What books have most influenced your religious, spiritual, and/or skeptical perspective?
Three that have been big for me are A Brief History of Philosophy by Luc Ferry, Why Does the World Exist? by Jim Holt, and Is God a Delusion? by Eric Reitan.
Also, Buddhism as Philosophy by Mark Siderits and The Authenticity of Faith by Richard Beck.
I know of him, but I haven't studied his work.
question my faith.
and would love to hear more about it from your perspective, especially why it should be believed in literally. Feel free to PM me if you'd rather discuss it that way.
Thats the way I experience the divine.
which they interpreted to mean that God had vindicated Jesus and his message, and the legend of Jesus grew in different directions from there.
Anything by Hitchens or Albert Ellis/Epictetus secured my rejection of claims of the supernatural and led me to be a skeptic.
The Gospel According to St. John, and St. Luke as well.
St. Nikolai Kazatkin and the Orthodox Mission to Japan. - forgot author.
St. Innocent of Alaska - forgot author too.
The Lenten Spring, Fr. Thomas Hopko.
It tends to run 50% Greek and 50% English. I memorized some of the liturgy because I went to church three years before I converted.
The service started promptly at 9 am, and ended equally promptly at noon. 95% of it was in Hebrew, a language I neither read nor speak. The sitzfleisch was getting a bit worn by the end.
Marty Haugen hymns, no sound absorption in the confessional so they could hear you loud and clear down the hall, little kid laypeople assisting with Communion and *running* with the boxes of Hosts...
He does a very believable job of blending science with the concept of universal consciousness.
I could have the title wrong by a word or two. I had a discussion about this book with Dennis Kucinich when he was in Seattle campaigning and I was driving around with him. He also loved it.
As a teenager I tried to read it but got so feed-up with the treatment of everyday people, not the "chosen". just yuck!
Gerard Manley Hopkins (184489).
To Christ our Lord
I CAUGHT this morning mornings minion, king-
dom of daylights dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skates heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird,the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!
Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!
No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.
1. The Upanishads
2. Plato's Parable of the Sun
3. Black Elk Speaks
4. Being Peace by Thich Nhat Han
An introductory book on Buddhism which changed the way I saw the world.
Have you continued to study and/or practice Buddhism?
I was anxious, unable to tolerate things like traffic, found it difficult to just be silent, indulged in gossip.
Her book is very, very simple.
Life is hard, suffering is optional. Be silent. Stay in the moment. Don't talk about people.
It had a profound effect on me and it was, indeed, easier than I thought.
I have never gone further with Buddhism, but I have returned to this book over and over again when I saw that my habits were returning.
I have recently been living in Mexico and have gained from the special kind of spirituality that one sees a lot there. It's a combination of Catholicism and indigenous traditions.
I have no religion, but I have definitely benefited from my exposure to many religions.
I was recently living in a town that had a 9 day celebration for their patron saint. The population is only about 2000, but the celebration would bring in people from all the surrounding area.
The first day, they shot off rockets before dawn. This is a tradition that is very old and would call people from the surrounding villages in for services.
During the celebration there was an amazing combination of devotion, religion, celebration, family, food, music and just an amazing feeling of togetherness and thankfulness.
It's hard to explain, but there is not doubt that their faith and belief was a vital part of what was happening.
This is one of the reasons that I am a religionist.
Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, Thomas Merton
Damien the Leper, John Farrow
He seems important and profound, but I tried "The Inner Experience" and a few pages of "New Seeds of Contemplation" and I couldn't really get into it.
Here it is.
Personally, I find knowing where someone comes from is the best away to appreciate the present thoughts.
Conjectures is very good although it addresses the issues that were pressing a half century ago. They haven't really changed much.
It was the first book I read that made me realize it's okay to not be a believer.
In no particular order:
"The Tao Of Pooh" and "The Te Of Piglet" by Hoff & Shepherd (great intro to Taoism using Winnie the Pooh, beloved children's character here).
"X-Men and Philosophy" by Irwin, Housel & Wisnewski (exactly what it says on the cover, great intro if you're a superhero fan).
Terry Pratchett's Discworld book, especially "Pyramids" and the Death series.
"The Devil's Apocrypha" by John A. deVito (came across this when my Luciferian beliefs were already pretty well formed but it remains the single best primer on Luciferian thought)
And what attracted you so strongly to Luciferianism such that you were already formed before encountering that book?
During my early teens, I tried praying to anybody who happened to be listening. The answer I got scared me enough that I spent the next ten years or so trying on all kinds of aiths to see what fit. I tried Christianity (my grandmother, who raised me, was Christian), Taoism (my father is a Taoist), various forms of Neo-Paganism and Reconstructionism, Druidism (which was fun, given how little we know about the Druids) Occultism and, for a while, described myself as an Atheist because it was just simpler than explaining (I'm British, being an atheist here is no big deal). But I still believed in something, I just didn't know how to describe it.
Then my Grimmer (grandmother) got sick. Cancer. And because she was reluctant to go to a doctor (common for when she was raised), she didn't see one until it was too late. And in my anguished howl at the cosmos, I tried praying to whatever it was that had answered me in my teens. Now, you might be getting the wrong idea here so let me correct something: This is not as simple as a teenager mad at god because his grandmother died. I was in my early Twenties and, whille I was angry, that was just what got me through teh door, as it were.
