Living the Secular Life: New Answers to Old Questions

Living the Secular Life: New Answers to Old Questions

by Phil Zuckerman

Hardcover

$23.36 $25.95 Save 10% Current price is $23.36, Original price is $25.95. You Save 10%.
View All Available Formats & Editions

Temporarily Out of Stock Online

Eligible for FREE SHIPPING

Overview

Living the Secular Life: New Answers to Old Questions by Phil Zuckerman

“A humane and sensible guide to and for the many kinds of Americans leading secular lives in what remains one of the most religious nations in the developed world.” —The New York Times Book Review
 
Over the last twenty-five years, “no religion” has become the fastest-growing religious preference in the United States. Around the world, hundreds of millions of people have turned away from the traditional faiths of the past and embraced a moral yet nonreligious—or secular—life, generating societies vastly less religious than at any other time in human history. Revealing the inspiring beliefs that empower secular culture—alongside real stories of nonreligious men and women based on extensive in-depth interviews from across the country—Living the Secular Life will be indispensable for millions of secular Americans.

Drawing on innovative sociological research, Living the Secular Life illuminates this demographic shift with the moral convictions that govern secular individuals, offering crucial information for the religious and nonreligious alike. Living the Secular Life reveals that, despite opinions to the contrary, nonreligious Americans possess a unique moral code that allows them to effectively navigate the complexities of modern life. Spiritual self-reliance, clear-eyed pragmatism, and an abiding faith in the Golden Rule to adjudicate moral decisions: these common principles are shared across secular society. Living the Secular Life demonstrates these principles in action and points to their usage throughout daily life.

Phil Zuckerman is a sociology professor at Pitzer College, where he studied the lives of the nonreligious for years before founding a Department of Secular Studies, the first academic program in the nation dedicated to exclusively studying secular culture and the sociological consequences of America’s fastest-growing “faith.” Zuckerman discovered that despite the entrenched negative beliefs about nonreligious people, American secular culture is grounded in deep morality and proactive citizenship—indeed, some of the very best that the country has to offer.

Living the Secular Life journeys through some of the most essential components of human existence—child rearing and morality, death and ritual, community and beauty—and offers secular readers inspiration for leading their own lives. Zuckerman shares eye-opening research that reveals the enduring moral strength of children raised without religion, as well as the hardships experienced by secular mothers in the rural South, where church attendance defines the public space. Despite the real sorrows of mortality, Zuckerman conveys the deep psychological health of secular individuals in their attitudes toward illness, death, and dying. Tracking the efforts of nonreligious groups to construct their own communities, Zuckerman shows how Americans are building institutions and cultivating relationships without religious influence. Most of all, Living the Secular Life infuses the sociological data and groundbreaking research with the moral convictions that govern secular individuals and demonstrates how readers can integrate these beliefs into their own lives.

A manifesto for a booming social movement—and a revelatory survey of this overlooked community—Living the Secular Life offers essential and long-awaited information for anyone building a life based on his or her own principles.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781594205088
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/04/2014
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Phil Zuckerman is a professor of sociology and secular studies at Pitzer College in Claremont, California. He is the author most recently of Faith No More and Society without God, and he blogs for Psychology Today and the Huffington Post.

Read an Excerpt

Introduction

And there it was again: the whole notion of “nothing.” It came at me twice in the same week, and from two different people.

The first time it came up was with Jill. We were standing and talking on the curb outside the studio where her son and my son both take cello lessons. Jill is in her early forties, from San Francisco, and she recently sold her modern furniture store in order to be at home more with her kids. We often chitchat when cello lessons are over and our sons are busy playing in the nearby bushes.

The other day as we were talking, religion came up. That was when Jill expressed what I’ve heard so many times before: “I just don’t want my kids to be ‘nothing.’”

Jill is one of tens of millions of Americans who are nonreligious. Her mom was Buddhist and her dad was Catholic, and she was raised with a fair amount of both traditions. But by the time she got to college, she knew that she didn’t believe in God. Sure, maybe there’s something more out there—who can say? But religion just wasn’t her thing. Her husband felt the same way. And all was fine for several years.

But lately, with her kids being three and six, things have somehow started to feel different. Jill is a little worried. She told me that she was considering sending her kids to some church, perhaps the local Catholic church. But I could tell that she was conflicted. When I asked her why she was contemplating sending her kids to church if she didn’t feel 100 percent about it, she said, “I want them to get some morals. I think that’s important.”

“But your children can develop a healthy, durable morality without religion,” I replied.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. But still . . .”

