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Did Jesus Exist - Bart Ehrman's new book 
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Post Re: Did Jesus Exist - Bart Ehrman's new book
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I do suspect, however, that Ehrman is jumping on the Did Jesus Exist bandwagon


That's a hilarious presumption.

Ehrman indicates that the mythicist angle is so poorly represented by non academics that proclaim themselves as scholars in the field of ancient history, and that he receives hundreds of emails from mythicists to respond to their claims that he thought it would be appropriate at this time to respond.

The mythicist angle is similar to a fad that pops its head up every 20 years or so.
It is nothing new or original. It simply is dismissed each and every time because the evidence claims are either shallow or completely baseless and the conspiratorial stories are, well.., conspiratorial.


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Post Re: Did Jesus Exist - Bart Ehrman's new book
ant wrote:
[

That's a hilarious presumption.


Probably. Like I said, I need to read the book, not just the article.So, as we say here in Germany, I've made "nails with heads" and ordered the book. I'm without internet for 3 weeks so will make some (hopefully intelligent) comment about it when I'm back online.


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Thu Apr 05, 2012 1:42 pm
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Post Re: Did Jesus Exist - Bart Ehrman's new book
oblivion wrote:
ant wrote:
[

That's a hilarious presumption.


Probably. Like I said, I need to read the book, not just the article.So, as we say here in Germany, I've made "nails with heads" and ordered the book. I'm without internet for 3 weeks so will make some (hopefully intelligent) comment about it when I'm back online.


I have it on my IPhone! 8)


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Post Re: Did Jesus Exist - Bart Ehrman's new book
Ehrman is right that the mythicists represent a fringe position. That doesn't mean they're right or wrong, just that most credible historians and scholars do indeed accept Jesus as a historical figure.

I am surprised at the tone of Ehrman's article though. He certainly seems to be foaming at the mouth. What's he have to feel so threatened about?

I do have some questions with regards to the following claims.

Quote:
With respect to Jesus, we have numerous, independent accounts of his life in the sources lying behind the Gospels (and the writings of Paul) -- sources that originated in Jesus' native tongue Aramaic and that can be dated to within just a year or two of his life (before the religion moved to convert pagans in droves). Historical sources like that are is pretty astounding for an ancient figure of any kind. Moreover, we have relatively extensive writings from one first-century author, Paul, who acquired his information within a couple of years of Jesus' life and who actually knew, first hand, Jesus' closest disciple Peter and his own brother James. If Jesus did not exist, you would think his brother would know it.

Moreover, the claim that Jesus was simply made up falters on every ground. The alleged parallels between Jesus and the "pagan" savior-gods in most instances reside in the modern imagination: We do not have accounts of others who were born to virgin mothers and who died as an atonement for sin and then were raised from the dead (despite what the sensationalists claim ad nauseum in their propagandized versions).


Paul's writings seem less than decisive on the question of Jesus as a historical figure and, anyway, he's not very trustworthy. He definitely had an agenda. What are these other numerous independent accounts that come within a year or two of Jesus' life?

The last paragraph quoted also seems highly suspect. There are, in fact, many unusual birth traditions that predate Christ. And since a virgin birth is impossible, this aspect of the Christ story is definitely myth, so it makes no sense to use is as an argument for Jesus as a historical figure.

I don't really have a horse in this race, but based on this article alone, I wouldn't be inclined to read Ehrman's new book.


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Post Re: Did Jesus Exist - Bart Ehrman's new book
Another passage from the article.

Quote:
Why then is the mythicist movement growing, with advocates so confident of their views and vocal -- even articulate -- in their denunciation of the radical idea that Jesus actually existed? It is, in no small part, because these deniers of Jesus are at the same time denouncers of religion -- a breed of human now very much in vogue. And what better way to malign the religious views of the vast majority of religious persons in the western world, which remains, despite everything, overwhelmingly Christian, than to claim that the historical founder of their religion was in fact the figment of his followers' imagination?


