Charles Sailey provides a brief background on genetics and how he is using this to help identify medications that work best for individual people. He also explains how he uses genetics to decode an individual’s “DNA Fitness and Nutrition” profile. These concepts serve as the basis for “personalized medicine.” Dr. Sailey obtained his M.D. from the University of Maryland. He is currently Medical Director of the Laboratory at Molecular Testing Labs in Vancouver, WA. He is the primary investigator for several ongoing research projects.
Humanist Resource List
(I) Four Magazines
(1) The Humanist WEBSITE: http://thehumanist.org/
THE HUMANIST applies humanism—a natural and democratic outlook informed by science, inspired by art, and motivated by compassion—to broad areas of social and personal concern. In pursuit of alternative ideas, the Humanist airs opinions that may not necessarily reflect those of the editors or the publisher, the American Humanist Association (AHA).
(2) Free Inquiry WEBSITE: http://www.secularhumanism.org/
FREE INQUIRY is “the hard-hitting bimonthly journal of the Council for Secular Humanism. From world-class columnists to thought-provoking cover features to commentaries from every branch of the secular humanist movement, FREE INQUIRY has it all ... and 70 to 80 percent of each issue is never posted online.”
(3) Skeptical Inquirer WEBSITE: http://www.csicop.org/
SKEPTICAL INQUIRER is published by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI). Its mission is to “critically examine paranormal, fringe science, and other claims.” Some of the founding members of CSI include scientists, academics, and science writers such as Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, Paul Kurtz, Ray Hyman, James Randi, Martin Gardner, Sidney Hook, and others.
(4) Skeptic (magazine) WEBSITE: http://www.skeptic.com/
SKEPTIC is a publication of Michael Shermer’s Skeptics Society. “Some people believe that skepticism is the rejection of new ideas, or worse, they confuse “skeptic” with “cynic” and think that skeptics are a bunch of grumpy curmudgeons unwilling to accept any claim that challenges the status quo. This is wrong. Skepticism is a provisional approach to claims. It is the application of reason to any and all ideas — no sacred cows allowed. In other words, skepticism is a method, not a position. Ideally, skeptics do not go into an investigation closed to the possibility that a phenomenon might be real or that a claim might be true. When we say we are “skeptical,” we mean that we must see compelling evidence before we believe.
(II) Twenty-Three Books
Note: I’m omitting three of the famous “four horsemen” books (Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens) on the grounds that we all know about these anyway. I do include, however, Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell because I think this book is in a special category. My list may be somewhat idiosyncratic. It’s intended to include at least a few old classics, along with some newer books that you might not yet have encountered. Also, I’ve got Francis Collins in there, and you can make of that what you will.
(1) A. C. Grayling, The Good Book: A Humanist Bible (2011)
[Few, if any, thinkers and writers today would have the imagination, the breadth of knowledge, the literary skill, and --yes-- the audacity to conceive of a powerful, secular alternative to the Bible. But that is exactly what A.C. Grayling has done by creating a non-religious Bible, drawn from the wealth of secular literature and philosophy in both Western and Eastern traditions, using the same techniques of editing, redaction, and adaptation that produced the holy books of the Judaeo-Christian and Islamic religions. The Good Book consciously takes its design and presentation from the Bible, in its beauty of language and arrangement into short chapters and verses for ease of reading and quotability, offering to the non-religious seeker all the wisdom, insight, solace, inspiration, and perspective of secular humanist traditions that are older, far richer and more various than Christianity.]
(2) Peter Singer, Rethinking Life and Death: The Collapse of Our Traditional Ethics (1996)
[One reviewer writes: I never thought that I’d come across a work of non-fiction that I couldn't put down, but here it is. Fascinating and thought provoking, in Rethinking Life and Death, Singer shows how and why the western world has already started moving away from the Judeo-Christian sanctity of human life ethic. He uses well-reasoned arguments to show why current interpretations of the sanctity of human life ethic are unsustainable. In the last section of this book, Singer presents a working model for a new quality of life ethic and effortlessly shows how they would apply to situations in which our traditional ethic yields unsatisfactory results. One thing I really thought was magnificent about this book is that, while Singer obviously supports a shift to whole-hearted acceptance of a quality of life ethic, he doesn't insist that as a reader you agree with him. Singer leaves perfectly open the door of maintaining a sanctity of (all) life ethic; he just makes sure the reader understands the consequences of such an ethic in its pure and unadulterated form.]
