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Ch. 7: Current Issues of Religious Exp. vs. Competing... 
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Post Ch. 7: Current Issues of Religious Exp. vs. Competing...
Ch. 7: Current Issues of Religious Expression Versus Competing Social Interests


This thread is for discussing Chapter 7: Current Issues of Religious Expression Versus Competing Social Interests. You're welcome to use this thread or create your own threads. :)




Thu Apr 12, 2007 9:42 am
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Post Ch. 7: Current Issues of Religious Exp. vs. Competing...
The cases involving Jehovah's Witnesses and Christian Scientists bring up subtle moral issues. Should there be laws that keep people from doing things that are hazardous to themselves or their children? While I concluded that people should have the right to refuse medical care that goes against their religious principles, that issue troubles me more than others discussed in this book. When it comes to medical care of children, I'd rather overriding the parents' wishes to ensure that minors receive the necessary medical procedures. To be honest, it's difficult to put aside my negative view of religions whose practices are so destructive.

Government supported faith-based social services are aggravating. Besides any explicit proselytizing that could occur, church-sponsored social services improve public opinion of the church, the same way corporate-sponsored sports events provide advertising to the corporation. And a big reason why such social services are needed so drastically is because the Republicans have significantly cut social programs since Reagan took office.




Sun Jun 17, 2007 10:07 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 7: Current Issues of Religious Exp. vs. Competing...
JulianTheApostate: The cases involving Jehovah's Witnesses and Christian Scientists bring up subtle moral issues. Should there be laws that keep people from doing things that are hazardous to themselves or their children? While I concluded that people should have the right to refuse medical care that goes against their religious principles, that issue troubles me more than others discussed in this book. When it comes to medical care of children, I'd rather overriding the parents' wishes to ensure that minors receive the necessary medical procedures. To be honest, it's difficult to put aside my negative view of religions whose practices are so destructive.

I don't think minor children should be put at risk because of their parents' religious beliefs. If adults - or even children who are old enough to make such decisions - want to refuse medical treatment, then, in the interest of protecting their rights of conscience, I think we must honor their preferences. However, minor children are not able to make such decisions for themselves. I don't think it interferes with any adult's rights of conscience to declare that decisions about the medical care of children must be made with the health of the children as the paramount concern.

That doesn't mean I think the state should ride roughshod over parental preferences. It does mean that, if we wish to call ourselves a humane society, we cannot allow parents to intentionally place the lives of their children at risk on religious - or any other - grounds.

Government supported faith-based social services are aggravating. Besides any explicit proselytizing that could occur, church-sponsored social services improve public opinion of the church, the same way corporate-sponsored sports events provide advertising to the corporation. And a big reason why such social services are needed so drastically is because the Republicans have significantly cut social programs since Reagan took office.

On this issue, I take a fairly exteme position. I am opposed to any government agency giving any tax dollars to any religious organization for any reason whatever. In my view the dangers inherent in such an arrangement far outweigh any potential benefits. If our society has needs to be met then we should meet them by providing the necessary werewithal to do so.

At the very least, any religious organization that accepts money from any government agency ought to be held to the same legal standards and the same reporting requirements as any other non-profit organization.

George

http://www.godlessinamerica.com

"Godlessness is not about denying the existence of nonsensical beings. It is the starting point for living life without them."

Godless in America by George A. Ricker




Mon Jun 25, 2007 10:22 am
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Post Re: Ch. 7: Current Issues of Religious Exp. vs. Competing...
Not having actually read the book, I can't contribute much in the way of detailed comment, but I did want to raise a hypothetical question that may or may not be germaine to the topic.

Would you support the right of an atheist parent to withhold treatment for a terminally ill child (ie. diagnosed with a potentially fatal illness -- not guaranteed to die) on the grounds that, given a 50/50 chance of survival, they'd rather at least give their child the satisfaction of not being confined to a treatment ward or exposed to painful treatments (eg. chemotherapy)?