This argument may be true of some mythicists. If Jesus didn't exist, it certainly makes Christianity look very silly. The only problem is that you can't prove that Jesus didn't exist based on lack of evidence. (You can't prove a negative.) The mythicists do make a bit of noise, but they will never have an ironclad case. And those who take their (Christian) faith seriously are never going to be convinced that Jesus wasn't a historical person. Indeed, they believe that he was the Son of God, that he was born of a virgin, and that he performed miracles. Who's going to try to convince believers that he wasn't a historical person? So if this is indeed one of mythicists' subconscious motives, it's never going to be very effective.


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Post Re: Did Jesus Exist - Bart Ehrman's new book
If anyone wants to read a well-written summary of the book from a pro-Ehrman blogger, it's here: http://fallenfromgrace.net/2012/04/02/d ... ok-review/

The fascinating aspect for me of a debate like this is how every person weighs the evidence differently and comes up with an "on-balance" opinion one way or the other.


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Last edited by DWill on Thu Apr 05, 2012 6:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Did Jesus Exist - Bart Ehrman's new book
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What's he have to feel so threatened about?


You can be critical of a view without feeling "threatened" by it. It's silly to conclude his response to the mythicist claims is because he is fearful or threatened by it.


Quote:
Paul's writings seem less than decisive on the question of Jesus as a historical figure and, anyway, he's not very trustworthy. He definitely had an agenda.


You are completely off base with that presumption. Paul was a persecutor of Christians prior to his conversion. Actually, I believe there is reference to Paul acknowledging Christ's existence prior to his conversion to Christianity (I'd need to look over sections of Ehrman's book). All Pauline scholars, theist, agnostic, atheist alike, who have spent their entire lives interpreting his work all agree that his writings are for the most part a reliable account of the historical Jesus. It's you that do not trust him. Let's be clear on that.

Quote:
The last paragraph quoted also seems highly suspect. There are, in fact, many unusual birth traditions that predate Christ. And since a virgin birth is impossible, this aspect of the Christ story is definitely myth, so it makes no sense to use is as an argument for Jesus as a historical figure.


Where have scholars of the historical Jesus claimed that their is evidence of his virgin birth? I don't think Ehrman, and other serious scholars have claimed that Mary was a virgin. It is not uncommon to add some myth to actual accounts of historical people, particularly those that existed over 2000 years ago. Give me a break.

Of course you wouldn't be inclined to read his book. You've judged the book based on the article alone. That is your choice.


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Post Re: Did Jesus Exist - Bart Ehrman's new book
ant wrote:
Quote:
What's he have to feel so threatened about?


You can be critical of a view without feeling "threatened" by it. It's silly to conclude his response to the mythicist claims is because he is fearful or threatened by it.


This kind of discussion tends to get polarized and I don't really want to get dragged into it. But just to be clear, I have always thought Jesus was a historical figure (although I don't really care that much either way). The early Christians were obviously myth-makers in their own right, but I've never found the mythicist position very convincing. It seems unlikely that the person depicted in the gospels and in Paul's writings was completely invented. On the other hand, we know next to nothing about this man Jesus because what has been passed down over the generations has obviously been heavily embellished. I don't believe either position can be determined with any kind of certainty.

ant wrote:
Quote:
Paul's writings seem less than decisive on the question of Jesus as a historical figure and, anyway, he's not very trustworthy. He definitely had an agenda.


You are completely off base with that presumption. Paul was a persecutor of Christians prior to his conversion. Actually, I believe there is reference to Paul acknowledging Christ's existence prior to his conversion to Christianity (I'd need to look over sections of Ehrman's book). All Pauline scholars, theist, agnostic, atheist alike, who have spent their entire lives interpreting his work all agree that his writings are for the most part a reliable account of the historical Jesus. It's you that do not trust him. Let's be clear on that.