(3) Greg M. Epstein, Good Without God (2009)
[Epstein’s premise, stated simply, is this: there is now a significant portion of the population who simply do not believe in God. And yet most of them (including himself) live what would be thought of by most as perfectly "good" lives, raising their children, taking care of their parents, helping out in the community, and the like. They are people you would like to have as neighbors. So if they don't believe in God, why do they act in this way? Why aren't they all out marauding, looting and pillaging? If not God, what do they believe in? He recognizes there are needs beyond cold rationalism to find out what is important in life. There is a place for a sense of awe, for humility, for art and nature. But he finds it in places other than a belief in God.]
(4) Christopher Hitchens, Mortality (2012)
[Throughout the course of his ordeal battling esophageal cancer, Hitchens adamantly and bravely refused the solace of religion, preferring to confront death with both eyes open. In this riveting account of his affliction, Hitchens poignantly describes the torments of illness, discusses its taboos, and explores how disease transforms experience and changes our relationship to the world around us. By turns personal and philosophical, Hitchens embraces the full panoply of human emotions as cancer invades his body and compels him to grapple with the enigma of death. Mortality is the exemplary story of one man's refusal to cower in the face of the unknown, as well as a searching look at the human predicament. Crisp and vivid, veined throughout with penetrating intelligence, Hitchens's testament is a courageous and lucid work of literature, an affirmation of the dignity and worth of man.]
(5) Leonard Mlodinow & Deepak Chopra, War of the Worldviews (2012)
[Physicist Leonard Mlodinow (co-author of The Grand Design) and popular New Age author Deepak Chopra team up for War of the Worldviews, a debate book which puts spiritualism against science. The book is divided up into sections about the universe, life, the mind, and religion, each of which contains several chapters phrased as questions. In these chapters the authors both answer these questions in terms of their "worldview" and respond to one another over disagreements.]
(6) Massimo Pigliucci, Answers for Aristotle (2012)
[The author says: "This book is about what philosophy and science together can tell us concerning the big questions in life. If we want to understand these questions in a new light we also need to look under the hood, so to speak. We employ not only the logical scalpel of philosophy to parse what people mean by the different ideas that guide their lives but also the microscope of science to try to figure out how and why people behave in certain ways.]
(7) Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos (2012)
[The modern materialist approach to life has conspicuously failed to explain such central mind-related features of our world as consciousness, intentionality, meaning, and value. This failure to account for something so integral to nature as mind, argues philosopher Thomas Nagel, is a major problem, threatening to unravel the entire naturalistic world picture, extending to biology, evolutionary theory, and cosmology. Since minds are features of biological systems that have developed through evolution, the standard materialist version of evolutionary biology is fundamentally incomplete. Nagel's skepticism is not based on religious belief or on a belief in any definite alternative. In Mind and Cosmos, he does suggest that if the materialist account is wrong, then principles of a different kind may also be at work in the history of nature, principles of the growth of order that are in their logical form teleological rather than mechanistic. In spite of the great achievements of the physical sciences, reductive materialism is a worldview ripe for displacement. Nagel shows that to recognize its limits is the first step in looking for alternatives, or at least in being open to their possibility.]
(8) Steven Weinberg, Facing Up: Science and Its Cultural Adversaries (2001)
[Each of these essays struggles in one way or another with the necessity of facing up to the discovery that the laws of nature are impersonal, with no hint of a special status for human beings. Defending the spirit of science against its cultural adversaries, these essays express a viewpoint that is reductionist, realist, and devoutly secular.]
