Essential Knowledge: Part II

A thorough understanding of human history has been the hallmark of an educated man in the West since the Middle Ages. Herodotus is considered the first historian, but there is debate about whether the ancients had an appreciation for human history. Oswald Spengler argued that the ancients were ahistorical, as they lacked a historical consciousness. Perhaps that is true, but for our purposes, the point is that a classical education in the West has always included a thorough understanding of history.

Now, we live in a post-Christian age, but there remains a high degree of hostility to religion in general and Christianity in particular. As a result, religion is either left out of the history books or cast as some sort of malevolent influence. That’s a big problem as it is impossible to understand human history without understanding religion and its role in human affairs. This is especially true in the West where Christianity is arguably the most important feature of Western culture since the fall of Rome.

Obviously, knowing European history means knowing Christianity and that means knowing something about the Jews and Judaism. I’d recommend starting with Paul Johnson’s History of the Jews as it is very readable and covers the important bits without getting bogged down in academic posing. Given the outsized influence of the Jewish people on world history, as well as current events, you cannot be an educated man without fully appreciating the role of Judaism in world history.

Of course, a solid understanding of Christianity is important. You cannot understand the last 2,000 years of Western history without knowing Christianity and the history of the Church. There are so many books on the subject that you are spoiled for choice, but Paul Johnson’s History of Christianity is the one I’d recommend to every atheist that can read. The point is not to become a theologian. The point is to have an appreciation of and knowledge of the role Christianity has played in Western history.

Eventually, learning Christian history leads to how it evolved from its antecedents. Greek and Roman mythology is not just the starting ground for the fantasy role playing crowd. It laid the groundwork for the monotheism of the Jews to jump into the rest of human society. Once you fully appreciate what came to replace Greek and Roman theology, you can fully appreciate a classics like Edith Hamilton’s Timeless Tales of God’s and Heroes and Hilda Davidson’s Gods and Myths of Northern Europe.

Islam is a thornier topic as there has been a flood of books and articles on the Religion of Peace that are more about modern political topics than the history of Islam. A book worth reading to get a positive introduction to the history of Islam is Karen Armstrong’s Islam: A Short History. Like every book about a specific religion, it has its short-comings and critics, but it does the job. Another good option and maybe a companion to the other book is Reza Aslan’s No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam.

The hard part about Islam for Western readers is we tend to look at religion through the lens of European Christianity. There was the world before Christianity and then the Christian era. Islam did not spring from nothing. It is the result of a long evolution of religion in the region. A good book to get a fuller understanding of that is Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms: Journeys Into the Disappearing Religions of the Middle East. It provides a nice history of religion before Islam and a fuller picture of the complexity in the modern Middle East. It’s not all raging Imams and Jihadists.

As far as Eastern religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism, this is where it can get difficult for the Westerner. Thousands of books have been written on Eastern religions by hippy crackpots  All of them are terrible and useless in terms of learning anything about these religions and their role in the development of those societies. The right answer is an old book by a long gone professor named Huston Smith. The book is The World’s Religions and it has good sections on these topics.

Belonging to a church or religious sect is not the same as joining the stamp club or volunteering down at the school. It is the defining feature of a person’s life and the defining feature of his group. For those who lack faith, this is not always easy to grasp. A good book on this subject is Dynamics of Faith by Paul Tillich. It’s easy to see why a great cathedral could be inspiring, but it is not easy to see what inspired men to build the cathedral. Understanding faith at the personal level is critical to understanding religion.

The point of learning about religion, as an intellectual exercise, is not to become a theologian. The point is to have a grounding in the basics in order to better understand human history. Belief is one of the oldest modern human traits. It is thought to have co-evolved with language. It is the main driver of human history and it remains a principle force in human affairs. There’s simply no way one can have an understanding of history, especially Western history, without understanding religion.

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Steel T Post
Guest

What of the JQ?

“Inside every Christian is a Jew.” –The Vicar of (((Christ)))

Solomon Honeypickle IV
Guest
Solomon Honeypickle IV

pithy but false. sounds like an ad for Crackerjacks

Steel T Post
Guest

Every Christian:

1. Begs like a bitch to a Jewish “Master” for crumbs from a table meant “only” for Jews (Matthew 15:21-28)
2. is inducted into a “Jews First!” (Romans 1:16) cult
3. worships a Jewish king (John 1:49) and
4. considers the Jew’s capital city to be “Holy.” (Rev. 21:2)

If not technically born a Jew, definitely every Christian is a Wannabe-Jew, which is even more pathetic.

