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Q4, 2007 Freethinker Book Suggestions 
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Post Q4, 2007 Freethinker Book Suggestions
Q4, 2007 Freethinker Book Suggestions

October, November & December 2007

This thread is for making FREETHINKER nonfiction book suggestions for 4th Quarter of 2007 (October, November & December). For those that are new to BookTalk I will briefly explain our book suggestion process.

We read and discuss 2 different nonfiction books concurrently each quarter.

1 book is a "freethought" nonfiction selection
1 book is a general interest nonfiction book

There is a suggestion thread created for each of the above two categories. The thread you are in now is where you make your freethought book suggestions. Books that don't clearly represent and promote freethought should not be added to this thread. Simply use the other suggestion thread.

What constitutes a "freethought" book?

...books about atheism and agnosticism, separation of church and state, skepticism, scientific inquiry, evolution vs. creationism, logic and reason, comparative religion, etc...

So a general philosophy book would not fit in this category, but would do nicely as a general interest nonfiction selection. Please help us select quality books by putting a bit of effort into your suggestions and the placement of your suggestion into the right suggestion thread.

Important:

1. Provide the title, author, copied and pasted review or summary, and a link to Amazon where we can read more.

2. Please comment on other people's suggestions!. This is probably the most important thing you can do. Don't make a suggestion and then vanish. Be ACTIVE in this suggestion thread. If you vanish and never again comment on the other suggestions we receive it may be assumed you're not very invested in your suggestion and less weight will be assigned to your suggestion.

So what FREETHOUGHT nonfiction books would you like to read and discuss for Q4, 2007?

I'd really like to select our Q4, 2007 books early this time. (I say this every quarter it seems!) It is in our best interest to give plenty of advance notice so visitors and members have time to order the upcoming books at least 3 weeks before the start of the next reading period. So provide your suggestion now so that they have a chance of appearing on the poll!



Last edited by Chris OConnor on Wed Oct 10, 2007 10:35 am, edited 2 times in total.



Sat Jun 16, 2007 6:24 pm
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Post Q4, 2007 Freethinker Book Suggestions
My freethought book recommendation is Caesar's Messiah by Joseph Atwill.

www.amazon.com/Caesars-Me...1569754578

I believe this book is going to change the world for the better.

Following is a review from Amazon. There are a lot of other ones. Please check them out then get the book.


Insightful and Stimulating, June 12, 2005
By Michael Turton "NT Exegete" (Taichung, Taiwan) - See all my reviews


The last few years have seen the publication of three books arguing that the Jesus story is really the story of a Roman Emperor. These include Jesus was Caesar: On the Julian origin of Christianity, an Investigative Report, by Francesco Carotta, and Gary Courtney's Et tu, Judas? Then Fall Jesus!, both of which argue that that the Jesus story is based on the story of Julius Caesar, and Joseph Atwill's Caesar's Messiah, which makes the case that the Jesus story is the story of Titus. Of these, Caesar's Messiah is by far the best. While Carotta's work virtually ignores modern New Testament scholarship, Atwill is cognizant of it, though he does not locate his narrative within the scholarly paradigms. Caesar's Messiah reads the texts closely, has a fresh perspective, and many original insights. The result is a book that is informative and challenging, and will repay even those readers who reject his main thesis.

Atwill's main thesis is actually a combination of several ideas. First, he argues that the stories of Jesus in the New Testament are actually stories of Titus' campaign through Galilee and the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple. In this reading, the Gospels are clever satires created by the Flavian Emperors and their supporters. They thus function on the surface as religious tales, but the underlying story is actually a huge in-joke. Second, he argues that Josephus and the New Testament are essentially two sides of the same coin, one written in intimate relationship to the other. For example, discussing the sequence with the demoniac in Gadara/Gergasa, Atwill writes:

"The reason that the New Testament's demoniac of Gadara can be seen as a satire on Josephus' "tyrant" John and the battle at Gadara is simply because the two stories follow the same plot outline. In other words, the characters and events that can be seen as parallel occur in the same sequence. And it all occurs near Gadara. The satirical version in the New Testament tells the same story that Josephus does but, as is often the case with satire, the characters have different names."(p65)

In addition to the idea of satire and the close relationship between the NT and Josephus, this passage highlights another important theme of Atwill's: the importance of name switching among these texts. Discussing the famous passage about Jesus in Josephus, Atwill writes, citing Josephus himself:

"To solve the puzzle the reader must simply do as Decius Mundus recommends in the following chapter and 'value not this business of names.'"(p217)

The importance of this work lies in the originality of its reading of Josephus against the New Testament. Here Atwill's work resembles that of Cliff Carrington and other exegetes who have come to the conclusion that there is something highly suspicious about the way the two bodies of work are related. Atwill's strength is that not only has he pushed this line of insight farther than anyone else, he has constructed a full-fledged model to explain why this relationship exists. Hence, a good alternate title for this work might well have been There's Something Funky about the New Testament and Josephus.

