Don’s Abbreviated Reading List

Many of the books I'm going to list you’ve read. Nevertheless, many haven’t read them and this overview might be of interest to those who haven't had the opportunity or time to read any of them.

The first book, I’m going to suggest is King James Version Bible. However, in reading it, I ask that you read it as a person who is not a Christian, Muslim or having any religious affiliation at all. Read it as a child who knows nothing of God and make no judgments. I want you to be surprised if you can. I know withholding judgment will be the hardest part because we are all products of society, our environment and our parents.

The Bible—What do you really know about the Bible? Do you know who wrote it? How many books are in the Bible? How many were left out? Why were they left out? 

Were than any Gospels written by females? What are the original sayings of Jesus? Do you know where they came from? What was the original language of the Bible? How many times was it translated before it reached the King James Version? Why did the King James Version come about? What is the oldest religion stemming from the Bible? When did that change? Who changed it? The questions could go on and on, but for a book that sells so many copies, it is surprising how many Christians don’t know a thing about how their touchstone book came about.

The Koran—After you finish the Bible I would suggest reading the Koran with the same intensity and neutrality and reserve your judgment. I also suggest the Jewish Bible and Pentateuch which are included in the Old Testament and tell many of the same stories. Besides, this is not about deciding which is better written, more believable or a decider of faith; it is about reading, understanding and thinking.

The remainders of the books I suggest are random in nature, but they all tie back to thinking and reading. Some will be from Harvard scholars and some from backyard philosophers. Still, thoughts of this nature are more than off the cuff rambling. In either case, these books reveal the effort these men and women went through trying to be fair, balanced, unbiased in thought and the conclusions they reached. Some reach no conclusions but raise interesting questions worthy of further thought.

So, here is a list for your perusal. I would describe the reading in these books as high school level and above. Some are extremely difficult and others can be handled by a 4th grader. Nevertheless, I think they go a long way in promoting thinking and by going through them conscientiously, reading and understanding are improved.

Reading List

Don’t Know Much About the Bible: Everything You Need to Know About the Good Book but Never Learned—Kenneth C. Davis—Basically, leads the reader through the Bible and explains passages and why they are there. Also, exposes the reader to some of the political history behind the Bible including the Nicea Council when the Bible was voted into existence.

The Bible as History—Werner Keller—Want to know how much of what occurred in the Bible can actually be tracked in history? Here it is. An interesting read for knowledge seekers.

God’s Funeral—A.N. Wilson— Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche first said that God was dead. Many have said it since then, but the funeral has yet to be held. This book takes an interesting looking at the presence or lack of presence God in the universe. Excellent Read!

Jesus: One Hundred Years Before Christ—Alvar Ellegard—Here’s a look from a researcher who says that the Jesus I the Bible actually existed 100 years before and was used as a model for the present day Jesus.

Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism—Bishop John Shelby Spong—An extremely interesting read from an Episcopalian Bishop who think fundamentalism is killing the chances of Christianity of maintaining its hold as a mainline religion. Makes sense!

Nonbelief and Evil: Two Arguments for the Nonexistence of God—Theodore M. Drange—This will certainly piss off the traditionalists, but the arguments are based soundly and give something to think about whether is any truth in them is up to the reader.

And Man Created God—Chandler Smith

Can We Be Good Without God?—Robert Buckman—I love this one because it is a well-thought argument saying that basically, man needs no divine rule to set him on the path to righteousness. He postulates that proper behavior is more of a survival mechanism than divine decree.

Saint Peter—Michael Grant—A biography of Saint Peter—an interesting man. Unfortunately, it gives little insight into his life as an apostle.

Living Without Religion: Eupraxsophy—Paul Kurtz—Humanism is the story here. Humanism is basically a stance that says God isn’t necessary for anyone to do the right thing and Paul Kurtz leads the crowd when it comes to humanism as the head of the American Humanist Society. Interesting if not persuasive.

Why Christianity Must Change or Die—John Shelby Spong—Another book from Bishop Spong saying that unless Christianity “gets real” it will have no one but fundamentalists left and that will be the death knell for the kinder gentler Christianity associated with the Bible.