Or up the odds against survival. Say the doctors give the child a 25% hance of surviving if treated immediately. That still leaves the child a 75% chance of death even if quarantined and subjected to arduous treatment. Would the parent be justified in opting to allow their child to some sense of normalcy and a temporary repreive from pain (which, admittedly, is probably inevitable for a terminally ill child), or should society make it incumbent on any parent to wager on that 25% chance?

Since I've already partly made it a number's game, what's the lowest predicted chance of survival at which you'd still insist that the parent ought to submit their child for treatment? Ten? Five? On the other end of the scale, what's the highest predicted chance of survival at which you'd say it's tolerable to allow the parent to withhold treatment? Seventy-five? Ninety?

Secondly, given your answer to the above, do these considerations have any bearing on the right of religious parents to withhold treatment?




Tue Jun 26, 2007 5:42 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 7: Current Issues of Religious Exp. vs. Competing...
JtA: Government supported faith-based social services are aggravating.

Garicker: I am opposed to any government agency giving any tax dollars to any religious organization for any reason whatever.

Ditto, a thousand times over.

Mad: Would you support the right of an atheist parent to withhold treatment for a terminally ill child (ie. diagnosed with a potentially fatal illness -- not guaranteed to die)

Mad, I think you've raised a salient point here, one Haiman himself somewhat hits on with the caselaw he chooses to introduce. In In re E.G., the mother of a 17-year-old girl (months away from her 18th birthday) with nonlymphatic leukemia refused to give her consent for a blood transfusion. The mother and daughter had no problem with the chemotherapy; but, as Jehovah's Witnesses, would not allow for the necessary blood transfusion prescribed along with the chemotherapy. The mother thought that her daughter was mature enough to make the decision for herself. A child psychiatrist interviewed the child patient and found that she was a "mature minor." Both mother and child continued to refuse consent for a blood transfusion. In response, the hospital obtained from a trial court judge a ruling of "medical neglect" against the mother and the court appointed a temporary guardian who authorized the transfusion. The Illinois Supreme Court on appeal (after the case was actually moot), ruled that the child's right to refuse treatment, as a "mature minor" just months from her eighteenth birthday, should have been respected. Haiman notes that when adults are making medical decisions for themselves, and free religious exercise competes with social interests, the adults' free religious exercise should be given priority. However, when an adult is making decisions for a minor child the issue becomes less clear



Wed Jun 27, 2007 11:57 am
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Post Re: Ch. 7: Current Issues of Religious Exp. vs. Competing...
Mad, I was going to respond but I think Rosemary says it all with this statement: Let me reiterate my above statement, when parental free religious expression and a child's best interests are in conflict, the child's best interests should always win. State respect for free religious expression should never lead to minor children dying from obstructed bowels and diabetes.

I repeat, I have no quarrel with adults or even mature children rejecting medical treatment on religious grounds. I do object when a parent's religious opinions put a child's life at risk. In such cases I think the best interest of the child must be the primary concern.

I also would have no problem with the state intervening in a case where an atheist parent was making such a decision on the basis of some arbitrary criterion and ignoring the best interest of the child in question.

For me, what's at issue here is not the religious opinions (or their lack, as the case may be) of adults but the well-being of children.

George

http://www.godlessinamerica.com

"Godlessness is not about denying the existence of nonsensical beings. It is the starting point for living life without them."

Godless in America by George A. Ricker




Wed Jun 27, 2007 1:13 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 7: Current Issues of Religious Exp. vs. Competing...
Garicker: I also would have no problem with the state intervening in a case where an atheist parent was making such a decision on the basis of some arbitrary criterion and ignoring the best interest of the child in question.

Nice follow-up, George. I agree wholeheartedly, though I don't think my above post spells this out. It doesn't matter to me what is cited as the reason for medical refusal, if the child's best physical interests is not the primary goal (not to say that is always easily determined), then I think the state has every right to get involved.




Wed Jun 27, 2007 1:25 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 7: Current Issues of Religious Exp. vs. Competing...
Without outright championing either side, I will say that I think any attempt to cut directly through the debate on either side is problematic here. I think it very likely that most of the participants in this thread would balk (and probably have balked) at any attempt to justify, say, anti-abortion legislation by reference to a moral argument. And "the well-being of the child" is, so far as I can see, a moral argument.

