Books That Make You Who You Are (Spirituality and Atheism)

After much thought I decided that rating any of these works in some order of how they personally influenced me utterly futile. Therefore I have selected 20 works from my library that have shaped my spiritual thoughts (or absence of them) and placed them in no particular order. All at one time or another have inspired or changed my journey or just educated me. All I can say about it is that I remain open to mystery. To be otherwise would be contradictory to my life’s experience. It seems to me that the wisest people I know are the ones that apply reason, and logic and leave room for doubt. The most unwise are the fools and fanatics who don’t.

1 The Bible.
Unreliable as history but exceptional as literature. People know little about its vicarious beginnings and if it is truly the literal word of God then why did he stop writing. But one cannot deny its influence in our world.
If you read the Bible searching for an understanding of life. And you read it with a logical reasoning and an exploratory mind you can only conclude that it was written by people seeking understanding but who were constrained by the knowledge of the time. And that is so of all writing.

2 The World’s Religions.
World Religions
Huston Smith’s masterpiece explores the essential elements and teachings of the world’s predominant faiths, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and the native traditions of Australia, Africa, Oceania, and the Americas.

3 Losing My Religion Tom Frame
Controversial book by the Minister who conducted the service after the Bali bombings. A journey through the history of the church in Australia. As much sociology as religious. He controversy predicts the end of the church in this country within 10 to 15 years.

4 The World Treasury of Modern Religious Thought. Edited by Jaroslav Pelikan

A remarkable book of essays from people like Freud, Marx, Jung, Lewis, Bonhoeffer, Herschel, Gandhi and Solzhenitsyn. But my favourite is Martin Luther Kings. Letter from Birmingham Jail. Some thought provoking reads.

5 The High Price of Heaven David Marr

The part religion takes in Australian politics and society and in particular its influence on sexual practice.

6 The End of Faith Sam Harris
Harris 1

Of the atheist writers I have found Sam Harris to be one who writes with a clarity that is easily understood. This is as much about the beginning of reason as it is about the end of faith.

7 God is Not Great Christopher Hitchens

The world recently lost one of its most formidable minds in Hitchens. I feel blessed that some of his words rubbed off on me.

8 The God Delusion Richard Dawkins
The God

An international best seller by a confrontational author who has little time for unreasoned thought. An enthralling read that changed my views on many things.

9 Telling Lies for God Ian Plimer

Professor of Geology at Melbourne University examines in detail the claims of Biblical creationism. Controversial when written but much of it is now accepted as fact in a secular world.

10 Crossing the Threshold of Hope John Paul 11

A fascinating insight into the academic world of the Catholic Church and its institutional approach to faith.

11 Letter to a Christian Nation Sam Harris.

A short but important book as a counter point addressed to Americans. I have read it three times and find his arguments compelling.

12 God in All Worlds Edited by Lucinda Vardey
God in all

An anthology of contemporary spiritual writing similar to no 4 but categorised into sections on Liberation, The Spiritual Experience, and The Struggle with Faith etc. One I pick up when I want a challenge.

13 Adams Vs God Rematch Philip Adams

A Bible bashing follow up to Adams vs God in which he exposes the links between religion, politics and the fanaticism of ideologies.

14 Jesus A N Wilson

An examination of the life of Jesus Christ.

15 Jesus the Evidence Ian Wilson

The author raises many doubts on the authenticity of the gospel writers and this title had a profound effect on my thinking.

16 Josephus The Essential Works Paul L Mailer

The author examines the life and writings of the credible Jewish historian.

17 Inspirational Writings of C S Lewis

One could not help but be impressed with his deep sincerity and concern for humanity even if you could not abide by his faith.

18 What’s so Amazing Ábout Grace Philip Yancey

A popular American Christian writer who isn’t afraid to question his own. This book taught me a lot about forgiveness and the release it brings.

19 Breaking the spell Daniel C Bennett
Breaking the spell

What is religion and how did it evolve? Is it the product of blind evolutionary instinct or of rational choice? Is the only way to lead a good life through religion?

20 Sex in History Reay Tannahill

This is not strictly a spiritual work but it did bring home to me the way in which the church has manipulated sex as a means of controlling people’s lives. A great read for those interested in the gift of sex without religious constraints.

Remember the list is not in any order.


Categories: Literature

2 replies

  1. John May I modestly suggest you dip into my ebook, /The Jesus Delusion/, to be found on my website or that of BWMBooks. Cheers Robert

  2. John, also read Jesus The Man by Barbara Theiring. Australian author who examines how the miracles were more a case of misinterpretation and chinese whispers. She has read the dead sea scrolls. One of the few people able to translate sanskrit. At the end she sticks to her faith but the book gives good argument for a man whose acts were exagerrated in a time when sayings and words had meaning which dont exist today.. I am waiting for Australian politics to be less controversial so I have time to read Reza Aslans book Zealot The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth. He is muslim and seems to follow similar arguments as Theiring. I am Atheist. The only one true faith.

    Kerri Laidlaw 🙂


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