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Politics, Religion, Philosophy, Science & Social Justice

The following are books that I have found interestinmg and helpful in clarifying my thinking.

Faith versus Fact: Why Science and Religion are Incompatible
Author: Jerry A. Coyne
The book makes a clear argument for the negative affects that religion has on the advancement and acceptance of scientific knowledge and the jeopardy in which scientific knowledge places religion.

"Science, construed broadly as a commitment to the use of rationality, empirical observation, testability, and falsifiability, is indeed the only way to gain objective knowledge (as opposed to subjective knowledge) about the universe."

Life Driven Purpose: How an Atheist Finds Meaning
Author: Dan Barker

"If you think your purpose must come from outside yourself, you are a lifeless implement or a slave to another mind."

"There is no purpose of life. It may sound counterintuitive, but that is truly great news! Life is its own reward. You should not want there to be a purpose of life. You are not a subject. You don’t have an assignment to live up to. You don’t have a cosmic task to accomplish. You don’t have a duty to fulfill. You are not being managed or judged by an overlord. Unshackled from the chains of a master, you are truly free to live."

"Life is not driven by purpose; purpose is driven by life. You don’t have a purpose-driven life; you have life-driven purpose."

"Now, here is the point on which this whole book hinges: to say there is no purpose of life is not to say there is no purpose in life."

The Necessity of Secularism: Why God Can't Tell Us What to Do
Author: Ronald A. Lindsay

"Secularism should be understood as the view that: government should not involve itself with religious matters; religious doctrine should play no role in shaping public policy or in the discourse about public policy; and religious institutions and beliefs should not enjoy a privileged position within society."

The Soul Fallacy: What Science Shows We Can gain form Letting Go of Our Soul Beliefs
Author: Julien Musolino

"In sharp contrast to popular opinion, the current scientific consensus rejects any notion of soul or spirit as separate from the activity of the brain. .... You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.”

What Then Must We Do? Straight Talk about the Next American revolution
Author: Gar Alperovitz
Why There is No God: Simple Responses to 20 Common Arguements for the Existance of God
Author: Armin Navabi
Comforting Thoughts About Death that have Nothing to do with God
Author: Greta Christina
Breaking Rank: A Top Cop's Expose of the Dark Side of American Policing
Author: Norm Stamper
This book provide me an education on policing and a view of what it could be.
This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate
Author: Naomi Klein
An excellent book which argues that capitalism as an economic system is at odds with responding to climate change and an impediment to creating a more just and sustainable society. I gained a much better understanding of the problem unrestrained capitalism presents.
Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming
Author: McKenzie Funk
Interesting book that describes the positioning of corporations to profit from global warming.
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History
Author: Elizabeth Kolbert
Clearly describes the affect of human activity on our planet through its impact on thirteen species.
The Meaning of Human Existence
Author: Edward O. Wilson
A great little book on the wonders of social and biological evolution.
Snake Oil: How Fracking's False Promises of Plenty Imperils Our Future
Author: Richard Heinberg
The title says it all. Improved my understanding of the issue.
Don't Put That in There!: And 69 Other Sex Myths Debunked
Author: Aaron Carroll MD
Fun little book that provides some good sex education.
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
Author: Atul Gawande MD
This is a short but powerful book that reads easily and provides a basis for thinking about how we want to make a life worth living as our capabilities to fend for ourselves diminish.

"The only way death is not meaningless is to see yourself as part of something greater: a family, a community, a society. If you don’t, mortality is only a horror."

"Whatever the limits and travails we face, we want to retain the autonomy— the freedom— to be the authors of our lives."

"People with serious illness have priorities besides simply prolonging their lives. Surveys find that their top concerns include avoiding suffering, strengthening relationships with family and friends, being mentally aware, not being a burden on others, and achieving a sense that their life is complete."

"Whenever serious sickness or injury strikes and your body or mind breaks down, the vital questions are the same: What is your understanding of the situation and its potential outcomes? What are your fears and what are your hopes? What are the trade-offs you are willing to make and not willing to make? And what is the course of action that best serves this understanding?"

