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Nonbeliever Nation: The Rise of Secular Americans Hardcover – July 17, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


“[A] passionate, occasionally incendiary call for a secular response to the swelling influence of Christian conservatives.” ―The Boston Globe

“This excellent book is simultaneously disturbing and reassuring. David Niose lays bare the whole dismal history of how the Religious Right hijacked America and betrayed the secular intentions of the Founding Fathers. Fortunately, as he also documents, decent Americans are now fighting back, and the book ends on an uplifting note of hope.” ―Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion

“A powerful, hard-hitting book, part history, part politics, part religion (and non-religion) and also a manifesto for a secular America. It is a perfect accompaniment for the battle being waged today for America's future by a moderate Barack Obama against all the weight the Religious Right can bring to bear. I highly recommend Nonbeliever Nation and am confident that it will satisfy a longing in others that it has satisfied in myself: for somebody to stand up and take their place in front of us with that precious candle that illuminates and holds back the darkness of superstition. We no longer have Carl Sagan, but we do have David Niose.” ―Politicus

“An excellent overview…Niose communicates a sizable amount of complex information without overloading readers…The good news: secular Americans are emerging. Activism is on the rise, people are identifying and organizing in order to influence sound policy, and student activism especially is growing by leaps and bounds.” ―Skeptic magazine

“Niose has done the secular movement a wonderful service by laying out [how it] has the power to steer political discourse back towards evidence and reason.” ―August Brunsman, Executive Director of the Secular Student Alliance, for The Friendly Athiest blog

“Required reading for seculars.” ―Free Inquiry Magazine

“A thorough examination of modern secular movements in America . . . A useful examination of secularism.” ―Kirkus Reviews

“Niose explores secularism's extraordinary rise and shows how it offers hope for more rational, inquiry-based public policy and discussion.” ―Publishers Weekly

“Covering a wide range of territory in a reasonably condensed space, attorney Niose looks at the culture wars from the perspective of secular America. While confronting numerous commonly held misconceptions by believers about secularism (e.g., the religious Right implying that religious faith is part of patriotism), Niose admirably refrains from antireligious hostility, striving for equality rather than proving the superiority of his perspective. . . . This is a calm, informative, and positive portrait of the rapidly growing secular segment of the American population. Highly recommended for politically oriented readers of all religious persuasions.” ―Library Journal

“David Niose is a leading advocate for America's secular movement. In Nonbeliever Nation, he demonstrates not only that America's secular demographic is more numerous and better organized than ever, but that this segment of society offers much hope for rational public policy and discourse.” ―Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor of Psychology at Harvard University and the author of The Better Angels of our Nature

“In the long moral arc of the universe that has been bending toward justice, freedom, and prosperity for centuries, the last of the great civil rights revolutions is under way--the civil liberties for secularists, atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and nonbelievers of all stripes. David Niose has outlined the blueprint of this revolution in his powerful call to ideas that can change the world. Nonbeliever Nation is The Feminist Mystique of this movement, destined to be a classic in freedom literature.” ―Michael Shermer, Publisher of Skeptic magazine and author of The Believing Brain

“Using solid research, David Niose reminds us that the United States is by no means a religious nation let alone a Christian one-- nor was it ever intended to be. Citing dozens of compelling examples, he lays bare the stunning hypocrisy of religious leaders in the United States. Despite religious claims to the contrary, he clearly correlates our degrading environment, low science literacy, and relatively high crime rate… with religion. His message builds and urges us nonbelievers to promote a thoughtful worldview. He shows that saying you're religious– and claiming to know absolutely what is good and what is not-- is bad for all of us.” ―Bill Nye, The Science Guy®, CEO of the The Planetary Society, and Humanist of the Year 2010

“Read this book - and you will see that not only are Secular Americans getting louder and more confident, they've actually been here from the very beginning. Well-written and thought-provoking, David Niose makes it clear that we are all part of a larger movement.” ―Julia Sweeney, actress, comedian, former SNL cast member

“Dave Niose is a highly valued and respected leader in the secular movement.” ―Wendy Kaminer, author of Free for All and I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional

“Dave Niose writes clearly and concisely and advocates effectively for the secular tradition. I expect Secular Americans who read this book will feel more motivated to seek the visibility and respect they so richly deserve.” ―Herb Silverman, president of the Secular Coalition for America

“David Niose is a talented writer with keen insights into contemporary secularism. As a key leader in the secular movement, Niose is uniquely situated to help Americans understand this fast-growing phenomenon.” ―Rob Boston, author of Why the Religious Right is Wrong About Separation of Church and State

About the Author

David Niose is president of the Washington-based American Humanist Association. An attorney representing Secular Americans in the courts, Niose is also author of the popular Psychology Today blog "Our Humanity, Naturally." He has appeared widely in national and international media advocating for secularism and humanism, including Fox News, BBC, NPR, and many others. Niose also serves as vice president of the Secular Coalition for America, a Washington-based lobbying group.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (July 17, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 023033895X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230338951
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (57 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #942,346 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Having served as president of two Washington-based national advocacy organizations, David Niose has been immersed in secular-progressive politics and the culture wars for over a decade. Niose joined the board of the American Humanist Association (AHA) in 2005, seeing secular-progressive activism as a means of combating the disastrous policies of the Bush-Cheney administration and its conservative allies. He was elected president of the AHA in 2008, and then in 2012 was named president of the Secular Coalition for America. Also a practicing lawyer, Niose currently serves as legal director of the AHA. He has litigated equal rights, church-state, and free speech cases in courts all over the country.

