Suggested Reading

Nobody ever really convinced anyone of anything in a heated argument – that simply tends to entrench prejudices.

It is often the case that those with a strong religious faith, hold this in the face of significant evidence to the contrary, and tend to be quite selective about what they read / watch / listen to. This selectivity tends to reinforce prior assumptions. Consider the ladder of inference (by Chris Argyris) which Gene Bellinger has modified to become acycle of inference.


Bellinger says “This diagram indicates that as our Beliefs influence the Selected Data and Experience we pay attention to, they essentially establish an internal reinforcing loop which short circuits reality. The tendency is to select data to pay attention to which supports our beliefs. And, I would expect, as our Beliefs become more and more rigid the Selected Data & Experience we are willing to pay attention to will become a smaller and smaller portion of reality”

Michael Shermer also hits the nail on the head when he talks about why smart people believe weird things in his book. Two of the key elements are an intellectual attribution bias and the confirmation bias described in the diagram above.

Here is a challenge to Muslims: Try and break out of the cycle and fully read some of these materials and then make your own mind up, rather than simply accepting some summary from some religious (Islamic) authority figure who has a biased view (and probably hasn’t read it either). This will take some time and effort, but it will put you in a better position in terms of at least understanding the various viewpoints – even if you still chose to reject them.

Note that some of these materials are now out of copyright and are freely downloadable as eBooks from sites such asAmazon and Project Gutenberg. While NZ is a beautiful and a great place to be, it takes weeks to order books from overseas – so try your local library or get an eBook reader for instant downloads. Some of these books are physically huge and non-portable in paper format; eBook readers are great for portability also. You can use Calibre to convert between ebook formats and manage your electronic library. Calibre has versions for Windows, Mac and Linux.

