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The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality Hardcover – December 27, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. At first blush atheist spirituality may sound like a contradiction in terms, but French philosopher Comte-Sponville makes a compelling argument for a profound dimension of experience that is god-free. His idea of spirituality also bears no small resemblance to Eastern spirituality, and the philosopher-author does not hesitate to cite great Eastern thinkers in this catalogue of references to great minds grappling with important questions. We can do without religion and without God, the author argues, but we can't do without fidelity and community. Comte-Sponville's humanism is deeply traditional, but the red flag atheist will undoubtedly affront religious traditionalists. That's unfortunate, because the author's style of arguing is civil and witty, unlike a lot of public discourse on this subject. He draws deeply on the history of philosophers who have pronounced on the subject of God's existence, disposing of the everything-is-permitted nihilism often associated with atheism. Nor does he argue that religion is dangerous, a stance in vogue among today's bestselling atheists. God just isn't logically necessary, but we can still have love, ethical behavior and even the experience of eternity. Formerly a Sorbonne professor, Comte-Sponville presents big ideas with masterful and witty clarity. For those who prefer Kant to cant, this refreshing little book is perfect. (Dec. 31)
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“ A wonderful book . . . offers a generosity of spirit, communion and wisdom.”
The Washington Post

“ A truly inspiring essay . . . An uplifting and timely tribute to Godless spirituality.”
—Ayaan Hirsi Ali, author of The New York Times bestseller Infidel

“ At last, a book that takes the current atheist/believer debate to a much higher, more humane level than any other we know.”
—Thomas Cathart and Daniel Klein, authors of Plato and a Platypus Walk into a Bar --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult (December 27, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670018473
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670018475
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 7.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #832,484 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

164 of 169 people found the following review helpful By Saganite VINE VOICE on January 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book is a joy to read. For all the religionists who complain about the screeds of Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris, if you want to find out what many atheists are really like, Comte-Sponville's book provides a beautiful window. He is convinced that no god exists, and offers compelling reasons for this conviction, but he could not be more kind to persons of faith. In fact, he says that the only thing that separates him from most Christians is "three days"--the span between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. He makes a case that many of the key goals of Christians and atheist humanists like him are very nearly identical, as they are rooted in love. He allows that exceptions exist, such as the Roman Catholic prohibition on condom use, which he finds at best sectarian and at worst unloving. Atheists used to a bitter bunker mentality will find much to imitate in Comte-Sponville's attitude, and religionists should find much to admire. This is a challenging book, but the challenge is intellectual and not personal. Comte-Sponville does not attack, cast aspersions, question motives or sincerity--he just quietly presents a reasonable, soft-spoken case for a godless lifestyle that is worth living primarily because it taps into what is best in humanity, without ever pretending that humanity is itself divine.
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76 of 80 people found the following review helpful By T. Burket VINE VOICE on January 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Andre Comte-Sponville presents his case for spirtuality without religion and without God in such a tolerant style that it may be read by anyone who is not hard-core against religion or who is not completely resistant to challenges to faith. In the face of a wave of anti-religion best sellers, his approach is very refreshing and encourages contemplation rather than a defensive posture by readers who are not already atheists.

Naturally, he lightly points out the long history of evil done in the name of religion, yet he acknowledges the other side also has plenty of demerits. His recognition of the good religion has done him (as an ex-Catholic) and for millions of others thus keeps the book from being another "religion is good" vs. "religion is bad" treatise. He instead focuses on logical and philosophical arguments rather than emotional, as he believes religion and atheism will co-exist indefinitely.

Many of the author's ideas and phrasings are very similar to those of Alan Watts, who is not included in the suggested reading at the end. The late Mr. Watts had similar analysis of why religion was not necessary and that one should live a life in the "here and now", organized around a philosophy that mixed western and eastern concepts.

The book has three chapters: "Can We Do Without Religion?"; "Does God Exist?"; and "Can There Be an Atheist Spirituality?".

The first is exceptionally well done. The author clearly articulates his reasons that the best attributes of human society, such as community and fidelity, can exist without religion. Some of the strengths of religion, such as mourning rituals and a sense of purpose, receive special attention. Comte-Sponville doesn't merely state his side without exploring some counter-arguments.
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55 of 59 people found the following review helpful By J. Mayer on January 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Are all atheists angry, à la Dawkins, Harris and (especially, maybe) Hitchens?

Nope. Not Monsieur Comte-Sponville. How refreshing. Maybe it's because he's French... I dunno. (joke.)

First, real quick...

You know that book that you start reading in a bookstore - and then you can't put it down... so then you buy it to take home so you can keep reading? This is one of those.
I don't usually see this book in stores (unlike ones by Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens), so when I saw it in a local bookstore chain - the only copy - I had to grab it. Don't worry... I paid. I'm not an EVIL atheist.

This book is very worthwhile because it sports an unusually kind tone on the subject of atheism vs. theism, provides the thoughtful personal insight of the author, and is full of thought provoking ideas. It is very balanced in that it acknowledges positive aspects of religion, and weaknesses of the atheist point of view, all while still defending atheism.

Toward religion, it seems to me, Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens all (especially the last two) tend to take fairly aggressive, even combative stances. Comte-Sponville takes a much softer, gentler approach.

For example, he admits that organized religion is enviable in some ways, like how it fosters a sense of community, and the way it provides meaningful rituals at important junctures in life, like at weddings and funerals.

The author is uncompromising in his atheism, because he can see no reason to believe in a god, but he admits that atheism, all by itself, is lacking. After all, atheism, by definition, is about what isn't, not what is.

This book has a lot to offer for the quiet contemplative atheist. It might just be the book you were waiting/looking for.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Jonathon R. Howard on January 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover
A book very much for the philosopher, if you haven't read widely in western philosophy and are not at least passingly familiar with the major forms of eastern spiritualism, this book is going to be nigh incomprehensible to you. For those of you still there, Comte-Sponville's book is a beautiful piece of philosophy. He clearly elucidates how spirituality exists without God and how each of us, including atheists can tap into it and into ourselves/the universe/reality. The hardest part to get through is his explanation and description of ecstasy, if you are having trouble understanding his, I recommend any introductory text to Zen meditation, Buddhism, Sufism, or Taoism. Comte-Sponville is so thorough that he can be overwhelming at times, a studied read of the text is richly rewarded. Here in Comte-Sponville's book we perhaps find the spirituality Sam Harris spoke of and hoped for in his book The End of Faith?
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