Which Books Helped You Become an Atheist?

There are a variety of reasons for a religious person to question his or her beliefs: A friend’s reasoning, a personal tragedy, disillusionment with church, etc. Sometimes, this questioning leads to the person becoming an atheist.

For some of you, your flippage was hastened by a good book. (Maybe it was the Good Book.)

If there was a book or two that helped turn your religious beliefs upside-down, leave the name/author in the comments. A reason it helped you would be nice, too.

I’ll compile the list in another post later in the week.


[tags]atheist, atheism[/tags]

  • http://atheismandcoffee.blogspot.com overcaffein8d

    The Bible. Read it cover to cover objectively and critically. Need I say more?

  • http://www.xanga.com/andrea_thatonegirl Andrea

    After having been raised for 18 years in a fundie church, you’d think that would be enough. But I had developed Battered Believer’s Syndrome. (It’s exactly like battered spouse syndrome, but with God.) It took the online book on this website http://www.godvsthebible.com/ to help me break free. It’s still a struggle, but I am growing each day.

  • Josh

    The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Although I have to say my faith was wavering and unstable for several years before reading it. I guess the book just took me over the edge towards atheism.

  • Mriana

    It was a journey of many different books. It wasn’t just one book. Believe it or not, Bishop John Shelby Spong and Tom Harpur’s (both of the Episcopal Church) books helped. Acharya S’s books, Bob Price’s, and a few others too. Not only that, I’ve studied a variety of religions. They are all basically of the same template. Not a whole lot of difference in them, except some religions are older. Even worse, what is now myth (Egyptian, Babylonian, etc myths) they are basically the same thing too. It’s all rewritten fiction.

    Why not Richard Dawkins? I’ve read the God Delusion and except for the science, he wrote what I already have thought and said for a long time now. It wasn’t any different.

  • http://berto-meister.blogspot.com/ Berto

    Nietzsche’s Twilight of the Idols, some ten years ago. Also, his Beyond Good and Evil

  • mikespeir

    The Bible, definitely. Although I’ve read a lot from atheists online, I was an atheist myself before that. In fact, I’ve only read two actual books by atheists. One was Richard Carrier’s Sense and Goodness Without God which, while good, tried to cover too much ground and so was a little thin in places. The other was David Mills’ Atheist Universe. I liked the latter fairly well, but Mills is too hyperbolic sometimes. Some people will dismiss what he’s got to say out of hand because of that.

    I’m sure there are better ones out there. I’ll get around to them.

  • http://nogodsallowed.wordpress.com Chad

    Once I started asking questions and looking at what the Bible actually said, it pretty much killed Christianity for me. The Good Book was bad, very bad.

    Along the way, I’ve gone through the standard atheistic library of today. One of the first sinful books I read that really showed me that my situation wasn’t unique at all was Losing Faith in Faith by Dan Barker.

  • Cindy

    Actually it was the bible, but in the form of the Brick Testament. Somehow seeing the stories in short snips with legos illustrating the absolute absurdity really kick started my atheism. It is a fun one to pass along to lazily religious friends since they will be offended, assume the quotes are taken out of context and are distorted, but when they check the bible they find out that that craziness is really in there.

  • katytron

    buuuuuuh Dawkins’ God Delusion. I was fence-sitting and I pushed through it (the bit about atheists being more persecuted than gay people put me off a little) and from the first few pages I let go of my “it’s not for me, but if someone wants to believe in god then that doesn’t hurt me” philosophy.

  • http://kjcw.blogspot.com Kelly

    Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World did it for me. I read it and realized I’d been an atheist all along.

  • http://mcfunley.com Dan McKinley

    Carl Sagan’s “The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark” was enough to make me face it, although in retrospect I hadn’t been a believer for many years before that.

  • Bo

    I was never a theist, but my atheism became much more explicit after reading The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, and Ayn Rand’s nonfiction. I don’t subscribe to Ayn Rand’s views, but they are thought-provoking books that promote atheism.

    Those led me to more philosophy, including Dennett, then Dawkins, and a whole bunch more (including Mehta).

  • bernat

    A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
    Carl Sagan’s Cosmos (okay, yeah, that’s a TV series)
    The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins

    I didn’t read any of these with the audacious intention of “killing god”. They’re inherently interesting and full of information that my education had skipped over. They made a godless world make sense and seem complete and beautiful.

  • bob

    Dan Barkers “Losing Faith in Faith” and “Robert G. Ingersoll’s 44 Complete Lectures”. Both were instrumental. Before I read them I didn’t even know atheism was an option.

  • Spurs Fan

    The Old Testament, many of John Shelby Spong’s books as well as some by Emerging Church authors such as Brian McClaren (the latter made me realize that although my liberal brand of Christianity was being validated, the liberty of their positions also enlightened me to see how much we all try to make any sacred text or book conform to the views we already hold).

    While I don’t agree with all of views, Sam Harris also allowed me to think critically.

  • sabrina

    My parents never talked about religion or anything until I was about eight and my dad got it into his head (well, actually it was his best friend who had just gotten “saved” or “born again” or whatever the lingo is) that he should take my sister and I to church. By this time, I was a pretty heavy reader and was engrossed in anything about dinosaurs, history, and especially Greek mythology. So when I went to Sunday school for the first time, and this lady was talking about someone being in a whale for three days, I immediately thought, hey, thats just like Greek mythology. After returning home, I promptly explained to my parents that I didn’t believe any of that, it sounded perfectly ridiculous, and I wasn’t going to church anymore (plus I really hated waking up early and getting all dressed up). I didn’t know the word was atheist until later, but I guess I was one. And still going strong twenty years later. So, I guess the book that did it for me was a book about Greek mythology. Plus, how could God ever compete with Zues?

  • http://brownjs.wordpress.com/ J.S.Brown

    I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist by Norman Geisler & Frank Turek

    Why Atheism? by George H. Smith

  • recorderjoe

    The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.
    The Holy Bible by …

  • Jim

    The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan. I have never read a better book in my life.

  • Sandisan

    I don’t remember if any books in particular led me down the path of unbelief (disbelief?), at least initially. I’ve always been skeptical of the existence of God (or any other gods) but I never actually called myself an atheist. I know I’m not the only one here, but it was The God Delusion that actually made me realize I’ve always been an atheist, at least in the terms that he puts it.

    Technically I’m probably an agnostic, because I don’t think evidence really exists either way, but in my daily life, I’m an atheist. I live my life as if no god(s) exist. maybe they do, but I’m not gonna lose sleep over it.

  • Matthew

    Atheist Universe by David Mills absolutely turned my world upside down, for the better of course. I definitely recommend it if you haven’t read it already.

  • http://keenabean.blogspot.com Kaleena

    For me, Julia Sweeney was the “straw that broke the camels back”. I first heard her on NPR and then went on to listen to her monologue, “Letting Go of God”.

    She had a story very similar to mine, and made me feel like it was OK to let go of religion.

  • Palestinian-Atheist

    My experience is similar to Josh’s (Comment 2), with the god delusion by Richard Dawkins.