Which reminds me of a joke that I use when I’m accused of being as tight as a Jew with shekels in the checkbook: “I never said I was a Jew; I said I was jew-ISH.” 🙂

Karl Hungus
Guest

just how much of the remainder of your life, are you going to spend stewing in pointless hate?

Steel T Post
Guest
My hostility towards religious tyranny of the clergy over the mind of man is, to answer your question, “eternal.” We have a famous monument in our nation’s capital that chisels that “eternal hostility” against religious fanatics into stone, with excerpts taken from this quote: “…had given to the clergy a very favorite hope of obtaining an establishment of a particular form of Christianity thro’ the US. and as every sect believes it’s own form the true one, every one perhaps hoped for it’s own: but especially the Episcopalians & Congregationalists. the returning good sense of our country threatens abortion to… Read more »
Sam J.
Guest

Hates very healthy if it’s directed at those who have wronged you. If you have problems with hate maybe you should take it up with the Jews. The Jews have leveraged hate for thousands of years. Worked for them.

Steel T Post
Guest

Good point Sam, only SJWs think hate is automatically badthink. But sadly, looking at the down-votes, apparently folks here hate Jefferson. It’s funny how today parallels the Election of 1800, where again, Jew-worshiping fanatics down-voted Jefferson.

Maybe they all ought to move to the middle-east, and worship their foreign King of Israel, and enjoy their reward in a foreign capital city that they consider “holy.” (Rev. 21:2)

Kind of reminds me of the loyalty displayed by that other middle-eastern sect whose fanatical adherents considers Mecca holy.

Member

You took the words out of my mouth, Steel. Purge Christianity of its Jewishness and I’ll gladly join. But such a purge is impossible. And Christians remain emotionally enslaved to a people who despise them.

LetsPlay
Member

Forest for the trees Epaminondas, forest for the trees, my friend.

meema
Member

I don’t know why exactly but I think you, Let’s Play, might understand this.
http://bagsallpacked.blogspot.com/2017/01/stand.html

LetsPlay
Member
Thanks Meema! Yes, I get it. I am especially sensitive to those who create “idols” of other men and worship them, ala preachers-for-profit, religious charlatans like the Scientology guy, or Joseph Smith, even financial “wizards” like Michael Milken and others has having the formula to a happy life. My allegiance is to Jesus Christ. I know Him through the Bible. I know Him through other people. I do not follow a Pope, or belong to a Church or worship at a particular building. I can pray what I wish, when I wish, wherever I wish. I do it in private… Read more »
meema
Member

Yes. Nothing more to add.

LetsPlay
Member

Interesting website. Thanks for the link.

Steel T Post
Guest

See? Your allegiance is to a foreign Jewish “King of Israel.” You’re no different than those whose allegiance is to another foreign Prophet. Mine? To the flag that flies over the native soil where I was born. How about you try putting America First? What was it your King said? “No man can serve two masters.” A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. In a conflict of interests between your loyalties, who would you sell out? America? Lots of Zionist Neocons have already.

Sam J.
Guest

This was tried. The sect was called the Cathars. They were of course murdered down to the last Man, Women and Child in the Albigensian Crusade against them.

The Carthars believed that the being telling the Israelites to move around and murder everyone was a Demon and that the Jews worshiped Satan. Sounds reasonable to me no wonder they wiped them out. Can’t have people spouting common sense.

