Hello everyone! My name is Steve and I'm from southwest Pennsylvania (USA). I've been a non-believer for... well, ever. My parents believe in God (the Christian one) but it never really made sense to me. I began questioning at an early age, and the answers were never satisfying. They didn't seem "reasonable" and so belief never took. My parents didn't really push me to believe and for that I'm grateful. There was not blow-back to not believing, and it simply never came up in my early life. I've only been to church proper (a Methodist denomination) once or twice, and Vacation Bible School in the summer the same number of times. It wasn't very interesting.
When I was young I was simply an atheist, and this carried all the way through highschool and some further schooling. After that I had more time on my hands, and started thinking very hard about all of these existential questions and how humanity had tackled them. At this point I considered myself an agnostic, admitting that I didn't really know and wasn't ready to put the nail in the coffin until after some research. Some years later I was introduced to Buddhism and its truths of impermanence and selflessness/interconnectedness of all things, and the fact that all mental suffering and existential crises were simply caused by the mind not acting in harmony with these truths. It was like a breath of fresh air after living in a dungeon for 15 years. While I never considered myself a Buddhist, I can't argue with its basic premise. The more I've opened up to reality as-it-is, the more peaceful and calm my mind has become. Life isn't so hard, even when I find myself unemployed or homeless. Death doesn't seem like such a downer, and in fact seems almost to not be "true" in light of the selfless nature of all temporary things. That's just life. ;)
Today I'm more vocal about atheism, and have done a lot of research on various religions, because of all the violations of human rights, freedom and dignity caused by religion around the world. It's disheartening, while at the same time the increase in the number of atheists gives me hope. I'd consider myself a "Secular Humanist", "Spiritual Humanist", or perhaps a "Buddhist Christian Philosopher" (which is very dependent upon what I mean, since I still don't believe in anything supernatural... though the "numinous" is something quite different, as Christopher Hitchens would say).
This site... is an awesome idea. I hadn't realized there was such a place, and I'm sure that it's been a great help for many people who are struggling. To that end I'd like to offer up my list of books, the ones that I've read that have a secularist, humanist, or enlightened spirit:
"The End of Faith", "Letter to a Christian Nation", "Free Will" and "The Moral Landscape" by Sam Harris
"The Grand Design" by Stephen Hawking
"War of the Worldviews" by Deepak Chopra, Leonard Mlodinow
"The Third Jesus" by Deepak Chopra
"God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything" and "The Portable Atheist" by Christopher Hitchens
"God and the Folly of Faith" by Victor J. Stenger
"A Search for Meaning From the Surface of a Small Planet" by Don Pendleton
"The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins
"A Universe From Nothing" by Lawrence Krauss
"The Believing Brain" by Michael Shermer
"Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism" by Susan Jacoby
"Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon" by Daniel C. Dennett
"Doubt" by Jennifer Hecht
"Why I Am Not a Christian" by Bertrand Russell
"A Brief History of Thought" by Luc Ferry
"The Power of Now" and "A New Earth" by Eckhart Tolle
"God, No! Signs You May Already Be An Atheist and Other Magical Tales" and "Every Day is an Atheist Holiday" by Penn Jillette
"Managing the Conflicts of Science and Religion" by Johnny Pan
"Confession of a Buddhist Atheist", "Buddhism Without Beliefs" and "Alone With Others: An Existential Approach to Buddhism" by Stephen Batchelor
"Leaving Islam" and "Why I Am Not A Muslim" by Ibn Warraq
"Why I Am Not A Hindu" by Ramendra Nath (I think that was the one I read)
These are just a few that I've kept track of, and I don't have many of them at hand anymore. The ones that influenced me the most would probably be The End of Faith and its follow-up Letter to a Christian Nation (both by Sam Harris), though other notable titles in the list include "Doubt", "A Brief History of Thought", and "The Believing Brain". Really they were all worthwhile reads and I would recommend any one of them. The ones by Deepak Chopra, Stephen Batchelor and Eckhart Tolle are "enlightenment" books more than atheist ones, but "The Third Jesus" is an interesting bridge between Christianity and Buddhism/Hinduism.
I hope to stick around for a while and see what this site is all about. Thanks go out to the administrators and staff responsible for Atheist Nexus!
Hi Steve! Glad you found us! Good list! Probably most people here have read all the Dawkins and Hitchens books, and I'm sure many others. There are also groups you can join to talk about them. Post often!~ Melinda
Another book I'm reading, right now, and that is turning out to be very insightful is "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World". Definitely a page-turner, and it even includes a treatise on atheism, though I don't think the author is all too happy with the "New Atheists".
Another one to add (I read a lot, apparently):
"Atheism and the Case Against Christ" by Matthew S. McCormick
welcome Steve..Great book list