Ohai! It’s another midwinter holiday gift giving season, and you’ve probably got a reader or dozen on your list. Did they give you some titles? Fantastic! Gift giving shall be easy, and if you purchase through this link, you can get your gifties and support ye olde blog, too. No list? No problem! I’ve got you covered with a super-awesome, super-gargantuan guide to many books suitable for secular gifting.
Through the next couple of weeks, I’ll be updating our lists with additional titles. Here’s a wonderland of atheist books not previously listed in our Super-Gargantuan Guides!
In this section, you’ll find books on religion, wherein religion decidedly does not come out on top.
Among the Creationists: Dispatches from the Anti-Evolutionist Front Line by Jason Rosenhouse
Jason Rosenhouse went to creationist conferences so we don’t have to. Behind every Ken Ham is a gathering of ordinary people doing their best to understand the world within the constraints of their faith. They’re factually wrong on most things, but relatable. This is an excellent book for those who want to get inside the creationist world, and have their ideas directly contrasted with actual science. The e-book sample has a full outline, which is handy for helping you decide if this is the right book. Also see this Panda’s Thumb review.
Despite the title, these books are definitely not for children – unless, that is, you feel comfortable letting kids read the Bible. The authors, an interfaith group including an agnostic former Catholic, juxtapose some pretty horrible verses with whimsical illustrations in a children’s book style. Material is sampled from both the Old and New Testaments. These are a fabulous way to get people to confront what’s really in their Bible. They would pair very well with copies of Really Terrible Bible Stories volumes 1 and 2. Here’s a great review from the Christian Post.
The Brick Bible by Brendan Powell Smith
This is a straight-up telling of the Bible, illustrated with LEGOs. It would make an excellent and unique gift for those with faithful, LEGO-loving Christian family members. There’s a certainly clarity that comes with using toys to illustrate these verses. Bloody battle scenes played out by children’s toys suddenly seem rather more disturbing than holy. It might start some gears turning. Also, you get things like the archangel Gabriel with a five o’clock shadow – details like these make the book a delight for the heathen as well as the holy. Oh, and the books were written and illustrated by an atheist trans woman, so you’re supporting one of our own with your purchase! Awesome review by a Catholic mom having conniptions over what’s in her own holy book here.
Daughters of Zion: A Family’s Conversion To Polygamy by Kim Taylor
So, we all know how bad child rapist Warren Jeffs’s FLDS is: child brides; physical, sexual, spiritual, and emotional abuse; rigidly-constrained lives; and little hope of escape. Well, there are sects of polygamous Mormons who combine all that with the murder and mayhem Jeffs was unable to unleash before he was captured. Kim Taylor’s book starts with a young woman sent on a holy mission to kill. It’s a rare look inside the enclave of expat Fundamentalist Mormons who settled in Mexico and allowed their prophet to incite them to unimaginable violence. Harrowing but sympathetic review here.
The End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount by Gershom Gorenberg
This is a handy guide to the fundamentalist branches of the three big monotheistic religions, each of whom has mutually incompatible ideas of how the Temple Mount in Jerusalem should be used. All of them have religious beliefs that see this place as critical to their faith – as if God couldn’t work around any wrenches mortals throw into his works. Anyone interested in Middle Eastern religion, history, and conflict should appreciate this one. Useful review here.
Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion, edited by Ronald L. Numbers
An eminently useful compendium of myth versus fact. Anyone interested in the conflicts between science and religion and wants to get the history right would be delighted to have this tome. Thorough review by Jason Rosenhouse here.
God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible by Adam Nicolson
A lot of Christian sects take the King James Version to be the Truly Holy Bible, practically written by God hisownself. But it was definitely a human endeavor. And Adam Nicolson shows how the sausage was made. This would make a suitably subversive gift for that true believer in your family. Excellent review here.
Do you or yours need a concise history of the culture wars? Look no further than our own Mano Singham’s handy book! It explores the religious right’s war on evolution education from the origins of opposition to The Origin to the aftermath of Dover v. Kitzmiller. This would be an especially good book for someone just entering the fray, or anyone wanting to know how things got this way. Very helpful review here.