After reviewing the history of the day, and exploring the links between the Flavians and early Christianity, Atwill lays out his thesis at the end of Chapter 2:

"The Gospels were designed to become apparent as satire as soon as they were read in conjunction with War of the Jews. In fact, the four Gospels and War of the Jews were created as a unified piece of literature whose characters and stories interact. Their interaction gives many of Jesus' sayings a comical meaning and also creates a series of puzzles whose solutions reveal the real identities of the New Testament's characters. Understanding the New Testament's comic level reveals, for example, that the Apostles Simon and John were cruel lampoons of Simon and John, the leaders of the Jewish rebellion."(p36)

Atwill concludes this chapter with a discussion of Mark 1 and Mark 5 and parallels to Titus' first battle on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

Chapter 3 gives us Atwill's discussion of the strange tale of Cannibal Mary. For readers who have read Josephus many times, Atwill's claim that she represents a parody of Christianity will come as a shock. Yet it is hard to see a woman named Mary who kills and eats her son in the manner of a Passover sacrifice as anything but a satire on the tale of Jesus as told in the Gospels. Atwill observes that the words in her mouth were placed there by Josephus, and if read as a satire on Christianity, they take on a new and portentous meaning:

"As to the war with the Romans, if they preserve our lives, we must be slaves. This famine also will destroy us, even before that slavery comes upon us. Yet are these seditious rogues more terrible than both the other. Come on; be thou my food, and be thou a fury to these seditious varlets, and a by-word to the world, which is all that is now wanting to complete the calamities of us Jews."(Whiston translation, cited on p46)

Why should anyone roasting and eating their own child expect it to be a "by-word to the world" and a fury to the "seditious varlets," the Jewish rebels? As Atwill points out, if this scene were in a piece of modern literature, it would instantly be seen by everyone as a parody of Christianity. Nor is Atwill the first scholar to have had this insight into the passage, for Honora H. Chapman noted parallels between the 'Cannibal Mary passage' in Josephus and the symbolic Passover Lamb of the Gospels in her SBL seminar paper 'A Myth for the World', Early Christian Reception of Infanticide and Cannibalism in Josephus' Bellum Judaicum' (2000).

Over the next few chapters Atwill then attempts to sort out the problem of who Jesus really was and solve the problem of the Empty Tomb. His thesis is that the Gospels were essentially written together, and thus, must be read together. Hence, he reads the Empty Tomb tale as four versions of the same tale, in parts, distributed across the various gospels:

"My analysis revealed that these four versions were intended to be read as a single story. This combined story is divided into two halves. One half consists of the visits to the tomb described in the Gospel of John. The other consists of the visits to the tomb described in the other three Gospels. In the combined story the individuals described in the Gospel of John meet the individuals described in the other three Gospels and, in their emotional state, the different groups mistake one another for angels. This comedy of errors causes the visitors to the empty tomb to mistakenly believe that their Messiah has risen from the dead."(p129)

The next few chapters cover the authors of the New Testament and how the tale was constructed. Then comes perhaps the most fascinating chapter in the work, his discussion of the Testamonium Flavianum (TF). Atwill's reading of this and its surrounding passages as a complex satire is perhaps the most revolutionary insight in the work. Unlike his allegorical reading of the New Testament, which is easy for the reader to swat away, Atwill's analysis of the TF and its companion passages will be impossible to ignore. Not only does his reading make sense of this section of the work, it is supported by strong linguistic and thematic links that will be difficult to refute. This chapter alone makes the book worth the price of admission.

But if a fresh and compelling look at the TF were not enough, Atwill offers in Chapter 13 a very interesting argument that Josephus has adjusted the dates of important events in his works to make them conform to the prophecies in Daniel.