I bring that up not in order to argue any specific point that the two of you have raised, but in order to re-address the entire question from another point of view. I think it may be necessary to clarify a more general point before we can sort out the difficulty here.

If it can be agreed (and I feel fairly confident that at least one of you will not agree, calling it false analogy) that moral arguments are being called in to settle legal issues in both cases -- that is, the moral argument against abortion, and what I'm claiming is a moral argument against endangering a child by withholding treatment -- then is it possible to navigate a consistent position that allows the moral reference in one case but not in the other?

(Incidentally, just to illustrate the moral character of an appeal like "the well-being of the child", you might think about the way in which, in a different cultural context, attitudes towards children differed. The critiques of Industrial Revolution child labor policies, for example, were primarily moral in character. Outside of a popularly recognized perception that it is morally wrong to endanger a child in the same way that you would endanger someone past the age of consent, how do you argue against social practices that can and do harm children?)




Thu Jun 28, 2007 4:53 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 7: Current Issues of Religious Exp. vs. Competing...
Mad: And "the well-being of the child" is, so far as I can see, a moral argument.

I don't think I've referenced "the well-being of the child" in this thread. I've used "best interests," which I then clarified as "best physical interests," but not "well-being." Either way, Mad, if you're equating "well-being" and "best physical interests" then I disagree that it is a moral argument. I'm not saying that the answer is always going to be clear, nor am I saying that morality never plays a role. (Because goddamn it if you let a child die rather than give her insulin I feel compelled to make a moral judgment about you.) But outside what I feel morally about that decision there are legal considerations, and the legal rights of the child, that should and do supersede the free religious expression rights (or any other parenting rights) of the parents.

And those "best interests" legal considerations extend to the mother and fetus, along with state interest, in most abortion caselaw. However, I hate to engage abortion in this discussion because it's apples and oranges; the issues involved are not very comparable. But I do find it ironic that some religious minded people who feel the need to protect the "well-being" of a fertilized egg don't think it is necessary to protect the physical life of an eleven-year-old who just happened to be born with diabetes. Religion is a curious animal to create such conflicting thought processes.




Thu Jun 28, 2007 5:48 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 7: Current Issues of Religious Exp. vs. Competing...
irishrosem: I don't think I've referenced "the well-being of the child" in this thread. I've used "best interests," which I then clarified as "best physical interests," but not "well-being."

"Well-being" is a direct quote from garicker's post. If it doesn't accurately reflect your view on the matter, then I apologize for making it seem like the two were consensible.

As for the differences between "well-being", "best interests", and "best physical interests", I'm not sure I see the difference. I get that "physical" denotes a distinction, as against, say, "spiritual", but either way, I don't see how we can rationally determine what's implied by either "well-being" or "best interests" apart from some moral assumption that serves as premise.

(Because goddamn it if you let a child die rather than give her insulin I feel compelled to make a moral judgment about you.)

So am I. But I'm also trying to get used to the idea of distinguishing between what's appropriate as a moral judgment and what's appropriate as a secular, legal judgment.

But outside what I feel morally about that decision there are legal considerations, and the legal rights of the child, that should and do supersede the free religious expression rights (or any other parenting rights) of the parents.

This is no doubt territory that you know a lot better than I do. What are the legal rights of the child, and how are they derived?

But I do find it ironic that some religious minded people who feel the need to protect the "well-being" of a fertilized egg don't think it is necessary to protect the physical life of an eleven-year-old who just happened to be born with diabetes. Religion is a curious animal to create such conflicting thought processes.

I don't think the processes that lead to such contradictions are by any means exclusive to religion, and there's a very good chance that people are going to one day look back at aspects of our secular culture that we thought were either entirely consistent or at least benignly compatible, and call non sequitur.




Thu Jun 28, 2007 7:00 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 7: Current Issues of Religious Exp. vs. Competing...
Mad: ...I don't see how we can rationally determine what's implied by either "well-being" or "best interests" apart from some moral assumption that serves as premise.