  • Ron in Houston

    My progression from liberal Christianity to atheism was a gradual process. In many ways it was knowing other Christians and seeing their beliefs that moved me most toward atheism.

    Someone mentioned John Spong, but while his stuff is anti-fundamentalism, it still advocates this neo-liberal theistic spirituality.

    I think the books that will really challenge Christians are two by Bart Ehrman.
    1. Misquoting Jesus
    2. Lost Christianities

  • James

    There weren’t any books that convinced me to be an atheist, I have been an atheist for about as long as I have had the capability to think about it clearly, ie. some time in high school. But I have become more vocal and open about it since reading The God Delusion.

  • mike

    Whatever science textbooks we had in 6-7th grade turned me from “wtf this can’t be true” to “ooohhh, so that’s what it really is…gotcha.”

    I had rejected religion and god long ago. When I was three I figured out that Santa and company were all fake. What did it for me then was that if they were fake, then so was the easter bunny and therefore so was god. Still had to go to church and such because of my parents, but I always just fooled around. It was middle school science that turned me from knowing that christianity was wrong to knowing what the real answers were.

    My moms a jehova’s witness and my dad is a recovering catholic, so religion in this house is just so much fun.

  • Mriana

    Spurs Fan said,

    April 22, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    The Old Testament, many of John Shelby Spong’s books

    Hey! I’m not alone! KEWL! :D

  • sandra

    I was raised in a conservative Christian family, and although I moved to a more liberal version of religion as a teenager, fear of hurting my parents stood in the way of even questioning whether there was a god.

    Reading Sigmund Freud’s “The Future of an Illusion” made me realize that these beliefs weren’t based in reality. Somewhat ironically, because of my fundie upbringing, this meant the whole thing had to go.

  • http://3thingsdaily.com N Griffin-Lloyd

    “Misqouting Jesus” by Bart Ehrman. After I read that book, the questions naturally rolled out of my head. If our concept of God comes from the Bible, and it’s a well-proven fact that the Bible was edited and re-edited and in a lot of cases just made up, why do we even believe it? Why do we believe in a God that is probably… made… up…?

    And that was it. At that point the Bible ceased to be a holy book and became a work of fiction.

  • http://dcberner.blogspot.com Derek

    A week or so ago I asked a similar (but more inclusive) question on my blog.

    FWIW, Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter, though I’m still only 3/4 through it so far, has helped me question my agnosticism and really start to wonder if I’m not agnostic after all but atheist.

  • A Different Derek

    The Bible. Luckily I was an atheist before The God Delusion, so I was able to read it for enjoyment.

    I grew up Catholic, so I was practically discouraged from reading the Bible. Once I heard a few stories you don’t hear in church, it was just too much. Now my goal is to pass those stories on to my parents, because I’m sure they’ll have the same reaction I did. I’ve already told my mom that she should be stoning me to death, which was met with awkward silence.

  • http://mypantstheatre.blogspot.com bullet

    The Salmon of Doubt by Douglas Adams

    It didn’t make me or help me question my religious beliefs, those had been fading for quite a while. It gave me permission to take that final step. The essay Is There an Artificial God?, taken from a speech he once gave, presented the idea of man’s invention of religion in such a wonderful way that it could simply not be denied. It let me finally discard those last connections to faith.

  • Todd

    For me, it started with Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography by JD Crossan. For the first time I thought about the stories in the bible critically instead of accepting them on faith (which was fairly strong at the time).

    Also Huckleberry Finn (read as an adult – it didn’t mean much when I read it as a kid), Cosmos (Sagan), the Hitchhiker’s series (Adams), East of Eden (Steinbeck) – all provided a very humanist perspective on life, and were all influential.

    I just finished The God Delusion last night, and was very impressed. While I had already accepted my new found Atheism, this book put into words many of the concepts that had been rattling around my head without any structure.

  • http://notapottedplant.blogspot.com/ Transplanted Lawyer

    The Bible alone was enough for me to realize “I don’t believe in basically any of this crap.” But it was Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World that got me to be proud about my atheism and call it what it is.

  • Milena

    I don’t think any books in particular influenced my atheism, but the ones that really made me think critically about religion’s role in society were Une saison dans la vie d’Emmanuel (A Season in the Life of Emmanuel) by Marie-Claire Blais, L’etranger (The Stranger) by Albert Camus, and The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.

  • http://bonnie-fitts.blogspot.com/ mumbochick

    Joseph Campbell’s “Myths to Live By” and Moyer’s “Power of Myth.” Plus, the Bible itself showed me all the contradictions I needed to see. Dawkins and “The God Delusion” was good, but I read it after I had become an atheist.

  • Polly

    “Who Wrote the Bible” Richard Eliott Friedman.

    My sincere gratitude to this guy. He woke me up without even trying to debunk the religion.

    Beyond introducing me for the first time to JEPD theory, he really demonstrated using the text itself, the political objectives of the writers of various passages and books. By the time I finished, there was no way I could believe the Old Testament had been written by anyone but mere humans in a very local power struggle.

    Ironic: I got the book from my mother’s Xian book collection.

    Really Ironic: I was trying to get a deeper appreciation for the context of the Biblical passages in order to deepen my faith!

    The next book I read (but I was already no longer a xian) was Thomas Paine’s “Age of Reason.” I couldn’t buy into Deism, however.

  • grapeshot

    How To Read The Bible by James Kugel. Very thorough examination of Old Testament texts, and summaries of modern and classical (as well as Christian and Jewish) interpretations.

  • http://www.drzach.net Zachary Moore

    “The Bible as Literature: an Introduction.” I took a college course by one of the authors, and it was the first time that I had ever considered the Bible as anything outside the paradigm of divine inspiration. This book was an ultraviolet light that showed me all the human literary DNA splashed across its pages.

  • P.S.

    Two books I was reading around the same time in early 2006 – Feuerbach’s The Essence of Christianity and Dawkins’ God Delusion.

    The former put in very plain terms what should have sunk in after spending three years studying Judaism and biblical history – god was nothing more than the ideal humanity separated from and elevated above its source, the human predicate being worshiped by its subject. True Religion, so to speak, was indistinguishable from Idolatry. Though a tad simplistic in his analysis, I thought (and think) Feuerbach’s basic anthropological impulse was spot on.

    If Feuerbach helped destroy the trustworthiness of revelation beyond the scope of the community who produced it, Dawkins in turn helped ruin any belief at anything beyond a loose deism or a form of process thought. True, most of the theological arguments were surprisingly easy to overcome or critique, but when Dawkins began writing about the Argument from Design and the sufficiency of purely natural causes to produce this world (that was the first time I had read any of his works), something clicked. Appealing to an “outside” intelligence or power wasn’t necessary to explain the world. Though I really hadn’t been a practicing Christian for about a year at that point, it was when I finished that book that I stopped referring to myself as Christian and started calling myself an atheist.

  • Ken McKnight

    When I was fifteen (in 1967!) a friend of mine loaned me a copy of Inherit the Wind. It crystalized a number of ideas I already had, and I decided I was indeed an atheist. My friend felt terrible when I later told him about my conversion. Now, forty years later, I teach Inherit the Wind to high school sophomores as part of our English curriculum. I’ve read hundreds of books on the subject since the 1960′s, but I’ve never found a reason to renounce atheism. Quite the opposite.

