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Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe
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Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe

3.89  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,023 Ratings  ·  159 Reviews
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 bests ...more
Paperback, 272 pages
Published October 26th 2010 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published September 2009)
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"Good Without God" serves as a very good introduction to humanism, and for that reason is worthy of four stars if you're new to humanism or are humanism-curious.

As a long-standing atheist / humanist, I have some quibbles with "GwoG," especially with his occasional willingness to throw them bad ol' New Atheists under the bus. I understand and appreciate Epstein's point that it's best for humanists to confidently declare their atheism and move on to more constructive activities, especially with s
Sep 26, 2012 Shana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
On the religious spectrum, I don’t fall anywhere in particular. My Japanese father was Buddhist, though he never demonstrated any proclivity towards spirituality as far as I could tell. My mother was raised Jewish, but I believe she identifies more with the cultural aspects than the religious ones.

So where do I fall? Well, um, I’m not sure. I’ve always been attracted to the cultural aspects of various religions and spirituality, but there isn’t a single one that catches my fancy. I hate that rel
Nov 28, 2010 Kevin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 se
Feb 01, 2010 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book and keep thinking - "That's exactly how I feel". Epstein says the things I've thought a long time, and he does it so clearly. I wish I lived somewhere where I could find a community of people to interact with that felt this way too. Actually, I think there are more people around here who go to church that go for the fellowship, but would agree with most of what Epstein puts up - if they were willing to read it.

One of Epstein's points that I like best is that we shouldn't argue
Feb 18, 2010 Len rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I first saw Greg Epstein on the Bill Maher show last year I knew I found a kindred spirit -- someone who was not only comfortable with being an atheist but who made it his life's work to help atheists better understand their own situation and work together for the common good of all mankind.

I know that sounds a little over the top, but frankly it's how I feel and after reading his book I feel even stronger now that it is possible to live a good life without god and be able to appropriately
Jul 21, 2014 Chad rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It really hit me at the beginning of high school. Perhaps I am a late bloomer compared to some. But there I was in Mrs. Madsen's literature class. We were discussing Creation "myths" from other countries. We had just finished reading a story from Africa about how the Black Man was mad from a dark lump of mud. His wife was made from the same gooey clod as well. The story progressed from there though I no longer remember the details. I just remember instantly thinking to smug self, "Ha, silly Afri ...more
Feb 03, 2014 Z rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Of course people can be good without god...but can people really have meaning, purpose, and community in their lives without religion? Epstein makes a convincing case that the answer is "yes." He also makes a convincing case that religious and non-religious people have more in common than they might think, and yes, we can all get along. He is very respectful of religious people and religious beliefs, while making a firm case against the necessity and logic of those beliefs - quite an impressive ...more
Lee Harmon
Apr 20, 2011 Lee Harmon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a book about Humanism, a “religion” that is badly misunderstood, trampled in Christian media as selfish. Epstein sets the record straight, articulating the beliefs he preaches as a Humanist chaplain. He points out that in our generation “we’ve successfully responded to the head of religion, but not to the heart of religion … we’ve produced a very heady atheism. But I believe in the heart of Humanism.”

I can’t call this an evangelical book, since Epstein stresses goodness over belief. He s
May 30, 2013 Scott rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although not as expansive as I might have hoped, this book earns a spot on any atheist/humanist's bookshelf. I personally resonate more with his ecumenical (if I can borrow the term) approach to religious beliefs and especially religious people, as compared to the more strident "new atheist" authors. I'll admit to enjoying a Dawkins smackdown as much as the next heathen, but as a humanist chaplain, Epstein takes much greater pains to recognize the full spectrum of religiosity and the allies to b ...more
aPriL does feral sometimes
It's an introduction to Humanism. The tone is that of an educated preacher talking to people less educated. I can see myself recommending this to my fundamentalist relatives, especially those who can read but rigidly guard what they see, hear or associate into their lives, but for myself, it felt gentrified, as well as explaining the obvious over and over. Frankly, I don't see the point of a religion without a god, anymore than I can see a religion with a god. I don't need a Religion of any kind ...more
Apr 21, 2010 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: already-read
So, I can't say that Greg Epstein is the best writer I've ever read, but this book gives voice to many of the ideas that have been floating around in my head for years, which is something I truly appreciate.