Sex at Dawn How We Mate, Why We Stray, and What It Means for Modern Relationships
Authors: Christopher Ryan, PhD, and Cacilda Jethá, MD
This book builds a compelling case against the standard narrative that one man, one women and their children form the basic unit of society throughout human history. Very well written and researched. It is an excellent book to pare with "The Purity Myth" (see Below).

"But if human sexuality developed primarily as a bonding mechanism in interdependent bands where paternity certainty was a non issue, then the standard narrative of human sexual evolution is toast. The anachronistic presumption that women have always bartered their sexual favors to individual men in return for help with child care, food, protection, and the rest of it collapses upon contact with the many societies where women feel no need to negotiate such deals. Rather than a plausible explanation for how we got to be the way we are, the standard narrative is exposed as contemporary moralistic bias packaged to look like science and then projected upon the distant screen of prehistory, rationalizing the present while obscuring the past. Yabba dabba doo."

Taking Liberties: Why Religious Freedom Doesn’t Give You the Right to Tell Other People What to Do
Author: Robert Boston
This is a very easy to read short book that describes what religious freedom is in the United States and provides examples of how fundamentalist religion has and continues to subvert its meaning. The problem is that having failed to persuade people to voluntarily adopt their religious views, fundamentalists would enforce them by law.

"The term religious freedom means the right to make decisions about theology for yourself. It’s the right to worship God— or not to worship at all— as you see fit. It’s the right to share your faith and join in worship with a community of like-minded believers. It’s the right to pass that faith on to your children. That is what religious freedom is. Here is what it is not: It’s not the right to tell other people what to do. It’s not the right to make decisions for others. It’s not the right to use the power of government to impose your theology on anyone else."

Touching A Nerve: The Self as Brain
Author: Patricia S. Churchland
This is an exceptionally clear and easy to read book that describes neuroscience's current understanding of how our brain works without hype. The author approaches the subject as a philosopher that believes you cannot do philosophy without an understanding of the brain. The author addresses such topics as the soul, after life, morality and free will based on our knowledge of how the brain works.

"My brain, not a soul, holds the key to what makes me the way I am."

The Purity Myth: How America's Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women
Author: Jessica Valenti
Having taught sex education through the Unitarian Church in the 70's, I found this book particularly depressing and an indictment of conservative religion's negative impact on our culture. This is a book that every parent and young person should read.

"Making sex moral and doing away with the myth of sexual purity are about more than trusting young women’s sexual choices. They’re about trusting women, period. Because if you can’t trust women with sex, then you can’t trust them with choices about family, about relationships, about anything. In a perfect world, our moral choices would not be seen through a filter that always includes sexuality."

Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other
Author: Sherry Turkle
The author brings years of research to her analysis of the effects of technology on what we expect of each other and how we develop as people in its context.
Why Are You Atheist So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless
Author: Greta Christina
This is the most readable and concise presentation of the arguments against religion that I have found. After listing 99 reasons that atheists are angry, the author responds to questions that she knows will be asked. In the process, the author provides excellent rebuttals to all the arguments that can be made in favor of religion. I highly recommend this book.

"Religion is a belief in invisible beings, inaudible voices, intangible entities, undetectable forces, and events and judgments that happen after we die.
It therefore has no reality check.
It is uniquely armored against anything that might stop it from spinning into extreme absurdity, extreme denial of reality... and extreme, grotesque immorality. "

Why I Am Not A Christian
Author: Richard Carrier
This small (83 page) book does a very effective job of arguing that Christianity is false based on the evidence. He does this by examining four issues.

God is Silent: "The fact that God hasn't spoken to us directly, and hasn't given us all the same, clear message, and the same, clear answers, is enough to prove Christianity false."

God is Inert: The fact that God has not acted in the world as any loving person would is enough to prove Christianity if false.

Wrong Evidence: The fact that there is no evidence that God exists, that God is good, that faith in Jesus Christ procures eternal life, and that God created this universe is evidence that Christianity is false.

Wrong Universe: The fact that natural theory and not Christian theory fits and predicts what we observe is enough to prove Christianity if false.

Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt
Authors: Chris Hedges & Joe Sacco
The book describes in words and drawings five sacrifice zones in this country that have been "offered up for exploitation in the name of profit, progress, and technological advancement." These include: Pine Ridge, South Dakota; Camden, New Jersey; Welch, West Virginia; and Immokalee, Florida. The last chapter describes the Occupy movement in Liberty Square, New Your City. The book makes visible what "life looks like when the marketplace rules without constraints, where human beings and the natural world are used and then discarded to maximize profit." I found this a very powerful book.
Saving Jesus from The Church: How to Stop Worshiping Christ and Start Following Jesus
Author: Robin R. Meyers
I keep hoping for a Christian community that I can respect as an ally for justice in the world. Things seem so dismal and then "Nuns on the Bus" give me hope and I read this book that provides the most positive description of a Christian community that I have ever come across. It makes me think that Christianity can be a force for justice in the world—it can be a community that does as opposed to believes. The book is well written and easy to read. It provides a thoughtful analysis of Christianity in America using biblical scholarship and references to the writings of others. It is hard to state how much better our society could be if Christian communities reflected this way of being in the world.

"Today, worshipers of Christ agree to believe things about him in order to receive benefits promised by the institutions, not by Jesus." "Faith for millions really is about believing stuff in order to get stuff."

" A Galilean sage evolved over time into a divine Savior because a new way of being in the world gradually morphed into a new way of believing in the world."

The message should not be "Jesus is the Answer," it should be "Jesus is the Assignment." The assignment of Jesus' ministry "was, and is, and will always be about compassion—pure, unbridled, reckless compassion."

So Rich, So Poor: Why it's so hard to end poverty in America
Author: Peter Edelman
A valuable resource that should be read before discussing America's growing levels of poverty and addressing the following very fundamental questions.

"If we are to create an economy in which people are able to earn a livable income, we must answer four basic questions: (1) What can we do to increase the number of better jobs? (2) What can we do to increase the pay for the jobs that we have? (3) What can we do if—after we do everything possible to raise wages for the jobs we have—the labor market still fails and jobs still do not pay enough to live on? and (4) What can we do to restore a more equitable distribution of income and wealth?"

Politics as if Evolution Mattered: Darwin, Ecology and Social Justice
Author: Lorna Salzman
A small book of short essays that adds to an understanding of evolution and argues for the centrality of evolution to developing ecological, political and economic policies.
Thomas Paine and the Promise of America
Author: Harvey J. Kaye
An interesting view of Thomas Paine's place and influence in American history. The book made me realize that we have been fighting over empowering everyone versus some smaller group from the beginning. Paine argued for the inclusion of everyone. Hopefully we can achieve inclusiveness some day.
God and the Folly of Faith: The Incompatibility of Science and Religion
Author: Victor J. Stenger
Stenger provides a comprehensive and well reasoned analysis of the incompatibility of science and religion. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the questions of God's existence and the reasonableness of religious belief. This book provides an excellent review of what science has learned relative to religious claims. It is hard to understand how anyone can believe the magical thinking of religion in the face of science.

"We must distinguish faith from trust. Science has earned our trust by its proven success. Religion has destroyed our trust by its repeated failure." (pg. 25)

"Religious faith would not be such a negative force in society if it were just about religion. However, the magical thinking that becomes deeply ingrained whenever faith rules over facts warps all areas of life. It produces a frame of mind in which concepts are formulated with deep passion but without the slightest attention paid to the evidence that bears on the concept." (pg. 322)

It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism
Authors: Thomas E. Mann & Norman J. Ornstein
The authors, in this short and easy to read book, begin by describing how we arrived our current political environment, identify bromides that will not solve our problem and finally suggest an agenda for improving America's dysfunctional politics. This is an important book that provides thoughtful analysis and pragmatic suggestions.

Bromides that will not solve the problem: "The American System Will Correct Itself," "Third Party to the Rescue," "A Constitutional Amendment to Balance the Budget," "Term Limits," and "Full Public Financing of Elections."

