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Thread: Atheist/Humanist/Skeptic Book recommendations

  1. #1 Atheist/Humanist/Skeptic Book recommendations 
    Forum Sophomore Busy Bee's Avatar
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    I'm after some reading recommendations on anything to do with challenging religion and it's influence in society.

    To date I've read:
    The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
    God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything - Christopher Hitchens
    Letter to a Christian Nation - Sam Harris
    Infidel, Nomad and The Caged Virgin - Ayaan Hirsi Ali
    Invisible Women - Qanta Ahmed
    Missionary Position - Christopher Hitchens

    There's a few others but I can't remember them just now (I'm getting old )

    I'm currently reading "Religion for Atheists".

    I'm interesting in reading anything that provides a critique of any or all religions.

    Cheers!


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  3. #2  
    ox
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    Here are a few more that you can download for free:

    'The Age of Reason' by Thomas Paine.

    'The Origin of All Religious Worship' by Charles Dupuis.

    'The Devil's Pulpit' and also 'The Diegesis' by the Reverend Robert Taylor.

    All of these were banned by the Church at some point and with good reason, because they did a grand demolition job on organised faith.
    I particularly like Taylor. He realised that what he was expected to preach from the pulpit was total fiction. Instead he started to preach what was then called infidelism and we would now call atheism. For his sins he was imprisoned for blasphemy in Oakham Gaol England from where he started to write his books. He was almost certainly influenced by Dupuis when writing The Diegesis. On his release he went up and down England trying to teach the real truth behind Christianity.
    For me he is a saint of the Church of Atheism.

    http://archive.org/details/devilspulpit00tayl

    http://archive.org/details/diegesis00unkngoog

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/103543743/...is-Dupuis-1872

    http://www.deism.com/images/theageofreason1794.pdf


    Last edited by ox; July 6th, 2013 at 09:21 AM.
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  4. #3  
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    "Humanist Anthology" by Margeret Knight, is a good selection of readings from various thinkers from antiquity to now, and a great spring board to further reading.

    "The Sacred Depths of Nature" by Ursula Goodenough, is a biologist's journey of appreciation for the wonders of nature and awe far greater than any religious text. If you are an atheist that feels spiritual (as I often do) this book might be for you.




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  6. #5  
    Forum Sophomore Busy Bee's Avatar
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    Thanks, some of those sound really interesting!!

    I'm especially interested in ones that provide a critique of a particular religion, not so much the existence of a deity. (Read: I can't bring myself to actually read the Bible or Koran - I won't make it through - so I'd like someone else to read it for me and provide a critique )
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  7. #6  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Busy Bee View Post
    Thanks, some of those sound really interesting!!

    I'm especially interested in ones that provide a critique of a particular religion, not so much the existence of a deity. (Read: I can't bring myself to actually read the Bible or Koran - I won't make it through - so I'd like someone else to read it for me and provide a critique )
    Then you might like the works of Karen Armstrong, she's a Catholic nun who's studied and written a lot about other religious. She sometimes gets deservingly criticized for soft-peddling the worst parts of the dominant religions, but her writing is clear and she does a good job of pointing out the differences and often provides rich context for why people believe as they do. Warning she's a half full glass type person who finds much to love about every religion so you won't find strong critiques-you might even come away with an appreciation for the value of ceremony, tradition and some form of faith that many atheist people automatically reject but most people need--and they wonder why secular ideas struggle so much to earn credibility (duh!). You'll find a lot of her in TED talks and other vids as well if you want to get a taste.
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  8. #7  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lynx_Fox View Post
    Then you might like the works of Karen Armstrong, she's a Catholic nun who's studied and written a lot about other religious.
    Err..she was a Catholic nun. She was born in Worcestershire England, about 6 miles from where I am writing this.
    She went into the convent straight from school. She was disappointed. She was bullied. When she argued for the Resurrection she found that some other nuns didn't even believe in it!
    She wrote a book called Through A Narrow Gate describing her experiences at the convent. When she escaped she went to Oxford University and wrote a book called Beginning the World.
    A third autobiography was called The Spiral Staircase, in recognition that she had turned from theism to atheism and then back again.
    She found a good living from writing books about different religions to include the 3 monotheisms and buddhism.
    Her books are well written but they are biased and it is easy enough to dispute them.
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    I found Carl Sagan's Book: The Demon-Haunted World and Michael Shermer's:The Believing Brain good reads.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eleven11 View Post
    {remember that Mormons believe that people become Gods after death, and recieve a planet to rule...}
    Do they really?!
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  11. #10  
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    joseph smith taught that the celestial kingdom itself is subdivided into three "heavens or degrees".[9] only those individuals who are sealed in celestial marriage to a spouse in a temple while alive (or after death by proxy) will be permitted to enter into the highest degree of celestial kingdom.[10] these individuals will eventually become "exalted"[11] and will be permitted to live "the kind of life god lives" as literal gods and goddesses,
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    Quote Originally Posted by MrMojo1 View Post
    I found Carl Sagan's Book: The Demon-Haunted World and Michael Shermer's:The Believing Brain good reads.
    Definitely A Demon-Haunted World by Sagan. Much more mild than some of the others, but at least as well reasoned. The man really had a way with words.
    Disclaimer: I do not declare myself to be an expert on ANY subject. If I state something as fact that is obviously wrong, please don't hesitate to correct me. I welcome such corrections in an attempt to be as truthful and accurate as possible.