(9) Daniel Dennett, Breaking The Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon (2006)
[Is religion a product of blind evolutionary instinct or rational choice? Is it truly the best way to live a moral life? Ranging through biology, history, and psychology, Dennett charts religion’s evolution from “wild” folk belief to “domesticated” dogma. Not an antireligious screed but an unblinking look beneath the veil of orthodoxy, Breaking the Spell will be read and debated by believers and skeptics alike.]
(10) Lawrence Krauss, A Universe From Nothing (2012)
[One of the few prominent scientists today to have crossed the chasm between science and popular culture, Krauss describes the staggeringly beautiful experimental observations and mind-bending new theories that demonstrate not only that something can arise from nothing, but that something will always arise from nothing.]
(11) John R. Shook & Paul Kurtz (editors), The Future of Naturalism (2009)
[In this volume of all new essays, prominent philosophers consider a wide variety of challenges to naturalism, proposing improved defenses and novel developments in this influential worldview. Some essays question whether naturalism is a unified philosophy, and try to determine how one or another variety of naturalism has an advantage. Other essays defend naturalism's approaches to religion, the mind, experience, morality, and society. To ensure that naturalism has a strong future, this volume's authors are determined to help reformulate its principles for the 21st century.]
(12) Andre Comte-Sponville, The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality (2008)
[At first blush “atheist spirituality” may seem like a contradiction in terms, but French philosopher Comte-Sponville makes a compelling argument for a profound dimension of experience that is god-free. His idea of spirituality also bears no small resemblance to Eastern spirituality, and the philosopher-author does not hesitate to cite great Eastern thinkers in this catalogue of references to great minds grappling with important questions. We can do without religion and without God, the author argues, but we can't do without fidelity and community.]
(13) A.C. Grayling, Meditations for the Humanist: Ethics for a Secular Age (2003)
[Containing nearly fifty commentaries on topics ranging from love, lying, perseverance, revenge, racism, religion, history, loyalty, health, and leisure, Meditations for the Humanist does not offer definitive statements but rather prompts to reflection. These brief essays serve as springboards to the kind of thoughtful examination without which, as Socrates famously claimed, life is not worth living.]
(14) Edwin H. Wilson, The Genesis of a Humanist Manifesto (1995)
[To tell the story of the document that crystallized the principles and ideals of contemporary humanism is to tell the story of the origins of the humanist movement itself. Conceived from a convergence of freethought and religious liberalism at the end of the nineteenth century, born out of the global upheaval of World War I, nourished by the cultural revolutions of the 1920s, modern humanism came of age in 1933 with the publication of "A Humanist Manifesto."]
(15) Bertrand Russell, Why I Am Not A Christian (1927) (+ other essays written from 1899 to 1954)
[Dedicated as few men have been to the life of reason, Bertrand Russell has always been concerned with the basic questions to which religion also addresses itself -- questions about man's place in the universe and the nature of the good life, questions that involve life after death, morality, freedom, education, and sexual ethics. He brings to his treatment of these questions the same courage, scrupulous logic, and lofty wisdom for which his other work as philosopher, writer, and teacher has been famous. These qualities make the essays included in this book perhaps the most graceful and moving presentation of the freethinker's position since the days of Hume and Voltaire. "I am as firmly convinced that religions do harm as I am that they are untrue," Russell declares in his Preface, and his reasoned opposition to any system or dogma which he feels may shackle man's mind runs through all the essays in this book, whether they were written as early as 1899 or as late as 1954.]
(16) Francis Collins, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (2007)
[A Christian geneticist, Francis Collins, leader of the Human Genome Project, can comfortably accept that "a common ancestor for humans and mice is virtually inescapable". Collins goes on to say that DNA sequence alone, even if accompanied by a vast trove of data on biological function, will never explain certain special human attributes, such as the knowledge of the Moral Law and the universal search for God. Evolutionary explanations have been proffered for both these phenomena. But theism and materialism don’t stand on equal footings. The assumption of materialism is fundamental to science.]
