The Best Atheist Books of 2013

For the past several years, we’ve seen a large number of atheism-related books hit the market. Unlike the books written by the New Atheists, however, the recent releases aren’t just about why you should stop believing in God. They cover different aspects of faith, cater to a variety of audiences, and (most shocking to me) were put out by several different publishers.

Below are my picks for the best atheism-related books of the year. They’re the ones I’ll be referencing for years to come and the ones I would highly recommend to anyone who wants to explore faith with a critical eye.

#9) Beyond Belief: The Secret Lives of Women in Extreme Religions edited by Cami Ostman and Susan Tive (Seal Press, 2013):

We already know religious extremism is bad, but it poses a host of unique obstacles for women. The message is clear: If you’re female, God has a special, shitty role for you. In this powerful book, Ostman and Tive share the gut-wrenching stories of women who belonged to those harmful faiths and managed to break free.

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Ebenezer Scrooge, the Televangelist…

Bob Seidensticker, one of my fellow bloggers at Patheos, has written a really neat alternative version of Charles DickensA Christmas Carol with an atheist twist. His novella features a televangelist (Nathan) who gets visited in the night by ghosts that take him through his past, present and future to show him the problems with his message and the consequences that await him if he keeps pushing it.

In the excerpt below, Nathan and Bill (the “Ghost of Christmas Present”) look in on an old couple watching Nathan’s show on TV:

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Daniel Dennett’s Latest Book Chronicles Pastors Who Are Secretly Atheists

It was three and a half years ago when philosopher Daniel Dennett and researcher Linda LaScola released a groundbreaking study of pastors who no longer believed in God yet were still in the pulpit.

The point wasn’t that religion was wrong, but that there were pastors who didn’t believe in what they were preaching and felt stuck in their roles. They needed a way out.

A year later, that study led to the formation of The Clergy Project, a private discussion forum for closeted atheist pastors.

Now, Dennett and LaScola have released a book (with a foreword written by Richard Dawkins) that details what they discovered and learned from their study. It’s called Caught in The Pulpit: Leaving Belief Behind:

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‘Curiosity’ Book Giveaway: Here Are the Winning Entries, Including the Grossest Maggot Story We’ve Ever Published*

Curiosity is a wonderful monograph by British science writer Philip Ball. He chronicles how, many centuries ago, under the influence of religion, curiosity became a shameful characteristic, a twin to arrogance (mostly because being curious signaled you weren’t content to merely gawp in gratitude at God’s creation). Eventually, to humankind’s credit, curiosity morphed into a trait celebrated for its role in scientific progress.

At my request, Ball’s U.S. publisher, the University of Chicago Press, sent me three hardcover copies to give away to readers of this blog.**

To make it interesting, I asked you to share your favorite autobiographical story involving curiosity, and you did!

Here are, in my highly subjective opinion, the three best submissions, in no particular order.

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On the 50th Anniversary of ‘Where the Wild Things Are,’ Here’s Maurice Sendak on Atheism, Aging, and Loving the World

We’ve had to do without Maurice Sendak for a year and half now. The famous author died in May of last year, at 83. Hemant commemorated him here.

Sendak is, as the phrase goes, gone, but not forgotten. This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of his Where the Wild Things Are — the dark masterpiece of children’s literature, not least because of its remarkable economy with words (the whole book contains only 338 of them, plus plenty of Sendak’s magical illustrations).

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