Agenda for improving the performance of America's dysfunctional politics: "Expanding the Vote," "Modernizing Voter Registration," "Fighting Efforts to Restrict Voting," "Moving Election Day." "Making Attendance at the Polls Mandatory," "Redistricting Reform," "Changing to Open Primaries," "Establishing Alternatives to Winner-Take-All," and Campaign Finding Reforms.

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion
Author: Jonathan Haidt
One of the best books on morality that I have read. It presents the diverse psychological roots of morality. I recommend it to anyone interested in politics, religion or the controversies that divide modern society.
The Magic of Reality, How We Know What's Really True
Author: Richard Dawkins
This children's book should be read by every child as an antidote to any religious indoctrination they might have received based on their accident of birth. Well written and beautifully illustrated, it addresses the difference between reality and magic.
This Land is Their Land
Author: Barbara Ehrenreich
A book of short—3 to 4 page—funny satirical essays that skewer our social conditions. A delight to read and thought provoking.
50 Popular Beliefs that People Think are True
Author: Guy P. Harrison
Very easy to read and informative book that debunks many common false beliefs. Each chapter is short and to the point with a list of resources at the end.

"What would it take to create a world in which fantasy is not confused for fact and public policy is based on objective reality? I don't know for sure. But a good place to start would be for everyone on Earth to read this book." Neil DeGrasse Tyson

What Do You Do with a Chocolate Jesus?
Author: Thomas Quinn
A funny easy to read book that explores the history of Christianity. It is a great companion to Jesus, Interrupted that is a more serious presentation of biblical research (see below). Both books provide an analysis of historical Christianity that show it to be a very human creation.

"The problems don't start when people have faith in bizarre beliefs. The problems start when people want you to have faith in their bizarre beliefs and, if you decline the offer, they stop making good arguments and start making bad laws. ... Faith is personal opinion, which is why it's not called 'fact'."

American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America
Author: Chris Hedges
This book provides the clearest description of the Christian Right that I have found. The Christian Right has a world view that is antithetical to mine and detrimental to our society. Theirs is a non-reality-based belief system of magic, signs, miracles and wonders that isolates them from society. The certitude of Christian fundamentalism shelters them from a despair that threatens to consume them again if they return to a reality-based world as exemplified by science and evolution.
The Third Industrial Revolution
Author: Jeremy Rifkin
"The five pillars of the Third Industrial Revolution are (1) shifting to renewable energy; (2) transforming the building stock of every continent into micro-power plants to collect renewable energies on site; (3) deploying hydrogen and other storage technologies in every building and throughout the infrastructure to store intermittent energies; (4) using Internet technology to transform the power grid of every continent into an energy-sharing intergrid that acts just like the Internet (when millions of buildings are generating a small amount of energy locally, on site, they can sell surplus back to the grid and share electricity with their, continental neighbors); and (5) transitioning the transport fleet to electric plug-in and fuel cell vehicles that can buy and sell electricity on a smart, continental, interactive power grid." (pg. 37)
I found the last three chapters entitled "Retiring Adam Smith", A Classroom Makeover" and "Morphing from the Industrial to the Collaborative Era" the most interesting.
World On The Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse
Author: Lester R. Brown
The author provides an easy to read and compelling analysis of our current situation and proposes an approach to addressing the problems. This book provides an abbreviated version of the proposal that Brown details in his book "Plan B 4.0." "The Plan B goals—stabilizing climate, stabilizing population, eradicate poverty, and restoring the economy's natural support systems—are mutually dependent."
The Debunking Handbook (pdf)
Authors: John Cook and Stephan Lewandowsky
Download the nine page booklet containing recommendations for addressing myths.
"Debunking myths is problematic. Unless great care is taken, any effort to debunk misinformation can inadvertently reinforce the very myths one seeks to correct. To avoid these "backfire effects", an effective debunking requires three major elements. First, the refutation must focus on core facts rather than the myth to avoid the misinformation becoming more familiar. Second, any mention of a myth should be preceded by explicit warnings to notify the reader that the upcoming information is false. Finally, the refutation should include an alternative explanation that accounts for important qualities in the original misinformation."
The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality
Author: Richard Heinberg
"The central assertion of this book is both simple and startling: Economic growth as we have known it is over and done with. The "growth" we are talking about consists of the expansion of the size of the economy and of the quantities of energy and material goods flowing through it."
This book made me think about the economy in new ways and realize the scope of the problem we face. I highly recommend this very accessible a clearly written book.
The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability
Author: Lierre Keith
This is a well written and very readable book that is both dense in information and inspiring in its passion. The author whose health was negatively affected by being a vegan for 20 years presents a case against a vegetarian diet on moral, political and nutritional grounds. I recommend this book to everyone. I learned a great deal about how food affects our health, social justice and the earth.
The Watchman's Rattle: Thinking Our Way Out of Extinction
Author: Rebecca D. Costa
The author begins by arguing that once a society exhibits signs of "gridlock and the substitution of beliefs for facts—the stage is set for collapse." These signs arise because the problems facing a society become so complex that facts are difficult to acquire and poor decisions eventually lead to collapse. She next describes five supermemes (Irrational Opposition, The Personalization of Blame, Counterfeit Correlation, Silo Thinking and Extreme Economics) that are hindering our ability to imagine solutions. Finally, the author presents the latest research surrounding our brain's ability to employ insight to solve complex problems. I found that the research on insight confirmed my experience and provided ideas for its enhancement and application. A book that provides hope for our time.
Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Culture
Authors: Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum
This short and readable book provides a history of science's place in America, an analysis of its current condition and recommendations for the future.

