The Obelisk and the Cross

An Alternative History of God, Myth and Meaning in the Western World

Non-Fiction - Religion/Philosophy
274 Pages
Reviewed on 06/20/2016
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Author Biography

Tony Sunderland is an educational researcher who is acknowledged as an innovator in the writing and presentation of nationally accredited courses ranging from social science to the history of learning . He is particularly interested in the practice and history of what has become known as the 'Western way of life'.
He believes that there are many alternative explanations of how 'things came to be' in the Western world and that these have either been ignored or suppressed by dominate and overpowering narratives of what can be termed as consensus history. His latest book ,'The Obelisk and the Cross' attempts to blend the orthodox view of Western history with alternative interpretations and propositions of historical events.
Tony's current research interests centre on the investigation and understanding of ancient
cultures that existed in the vicinity of the greater Mediterranean region. He has been married for 26 years and has two children.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Joel R. Dennstedt for Readers' Favorite

In his stimulating work The Obelisk and the Cross, Tony Sunderland undertakes the academic’s most daunting challenge: to convey without ponderous explications or brittle simplifications the entire history of a subject – in this case, the evolution of religious thought – as it pertains to a rather focused primary objective – to bring insight to the fundamental trilogy of religious inquiry: Where did we come from? Why are we here? What happens when we die? Beginning with the oldest of religious symbols – the obelisk – and its strange appearance in the center of the world’s most enduring religious location – the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Square – something that should denote a kind of sacrilege has been appropriated from antiquity and made a center-piece for modern theological supremacy. This prompts the author to ask a natural question: Why?

Tony Sunderland’s attempt in The Obelisk and the Cross to bring some clarity to a subject rife with diametrically opposed beliefs, opinions, conjectures, and unwavering, documented certainties as provided by almost every genre of inquiry known to man is nothing less than extraordinary. The writing is perfectly concise, incredibly inclusive yet relentlessly focused, and unerringly directed. There are so many ways this book could have jumped the track. That Mr. Sunderland takes the reader from here to there without a single extraneous side trip or excessive plodding, and yet manages to include every historical detail necessary to his purpose, makes for a fast and highly satisfying read. The reader realizes he is missing massive amounts of information, but never that this book suffers for the omission. Instead, as with any stimulating work, one feels impelled to search for further knowledge elsewhere. In turn, Mr. Sunderland meets his challenge here superbly. He gives the reader exactly what he promises at the start. And that is an amazing accomplishment.

Eduardo Aduna

The Obelisk and the Cross: An Alternative History of God, Myth and Meaning in the Western World by Tony Sunderland is a refreshing take on the scholastic perception of the interplay between Christian iconography and that of other beliefs. By delving into the presence of obelisks, not just in the Vatican but throughout the world, Tony Sunderland gives readers a comprehensive glimpse of Christianity's predecessors and contemporaries.

Perhaps the main thing that gets in the way of ordinary people trying to learn more about history is the tendency of scholars to obfuscate their work in dry language and uninteresting facts. Tony Sunderland writes in an engaging, pleasant style that revs up the reader's enthusiasm, piquing their interest while laying out premises and examples that they can relate to. By reducing complex philosophical meanderings to a set of questions that almost anyone, at one time or another, has pondered over a drink or two, the author gives readers the opportunity to expand their horizons and learn more about other religions and beliefs. It becomes easier to grasp how the basics of the world's different beliefs stem from a need to comprehend the world around us and to allay our primal fears about the world thereafter.

An informative book that engages the reader and helps them gain a better understanding of beliefs and the long history of Christianity and its interaction with other religions, The Obelisk and the Cross: An Alternative History of God, Myth and Meaning in the Western World by Tony Sunderland is one book everyone should pick up and enjoy.

Ruffina Oserio

The Obelisk and the Cross: An Alternative History of God, Myth and Meaning in the Western World by Tony Sunderland is a powerful and provocative work that x-rays the way beliefs are formed and how they become tools through which we seek meaning. Man has always struggled to find something that would allow him to outlive his mortality, perhaps something larger or stronger than him.

In Chapter Two of this thought-provoking and engaging work, the author asks three crucial questions, questions that have baffled the most refined minds: “Where did we come from? Why are we here? What happens when we die?” From then on, he makes a very interesting commentary on man’s adventures in search of meaning, a search that has resulted in diverse thoughts, myths, and beliefs. The author walks with readers through powerful historic moments, examining myths and beliefs from the ancient Greeks and Romans, to the Hebrews, the Catholic orthodoxy, the Gnostics, and many more.

This is one of those books that will make you rethink why you believe what you believe. The author writes with simplicity and allows his humorous voice to come across as soothing and very inviting. The Obelisk and the Cross: An Alternative History of God, Myth and Meaning in the Western World is a powerful commentary on the history and symbols of Western faith, a well thought-out book that will be an eye-opener to many people. Tony Sunderland raises questions that many religious fanatics will not want to consider answering, questions whose answers are deeply rooted in our very human flesh and our quest for meaning, and for something that can outlive our mortality.

Reviewed by Dane.

A wonderful read for anyone interested in religion. July 18, 2016

I absolutely loved this book. I don't consider myself a religious person at all, but I am very interested in religion itself. I have taken multiple world religion courses when I was in college and found the subject was one of my favorites. Tony Sunderlands The Obelisk and the Cross was a great read and I enjoyed every minuet of it.
Where did we come from?
Why are we here?
What happens when we die?
These are the three questions this book is based around but provides so much more. Not only does the book answer these questions for each corresponding era/religion it gives you wonderful incite into the views and beliefs of the followers of the period. Even though I extensively studied religions while at school there were many things that I never heard of nor that I had never explored in my studies. Even my wife who has no real interest in religion (absolutely ZERO) was rather taken back by a lot of the information that I read out loud. My wife now as I write this is reading the book, and I am completely amazed. Its not preachy or offensive in any way it simply takes you through the history and origins of belief. I even found the endnotes and index section to be quite helpful as once I finished I immediately wanted to go back and write a few things down to do my own research at a later time. If you have ever wondered about religion and its evolution this book is for you. If you couldn't care less about religion and think they are all born from each other as a great lie this book is for you. It takes an amazing middle ground position on the subject and merely goes through the facts and evidence available and builds a wonderful narrative around the history of religious belief. Once my wife is done ( I am in shock that she is reading a book about religion still.. sorry) I fully intend to take this to my professor of my world religions class as I think this books a great overall understand about religion and its connection to us all.