Christian history is fascinating
I finished my goal of re-reading the Bible since the last time I used this blog regularly. In the interim, I have found a new focus: reading about biblical history and the cultural impacts of Christianity.
I’ve read dozens of books dealing with Christianity’s roots and influences on Western or American culture since I was last “here.” This reading has really changed the way I think about Christianity, Christians, and atheism, among many other things.
As a subject of study, Christianity is all the more fascinating for learning about its history. There are few more wide-reaching, long-running stories of political intrigue and cultural control than is Christianity’s past. And it is so interwoven with American history and culture that I LOVE reading and talking about it with anyone who will listen.
But make no mistake—reading biblical history and cultural examinations of Christianity has not made it any more believable. Quite the opposite.
Not only does studying Christianity’s roots make its claims all the more absurd, it makes it hard to believe that anyone else believes them either. But then reality up and smacks me in the face with the fact that, oh yeah, people actually DO believe this stuff is literal fact.
[insert awkward chuckle here]
The fremdschämen is so very strong sometimes.
Anyway… I’ve been trying to read works that cover a broad spectrum. Academic historical works by non-believing or theologically ambiguous authors writing for academic audiences are my favorite. However, I have also read works by believers, books aimed at current events, things that are the opinion of the author, and even a few works of Christian fiction.
My general goals in this effort are three-fold. To better understand the religion itself. To better understand the people who follow it. And to better understand how and where the religion and its followers impacts the world I live in.
So this is my new mission for this blog: I will be engaging with more books about the history and cultural impact of Christianity. I plan to post book reviews on the things I’ve read, what I think was valuable about them, what I disagreed with, etc.
Below is a list of the Christianity-related books—or books related to the other Abrahamic religions—I have read since I was here last:
- The Midrash Says (didn’t finish)
- Heretic, Ayaan Hirsi Ali
- The Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri
- Zealot, Reza Aslan
- Fields of Blood, Karen Armstrong
- The Color of Christ, Edward J. Blum
- Republican Gomorrah, Max Blumenthal
- The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins
- God’s Problem, Bart Ehrman
- Jesus Interrupted, Bart Ehrman
- God Is Not Great, Christopher Hitchens
- The Portable Atheist, Christopher Hitchens (currently reading)
- The End of White Christian America, Robert Jones
- The Book of Job, Harold Kushner
- A Wrinkle in Time, Madeline L’Engle
- A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis
- Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis
- The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis
- The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis
- The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis
- The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis
- Paradise Lost, John Milton
- Killing Jesus: A History, Bill O’Reilly (didn’t finish)
- Reading Judas, Elaine Pagels
- Revelations, Elaine Pagels
- The Gnostic Gospels, Elaine Pagels
- The Evolution of God, Robert Wright
What books about Christianity or the other two related Abrahamic religions have you read that you would recommend? Why do you recommend them?