Author Title Comments Get it From
? The Gospel of Barnabas Barnabas get Muslims all excited because it portays Jesus (Yeshua) as a man, not supernatural in any sense. Download
? The Qur’an Same comments as for the Bible. Most Muslims have not read it in its entirety. Certain bits get quoted out of context on a regular basis. Read it to get the context. Surprisingly perhaps, a prerequisite for reading the Quran is having read the Bible. Once you have read more widely you will realise that in fact the style of the Quran is referential… “you remember the time when …” and many of those references are to tales told in the Bible (cannonical or apochryphal) in more detail. Download
Al-Ghazali, Abu Hamid Muhammad (Author), T. J. Winter (Translator) The Remembrance of Death and the Afterlife: Book XL of the Revival of the Religious Sciences One of the classics. Note the many explicit hadith regarding women and Houris (or grapes – refer to Luxenberg) Download
Ali, Ayaan, Hirsi Infidel: My life Autobiographical account by Somali-Dutch activist and politician. Her childhood and early life is typical of migrants from MENA. The latter half of the book shows how she moved on from that and actively rejected it. Amazon
Armstrong, Karen A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam Another must-read for Muslims, putting things into a wider perspective. Amazon
Bennet, Clinton Muslims and Modernity Amazon
Berger, Peter and Luckmann, Thomas The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge Your perception of reality is not necessarily the same as mine. Berger and Luckmann go beyond intellectual history and focus on commonsense, everyday knowledge—the proverbs, morals, values, and beliefs shared among ordinary people. Follows on nicely from Eric Hoffer’s True Believer Amazon
Berger, Peter & Zijderveld, Anton In Praise of Doubt Certainty (usually borne of ignorance) begets dangers such as absolutism and extremism – things people are willing to die or kill for. Doubt can be a good thing. Amazon
Darwin, Charles The Voyage of the Beagle An easy-read and very interesting around-the-world travelogue, that provides insight into the Origin of Species and Darwin’s early thinking about origins. Download
Darwin, Charles The Descent of Man (descent, as in origin). Download
Darwin, Charles On The Origin of Species The most famous of Darwin’s books – but have you read it? Another must-read for everyone. It is written in quite an accessible style. Download
Davis A. Young & Ralph F. Stearley. The Bible, rocks, and time : geological evidence for the age of the earth Targeted at ‘young earthers’ who believe in the literal interpretation of Genesis (or the Quran). Amazon
Dawkins, Richard The greatest show on earth – The evidence for evolution Another really good book on evolutionary mechanisms. Amazon
Dawkins, Richard The God Delusion Hard-hitting and occasionally brusque, but makes the points well. Food for thought. Amazon
Dawkins, Richard The ancestors tale – A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution Amazon
Dawkins, Richard The selfish gene Genes have a need to replicate themselves and perhaps the host organisms are merely a necessary by-product(?) Amazon
Dawkins, Richard The Magic of Reality As a Muslim, are you willing and able to treat all faiths equally? Do your own beliefs stand up to scrutiny if you apply the arguments you use to dismiss other faiths? Amazon
Dawkins, Richard Climbing mount improbable A must-read for everyone who does not yet understand the mechanisms of evolution – ie all Muslims. Amazon
Dawkins, Richard The Blind Watchmaker – Why the evidence of evolution reveals a universe without design The title being a reference to Paley’s watch found on the heath – how did that complexity arise? Amazon
Fisk, Robert The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East A lengthy, detailed and awesome tome written by Fisk who was there on the ground as a Times and then Independent newspaper reporter. Provides real insight into the horror of many of the recent wars in the Middle East (usually Muslims killing Muslims) Amazon
Gould, Stephen Jay The Structure of Evolutionary Theory Wordy, but an awesome book. Too heavy to carry around, get an electronic copy if you can. Fairly technical – not for the faint hearted. Amazon
Harris, Sam The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason Another challenging read for Muslims. You dont have to agree, but you should at least be open enough to read it through thoroughly. Amazon
Hekmat, Anwar Women and the Koran: The Status of Women in Islam Amazon
Hitchens, Christopher God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything The title says it all really, backed up with evidence in the book. Amazon
Hitchens, Christopher The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever A selection of short essays
Hoffer, Eric The True Believer – Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements Written in 1951 after WW2, it draws interesting and valid parallels between religions and political mass movements. A must-read for everyone. Amazon
Jacobovici, Simcha The Jesus Family Tomb: The Evidence Behind the Discovery No One Wanted to Find Raises some interesting questions about Jesus ascension and adds weight to the academic views that Jesus was married and had at least one child. Try and see the Discovery Channel video too. Amazon
Kandel, Eric R In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind One of many great books about neurology worth reading. What are we without memory? Kandel explores the biological mechanisms that store our memories. Amazon
Khayam, Omar (Edward Fitzgerald, Trans.) The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayam Just a great poem. Reflections of life and love written by a well known Muslim around 1100 AD. In 2013, world famous Turkish pianist Fazil Say received a 10 month prison sentence for quoting Khayam on Twitter. Download
Knust, Jennifer Wright Unprotected texts : the Bible’s surprising contradictions about sex and desire A great read and also interesting to see how the various religious texts are closely related. Amazon
Kwame Anthony Appiah The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen An important book for Muslims – the concept of Honour is important in Islam. Amazon
Luxenberg, Christophe The Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Koran: A Contribution to the Decoding of the Language of the Koran Some very interesting analysis of the Quranic language. Amazon
McGilchrist, Iain The Master and his Emissary In depth study by a leading psychiatrist into the functions of the brain’s two hemispheres. Amazon
