executed.
Chapter 11: Paine vs. Talleyrand
Thomas Paine, history's greatest revolutionary, clashes with the supreme religious hypocrite who smirked that treason is "a question of dates"
Chapter 12: Harris vs. Smith
How Joseph Smith's audacious scam of finding a magic golden "Book of Mormon" was nearly derailed by a simple housewife, who was quite willing to believe -- if only he would show her the plates.
Chapter 13: Zola vs. Drumont
France's most successful writer sacrificed his fortune, his freedom, and ultimately his life to defend a Jew wrongly accused by Catholic God experts.
Chapter 14: Atatürk vs. the Red Sultan
Atatürk's revolution dragged Turkey into the modern world: rights for women, sensible laws, mass education -- and even a new alphabet.
Chapter 15: Darrow vs. Bryan
Flushed with success at banning alcohol in America, William Jennings Bryan tried to ban the teaching of evolution as well. Clarence Darrow stopped him.
Chapter 16: Azaña vs. Mussolini
The extraordinary story of how America and the other western democracies allowed the God experts to crush Spain's humanist revolution.
Chapter 17: Nehru vs. Gandhi
One million dead, ten million displaced. That's what happened when Gandhi's religious wackiness derailed India's natural path to independence. But for the atheist Nehru, things would have been far worse.
Chapter 18: Nasser vs, Ben-Gurion
Western God experts planted a Jewish theocracy in Palestine, subjugating and expelling the people who already lived there. Had American statesmen paid more attention to Nasser than to politics, the world would be a far safer place today.
Chapter 19: Biko vs. Malan
South African apartheid was a religious doctrine, conceived and perfected by God experts of the Dutch Reformed Church. Medical student Steve Biko's heresy that blacks are fully human brought the whole edifice crashing down.
Chapter 20: Hirsi Ali vs Obama
Two children of African fathers came to prominence in this century. Ayaan Hirsi Ali risked everything to stand up to powerful God experts. Barack Obama did just the opposite, caving in at every turn to further his own ambition.
Like Damned Good Company
Luis Granados is an attorney in Washington, DC, and a student of the scandals of religious history. He is also an editor of A Jefferson Bible for the Twenty-First Century, and is the director of the Humanist Press.
"a sweeping book filled with appealing tales of charismatic characters who fought for reason"
"Damned Good Company is a damned good read!"
"We can all take pride in this extraordinary humanist heritage."
"Eye-opening battles between sectarian and secular. Wow!"
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