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Candidate Without A Prayer: An Autobiography of a Jewish Atheist in the Bible Belt Hardcover

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 255 pages
  • Publisher: Pitchstone Publishing; 1st edition (June 15, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 098449328X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0984493289
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #347,958 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“An entertaining and informative look at America’s culture war from a writer who has been embedded in the front lines.”
—Steven Pinker
Harvard College Professor of Psychology
Harvard University, and author of The Better Angels of our Nature

“Herb Silverman’s autobiography is not an anti-theological treatise. It is, however, a warm, deeply personal, and inspiring tale of one atheist’s travels through life in one of America’s most religion-drenched regions. Silverman ‘plays well’ with believers and nonbelievers who share this core belief: no government official dare treat a person as a second-class citizen because of what she or he believes about God, gods, or the nonexistence of them.”
—Reverend Barry Lynn
Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State


“Herb Silverman’s lively history of an atheist raised as an Orthodox Jew fills a real gap in the literature of the ‘New Atheism,’ in that it describes the emergence of a creed based on human goodness without godliness in highly personal rather than abstract philosophical terms. In an account that will resonate with people raised in all faith traditions who have made the same journey, Silverman captures the essence of what it means to realize that you think differently from those around you—including the people who brought you into this world.”
—Susan Jacoby
author of Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism

“It isn’t often that inveterate honesty and inviolable reasonableness are combined with such a sweet disposition and a wonderful sense of humor. Those who don’t yet know Herb will find in this wonderfully entertaining tale of how he became a fighting atheist a man of true wit, true warmth, and true wisdom.”—Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, author of 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction“Herb Silverman has long been one of the most important secularist activists in the United States. With this book, you’ll find he is a wonderful storyteller as well. Herb’s warm and thoughtful self-portrait shows what it can mean to be both Jewish and a Humanist. And his story of running for governor of South Carolina as an open atheist is laugh-out-loud funny and worth reading for anyone who ever loved and/or hated the bizarre but hopeful theater that is American political life.”
—Greg Epstein
Harvard Humanist Chaplain and author of Good Without God

“Dr. Silverman is certainly unique for Charleston, maybe even unique for anywhere. When he came down here as a fine math professor but a cultural fish out of water, he simply created a flood of reason in which his newly discovered fellow infidels could swim. Herb presents a rational and persuasive alternative to those of faith, both with his words and his behavior.”
—Judge Alex Sanders
Former President of the College of Charleston and Founder and President of the Charleston School of Law


“Iconoclastic atheist, humorist, and mathematician Herb Silverman takes you on an entertaining tour of his irreverent life, so far.”
—Wendy Kaminer
Lawyer, social critic, and author of seven books

"Religious and irreligious people alike can learn from this book lessons about tolerance, freedom of expression, good manners, goodwill, and the importance of not stereotyping but the lessons are not presented in a holier-than-thou tone, as is often the case in the religion vs. science debate."

