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Recommended religious and spiritual books

Tentatively scheduled books
for the next few months:

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Webmaster's 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. Taken as a group, 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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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!

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2016-June's selection

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"Freedom from Religion," by Noel McGivern

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
$
18.65 plus postage in Paperback, or $5.77 in Kindle format.

Amazon.com book description:

"Why is belief a useless guide to truth? Why do we need to understand the danger of religious identity? Was Moses a ruthless psychopath? What led to the Catholic Church's moral cowardice over the Nazis and child-abusing priests? How harmful have Islamic interpretations been for women in Arab countries? What are the best answers to claims the Bible is inerrant? Are spiritual experiences just products of the mind? Freedom from Religion explores the evidence and makes a powerful case for walking away from religion. It's a guide for those defending non-belief and deeply challenging to those within religion."

Noel McGivern was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 1962, and left at the age of 19 for a degree in politics at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. A major reason for leaving Belfast was his desire to be free from the religious identities imposed by that divided society. He spent many years seeking the truth at the heart of religion and spirituality, eventually reaching the conclusion that such beliefs are often barriers to human and political progress. He embarked on a study of how religion affects individuals and society. This book, sometimes funny, and at others deeply serious, is the outcome of that.

Average rating by Amazon customers: 4.6 out of 5 stars.

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2016-July's selection

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"Epiphany: A Christian's Change of Heart & Mind
over Same-Sex Marriage," by Michael Coren

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
$
19.45 plus postage in Hardcover, $14.54 in Kindle format.

Amazon.com book description:

"From the posterboy of Catholic conservatism, a major change of heart and soul on one of the Church's most controversial and intractable stances. ..."

"Michael Coren had a profound spiritual and personal change of heart. Epiphany is about how and why that happened; the reaction from both sides of the fence; and how the Christian doctrine, when studied closely and without bias, heartily supports Michael's findings. As a middle-aged, very white, very straight, very Christian man, he was obliged, first reluctantly and then eagerly, to explore the complex dynamic between faith and homosexuality and to work out a new narrative. The crux of that narrative: God is love.

Honest, brave, and rigorous in its scholarship, Epiphany is a groundbreaking book on one of society's most pressing issues.

This book was released on 2016-APR-26. There are no reviews by Amazon.com customers yet.

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2016-August's selection

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"Fighting God: An Atheist Manifesto for a Religious World,"
by David Silverman

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
$
17.80 plus postage in Paperback, $11.92 in Kindle format, or $16.45 plus postage in hardcover.
Also available in Audible and MP3 CD.

Amazon.com book description:

"Fighting God is a firebrand manifesto from one of the most recognizable faces of atheism. In his book, Silverman -- a walking, talking atheist billboard known for his appearances on Fox News -- discusses the effectiveness, ethics and impact of the in-your-face-atheist who refuses to be silent.

Silverman argues that religion is more than just wrong: it is malevolent and does not deserve our respect. It is our duty to be outspoken and do what we can to bring religion down. Examining the mentality, methods and issues facing the firebrand atheist, Silverman presents an overwhelming argument for firebrand atheism and reveals:

- All religion is cafeteria religion and almost all agnostics are atheists.
- American society grants religion a privileged status, despite the intentions of the Founding Fathers.
- Christian politicians have adversely (and un-Constitutionally) affected our society with regard to science, health, women's rights, and gay rights.
- The notion of "atheist Jews" is a lie forced on us by religion.
- It is not "Islamophobia" to observe dangerous teachings and disproportionate violence in Islam.
- Atheists are slowly but surely winning the battle. ..."

Average rating in reviews by 77 Amazon customers: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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2016-September's selection

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"Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians
Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior"

by Bart Ehrman

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
$
18.77 plus postage in Hardcover, $15.70 in Kindle format, or $21.95 in audible formats. .

Some book reviews:

“Ehrman provides an intriguing overview of memory studies and introduces readers to a variety of important pioneers and studies. ... Ehrman concludes that ‘the historical Jesus did not make history; the remembered Jesus did.’ An intriguing new angle on the well-worn field of ‘historical Jesus’ studies.” (Kirkus Review)

“An intriguing and entertaining take on the formation of the Gospels.” (Library Journal)

“With his typical humor, passion, and vivacity, Ehrman explores the ways that memory shapes, distorts, changes, and preserves the stories of Jesus passed along by the Christian community. Ehrman’s provocative book raises engaging questions that drive readers back to the sources of our information about Jesus.” (Publishers Weekly)

“One can see why Ehrman is so widely known and respected by so many people. Here Ehrman takes a completely different approach from his previous books. This book is a new approach to the study of the beginnings of Christianity.” (Association for Mormon Letters)

”Jesus Before the Gospels is a scholarly yet readable study of Jesus and the Gospels. Ehrman’s scholarship remains unmatched. Ehrman unveils several unexplored aspects of the life of Jesus and the Gospels. Everybody with an interest in Christianity and religion in general will find this fascinating book useful.” (Washington Book Review)

“With Jesus Before the Gospels, Bart D. Ehrman has written a thought-provoking book prompted by his interest as a historian in the various traditions about Jesus. Enjoyable to read ” (America Magazine)

Average rating in reviews by 38 Amazon customers: 4.3 out of 5 stars.

During 2016-APR, Amazon.com reported that this book was the #1 best seller in New Testament commentaries.

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2016-October'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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2016-November's selection

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"The God Problem: How a Godless Cosmos Creates," by Howard Bloom

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store.
$
18.52 plus postage in Paperback, $7.56 in Kindle format, or $20.89 plus postage in hardcover.

A sampling of Amazon.com book reviews:

"If Howard Bloom is only 10 percent right, we’ll have to drastically revise our notions of the universe. ... [His] argument will rock your world."
Barbara Ehrenreich, National Magazine Award winner and author of Nickel and Dimed.

