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Recommended religious and spiritual book

2017-MAY to AUG

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This list of books is continued here from the previous essay

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2017-May's selection

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"American Secularism: Cultural Contours of Nonreligious Belief Systems (Religion and Social Transformation)"

by Joseph O. O. Baker and Buster G. Smith.

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
$12.62 in Kindle format, or $89.00 plus postage in hardcover, or $27.00 in paperback format.

Amazon.com book review:

"A rapidly growing number of Americans are embracing life outside the bounds of organized religion. Although America has long been viewed as a fervently religious Christian nation, survey data shows that more and more Americans are identifying as 'not religious.' There are more non-religious Americans than ever before, yet social scientists have not adequately studied or typologized secularities, and the lived reality of secular individuals in America has not been astutely analyzed. American Secularism documents how changes to American society have fueled these shifts in the non-religious landscape and examines the diverse and dynamic world of secular Americans.

This volume offers a theoretical framework for understanding secularisms. It explores secular Americans’ thought and practice to understand secularisms as worldviews in their own right, not just as negations of religion. Drawing on empirical data, the authors examine how people live secular lives and make meaning outside of organized religion. Joseph O. Baker and Buster G. Smith link secularities to broader issues of social power and organization, providing an empirical and cultural perspective on the secular landscape. In so doing, they demonstrate that shifts in American secularism are reflective of changes in the political meanings of “religion” in American culture.

American Secularism addresses the contemporary lived reality of secular individuals, outlining forms of secular identity and showing their connection to patterns of family formation, sexuality, and politics, providing scholars of religion with a more comprehensive understanding of worldviews that do not include traditional religion."

Joseph O. Baker is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at East Tennessee State University and a senior research associate for the Association of Religion Data Archives. 

Buster G. Smith is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Catawba College. He is the co-author of Grounding Our Faith in a Pluralistic World.

The book received an Honorable Mention by the American Sociological Association in their Religion Distinguished Book Award

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2017-June's selection

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"How God Became God: What Scholars Are Really Saying About God and the Bible," by Richard M. Smoley

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
$17.90 in Kindle format, or $11.17 plus postage in paperback, or $17.95 in audible format.

Amazon.com book review:

"This epic, thrilling journey through Bible scholarship and ancient religion shows how much of Scripture is historically false -- yet the ancient writings also resound with theologies that crisscrossed the primeval world and that direct us today toward a deep, inner, authentic experience of the truly sacred.

From a historical perspective, the Bible is shockingly, provably wrong -- a point supported by today's best archaeological and historical scholarship but not well understood by (or communicated to) the public. Yet this emphatically does not mean that the Bible isn't, in some very real measure, true, argues scholar of mysticism Richard Smoley.

Smoley reviews the most authoritative historical evidence to demonstrate that figures such as Moses, Abraham, and Jesus are not only unlikely to have existed, but bear strong composite resemblances to other Near Eastern religious icons. Likewise, the geopolitical and military events of Scripture fail to mesh with the largely settled historical time line and social structures. Smoley meticulously shows how our concepts of the Hebrew and Christian God, including Christ himself, are an assemblage of ideas that were altered, argued over, and edited -- until their canonization. This process, to a large degree, gave Western civilization its consensus view of God.

But these conclusions are not cause for nihilism or disbelief. Rather, beneath the metaphorical figures and mythical historicism of Scripture appears an extraordinary, truly transcendent theology born from the most sacred and fully realized spiritual and human insights of the antique Eastern world. Far from being "untrue," the Bible is remarkably, extraordinarily true as it connects us to the sublime insights of our ancient ancestors and points to a unifying ethic behind many of the world's faiths."

Average rating by eight Amazon customers' reviews: 4.8 out of 5 stars, including 82% five star ratings.

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2017-July's selection

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"Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People," by Nadia Bolz-Weber

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
$
17.80 plus postage in Paperback, $13.99 in Kindle format, or $22.99 in hardcover.

A sampling of Amazon.com book reviews:

“Unflinchingly honest (and funny)…You don't have to be religious to get something out of this book.”
-NPR’s “Best Books of 2015”

"[Bolz-Weber] is one of the most important Christian voices around -- not because she has come up with some catchy, easy new way to do faith, but because when talks about the destructive power of sin, as well as redemption and grace, she knows of what she speaks."
-Huffington Post

"Wickedly funny and painfully vulnerable, theologically nuanced and lyrically sonorous. [Bolz-Weber's] voice communicates the scandal of the Christ and the sacraments of his church with more force and vitality than most writers can hope to summon."
-The Christian Century

“Engaging and accessible…Bolz-Weber is clear-eyed about the personal travails faced by the marginalized and those without faith.”
–Booklist

"If Saint Augustine were to return to life and live among us now, he would be Bolz-Weber; and if his Confessions were to be written in 21st century rhetoric and style, they would be this book. Accidental Saints is what every Christian yearns to know is possible." 
-Phyllis Tickle, author of The Divine Hours and The Great Emergence 

About the Author:

Nadia Bolz-Weber is the founding pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver, Colorado. She is the au­thor of the New York Times best-selling memoir Pastrix. Nadia has been featured on CNN and in the Washington Post, Bitch Magazine, NPR’s Morning Edition, More Magazine, and the Daily Beast.

Average rating in reviews by 259 Amazon customers: 4.6 out of 5 stars. The book was on the New York Times list of bestsellers in 2015.

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2017-August's selection

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"The End of White Christian America," by Robert P. Jones

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
$14.99 in Kindle format, or $18.16 plus postage in hardcover.

A New York Times Book Review:

"Robert P. Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), challenges us to grasp the profound political and cultural consequences of a new reality—that America is no longer a majority white Christian nation.

For most of our nation’s history, White Christian America (WCA)—the cultural and political edifice built primarily by white Protestant Christians—set the tone for our national policy and shaped American ideals. But especially since the 1990s, WCA has steadily lost influence, following declines within both its mainline and evangelical branches. Today, America is no longer demographically or culturally a majority white Christian nation.

Drawing on more than four decades of polling data, The End of White Christian America explains and analyzes the waning vitality of WCA. Jones argues that the visceral nature of today’s most heated issues—the vociferous arguments around same-sex marriage and religious liberty, the rise of the Tea Party following the election of our first black president, and stark disagreements between black and white Americans over the fairness of the criminal justice system—can only be understood against the backdrop of white Christians’ anxieties as America’s racial and religious topography shifts around them. ..."

Average rating by 63 Amazon customers' reviews: 4.1 out of 5 stars.

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Note to those without a Kindle reader:

Amazon supplies a free Kindle reader application that is available in various versions, for Android phones, PCs, Macs, tablet, etc.:

  • Go to the Amazon web site at: https://www.amazon.com/

  • Go to the search bar at the top of the screen. Enter free reading app

  • There should be a "Free Kindle Reading App" link as the top selection customized to the device you are using.

Once you download it, you can buy ebooks from Amazon which are usually significantly cheaper than paperback or hardcover versons. And, if you download the app to your tablet or phone, you will be able to carry dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of books with you! No need to build additional book shelves!

Originally written: 2016-AUG-23
Latest update: 2016-SEP-20
Assembled by: B.A. Robinson

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