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The Muslim Next Door: The Qur'an, the Media, and That Veil Thing

by Sumbul Ali-Karamali

Since 9/11, stories about Muslims and the Islamic world have flooded headlines, politics, and water-cooler conversations all across the country. And, although Americans hear about Islam on a daily basis, there remains no clear explanation of Islam or its people. The Muslim Next Door offers easy-to-understand yet academically sound answers to these questions while also dispelling commonly held misconceptions. Written from the point of view of an American Muslim, the book addresses what readers in the Western world are most curious about, beginning with the basics of Islam and how Muslims practice their religion before easing into more complicated issues like jihad, Islamic fundamentalism, and the status of women in Islam. Author Sumbul Ali-Karamali's vivid anecdotes about growing up Muslim and female in the West, along with her sensitive, scholarly overview of Islam, combine for a uniquely insightful look at the world's fastest growing religion.

Read Dr. Dolhenty's Review of this Book

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Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes

by Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein

Here's a lively, hilarious, not-so-reverent crash course through the great philosophical traditions, schools, concepts, and thinkers. It's Philosophy 101 for everyone who knows not to take all this heavy stuff too seriously. Some of the Big Ideas are Existentialism (what do Hegel and Bette Midler have in common?), Philosophy of Language (how to express what it's like being stranded on a desert island with Halle Berry), Feminist Philosophy (why, in the end, a man is always a man), and much more. Finally -- it all makes sense!

Read Dr. Dolhenty's Review of this Book

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The Secrets of Judas: The Story of the Misunderstood Disciple and His Lost Gospel

by James M. Robinson

This book includes:

  • An historical examination of biblical writings about Judas and of references to him found in ancient sources outside of the Bible.
  • The reasons the case against Judas is not as clear as tradition has taught.
  • The dramatic story of the recent discovery of a fourth-century Coptic document titled "The Gospel of Judas Iscariot" and of the document's secret sale by a Middle Eastern antiquities dealer that led to its acquisition by a Swiss foundation.

Professor Robinson says: "I write as a scholar, and, as you will see as you read my narration, I have been involved to a very large extent over the past generation in this adventure. Yet you will also see me, in my capacity as scholar, expressing dismay, even disgust, over much of what has gone on. I lay it all out, with as much documentation as I can muster, for you to see for yourself. ... But it has been kept under wraps until now, to maximize its financial gain for its Swiss owners. The grand expose is being performed by the National Geographic Society, timed for the greatest public impact, right at Easter. Those on the inside have been bought off (no doubt with considerably more than thirty pieces of silver), and sworn to silence on a stack of Bibles -- or on a stack of papyrus leaves."

Read Dr. Dolhenty's Review of this Book

Read an Essay by Dr. Robinson in The Religious Resource Center about this Book

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The Jesus Papers: Exposing the Greatest Cover-Up in History

by Michael Baigent

What if everything you think you know about Jesus is wrong? In The Jesus Papers, Michael Baigent reveals the truth about Jesus's life and crucifixion. Despite -- or rather because of -- all the celebration and veneration that have surrounded the figure of Jesus for centuries, Baigent asserts that Jesus and the circumstances leading to his death have been heavily mythologized.

As a religious historian and a leading expert in the field of arcane knowledge, Baigent has unequaled access to hidden archives, secret societies, Masonic records, and the private collections of antiquities traders and their moneyed clients. Using that access to full advantage, Baigent explores the religious and political climate in which Jesus was born and raised, examining not only the conflicts between the Romans and the Jews, but the strife within the different factions of the Jewish Zealot movement. He chronicles the migrations of Jesus's family, his subsequent exposure to other cultures, and the events, teachings, and influences that were most likely to have shaped his early years. Baigent also uncovers the inconsistencies and biases in the accounts of the major historians of Jesus's time, including Josephus, Pliny, and Tacitus. The enduring influence of these accounts in forming our most common conceptions of Jesus reveals that spin is not a new phenomenon.

Taking us back to sites that over the last twenty years he has meticulously explored, studied, and in some instances excavated for the first time, Baigent provides a detailed account of his groundbreaking discoveries, including many never-before-seen photos. The evidence he has uncovered has lead him to make shocking new assertions that threaten the conventional account of Jesus's life and death and shake the very foundation of Western thought, based as it is upon the assumption of Jesus's divinity. Ultimately, his investigation raises the hope that we may gain a new understanding of Jesus.

Read an Excerpt from this Book

Read Dr. Dolhenty's Review of this Book

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The Courtier and the Heretic: Leibniz, Spinoza, and the Fate of God in the Modern World

by Matthew Stewart

A drama of ideas as urgent and compelling as Copenhagen;a dance of personalities as colorful as in Wittgenstein's Poker.

Philosophy in the late seventeenth century was a dangerous business. No careerist could afford to know the reclusive philosopher known as an "atheist Jew," Baruch de Spinoza. Yet the wildly ambitious young genius Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz became obsessed with Spinoza's writings, wrote him clandestine letters, and ultimately called on Spinoza in person at his home in The Hague. 

Both men were at the center of the intense religious, political, and personal battles that gave birth to the modern age. One was a hermit with many friends; the other, a socialite no one trusted. One believed in a God whom almost nobody thought divine; the other defended a God in whom he probably did not believe. Their characters and ways of life defined their philosophies. In this exquisitely written philosophical romance of attraction and repulsion, greed and virtue, religion and heresy, Matthew Stewart dramatizes a titanic clash of beliefs that still continues today.

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Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon

by Daniel C. Dennett

For a growing number of people, there is nothing more important than religion. It is an integral part of their marriage, child rearing, and community. In this daring new book, distinguished philosopher Daniel C. Dennett takes a hard look at this phenomenon and asks why. Where does our devotion to God come from and what purpose does it serve? Is religion a blind evolutionary compulsion or a rational choice? In Breaking the Spell, Dennett argues that the time has come to shed the light of science on the fundamental questions of faith. 

In a spirited narrative that ranges widely through history, philosophy, and psychology, Dennett explores how organized religion evolved from folk beliefs and why it is such a potent force today. Deftly and lucidly, he contends that the "belief in belief" has fogged any attempt to rationally consider the existence of God and the relationship between divinity and human need. 

Breaking the Spell is not an antireligious screed but rather an eyeopening exploration of the role that belief plays in our lives, our interactions, and our country. With the gulf between rationalists and adherents of "intelligent design" widening daily, Dennett has written a timely and provocative book that will be read and passionately debated by believers and nonbelievers alike.

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No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam, by Reza Aslan

Are Islam and the West on a collision course, or headed toward a new era of understanding and cooperation? The brilliant young scholar Reza Aslan is one of a handful of thinkers developing a compelling -- and profoundly hopeful -- alternative to the widely accepted "clash of civilization" theory that pits East against West in an apocalyptic struggle. He makes the powerful and persuasive argument that the violence and extremism currently seizing the Middle East are the last gasps of small, doomed religious factions, not the beginning of a horrific future, as many have predicted.

This is a book both timely and timeless. In it the author explains the faith of Islam, presenting its battles and schisms as part of an ongoing evolution as it responds to the social, cultural, political, and temporal circumstances of those who are telling it. Aslan writes that what is taking place now in the Muslim world is an internal conflict between Muslims, not an external battle between Islam and the West. The West is merely a bystander -- an unwary yet complicit casualty of a rivalry that is raging in Islam over who will write the next chapter in its story.

Read Dr. Dolhenty's Review of this Book

Read an excerpt from this book

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The Philosophy & Religion Bookshelf

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