100 books like Spinoza's Religion

By Clare Carlisle,

Here are 100 books that Spinoza's Religion fans have personally recommended if you like Spinoza's Religion. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World

James Blachowicz Author Of The Bilateral Mind as the Mirror of Nature: A Metaphilosophy

From my list on the nature and capacities of our bilateral minds.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always had equally balanced interests in the arts/humanities and the natural sciences. I like to think that I inherited much of this from my analytical “algebraic” mother, who was a nurse and tended to our family finances, and my holistic “geometrical” father, who was a carpenter. It’s probably no accident that my double major in college was in physics and philosophy...and, down the line, that I should develop a focused interest in human brain laterality, where the division between analysis and holism is so prominent.

James' book list on the nature and capacities of our bilateral minds

James Blachowicz Why did James love this book?

This is an expansive treatment of the intellectual and cultural ramifications of the bilateral mind from ancient times to the present. The dominance of the analytic left hemisphere (the “emissary”), McGilchrist fears, threatens to usurp its experience-grounded “master” – to the detriment of human culture.

While The Master and His Emissary and The Origin of Consciousness cover similar topics, it is interesting and important to note that there are areas where their perspectives complement each other and those where they differ, such as their accounts of schizophrenia. I still find myself vacillating between the two. I sometimes wonder whether my indecision may itself be the result of my own hemispheric split.


By Iain McGilchrist,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Master and His Emissary as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A pioneering exploration of the differences between the brain's right and left hemispheres and their effects on society, history, and culture-"one of the few contemporary works deserving classic status" (Nicholas Shakespeare, The Times, London)

"Persuasively argues that our society is suffering from the consequences of an over-dominant left hemisphere losing touch with its natural regulative 'master' the right. Brilliant and disturbing."-Salley Vickers, a Guardian Best Book of the Year

"I know of no better exposition of the current state of functional brain neuroscience."-W. F. Bynum, TLS

Why is the brain divided? The difference between right and left hemispheres has been…


Book cover of God, Value, and Nature

John Cottingham Author Of In Search of the Soul: A Philosophical Essay

From my list on the human search for meaning.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have spent my career writing and teaching philosophy, working on early-modern philosophers, especially that most controversial and enigmatic figure, René Descartes. In recent years my main interest has been in the philosophy of religion, focusing on grand traditional questions about the meaning of life, and on the spiritual dimension of religious thought and practice. I have argued for a ‘humane’ turn in philosophy, meaning that philosophical inquiry should not confine itself to abstract intellectual argument alone, but should draw on a full range of resources, including literary, poetic, imaginative, and emotional modes of awareness, as we struggle to come to terms with the mystery of human existence. 

John's book list on the human search for meaning

John Cottingham Why did John love this book?

Many people think that modern science shows the cosmos to be an impersonal process, devoid of meaning and value. In this intricate and ground-breaking study, Fiona Ellis puts forward an ‘expansive naturalism’ that challenges contemporary atheist orthodoxy, and it led me to rethink the supposed opposition between the ‘natural’ and the divine.

By Fiona Ellis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked God, Value, and Nature as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Many philosophers believe that God has been put to rest. Naturalism is the default position, and the naturalist can explain what needs to be explained without recourse to God. This book agrees that we should be naturalists, but it rejects the more prevalent scientific naturalism in favour of an 'expansive' naturalism inspired by David Wiggins and John McDowell. It is argued that expansive naturalism can accommodate the idea of God, and that the expansive naturalist
has unwittingly paved the way towards a form of naturalism which poses a genuine challenge to the atheist. It follows that the traditional naturalism versus…


Book cover of Emotional Experience and Religious Understanding: Integrating Perception, Conception and Feeling

John Cottingham Author Of In Search of the Soul: A Philosophical Essay

From my list on the human search for meaning.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have spent my career writing and teaching philosophy, working on early-modern philosophers, especially that most controversial and enigmatic figure, René Descartes. In recent years my main interest has been in the philosophy of religion, focusing on grand traditional questions about the meaning of life, and on the spiritual dimension of religious thought and practice. I have argued for a ‘humane’ turn in philosophy, meaning that philosophical inquiry should not confine itself to abstract intellectual argument alone, but should draw on a full range of resources, including literary, poetic, imaginative, and emotional modes of awareness, as we struggle to come to terms with the mystery of human existence. 

John's book list on the human search for meaning

John Cottingham Why did John love this book?

