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Top 10 Recently Reviewed Books on Religion


Religion is an important aspect of human culture and history - indeed, one can argue that it isn't possible to really understand culture and history without also understanding religion. There are many books published each year dealing with religion, religious history and religious issues. Archived here are reviews of books which tend to take a skeptical or scholarly perspective on religion, past and present.

1) How We Believe

Belief in a god is ubiquitous in America today. Given that such belief has been integral to society and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future, it is worth asking: why do people believe and how does that belief proceed? Why do people retain their religion instead of abandoning it?

2) Psychologial Roots Of Religious Belief

Belief in supernatural beings has been a part of nearly every human culture ever studied. Typically these beliefs have been integral parts of religions, but why exactly are they so common in the first place? Are they common because they are all true? Some might take this position, but scientists seek more substantive answers...

3) Odd Gods

There are a lot of small, new religions in the United States, and it seems that more pop up all the time. What are they and what do they want? Why are people attracted to them? Perhaps more importantly, how are we as individuals and as a society supposed to react to these new religious groups?

4) Science and Religion: Are They Compatible?

Debates about the compatibility of science and religion are regular features in academic discussions. On the one side we have those who argue that there isn't any conflict, perhaps because the two subjects deal with different issues or perhaps because "true religion" is always in accordance with "reality" as described by science and nature. Others, however, insist that religion and science operate from fundamentally different methodologies...

5) Quest for Paradise

Human cultures and religions exhibit a great deal of variation in doctrines and beliefs. However, there are also quite a few areas where they exhibit strong similarities - not at all surprising, if they are all created by humans for the purpose of addressing human needs. One of the areas where similarity can be found is in the desire for a "paradise," some perfect abode of happiness where one is free from suffering.

6) The Ancient Gods Speak

Ancient Egypt produced one of the most fascinating religious systems the world has ever seen. That religion is, however, now dead - a part of history, just like the ancient monuments which c an still be found along the Nile. This does not mean, however, that it had no influence upon subsequent religious developments in the Near East.

7) Sacred Pain

For most people, pain is something to be avoided: it is a sign that something is wrong and that something needs to be fixed. But for a few people, at least some times, pain is something sought after. There are even religious reasons to seek pain and discomfort. But why would people do this? Are they insane, or do they know something the rest of us don't?

8) In Search of Zarathustra

Obscured by time, history, and overlays of conflicting religious dogmas lies a religion which few people understand, but which has arguably had a profound affect upon the lives of a large percentage of the people who have lived during the past couple of millennia: Zoroastrianism. Is it possible to cut through all of the interference and learn more?

9) History of Our Seasonal Holidays

Holidays are an ancient and important facet of human culture. Every society that we know about has had holidays of some sort because they serve to give meaning and structure to the passage of time. The great age of so many of our holidays, however, means that they have acquired many customs, rituals, and symbols that we simply don't understand anymore. So what do some of our favorite holidays and holiday symbols actually mean, and why should we even care?

10) Sacred Choices: Right to Contraception, Abortion in World Religions

Family planning, contraception and abortion are all intimately related issues which are often subject to rancorous debates in modern society and international politics. According to conventional wisdom, traditional religious beliefs and religious institutions stand opposed to all three issues. According to conventional wisdom, religion is inevitably anti-choice in such matters. But what if conventional wisdom is wrong?

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