Reading list in the making... suggestions, anyone?
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21-01-2012, 12:52 AM
Reading list in the making... suggestions, anyone?
I made my start on my current path with mostly online stuff (Youtube, articles on various sites and suchlike) and have only started reading some of the "essential" literature relatively recently (last year sometime, for the most part). I'm presently in ownership of a decent number of hard (ok, paperback) copies of books directly or indirectly relevant to the main focus of this forum, which I've either read (but probably intend to read again), haven't or somewhere between. I've reached the point where I've somewhat overwhelmed myself with choice, so what better place to ask then here for outside opinions on such matters? Any say on what should be read first, last or in between would be welcome, as well as opinions on particular books.

I'll give the current status of each book, along with any comments if I've read or started on them. (I'm assuming most of these books probably have their own thread somewhere, so that won't be in any great detail).

Richard Dawkins
The God Delusion
(finished)
This was the first I read of any of the Four Horsemen. No particular comments off the top of my head right now.

Christopher Hitchens
God Is Not Great
(finished)
Second on the aforementioned, and first and only of Hitchens' books I've finished thus far. I consider myself to have had a somewhat substandard education, but I take at least a small degree of pride in my vocabulary - pride which is inevitably wounded reading an author such as Hitchens. Quite a deal of information covered in this book, and when I read it again, I'll need to make a point of reading it with a computer nearby with Dictionary.com and Wikipedia tabs open.
Hitch-22 (partway through)
Started on this after the previous. Quite enjoyed what I read of it, and found it inspiring to read about someone who grabbed life by the throat as Hitchens seemed to. Got to a point, however, where it started to make me a bit light-headed from all the name-dropping and mentions of events that took place in his lifetime, with the assumption that the reader will be adequately familiar with what he's talking about. It's hardly a bad thing to say of an author that they assume a lot of their reader, but it can make for somewhat intimidating work.
Letters to a Young Contrarian (currently reading)
A short Hitchens book, dealing with the specific subject matter this one does? Don't mind if I do.
The Quotable Hitchens (haven't started)
Arguably (haven't started)

Daniel Dennett
Freedom Evolves (haven't started)
Breaking the Spell (partway through)
As has been established, I read Dawkins and Hitchens before getting to this one. Those familiar with it will know it takes a different approach, and one which on the surface I believe to actually be more dangerous and subversive to religion than a frontal assault as the others take. That said, I got two or three chapters in before stopping. There were just enough insightful and smirk-inducing things said to keep me that long, but ultimately, all the hand-wringing became too frustrating. I know, I didn't stick with it until he really got down to business with all the things he intended at great length to do, but I kept thinking back to the very first thing touched upon in the Four Horsemen discussions - the part where Dennett talks about the (ultimately in vain) lengths he went to with this book to not be offensive, something which he then found to be "a mug's game".

Sam Harris
The End of Faith (partway through)
Can't really comment much on this book. I started, and it seems to be of the good quality you'd expect from an award-winning book by an author such as Harris, but I was clearly burnt out on writings of this sort at the time after my recent reading of the other three Horsemen. I'll finish it at some point.
Letter to a Christian Nation (finished)
I love this book. Concise, punchy, and more or less everything you'd want in an atheist manifesto. Of course a lot of further reading will need to be done to round things out, but this seems like an ideal starting point. There are a few minor criticisms I'd have, and a few things I'd want to check up on, but all in all, a solid work as far as I can see.
The Moral Landscape (partway through)
I thought this was very well done to the extent that I've read it so far, but once it got to talking about the nuts-and-bolts neuroscience, I immediately felt out of my depth. Harris does a good job making subject matter like this accessible in my mind, but it's still a bit much for when I'm reading casually during downtime somewhere without 'net access.

Carl Sagan
The Demon-Haunted World
(haven't started)

KJB 400th Anniversary Edition
At most, I've only ever had a nominal religious involvement, if any. Given the community that I'd like to count myself part of, however, I feel a certain obligation to have a better knowledge of this. I really don't expect my opinion to change much either way, I just want to have a good understanding of the book itself - it doesn't need to be said that arguments directed at the faithful need to be accurate if you want them to hit home.

Richard Carrier
Sense & Goodness Without God
(partway through)
I've owned this one the longest of all. Got it quite some time back, it's been collecting dust for a while now. I'm mostly just curious to see if anyone here has read it.

...and that's all for now, unless I've forgotten something.


"Well, the Bible does say God helps those who help themselves."
"Nah, it doesn’t, actually – that’s from one of Aesop’s fables. The Bible says quite the opposite, in fact – many passages of being patient and faithful, and waiting for the Lord to decide if he wishes to assist."
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21-01-2012, 10:22 AM
RE: Reading list in the making... suggestions, anyone?
That's a pretty impressive list.

"All that is necessary for the triumph of Calvinism is that good Atheists do nothing." ~Eric Oh My
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21-01-2012, 11:15 AM
RE: Reading list in the making... suggestions, anyone?
Nothing ... fun? Blush

I think in the end, I just feel like I'm a secular person who has a skeptical eye toward any extraordinary claim, carefully examining any extraordinary evidence before jumping to conclusions. ~ Eric ~ My friend ... who figured it out.
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21-01-2012, 01:37 PM
RE: Reading list in the making... suggestions, anyone?
Sense and Goodness is quite good, I've read it. My main criticism is that Carrier is often massively overconfident in the quality and impact of his own work, for example in an online article where he, in a rather cavalier fashion, dismisses vegetarianism as "irrational." Even if he is right, he really needs to take a closer look at the literature in applied ethics and philosophy of animal minds. Still, he's a powerful thinker, and Sense and Goodness is a very good book.

