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Recommended religious and spiritual books

Tentatively scheduled books
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Note:

We feel that these books should be of interest to everyone:

  • Those who follow a conservative religious belief system should find the books helpful when proselytizing. It is important to know what Christians from other faith traditions, religious liberals, and secularists believe and -- above all -- why they believe it.

  • Agnostics, Atheists, and other secularists should find the books helpful because they may increase their understanding of their own beliefs, and those of various organized religious traditions.

  • Everyone may benefit from these books because they combat with reason the high levels of sexism, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, hatred and mistrust of Atheists, general pervasive and entrenched religious intolerance, etc. in the North American culture and the rest of the world.

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Previous months' recommendations

Current month's selection

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2015-February's selection

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Avigdor Shinan and Valerie Zakovitch: "From Gods to God: How the Bible Debunked, Suppressed, or Changed Ancient Myths and Legends"

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
$
20.93 plus postage in Paperback. Available in Kindle format for $15.23.

Amazon.com book description:

"The ancient Israelites believed things that the writers of the Bible wanted them to forget: myths and legends from a pre-biblical world that the new monotheist order needed to bury, hide, or reinterpret.

Ancient Israel was rich in such literary traditions before the Bible reached the final form that we have today. These traditions were not lost but continued, passed down through the ages. Many managed to reach us in post-biblical sources: rabbinic literature, Jewish Hellenistic writings, the writings of the Dead Sea sect, the Aramaic, Greek, Latin, and other ancient translations of the Bible, and even outside the ancient Jewish world in Christian and Islamic texts. The Bible itself sometimes alludes to these traditions, often in surprising contexts.

Written in clear and accessible language, this volume presents thirty such traditions. It voyages behind the veil of the written Bible to reconstruct what was told and retold among the ancient Israelites, even if it is “not what the Bible tells us."

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2015-March's selection

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Robert M. Price: "The Amazing Colossal Apostle: The Search for the Historical Paul"

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
$
20.90 plus postage in Paperback. Available in Kindle format for $9.24.

Amazon.com book description:

"The story of Paul is one of irony, the New Testament depicting him at the martyrdom of Stephen holding the assassins' cloaks. Then this same Paul is transformed into the biblical archetype for someone suffering for their faith. He becomes so entrenched, it would appear that he had walked with the Christians all his life, that he was the one who defined the faith, eventually being called the “second founder of Christianity.” But much of what we think we "know" about Paul comes from Sunday school stories we heard as children. The stories were didactic tales meant to keep us reverent and obedient.

As adults reading the New Testament, we catch glimpses of a very different kind of disciple—a wild ascetic whom Tertullian dubbed “the second apostle of Marcion and the apostle of the heretics.” What does scholarship tell us about the enigmatic thirteenth apostle who looms larger than life in the New Testament? The epistles give evidence of having been written at the end of the first century or early in the second—too late to have been Paul’s actual writings. So who wrote (and rewrote) them? F. C. Baur, a nineteenth-century theologian, pointed persuasively to Simon Magus as the secret identity of “Paul.” Robert M. Price, in this exciting journey of discovery, gives readers the background for a story we thought we knew."

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2015-April's selection

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James A. Haught "Religion is Dying: Soaring Secularism in America and the West"
186 pages.

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
$
7.70 plus postage in Paperback. Available in Kindle format for $3.90.

Amazon.com book description:

"Perhaps 50 million adult Americans now say their religion is 'none' or 'don’t know.' This number has climbed dramatically since the 1990s. About 20 million U.S. Catholics have left that church - so one-tenth of American adults now are ex-Catholics. Two-thirds of American Christians in their 20s drop out of church before age 30, one report estimates. Once-prestigious mainline Protestant faiths with seminary-educated clergy have disintegrated so severely since 1960 that one analyst refers to “'Flatline Protestantism.' An estimated 4,000 American churches close each year. From every direction, evidence is snowballing that America, known for devout religion, is following the secular path of Western Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan and other modern democracies, where churchgoing has retreated to a fringe. The trend can be seen in cultural changes such as the rapid social acceptance of gays. The Bible commands that homosexuals 'shall surely be put to death,' and fundamentalist churches have ranted against them for centuries -- yet most Americans now feel that they deserve human rights and equality. Religion has lost its power to dictate America’s morality. This book chronicles the slow, relentless demise of supernatural religion in America and the [rest of the] West."

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2015-May's selection

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Gerard Russell "Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms:
Journeys Into the Disappearing Religions of the Middle East
" 352 pages.

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
$
21.50 plus postage in Paperback. $21.59 in Hardcover, $8.04 in Kindle format.

Amazon.com book description:

"Despite its reputation for religious intolerance, the Middle East has long sheltered many distinctive and strange faiths: one regards the Greek prophets as incarnations of God, another reveres Lucifer in the form of a peacock, and yet another believes that their followers are reincarnated beings who have existed in various forms for thousands of years. These religions represent the last vestiges of the magnificent civilizations in ancient history: Persia, Babylon, Egypt in the time of the Pharaohs. Their followers have learned how to survive foreign attacks and the perils of assimilation. But today, with the Middle East in turmoil, they face greater challenges than ever before.

In Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms, former diplomat Gerard Russell ventures to the distant, nearly impassable regions where these mysterious religions still cling to survival. He lives alongside the Mandaeans and Ezidis of Iraq, the Zoroastrians of Iran, the Copts of Egypt, and others. He learns their histories, participates in their rituals, and comes to understand the threats to their communities. Historically a tolerant faith, Islam has, since the early 20th century, witnessed the rise of militant, extremist sects. This development, along with the rippling effects of Western invasion, now pose existential threats to these minority faiths. And as more and more of their youth flee to the West in search of greater freedoms and job prospects, these religions face the dire possibility of extinction.

Drawing on his extensive travels and archival research, Russell provides an essential record of the past, present, and perilous future of these remarkable religions."

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Originally written: 2008-MAR-16
Latest update and review: 2015-JAN-30
Assembled by: B.A. Robinson

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