RE: Hello, can anyone help?

From: Vincent Campbell (
Date: Mon 17 Feb 2003 - 11:39:41 GMT

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    Hi, and congrats from coming out of the lurkers' shadows.

    Some of the others' suggestions are very good, (e.g. the Mayr book) but I think concerns about the relative persuasiveness of books about, say, evolution, in terms of getting a true believer to question their beliefs are well founded. I suggest a mix of factual and fictional material that might challenge your boss in different ways. (By the way, I wouldn't worry about having to read the bible, there are some lovely fairy stories in it).

    So my list would include:

    Bertrand Russell's 'Why I Am Not A Christian' (the great philosopher's direct presentation of his arguments)

    Robert Wright's 'The Moral Animal' (a pop science book about evolutionary psychology, which is well referenced and not too polemical)

    Jean Paul Sartre's novel 'Nausea' (La Nausee) (his novel about existentialism, a far easier read than 'Being and Nothingness')

    Grahame Greene's novel 'Brighton Rock' (imagine a 1930s British version of a Scorcese film- all gangsters and catholics)

    Samuel Beckett's novel 'Molloy' (more developed than his plays, frustrating in places, hysterically funny in others, worth it for the last line alone)

    Stephen Hawking's 'A Brief History of Time' (or perhaps his more recent 'The Universe in a Nutshell', either way an author able to demonstrate how far beyond biblical conceptions of the universe we are today)

    A study of colonialism- one dealing particularly with the USA, I guess, would be good. This subject's out of my field so I don't of the most highly regarded text in this area. (The point here would be to demonstrate the horrors committed to creat "god's country")

    Michael Shermer's 'Why People Believe Weird Things' (a writer for the Skeptic magazine shows the flaws in beliefs like astrology, holocaust denial and other things, in an enjoyable read)

    Mark Gilovich's 'How We Know What Isn't So' (which is not about religious beliefs, but more about everyday fallacies in human reasoning which can lead to erroneous beliefs of all kinds)

    Anything by Richard Dawkins really, although maybe 'Unweaving the Rainbow' might be the best in point for a believer (Dawkins is rather a radical atheist, and in this book he attacks those who blame science for taking the mystery and wonder out of nature, rather than banging on about evolution)

    Whilst the others could be read in any order really (although maybe the fiction first to ease them into challenging ideas), one extra choice which would really have to be read last in the list, would have to be a book on memetics. Which one to recommend, on the other hand, would probably set this discussion list ablaze again. The easiest to read, but I think most intellectually lightweight, is Richard Brodie's 'Virus of the Mind'. Still very readable, but for me more intellectually robust, but also more controversial in some ways, is Susan Blackmore's 'The Meme Machine'. Dare I say it, as it may annoy the author more than his detractors, but from the point of view of challenging a believers' ideas, why not consider Aaron Lynch's 'Thought Contagion'. They probably wouldn't pick up, let alone read, Howard Bloom's 'The Lucifer Principle', but that's good too if they'll give it a go. There are more and more books featuring memes being written all the time, and many, including these, have been dissected on this list, but as a starting point, one of these would be good to at least get your boss thinking.

    How's that for a list?


    (BTW, there's always Nietzsche as well)

    > ----------
    > From: Martha Granger
    > Reply To:
    > Sent: Friday, February 14, 2003 2:56 PM
    > To:
    > Subject: Hello, can anyone help?
    > I joined this group a couple of months ago, and I am certainly no expert,
    > nor have I even studied memetics. I think I found this group when I was
    > searching for sites and information about how Christianity started or
    > evolved into what it has become because I am currently living in such a
    > "bible-istic" area.. although isn't most of the USA that way? As a matter
    > of fact, when I found your group was the moment I first learned of the
    > word "memetics." A lot of what I have read here in the past has lead me to
    > believe I in no way am qualified to belong here, a lot of it seems over my
    > head. I've remained enlisted in this group, but have kept quiet until now.
    > Recent postings have caught my attention, as they relate to religion.
    > A few days ago, I got into a "discussion" with my boss (and friend)
    > regarding Christianity. He and his wife (his wife is also a boss of mine
    > in the small company I work for) are such the devout Baptists. JC, the
    > company president is quite the "know-it-all." They of course, want me to
    > be "saved" and seem to believe that if I would just read the bible, that I
    > would realize that it is indeed "the greatest book in the world" and that
    > I will become a Christian. Whatever.. He believes that anyone who is not
    > "saved" will go to "hell" (me), and he, of course, will go to "heaven."
    > He told me that he has read several books on religion, including the Qurah
    > (sp?) and translations of old original texts and has come to this
    > conclusion on his own that Christian is the only way to be.
    > However, my boss did make an offer that I just may take him up on! He
    > told me that he would read 10 books of my choosing if only I would read
    > the bible! Hmm... that would take quite a bit of patience on my part. It
    > also would be a big undertaking for me, as I would wish to point out
    > stupidity and errors of the bible and present him with a composition at
    > completion. I really don't know if it is worth all of that time on my
    > part, as he is such a strong believer. I think he could somehow "argue
    > away" any book I could happen to come up with for his reading.
    > I would surely appreciate any insite that anyone here could provide to me.
    > It certainly seems that most or all who are part of this list are quite
    > studied and intelligent. Perhaps you can recommend books that I can
    > present to him? Or perhaps you will tell me it is of no use wasting my
    > time reading and studying the bible, as there is no way to convince him of
    > his brainwashing, no matter what books I give him. You may email me
    > directly if you believe this does not pertain to the purpose of the list.
    > Thank you in advance for any insite anyone can provide,
    > Martha (a computer programmer/analyst in Bible-country, Indiana, U.S.A.)

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