Freethinkers : A History of American Secularism by Susan Jacoby This book is fresh air for the lungs of those who defend the separation of church and state. Here, clearly written and without apologetics, is the noble record of the long struggle to retain America's precious freedom of conscience, her pride for two centuries, now under threat from the political Right as never before. -Arthur Miller
The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels Gnosticism's Christian form grew to prominence in the 2nd century A.D. Ultimately denounced as heretical by the early church, Gnosticism proposed a revealed knowledge of God ("gnosis" meaning "knowledge" in Greek), held as a secret tradition of the apostles. In The Gnostic Gospels, author Elaine Pagels suggests that Christianity could have developed quite differently if Gnostic texts had become part of the Christian canon. Without a doubt: Gnosticism celebrates God as both Mother and Father, shows a very human Jesus's relationship to Mary Magdalene, suggests the Resurrection is better understood symbolically, and speaks to self-knowledge as the route to union with God. Pagels argues that Christian orthodoxy grew out of the political considerations of the day, serving to legitimize and consolidate early church leadership. Her contrast of that developing orthodoxy with Gnostic teachings presents an intriguing trajectory on a world faith as it "might have become." The Gnostic Gospels provides engaging reading for those seeking a broader perspective on the early development of Christianity.