10 Books About Atheism You’ll Want for Christmas November 29, 2008

10 Books About Atheism You’ll Want for Christmas

Yeah, you don’t technically celebrate Christmas, but that won’t stop you from asking for presents or buying something for yourself.

Here’s are some of my recommendations for atheist books you’ll want this holiday season. (And by that, I mean I want them this holiday season.) Some of them have been around for a while, some you probably haven’t heard of, and some won’t be published until next year (but you can pre-order them now).

Raising Freethinkers: A Practical Guide for Parenting Beyond Belief (by Dale McGowan)

This book, by the author of Parenting Beyond Belief, takes secular parenting to a new level. It deals with issues such as moral development without religion, death, and dealing with religious people (including extended family members). Also included is a list of over 100 activities non-religious parents can do with their children (the activities are specific to secular parents, I presume).

Everything You Know About God Is Wrong: The Disinformation Guide to Religion (edited by Russ Kick)

This is an easy-to-read collection of writings about atheism and the problems with religion (contributors include Richard Dawkins and Neil Gaiman). The pieces are quick and snappy; perfect for toilet reading.

Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists (by Dan Barker)

This is about the journey from fundamental Christianity to hardcore atheism, as written by the co-president of the Freedom From Religion Foundation. He describes his former self as the type of Christian you “wouldn’t want to sit next to on a bus” so it’s amazing to read how he became non-religious coming from that world. Even more touching is the chapter on how he explained that decision to friends and family members who couldn’t believe what he was doing.

Forbidden Fruit: The Ethics of Secularism (by Paul Kurtz)

Kurtz is the founder/chairman of the Council for Secular Humanism and the Center for Inquiry. In this book, he explains why God is not necessary to explain secular morality. The topics covered include animal rights and sexual/reproductive freedom. It’s heavier reading than other books on this list, but you’ll finish it feeling optimistic and appreciative of being a Humanist.

Disbelief 101: A Young Person’s Guide to Atheism (by S.C. Hitchcock)

This one won’t be available for a while, but I’m looking forward to it. It’s essentially The God Delusion-lite — More humorous, however, and with several illustrations.

(On a side note, I’m curious who designed the cover image. While it might appeal to teenagers, it not-so-subtlely perpetuates the notion that atheists are vandals. That’s not the intention, of course. Still, it’s not a very positive image…)

The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever (selected by Christopher Hitchens)

This book is a collection of some of the best writing by atheists throughout history — from David Hume and Bertrand Russell to Penn Jillette and Ayaan Hirsi Ali. In case you don’t want the entire book, you can read many of those essays (at least the ones that are in the public domain) online.

Christian No More: On Leaving Christianity, Debunking Christianity, and Embracing Atheism and Freethinking (by Jeffrey Mark)

Another strong book about a Christian who became an atheist. This one discusses specific church doctrine and Christians beliefs as well as the misconceptions many Christians have about science and the scientific method.

Atheism Advanced: Further Thoughts of a Freethinker (by David Eller)

This book is for those of us who’ve already read all the “atheist primer” books. We know the basic arguments in favor of atheism. Now we want more. Questions raised and answered in this book include: “Why must Atheists stop ‘speaking Christian?'” and “How are gods created, and are they being manufactured today?”

The Secular Conscience: Why Belief Belongs in Public Life (by Austin Dacey)

This is a manual on how and why non-religious people should pursue a progressive agenda. Obviously, one would expect atheists to stand up for reason and science and chuch/state separation. But Dacey also explains why we ought to support “freedom of belief, personal autonomy, equality, toleration, and self-criticism.” Religion isn’t the only framework for those morals and we need a resurgence in secular morality, he argues.

Living Without God: New Directions for Atheists, Agnostics, Secularists, and the Undecided (by Ronald Aronson)

This book isn’t about being an anti-theist. It’s focused on positive atheism. Aronson talks about the inequalities in our world and why they are there, what we can hope for with a secular worldview, and what we ought to be doing to make this world better.

Do you have any additional recommendations?

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  • Kate


    I Sold My Soul on eBay, maybe??? I surely enjoyed it. 😉

  • Scott LIchtenstein

    One book you forgot is the book I consider to be the seminal treatise on Atheism. It’s George H. Smith’s “Atheism: The Case Against God.”

    Not only does it discuss the major philosophical arguing points in satisfactory depth, but it serves as a good primer to certain areas of philosophy, period.

  • JimboB

    I’m sure you mentioned it somewhere else on your blog before, but I would recommend “The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality” by Andre Comte-Sponville.
    A great read for your inner philosopher, though I didn’t agree with everything in the book.

  • I was shooting for books that were more recently released — not just any and every atheist book 🙂 That might explain some of the decisions.

