Dana’s Super-Gargantuan Guide to Atheist Books Suitable for Gift-Giving (Part II)

We covered a lot of territory with Part I of our super-duper guide, and yet it’s only a tiny fraction of the available awesome. There’s still a universe of books to be explored. Today, we’re going to fight some culture wars, become even better social justice warriors, and then gorge on some history with a little mythicism for dessert. Let’s go!

Image shows a cat sprawled full-length in a library. Caption says, "They'z alphabetized. U happy now?"


Table of Contents:

Culture Wars

Diversity and Social Justice

History of Freethought

Jesus: Myth or Man?


Culture Wars


Why Are You Atheists So Angry? by Greta Christina.

I can’t believe some of you thought I wouldn’t remember Greta’s excellent book on all those things that piss us off. Do you have a friend or relation who wonders why atheists seem angry? Do you need to get your angry thoughts in order? All of you will benefit from this book. Give it freely.

Mah review here.

Marriage: A History by Stephanie Coontz

This is an excellent book for shattering the notion that there’s any such thing as “traditional marriage.” In it, we learn that marriage has always been in crisis, probably since about five minutes after the first human couple got married. There’s nothing new under the marital sun: this heterosexual nuclear family thingy is the real oddball. In these pages, Stephanie Coontz explores the smorgasbord that is marriage throughout the world, and discovers that traditional marriage is really in the eye of the beholder, even if you ignore all of those different types from the ancient times of a few centuries ago. This book contains truths inconvenient to culture warriors. And that is why it’s a book every atheist should have handy.

Dishonest to God by Mary Warnock

This is a very British book, investigating the intersection of religion and public policy in a country where, despite an established church, secularism is strong and fundie religion rather weak. Despite Warnock not being a fire-breathing New Atheist, and rather more indulgent towards religion than many of us atheist activist types feel comfortable about, she argues strongly that morality must be decoupled from religion when it comes to the law. Eminently sensible, and containing good ideas suitable for all countries.

Taking Liberties: Why Religious Freedom Doesn’t Give You the Right to Tell Other People What to Do by Robert Boston

Robert Boston’s thesis is simple: “Religion is not the problem. Fundamentalist religion that seeks to merge with political power and impose its dogma on the unwilling is the problem. I have a big one with anyone who considers the raw power of government an appropriate vehicle for evangelism.”

This book goes a long way toward ensuring we have the awareness and ability to stop and reverse this trend toward theocracy.

Mah review here.

The Devil in Dover: An Insider’s Story of Dogma V. Darwin in Small-town America by Lauri Lebo

This is a clear, gripping account of the landmark Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District trial that kicked Intelligent Design out of public schools. Lauri Lebo was on the ground in Dover, part of the community, and was there for every bit of the trial. She sees it as not God vs. Science, but Truth vs. Lies, and shows vividly how the truth won. Unfortunately, it didn’t convince committed fundamentalists like her father, but science classes didn’t have to spread lies in America due to the efforts of a group of remarkable parents and scientists who stood fast for the truth.

Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights by Katha Pollitt

Katha Pollitt’s hard-hitting book on reproductive rights puts women solidly at the center of the abortion talk. She seeks to shift the dialogue from treating abortion as a bad thing to speaking of it as a common and necessary medical procedure. She dispels myths about abortion, shows us that abortion opponents are more than just anti-abortion, and reframes motherhood. And she issues a call to arms for pro-choicers: if we don’t get up and act, we’ll lose the last of the rights we have.

Crow After Roe: How “Separate But Equal” Has Become the New Standard In Women’s Health And How We Can Change That by Jessica Pieklo and Robin Marty

This is a fierce survey of attacks on abortion rights in the United States and a rousing call to arms for women’s rights. It makes the case that reproductive rights include sex and family planning, not just abortion. Specific attacks on women’s reproductive rights in various states are shown, demonstrating how our right to bodily autonomy is being eroded. The book shows that we’ve got a two-tiered system in which women lack the rights that men have, and how the right to privacy isn’t a strong enough basis for protecting us against incursions on our reproductive rights.

Among the Creationists: Dispatches from the Anti-Evolutionist Front Line by Jason Rosenhouse

These are the reports of a mathematician attending creationist conferences. Jason Rosenhouse has spent years studying creationists and busting their bad science. Now he’s written a memoir of those experiences, wherein he explains creationists’ beliefs, clears up some common misconceptions about them, and discusses the relationship between science and religion. He includes both young earth creationism and intelligent design. This isn’t an accommodationist book, and Jason shows that science doesn’t compromise, but it may be somewhat comfy for those who have warm fuzzies toward “cultural religion.”

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Diversity and Social Justice


Does God Hate Women? by Ophelia Benson and Jeremy Stangroom

A gut-shot of a book, in which Ophelia and her coauthor show us the religious terror perpetrated upon women. It slays the “cultural” argument for brutal practices and gives religion no quarter. Its main focus is on Islam, but it also blasts Orthodox Judaism, Hinduism, the FLDS branch of Mormonism, Catholicism, and more. It shines a very harsh light on the fact that, actually, according to most of the World’s Great Religions™, God does indeed hate women.

