christianity

Again….

And yet again another mass shooting at a school. This will of course, once again, ignite the gun control debate. Since I am an Army retiree I am a bit conflicted on the whole gun control issue.

When I first enlisted back in 1976, I took the oath and swore to “Defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, both foreign and domestic.” I believed in that oath in 1976, and I still believe in it today.

So does that mean that I have to support private gun ownership? To me the second amendment reads;

“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Source: Wikipedia

I read that, first as a “Well regulated militia”. If I remember my history correctly when the constitution was written, the “upstart” United States may have had a standing Army, but nothing that could be called up quickly for any local problems, i.e. a sudden raid or offensive by the British Army. Hence the creation of a local militia. In today’s world, we call that militia the National Guard (I know this because my son is in the Guard). We no longer have the need for the local authorities (a mayor of a town, the local council etc..) to call up able-bodied men (and maybe women) to arms themselves and defend their homesteads.

However, the second part of that amendment “…the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” leaves some wiggle room. I have no problem with private, RESPONSIBLE gun ownership. My son has a weapon, as does my brother-in-law, and several friends and neighbors. I, personally do not. In my years as a paramedic in the Army, I have seen all too well the carnage that all kinds of weapons can inflict on the human body. I want no part of that. I am very much a pacifist. If that means, I’m the first to die in some “invasion” or whatever, so be it.

So where does that leave me? Or better yet, what is the definition of “responsible gun ownership”? For me, that means, self-defense for you and your loved ones. Also, for hunting and sustaining lives with the meat from those kills. That leaves out “trophy” hunting. I was so very pleased to read about the poacher that was mauled to death by the lion he was hunting in South Africa. I never find joy in the taking of any human life, but in this case, I feel justice was served.

Does that mean you can use “any weapon”? I don’t believe so. I see absolutely no need for any semi-automatic weapons in the hands of any civilian. Why would you need an AR-15 (or an M-16 – same weapon – for the military folks) to hunt? Knowing the damage that this weapon causes to the human body (and goats, as I had to do a “goat lab” when in training – after knocking a goat out, they shot it with an M-16 in a non-life threatening way, for us to treat the wound). There would be very little meat left to eat if you shot the average deer with an AR-15.

Do you need it for home defense? Not likely. Remember, the Governor would have called up the National Guard before this would be necessary.

And all this returns us to the beginning of this post. More school children have been killed because Congress (and maybe the Office of the President) refuse to do anything other than send “prayers and thoughts”. And as far as I’m concerned “prayers and thoughts” are nothing but bullshit. Pure and empty wishes. Instead, the NRA, which I believe should be labeled a terrorist organization, just gives more money to the congressmen (and women) they have in their pockets, and nothing gets done.

We need legislation, and we need it now. It’s time we vote out everyone who refuses to act on any gun control reform, both Republicans and Democrats. 2018 is the year to get them out of there. Start at the top. I say Impeach him now! But, I don’t think we have anything we can impeach him on (yet). But let’s get the ball rolling even stronger. Maybe we should vote EVERYBODY out and start all over again.

But we need better gun control legislation. I’m not advocating taking guns from people. But maybe, I am. Assault style rifles, semi-automatic weapons, “bump stocks” and other military-style weapons should be removed from the general public. There is no damn need for them in a home. You want to fire one? Go to a firing range. Maybe we could allow them to have them on hand for people to experience shooting them. I know there are ranges that have special licenses for fully automatic weapons. So this would allow people to have the same experiences.

But I doubt any of this will come about until a congressman’s child is killed in a random shooting. Sad to say, but I seriously think that’s what it’s going to take. But even then, if it’s a white person doing the shooting, they will claim its “mental illness” if it’s a “refugee” (especially someone from the middle east), then it’s “terrorism”. It’s never the fact that almost anyone can get a weapon, no matter what their background check says.

I have bipolar type 2 disorder. This should disqualify me from being able to buy a weapon. I could easily turn it on myself, or others with no warning simply if my meds aren’t doing their job that day. But I know, I could walk into a pawn shop or even a gun shop or two in this area and with my military ID, walk out with a handgun. I may not even have to wait the required 3 days.

So, after all is said and done, I’m still at a loss. The carnage will continue. Nothing will happen in Congress, the NRA will get more powerful, and more people will die.  If Sandy Hook didn’t change anything, if Las Vegas didn’t change anything, and if Stoneman Douglas doesn’t change anything, I doubt the other 18 school shootings this year will change anything either.