  • http://www.screenplaymechanic.com Andrew

    The great CH’s God is Not Great.

    And Sam Harris’ End of Faith.

    Dawkins is great too but read the others first and my atheism was cemented by the time I read his God Delusion.

  • Julie

    One day I was watching the news and just got so disgusted by the civil war in Iraq, and suddenly it hit me that I was fed up with religion and felt it was mostly a bad thing. I read The God Delusion shortly after that and began to call myself an atheist, which felt strange. Even though I’d been brought up by an atheist and an agnostic, actually labeling myself an atheist was weird at first.

  • Keith

    Setting the Captives Free by Austin Miles was a turning point for me– I realized I wasn’t alone.

    The Faith Healers by James Randi was another that got through to me.

  • http://purduenontheists.com Jennifurret

    I grew up in a family that let me decide my own thoughts on religion, so I started out basically agnostic. The first time I called myself an atheist was about 7th grade. Of course, this is when I started meeting religious people, and wondering if God really did exist. I was pretty agnostic about the issue until I read The God Delusion my freshman year of college. It really didn’t change my thoughts at all, but solidified what I felt deep down.

  • Emily

    I became non-religious when i was flipping frantically through the Bible looking for passages that were sympathetic to same-sex relationships. It was then that i realized that people shouldn’t have to manipulate holy texts to fit their beliefs. And then i realized that you kind of HAVE to do that with the Bible, because there is so much that is just false, and that contradicts itself. So i put the Book down and gave up on organized religion. After that i flirted with Buddhism, but as i was young didn’t really “get” it, and then pantheism, but it took too long to explain to everyone, so i settled on the label of “atheist”.

  • Colin

    Orwell’s 1984. I read it while enrolled in confirmation class, and realized that a decent chunk of the “class activities” were propaganda not that far removed from brainwashing / mind control. Also felt strong parallels between the Inner Party and say, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.

    Got confirmed anyways, and was proud of it, but less than a year later I had pretty much decided it was all hogwash. My parents still don’t know, and probably never will (it’s been about 10 years now.)

  • Joseph Land

    The Salmon of Doubt by Douglas Adams

    A transcript of a speech he made was in it and his argument for evolution was amazing to my then doubtful Christian mind. I learned he was an atheist and that alone was reason enough to question my beliefs.

  • Alan Bombria

    Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors by Carl Sagan. I was still in the throes of fundamentalism, but in a furious battle with reason. This book threw the facts into my face in an easy to read, thorough manner. Either Sagan was a brilliant liar or something was wrong with my thinking.

  • http://cranialhyperossification.blogspot.com GDad

    When I was a teen, I read a bunch of Isaac Asimov’s hard science books. Altogether, I suppose they had a lot to do with it.

    GDad

  • http://merkdorp.blogspot.com J. J. Ramsey

    The Unauthorized Version: Truth and Fiction in the Bible by Robin Lane Fox. It’s not perfect, but it is one of the few honest popular-level critiques of the Bible out there.

  • http://blog.myspace.com/johnpritzlaff John Pritzlaff

    I vaguely thought there was probably some kind of non-denominational god until I was 14, when I starting explicitly thinking there was a non-denominational deist god, but at the same time I also started becoming an implicit atheist, and then around the time I realized that the “god” I believed in was more like an absence of a god (a scientific deepness like Richard Dawkins and most other atheists have), I started reading atheist books. The first two atheist books I read, which immediately turned me into an explicit atheist, were David Mills’s Atheist Universe and Sam Harris’s The End of Faith. (I should add that I have always been at least slightly agnostic about everything, as everyone should be, but I don’t think it’s necessary to point this out as very few atheists have the dogmatic certainty that most religionists have.)

    Sam Harris’s book was, and still is, the most lucid, rational, and important book (in my opinion) that I have ever read. There is very little in that book that I don’t agree with. I recommend it to anyone who hasn’t been fortunate enough to read it.

    Very soon after that I read The God Delusion (Dawkins), God Is Not Great (Hitchens), Why I Am Not A Christian (Russell), Atheism: The Case Against God (Smith), Infidel (Hirsi Ali), Letter to a Christian Nation (Harris again), and some science books such as The Selfish Gene. I’m still working on Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism (Jacoby), Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (Dennett), The Demon-Haunted World (Sagan), and God: The Failed Hypothesis (Stenger). And there are a lot of books that I want to read eventually, including the Bible.

    I am currently 17, and I continue to buy books like this with my own money. I also, of course, read the opinions of people I don’t already agree with, because (as every atheist should agree) there is always a chance that we might be wrong.

    I have found that the philosophers I am most like are Sam Harris, Bertrand Russell, and Epicurus.

    Atheism and its related philosophies are one of the most important parts of my life, and I continue to think that the most important message that we can spread as atheists is that you can have hope, happiness, community, morality, and meaning without religion. (I call these “The Big 5″). All the good things that religion does, we can do without the bad things religion does.

    Out of all those books, I would recommend The End of Faith, Atheism: The Case Against God, Infidel, God is Not Great, and The God Delusion the most.

  • http://dmcleish.id.au Shishberg

    Why People Believe Weird Things by Michael Shermer. It didn’t directly confront anything I believed at the time; but it did lead me to accept the fact that otherwise intelligent people can genuinely, wholeheartedly believe things that are obviously and demonstrably wrong to most other people.

  • Jessica

    I was raised Unitarian-Universalist, so I never had religion hammered into me and was never told “you have to have faith.” The movie Angels in the Outfield got me to believe in God and prayer, though not in angels; those were clearly fake. Through most of my childhood, I had a wishy-washy belief in God and ESP, but these beliefs weren’t really a big deal to me. I stopped believing in souls early on (maybe 5th grade) thanks to an article about the brain in National Geographic.

    In 9th grade, I read Why People Believe Weird Things by Michael Shermer and The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan. In the latter, there’s a chapter about unfalsifiable beliefs called “The Dragon In My Garage.” I realized that God was exactly like that. During that time, I was going through the Unitarian coming-of-age program, and we were supposed to think about a bunch of religious questions, including where we stood on the question of whether God exists or not. It was then that I declared myself an atheist.

  • Slut

    I read a lot over the 3-4 months it took me to go from theist to atheist. Among the ones I vaguely recall reading during this time are the following:

    Science of Mind - despite the name has nothing to do with science. This is the textbook that my religion class studied and this (class) was the event that triggered the deconversion. I realized at this point that my entire religion was based on 1) the Bible, which I already considered a book of myths with bits of history 2) Emerson’s essays and 3) Ernest Holmes’ fantasies. Therefore, one had to conclude, it was all based on personal revelation and inspiration rather than evidence. Funny, it took me so many years to realize this.

    The Jesus Mysteries and Jesus and the Lost Goddess – Although I wasn’t a Christian, these books helped me realize that all religions are manmade and that the Bible (which my own religious tradition relied on in good measure) was simply a book of myths with a long tradition that predated Christianity.
    The Jesus Puzzle. – Ditto.
    The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man - Ditto.
    Misquoting Jesus. – Ditto.

