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Recent created/updated essays.
Why this web site is different.
Planned future essays.
Why so many essays on sexual topics?

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The following topics are discussed in this section:

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2017-April's selection

book cover "The Bible Doesn't Say That: 40 Biblical Mistranslations, Misconceptions, and Other Misunderstandings," by Joel 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.

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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...

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. This is a very high rating for such a controversial topic.

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The web site has 37 newly created or significantly updated essays so far during 2017-APR, including the above book review.
New essays are marked "N". Essays that underwent a major upgrade are marked "U." In addition, we will make minor updates to dozens of essays this month which are not recorded here:

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2017-March's selection

"The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements" by Eric Hoffer.

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
$10.39 in Kindle format, or $132.60 in hardcover plus postage, or $11.35 in plus postage in paperback format.

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Two book reviews:

  • Christian Science Monitor "[Eric Hoffer] is a student of extraordinary perception and insight. The range of his reading and research is vast, amazing. [The True Believer is] one of the most provocative books of our immediate day.”

  • Amazon.com: The famous bestseller with “concise insight into what drives the mind of the fanatic and the dynamics of a mass movement” (Wall St. Journal) by Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient Eric Hoffer, The True Believer is a landmark in the field of social psychology, and even more relevant today than ever before in history. Called a “brilliant and original inquiry” and “a genuine contribution to our social thought” by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., The True Believer is mandatory reading for anyone interested in the machinations by which an individual becomes a fanatic.

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Webmaster's Note:

This book was originally not intended to be the selection for March. However our Contributing Editor, Susan Humphreys, wrote an essay about "True Believers in the United States of Hate" where she said:

"There have been many ... articles since the 2016 election trying to figure out and justify why so many people voted for Trump and why there is such a great divide between urban and rural areas of the U.S., and between Conservatives, Liberals and Progressives.

Answers to some of the questions can be found in a 1951 book written by Eric Hoffer "The True Believer, Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements".

From the Back Cover:

"A stevedore on the San Francisco docks in the 1940s, Eric Hoffer wrote philosophical treatises in his spare time while living in the railroad yards. The True Believer -- the first and most famous of his books -- was made into a bestseller when President Eisenhower cited it during one of the earliest television press conferences. Completely relevant and essential for understanding the world today, The True Believer is a visionary, highly provocative look into the mind of the fanatic and a penetrating study of how an individual becomes one.

About the Author:

Eric Hoffer (1902 -- 1983) was self-educated. He worked in restaurants, as a migrant fieldworker, and as a gold prospector. After Pearl Harbor, he worked as a longshoreman in San Francisco for twenty-five years. The author of more than ten books, including The Passionate State of Mind, The Ordeal of Change, and The Temper of Our Time, Eric Hoffer was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1983.

The web site had 34 newly created essays and major updates to existing essays during 2017-MAR, including the above book review.
New essays are marked "N"; essays that underwent a major upgrade are marked "U." In addition, we have made minor updates to dozens of essays this month which are not recorded here:

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2017-February's selection

book cover

"American Secularism: Cultural Contours of Nonreligious Belief Systems (Religion and Social Transformation)"

by Joseph O. O. Baker and Buster G. Smith.

Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
$12.62 in Kindle format, or $89.00 plus postage in hardcover, or $27.00 in paperback format.

Amazon.com book review:

"A rapidly growing number of Americans are embracing life outside the bounds of organized religion. Although America has long been viewed as a fervently religious Christian nation, survey data shows that more and more Americans are identifying as 'not religious.' There are more non-religious Americans than ever before, yet social scientists have not adequately studied or typologized secularities, and the lived reality of secular individuals in America has not been astutely analyzed. American Secularism documents how changes to American society have fueled these shifts in the non-religious landscape and examines the diverse and dynamic world of secular Americans.

This volume offers a theoretical framework for understanding secularisms. It explores secular Americans’ thought and practice to understand secularisms as worldviews in their own right, not just as negations of religion. Drawing on empirical data, the authors examine how people live secular lives and make meaning outside of organized religion. Joseph O. Baker and Buster G. Smith link secularities to broader issues of social power and organization, providing an empirical and cultural perspective on the secular landscape. In so doing, they demonstrate that shifts in American secularism are reflective of changes in the political meanings of “religion” in American culture.

American Secularism addresses the contemporary lived reality of secular individuals, outlining forms of secular identity and showing their connection to patterns of family formation, sexuality, and politics, providing scholars of religion with a more comprehensive understanding of worldviews that do not include traditional religion."

Joseph O. Baker is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at East Tennessee State University and a senior research associate for the Association of Religion Data Archives. 

Buster G. Smith is Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Catawba College. He is the co-author of Grounding Our Faith in a Pluralistic World.

The book received an Honorable Mention by the American Sociological Association in their Religion Distinguished Book Award

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The web site had 33 newly created or updated essays during 2017-FEB, including the above book review.

New essays are marked "N"; updated essays are marked "U":

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Sponsored link:

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2017-January's selection

book cover "Love the Sin: Sexual Regulation and the Limits of Religious Tolerance," by Janet Jakobsen & Ann Pellegrini

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

$18.90 plus postage in Paperback, $16.69 in Kindle format, or $89.00 plus postage in hardcover.

