Books for Fundies

Ok, I’ll try to phrase this as non-offensively as I can:

To be frank, it seems to me that the main problem that non-fundies have with fundies is their ignorance. (Incidentally, I don’t mean “fundie” to be derogatory- it’s just shorter than “fundamentalist Christians.”) For example, usually fundies just plain don’t know much about evolution other than what they read in Darwin on Trial and similar books. Fundies often think atheists have no morals, because fundies can’t envision a form of morality other than divine command. And more recently, I’ve seen people ask that jenkinsfan read up on epistemology before he posts the tired old chestnuts about “everybody has faith in something.”

If you were going to create a reading list for fundies, what would be on it? I’m not asking for a list that will necessarily change their minds. I’m thinking in terms of a list (of books they might actually read) which would inform them of some basics of your belief system (atheism, Buddhism, non-fundie Christianity) and let them know that yes, you really do have counterarguments to their old chestnuts, and even if they don’t believe that those counterarguments are valid, at least they can read about it themselves instead of making you type it in again.

I think that the first thing (obviously) would be the must-read FAQs. I might suggest The Tao is Silent, beyond that.


If they’re willing to read it the Blind Watch Maker would be good.

The problem with fundies is that usually they’ll refuse to read something OR they’ll refuse to evaluate it fairly. When it comes down to logic or faith they choose faith.

The copy of the Collapse of Evolution is always out at my schools library. I’ve really wanted to read it for a while, cause it seems to have a fair deal of the arguments creationists use to attack evolution in.

I agree- in general they refuse to read, even when it would at least teach them that certain arguments are sure to get shot down and make them look stupid.

As for “evaluate it fairly,” the point isn’t to change their minds- it’s to keep from having to give personal tutoring to every fundie that comes down the pike.


Altho it may seem strange- both “Issac Asimoves Guide to the Bible” and “Don’t know much about the Bible”- both would teach them much about their Holy book, and gently show them that that book is not inerrant & cannot be taken literally. Giving them any book which would attempt to actually challenge all faith- would likely be such a clear attack it would merely strenthen their resolve.

James Barr’s Fundamentalism and Escaping from Fundamentalism

Like Daniel said, Asimov’s Guide to the Bible is pretty good, but I recommend Steve Allen on the Bible, Religion, and Morality (yes, the Steve Allen).

Faith Healers by James Randi.

The Mirror of Simple Souls by Marguerite Porete (Ellen L. Babinsky(Translator))

… a book which makes perfect sense to any sane person so I have to wonder what a fundamentalist would make of it…

A good one re: non-fundamentalist Christians

Traveling Mercies by Anne LaMott

LaMott writes very blatantly and straight-forward. However, she is the kind of woman fundies would hate because she is honest and truthful about feelings on the Christian faith. She has gone through a lot of crap, digs into the frustrations of facing religious zealots and phrases things like “Jesus if he were drunk on a quart of whiskey”.

It’s good for gently teaching those entrenched in controlling conservatism that they can have their faith without the chains that come with fundamentalist thinking.

TM on Amazon

I would definatly recommend Karen Armstrong’s “History of God” and “The Battle for God”.

“Battle for God” is specifically about fundamentalist, and both are about the tremendous changes in Christian thinking and culture. A central belief of fundamenalist is that they are going back to the “fundamentals”, the basic, unwavering, unchanging priciples of Christianity, the Christianity of the apostles. Armstrong shows how much fundamentalism is a modern phenomenon, and not one the apostles or many others in Christianity’s colorful history would recognize.

Also if they’re going to bandy his name around so much, they could at least buckle down and actually read “Origin of Species” and “Descent of Man”. (The same goes for people who believe in evolution. Umm. And I promise I’m going to read them.)


Feh. The problem with Biblical literalists isn’t that they are ignorant, or even stupid.

The problem is that they are lying. Understandable, of course – if I thought I worshipped a being with a dead baby fetish, I suppose I’d lie a lot, too.

They can read Jefferson’s letters on the Virginia Constitution until their eyes fall out, and still they’ll claim that “The founders wanted the state out of religion, but not religion out of the state.”

They can walk right through a dinosaur exhibit and wonder if these 60+MM year old creatures died before or after the flood 4,000 years ago.

They can have explained to them a hundred times what science means by “theory,” and the hundred and first time they have an opportunity, they will claim that evolution is “just a theory.”

So what they read or don’t read is wholly irrelevant. Anything at all that disagrees with the Big Baby-Murder’s Book will be rejected for some reason or another.

Somebody on another discussion board asked about books he could get to deconvert his fundy wife. Here’s what I wrote:

Manhattan - lay off on the Bible. There are some open-minded, logical religious people here - who are not Fundamentalists - who make tak offense. Besides, like it or not, it’s the most important, influental piece of literature in the Western World, not to mention that part of it is considered a National Epic. You don’t see me dissing the Kallavela, do you? I wouldn’t want to insult the Finns.

If you have a problem with people taking the Bible to be the literal truth, and the only truth, then I’m right behind you. And if you want to engage in Biblical criticism, then I’m game too. Just don’t throw out random insults.

P.S. - my addition to the reading list? The works of Karl Popper. Teach 'em something about scientific method.

Apparently, there was a VB error that prevented you from seeing the word “literalist” in my post.

The story of Jesus and the man born blind ends with a throwaway line of Jesus’s about people who are blind, but now see, and people who have eyes but refuse to see. Somehow that seems appropriate (no offense intended to Alessan!)