    Sense and Goodness Without God - Carrier’s arguments against the Christian God applied to my own idea of god as well. For me, the problem of evil was central to the existence or non-existence of a benevolent god. His ideas about how one could live a moral life without a god were helpful to me in leaving religion behind.

    Demon-Haunted World and Why People Believe Weird Things - both made me realize how much of my thinking was superstitious and irrational, and helped me overcome it.

    Dying to Live - research on OBEs and NDEs which showed both are most likely artifacts of the stressed brain.

    Several of Bertrand Russell’s books.

    Ebonmuse’s website had a lot of good information, particularly the section on duality. Internet Infidels had some good articles.

    I’ve read the recent popular books by Dawkins et al but they came after I had already deconverted.

    It’s hard to reconstruct now but I’d say Carrier’s book and stuff I read online were probably the most influential, along with conversations with my husband and a lot of sleepless nights thinking about it all.

  • Sudo

    The Bible. I studied it and poured over it’s contents as a teen, and later throughout my life as a confused believer. It was the contradictions – not the misquoted or typo type of contradictions, none of that nonsense. I’m talking the BIG contradictions. The contradictions that, should one believe in error, would send you into the Abyss with the Devil and his angels. I’m talking about the huge gaping holes of Christian doctrine:

    Must one be baptized or not? Once saved, always saved – or not? Spiritual gifts for today, or past? Is there a burning fiery hell, or is it ‘separation from God’ only? Or Hell, is there even a Hell in the first place? Some teach that the unsaved are just, well, dead. What about Heaven? Is it a real place, or will the righteous inherit eternal life here on a renewed, Paradaisical earth? Is God One in Three persons or is He just one?

    Depending on what church you attend, holding one or the other of these beliefs could you put you in, or out, of the faith. Holding one belief in error could consign you to Hell, or save you and send you to Heaven. And to think that what you thought or were taught about these things was the hinge which would determine which way your personal door into eternity would swing.

    I thought that Islam, or Buddhism, or [insert religion here] would be different. But after diligent study (many years worth of man hours spent reading and studying various texts) I realized they’re all the same. The only position left is the null position – atheism.

  • http://atheistokie.wordpress.com/ Atheist Okie

    I had already deconverted before I read any “atheist” book. The first one I got was David Mills “Atheist Universe”. The whole time I was like, “holy crap…I thought I was the only one who thought this way!”

    Though I have heard a lot of criticism about the book and about David from fellow atheists, of all the atheist books I’ve read, this one will always stand out.

    Although I have more in common with Dan Barker’s deconversion story, I would highly recommend Mills’ book as an atheist primer.

  • infideljoe

    “End of Faith” by Sam Harris. It was like a light came on. I had been an atheist, I just didn’t know it till I read his book. Then I went ahead and read the Bible and that just reinforced my lack of belief.

  • Euan

    Terry Pratchetts Discworld books helped me along the way.
    Him and Douglas Adams are great at highlighting just how ridiculous religious beleif systems really are.

  • Christian (My Name Only)

    The Mystique of Enlightenment by U. Gk. Krishnamurti.

  • Richard

    God Delusion.

    I have been an agnostic for most of my life (now 42). But I finally realized that I was sitting on the fence because I didn’t want to take the plunge. Atheism seemed, well, so extreme. But after reading the God Delusion, I realized that all along I had been a closet atheist.

    It may seem lame, but Richard Dawkin’s liberated me from my agnosticism. I now see the world much more clearly.

  • Greg

    I was reading the Bible – a little bit each day starting with page 1 – when a friend gave me a copy of Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. By the time I finished both, I had gone through a very painful process. I replaced a philospohy based on myth with one based on reason. I recall the process actually physically producing pain. It was a real struggle – but well worth it in the end.

  • Kim

    My experience as a history major really started my questioning the existence of god. I was raised very devoutly so it wasnt until college and reading about and studying the past, reading of all the atrocities that have happened throughout history that made me realize that I wouldnt want to believe in a god who would allow such things. My thoughts slowly went on from there until I read the God Delusion and it solidified my thoughts that I was, indeed, an affirmed atheist.

  • http://tometheus.com Tometheus

    I think it was just reading in general. *

    I grew up in one of the 19th century ‘prophetic’ sects. My first step was questioning the church’s prophet / doctrines after reading the Bible through. Then in (a church-run) college I read On the Origin of Species and it just made so much more sense to a budding physicist than the Biblical stuff.

    * I was forbidden to read non-church-sponsored fiction as a kid, but being a voracious reader, every trip to the library was an adventure in smuggling things into my room.

  • Paul

    1- Letting Go of God by Julia Sweeney (the TAL essay, specifically)

    2- The Brick Testament

    3- then a flurry of other books including I Sold My Soul On Ebay, The God Delusion, The End of Faith, and God is not Great.

  • http://pinoyfreethinker.blogspot.com T-Jay Bautista

    The bible, specially the book of Job ^_^

  • Peter

    The Case for Christmas by Lee Strobel. A poor apologetic can work wonders.
    Problem of The Soul by Owen Flanagan. Soul/Body dualism died here.
    Betraying Spinoza by Rebecca Goldsein. Spinoza deduced himself into a modern philosophy.

  • JB

    It wasn’t one book, but scores of them, starting with the non-fiction of Isaac Asimov I discovered as a hoplelessly bookish 11 year-old boy.

    But I’d like to mention two that made very deep and lasting footprints on my brain (although I was already an atheist when I read them):

    The Light of Day by John Burroughs (not to be missed!)

    A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom by A. D. White

  • http://jclement.ca Jeff Clement

    One day our company brought in “The Secret”. It was so terrible that it got me thinking about other things people believe. I was always a bit wishy washy on faith so I decided to read the bible (really hoping to understand what everyone else seemed to). Needless to say that didn’t go well.

    So then I read:
    – Letting Go of God, Julia Sweeny (audiobook really)
    – The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins
    – God is not Great, Christopher Hitchens
    – Letter to a Christian Nation, Sam Harris
    – Why I am Not a Christian, Bertrand Russel

    The later books pretty much just re-affirmed what I already was feeling after reading the bible.

  • http://del.icio.us/jcchurch James

    I’m sensing a theme here:

    The Bible

    I had grown up being a dedicated believer, but slowly started to have doubts. Then just one verse chanced everything: Judges 1:19. I stopped believing.

    Then I read Bart Ehrman’s “Misquoting Jesus,” and the rest is history.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    I became an atheist way back in the 1970′s. I remember that the following books had an influence on me back then (in high school). H.L. Mencken’s “Treatise on the Gods” and Mark Twain’s “Letters from the Earth” (both written quite some time ago). I also like most of the recent books on atheism. Its good to see so many new books coming out and so well received.

  • http://www.cognitivedissident.org/ cognitive dissident

    Bertrand Russell’s Why I Am Not a Christian was a big early influence in thinking critically about “received wisdom,” with Sagan and Einstein showing that a rational life didn’t suffer from a lack of awe and wonder.

