Good without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe [NOOK Book]

Overview

An inspiring and provocative exploration of an alternative to traditional religion by the Humanist chaplain at Harvard University

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 ...

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Good without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe

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Overview

An inspiring and provocative exploration of an alternative to traditional religion by the Humanist chaplain at Harvard University

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Ten percent of Americans and over one billion people worldwide are nonreligious, but media figures still registered surprise when President Barack Obama mentioned the "nonbelievers" in his Inaugural Address. Greg Epstein, the humanist chaplain of Harvard University, maintains that nonbelievers are, in a sense, believers and deserve a seat at the interfaith table. In Good Without God, he speaks affirmatively and non-combatively about humanism and its relationship to other alternatives. A refreshing break from the religion vs. atheism range wars.
Publishers Weekly
The humanist chaplain at Harvard University offers an updated defense of humanism in response to the belligerent attacks on religion put forward by such new atheists as Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens. Epstein’s approach to religion is respectful, and for the most part, friendly. He sees liberal Christians, Unitarian Universalists, Jews and spiritual self-help gurus, such as Oprah Winfrey, as natural allies of humanists—though at times he seems impatient for them to admit they no longer believe in a transcendent God. A student of Sherwin Wine, the late rabbi and founder of Humanistic Judaism, Epstein’s humanism is rooted in his mentor’s essentially Jewish formulations. His most impassioned argument is with megachurch pastor Rick Warren and other evangelicals who believe secularism is the enemy and a moral society impossible without a belief in God. While such an argument may be needed, Epstein’s book is marred by redundancies and a lack of organization that suggests it was hastily put together. (Nov.)
Library Journal
In his first book, Epstein (humanist chaplain, Harvard Univ.) ambitiously attempts to present humanism as a positive life stance that consists of much more than just the absence of belief in a deity by combining history, philosophy, inspiration, and personal confession and generously sprinkling literary, philosophical, and pop cultural illustrations throughout. Opposing the two extremes of the new atheism and religious fundamentalism, he carves a middle path alongside religious moderates. By focusing on ethics and action rather than theology and belief, Epstein's vision is highly inclusive and emphasizes the vast common ground between the religious and nonreligious without diminishing or compromising the obvious differences. In this passionate collection of thoughts and ideas, he endeavors to educate the religious about the true nature of humanism and to inspire the nonreligious to consider constructively what they do believe rather than what they do not. VERDICT Positioned by the publisher as a response to Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins, this is recommended for anyone interested in a positive and more tolerant contribution to the current God debate.—Brian T. Sullivan, Alfred Univ. Lib., NY
Kirkus Reviews
A passionate introduction to the philosophy of humanism. We are living in a time when nearly one billion people worldwide claim to be nonreligious, writes Harvard University humanist chaplain Epstein. Even in the United States, one of the most religious of industrialized nations, some 40 million say no to belief in supernatural causality. So now is the time, writes the author, for a rallying cry in the name of humanism, a philosophy built on the idea of being good without a god. In his first book, Epstein recalls the long history of doubt, going back to Epicurus and Socrates, re-emerging in the Enlightenment and then again during the age of Freud, Marx and Nietzsche. Epstein successfully dispels the case that God is required if one is to be good. "This is not a book about whether one can be good without God because that question does not need to be answered-it needs to be rejected outright," writes the author. "To suggest that that one can't be good without belief in a god is not just an opinion, a mere curious musing. It is prejudice. It may even be discrimination." Socrates was the first to ask whether something is good because God loves it or if God loves it because it's good? If it's the latter, then logically speaking there's no need for God. More important, Epstein's convivial argument gets beyond the hairsplitting, condescension and animosity of so-called New Atheists like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris to arrive at a constructive ideology that explains why it's important to be good even without the presence of the Almighty, and how to do it. Though the author's prose isn't as clear as his thinking, he offers an effective primer on humanism, especially foryoung seekers. A timely manifesto for a misunderstood and maligned school of thought. Regional author appearances in Boston and New York. Agent: Robert Guinsler/Sterling Lord Literistic
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061959493
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/27/2009
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 345,481
  • File size: 388 KB

Meet the Author

The Humanist chaplain at Harvard University, Greg M. Epstein holds a B.A. in religion and Chinese and an M.A. in Judaic studies from the University of Michigan, and an M.A. in theological studies from the Harvard Divinity School. He is a regular contributor to "On Faith," an online forum on religion produced by Newsweek and the Washington Post.

