Malik's five choices are:
1. Plato, Euthryphro.
2. Abul Ala alp-Ma'arri, The Epistle of Forgiveness.
3. Jonathan Israel, Radical Enlightenment.
4. Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov.
5. Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus.
He briefly describes and discusses each of these, and I found the discussions of Plato and Dostoevsky especially penetrating.
I've read only three of these five books (Plato, Dostoevsky, and Camus), but all three belong in my own canon of works that have great significance for me personally. I haven't read the book by Jonathan Israel, though I'm broadly familiar with its thesis, and I confess that I'd never heard of The Epistle of Forgiveness. I'll try to get hold of these, though it seems that the last does not have a complete translation into English (or at least one that is readily available).
Do have a look at what Malik has to say. I find his approach very congenial. Here's a nice quote with which I'm in broad agreement:
In truth, morality, like God, is a human creation. Even believers have to decide which of the values found in the Torah or the Bible or the Quran they accept, and which they reject. What God provides is not the source of moral values but, if you like, the ethical concrete in which those values are set. Rooting morality in religion is a means of putting certain values or practices beyond question by insisting they are God-given. The success of religious morality derives from its ability to combine extreme flexibility – just look at the degree to which religious morals have changed over the centuries – with the insistence that certain beliefs, values and practices are sacred and absolute because they are divinely sanctioned.The only point that I'd want to add to this is that religious morality is not flexible enough. While it does adapt and change over long periods of time, it also tends to resist change at any given time. One result is that religious moralists will often claim that certain kinds of conduct are "just wrong" without looking to such questions as whether they are really forms of conduct that must be deterred for the sake of social peace or to avoid suffering.
If we see such worldly goods as social peace and avoidance of suffering as providing the point of moral rules and virtues, we'll often come to quite different conclusions from religious moralists who typically ground morality in the will of God or some kind of universal teleological order, or in something else that is otherworldly or esoteric. This can set us in opposition to religious morality, which can seem, as it does to me, a force for bad in the world.
Indeed, as Malik suggests, religious morality diminishes us: the idea of religion as guardian of our moral values "diminishes what it means to be human." Contrary to the claims of religious moralists, we do not require any kind of supernatural source in order to address how we are to live together successfully as social beings, and to do what we reasonably can to ameliorate the burden of the world's suffering.
As always, religion tends to belittle and disparage humanity, as it does so many other good things. I'll return to that theme later today.