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Q3 2007 Freethinker Book Poll!
Official Q3 2007 Freethinker Book Poll!
Q3 2007 = July, August & September
Please read these directions BEFORE you vote!
How many nonfiction books will we be reading?
We'll be reading 2 nonfiction books in 3nd quarter of 2007. This poll will select 1 of the 2 nonfiction books for community discussion, while the Q3 2007 Nonfiction Book Poll will select the other book. So we're reading a total of 2 nonfiction books where one is of general interest and the other advances issues of importance to freethinkers. Periodically, there will be some overlap of these two sections.
How long will the poll stay open?
This poll is opening on Saturday, June 16th, 2007 and will be closing on Tuesday, June 26th, 2007. This is a total of 10 full days.
Who can vote?
All active members are invited and encouraged to vote and participate in our book selection process, but please follow these simple rules:
Only cast a vote if you have 10 or more posts on our forums. If you don't have at least 10 you should have no problem jumping into some discussion threads and meeting this rather relaxed criterion. You can meet this requirement in one day.
Don't vote if you don't plan on participating if your book wins. Again, if you vote for a book and it wins we really hope you participate. You should not be influencing the direction of the community if you're not actively involved.
If you vote for a book and it does not win we still hope you read and discuss the winning book with us, but we understand if you opt to not participate. Please try to get involved no matter which book wins, as this is all about education AND entertainment. We can all learn from our book selections and from each other, and reading a book you typically would never have even picked up is a great way to expand your horizons and perspective on life.
How do I vote?
If you are an active member with 10 or more total posts AND you plan on participating in the Q3 2007 discussion if your chosen book wins THEN you are permitted to cast a total of 3 votes. You can use your 3 votes however you see fit, which could mean assigning all 3 votes to just one of the book choices, or distributing the 3 votes over the book choices according to your own interest level for each book. No half-votes assigned to books.
You should make a brief post to this thread telling everyone how you wish to distribute your 3 votes.
Nothing further needs to be said, however you're welcome and encouraged to be as verbose as you like. Just make it crystal clear how you are voting.
It is inevitable that some people will either forget to cast all 3 votes or will not have read this entire post. They will simply vote on one book. If this happens I will be assigning all 3 of their votes to the one book they selected.
You are permitted to change your vote at any time during the voting period, but not after I close the poll. The poll is closed on the last day of the polling period as stated above. There is no gaurantee of what time the poll will close on the last day, so please do not wait till the last minute to vote.
This thread can and SHOULD be used as an open discussion of the books on the poll. You're welcome to try to sell people on a particular book, or dissuade them from another. I am asking you all to comment on the votes as you see them. Don't be shy...speak your mind.
As always, we will need a discussion leader that is willing to be active in the reading and discussion of the winning book. If you are up to the task please let us all know in this forum by making a post and stating your interest.
Or, if you are only interested in being the discussion leader if your choice of books wins the poll, you can say so or just wait to see if it wins. But please consider volunteering!
Being a discussion leader does not entail being an authority on the subject matter or defending the author's position. You simply need to attempt to stimulate discussion.
And here are our FREETHINKER book choices for 3rd Quarter 2007 (July, August & September). Please read about all books before casting your votes. Think hard about which book will be the most educational, entertaining, and worthy of discussion. May the best book win!
From Publishers Weekly Hitchens, one of our great political pugilists, delivers the best of the recent rash of atheist manifestos. The same contrarian spirit that makes him delightful reading as a political commentator, even (or especially) when he's completely wrong, makes him an entertaining huckster prosecutor once he has God placed in the dock. And can he turn a phrase!: "monotheistic religion is a plagiarism of a plagiarism of a hearsay of a hearsay, of an illusion of an illusion, extending all the way back to a fabrication of a few nonevents." Hitchens's one-liners bear the marks of considerable sparring practice with believers. Yet few believers will recognize themselves as Hitchens associates all of them for all time with the worst of history's theocratic and inquisitional moments. All the same, this is salutary reading as a means of culling believers' weaker arguments: that faith offers comfort (false comfort is none at all), or has provided a historical hedge against fascism (it mostly hasn't), or that "Eastern" religions are better (nope). The book's real strength is Hitchens's on-the-ground glimpses of religion's worst face in various war zones and isolated despotic regimes. But its weakness is its almost fanatical insistence that religion poisons "everything," which tips over into barely disguised misanthropy.
