I’ve gotten a couple of questions from folks who are just starting to get into biblical criticism or atheistic philosophy and are wondering what books to read. Rather than answer individually, I thought we could share the books that made an impression on us when we first deconverted.
(I know we’ve done this kind of thing before, but it’s probably good to do it again every couple years as new books come out.)
I’m more interested in history than philosophy, so I’ll concentrate on books of biblical criticism. Obviously, these days the first name to come up when atheists are talking about the bible is Bart Ehrman. His Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible is a good introduction to some of the issues in New Testament studies. Of course, there’s Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why, where he talks about the problems of textual criticism in the New Testament. And there’s his most recent work, Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are.
If you’re more interested in the Old Testament, let me recommend How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now by James Kugel. Kugel goes through the stories of the Bible, explaining what scholars think the original point of each story was, then what later Jews thought the story meant, and then how early Christian interpreted it.
And of course I have to mention The Human Faces of God: What Scripture Reveals When It Gets God Wrong (and Why Inerrancy Tries to Hide It) by Thom Stark. While he’s a Christian, Stark comes as close as anyone I’ve seen to producing a truly secular reading of the Bible.
That’s enough from me, I think. What are your favorite introductory books for budding young atheists?