    A half-dozen or so of Bishop Spong’s books (Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, etc.) combined with some Ayn Rand (when I was younger and more naive), lots of Camus (when I was becoming less so), and many great discussions at a Unitarian-Universalist church I once attended did the rest…

    Lately, I’ve enjoyed reading Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Hitchens, Onfray, Comte-Sponville, Stenger…even O’Hair. (So many books…)

  • http://dmcr35.blogspot.com Dave McRitchie

    I had been teetering on the edge for some time. The book that tipped me over was Sam Harris’ “The End of Faith.”

  • http://www.freewebs.com/guitarsean Sean

    Lloyd Alexander’s Chronicles of Prydain, Peirs Anthony books. I was reading these things as early as 5th grade. Like Santa and the Easter Bunny, great fantasy fiction made god seem like just another story.

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    Hmm. I think my comment disappeared. I said GEB by Douglas Hofstatder. Too much wine to rewrite my original comment, sorry.

  • R

    Quran – reading it pushed me from Muslim to Agnosticism (no religious book claiming to be a moral guide can be this harsh towards women/nonmuslms, or have silly miracles)

    God Delusion – Agnosticism to Atheism (or just made me concious that i was an atheist all along).

  • Josha

    Many books over a period of time but what first got me thinking was:

    Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero With A Thousand Faces”

    For the first time it made me think about the Bible as mythology and how really alike it is to all the other mythologies of the world. Then I started to question everything.

  • stellabella

    Mere Christianity. I was a 19 yr-old believer and I expected Lewis to at least confirm my faith, if not strengthen it. His arguments were so lame, that even I could see the fallacies. Well, I wanted to have a faith built on a rock and not in sand and so I started questioning everything I believed to see if it was from man or God. Three guesses what I found ;-)

  • http://www.secularplanet.org Secular Planet

    My favorite was “Atheism: The Case Against God” by George H. Smith. The demonstration that the definition of God was completely meaningless was especially powerful for me.

  • http://smackshack.livejournal.com Marvin

    Good topic! There are so many books….

    As a youngster, I’d say that Cosmos and the SF of Asimov, Heinlein, Niven, Adams, and others made taking religion literally impossible. But I was raised as a Christian, and I was always able to rationalize some form of faith.

    In college and afterwards, probably the biggest factor was being exposed to arguments for god in philosophy and in lots of web-forums and mailings lists, and seeing how truly vapid such arguments always are. Also, being exposed to many “nature vs. nurture” debates in which the learned exponents of sociology and cultural anthropology didn’t know a single goddamn fact about basic evolution and what it implies about the brain helped convince me that, whatever else we are as human beings, we are our bodies.

    But more books: The Masks of God, by Joseph Campbell. Also Sprach Zarathustra and The Genealogy of Morals by Nietzsche.

    I also must credit two three enduring works of fantasy.

    1. The Lord of the Rings. Because Tolkien’s made-up religion, despite it’s many faults, is far more beautiful than the religion he based it on, which proved to me in an unexpected way that religion is not only a product of human invention, but a bad product at that.

    2. Fritz Leiber’s series about Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, which gave me heroes who know how to laugh at the gods.

    3. The Book of Common Prayer, wherein one finds the Nicene Creed. Repeating it every Sunday for years, and feeling it turn to ashes in my mouth, proved that I simply couldn’t believe the BS anymore.

  • Russell

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who started on the path to atheism via science fiction, particularly Heinlein (Stranger in a Strange Land and Revolt in 2100 in particular); everyone seems to be getting deconverted by such intellectual heavyweights I was feeling a little inadequate *grin*.

    I was literally afraid to accept my growing atheism functionally living Pascal’s Wager, but managed to avoid getting confirmed at a teenager, so I think I must have known even then. After a deist period I accepted that I was agnostic, and thought myself superior to atheists since “you can’t know for sure” means “there’s a 50/50 chance” and atheists were as absolutely sure as the fundie religionists, right? The God Delusion fixed that flaw in my logic.

    I’ll also put in a plug for Dennett’s Breaking the Spell. I thought The Blind Watchmaker would be OK for non-scientists but I got nothing out of it. The Selfish Gene is a much better book to understand evolutionary theory and why there is no need for supernatural powers to have what we see in our world every day. And yes, I think the world and my life is more beautiful, wondrous, and especially precious than ever since it is the only one I’ll ever have.

  • Karen

    Great topic!

    Shermer’s “The Science of Good and Evil”

    Bawer’s “Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity”

    Barker’s “Losing Faith in Faith”

    Sweeney’s “Letting Go of God” – I saw the show in L.A. and was blown away.

    Actually the most influential things for me were various websites that collect deconversion stories from former Christians (I related to so many of them) and “The God Who Wasn’t There,” a film by Brian Flemming. Richard Carrier is interviewed and he points out that all religious people report having personal spiritual experiences, therefore they are either all valid or none of them are. This had never occurred to me, and it hit me like a ton of bricks.

  • Ada

    The Bible led to my giving up Christianity but I wasn’t willing to give up religion completely that easily. I read several more books, like the Qu’ran; several popular books on Wicca, Druidry, and other Neo-Paganisms; Conversion to Judaism by Lawrence Epstein; A History of God by Karen Armstrong; The Satanic Bible by Anton Lavey… well, it was a several-year process for me, but by the time I got to any non-Satanic atheist books I had already chosen that path.

  • Eliza

    Genesis 1 + 2.
    Genesis 3.
    Genesis 4.

    Was age 9 or so. (Must also credit parents for raising me w/o religion.)

  • http://merelyadequate.net MonolithTMA

    Pretty much everything I’ve ever read, but mostly the Bible and many apologetics books.

  • Christophe Thill

    Not one book in particular, really. But I realised I was an atheist, and willing to call me so (rather than “I don’t know”) after understanding the theory of evolution. That is, after having read “Ever since Darwin” by SJ Gould.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    James said,
    …Then just one verse chanced everything: Judges 1:19. I stopped believing.

    James, you might like the website wiki.ironchariots.org

  • http://stuffatheistslike.blogspot.com oldcola

    The Bible & Evangiles study.
    Quite interesting, excellent mythology, full of self-contradictions and logical flaws. The very best way to doubt religion(s).

  • Louis Doench

    Dungeons and Dragons (as well as all the speculative fiction that underpins D&D) probably did more to lean me towards Agnosticism as a teenager than anything else.

    Then I read “Afterman” and Man Afterman” by Dougal Dixon as a young adult and his vividly illustrated explanation of how evolution works opened my eyes up to how wonderful a world could be without any gods at all.

  • http://merelyadequate.net MonolithTMA

    Don’t you know Dungeons and Dragons is supposed to lead to Satanism not Atheism. No one tell Jack Chick!

  • Grimalkin

    The bible itself did it for me. I had heard all the stories in Sunday school and that was all well and good, but when I reached college and actually sat down and read the New Testament, there was no turning back. Four accounts that hardly agree on a single detail and then there’s Paul – I can’t stand Paul. To go from a messiah who (in some accounts) allows women to see that he has resurrected before any men to Paul who claims that I should just keep my mouth shut in public and ask my husband if I have any questions is ridiculous.

