Friday, February 26, 2010

Book Review: Good Without God

When I first heard about this book, my first thought was about the author, Greg Epstein. What in the world is a humanist chaplain? Greg Epstein is a humanist chaplain at Harvard University. That means he is a counselor. He performs weddings and leads out in other celebrations of life events. He does many of the things that a Christian pastor or Jewish Rabbi would do. But he does not believe in God.

Growing up, I remember hearing plenty of sermons about the complete depravity of man and how we couldn't be good without God. I've read articles in church publications that demonized the atheist with charges of nihilism. If morality comes from God, how could anybody be good without God?

I have gone to school with atheists and I work with atheists. They are moral people. They worry about the effects that humans have on the environment. They are honest and hard working. They worry about how to best raise their children. I know atheists who are good people. In fact statistics and data show that areas with a large number of non-religious people tend to have lower rates of murder, teen pregnancy, and divorce.

So if we can all agree that athiests are just as moral as believers, the next question is what is the basis of their morality. Greg Epstein places the basis of morality on human dignity. We are to treat each other with dignity. Life is too short to cause needless suffering. It is not based on the pursuit of pleasure, because atheists have seen the conclusion of that path and the conclusion is not one of dignity.

The last portion of the book discusses atheist alternatives for religious practices. He talks about celebration of life events. He talks about holidays. He talks about community and culture. He even talks about forms of prayer (think more along the lines of meditation.) He also talks about how humanists and atheists can make the world a better place. This portion confirmed my suspicion that the church, with all of its flaws, is really the organization that is best situated to solve earth's pressing problems. However humanists are working to organize together and solve problems in the community. He mentioned a couple of examples of organizations in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia.

There wasn't much in the book that I hadn't heard before and it was a fairly easy read. Overall, I highly recommend the book for believers and unbelievers, but especially for Christians. It provides a more accurate view of the beliefs of non christians than most sermons or religious publications.


  1. sounds interesting. Also a good read is Why I am not a Christian, by Bertrand Russell.

  2. Thanks for the suggestion. I will have to add it to my list of books to read. I have read some of Bertrand Russell (articles and excerpts) but I haven't read that particular book.