Top Books/Videos for SHANANNAREEFERS
(Religion History) 

(updated October 1, 2009)


Seekers Humanists Atheists Naturalists
Agnostics Nonreligionists Nontheists Antireligionists
Realists Educationalists Experimentalists Freethinkers
Enlightened Rationalists Secularists

- - - Books Added on October 1, 2009 - - -

Preface -- For further books/videos on History, see Top Books/Videos (History)

052. Christianity Before Christ,
by John G. Jackson
"... Nothing is new or original in Christianity. That
is the important thesis demonstrated in Christianity
Before Christ. The least important features, as well
as the most important components, were all well
developed in cultures that flourished before the time
that Christ is alleged to have walked the parched
paths of Roman Palestine.

051. The Grand Inquisitor's Manual: A History
of Terror in the Name of God,
by Johnathan Kirsch
"... an amazing recounting of the abuses by clergy
and state in those terrible times. Clinical in its des-
criptions, the narrative's lively and crisp prose
brings us right into the torture chamber, shining
a much-needed light into the mindset of the church
and its representatives.

... Kirsch's forceful and cautionary account is essen-
tial reading for historians and anyone who wants to
understand the potential dark side of religion. 

050. A History of the End of the World: How the
Most Controversial Book in the Bible Changed
the Course of Western Civilization,
by Johnathan Kirsch
"... thoughtful history and analysis of the most contro-
versial book of the New Testament, the Book of
Revelation. A work so problematic that many early
Church Fathers found it unfit for inclusion in the
canon, it also troubled many later Christians. ...

... The Antichrist, the Great Whore of Babylon, the
Battle of Armageddon, the Four Horsemen of the
Apocalypse, the number 666: These have been
picked up by zealots bent on any number of reli-
gious, political or cultural crusades. ...

... instead of pointing to a future earthly kingdom
under a god-anointed king, as the prophets had
done, apocalyptic visionaries proposed an other-
worldly paradise and offered a new explanation
for evil in the world, elevating Satan from a mere
tempter (Genesis) or accuser (Job) to the full-
blown adversary of God and the source of all

...Where was the sweet emphasis upon love and forgiveness that comes through so strongly in the
Gospels? Some scholars suggest that the core
story of Revelation, minus certain superficial
Christian additions, was written by someone who
wasn't even a Christian.

But Revelation nonetheless was canonized as part
of the New Testament, and Kirsch offers a thor-
ough account of the intellectual and spiritual mis-
chief that Revelation has spawned ... Medieval
Catholics used the book to justify the Crusades,
support reform efforts and validate persecution
of the Jews, while later Protestant reformers ...
drew on its imagery to attack Catholicism and
the papacy. 'I do not know whether the pope
himself be Antichrist or his apostle,' Luther wrote,
apparently without blushing.

... apocalyptic imagery was applied to practically
every major development in American history,
from the Puritan witch-hunt craze to the Civil War
to any number of social and moral crusades in the
20th and 21st centuries. ... Apocalyptic notions
are never scarier than when they creep into poli-

049. The Spanish Inquisition : A History,
by Joseph Perez
"... the story of 350 years of terror. Established by
papal bull in 1478, the first task of the Spanish
Inquisition was to question Jewish converts to
Christianity and to expose and execute those found
guilty of reversion.

Authorities then turned on Spanish Jews in general,
sending 300,000 into exile. Next in line were human-
ists and Lutherans. No rank was exempt. Children
informed on their parents, merchants on their rivals,
and priests upon their bishops. Those denounced
were guilty unless they could prove their innocence.

Nearly 32,000 people were publicly burned at the
stake; the 'fortunate' ones were flogged, fined, or
imprisoned. Joseph Pérez tells the history of the
Spanish Inquisition from its medieval beginnings to
its nineteenth-century ending.

048. Tomas de Torquemada: Architect of Torture
during the Spanish Inquisition, by Enid A. Goldberg
"... graphic details about the inquisition process with
complete descriptions of the different types of tor-
ture used to coerce ...

There are numerous explicit illustrations to accom-
pany descriptions such as, 'The suspect would be
strapped to a table, head tilted down. Wooden
sticks clogged the nostrils. An iron clamp held the
mouth open. A guard stuffed a linen cloth in the
mouth and poured water onto it. The gagging and
choking began.' There are also graphs and charts
such as, 'A Wicked Web' and 'Timeline of Terror.'