Caesar's Messiah closes with a discussion of the Apostles and the Maccabees, and other parallels between the New Testament and events in Titus' campaign in Palestine prior to the destruction of Jerusalem. The coincidence of dates and names has also been noted by other authors, most recently in Jay Raskin's piece in the Journal of Higher Criticism on the Maccabees and early Christianity.

Atwill's prose is spare, even grim, and the book is refreshingly free of the silly attacks on New Testament scholars for being fools and scoundrels that tend to populate works of authors with out-of-the-mainstream ideas. Atwill usually is able to strike a sturdy posture that enables him to explain why no one has made all the connections he has (though a surprising amount of scholars have stumbled across pieces of the puzzle) without sounding triumphalist. My own view is that this work, intended for a lay audience, would have been even better had it presented some of the scholarly support for Atwill's specific claims (a companion volume aimed at scholars due out soon). There are some regrettable moments, such as the statistical analysis of the parallels on p224 that reads like something out of Erich Von Daniken, and the mistaken attribution of a quote on p296 to Jesus rather than to John the Baptist. Overall, the work is clearly structured and very accessible.

I doubt that the central thesis of Caesar's Messiah will find many takers; nor, ultimately, was this reader convinced. But many of the book's insights commend themselves to thoughtful reconstruction and deconstruction. Well worth the price of admission, both lay readers and scholars will be able to find something in Caesar's Messiah to challenge, to entertain, or simply to get the old gray matter back to pumping iron.

(end of Turton review)


I have to say that I don't see how Turton's last paragraph follows from the rest. If he is not convinced, then why not? He should explain why he's not convinced, after telling us how great it is. I think it is simply a lie told to protect his academic position. He is convinced, as is Eisenman (author of James the Brother of Jesus, who has a cover blurb). They just can't say so. That's how controversial this book is!

Edited by: quantreb at: 6/26/07 9:51 am



Tue Jun 26, 2007 8:45 am
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Post Re: Q4, 2007 Freethinker Book Suggestions
The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. With his usual eloquence, patience and humor, Wilson, our modern-day Thoreau, adds his thoughts to the ongoing conversation between science and religion. Couched in the form of letters to a Southern Baptist pastor, the Pulitzer Prize



Tue Jun 26, 2007 11:25 am
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Post Re: Q4, 2007 Freethinker Book Suggestions
Chances are slim, but here goes:

I propose we read EO Wilson's, The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth as the freethinker selection and Roger Gottlieb's A Greener Faith: Religious Environmentalism and Our Planet's Future as our non-fiction selection.

Wilson's book is written as a series of letters to a Baptist minister in a effort to bridge the divide between Biblical and Enviromental ethics...an appeal to "save life on earth". The thing is, we never get to hear from the other side. Therefore, I think we should examine the quest to "save life on earth" from the comparative religions perspective, using Gottlieb's text as the primary source for critiquing what religious environmentalism brings to the dialogue.

Gottlieb's A Greener Faith is not a disinterested text, but a critically affirmative, progressively guided, academically reputable, environmentally committed engagement with religious texts, communities, organizations, and individuals from around the world. It embodies the best of comparative religions scholarship.

I think it is a very worthy dialogue partner for the esteemed naturalist, EO Wilson.






Tue Jun 26, 2007 11:59 am
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Post Re: Q4, 2007 Freethinker Book Suggestions
God Is Not Great by Hitchens

This title was passed by on the Q3 (by myself included) in preference of a non-atheist reading. I think it would be a shame for a Free Thinker community comprised mainly of non-believers to let the best selling Atheist title of the year slip past us. This should be a top candidate for Q4, IMO, and I will prematurely throw three votes behind it with no other consideration :)




Tue Jul 03, 2007 9:08 pm
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Post Re: Q4, 2007 Freethinker Book Suggestions
I got God is not Great on audiobook.

It's easily the most well written work of New Atheism, but Jesus Christ, if you found Dawkins' 'loose' scholarship frustrating, you'll find Hitchens unbearable. It also suffers from the fact that God is the second most mentioned character in the book.

It's short and it's popular, so it might attract new members, but it's very, very sloopy scholarship coming from a man who described David Irving as a great historian.

Full of Porn*

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Fri Jul 13, 2007 3:36 am
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Post Re: Q4, 2007 Freethinker Book Suggestions
The sloppy scholarship of the New Atheist authors is concerning to say the least. The best recent books about Atheism have come from the least well known authors and thus the best arguments are laid out by the least read authors and have the fewest critics reading versus authors such as Harris, Dawkins, and Hitchens that are veritable lightning rods.

