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Recommended religious/spiritual books

2012-January to June

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Previous months' recommendations

The current month's recommended book

Tentatively scheduled selections for future months

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2012-January's selection

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"And Man Created God: Is God a Human Invention?" by Robert Banks

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Most recently leveled by the New Atheists, the question of the likelihood that God is a human invention was first asked in ancient Greece and has preoccupied religious believers for centuries ever since. Here, renowned scholar Robert Banks explores the history of this objection—from its earliest vocalization in the ancient world to its most famous advocates, including Freud, Marx, and others -- and offers compelling evidence that takes both sides of the argument into account. Ideal for those with a general interest in New Atheism or for those studying religion, this informative guide will offer readers the chance to sort out once and for all what -- if any -- elements of their idea of God are man-made.

Robert Banks includes a description of four leading modern approaches to the core origins of God:

  • God as the product of human wishes as promoted by Ludwig Feuerbach.
  • God as a substitute for oppressive conditions by Karl Marx
  • God as a projection of repressed desires by Sigmund Freud
  • God as a symbol of human potential by Erich Fromm
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About the Author:

Robert Banks completed his doctorate in theology at Cambridge and recently retired as professor of the ministry of the laity and chair of the ministry division at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. He has also been the recipient of the Book of the Year award from Christianity Today and is the author of Faith in Leadership, Faith Goes to Work, Going to Church in the First Century, Paul's Idea of Community, Reenvisioning Theological Education, and The Church Comes Home.

List price is $13.95. sells it for $8.29 plus postage in paperback, although used copies are often available at lower cost

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2012-February's selection

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"Thou Shalt Not Love: What Evangelicals Really Say to Gays" by Patrick M Chapman

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Book reviews by customers:

  • "Nick" writes: "Provides a thorough and scholarly rebuttal to arguments Evangelicals use against homosexuals and same-sex marriage. Highlights the deceiving arguments and misleading information used by the Religious Right. Includes the latest science on what causes homosexuality and if it can be changed, and cultural evidence of same-sex marriage and families around the world. Also puts an anthropological twist on what the Bible says about homosexuality. Overall, one of the best books on the current debate over homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Very timely given the marriage amendments and debates. A definite read for both gays (and their families) and Christians, and certainly gay Christians!"

  • "arbedweis" writes: "Very worthwhile book. My favorite part is actually the title, which really says it all. This book covers the science of sexual orientation, history and anthropology of same-sex relationships, and the evangelical worldview. It shows the fallacies and inconsistencies in the evangelical worldview, the impact of that worldview on gay people, and how religious people can reconcile reality and faith. It is written by an anthropologist and enlightened evangelical, who sees no conflict between true religious faith and support for gay rights. I hope this book will wake up some evangelicals to the harm they are causing gay people. I bought the book to give to my evangelical parents when I come out to them (I'm 53, they are in their 80s). The author quotes for a small number of evangelical leaders a bit too often for my taste, but overall the book is well-written and accessible."

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2012-March's selection

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"God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist" by Victor J. Stenger

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Book reviews by some of the New Atheists:

  • "I learned an enormous amount from this splendid book." -- Richard Dawkins, Author of the New York Times bestseller The God Delusion

  • "Extremely tough and impressive...a great book...a huge addition to the arsenal of argument." -- Christopher Hitchens, Author of the New York Times bestseller God Is Not Great.

  • Marshalling converging arguments from physics, astronomy, biology, and philosophy, Stenger has delivered a masterful blow in defense of reason. God: The Failed Hypothesis is a potent, readable, and well-timed assault upon religious delusion. It should be widely read." -- Sam Harris, Author of the New York Times bestsellers, The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation.
  • "As a former evangelical, who has studied almost every religion at least in a cursory manner, I am convinced that a personal, religiously affiliated, or intervening god does not exist and is a mere psychological projection. However, I had still remained somewhat agnostic toward the concept of a deistic god. Stenger shows that modern physics can indeed answer such seemingly hard questions as 'Why is there something rather than nothing?' rather convincingly. This book weakened my position of agnostic deism from 'maybe' to 'probably not' because complete naturalism seems to be the best and most likely explanation." Review by Thomas Adam L.

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About the Author:

Victor Stenger (Lafayette, CO) is adjunct professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado and professor emeritus of physics and astronomy at the University of Hawaii. He is the author of Has Science Found God?, The Comprehensible Cosmos, Timeless Reality, The Unconscious Quantum, Physics and Psychics, Not by Design and The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning: Why the Universe Is Not Designed for Us.

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About the book:

The title says it all. The author attempts to show the non-existence of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic concept of God. The review on shows that the book received only a mediocre rating of 3.5 out of 5 stars. But a closer examination of the almost 200 reviews showed that almost equal numbers of readers gave a 4,3,2 and 1 rating. The book is obviously disliked by many theists, and loved by many agnostics and atheists.

List price for the hardcover edition is $28.00. sells it for $16.46 plus postage in hardback, and $9.59 in Kindle eBook format

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2012-April's selection

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"The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist Crisis" by Robert R. Reilly

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This book deals with Islamism which, according to Wikipedia:

"... is a controversial term, and definitions of it sometimes vary. Leading Islamist thinkers emphasized the enforcement of Sharia (Islamic law); of pan-Islamic political unity; and of the elimination of non-Muslim, particularly Western military, economic, political, social, or cultural influences in the Muslim world, which they believe to be incompatible with [their version of] Islam."

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Review by the National Review Online:

The book you must read to understand the Islamist crisis -- and the threat to us all. Robert R. Reilly’s eye-opening book masterfully explains the frightening behavior coming out of the Islamic world. Terrorism, he shows, is only one manifestation of the spiritual pathology of Islamism.

