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Many people have read the recent spate of books by the men who are being called the "new atheists."
The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. 2006. This noted Oxford biologist argues against scientific proofs of the existence of God, and proclaims that religion is essentially dangerous.
The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason by Sam Harris. 2005. Harris, a student of neuroscience, describes our biological need for spirituality, and goes on to say that not only extremist but also moderate religion is very harmful and should not be tolerated.
God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens. 2007. In this provocative work, Hitchens, like Dawkins and Harris, maintains that there is no reason to believe in God; he got my goat by saying on NPR that just because some people believe in fairies there shouldn't be "fairiologists" on the faculty of the university, and no more should there be theologians. So I had to read his book.
But have you read anything else on the topic lately?
Try some of the following current San Mateo County Library books on belief and non-belief.
Killing the Buddha: A Heretic's Bible by Peter Manseau and Jeff Sharlet. 2004. The authors made a road trip around America, looking for colorful believers and, while they were at it, asking various writers and other artists to rewrite scripture in modern terms.
Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon by Daniel C. Dennett. 2006. Dennett is another well-known atheist, who describes in this book evolutionary theories of the development of religion, then goes on to propose policies to reduce what he regards as its deleterious effects.
The Dawkins Delusion? Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine by Alister E. McGrath and Joann Collicutt McGrath. 2007. The McGraths, English professors (I mean, professors in England), respond to Dawkins' God Delusion in chapters titled, "Has Science Disproved God?", "What Are the Origins of Religion?" and "Is Religion Evil?" They apparently are kinder and gentler to him than the "new atheists" usually are to believers, but argue that he sounds convincing but does not really prove his points.
Everything You Know about God Is Wrong ed. By Russ Kick. 2007. A compilation of controversial essays on religion.
I Don't Believe in Atheists by Chris Hedges. 2008. Hedges, a journalist and divinity school graduate, describes the "new atheists" as fundamentalists just like the most rigid of the believers they criticize; he would like to see more room made for moderation, tolerance and compassion.
God's Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question--Why We Suffer by Bart D. Ehrman. 2008. Ehrman, a prolific scholar of religion and a former pastor, explains how the problem of suffering and the various unsatisfying answers to it in the Bible caused him to lose his faith in God.
Why Faith Matters by David J. Wolpe. Foreword by Rick Warren. 2008. A prominent rabbi answers the "new atheists" kindly and thoughtfully, discussing the history of religions, how they have been a force for good and not just evil in the world, and how faith has helped him in his own battle with cancer.
Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists by Dan Barker. Foreword by Richard Dawkins. 2008.
The Case for God by Karen Armstrong. 2009. Another prolific popular writer on religious subjects, Armstrong here recounts the history of religion and tells how she believes religion, rather than being a threat, can meet the needs of a polarized society and "help us live creatively, peacefully, and even joyously with realities for which there are no easy explanations."
Vaughn Harrison works at Half Moon Bay Library and on the Bookmobile. Her reading interests include anthropology, archaeology, ethnic relations, religion, mysteries, and travel writing.