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Table of Contents

Introduction ix

1 Can We Be Good Without God" 1

2 A Brief History of Goodness Without God, or a Short Campus Tour of the University of Humanism 38

3 Why Be Good Without a God" Purpose and The Plague 61

4 Good Without God: A How-To Guide to the Ethics of Humanism 104

5 Pluralism: Can You Be Good with God" 151

6 Good Without God in Community: The Heart of Humanism 169

Postscript: Humanism and Its Aspirations 221

Appendix: Humanist and Secular Resources 227

Acknowledgments 241

Notes 243

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 29 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(11)

4 Star

(6)

3 Star

(5)

2 Star

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(5)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 29 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 4, 2009

    An excellent, much-needed book

    This is an excellent book on several levels. For nonreligious people who felt that there was no movement or community for them, Epstein demonstrates that indeed there is. For those who are unfamiliar with Humanism, Epstein explains its history and concepts in a clear, readable way. For those who are religious but wish to better understand their secular neighbors, Epstein brilliantly provides that insight. Most importantly, Epstein provides a practical guide for Secular Americans who wish to see their movement go to the next level. Rather than dismiss religion outright as silly and outdated, Epstein thoughtfully considers all aspects of religion and suggests that the secular community utilize those aspects (community, emotional support, etc.) that can be utilized without sacrificing honest naturalism. Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens may have debunked religion very effectively in recent years, but Epstein provides the real roadmap for a successful Humanist movement. Considering there has never been a book about Humanism by a major publisher in America, this excellent book will most likely go down as a groundbreaking, important milestone in the Humanist movement.

    11 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 4, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Finally someone wrote what I had a hard time saying for myself

    Often I am asked about my Humanist lifestance by others who are interested in Humanism or by those who do not understand this philosophy. I can now direct them to a book that solidifies my views of tolerance and human flourishing and that is not anti-religious like some of the "new atheists" books out there. A perfect gift for those who no longer believe in "organized" religion and/or God and is looking for something to replace the void.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 21, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    leftist, reactionary and philosophically weak

    i'm a philosophy undergrad at Rutgers University. i attended a public reading and discussion of this book by Mr. Epstein here at the uiversity. the basic thing a critical scholar comes away with from the book (and the public reading) is a sense that the humanist position is "How to be a good christian [or reform jews, in the author's case] without believing in god." one also gets the impression that the humanists are a victim cult who are tired of being beraitted by the religious right. the humanist response leaves much to be desired. i expected a biting epistemological aguement against faith as a source of moral knowledge and and extrapolating from that a sound secular moral arguement. This was not so. i also take issue with epstein's claim that secular morality is subjectie. Kant, Rand and others reject this. In a similar vane, the humanist morals seem just the "slave morals" of altruism and collectivism-no different than jesus- that Rand and Neitzsche spent lifetimes fighting. The sole star i grant for the author's quoting an arguement by plato for the splitting of moral and religious philosophies. This work is also very liberal and reinforces th stereotype that atheists are all liberals (im an atheist and a conservative and so was Rand, basically). My final objections come from the author's crticism of the "New Atheists" (Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens,Dennett, Maher)as dangerous and not representing all atheists. While they don't represent me (and Hitchens seems to only represent the voices in his head), neither do the humanists, and at least the "New atheists" have the courage of their convictions. What happened to the "Old" atheists (russell, schopenhauer, and especially Nietzsche and Rand)who did represent me. i recommend Kant for a general secular ethics primer (a christian, by the way) levay for satire, and the rest for a truely dfferent and genuinely atheistic moral approach.

    1 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2012

    Good points, but not enough content to keep me reading

    The concepts raised are good, although the history of humanism is a little long winded. I lost interest in reading this book after 2/3 of the way. I like the concepts, but there was so little context i couldn't stay interested.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Horrible on so many levels

    Horrible on so many levels

    0 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

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