Steel T Post
Guest
Funny thing is, the Bible itself confirms that Jesus = Lucifer. How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! -Isaiah 14:12 (KJV) “Lucifer” comes from the Latin Vulgate, but the original Hebrew reads something more like this, as most translations translate it: How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! -Isaiah 14:12 (NIV) Look who else is a “morning star!” I Jesus … the bright and morning star. -Revelation 22:16 So Jesus is the exact same thing that gets translated into Lucifer in Isaiah. Jesus = Lucifer. To be sure, Lucifer is… Read more »
LetsPlay
Member

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Matt 16:23

Steel T Post
Guest
Oh, you believe in a silly competitor deity called Satan? Jefferson would have characterized you a demonist, one who denies the one true God as thoroughly as an atheist. “I concur with you strictly in your opinion of the comparative merits of atheism and demonism, and really see nothing but the latter in the being worshipped by many who think themselves Christians.” -Thomas Jefferson (letter to Richard Price, January, 8, 1789) Why not just believe in the one true GNON (Nature Or Nature’s God, Deus, sive Natura) who is written into the Declaration of Independence? See: Matthew Stewart (2014) Nature’s… Read more »
Drake
Guest
I associate Islam with your “Ghost of Robespierre” article a few days ago. It has no limiting principles and actively encourages fanaticism. Those “moderate Muslims” I hear so much about never really get things done because they know that, in the crazy eyes of Allah, the radicals are right. I read the Koran while sitting in the Saudi Desert waiting for the first Gulf War to begin. Back then I actually thought it wouldn’t be much different than another testament of the Bible. I quickly lost that misconception and realized it was utter madness written by caravan raider to justify… Read more »
Steel T Post
Guest

If Islam be madness, consider its source:

“[T]he Quran derives from a Syriac Christian lectionary.”

The Christian Origins of Islam
Peter J. Leithart
First Things
http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2012/12/the-christian-origins-of-islam

Drake
Guest
Whoever wrote the Koran certainly used the basic structure of Judaism and Christianity but then diverged radically. Right in the beginning I was thinking “oh look – he’s talking to the Angel Gabriel”. At one point Muhammad was pestering the Jews in Medina to declare him a Jewish Prophet. Then I slowly realized that all sense of mercy, limits, constraints, etc… had been stripped away. The leader of the Jews who rejected him were executed or assassinated and the rest were expelled from the city. Even in his own book and the biographies his sycophants wrote (the Hadiths), Muhammad comes… Read more »
Steel T Post
Guest
Hypocrisy? Like Jesus saying not to get angry and call people fools ((Matthew 5:21-22) and then getting angry and calling people fools? (Matthew 23:17, Luke 11:40) Live peacefully (Matthew 5:39) or not. (Matthew 10:34) Judge ye (Mark 11:15-17) or judge ye not. (Matt 7:1) Sexual predators? Think of all the altar boys corn-holed by priests. Instead of making ad hoc excuses as to why they do it, analyze the open secrets about divine pederasty taught in the semen-aries, that are illustrated in early Christian art. Do a Google image search for “Jesus+John+Beloved.” Can you tell any difference in Christian art… Read more »
shats mcgillacuddy
Guest

Corn-holed — I can’t stop laughing, that’s always been one of my favorite euphemisms — “hey man, you got corn-holed. hee hee

Rod1963
Guest
Mohammed was a mass murdering lunatic who made Manson look like a choir boy. The Koran may have been based on Syriac Christianity for some aspects, but it’s quite clear there is a lot add in afterwards. Take for example when the Muslims conquered Byzantine Egypt, they were originally viewed as Christian heretics, not followers of a alien religion. It was only a century later that the locals realized they weren’t Christians but a followers of a religion hostile to Christianity. Heck look at what happened to Copts of Egypt, they have zero human rights, and are known as the… Read more »
Steel T Post
Guest

“Marked for death” like Martin Luther? Ever read the “Bulla contra errores Martini Lutheri et sequacium” and understand its consequences? Not that the Protestants didn’t copy the murderous fanaticism of the Catholics. I recommend reading Eric Hoffer’s “The True Believer: Thoughts On The Nature Of Mass Movements” to analyze the many parallels in fanatical movements, of which he includes Communism, Christianity, Protestantism, and Islam. If ascendant in political power, they’ll all kill you in a heartbeat.