For those that read this and say “If you don’t like it leave”, sorry no. I choose reform. You can leave if you’d like.

Comments are welcome, just know any “hate speech” type of comments will be deleted. I have no problem if you disagree with me, but let’s keep it clean and honest. I know there are more than one view on this subject, and this is mine. Feel free to express your view.

Peace,
B

Some Resources

If you read my post yesterday, I’ve Been Tagged, (If you didn’t why not? Go read it now dammit!) One of the questions I was asked was “If you could befriend any author in real life, who would it be?”. I had several on my list, but number one with a bullet (sorry a throwback to my DJ days), is Dr. Bart D. Ehrman.

Dr. Ehrman is a professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, the college I wanted to go to when I graduated High School way back when. My SAT score was even #1 for the school that year, so I feel that despite my mediocre grades (I’m sure my grades would have been much better if I had only shown up for more classes than band – yes I was, and still am a band geek), I would have been accepted. No financial assistance or anything, but I could have gone. But my mom said it was out of the question since it was a “party school”. How the hell did she know? Did she read the Playboy Party School articles? I know that’s how I learned which were the biggest party schools (it was always some little college in San Diego that took top honors, I forget the name). My reason for going there was at the time, the Dean of the medical school was a Dr. Issac Taylor. Probably better known as the father of musical genius James Taylor. I was just hoping that James would make a spontaneous appearance or two while I was there. I didn’t know he and his father were not exactly on speaking terms.  So I joined the military instead.  That’ll show ’em I thought. Screw college.

So that was a long paragraph with very little about Dr. Ehrman.  This is a link to his Amazon Author Page. I tend to buy Kindle books, simply because I don’t like killing trees. Although I admit, I do sometimes miss being able to just flip back to a section to quote something online. But you can highlight in the Kindle app, and that works for me.

Dr. Ehrman’s books are simply amazing. As a preeminent professor of the New Testament, despite not being a Christian, his views will quite often fall outside the “accepted norm”.  But, many times his writings have become the “accepted norm”.

He has a blog.  It’s not free, which at first disappointed me. I was like, “I’m already paying for your books, why do I need to pay to read your blog too?”.  But after reading a little deeper, I found that all proceeds from the blog go straight to several charities in and around where he lives. That made all the difference to me. I immediately signed up and paid my “dues”.

One of the benefits of this blog is his almost daily postings on various biblical topics.  They have covered topics such as “Paul’s View On Women”, “Were Cut & Paste Jobs Common In Antiquity” (which was actually a guest post). Along with “Is Paul Given Too Much Credit”, which is today’s post, asks some great questions about why the early church fathers don’t use Paul’s teachings. His series on “Was Jesus Given Special Treatment” (a series on whether or not Jesus was allowed to be taken down from the cross the day he was crucified or not). Is especially interesting (and I agree with Dr. Ehrman). It also has a quote that sums my belief in the person we call Jesus Christ;

He is important to us.  For Christians, he is their Savior.  For those of us who are not Christian – at least for me – he is the most important figure in the history of civilization.  I spend my life thinking about him, reading about him, researching about him, teaching about him, and writing about him.  I *do* give him special treatment.  Did PILATE give him special treatment?  I just can’t believe he did.

Another resource I’d like to pass along is called “The Great Courses“.  They have courses in just about anything you can think of, from cooking to religion to photography to languages. They are currently running an 80% off special through February 8th, so check them out soon. I bought the combo set of the “Old Testament” taught by Dr. Amy-Jill Levine and the “New Testament” taught by none other than Dr. Ehrman. You can get DVD’s, video downloads (my choice – don’t even own a DVD player anymore). Also available are complete transcripts (in paperback dead tree versions) of the videos so you can follow along while watching the videos or for later reference, but there is an extra cost for these. I plan on watching the first Old Testament video today during lunch.

I realize this isn’t living up to my “goal of having a humorous blog” as I said yesterday, but I wanted to pass this along before I forgot about it.

Go check these resources out and let me know what you think!

Peace,
B

Allhallow’s Eve

So tomorrow is Hallowe’en. But since it’s on a school day again this year I’m not sure when the trick or treating will be. The ancient Celts would celebrate Samhain (see my post here), on the full moon nearest what we would call October 31st (in the times before the Gregorian calendar when it was a lunar based calendar). For us this year, that will be Saturday, November 4th at 1:23 AM. So that would make Saturday the day for trick or treating.