"Enthralling. Astonishing. Written with the panache of the Great Blondin turning somersaults on the rope above Niagara. Profound, extraordinarily eclectic, and crazy. The most exciting cliff-hanger of a book I can remember reading." James Burke, Creator and host of seven BBC-TV series, including Connections.

"Bloody hell. . . . What a truly extraordinary book. I’m gobsmacked. It’s a fast-paced, highly readable, and deeply researched thriller-documentary that grapples with the big issues of the universe. ... Food for the brain." Francis Pryor, President of the Council for British Archaeology, author of Britain BC

"For those of us who do not invoke god(s) to explain things, there is a challenge—where did the complexity of the physical and natural world come from? . . . This deep, provocative, spectacularly well-written book provides some answers. ... A wonderful book." Robert Sapolsky, MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" winner and author of Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers

"Strong. Like a steam roller. Impressive. Great." Richard Foreman, MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" winner and founder of the Ontological-Hysteric Theater

Average rating in reviews by 259 Amazon customers: 3.4 out of 5 stars. As one would expect of a great book on a controversial topic, it was given many "! star out of 5" ratings by Amazon.com customers, and many more "5 stars out of 5" ratings.

Howard Bloom has been called "the Darwin, Einstein, Newton, and Freud of the 21st Century" by Britain's Channel4 TV and "the next Stephen Hawking" by Gear Magazine.

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2016-December's selection

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"The Illusion of God's Presence: The Biological Origins of Spiritual Longing" by John C. Wathey

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
$
18.52 plus postage in Paperback, $7.56 in Kindle format, or $20.89 plus postage in hardcover.

Amazon.com book review:

An essential feature of religious experience across many cultures is the intuitive feeling of God's presence. More than any rituals or doctrines, it is this experience that anchors religious faith, yet it has been largely ignored in the scientific literature on religion.

"... [Dr. Wathey's] book delves into the biological origins of this compelling feeling, attributing it to innate neural circuitry that evolved to promote the mother-child bond. ...[He] argues that evolution has programmed the infant brain to expect the presence of a loving being who responds to the child's needs. As the infant grows into adulthood, this innate feeling is eventually transferred to the realm of religion, where it is reactivated through the symbols, imagery, and rituals of worship. The author interprets our various conceptions of God in biological terms as illusory supernormal stimuli that fill an emotional and cognitive vacuum left over from infancy. 

These insights shed new light on some of the most vexing puzzles of religion, like:

  • the popular belief in a god who is judgmental and punishing, yet also unconditionally loving;
  • the extraordinary tenacity of faith;
  • the greater religiosity of women relative to men;
  • religious obsessions with sex;
  • the mysterious compulsion to pray;
  • the seemingly irrepressible feminine attributes of God, even in traditionally patriarchal religions; and
  • the strange allure of cults.

Finally, Dr. Wathey considers the hypothesis that religion evolved to foster reproductive success, arguing that, in an age of potentially ruinous overpopulation, magical thinking has become a luxury we can no longer afford, one that distracts us from urgent threats to our planet.

Average rating by 11 Amazon customers' reviews: 4.6 out of 5 stars, including nine 5 star ratings.

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2017-January's selection

book cover

"Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered,
Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior," by Bart D. Ehrman

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
$15.82 in Kindle format, or $18.77 plus postage in hardcover, or $21.95 in audible format.

Amazon.com book review:

"... Throughout much of human history, our most important stories were passed down orally—including the stories about Jesus before they became written down in the Gospels. In this fascinating and deeply researched work, leading Bible scholar Bart D. Ehrman investigates the role oral history has played in the New Testament—how the telling of these stories not only spread Jesus’ message but helped shape it.

A master explainer of Christian history, texts, and traditions, Ehrman draws on a range of disciplines, including psychology and anthropology, to examine the role of memory in the creation of the Gospels. Explaining how oral tradition evolves based on the latest scientific research, he demonstrates how the act of telling and retelling impacts the story, the storyteller, and the listener—crucial insights that challenge our typical historical understanding of the silent period between when Jesus lived and died and when his stories began to be written down."

Average rating by 39 Amazon customers' reviews: 4.3 out of 5 stars, including 24 five star ratings.

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2017-February's selection

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"The Bible Doesn't Say That: 40 Biblical Mistranslations,
Misconceptions, and Other Misunderstandings
," byJoel M. Hoffman

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
$12.64 in Kindle format, or $17.76 plus postage in hardcover, or $20.95 in audible format.

Amazon.com book review:

"The Bible Doesn't Say That explores what the Bible meant before it was misinterpreted over the past 2,000 years.

Acclaimed translator and biblical scholar Dr. Joel M. Hoffman walks the reader through dozens of mistranslations, misconceptions, and other misunderstandings about the Bible. In forty short, straightforward chapters, he covers morality, life-style, theology, and biblical imagery, including:

*The Bible doesn't call homosexuality a sin, and it doesn't advocate for the one-man-one-woman model of the family that has been dubbed "biblical."

*The Bible's famous "beat their swords into plowshares" is matched by the militaristic, "beat your plowshares into swords."

*The often-cited New Testament quotation "God so loved the world" is a mistranslation, as are the titles "Son of Man" and "Son of God."

*The Ten Commandments don't prohibit killing or coveting.

What does the Bible say about violence? About the Rapture? About keeping kosher? About marriage and divorce? Hoffman provides answers to all of these and more, succinctly explaining how so many pivotal biblical answers came to be misunderstood.

Average rating by eight Amazon customers' reviews: 4.3 out of 5 stars, including 5 five star ratings.

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Originally written: 2008-MAR-16
Latest update: 2016-APR-12
Assembled by: B.A. Robinson

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