047. The History of Torture and Execution: From Early
Civilization through Medieval Times to the Present,
by Jean Kellaway
"... The History of Torture and Execution examines
these ... grisly subjects by time, region, and method.
Beginning with the often crude methods ... used by
early and first-millennium civilizations, and evolving
from the sadistic tools of the medieval age ...

More than 180 black-and-white and color images
illustrate the many and varied engines of this final
punishment, and the inclusion of stories told by the
victims themselves gives chilling insight into the hor-
rors faced by prisoners condemned to die for their
crimes. ...

Some of the chapter titles: 'Witch Hunts in Europe',
Witch Hunts in England', 'Papal Inquisition', 'The
Stifling of Science', 'Hangmen', 'Slavery', 'Slavery
Punishment', 'Lynchings', 'Concentration Camps',
'War Crimes of the First World War', 'Gulags',
'War Crimes of the Second World War', 'War
Crimes in Asia', 'Justice at Nuremberg', 'Ethnic
Cleansing' ..."

046. Constantine's Sword : The Church
and the Jews : A History,
by James Carroll
"... traces the record of anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism
in the Catholic Church, suggesting that centuries of ani-
mus culminated in the Holocaust. Carroll also traces
the development of his own thinking about Judaism:
as a Catholic seminarian, he knew no Jews and little
about Judaism, except what he learned in classrooms

As a young priest at Boston U ... Carroll began to
spend time with rabbis and Jewish students whose
political and social commitments he found congenial. Eventually he left the priesthood; his increased dis-
comfort with the Church's attitudes toward Judaism
played no small part in that decision. ... offers a
sweeping look at instances of anti-Jewish sentiment
throughout European history, from the blood libel
to the Dreyfus affair, from the Inquisition to Ausch-
witz. ..."

The Church As Sinner

045. The Popes Against the Jews: The Vatican's
Role in the Rise of Modern Anti-Semitism,
by David I. Kertzer
"... refutes the Church's thesis that the Holocaust
grew out of 'an anti-Judaism that was essentially
more sociological and political than religious.' In
fact, Kertzer asserts, those dimensions of Euro-
pean anti-Semitism developed 'in no small part
due to the efforts of the Roman Catholic Church

The racial laws of fascist Italy and the Nuremberg
Laws of 1930s Germany, for example, were dir-
ectly modeled on the Church's own rules govern-
ing treatment of Jews: until the collapse of the
Papal States in the late 19th century, Jews living
in these territories were forced to wear yellow
badges and live in ghettos.

... Access to long-sealed Church archives allowed
Kertzer to reconstruct some of the most shocking,
secret conversations that occurred in the Vatican
in the decades leading up to World War II. ..."

Anti-Humanism, Faith, Authoritarianism, Totalitarianism

044.  The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions
of Christianity, 1919-1945,
by Richard Steigmann-Gall
"... investigating the way that Christianity functioned
within the Nazi party itself. Using party pamphlets
and writings of key members, he demonstrates that
as early as 1920 the group declared that it repre-
sented the standpoint of a positive Christianity, which
provided the tenets of its anti-Semitic and antimater-
ialist stance.

Many of the Nazi elite believed that their own party
doctrine and Christianity shared common themes
such as the opposition of good against evil, God
against the devil and the struggle for national sal-
vation from the Jews and Marxism. This positive
Christianity enfolded both Catholicism and Protes-
tantism ...

Steigmann-Gall examines the leaders of the party
and shows how many of them contributed to the
view of an intimate relationship between Nazism
and Christianity. He also explores how the Nazis
identified the Jews with the Devil and believed that
God would liberate them from this evil. ..."

Antisemitism, Christian Ambivalence, and the Holocaust

043. Holy Hatred : Christianity,
Antisemitism, and the Holocaust,
by Robert Michael
"... study of how Christianity and the churches shaped
and sustained a lethal antisemitism for almost two mil-
lennia. ... offers a powerful description of Christianity's
intimate involvement with Judeophobia and antisem-
itism from the gospels forward. ... If anyone still re-
mains ignorant of the Christian origins of  antisemi-
tism —ancient and modern— and its contribution to
the Holocaust, this book will remedy that ...

...Although Christianity's precise influence on the
Holocaust cannot be determined and the Christian
churches did not themselves perpetrate the Final
Solution, Robert Michael argues in Holy Hatred that
the two millennia of Christian ideas and prejudices
and their impact on Christians' behavior appear to
be the major basis of antisemitism and of the apex
of antisemitism, the Holocaust. ..."

042. Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious
Violence, by Hector Avalos
"... Is religion inherently violent? If not, what pro-
vokes violence in the name of religion? Do we
mischaracterize religion by focusing too much on
its violent side?

In this intriguing, original study of religious violence,
Prof. Hector Avalos offers a new theory for the
role of religion in violent conflicts. Starting with
the premise that most violence is the result of real
or perceived scarce resources, Avalos persuasively
argues that religion creates new scarcities on the
basis of unverifiable or illusory criteria.

Through a careful analysis of the fundamental texts
of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Dr. Avalos
explains how four 'scarce' resources have figured
repeatedly in creating religious violence: sacred
space (churches, temples, holy cities); the creation
of holy scriptures (exclusive revelations); group
privilege (chosen people, the predestined select
few); and salvation (only some are saved). ... "

041. Sea of Faith: Christianity and Islam
in the Medieval Mediterranean World,
by Stephen O'Shea
"... remarkable glimpse into the origins of the con-
flicts between Christians and Muslims as well as
their once peaceful coexistence. He focuses on
seven military battles—Yarmuk (A.D. 636), Poi-
tiers (732), Manzikert (1071), Hattin (1187), Las
Navas de Tolosa (1212), Constantinople (1453)
and Malta (1565) — between Christians and
Muslims as the high-water marks of their at-
tempts to shape the Mediterranean ('sea of
faith') world of the Middle Ages.

... vividly captures and recreates not only the
enmity between the two religions but also the
sectarian rivalries and political intrigues within
each religion. Yet the relationship between Chris-
tianity and Islam was marked not only by bloody
Crusades and wars of conquest.

... Christians and Muslims also experienced long
periods of rapprochement, signaled by the long
peace at Córdoba in the early Middle Ages and
in the intellectual and social flourishing at Toledo
and Palermo in the 11th century. ... an unparal-
leled glimpse of the struggles of each religion to
establish dominance in the medieval world as
well as at the strategies for living together that
the religions enacted as they shared the same
territory. ..."

Note -- A wide-ranging array of books are pub-
lished on the Crusades, mostly focused on Chris-
tian Crusades, many with regrettably little detail 
on Islamic-instigated wars of aggression which
occurred for hundreds of years prior to the

For further information on the Crusades, see

  Two books by Jonathan Riley-Smith:
  The Crusades: A History 
  The Oxford Illustrated History of the Crusades

  Two books by Thomas Madden:
  The New Concise History of the Crusades
  Crusades: The Illustrated History 

040. The Age of Sacred Terror: Radical Islam's
War Against America, by Daniel Benjamin & Steven Simon
"... Benjamin and Simon headed the National Security
Council's antiterrorism team during the nineties, and
they began this book in 99, hoping to convince a skep-
tical country that Al-Qaeda was the most serious threat
facing the West. They wanted to explain why it repre-
sented a new *kind* of terrorism, and a far more dan-
gerous kind.

We no longer need convincing that the threat is real;
we need information and perspective. ... The first half
[of the book] is ... jammed with vital detail on the his-
tory behind radical Islamism. That history, from the
Crusades to the Balfour declaration, is ever present
before the minds' eye of the terrorists, so it behooves
us to know it. ... 

... the operatives themselves are motivated entirely
by religion, and nothing short of the death of all Jews
and the destruction of the West will satisfy them. ...
Al-Qaeda's theological line has very deep historical
roots in Islam, tracing back to Wahabbi in the seven-
teenth century (a version of Islam which Saudi money
has recently made dominant through much of Asia),
to ibn Taymiyya in the thirteenth century (who held
that jihad in the sense of killing unbelievers was more
important than any of the traditional five pillars of
Islam). ...

... Clearly radical Islamists are the primary threat we
face. But the nineties saw the emergence of apoca-
lyptic, religiously motivated terrorists from the fringes
of a variety of faiths: Judaism (Gush Emunim's assas-
sinations and plot to dynamite the Al Aqsa mosque),
Buddhism (Aum Shunrikyo's nerve gas attacks), and
Christianity (Christian Identity, which nurtured Tim
McVeigh and a phalanx of imitators, so far less suc-
cessful.) ..."

039. Islamic Imperialism: A History,
by Professor Efraim Karsh
"... While analyzing the different mind-sets and con-
flicting interpretations as to the root cause behind the
9/11 attacks, the book scrutinizes the contention that
Islam has allegedly nurtured dreams of world con-
quest since its outset in the 7th century AD.

