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Morals Without Religion 
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Post Re: Morals Without Religion
ant wrote:
Michael Ruse, for starters, get's it right re Dawkins, Hitch, etc:

Quote:
Let me say that I believe the new atheists do the side of science a grave disservice. I will defend to the death the right of them to say what they do – as one who is English-born one of the things I admire most about the USA is the First Amendment. But I think first that these people do a disservice to scholarship. Their treatment of the religious viewpoint is pathetic to the point of non-being. Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion would fail any introductory philosophy or religion course. Proudly he criticizes that whereof he knows nothing. As I have said elsewhere, for the first time in my life, I felt sorry for the ontological argument. If we criticized gene theory with as little knowledge as Dawkins has of religion and philosophy, he would be rightly indignant. (He was just this when, thirty years ago, Mary Midgeley went after the selfish gene concept without the slightest knowledge of genetics.) Conversely, I am indignant at the poor quality of the argumentation in Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, and all of the others in that group


I see insults, still waiting for the sophisticated arguments.

The response seems to be, until you read a bunch of theologians that no one cares about except other theologians, you're not allowed to talk about religion.



Tue Feb 28, 2012 7:44 pm
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Post Re: Morals Without Religion
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Admittedly, the subtitle he or his editor chose for the book ("How Religion Poisons Everything") created confusion about the size of his target.



I think that was a poor choice of words that probably was intentional on Hitch's part to sell his book.
Those words can only help perpetuate the warfare climate that currently exists between the "new atheists" and religion, specifically Christianity.
Hitch knows what he said and did so for a reason.

I can agree with what you wrote regarding his additional thoughts on religion. If a guy like Hitch were my neighbor, he'd have no problems with me, nor I with him.


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Tue Feb 28, 2012 8:47 pm
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Post Re: Morals Without Religion
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It's the institutionalization of ideas.


Much like science institutionalized as scientism.


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Tue Feb 28, 2012 9:40 pm
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Post Re: Morals Without Religion
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I said altruism is well-documented in many animal species.



There's a big difference between Bonobo Monkeys picking flees off each other, sharing sticks as tools, etc. etc.
Objective morals such as love, justice, etc are beyond flee picking and have been and always shall be agreed upon universally.. If morals develop over time simply as a byproduct of evolution, or whatever socio-biological origin you subscribe them to, then that would mean that they are subject to change at a later time provided its a means of simply benefiting the herd. So, given nuclear war setting us back a 1000 years with a handful of survivors buying for survival, I'd be free to resort to rape, theft, murder of you and your loved ones for the sake of survival - all bets would be off, anything would go and you'd be okay with this moral adjustment. No longer would you see any wrong with my killing your offspring and sharing my seed with your partner. No objective morals - no foul committed. We are nothing more than animals negotiating survival.

Because morals are entirely an evolutionary product unique to our species, that would mean if rape or child abuse was admissible on Neptune, that would be understandable to an atheist. Rape and child abuse have no foundations other than what is advantageous to a species. So rape and child abuse is okay in that context. That is the viewpoint of naturalists.

I say the origin of objective values is transcendental. To attack the source of this claim is to commit a genetic fallacy:

"One of the simplest of personal attacks is genetic fallacy - a type of argument in which an attempt is made to prove a conclusion is false by condemning the source of that conclusion. Such arguments are fallacious because how an idea originates is irrelevant to its viability"


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Tue Feb 28, 2012 10:11 pm
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Post Re: Morals Without Religion
Quote:
Religious ideas are always subjective. Our cultural ideals or shared meanings of moral "truth" should be based on something more objective. Is this what Sam Harris argues?


This is more red herring mumbo-jumbo.
It does nothing to address the issue currently being discussed.

Atheists really have no foundation to set their values. We are just animals. Morals are all relative. :roll:

If rape helps a tribe in the Congo flourish and become the dominant tribe, then that's okay - it's understandable. There is nothing wrong with it because it's all relative.
It's impossible to find anything to respect about that. To say that our morals should be the morals adhered to in the animal kingdom is speciesm.

Why are our morals better than a male lion's? They are not. It's all relative.
A lion doesn't kill or commit rape because it's an animal.
And neither do humans - it's all relative.

horse crap.


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Tue Feb 28, 2012 10:29 pm
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Post Re: Morals Without Religion
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You mentioned that people cannot be moral without religion in their lives. Seriously


Show me where I said that, please.
As a matter of fact, I said it was silly to think that.

I think you're arguing with an imaginary religious bigot.
Seriously now :lol: :lol: Too funny!


