Strange Gods: A Secular History of Conversion by Susan Jacoby
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The erudite Ms. Jacoby presents a comprehensive history of religious conversion from a secular viewpoint, which basically means that it's unbiased. Some notable conversions are covered, such as St. Augustine, John Donne and Muhammad Ali. She also gives a thorough look at the persecution of Jews through history, and covers why slave owners decided to convert their slaves. Strange Gods is fascinating and witty. I guarantee that you will walk away smarter than when you started the book.
Apostle: Travels Among the Tombs of the Twelve by Tom Bissell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Like Tom Bissell, I am an nonbeliever, who finds the study of early Christianity fascinating. This book is for believers and nonbelievers alike though, because it is not religious criticism, but a highly enjoyable historical travelogue. Each of the twelve apostles gets his own chapter, plus there is a chapter on Paul, the apostle "not of the twelve," and one on the historical Jesus. Bissell spent over fours years, traveling to the resting places of all twelve apostles and their relics. He also engages pilgrims he finds on his travels, which makes for some interesting and often humorous conversations. Thanks to Bissell's research and intelligence, we get not only a glimpse at the apostles, but a real view of the very beginnings of Christianity.
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