The Atheist’s Way: Living Well Without Gods

March 17, 2009 at 9:50 am 16 comments

My friend Eric Maisel has written a new book about atheism, The Atheist’s Way: Living Well Without Gods. Instead of being a tirade against religion, or an anti-apologetics polemic to try to disprove the existence of God, Eric has written a book about how those of us who already are unbelievers can live meaningful and productive lives without belief in gods. Here’s a short guest post by Eric. Enjoy!

The Atheist’s Way: Living Well Without Gods

By Eric Maisel, Ph.D.
atheists_way_cover

I see my new book The Atheist’s Way: Living Well Without Gods as primarily providing a roadmap for non-believers who are looking for an answer to the question, “How can I invest my life with meaning if the universe takes no interest in me or in human affairs?” At the same time, I think it will serve the many believers who have questions about their belief system and who harbor a lurking doubt that believing in gods makes good sense. For both groups, I see The Atheist’s Way as providing real answers and a vision of an “atheist lifestyle” characterized by personal responsibility, meaning adventures, and joy.

In writing the book, I thought it wise to skip the arguments for the non-existence of gods. Those arguments have been presented many times already, sometimes thoughtfully, sometimes thunderously. From my point of view is made better sense simply to state that there are no gods and to proceed on to the really important next questions. For the non-existence of gods is a starting point, not an end point, and merely sets the stage for the play. On that stage, human beings must make sense of how they want to represent themselves, how they intend to construe meaning, and what value they want to invest in the next hour, the next month, and the next decade.

In The Atheist’s Way I focus on meaning, because meaning is the issue of our century. There were certain other areas that I wanted to touch on, for instance whether believers or atheists got more depressed, what the journey was like from belief to atheism, and the long and honorable history of the atheist tradition. I also wanted to provide a picture of the challenges that atheists face as they deal with family, friends, and society and as they deal with their own occasional supernatural enthusiasms. But those amount to tributaries; the main river is meaning.

When you have as your baseline the clear understanding that nature does not care about you or your species and that no spiritual enthusiasms are warranted, you must come up with your own language of meaning and your own robust vision of what your life is to mean or else feel bereft and depressed. In The Atheist’s Way I provide that language of meaning and I argue that the robust vision required is rooted in a certain paradigm shift. The paradigm shift I have in mind is the shift from seeking meaning to making meaning.

For thousands of years meaning has been thought of as something “out there” that, until found, is lost. It is past time to let go of that misconception. Meaning must be construed as a choice, not as a lost object. There is no meaning until a person decides to make meaning and to invest meaning in values, activities, and relationships. The flip side is that meaning is a renewable resource, since, as long as you are alive, you can make new meaning and engage in new meaning adventures. You treat your life as something in which you intend to take pride, you align your meaning choices with your cherished principles and values, you nominate yourself as the hero of your own story, and, by living this paradigm shift, you never run short of meaning again.

In my view, belief is a betrayal of our common humanity. As soon as people presume to know what gods want, decide to follow dogmatic laws provided from on high, and refuse to look the facts of existence in the eye, they align themselves against their neighbors and head down a slippery slope toward narcissism and grandiosity. There is no one grander or more narcissistic than the anointed believer who points to a passage in a book and exclaims, “God says you are evil!” It is time that, as a species, we stop promoting this self-serving arrogance. We must humbly admit that we come and we go—and that while we are here we have plenty of good work to accomplish.

Reasonable people know that it is time to eradicate god-talk and dismiss the pantheon of made-up gods from our common discourse and our communal lives. But a multitude of these reasonable people, if they are to make the leap to authenticity and rationality, need support in conceptualizing how they are to live once those gods have been banished. I hope that The Atheist’s Way provides that support by painting a clear, beautiful and vital picture of what living well without gods looks like.

Eric Maisel, PhD, is the author of more than thirty works of fiction and nonfiction, including Coaching the Artist Within,The Van Gogh Blues and A Writer’s San Francisco. Maisel is a creativity coach and creativity coach trainer who presents keynote addresses and workshops nationally and internationally. He holds undergraduate degrees in philosophy and psychology, master’s degrees in counseling and creative writing, and a doctorate in counseling psychology. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. His website is www.ericmaisel.com.

Based on the book The Atheist’s Way. Copyright © 2008 by Eric Maisel. Reprinted with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA.  www.newworldlibrary.com or 800/972-6657 ext. 52.

Entry filed under: writerdd. Tags: , , , .

The Golden Rule challenge to Christians Suppose God does exist. I don’t need god. God doesn’t need me. I’m okay with this.

16 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Lucian  |  March 17, 2009 at 12:01 pm

    Oh, let me guess: Don’t ask what the Universe can do for You, but what You can do for the Universe. 8)

    Even better: Don’t ask whether the Universe cares about You, but whether You care for the Universe. :D

  • 2. Luke  |  March 17, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    “belief is a betrayal of our common humanity”

    i believe in this!!

    seriously.. i will add this book to my summer reading list.

