My Next Book? The Atheist of Jerusalem

In 2012 I visited Jerusalem for the first time and had an amazing experience. I’ve long been a student of religious history, as it’s a subject that combines so many fascinating threads about human nature (psychology, culture, philosophy and more). During my visit I was struck by how little information the important sites in Christianity (as well as Judaism and Islam) provided to visitors about what they were seeing, and an idea for a book was born.

The premise: There’s so much arguing between religions, and perhaps even more within them. Wouldn’t it be great if there was some kind of religious referee, a person without any particular faith but knowledge of them, who could help sort things out? Or make interesting observations as an informed, and mostly respectful, outsider? That will be me (or that’s who I will be attempting to be). The book will combine my first person experiences visiting these amazing places, with insights from history, theology and comparative religion. It will be primarily a travel book about these important places, but focused on exploring deep questions about history, humanity, belief, and the past and the future.

The details: I’ll be in Israel in December spending a week in Jerusalem, observing and studying some of the most famous religious sites in the world. Chapters of the book will be subjects such as “Walking The Via Dolorosa“, “Watching at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre” and “Meditating at the Temple of The Mount“.  This will be preliminary research and I’m not certain the book will come together, or if this rough outline will hold, but there’s only one way to find out!

Photographer: I’ve hired photographer Itay Cohen to work with me on the project, and we’ll be visiting the sites together. You can see more of his amazing work in his portfolio.

Photo by Itay Cohen

Researchers: The historic and theologic depths involved are enormous and to help me prepare for my visit, and develop the book, I’ve hired Nina Skafte (M.A. Religious History, Oxford) and Margaret Harris (working on PhD in Cultural History). More research volunteers are welcome, and if you have expertise and interest let me know.

Publication: I have no specific plans for how or when the book will be published. I may discover the concept of the book doesn’t hold together at all, who knows? I’ll make decisions about this after the research trip.

If you’re interested in this project, please leave a comment or contact me. It’s another big risk for me as an author and I hope you’ll at least support my willingness to take risks. I may set up a separate blog for the project and leaving a comment is the best way to get invited to follow along.

I’ve written many posts about religion in the past, and you can read some of the best ones here:

13 Responses to “My Next Book? The Atheist of Jerusalem”

  1. Ryan Sommers

    Sounds like you’re going to have quite the trip, what with photographers and researchers on hand. Love the concept and really look forward to seeing where this one goes.

  2. Nipun

    Sounds cool, would be very interested to be updated on how things go.

  3. Eric

    A rich tradition. Make sure you start with Baedeker’s Jerusalem.

  4. Yousef

    Hi Scott, I live on the other side of the river, in Amman, Jordan. If you are crossing the river, coming to Jordan for a visit, i’d love to be your host.

    1. Scott

      Hi Yousef: no plans at the moment but should I cross the river you’ll be the first to know. I visited Petra on my last trip to Israel and had a fantastic time.

  5. Thomas Svensen

    I’m all in, sounds like a very good topic for a new book. Based on your previous work, I’ll say it’s 98% likelihood I’ll buy this book, too. Good luck with your research trip, and please try to spread a message of peace and dialog to the aggressive people around there if you can…

    1. Scott

      Thanks Thomas. Last time I was there it was a surprisingly peaceful, if tense, place. With what little influence I have on my visit I will definitely keep peace and understanding at the front of my mind.

  6. Nancy

    Great subject, Scott. Have no doubt your skills at digging to the core of the matter, and expressing it in a “show not tell” way will bring something exciting and new to the topic. Look forward to reading about your experiences in light of everything happening there now.

    1. Scott

      Thanks Nancy. The news in Jerusalem at the moment is sad and hard to hear. One of the many mysteries of the city is how with so much devotion to spiritual ideas still so many hard stories happen.

  7. Magnus S

    This is a good idea for a book. Can it really be that no-one else has done such work already? I’d be interested to read an independent assessment of religions. We need more religious referees!

  8. Getzel Rubashkin

    What you describe sounds like an Atheists Guide to Jerusalem.

    Religious referee, a fundamentally impossible if appealing sounding position, doesn’t seem to describe what you’re working on, unless I misunderstood.

    Good luck on your project and enjoy your trip.


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