The book is really divided into two sections: the history of atheism/non-believers, and the current roles/beliefs of the non-religious community. Some of the history lessons get a bit draggy, but I am still glad that I read them, as they contained some good information.

Epstein generally has
As a Humanist, Epstein finds it more important to focus on values than on the lack of theistic underpinnings for those values, especially when the word "God" is used so liberally that it is difficult to pin down its meaning. He explains that there are different kinds of atheism and nihilism and different theories about why ethics evolved. He provides a long discussion about dignity, a complex virtue which includes self-awareness and taking responsibility for oneself while also empathizing with a ...more
Nov 04, 2013 Katrin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this book. So much so, I actually bought it.
It's all about just being a good person for the sake of being a good person. It's very uplifting! One of the main things I liked about this book is that Greg Epstein is very respectful towards religions. While I'm not religious, I dislike books/authors who are very negative & condescending towards religions.
I can see why this book gets mixed reviews. It’s very difficult to be balanced and neutral when it comes to writing about religion, morality, atheism, humanism and so on. I too think Epstein critique of the “new atheists” movement, led by Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, etc, is too harsh and he doesn’t give the movement enough credit for bringing atheism out of the closet, so to speak. The new atheist movement—if it can be called that—has been instrumental in giving voice to people who have longed to ...more
Epstein's book is a refreshing break from the self-conscious atheism of Dawkins et al. The focus on what atheists do value, rather than on what we don't, was thought-provoking.

Now, Dawkins may be obsessed with debunking creationism and Hitchens with shocking you into submission, but at least they're engaging. This work is much more scholarly and amiable in tone and substance, which is all fine and good, but it's not something to get people fired up to join the Humanist movement. Nor is it a page
Georgia (Jeni) Sabovich
I got this book, b/c I study different religions. This book promised to be the next greatest educational book on humanism, so I thought I'd check it out. While I can see where Epstein derives his arguments for humanism, he spends a little too much time putting down traditional Christianity. Some of his ideas make perfect sense, and I agree with them; however, his writing takes on a passive-aggressive tone a little too often. In the end, there is not much backing to the ideas he is proposing. It' ...more
Jan 20, 2013 Erin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Harry Potter
This book was lent to me by my boyfriend a few weeks ago. I started it a few days ago, and finished it with mixed feelings today. Epstein tries very hard to create a middle ground between religion and the "new atheists" such as Dawkins and Hitchens. It served as a good introduction to the idea of humanism and how one can still participate in community and charity without having to believe in the supernatural.

However, this book gets three stars and not more because it lacks the edge that those
David Chivers
Jul 28, 2011 David Chivers rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A lot of books have been written in the last few years exploring whether or not there is a God. This is not one of them.

Refreshingly, Greg Epstein starts a step further down along the line of debate. His premise, stated simply, is this; However they got there, there is now a significant portion of the population who simply do not believe in God. And yet most of them (including himself)live what would be thought of by most as perfectly "good" lives, raising their children, taking care of their p
Mar 19, 2013 James rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While the book was interesting, it is also a polemic as much as a philosophical treatise. Epstein makes one fatal error in his prescription for secular spirituality. He believes that non-religious communities can fill the gap left by the disappearance of religious communities. My experience tells me he is simply wrong. I'd like to believe he's right, and for some people he clearly is, but for a very large number of people, no commitment to social justice will fill the mystical void of religion. ...more
Todd Nemet
Sep 01, 2010 Todd Nemet rated it it was ok
I listened to a lot of Fresh Air interviews over the course of a 3,000 mile road trip around the Pacific Northwest with my family. After a particularly interesting interview, I would add whatever book was being discussed to my wish list. First I would pull over, of course.

This is one of the books on that wish list. Because the interview was so interesting and because I've been looking for a book like this for a while, I really wanted to like this book more than I ultimately did.