... replete with references/maps, begins with a quota-
tion from the farewell address of the Prophet Muham-
mad dated March 632 AD; - 'I was ordered to fight
all men until they say 'There is no God but Allah' '...

... Islam then allegedly began to strive towards the
creation of what is cited as a new universal order,
in which the whole of humanity would embrace
Islam or live under its domination. ..."

038. Warrant for Terror: The Fatwas of Radical
Islam, and the Duty of Jihad, by Shmuel Bar
"... 'Non-Muslims rarely pay attention to the religious
struggle within Islam. They must, urgently. Radical
clerics, wielding the deadly accusation of apostasy,
have silenced most mainstream Muslim clerics and
regimes in the Muslim world on the issues of jihad
and terrorism. We are at serious risk of having hun-
dreds of millions of religiously-driven enemies and
deferential followers.'--R. James Woolsey, former
Director of Central Intelligence ...

... 'analysis of fatwas -- Muslim religious injunc-
tions --Shmuel Bar takes us deep into the minds
of both those who issue calls for jihad and those
who heed them. As a tool to understand the logic,
the rationale, and the motivation of the enemy in
the war on terror, this book is sure to be assigned
in counter-terror training courses around the world.
...' -- Robert Satloff, Executive Director, The Wash-
ington Institute for Near East Policy ' ..."

037. Confronting Genocide: Judaism,
Christianity, Islam, by Steven Leonard Jacobs
From the book's introduction: "... The intimate rela-
tionship of religious difference to genocide was very
clear in the Middle Ages with its religious wars, the
persecution of heretics, the annihilation of the Albi-
gensians and other dissident sects, the Crusades, 
and the pograms. And it is a continuing element in
genocide to the present day. ...

... a common characteristic of genocide is the pre-
sence of religious difference between pepetrators
and victims ... The religious difference is often 
superimposed on other elements of differentia-
tion ... The religious affiliation then becomes part
of a distinctive social status ...

... this article deals with one aspect of the religious
element in genocide, namely the legitimation of gen-
ocide in the sacred texts ... The new movements
of religious fundamentalism ... enhance the signifi-
cance of these genocidal texts. ...

... the presence of religious difference in so many
annhilatory conflicts and massacres is strong argu-
ment for the need to analyze the potential signifi-
cance of the religious element in genocide. ..."

036. World Religions: The Great Faiths Explored
& Explained, by John Bowker
"... An easy-to-follow, pictorial resource that is
overflowing with information. Colorful pictures
enhance each page with virtually every detail via
arrows and described in a detailed caption.

Each chapter begins with a succinct introduction
and is followed by one-or-two page sections that
explain the basic tenets of the faith, symbols, events,
people, buildings, works of art, and the differences
and similarities to other religions.

Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and
Islam are included as are Jainism, Sikhism, Chinese
and Japanese religions, and Native religions. The
time line places key figures and events of one faith
in relation to important people of another belief.
Maps identify locations of sacred sites and the
spread of the religion. Pages that include tall pic-
tures are printed sideways across the double-page
spread. ...

... generous discussions of the ancient Egyptian,
Greek, Roman, Norse, and Celtic religions ..."

035. Wikipedia (The Free Encyclopedia)
History of Religions, by User Contributions
"... The history of religion refers to the written record
of human religious experiences and ideas. This period
of religious history typically begins with the invention
of writing about 5,000 years ago (3,000 BCE) in the
Near East. The prehistory of religion relates to the
study of religious beliefs that existed prior to the ad-
vent of written records.  ...

Origin - See also: Evolutionary origin of religions and
The earliest evidence of religious ideas dates back
several hundred thousand years to the Middle and
Lower Paleolithic periods. Archeologists refer to
apparent intentional burials of early homo sapiens
from as early as 300,000 years ago as evidence
of religious ideas.

Other evidence of religious ideas include symbolic
artifacts from Middle Stone Age sites in Africa.
However, the interpretation of early paleolithic
artifacts, with regards to how they relate to reli-
gious ideas, remains controversial.

Archeological evidence from more recent periods
is less controversial. A number of artifacts from the
Upper Paleolithic (50,000-13,000) are generally
interpreted by scientists as representing religious
ideas. Examples of Upper Paleolithic remains asso-
ciated with religious beliefs include the lion man, the
Venus figurines, cave paintings from Chauvet Cave
and the elaborate ritual burial from Sungir ...  there
is no broad consensus regarding the origin of reli-
gion. ..."