(17) Paul Kurtz, The Transcendental Temptation: A Critique of Religion and the Paranormal (1991)
[One reader writes: “Kurtz focuses on those who ignore empirical evidence and logic in constructing a supernatural worldview. Kurtz does not claim that the scientific method has left the world without mysteries, only that it is the best tool we have for dispelling ignorance. In this, he joins Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov. An insightful, courageous contribution to the field of the objective study of religious behavior.” Another reader writes: “Kurtz continues to do damage to the name of Humanism with his own form of fundamentalism. Faced with a stark choice between a vision of a cold and empty universe, and a universe of possibilities of hope, who can blame the masses for saying: "if that's humanism, then you can keep it!”]
(18) Paul Kurtz, Meaning and Value in a Secular Age —The Writings of Paul Kurtz (2012)
[A rich collection of Paul Kurtz's writings, this book presents a full picture of the philosophy of humanism. Kurtz is at his best in displaying and defending the humane values that underlie his thought.]
(19) John Allen Paulos, Irreligion (2008)
[Are there any logical reasons to believe in God? The mathematician John Allen Paulos thinks not. What Irreligion brings to the table is brevity. Paulos's tactic is right on. A fast-paced, easily digested little book like this one is just the thing to stimulate thought and promote a more rational outlook. Atheists, like theologians, can tend to go on and on, self-importantly. Irreligion gets in, makes its provocative points, and then gets out. It is a welcome addition to neo-atheism literature, not least because of the vivid wit that Paulos brings to the subject. I loved his analogy of something to a scholar who had proved that Homer had not written "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey," but they were "written by another blind poet of the same name." That's the sort of low key humor that makes the subject matter feel brisk and breezy rather than onerous, ponderous, and stale.]
(20) W. K. Clifford, The Ethics of Belief (originally 1876)
["It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence." This forthright assertion of mathematician and educator W. K. Clifford (1845-1879) in his famous essay "The Ethics of Belief" drew an immediate response from Victorian-era critics who took issue with his reasoned and brilliantly presented attack on beliefs "not founded on fair inquiry".]
(21) Steven E. Landsburg, The Big Questions (2009)
[In the wake of his enormously popular books The Armchair Economist and More Sex Is Safer Sex, Slate columnist and economics professor Steven Landsburg employs concepts from mathematics, economics, and physics in this sprightly tour of the deepest problems in philosophy: What is real? What can we know? Why is there something instead of nothing? And how should we live? Beginning with the broadest philosophical issues—theories of existence, knowledge, and ethics—Landsburg then turns to a dazzling variety of specific applications. He gives us a mathematical analysis for arguments for the existence of God, explains the real meanings of the Heisenberg uncertainty principle and Gödel’s incompleteness theorem, and carefully dissects the meaning of social responsibility on the playground, in the marketplace, and in the voting booth.]
(22) Jim Holt, Why Does The World Exist? An Existential Detective Story (2012)
[This is a 2012 New York Times "Top Ten Book of the Year." Here is Amazon’s description: “Whether framed philosophically as “Why is there a world rather than nothing at all?” or more colloquially as “But, Mommy, who made God?” the metaphysical mystery about how we came into existence remains the most fractious and fascinating question of all time. Following in the footsteps of Christopher Hitchens, Roger Penrose, and even Stephen Hawking, Jim Holt emerges with an engrossing narrative that traces our latest efforts to grasp the origins of the universe. As he takes on the role of cosmological detective, the brilliant yet slyly humorous Holt contends that we might have been too narrow in limiting our suspects to God vs. the Big Bang. Whether interviewing a cranky Oxford philosopher, a Physics Nobel Laureate, or a French Buddhist monk, Holt pursues unexplored and often bizarre angles to this cosmic puzzle. The result is a brilliant synthesis of cosmology, mathematics, and physics—one that propels his own work to the level of philosophy itself.”]
(23) Aubrey Dillon-Malone, The Cynic’s Dictionary (2000)
[I include this one just for the heck of it. It’s a fun book. Anyone who, sometime in the past, has looked at Ambrose Bierce’s The Devil’s Dictionary and enjoyed it will absolutely love Dillon-Malone’s collection of definitions.]