And of course, that would be one of the nights that the veil between the worlds would be thin, allowing all sorts of creatures, both good and bad, to visit our world from the “underworld”. Scholars point to this fact as the beginning of our Hallowe’en costumes.

“Trick-or-treating is a modern incarnation of old Irish, Manx, and Scottish practices that sometimes occurred over multiple nights leading to Samhain. In Ireland, the poor went door-to-door “mumming” or “souling.” They offered songs and prayers for the dead. As payment, the owners of the homes visited gave them soul cakes, cookies with a cross drawn on top, representing each soul detained in purgatory. Some saw the soulers, who often carried turnip lamps as they went about their rounds, as enacting the role of the dead souls seeking their food offerings. The regions that called this practice “mumming” were also referring to a type of folk theater called “Mummer’s Theater.” These often involved loose, strange plots involving stock characters. Saint George and the Doctor was a common play used at Samhain. In Somerset, children went door-to-door on October 30, called “Punkie Night.” The colloquial name “punkie” referred to their turnip (or beet) lanterns. On this holiday, children begged their neighbors for money to pay for fireworks used on the next night, called Mischief Night. The locals considered it unlucky to refuse— the children carrying the punkies represented the souls of dead children. Some regions came to call this door-to-door collections practice Halloween rhyming. Often children sang a song to the people who answered their doors and soul cakes or soul meat was part of an expected exchange. Mumming in Ireland gave way to going door-to-door, saying, “Help the Halloween party! Any apples or nuts?” In France, the tradition differed slightly. Rather than demanding food, children collected flowers from their neighbors, so that they might decorate graves of family members the following morning.”

Rajchel, Diana. Samhain: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for Halloween (Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials) (Kindle Locations 296-309). Llewellyn Worldwide, LTD.. Kindle Edition.

Observing Samhain, or Hallowe’en, on Saturday also makes sense this year as the following Sunday would be All Souls Day (All Saints Sunday in the Christian Churches). A time of remembrance of those that have passed on the year before.

“Eventually both All Saints’ and All Souls’ became distinct holidays unto themselves, with All Saints’ an observance for souls believed already ascended to heaven, and All Souls’ as a day to honor souls possibly still working out some issues in purgatory. In Ireland, these days marked a time for family reunions after cow-milking season finished.”

Rajchel, Diana. Samhain: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for Halloween (Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials) (Kindle Locations 176-178). Llewellyn Worldwide, LTD.. Kindle Edition.

So what are you going to do for Hallowe’en, Allhallows Eve or Hallowmas, whichever name you wish to use? We don’t have many children in our neighborhood, so Wifey® and I usually leave the house and turn off all the lights. But this year may be different, our old dog (who was more than a bit aggressive) has passed on, so it’s safe to open the door to little children again. We’ll have to see.

Leave a comment on your plans!

Peace,
B

Anger & Resentment

I have just come from two doctors appointments today.  The first was with my primary care physician (actually her Nurse Practitioner) to find why after more than 18 months of dieting and exercise (including the cutting out of all alcohol, watching my carb intake, both Paleo & Keto plans) I have continually gained weight, without adding any noticeable muscle mass. In my Army career (and honestly my entire life) upper body strength has always been lacking. Push-ups, pull-ups and such were so tough I usually only made the minimum to pass.  Sit-ups weren’t so tough, but still not easy.  And I won’t even go into the 2 mile run.

This afternoon I meet with my respiratory doctor. I know have an official diagnoses of COPD/Emphysema and now need a nebulizer four times a day, along with 2 daily inhalers and a rescue inhaler.  I’m turning into my dad. He had emphysema and used a nebulizer for years. But he smoked 2 – 3 packs of cigarettes a day for many years. I have smoked maybe 10 cigarettes in my life.  I would say it’s not fair, but then no one ever said life would be fair. How I came to have the lungs of a 2 pack a day 20 year smoker is beyond faith.

Let’s talk about my mind/brain. I’m bi-polar type 2. Have been all my life. There is a good possibility that all of these conditions can be blamed on the fact that my mother smoked and drank while she was pregnant with me.  Not that I blame her. In 1958 it was par for the course, doctors didn’t know any better. so nothing was said.

