GOOD WITHOUT GOD by Greg M. Epstein


What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe
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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 for young seekers.

A timely manifesto for a misunderstood and maligned school of thought.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 2009
ISBN: 978-0-06-167011-4
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2009