  • tamarind

    Yeah, you don’t technically celebrate Christmas

    Umm, says who? You might not have meant it this way, but I’m getting a little annoyed at atheist authorities acting as if atheists as a group don’t celebrate Christmas. Some do, some don’t. I’ve heard it said from a couple of prominent atheists now, and I wish they’d just speak for themselves.

  • Dave

    I don’t think I could handle reading all those…After like 2 or 3 books I got the point and moved on to books like The Selfish Gene. Right now I’m reading the Moral Animal.

  • Kate

    Pshhhh whatever, Hemant. Your book is my most-frequently recommended book for my atheist friends (and ministers and even religious people!!!). 😉

  • J Myers
  • “Why I became an Atheist” by John Loftus.

    It’s not about getting a laugh out of religion, or teaching people about atheism. It’s about making the arguments that have the best chance of persuading informed evangelicals. IMO, this is the most important goal facing atheistic authors who are seeking to bring about change.

  • Kate beat me to it. I Sold My Soul on eBay is a wonderful book for Atheists and also a great gift from Atheists to religious friends.

    I forget the author’s name, but I’d remember it if I saw it. 😉

  • swizzlenuts

    Guy P. Harrison’s book 50 Reasons People Give for Believing in a God

  • The atheist book industry seems to be growing by leaps and bounds, yet it’s still almost all nonfiction. Is it because atheists are just so obsessed with reality? Or because most sci-fi is secretly atheist fiction? 😉

  • Hermes

    C.L. Hanson: “Is it because atheists are just so obsessed with reality? Or because most sci-fi is secretly atheist fiction?”

    Or fantasy for that matter; the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman comes to mind.

    I’m tossing around an idea myself including plot lines and character sketches, though it’s very hard to decide where to draw the line between what is allowed in the fantasy universe and what is not. The obsession with reality you mention is definitely there; my imagination is wild, but I know when I’m not being realistic.

  • Aspentroll

    Tamarind stated:

    “Umm, says who? You might not have meant it this way, but I’m getting a little annoyed at atheist authorities acting as if atheists as a group don’t celebrate Christmas. Some do, some don’t. I’ve heard it said from a couple of prominent atheists now, and I wish they’d just speak for themselves.”

    Aren’t you being a tad touchy about the idea of not celebrating Xmas?

    The very word Christmas, indicates
    the birthday of Christ, probably the most holy day next to Easter as being the whole reason to be Christian. If you’re annoyed by this line of thought maybe you should rethink your religious views
    and become deluded again.
    I have never been religious and like the idea of having a holiday to re-unite with old friends and family over a nice meal etc. But to become annoyed because “atheist authorities”, who ever they are, are trying to control whether you
    have Christmas or not, is unusual.
    But I guess you could be a new convert to atheism and still have some doubts.

  • Jeff Satterley

    Have to recommend Tricks of the Mind by Derren Brown. Not about religion, but talks a lot about human suggestibility, and other interesting cognitive characteristics, in terms of magic, illusions, mind-reading, etc. If you’ve even seen his show, you know a little of his personality. His writing is sometimes a bit redundant, but he is very funny and clever, and the content is interesting and very useful. (The section on memory contains a number of techniques that I am using now.)

    He does use religion as an example on multiple occasions, and is a big Richard Dawkins fan. The book even includes caricatures he has drawn of both Dawkins and Bertrand Russell, which are quite good (at least I think so).

  • I just want to say that I’m flattered to see my book listed here! (Christian No More)

    Thanks Hemant!

    Jeff Mark

  • C.L. Hanson said: “Or because most sci-fi is secretly atheist fiction?”

    I read something funny a few years ago where somebody complained that most popular fiction and most movies don’t have a religious element where the protagonists pray to God to ultimately solve the problem. I imagined some pretty funny movies, like Indiana Jones being trapped and the bad guys are about to kill him, and he just can’t get free. And instead of resorting to some amazing feat involving a whip and the element of surprise, he sits back, prays to God, and a lightning bolt strikes the bad guys dead and he goes on his merry way.

  • It’s not an “atheist book”, but I’d highly recommend Monkey Girl by Edward Humes. It’s about the 2005 Dover trial, and the subtitle reads “Evolution, education, religion, and the battle for America’s soul”. I’ve never before read a nonfiction book that’s this hard to put down!

  • Suzie Rex

    Looks like no one has commented for a long time. How about a new book: Who Do I Think I Am? Not religion versus atheism, but a bigger picture. Nature vs. the Supernatural. I got a promo copy, but it’s available at Blurb.com. Funny; full color photos, essays. Dig it!

  • Funny headline, Atheist books for Christmas. LOL

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