- - - Videos Added on October 1, 2009 - - -

034. DVD : The History Channel Presents
The Crusades - Crescent & The Cross

033. DVD : History Channel Declassified - The Taliban

032. Pro-Humanist FREELOVER Posts which
include videos pertaining to Religion History
(as of October 1, 2009)

- - - Books from the 1999 & 2000 Versions of this post - - -

031. A Dictionary of Creation Myths, by David Adams
Leeming, Margaret Adams Leeming (Contributor)
"... From cosmic eggs and the Garden of Eden to
the Spider Woman and the Gaia Principle, from
myths of the Apocalypse and the great world
religions to myths of love, re-birth, and science,
this guide illuminates the phenomenon of creation
in all aspects of the human experience. 32 illus-

030. Aryan Sun Myths : The Origin of Religions,
by Sarah E. Titcomb, Paul Tice,
Charles Morris (Introduction)
"... traces various mythologies of the sun from the
earliest of times in ancient Sumeria up through and
including modern Christianity. The various sun myths
that preceded Christianity became common to most
cultures, as cultures often shared their myths when
making contact with each other. As a result, many
of the pagan religions shared the same general sun
myths while using different gods to represent the
same story.

It is convincingly presented in Aryan Sun Myths
that when Christianity appeared on the scene it too
adopted different facets of the sun myth story. This
was done in order to unify the various pagan groups
and make them more comfortable in accepting

It is fascinating to study the earlier forms of the sun
myth, as presented here, and be able to recognize
certain stories of the savior Christ within them. ...

Buddhism is also explored as much as if not more
than Christianity in this book. ... the earliest known
mythologies concerning our life-giving sun have been
handed down to us throughout the centuries, often
disguised or hidden in our current religious systems. ..."

029. A Dictionary of Gods and Goddesses, Devils and
Demons, by Manfred Lurker
"... Containing around 1,800 entries this Dictionary
covers, in one volume, all the important deities
and demons from around the world. The gods of
ancient mythology appear alongside the gods of
contemporary religion, and `lesser' mythologies
and religions are also fully covered.

The author provides an extensive network of cross-
references, allowing the reader to draw cross-cul-
tural comparisons. The Dictionary will be an inval-
uable source of information for anyone interested
in comparative religion or the diversity of religious
views throughout the world. ..."

Most all of us are disbelievers, for the most part

028. The Zoroastrian Faith : Tradition and Modern
Research, by Solomon A. Nigosian
"... A survey of Zoroastrianism's role in the develop-
ment of the world's religions. Explores Zoroaster's
life and work, describes the sacred writings and
religious documents of the faith, and analyzes the
basic Zoroastrian beliefs and their influence on
Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. ..."

027. Mithras : Mysteries and Initiation Rediscovered,
by D. Jason Cooper
"Known as Mitra to the Indians, Mithra and Zara-
thustra (Zoroaster in Greek) to the Iranians, and
Mithras to the Romans, this is the oldest of all living
deities. Mithras was recognized as the greatest rival
of Christianity, a greater threat even than the religion
of Isis.

If Rome had not become Christian, it would have
become Mithrasian. Mithraisians had a sacrament
that included wine as a symbol of sacrificial blood.
Bread in wafers, or small loaves marked with a
cross, was used to symbolize flesh.

The priestly symbols were a staff, a ring, a hat, and
a hooked sword; members were called brothers,
and priests were called 'Father.' Mithras was born
on December 25th. He offered salvation based on
faith, compassion, knowledge, and valor. He appealed
to the poor, the slave and the freeman, as well as to
the Roman aristocracy, the militia, and even to some

The Christians sacked his temples, burned his books,
and attacked his followers; they desecrated his temples,
and built their own churches on the same foundations
as the old Mithraic temples. ..."

026. Isis in the Ancient World,
by R. E. Witt
"... The importance of this study, both for the history
of religions and of Graeco-Roman society, lies in the evidence ... of a widespread desire to worship a
goddess who embodied maternal compassion and
omnipotent wisdom. ...

... an important contribution to an understanding of
the religious attitudes of ordinary men and women
who lived under the rule of the Caesars... [It is a ]
well-written, well-planned, and finely illustrated work
[that] contributes powerfully to our knowledge of
significant aspects of the Graeco-Roman world. ...

