Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe

Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe

by Greg M. Epstein

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Overview

A provocative and positive response to Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and other New Atheists, Good Without God makes a bold claim for what nonbelievers do share and believe. Author Greg Epstein, the Humanist chaplain at Harvard, offers a world view for nonbelievers that dispenses with the hostility and intolerance of religion prevalent in national bestsellers like God is Not Great and The God Delusion. Epstein’s Good Without God provides a constructive, challenging response to these manifestos by getting to the heart of Humanism and its positive belief in tolerance, community, morality, and good without having to rely on the guidance of a higher being.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061670121
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/26/2010
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 364,043
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About 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.

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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Good without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 33 reviews.
Secular_American More than 1 year ago
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.
Patchee More than 1 year ago
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.
nabeelar on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My Muslim women¿s book club read this as our April selection. Our first complaint was ¿oh look, another Cambridge book about an educated, upper middle class, white male complaining about being discriminated against. Gimme a break!¿ Our second observation was one of our members who had just returned from visiting India. After witnessing the extreme poverty there, she felt that people needed to believe in something `better¿. The individualism-heavy secular humanism faith system might be fine for wealthy societies, but in other cultures, people would not find much solace. As Jung said, ¿we also need a truth for those who are forced into a corner¿Nietzsche speaks to those who need more freedom, not to those who clash strongly with life, who bleed from wounds and who hold fast to actualitiesThis book is good as an introduction to the variety of atheist and agnostic belief systems. One person in our group said she thought people became atheists because of bad experiences with organized religion or with parents/authority figures. She had never heard of someone who chose to be an atheist. Also, it was a relief to see that there are some agnostic and atheist people who want to work with traditional religious communities to do charitable work. What was a bit of a surprise was the desire of some atheists and agnostics to join together as a community. As one woman said, ¿But the great draw of being an atheist is the freedom you get from NOT having to join a community. I¿ll bet a lot of people would not be so interested in joining a community because that would take away from the freedom part.¿ My problem with this book is that I had the nagging suspicion that Epstein had confused `faith¿ and `belief¿. My reading was Epstein has the ordinary misinterpretation of faith: he considers faith an act of knowledge that has a low degree of evidence. However, this is not faith, this is belief. Faith is something completely different, and it is clearly defined in Paul Tillich¿s essay ¿Dynamics of Faith¿ which I had to read to help me sort out things afterwards. I agree with Tillich¿s definition of faith as ¿the state of being ultimately concerned¿. Secular humanists regard man/mankind as something ultimate and eternal and they have faith in strategies which promote the flourishing of mankind. As Tillich notes:¿The romantic-conservative type of humanist faith is secularized sacramental faith: the divine is given here and now¿It is faith, but it hides the dimension of the ultimate which it presupposes. Its weakness and danger is that it may become empty. History has shown this weakness and final emptiness of all merely secular cultures. It has turned them back again and again to the religious form of faith from which they came.¿ From `Dynamics of Faith¿, 1956.
rmckeown on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Epstein is the Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University. This New York Times bestseller is a treasure trove of information about Humanism. His chapter titles say it all: ¿Can We Be Good Without God?¿; ¿A Brief History of Goodness Without God¿; ¿Why Be Good Without God? (which includes an interesting excursion into Camus¿ The Plague); and a ¿how-to¿ guide to ethics and Humanism. Appendices include writings from noted Humanist thinkers and a list of Humanist and secular resources.The radical right has tried to trash the ideas and ideals of humanism recently, so if you are curious about the truth, this book is a must read.Essentially, ¿Humanists believe in life before death,¿ and Epstein adds a definition of ¿Humanism as a progressive lifestance that, without superstition, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment, aspiring to the greater good of humanity¿ (xii-xiv).Some work has been done recently in the psychology of religion, and Epstein writes that, ¿for most, religion is not about belief in an all-seeing deity with a baritone voice and a flowing beard. It is about group identification ¿ the community and the connections we need to live. It is about family, tradition, consolation, ethics, memories, music, art, architecture and much more¿ (xiv). Humanists believe in all these good qualities of wonderful and fulfilled life.Epstein has written a fascinating history of Humanism dating back to its roots among the Epicureans ¿ three centuries bce ¿ through the Renaissance to the 20th century.I have added this book to my ¿Desert Island Shelf,¿ because I know I will want to go back to it many times in the coming years. 5 stars--Jim, 12/24/11
Tullius22 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Basically, the guy is good, without God. And perhaps a little stuffy too. Yeah, maybe a little snobby. And loquacious and verbose, blissfully unaware of the fine arts of editing and organizing your thoughts before spilling the ink on the paper, and what I like to call: Not Going On About Things. Lecturing. Also at times pedantic, patronizing, and Humanist-hero-worshipping. And basically just disgustingly academic. But it is something of an improvement over the All-Out War attitude. At times. (7/10)
stretch on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In Good without God, Greg Epstein is not trying to engage the debate on whether God exists, or to critique religion. His goal is to defend non-believers, and to formulate a positive, ethical outlook on life that does not depend on theism for its legitimacy. He is also peroccupied with building communities that can meet the same needs that churches fulfill for traditional religions. These needs include culture, literature, and ritual, counseling; guidance for children, support groups, community service, and political engagement. Many believers enjoy the benefits of supportive, life-affirming community; so why not non-believers?A concern I have is that Epstein leaves Humanism open to attack when he refers to Humanism as rejecting "objective values" early in the book. As the book proceeds, however, it becomes clear that he holds some "core values" as being essential: self-responsibility and the dignity of the individual, empathy and dignity accorded between people, honesty and integrity, and growth and improvement, among others. The application of these values to particular ethical dilemmas might change with time, but for most Humanists, these core values do not.The only real drawback for my was the history of atheism/free thinkers, although he does refernce Doubt as source for a mor in depth look at the history of freethought. I think it would have been nice to have had a more comprohensive background. I understand why Epstein choose not to include a more detailed section on the subject, but I still feel that it would have enriched the understanding of those who are unfamilar with the movement.
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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.
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