The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
Here's a real shit-sifter for only $11.55. Or as worded by the author, a "bullshit detection kit".
I would actually recommend these two books:
I'm not trying to be condescending, but these will really steer you in the right direction on sourcing. I still use both in my daily life all the time.
The Emperor of All Maladies
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
For a thriller treatment of infections diseases, the following are a nice read
Microbe: Are We Ready For The Next Plague?
The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus
I'm inclined to also suggest the works of Simon Singh . But he has also written about cosmology and "alternative" medicine . The later got him involved in a landmark libel lawsuit in the UK. For that reason, there is probably more than the usual bit of politics you'd expect in a popular science book. However, in the post-truth era of Donald Trump and company, that maybe fitting if bitter medicine.
Edit: As someone who may not have the best scientific background, one might be prone to confuse science with pseudoscience. Even today, there is no shortage of low quality literature on UFOs and parapsychology. As such, Carl Sagan's The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark is highly recommended.
I think Carl Sagan addresses this squarely in his book The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. Here's one excerpt where he examines one problem:
> Mr. 'Buckley' - well-spoken, intelligent, curious - had heard virtually nothing of modern science. He had a natural appetite for the wonders of the Universe. He wanted to know about science. It's just that all the science had gotten filtered out before it reached him. Our cultural motifs, our educational system, our communications media had failed this man. What society permitted to trickle through was mainly pretence and confusion. It had never taught him how to distinguish real science from the cheap imitation. He knew nohing about how science works.
Almost all religions contain some good, even great, aspects that could very well improve your life. Two of the main things they offer that many recent deconverts have difficulty finding outside religion is spirituality and community. Religious people also do a great deal of charity in the name of faith.
That being said, the problem with religions is that they aren't true. You could very well join a more pacifistic religion like the Jainism or Zen Buddhism that might do you a lot of good, but you'd still be adhering to unsubstantiated beliefs.
> But I wish I could find something that gave me answers. Helped me explain life. Why I'm here. Give me clear answers that can be applied to modern life. Something that actually gives me fulfillment.
The problem is that these are tough questions that may not have clear answers. For example, you asked "Why am I here?" From a secular perspective, this may not even be a cogent question. There seems to be no clear indication that there is any external purpose to life.
One of the hardest parts of deconverting from religion is that idea that you have to get used to not having the answer to numinous questions.
As far as finding fulfillment and purpose, we can find and prescribe purpose internally. Know yourself and know what you like doing and who you like being around , and use that as a purpose. Get a hobby, start learning something you find interesting, dedicate yourself to some cause or goal.
Just because there is no (apparent) "ultimate" purpose does not mean that you can't find some sort of personal purpose that means a lot TO YOU and to those you interact with in striving towards that purpose.
> But Is there any alternative that could do this for me?
I'd recommend looking outside of religion at the ideas of secular humanism. Here are some great links:
Sam Harris's talk on The Moral Landscape
Matt Dillahunty's similar, but probably more accessible talk on The Superiority of Secular Morality.
Jerry Dewitt's talk on Hope after Faith
Sam Harris's book WAKING UP: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion or alternatively the Audiobook version or a shorter discussion he had about his book
Sam Harris's Guided Meditation
Carl Sagan's book Demon Haunted World or alternatively the Audiobook version
Neil Tyson's TV series Cosmos
Finally, don't forget to look up secular or atheist groups or communities in your area. The purpose of the group doesn't have to be strictly related to atheism; any community that is not religious focused would work.
Will believers see the value of a position that starts off with "of course there is no God!" (1:15 or so) and then just uses church as a community center, or a place with decent art and music? Are believers willing to move beyond doctrine and dogma?
I like de Botton's work in general, though I haven't read this particular book. But in this Ted talk I think he's arguing against a straw man version of atheism. Very few atheists rail against every single thing from religion.
Many atheists like cathedrals and religious art, music, and literature. I'm fine with engaging the KJV as literature. But how many believers are? I've had believers actually repudiate even the moral content of the New Testament, if it is to be divorced from the supernatural authority of God.
What's interesting too is the mindset he's trying to persuade atheists to embrace is the one believers frequently accuse us of already having. They already think we follow Dawkins or Harris like secular popes. They think we believe in evolution or materialism as a secular dogma that we can't question.
Looking at the dictionary definition of sermon, "a talk on a religious or moral subject," we already have those. There are many great talks by Christopher Hitchens, Neil deGrasse Tyson and many others, entreating listeners to embrace a secular worldview. Look up "Skepticon" on Youtube. Talk after talk advocating for the superiority, even the moral superiority, of a secular worldview. Those are sermons. We already hand out copies of Sagan's Demon-Haunted World with hushed assurances of "read this--it changed my life." Sagan called science "informed worship."
We already have this stuff. What believers actually want is basically for non-believers to stop being critical of religion. Believers want atheists to be more "moderate" (by which they mean, respectful of religion, or just silent) but they themselves would reject almost every remedy de Botton offers. Most prominently, starting off with the position of "of course there's no God." Is that really the truce being offered?