Being a secular parent myself, and having studied the hills and dales of secular culture for some time now, I know what gnaws at Jill. I’m quite familiar with the angst that many such secular Americans experience: the feeling that maybe one is making a mistake by raising one’s kids without religion. Even though Jill is living a meaningful, thoughtful, and ethical life without religious faith or affiliation, she nonetheless feels that if she doesn’t impart some sort of religious identity to her kids—if they lack religious involvement—then they will be . . . nothing.

Oh, and immoral to boot.

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Living the Secular Life"
by .
Copyright © 2015 Phil Zuckerman.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Chapter 1 Morality 11

Chapter 2 The Good Society 38

Chapter 3 Irreligon Rising 55

Chapter 4 Raising Kids 78

Chapter 5 Creating Community 107

Chapter 6 Trying Times 137

Chapter 7 Don't Fear the Reaper 168

Chapter 8 Aweism 200

Conclusion 213

Acknowledgments 225

Notes 227

Bibliography 245

Index 263

What People are Saying About This

professor of philosophy, Portland State University; author of A Manual for Creating Atheists - Peter Boghossian

For secular people seeking deeper insight into their own worldview, or religious people seeking to better understand the rise of irreligion in society today, this book is indispensable. An engaging,
powerful read.

From the Publisher

A Best Book of 2014, Publishers Weekly:
"Zuckerman is a sociologist who in this groundbreaking book writes clearly, offers unobtrusive statistical support, and provides a persuasive and comprehensive look at the growing contemporary phenomenon of people who choose to live without religion, but with ethics and meaning in their lives."

Library Journal:
“The author brilliantly weaves stories and reflections together with empirical sociological research to create a rich portrait of secular America... Highly recommended for all readers, both religious and nonreligious, seeking a more accurate understanding of this ever-growing segment of the American population.”

Publishers Weekly:
"In this fascinating work, Zuckerman (Faith No More: Why People Reject Religion), professor of sociology and secular studies at Pitzer College, explores the moral and ethical foundations of secularism, addressing the question of whether you can live a good life without God or religion. Anecdotal evidence abounds; interviews with former religious adherents who have moved into secularism, both within and outside their religious communities, offer a compelling argument for the non-necessity of God in the pursuit of a moral life. "

Booklist:
"With recent polls reporting 30 percent of Americans are nonreligious, while other studies find atheists the least-trusted people in the country, isn’t it high time to blow away the myths about the nonreligious? Answering affirmatively, the sociologist founder of the first secular-studies program at Pitzer College presents real secular people as peaceable, productive, and living happily….He also shows that secularism isn’t bipolar—believer or nonbeliever—but includes many with some supernatural beliefs but who aren’t religiously observant. And there’s not a proselytizer or zealot among this group—the point being that secular people are not all—indeed, hardly ever—Christopher Hitchens or Madalyn Murray O’Hair. May one more prejudice fall."

Greg M. Epstein, humanist chaplain at Harvard University; author Good Without God
“Phil Zuckerman is without a doubt the leading American sociologist of secularism. And with America secularizing more rapidly and profoundly now than in any previous era in our history, Zuckerman’s work has become essential reading for everyday people who want to understand religion—and the nonreligious—in this country. Living the Secular Life represents the next big chapter in a centuries-old story, so if you’ve ever taken an interest in Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, et al., you certainly need to pick this book up and find out where things are headed.”

Bart Campolo, author Things We Wish We Had Said
“Since coming out as a post-Christian minister, I’ve discovered all kinds of people sincerely pursuing goodness without the nurture, encouragement, and mutual support most church folks take for granted. These folks are hungry for fellowship and pastoral care, but even hungrier for a thoughtful, positive way to communicate their values and commitments to friends and family members instinctively distrustful of anyone who doesn’t believe in God. For them—and for me—Phil Zuckerman is a genuine hero, and Living the Secular Life is a wonderful gift. Here at last is a clear, concise, and compassionate guided tour of the world’s fastest-growing way of life. Zuckerman isn’t trying to prove everyone else wrong. On the contrary, he’s helping the secular community better understand and comport itself, and helping the rest of humanity understand that we’re on their side too.”