... Particularly stimulating is the attempt to assess the
impact of the Isis cult on Christianity. Here Dr. Witt
is able to deploy his wide knowledge of the religion
of the Byzantine era and its sequel in Greek Ortho-
doxy, and he is also able to correct the severe under-
estimation of the moral appeal of the Isis cult which
has hitherto prevailed among historians of Christianity 

025. Holy Horrors: An Illustrated History of Religious
Murder and Madness, by James A. Haught
"... In 1583 in Vienna, a 16-year-old girl suffered
stomach cramps. A team of Jesuits exorcized her
for eight weeks. The priests announced that they
had expelled 12,652 demons from her, demons
that her grandmother had kept as flies in glass jars.
The grandmother was tortured into confessing that
she was a witch who had engaged in sex with Satan.
She was then burned at the stake. This was one of
perhaps one million such executions during three
centuries of witch-hunts.

... Holy Horrors chronicles the grim spectrum of reli-
gious persecution from ancient times to the present.
Fully illustrated with drawings, woodcuts, and photo-
graphs, the book recounts such historic religious
persecution as the Crusades, the Islamic jihads, the
Catholic wars against heretics, the Inquisition, witch-
hunts, and the Reformation. It also chronicles modern-
day atrocities, including the Holocaust 

Christian Church History

024. Holy Hatred : Religious Conflicts of the '90s,
by James A. Haught
"... From the Catholic-Protestant killings in Northern
Ireland to the Branch Davidian cult tragedy in Waco,
Texas, religion is still a powerful force that pits people
against each other. In this volume, an award-winning
journalist who has chronicled many recent surges of
religious hostility, traces the origins of various conflicts,
their significant developments, and current status.

023. The Dark Side of Christian History,
by Helen Ellerbe
"... Over a period of nearly two millennia, the Christian
Church has oppressed and brutalized millions of
individuals. Meticulously researched and courageously
written, this book examines the Church's devastating
impact upon human freedom, dignity and spirituality. &lp;/font>..."

Christian Church History

022. Thomas Paine : Collected Writings : Common
Sense / The Crisis / Rights of Man / The Age of
Reason / Pamphlets, Articles, and Letters (Library
of America), by Thomas Paine
"... Thomas Paine was more than a great propagan-
dist (though he was one of the best). He was one of
the few true patriots who cared nothing for his own
legacy or even his own life at times. The church has
attacked Paine cowardly since his death as they too
know that Paine came very near the truth. 

Long-lived doubt -- separation of church & state
Words of Wisdom - Disbelief, Death, Slavery

021. The Dead Sea Scrolls Deception,
by Michael Baigent-Richard Leigh
"... Through a careful study of the scrolls, historical
analysis, and interviews with scholars, the authors
establish a view of Christianity that challenges the
Church's adamantly defended 'facts'. Investigates
why the contents of the earliest biblical manuscripts,
found forty years ago, are still being withheld from
the general public and studies unpublished materials
that provide some startling new views about the
early Christians. Not for the theologically faint of

Dead Sea Scrolls to Cause Vatican to Revise the Bible

020. Dead Sea Scrolls, The Complete Story,
by Dr. Jonathan G. Campbell
"... Campbell is particularly good on the Scrolls'
historical setting and builds up a convincing picture
of the development of different strands of religious
thought, belief and practice within second temple
period Judaism. If you approach this book without
prejudice, as Campbell does the available facts,
you will come to understand the origins of modern
Judaism and Christianity. 

019. The Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered: The First
Complete Translation and Interpretation of 50
Key Documents Withheld for over 35 Years,
by Robert H. Eisenman, Michael O. Wise
"... This groundbreaking volume features revelatory
material, available primarily for the first time. These
50 documents cast a startling light on events in
Palestine at the dawn of Christianity, alluding not
only to doctrines we now recognize as Christian,
but also to the precursors of Islam and Jewish

018. A History of God: The 4000-Year Quest of
Judaism, Christianity and Islam,
by Karen Armstrong
"... Superb kaleidoscopic history of religion, from an
English nun-turned-scholar. Armstrong was a nun
in the early 1960's but left her convent in 1969 as
part of the great wave that defected from religious
life at that time. Although her faith grew progressively
weaker, her fascination with religion didn't abate,
and, even as a nonbeliever, she continues to pursue
theological studies. 

017. The Formation of Christendom,
by Judith Herrin
"... This exceptionally learned, remarkably broad, and
lucidly written study represents a milestone in our under-
standing of the culture of late classical antiquity and of
early medieval Europe. Examining both Muslim and
Christian heirs of the Roman Empire, Herrrin explores
faith as a material force in early medieval society.