    As a woman, Paul excluded me from Christianity. I couldn’t find my place in that worldview anymore, so I left.

  • http://mog.com/sporkyy Todd Sayre

    My 6th (or was that 7th?) grade social studies book.

    I think it’s funny how I mostly hear religious objections to science books when it was my social studies book that led me to atheism. The two most important things that book taught me were that mythologies are really just religions that nobody believes in anymore and that all religions are equally implausible. Of course the book never said either of those things explicitly. But all the information I needed to come to those conclusions was in there.

    Really though, that was only half of the equation. I had figured out what was wrong (religion) but hadn’t yet figured out what was right (science). It would be several years until I read The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan. I had plenty of science in school up to that point but never gave much thought to the underlying philosphy or methodology.

  • Ubi Dubium

    In order of my reading them

    The bible
    The Ascent of Man – Jacob Bronowski
    Cosmos – Carl Sagan
    The Hitchhikers Trilogy
    Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke.

    Every science and math book I ever read in school

    College: Dialogue on the Two Chief World Systems – Galileo, Relativity – Albert Einstein, The Confessions of Saint Augustine.

    And later, after I had finished figuring out that “god is Santa Claus for grownups”:

    Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman, GEB,
    Joseph Campbell – The Power of Myth, and The Masks of God, Stephen Jay Gould – especially Wonderful Life, The Origin of Species, more Sagan, The Nag Hammadi Library, Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens.

    Now I’m working on the Koran.

    I notice that NOT ONE of these responses has mentioned Harry Potter. I think the Fundies are trying to ban the wrong books!

  • Paul

    oop, I forgot one above (for the sake of Hemant’s compiled list)

    Letter to a Christian Nation

    great book…

  • Soop

    The Bible. Specifically the Book of Job. Had to read it for school and although I was always a skeptic, that basically killed all chances for Christianity. I will always be grateful to my 7th grade English teacher for putting it on the curriculum :)

  • Brian

    Actually the Why Wont God Heal Amputees and God Is Imaginary websites were the biggest catalysts for myself.

  • http://fideism.googlepages.com Fideism

    Mostly the bible actually (though technically I should say I’m agnostic with very heavy leanings towards atheism). The bible’s alleged divine inspiration was always “proven” via scientific foreknowledge, prophetic fulfillment, and its inherent inerrancy. When faith is treated like fact, you can examine it by evidence, and evidently all the facts revealed themselves to be mere faith.

    Also helpful was reading Farrell Till’s online articles on biblical inerrancy, and the book Misquoting Jesus, by Bart Ehrman. I’ve read more books but those were the most influential. Although if I’m honest, The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel and other apologetics books were fairly important as well, though not in the way they were supposed to be.

  • http://butchbailey.com/ Butch

    Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Taught me to investigate and look for quality in everything. I found religion to be lacking.

  • http://personman.com Danny

    Language of God by Francis Collins. I read that and thought that if that was the best theism has to offer, then it’s a pretty weak position.

  • Tom M

    While in AP English in High School, we read The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham. The protagonist of the story encouraged me to question everything. I followed his example by looking into Eastern Religions before finally accepting atheism as the one true -ism.

  • Spurs Fan

    *

    I was forbidden to read non-church-sponsored fiction as a kid, but being a voracious reader, every trip to the library was an adventure in smuggling things into my room.

    Awesome. If you’re going to smuggle something, books are fantastic pieces of contraband!

    I’ve also noticed some themes here:

    1) Almost everyone mentions the Bible. It’s not like they are avoiding it — many were believers when they were reading it. It’s the opposite of cenorship — Knowledge will set you free.

    2) Almost every person mentions several books. No one sacred text. No book to measure all others by, but rather a variety of works of different subjects and authors (or comedians!).

    3) A few have mentioned that a work had an influence, but still say things like “I don’t agree with everything he says” or something to that affect. Try to find a theist say “The Bible has been my biggest influence, but I don’t agree with all of it”. Critical thinking and reason rule!

  • Scott

    For me, like many who have replied to this thread, the tipping point for me was when I sat down and read the bible from cover to cover. It’s an incoherent, fantastic, unbelievable manifesto, calculated to maintain power for a bunch of ancient dictators, and it epitomizes the ignorance and evil.

    If every Christian read it critically and actually thought about what it said, Christianity would shrink by one believer per reading.

  • http://www.let-me-be-frank.blogspot.com smellincoffee

    Eugenie Scott’s Evolution Vs. Creationism was mostly about evolution, but it also explored the question of why people persist in being religious. When I read that young children are naturally inclined toward believe in everything their parents/authority parents tell them, I realized that that was the only reason I’d ever been religious to begin with. That’s when I stopped believing religion was real, and I started calling myself a “nontheist”. It was not until I started listening to the Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias, however, that I became an atheist. When I started thinking about the issues he brought up, I realized how wrong he was.

  • http://thegreateric.com Eric

    I’ve always been a skeptic, and I’m not sure when, where, how the switch actually flipped where I began calling myself an atheist.

    That being the case, I can’t peg it on any one text.

    I will say that while not a book, the internet was probably the single biggest driver for me as I came of age in the mid 90′s. It was hard to miss alt.atheism if you were at all aware of usenet – and at the same time there were any number of early web sites that laid out many of the most common arguments. As such, I think that access to information is probably the biggest thing to consider, whether it comes from a web site or a book.

    Other than that, I was a big reader of science fiction, and at the time I was just discovering the classics – Clarke, Asimov, Heinlein, and perhaps most influential to me personally, Douglas Adams.

    I don’t think any particular volume stands out, but science fiction does share a common world view. When religion is present, it’s usually presented as a human quirk, not any kind of truth. The characters, the plots, and the universes they occupy are all fundamentally rational. This caused me to look at the world in a scientific way – including religion.

  • Jason

    I was first introduced to Atheism by the Atheists of Silicon Valley’s website.
    http://www.godlessgeeks.com

    I found the link in a signature of somebody on IGN forums, and was curious, and looked into it. I’m pretty sure I’ve thanked that person, many times, for giving me freedom of thought.

    The essay “Why Atheism” gave me plenty of good questions to ask myself regarding whether or not to believe in a diety (I was a weak theist), as as you can see today, those questions were not in the affirmative for faith in a god or gods.

    Since then, The God Delusion, The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian Nation, and God Is Not Great have all offered to be anchors to keep me grounded in reality.

  • Curiosis

    Age of Reason by Thomas Paine.

    At first I resisted giving up faith completely and called myself a deist, but I finally gave in and became an athiest.

  • ash

    i’ve only started reading atheist books recently, and they’re not what caused my lack of faith. one of those ways was by reading loads of sci-fi, horror, myths and legends (think books on greek + roman mythology, ufo’s, ghosts, bigfoot, etc.) i just became naturally inclined to treat anything as fiction unless i had good reason/evidence presented to suggest otherwise. i totally blame and thank my atheism for trying to educate myself a little further in matters of science and philosophy tho; some great recent reads have been Dawkins + Dennett (yes, those ones), Stephen Pinker ‘How the Mind Works’ and Oliver Sacks ‘Musicophilia’.

