Good Without God, by Greg M. Epstein (2009). Greg is the Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University, a bit of a strange title.
Greg should not be cast as a radical atheist. Indeed, he writes with warmth and affection for believers, (indeed for all humanity), and not the ridiculing of faith you often get with books by the so-called "New Atheists", most of whom I love. Greg wants humanists, atheists and agnostics to try to get along with believers and not try to shame or embarrass them. I can appreciate that, but...
I considered myself to be a humanist before I became an atheist, spending several years in the American Humanist Association. Now, I am still a humanist who happens to be an atheist. An often radical atheist.
Greg helped me to tamp the fire down a little, which is probably a good thing.
There is a particular passage of Greg's book that has stayed with me ever since I read it. It's actually the Conclusion of the book. It moved me, and I hope it will move you too. We really are all in this together.
I write this as a call to action. The subject is Humanism, but convincing you to become a Humanist or to use that word to describe yourself isn't my goal. If you are not a Humanist, please go in peace. You have my respect. I ask you, for the sake of all humanity, for yours. And if you are a Humanist, and if you've been inspired by this book, please know that that in itself brings me no special joy if "Humanist" to you means merely "one who denies the existence of the gods." Humanists must be known for their actions.
We must act together for our own good and for the greater good. We are so fortunate to have evolved and been nurtured to possess reason, compassion, and creativity. It is what we do with those qualities that will determine everything. The fact that we live without God is, in a sense, not up to us. It's not really a choice. We see the world around us. We use our amazing human ability to think and believe with all our integrity that there is only this one natural world. 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. We have to be good for ourselves. We have to be good for the people we love. We have to be good for all the people around us, be they friend or foe. We are forced to be good without God. If we can accept that reality and act with courage, we can be very good indeed.
This is the beginning - only the beginning - of a movement that will change our world. I've been told that maybe in the future the world will be ready for Humanism. Maybe someday. But that's not an attitude we can afford to accept. As we can learn from a nearly two-thousand-year-old saying, it is not your responsibility to finish the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.
Let's go out and make a difference now.