Greg M. Epstein,
Jul 23, 2012 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful introduction to humanism. Greg Epstein answers the question "Can we be good without god?" with a resounding yes. Thankfully, the book goes beyond how we know right from wrong and offers ways to create culture without religion, and ways for humanists to be involved in creating positive change in the world. As someone who has tried to live a "Christian life" without being Christian, I appreciate having a name to now identify with, as well as Epstein's clear and compassionate voice assert ...more
This book is interesting, but I'm finding it a bit hard to get through.
It's not gripping me like Dawkins (or even Hitchens) does.
While I like Epstein's main point (that you do not need god or religion to live by an ethical and moral code), I think he's MUCH too soft on religion. I tend to agree more with Dawkins' idea that many religions are actually harmful to society and cultural traditions based on religious doctrine should not be put on a pedestal.
Epstein seems to want everyone to get along
Jul 05, 2011 Mrs.Chili rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've been trying, for a while now, to figure out exactly where I stand in terms of "belief." This book helped me to solidify my thinking about my attitudes about faith and goodness and humanity. Written like a conversation with a friend, this novel is easy to read, reasonable, and respectful, to both atheists and believers; it's a positive book about how nonreligious people find purpose and meaning in their lives without the constraints of organized religion, and makes a strong case for a long a ...more
Apr 25, 2010 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Epstein is a humanist rabbi, who writes passionately about humanism as a religion without gods. He discusses the history of humanist thought, its present status as a movement poorly understood--and about its strong ethical commitment. I like his emphasis on doing, not believing, as the measure of the good life. His commitment to community and his suggestions as to how to be culturally true to one's traditions at the same time being part of the world ring true to me, as a fulfilled humanist-unita ...more
Martyn Lovell
Good without God presents the author's view of the ethical foundations of non-belief (which he calls Humanism). It also spends some time trying to show how humanists can supplant some of the rituals, formalisms and customs of religion.

As a long-time atheist, this book treads a lot of ground that I've thought about and discussed with others. It is quite surprising how many people have asked me the exact question of the title of this book over the years.

The first part of the book is quite well org
Cheryl Gatling
The relationship between religious and non-religious people has been as acrimonious as any on the planet. Religious people believe that non-believers have no morality, are un-American, and have sworn never to vote for one. New Atheists such as Hitchens and Dawkins despise religion as the cause of wars and oppression, and are determined to stamp it out. Greg M. Epstein is trying to find a middle ground. Not in what he believes. He is firmly in the unbelieving camp, and as Humanist Chaplain at Har ...more
Jul 09, 2012 Zeke rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent in content, beautiful in tone, I love this book. Epstein goes far beyond examining how & why many of us think (as opposed to "believe") there is no God. And he goes beyond explaining how atheists, among others, are mostly wonderful, lovely, caring people. He clearly and lovingly discusses what we can DO with our world view, how we can, given our philosophy, engage our world.
Feb 11, 2010 Jennifer rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Interesting look at what humanists believe. I appreciate such a rational take on the subject, considering Dawkins, Hitchens, etal can be quite polemic and confrontational. Epstein has written this as an introduction for humanists and people who want to understand humanists. The book is a more realistic and positive contribution to the dialogue.
How did I not know that Humanism was a thing? Sheesh, I've been a Humanist for as long as I can remember, I've just never known it. And really, that's one of Epstein's points: Many people are Humanists and don't know it. By the end of the book, this got kinda old, and Epstein seemed a little desperate to call people to the Humanism fold. But the book isn't preachy in any way, other than to suggest that if you're feeling like you're a Humanist, maybe you ought to do something about it.

I will defi
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“We've also evolved the ability to simply 'pay it forward': I help you, somebody else will help me. I remember hearing a parable when I was younger, about a father who lifts his young son onto his back to carry him across a flooding river. 'When I am older,' said the boy to his father, 'I will carry you across this river as you now do for me.' 'No, you won't,' said the father stoically. 'When you are older you will have your own concerns. All I expect is that one day you will carry your own son across this river as I no do for you.' Cultivating this attitude is an important part of Humanism--to realize that life without God can be much more than a series of strict tit-for-tat transactions where you pay me and I pay you back. Learning to pay it forward can add a tremendous sense of meaning and dignity to our lives. Simply put, it feels good to give to others, whether we get back or not.” 6 likes
“The fact that we live without God is, in a sense, not up to us. It's not really a choice. . . But goodness is a choice. It is the most important choice we can ever make. And we have to make it again and again, throughout our lives and in every aspect of our lives.” 5 likes
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