New podcast for unbelievers

In a similar vein to my article Spirituality without Superstition, author Eric Maisel has started a new podcast for unbelievers who are interested in making meaning in their lives, called (somewhat tongue-in-cheek, with an ironic hat-tip to evangelical pastor Rick Warren), “Your Purpose-Centered Life.”

Here’s the introduction from the first episode:

Tens of millions of Americans like you—thoughtful, sensitive, book-reading Americans who bought and read Sam Harris’s The End of Faith, Daniel Dennett’s Breaking the Spell, Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great and Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, and who keep books like Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning a perennial bestseller—are looking for a coherent plan to follow as they try to make sense of modern life. Books like The End of Faith have helped articulate the problem but many people are still looking for answers. Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life speaks to one America and provides one sort of answer. I hope that this show will speak to the other America, to those millions of people who want to create a meaningful life based on thoughtful evaluation and self-directed meaning-making.

Definitely worth listening to. I’ll be writing a more detailed review of the podcast in a week or two, and interviewing Eric about his ideas of spirituality and meaning-making for atheists. But I wanted to let you know about this right away so you could start listening at the beginning. Each episode is brief — less than 15 minutes — so you can dip in without making a huge time investment.


Donna Druchunas is a freelance technical writer and editor and a knitwear designer. When she's not working, she blogs, studies Lithuanian, reads science and sci-fi books, mouths off on atheist forums, and checks her email every three minutes. (She does that when she's working, too.) Although she loves to chat, she can't keep an IM program open or she'd never get anything else done.

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  1. This looks intriguing, I'm subscribing and giving it a tryout. I'm glad to see the episodes are only 10~15 minutes long! I'm quickly running out of time to listen to every podcast!

    I don't see myself as being very spiritual, but perhaps seeing spirituality from an atheistic perspective may change that.

  2. I don't think Eric uses the word spiritual. He mostly talks about how to make your life meaningful wtihout believing in some form of external meaning being imposed on you by gods or by the universe.

  3. My favorite book on this topic is Paul Kurtz's "The Courage to Become – The Virtues of Humanism". Highly recommended.

  4. Personally, I see no need for any sort of spirituality whether supernatural or otherwise derived.. I do fully realize that it is the abhorrence at the concept of us being as mortal as a dandelion or a sea sponge scares the sheepish masses into believing fairy tales.. Heck, when you have no religious beliefs, life at times seems a bit, well, pointless (not to sound like a guy with a rope in his hand) but the pointlessness is actually uplifting to steal a word from the goddy folk. When you aren't worried about living a life for any "big purpose" or to please an omnipotent, omnipresent bearded hippy in a robe, life is more relaxing. Also, as the fear of eternal punishment isn't what makes you do the right things day in and day out, I think you are a better person than someone that needs these threats to not steal cars, kill the mailman or boink your neighbor.

    So, no need for any text, tome or set of rules. Live for today but be nice to people that deserve it, which is pretty much anyone except the guy that boinks your wife. Sounds like as much as I need to be a good boy..

    (but coveting is okay in my religion.. just for the record, a good coveting never hurt anyone..)

  5. I agree in large part with Gorthos here. There is something very useful about going through that loss of belief in things like ultimate meaning (at least of the religious type), need for a daddy figure, or for anyone to please or worship for that matter, that is part of maturing. It seems very important, and it also seems like something that is retarded in many people, through ideology. I listened to the most recent podcast, and really was not impressed. There's some mumbo jumbo about how to act right and have purpose and then about where to find the guy's books and lectures. Sounds like a good money-making scheme riding on the backs of the big name atheists and their recent publications. But that's just me, and to me this just sounds like another way of selling ideology. I'm an atheist, but don't have any desire to have my own ideology sold to, or outlined for, me.

  6. I agree with Gorthos, partly, but I also understand where WriterDD is coming from. I think even Randi commented on it during one of the past Amazing Meetings: You can remove religion from your life, but you need something to replace the void with. And the void is merely left by religious ceremony. Things like birth, coming of age, getting hitched and last but not least, death.

    These things are more than just empty ceremony, they serve a psychological purpose too. Funerals help people cope with the loss of the person being commemorated(sp?). You can't just dump a jar of ashes in the family's hands and tell them to suck it up. They need to say goodbye, even if that seems absurd, even if they're not wishing the departed a happy voyage to the great sky-daddy like the religious people do.

    The fact that religion incorporated these events and made them religious ceremonies doesn't mean they are. They're older than that. They're part of human psychology. Religion just put its own twist on them.

  7. This could not have come at a better time for me. I recently became agnostic, after being Catholic for 30 years. I will definately be checking it out.

  8. I suppose I'm lucky in that religion never played a large part in my life so I never developed this void that every-one else seems to be desperately trying to fill.

  9. Scepticon, that's just the point, this void has nothing to do with religion, it has everything to do with being human. Whether you're religious or not, when someone you know dies, you need a way to cope with that loss. Perhaps none of your close relatives have died yet, and you've had no need of a coping mechanism. But that doesn't mean it will never be needed.

  10. You could be right exarch, all of my grandparents have died in my lifetime but I wasn't close to them. Perhaps I'm existentially shallow but I don't really accept that people are hollow until they fill themselves up with a philosophy, whether it is religion or secular humanism.

    Maybe I'll change my tune on that fateful day that someone close to me dies, or perhaps not and I really am broken.

  11. If it's any consolation, I haven't had anyone really close to me die either. My grandmother died about a year ago, but I really wasn't close with her, and she was rather old and everyone had seen it coming for a few years already, so I suppose all of us had already come to terms with the inevitability of her demise, so to speak.

    I think it would be different if one of my parents died, or one of my sisters, or my two year old niece. I can't say right now how I'd feel about that if it would happen, but I'm sure I'd need some way of saying goodbye. Some way of accepting what had happened. I couldn't just cart them off to the cemetary and not give it another thought.

    And of course, there are other life-changing events taking place in people's life that need some mechanism to deal with them. And not just tragedy, but celebration also.

    Like celebrating your birthday. It's not just congratulating someone on having successfully completed another tour around the sun. It's a reason to party. If religion had stolen birthdays and turned them into some sort of religious ritual, you'd still want to celebrate it, because becoming a year older is not a religious thing. It's a human thing.

  12. I see what your saying and don't necessarily disagree with you, I just find it frustrating when I see people all around me who say that if I don't subscribe to a certain set of beliefs then I must be a pathetic shell of a human being because we don't inherrently contain anything worthy.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that I think that is your position, quite the contrary it seems to me that you are advocating that being human is itself enough and I whole heartedly agree.

    I just find the point of view I outlined above so repugnant that when I see those who have freed themselves of religion seem to be saying the same thing I get a little twitchy.

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