(III) Four Podcasts
Rationally Speaking: http://www.rationallyspeakingpodcast.org/
[Rationally Speaking is the official podcast of New York City Skeptics. Hosts are Massimo Pigliucci and Julia Galef.They explore the borderlands between reason and nonsense, between science and pseudoscience.]
Inquiring Minds: https://soundcloud.com/inquiringminds
[Each week Inquiring Minds brings you a new, in-depth exploration of the places where science, politics, and society collide. Science journalist Chris Mooney and neuroscientist Indre Viskontas engage in pointed and intriguing conversations with experts and luminaries from a wide range of disciplines.]
Malcontents Gambit: http://www.malcontentsgambit.com/tag/podcast/
[This is Alan Litchfield’s podcast, produced locally, billed as “extolling the finest in secular thought.”]
The Humanist Hour: http://podcast.thehumanist.org/
[The Humanist Hour (HH) Audio Podcast is a monthly one-hour talk show produced by the American Humanist Association. Every episode of the HH Audio Podcast explores a different area of humanist thought, from politics to pop culture.]
(IV) A Few Websites
The Great Debate: What Is Life (2011):
[Richard Dawkins, J. Craig Venter, Nobel laureates Sidney Altman and Leland Hartwell, Chris McKay, Paul Davies, Lawrence Krauss, and The Science Network’s Roger Bingham discuss the origins of life, the possibility of finding life elsewhere, and the latest development in synthetic biology. More than 2500 people filled ASU Gammage Auditorium on Saturday, February 12 to listen to this remarkable collection of scientists whose particular perspectives range from the cosmic to the microscopic.]
The Great Debate: Can Science Tell Us Right From Wrong (2010):
[In 2010, a panel of renowned scientists, philosophers, and public intellectuals gathered to discuss what impact evolutionary theory and advances in neuroscience might have on traditional concepts of morality. If human morality is an evolutionary adaptation and if neuroscientists can identify specific brain circuitry governing moral judgment, can scientists determine what is, in fact, right and wrong? The panelists were psychologist Steven Pinker, author Sam Harris, philosopher Patricia Churchland, physicist Lawrence Krauss, philosopher Simon Blackburn, bioethicist Peter Singer and The Science Network’s Roger Bingham.]
Beyond Belief: Science, Reason, Religion & Survival (2006):
[Will faith and dogma trump rational inquiry, or will it be possible to reconcile religious and scientific worldviews? Can evolutionary biology, anthropology and neuroscience help us to better understand how we construct beliefs, and experience empathy, fear and awe? Can science help us create a new rational narrative as poetic and powerful as those that have traditionally sustained societies? Can we treat religion as a natural phenomenon? Can we be good without God? And if not God, then what? This is a critical moment in the human situation, and The Science Network brought together an extraordinary group of scientists and philosophers to explore answers to these questions.]
Jennifer Hancock http://www.jen-hancock.com/web.html
[Remember her? By sharing her pragmatic Humanist approach to living life fully and intentionally, Jennifer has transformed the lives of those who have been touched by her work. By encouraging people be the best, most ethical humans they can be, she consistently challenges people to think about and question who they are, what they are and more importantly, how they want to be. She is one of the few individuals in America who was raised as a Humanist and she brings her delightful sense of humor, creativity, and compassion combined with a no-nonsense approach to all of her work and her coaching. She will help you focus on what really matters in your life and will teach you the practical skills you need to live your life the way you know you should be: ethically, compassionately and responsibly.]
(V) YouTube is a wonderful resource
For humanist stuff, just go to http://www.youtube.com/ and type in whatever you’re interested in.
For example, type in “Bertrand Russell” and get: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bZv3pSaLtY (a BBC interview from 1959)
Type in “Humanism” and get: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aeWmJ_3Ustc (Richard Dawkins)
as well as http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t0FYniWZuFw (a short video on Humanist values) -- and many others.
