BOOK REVIEW - Dr. Branko Bokun’s Humour And Pathos In Judaeo-Christianity. Avon Press 1997 ISBN 1 86033 441 5 £6.95 Paperback.
The late author personally sent this (vanity publishing) ‘Best selling’ book to every Humanist group he could contact, along with its legend, 'This Book contains the answers'. I ended up with the task of reviewing it for a Humanism newsletter. Normally I liked getting book reviews, but this one was insufferable to read. It may just be the worst book I have ever read. Christians might use such works as typical humanistic propaganda, so the need to show why we might disapprove of the book runs high.
While some of Bokun’s biblical criticism wouldn’t be out of place in The Freethinker, much of it is so amateurish that even Humanists should see the flaw in the theological reasoning, let alone priests and Christian scholars.
“I am sure that humanity would be in better shape if, instead of a son, Mary had had a daughter. A daughter would have been closer to her mother, and instead of accepting the idea of sacrificing herself for the sake of humanity, she would have helped her mother and her real father (Joseph) to face the miseries of old age.”
Why couldn’t a woman be a messiah or have the courage to sacrifice herself in the way Jesus allegedly did? There have been strong destructive female deities; Kali, Durga, Hera, and women of powerful religious and political zeal from Bodecia to Joan Of Arc to Margaret Thatcher. His naive notion of all women being universally, perpetually sweetness, light, sugar and spice & all things nice becomes irksome in his text. He clearly desires a pagan matriarchal society in which women are driven into a more rigid housekeeping child-rearing role than ever before.
“Every mother should spend the first five years of her child’s life with him. She should receive a salary from the state or the community during this period. The salary should be high in order to pay respect to the most important activity in the life of a social species, which is the rearing of children.”
The danger of people raising large families and adding to the population explosion just for a worthwhile income and women being reduced back down to the status of domestic brood mares seems lost on Bokun. Perhaps he should read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale.
The author is not a Humanist. In fact, he is very skeptical about atheists & agnostics.
"In a culture based on beliefs, even the atheist is a believer: he believes in God’s non-existence. Like any other believer, even the atheist tends to be aggressive and fanatical in his belief.”
What does this say about Bokun and his ‘best selling’ book of beliefs?
Bokun then really loses me with his claims about Darwinian evolution. He believes humans have evolved not one brain, but three.
“Each of these brains has its own anatomy, chemistry, rationality and reasoning, its own values and its own behavioral characteristics. This implies that each of these three brains can sometimes act independently.”
Bokun provides no evidence to support this extraordinarily barmy claim, but adds that when we escaped from the reptilian past and became mammals, a second brain grew from the frustration of separation from our previous species. The same happened again as we jumped from being lesser mammals to being humans, but we still lean to cold-blooded reptilian, primitive cruelties where all our problems allegedly originate. All of this might be true, but without a scrap of empirical evidence, or references for more study, we have only Bokun’s word for any of it. Reptiles can be nice too. Lizards and snakes are sold as pets. Bokun often describes our reptilian behaviour as ‘infantile’ (a euphemism for anyone and anything he disagrees with). He attributes many mental disorders to reptilian infantilism, adding: “It is in the mind’s world that we find the source of our main psychosomatic diseases and some mental disorders.” Only ‘in the mind’? This is like saying broken legs only affect legs. Is Bokun suggesting we’d be better off without minds at all? And what is a mental disorder? Paranoia? Schizophrenia? No, he thinks we’re mental if we seek ‘excitement and fun,’ because these ‘reduce the efficiency of our senses, perception and mental potential. Many teachers would disagree, believing children learn better when they enjoy what is being taught. Fun can and should aid learning, rather than hinder it.
For a book supposedly about humour and the need to laugh at ourselves, this a decidedly unfunny book, as the author takes himself utterly seriously at all times. Total codswallop, I’m afraid.
© Copyright. Arthur Chappell
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