Taking this mysterious fact as his starting point, Tony Sunderland examines the history of religious belief in an attempt to understand how what has happened in the past continues to exert a ghostly influence in the present. Going right back to the voluptuous mother goddess figures of our ancestors, the pantheons of the Greeks and Romans, the wisdom of the Hebrew Bible, the birth of Christ, the radical heresies of the Gnostics and the Esoterics, the consolidation of a Catholic orthodoxy and the Protestant revolution, Sunderland traces a history of ideas that shines a light on how and why belief systems are constructed and the role they play in providing meaning and order in a dangerous, volatile world. Over this long and fascinating history the figure of the first monotheist, the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten, casts his long shadow.
Where did we come from? Why are we here? What happens when we die?
Many alternative explanations of how 'things came to be' in the Western world have either been ignored or suppressed by dominate and overpowering narratives of what can be termed as consensus history. This book blends the orthodox view of Western history with alternative interpretations and propositions of historical events. The metaphors of the obelisk and the cross have been used to illustrate the interdependent relationship between the 'other' and the 'orthodox' respectively. One cannot dominate the other; rather they can only be defined through an understanding of what they are not. Only then, can bridges be made to create a vision of 'what could be'.
"The bleeding of different belief systems into each other is a very important issue to understand, especially in our rather divided modern world in which religions have become enemies all over again."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Reviewed by Eduardo Aduna for Readers' Favorite The Obelisk and the Cross: An Alternative History of God, Myth and Meaning in the Western World by Tony Sunderland is a refreshing take on the scholastic perception of the interplay between Christian iconography and that of other beliefs. By delving into the presence of obelisks, not just in the Vatican but throughout the world, Tony Sunderland gives readers a comprehensive glimpse of Christianity's predecessors and contemporaries. Perhaps the main thing that gets in the way of ordinary people trying to learn more about history is the tendency of scholars to obfuscate their work in dry language and uninteresting facts. Tony Sunderland writes in an engaging, pleasant style that revs up the reader's enthusiasm, piquing their interest while laying out premises and examples that they can relate to. By reducing complex philosophical meanderings to a set of questions that almost anyone, at one time or another, has pondered over a drink or two, the author gives readers the opportunity to expand their horizons and learn more about other religions and beliefs. It becomes easier to grasp how the basics of the world's different beliefs stem from a need to comprehend the world around us and to allay our primal fears about the world thereafter. An informative book that engages the reader and helps them gain a better understanding of beliefs and the long history of Christianity and its interaction with other religions, The Obelisk and the Cross: An Alternative History of God, Myth and Meaning in the Western World by Tony Sunderland is one book everyone should pick up and enjoy.
Reviewed by Ruffina Oserio for Readers' Favorite The Obelisk and the Cross: An Alternative History of God, Myth and Meaning in the Western World by Tony Sunderland is a powerful and provocative work that x-rays the way beliefs are formed and how they become tools through which we seek meaning. Man has always struggled to find something that would allow him to outlive his mortality, perhaps something larger or stronger than him. In Chapter Two of this thought-provoking and engaging work, the author asks three crucial questions, questions that have baffled the most refined minds: “Where did we come from? Why are we here? What happens when we die?” From then on, he makes a very interesting commentary on man’s adventures in search of meaning, a search that has resulted in diverse thoughts, myths, and beliefs. The author walks with readers through powerful historic moments, examining myths and beliefs from the ancient Greeks and Romans, to the Hebrews, the Catholic orthodoxy, the Gnostics, and many more. This is one of those books that will make you rethink why you believe what you believe. The author writes with simplicity and allows his humorous voice to come across as soothing and very inviting. The Obelisk and the Cross: An Alternative History of God, Myth and Meaning in the Western World is a powerful commentary on the history and symbols of Western faith, a well thought-out book that will be an eye-opener to many people. Tony Sunderland raises questions that many religious fanatics will not want to consider answering, questions whose answers are deeply rooted in our very human flesh and our quest for meaning, and for something that can outlive our mortality.
Reviewed by Joel R. Dennstedt for Readers' Favorite In his stimulating work The Obelisk and the Cross, Tony Sunderland undertakes the academic’s most daunting challenge: to convey without ponderous explications or brittle simplifications the entire history of a subject – in this case, the evolution of religious thought – as it pertains to a rather focused primary objective – to bring insight to the fundamental trilogy of religious inquiry: Where did we come from? Why are we here? What happens when we die? Beginning with the oldest of religious symbols – the obelisk – and its strange appearance in the center of the world’s most enduring religious location – the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Square – something that should denote a kind of sacrilege has been appropriated from antiquity and made a center-piece for modern theological supremacy. This prompts the author to ask a natural question: Why? Tony Sunderland’s attempt in The Obelisk and the Cross to bring some clarity to a subject rife with diametrically opposed beliefs, opinions, conjectures, and unwavering, documented certainties as provided by almost every genre of inquiry known to man is nothing less than extraordinary. The writing is perfectly concise, incredibly inclusive yet relentlessly focused, and unerringly directed. There are so many ways this book could have jumped the track. That Mr. Sunderland takes the reader from here to there without a single extraneous side trip or excessive plodding, and yet manages to include every historical detail necessary to his purpose, makes for a fast and highly satisfying read. The reader realizes he is missing massive amounts of information, but never that this book suffers for the omission. Instead, as with any stimulating work, one feels impelled to search for further knowledge elsewhere. In turn, Mr. Sunderland meets his challenge here superbly. He gives the reader exactly what he promises at the start. And that is an amazing accomplishment.