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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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2014-October's selection

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Rob Bell, "What we talk about when we talk about God

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
$12.33 plus postage in Paperback, $18.77 plus postage in Hardcover.
Also available in Kindle format for $12.55.

Amazon.com book description:

"New York Times bestselling author Rob Bell, whom the The New Yorker describes as “one of the most influential Christian leaders in the county,” does for the concept of God what he did for heaven and hell in his book Love Wins: He shows how traditional ideas have grown stale and dysfunctional and how to return vitality and vibrancy to lives of faith today.

Pastor Rob Bell explains why both culture and the church resist talking about God, and shows how we can reconnect with the God who is pulling us forward into a better future. Bell uses his characteristic evocative storytelling to challenge everything you think you know about God. What We Talk About When We Talk About God tackles the misconceptions about God and reveals how God is with us, for us, ahead of us, and how understanding this could change the entire course of our lives."

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2014-November's selection

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"Candida Moss, "The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom"

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
$19.82 plus postage in Hardcover or $12.33 plus postage in Paperback.
Also available in Kindle format for $15.69.

Amazon.com book description:

"In The Myth of Persecution, Candida Moss, a leading expert on early Christianity, reveals how the early church exaggerated, invented, and forged stories of Christian martyrs and how the dangerous legacy of a martyrdom complex is employed today to silence dissent and galvanize a new generation of culture warriors.

According to cherished church tradition and popular belief, before the Emperor Constantine made Christianity legal in the fourth century, early Christians were systematically persecuted by a brutal Roman Empire intent on their destruction. As the story goes, vast numbers of believers were thrown to the lions, tortured, or burned alive because they refused to renounce Christ. These saints, Christianity's inspirational heroes, are still venerated today.

Moss, however, exposes that the "Age of Martyrs" is a fiction—there was no sustained 300-year-long effort by the Romans to persecute Christians. Instead, these stories were pious exaggerations; highly stylized rewritings of Jewish, Greek, and Roman noble death traditions; and even forgeries designed to marginalize heretics, inspire the faithful, and fund churches.

The traditional story of persecution is still taught in Sunday school classes, celebrated in sermons, and employed by church leaders, politicians, and media pundits who insist that Christians were—and always will be—persecuted by a hostile, secular world. While violence against Christians does occur in select parts of the world today, the rhetoric of persecution is both misleading and rooted in an inaccurate history of the early church. Moss urges modern Christians to abandon the conspiratorial assumption that the world is out to get Christians and, rather, embrace the consolation, moral instruction, and spiritual guidance that these martyrdom stories provide."

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2014-December's selection

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Susan Katz Miller, "Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family"

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.

$18.90 plus postage in Hardcover or $13.68 plus postage in Paperback.
Also available in Kindle format for $14.36.

Amazon.com book description:

"Susan aKatz Miller grew up with a Jewish father and Christian mother, and was raised Jewish. Now in an interfaith marriage herself, she is one of the growing number of Americans who are boldly electing to raise children with both faiths, rather than in one religion or the other (or without religion). In Being Both, Miller draws on original surveys and interviews with parents, students, teachers, and clergy, as well as on her own journey, to chronicle this controversial grassroots movement.
 
Almost a third of all married Americans have a spouse from another religion, and there are now more children in Christian-Jewish interfaith families than in families with two Jewish parents. Across the country, many of these families are challenging the traditional idea that they must choose one religion. In some cities, more interfaith couples are raising children with “both” than Jewish-only. What does this mean for these families, for these children, and for religious institutions?
 
Miller argues that there are distinct benefits for families who reject the false choice of “either/or” and instead embrace the synergy of being both. Reporting on hundreds of parents and children who celebrate two religions, she documents why couples make this choice, and how children appreciate dual-faith education. But often families who choose both have trouble finding supportive clergy and community. To that end, Miller includes advice and resources for interfaith families planning baby-welcoming and coming-of-age ceremonies, and seeking to find or form interfaith education programs. She also addresses the difficulties that interfaith families can encounter, wrestling with spiritual questions (“Will our children believe in God?”) and challenges (“How do we talk about Jesus?”). And finally, looking beyond Judaism and Christianity, Being Both provides the first glimpse of the next interfaith wave: intermarried Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist couples raising children in two religions.
 
Being Both is at once a rousing declaration of the benefits of celebrating two religions, and a blueprint for interfaith families who are seeking guidance and community support."

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2015-January'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-February'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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Originally written: 2008-MAR-16
Latest update and review: 2014-SEP-01
Assembled by: B.A. Robinson

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