"We need a nation in which science has a far more prominence in politics and the media, far more relevance to the life of every American, far more intersections with all walks of life, and ultimately, far more influence where it truly matters—namely, in setting the agenda for the future as far out as we can possibly glimpse it." (pg. 18)

Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity
Author: John W. Loftus
The author systematically addresses the arguments that Christian apologists present to support Christianity. What the book provided me was a much better understanding of how Christians justify their beliefs. It also provided clear and convincing arguments against Christianity. Not an easy read due to the detail with which the arguments are presented.
The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values
Author: Sam Harris
The book is clearly written, easy to read and provides more great questions than answers. In the process, Sam Harris argues for a morality of human well-being based on events in the world and states of the human brain—“that morality and values relate to facts about the well-being of conscious creatures.” His position is that science and reason should have a central role in the development of an objective and universal morality—that they can help us define right and wrong answers to moral questions.
In the section entitled "The Clash Between Faith and Reason," (158-176) the author provides an excellent critique of The Language of God by Francis Collins. The chapter provides a concise critique of religion.
Raising Elijah: Raising Our Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis
Author: Sandra Steingraber
In this wonderfully written book, the author provides clear and detailed information about the toxic environment in which our children are born and raised.  She weaves this information into the story of raising her children.  Her two epiphanies are: “One: Current environmental policies must be realigned to safeguard the healthy development of children and sustain planetary life-support systems on which their lives depend. Two: Such realignment necessitates emancipation from our enslavement to fossil fuels in all their toxic forms.” Once again you see that capitalism values only profit and social institutions must provide constraints or everything else will be lost.
The Ecological Rift: Capitalism's War In The Earth
Authors: John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark, and Richard York
This book is not an easy read but makes vividly clear the destructive nature of capitalism due to its thirst for profits and growth. This is manifest through ecological imperialism—the stripping of the natural resources of one area to support another—carried out by corporations under the protection of powerful nations.  This book, along with several of those listed below, has opened my eyes to our nation’s support of ecological imperialism and facilitation of the destruction of the world’s natural environment. They have also reinforced my disgust for the quality of information provided by the media. For example, if you understand the following, do you respond to economic news in the same way?

The field of economics in the United States has long been dominated by thinkers who unquestioningly accept the capitalist status quo. Establishment economists tend to be environmental skeptics that promote profits at the expense of larger issues of human welfare and the environment. Consequently, their economic models fail to count the human and ecological cost of climate change. A key element in these economic models is a discount rate that reflects a judgement as to how much future benefits are worth today.