(VI) Seven of CFI’s "Top Science And Reason Books of 2012"
[Every year, CFI’s “Point of Inquiry” podcast invites scores of great authors on the air as guests. Here’s a list of some of the best recent books by authors featured on the show this year. Below, you'll find a link to the book, a brief write-up, and a link to our interview with the author.]
This latest offering from Dr. Sacks harkens back to the books that made him famous: Awakenings, An Anthropologist on Mars and The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, by infusing curious tales of brains gone awry with sensitive insights into what it means to be human. The author is not content to list symptoms of a disordered mind or treat hallucinatory experiences as characters in a freak show, and though the science of hallucinations remains relatively unknown, Dr. Sacks takes us through the looking glass and shows us how commonplace and illuminating our fantasy worlds can be. This book is a great gift for anyone interested in magic, illusion and sensory creativity.
Dan Ariely has built a compelling body of scientific work charting the depths of deception. This book is a must-read for anyone who cares to call himself a critical thinker or who wants to understand why we behave the way we do when left to our own devices. The author is not only a prolific, thorough, and imaginative scientist, but also a gifted writer and a superb storyteller. You will have plenty of fodder for dinner party conversations, taking you through the dark winter months.
Have a friend or relative who thinks scientists are boring, fuddy-duddies set out to reduce the complexity of our universe to a set of equations? Then this is the perfect book for you. With humor, wit and a fast-paced conversational style, Stuart Firestein tracks the real scientific method - one that drives scientists to devote lives and careers in the pursuit of knowledge. It's not fueled by information, data or answers, but rather by questions and the vast space of what remains to be known.
Jonathan Haidt's breakthrough book on the origins of our political differences—and our religious proclivities—traced the fiercest divides of today back to differing moral emotions that, in turn, are rooted in our deep evolutionary past. After reading it, you'll never look at politics in the same way again. And ... you'll never again make the mistake of assuming that it's rational!
In a stunning display of intellectual versatility, the physicist and climate hawk Romm gives us a treatise on rhetoric—the neglected art that is critical to political and persuasive success. If you've every convinced someone (or, more likely, failed to) this book explains why.
Randall's lucid account of the triumphs of modern physics would be required reading anyway. But now that the Higgs Boson appears to have been discovered at the Large Hadron Collider, getting this book is even more imperative. Randall covers the Higgs saga in great detail, and provides a deep understanding (mostly lacking from media coverage) of what this discovery really means about matter and the universe.
Americans may not be very enamored of their government in general. But as Neil Tyson explains in his latest book, our government's space agency—NASA—is something very different and very special. It's the gem of our federal bureaucracy, channeling all of our hopes and inspiration... which is why, Tyson says, this agency must pave the way for our transformative future in space.
(VII) Reason Cinema (AHA) http://reasoncinema.com/
-- bringing humanism and film together
[Reason Cinema is a film series project sponsored by the American Humanist Association. Since 2008, the AHA has hosted free screenings of films with humanist or progressive themes open to the public in Washington DC and other cities in the United States. These screenings are followed by informative discussions with directors, producers, and leading philosophers and policy experts on humanist issues. We aim to advance a secular agenda through innovative films that connect humanism and the arts. The AHA has recently helped promote the award-winning documentary FUEL, PBS's miniseries Becoming Human, comedian Bill Maher's Religulous, the major motion picture The Golden Compass, Vivek Palavali's Creator of God, and more.]
Statement by the Council for Secular Humanism
Is that all there is?
If you’ve rejected traditional religion (or were never religious to start), you may be asking, “Is that all there is?” It’s liberating to recognize that supernatural beings are human creations, that there’s no such thing as “spirit”, that people are undesigned, unintended, and responsible for themselves. But what’s next? For many, mere atheism (the absence of belief in gods and the supernatural) or agnosticism (the view that such questions cannot be answered) aren’t enough. Atheism and agnosticism are silent on larger questions of values and meaning. If Meaning in Life is not ordained from on high, what “small-m” meanings can we work out among ourselves? If eternal life is an illusion, how can we make the most of our only lives? As social beings sharing a godless world, how should we coexist? For the questions that remain unanswered after we’ve cleared our minds of gods and souls and spirits, many atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and freethinkers turn to secular humanism.