Even still it seems like a good title to have a discussion on and as with Harris, Freethinkers can certainly criticize arguments that don't hold water even if they support our beliefs.




Sun Jul 15, 2007 10:52 am
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Post Re: Q4, 2007 Freethinker Book Suggestions
River: The best recent books about Atheism have come from the least well known authors and thus the best arguments are laid out by the least read authors...

Which seems to me all the more reason that we should be concentrating on the lesser known books. I think BookTalk's quarterly readings have been unduly influenced by the desire to attract more attention to the site. The irony is, it doesn't particularly look as though choosing books like "The God Delusion" has drawn in all that many new people. If the atheists on this site really want to encourage critical thought about atheism, doesn't make more sense to concentrate on the books that present the best arguments? We don't have to do away with the lightning rods altogether, but we only have eight book discussion subforums a year, and that's been leaving zero space for the more lucid, well-presented, well-researched books.




Sun Jul 15, 2007 5:35 pm
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Post Re: Q4, 2007 Freethinker Book Suggestions
I think we will see a dramatic increase in participation once the new phpBB version of BookTalk is launched. Participation is definitely a factor of design rather than function, IMO. David Eller's Natural Atheism is the best book on Atheism that I have read to date and would gladly give it another read as a BookTalk quarterly reading. David Mills is essentially similar and more concise than Eller with much more forceful logic based arguments but also swings hard at Christianity and Intelligent Design at the end of the book. The wildly slanderous ending boarders on the New Atheism but the rest of Mills is very well written and argued. So you can add those two titles as suggestions for Q4 for which I should be more readily able to participate after we have closed and moved into the new house and the new job starts to calm down a bit.




Tue Jul 24, 2007 8:36 pm
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Post Re: Q4, 2007 Freethinker Book Suggestions
I know that this is probably beating a dead horse, but what about considering some freethinker books that aren't primarily about religion or atheism? You know, just for the sake of variety.

Or, conversely, if "freethinker" is just a synonym for "atheist", why not just drop the subterfuge and call this the Quarterly Atheist Reading. That would cut down on the confusion incoming visitors might have.




Tue Jul 24, 2007 10:15 pm
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Post Re: Q4, 2007 Freethinker Book Suggestions
Here's a foray into anthropology, anarchism, political theory and social activism.

Possibilities: Essays on Hierarchy, Rebellion, and Desire by David Graeber

Book Description

"Graeber's ideas are rich and wide-ranging; he pushes us to expand the boundaries of what we admit to be possible, or even thinkable."-Steven Shaviro, Wayne State University

In this new collection, David Graeber revisits questions raised in his popular book, Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology. Written in an unpretentious style that uses accessible and entertaining language to convey complex theoretical ideas, these twelve essays cover a lot of ground, including the origins of capitalism, the history of European table manners, love potions in rural Madagascar, and the phenomenology of giant puppets at street protests. But they're linked by a clear purpose: to explore the nature of social power and the forms that resistance to it have taken, or might take in the future.

Anarchism is currently undergoing a worldwide revival, in many ways replacing Marxism as the theoretical and moral center of new revolutionary social movements. It has, however, left little mark on the academy. While anarchists and other visionaries have turned to anthropology for ideas and inspiration, anthropologists are reluctant to enter into serious dialogue. David Graeber is not. These essays, spanning almost twenty years, show how scholarly concerns can be of use to radical social movements, and how the perspectives of such movements shed new light on debates within the academy.

David Graeber has written for Harper's Magazine, New Left Review, and numerous scholarly journals. He is the author or editor of four books and currently lives in New York City.

To get a sense of Graeber's work, here's a link to his entire book Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology.




Mon Aug 13, 2007 4:14 pm
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Post Freethinker selection?
A few weeks back I linked to an essay Mark Lilla had written for the NYT Magazine. Now the Times has a review of Lilla's new book. I'm not sure whether or not anyone on the site actually wants to consider this one for a Freethinker selection. I certainly think it would qualify, since the topic of the book is the Enlightenment and the modernity it produced, but then, my view of things has never held much water with the BookTalk population at large.

The Stillborn God

Ps. Let me know if that link doesn't work for anyone else. I tried to find a link that didn't require a login.

Edited by: MadArchitect at: 9/17/07 6:22 am



Mon Sep 17, 2007 5:18 am
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