    "Gullibility kills" - Carl Sagan
    "All people know the same truth. Our lives consist of how we chose to distort it." - Harry Block
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  13. #12  
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    Quote Originally Posted by KALSTER View Post
    Definitely A Demon-Haunted World by Sagan. Much more mild than some of the others, but at least as well reasoned. The man really had a way with words.
    I agree. The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan proves that we should not put too much faith in anything other than science.
    Even so, you can't disprove religious faith 100%, but you can disprove it say, 99.999...%. And amazingly it is that 0.001% where it finds its existence.
    The Dalai Lama more or less challenged Sagan to disprove reincarnation. He couldn't of course. We can't really prove that the Eucharist does not turn a thin wafer and some wine into the body and blood of a saviour, even if the chemical composition remains unaltered. We can't prove that Mormons have not gone to inhabit other planets, or the reason for the sunrise is a sacrificial rite.
    Sagan discusses if prayer works. Again, we cannot say for certain that it does not, but look at the odds. Statistics show that there is only about a 1 in a million chance of being cured at Lourdes. In a century there were only 65 miraculous cures acknowledged by the RC Church and 59 of these were women. Compare this to the spontaneous remission rates of cancer at up to 1 in 10,000.
    Millions pray for the long life a leader or monarch. They is no evidence that they live any longer than any others of a similar class.
    Sagan also turns his attention to faith healers and how these guys can kill if you prefer them to surgery.
    A belief in UFO's is not much different from a belief in any old religion. Extraterrestrials by some sort of warped definition must be superior.
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  14. #13  
    Genius Duck Moderator Dywyddyr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ox View Post
    [We can't really prove that the Eucharist does not turn a thin wafer and some wine into the body and blood of a saviour, even if the chemical composition remains unaltered.
    Er, actually the fact that the chemical composition remains unaltered IS proof that the wafer is still a wafer (and, therefore, NOT the body of Christ).

    Statistics show that there is only about a 1 in a million chance of being cured at Lourdes.
    Statistics show that the chance of "miracle cures" is somewhat lower at Lourdes than just about anywhere that's not Lourdes.
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  15. #14  
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dywyddyr View Post
    Er, actually the fact that the chemical composition remains unaltered IS proof that the wafer is still a wafer (and, therefore, NOT the body of Christ).
    Yes, but not until you have consumed it, so you are missing the point. You get the warm glow of your saviour when he is inside you, but only if you really believe it and you are a Catholic and not a Protestant. Even I can testify to this. It is the classic case of mind over matter, and who's to say it never works?
    Statistics show that the chance of "miracle cures" is somewhat lower at Lourdes than just about anywhere that's not Lourdes.
    Reference please.

