Books on theology and religion
recommended by this web site's staff
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We continually search for books which deal with religion and theology. We
have found a few that are truly phenomenal. We would like to share their titles with you.
This is a personal list. It does not cover the full range
of religious beliefs. It is heavily biased towards liberal theology because of
individual religious traditions of our group. If you are interested in a list of
books assembled from an Evangelical Christian perspective, we recommend you look
at Petersens' book "100 Christian Books that changed the century."
Read reviews/order this book safely from Amazon.com.
The ARIS study of religious identification
showed that 77% of American adults identified themselves as Christian. At
its current rate of decline, this number is probably about 73% in 2005. Only
about one or two percent of Americans identify themselves with next largest
organized religions (Islam and Judaism). For these reasons, most of the books listed below are
related to Christianity.
Our belief is that no single translation of the Bible can be relied upon for accuracy.
Our preference is for a "parallel" Bible which many translations,
side by side on the page. By comparing various translations, one can detect some
interesting biases and distortions introduced by the translators.
One example of an 8 translation, parallel New Testament is:
J.R. Kohlenberger III, Ed., "The Contemporary Parallel New Testament:
King James Version, New American Standard Bible, New International Version,
New Living Translation, New Century Version, the Message, Contemporary English
Version, and New King James Version".
Oxford University Press, (1998) You can read a
review and/or safely order this Bible from Amazon.com
The Old and New Testament together in 4 translations is:
"The Layman's Parallel Bible: King James Version, New International
Version, Living Bible, New Revised Standard Version," Zondervan
Publishing, (1991) Read
Author Gail Evans has written a book to promote a conclusion that she
reached about the Bible. It is "The firstborn of God: Resolving the
contradictions in the Bible." She feels that there are two threads running through
the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures (Old and New Testaments). As she writes in
a review for Amazon.com:
"these two threads advocate two completely different
religious, social, economic and political philosophies. I propose that
these two threads start with the creation stories where in Genesis 1,
male and female, in fact the whole human race is created in the image of
God and as such, then like God, have everlasting life. Politically this
translates into equality and democracy. In Genesis 2 on the other hand,
one male is created and a female is made from his rib in order to serve
him and both are denied the tree of everlasting life. Politically this
translates into an autocracy. I believe that we must make a choice
between the two and that the choice that we make will determine how we
interpret the rest of the Bible." Read
Neoagnosticism: Author Winifred Gallagher has written a series of
successful books on various scientific topics. She undertook a 3 year search for
spirituality. The result is an amazing book about her study of, and personal experience
with, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and the New Age. Her book is directed at
"neoagnostics" - religious skeptics who have been unable to find meaning in the
religion of their youth and who are now searching for a meaningful spirituality. The New
York Times commented: "Ms. Gallagher's fascinating book has broadened our
capacity to wonder." Publishers Weekly said: "Gallagher's
honesty and integrity will resonate." The New Age Journal wrote: "If
you are seeking to explore some of those seemingly inexplicable metaphysical feelings,
read 'Working on God.' Gallagher has written your book." Review/order
Alternative paths: Of the three main trends in North American religion
is a movement away from organized religion and towards the personal development of one's
spirituality. One truly remarkable book describes 8 alternative paths to the sacred: the
feminine, the arts, the body, psychology, mythology, nature, relationships, and dark
nights of the soul. This is a riveting book that has the potential to change lives. Do not
read it unless you are open to radical personal change:
D.N. Elkins, "Beyond Religion: A personal program for building a spiritual
life outside the walls of traditional religion," Quest Books, (1998). Review/ order
Fundamentialism: Karen Armstrong, a British journalist and
former nun, writes on the influence of fundamentalism in Buddhism,
Confucianism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Sikhism. "Reacting
to a technologically driven world with liberal Western values,
fundamentalists have not only increased in numbers, they have become
more desperate, claims Armstrong, who points to the Oklahoma City
bombing, violent anti-abortion crusades, and the assassination of
President Yitzak Rabin as evidence of dangerous extremes." 1
Belief in God: Karen Armstrong has written a fascinating book
on monotheism, starting with the variety of religious belief in the
Middle East circa 4000 BCE. She discusses three
monotheistic religions which rose in this area: Judaism, Christianity
and Islam. She also covers such diverse topics as as mysticism, the
philosophy of religion, and the death of God.
Karen Armstrong, "A History of God: The 4000-Year Quest of Judaism,
Christianity and Islam," Ballantine Books, (2001).
God without religion: Author Sankara Saranam said: "...the ideas
of God introduced by organized religions have propagated divisiveness
through split-level thinking like 'us and them,' 'believer and infidel,'
and 'saved and damned,' leading to prejudice, violence, and ultimately,
war. I wrote 'God Without Religion' to introduce the idea of a universal
God-a concept approached by past philosophers and mystics, but never
explored comprehensively from the inside out.
Sankara Saranam, "God without Religion: Questioning centuries of
accepted truths," Pranayma Institute, (2005-JUL).