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Tue Feb 28, 2012 10:33 pm
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Post Re: Morals Without Religion
geo wrote:
I'm sure Hitchens does a much better job explaining "private and optional" but to me they both come down to separation of church and state. Privately held beliefs are meaningful to an individual, but one can't transplant that meaning to others. Optional means freedom of religion, meaning that religious beliefs are one's own business, never imposed by the state or by any group. This would take us to Dawkins' idea that religious indoctrination amounts to child abuse, but personally I think he's on thin ice here.

Again, this comes down to the difference between subjective and objective. Religious ideas are always subjective. Our cultural ideals or shared meanings of moral "truth" should be based on something more objective. Is this what Sam Harris argues?

I don't recall that he glossed these words, but I don't own the book so can't check. But I agree that church/state separation is a good thumbnail. To it I would add that that culturally, there would be a peace of sorts, an agree-to-disagree. This becomes really hard to maintain when one religion or another wants to barge into the public sphere to affect policy, as happened in the U.S. beginning in the 80's. That, and then the manifestations of Islamic extremism, produced the new assertiveness of atheism early in the last decade. It was a necessary corrective, I think. It did become an anger against religion in general, though, as if anything at all with the name of religion must be contaminated.

My view of Harris' thesis in The Moral Landscape is that our values or morals (more or less synonymous for him) do need to be based on what we can objectively determine, so I think you're right. He says that because this is so, science and values are not separate. Science has a place in setting values. He uses 'science' both specifically--as in neuroscience--and generally, as in simply using reason. To a large extent, morals actually have been determined objectively, as they tend to be based on what produces human flourishing. As we learn more about specific sciences (neuroscience being his bias), he thinks we can become more sure of of true morals. Needless to say, morality for him has nothing to do with traditional prohibitions such as the one against homosexuality.


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Tue Feb 28, 2012 11:28 pm
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Post Re: Morals Without Religion
Robert Tulip wrote:
It is fine to advocate pluralism and respect for difference. Indeed any rejection of pluralism involves an arrogant assertion of intolerance. But this involves a fine point – in respecting others we also have to respect ourselves, and our own capacity to discern right from wrong and true from false. If others can ignore our views as ‘optional’, where do we draw the line? Acceptance of scientific facts should not be seen as optional – claims are either true, false or uncertain. And there are moral views that are held universally by all sane people.

But Robert, if you are really going to respect difference, uphold tolerance, there must be something to be tolerant toward, and if this is not possibly a rather major thing, then tolerance has little meaning. What I'm getting at is that we must, indeed, accept the right to exist of ideas and attitudes far from our own. That is the difficult thing about pluralism. We engage in a dance of sorts, casting a wary eye at times on others to make sure they aren't stepping over boundaries, as would be the case with creationism invading public schools or--God forbid--Rick Santorum being elected president.
Quote:
Hitchens’ real agenda here is to denigrate religious views as insane, confining them to the private madhouse of church where they do not impinge on anyone else. As soon as we say a claim is optional we assert it has no evidence or truth content, and is mere sentimental fantasy. That seems to me far too harsh an assessment of religious ideas, as it dismisses their symbolic and archetypal meaning along with their literal uncertainty.

You're making Hitchens out to be the kind of relativist he probably would have disliked. His claim is specific: Religion must be optional and private. He says nothing about all truth claims being merely relative or something we all need to recognize as somehow valid to their believers, which is an impossible mental act, anyway. The sense of 'optional' appears to relate to geo's idea of chosen without any compulsion., though I know you disagree with that.


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Tue Feb 28, 2012 11:51 pm
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Post Re: Morals Without Religion
ant wrote:
Atheists really have no foundation to set their values. We are just animals. Morals are all relative. :roll:

If rape helps a tribe in the Congo flourish and become the dominant tribe, then that's okay - it's understandable. There is nothing wrong with it because it's all relative.
It's impossible to find anything to respect about that. To say that our morals should be the morals adhered to in the animal kingdom is speciesm.

Why are our morals better than a male lion's? They are not. It's all relative.
A lion doesn't kill or commit rape because it's an animal.
And neither do humans - it's all relative.

horse crap.

You seem to use a set notion of what atheists are going to believe. With the statement above on cultural relativism, you're far off the mark. Each atheist writer I've read says 'baloney' to the argument that we need to respect a given cultural/religious practice because it has a function in the society. You can't imagine any of these guys defending the Indian caste system, men 'marrying' children, or honor killing, can you?

When you scoff at the notion that morality could have evolved, I perceive you as scoffing at evolution itself. If you make an effort, you can see evolution via natural selection as something so marvelous and amazing that attributing morality to it is something one is happy to do. There is this notion of 'merely' evolution or 'merely a physical process' that I don't understand. R. Dawkins is great at showing us how stupendous that all is.


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Wed Feb 29, 2012 12:07 am
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Post Re: Morals Without Religion
Quote:
You can't imagine any of these guys defending the Indian caste system, men 'marrying' children, or honor killing, can you?