  • 3. bluelyon  |  March 19, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    I’ve got to read this book. Thanks for posting!

  • 4. Paul  |  March 27, 2009 at 3:14 pm

    ,” I thought it wise to skip the arguments for the non-existence of gods. Those arguments have been presented many times already, sometimes thoughtfully, sometimes thunderously. From my point of view is made better sense simply to state that there are no gods and to proceed on…” This is typical of an athiest! I would rather IGNORE all that is around me, put some fancy letters after my name ( that makes me sound intelligent!). Then make up my own belief, a wayward child does that. This is a belief for the sake of believing opposite to something else, give me a break! This is another religion. I wonder do you get a tax break for donations here as well?

    Psa 14:1 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.

  • 5. BigHouse  |  March 27, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    Psa 14:1 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.

    Bighouse 11:5 The fool followeth a 2000 year old second and third account account of wild and allegorical stories and as if it were an instruction manual handed to them by a God.

  • 6. writerdd  |  March 27, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    Isn’t it amazing how the Bible has built in psychological booby traps to keep people locked in?

  • 7. Quester  |  March 27, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    I’d never claim the authors were idiots. There’s all sorts of neat “gotchas” included.

  • 8. Paul  |  March 27, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    Are you guys on commission sales for this book or what?
    Bighouse you have an interesting response, you speak as an authority on the Bible. However you obviously have never studied it nor it’s history. Else you would know not to speak such unlearned foolishness.

    “physycological booby traps””!!!!!!!! What if you can’t respond to it, it becomes a phycological trap?

    Guys if your going to have a blog to discuss things intelligently. Do you not think childish attacks should be left out?

    Just asking.

  • 9. Quester  |  March 27, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    Paul,

    This isn’t necessarily a blog to discuss things intelligently. This is a blog to support skeptical, deconverting and former theists (usually, but not exclusively, Christians). Sometimes this is done through intelligent conversations, sometimes by joking around. We are not here to defend ourselves to you, nor to hear your complaints and poorly-thought-out defences of your beliefs, which are nearly identical to those we get from someone like you every two weeks or so (if we’re lucky).

    If you don’t like it, you are welcome to leave here freely and of your own will. I encourage you to do so.

  • 10. ArchangelChuck  |  March 28, 2009 at 1:58 am

    If Paul had a ‘blog to which he linked from this site, I wonder if it would peeve him if we went there only made insipid, irrelevant, and idiotic interjections.

    Golden rule? Oh wait, we’re dealing with a Christian.

  • 11. BigHouse  |  March 28, 2009 at 9:15 am

    Bighouse you have an interesting response, you speak as an authority on the Bible. However you obviously have never studied it nor it’s history. Else you would know not to speak such unlearned foolishness.

    This is ironic in a number of different dimensions. For one, I was a Bible-quoting Christian for 30 years. The other is, how are YOU an authority on the Bible? Isn’t that the point? Everybody takes what they want to from the Bible and calls the rest “at the margins” or “good storytelling”.

    So, if I question the Bible, with good reason, as the inerrant word of God, what does your quoting that little passage in Psalms have to do with anything?

    And besides, how can you use the Bible itself as the source that the Bible is authority? That was what my joke verse was supposed to show.

  • 12. LeoPardus  |  March 28, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    Regarding post #4:

    Paul: Read and pay attention first.
    The author is writing to atheists about how to live life without a religion. THAT is why he is not bothering with atheist apologetics (i.e., it’s not the purpose of the book). If you want atheist apologetics, you should read Barker or some other, not Maisel. If you want ideas on living without religion, you can read Maisel, not Barker (though I think Barker may have a “how to live” book; not sure).

  • 13. LeoPardus  |  March 28, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    Re post #8:

    you speak as an authority on the Bible. However you obviously have never studied it nor it’s history.

    Actually he knows it fairly well. As do many here. Far better than you do. Of course not being very clear with either thought or communication, you probably couldn’t realize that even if we shot your silliness down.

    What if you can’t respond to it, it becomes a phycological trap?

    No. We mean it’s full of stuff to trap booby’s; like you. :)

    Guys if your going to have a blog to discuss things intelligently. Do you not think childish attacks should be left out?

    Good idea. Leave child.

  • 14. Sean  |  February 25, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    Paul, if you are going to quote the bible… You may wish to consider this verse..

    Whoever Says “You Fool!”
    Shall Be in Danger of Hell Fire
    Matthew 5:22

    Don’t forget the marshmallows

  • 15. DSimon  |  February 25, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    In Hell, there are no marshmallows. And no Hershey’s chocolate either. Only graham crackers. And they’re stale. I mean, REALLY stale. You have no idea. *shudder*

  • 16. Anonymous  |  February 25, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    In hell the tuner is off so that the radio is always inbetween two stations and filled with static, and there is the constant sound of a baby crying somewhere. It smells like burnt popcorn, and everyone talks with spit at the sides of their mouths, that sprays out occasionally and lands on your face. And your feet itch, but no matter how hard you scratch them the itch won’t go away.

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

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Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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