Niose blogs regularly for both Psychology Today and The Humanist, and has written extensively on secular and progressive issues for many other publications. He has interviewed figures such as Gore Vidal, Noam Chomsky, and Howard Zinn, and has made numerous appearances on major national, international, and local media outlets. Niose has spoken to groups and debated conservatives all over the country, always advocating on behalf of secular-progressive issues and causes. He has also taught both law and history.

Niose's first book, Nonbeliever Nation: The Rise of Secular Americans (Palgrave Macmillan), was met with widespread critical acclaim. Michael Shermer called it "The Feminine Mystique of the [secular] movement," saying it was "destined to become a classic in freedom literature." Free Inquiry magazine called the book "required reading for seculars." Nonbeliever Nation also received accolades from Bill Nye, Richard Dawkins, Julia Sweeney, Steven Pinker, and many others. Library Journal said it was "highly recommended for politically oriented readers of all religious persuasions."

Fighting Back the Right: Reclaiming America from the Attack on Reason is set for release in December 2014, also by Palgrave Macmillan. In Fighting Back the Right, Niose focuses on why progressive, human-centered public policy has been so elusive in America, demonstrating that it is a result of numerous factors - anti-intellectualism, fundamentalist religion, corporate power, overzealous patriotism, and others - coming together to empower institutional interests that work against the interests of ordinary people. With this diagnosis in hand, he also provides a strategy to reverse course.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

78 of 81 people found the following review helpful By Book Shark TOP 500 REVIEWER on July 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Nonbeliever Nation: The Rise of Secular Americans by David Niose

"Nonbeliever Nation" is a plea for Secular Americans to drive America to a better future by embracing its Enlightenment principles and breaking away from the restrictive chains of the Religious Right. This book is about the resistance to the Religious Right and an emerging and often overlooked segment of Secular Americans who reject religiosity as a prerequisite to patriotism and sound public policy. It's about the rise and hope of a movement.
This well written 272-page book is composed of the following chapters: 1. The Wedding Invitation, 2. A Religious People?, 3. A Secular Heritage, 4. Secularity and Morality, 5. The Disaster of the Religious Right, 6. Better Late than Never: Secular Americans Emerge, 7. Reason for Hope and Hope for Reason, 8. When "Happy Holidays" Is an Act of Hostility, 9. A New Plan of Action and 10. A Secular Future.

1. An important topic in the hands of a subject-matter expert.
2. Well researched and accessible book for the masses.
3. Fair and even-handed treatment of the topic and respectful tone used.
4. Good use of reason and sound logic.
5. A great defender of secular humanistic views. Does a wonderful job of differentiating between secular and religious worldviews. Touches on all the popular cultural wars.
6. Great quotes abound, "That doesn't mean that a secular government must be antireligion, but only that government should be neutral on religion and not controlled by clerics or based on religious law".
7. A great job of describing how the Religious Right emerged and their tactics.
8. The reality of religion and secularity around the globe.
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Wendy Keller on August 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a former Fundamentalist cult member, now one of the many nonbelievers, I had passionate interest in this book. Rarely have I read any book on any topic so well-presented, clear and informative. Niose makes a powerful case for why those of us who are nonbelievers (living with a 'post-theological worldview' as he so brightly describes it) need to assert our equality and oppose the oppressive millions who by force or by herding make up the Religious Right.

The most important thing I learned when I was a Fundamentalist cult member (a bona fide extremist group in which I was ensconced from early childhood until I woke up at 26 years old, married to a lay minister) is that every single word uttered by our senior pastor was the literal word of god coming through man. Questioning his edicts was questioning the deity and thus forbidden.

Since then, in my keen research into the principles of logic, evolution and scientific thought that I was formerly taught to eschew, I've learned that it is the default laziness of the "true believers" that enables them to just accept someone else's direction for their lives. I've come to see that it is the pig-headed volitional blindness of my former brethren and the millions like them that are destroying our country's democratic process. The very MINUTE one abdicates rational thought and empirical truth to anyone else, one is biting holes in the fabric of America.

Niose may be "preaching to the choir", as I am in complete agreement with his well-researched volume, but "the scales have fallen off my eyes". I now understand that belief without activism is folly.
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38 of 42 people found the following review helpful By David K. Chivers on July 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In this new book, David Niose outlines the history of secular thought in America, the relatively recent rise of the Religious Right, and a resulting re-emergence of secular forces that is still in its early stages. He then urges secular people (whom he broadly defines) to step forward and reclaim their longstanding right to be recognized and allowed to participate in the political life of the United States.

His first several chapters are a quick survey and short history of secularism in America. He points out that secularism is a long cherished American point of view. By secularism he means not just atheism and agnosticism, (a rapidly growing force in itself, which he does address) but also religious people who believe that religion should be their private domain, and should not be supported or imposed by the government. He outlines the history of secular support, a narrative that may seem obvious to many, but that has become the subject of attack by the Religious Right in what can only be termed an audacious attempt to rewrite history.

He argues that there was a sea change in the broad support of secularism, first in the 1950's as a result of opposition to communism, and again in the 1980's with the rise of the Religious Right. It is a change that has been brought about in large part by the assumption by many that secular values were too entrenched in the American character to really be the subject of such obvious assaults. But by not engaging the Religious Right's arguments earlier, the Silent Secular Center (my own term) allowed the Right to begin to dominate the political debate, in part by demonizing the very idea of a "secular society" which for so long had been the accepted American ideal.
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