Luciferianism is an experiential faith. That is, it's constructed dynamically by experiences between the individual and the deity rather than handed to you complete as revelatory faiths (such as Christianity) are. Nor is it a case of being simply handed the answers to life, the universe and everything. It's more like the way a good teacher will nudge and cajole you towards enlightenment. And so, over the course of time, I was granted enlightenment. It was revealed to me what the whole rebellion was about, why Father Lucifer fell and what he/she/it continues to fight for.
After that was when I came across the book. I was describing my beliefs on a website called Beliefnet that I used to work for and someone said "it sounds like this book". I read the book and, while there were minor details I disagreed with, it matches my faith almost entirely.
Let me just answer a question which I'm sure has occured to you reading this: Yes, it is entirely possible that I'm just crazy. In fact, I know I'm crazy. I have MDD, GAD, "visions" and voices. I have a whole stack of paperwork to prove my craziness. But my faith was formed mostly before my mind collapsed on itself and my current drug regime includes a hefty dose of anti-psychotics which would tend to mitigate against the "I'm nuts" response.
Moreover, I'm happy with my faith. That might sound odd coming from an admittedly crazy guy who worships the ultimate rebel in a possibly unwinnable war but it's true. My faith explains to me why the world is the way it is, why prayer is not enough help to give people. It provides a code to live by and a purpose to live for (which is not to say that others don't have their own codes and meanings, just that these are mine). It doesn't require me to ignore science or try to force my faith on others (the right to moral self-determination being central to the faith). My faith brings me peace (or as much peace as a guy with my problems can have anyway).
The Bible, especially the Acts of Apostles, the Gospel of John and the Epistle of St. James
Seven Story Mountain by Thomas Merton
The Long Loneliness by Dorothy Day
The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom
The Trapp Family Singers by Maria von Trapp
The Road to Emmaus by ??
Brother Petroc's Return by S.M.C.
Several novels by Fr. Andy Greeley
These are the ones that come to mind-but I'm sure that there are others that have helped to form me.
there was a set of books in the school library (this was back when schools wanted us to think for ourselves). I've wished for years I could remember the name or author, but I can't. Each volume of the set was the history and beliefs of a different religion -- western as well as eastern. Each religion professing that it had the direct pipeline to god and heaven. I read each one and ultimately decided that they can't all be right and to pick the "right" one would be impossible. So I rejected them all. I then read The Golden Bough by James Fraser which examines the origins of religious belief and why humans adopted such beliefs. I've been an atheist ever since.
Why I Am Not a Christian - Bertrand Russell
Slaughter House Five - Kurt Vonnegut
Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
Breakfast of Champions - Kurt Vonnegut
Letters From Earth - Samuel Clemmens (Mark Twain)
Blood Meridian - Cormac McCarthy
Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years - Diarmaid MacCulloch
God Is Not Great - Christopher Hitchens
Chaos: A Very Short Introduction - Leonard Smith
The Selfish Gene - Richard Dawkins
There's more, of course, but these are the ones that immediately spring to mind.
I picked it up after Christopher Hitchens spoke highly of it in a debate. MacCulloch is a fairly ardent believer, and occasionally makes ridiculous claims (e.g. Christ must have been divine because so many people believe it, etc.), but for the most part the book is a very objective treatment of the history of the religion, and the author does not shy away from the nastier bits of Christian history.
My upbringing was secular and devoid of any kind of cultivated connection to religious or spiritual traditions. I'm very curious about what it would have been like to have those deep emotional ties.
Is it, in your experience? Do you ever wonder what it would be like to have been raised without? It doesn't seem like something you could build after the fact. Either you have it or you don't. Or do you think that its never to late to grow those roots?
I do think that a person who has that "from birth" experience is very fortunate, but I've also seen adult converts to several other religions whose experience seemed to be less a change than a homecoming.
Without that experience, I think it might have taken me much longer to arrive at environmental and human rights activism. I probably would have gotten there either through my Ursuline education or my dad's Episcopal Church, but I think it might not have been such an effortless extension of what I already believed.
When I began my spiritual quest, I considered and rejected Unitarian Universalism on the grounds that I already agreed with it, and I was looking for something different. Today? I'm a Unitarian Universalist.
in its ability to accommodate a wide varity of beliefs and even "naturalize," for want of a better word, elements from other religions. One of my students, for example, came to the conclusion that the Lakota White Buffalo Calf Woman and Our Lady of Guadalupe are the same sacred teacher who showed herself in different forms to different cultures.
I don't have to leave if my ideas change. I didn't realize NA religion was like that also. Neat!
by Christopher Isherwood Read it a little over 20 years ago, out of print now I think, but can usually find it in libraries. Worth a read.
The Way of the Bodhisattva, Shanti Deva, When God Was A Woman, Merlin Stone
I think it would be Thomas Cahill's Hinges of History series, especially How The Irish Saved Civilization, and Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus.
And Christopher Moore's Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal -- a satire with a gentle look at Christ as a very human man.