Perceiving some fact about the world seems at first to be quite distinct from the way we feel about it, but Mark Wynn’s careful arguments show how, in our grasp of reality, emotion and perception are intimately intertwined. I found his conclusions shed a vivid light on the complex nature of religious belief and religious experience. 

By Mark Wynn,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Emotional Experience and Religious Understanding as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this book Mark Wynn argues that the landscape of philosophical theology looks rather different from the perspective of a re-conceived theory of emotion. In matters of religion, we do not need to opt for objective content over emotional form or vice versa. On the contrary, these strategies are mistaken at root, since form and content are not properly separable here - because 'inwardness' may contribute to 'thought-content', or because (to use the vocabulary of the book) emotional feelings can themselves constitute thoughts; or because, to put the point a further way, in religious contexts, perception and conception are often…


Book cover of Love: A History

John Cottingham Author Of In Search of the Soul: A Philosophical Essay

From my list on the human search for meaning.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have spent my career writing and teaching philosophy, working on early-modern philosophers, especially that most controversial and enigmatic figure, René Descartes. In recent years my main interest has been in the philosophy of religion, focusing on grand traditional questions about the meaning of life, and on the spiritual dimension of religious thought and practice. I have argued for a ‘humane’ turn in philosophy, meaning that philosophical inquiry should not confine itself to abstract intellectual argument alone, but should draw on a full range of resources, including literary, poetic, imaginative, and emotional modes of awareness, as we struggle to come to terms with the mystery of human existence. 

John's book list on the human search for meaning

John Cottingham Why did John love this book?

This astonishingly rich and beautifully written survey shows how deeply love is involved in what has always been one of my main philosophical preoccupations – the human search for meaning. Simon May reveals love as the ‘harbinger of the sacred,’ while at the same time warning of how often it bears the burden of unrealistic and misconceived expectations.

By Simon May,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Love as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An illuminating exploration of how love has been shaped, idolized, and misconstrued by the West over three millennia, and how we might differently conceive it

Love-unconditional, selfless, unchanging, sincere, and totally accepting-is worshipped today as the West's only universal religion. To challenge it is one of our few remaining taboos. In this pathbreaking and superbly written book, philosopher Simon May does just that, dissecting our resilient ruling ideas of love and showing how they are the product of a long and powerful cultural heritage.

Tracing over 2,500 years of human thought and history, May shows how our ideal of love…


Book cover of The Perennial Philosophy

Peter Occhiogrosso Author Of Circles of Belief: The World’s Spiritual Traditions and Beyond

From my list on spiritual path alternative to institutional religion.

Why am I passionate about this?

I feel strongly that large segments of the population—young and old alike—have thrown out the baby of spirituality with the bathwater of organized religion. Given the current level of interreligious hatred and misunderstanding in today’s world, two things have to change. First, we need to know the basics of the world’s major religious traditions and how they evolved so that we are not making value judgments based on erroneous information and lack of understanding. Then, we have to look through the external dogmas and rituals to the spiritual principles and experiences that are of most value and that may not be reliant on any one institutional religion. 

Peter's book list on spiritual path alternative to institutional religion

Peter Occhiogrosso Why did Peter love this book?

Renowned for brilliant visionary novels like Brave New World and Island, Huxley also wrote one of the most insightful books about the underlying truth running through the great mystics of the world’s spiritual traditions.

By quoting mostly from the mystics of both East and West themselves rather than the Bible, Huxley focused on the common essence of the experience of divine union. Along with many unsung Christian mystics, he also quotes from Eastern masters and sacred scriptures, including Rumi, Lao Tzu, Shankara, and from scriptures like the Bhagavad Gita, Tibetan Book of the Dead, Diamond Sutra, and the Upanishads, by way of showing that the universal Reality both transcends and is embodied in individual traditions. 

By Aldous Huxley (editor),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Perennial Philosophy as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An inspired gathering of religious writings that reveals the "divine reality" common to all faiths, collected by Aldous Huxley

"The Perennial Philosophy," Aldous Huxley writes, "may be found among the traditional lore of peoples in every region of the world, and in its fully developed forms it has a place in every one of the higher religions."