PaGaian Cosmology: Author Glenys Livingstone describes an "...ecospirituality
grounded in indigenous Western religious celebration of the Earth-Sun annual
cycle. By linking to story of the unfolding universe this practice can be
deepened, and a sense of the Triple Goddesscentral to the cycle and known
in ancient culturesdeveloped as a dynamic innate to all being. The ritual
scripts and the process of ritual events presented here, may be a journey
into self-knowledge through personal, communal and ecological story: the
self to be known is one that is integral with place.
Glenys Livingstone, "PaGaian Cosmology:Re-inventing Earth-based Goddess
Religion" iUniverse Press, (2005).
Christianity: various aspects:
The Religious Left: A great deal of attention has been played
to the Religious Right in America. However, opposition to that
movement has often been considered to be the "secular left."
A "religious left," exists within Buddhism,
Christianity, Judaism, even Humanism, but has not often received
significant media exposure. Rebecca Alpert has brought together 36
essays dealing with everything from re-imaging God, to anti-semitism;
from animal rights to the interpretation of Leviticus18:22.
Rebecca Alpert, "Voices of the religious left: A contemporary
sourcebook," Temple University Press, (2000). Review/ order
Persecution: One of the greatest tragedies in the world today is
widespread religious persecution. This topic is not well
documented. This book discusses one aspect of the problem: persecution of Christians in
more than 60 countries around the world - typically in either Muslim or Communist
P. Marshall, "Their Blood Cries Out: The worldwide tragedy of modern
Christians who are dying for their faith," Word Publishing, (1997). Review/ order
The Gospel of Q: This is a very early sayings
Gospel which formed a basis for much of the Gospels of Luke and Matthew. The first
part of Q was written about 50 CE and thus predates the other Gospels by 20 to 50 years.
Many feel that this Gospel more accurately reflects the real words, acts and beliefs
of Jesus, before developing Christian theology distorted them and changed the religion of
Jesus into the religion about Jesus. "Q" has been reconstructed in:
Role of Women: Jesus appears to have taught the revolutionary concept
that women should be treated equally to men. His immediate followers accepted this
concept. But by the time II Timothy was written in the middle
of the 2nd century CE, the Christian movement had begun to revert to the
restrictive Jewish and Pagan attitudes towards women. Leadership opportunities for women
in the church began to be withdrawn. In time, the historical evidence that women were once priests, bishops, apostles and prophetesses in the
early Christian church was suppressed. The Christian church, and to a limited amount, the
Armed Forces, are the last two institutions in North America society to deny equal rights
to women. This book tells all:
K.J. Torjesen, "When Women Were Priests: Women's leadership in the early
Church and the scandal of their subordination in the rise of Christianity,"
Harper Collins, (1993). Review/ order
Anti-Semitism: Perhaps the most serious evil in the history
Christianity has been its long history of Jewish persecution.
This type of religious hatred is alive and well and increasing in the world today.
book traces its origin back to the belief that "the Jews" killed Jesus. He shows
how this was an early Christian myth that became religious propaganda that was documented
as if it were truth in the Gospels. Carrol's book is a systematic study of
the treatment of Jews from the 1st century until the Nazi Holocaust.
Beliefnet.com selected this book as the best spiritual book of the year
J.D. Crossan, "Who Killed Jesus?: Exposing the roots of anti-Semitism in the
gospel story of the death of Jesus," Harper Collins, (1995). Review/ order
Sexuality: Early Christianity inherited much from Judaism. But it
rejected the positive Jewish attitudes towards human sexuality. They adopted anti-sexual
belief systems from contemporary Paganism. The results of this denigration of sexuality
are still with us today in the form of bans on married priests, priestesses, birth
control, masturbation, pre-marital sex, etc. All of this is well documented in this book:
Uta Ranke-Heinemann, "Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven: Women, Sexuality and
the Catholic Church," Doubleday, (1990). Review/ order
Sexual Orientation: Just as large parts of the Christian Church have
had to come to terms with their past support for slavery, racial
segregation, racism and sexism, they are now gingerly approaching the topic of sexual orientation.
One remarkable book was written by Mel. White, a leading
Evangelical pastor who ghost-wrote many books for Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and other
leaders of the religious right. He was simultaneously fighting his sexual orientation and
going through a personal hell, trying to become "straight." His is a very moving story.
It helps the reader to stop viewing homosexuality as an issue, and to start viewing
homosexuality as a group of hurting individuals. He recorded his experiences in
his book: "Stranger at the Gate: To be gay and Christian in America."
Simon & Schuster, (1994) Review/ order
Another book is remarkable in another way. It is by Jack Rogers, a
former moderator of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). His story is
unusual in that he changed his mind about homosexuality. Over time, he
became a supporter of equal treatment for persons of all sexual
orientations, in the home, church and society. See:
"Jesus, the Bible and Homosexuality:
Explode the myths; heal the church"
Read reviews or order this book
A third remarkable book is the personal testimony of Mark Tedesco, a
gay man, who made the journey from a ordinary Roman Catholic to a priest
and back again. It is titled: "That Undeniable Longing: My Road to and from
the Priesthood." An Amazon.com reader commented: "An amazing
autobiography by an individual whom many can relate to, aside from his
religious vocation, on the basis of having one's environment and
influences dictate your feelings. Well-written and intelligent."
