OVERRIDE

And Man Created God

A History of the World at the Time of Jesus

Selina O'Grady

Picador

At the time of Jesus’ birth, the world was full of gods. Thousands of them jostled, competed, and merged with one another. In Syria, ecstatic devotees castrated themselves in the streets to become priests of Atargatis. In Galilee, holy men turned oil into wine, healed the sick, drove out devils, and claimed to be the Messiah. Every day thousands of people were flocking into brand-new multiethnic cities. The ancient world was in ferment as it underwent the first phase of globalization, and in this ferment, rulers and ruled turned to religion as a source of order and stability.

To explore the power that religious belief has had over societies through the ages, Selina O’Grady takes the reader on a dazzling journey across the empires of the ancient world and introduces us to rulers, merchants, messiahs, priests, and holy men. Throughout, she seeks to answer why, amongst the countless religious options available, the empires at the time of Jesus “chose” the religions they did. Why did China’s rulers hitch their fate to Confucianism? Why was a tiny Jewish cult led by Jesus eventually adopted by Rome’s emperors? The Jesus cult, followed by no more than one hundred people at the time of his death, should, by rights, have disappeared in a few generations. Instead it became the official religion of the Roman Empire. Why did Christianity grow so quickly to become the predominant world religion? And Man Created God, an important, thrilling and necessary new work of history, looks at why and how religions have had such an immense impact on human history, and in doing so, uncovers the ineradicable connection between politics and religion—a connection that still defines us in our own age.

REVIEWS

Praise for And Man Created God

“A must-read...No one should be allowed to lay claim to Christian or indeed any religious faith who has not read this book first and meditated on its import.”—A. C. Grayling, author of Meditations for the Humanist: Ethics for a Secular Age and The Good Book: A Humanist Bible

“O’Grady has written a powerful book on an immense subject. She writes with clarity and distinction and is a pleasure to read.”—Paul Johnson, author of Modern Times, A History of Christianity, and A History of the American People

“A wonderfully illuminating, prodigious tour de force of ecclesiastical anthropology.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Selina O’Grady’s remarkable book brilliantly explains the origins of today’s world by explaining the forces that set it in motion 2000 years ago…In a pellucidly clear and absorbing narrative O’Grady not only describes how religions were used by empires to bind new populations to them, but most fascinatingly of all  explains how what she calls the ‘tiny Jesus cult’ managed to survive its inauspicious beginnings to become a world religion.”— Rebecca Fraser, author of A People's History of Britain and Charlotte Brontë: A Writer's Life

“In this remarkably interesting and vividly written book Selina O’Grady shows how four great empires of the Axial age—the Roman, Parthian, Kushan and Chinese—used  religion, with its universal claims on human aspiration and destiny—to extend their power and legitimate their rule by creating compliant or “good” subjects under the expanding economic and social conditions…This is an important book—written from outside the perspective of belief—that helps to explain the enduring appeal of religion  in our supposedly secular age.”—Malise Ruthven, author of Islam in the World  and The Divine Supermarket: Shopping for God in America

Reviews from Goodreads

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  • Selina O'Grady

  • Selina O'Grady is a regular reviewer for the San Francisco Chronicle, Literary Review and Tablet, and specializes in works of popular history. She is the co-editor of two books: Great Spirits: The Fifty-Two Christians who Most Influenced their Millennium (ranging from Bach to Martin Luther King) and A Deep But Dazzling Darkness, an anthology from Anglo-Saxon to modern times of the experience of belief and disbelief. She lives in London.

  • Selina O'Grady Janah Wood
    Selina O'Grady
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    A History of the World at the Time of Jesus

    Selina O'Grady

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