Appendix: Mistakes Atheists Make
(adapted from Phil Zuckerman (February 14, 2011))
If you really think that a secular worldview is superior to -- or more rational than -- a religious one, and if you really think that the world would be a better place if people didn't believe in supernatural deities, nasty demons, or chubby cherubs, I would suggest a little self-examination. A lot of you out there are making some serious mistakes.
1. Insisting that science can, or will, answer everything.
When Bill O'Reilly or your Baptist in-laws ask you pointed questions like: “How did the universe get here?” or “What caused the Big Bang?” or “Why is there something instead of nothing?” don't insist that science has the answer. It may not -- ever. It is far better to simply say that we don't know everything, and may in fact never know everything. There will always be some mysteries out there. Just say: “Yeah -- it is quite a profound puzzle. No one knows the answer. But just because we don't know the answers to everything, doesn't mean we then automatically accept some made-up possibility.”
2. Condemning all religion, rather then just the bad aspects thereof.
Religion is man-made. It is socially constructed. It grows out of human culture. As such, religion inevitably contains, reflects, and reveals all that is within the realm of humanity: the good and the bad. It is like any other facet of human civilization: some of it is noble and inspirational, much of it is nonsensical and even dangerous. But to condemn it all as poisonous is to be in serious denial.
3. Condemning the Bible as a wretched, silly book, rather than seeing it as a work full of good and insightful things as well.
The Bible was written by humans. It has no other source. The evidence is clear on that front. And similar to point two above, given that it is a human creation means that it isn't all good or all bad -- but contains both. Its contents can be downright absurd, flagrantly unscientific, embarrassingly racist and sexist -- not to mention painfully boring. But it also contains brilliant insights into the human condition, fun stories to entertain kids, and heady poetry. It even has solemn stretches of unbridled skepticism and existential angst. Check out Ecclesiastes.
4. Failing to understand and appreciate "cultural religion."
There are tens of millions of people out there who are part of a religious tradition, but don't actually believe in the theological teachings thereof. They go to church, they get bar-mitzvahed, they identify with a religious tradition, and yet they are basically atheists, agnostics, or skeptics at heart. Why do they stay religious? They like it. They enjoy the traditions, the songs, the rituals, the community. These people should be seen as allies, not enemies. And every time we condemn their religion as idiocy or wickedness, we simply turn them off. Religion is not a black or white thing. Neither is secularity. There is a lot of gray out there. Deal with it. Appreciate it.
5. Critiquing God as nasty, wicked, and immoral.
There is no point in critiquing a deity that doesn't exist. There is no need to catalogue the horrors, hypocrisies, or genocidal tendencies of a god that is imaginary. The reason we don't believe in God is simple: lack of evidence. That's it. Stay focused.
6. Focusing on arguments against the existence of God, rather than working to make the world a better, more just place.
People who believe in irrational things will rarely change their minds by listening to rational arguments. And yet atheists expel so much sweat constructing philosophical, scientific, or logical arguments against the existence of God. Think this will change people's minds? Perhaps. But only rarely. What really lowers levels of religiosity, the world-over, is living in a society where life is decent and secure. When people have enough to eat, shelter, healthcare, elder-care, child-care, employment, peacefulness, democracy -- that's when religion really starts to lose its grip.
7. Arguing about morality in the abstract.
Don't get sucked into arguments about "Can we be good without God?" Don't try to convince theists that secular morality is actually more rational. Rather, just insist that morality is ultimately shown through human action and deed. And we can plainly see that the least religious countries and states are generally the most moral, peaceful, and humane, while the most religious countries and states are the most crime-ridden, corrupt, and socially troubled. End of discussion.
This resource list was originally compiled by Laurent Beauregard in January 2013.
Slightly edited, and appendix added, in September 2014.
Some book descriptions are from Amazon, edited to fit the pages here.