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!
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
I've been reading a couple more good books, so I thought I'd list them also:
"50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God" by Guy P. Harrison
"Why Evolution Is True" by Jerry A. Coyne
Also the live call-in public access atheist television show (also streamed on the internet) "The Atheist Experience" (http://www.atheist-experience.com) and the related podcast "The Non-Prophets" (http://www.nonprophetsradio.com) have been AWESOME resources. I've gone back and have been catching each show starting from 2010, though they go back further than that.
Hello and welcome Steve. Excellent books
Indeed! Thank goodness for all the authors that have taken their time to write them.
Another book that, despite what you'd think, actually contains a lot of good information... "Atheism For Dummies".
Steve, Welcome and thanks for joining Nexus.
Interesting list of books. I've read some of them. As for Chopra.... I'm not a fan, but we don't have to agree on that.
For a historical perspective. any essays by Robert Greene Ingersoll are worth a read. He could be considered a "New Atheist" but was living in the 19th century. My 2¢
Thank you for the welcome.
I'm not particularly a fan of Chopra where "facts" are concerned. What he teaches is Ayurveda, or Transcendental Meditation, though he doesn't draw attention to that fact when he's speaking. I've found it disconcerting that he takes scientific theories that aren't well understood and uses them as supports for TM. He does seem to really be interested in helping people find happiness though; I'll give him that.... and there is some wisdom mixed in with the pseudoscience and mysticism.
Though I've read Chopra a bit and enjoyed The Third Jesus, I much prefer Eckhart Tolle and Stephen Batchelor if the point is to try and understand "enlightenment" in the Buddhist sense. I've found the idea of enlightenment, and the explanations for how we cause ourselves mental suffering, quite intriguing (the supernatural baggage that may be included is, of course, to be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism).
Not sure if I've read any Ingersoll, but I'll keep on the lookout. Any one essay that you would recommend?
Hello Steve. I read your comments to Mindy and like what you wrote. Your books list pretty much matches mine. I like Buddhism's teachings; however, the mythology that grew up around Buddhism sounds like the fabrications of many other religious inventions. I agree with your comment:
"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. ;)"
Thanks Joan. I completely agree. It's hard to tell what the Buddha really taught and believed. For all I know he did teach a cycle of afterlives (rebirths), but I've never been able to bring myself to believe anything like that... especially since so much of the Buddha's teaching was about the selfless nature of all phenomena. There's no separate "you" to be reborn, except as a mental image (or false self) that the mind perpetuates. That's probably why authors like Stephen Batchelor and Eckhart Tolle speak to me.
Being a Skeptic is tough. I've never believed anything supernatural in my life, while everyone around me seems to be drenched in supernatural beliefs. *sigh*