--Review:Foreword Magazine

About the Author

Herb Silverman is founder and president of the Secular Coalition for America, and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of mathematics at the College of Charleston. He ran for governor of South Carolina in the 1990s to challenge a state law that required religious belief to hold public office. After an eight-year battle, he won a unanimous decision in the South Carolina Supreme Court, which struck down this religious test requirement. Richard Dawkins is a scientist and author of numerous best sellers, including The Magic of Reality, The Greatest Show on Earth, and The God Delusion.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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Herb tells the story of his Quixotic quest with his characteristic sense of humor.
Louis Altman
It is a rare to read a book that will make you laugh out loud, yet cause you to think about some very important issues that face us as citizens of the United States.
Thomas C Schottmiller
The book tackles serious issues in a lighthearted way with which most people can easily identify, and it hooks the reader from the very beginning.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Louis Altman on May 31, 2012
Format: Hardcover
First things first: don't spoil your enjoyment of this book by starting with the Foreword, which gives away some of the author's best punch lines. This is a book which grew out of Herb Silverman's clear, rational and humorous perception of the human condition, so the bon mots (which are plentiful) are best enjoyed in the context of the author's journey. I will try to convey to you the joy of reading it without stealing his material in the process.
And another thing you need to know: full disclosure; I am a personal friend of Herb's and therefore am biased in his favor. But I'll try to be objective.
As depicted in this book, Herb's journey is divided into three distinct phases. Phase 1 is a boyhood trapped in an insular Jewish community in Philadelphia (and you know what W.C. Fields said about Philadelphia). His family was isolated from mainstream American life not so much by religiosity as by ethnic clanishness, a deep suspicion of "goyim" and a refusal to recognize our common humanity. Herb was a quiet kid, not one (yet) to stir any revolutions, lest he risk the ire of his dominant mother, who tolerated no dissent. So he kept his own counsel throughout phase 1.
As far as I can tell, the only significant initiative Herb displayed during the mother-dominated phase of his life was during his career as a teenage "hustler" selling refreshments to patrons at sporting events. There he fomented a minor labor rebellion, and also seized on an almost legal way to make extra money by upgrading spectators to better seats. No, I won't tell you how he did it; you'll have to read the book.
But despite his silence, in young Herb's breast beat the heart of a rebel (and still does). He was apparently born with a built-in B.S. detector.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Dror Kahn on May 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover
In many parts of the United States there are laws that you need to believe in God to hold office. Herb Silverman found that out when he moved to teach in South Carolina. In this entertaining book he tells of his election campaign to be Governor of South Carolina as the first step in what has become an ongoing campaign for Secular Rights.
This is a book that I think Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, and other Reason Movement people would enjoy.
This book is about humanism, politics, civil rights, religion, first amendment, separation of church and state, all with humor.

Candidate Without A Prayer: An Autobiography of a Jewish Atheist in the Bible Belt
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Timothy R. Campbell on April 3, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
CANDIDATE WITHOUT A PRAYER: The Autobiography of a Jewish Atheist in the Bible Belt
By Herb Silverman
Forward by Richard Dawkins
Review by Tim Campbell
Print version published by Pitchstone Publishing 2012. E-Book published by American Humanist Press 2012. 252 pages.

First, a word about the E-book format. This is American Humanist Press's first title to be published as an E-book. It is also coincidentally the first E-book that I have dealt with. I am by nature a traditionalist. I want to have the feel of paper in my hands and the smell of a printed book permeating the air around me! But this is a pretty cool format with a suite of interactive features that made it different and worthwhile. Videos of the author and interviews with the author are a bonus that quite frankly cannot come with the printed version! And between each chapter, there is an interactive Q/A link that allows the reader to join in and contribute to the process! I would read more books published in this format, especially if they included these nifty little "special features".

"If a man is going to publish his life story, he had best take the precaution of leading an interesting life first. Or at least being a very funny writer or of lacing his pages with wittily unconventional wisdom. Or even of being just an exceptionally nice person. Fortunately, Herb Silverman ticks all these boxes, and more."

Author and biologist Richard Dawkins sums up this book in that opening paragraph of his foreward to CANDIDATE WITHOUT A PRAYER, by Herb Silverman. If I typed "THE END" now and let it go at that, I would feel like I've done my job!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Estes on May 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover
From a young age Herb Silverman was a freethinker waiting to happen. Being raised by an overprotective mother and an indifferent father, it was only a matter of time before he developed his own critical view of the world. His upbringing certainly helped shape his lifelong pursuit of logic and mathematics. I would describe Herb as someone I would share a beer with, but not an apartment. He's an eccentric man who was lucky enough to find a wife who compliments his quirkiness.

I've read quite a bit on arguing against religious belief, and this book is similar in many ways because much of it is devoted to introducing atheism to a reader who is "on the fence" regarding belief while persuading them away from supernatural thinking. Too often though these books read like textbooks and they all start sounding the same. Candidate Without a Prayer sets itself apart because Herb crafts the conventional arguments in the framework of his autobiography. Some highlights are when he attends a twelve-week Bible study class and ends up teaching as much as he learns, writing a joint newspaper column with a former religion news editor where they both set aside their differences and craft an inspiring piece on the views they have in common, and his critical essay on the hypocrisy of the Catholic Church where he makes a mostly-tongue-in-cheek case for why he should be elected the next Pope.

Herb Silverman's greatest strength is his willingness, even eagerness, to engage those who disagree with him. He may not always change his mind, but one can tell he's genuinely listening.
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