The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold—Acharya S—This book makes no ifs, and or buts about it, the Bible and the Christ story are nothing more than wishful thinking and largely a hoax. Logic may be skewed and the reason a bit shallow, but a good read from the standpoint of knowing what others think.

2000 Years of Disbelief—James A. Haught—You thought it all started a few years ago didn’t you? Disbelief has been around since the first time someone said there is a God and someone at the back of the crown mumbled, “that’s a crock if I heard one.” Haught takes you on a 2,000 look at disbelief including a brief view of people who call themselves Christian atheists. Yeh, confused me too.

The Necessity of Atheism—Percy Bysshe Shelley—All you literature buffs must recognize the name. Perhaps, if I add his royal address, Lord Percy, maybe that will help you recognize him. His major works included Alastor, Adonais, The Revolt of Islam and Prometheus Unbound. He was married to Mary Shelly, author of Frankenstein.

Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit—Garry Willis—There no sin at the Vatican, is there? Read this and you’ll find out a two or thing. Very interesting.

The Dark Side of Christian History—Helen Ellerbe—Care to know how many died during the Crusades? What about during the Spanish Inquisition? Did you know the Inquisition didn’t end until the 1800’s? Read all the things you need to be scared of.

Crossing the Threshold of Hope—Pope John Paul II—Before he died, Pope Paul issue this moving book about peace, spirituality, morality and the church—interesting reading.

Deceptions and Myths of the Bible—Lloyd M. Graham—If you’re a stickler for facts and accuracy, this book will certainly interest you. Did you know there are two creation stories in the Bible? Were there really any wise men? A lot of interesting talk about contradictions in the Bible and where to find them.

The Faith Healers—James Randi—An all-time favorite of mine, James Randi. Once billed as the Amazing Randi, a former magician turned debunker unmasked preacher Peter Popoff as a fraud on the Johnny Carson Show. It turns out God’s frequency is 39.17 MHz on the pocket transmitter which h Popoff used with a hidden earpiece to get answers from his wife backstage. In this book, Randi unmasks the notorious faith healers from the Filipino spiritual surgeons to Benny Hinn with his puff of breath healing.

The Book Your Church Doesn’t Want You to Read—Tim C. Leedom—This book has so much in it, I don’t know where to start in describing it other than to say, everything you thought you knew about religion is called into question and on solid ground.

When Religion Becomes Evil—Charles Kimball—In the light of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Kimball looks at the excesses of religion and how it still affects the world today even though we supposedly live in a secular state.

Religion and the Spiritual in Carl Jung—Ann Belford Ulanov—Noted psychiatrist and innovator in the field, Carl Jung had plenty to say about religion and spirituality. This is definitely different reading.

The Demon-Haunted World—Carl Sagan—I always liked Carl Sagan. Great personality and plenty of knowledge. The Demon-Haunted World takes on those who subscribe to creationist theories. It is also a good primer on the universe from a secular point of view.

Bloodline of the Holy Grail: The Hidden Lineage of Jesus Revealed—Laurence Gardner—Reading this may make you think of the DaVinci Code and with good reason. Ideas for the story came from pages such as these. This is not the first book that suspects that Jesus led a natural life complete with family and wife.

Who Wrote the Dead Sea Scrolls—Norman Golb—The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered almost 30 years before anyone knew of them while scholars poured over them trying to verify their authenticity. This is that story and what was determined about them.

A History of God—Karen Armstrong—Quite interesting piece showing how the idea of God has come down through the ages. Of course, there is the Christian God, the notion of God existed long before Yahweh. Armstrong takes us through early Babylonia, India, the Norse countries, Africa and more.

In Defense of Secular Humanism—Paul Kurtz—An explanation and treatise on humanism from one of the key leaders of the movement. A clearly reasoned approach to living a prosperous and thoughtful life without relying on magic.

The Lost Gospel: Q the Original Saying of Jesus—Marcus Borg—Want to know what Jesus really said? Here is the Q document you may have heard of or you should have heard of if you really know your Christian practices.

Critiques of God—Peter Angeles—This book is an anthology of essays regarding God. I give it a mixed review because not all the essays are as well thought out as they could be. Still, they at least give pause to think.

Farewell to God—Charles Templeton—A book from a former deacon who left the church and became a humanist.

