Darwin: Origin of Species
…and why you should read them (or at least be familiar with them).
These are books that have had a deleterious affect on humanity (almost exclusively Western in their thinking). Some of them had “good intentions”* but fell flat on their face with horrible unintended consequences. The Christian has the responsibility to defend the truth of the Gospel. One part of defending the truth is refuting all untruth. We need to be reading primary sources of the things we are seeking to deconstruct – not summaries, the wikipedia article, or a blog post about it.
*1. The Origin of Species: By Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life by Charles Darwin
I do not think Darwin would agree with half of Neo-Darwinianism or macroevolution. He makes massive concessions that geology and microbiology would need to corroborate his thesis. He was a good scientist who followed the evidence, I think he would be in the intelligent design camp (perhaps this is a controversial statement, but read Origin for yourself). I have listed this as #1 as this work was critical in pretty much all of the destructive thoughts of the past 150 years: Eugenics, Scientific Naturalism, Nietzschean atheism, New Atheism, Liberal Protestantism, and Communism.
2. Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant
This book is probably the most influential book in philosophy since the ancient Greeks. Kant seeks to synthesize the great debate of the history of philosophy: Being vs. Becoming aka Plato vs. Aristotle. In the process, Kant comes to the conclusion that our minds cannot have knowledge of things that are not physical – ie. God and many other absolute truths. In defense of Kant, his thinking did begin to change in his third work as he makes some wiggle room for faith as being a legitimate pathway for knowledge (but almost no one reads his third volume).
3. The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
20,000,000 dead under Stalin, 6-8,000,000 dead under Lenin, 40,000,000 dead under Mao Zedong, 1,700,000 dead under Pol Pot… case and point.
4. On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers by Friedrich Schleiermacher
This guy birthed liberal Protestantism. His ideas split Protestantism and millions think they know Jesus when they don’t.
5. Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Nietzsche
Nietzsche decries how humanity has killed God through our apathy. He then espouses why humanity needs to move beyond God, morality, truth, and the good, in favor of embracing exerting power and control over the weak.
*6. Meditations on First Philosophy by Rene Descartes
Descartes had every intention of proving through pure axiomatic reasoning that God existed. In short, his arguments for God’s existence were awful and his arguments for doubting everything were excellent. His legacy is solid argumentation for skepticism. Epic Fail.
7. Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler
11-17,000,000 dead. Hitler sees Judaism, capitalism, and communism as the three major threats to Germany. The Final Solution means purging all associated with these things and the result is the Holocaust. Awful.
8. Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity by Richard Rorty
In my view, this is the most important book to be read today for the Christian. For an explanation why, read my previous blog post on post-modern-pragmatism.
9. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
In order to be successful in life you must exercise control through power and manipulation. Morality hurts your ability to exert your will.
10. Origins of the History of Christianity by Ernest Renan
The New Testament is essentially myth. This revisionist history was seminal in classic liberalism and influential in the later Jesus Seminar.
11. Discourse on the Origin of Inequality Among Men by Jean Jacques Rousseau
Society is corrupt, man is good.
12. The Pivot of Civilization by Margaret Sanger
Sanger promoted sexual liberation and then birth control, abortion, and eugenics. 39,000,000+ babies dead worldwide… this year from abortion.
13. Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes
Humans are immoral, therefore only Leviathan is the solution… Leviathan is a strong and aggressive central government.
14. The Essence of Christianity by Ludwig von Feuerbach
Christianity is superstition that will soon be replaced by humanism.
15. The Future of an Illusion by Sigmund Freud
Humanity has invented God and this delusion is a kind of mental illness.
16. Various Writings by Pelagius
Denial of the doctrine of original sin, denial of efficacious grace, and the denial of the sovereignty of God. 1600 years later his teachings still plague the church.
17. Sexual Behavior in the Human Male by Alfred Kinsey
This was just painful to read (and I was unable to finish) and I am not endorsing actually getting a copy (hence no link). Kinsey basically says that no sexual behavior or orientation is immoral. All is permissible.
18. The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels
Some bit of gnosticism had to make this list. I wrestled with what to choose here. Pagels is your run of the mill critic who says that the gnostic “gospels” are the real story and history. These ideas are ridiculous due to their pseudepigraphic nature, date of writing, and mutually exclusive theologies.
19. Prolegomena to the History of Israel by Julius Wellhausen
Wellhausen espouses that the first five books of the Old Testament were not written by Moses but by editors from four schools of thought. A flood of Bible criticism followed Wellhausen.
20. Why I am Not a Christian by Bertrand Russell
Russell is one of the few atheists other than Nietzsche that I respect. His thoughts are well ordered and argued. The New Atheists (Dawkins, Hitchens…) wish they could hold a candle to Russell.
21. Process and Reality by A.N. Whitehead
Whitehead argues for Process Theology. Read about Process Theology here.
22. The Council of Trent
Justification by faith alone is anathematized. Veneration of Mary and saints upheld. Transubstantiation upheld. I love my brothers and sisters who are Christians in the Catholic church despite the Catholic church. Trent had the opportunity to listen to the Reformation and return to God’s Word for truth. It did not and left in its wake countless eternal casualties.
23. His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman
Pullman sought to write the opposite of Milton’s Paradise Lost. He seeks to commend humanism and ultimately atheism as the commendable life path. His Dark Materials is aimed at young adults and has been recently popularized by the Golden Compass film.
24. Protagoras by Plato
For clarity sake, these are sayings ascribed to Protagoras and not Platonic thoughts. The famous quote is “Man is the measure of all things.” Protagoras is the first person to espouse a kind of moral relativism.
25. Coming of Age in Samoa by Margaret Mead
The logical consequences of naturalism and Darwinianism applied to anthropology and sociology. What is primitive is good, therefore the sexual inhibition she evidenced in primitive Samoa ought to be writ large.
Some thinkers who nearly made this list:
Leon Trotsky, Mao Zedong, Jean-Paul Sartre, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Victor Gollancz, Lillian Hellman, Cyril Connolly, Norman Mailer, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Bertolt Brecht, Johann Fichte, Georg Hegel, Arthur Schopenhauer, John Dewey, Joseph Smith, Percy Shelley, Henrik Ibsen, Edmund Wilson, James Baldwin, Kenneth Tynan, Jean-François Lyotard, Claude Levi-Strauss and Noam Chomsky.
What did I miss?