Women Without Superstition by Annie Laurie Gaylor.

You know how people are always having a hard time remembering that women have been doing the atheism thing for half of forever, too? Give them this book. It has 51 female freethinkers in it. It spans a slice of history from just before Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein up to our own Taslima Nasrin. It includes both bios and excerpts, and if you walk away from it without being able to recite the names of at least a dozen hugely influential freethinking women, you didn’t read the damn book.

Moral Combat by Sikivu Hutchinson.

An excellent book exploring black infidels and African American secular thought, which fiercely challenges religion’s stranglehold on morality. Social justice is crucial in minority communities, and this book shows that secular humanism can step up to fight for that justice, no religion necessary. And you’ll see how atheists of color are providing an alternative to the unrelenting whiteness of new atheism.

Freedom to Love for All by Yemisi Ilesanmi.

Written for an African audience, this tome will be quite helpful for anyone with African friends or family, or those interested in political struggles for equality in Africa. But it’s broad enough to be of use to anyone fighting that battle anywhere fundies rear up and attempt to legislate their morality. It debunks some of the common myths fundies love to spread: that homosexuality et al is unnatural, that gay marriage is a slippery slope to a whole new definition of animal husbandry, and that if the majority of people support so-called “traditional marriage,” that somehow gives them a license to discriminate. This book, while not large, accomplishes a lot.

Woe to the Women: The Bible, Female Sexuality and the Law by Annie Laurie Gaylor

You know the Bible isn’t particularly kind to women. This book takes all 200+ misogynist Bible passages and exposes their terrible teachings, plus all the awful stereotypes. Do you want to see how the Christians’ favorite holy book treats women like property, excuses sexual assault, and treats abortion? You’ll find all that and more within these pages. Annie Laurie Gaylor also examines the “macho” standards forced on and harming men, which will be nice for those gents who always scream “What about teh menz?!”

A Brief History of Misogyny: The World’s Oldest Prejudice by Jack Holland

Jack Holland’s powerful final book traces the history of misogyny, beginning with Greek and Hebrew myths that blamed the supposed fall of mankind on women (Pandora and Eve). Mostly focusing on Western Civilization, from ancient Rome to early Christianity, up through the Victorian and modern ages, the book shows how philosophers and serial killers share a common idea about women.

Delusions of Gender: The Real Science Behind Sex Differences by Cordelia Fine

You’re in for a treat – this book is sharp, funny, and smart from the very first pages. “Ta-da! Is this your emotion?” will now be part of your schtick forever. Cordelia Fine explodes shoddy science about innate gender differences, and shows how time and time again, assumed female inferiority has proven to be an artifact of culture, education, and opportunity – not biology. She shows how the social context influences the way we experience and understand gender. The science of sex differences is explored, and we see there are plenty of bad assumptions and problems with the supposed proof that men and women are born with vastly different brains.

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History of Freethought


Doubt: A History by Jennifer Michael Hecht.

This is a sweeping study of religious doubt, spanning the Ancient Greeks up through the Jews, the Romans, and even Asian doubters. You’ll meet freethinkers you didn’t even know existed, from 600 BC until the present. This is a most helpful book for understanding that doubt isn’t a modern invention. History’s full o’ freethinkers, and we are in excellent company. There is a fine tradition of doubt behind us. This book demonstrates that doubt is part of our humanity. It’s a strangely comforting truth after doubt has been so demonized by demagogues for so very long.

Freethinkers by Susan Jacoby.

Did you know American history is full of freethinkers? No? Well, Susan Jacoby aims to remedy that. This book covers the entire period of America’s history from the first European settlers to the present. It explores the important contributions secularists have made to movements such as Abolition and feminism. You’ll see the history of the culture wars beginning with the religious opposition to evolution, and be reminded that America, for all its devout citizens, has always been a land of freethinkers.

You should totally give this book to Uncle “America’s a Christian nation!” Ralph.

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Jesus: Myth or Man?

Proving History: Bayes’s Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus by Richard Carrier

This book is perfect for the historian in your family. The quest for the truth about Jesus – was there a historical man, or only a myth? – to show how Bayes’s Theorem can be used to determine which possibility is likely correct. It answers some of the technical questions about the applicability and application of Bayes’s Theorem to historical studies. This is basically a prequel to Richard’s next book, which pits man vs. myth.

On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt by Richard Carrier

This is the second book that your happy historian can get blissfully lost in. For a very long time, in fact, as it is over 700 pages. Using the techniques discussed in Proving History, it tests the most minimal, defensible version of the historicity of Jesus against the similarly most minimal case for Jesus as myth. This is a peer-reviewed book of serious scholarship, but written in language easy enough for layfolk to understand, and uses examples such as King Arthur and Haile Selassie to show how the evidence could go either way. It shows how figures like Moses, traditionally considered to be historical figures, are now known to have most likely been mythical all along. It explores in-depth what we currently know about the origin of Christianity and its context, and looks at the biblical and extrabiblical evidence we have to discover whether a man named Jesus inspired Christianity, or whether he’s been a myth all along.

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Back to Part I.
Continue to Part III.

Dana’s Super-Gargantuan Guide to Atheist Books Suitable for Gift-Giving (Part II)

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