Religion 'n' Things
Slate is also hosting a discussion of the new book American Muslims between Daniel Benjamin (don't know him) and Reza Aslan, whose book, No God But God, I can neither overpraise or underrecomend. Best rundown of Islam---its history, its prominent people, who the Shi'a, Sunni, and Sufis are, etc.---that I have ever read. As the dialogue shows, he's a very elegant and easy-to-read writer as well. So check it out too. It looks like both pairs of dialogues will be continuing through the week.
And while I'm at it, let me take a moment to recommend Bernard Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus, which I picked up at the library the other day, and which is the single best one-volume summary of the history of the construction of the Bible I've ever read (not, admittedly, that there's a lot of competition). The title looks scandal-mongering, and his interviews (on NPR and elsewhere) have tended to play up the controversial points he makes. But the book itself is quite sober-minded---though he's also passionate about the subject and makes it fun to read---so I say pick it up and don't believe the shocking things the blurbs on the back tell you.
The most shocking thing Ehrman says is stuff that any curious evangelical already knows is true: The story of the woman taken in adultery shouldn't be in the Bible, and neither should the last page of the Gospel of Mark. (Even the evangelical New International Version of the Bible marks off both those passages with a line and a note: "The earliest and most reliable manuscripts do not contain this passage...") But the book will absolutely fill you with respect for the Bible's history, as well as the work of the people who have copied it, and recopied it, and re-re-copied it over the years...and the scholars today who are trying to piece the original back together. The pages just whiz by.