My insistence on "best interest" probably comes from my familiarity with it in the dependency system. The reason I made such an obvious clarification between "best interest" and "best physical interest" from one post to another, is because, in my experience that is what the court deals with, for the most part. (There is sometimes talk of the child's best emotional interests, but for the most part the state gets involved when a child's physical interests are impacted.) Above, when I wrote "best interest" I was referring to the best physical interests of the child, and I'm still not sure that you've clarified how determining the best physical interests for a child requires a moral assumption.

Mad: But I'm also trying to get used to the idea of distinguishing between what's appropriate as a moral judgment and what's appropriate as a secular, legal judgment.

And I think this is going to require us to determine what is secular morality and what is religious morality. And I think this discussion will also be useful for any consideration of our last chapter on religion and politics.

Mad: This is no doubt territory that you know a lot better than I do.

Hardly. The more you learn, the more gray you find when it comes to both the judicial system and constitutional issues.

Mad: What are the legal rights of the child, and how are they derived?

Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Could the terms be more vague? But a child (born or naturalized, hence the non-comparison with abortion issues), outside of her parents' choices, has a right to physical life. A parent would be guilty of neglect for refusing to provide insulin for her child out of cost or inconvenience, why the "accommodation" for a parent who decides to do so out of ideology?

Mad: ...and there's a very good chance that people are going to one day look back at aspects of our secular culture that we thought were either entirely consistent or at least benignly compatible, and call non sequitur.

Perhaps. But I hope our descendents recognize that the lack of consistency wasn't for a lack of trying.




Thu Jun 28, 2007 7:24 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 7: Current Issues of Religious Exp. vs. Competing...
Mad: ...life has been regarded as a right accorded to children regardless of their opinion on the matter.

I'm really not sure what you are getting at here. Unless you are, again, harping on the nightmare scenarios you've raised above. If you wish to keep raising such scenarios as part of a discussion--children forced by the state to cling to a painful existence--I think I would need to see evidence of such practices. It seems to me you are focusing on a hypothetical that I have no knowledge of, so I can't presume it is significant to the discussion.

Mad: On the whole, I find this business about deciding what "the best interest" of any second party might be rather dubious.

Again, this isn't really what the discussion or the chapter is about. It is an accepted practice in many parts of the court system--largely dependency, delinquency, mental deficiency, domestic relations--for testimony to argue for and courts to determine "best interest" for dependent parties. This discussion on religious accommodation for dependent parties does not question the accepted practice of determining best interest, it merely asks whether the religion of the dependant party's guardians should be granted special accommodation in determining best interest. Mad, I'm not saying the discussion isn't useful, I'm just saying that it isn't relevant here. Also, I want to clarify that when we are examining questions of best interest in these contexts we are examining best interests for dependents. The state is not normally in the "business" of deciding best interest for "any second party." We're talking specifically about dependents. And to detach from the state any responsibility in ensuring the physical safety of its dependent citizens essentially places those dependent lives in the ownership of their guardians. That is a choice this country long ago eschewed when it started restricting corporal punishment and mandating education. (I also want to note that our assumption of the phrase "best interest" here did not come from the text as far as I can remember--this was from me inserting language from my own experiences. Though I know that many states have judicial systems similar to Pennsylvania, I certainly cannot vouch for all states.)

