Don’t Bring a Knife to a Book Fight

Don’t Bring a Knife to a Book Fight May 8, 2012

Whatever your religious affiliation, what’s the first book you’d recommend to someone on the other side to open up a conversation to get them to eventually switch teams?

In other words, your pick doesn’t have to be a knock-out punch for your beliefs, it just has to open up a chink you plan to exploit later.  (Though if you’ve got a sure-fire book recommendation, for either side, by all means share).  I’ve certainly heard both sides cite the Bible.

Back when I was dating a nice Catholic boy, his team had plenty of books to recommend (some of which I got around to), but I had fewer to pass back.  And I tended to have Christians quote to me C.S. Lewis from Surprised by Joy that:

A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading. There are traps everywhere… God is, if I may say, very unscrupulous.

So what would you guys bring to a faith fight?  Please mention in your comment the religious belief you’d be trying to bring people round to and a bit of an explanation of why this book feels so well suited to your purposes.  If you think your recommendation works only on a particular target group, that’s fine, just tell us which sect you think is susceptible.

As for me, I think I’d go with Gödel, Escher, Bach.  Maybe I’m giving a cheating answer to my own question, but I think that reading this book changes the way people think, and that new style of thinking is a lot easier for me to engage with.  GEB doesn’t set up much of the evidence I’m marshalling but it gives my partner some of the language and thought patterns that will ground any philosophical conversation we care to have.

Because GEB is about cognition and computer science, I do feel like it’s a particularly good grounding for a discussion of human nature and telos.  Trying to duplicate or improve human reasoning makes us ask a lot of hard questions about “what a piece of work is Man” and I’m largely in agreement with C.S. Lewis that human nature is the readiest tool at hand to start a study of philosophy.

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