First the context. Somebody (who shall remain nameless) was asking for recommendations for a good book. They just happen to be somebody who was/is a Christian believer, but now faces a lot of doubts … and so is sitting on the fence.
So far books that have been consumed include …
- Michael Shermer’s book “The Believing Brain.”
- Ehrman’s “Misquoting Jesus.”
… and those are two very good books indeed.
There are lots of other very good books out there by well-known and well-respected authors, Dennet, Dawkins, Harris and Hitchers of course, but for somebody who is essentially sitting on the fence grappling with it all, one very important thought springs to mind …
The desire to find out about the things that are really true can only be accomplished if you have the right cognitive tools, and so having access to the full conversation is not sufficient, you need to be able to work out what is and is not reliable and credible.
So with that thought in mind, one book that immediately springs to mind is Carl Sagan’s “The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark“
Why that one?
Well because, as explained within the book’s Wikipedia article …
The book is intended to explain the scientific method to laypeople, and to encourage people to learn critical or skeptical thinking. It explains methods to help distinguish between ideas that are considered valid science, and ideas that can be considered pseudoscience. Sagan states that when new ideas are offered for consideration, they should be tested by means of skeptical thinking, and should stand up to rigorous questioning.
In other words, I believe that this would lay a great foundation.
All ideas should indeed be held to the same standard, and that includes religious ideas. Yes, generally beliefs do make a virtue of the fact that just believing with no valid reason is fine, but it is not, or at least it is not if you wish to truly work out the things that are actually factual.
So this book I feel is a great place to start to learn about critical thinking.
To be honest, this entire post is essentially just one single question …
What Book(s) would you recommend?
…and so it is over to you. So here are a few more additional questions to add to this …
- Is the above suggestion of Carl Sagan’s book a good place to start, or are there better alternatives out there?
- What else would you recommend?
To reply just drop a note in the comments (or if you prefer, drop me an email and I’ll post an update)