“It’s Not About the Sex” My Ass by Joanne Hanks and Steve Cuno
This one comes as something of a relief after all the harrowing FLDS tales we’ve read on this blog! Joanne Hanks tells of her time in a polygamous Mormon cult (this time the TLC) with biting humor and splendid irreverence. The subject matter is still awful. The religious figures are terrible. There’s questionable and downright illegal stuff. But Joanne escaped, and took her sense of humor with her. And she utterly demolishes this religious bullshit with unstoppable sarcasm. Review here.
Escape by Carolyn Jessop and Laura Palmer
“I was born into a radical polygamist cult,” Carolyn writes on the cover of her book. “At eighteen, I became the fourth wife of a fifty-year-old man. I had eight children in fifteen years. When our leader began to preach the apocalypse, I knew I had to get them out…” If you’ve been following our review series, you know how desperate her plight is, how awful being trapped in the FLDS with no way out is. This is a must for anyone interested in the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints.
Lost Boy: The True Story of One Man’s Exile from a Polygamist Cult and His Brave Journey to Reclaim His Life by Brent W. Jeffs and Maia Szalavitz
Many books on the FLDS are written by the women who escaped, and there’s no doubt that women and girls suffer the bulk of the abuse in that sect. But in a polygamous system, surplus boys are inevitable. They have to be got rid of somehow. And not even being the prophet’s grandson will save you. Brent Jeffs, nephew of Warren Jeffs, learns this as a young child, when his uncle singles him out for repeated rapes. As a broken young man, he was eventually pushed out to become one of the FLDS’s many “Lost Boys.” His story is horrifying, but with his wife’s help, he finds the strength to put his shattered life together, and eventually takes on his uncle and the church in a court of law. Review here.
This is really a neat look at the FLDS from the outside. Sam Brower is a private investigator who ended up fighting the FLDS leadership for nearly a decade. He helped a man and his family keep their home after being excommunicated – the saga of how the church leadership tried to harass him out of town gives you a stunning glimpse at their all-round awfulness. You see how shady and corrupt the church is, how they use threats, intimidation, and muscle to keep people both in and outside of the church in line, and how much effort it took to bring Warren Jeffs down. We get to see some of the people we’ve met through other books (Elissa Wall, Rebecca Musser, and Brent Jeffs) as they all do their part to put a stop the Jeffs’s predations. It’s an utterly fascinating read. Review here.
The Canadian FLDS town of Bountiful often gets mentioned in American FLDS memoirs. Reporter Daphne Bramham delves deep into the sordid history and unveils it, showing how it connects to the American branch. She details the child brides and lost boys, and the dismal lack of education that (purposefully) keeps so many people trapped. Review here.
The Witness Wore Red: The 19th Wife Who Brought Polygamous Cult Leaders to Justice by Rebecca Musser and M. Bridget Cook
In this book, we get to see the lives of FLDS prophets’ wives up close, and we see Warren Jeffs as he rises to power and takes over the sect. Rebecca Musser’s story is a tale of endless courage: not only does she have to escape Warren’s advances and find her way out of the cult, she eventually takes him head-on in court. Showing the spirit a lifetime in the FLDS couldn’t kill, she dresses in his least favorite color – red – for every court appearance. My full review is here.
Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer
If that certain someone on your list likes a little true crime with their religious nonsense, I have just the book! This is a sordid tale about a Mormon splinter group and its murderous adherents. See my full review here.
Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence by Mark Juergensmeyer
With the rise of religious terrorism, a book on the subject can be quite helpful. And this one reminds us that 1. Religion isn’t the only cause, but it sure can make violence worse; 2. Muslims aren’t the only religious terrorists out there (plenty of Christians, Jews, Sikhs, and Buddhists in the mix); and 3. All these religious terrorists have plenty in common, despite the differences in their beliefs. An essential read for those concerned about violence in the name of God(s). Also, quite relevant to us after this most recent attack on Planned Parenthood, the book includes plenty of information on Army of God asshole Mike Bray, whose work has helped inspire so many abortion clinic murderers. Review here.