The Sciences

Good Without God: A Positive Take on Secularism

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyOct 27, 2009 4:42 PM


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As an atheist and a secularist, one of my greatest concerns has long been the tone of negativity that, in my perception, we often put forward to the rest of the world. It's a concern I much share with Paul Kurtz, a secularist hero and my former boss at the Center for Inquiry in Buffalo, NY, who has long been worried about ensuring that humanists have positive, constructive messages to offer about the virtues of a life of unbelief. So how fortunate to have just learned of the release of the Harvard humanist chaplain Greg Epstein's new book

Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe.

The book description suggests that it is exactly what I, and Kurtz, are looking for:

With the current state of the economy, the ongoing wars that rage across the globe, and the unsettling changes to the earth's climate, questions about the role of God and religion in world affairs have never been more relevant or felt more powerfully. Many of us are searching for a place where we can find not only facts and scientific reason but also hope and the moral courage needed to overcome such challenges. For some, answers to the most challenging questions are found in the divine. For others, including the New Atheists, religion has no place in the world and is, in fact, an "enemy."

But in Good Without God, Greg Epstein presents another, more balanced and inclusive response: Humanism. With a focus on the positive, he highlights humanity's potential for goodness and the ways in which Humanists lead lives of purpose and compassion. Humanism can offer the sense of community we want and often need in good times and bad, as we celebrate marriages and the birth of our children, and as we care for those who are elderly or sick. In short, Humanism teaches us that we can lead good and moral lives without supernaturalism, without higher powers . . . without God.

In this constructive response not only to his fellow atheists Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris but also to contemporary religious leaders such as Rick Warren and Jim Wallis, Epstein makes a bold claim for what nonbelievers do share and believe. At a time when the debate about morality rages more fiercely than ever—and when millions are searching for something they can put their faith in—Humanism offers a comfort and hope that affirms our ability to live ethical lives of personal fulfillment, aspiring together for the greater good of all.

You can get Epstein's book here

. It sounds to me like we very much need it.

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