Rated at 4¾ out of 5 stars.
Read reviews or order this book
Biblical Research: Many studies have been made, in an attempt to
uncover the authors, dates, and localities of various events and books in the Bible. Some
of the more interesting books on this topic are:
R.E. Friedman, "Who Wrote the Bible," Harper Collins, (1997). This
book deals with the Hebrew Scriptures. Review/ order
C. Pellegrino, "Return to Sodom and Gomorrah: From the location of the Garden
of Eden to the parting of the Red Sea - solving the Bible's ancient mysteries through
archaeological discovery," Avon, (1994) Review/ order
Search for Jesus: Those who do not believe in the
inerrancy of the Bible are often curious
to determine what passages in the Christian Scriptures (New Testament)
reflect the accurate words, teachings, and actions of Jesus. The task of separating
them from material created by the writers that do not reflect
Jesus' ministry, from simple religious propaganda, and from creation of events that never
happened in order to fulfill "prophecies" in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old
Testament) is extremely difficult.
One monumental book on this topic is: John Dominic Crossan, "The Historical Jesus: The life of a
Mediterranean Jewish Peasant," Harper SanFrancisco, (1993).
Review/order this book
Prophecy: In the years 2000 and 2001. the public went
through a period of millennial fever. This resulted in a lot of disappointed, disillusioned people looking for scapegoats. Much of the anticipation of the end of the world comes
from Bible prophecy. This book analyzes prophecy and compares it to reality.
The Creation Story: Louis Bartolomeo is the author of "Adam
and Eve: A tragic love story." is It is an "...expanded narrative of the
biblical metaphors of Creation and the Temptation of Eve chronicling the
birth of our planet to times of Eden." Review/ order
Bishop Spong: It seems a little strange to put a person's name where a
category should be. But, all books by John Shelby Spong, the Episcopal
bishop of Newark NY strive "to revive the imaginative possibilities of ancient
Scripture for the men and women of today." (From a book review by
They are all intellectually challenging and exciting. You can see books by this author if
you go to the Amazon.com web site, and enter John Spong in the
A review: Peter Singer has edited a book in the Blackwell
Companions to Philosophy series: "A Companion to Ethics." The
publishers comment that in this book,
"...today's most distinguished philosophers survey the
whole field of ethics, from its origins, through the great ethical
traditions, to theories of how we ought to live, arguments about
specific ethical issues, and the nature of ethics itself. The book can
be read straight through from beginning to end; yet the inclusion of a
multi-layered index, coupled with a descriptive outline of contents and
bibliographies of relevant literature, means that the volume also serves
as a work of reference, both for those coming afresh to the study of
ethics and for readers already familiar with the subject. "
Even as technology accelerates, an anti-scientific, anti-logical, and anti-rational
backlash is going in the opposite direction. People are willing to believe the strangest
things, with little or no evidence: UFO abductions, Holocaust denial, Satanic
ritual abuse, recovered memories, etc.
M. Shermer & S.J. Gould, "Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience,
superstition and other confusions of our time," W.H. Freeman, (1998). Review/order
Books recommended by authors:
Frank Gonzalez recommended his book "Revelation of the Christ in
Chronological Order." He discusses the tribulation, the 1,000 year reign
of Christ, and the new Earth. It is available for free download or for
purchase at a nominal price. See:
Deborah Gelbard recommended her
novel "Global Dawn."
In the foreword, Timothy Foresman of Digital Earth writes:
"She weaves science, art, mysticism and spiritual growth into an enticing
drama that combines the joy and the angst of embracing a common destiny
for humankind amid grim, present-day realities. Hopefully, this novel
will inspire cadres of thoughtful people, when looking towards the
future, to say, 'Why not?' and 'Why not now?' "
Read reviews or order this book
has recommended his book "Plato: An Interpretation (2005)." He writes:
"Our understanding of Plato and our understanding of the nature of
philosophy are two sides of a coin. The dominant academic conception of
the nature of philosophical thinking vitiates both our understanding of
philosophy and our interpretation of Plato. Plato gave us the
profoundest truths about ourselves and about Reality in winged myths.
Our learned scholars turn the myths into silly dogmata, into
transparently erroneous doctrines, and all is lost: the inspirational
core, the inspired insight, is dissipated when its housing shell of myth
is shattered. No one is entitled to claim a monopoly on understanding
Plato's 'true' meaning, and I certainly make no claim. I neither pretend
nor intend to arrive at what Plato thought or taught. Plato has left us
some thirty pieces of verbal composition, which he created for his own
amusement. I enter into living dialogue with the living Plato and offer
the understanding I come out with for myself from that dialogue, not
claiming any authority or veracity for my interpretation. I do what
Plotinus did; I draw from the flowing founts of Plato to water my own
garden and offer my version of Platoism for what it may be worth
Read reviews or order this book