I love Susan Jacoby and Richard Dawkins too. I'm reading The Greatest Show on Earth right now. Carl Sagan's lectures are in a pile of books on my nightstand too. I've yet to read Dennett, but he's on my list. I understand Paul Kurtz is the man for secular humanism. He's on my list too. If I had to name my favorite 10 books for freethinkers, I'd pick (alphabetical order):
Barker, Dan (2008) godless Dawkins, Richard (2006) The God Delusion
Eller, David (2004) Natural Atheism
Harris,Sam (2006) Letter to a Christian Nation
Hitchens, Christopher (2007) god is not Great
Jacoby, Susan (2004) Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism
Price, Robert M. (2003) The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man
Shermer, Michael (2002) Why People Believe Weird Things
Smith, George H. (1979) Atheism: The Case against God
Stenger, Victor J. (2007) GOD: The Failed Hypothesis
I chose "god is redundant" for the title of my book because throughout it, the concept of god became unnecessary to explain anything. It was never the best answer in explaining nature (creation, design, etc.) or morality or...
I wrote the book for my daughters who were fairly young, so I tried to keep it simple and moving fast. There’s a few dozen chapters that are on average only 5 pages long. The whole book is only 200 pages and can be read in a couple sittings.
After introducing the topics, I provide some simple definitions and do a quick American history lesson on the Founding Fathers.
The next section gets into all the things I don't like about theism: the nature of faith (vs. reason), the nature of religion (vs. science), why the benefits to theists aren't benefits to me, why I think it's psychologically unhealthy, and why I think it promotes intolerance, anit-Semitism, and misogyny.
In the third part of the book, I tackle the great debate dedicating brief chapters to all the historic arguments theists have offered over the ages: Pascal's Wager, causal, arguments from design, authority, etc.
The next section dives deep into Christianity and provides more likely answers to prophecies, miracles, virgin births, resurrections, etc. I also examine references to Jesus in other holy books, historical writings, and discuss historical authenticity.
I wrap up by examining the relationship of morality and reason to theism, and lay out my wish for my kids. My goal was not to indoctrinate them, but it was to be honest and make sure they knew whether and what to believe was their choice.
If you're interested in learning more, my profile has a link to my book's facbook page where there are many links to free chapters, reviews, etc. I'm told it's a fun, fast read that makes for a handy little freethought primer.
Still reading Pinker (taking longer than usual, this book is not as 'readable' as I'd hoped) but I went down to London last week Listened to Prof. Dawkins and Philosopher A.C Grayling give speeches at The British Humanist Association, had a great time, but on the way down I cracked open Denet's 'Darwin's Dangerous Idea' as I felt I had to have something evolutionary about my person since I would be in such august company, and that scores over Pinker in the 'readability stakes' so I'm now trying to read both.
Dawkins by the way is a lovely man (I'm taller than him! :D) who very kindly signed my copy of 'Ancestor's Tale' before he left.
Sorry for the delay - one of those I'll get a round tuit moments - my apologies.
I studied the history of medicine when I was at school - so I guess you are right; he is better known here. If I recall his work on isolating the cholera infected water pump in London on Broad Street in Soho was one of the pioneering and foundational moments in the development of epidemiology, with which he is also credited.
The history of pain management is indeed fascinating: There were two recent documentaries on this from the BBC you might be able to track them down online (as my informants tell me BBC America panders to the lowest common denominator of television so I suspect you're unlikely to find such high-brow content as an informative documentary series on there) one was called Blood and Guts: The History of Surgery, which covered neuroscience and brain surgery, open-heart surgery, transplantation, facial reconstruction, and modern surgical practice (Into The Brain, Bleedin' Hearts, Spare Parts, Fixing Faces, Blood 'n' Guts , respectively.) and another series (same presenter: Dr Michael Mosley) called Medical Mavericks which looked at Anaesthesia, Vaccines, Diet and Infections.
Given my somewhat polymath approach to reading what takes my interest - I found these really interesting.
This is my first reading of Demon haunted World - almost done with it now, just got to the chapter about antiscience, found it good so far, I see it as sort of ancestral to the kinds of books, Dawkins and Dennet etc come out with now. so the examples like crop circles, false memory trials, aline abduction etc strike me as being a bit dated, but for all that no less relevant for the purpose of explicating the belief in mystery and faith and blind adherence to pseudoscientific ideas.
I've not yet decided if I'm going to go back to Dennet (Breaking the Spell) or maybe alternate between him and Pinker so my reading isn't too same-old-same-old.
I've not heard of the Mind Wide Open - but I'll look it up. Thanks for the recommendation!