As the ancient world collapsed, religious faith rather
than imperial rule became the feature with which Chris-
tians and Muslims defined their worlds. ... Herrin sees
Byzantium as the central force in the development of
both Europe and Islam: Byzantium checked the Mus-
lim challenge to Western Christendom but failed to
confine Islam to Arabia. ..."

016. Contemporary Paganism : Listening People,
Speaking Earth, by Graham Harvey
"... This is a wonderful book both for Pagans and
people researching Paganism. The author examines
the practices and beliefs of various different Pagan
groups (Druids, Wicca, etc) and what beliefs can
be said to define Paganism. It's scattered with
quotes from Pagans (and Terry Pratchett novels),
and gives a great look into the worldview of
neo-Pagans in the UK and around the world. ..."

015. The Cults of the Roman Empire,
by Robert Turcan
"... The book opens with an account of the nature
of popular religion and the way in which the gods
and myths of subject peoples were taken up by
the Roman colonizers and spread throughout the

This book is about the multiplicity of gods and reli-
gions that characterized the Roman world before
Constantine. It was not the noble gods such as
Jove, Apollo and Diana, who were crucial to the
lives of the common people in the empire, but gods
of an altogether more earthly, earthy level, whose
rituals and observances may now seem bizarre. ...

...  Successive chapters are devoted to the Great
Mother, Isis, the cults of Syria, Mithras, the Horse-
men, Dionysus, and to practices related to the per-
formance of magic. It was above all with these
popular religions that the early Christians fought
for supremacy. ... Each chapter is fully referenced
and where appropriate illustrated with photographs
and diagrams. ..."

014. The Christians As the Romans Saw Them,
by Robert L. Wilken
"... This is an excellent book explaining how the early
Christians were viewed by the Romans of that period.
Many Roman scholars and philosophers did sit up
and take notice when this strange, new 'superstitious
cult' first appeared on the scene. Needless to say,
opinions were not all very favorable.

The Roman philosopher Galen, for example, admired
the Christians' philanthropy and day-to-day living atti-
tudes (love thy neighbor, do unto others...etc.) but he
did not have much use for the Christian teachings in
so far as they tried to explain the nature of the uni-
verse, Genesis, the nature of God, and thought that
the Graeco-Roman model of cosmology made much
more sense. Because as author Robert Wilken points
out, most learned people of the time thought Christian-
ity was 'without an intellectual basis.'

While the philosopher Celsus, who studied Christian
writings and the Gospels very intensely, rejected Chris-
tianity entirely. He could never come to terms with the
Christian doctrine of relying everything on faith, and
instead lambasted the Christians for their almost com-
plete and fanatical rejection of reason and scientific argument.

This book presents the overall and concise arguments
that were taking place around Christianity at the time
and one can, for the first time, take a look through the
eyes of the 'other side' at Christianity. ..."

013. Christianizing the Roman Empire (A.D. 100-400),
by Ramsay MacMullen
"... In the overall, Macmullen usually argues his case
well, and gives a lot of evidence, brushing a convincing
explanation, for example:

- showing how Christians would refrain from '(publicly)
evangelizing' because of the persecutions

- rejecting the role of Christian love and support; this
was also present within the pagan cults (for their

-showing the key role of apologetics and the conversion
of the intellectuals and philosophers, and of influential
people, until the conversion of Constantine, which
resulted in the conversion of the empire. ..."

012. Christianity and Paganism in the Fourth to Eighth
Centuries, by Ramsay MacMullen
"... MacMullen investigates the transition from
paganism to Christianity between the fourth and
eighth centuries. He reassesses the triumph of
Christianity, contending that it was neither tidy
nor quick, and he shows that the two religious
systems were both vital during an interactive
period that lasted far longer than historians have
previously believed. ...

... 'It used to be thought that, at the end, the erad-
ication of paganism really required no effort' and
that paganism had become a hollow husk. 'But
historians seem now to have abandoned this inter-
pretation ... The real vitality of paganism is instead
recognized; and to explain its eventual fata what
must also be recognized is an opposing force, an
urgent one, determined on its extinction.'

And we see the extreme measures to which Chris-
tianity was willing to resort to stamp out all oppo-
sition: fines, confiscation, exile, imprisonment, flog-
ging, torture, beheading, and crucifixion. 'What
more could be imagined? Nothing. The extremes
of conceivable pressure were brought to bear.'