That is up to them to make a clear distinction between humans as moral agents and animals. They have not insofar as their primary claim that morals are a product of a species' evolution.
Further, I do not believe that I have made the claim that morals can not progress over time. Socio cultural relativism can not base its moral development on anything other than evolution. It has no base for morality. That is not to say that evolution itself is bogus.


We need to consider what some of the greater scientific minds have asserted regarding morality and a base for it.

Einstein, in discussing science and religion in Berlin in 1930 said that human sense of beauty and our religious instinct are "tributary forms in helping the reasoning faculty towards its highest achievements. You are right in speaking of the moral foundations of science, but you cannot turn round and speak of the scientific foundations of morality."

Additionally, Einstein pointed out that science cannot form a base for morality: "Every attempt to reduce ethics to a scientific formulae must fail"

Richard Feynman agreed with Einstein's view:

"Even the greatest forces and abilities don't seem to carry any clear instructions on how to use them. As an example, the great accumulation of understanding as to how the physical world behaves only convinces one that this behavior has a kind of meaninglessness about it. The sciences DO NOT directly teach good or bad...,Ethical values lie outside the scientific realm"

It is not surprising to see the resident atheists resorting to scientism to find explanations for everything, including morals. There is a blatant denial on their part to acknowledge objective morals. The weak attempts to explain "altruism" as a catch-all world for morals is a diversion which ultimately leads to a genetic fallacy when attempting to explain the origin of altruism in general.

I'll go with Einstein and Fenynman, both of which realized that looking to science to explain ethics/ morals is to expect the impossible.


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Wed Feb 29, 2012 2:34 am
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Post Re: Morals Without Religion
ant wrote:
Objective morals such as love, justice, etc are beyond flee picking and have been and always shall be agreed upon universally.


It is not picking fleas to say this claim about moral objectivity is rhetoric without substance. Justice is far from a universally agreed concept. Some people say it is unjust to deny people freedom of movement between countries. Others say national sovereignty is a higher moral value than this universal justice. Some say love extends only to family, others variously extend love to nation, to friends, enemies, all humanity, to animals, to the earth and to all of the cosmos and to a God outside reality. Love is not agreed upon universally.

Moral values are based on axioms, such as the primacy of a particular sense of identity, or a universal vision of human flourishing, or a theory of supernatural duty. By definition an axiom cannot be proved but must be assumed as a necessary truth. Each moral axiom is more about inter-subjective consensus than objective fact. This is why there is a categorical distinction between facts and values - facts are based on observation and evidence, whereas values are grounded in language, transforming observation into ideas, as a transcendent cultural agreement. Axioms may seem utterly obvious, as when we claim a specific moral stance is objective and absolute, but at bottom they always have an arbitrary subjectivity. Calling morality objective is just a way of preaching that asserts that your personal values have an absolute and ultimate religious status. Such status is only ever conferred by human decision.

These are not easy questions. Dostoyevsky's Ivan Karamazov prompted much moral consternation with his teaching to Smerdy that without God all things are permissible.


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Wed Feb 29, 2012 4:42 am
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Post Re: Morals Without Religion
DWill wrote:
Robert Tulip wrote:
It is fine to advocate pluralism and respect for difference. Indeed any rejection of pluralism involves an arrogant assertion of intolerance. But this involves a fine point – in respecting others we also have to respect ourselves, and our own capacity to discern right from wrong and true from false. If others can ignore our views as ‘optional’, where do we draw the line? Acceptance of scientific facts should not be seen as optional – claims are either true, false or uncertain. And there are moral views that are held universally by all sane people.

But Robert, if you are really going to respect difference, uphold tolerance, there must be something to be tolerant toward, and if this is not possibly a rather major thing, then tolerance has little meaning. What I'm getting at is that we must, indeed, accept the right to exist of ideas and attitudes far from our own. That is the difficult thing about pluralism. We engage in a dance of sorts, casting a wary eye at times on others to make sure they aren't stepping over boundaries, as would be the case with creationism invading public schools or--God forbid--Rick Santorum being elected president.
I'm not sure we disagree on tolerance. What I was getting at is that Hitchens' assessment of all religion as 'optional' is the tolerance of the bigot, asserting that the way to deal with religion is by ignoring it as deranged. This assertion that there should be no room in the public square for religious discussion contains a pile of dangerous assumptions, because it is not clear that any society can sustain its life without religion, without anti-religions emerging that perform the same function as religion. So we have the public religions of sport and popular culture while traditional religion retreats to the private realm. It is not clear this is a good thing, except that the public expressions of fundamentalism are dangerous and mad.
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Quote:
Hitchens’ real agenda here is to denigrate religious views as insane, confining them to the private madhouse of church where they do not impinge on anyone else. As soon as we say a claim is optional we assert it has no evidence or truth content, and is mere sentimental fantasy. That seems to me far too harsh an assessment of religious ideas, as it dismisses their symbolic and archetypal meaning along with their literal uncertainty.