Reilly uncovers the root of our contemporary crisis: a pivotal struggle waged within the Muslim world nearly a millennium ago. In a heated battle over the role of reason, the side of irrationality won. The deformed theology that resulted, Reilly reveals, produced the spiritual pathology of Islamism, and a deeply dysfunctional culture.

 The Closing of the Muslim Mind solves such puzzles as:

  1. Why the Arab world stands near the bottom of every measure of human development.
  2. Why scientific inquiry is nearly dead in the Islamic world.
  3. Why Spain translates more books in a single year than the entire Arab world has in the past thousand years.
  4. Why some people in Saudi Arabia still refuse to believe man has been to the moon.

Delving deeper than previous polemics and simplistic analyses, The Closing of the Muslim Mind provides the answers the West has so desperately needed in confronting the Islamist crisis.

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List price for the paperback edition is $18.00. sells it for $12.24 plus postage, and $11.63 in Kindle eBook format

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2012-May's selection

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"I Speak for Myself: American Women on Being Muslim," edited by Maria M Ebrahimji & Zahra T Suratwala

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""Muslim American women are the subject of endless discussions regarding their role in society, their veils as symbols of oppression or of freedom, their identity, their patriotism, their womanhood. Yet the voices and life experiences of Muslim American women themselves are rarely heard in the loud rhetoric surrounding the question of Muslims in America. Finally, in I Speak for Myself, 40 American women under the age of 40, share their experiences of their lives as Muslim women in America. While their commonality is faith and citizenship, their voices and their messages are very different.

Readers of I Speak for Myself are presented with a kaleidoscope of stories, artfully woven together around the central idea of limitlessness and individuality. A common theme linking these intimate self-portraits will be the way each woman uniquely defies labeling, simply by defining for herself what it means to be American and Muslim and female. Each personal story is a contribution to the larger narrative of life stories and life work of a new generation of Muslim women.

There are approximately six million Muslims living in the United States and over one billion around the world. While the events of 9/11 certainly engaged Americans with the religion of Islam, many enduring stereotypes continue to belittle the Muslim American experience; this often leads to a monolithic interpretation of Islam. Such a treatment is especially inappropriate when reflecting on the Muslim American identity, which is by far one of the most culturally, ethnically, and socially diverse of any in the Islamic world. Women of the Muslim community in America could be described as both patriots and practitioners (of faith). Their experiences call for a body of literature that reflects how they celebrate and live Islam in distinctive ways.

In the wake of the current rising tide of Islamophobia (see Time Magazine, Aug. 30, 2010), I Speak for Myself is a must read for Americans seeking understanding of Islam from young women who were all born in the USA.

List price for the paperback edition is $16.95. sells it for $11.53 plus postage. Sadly, it is not available in the Kindle eBook format

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2012-June's selection

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"Abraham's Children: Liberty and Tolerance in an Age of Religious Conflict," by Kelly James Clark

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"Scarcely any country in today's world can claim to be free of intolerance. Israel and Palestine, Northern Ireland, Sudan, the Balkans, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, and the Caucasus are just some of the areas of intractable conflict apparently inspired or exacerbated by religious differences. Can devoted Jews, Christians, or Muslims remain true to their own fundamental beliefs and practices, yet also find paths toward liberty, tolerance, and respect for those of other faiths?

In this vitally important book, fifteen influential practitioners of the Abrahamic religions address religious liberty and tolerance from the perspectives of their own faith traditions. Former president Jimmy Carter, Rabbi Arik Ascherman, Indonesia’s first democratically elected president, Abdurrahman Wahid, and the other writers draw on their personal experiences and on the sacred writings that are central in their own religious lives. Rather than relying on "pure reason," as secularists might prefer, the contributors celebrate religious traditions and find within them a way toward mutual peace, uncompromised liberty, and principled tolerance. Offering a counterbalance to incendiary religious leaders who cite Holy Writ to justify intolerance and violence, the contributors reveal how tolerance and respect for believers in other faiths stand at the core of the Abrahamic traditions."

Review by Archbishop Desmond Tutu:

"Tolerance is in all-too-short supply in our world.  Most attempts to cultivate greater tolerance urge us to set aside our differences, including our religious differences, and focus on what unites us.  Many people find it difficult if not impossible to do that.  The authors in this collection, each one a leading member of one or another of the Abrahamic religions, take a strikingly different and fresh approach.  Each one probes the resources of his or her own religion to make a case for tolerating one's fellow human beings even when one disagrees on important matters.  Over and over I had the experience of scales falling off my eyes.  It would be hard to exaggerate the importance and promise of these fascinating essays for advancing the cause of tolerance."

About the Author:

Kelly James Clark is Senior Research Fellow at the Kaufman Interfaith Institute at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, MI. He is author or editor of more than twenty books, including The Story of Ethics and Return to Reason sells a paperback edition for $11.38 plus postage or $9.99 in the Kindle eBook format

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Want a Kindle? has way over a million eBooks, newspapers, and magazines available for download into their Kindle eBook reader. They have apps that work on PCs, tablets, and many other devices. Not only is this more portable than lugging up to 3,500 books with you but you can save a lot of money, because eBook versions generally cost significantly less than print versions. Ebooks have a search function. You can highlight passages from books and store them in a text file for use by an editor program on a PC or Mac:

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Reference used:

  1. Michael L. Hawley, "Searching for Truth with a Broken Flashlight," Author web site, at:

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Copyright 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2011-FEB-02
Latest update: 2012-JUN-03
Author: B.A. Robinson

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