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Q3, 2007 Freethinker Book Suggestions 
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Post Q3, 2007 Freethinker Book Suggestions
Q3, 2007 Freethinker Book Suggestions


July, August & September 2007


This thread is for making FREETHINKER nonfiction book suggestions for 3rd Quarter of 2007 (July, August & September). 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 periodically. This is probably the most important thing you can do. Don't make a suggestion and then vanish. Be ACTIVE in this thread.

So what FREETHOUGHT nonfiction books would you like to read and discuss for Q3, 2007 (July, August & September)?

I'd really like to select our Q3, 2007 books early this time. 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!




Thu Apr 12, 2007 1:04 pm
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Post Re: Q3, 2007 Freethinker Book Suggestions
We should start gathering some suggestions soon.




Wed May 16, 2007 1:48 am
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Post Re: Q3, 2007 Freethinker Book Suggestions
I saw an interview with the author a few nights ago and this looks to be an awesome book. Of course our resident theists will not find this to be worthy of discussion, but it is certainly in line with our mission as a freethinker community.

God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything
by Christopher Hitchens

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 The Washington Post's Book World/washingtonpost.com
Reviewed by Stephen Prothero
A century and a half ago Pope Pius IX published the Syllabus of Errors, a rhetorical tour de force against the high crimes and misdemeanors of the modern world. God Is Not Great, by the British journalist and professional provocateur Christopher Hitchens, is the atheists' equivalent: an unrelenting enumeration of religion's sins and wickedness, written with much of the rhetorical pomp and all of the imperial condescension of a Vatican encyclical.

Hitchens, who once described Mother Teresa as "a fanatic, a fundamentalist, and a fraud," is notorious for making mincemeat out of sacred cows, but in this book it is the sacred itself that is skewered. Religion, Hitchens writes, is "violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism and tribalism and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children." Channeling the anti-supernatural spirits of other acolytes of the "new atheism," Hitchens argues that religion is "man-made" and murderous, originating in fear and sustained by brute force. Like Richard Dawkins, he denounces the religious education of young people as child abuse. Like Sam Harris, he fires away at the Koran as well as the Bible. And like Daniel Dennett, he views faith as wish-fulfillment.

Historian George Marsden once described fundamentalism as evangelicalism that is mad about something. If so, these evangelistic atheists have something in common with their fundamentalist foes, and Hitchens is the maddest of the lot. Protestant theologian John Calvin was "a sadist and torturer and killer," Hitchens writes, and the Bible "contain[s] a warrant for trafficking in humans, for ethnic cleansing, for slavery, for bride-price, and for indiscriminate massacre."

As should be obvious to any reasonable person -- unlike Hitchens I do not exclude believers from this category -- horrors and good deeds are performed by believers and non-believers alike. But in Hitchens's Manichaean world, religion does little good and secularism hardly any evil. Indeed, Hitchens arrives at the conclusion that the secular murderousness of Stalin's purges wasn't really secular at all, since, as he quotes George Orwell, "a totalitarian state is in effect a theocracy." And in North Korea today, what has gone awry is not communism but Confucianism.

Hitchens is not so forgiving when it comes to religion's transgressions. He aims his poison pen at the Dalai Lama, St. Francis and Gandhi. Among religious leaders only the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. comes off well. But in the gospel according to Hitchens whatever good King did accrues to his humanism rather than his Christianity. In fact, King was not actually a Christian at all, argues Hitchens, since he rejected the sadism that characterizes the teachings of Jesus. "No supernatural force was required to make the case against racism" in postwar America, writes Hitchens. But he's wrong. It was the prophetic faith of black believers that gave them the strength to stand up to the indignities of fire hoses and police dogs. As for those white liberals inspired by Paine, Mencken and Hitchens's other secular heroes, well, they stood down.

Hitchens says a lot of true things in this wrongheaded book. He is right that you can be moral without being religious. He is right to track contemporary sexism and sexual repression to ancient religious beliefs. And his attack on "intelligent design" is not only convincing but comical, coursing as it does through the crude architecture of the appendix and our inconvenient "urinogenital arrangements."

What Hitchens gets wrong is religion itself.

Hitchens claims that some of his best friends are believers. If so, he doesn't know much about his best friends. He writes about religious people the way northern racists used to talk about "Negroes" -- with feigned knowing and a sneer. God Is Not Great assumes a childish definition of religion and then criticizes religious people for believing such foolery. But it is Hitchens who is the na



Wed May 16, 2007 1:57 am
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Post Re: Q3, 2007 Freethinker Book Suggestions
Chris: Of course our resident theists will not find this to be worthy of discussion, but it is certainly in line with our mission as a freethinker community.