You're making Hitchens out to be the kind of relativist he probably would have disliked. His claim is specific: Religion must be optional and private. He says nothing about all truth claims being merely relative or something we all need to recognize as somehow valid to their believers, which is an impossible mental act, anyway. The sense of 'optional' appears to relate to geo's idea of chosen without any compulsion., though I know you disagree with that.

No, you misread my comment. Hitchens was no relativist, he said science is true and religion is false. I am simply questioning the validity of his sweeping condemnation of all religious views as optional. Hitchens said science is not optional because it is true, while religion is optional because it is false. It is a polite way of saying it is optional to wander the streets in a clown suit, only a fool would do it.

My point was that religion can have persuasive rational content. It may not be compelling in the way facts are compelling, but religion can pull together a meaningful story with real ethical content. Hitchens suggests that religion is obsolete and we can rise above it through atheist enlightenment. I think this neglects Chesterton's mot that when people stop believing in God they do not believe in nothing, they believe in anything. Society always needs symbols and ritual and shared myths, so wherever these are found is where we can find a communities' real religion.


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Post Re: Morals Without Religion
ant wrote:
Quote:
You can't imagine any of these guys defending the Indian caste system, men 'marrying' children, or honor killing, can you?


That is up to them to make a clear distinction between humans as moral agents and animals. They have not insofar as their primary claim that morals are a product of a species' evolution.
Further, I do not believe that I have made the claim that morals can not progress over time. Socio cultural relativism can not base its moral development on anything other than evolution. It has no base for morality. That is not to say that evolution itself is bogus.

But why, ant, is evolution not sufficient to explain whatever agreement we now have about morals? Would you agree that something like human moral behavior can be observed in primates, yet clearly isn't the same as human morality? All we need is a few million years continuation down the path the primates started on, with crucial contribution from frontal lobe development and thus true reasoning and language, and voila, morality. Why is that a denigration of either morality or humans?

I see a little species chauvinism in the pride for human morality. Okay, it's a great thing, but let's not get carried away about being so much better than the other animals. We have also done infinitely more in the way of immoral behavior than any other animal could.


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Post Re: Morals Without Religion
DWill wrote:
ant wrote:
Quote:
You can't imagine any of these guys defending the Indian caste system, men 'marrying' children, or honor killing, can you?


That is up to them to make a clear distinction between humans as moral agents and animals. They have not insofar as their primary claim that morals are a product of a species' evolution.
Further, I do not believe that I have made the claim that morals can not progress over time. Socio cultural relativism can not base its moral development on anything other than evolution. It has no base for morality. That is not to say that evolution itself is bogus.

But why, ant, is evolution not sufficient to explain whatever agreement we now have about morals? Would you agree that something like human moral behavior can be observed in primates, yet clearly isn't the same as human morality? All we need is a few million years continuation down the path the primates started on, with crucial contribution from frontal lobe development and thus true reasoning and language, and voila, morality. Why is that a denigration of either morality or humans?

I see a little species chauvinism in the pride for human morality. Okay, it's a great thing, but let's not get carried away about being so much better than the other animals. We have also done infinitely more in the way of immoral behavior than any other animal could.


Mercy, justice, love, forbearance - what is your basis for these moral values?

If a tribe in the Congo does not recognize any of these but is the dominant tribe among several competing for power, are their immoral ways justified to you?

An entire nation attempting to position itself as the superior race nearly justified the annihilation of another race during WW2. If it had resulted in bringing them global dominance because they all cooperated in their murderous endeavor, would they have been wrong to have felt they were correct in their value system at that particular time ("we are superior, everyone else inferior should be slaughtered") if it helped their nation (tribe) flourish?

If your basis for morals is evolution, then you must answer yes to the above questions because all values are relative.


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Post Re: Morals Without Religion
The question here, it seems to me, is how morality relates to nature and nurture, whether morality is primarily based in genetics (nature) or culture (nurture).

The answer is both, but this then leads to questions such as how much nurture is grounded in nature, and whether nurture opens up some role for a transcendent reality, and whether we can in fact have culture without religion. This is all murky. Brains and language are part of our natural genetic inheritence, but they enable nurture, which has a feedback loop - more nurture produces more adaptive and abundant offspring, encouraging genes for good nurture.

It is like genes provide the enabling environment for morality, but nurture requires active transmission of acquired characteristics, otherwise we encounter the problems of delinquency, that people who are nurtured badly lack moral values.

If religion is an ordered method to prevent delinquency, it can be hard to imagine a functional social morality without religion.


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Sense 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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