With great wit and stunning intellect—drawing on a diverse array of faiths, including Zen Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Christian mysticism, and Islam—Huxley examines the spiritual beliefs of various religious traditions and explains how they are united by a common human yearning to experience the…


Book cover of Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible

R.G. Price Author Of Deciphering the Gospels: Proves Jesus Never Existed

From my list on the (actual) origins of Christianity and Judaism.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have been fascinated by the Bible since my earliest days in Sunday school, coloring pictures of Noah’s Ark. Yet, even as a young child I was very skeptical of the Christian interpretation of biblical stories, seeing that they couldn’t possibly be true. But I’ve always respected the Bible as a literary work and sought to understand its details. In my years of researching the Bible and Christian origins, several works stand out as being particularly important in shaping my understanding of Judaism and Christianity. These are those books.

R.G.'s book list on the (actual) origins of Christianity and Judaism

R.G. Price Why did R.G. love this book?

Along with his other book, Berossus and Genesis, Manetho and Exodus: Hellenistic Histories and the Date of the Pentateuch, Russell Gmirkin puts forward compelling evidence to show that many of the most revered works of Jewish scripture were produced after the conquests of Alexander the Great, hundreds of years later than widely believed. Relationships between the Jewish Torah and the works of Plato have long been acknowledged by scholars, dating back to antiquity. Jews had long claimed that it was Plato who had derived his concepts from their writings, but here Gmirkin shows convincingly that the relationship goes the other way around. This realization has profound implications for our understanding of the origins of Judaism and Christianity.

By Russell E. Gmirkin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Plato and the Creation of the Hebrew Bible for the first time compares the ancient law collections of the Ancient Near East, the Greeks and the Pentateuch to determine the legal antecedents for the biblical laws. Following on from his 2006 work, Berossus and Genesis, Manetho and Exodus, Gmirkin takes up his theory that the Pentateuch was written around 270 BCE using Greek sources found at the Great Library of Alexandria, and applies this to an examination of the biblical law codes. A striking number of legal parallels are found between the Pentateuch and Athenian laws, and specifically with those…


Book cover of The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature

Elaine Pagels Author Of Why Religion? A Personal Story

From my list on why religion and spirituality are still around.

Why am I passionate about this?

“And what do you do?” someone asked at a crowded reception at the NY Academy of Science. “Write—comparative religion.” Startled, he backed away, asking suspiciously, “Why religion? Are you religious?” Yes, incorrigibly—although I grew up among people who regarded religion as obsolete as an outgrown bicycle stashed in a back closet. While many of us leave institutions behind, identifying as “spiritual, not religious,” I’ve done both—had faith, lost it; then began exploring recent discoveries from Israel and Egypt—Dead Sea Scrolls, Christian “secret gospels,” Buddhist practices, asking, Why is religion still around in the twenty-first centuryWhat I love is how such stories, art, music, and rituals engage our imagination and illuminate our experience.

Elaine's book list on why religion and spirituality are still around

Elaine Pagels Why did Elaine love this book?

This book is full of stories, using case studies that include the lives of Walt Whitman, Saint Augustine, and Russian writer Leo Tolstoy—that I found fascinating. Here psychologist William James challenges what he—and I—were both taught: namely, that religions are primarily childish fantasies (the view of Sigmund Freud, founder of psychoanalysis, in The Future of an Illusion). But after James, as a young man, experienced a terrifying depression, he describes his surprise at what felt to him like a spiritual breakthrough that enabled him to recover. James skips questions about dogma and belief, instead identifies a range of different “varieties of religious experience” that, far more than “belief,” can give rise to spiritual insight. 

By William James,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked The Varieties of Religious Experience as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Standing at the crossroads of psychology and religion, this catalyzing work applied the scientific method to a field abounding in abstract theory. William James believed that individual religious experiences, rather than the precepts of organized religions, were the backbone of the world's religious life. His discussions of conversion, repentance, mysticism and saintliness, and his observations on actual, personal religious experiences - all support this thesis. In his introduction, Martin E. Marty discusses how James's pluralistic view of religion led to his remarkable tolerance of extreme forms of religious behaviour, his challenging, highly original theories, and his welcome lack of pretension…


Book cover of The Pilgrim's Regress

Paul Frank Spencer Author Of Marvelous Light

From my list on revealing God’s reality through metaphor.

Why am I passionate about this?

My very intelligent, very (self-described) un-literary father taught me all about the complexities and beauty of God. My librarian mother gave me the literature that would introduce me to the most profound descriptions of those complex beauties. As the author of Marvelous Light, numerous metaphor-dependent blog posts, and future allegorical novels, I hope to introduce each of my readers to the divine realities on which I depend daily.