fodderwing
Guest
Steel, ZMan’s post above is a lament for the West’s increasing ignorance of the role of Christianity in forming our civilization. Your comments here seem to be a kind of airing of your grievances against a belief system that comes to you by no means all neatly tied with a bow. Pointing out the failings of men who have lived and died over the centuries by the precepts in the Bible as they understood them in no way diminishes the importance of Christianity to our culture. Perhaps you should take all this up with G-d Himself. “Be kind to one… Read more »
Steel T Post
Guest
European civilization, based on Greek and Roman philosophy, existed long before Christianity. If Islam overtakes Europe, it will have as much role in “forming our civilization” as did Christianity. My point is: don’t forget the role of Christianity, an invasive middle-eastern Jewish cult, in destroying our Western civilization. For example, Merkel—daughter of a Lutheran minister, member of the Evangelical Church of Berlin, and leader of the Christian Democrats—is the most Christlike person I know, perfectly following the Jewish cult leader’s teaching to: • Resist not evil, turn the other cheek, etc. (Luke 6) • Love your enemies, etc. (Matthew 5)… Read more »
Dan Kurt
Member

Let me recommend one short book that explains the birth of Western Civilization in (Western) Europe: Christopher Dawson’s The Making of Europe. https://www.amazon.com/Making-Europe-Introduction-European-Christopher/dp/0813210836

The Catholic Church is the pivot of the book.

Dan Kurt

Member

Right you are! Dawson’s Understanding of Europe is also worth reading, as is his Religion and the Rise of Western Culture, all of which are right behind me as I write. One more that is worth reading is The Church in the Dark Ages by H. Daniel-Rops.

Member

For people who don’t already have much background and want to hit the ground running I don’t think you can do better than the Western Heritage Reader put out by Hillsdale College. Most used bookstores have tons of old textbooks on Western Civilization and primary text readers. The way I got started was reading The Federalist and finding all of these references to events in the past I knew nothing about because the schools don’t teach it, and my background was in sciences.

Steel T Post
Guest

I was at Hillsdale College last fall to hear Donald Rumsfeld speak. Pat Sajak was there too, with a small xylophone, ding-donging the Wheel of Fortune “notes” before the dinner.

Solomon Honeypickle IV
Guest
Solomon Honeypickle IV

Amazon has kindle editions of all the great books for ridiculously low prices. they also have a ton of lesser known — but still excellent — works on things like the dark ages, anglo mythology, etc.

K. R.
Guest

Why is this categorized in “weird stuff” and not “religion?” Just askin’

thor47
Guest

” It’s easy to see why a great cathedral could be inspiring, but it is not easy to see what inspired men to build the cathedral. ”

That’s what the non-believer/non-religious person does not understand.

Excellent commentary, zman. For my money, the best thing you have written.

LetsPlay
Member

While a novel, a great read on this topic is “The Cathedral By The Sea” by Ildefonso Falcones. A story about the times of the Inquisition in Barcelona, the Church, the King, the people/trademen building the cathedral, etc. and the will based on faith to pursue it to completion. Fascinating.
Cathedral By The Sea

Member
Couldn’t agree more with nearly everything written, save for the Asian suggestion. I don’t believe I’m a hippy crackpot, but I am an “atheist” and a Zen practitioner for half a century now. I’m also a strong believer of the importance of Christianity to the West and a respecter of Christian ethics and morals if not a believer in its metaphysics. Smith’s book is somewhat dated, at least with respect to Buddhism, the “Eastern religion” with which I’m most familiar. It’s useful to be sure, and perhaps it is the best general intro, but my belief is that to gain… Read more »
Tony Bacon
Guest

Tom Holland’s “In the Shadow of the Sword” is worth a read about how Judaism and Islam were formulated in late antiquity.

Member
The influence of biased Western European historians from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment is strong, and lingers everywhere in our culture and pop culture. One hears constantly about the golden age of Islamic knowledge and it having been superior to Europe. This strikes me as real for certain times and places, but often exaggerated. It also ignores the common roots in the Greco-Roman East [The Muslims also had the Persian tradition]. And the role of Islam in transmitting the classical world back to Western Europe was real, but it is radically overplayed to the detriment of the Eastern Roman role… Read more »
james wilson
Guest
The Western man who most loved Arabs (T E Lawrence, of Arabia) took down that shibboleth of the Arab golden age better than it has ever been done, and in all it’s particulars. But we, we happy many, we band of billions, will not let facts separate ourselves from our goodness. And without the Dark Ages (with all due credit to the Roman Empire) we would still be multiplying using the alphabet, concrete would remain the great invention of the ages, and the DMV would be registering chariots. Oh yeah, the Romans would recognize the DMV. Cicero–A bureaucrat is the… Read more »
Karl Hungus
Guest

“I have yet to meet a bureaucrat who was not petty, dull, almost witless”

and you never will

Member

truth. Gibbon and his heirs quite overrated the scientific progressiveness and forward-looking bona fides of classical Rome. I still lean to the idea that its science was pragmatic and about what worked, with a thin basis in theorizing on the one hand, or too much theorizing at the philosophical end on the other. They had stopped much connecting the two long before the end.

