I’d say that probably the best you could do would be to find a book that traced the development of various religions from around the world and how they changed over time. Just the phrasing that atheism/agnosticism is the disbelief/uncertainty of the existence of god shows how people don’t really respect that Christianity and the Abrahamic religions are but one slice of a very diverse pie featuring a multitude of odd and ludicrous deities and practices.
One of these, perhaps? Unfortunately, I haven’t read them myself.
Just read the Bible. All of it.
I highly recommend Bertrand Russell’s Why I am Not a Christian. It’s one of those books you have and delve into from time to time rather than something to read in one sitting. It really gives a lot to think about.
You mean to try to talk them out of it?
You’ve left yourself open to recommendations for at least four different sorts of books:
- Books to keep the believer from abandoning his/her faith (i.e. if he/she would like to remain a believer but is finding it increasingly difficult to do so).
- Books to convince the believer to abandon his/her faith for atheism or agnosticism.
- Books discussing the practical side of how to become an atheist or agnostic. (Things like “How do I talk to my family and friends about it?” or "What’s a good replacement for some of the religious activities I used to participate in?)
- Personal narratives in which the auther describes his/her own spiritual/intellectual journey (from belief to atheism, or wherever else).
I’ll leave the other categories for other (presumably atheist or agnostic) Dopers, but for category #1, I could mention off the top of my head:
Disappointment with God by Philip Yancey, from a more Evangelical Christian point of view
The Heart of Christianity by Marcus Borg, from a liberal Christian point of view
The chapters of The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener by Martin Gardner dealing with religious questions, from a skeptical, nonreligious, but still theistic point of view
**Calculating God **by Robert Sawyer. The advantage in it being a novel that’s fun to read along with pointing out the weirdness of atheism
Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis
A Simple Path by Mother Teresa
Science and Religion: From Conflict to Conversation by John Haught
I usually recommend books by Bart Ehrman, who was a born-again Christian studying the ancient languages of the Bible - which directly led him to question the accuracy of the Bible and its translations across the centuries. He is now an agnostic, and the chairman of the Religious Studies dept. at UNC- Chapel Hill. I liked his work Misquoting Jesus.
ETA: I’m not inviting a debate…this is the wrong forum for that. I’m just wondering what “the weirdness of atheism” might be.
Worst. $25,000 Pyramid category. Ever.
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.
The Power of Mythology by Joseph Campbell
“Lies my Teacher Taught Me” (or several other books in this vein of thinking. Just to teach critical thinking skills and to think about how material can be presented to you).
I agree with Bart Ehrman and would also recommend:
Liberating the Gospels by John Shelby Spong - Spong is an Episcopalian bishop, now retired. This book explains how the gospels were written with a Jewish audience in a traditional allegorical style and accordingly should not be taken literally (including the resurrection).
A History of God by Karen Armstrong - Armstrong traces the lineage of the Judeo-Christian God of the Bible from the pagan Canaanite deity Jahweh through modern times, including the development of the Jesus story.
The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (yes, that Thomas Paine) - a bit dated now, but Paine makes a pretty good case against literal interpretation of the Bible by using parts of the Bible itself to contradict other parts.
All of these demonstrate how the Bible cannot be - or should not be - read as the literal Word of God. Once someone is open to that concept, it’s a short step to the kind of critical thinking that leads many people to agnosticism or atheism.
Answering only for myself, it does feel strange, sometimes, to be an atheist in the US. There’s a pervasive religiousness and constant references to the Christian God everywhere you turn that I didn’t even notice before becoming atheist.
Count another vote for Ehrman for me, too.
I think it depends strongly on what type of believer this is. If it were a fundamentalist almost any good science book giving evidence for the age of the earth and evolution might do.
If it were someone who believed just because it felt good to have a purpose for existence, I’m not sure anything would help.
If it were a middle of the road believer, Biblical archeology books might be a good way of casting doubt on the entire enterprise.
Letting Go of God by Julia Sweeney — yes, that Julia Sweeney. It’s only available as an audiobook (because it’s actually a monologue performance). The performance recounts her journey from believer to non-believer and the reasons that cause the change. An abridged excerpt from this show was featured on a This American Life episode called “Godless America,” to which you can listen online for free.
The phrase “weirdness of Atheism” stands out from the page.
Also, ‘Considering’ implies a decision making process. You don’t decide what to believe in. That has always bugged me about religion.
To decide to believe something is to fail to understand how belief works.
For instance, given the choice: I might not want to be an Atheist (As it happens I do), but whether I want to be one or not the fact is I am one. I am one because I happen to believe there is no God. I can’t decide to change my mind. That would be like deciding to start believing I can levitate.
TLFE: I’m not implying that reading books on Atheism would be futile. You could ‘change’ your belief in something if you are presented with compelling enough reasons/evidence to do so. I’m just saying that the practice some people seem to have of changing religions like they might switch to a different toothpaste or fabric softener annoyingly inconsistent with the nature of belief.
IMO, the only sure way there is to understand skepticism and to have a good understanding of scientific cosmology. Once you have that, then you really wont need a “a how to be an atheist” book or books that attack religion, you’ll instead quickly begin to see through the falsehoods of religious thinking.
You can start withDemon Haunted World by Sagan and The Selfish Gene by Dawkins.
One I am reading right now:
Why I Believed: Reflections of a Former Missionary by Ken Daniels.
You can read it for free here.