I don't know how you can say Paul is going to be an objective source for a historical Jesus. Paul was competing with other religious groups for people’s allegiance, so he had to be fairly convincing. Regardless of the fact that Paul once prosecuted Christians, clearly he converted at some point and became by far the most influential of the early Christian missionaries. Promising heaven to believers must have surely helped his case. Here's an excerpt from Paul's letter to the Philippians:

12Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

He's saying here that if you believe in Jesus, you will go to heaven. Paul was probably a religious fanatic as many were during this time period. Most Christians believe that the source for Paul's writings was God himself. And Paul himself apparently believed this as well:

"For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

So call me cynical, but I don't think Paul is going to be a very objective source.

ant wrote:
Quote:
The last paragraph quoted also seems highly suspect. There are, in fact, many unusual birth traditions that predate Christ. And since a virgin birth is impossible, this aspect of the Christ story is definitely myth, so it makes no sense to use is as an argument for Jesus as a historical figure.


Where have scholars of the historical Jesus claimed that their is evidence of his virgin birth? I don't think Ehrman, and other serious scholars have claimed that Mary was a virgin. It is not uncommon to add some myth to actual accounts of historical people, particularly those that existed over 2000 years ago. Give me a break.


My point is that Ehrman is using the myth part of Jesus' life to defend his argument for a historical Jesus. Does that make sense to you? It doesn't to me.

ant wrote:
Of course you wouldn't be inclined to read his book. You've judged the book based on the article alone. That is your choice.


My comment was that Ehrman's tone seems a tad defensive and some of his arguments aren't very convincing even in this short space of this article. So based on this article, I'm not very impressed and not inclined to read his book. Although I wouldn't be inclined to read his book anyway.


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Post Re: Did Jesus Exist - Bart Ehrman's new book
DWill wrote:
The fascinating aspect for me of a debate like this is how every person weighs the evidence differently and comes up with an "on-balance" opinion one way or the other.


Sounds like politics.


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Post Re: Did Jesus Exist - Bart Ehrman's new book
geo wrote:
you can't prove that Jesus didn't exist based on lack of evidence.
Consider that argument for other fictional characters.

How do we prove that Bilbo Baggins did not exist? For a start, we know that hobbits were invented by Tolkien. We also know that he wrote it as fiction. But some people may believe in Middle Earth, just as people believe in planet Elron or planet Mormon. In these cases we have active evidence of invention, and that is enough proof of nonexistence.

How do we prove that Don Quixote did not exist? This is slightly harder, because Cervantes maintains vigorously throughout the book that the events described are true in every respect. However, it is also very easy to tell that he is satirising claims of historical veracity made in medieval chivalric romances.

Turning then to those romances, how do we prove that Lancelot, Galahad and King Arthur did not exist? Maybe they did, but is it obvious that the fables that grew up around them bear only the slightest relation to any historical reality, and evolved by folk tradition over a period of centuries in oral story telling.

A similar case can be made for Jesus Christ as for Sir Galahad. There is no evidence whatsoever for either of them, except for vigorous assertions by their proponents. It may even be that the idea of Jesus Christ began as oral story well before it hit the presses. It seems the Essenes may have expected an "Anointed Savior", a "Christ Jesus" as part of their secret mysteries, and so started telling fables about this Jesus character. This powerful myth of a dying and rising savior, updating the old archetype, could then easily latch on to any number of pretenders.

Quote:
those who take their (Christian) faith seriously are never going to be convinced that Jesus wasn't a historical person. Indeed, they believe that he was the Son of God, that he was born of a virgin, and that he performed miracles. Who's going to try to convince believers that he wasn't a historical person? So if this is indeed one of mythicists' subconscious motives, it's never going to be very effective.

Don't be too hasty geo. As more people come to the view that the invention of Christ presents a more ethical, coherent and compelling account of the available evidence, it is entirely possible that Christianity will evolve to a new phase in which the Gospels are regarded as fiction. After all, Jesus said he came into the world to bear witness to the truth. We can hardly call ourselves followers of Jesus if we insist on believing something we consider false.

Treating Christ as a myth does not necessarily criticize the ethical content of the Gospels, only the gullibility of believers and the duplicity of the church. Recognising that people have been extremely gullible and the church has manipulated this to gain power meshes well with the sense of 'total depravity' in Calvin's theory of the fall from grace. Part of the fall is that people were duped by the Gospel fiction promulgated by the church. Redemption will involve recognition that the story of the Historical Jesus is fiction.

