Living the Secular Life

secular-lifeEditorial Reviews

 A Best Book of 2014, Publishers Weekly

“Zuckerman is a sociologist who in this groundbreaking book writes clearly, offers unobtrusive statistical support, and provides a persuasive and comprehensive look at the growing contemporary phenomenon of people who choose to live without religion, but with ethics and meaning in their lives.”

Publishers Weekly

“While America’s mainstream churches have declined, smaller denominations seem to be attracting more believers. The fasted-growing group isn’t a church at all, but rather those distancing from traditional religious affiliations, a group known as the “nones.” In this fascinating work, Zuckerman (Faith No More: Why People Reject Religion), professor of sociology and secular studies at Pitzer College, explores the moral and ethical foundations of secularism, addressing the question of whether you can live a good life without God or religion. Anecdotal evidence abounds; interviews with former religious adherents who have moved into secularism, both within and outside their religious communities, offer a compelling argument for the non-necessity of God in the pursuit of a moral life. Despite the amazing growth of “nones” in America, and even considering the growing trend toward secularism within many churches, Zuckerman concludes, ‘It still isn’t easy being secular in America.’ Perhaps the accounts in this fine work will help ameliorate that.

Greg M. Epstein, humanist chaplain at Harvard University; author Good Without God
“Phil Zuckerman is without a doubt the leading American sociologist of secularism. And with America secularizing more rapidly and profoundly now than in any previous era in our history, Zuckerman’s work has become essential reading for everyday people who want to understand religion—and the nonreligious—in this country. Living the Secular Life represents the next big chapter in a centuries-old story, so if you’ve ever taken an interest in Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, et al., you certainly need to pick this book up and find out where things are headed.”

Bart Campolo, author Things We Wish We Had Said
“Since coming out as a post-Christian minister, I’ve discovered all kinds of people sincerely pursuing goodness without the nurture, encouragement, and mutual support most church folks take for granted. These folks are hungry for fellowship and pastoral care, but even hungrier for a thoughtful, positive way to communicate their values and commitments to friends and family members instinctively distrustful of anyone who doesn’t believe in God. For them—and for me—Phil Zuckerman is a genuine hero, and Living the Secular Life is a wonderful gift. Here at last is a clear, concise, and compassionate guided tour of the world’s fastest-growing way of life. Zuckerman isn’t trying to prove everyone else wrong. On the contrary, he’s helping the secular community better understand and comport itself, and helping the rest of humanity understand that we’re on their side too.”

Peter Boghossian, professor of philosophy, Portland State University; author of A Manual for Creating Atheists
“For secular people seeking deeper insight into their own worldview, or religious people seeking to better understand the rise of irreligion in society today, this book is indispensable. An engaging, powerful read.”

Booklist

“With recent polls reporting 30 percent of Americans are nonreligious, while other studies find atheists the least-trusted people in the country, isn’t it high time to blow away the myths about the nonreligious? Answering affirmatively, the sociologist founder of the first secular-studies program at Pitzer College presents real secular people as peaceable, productive, and living happily. Secular parents reveal that God isn’t necessary for raising moral children, that the lack of an afterlife needn’t inspire terror or prayer, and that coping with grave injury doesn’t entail surrendering to higher powers (nor, for that matter, does kicking addiction). Zuckerman also profiles secular people creating institutions for themselves that stand in lieu of churches (while others are contented loners). He also shows that secularism isn’t bipolar—believer or nonbeliever—but includes many with some supernatural beliefs but who aren’t religiously observant. And there’s not a proselytizer or zealot among this group—the point being that secular people are not all—indeed, hardly ever—Christopher Hitchens or Madalyn Murray O’Hair. May one more prejudice fall.

Library Journal on Living the Secular Life:

Founder of the first department of secular studies in the United States, Zuckerman (sociology, Pitzer Coll.; Society Without God) here draws on extensive in-depth interviews to explore and illuminate the lives and beliefs of ordinary secular Americans. Representing approximately 30 percent of the population, nonreligious Americans are the fastest growing religious orientation in the country. This book aims to show that these men and women are more than “nothing”; they live good, meaningful, and inspired lives without religion. Writing in a positive and upbeat style remarkably free of both smugness and academic jargon, Zuckerman gently addresses and dismantles numerous common misperceptions about secular people. The book admirably manages to be thoroughly saturated in research and scholarship without reading like a stuffy academic text. The author brilliantly weaves stories and reflections together with empirical sociological research to create a rich portrait of secular America. Some of the topics covered include morality, raising children, creating community, coping with difficulties, and death. The chapter on “Aweism” is a high point as Zuckerman waxes poetic on mystery, wonder, and humility without religion. VERDICT Highly recommended for all readers, both religious and nonreligious, seeking a more accurate understanding of this ever-growing segment of the American population. [See Prepub Alert, 6/8/14.]

—Brian Sullivan, Alfred Univ. Lib., NY