    Since Sagan wrote the book the statistics have been updated. Since the Marian Apparitions in 1858 about 200 million have visited Lourdes and the RC Church has claimed 68 cures. The chances of a miraculous cure at Lourdes are therefore 1 in 3 million, and 3 times higher than that claimed by Sagan. But compare this to the chance of winning the Euromillions Lottery at 1 in 76 million!
    The springwater from the grotto is the source of the healing, so really we have to ask as to why the holy water only works in so few cases. I have visited Lourdes myself on 3 occasions. It is a tourist trap with a long line of souvenir shops, but what it does do is bring people together and give them hope, and that is probably where the real healing lies.
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    May I recommend that you read the religious texts themselves?

    Why waste your time on/with someone else's critique(s) when you can formulate your own?
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  17. #16  
    Genius Duck Moderator Dywyddyr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ox View Post
    Since Sagan wrote the book the statistics have been updated.
    I wasn't using Sagan's statistics.

    Since the Marian Apparitions in 1858 about 200 million have visited Lourdes and the RC Church has claimed 68 cures.
    67.

    The chances of a miraculous cure at Lourdes are therefore 1 in 3 million
    That's over the last 150 years.
    Since 1978 only 4 "recognised cures" have occurred.

    Lourdes - The Skeptic's Dictionary - Skepdic.com
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  18. #17  
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    Quote Originally Posted by sculptor View Post
    BB

    May I recommend that you read the religious texts themselves?

    Why waste your time on/with someone else's critique(s) when you can formulate your own?
    I think I would lose the will to live if I tried to read the Bible or Quran. At the risk of sounding thick the words have to capture my attention and hold it otherwise I very quickly am thinking about what to make for dinner or my son's swimming lessons etc whilst my eyes are just running over the words and I'm not taking anything in.

    Thanks for the suggestions everyone.
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  19. #18  
    ...matter and pixie dust wegs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Busy Bee View Post
    I'm after some reading recommendations on anything to do with challenging religion and it's influence in society.

    To date I've read:
    The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
    God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything - Christopher Hitchens
    Letter to a Christian Nation - Sam Harris
    Infidel, Nomad and The Caged Virgin - Ayaan Hirsi Ali
    Invisible Women - Qanta Ahmed
    Missionary Position - Christopher Hitchens

    There's a few others but I can't remember them just now (I'm getting old )

    I'm currently reading "Religion for Atheists".

    I'm interesting in reading anything that provides a critique of any or all religions.

    Cheers!
    Oh, glad I found this thread tonight! I have looked a bit on amazon.com, through my kindle...but, it's good to see some of your recommendations, here. I'm Agnostic, was once Christian. I've been looking for some worthwhile reads that counter religion, and are well written. Thanks for the suggestions!

    While somewhat of a political/religious read, you might enjoy, Reading Lolita in Tehran, by Azar Nafisi. I loved it, thought it was excellent.
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    If you want an easy read, try PZ Myers The Happy Atheist. It's really a collection of blog posts edited into an essay format rather than a book with a coherent, start here and work your way to the end, single book divided only by chapters.

    But a lot of it is amusing, some of it is pretty sarcastic/ snarky, plenty of it is witty and entertaining.

    And it's already released in ebook format.
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  21. #20  
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    What do you hope to learn about atheism by reading more books? Is there more to it than simply not believing in religion? What is the relationship between atheism and humanism?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    What do you hope to learn about atheism by reading more books? Is there more to it than simply not believing in religion? What is the relationship between atheism and humanism?
    Connections via social issues brought upon by religious doctrine, I.E stances on abortion/gay marriage/etc. Humanism doesn't like social injustice, ergo humanism does not like religious infringement upon human rights. I would suspect that being an atheist also raises the plausibility of one being a humanist.
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  23. #22  
    ...matter and pixie dust wegs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Harold14370 View Post
    What do you hope to learn about atheism by reading more books? Is there more to it than simply not believing in religion? What is the relationship between atheism and humanism?
    Personally, I like to read books that offer me insight as to why someone abandoned his/her faith and is now an agnostic or atheist. It wasn't all that long ago that I practiced Christianity, so hearing and reading stories or perspectives of others who hold the views that I now do, can be both educational and somewhat comforting to me. If the author was never a believer and always held an atheistic view, it still intrigues me as to ...why.
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    Quote Originally Posted by shlunka View Post
    I would suspect that being an atheist also raises the plausibility of one being a humanist.
    I'm do not understand this portion of your post. Could you clarify?
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  25. #24  
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    Another good short and good read that's well partitioned into bite sized assays is "Meditations for the Humanist" by Grayling.

