I have a dear friend who is stuck in the quagmire of unreason and blinkered thinking we call America's Bible Belt, and due to forces outside of her control, has been forced to become one of the numerous closet skeptics afraid to voice her doubt for fear of negative peer pressure, of being ostracized by family and friends, and receiving undue scorn should she speak her peace of mind. Forced into silence by "Christian love." Ironic, don't you think?
Regrettably, she would have to endure all sorts of ill will in her overly zealous community at the hands of insular minded and intolerant religious partisans if she should confess her "honest to God" thoughts and opinions or mention, in any way, her atheism. She still sings in the church choir, because she loves music and singing, but if she mentioned her real thoughts and feelings she's be kicked out and bullied. It's not fair -- but that's the power of group-think -- where everyone sees things in black and white and has no tolerance for anyone who thinks differently.
As such, she has asked me to offer those in want of a new perspective a list of humanist and secular morality that might seek to enlighten her where the Bible and her faith has failed.
Who would I, an advocate of reason, be to deny such a request? It would be irresponsible of me to ignore somebody's pleas of desperation and longing to seek deeper truths and insights?
So if you're looking for another viable perspective on ethics, morality, and the meaning of life, then I find that this list of reading is essential.
Tao Te Ching: The New Translation from Tao Te Ching: The Definitive Edition (Tarcher Cornerstone Editions) by Lao-Tzu
Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
Living the Wisdom of the Tao: The Complete Tao Te Ching and Affirmations by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer (Paperback - Mar 1, 2008)
What the Buddha Taught: Revised and Expanded Edition with Texts from Suttas and Dhammapada by Walpola Rahula
Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals by Immanuel Kant
Great Traditions in Ethics by Theodore C. Denise (Author), et al.
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
Philosophers without Gods: Meditations on Atheism and the Secular Life by Louise M. Antony
Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe by Greg Epstein
Living Without God: New Directions for Atheists, Agnostics, Secularists, and the Undecided by Ronald Aronson
Looking in the Distance: The Human Search for Meaning by Richard Holloway
Godless Morality: Keeping Religion Out of Ethics by Richard Holloway
Doubts and Loves: What is Left of Christianity by Richard Holloway
The Bible According to Mark Twain: Irreverent Writings on Eden, Heaven, and the Flood by America's Master Satirist by Mark Twain
A Secular Age by Charles Taylor
*Humanism (on Wikipedia)
Secularism draws its intellectual roots from Greek and Roman philosophers such as Marcus Aurelius and Epicurus, medieval Muslim polymaths such as Ibn Rushd, Enlightenment thinkers like Denis Diderot, Voltaire, John Locke, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine, and modern freethinkers, agnostics and atheists such as Bertrand Russell and Robert Ingersoll.