I don't know why you call the motive of mythicists 'subconscious'. Most mythicists I have read are conscious and deliberate about wanting to convince Christians of the flimsy and erroneous basis of traditional faith.


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Post Re: Did Jesus Exist - Bart Ehrman's new book
Robert Tulip wrote:
geo wrote:
you can't prove that Jesus didn't exist based on lack of evidence.
Consider that argument for other fictional characters.


The usual burden of proof doesn't seem to apply for a religious figure. Anyone who makes the claim that Bilbo Baggins was based on a real person would have to back that up with evidence. Neither does a quasi-historical figure like Sir Galahad get a free ride because he's not subject to fanatical religious belief. I don't think anyone takes a strong position either way. I always use Robin Hood as my example. The historical record is too fragmented to say with any kind of certainty that either of these guys actually existed.

But the historical Jesus has been presumed for so long that it no longer needs a preponderance of evidence. I think the historical record is too nebulous and too fragmented to undo that presumption, so Jesus as a historical person will stand as is. Perhaps that assumption will be challenged by mainstream historians and scholars at some point. Right now it seems that religious belief cements Jesus' status in place. Arguably the skeptical position would be that Jesus probably existed. I've never heard anything to sway me from that position.

Robert Tulip wrote:
Quote:
those who take their (Christian) faith seriously are never going to be convinced that Jesus wasn't a historical person. Indeed, they believe that he was the Son of God, that he was born of a virgin, and that he performed miracles. Who's going to try to convince believers that he wasn't a historical person? So if this is indeed one of mythicists' subconscious motives, it's never going to be very effective.

Don't be too hasty geo. As more people come to the view that the invention of Christ presents a more ethical, coherent and compelling account of the available evidence, it is entirely possible that Christianity will evolve to a new phase in which the Gospels are regarded as fiction. After all, Jesus said he came into the world to bear witness to the truth. We can hardly call ourselves followers of Jesus if we insist on believing something we consider false.


I would think that anyone who accepts the supernatural Jesus is never going to take an objective stance towards the historical Jesus. Maybe you're right that over time, people will back off the literal and supernatural aspects and look at Biblical teachings in a completely metaphorical way, gleaning only the messages of morality and universal love.

Why do mythicists take such a strong stance that Jesus never existed? I've suggested myself that this stance comes from a subconscious anti-religion attitude. Subconscious because they aren't aware that this is the source of their vehemence. But this isn't very convincing. Maybe the argument for the historical Jesus has a polarizing effect because it is ultimately irrational. The mythicists have to speak loudly to get through the believers' irrationality? Just tossing this out for discussion.


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Post Re: Did Jesus Exist - Bart Ehrman's new book
RT's right about the comparison to other fictional characters, and that certainly bleeds over to characters who were explicitly meant to be fiction.

H.P. Lovecraft

why-settle-for-a-lesser-evil-have-you-let-cthulu-into-your-life-t9177.html?

There is a real Cult of Cthulu out there, much to H.P. Lovecraft's anoyance.

I don't doubt that the myth of Jesus Christ did grow up around some guy who really existed. But that doesn't mean that the bible is an accurate depiction of that man's life.

So in that sense, i am inclined to say Jesus Christ never existed, because the things Jesus is famous for are all the things which could not have happened, rather than the much more hum-drum existence that was actually lived by some cult leader who was the template for this myth.

Santa Clause may have started with a real man as well. Just some guy who liked to reward kids who were well behaved with a toy rocking horse or something. Just because that guy might have really lived is no proof that Santa Clause is real.


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Is this the virtue of faith? To never change your mind: especially when you should?

Young Earth Creationists take offense at the idea that we have a common heritage with other animals. Why is being the descendant of a mud golem any better?