The Black Humanist Experience: An Alternative to Religion—Norm R. Allen Jr—A black humanist and one of the leaders of the movement in the black community, Norm Allen and his brother, Dave, believe a good and productive life can be led without resorting to religion or God. A book filled with stories from other humanists from all over the country and world. Good read.

Their Kingdom Come: Inside the Secret World of Opus Dei—Robert Hutchison—You also heard about this organization in the movie the DaVinci Code. It is real and exists. It is quite secretive organization. A stiff read but well worth the effort.

Is God a White Racist—William R. Jones—This one took me by surprise. The title alone threw me for a loop, but after I read it, I found that the question bears answering, especially tied in with today’s idea of liberation theology. Good read.

Why Lord?: Suffering and Evil in Black Theology—Theodicy has to do with suffering under a loving and benevolent God. It is a difficult subject because it challenges why bad things sometimes happen to good people. This book will not make it any better, but you will see that someone is at least trying to explain it in a religious context.

The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason—Sam Harris—Sam Harris is a noted thinker and former theologian who examines the effects of religion on people.

Sex Lives of the Popes—Nigel Cawthorne—This book comes from the same people who brought us “Sex Lives of the Presidents.” I thought it hilarious and interesting. Did you know there was a female pope? Once the Catholic Church had three popes at once. Forbidding priests to marry had nothing to do with Paul. Find out why by reading this short book.

Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist—Dan Barker—An interesting story from start to finish. I expected some big event that changed this man’s life but it wasn’t. It all came about because of knowledge. It’s a fairly simple story, but for the people it affected it created a mass of turmoil of Dan’s decision to leave the ministry.

The First Messiah: Investigating the Savior Before Christ—Michael O. Wise—This research finds Jesus in another era before the Jesus of Christianity and speculates that it is this Jesus the Christian Jesus was modeled after.

Pulpit Confessions—N. Moore—Want to know when to shift gears while preaching? Need to know how to make them dig deeper. Do you know how to whoop? A pulpit exposé on the practice of black preachers to move the congregation. Consider the source.

African American Humanism: An Anthology—Norm R. Allen Jr—Humanism for everyone. An easy to understand anthology of how various African Americans switched to Humanism.

Why I am not a Christian—Bertrand Russell—Classic book by Russell delineates in logical and reasonable fashion why he is not a Christian. Good reading if you have no preconceptions. Hard to take if you are committed. Nevertheless an important read.

The Militant Agnostic—E. Haldeman-Julius—Essays from a newspaper publisher who became an agnostic.

Who Told You that You Were Naked—John Jacob Raub—A look at living a real Christian life by simply doing what is asked of you in the Bible. Interesting read.

All of these books sit on my shelves and along with many more. I try my best to read everything and anything that will expand my mind, including the another person’s opinion that differs from mine. In fact, I find the other guy’s opinion especially helpful in formulating strategies. I never liked Rush Limburger but I listened to him to know what the “ditto” heads were thinking. I don’t agree with much of political rhetoric today but I stay up to date. I may even change my opinion if presented with evidence.

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Comment by Bertold Brautigan on October 17, 2017 at 7:54am

Michael - speaking of Paul, Nietzsche had a fetching thought in The Wanderer and His Shadow:

Paul thought up the idea and Calvin rethought it, that for innumerable people damnation has been decreed from eternity, and that this beautiful world plan was instituted to reveal the glory of God: heaven and hell and humanity are thus supposed to exist - to satisfy the vanity of God! What cruel and insatiable vanity must have flared in the soul of the man who thought this up first, or second. Paul has remained Saul after all - the persecutor of God.

Comment by Michael Penn on October 17, 2017 at 7:32am

The church world has always believed that Peter and Paul were good friends and were like brothers, but they went in separate ways spreading the gospel. My observation would be that Paul came across as a lying kook and that he was much avoided. The church world has always had them banding together like the Power Rangers.

When you remove Paul (Saul of Tarsus) from the NT entirely you seem to have lost the sense of direction that the modern Evangelicals want to go in. Therefore, the believers have a road map when they have their books together telling one big story of everything and how it all came into being.

I like your list. It looks like impressive reading.

Comment by Randall Smith on October 14, 2017 at 6:57am

Thank you, Don. This is a very impressive list. I enjoyed reading the synopses. I've read many of them.

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