Mernissi, Fatima The Veil And The Male Elite: A Feminist Interpretation Of Women’s Rights In Islam Amazon
Paine, Thomas The Age of Reason Brilliant – totally destroys the Bible. Muslims take note … glass-houses, stones… Download
Pennock, Robert T Tower of Babel : the evidence against the new creationism A nice set of arguments and analysis of the (mainly American) Young Earth Creationists (YEC). Muslims have borrowed much from this movement recently. Amazon
Pinker, Steven The better angels of nature: Why violence has declined Great analysis of historical trends in morals and violence. Reminds us of some of the nasty truths about our glorious past. Amazon
Quinn, Daniel Ishmael Very interesting to see how the underlying mindset of the monotheistic faiths play out and have a massive impact on the way we treat our world and ‘green’ issues. An important book to read (after you’ve read the rest of them on this list) Amazon
Rand, Ayn Atlas Shrugged A lengthy tome, which leads up to the speech by John Galt near the end. The philosophy in that speech regarding values and morals is worthy of reading and reflection. Amazon
Ryan, William B. F. and Pitman, Walter C. Noah’s flood : the new scientific discoveries about the event that changed history More of a narrative of their journey than a scientific analysis. But it is well written and makes the key points well. Amazon
Sacks, Oliver The man who mistook his wife for a hat Some fascinating examples of how our brain can malfunction, which provides insight into how it works. No supernatural agencies required. Amazon
Sagan, Karl The Demon Haunted World: Science as a candle in the dark A great set of arguments for Rationalism and twenty common logical fallacies are discussed. Amazon
Shermer, Michael Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, superstition, and other confusions of our time The title says it all 🙂 This provides insight into how we think, with in-depth analysis of ‘Creation Science’ and Holocaust denial. Amazon
Spencer, Robert Did Muhammad Exist?: An Inquiry into Islam’s Obscure Origins This builds upon much of the material in Ibn Warraq’s “The Origins of the Koran: Classic Essays on Islam’s Holy Book”, but takes things a little further. Some very interesting issues are raised. Amazon
Spong, John Shelby Eternal life : a new vision : beyond religion, beyond theism, beyond heaven and hell Amazon
Spong, John Shelby Why Christianity must change or die : a bishop speaks to believers in exile : a new reformation of the Church’s faith and practice Amazon
Spong, John Shelby Rescuing the Bible from fundamentalism : a bishop rethinks the meaning of Scripture Muslims will relish the critical analysis of the Bible – but perhaps realise that people in glass houses should not throw stones, this undermines the Quran too. Amazon
Spong, John Shelby Born of a woman : a bishop rethinks the birth of Jesus All of Spong’s books are worth reading. A masterful critical literary analysis of the Bible and the Christian faith. One of the few honest Christian authors. Highly relevant to Muslims also. Amazon
Stephanie Dalley (Trans.) Myths from Mesopotamia : creation, the flood, Gilgamesh, and others Almost certainly the original source of some of the stories in the Torah and Quran. Amazon
Stephen Hawkins A Brief History of Time Perhaps somewhat oversimplified for readability by a general audience, but an essential part of everyone’s scientific education. Amazon
Stephen Mitchell (Trans). Gilgamesh : a new English version Not a strict translation, but useful. Gaps in the original filled by Mitchell to make it more easily readable. Please also read a more accurate translation (eg Dalley or the Penguin edition) Amazon
Taner, Edis An Illusion of Harmony: Science And Religion in Islam Yet another must-read for Muslims, who are constantly making (extraordinarily weak) arguments for science in the Quran. Amazon
Various The Bible (old and new testaments) Pick the version and language of your choice. The New International Version (NIV) is an easy-to-read modern English version. The classic King James Version (KJV) can be difficult for those whose first language is not English. The Douay-Rheims version used by the Catholic church includes some apocryphal material missing from Protestant versions. A lengthy book and most Christians have not read it in it’s entirety. They might be shocked at some of the stuff hiding in there. Android App
Various Sacred Books Of The East – Including Selections From The Vedic Hymns, Zend-Avesta, Dhammapada, Upanishads, The Koran, And The Life Of Buddha With Critical And Biographical Sketches By Epiphanius Wilson, A.M. Revised Edition 1900 Fascinating to see how items from the Zoroastrian faith found their way into the Qur’an and Islam. The parallels are not drawn in the book itself, but anyone who knows Islam well will see the many striking resemblances. Download
Various Apocryphal books of the Bible There are a number of items still extant that never made the cut into one of the well known canonical Bibles. They make for very interesting reading – they are the source of some of the Quranic references, but very few Christians have read them. Download
Various (Misbach, Andrew) Apocrypha [illustrated] [translated] More of the many books that were not deemed suitable for inclusion in the cannonical Bible. Some amusing stories exist about how the choices were made at the Council of Nicaea (325 AD) Amazon
Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet) Philosophical Dictionary There were many versions of this published over time. Hilarious – but it assumes a good background knowledge of the Bible, Christian beliefs and history to get most of the jokes. Download
Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet) Candide, Zadig and other selected stories Brilliant, as only Voltaire can be. The wit and irony is amazing. It requires prior knowledge of the Bible and Christian beliefs to understand some of the irony. Without that, it is still a nice read but you’ll not get most of the jokes. Amazon
Wadud, Amina Inside the gender jihad – Women’s reform in Islam Amazon
Warraq, Ibn What the Koran Really Says Amazon
Warraq, Ibn Why I am not a Muslim Amazon
Warraq, Ibn The Origins of the Koran: Classic Essays on Islam’s Holy Book by Ibn Warraq ‘Classic’ in this case means ‘old’. However there is a huge value in these ‘orientalist’ essays. Impossible to dismiss entirely, it raises interesting questions – another must-read for Muslims. Mohammad Mohar Ali attempted a rebuttal (1997), which can be downloaded as a PDF (496 pages) from various sites. Amazon
Warraq, Ibn Leaving Islam: Apostates Speak Out A series of fascinating and moving personal stories from a number of apostates around the world. Amazon