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Post Re: Did Jesus Exist - Bart Ehrman's new book
Bart Ehrman makes the point in the excerpted part from the Fallen from Grace blog, that for him personally, it makes little difference whether Jesus has a biographical core. He calls himself an atheist-leaning agnostic. So it isn't just religious folks that will insist that Jesus comes from history. I would hazard a guess that the majority of academics in departments of religion aren't what we'd call believers, either. Yet they apparently do endorse the historical Jesus. What would be their motive if it's not a religious one? That's not a rhetorical question, as they still could fear that their field would be drained of relevance if Jesus was agreed to be a fiction. They have built their careers on presenting an alternate view to the devout conception of Jesus. But to deep-six Jesus himself would be consigning them to the comparative lit department. History has a bit more clout.

The academic consensus that Jesus existed still must be taken seriously, IMO. We non-specialists, non-experts, must rely on the consensus of experts in several areas besides religion. For example, climate change. We need to have confidence and trust in the relative objectivity of those who have been credentialed as authorities. It is entirely reasonable that we ration our confidence based on the qualifications that Ehrman lists, such as PhDs in "cognate fields" and reading fluency in ancient languages. And whenever we are asked to accept conspiracy-tinged claims that a cabal is blocking the truth from emerging, we need to be especially alert and skeptical.


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Post Re: Did Jesus Exist - Bart Ehrman's new book
Quote:
And whenever we are asked to accept conspiracy-tinged claims that a cabal is blocking the truth from emerging, we need to be especially alert and skeptical.


And that is what a lot of the meat is as it relates to mythicists and some of their claims.

I agree with your comments on experts in the field, which the majority of mythicists clearly are not.
A reading of ancient sources entails a broad range of expertise in ancient languages - Greek, Hebrew, Latin, Aramaic, Syriac, and Coptic. Modern languages of Scholarship - German and French also come into play.
It is silly to give total credence to those that are grossly under qualified in the field, but are excellent authors that can convince a layman of anything. Yet most of these layman who have been convinced by amateurs are firm supporters of scientific qualifications in other areas of study.
It goes without saying that those who vociferously claim that the historical Jesus is nothing more than myth are actually directing their vehemence at religion itself.


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Post Re: Did Jesus Exist - Bart Ehrman's new book
Quote:
I don't doubt that the myth of Jesus Christ did grow up around some guy who really existed.


Quote:
So in that sense, i am inclined to say Jesus Christ never existed,


What??

Here we have "P"

then..,

Not "P"


Wishy-washy

Quote:
Santa Clause may have started with a real man as well. Just some guy who liked to reward kids who were well behaved with a toy rocking horse or something. Just because that guy might have really lived is no proof that Santa Clause is real.


What source are you submitting as evidence for the above?
If it is an analogy, it is a poor one.


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Oliver Twist - by Charles DickensSense and Goodness Without God - by Richard CarrierFrankenstein - by Mary ShelleyThe Big Questions - by Simon BlackburnScience Was Born of Christianity - by Stacy TrasancosThe Happiness Hypothesis - by Jonathan HaidtA Game of Thrones - by George R. R. MartinTempesta's Dream - by Vincent LoCocoWhy Nations Fail - by Daron Acemoglu and James RobinsonThe Drowning Girl - Caitlin R. KiernanThe Consolations of the Forest - by Sylvain TessonThe Complete Heretic's Guide to Western Religion: The Mormons - by David FitzgeraldA Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man - by James JoyceThe Divine Comedy - by Dante AlighieriThe Magic of Reality - by Richard DawkinsDubliners - by James JoyceMy Name Is Red - by Orhan PamukThe World Until Yesterday - by Jared DiamondThe Man Who Was Thursday - by by G. K. ChestertonThe Better Angels of Our Nature by Steven PinkerLord Jim by Joseph ConradThe Hobbit by J. R. R. TolkienThe Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas AdamsAtlas Shrugged by Ayn RandThinking, Fast and Slow - by Daniel KahnemanThe Righteous Mind - by Jonathan HaidtWorld War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max BrooksMoby Dick: or, the Whale by Herman MelvilleA Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer EganLost Memory of Skin: A Novel by Russell BanksThe Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas S. KuhnHobbes: Leviathan by Thomas HobbesThe House of the Spirits - by Isabel AllendeArguably: Essays by Christopher HitchensThe Falls: A Novel (P.S.) by Joyce Carol OatesChrist in Egypt by D.M. 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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