On the other hand, as a system for observation and calculation, Ptolemaic astronomy was magnificent. No wonder the Renaissance purists didn’t want Galileo overturning it.

Dutch
Guest

Much of that “golden age of Islamic knowledge” stuff, at least what you find in the film and network media, is paid for by the Saudis. Oh, they call it “underwriting”.

Member

I don’t doubt it- they underwrite so much propaganda it is a pity everybody focuses on Israel…

It’s treading a fine line for the Saudis. It buys huge additional framework-bias from westerners in favour of Arab culture. But praising the virtues of the early Abbasid court, let alone the Umayyad one in which Greco-Roman culture most flourished, is eternally playing with fire in a Salafi-dominated era. Those periods were already beyond the pale to a hard-core Salafist/Wahhabi.

Thud
Guest

I’m what would be considered a bad Catholic but happy enough with that.It would be hard not to believe in some sort of good reading social media and watching TV today…..surely some greater power is causing the left to stroke out and implode….trumps inauguration, you just gotta have faith!

Member

The Founders and the Classics by Carl Richard is a good book for seeing how ancient writings were used in the education of the founders and how they were used in determine the form of government we have.

Al from da Nort
Guest
Z man; My compliments (FWTW) on being able tread the middle path of recognizing the overarching but deliberately today obscured role of religion in Western Civilization while avoiding the thorny thickets of theological disputation (I’m sadly a sucker for alliteration). Whether believer or not, an educated person used to be familiar with the background knowledge of their Christian antecedents that you rightly recommend be revived (some days I just can’t help myself). To illustrate using what used to be a widely quoted example, without this knowledge a person can’t understand the depth and sting of Lincoln’s famous House Divided Speech.… Read more »
Anchises
Guest
The ancients did have a sense of the past, but there is a fundamental and vast difference between ancient and modern conceptions of history. Modern “scientific” history attempts to reconstruct the past “as it really happened”, as much as possible. By comparing and critically evaluating different sources, the historian today seeks to distinguish between what it knowable and provable, and the great mass of legend, lies, and fantasy that cannot be established with any certainty. This discipline, however, was simply impossible in the pre-modern era. Texts were all hand-written and extraordinary expensive, difficult to access. Not until the printing press… Read more »
james wilson
Guest
Paul Johnson wrote that the Israelites were accustomed to a fellow appearing out of a long spell in the desert to announce himself as Prophet every fifty years or so, after which some would be absorbed into the Jewish custom, but more were quickly rejected and forgotten. Johnson viewed Islam as a mutant Hebrew desert religion. It should have failed but didn’t–perhaps initially because the people who fell prey did not have a clear enough identity of their own. Just as Progressivism is preying upon us now. Johnson’s History of the American People illuminated religion and much else for the… Read more »
notsothoreau
Guest

Harvard Classics has two volumes on religious writings, of the major religions. They left those books out of the Kindle edition.

LetsPlay
Member

But of course!

This link provides a free download of pdf files. http://www.myharvardclassics.com/categories/20120212
Maybe “all” the original content is located there. Have you identified which volumes were edited out?

Member

Proud to hear Trump and his inauguration ceremony largely reject the idea that we’re a post Christian society.

Steel T Post
Guest

Trump also made it clear that “Christian” will be defined extremely liberally, to include a women preacher on her 3rd rock star husband who teaches that Jesus was not God’s only begotten son. (Google “Paula White,” who prayed at the inauguration.) But at least we get to say Merry Christmas and trigger the Leftist SJWs without being sent to Hillary’s Reeducation Camps.

vje
Guest
There’s simply no way one can have an understanding of history, especially Western history, without understanding religion. You’re right, but in my experience religion is like sex. You can read about it all you want, but you won’t know anything about it until you actually do it a few times. Even then, if you’ve only slept with one girl, while you may be quite with her, there will still be a lot of things you don’t know. I mean this in a literal sense as well. I found out that there was a whole different way of looking at the… Read more »
thor47
Guest

Yes, but after I slept with one girl there were a lot of things I no longer cared about knowing.