Christopher Hitchens is a personal favorite of mine. I think his Letters to a Young Contrarian was an intellectual feast of wit, humor, history, literary command, political astuteness, philosophical reasoning and moral courage. He is a dissident's dissident....difficult to pin down or define and always against the grain. I respect his post-911 turn toward militaristic Imperial humanitarianism, even if I think it a profound mistake. I found his public, personal attack upon and disavowal of Noam Chomsky and the "Chomsky-Zinn-Finkelstein nexus" to be a great misfortune and another mistake. I also think his critique of all-things-religious to be, well, a mistake too. He is a great pleasure to read and will undoubtedly challenge our resident Theists to be damned clear about what we really think and are willing to sacrifice for our religious proclivities.




Wed May 16, 2007 1:31 pm
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Post Re: Q3, 2007 Freethinker Book Suggestions
Chris OConnor: Of course our resident theists will not find this to be worthy of discussion, but it is certainly in line with our mission as a freethinker community.

I wouldn't object to books like this at all if a) we weren't reading them 3 quarters out of 4, and b) we devoted a little thought to well-presented, opposing points of view.

But my opinion is going to be a bit moot, anyway. I'm not participating in either of the current readings, and if things continue as they are (ie. well), then there's a good chance I won't be participating next quarter either.




Thu May 17, 2007 2:35 pm
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Post Re: Q3, 2007 Freethinker Book Suggestions
God is Not Great seems like an obvious candidate as the latest best seller from the so called New Atheist literature. God Delusion by Dawkins is next on my book shelf and I still need to get to Dennett (I know, I know, I am behind the BookTalk.org times ;) ).

From the reviews on Amazon, Hitchens book seems like yet another tirade preaching to the proverbial choir. While I am sure to enjoy the read, I long for some non-confrontational titles that might be read and enjoyed by a broader audience, especially those that may be ensure of their current religious persuasion. These types of attack texts often leave even agnostics slightly bent out of shape.

Any ways, I will throw support behind this suggestion though I don't have any suggestions to add.




Sat May 19, 2007 6:18 pm
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Post Re: Q3, 2007 Freethinker Book Suggestions
While browsing around for information on Hitchens, I happened across a debate between Hitchens and Rev. Al Sharpton:

empirezone.blogs.nytimes....and-faith/

After reading some of the exchanges, I hate to say it but Hitchens got owned and failed to retort to some obvious softballs thrown By Rev. Al Sharpton. Nice to see a well mannered and respectful debate, but I hope Hitchens writes better than he debates.

In other readings, I also noticed that Mr. Hitchens is a supporter of the war in Iraq (which Sharpton makes an amazingly cruel but delicious swipe in the above article quotes). Not that political beliefs have much to do with a freethinker title debating the lack of existence of a deity, but an interesting position none the less from the perspective of someone arguing about some of religiously inspired needless and destructive warmongering. So its okay if it is a secular needless and destructive war? An obvious and glaring inconsistency of argument that Al Sharpton was well to point out.

Not to get off topic here, but are there any good debaters of religious skepticism? The blow horns of the religious movement do this type of thing for a living. They live for being in the public eye, on a stage, and convincing people that they are right. Freethinkers seem much less likely to become involved in such debate, which can often turn illogical and needlessly heated.

Recently at a family gathering, it was noted that the two things you should never talk to people about are religion and politics. I suggested that if people actually could talk about these subjects without emotion and with logic, the world might be a better place. That perhaps people avoid these subjects too much because they can not approach them from an open minded perspective or at least not resort to illogical attacks and frustrated annoyance. Nice to see a civil public debate on the topic, but Hitchens got owned.




Sun May 20, 2007 8:26 am
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Post Re: Q3, 2007 Freethinker Book Suggestions
Any further suggestions? Let's aim at getting this poll up early.

Mad, I hear you, but I am overhwhelmed with personal stuff to be able to address such stuff right now. I suggest using your powers of persuasion.




Mon May 21, 2007 1:56 pm
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Post Re: Q3, 2007 Freethinker Book Suggestions
When I was more active, persuasion was appropriate. Now that I'm more of side-liner, it seems fairer to just let the participating members have it their way. I wouldn't even have commented had someone not brought up past discussions on the matter.




Tue May 22, 2007 12:43 pm
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Post Re: Q3, 2007 Freethinker Book Suggestions
Mad:

Any reason why you have disappeared all of a sudden? Just wondering.

Mr. P.

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 one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.

What is all this shit about Angels? Have you heard this? 3 out of 4 people believe in Angels. Are you F****** STUPID? Has everybody lost their mind? - George Carlin

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Tue May 22, 2007 1:41 pm
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Post Re: Q3, 2007 Freethinker Book Suggestions
I'd like to suggest two books from the Routledge Thinking In Action series:

On Belief by Slavoj Zizek and On Religion by John D. Caputo

Both books are relatively small, and could be read in quick succession and offer remarkably fruitful comparison between the two and challenge for all-comers at Booktalk. Zizek and Caputo are prominent contemporary philosophers who approach the topics of Belief and Religion from very different perspectives and come to conclusions that will enrage and enlighten atheists, theists and thinkers of all stripes.