So who can be blamed? Some might say, the sins of the fathers have been passed down. I don’t believe that, since I don’t exactly belive in the Christian God. At honestly, at times like this my belief drives me further away from a “true and just God”.

While I admit I never was one to “treat me body like a temple”, the  military made sure I was in the best shape I could be. I know my body has broken down over the years, I’m 58 now, not the 17-year-old kid who first enlisted. But dammit, I’m still too young for this shit!

I want to see my granddaughters graduate high school. Maybe get married and give me great grand children. Now I’m not sure I’ll make it to retirement. Wifey® and I want to buy an RV and travel the country. For all I know, I’ll never leave this house again.ZXZZZX

I go see my psych doc near the end of the month. I want to talk cannabis oil with him. It has to be oil, since my lungs are so fucked up I can’t smoke a joint. I’m hoping it will alleviate some of the bi-polar problems so I can deal with these other issues with a “sane” mind.

But for those that hold to the maxim that “God won’t give you more than you can handle” I say bullshit.  It’s not in the Bible. I’ve looked, Wifey® has looked, and my seminary friends have confirmed this fact. And I have to ask why was I born broken? What sin did someone in my family do that caused me to be the scapegoat? It couldn’t possibly be for the Messiah to prove his claim.

I am ready for it to end. I am not contemplating suicide, so don’t go calling anyone. But I wish it was over. And as I’ve said before, it would have better if I had never been born. As my sons like to say “No good can come of this”. I truly hope that when I die my conscience doesn’t go somewhere, that I just get reabsorbed to the universe and hopefully stay there. maybe become the “star-dust” of another spirit, maybe on another plane of existence. But not to come back to this hell on earth.

I never wanted this to become a “whiny” blog, so I’ll stop here. But I will say again. There is no “True and Just God”. Someone prove me wrong.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep looking for sign from Brigid, maybe she’ll bring me peace.

Peace,
B

Random Thoughts….

When the wifey and I left the world of structured Christianity and started reading other sources, I dropped most the Christian authors and pastors from my Twitter (which by the way is @beachdaze if you want to connect with me).

I started reading books like;

  • “Did Jesus Exist?”, “Lost Christianities”, and “Misquoting Jesus” by Bart D. Ehrman
  • “The Future of God” by Deepak Chopra
  • “Living Buddha, Living Christ” by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • “Irish Paganism” by Morgan Daimler
  • “Brigid: History, Mystery, and Magick of the Celtic Goddess” by Courtney Weber
  • “The English Translation of the Qur’an” by Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan

And many more mostly on ancient history. I seem to be drawn to stories and information of the first century CE.  Basically the beginnings of the Christian church. For too long I had been told that the bible was inerrant, so it contained no mistakes and no contradictions. Well that didn’t last long. Even as a child I had trouble believing in the flood story.  I knew that almost every race of people on the planet had some kind of flood story. Especially in the Mesopotamian area. And I won’t even get started on “Jonah and the whale”.

I have started again reading books from what would best be called “Christian authors”;

  • Rob Bell – “Velvet Elvis”, “What We Talk About When We Talk About God” and my favorite of his “Love Wins”.
  • Pete Enns – “The Sin of Certainty”, “The Bible Tells Me So”, and “The Evolution of Adam”.
  • Sarah Bessey – “Jesus Feminist”.
  • Marcus Borg – “The God We Never Knew” and “Meeting Jesus Again For The First Time”.

Mixed in with all these are Hunter S. Thompson, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Carl Hiaasen to name but a few.  Many baseball books, some books on the ancient Picts (still looking for books on the Dal Riadia) and even “The Misunderstood Jew: The Church and the Scandal of the Jewish Jesus” by Amy-Jill Levine, an atheistic Jew that attends a conservative synagogue.  If you want to learn about the anti-Semitic views in the New Testament, this is a good place to start.

Gone are the old school folks – Max Lucado, John Ortberg, Phillip Yancey and Beth Moore.  Oddly, I still rely on Bishop John Shelby Sprong and the late Phyllis Tickle. We meet Ms. Tickle at a UMC event some years ago. My favorite quote of that event was hers;

“The best thing about being Anglican is where ever there’s three or four of us, there’s bound to be a fifth!”