Nor was this violence restricted to pagans. Speak-
ing of the fourth century, MacMullen says 'more
Christians died for their faith at the hands of fellow
Christians than had died before in all the persecu-
tions.' ... "

011. Children of Abraham: Judaism-Christianity-Islam,
by F. E. Peters
[2006 update to an earlier edition of the book
linked to on the previous version of this post]

"... Peters traces the three faiths from the sixth cen-
tury B.C., when the Jews returned to Palestine from
exile in Babylonia, to the time in the Middle Ages
when they approached their present form.

He points out that all three faith groups, whom the
Muslims themselves refer to as "People of the Book,"
share much common ground. Most notably, each
embraces the practice of worshiping a God who
intervenes in history on behalf of His people.

 ... one of the first synoptic presentations of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam that compares the structures
of the three religions without asserting the superiority
of any one of them. ..."

010. Jihad in the West : Muslim Conquests from the
7th to the 21st Centuries, by Paul Fregosi
"... It is a look at the darker side of the Islamic reli-
gion, from its inception with Muhammad up through
the first half of this century, lightly touching on recent

Fregosi shows that jihad, or holy war, did not come
about as a reaction to the Crusades but has been
a continually integral part of Islam.

While not excusing the barbarities of Christianity, he
highlights how Islam has been particularly ruthless in
its acquisition of lands and wealth and in dealing with
those who have stood in its path. ..."

009. Classical Hindu Thought : An Introduction,
by Arvind Sharma
"... This concise and lucid book is divided into sec-
tions which deal with the key concepts of Hinduism
such as karma, dharma, maya, moksa and varna and
the main gods and goddesses of the Hindu pantheon.

Arvind Sharma introduces contemporary readers to
the texts and ideas crystallized during the 'classical'
period from the fourth to the tenth century BCE and
explains their contemporary relevance. ..."

008. The Buddhist Handbook: A Complete Guide to
Buddhist Schools, Teaching, Practice, and History,
by John Snelling
"... This book answers the need for a concise work
in English on the subject of Buddhism. Beginning with
the story of Buddha's journey to enlightenment in the
sixth century B.C., Snelling moves on to present the
teachings and practices of Buddhism and to trace its
spread from India to the rest of Asia, to Europe, and
to North America.

007. Simple Confucianism : A Guide to Living
Virtuously, by C. Alexander
"... Confucianism has been in practice for thousands
of years, but its profound meaning has never been
more relevant. A code of behavior, Confucianism
offers a structure within which to make personal
and interpersonal moral decisions.

In this era of global strife, Confucian teachings of
cultivating the self and interpersonal relationships,
as well as governing with peace, couldn't be more

Simple Confucianism teaches the basics of Confu-
cianism and then shows you how to put its tenets
into practice in your daily life. ..."

006. Heaven : An Illustrated History of the Higher
Realms, by Timothy Freke
"... Timothy Freke explores the seemingly countless
interpretations and beliefs of the world's cultures
regarding the afterlife. From Valhalla to the Elysian
Fields, Freke captures the imagination with descrip-
tions and explanations of the paradises awaiting the

005. Hell : An Illustrated History of the Netherworld,
by Richard Craze
"... The author delves into the artistic, social, political
and historical anomaly of Hell, and offers explana-
tions and explorations of the ways in which the
mythical region is inhabited by the tortured and

This book looks at cultural perceptions of Hell
throughout the ages, from the Hades of the ancient
Greeks to the vast seven-storied hell of the Swahilis.



004. The History of Hell (Harvest Book),
by Alice K. Turner
"... Belief in a hell or some sort of afterlife has been
intrinsic to the religions of the world ever since the
first stories were shared aloud and incised in clay
tablets. Turner's richly illustrated history surveys
the myriad forms hell has taken in the West from
Sumer to Rome and beyond.

003. Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of
World Religions
"... Excerpt from the back cover: 'All religions, all
eras, all cultures, all regions. 3,500 entries deliver
comprehensive coverage of religious movements
and concepts, historical and legendary figures,
divinities and supernatural characters, and important
religious places. Thirty in-depth articles provide
detailed discussions of major religions, including
Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, and Bud-
dhism, as well as other important religious topics.'

002. The World's Religions : Understanding the
Living Faiths, by Dr. Peter B. Clarke
"... Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Bud-
dhism, Sikhism, Shinto, and Confucianism are
explored from their beginnings to their roles

001. Native North America,
by Larry J. Zimmerman, Brian Leigh Molyneaux
"... Illustrated with more than two hundred pic-
tures, a survey of the religious practices of
Native Americans traces the expression of the
sacred in personal and communal rituals, initi-
ation rites, and curing ceremonies.