From Booklist *Starred Review* God is getting bad press lately. Sam Harris' The End of Faith(2005) and Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion (2006) have questioned the existence of any spiritual being and met with enormous success. Now, noted, often acerbic journalist Hitchens enters the fray. As his subtitle indicates, his premise is simple. Not only does religion poison everything, which he argues by explaining several ways in which religion is immoral, but the world would be better off without religion. Replace religious faith with inquiry, open-mindedness, and the pursuit of ideas, he exhorts. Closely reading major religious texts, Hitchens points to numerous examples of atrocities and mayhem in them. Religious faith, he asserts, is both result and cause of dangerous sexual repression. What's more, it is grounded in nothing more than wish fulfillment. Hence, he believes that religion is man-made, and an ethical life can be lived without its stamp of approval. With such chapter titles as "Religion Kills" and "Is Religion Child Abuse?" Hitchens intends to provoke, but he is not mean-spirited and humorless. Indeed, he is effortlessly witty and entertaining as well as utterly rational. Believers will be disturbed and may even charge him with blasphemy (he questions not only the virgin birth but the very existence of Jesus), and he may not change many minds, but he offers the open-minded plenty to think about. Edited by: Chris OConnor at: 6/16/07 8:26 pm
Amazon provided a limited review of this book so I pulled from another site, GodlessGeeks.com.
It is surprising that a book as widely explained as the Bible can still hold secrets. Many intelligent and otherwise well informed readers will find much of the material in this book new and quite startling, although Bible scholars, and anyone who has even an amateur background in comparative mythology, will be familiar with it.
Bible scholar and religion editor Tim Callahan fills the gap left by many Bible interpreters who examine only those Bible verses which can be made to support their personal or political views. But the world needs a broader understanding of its sacred texts, particularly when selective interpretation of the Bible is used to fuel extremism, and when interpreting Bible verses out of the context in which they were written intrudes on rational solutions for modern problems.
Callahan uses comparative mythology to demonstrate how Bible stories that do not make much sense on the surface can be understood on deeper levels when their mythic content is revealed. He uses literary analysis, history, and archeological comparisons to expand our understanding of the purpose these stories served for those who originally wrote them.
Callahan subjects biblical narratives to each the following questions:
1) Is the narrative literally true based on history, archaeology and science? 2) Are there internal inconsistencies, anachronisms, or other clues that invalidate the narrative if it is to be considered historical or to be taken literally? 3) Is the reasoning behind the narrative and the ethical beliefs derived from it based on a world view foreign to our own sense of ethics? 4) Is there a mythic meaning to the narrative that is quite different from what a literal interpretation of the narrative might imply? 5) What social or political stance do believers derive from the biblical narrative, and how valid is their use of the Bible to back up their personal and political positions?
Secret Origins Of the Bible covers many issues from both the familiar and the more obscure chapters of the Bible:
--Is there historical evidence for the Exodus or Joshua's conquest of Canaan? --What contributions did the mythology of ancient Egypt and other surrounding cultures make to modern Christianity? --How did the religion of ancient Israel, before the Exile, differ from today's ethics-based monotheism? Bible stories are examined that suggest that along with Yahweh, the Israelites worshiped and acknowledged other deities, such as Chemosh and Azazel, and that their primitive polytheistic religion included worship of a goddess who was the consort of Yahweh, some form of tree worship, ecstatic trances, fortune telling, human sacrifice, a cult of the dead, and solar worship. --Why is so much material in the Bible repetitive and even contradictory? --How linguistic analysis of Biblical names reveals their original hidden meanings. --How were tales from rival sources altered toward more masculine outlook? --What do anachronisms and other incompatibilities in both time and culture reveal about the historicity of the stories of the biblical patriarchs? --What is the evidence that the biblical stories of the creation, the race of giants, the flood, and the tower of Babel were independently derived from earlier tales told by the Sumerians and pre-Israelite Semitic peoples? --What ancient mythic themes influenced the Nativity, Passion, and Resurrection narratives of the Christian Bible? --How did a new idea--the concept of a perfect God inspire the idea of the perfect word of God which led to belief in biblical inerrancy?
Callahan admires the great biblical mythic themes and warns that those who are not sympathetic to religion and trivialize the Bible will fail to understand the power these myths have on people. Callahan respects the mythic material and points out that such myths endure, at least in part, because they resonate with deep psychological needs and have a validity beyond that of literal truth.
PRAISE FOR "THE SECRET ORIGINS OF THE BIBLE
"Tim Callahan here blends his remarkably diverse knowledge of ancient history, archaeology, linguistics, mythology, numismatics and of course the Bible itself to examine scriptural 'truths' long held inviolate by religious fundamentalists. Secret Origins of the Bible is a must-read for anyone wishing to understand more completely what the Bible is really saying--and not saying--to us all." --Dr. Clayton J. Drees, Associate Professor of History, Virginia Wesleyan College
"There is a vast disconnect between the public's belief that the Bible is a divinely-produced original work of religious literature, and the scholar's knowledge that all of the major stories in the Bible have historical antecedents and can be traced to very non-divinely produced works by other cultures in earlier times. The Bible may contain "the greatest story ever told," but as Tim Callahan so brilliantly reveals the greatest secret of all is that the story is not original. This book is sure to shake fundamentalist beliefs about the Bible to the core."
