Brett Williams's Reviews > Living the Secular Life: New Answers to Old Questions

Living the Secular Life by Phil Zuckerman
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it was ok

Mostly common sense apologetics for the secular

As a secular reader I found most of what this book offers as common sense: secular people have morals, values, family, seek to do good, have no traditions, and no comfort in a promise of supernatural salvation (big problem). And, that religious believers tend to believe the first four on that list are not possible without religion, notably their own. After Trump, it’s no longer a surprise that the author’s many referenced studies show that American believers are not always but “more likely” to be bigots and racists (they scream at such associations, but it’s no longer deniable). However, 1), I’d like to examine those studies, their questions, and assumptions to check their methodology. (Social “science” is not science.) And 2), isn’t that how true communities (when we had any) assured cohesion, shunning others while promoting their own as the only true way? From that standpoint, no surprise that believers are hostile to non-believers, though the author notes, they do tend to give more to charity.

In the chapter “Don’t Fear the Reaper,” the secular life starts to fray. Some interviewees responded to the question of death with, “What’s there to be afraid of?” And “I wasn’t here 100 years ago. That doesn’t bother me. Why should my absence 100 years from now be a problem?” Really? Pulease. Let’s ask this person when they’re 70 or 80 years old, close to doom, no longer invincible. Rational answers, be they science based, or logic have zero impact on that great non-rational problem: we’re alive and know we won’t be. That’s why non-rational religion works for those who can believe it. If it made sense like science it would lose its power. Whatever that mythical aspect of human nature is, the supernatural / mythical / magical addresses it. Secularism appears to have no good answer. I was hoping to find one in this book.

I particularly liked the author’s chapter, “Aweism,” concerning the “miraculous” nature of existence, much of it now understood through science. And his equating this to what believers probably experience. Though they attribute it to God, we attribute it to fundamental laws of nature, which we do not worship, but should. He also does well to show how America was not – as the Founders intended – created as a Christian nation. “Under God” was added to our Pledge of Allegiance in 1954, and the moto “In God we trust” added in ‘56, both in response to godless commies in the USSR. As President John Adams said, “The government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”
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Reading Progress

April 9, 2018 – Started Reading
May 1, 2018 – Shelved
May 3, 2018 – Finished Reading

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