Karl Hungus
Guest

OT but Bill “The Shill” Kristol has lost it. the obnoxious crunt is tweeting bout how embarrased he is by Trump’s inauguration speech. he must have a cosmic butt hurt.

also, this “every atheist that can read” is pure gold 😛

LetsPlay
Member

I was reviewing Trump’s speech, I felt he really laid into everyone there … past presidents, SCOTUS, all politicians, the Wash. DC establishment (bureaucratic weenies), as well as the intelligence-security apparatus when he said they had only served their self interests. I am sure he has really pissed some people off despite the appropriateness of his words. MAGA means they all let America down.

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[…] Last paragraph of a great article that you should read at the SOURCE […]

Tony Petracelli
Guest

for the longest time i thought the orthodox church was just the eastern part of a unified church. very exciting when i learned the actual history. to my eye it looks like the gay apostles formed the catholic church, and the eastern church stayed hetero.

wan wei lin
Guest

Great article if you exclude Karen Armstrong and Reza Azlan. On a reddit thread Azlan joked about raping a female critic. He is a vileness personified. The University of California saw no merit in my complaint of his sexual violence fantasy. (I was a participant in the thread.) Want to understand Islam? Read the words of Mohammad instead of Armstrong.

LetsPlay
Member
Great article Zman! References are also good as people like short and sweet condensed versions because we all have limited time and resources for gaining this knowledge. Which brings me to a quote I found on Christianity Today by C.S. Lewis “During wartime, Lewis sharpened the point. He compared the reader of history to the man who has lived in many places. This man “is not likely to be deceived by the local errors of his native village; the scholar has lived in many times and is therefore in some degree immune from the great cataract of nonsense that pours… Read more »
Steel T Post
Guest
“The Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” -The Unites States Senate, signed by John Adams, June 10, 1797 The American Revolution was a rebellion not only against King, but against God as defined by The Cathedral of the day. “[T]he project to free the American people from the yoke of King George III was part of a grander project to liberate the world from the ghostly tyranny of supernatural religion.” The Original Tea Partier Was an Atheist* http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/09/original-tea-partier-atheist-thomas-young-110497_Page2.html It wasn’t even a majority of Americans who supported the rebellion… Read more »
thor47
Guest

Zman, thank you again for book recommendations. The rest of you, thank you for the links. LetsPlay, thank you especially for the Harvard Classics link. I will make good use of it, and I have son who has made it one of the continuing challenges of his life to read many things there. He will be pleased to see it.

LetsPlay
Member

You are welcome! I love to share the on-line treasures I find. Enjoy!

Sam J.
Guest

I really liked two books by William H. McNeil.

The Pursuit of Power: Technology, Armed Force, and Society since A.D. 1000

Plagues and Peoples

They’re not just about Western Civilization but they’re great books.

Donk
Guest
I read through all the comments trying to understand why @ST Post has such seething hatted towards Christianity. I thought perhaps someone in the comment section had offended him. But no, he (assumption on my part) is like so many others I have met with clinching anger towards Christianity, and Jesus in particular. Anger towards religious hypocrites that use their position for personal gain or worse, more perverse desires – that hatred I share. But to someone like I, a wretched soul before I met and chose to follow Jesus, who now earnestly tries to serve Him by serving …the… Read more »
Donk
Guest

I forgot to make my main point. Much discussion regarded violence Islam vs. Christianity. As it plays out today, is there really any need to compare? One could say the Red State Neo-Cons are exhibiting Christian violence in the middle east and its easy how one may think that based on W’s apocalyptic language and illusions of personal prophetic grandeur but I posit its simply Luciferian sacrifices wrapped in a Hagee End Times conference bulletin.

mark branham
Guest

There is no knowledge of anything, especially human history, without the knowledge contained within The Urantia Book. It’s 2100 pages are THE essential reading.

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