(Updated at the end)
Here is your soapbox. As you can see they come in a set of three. The petite is for offhand comments made casually to the faithful. Medium is a short argument with someone who actually tries to talk to you about religon. And the jumbo is for particularly long rants on the Interwebs and when you've got a True Believer speaking in tongues and trying to cast your demons out.
Welcome to the club! Before you go we have to teach you the Secret Handshake. Oh, and here's a recipe book for fresh baby.
Recently I had an email exchange with a man I've named Abraham. He has since come to the Dark Side and is now comfortable with calling himself an atheist. I thought it would be nice, since he wants to be able to defend his position, if we helped him with a list of resources.
So here they are, in the order I received them (basically). This is a work in progress! If you have a resource that helped you either deconvert or to get to know more about your new atheist worldview, please either email me or comment below.
Resources for a New Atheist
Braeden: PZ Myers and Pharyngula
Rachel: Godless by Dan Barker helped me work through my questions about the Bible from someone who had been raised as a fundamentalist like myself. Three blogs that helped me make atheist friends and educate myself further are The Atheist Camel, The Friendly Atheist and the Social IQ Lady. For entertainment and educational value, check out The Atheist Experience on YouTube
(Neece and someone else): Facebook for atheists is also wonderful. I can't remember who suggested this, but I agree. I started befriending people with Atheist A's on their profile picture 2 years ago when FB had Atheist Week. Now I am part of a huge atheist community around the world.
Tim: Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe by Greg Epstein. Comes with an appendix of humanist resources.
(Neece) What I like about this book is that it's not about what we don't believe in, but what we Can believe in. It's a bit accommodationist, but overall a decent look at Humanism.
Courtney: I actually found Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. I also liked the second edition of The Mismeasure of Man, though it's not exactly on target.
(Neece): Carl Sagan's Demon Haunted World is probably the first skeptical book everyone should read. He's such a wonderful teacher and this is highly relevant even today. It's really a must have. In that vein, I also highly recommend Cosmos: A Personal Journey which you can watch through Netflix streaming and probably through PBS. It's a 12 part series from 1980 with some updates from 1990. It's highly relevant, and even as a skeptic, atheist and science lover, I still learned things that were quite wonderful.
Marcia: I really love Julia Sweeney's monologue "Letting Go of God", about her journey from growing up as a devout Catholic to becoming an atheist. I highly recommend it for anyone like me who grew up in a very religious environment. Letting go of all that stuff is definitely an ongoing process!
It's a little over 2 hours long. It's available on YouTube in 7 parts.
I'm not sure if the YouTube videos are strictly legal or might get yanked. But it's available through iTunes for $9.95, or through various other links on Julia's website.
James: Demon-Haunted World is the best book on critical thinking and skepticism that I've ever read, but I wouldn't say it's exactly atheism-centric (at least not explicitly so, though Sagan doesn't leave a lot of room for theism). Christopher Hitchens's God Is Not Great is probably the most accessible of the recent New Atheist books and probably the best for getting someone's intellectual feet wet. Somewhat perversely, Anthony Flew's There Is a God is a great demonstration that even when the case for theism is presented in a philosophically sophisticated form, it still isn't very good.
Shelley: Why People Believe Weird Things by Michael Shermer
(Neece) From Michael Shermer, I would also highly recommend The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies---How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths
Sophie: Here are some favourites: Susan Jacoby's book Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism for a perspective throughout U.S. history; blogs: PZ Myers' Pharyngula, Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution Is True, (both pretty sciencey and nerdy), Greta Christina's Blog, Jen McCreight's Blag Hag, Skepchicks and many more that range from mostly science to mostly atheism. Richard Dawkins' and Ophelia Benson's sites are good too, but too many items are posted on too many topics for brand-new folks to be riveted by most of the stream.
(Neece) There are a lot of great podcasts that have taught me so much awesomeness. I highly recommend:
- The Skeptics Guide to the Universe taught me how to be a skeptic. I used to be so gullible! And they made me laugh as the same time.
- Reasonable Doubts - Your Skeptical Guide to Religion is excellent for atheism and religion. I've learned an awful lot on there.