Haiman mentions two cases that take place in Massachusetts and Minnesota where state laws permitted parents from withholding essential medical treatment from their children, specifically recognizing religious ideology. However no other ideology gives people the choice to withhold medical treatment from their children. Parents are not permitted to withhold medical treatment for their children because they are too consumed in their work lives, or their social lives. Nor are they permitted to withhold medical treatment because they do not wish to receive state assistance. I've seen many cases where state involvement was permitted for things as simple as lack of dental care, or yearly check-ups. State services were forced on these families despite a range of excuses, and yes sometimes ideologies. But such excuses and ideologies were not permitted within a court. And yet, in Massachusetts and Minnesota, and I imagine other states, accommodation is granted a lack of medical care for minors due to religious ideology. Just consider the case of Crown Shakur from earlier this year who died of malnutrition weighing just 3.5 pounds. His vegan parents fed him soy milk and apple juice and, up until mere moments before he died, did not know that he was in physical trouble. Yet they were each convicted of malice murder, felony murder, involuntary manslaughter and cruelty to children--the felony murder carries a mandatory life sentence. Now compare Crown Shakur's death with Ian Lundman's death caused by "diabetic ketoacidosis." Lundman had occasional illnesses "weeks preceding his death" and serious illness "two or three days before he died." Doctors stated "that Ian's diabetes was apparently treatable through conventional medicine and that his condition probably could have been stabilized as late as two hours before he died." And yet Lundman's guardians refused to seek medical assistance, knowing days before his death that he was seriously ill, because of religious ideology. Lundman's guardians were never even tried because of the Minnesota statute that granted accommodation for religious families who choose not to seek necessary medical treatment for their children.

Both sets of parents claimed they did what they thought was best for their child. Both children died because their parents did not attain the necessary medical assistance their children needed. One set of parents was sentenced to a life term. The other set of parents was never tried because of a statute that grants religious people special accommodation to neglect their children to death. I think this is an accommodation this country can and should do without.




Sun Jul 08, 2007 2:31 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 7: Current Issues of Religious Exp. vs. Competing...
Mad, I'm not saying the discussion isn't useful, I'm just saying that it isn't relevant here.

That's fine. If anyone wants to carry that tangent over, they can open it up in another thread, presumably in another forum. I don't really intend to hold forth on it further save in response to what anyone else may have to say about it.




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Post Re: Ch. 7: Current Issues of Religious Exp. vs. Competing...
Mad, does this mean that you have no intention of addressing the issues this discussion raises? Outside of condoning or condemning best interest determinations for dependents, do you think such determinations should give religion special accommodation?




Mon Jul 09, 2007 8:51 am
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Post Re: Ch. 7: Current Issues of Religious Exp. vs. Competing...
Mad: What I really wanted to get at was the strictly practical question of how a secular institution goes about (or more to the point, how it ought to go about) resolving the difficulties that arise. You've said that they work it out somehow, but what I'm interested in are the specifics of how. Because it seems to me that they're denied access to some of the precedents cited by religious authorities in determining the relationship of social institutions to morality. In a theodicy, the head of state can simply refer to unanswerable "revealed" truth (I say simply because it cuts through some difficulties, but in actual practice, even that solution requires a great deal of theological substantiation), but secular societies cannot fall back on answers of that sort. Which doesn't make secular law any less desireable; it just means the old methods don't work. So what are the new methods?

Sorry about the delay in responding. I've been off doing other things.

This discussion has wandered rather far away from the specific question of whether a parent's religious beliefs ought to be allowed to place the life of a minor child at risk.

The issue involves religious beliefs specifically because that is what the book under consideration is about and that also seems to be the only area in which the state seems willing to tolerate an exception. A parent who simply refused necessary medical treatment for their minor child because of some other reason probably would find themselves in a heap of trouble, legally speaking. Only religious considerations seem to prompt the state to consider furnishing a "get out of jail free" card to parents in such circumstances.

I think that's wrong. I'm not sure what you think about it. You seem to prefer to talk around the issue than to address it directly.

As to the more general question of how we, as a society, make such determinations, I think the best answer is the one I've already given. There is no new approach. Human societies have always dealt with such questions on the basis of biological imperatives, evolutionary history and social negotiation. The juxtaposition of law and morality has always been somewhat disjointed, and rightfully so, but states have always based legality, at least in part, on moral grounds.

We do not need to be able to appeal to either a god or a religion in order to do so. After all, human morality had its beginnings long before either idea existed.

Beyond that, as I noted before, making these kinds of decisions is always a messy business, a realm of constantly moving targets and shifting goalposts. So I can't provide a neat formula to use in that process. I don't think any such formula exists.

