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Books on theology and religion
recommended by this web site's staff

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For American & International visitors For Canadian visitors For UK visitors

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If you buy books, tapes, toys, etc. from Amazon.com, please consider using one of the above graphics when you go to their site. It doesn't cost you anything, and it results in a commission of 5% to 15% to us. There are similar graphics near the bottom of our main home page as well.

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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 the 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.

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The Bible:

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 reviews/order this Bible 

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 reviews/order this Book

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Spirituality:

bulletNeoagnosticism: 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 this book
bulletAlternative 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 this book

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Religion:

bulletFundamentialism: 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

Karen Armstrong, "The Battle for God," Ballantine Books, (2001).  Review/ order this book
bulletBelief 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).  Review/ order this book
bulletGod 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). Review/ order this book
bulletPaGaian 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 Goddessócentral to the cycle and known in ancient culturesódeveloped 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). Review/ order this book

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Christianity: various aspects: 

bulletThe 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 this book

bulletPersecution: 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 countries:

P. Marshall, "Their Blood Cries Out: The worldwide tragedy of modern Christians who are dying for their faith," Word Publishing, (1997).  Review/ order this book

bulletThe 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:

B.L. Mack, "The Lost Gospel: The book of Q & Christian origins," Harper Collins (1993).  Review/ order this book     

bulletRole 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 this book

bulletAnti-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. Crossan's 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 2001.

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 this book

James Carroll, "Constantine's Sword: The Church and the Jews: A History," Houghton Miffin (2001)  Review/order a hardcopy of this book. Review/ order a paperback copy of this book

bulletSexuality: 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 this book

bulletSexual 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.
bulletOne 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 this book
bulletAnother 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
bulletA 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 4ĺ out of 5 stars. Read reviews or order this book
bulletBiblical 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:
bulletR.E. Friedman, "Who Wrote the Bible," Harper Collins, (1997). This book deals with the Hebrew Scriptures.  Review/ order this book
bulletB.L. Mack, "Who Wrote the New Testament," Harper Collins, (1995)   Review/ order this book
bulletR.M. Helms, "Who Wrote the Gospels?," Millennium Press, (1996)   Review/ order this book
bulletC. 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 this book
bulletSearch 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.
bulletOne 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
bulletAnother is Marcus J. Borg: "Jesus: Uncovering the life, teachings and relevance of a religious revolutionary" Harper SanFrancisco,(2006) Review / order this book safely from the Amazon.com online book store
bulletProphecy: 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.

T. Callahan, "Bible Prophecy: Failure of Fulfillment?" Millennium Press, (1997)  Review/ order this book

bulletThe 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 this book
 
bulletBishop 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 Mirabella). 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 Search box.

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Ethics:

bulletA 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. " Review/ order this book

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Pseudoscience:

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 this book

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Books recommended by authors:

bulletFrank 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: http://www.revelationoftheChrist.com
 
bulletRon Mazur, a Unitarian minister, recommended his book "Christianity as Fairy Tale." He suggests that Mary Magdala was the Apostle to the Apostles; that Judas was a friend of Jesus, not his betrayer; and that Jesus spent 18 years in Egypt learning Egyptian Mysteries. See his web site AstroVentureSociety. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
 
bulletDeborah 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
bullet D.R. Khashaba 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 intrinsically." Read reviews or order this book

See also his blog "Let us philosophize" at: http://khashaba.blogspot.com/ and his book announcement at: http://www.back-to-socrates.com/

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Reference used:

  1. Amazon.com book review of Karen Armstrong;s "The Battle for God,"

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Copyright © 1999 to 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2007-FEB-19
Compiled by B.A. Robinson

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