Mandi: Reading about the very beginning of the universe, the hydrogen, helium... how we are essentially star dust. I remember that discussion on the second day of geology 101 several years ago was the very moment I officially and completely let go of religion. It was so awe inspiring (in the proper sense of the word) and it was something I'd had in my head since I was 3 or 4, but hadn't been able to complete the thought. It's still comforting and still completely steals all my attention whenever I see or here it discussed. I don't know if your friend will be as fascinated as I was/am, but I figured I'd throw that in there. I remember walking around in a daze for several days afterward. :-)
(Neece): In that vein, I loved Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. It goes through the history of the universe from the Big Bang up to the present, but talks about scientific discoveries that helped us learn new things throughout history. It's a long book but very engaging.
Also, I think reading something by Stephen Hawking would be helpful. I haven't read it yet, but from the interviews I've seen, I'd recommend The Grand Design.
Gary: I'm partial to The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
Tim: YouTube, particularly videos by AronRa, TheraminTrees, and QualiaSoup.
(Neece) I agree about QualiaSoup especially. And don't forget Mr. Deity! Mr. Deity pokes fun at Christianity in a light-hearted way, but it really shows the absurdity of the bible.
Brent: I still think Atheist Universe by David Mills would be a good read - even if he is already deconned.
(Neece) The first half of Atheist Universe was great. It might really be helpful to a new atheist for helping with defending your new position.
Frans: I hear that Deep Simplicity by John Gribbin worth a read. I haven't read (or bought or borrowed) it yet myself. The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins is a great book to read, but perhaps something like The Greatest Show on Earth might be a better place to start these days. Reading these books will help you to clearly see why the things the ID-crowd says are not even missing the point. Understanding how complexity can arise from simplicity and, more specifically, how complex life can, should show you how the God image propagated by many is an argument from ignorance and incredulity, and usually includes a false dichotomy too.
Jason: Living After Faith podcast
David: Common Sense Atheism - this episode has a whole list of resources. Also, the Freethought & Rationalism Discussion Board and Ex-Christian.net for civil discourse and encouragement.
Sean: Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan. I've been pushing Greg Epstein's Good without god because it really does summarize secularism.
Gerald: Why I Am Not a Christian by Bertrand Russell.
Merrilee: There is no one book I can recommend. However, when I really read The Bible (okay, tried to) I was disappointed. ...The cognitive dissonances built in to religions are incredible. Those alone are what should trigger most people to question their (in most cases) hand-me-down beliefs. But religion as a feel-good-group-Sunday (or Saturday)-hug is tempting to many. It’s comfortable and familiar, even though its rituals are built around age old scary tales of vengeance, hate, and persecution.
Sadly, and more importantly, we don’t have a viable socially acceptable alternative.
(Neece) I recommend finding a local atheist/skeptical/freethinker/humanist group, or forming your own. For me, this has been extremely rewarding. I've written about how to find or form a group in the past. Also, the Unitarian Universalists often have many atheists attending, mainly for community, so look for your local UU Church.
I thoroughly agree that all atheists should read the bible and study other religions. One of the ways people become atheists is by reading the whole bible.
Nancy: Julia Sweeney's "Letting Go of God" and Greg Epstein's Good Without God (both linked to above)
~UPDATE Oct 9, 2011~
Oh, don't forget TED talks too!
Marcia: God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales by Penn Jillette. It’s part celebrity autobiography, but all interesting. I liked the audiobook read by the author.
(Neece) Also, I highly recommend Cosmos, A Personal Journey (hulu, youtube or Netflix) by Carl Sagan. This was done in 1980 on PBS and is still excellent and wonderful. We just watched it last year and loved it all over again. It's a great primer. There have been some changes in what we know since it was done, but it will get you started and show you the wonder of the universe. No one can do that better than Carl Sagan, my personal hero.
On that note, Neil deGrasse Tyson is going to host Cosmos 2 in 2013, a follow up series. I am so looking forward to that. Tyson is an astrophysicist that follows closely in Sagan's shoes, so eager to share science with everyone, to make it accessible. He's so awesome.
There was a show on BBC called The Universe, hosted by Brian Cox, another physicist which I've only watched an episode or two of. It was beautifully made and well worth watching. These shows talk about the beginnings of the universe so you might find them particularly helpful. Plus, as I said, they just show the passion you can have for nature and the Cosmos, the wonders of our world are so amazing. As an atheist, you most definitely do not have to lose that. It's only gotten stronger in me as I learn more.