George

http://www.godlessinamerica.com

"Godlessness is not about denying the existence of nonsensical beings. It is the starting point for living life without them."

Godless in America by George A. Ricker




Mon Jul 09, 2007 11:23 am
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MurdockThe Glass Bead Game: A Novel by Hermann HesseA Devil's Chaplain by Richard DawkinsThe Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph CampbellThe Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor DostoyevskyThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark TwainThe Moral Landscape by Sam HarrisThe Decameron by Giovanni BoccaccioThe Road by Cormac McCarthyThe Grand Design by Stephen HawkingThe Evolution of God by Robert WrightThe Tin Drum by Gunter GrassGood Omens by Neil GaimanPredictably Irrational by Dan ArielyThe Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel by Haruki MurakamiALONE: Orphaned on the Ocean by Richard Logan & Tere Duperrault FassbenderDon Quixote by Miguel De CervantesMusicophilia by Oliver SacksDiary of a Madman and Other Stories by Nikolai GogolThe Passion of the Western Mind by Richard TarnasThe Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le GuinThe Genius of the Beast by Howard BloomAlice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll Empire of Illusion by Chris HedgesThe Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner The Extended Phenotype by Richard DawkinsSmoke and Mirrors by Neil GaimanThe Selfish Gene by Richard DawkinsWhen Good Thinking Goes Bad by Todd C. RinioloHouse of Leaves by Mark Z. DanielewskiAmerican Gods: A Novel by Neil GaimanPrimates and Philosophers by Frans de WaalThe Enormous Room by E.E. CummingsThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar WildeGod Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher HitchensThe Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama Paradise Lost by John Milton Bad Money by Kevin PhillipsThe Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson BurnettGodless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists by Dan BarkerThe Things They Carried by Tim O'BrienThe Limits of Power by Andrew BacevichLolita by Vladimir NabokovOrlando by Virginia Woolf On Being Certain by Robert A. Burton50 reasons people give for believing in a god by Guy P. HarrisonWalden: Or, Life in the Woods by Henry David ThoreauExile and the Kingdom by Albert CamusOur Inner Ape by Frans de WaalYour Inner Fish by Neil ShubinNo Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthyThe Age of American Unreason by Susan JacobyTen Theories of Human Nature by Leslie Stevenson & David HabermanHeart of Darkness by Joseph ConradThe Stuff of Thought by Stephen PinkerA Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled HosseiniThe Lucifer Effect by Philip ZimbardoResponsibility and Judgment by Hannah ArendtInterventions by Noam ChomskyGodless in America by George A. RickerReligious Expression and the American Constitution by Franklyn S. HaimanDeep Economy by Phil McKibbenThe God Delusion by Richard DawkinsThe Third Chimpanzee by Jared DiamondThe Woman in the Dunes by Abe KoboEvolution vs. Creationism by Eugenie C. ScottThe Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael PollanI, Claudius by Robert GravesBreaking The Spell by Daniel C. DennettA Peace to End All Peace by David FromkinThe Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey NiffeneggerThe End of Faith by Sam HarrisEnder's Game by Orson Scott CardThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark HaddonValue and Virtue in a Godless Universe by Erik J. WielenbergThe March by E. L DoctorowThe Ethical Brain by Michael GazzanigaFreethinkers: A History of American Secularism by Susan JacobyCollapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared DiamondThe Battle for God by Karen ArmstrongThe Future of Life by Edward O. WilsonWhat is Good? by A. C. GraylingCivilization and Its Enemies by Lee HarrisPale Blue Dot by Carl SaganHow We Believe: Science, Skepticism, and the Search for God by Michael ShermerLooking for Spinoza by Antonio DamasioLies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al FrankenThe Red Queen by Matt RidleyThe Blank Slate by Stephen PinkerUnweaving the Rainbow by Richard DawkinsAtheism: A Reader edited by S.T. JoshiGlobal Brain by Howard BloomThe Lucifer Principle by Howard BloomGuns, Germs and Steel by Jared DiamondThe Demon-Haunted World by Carl SaganBury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee BrownFuture Shock by Alvin Toffler

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