"Estimation of the discount rate is based on two moral issues." First, "how we value the welfare of future generations relative to present ones"— a high discount rate reflects little value. Second, "how wealthy future generations will be relative to present ones and weather it is appropriate to shift costs from the present to the future"— a high discount rate reflects high future wealth. Most mainstream economists "support of a high discount rate, places a low value on the welfare of future generations relative to present ones, and assumes . . . that future generations will be much wealthier than present ones." This results in economic models that provide no support for large scale investment in curtailing climate change.

Agriculture and Food in Crisis
Edited By: Fred Magdoff and Brian Tokar
This is an eye opening book that provided me an understanding of the current state of agriculture in the world. It contains clearly written and factually supported chapters by a variety of authors. For me the concept of food sovereignty was the most powerful.

Food sovereignty is the "people's right to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. Food sovereignty proposes that people, rather than corporate monopolies, make the decisions regarding our food. Food sovereignty . . . proposes not just guaranteed access to food, but democratic control over the food system—from production and processing, to distribution, marketing, and consumption." (page 212)

The Science and Humanity of Stephen Jay Gould
Authors: Richard York and Brett Clark
The book provides an understanding of the contributions that Stephen Jay Gould made to evolutionary theory and to the understanding of the interactions of science and human life. The book helped deepen my understanding of evolution and science.

"Nature is nonmoral. It holds no ethical message or grand plan. It is indifferent to our desires, aspirations, dreams, hopes, and existence. Gould indicated that it is pure human arrogance to believe that nature exists for any purpose or that humans are somehow central to it. . . . Gould did not see the absence of meaning in nature as depressing. Instead it is liberating to recognize that meaning and morality are human projects." (page 180)

