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  • Writer's pictureCourtney Heard

Every Atheist Needs: Extraordinary Popular Delusions And The Madness Of Crowds

Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

One night, probably eleven or twelve years ago, I was wandering the many stalls hawking stuff like cell phone cases and Hello Kitty backpacks, when my good friend called me over to a new stall.

“Fucking books, bitch!” She was only slightly more vulgar than I. One of the many things I miss about her.

I walked over to a stall full of hardcover books being sold 3 for $10. I just about fell to my knees and cried. If there was ever a moment in my life I might have considered God was real, it’d have been that one. My vulgar friend and I probably dropped a stiff hundo there, as I remember we needed help getting them all back to her “Canuck Truck”.

I scored a gorgeous hardcover, oversized, photograph book of flight that my son still thumbs through to this day. I also found an old atlas with the USSR still in it. The pièce de résistance, though friendly heretics, was a book I knew nothing about but bought solely for its brilliant and magnetic title:

I lugged it home in a box full of all the other treasures I scored and plunked it in my office, where they were ignored for weeks. It wasn’t until I broke up with my then-boyfriend that I went trudging downstairs to find some reading material to fall asleep to. I snatched up this massive book with sixteen chapters and devoured it as fast as I could.

This could act as a sort of Bible for skeptics. This book is full of so many ridiculous claims that were accepted en masse at some point in history. It’s like a ledger of the times humans, collectively, wagered away our critical thought. It’s hilarious and terrifying at the same time.

Written by Charles Mackay and first published in 1841, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds covers hauntings and alchemy, witches and stock market speculation and so, so much more.

The book explains how people get wrapped up in these fads and trends and it’s easy to see how these ideas can apply to religious faith.

This is an absolute must-read for skeptics of all sorts – and don’t forget to be skeptical of the author of this book, either. It’s been said he exaggerated some of the stories within.

All in all, though, I can say that this is, by far, the best $3.33 I’ve spent in my life and it helped me get over my ex-boyfriend pretty quickly. You’d be happy to know, the next guy I dated was Godless Dad. It’s kinda like Charles Mackay smacked the gullible right out of me.

Have you read Extraordinary Popular Delusions and The Madness of Crowds? What did you think? Let me know in the comments.

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