But to get back to the original idea of this post; Twitter followers.  Since the election I have found myself gravitating backs towards the “Christian” authors and pastors I dropped long ago. I find my social justice and political views aligning back to that compass point. My faith hasn’t changed, I’m still very agnostic and maybe even more so as I age. But it’s these faith leaders that I find on the front lines, at least electronically, that stir my heart and soul (if there is such a thing).

I won’t call these folks out by name. I know that don’t do these things for any kid of recognition, they do it because their faith calls them to do it. I admire that. I wish I had that kind of faith. Some are folks everyone has heard of, others are just friends and family that only know by a few. Some are near, others I’ve never met, but hope to some day (we’re going to make it to The Wild Goose festival one of these years).

So for all the unsung heroes who blog, tweet, facebook, snapchat or otherwise call out those that need calling out (and there’s lots of them there folks these days), thank you.

I got your back.

Peace,
B

Jesus and Me

(This is gonna be a long one.  Grab an adult beverage of your choice and maybe a snack… Also I am not a bible scholar, but I do read many books about the bible and ancient history. I will include some links at the end of the article.)

Before I start, I want you to know that I am an Agnostic.  By that I mean I do believe in a higher power, not necessarily a sentient being, but a creator of sorts.  It may be the Judaeo/Christian God (YHWH, Jehovah, Elohim or just God). It may be the Muslim Allah. It may have no name, gender or form. I really don’t know.  But I do believe that this universe didn’t happen by chance. That’s just too many coincidences for me.

When I was a little kid my parents (mom specifically) would drop me off at church every Sunday morning whether I wanted to go or not.  My older siblings, nor my parents had to go but I did.  I would attend Sunday School and then meet with my age appropriate group afterwards.  As I’ve said before, I’m rather introverted so this was very difficult for me, especially during those all important middle and high school years.

During these times, I had much trouble with the usual bible stories. A man swallowed by a fish and lives for three days? A “loving” god drowns the entire earth except for one family, that just happened to build a boat big enough to hold an enormous cargo of all types of animals? And why are there two different creation stories? If this bible is inerrant it doesn’t live up to its billing. And what’s up with heaven and hell?  Again, how could a loving god condemn the majority of planet earth to hell just because they didn’t believe or understand a message?  If god’s grace is unconditional, then it just doesn’t make sense to me.  And there are many more questions where that came from.

The little UMC church I was forced into, early on was more on the liberal side than most. The pastor was well-known in the community as an outspoken critic of Vietnam, and when his daughter came out as gay he immediately started marching for gay rights. (He also had a very pretty wife that I admit I had a school boy crush on). He welcomed my questions and doubts and answered them as best he could. But unfortunately, his activism cost him his position in our church and he was moved elsewhere as Methodists tend to do.

But I continued to ask my questions. And by the age of 17 I was basically told that I don’t belong here, please leave before you corrupt any of the other youth.  By then my parents didn’t seem to care if I went or not, so I stopped going.

Fast forward to 2001.  My wife was attending a CBF Baptist church (mostly to appease her parents) but I didn’t go (she was raised in a very fundamental SBC church). The music minister and I somehow became acquainted and knowing that had I been a former radio DJ, asked me if I could help run the sound board for worship services.  And for whatever reason I agreed.

Then we were asked to go on a retreat of sorts.  This particular one was “The Walk To Emmaus” (other denominations have the same basic retreat under different names such as Tres Dias and Cursillo). I found the walk interesting and more what I thought a church (the people not the building) were supposed to be like.  My wife and I got heavily involved in the local group.

Until (there’s always an “until” isn’t there?  My wife posted a poem on Facebook that was attributed to Brigid of Ireland (before the Catholics took her out of pagan lore and made her a saint).

I should like a great lake of beer to give to God.
I should like the angels of Heaven to be tippling there for all eternity.
I should like the men of Heaven to live with me, to dance and sing.
If they wanted I’d put at their disposal vats of suffering
White cups of love I’d give them with a heart and a half.
Sweet pitchers of mercy I’d offer to every man.
I’d make heaven a cheerful spot,
Because the happy heart is true.
I’d make men happy for their own sakes.
I should like Jesus to be there too.
I’d like the people of heaven to gather from all the parishes around.
I’d give a special welcome to the women,
the three Marys of great renown.
I’d sit with the men, the women of God,
There by the great lake of beer
We’d be drinking good health forever,
And every drop would be a prayer.

