I specialize in reviewing Print-On-Demand (POD) published books for my website and Midwest Book Review. Please query for a review by email to hgunther234@hotmail.com.

Friday, December 15, 2006

THE FIRST ATHEIST by Eric Polfliet

Llumina Press
7915 W. McNab Rd, Tamarac, FL 33321
Rating: Exceptional
ISBN: 1595266232, $10.95, 148 pp.

The First Atheist is not a lengthy book, only 140 pages including the prologue. Yet, this little book is one of the most interesting and well-written books I’ve read in sometime. I would say this is a ‘must read’ for anyone interested in religious studies, particularly Hinduism. Quoting from the back cover:

"Charvaka, sweet talker, ladies’ man, godless libertine, was the First Atheist. Many have been disgusted at the mention of his name because he liked to eat, drink, and fornicate. He was also known for questioning the authority of the Brahmin priests. Little is known of him and mystery shrouds his existence. No writings of his exist.

"Charvaka was the First Atheist - a man who preached the doctrine of eat, drink, and be merry in response to suppression and controls imposed by those in charge. He recognizes Religion, but sees that it is no more than an instrument in the hands of the powers that be, used to forward their own agenda.

"The protagonist, Jan, discovers Charvaka and India through a chain of events set off by a love affair with the sensual Parvati during his student days. When Parvati is murdered in a religious rite honoring Shiva, Jan is confronted with age-old tensions between human sexuality and religion, skeptical thought, and a religious fervor that stops at nothing.

"Jan’s experience offers a personal insight into life in India. No references are given: it appears as if the tale is no more than a great feat of his imagination. Fact or fiction? Story or documentary? Truth has many faces, reality many layers."

How true . . . how true! I did do some research about Charvaka after reading the book. How much of the book is factual and how much is fiction is hard to say–sort of like The DaVinci Code and just as disturbing. It is my opinion that Eric Polfliet has done an excellent job at making his point, supporting it and at the same time providing us with an interesting, informative story. Allow me to share a few excerpts with you . . . from page 65:

"Her first words were a shouted question. ‘Do you know what you heard tonight?’

"We were back in her flat after walking from the auditorium where Professor Kumar had given his lecture. ‘You heard the origin of all evil, an avatar of Hitler, a personification of Manu, the KKK’s cry for supremacy, all wrapped up in an intellectual jacket that hides the festering body from which it emanates. Their program is as old as the human race; it is the great white Aryan conspiracy–more dangerous than ever, more hidden than ever, and more credible than ever. I am the Jew in the story, the victim of color, the victim of bias solidified in the oldest and most revered writings on earth.’ . . .

and from page 70:
"She continued her story. ‘The Aryans who knew a thing or two about killing, were shocked by the rituals, a theatre of sexual intercourse on a planetary scale. They did not understand why Mother Earth was depicted as ugly. Their goddesses were beautiful–much nicer to pray to and better to look at.

‘Mother Earth was the ugliest woman they had ever seen. Kali–oh, she was inky-black, black as plowed earth, black as moonlit blood, black as the skin on the little flat-nosed people praying to her. She had a blood-thirty face and a necklace made of snakes and human skulls. Out of her open mouth, a tongue dripped with blood. Everywhere the Aryans looked, in temples and homes, they found phalli erected to serve her. The farmers could not understand the Aryans’ consternation. What was more natural than a phallus, a lingam, a plow to impregnate Mother Earth?" . . .

and lastly from page 119:
"‘Charvaka’s followers, the Buddhists, and Jains, initially united and defended their ideas together. The Brahmans saw the danger to their supremacy, but also the weakness in the alliance between the Buddhists, Jains, and Charvaka. They started exploiting the weaknesses. The pious life the Jains and Buddhists prescribed was not easily merged with the pursuit of the senses that Charvaka preached. Charvaka’s outright rejection of karma and rebirth, and his aggressive stand against the existence of God put him on a collision course with the Jains and Buddhists, who integrated godly concepts more and more. They wanted to avoid being condemned to a footnote on the pages of history by the Brahmans and compromised with the Vedic writings."

I hope these excerpts will spark your interest so that you’ll consider reading this book. I highly recommend it.

Eric Polfliet was born in Belgium and studied at the University of Leuven. He currently resides in Bangkok, Thailand.

Reviewed by Kaye Trout - December 15, 2006


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