The Good Atheist: Living a Purpose–Filled Life Without God
Author: Dan Baker
In Part 1: Life–Driven Purpose, the author provides a critique of Rick Warren's book "The Purpose Driven Life." In the critique, the author takes the position that "To say there is no purpose of life does not mean there is no purpose in life." "Purpose is not something you search for." "It is something you choose to create. "Purpose comes from solving problems, As long as there are challenges, there is purpose in life." "Life is not driven by purpose; purpose is driven by life."
In Part 2: Profiles in Non-Belief, the author has written about and collected quotes by people from all walks of life that provide insight into atheist that have lived purpose-filled lives.
Death of the Liberal Class
Author: Chris Hedges
The book provides an understanding of the history of the liberal class in America and the factors that have lead to its demise. For example, the Taft-Hartley Act, passed in 1949, killed the ability of labor to fight back effectively against the corporate state. The act was a product of anti-communist hysteria that persecuted and marginalized a whole generation of liberal union leaders and intellectuals. The book provides a great deal for those of us that consider ourselves liberals to consider. I found it enlightening, depressing and inspirational.
The Spirit Level
Author: Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett
The easy to read and understand book, based on thirty years of research, shows that greater equality makes societies stronger. The authors "argue convincingly that wide inequity is bad for a society, and that more equal societies tend to do better on many measures of social health and wealth." The social factors that improve with greater equity include: community life and social relations; mental health and drug use; physical health and life expectancy; obesity; educational performance; teenage births; violence; imprisonment; and social mobility. This is a critically important realization at this time of increasing inequity in the United States. The problem can be addressed through taxes and benefits to redistribute income from the rich to the poor along with strategies to narrow differences in incomes before redistribution.
Go to for continuing information.
Go to TED talk: Richard Wilkinson: How economic inequality harms societies.
God Is Not One
Author: Stephen Prothero
The book provides a basic understanding of the eight great religions and is written to help us understand that religions are different at their core and this difference matters.
The Story of Stuff
Author: Annie Leonard
A very easy read that really caught my attention. This is the first time someone ties so many things together relative to our consumer society and its impact on our lives and the planet. It caused me to make different decisions in my life and be aware of the implications of my actions.
All My Bones Shake: Seeking a Progressive Path to the Prophetic Voice
Author: Robert Jensen
This book rescued my memory of the caring religious community that has been stolen by fundamentalists over the last twenty years. The author describes the community that I remember as being by my side instead of being in the way.
The Evolution of God
Author: Robert Wright
One of the book's main premises is that "scriptural interpretation is obedient to facts on the ground." What I found interesting is the author's description of how religion has evolved relative to its cultural context. Religion that in the past was a key factor in keeping cultural webs intact now often contributes to cultural divisions. This raises a key question for religion today: "Can religions in the modern world reconcile themselves to one another, and can they reconcile themselves to science?"
Jesus, Interrupted
Author: Bart D. Ehrman
Ehrman presents the research and theories of biblical scholars that show "Christianity as a very human religion and the bible as a very human book." It presents a "Christianity that has long been recognized by critical historians as the religion about Jesus, not the religion of Jesus." I learned a great deal from this very accessible book.
What's so Wrong with being Absolutely Right
Author: Judy J. Johnson
The book presents current research and theories about dogmatism and its negative effects on people and society. The author takes the position that "dogmatism–not religious fundamentalism, terrorism, or fanaticism in general–is the greatest threat to social, political, and scientific progress. Not an easy read.
Living Without God: New Directions for Atheists, Agnostics, Secularists, and the Undecided
Author: Ronald Aronson
"Given our contemporary understanding of the universe, what is our place in the world and our sense of life's meaning? What happens to our sense of individual responsibility for our world and our own lives as we become increasingly aware of the immensity of the social, natural, and psychological forces imposing themselves on us, and the complexity of the systems to which we belong? How do we face dying today, and what does death mean for a life without god?" These are some of the questions that the author addresses while providing several very thoughtful observations and ideas.
The Scandalous Gospel of Jesus
Author: Peter J. Gomes
In the book, the author addresses two bits of conventional wisdom. "The first view is that religion is part of the problem and not part of the solution to the human problem, and the second view is that for Christians in particular, the bible is too tempting a diversion from the hard work of attempting to live a religious life worthy of the times in which we find ourselves." He describes a Christianity that I can respect as a positive cultural force.
Would Jesus Discriminate?
Author: Rev, Dr. Cindi Love
A small book that "helps us stand our ground in the midst of the rhetoric that attempts to distort the inclusive love of Jesus Christ." A simple argument for inclusion.
50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God
Author: Guy P. Harrison
A respectful critique of the reasons believers in many countries over several years have given the author for believing in a god. Includes a bibliography of recommended readings at the end of each chapter.
Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism
Author: Susan Jacoby
A history of America that provides insight into the issue of the separation of church and state.
God's Politics: Why the Right Gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It
Author: Jim Wallis
This book makes an argument for the religion I grew up in and felt aligned with after becoming an atheist.
In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto
Author: Michael Pollan
Presentation of a simple but powerful manifesto: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.
Just A Theory: Exploring the Nature of Science
Author: Moti Ben-Ari
A wonderful small book that provides a clear discussion of the nature of science and the theory of natural selection. This should be required high school reading.
The Religious Case Against Belief
Author: James P. Carse
A small very readable book that will expand your thinking about the essence of religion and how beliefs can limit its vision.
The God Delusion
Author: Richard Dawkins
"The real war is between rationalism and superstition. Science is but one form of rationalism, while religion is the most common form of superstition"
God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything
Author: Christopher Hitchens
The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason
Author: San Harris
"Imagine a world in which generations of human beings come to believe that certain films were made by God or that specific software was coded by him. Imaging a future in which millions of our descendants murder each other over rival interpretations of Star Wars or Windows 98. Could anything—anything—be more ridiculous? And yet, this would be no more ridiculous that the world we are living in."
The Science of Good & Evil
Author: Michael Shermer
An excellent discussion of the sources of morality.
The Sins of Scripture: Exposing the Bible's Texts of Hate to Reveal the God of Love
Author: John Shelby Spong
A clear critique of the bible that attempts to rescue it from fundamentalism combined with some insights into what religion means to him.
The Wrecking Crew: How Conservatives Rule
Author: Thomas Frank
A very depressing book that makes you aware of how the current crop of conservatives have seriously weakened our nation.