  • http://sbrownblog.blogspot.com/ Susan

    Not any one book in particular, as I fear those with “just one book.” Instead, for me, it was through the process of getting an education, taking lots of science classes, and reading lots of books in many areas that I gradually realized that the world didn’t work according to the worldview I was taught through the bible. The bible contradicted what I could observe and it even contradicted itself!

    Books that have had the greatest influence in roughly the order read.

    The Bible
    various mythology & anthropology & science books
    writings of Ingersoll

    By this time I’m pretty skeptical of the whole thing, and then I discovered:

    Free Inquiry, Skeptical Inquirer, and Skeptic magazines
    infidels.org website

    which pushed me over the edge (or rather, allowed me to jump by my own devices)

    A few books I wish had been written earlier:

    The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, Sagan
    Losing Faith in Faith, Barker
    Misquoting Jesus, Ehrman

    And this, from Robert Ingersoll helped me get through that, “OMFSM, I’m not a Christian, I’m going to hell!” phase. (Has anyone else gone through that?)

    “When I became convinced that the Universe is natural — that all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood, the sense, the feeling, the joy of freedom. The walls of my prison crumbled and fell, the dungeon was flooded with light and all the bolts, and bars, and manacles became dust. I was no longer a servant, a serf or a slave.”

    (the rest of the piece is wonderful — you should be able to find it online.)

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins.

    I called myself an agnostic before I cracked it open. By the time I closed it, I was calling myself an atheist.

    Why?

    1) His argument that atheism doesn’t mean a 100% certainty that God exists — that even he himself isn’t 100% sure that God exists. (I’d assumed until then that that’s exactly what atheism meant: hence, calling myself agnostic.)

    2) His argument that the fact you can’t have 100% certainty about a proposition doesn’t mean you can’t (a) make a decision about the likelihood of that proposition, and (b) take a firm stand about it if you think the likelihood is overwhelming.

    Of course I had a long journey to my almost- atheist agnosticism, influenced by many people and experiences. But The God Delusion is what tipped me over the edge. And it’s also what got me so passionate about it and blogging about it so much, since:

    3) It convinced me that this was a vitally important issue that I needed to be paying attention to.

  • Karen

    “OMFSM, I’m not a Christian, I’m going to hell!” phase. (Has anyone else gone through that?)

    Oh sure. I think all ex-fundies go through that. ;-)

    It’s scary. Fortunately for most, it only lasts a couple of months. Once you realize you haven’t been struck by lightning and your family hasn’t been cut down by exotic diseases, hell starts to sound more silly and less scary.

  • Polly

    “Oh sure. I think all ex-fundies go through that.”

    Strangely, I didn’t even though I thought I would. I never really feared going to Hell once I started to disbelieve. I think my faith capitulated so fast there wasn’t time.

    But, I certainly went through the freedom and excitement phase. In fact, it’s still going on and only getting better!!!!!

  • http://skeptigator.com Skeptigator

    if I’m not the first to mention this one then shame on everyone else for not mentioning it and if I’m not the first then I second or third or fifth,

    Robert G. Ingersoll’s “The Gods and Other Lectures”

  • http://yalb.wordpress.com/ Joe

    Asimov’s autobiography I. Asimov. Until reading that I had never even heard the word.

  • David D.G.

    Well, the Bible itself was a strong start. God comes off as such a completely insane tyrant that it’s hard to take this figure seriously, especially when he is also being touted as our “loving father.” Abusiveness is BAD, whether in a spouse, a parent, or whatever.

    Also, there was the fact that I read Greek and Norse mythology, Aesop’s fables, and Grimm’s Fairy Tales in grade school and couldn’t help but notice that the stories of the Bible (especially Old Testament, but some of the Gospels as well) were pretty indistinguishable in form and content from these stories that everyone acknowledged were completely baseless hokum. I hadn’t had any particularly strong belief in the Bible’s literal historicity before that point anyway, but that just sealed the deal for me — and that’s before I knew just how wildly wrong (or at least “reality-challenged”) so many things in the Bible are.

    ~David D.G.

  • JimboB

    I can’t think of any one book in particular, but I was always interested in mythology as a child. I can remember reading about all the Greek gods and the Roman gods. It didn’t take much to realize the gods described by the Greeks and Romans were the same gods.
    After that I started reading more about Norse gods, Egyptian gods, and others. And since I went to Catholic grade school I was already learning all about the Judeo-Christian god. I was starting to see the same types of mythological stories in all these different religions, and I was getting quite skeptical.
    Then for a while I started reading fiction books like Anne Rice’s “Memnoch the Devil” and Stephen King’s “Dark Tower” series, and the religious elements jumped out at me again and again. I considered myself a “50/50 agnostic” from age 10 to about age 18 or so.
    After talking to a friend of mine about religion (he was a Baptist at the time), I somehow shook his faith and he ended up becoming an atheist. After he lent me a copy of George Smith’s “Atheism: A Case Against God”, I also started leaning toward atheism.
    While reading extensively about theism, atheism, etc., and formulating my world-view, I found myself lacking a proper title. I could call myself a Bright, but I’m not crazy about that. So now, I consider myself an agnostic atheist and/or a secular humanist.

  • Laura

    First I read an article in Wired magazine (don’t know when it was published, sorry!) that started me thinking, for the first time in my life, that atheism didn’t sound too evil. Then Chris Hitchens’ book God is Not Great pushed me over the fence I was teetering on.

    By the way, just now I accidentally typed Christ Hitchens. :-)

  • http://reanalyze.blogspot.com Tim

    I thought this would be more common than it is, judging by other comments (though I’m by no means the first to say it) – TGD kicked it off for me, then The End Of Faith. From there, I was hooked.

    I’m now going back and reading the Bible and can now understand those who were pushed away from Christianity by its overwhelmingly coherent eloquence.

    Still, this post gives me a nice long list of other books to consider :-)

    -Tim

  • Mikeila

    The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins. It was the first book (or anything or anyone) I ever read that explained in a satisfactory way how life could have come about with out God.

  • Cathy

    It would have to be James Frazer’s The Golden Bough, sophomore year of college. Raised Catholic, after reading that it became impossible to believe in any of it once I realized that all of Christian mythology was indistinguishable from the mythologies from a hundred other groups all over the world, all of them bloody, primitive and barbaric, full of propitiatory sacrifices and people rising from the dead. It was the first time I realized where the Bible belonged, on the shelf between the Iliad and Gilgamesh, all fascinating, and somewhat frightening, products of an age long since past.

  • Siamang

    The old James Randi educational foundation website and discussion board did it for me.

  • Magdalena

    “The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark” by Carl Sagan

  • http://www.theinfinityprogram.com Kevin

    My “conversion” was a very naive one, when I still had many years of elementary school to go (I can’t remember anymore precisely than that). Back before I even knew the word “atheism”, before I ever read the books or heard the words of heretics to the Christian orthodox, and before I even knew there were other religions besides Christianity, one night I simply told myself after prayer (which I had been doing for some time), that it actually wasn’t working, and therefore that God wasn’t real. Did I give mention to my naivete?