Paul's book list on revealing God’s reality through metaphor

Paul Frank Spencer Why did Paul love this book?

Sorry that Lewis made my list twice. Honestly, I’m sorry. I didn’t want to do it. But two images in this book have wheedled their way into my brain so deeply that the metaphors have become a part of me.  Glimpsing that far-off paradise through the hedge as a child! Only seeing the precariousness of his path in retrospect! Wow! Read it and you’ll understand. These two metaphors will be with me until I die.

By C. S. Lewis,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Pilgrim's Regress as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of C. S. Lewis' works of fiction, or more specifically allegory, this book is clearly modelled upon Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, as Lewis cleverly satirizes different sections of the Church.

Written within a year of Lewis' conversion, it characterises the various theological and temperamental leanings of the time. This brilliant and biting allegory has lost none of its freshness and theological profundity, as the pilgrims pass the City of Claptrap, the tableland of the High Anglicans and the far-off marsh of the Theosophists. As ever, Lewis says memorably in brief what would otherwise have demanded a full-length philosophy of religion.


Book cover of The Cave Bear Story: Life and Death of a Vanished Animal

Simon J. Knell Author Of The Great Fossil Enigma: The Search for the Conodont Animal

From my list on extinct animals.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write about those people (geologists, art historians, historians, and curators), places (museums, universities, and societies), and things (fossils, paintings, and historical artifacts) that shape our understanding of the world. I am not so much interested in the history of ideas as in the very nature of art, geology, history, and the museum. And like my recommended authors, the approach I take to my subjects is, I hope, always rather novel. In The Great Fossil Enigma, for example, I felt that the tiny, suggestive, but ultimately ambiguous, nature of the fossils permitted me to see into the scientific mind. This tends to be where extinct animals live after their demise. 

Simon's book list on extinct animals

Simon J. Knell Why did Simon love this book?

This classic book hooked me on page one. Björn Kurtén’s curiosity soon becomes your curiosity and before long you are thinking like a paleontologist. It may be an old book, but the author’s thinking remains modern. Indeed, a recent review of cave bear research suggests that our knowledge of these animals hasn’t changed all that much since Kurtén’s day. I love old geology books. Beautifully written, they enable you to discover, imagine, and ultimately to care about an animal that exists only as a pile of bones. This book proved to be very influential.

By Björn Kurtén,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Cave Bear Story as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Combining ?biography and intellectual history, Steven Rockefeller offers an illuminating introduction to the philosophy of John Dewey, with special emphasis on the evolution of the religious faith and moral vision at the heart of his thought. This study pays particular attention to Dewey's radical democratic reconstruction of Christianity and his many contributions to the American tradition of spiritual democracy. Rockefeller presents the first full exploration of Dewey's religious thought, including its mystical dimension. Covering Dewey's entire intellectual life, the author provides a clear introduction to Dewey's early neo-Hegelian idealism as well as to his later naturalistic metaphysics, epistemology, theory of…


Book cover of Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion

Gordon Barnes Author Of How Do You Know? A Dialogue

From my list on philosophy written as engaging dialogues.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am Associate Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Brockport. I have been teaching and writing philosophy for over 20 years. I have published articles in professional journals on a wide range of subjects, from epistemology to philosophy of religion and political philosophy. I think that philosophy, at its best, is a good conversation, in which people give reasons for their views, and listen to others give reasons for theirs. That’s the best way for human beings to think about philosophical questions. That’s why I love philosophical dialogues—they do philosophy in a way that embodies what philosophy is, at its very best.

Gordon's book list on philosophy written as engaging dialogues

Gordon Barnes Why did Gordon love this book?

This book is a classic in the philosophy of religion. The great Scottish philosopher, and noted skeptic, David Hume, did not dare publish this book during his lifetime. He gave careful instructions to have it published after his death, and so it was first published in 1779. More than two centuries later, philosophers are still debating the merits of Hume’s arguments. What makes this book so great is that Hume does not straw man his opponents’ arguments. Instead, the characters in Hume’s dialogue state the traditional arguments for the existence of God extremely well. Only then, after they have stated the arguments so well, does Hume’s protagonist, Philo, proceed to attack those arguments with the objections for which he is now legendary.  

By David Hume, Richard H. Popkin (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hume's brilliant and dispassionate essay Of Miracles has been added in this expanded edition of his Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion , which also includes Of the Immortality of the Soul,Of Suicide, and Richard Popkin's illuminating Introduction.


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