23.5 Degrees: Racing Toward Armageddon by Michael Baigent (Mania.com)
Review Date: Saturday, August 29, 2009
This is possibly one of the most difficult book reviews I've ever had to write, due to the overwhelming complexity and sensitivity of the subject matter. But whether you agree or not with the views expounded in Racing Toward Armageddon by Michael Baigent [Harper Collins], there is no doubt that this is a book that needed to be written, if for no other reason than to open the debate on the increasingly important issues facing the continuation of civilization as we know it.
Subtitled The Three Great Religions and the Plot to End the World, this book is a thought-provoking study of the similarities between the fundamentalist beliefs of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, as humanity is being relentlessly driven to its ultimate conclusion--with all sides believing that they alone will be the victors.
To this end, Michael Baigent offers an intriguing analysis of how religious beliefs have spurred us on to increasingly violent or even bizarre behavior, ranging from the folly of the Christian Crusaders marauding their way through the Holy Land, slaughtering innocents under the auspices of God's Will, to the Judaic vow to rebuild the Temple of Solomon while surreptitiously breeding prophesied red heifers in a futile attempt to enable God's Chosen People to reclaim Jerusalem at the expense of the Muslim usurpers who currently occupy the Temple Mount.
Baigent cynically suggests that, "These Jewish rabbis have their pathologically violent brothers in both Christianity and Islam. Perhaps we should send them all to some icy wasteland or burning desert to fight amongst themselves and leave the rest of us alone. But until then we must watch them closely."
And, as he poignantly postulates, which is the one true God whose Word we should obey? The strict Christian patriarch, the jealous Jewish Yahweh, or the demanding Allah of Islam?
Woven into the increasingly disturbing apocalyptic commentary are forays into fascinating facets of the material, such as the significance of the number seven in the Book of Revelation to an observation of mankind's need to worship modern cult heroes such as Saint Elvis Presley and the elusive peoples’ goddess, Princess Diana.
Although, at times, I found the futile implications of the narrative to be so overwhelming that, despite Baigent’s mischievously humorous writing style, I simply had to put the book down until I could bear to continue.
But, most of all, this book made me think...
One of the most significant developments of the twenty-first century is how increasingly progressive modes of transportation are facilitating the inevitable and vibrant integration of diverse cultures. The groundwork is being laid for religious, racial, and even sexual tolerance to coexist in ways that have never before been possible in the bloody history of the planet.
Furthermore, the dissemination of information via the internet has made it much harder to indoctrinate the "sheeple" with propaganda than it has been in previous times. However, this is a double-edged sword, as this same technology is also enabling extremist groups to recruit and operate over greater distances.
Perhaps the bottom line undermining the progress of humanity is that Man is an imperfect being. Therefore, as soon as we start processing the "Word of God" through the human mindset, distortions are bound to be created and propagated.
I vehemently support the religious freedom for everyone to worship as they please, as long as they don't foist their belief systems upon me. And I consider my personal religious beliefs to be my own business and no one else's, although I will happily attend--and often do--other religious ceremonies out of a healthy sense of curiosity and respect. I am as comfortable with reciting Sufi poetry as I am the Lord's Prayer.
At the same time, Baigent warns against the dangers of a society that is so tolerant that it, in turn, cultivates the intransigence of intolerance.
Just how tolerant should we be of intolerance?
I suspect that Racing Toward Armageddon will provoke a very strong outcry of negative reactions as Baigent delves into the deepest and darkest depths of religious wrath. But perhaps that's not such a bad thing.
It's a crap job, but somebody's gotta do it.
Mania Grade: B+
Book: Racing Toward Armadeddon
Author: Michael Baigent
Publisher: Harper Collins