The Tao Te Ching by Lao Tsu
The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine
Letters from the Earth by Mark Twain
and the rest of Quinn's books as well, but B really lays out his philosophy the most completely, IMO.
More like it's more on-topic to your OP
I also read B before Ishmael so for me, it serves as my introduction to his philosophy.
Thanks for the thread BTW, some great references in here, i will bookmark!
Summa Theologica of Thomas Aguinas, which I studied, rather than read, years ago
The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola, which has been the basis of my retreats in recent years.
of books to make both the Summa and Ignatian spirituality easier for a newcomer to understand and appreciate?
I was helped along in both instances by a teacher or retreat master.
Perhaps someone here can suggest appropriate resources.
Thanks for introducing this question. - Very interesting and thoughtful replies.
For a non-scientist, he's both very scientific-minded as well as an accessible writer who had the respect of others like Carl Sagan. I think he's wrong on a few minor points (like not being able to prove a negative), but you gotta love the old coot. I come from a background of both firmly rooted science education as well as a love of performing magic, and his writings have helped me develop my own methods and lines of thought concerning dealing with the supernatural.
The Dragons of Eden by Carl Sagan
Why I am not a Christian by Bertrand Russell
What I found within those pages was the realization that I wasn't alone in disbelief, that there were quite a few of us even though we had to be more circumspect than Russell, but that disbelief was nothing to be ashamed of.
I haven't read any of his work, but I understand he was a great philosopher.
might find references to life in the 1940s horribly dated.
"Mysticism" the classic by Evelyn Underwood.
both are about mysticism, which is the truth of the spiritual experience, IMHO. One, Sufism, one, Christian mysticism.
"The Varieties of Religious Experience". William James. Another classic.
"Be Here Now". Ram Dass.
Real life experiences were much more influential than books, however.
Apologia Pro Vita Sua -- either "a defense of his life" or "an explanation of his life" -- by Cardinal Newman. In the 1860s, Charles Kingsley (best known for the novel The Water-Babies) attacked Newman for repeatedly saying one thing at one time, and another -- even the opposite -- at another time. Newman wrote about how he grew spiritually and intellectually, explaining how and why he came to change his mind on various subjects. Considerably later, and in quite different circumstances, G. K. Chesterton wrote, "A man may well be less convinced of a philosophy from four books, than from one book, one battle, one landscape, and one old friend." This echoes throughout Newman's Apologia.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer's The Cost of Discipleship. About what the Christian is called to do if his or her claim to being a Christian is genuine. Bonhoeffer himself was executed by the Nazis, basically because he took his Christianity seriously. The section on "cheap grace" is particularly noteworthy.
Several books by Thomas Merton, especially Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, which taught me much about Christian mysticism; and Zen and the Birds of Appetite, which introduced me to Zen.
One not on spiritual growth is Papal Sin by Garry Wills. This is about honesty and the lack of it in the Vatican. It confirmed many of my own ideas -- basically that all too often, the papacy does not teach or preach honestly. I know Wills, and he and I see eye-to-eye on this subject. (Wills, interestingly enough, is quite conservative politically. But I forgive him his lapse in judgment.)
Sure, I read the bible, greek/roman/norse mythology growing up and that was all great fun and all, but I never had an explanation for how in the hell anyone with the capacity to read those books ever came to find truth in them.
Then I discovered memory/perception research and I began to understand what Dostoyevsky meant when he wrote of his seizures as being in the presence of god. He knew what a seizure was. He knew he had them. He wrote that into one of his characters in TBK. But to him, to his injured perception in the throes of all his neurons firing pathologically, it was real. To him it was real.
On a lesser but important note, another great book that helped me see the horrific scapegoating nature of Christianity, is that very book, The Brothers Karamazov.
Again, Dostoyevsky, a believer, laid out the most damaging case against the moral proposition of 'salvation' as detailed in the New Testament.
"I would seek to return the price of the ticket"
A humble, but powerful torpedo amidships of the concept that Christianity has anything moral to offer at all.
Then there were the misspent hours in Manchester Central Library with the Golden Bough.
The discovery of Tielhard de Chardin's "The Phenomenon of Man".
Popper, "The Logic of Scientific Discovery"
Both the book and series "The Ascent of Man" by Bronowski.
Then there was the Tao Te Ching.
A lot of other authors and works have contributed in more recent times.
Spent many hours there discovering a world that I wasn't finding at school.
Also loved Bronowski's "Ascent of Man"
And of course the Bible was a major turn off in terms of my desire to believe.
is the second I can think of. I've read some apologist literature at times, out of curiosity, C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton for the obvious ones, Lee Strobel and Ravi Zacharias are two other authors I remember. My impression on their works are how bad their arguments are. I generally don't have an interest in atheist literature.
The bible. I read it sometime in high school. This was after I had taken all the history classes demonstrating the evils of slavery, genocide and other things. So reading the bible with the commands from god to do all the things I had been taught were the epitome of evil as well as detailed instructions on obtaining and keeping slaves (You can beat them as much as you like as long as they don't die within a few days of their last beating!) left me with a lot of questions. Questions which future books helped answer.