I recommend the books below as quality tools for understanding religion's true place in our culture.
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Atheist Voices of Minnesota: an Anthology of Personal Stories by PZ Myers (Author), Kenny Bellew (Author), Chris Stedman (Author), Shannon Drury (Author), August Berkshire (Author), Kim Socha (Author), Greta Christina (Author), and 29 more (Author), Bill Lehto (Editor)
I (K.R. Bellew) am one of the authors of this book. This book will be ready to ship in September 2012.
Atheists have turned a corner in public visibility in recent years, but they nevertheless remain one of America's most misunderstood and mistrusted groups of people. Atheist Voices of Minnesota attempts to correct these misconceptions by letting thirty-six atheists openly share their personal, unique stories. The results are touching, fascinating, and diverse. This collection of autobiographical stories is an excellent introduction to atheism, and will inspire other atheists to come out to their family and friends. With a Foreword by Greta Christina
The End of Christianity by John W. Loftus
In this successor volume to his critically acclaimed first anthology, The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails, John Loftus—a former minister and now a leading atheist spokesperson—has assembled a stellar group of respected scholars to continue the critique of Christianity begun in the first volume. The contributors include Victor Stenger, Robert Price, Hector Avalos, Richard Carrier, Keith Parsons, David Eller, and others. Loftus is the author of Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity. Taken together, the Loftus trilogy poses formidable challenges to claims for the rationality of the Christian faith.
The first part considers the wildly improbable nature of basic Christian tenets; the lack of agreement among diverse Christian sects regarding the essential Christian message; and a counter argument to the popular Christian claim that it was incredible that the Christian faith arose if it wasn't true in the first place.
The second part analyzes the role of ancient Near Eastern myth in the creation of the Bible, revealing that the image of God depicted there is a projection of evolving human needs during the Iron Age beginning with polytheism.
In the third part, the contributors critique the Christian doctrines of the atonement, hell, and the resurrection.
The final part considers the incompatibility of religion and science, reviews claims for intelligent design and life after death, and advances the proposition that science can help discover morality.
Students and scholars with an interest in the philosophy of religion will find this compilation of incisive critical essays to be intellectually stimulating and deeply thought provoking.
Not the Impossible Faith by Richard Carrier
Dr. Richard Carrier is an expert in the history of the ancient world and a critic of Christian attempts to distort history in defense of their faith. Not the Impossible Faith is a tour de force in that genre, dissecting and refuting the oft-repeated claim that Christianity could not have succeeded in the ancient world unless it was true. Though framed as a detailed rebuttal to Christian apologist J.P. Holding (author of The Impossible Faith), Carrier takes a general approach that educates the reader on the history and sociology of the ancient world, answering many questions like: How did Christians approach evidence? Was there a widespread prejudice against the testimony of women? Was resurrection such a radical idea? Who would worship a crucified criminal? And much more. Written with occasional humor and an easy style, and thoroughly referenced, with many entertaining "gotcha!" moments, Not the Impossible Faith is a must-read for anyone interested in the origins of Christianity.
Why I Am Not a Christian: Four Conclusive Reasons to Reject the Faith by Richard Carrier
Dr. Richard Carrier, world renowned philosopher and historian, explains the four reasons he does not accept the Christian religion, describing four facts of the world that, had they been different, he would believe. He is brief, clear, and down to earth, covering the whole topic in under ninety pages of easy-to-read explanation. Those four reasons are God's silence, God's inaction, the lack of evidence, and the way the universe looks exactly like a godless universe would, and not at all like a Christian universe would, even down to its very structure. Dr. Carrier addresses all the usual replies to these claims, in ways you might not have heard before, relying on his wide experience in debating and studying these issues all over the world for more than fifteen years. A perfect book to introduce yourself, or your friends, to why fewer educated people are embracing Christianity than ever before. Ideal for handing out to door-to-door missionaries.
Incredible Shrinking Son of Man: How Reliable Is the Gospel Tradition? by Robert M. Price
In THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING SON OF MAN, Robert M. Price, a noted biblical scholar and a member of the Jesus Seminar, investigates the historical accuracy of Jesus as written in the New Testament stories. Beginning with the assumption that Jesus indeed walked the earth, Price discovers that the Bible provides no paint with which to draw a historically accurate portrait of such an important religious figure. Price juxtaposes Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John's accounts of Jesus' life, revealing both well-known and not-so-obvious contradictions in the Gospels.
In his introduction, Price defines and defends higher criticism of the Bible, a tool he uses to reconcile history with Scripture. Next, Price presents the sources the Gospel writers used to compose their works, as well as the territory already charted by biblical scholarship. Price's investigation follows a traditional life-of-Jesus outline, starting with Jesus' birth--why is it celebrated on December 25? Was it really a virgin birth?
n chapter 4, Price analyzes Baptist and other Christian beliefs about Jesus and John the Baptist, proposing that the latter's role may not be historical. Price wrestles with the controversial question of miracles, setting the groundwork for judging the authenticity of these stories. Many miracle accounts, Price shows, have parallels in other Jewish and Hellenistic traditions, and each miracle story has a particular structure, which fits a general pattern. Does this mean that historians cannot judge any miracle stories as occurring historically?
The Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity Begin with a Mythical Christ? Challenging the Existence of an Historical Jesus by Earl Doherty
During three years of exposure on the World Wide Web, where he has presented convincing evidence, on a half a million word website, that no historical Jesus existed, to enthusiastic (and not so enthusiastic) reaction from around the globe, Earl Doherty's first published book has been eagerly awaited. The wait will not disappoint. In a highly attractive product (the cover itself is stunning), the author presents all the details of his argument in an immensely readable and accessible format. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"The most compelling argument ever published in support of the theory that Jesus never existed as an historical person." --Frank Zindler, editor, American Atheist Magazine, Autumn 2000.
The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond The Grave by Robert M. Price
Did Jesus rise from the dead? Although 19th- and early 20th-century biblical scholarship dismissed the resurrection narratives as late, legendary accounts, Christian apologists in the late 20th century revived historical apologetics for the resurrection of Jesus with increasingly sophisticated arguments. A few critics have directly addressed some of the new arguments, but their response has been largely muted. "The Empty Tomb" scrutinizes the claims of leading Christian apologists and critiques their view of the resurrection as the best historical explanation. The contributors include New Testament scholars, philosophers, historians, and leading non-theists. They focus on the key questions relevant to assessing the historicity of the resurrection: What did the authors of the New Testament mean when they said Jesus rose from the dead? What historical evidence is needed to establish the resurrection? If there is a God, why would He resurrect Jesus? Was there an empty tomb? What should we make of the appearance stories? And, apart from historical evidence, is belief in the resurrection justified? "The Empty Tomb" provides a sober, objective response to arguments offered in defense of Christianity's central claim.
Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist by Dan Barker
Losing Faith in Faith was helpful to me in my own break from the manacles of religious tyranny. Dan's book makes for both good sense and good humor. --Steve Benson, editorial cartoonist, Arizona Republic
Barker is compelling, humourous, and rational. His arguments are clear and thought-provoking. --Andrew Fandre, Huntsville Times
This book profoundly affected me. It's funny, and poignant, and most importantly, true! You must read this book. --Julia Sweeney, comedian, actress, "Saturday Night Live" alumna
Barker is compelling, humourous, and rational. His arguments are clear and thought-provoking. --Andrew Fandre, Huntsville Times
From the Publisher A challenge to believers; an arsenal for skeptics. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Who Wrote the New Testament?: The Making of the Christian Myth by Burton L. Mack
In this groundbreaking and controversial book, Burton Mack brilliantly exposes how the Gospels are fictional mythologies created by different communities for various purposes and are only distantly related to the actual historical Jesus.
Mack's innovative scholarship which boldly challenges traditional Christian understanding' will change the way you approach the New Testament and think about how Christianity arose.
The clarity of Mack's prose and the intelligent pursuit of his subject make compelling reading. Mack's investigation of the various groups and strands of the early Christian community out of which were generated the texts of Christianity's first anthology of religious literature and makes sense of a topic that has been confusing.
Can We Trust the New Testament?: Thoughts on the Reliability of Early Christian Testimony by George Albert Wells
Can We Trust the New Testament? questions the historical accuracy of widely held views of early Christianity. In this book radical Bible scholar G. A. Wells examines Biblical accounts of the lives of the apostles Peter and Paul and presents evidence that the events described in the New Testament were written over time to support the agendas of the Christian church. He embarks on a close analysis of the Book of Acts, questioning its authorship and casting doubt on the events it and the gospels describe.
This book should be in your library.
The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
This is a must read.
With rigor and wit, Dawkins examines God in all his forms, from the sex-obsessed tyrant of the Old Testament to the more benign (but still illogical) Celestial Watchmaker favored by some Enlightenment thinkers. He eviscerates the major arguments for religion and demonstrates the supreme improbability of a supreme being. He shows how religion fuels war, foments bigotry, and abuses children, buttressing his points with historical and contemporary evidence. The God Delusion makes a compelling case that belief in God is not just wrong but potentially deadly. It also offers exhilarating insight into the advantages of atheism to the individual and society, not the least of which is a clearer, truer appreciation of the universe's wonders than any faith could ever muster.
The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason by Sam Harris
This important and timely book delivers a startling analysis of the clash of faith and reason in today's world. Harris offers a vivid historical tour of mankind's willingness to suspend reason in favor of religious beliefs, even when those beliefs are used to justify harmful behavior and sometimes-heinous crimes. He asserts that in the shadow of weapons of mass destruction, we can no longer tolerate views that pit one true god against another. Most controversially, he argues that we cannot afford moderate lip service to religion; an accommodation that only blinds us to the real perils of fundamentalism. While warning against the encroachment of organized religion into world politics, Harris also draws on new evidence from neuroscience and insights from philosophy to explore spirituality as a biological, brain-based need. He calls on us to invoke that need in taking a secular humanistic approach to solving the problems of this world.
Natalie Angier wrote in The New York Times: "The End of Faith articulates the dangers and absurdities of organized religion so fiercely and so fearlessly that I felt relieved as I read it, vindicated....Harris writes what a sizable number of us think, but few are willing to say."
God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens
In the tradition of Bertrand Russell's Why I Am Not a Christian and Sam Harris's recent bestseller, The End of Faith, Christopher Hitchens makes the ultimate case against religion. With a close and erudite reading of the major religious texts, he documents the ways in which religion is a man-made wish, a cause of dangerous sexual repression, and a distortion of our origins in the cosmos. With eloquent clarity, Hitchens frames the argument for a more secular life based on science and reason, in which hell is replaced by the Hubble Telescope's awesome view of the universe, and Moses and the burning bush give way to the beauty and symmetry of the double helix.