Next thing you know my wife is getting assailed from a member of the community (a pastor’s son no less) about “heathen” posts.  You know when a post starts out “Don’t take this the wrong way…” you’re going to take it the wrong way.  That started the decline. (Wifey wrote a very polite rebuttal that basically told him to mind his own business. My reply would have been much more crude.)

Right around this time I was laid off from my job.  At 50 years of age, with no real IT certifications (but 20+ years of experience) to my name it was very difficult to find a job.  In fact I was out of regular work for about three and half years.  During this time, no one in the community ever offered any kind of help for us.  Although they were planning all kinds of fund-raising activities for other folks (including the person that was against the Brigid post). But all we received were well wishes, good luck!

“If one of you says to them, “Go In peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? ~ James 2:16 NIV

By this time I was pretty much done with this organization.  I no longer attended the monthly gatherings, and politely turned down any requests to serve on the weekend teams.  My faith was quickly returning the 17-year-old me.

So now, the Jesus and Me part (sorry it took so long – but I did warn you).

There are enough extra-biblical sources to convince me that there was a historical man named Jesus that lived in first century Palestine and was crucified by the Romans under orders from Pontius Pilate. Was this man the “son of god”? I don’t think so.  I’ve read several books on the historical Jesus, authors such as Bart D. Ehrman, Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan.  All have different views as to the divinity of Jesus (I tend to think Ehrman is closest to my beliefs).

I also don’t believe that the words attributed to Jesus can be considered actual “quotes”.  Scholars today agree that the first gospel written was “Mark” (the names on the gospels are not believed to be the actual authors of the writings. They were given these names centuries later). Mark’s gospel was written about 50 – 60 CE. Almost 25 – 30 years after the crucifixion of Jesus.  I seriously doubt anyone could remember the exact words that were said that long ago.  Hell, I have trouble remembering what anyone told me yesterday!  Not to mention that the trial before Pilate, there was nobody else in the room!  So how did the dialog come about? If Jesus’ disciples (and probably himself) were from a backwater town like Nazareth it is highly doubtful they were literate.  Considering the gospels were written in Greek, and a very “formal” version of Greek, it’s a long shot that any of the gospels were actually written by a follower of Jesus.

Now that doesn’t mean I don’t think the bible is a falsehood.  As another of my favorite authors, Pete Enns says, you have to take the bible in context of a first century Jew. Remember who they were writing for and why.

To me the words of Jesus (the “red-letter” words) may not by historical, but they are important.  The gospel writers got the gist behind the stories and parables that Jesus may have said, that’s whats important. I think the teaching of Jesus, as recorded in the bible are relevant for today as much as they were for when they were written.

A pastor once slammed his bible on a table, pointed at it and said:

“This can be summed up as such: “Love your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your heart.  And love your neighbor as yourself”. 

That still resonates with me, even as I struggle to define “God”.

So all this to say, I believe in a creator (close to a pagan/Native American belief), a “Mother Earth and Father Sky” if you will.  Jesus was historical, but not divine. But he was very in tune with this “creator” and was a very moral and wise teacher.  His teachings have impact on the world today as much as they did some 2,000 years ago.

Maybe it’s my Pict roots that are calling me back to nature god/goddess pattern, I don’t know.  But I will continue to search and learn.

Hope you will too.  And please leave a comment. Let me know your thoughts and if you agree or disagree with me.  I do believe we’re all in this together, and we need to be here for each other.

Peace,

B

Links (in no particular order) go to the authors page on Amazon.

Bart D. Ehrman   I especially liked his “Did Jesus Exist”, “Misquoting Jesus” and “Lost Christianities” but I have several others as well.

Rob Bell  His “Love Wins” is an exceptionable book on why there is no Hell. “Velvet Elvis” was the first of his books I read.

Pete Enns  “The Sin of Certanity” and “The Bible Tells Me So” really sparked my interest in going deeper into the history of the Bible.

John Shelby Sprong  “The Fourth Gospel: Tales Of A Jewish Mystic” and “Biblical Literalism: A Gentile Heresy” are both excellent reads.

Brian D. McLaren  “A Generous Orthodoxy” – probably the book that started it all for me.

Books:

“Brigid: History, Mystery and Magick of the Celtic Goddess” by Courtney Weber

“Our Great Big American God: A Short History Of Our Ever Growing Deity” by Matthew Paul Turner