I am always looking for something new to read. However, most of what I find recommended in newspaper book reviews (for example) I find shallow and desultory.

 

I would like some recommendations from atheists. I'd like to know which books have changed you,  spoken deeply to you, made you who you are and contributed to your atheism. My own list would include the following:

 

Shakespear, The Merchant of Venice (Not a book but a play I read long before I saw it performed. I was struck by the injustices it exposed)

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (The shallowness she dwelt on, the very human concerns of her 18th Century English society, the beautiful language)

Cormak McCarthy, The Road (Very recent and to be read slowly (this is hard - I read it on a one and a half hour flight) and capable of being read again and again )

Patick White,Flaws in the Glass, an autobiography of Australia's (gay and only) Nobel laureat for literature - I loved how he disparaged the Austalian establishment.  And his The Tree of Man, a novel about the nobility and grandure of ordinary people carving out a life in the Austalian bush in the early days of setlement in this country. White helped me see what is is to be just human, 'All to Human', to love and hate appropriately.

Jean Paul Satre, Huis Clos.  (Another play - I majored in French in my first BA and have never recovered. Its message is that 'Hell is other people' and that what you do in this life is all you'll ever do; your history will be complete , no hope of revision)

Samuel Becket, The End (Probably the greatest and most gut wrenching short story ever written - I should also add Waiting for Godot, another play) 

Erwin Schroedinger, What is Life. (He anticipated later developments in biological/genetic science as well as being instrumental in the development of quantum mechanics)

Don Cupit, The Sea of Faith (This put a lot of my former reading in perspective for me)

Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot (Another persuasive perspective put-er)

Richard Dawkins, The selfish Gene and The God Delusion (the first a revelation, the second a confirmation - both books were consciousness raisers)

Christopher Hitchins, God Is Not Great (Hitch  is a great plomemicist - he can sock it to a Mother Teressa or a Pope as well as he can give it to your average ethnic cleanser)

 

This list is by no means complete nor does it reflect the chronological order in which the works were read. They are just readings that spring immediately to mind.  And I am not saying that the above list is better than anyone else's or that it should be read. Indeed, I suspect I have missed a lot in my reading life. So, I would like your recommendations, your lists of what has affected you deeply, changed the way you see the world, helped make you an atheist

 

Thanks

 

Rob 

 

 

 

 

Tags: books

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I don't want to sound like a 'low-brow', in fact I'm reasonably well-read - Dawkins, Hitchens, Becket, Sartre, Orwell and a few others mentioned here. But I'd like to point out that my espousal of atheism started in my early teens as a reaction to the blinkered thinking of my Sunday School teachers, rather than any books I read, and my own faltering attempts to communicate with the Great One.

I think my epiphany occurred when I asked God to fix a puncture on my bike while I was on my morning paper route. I didn't have a puncture kit and I was a timid, bookish child and terrified of being late for school. I was in tears. I remember my exact words. 'Please, please God, don't let it be a puncture, just a flat tyre. I'll do all my homework. I'll love you forever.' He just ignored me. Bad PR, God, you coulda had me there.

As for reading the Bible, Steve W, I gave up when I was nine. Didn't even make it to Noah. It was the KJV and after plowing through several chapters of 'Jehosophat begat Japh and Japh begat Jephat' or something like that, I came to the conclusion 'This sucks' and went back to Captain Marvel. Our preacher even used to talk like that. 'O Lord we beseech thee, in thy infinite wisdom and grace ...' etc. As if God would not understand 20th century language. I wanted to point this out to him, but as I said, I was too timid to challenge my elders on such matters.

But I must say the quaintness of 16th century language made the scriptures appear somehow unworldly and impractical ('The Pharisees wagged their heads wisely' - huh?) and helped to turn me off. It was useful for studying Shakespeare later on, but now whenever a satirical comedian breaks into this old-fashioned 'Godspeak' it just cracks me up. Rowan Atkinson and the Monty Python team spring to mind.

I'm quite content with a working knowledge of the Bible from the children's stories I've read and the diligent research of atheist scholars, some of whom I encounter here on the Nexus, and I'm amazed at their patience. I wouldn't recommend that 2000-page dark, turgid, contradictory book to anyone. The absurdities of its doctrines are clear enough from page one.

Enough rant. A lot of interesting books recommended on this blog, and thanks to all you highly literate folks for the tips.
'Jehosophat begat Japh and Japh begat Jephat' or something like that, I came to the conclusion 'This sucks'

Yes David, that's the part where I started to think that someone was pulling my leg. Even at a young age I understood what the words meant but thought it so silly as to not be worth the effort. It just didn't speak to me in any way at all. The occasional pretty patch (in Psalms for example) were so rare and didn;t make up for the rest of the nonsensical rubbish you had to trudge through to find them.

I wouldn't recommend teh Bible to any kid unless I wanted to turn him/her off reading for life.
I've read and enjoyed Dawkins, Hitchens, and Sagan, but there were a couple of novels that got me in a place where I was able to read those books with a completely open mind.

The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky really helped me form my own mental arguments against Christianity, especially the chapter The Grand Inquisitor. Oddly, Dostoevsky was Christian and his work is meant to argue in favor of the Holy Spirit, even as he articulates arguments against God and Jesus. However, I identified much more with Ivan, the intellectual, sad atheist character than I did with Alyosha, the peaceful priest.

Also, Ishmael by Daniel Quinn.
As I have never been a believer I find the entire religious mind set more than a bit wierd. I can't get my head around the fact that there are people that truely believe a magic sky guy not only exists, but is intervening in human affairs. They talk to him/her/it and believe that the magic one hears them - just fucking wierd.
I hadn't read any books promoting atheism prior to becoming an atheist. My transition away from Christianity started a result of long summer nights where I would stay up listening to music and thinking about life and the universe. I would also chat with people on the internet about religion, initially defense of religion. Gradually, I began to realize that it was an untenable position. Then, I took a class on existentialism and was introduced to Nietzsche, Sartre, Camus, Kierkegaard, etc, although I was already an atheist at that point. After college, I started reading Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens, Harris, Sagan, Ingersoll, Thomas Paine, and others.
Yours was similar to my journey, FreeThinker.

Mine started in youth (I couln't stop myself questioning my religion, much to the annoyance of my elders). However, I was set on my particular course of discovery by Don Cupitt's, The Sea of Faith.

I recommend this book to anyone who is questionning faith and wants to understand religion, its demise and how we got where we are today. In his more recent work Cupitt, now an atheist, speaks about how we can construct a new way of accepting life on life's terms and still have meaning and fulfilment rather than drowning in nihilism. I'm looking for his most recent book Impossible Loves.
What would be good books for kids?
The only one that comes to mind is the Golden Compass, unless the Harry Potter books are considered atheist.
If I had to point a fine point on it ... like if I had to pick the one book I read that definitely, unequivocally made me me realize that religion is just plain silly leading to my eventual non-theism? It would have to be the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

And on that note, the Salmon of Doubt has transcript of Adams' "Is there an artificial god?" presentation, which is just great too.

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