Whether or not atheists and secularists feel that they have made gains against religion in their recent polemics, recently published books are taking a more practical approach and in effect asking “So, you don’t believe in God, now what?” according to Publishers Weekly (Oct. 21).
Rather than arguing about God’s existence as found in the popular new atheist books, the current crop of books such as Atheist Mind, Humanist Heart by Lex Bayer and John Figdor and Life After Faith: The Case for Secular Humanism by Philip Kitcher, are more concerned with helping secularists achieve a fulfilling and meaningful life without the traditional support of religious beliefs and institutions, writes Henry Carrigan. Bayer and Figdor provide a set of “Non-Commandments” that include affirmations including “we can perceive the world through our own senses” and “we act morally when the happiness of others makes us happy.”
Kitcher argues that secular humanism can “take over what religion at its best provides and allow people to flourish and lead richer lives.” Religion’s call for people to be something higher than themselves is translated into being part of a multi-generational secular movement. Such involvement also fosters a sense of community, a role often played by religion.
Carrigan adds that sociologist Phil Zuckerman has written a secular counterpart to Robert Bellah’s Habits of the Heart, as he seeks to understand how people live their lives when religion is no longer a factor. In interviews he conducted over a 10-year period, Zuckerman finds that most secularists are not hard core philosophical atheists, just people trying to navigate their lives through “spiritual self-reliance, clear-eyed pragmatism, and faith in Golden rule morality,” Carrington writes.