Peter Boghossian, professor of philosophy, Portland State University; author of A Manual for Creating Atheists
“For secular people seeking deeper insight into their own worldview, or religious people seeking to better understand the rise of irreligion in society today, this book is indispensable. An engaging, powerful read.”

author of Things We Wish We Had Said - Bart Campolo

Since coming out as a post-Christian minister, I've discovered all kinds of people sincerely pursuing goodness without the nurture, encouragement, and mutual support most church folks take for granted. These folks are hungry for fellowship and pastoral care, but even hungrier for a thoughtful, positive way to communicate their values and commitments to friends and family members instinctively distrustful of anyone who doesn't believe in God. For them—and for me—Phil Zuckerman is a genuine hero, and Living the Secular Life is a wonderful gift. Here at last is a clear, concise, and compassionate guided tour of the world's fastest-growing way of life. Zuckerman isn't trying to prove everyone else wrong. On the contrary, he's helping the secular community better understand and comport itself, and helping the rest of humanity understand that we're on their side too.

humanist chaplain at Harvard University and author of the New York Times bestselling Good Without God - Greg M. Epstein

Phil Zuckerman is without doubt the leading American sociologist of secularism. And with America secularizing more rapidly and profoundly than any previous era in our history, Zuckerman's work has become essential reading for everyday people who want to understand religion—and the nonreligious—in this country. Living the Secular Life represents the next big chapter in a centuries-old story, so if you've ever taken an interest in Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, et al., you certainly need to pick this book up and find out where things are headed.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See All Customer Reviews

Living the Secular Life: New Answers to Old Questions 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In bringing his message to the printed page, the author was able to use up to date statistics in support of the books theme. I highly recommend this book and hope to see more from this author. It is such an important topic and one that especially needs to be open for discussion in the U.S. As well stated by the author, the Founders made every attempt to keep the country a secular one but somehow we have lost our way. Hats off to Mr. Zuckerman.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is a fascinating and thorough exploration of the rising trend of people living without religion.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It should be obvious that the stories religions tell aren't literally true. Is there still something in them that makes religions worth following? For many of us the answer is yes. For others the answer is no. This book looks at the decent and vibrant lives of those who say no. Not inspirational like Bertrand Russell, but it is interesting and thoughtful and informative.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I write simply to offer a proof of the author's premise. As an atheist, I can attest that for myself and those of similiar persuasion I know, there certainly does exist a strong moral and ethical "guide" of sorts. Well there is, I am sure, the random atheist or non-believer who does not possess strict moral principles (as there are christians and Muslims who often ignore their faiths principles), in my experience, the atheists I know usually treat people better, respect others rights to make their own decisions, and are far less judgemental than many "christians" I know. In my experience, many christians often miss the point of what their guru is said to have expressed to his followers...that we should love and respect everyone, especially the least among us, and that to help others (not convert them, but help them) is our highest calling. I support and practice these ideals. One of the main differences I see between a personal religious belief and an individual who has dispensed with an archaic notion of a God is how the nature of the belief affects ones view of the purpose of life and meaning of society. Having a religion, for many, is very personal, with the main goal being achieving a personal end - a better life beyond this one. So if the world, or society, or your own life right now is a horrible existence, religion helps an individual get through that by saying "yes, life sucks now, but keep believing and you will be better in the afterlife." To my mind, this blunts the desire for personal and societal improvement on some level. Additionally, a religion which allows for "forgiveness upon request" just makes it all the easier for those individuals to harm others in some fashion. In short, to many, religion makes life all about themselves and to hell with everyone and everything else, to put it brutally. In my life as an atheist, there is nothing else. When I die, I just cease being. There is nothing beyond this world. That being the case, there is no "redemption" for negative actions, at least not beyond making attonement to the wronged individual. This is the only world I will ever know, so it is not just a choice or a desire, but a DUTY to both make it better and treat others well. Far from being free to do whatever we like in this world, as there is no "final judgement," most atheists I know are extremely concerned with what goes on here and with making conditions better...not only for ourselves, but for others. While there is no supernatural "judge," there is MY sense of right and wrong and there is society's judgement, and as the two do not always produce the same answer, it is left to me to decide a correct moral code. Frankly, I believe most atheists are better christians than many people calling themselves "christians" that I know. If the guiding principles of this world is to send good people to Hell simply because they failed to believe in the correct guru, well, then that has to be the stupidest idea for a universal construct I could conceive. (Note: Nothing against christians in particular, I suppose. But in my experiences with people of different religious faiths, christians seem to be the most judgemental and least accepting of other's beliefs, as one can see from the posts for this book).
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I agree with the other guy, these gods not dead and stuff reviews are an evil to literature
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I've only read the sample as of now, but I plan on buying the full version in the near future! Wonderful book! Really makes you think :)
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is not super good.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I never read it. I wish I could. Do you?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He is surely alive
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sad existence for one who does not believe in God. I choose to believe and, yes, I am an educated person.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
GOD'S NOT DEAD!!!!!!!