Dangerous Illusions

by Vitaly Malkin, Arcadia, 416pp, £25

Why read a lavishly produced, glossy hardback book with the subtitle How Religion Deprives Us of Happiness? After all, it is likely to be provocative, ill-informed and written with all the passion of militant atheism.

Dangerous Illusions is all these things, but I was nonetheless curious about how the author, a Russian former physicist and banker, now a businessman and philanthropist, would tackle a highly complex subject that has occupied the greatest minds for many centuries.

Malkin makes statements one would expect, such as that his mission is “to expose the most common chimeras – parasites that have been torturing humanity for thousands of years”, or that religion is like “cancer cells, malignant, indestructible”. He is keen on the word “chimera”, arguing that religion has filled men’s minds with monstrous perversions.

Although he discusses his views on Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism, my guess is that Christianity is Malkin’s main, if implicit, target, as it is fatally easy for those hostile to the Church to misunderstand its teachings on suffering and sex. They require a capacity for reflection, an enquiring spirit and humility – none of which are in evidence in these pages.

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