    And that was that; I don’t recall giving further thought to the matter until several years later.

    My mom wasn’t a very passionate and informed believer, but she certainly believed. She took me to church every Sunday, would eventually enroll me to Catholic school, used to host some religious gatherings in our apartment, and lead prayer at home before bed every night. There are several Bibles in our house.

    As the quotation marks around the word “conversion” at the start of my post meant to imply, reflecting on this past I don’t consider it much of a conversion because, although I certainly chose to believe in Him, I knew very little about Him and the faith.

    I never came back into the Christian fold.

    Although I maintained my disbelief, it was only as recently as probably two years ago that I became confident in referring to myself as an atheist. At that time, I had still not read any atheist or skeptic books. The earliest notable influence from other people I remember that helped my disbelief lose its naivete and become informed and intellectual was a few Internet message board members, particularly Brad Johnson and Karim Temple, who go by the user name “Saint” and “X”, respectively. Their debates with others and with each other involving topics that touch on religion influenced me when I read them at Project-Ion (a forum that no longer exists), and even more recently and to this day at my own forum, The Infinity Program.

    Another Internet message board member who’s influenced me, but this one later and much more significantly, is Michael Wong, who goes by the user name Darth Wong at his forum, StarDestroyer.net. His are among several websites I still remember that have most strengthened and informed my disbelief, and further decreased the probability of me returning to the Christian (or any other religion’s) fold. Those websites are as follows:

    Paul Tobin’s The Rejection of Pascal’s Wager: A Skeptic’s Guide To Christianity His essays that argue for the evolutionary basis of morality and for the choosing of the label “atheism” over “agnosticism” in his “Atheism: FAQ” contained in that site was among the most influential material I read. That argument that morality has an evolutionary basis is especially important to me. I’ve not heard much more on that since Michael Wong advocated it in some posts on his forum. The essays influenced my recent decision to put Frans B. M. de Waal’s Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals and Robert Wright’s The Moral Animal: Why We Are, The Way We Are, The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology on my Wish List.

    Michael Wong’s Creationism versus Science. I also recommend looking for threads that touch on religion at his aforementioned Internet message board.
    Steven Dutch’s Science, Pseudoscience, and Irrationalism. He’s agnostic, and he has a good article that argues for the label “agnosticism” over “atheism” (with such force I’ve not read since I read Robert Ingersoll’s essays), but his many essays influenced my non-belief notably.

    Ed and Michael Buckner’s damning list of quotations, “Quotations that Support the Separation of Church and State“. The U.S. Founding Fathers, among other notables, with very damning and insightful quotations.

    Some time after I started reading the above websites, I started becoming interested in books and started reading a lot for leisure. And I’ve picked up a lot of books that touch on religion since then. I’ve read

    Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion. This book didn’t really resonate with me. Much of what he talked about I already read about with detail on the Internet. I found his The Blind Watchmaker more influential towards my disbelief.

    Sam Harris’ The End of Faith. Also didn’t really resonate with me.

    Susan Jacoby’s Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism. This one struck me. A book on America’s heretics to the Christian orthodox and the important role they’ve played throughout our nation’s history. Heck yes! And to think I got it on accident, just not wanting to leave the B&N before it closes with just one book, though I never thought I’d ever come across an entire book on this subject.

    Hemant Mehta’s I Sold My Soul on eBay: Viewing Faith through an Atheist’s Eye. I didn’t care too much for the parts about atheism, but I very much liked his descriptions of his church-going experiences. Well worth the price for that, and was glad to help the author of this very interesting blog.

    Carl Sagan’s The Demon-Haunted World: Science As A Candle In The Dark. I liked this one.

    Bart D. Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus. This one quite influenced me. I found it humorous that a fundamentalist Christian contact I had, soon after I had revealed to him I read it, would post a thorough review on his own blog, having not read it, but assuring me that he had done well enough instead by reading reviews on it (not just on a bunch of apologists sites, or otherwise with a certain demographic in mind, I’m sure), and read some other book by him that, he says, is pretty much just the same thing (makes me wonder why he didn’t just review that one then).

    Richard Carrier’s Sense & Goodness Without God: A Defense of Metaphysical Naturalism.

    Mark Twain’s Letters From The Earth. The first few stories are a harsh parody about Christianity. And yes, from the Mark Twain.

    Christian apologetics I’ve read are

    The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics
    Michael J. Wilkins and J.P. Moreland’s Jesus Under Fire
    Lee Strobel’s The Case For Christ

    … and I’ve already read the Bible.

    Books I plan to read

    Lee Strobel’s The Case For Faith
    Bertrand Russel’s Why I Am Not A Christian
    Richard E. Friedman’s Who Wrote The Bible?
    William James’ The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study of Human Nature
    Bart D. Ehrman’s Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scriptures and The Faiths We Never Knew
    Bart D. Ehrman’s God’s Problem: How The Bible Fails To Answer Our Most Important Question–Why We Suffer
    Robert M. Price and Jeffery Jay Lowder, eds., The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond The Grave
    William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith

  • Aquaria

    Whatever workbook the teachers provided at the Lutheran school I attended. One of the exercises was sorting out what all the different commandments actually meant. In the back were answers to some questions. I went to look at what that worshipping no other gods answer would say, and it talked about not worshipping other gods because God was a jealous god.

    This put me in a dilemma. All my life, family, teachers–all kinds of people, made it clear that jealousy was wrong. Jealousy was a no-no. But here was something telling me god was jealous, and that’s why I had to worship him, as per the Commandment. But there was another commandment that said to honor the father and mother. Now was I supposed to dishonor them by questioning what they had taught me? Or accept what they taught me, and discredit the jealous commandment? Or…

    I went round and round with it but in the end asked my mother why jealousy was wrong. She explained it in terms that an 11-year-old (as I was then) could understand, that life wasn’t always fair, that we couldn’t have everything, that what mattered most was being a good person, etc. She made sense. When I asked my teacher why jealousy was wrong, she said basically the same thing. Then when I asked how jealousy could be wrong, but god was jealous, she started in on how it wasn’t right to question god (nice change of subject), that I wasn’t equal to god, etc., etc.

    The disconnect was breathtakingly obvious to me, and that started me questioning Christianity. I went to my trusty encyclopedia at home and read about Christianity. It didn’t answer my doubts. Then I saw a listing about Religion in general. I went to it, and learned that there were all these other faiths! I read through them, and they sounded kinda fascinating, but kind of silly too. But, still, that they all were so sure they were right, that they had the answers, had me questioning Christianity further: What if the Hindus were right? Or the Buddhists? Or the Muslims? Or (fill in blank)? What then? Atheism didn’t even enter any of this. It was unheard of, at least by me (or my dated encyclopedia). But not for long.

    Right about this time, my mother started dating (and eventually married) a militant atheist. I learned a lot from him. Then I read Bertrand Russell’s Why I Am Not a Christian, and that sealed the deal. Religion was dead for me.

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