    --

    I agree with shlunk, at least in Western nations (not sure about others), a lot of atheist turn to secular humanism. In my experience it filled a hole left by Christianity and replaced it with a much more reason based philosophy about how to treat and respect people, and on a larger scale, the environment--in many cases alright closely akin to my love and science based fascination and often spiritual (as in emotional awe) connection with nature.
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    David Hume's Enquiry is brilliant.

    (I thought I would bump this since humanism is such an important topic, especially in this forum)
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    Quote Originally Posted by sculptor View Post
    BB

    May I recommend that you read the religious texts themselves?

    Why waste your time on/with someone else's critique(s) when you can formulate your own?
    It's often helpful to have insight you may not pick up on yourself.
    "Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." -Calvin
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    I would highly recommend staying away from the New Atheists for any knowledge on religion since they are very unscientific and inaccurate in much of what they present. I hope this list helps anyone who is interested in understanding more about religion. Many of these authors are scientists or historians writing books on their own field (whereas the "new atheists" don't perform research on religion and have credentials not related to religion). Sam Harris has done I think one study of religion which is an exception but most of what he writes about is not about his field of neuroscience. Anyways, I hope this list helps anyone who is really trying to understand religion as I am.

    Cognitive science of religion

    Religion Explained by Pascal Boyer
    Faces in the Clouds by Stewart Guthrie
    Why Would Anyone Believe in God by Justin Barrett
    Rethinking Religion by Lawson and McCauley
    Cognitive Aspects of Religious Symbolism by Pascal Boyer
    The Naturalness of Religious Ideas by Pascal Boyer
    Ritual & Memory by Harvey Whitehouse and James Laidlaw

    Evolution of religion
    The Evolution of God by Robert Wright
    The History of God by Karen Armstrong
    The Religion of the Semites by W. Roberson Smith
    The Elementary Forms of Religious Life by Emile Durkheim
    The Ghost Dance by Weston La Barre
    Evolving God by Barbara King

    Comparative Religion
    Comparative Religion by E.O. James
    Patterns in Comparative Religion by Mircea Eliade
    The Golden Bough by Sir James Frazier

    History of religions
    The History of Heaven by Jefferey Russel
    The Origin of Satan Elaine Pagels
    A History of the Devil by Gerald Messadie
    Asimov's Guide to the Bible by Isaac Asimov (A 1300 page beast of a book!)
    Islam by Karen Armstrong
    Jesus, Interrupted by Bart Ehrman
    Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium by Bart Ehrman
    How Jesus Became God by Bart Ehrman
    Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman
    Did God Have a Wife? By William Dever
    The Bible with Sources Revealed by Richard Friedman

    Anthologies on Religion
    The End of Christianity edited by John Loftus
    Portable Atheist Edited by Christopher Hitchens
    Critiques of God edited by Peter Angeles
    Faith in Faithlessness edited by Dimitrious Roussopoulos
    The Christian Delusion edited by John Loftus
    Intelligent Design Creationism and It's Critics edited by Pennock

    Understanding Superstition
    The Science of Superstition by Bruce Hood
    Superstition by Robert Park
    Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition by Stuart Vyse
    How the Mind Works by Steven Pinker
    The Believing Brain by Michael Shermer
    Last edited by ReligionOfTheSemites; August 23rd, 2014 at 01:09 PM.
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    Forum Masters Degree pavlos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ReligionOfTheSemites View Post
    Snip<> snip
    Lets not forget Virus of the mind. - Richard Brodie and Genes, memes, and temes. - Susan Blackmore.
    A logician saves the life of a tiny space alien. The alien is very grateful and, since she's omniscient, offers the following reward: she offers to answer any question the logician might pose. Without too much thought (after all, he's a logician), he asks: "What is the best question to ask and what is the correct answer to that question?" The tiny alien pauses. Finally she replies, "The best question is the one you just asked; and the correct answer is the one I gave."
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