I have two problems with the straw-man “Biblical literalist” (and most conservative Christians I know, including those who call themselves literalists, don’t fit the description):
> Nobody is a literalist. Everyone reads the Bible with an eye to what’s poetic/symbolic/fictional and what’s literally true; we just all differ on how much is which. There is not a fundamentalist in a carload who expects the literal appearance of a seven-headed ten-horned flying purple Christian-eater, despite his description in the Book of Revelations. He’s clearly symbolical of (a) the Roman Empire, (b) the Church of Rome, © the Common Market, (d) the Protestants, (e) the Trilateral Commission, or (f) the Chicago Reader, depending on your interpretation (some Internet fundies. subscribe to option (f), so I included it ;).)
> They don’t know how to read ancient literature. Fer example, for Matthew to gather a “Best of Jesus’s Sermons Condensed” and set it at one place where he taught (on a mountainside) was well within the literary traditions of the time – everybody would understand that this was not a verbatim transcription of one of Jesus’s teachings but a collection of the most important things he had to say put together in one place. Then there’s midrash, which I hope CKDex or others will have more to say about it. Typically any rabbi or reporter of rabbinic literature will tell a story. Even atheists do this; Gaudere passed on a cute story about a rabbi who sinned and was told by God he was going to hell that made a very valid point, and which I quoted, misattributing to Phil D., a few weeks ago. The story is not to be taken as literal but to illustrate a point. That’s the whole purpose of the parables (which fundies understand as well as anyone else are fictional) but also the sort of thing that rankles people about the supposed miracle stories. Take the “walking on the water” thing that Ptahlis and I were bandying about a while ago. It’s a classic, and I’m sorry I didn’t realize what it was at the time: Consider that you’re an Evangelist (sense of Gospel writer, not preacher) and trying to show that Jesus is bigger, better, and has shinier toys than Moses, Elijah, and their friends and relations. Well, Moses comes to the Dead Sea, lifts his staff, and the waters part; Joshua comes to the Jordan, lifts his arms, and the waters part; Elijah goes to cross the Jordan, waves his mantle over the waters, and they part; Elisha, coming back after seeing Elijah off to Heaven, duplicates the feat to cross back. God appears to have been running a water-parting service for Jewish prophets, from the looks of things. Symbolically all these show that the God of Moses, Joshua, etc., has power over water, seen as the primeval Deep of the Hebrew mythos. So let’s prove that Jesus is more whoopie-doo than Moses et al. – he doesn’t just part the waters to walk across dry-shod – he walks on them and they calm at his voice.

Likewise, all the babies that grew up to be leaders and their ties to shepherds. It was a staple in the ancient world, from Sargon to Paris to Attis to Hercules, to have a birth story involving shepherds. You begin thinking that the second year course at shepherds school included a unit on what to do with baby heroes/saviors when you find one. And you find Moses in the bulrushes (an exact duplicate of the Sargon story, by the way) and shepherds coming to the manger to see the baby Jesus. There’s a point behind all this confabulation, involving pastoring – the leader guiding the people as a shepherd does his flocks.

Say, Poly, not to hijack this thread but, do you believe in the resurrection of Jesus?

Well, yes and no, Poly. I agree that essentially all literalists whom I know of recognize that Jesus’s parables were not actual history, but of course that is stated explicitly in the text. As to Revelations, I think that it occurred during a dream gives literalists an “out” of sorts – since it hasn’t happened, of course it is symbolic and not a literal reading of the future. Tie that in with the literalists’ penchant for finding evil and signs of the Second Coming in our world, and one easily understands how this comes about. Literalists also have a pretty well-developed sense of how to make the Bible symbolic when the events described have a zero chance of happening, like the Second coming occurring during the lifetimes of the apostles. Even then, I’ll bet you you can pop by the LBMB and find a few who expect the seven-headed monster literally.

But as to things that the Bible said already happened, you know that there are literalists who are in fact lying (admittedly, sometimes to themselves as opposed to only the rest of us). They will look you straight in the eye and claim that God actually, physically created the universe in seven literal days, that he had a temper tantrum and actually, physically drowned the earth entire save one family, and that He had another temper tantrum and actually, physically killed the firstborn of Egypt. And if you tell them that those stories are largely symbolism, you become every bit as much an unbeliever in their eyes as I am when I tell them that they didn’t happen at all, symbolism or no.

Then, they go on to claim that that particular understanding of God is Good! Again, I say “feh!” to them and to any attempt to educate them. They are, candidly, beyond redemption. All we can do is keep them the hell out of our schools and government. Because they cannot be educated in science any more than they can be educated in how to read ancient literature. They simply do not wish to learn.

As to the Chicago Reader, I think most literalists would agree that the Anti-Christ will/would/does have more power than that. I mean, we can’t even get Serlin kicked from AOL! If we were the Anti-Christ, well, we wouldn’t have to. :wink:

Apparently, there was a VB error that prevented you from seeing the word “literalist” in my post. **

Yeah, that’s probably it. Damn “computers”.

Well, Reverend Terry, I would recommend every single book by Erma Bombeck, the complete Family Circus, the complete Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States of America, Robert Shields’ Diary, and the archives of The Times of London.

Please, Reverend Terry, take this modest reading list into this room, here, read it thoroughly, and come back with a 100,000 word report on what you have learned, cited, of course. I’ll just keep the door locked so that you aren’t disturbed…