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From the back cover:

“This book is the result of over thirty years of information gathering, and over five years writting (sic). It is designed to have facts and truthful information for the person that wants the whole story about religion. There are at least two sides to every issue; Religion is no different. The problem is, as a child growing up, all I ever got was the Christian side. What the Bible said was absolutely fact, no questions allowed. When I did ask a few questions, I never got an accurate, or straight answer......................... I wondered why not.”

I am perfectly happy with another author trying to explain the unexplainable – especially when they aren’t an atheist with an agenda. Organized religion has a lot of history and a lot of nastiness in its background, and as a member of a triply persecuted group (woman, peasant family line, and witch) I can see that nastiness clearly.

So can Jay Charles. Unfortunately, his ‘few questions’ aren’t really profound, and his deep loathing of all organized religions comes through his writing as meanness. The shortest review of this book would be:

In feeling that the religion of his childhood failed to prove the existence of God, Jay Charles has written an extended – and nearly completely unsubstantiated -- diatribe about the falseness of all organized religions. Unless you like being talked down to, wading through spelling errors and poor grammar, and a nagging feeling that a long talk with a Jesuit would have cleared up a lot of Mr. Charles’ questions, don’t bother wasting your money on this book.

Now, I don’t like giving bad reviews, but I was specifically asked by the author and publicist to give my honest opinion so that the criticism would be useful. Therefore, I’m not going to just leave it at a short, negative, review in hopes that Mr. Charles will learn from the experience and do better next time.

There are three components that make this a book that needs rewriting: unsubstantiated ‘facts’, poor writing not helped by editing, and a general sense of meanness in the prose.

All throughout The Evolution of the Bible, Charles refers to various facts – the existence of the Mary Gospels, for example, or the story of Lot. Unfortunately, he doesn’t give us a source. It may seem obvious that the bible is the reference for the story of Lot, but which bible? Because although Chares says Lot gave his virgin daughters up to mass rape to protect the angels, many bibles say that they were refused (and remained virgin). So it important for the reader to know which version of the bible story Charles is referring to. Another example is his telling of Constantine’s conversion to Christianity: his mother overheard a few really good storytellers in the marketplace telling stories about Jesus and he discovered a whole new faith out there, one that looked like it was going to overthrow the Roman one, so he declared the Empire Christian. Just like that. I’m not a historian, and it’s been a long time since I learned about the fall of the Roman Empire . . . but I just don’t think it was that simple. But, I do want to know why Mr. Charles thinks so – what is the reference?

As for the gospels of Mary . . . did he read them himself? A translation? Who was the translator? Did s/he have an agenda? Are we sure? Note, by the way, that I am not disputing the existence or even the accuracy – I’m asking for proof.

Poor writing can be a matter of opinion, but some things are generally agreed upon. For one thing, this book desperately needed a copy editor to check spelling and fix the ongoing poor sentence constructions. From the misspelling of ‘writing’ on the back cover (see the opening of this review) and others throughout the book (e.g., “profit Muhammad,” pg 36) to egregious comma faults and poor sentence construction (“The New Testament was commissioned, by Constantine, the Roman Emperor and a bunch of men that were allowed to come down from the caves and hiding places who was allowed by the Emperor to put the text together as they wanted to.” pg. 9) the author’s argument suffers.

Finally, the meanness. Insulting the reader for being not agreeing with you is a poor tactic to take when attempting to convince others. For example, sweeping statements, like “Christians will not ask hard questions, and they do not want to know the answers (pg. 63).” The mockery of the faith of the Jews on page 65 is another example. Also under fire come the Japanese (pg ix), Muslins, (pg. 39, 64, and elsewhere), Jehovah Witnesses, etc. It sounds vindictive and makes the reader question the author’s purpose.

The foundation of the author’s argument is that the Bible was written by men, not some sort of divine fax from God. Unfortunately, only fanatics believe otherwise, so the revelation is not nearly as shocking as it was made out to be. Nor that much of the New Testament was created in support of the Catholic religion, not an actual re-telling of the life of Jesus. Anyone who knows even a little bit about the First Council of Nicaea (link provided as a courtesy) knows this. Heck, even people who read or saw The DaVinci Code know that!

In the end, I must point out that truly religious, spiritual people understand that human frailty has marred the positive power of organized faith through the centuries. The balance is not redressed through mockery or attack, but through understanding that faith, by definition, requires no proof; that the Ten (or Eleven) Commandments are a valuable code of ethical conduct in society; that the words of Jesus are in and of themselves an indicator of a way to faithfully follow God’s (almost any God’s) plan; and that, in the end, a loving faith requires no other tenets than responsibility and right action.

The preface, in its entirety can be found online at: http://www.authorjaycharles.com/. I urge potential readers to read it (and through the rest of his site, including his blog) before buying his book.

 

~review by Lisa Mc Sherry

Author: Jay Charles

AuthorHouse, December 2006

pp. 212, $15.98

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