--Dr. Michael Shermer, author of How We Believe, Contributing Editor, Scientific AmericanEdited by: Chris OConnor at: 6/16/07 9:02 pm
From Booklist The popular perception of the Bible as a divinely perfect book receives scant support from Ehrman, who sees in Holy Writ ample evidence of human fallibility and ecclesiastical politics. Though himself schooled in evangelical literalism, Ehrman has come to regard his earlier faith in the inerrant inspiration of the Bible as misguided, given that the original texts have disappeared and that the extant texts available do not agree with one another. Most of the textual discrepancies, Ehrman acknowledges, matter little, but some do profoundly affect religious doctrine. To assess how ignorant or theologically manipulative scribes may have changed the biblical text, modern scholars have developed procedures for comparing diverging texts. And in language accessible to nonspecialists, Ehrman explains these procedures and their results. He further explains why textual criticism has frequently sparked intense controversy, especially among scripture-alone Protestants. In discounting not only the authenticity of existing manuscripts but also the inspiration of the original writers, Ehrman will deeply divide his readers. Although he addresses a popular audience, he undercuts the very religious attitudes that have made the Bible a popular book. Still, this is a useful overview for biblical history collections.
Charleston Post & Courier "Offers a fascinating look into the field of textual criticism and evidence that Scriptures have been altered." --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Dallas Morning News "Whichever side you sit on regarding Biblical inerrancy, this is a rewarding read." --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Washington Post "One of the unlikeliest bestsellers of the year." --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Book Description World-renowned biblical scholar Bart Ehrman reveals the truth behind the many mistakes and changes that can be found throughout the Bible, including the following:
* The King James Bible was based on inferior manuscripts that in many cases do not accurately represent the meaning of the original text.
* The favorite story of Jesus forgiving the woman caught in adultery (John 8:3-11) does not belong in the Bible.
* Scribal errors were so common in antiquity that the author of the Book of Revelation threatened damnation to anyone who "adds to" or "takes away" words from the text.
About the Author Bart D. Ehrman chairs the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is an authority on the history of the New Testament, the early church, and the life of Jesus. He has taped several highly popular lecture series for the Teaching Company and is the author of Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew and Lost Scriptures: Books that Did Not Make It into the New Testament. He lives in Durham, North Carolina.
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Re: Q3 2007 Nonfiction Book Poll!
3 For Misquoting Jesus.
But atheism is no more a religion than not playing chess is a hobby. - Robert Sawyer - Sci Fi Author
I'm not saying it's usual for people to do those things but I(with the permission of God) have raised a dog from the dead and healed many people from all sorts of ailments. - Asana Boditharta (former booktalk troll)
"The Sentient may percieve and love the universe, but the universe cannot percieve and love the sentient. The universe sees no distinction between the multitude of creatures and elements which comprise it. All are equal. None is favored...It cannot control what it creates and it cannot, it seems, be controlled by its creations (though a few might decieve themselves otherwise). Those who curse the workings of the universe curse that which is deaf. Those who strike out at those workings fight that which is inviolate. Those who shake their fists, shake their fists at blind stars." - Michael Moorcock in the "Queen of the Swords"
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Re: Q3 2007 Nonfiction Book Poll!
I am interested in all three. Personally, God is Not Great appeals most directly but I think one of the other two selections would be best for the community. From what I read, Ehrman seems about putting the Bible into a religious friendly context rather than simply fact based denouncing the scriptures as mostly based myth fantasy whereas Callahan looks to tear into things without interpretation (would appreciate further insight and clarification if anyone has read either). I am rather surprised to see the non-Hitchens votes going so heavily slanted towards Ehrman.
3 votes for Secret Origins of the Bible. As much as I want to read Hitchens, I just read Dawkins and am in no rush to get to Hitchens. Not that I lack interest, but would enjoy something a bit different currently and would prefer to consider Hitchens for Q4.
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Re: Q3 2007 Nonfiction Book Poll!
2 for God is not Great because I think a Chomsky/Hitchens tandem discussion would be a welcome shot in the arm for Booktalk PR...and I think Hitchens is truly an exceptional character in the literary (and political) world that needs to be read and challenged.
1 for Secret Origins of the Bible because a careful introduction to the complexities of Biblical criticism might disabuse future debate on all-things-Bible from slipping into the tired dichotomous rant: "It's all fictive bullshit" vs "It's all pristine fact".
Actually, after counting the score....make that 3 for God is not Great.Edited by: Dissident Heart at: 6/26/07 12:42 pm
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Re: Q3 2007 Nonfiction Book Poll!
Hitchens is getting a lot of media attention lately and his book is well on its way to selling a cool half million copies. I am reconsidering my reasoning for my three votes as A) a top of the line best seller could benefit BookTalk.org with increased readership during this quarter so soon after the book's release and B) Secret Origins hasn't picked up hardly any interest. It may be a moot point any ways since Misquoting has such a commanding lead. Too bad the vote call is ending tomorrow. They were all good books. Pending Hitchens doesn't make this quarter, I think it should be a definite first consideration for Q4.
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