On Belief

Quote:
Review
"An erudite tour of contemporary belief.." Network
'An honest and admirable meditation on what belief may mean today.' - Times Literary Supplement
'The most formidably brilliant exponent of psychoanalysis, indeed of cultural theory in general, to have emerged in Europe for some decades.' - - Terry Eagleton in the London Review of Books

'An honest and admirable meditation on what belief may mean today.' - Times Literary Supplement

'...The content is of the highest quality and an example of the prospective revival of the encounter between philosophy and theology... I would highly recommend (both books) as stimulating and thought-provoking reformulations of religion.' - Modern Believing on On Belief and On Religion

Book Description: What happens to our supposedly atheistic, secular beliefs when they meet the internet, consumerism and New Age mysticism? Zizek, the renowned philosopher and cultural critic, shows in his controversial and witty new book that, despite postmodern warnings that belief is groundless, we are secretly believers. From "cyberspace reason" to the paradox of "Western Buddhism," On Belief traces the contours of the often unconscious beliefs that structure our daily experience.


On Religion

Quote:
Review
'Intellectual without being overly academic...one cheers his vigor and relishes his insights into the paradoxical, ambiguous nature of religion and religious belief. Recommended.' - Library Journal (US)

'With some deft sophistry (heavily influenced by Derrida who also produced one of the other five books in the Routledge's new Thinking in Action series) John D Caputo redefines religion as love of the unforeseeable. And, as that is a given in life, his definition of religiosity pretty much equates with my definition of joie de vivre. So the opposite of a religious person is not an atheist, merely a pusillanimous curmudgeon. But it's not all just clever wordplay. With his unorthodox definitions in place, Caputo goes on to denounce dogma, put Marx, Nietzsche and Freud in their historical places and to reunite religion, mysticism and science. On top of all that, there's a detailed deconstruction of religion in Star Wars. I'm converted.' - Laurence Phelan, The Independent on Sunday

'Intellectual without being overly academic...one cheers his vigour and relishes his insights into the paradoxical, ambiguous nature of religion and religious belief. Recommended.' - Library Journal

'I feel obliged to warn readers that I loved this book. I loved its passion, loved its ideas, and the loved the alternately sassy and incantatory rhythms of its prose ... get this book and read it' - Sea of Faith

Book Description: On Religion is a thrilling and accessible exploration of religious faith today. If God is dead, why is religion back? Digging up the roots of all things religious, Caputo inspects them with clarity and style. Along the way, some fascinating questions crop up: What do I love when I love my God? What are people doing when they perform an act "in the name of God?" Drawing widely on examples from popular culture, telecommunications and philosophy, the author asks why and how religion is for many a source of personal inspiration and moral guidance in a digitalized, post-industrial, nihilistic age.

Edited by: Dissident Heart at: 6/5/07 11:56 am



Tue May 22, 2007 3:19 pm
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Post Re: Q3, 2007 Freethinker Book Suggestions
You THIRDY bastard!!

Which on you thirding? "Secret Origins of the Bible" or "Origins of Satan"?

Mr. P.

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 one thing of which I am positive is that there is much of which to be negative - Mr. P.

What is all this shit about Angels? Have you heard this? 3 out of 4 people believe in Angels. Are you F****** STUPID? Has everybody lost their mind? - George Carlin

I came to kick ass and chew Bubble Gum...and I am all out of Bubble Gum - They Live, Roddy Piper

Edited by: misterpessimistic at: 5/26/07 9:09 am



Sat May 26, 2007 8:09 am
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Post Re: Q3, 2007 Freethinker Book Suggestions
The Secret Origins of the Bible!




Sun Jun 03, 2007 2:25 am
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Post Re: Q3, 2007 Freethinker Book Suggestions
I refuse to read a Christopher Hitchens book. His arguments in support of the Iraq War were fervent, obnoxious, and incoherent. Besides, we've discussed too many "Yeah for atheism" books already.

Of the suggested books, the only ones I might read are On Belief by Slavoj Zizek and On Religion by John D. Caputo. Probably, I'll end up skipping the Freethinker discussion.




Sun Jun 03, 2007 10:36 pm
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Post Re: Q3, 2007 Freethinker Book Suggestions
There are literally thousands of books advocating one religion or another. Theist authors don't seem to feel the literature market is saturated with religious books. I'd venture to say that books supporting theism are published at least 100x as often as books supporting atheism. My point is that this battle is not over and reading and discussing quality books that educate people about atheism is valuable and worthwhile. I do see how for some people the subject matter can get old, but for many of us this topic is a passion and one we wish to keep in the limelight for as long as religion remains a danger to society.




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