A sampling of Amazon.com book reviews:

  • A brilliant book, one that can move public conversations about sexual, racial, and religious difference beyond present assumptions and impasses. Love the Sin suggests that religion can become the ground for sexual freedom rather than the justification for sexual repression.”
    -Margaret R. Miles,author of Seeing and Believing: Religion and Values in the Movies

    As ambitious, feisty, and exciting as any new passion, Love the Sin takes its readers on a compelling ride across the volatile landscape of religion and sex in American public life. The authors not only provoke and stimulate, guide and elucidate, but they redefine freedom and democracy as values for our sex lives as well as our sexual politics.”
    -Lisa Duggan,coauthor of Sex Wars: Sexual Dissent and Political Culture

  • Jakobsen and Pellegrini argue convincingly that movements for ethnic, racial, gender, and sexual justice would be well served by using the paradigm of religious freedom instead of biological determinism to make the case for social change. Love the Sin is required reading for all the sinners to whom the title euphemistically refers, and for everyone who dreams of a more just society.”
    -Rabbi Rebecca Alpert,author of Like Bread on the Seder Plate

  • “Jakobsen and Pellegrini do a nice job of showing how the love-the-sinner/hate-the- sin tradition falls dramatically short of the higher aspiration to tolerance.”
    -Stephen Pomper,Washington Monthly

  • “Gives us vital language to escape both the trap of toleration and the seduction of assimilation. Not afraid to challenge the certainties of the secular left on religion, nor willing to settle for a narrow version of gay and lesbian rights, Love the Sin presents a new vision of American sexual and religious freedom.”
    -Laura Levitt,Director of Jewish Studies, Temple University

Average rating in reviews by 3 Amazon customers: 4.6 out of 5 stars.

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The web site had 39 newly created or updated essays during 2017-JAN, including the above book review.

New essays are marked "N"; updated essays are marked "U":

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2016-December's selection

book cover

"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's 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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The web site had 40 newly created or updated essays during 2016-DEC, including the above book review.

New essays are marked "N"; updated essays are marked "U":

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2016-November's selection

book cover "The God Problem: How a Godless Cosmos Creates," by Howard Bloom. Prometheus Books; New edition (2016-FEB) Available in Kindle format for $7.45 and paperback for $14.28 and hardcover.

Amazon.com customers gave this book a rating of 3.3 out of 5 stars. This is low but expected rating for a book on such a controversial topic. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store. Available for $5.99 in Kindle format or $15.99 in Paperback.

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

Howard Bloom has been called "the Darwin, Einstein, Newton, and Freud of the 21st Century" by Britain's Channel 4 TV and "the next Stephen Hawking" by Gear Magazine.

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The web site has 41 newly created or updated essays during 2016-NOV, including the above book review.

New essays are marked "N"; updated essays are marked "U":

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Sponsored link:

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2016-October's selection:

book cover "I Promised Not to Tell: Raising a transgender child," by Cheryl B. Evans, Self published, 2016-JUL. Available in Kindle format for $5.93 and paperback for $15.99

Amazon.com customers gave this book a rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars. This is an incredible rating for a book on such a controversial topic. Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store. Available for $5.99 in Kindle format or $15.99 in Paperback.

Amazon.com's review:

"A must read for a parent, relative or friend of a gender questioning or transgender person. I Promised Not to Tell is a deeply personal and emotional parenting memoir told by the mother of a transgender child. This book will benefit anyone who would like to learn more about transgenderism. Honest, moving and well written, you will not be disappointed!

Review by this web site's author, Bruce Robinson, on Amazon.com:

"An absolute gem:

An amazing book! It allows the reader to fully experience the shock, fears, joy, and triumphs that a fully involved parent of a transgender child may have. I have read dozens of books about the LGBT community in connection with my work on the LGBT section of the religioustolerance.org web site. But this is the first time that I have been motivated to temporarily suspend my work on the site in order to read a book cover to cover. Not to be missed."

Viga Boland wrote the following review:

"... I Promised Not to Tell is quite possibly one of the most important books to date on a very controversial and little understood social issue: transgenderism. And what makes it even more valuable is that the focus is on helping parents recognize,and whether they like it or not, accept that their daughter might actually be a son or vice versa. As Cheryl B. Evans states early in I Promised Not to Tell, and repeats throughout the book, what she and her husband wanted most for her children was their happiness. And everything these parents do in this book proves they mean what they say. They listened to and trusted in what Jordan believed was right for her; they educated themselves on transgenderism; they located knowledgeable therapists and doctors, and stood united and strong beside their daughter when faced with religious ignorance that claims such children are "not of God..."

"If you are facing such a situation with your child, I urge you to read this book. Both you and your child need what Cheryl has so kindly shared with readers and parents. And when you do, I'm sure you will come away impressed not just by the courage shown by Jordan in this book, but by the love Cheryl and her husband have for their children and their compassion for all people. That love affirms what I've always believed: true love has nothing to do with gender. Love is love. I loved I Promised Not to Tell. Couldn't put it down. Highly recommended reading."

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The web site has 35 newly created or updated essays during 2016-OCT, including the above book review.

New essays are marked "N"; updated essays are marked "U":

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2016-September's selection

book cover "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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The web site has 27 newly created or updated essays during 2016-SEP.

New essays are marked "N"; updated essays are marked "U":

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2016-August's selection:

book cove "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 formats.

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Webmaster's comment:

This book is written by an Atheist about Atheism. It might be very helpful for Christians and others who attempt to proselytize non-Christians. That is because it accurately reflects real beliefs of many Atheists.

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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. ...

- It is not "Islamophobia" to observe dangerous teachings and disproportionate violence in Islam, including the governments of some predominately Muslim countries that execute Atheists, Muslims who leave Islam for another religion, and homosexuals.

- Atheists are slowly but surely winning the battle. ..."

Average rating in reviews by 77 Amazon customers: 4.5 out of 5 stars. That is unusually high for a book on such a controversial topic.

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There are 36 new and revised essays activated during 2016-AUG:

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New and updated essays on the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance (OCRT) web site.
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