Other books I'd recommend for atheists are those published by people other than the "four horsemen," though their books are good too (especially Dennett, though I'd also recommend some of his other work).

Arguing for Atheism: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion by Robert Le Poidevin

Atheism and Philosophy by Kai Nielsen

Epistemology and the Psychology of Human Judgment by Michael Bishop and J.D. Trout

The Miracle of Theism by J.L. Mackie

Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy by Bernard Williams (my avatar)

Truth and Truthfulness also by Bernard Williams

On the Genealogy of Morals by Friedrich Nietzsche

Word and Object by W.V. Quine

Philosophical Investigations by Ludwig Wittgenstein

The Philosophy of Science: A Contemporary Introduction by Alex Rosenberg

Judgment under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky

"There is no such thing as philosophy-free science; there is only science whose philosophical baggage is taken on board without examination."
-Daniel Dennett
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22-01-2012, 02:19 PM
RE: Reading list in the making... suggestions, anyone?
Reading? That stuff'll rot yer brain. Big Grin

I got two books - Emma and tao te ching. I ain't missing nuttin' Big Grin

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25-01-2012, 01:11 AM
RE: Reading list in the making... suggestions, anyone?
(21-01-2012 01:37 PM)Valdyr Wrote:  Arguing for Atheism: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion by Robin Le Poidevin

This is a slight brain fart that I unfortunately didn't notice until it was too late to edit.

Anyway, I return with a more narrowly-focused atheist reading list. These are in my view the best atheist books at various levels of difficulty/intellectual rigor. These are:

Beginner

These books are for the typical educated layperson interested in the justification of atheism, whether they are atheists or are just interested in the perspective.

-50 Reasons People Give for Believing in God by Guy P. Harrison
-Jesus, Interrupted by Bart Ehrman
-The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

Intermediate

These books are more rigorous and/or difficult than the beginner-level books, although more background is not necessarily required; rather, they require more effort. As such, the educated layman should be able to handle these just fine, they may just not be good beach or airplane material.

-Sense and Goodness Without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism by Richard Carrier
-The God Debates by John R. Shook
-Why I Became an Atheist by John W. Loftus
-The Christian Delusion ed. by John W. Loftus (anthology)
-The End of Christianity ed. by John W. Loftus (anthology)
-The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave ed. by Robert Price and Jeffrey Jay Lowder (anthology)

Advanced

These books are mostly works of technical/academic philosophy. Some philosophical background is recommended, probably required for a few of the books. These, however, are works at the highest level of debate; it doesn't get "more sophisticated" than this, if you find yourself facing a courtier's reply.

-Arguing for Atheism by Robin Le Poidevin
-Theism and Explanation by Gregory Dawes
-The Non-Existence of God by Nicholas Everitt
-The Cambridge Companion to Atheism ed. by Michael Martin (anthology)
-The Miracle of Theism by J.L. Mackie
-Logic and Theism by Jordan Howard Sobel
-Atheism and Philosophy by Kai Nielsen

"There is no such thing as philosophy-free science; there is only science whose philosophical baggage is taken on board without examination."
-Daniel Dennett
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31-01-2012, 06:27 AM
RE: Reading list in the making... suggestions, anyone?
The "Ask a Ninja Secret Ninja Handbook" is a must read. Wisdom on a unfathomable scale is revealed in this book.

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31-01-2012, 07:30 AM
RE: Reading list in the making... suggestions, anyone?
Is it only a list for and about religion and atheism? Because I know a few very good books that are worth reading but have nothing to do with those topics

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01-02-2012, 07:13 AM
RE: Reading list in the making... suggestions, anyone?
Apologies for the rather delayed follow-up here. Valdyr, your input in particular is much appreciated, and will probably require a separate reply once I've had another look over.

(31-01-2012 07:30 AM)Leela Wrote:  Is it only a list for and about religion and atheism? Because I know a few very good books that are worth reading but have nothing to do with those topics
By all means post them. I was initially asking only about those specific books (opinions on them, what to tackle/revisit first, etc.) but that alone would probably make for a fairly short discussion, and I'm honestly looking forward to having a good thread to refer back to.

On a side note, I'm going to mention this book, just to see if anyone else is familiar with. I read it a couple of years ago, and started on it again today to see if it seems any different to me now.


"Well, the Bible does say God helps those who help themselves."
"Nah, it doesn’t, actually – that’s from one of Aesop’s fables. The Bible says quite the opposite, in fact – many passages of being patient and faithful, and waiting for the Lord to decide if he wishes to assist."
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01-02-2012, 02:24 PM
RE: Reading list in the making... suggestions, anyone?
ok then

one I like to recommend is "The good person of Szechwan" by Berthold Brecht (original "Der gute Mensch von Sezuan")
It is about a person trying to be a good person (the gods define "good") in a world of gender inequality. I don't want to say more or it spoils the fun of reading it. But it's a very good book. Very interesting, about ethics and morality.

Also good but simply entertaining
"The dark tower" by Stephen King
I think that's 5 books. It is about the journey of the gunslinger. And it is very well written and has lots of really cool ideas in it, the world that is painted is so surreal but on the other hand totally understandable, really weird, but that's King, right.

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