A while back I mentioned the book,Â The Atheistâ€™s Way: Living Well Without Gods written by my friend Eric Maisel. Today, as part of Eric’s blog book tour, I’d like to present a guest article by the author and a few blurbs about the book from other atheist authors.Â I hope you’ll take the time to check out this book. I think it’s time for secularists, atheists, humanists, skeptics (yada yada yada), to start talking about what’s positive about living a life without belief, rather than just spending time putting down the beliefs we disagree with. This book is a good start.
The Atheistâ€™s Way: Living Well Without Gods
By Eric Maisel, Ph.D.
I see my new book The Atheistâ€™s Way: Living Well Without Gods as primarily providing a roadmap for non-believers who are looking for an answer to the question, â€œHow can I invest my life with meaning if the universe takes no interest in me or in human affairs?â€ At the same time, I think it will serve the many believers who have questions about their belief system and who harbor a lurking doubt that believing in gods makes good sense. For both groups, I see The Atheistâ€™s Way as providing real answers and a vision of an â€œatheist lifestyleâ€ characterized by personal responsibility, meaning adventures, and joy.
In writing the book, I thought it wise to skip the arguments for the non-existence of gods. Those arguments have been presented many times already, sometimes thoughtfully, sometimes thunderously. From my point of view is made better sense simply to state that there are no gods and to proceed on to the really important next questions. For the non-existence of gods is a starting point, not an end point, and merely sets the stage for the play. On that stage, human beings must make sense of how they want to represent themselves, how they intend to construe meaning, and what value they want to invest in the next hour, the next month, and the next decade.
In The Atheistâ€™s Way I focus on meaning, because meaning is the issue of our century. There were certain other areas that I wanted to touch on, for instance whether believers or atheists got more depressed, what the journey was like from belief to atheism, and the long and honorable history of the atheist tradition. I also wanted to provide a picture of the challenges that atheists face as they deal with family, friends, and society and as they deal with their own occasional supernatural enthusiasms. But those amount to tributaries; the main river is meaning.
When you have as your baseline the clear understanding that nature does not care about you or your species and that no spiritual enthusiasms are warranted, you must come up with your own language of meaning and your own robust vision of what your life is to mean or else feel bereft and depressed. In The Atheistâ€™s Way I provide that language of meaning and I argue that the robust vision required is rooted in a certain paradigm shift. The paradigm shift I have in mind is the shift from seeking meaning to making meaning.
For thousands of years meaning has been thought of as something â€œout thereâ€ that, until found, is lost. It is past time to let go of that misconception. Meaning must be construed as a choice, not as a lost object. There is no meaning until a person decides to make meaning and to invest meaning in values, activities, and relationships. The flip side is that meaning is a renewable resource, since, as long as you are alive, you can make new meaning and engage in new meaning adventures. You treat your life as something in which you intend to take pride, you align your meaning choices with your cherished principles and values, you nominate yourself as the hero of your own story, and, by living this paradigm shift, you never run short of meaning again.
In my view, belief is a betrayal of our common humanity. As soon as people presume to know what gods want, decide to follow dogmatic laws provided from on high, and refuse to look the facts of existence in the eye, they align themselves against their neighbors and head down a slippery slope toward narcissism and grandiosity. There is no one grander or more narcissistic than the anointed believer who points to a passage in a book and exclaims, â€œGod says you are evil!â€ It is time that, as a species, we stop promoting this self-serving arrogance. We must humbly admit that we come and we goâ€”and that while we are here we have plenty of good work to accomplish.
Reasonable people know that it is time to eradicate god-talk and dismiss the pantheon of made-up gods from our common discourse and our communal lives. But a multitude of these reasonable people, if they are to make the leap to authenticity and rationality, need support in conceptualizing how they are to live once those gods have been banished. I hope that The Atheistâ€™s Way provides that support by painting a clear, beautiful and vital picture of what living well without gods looks like.
Eric Maisel, PhD, is the author of more than thirty works of fiction and nonfiction, including Coaching the Artist Within,The Van Gogh Blues and A Writerâ€™s San Francisco. Maisel is a creativity coach and creativity coach trainer who presents keynote addresses and workshops nationally and internationally. He holds undergraduate degrees in philosophy and psychology, masterâ€™s degrees in counseling and creative writing, and a doctorate in counseling psychology. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. His website is www.ericmaisel.com.
Based on the book The Atheistâ€™s Way. Copyright Â© 2008 by Eric Maisel. Reprinted with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA. www.newworldlibrary.com or 800/972-6657 ext. 52.
Â And here’s what some other authors have to say about Eric’s new book:
â€œEric Maisel has given us a lovely, thoughtful book about belief outside of the narrow confines of organized religion. The Atheistâ€™s Way offers an uplifting positive answer for anyone interested in how to live life without gods, superstitions or fairytales. For atheists it is a must read; believers should read it as well, so that we can get beyond the divisiveness of belief versus non-belief.â€ â€” Nica Lalli, author of Nothing: Something to Believe In
â€œI find Eric Maiselâ€™s writings more witty than Hitchens, more polished and articulate than Harris, and more informative and entertaining than Dawkins. A 5-star read from cover to cover! My only complaint is that Maisel is going to leave the rest of us atheist authors in the dust.â€ â€” David Mills, author of Atheist Universe (more than 35,000 copies sold in the United States)
â€œEric Maisel elevates the tag â€˜atheistâ€™ from a mere denial of the supernatural to a calling: a calling to a high-hearted life of diligence, creativity, and ruthless honesty in maintaining oneâ€™s integrity in the face of uncaring nature.â€ â€” David Cortes, Secular Wholeness
â€œWith this book, Eric Maisel does what none of the New Atheists have succeeded at doing: elaborating what atheists do believe. Maisel invites religious believers to live life as an atheist would, opening their eyes to worlds a religious outlook cannot see.Â For people who can’t even imagine a Godless outlook, I would gladly hand them this book and say, â€˜Read this and you’ll know what goes through my mind every day.â€™ This is a guidebook for brand-new atheists and for anyone wanting to learn how an atheist thinks.â€ â€” Hemant Mehta, I Sold My Soul on eBay
â€œUnlike many other books on atheism which deal with the question of Godâ€™s existence, The Atheist’s Way attempts to answer a different question: So you don’t believe, now what? How do you bravely face the world as it is and create meaning for yourself without the crutch of a divine benefactor? Eric Maiselâ€™s wise suggestions, musings, and insights are a wonderful resource for your quest.â€ â€” John Allen Paulos, author of Irreligion: A Mathematician Explains Why The Arguments for God Just Donâ€™t Add Up