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The Atheist's Way: Living Well Without Gods Paperback – February 1, 2009

4.0 out of 5 stars 25 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Eric Maisel is clearly the atheist’s Wizard of Oz to have created a book with such brains, so much heart, and a lion’s share of real courage.”
— Dale McGowan, PhD, editor of Parenting Beyond Belief and 2008 Harvard Humanist of the Year
“Millions of people lead happy, moral, loving, meaningful lives without believing in a god, and Eric Maisel explains in exquisite rational and compassionate detail how we do it.”
— Dan Barker, author of Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist and copresident of the Freedom from Religion Foundation
“I find Maisel's writings more witty than Hitchens, more polished and articulate than Harris, and more informative and entertaining than Dawkins. A 5-star read from cover to cover!”
— David Mills, author of Atheist Universe

The Atheist’s Way offers a meaningful approach to life that is sublime, eloquent, and inspiring. This book is a true breath of fresh air.”
— Phil Zuckerman, PhD, author of Society Without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us about Contentment
“Maisel provides a foundation for making meaning and living purposefully without supernatural intervention. A book to be relished by atheists, skeptics, humanists, freethinkers, and unbelievers everywhere.”
— Donna Druchunas, writer on Skepchick.org

“How do you bravely face the world as it is and create meaning for yourself without the crutch of a divine benefactor? Eric Maisel's wise suggestions, musings, and insights are a wonderful resource for your quest.”
— John Allen Paulos, author of Irreligion: A Mathematician Explains Why the Arguments for God Just Don’t Add Up

“Eric Maisel has given us a lovely, thoughtful book about belief outside of the narrow confines of organized religion. The Atheist’s Way offers an uplifting positive answer for anyone interested in how to live life without gods, superstitions or fairytales.”
— Nica Lalli, author of Nothing: Something to Believe In

“With this book, Eric Maisel does what none of the New Atheists have succeeded at doing: elaborating what atheists do believe.”
— Hemant Mehta, author of I Sold My Soul on eBay

About the Author

Eric Maisel, an American psychotherapist, writes the "Rethinking Psychology" column for Psychology Today and leads workshops nationally and internationally. He is the author of more than forty books.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: New World Library; Original edition (February 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1577316428
  • ISBN-13: 978-1577316428
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,070,396 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Saganite VINE VOICE on January 26, 2009
Format: Paperback
Ever since Sam Harris first got our attention with "The End of Faith," a parade of atheist-themed books has come out. Thanks to people like Richard Dawkins, Victor Stenger, Taner Edis and others the scientific case for the implausability of religious dogmas has been largely made. Christopher Hitchens has made the politico-sociological case against the desirability of religion, and Daniel Dennett has gotten us to question religion and religious psychology. Many other authors have added distinct voices with unique views and areas of expertise (even a mathematician, John Allen Paulos, weighs in!), comprising quite a Devil's Breviary. But until recently, a few topics have been missing from our canon. Enter Eric Maisel and his "Atheist's Way."

"Way" presupposes atheism. Maisel wastes no time making a case for godlessness, a position he sees as too evident (perhaps because the case has been made elsewhere) to address in this slim volume. He has other, bigger fish to fry, anyway, rather than rehashing the same old arguments against cogent evidence for theism.

Maisel sets out to answer the question, "How then should we live?" in a godless universe, and he largely succeeds in providing challenging answers that provide philosophical courage and direction without succumbing to unrealistic, wishy-washy, banal "inspiration."

This is the path of existentialism that looks reality in the eye unflinchingly and determines to create in our meaningless universe a source of boundless meaning from within. We nominate ourselves, we invest meaning, and we take off on a hero's quest. Some statements within the book reminded me of my favorite line from Joss Whedon's TV series, "Angel," in which the title character says, "In the greater scheme or the big picture, nothing we do matters.
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The atheist has it easy, and the atheist has it hard. One the one hand, in rejecting notions of the supernatural, the unprovable, and the dogmatic, the atheist can live free and unburdened by nonsense and superstition. But with that rejection, we lose the comfort of religion and spirituality's existential fiction that life and existence are innately meaningful because God or some other force has bestowed it with meaning. Without that myth as metaphysical scaffolding for one's view of the universe, the atheist can, in his or her freedom, feel very much alone in a bleak, cold cosmos. Not all of us can be Carl Sagan.

Enter self-help author and creativity coach Eric Maisel and his book The Atheist's Way: Living Well without Gods. Maisel's important mission is to help atheists face the truth of their circumstances, and in his book he gives some guidance as to what to do with once those circumstances are honestly understood. His message, I found, is crucial. His execution, however, is somewhat flawed, if nobly so.

This book offers a vital message that I think any nonreligious person needs to hear, even if they don't realize they need to hear it: There is no inherent "meaning of life," existence really is a random, pointless phenomenon, and any meaning for which we may pine must be created by ourselves. Maisel levels with the reader, and insists that we establish our own parameters and values based on our consciences and intelligence, and encourages us to live these to our best ability.

Less generously, the skeptical reader (which would be, I imagine, just about all his readers) will no doubt take Maisel's position to its logical next step, and say that he is telling us to invent our own myth, our own fiction, just as irrational as any other.
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Format: Paperback
Full disclosure here: Eric Maisel, perhaps because he'd read my book "Secular Wholeness," did me the honor of letting me read a draft manuscript of this work. I favored him with several hundred words of commentary, most of which, aside for a few typos I had spotted, he cheerfully ignored. And that's appropriate; Maisel has a clear vision of what he wants to say, a vision that arises from long experience coaching and lecturing to creative people, and he has stuck to it.

What he wants to do is to inspire you to a high-hearted life of self-definition. Or as he writes (p.165) "you announce that you are the arbiter of the meaning your life, you nominate yourself as the hero of your own story... You stand up as a simple human being who must earn her own sense of pride and heroism, and you... identify how you want to represent yourself and which values you want to manifest."

As another reviewer noted, this is no more or less than Sartre's vision of living the "authentic" life, but Maisel is not even slightly interested in the mechanism of philosophy -- in laying down axioms, in defending theses, in weaving firm and subtle arguments into a fabric of logic. Far from it!

His interest is in inspiring the fallible, troubled human to muster the diligence, creativity, and honesty that are required to live the life of self-authentication. He does this in part by quoting from the first-person stories of many of his clients and friends. He does it in part by manifesting great sympathy for the difficulties the cold universe throws in anyone's paths. And he does it in part by trying to get you to adopt a "vocabulary of meaning," a mind-set in which you see each of your daily activities as either "investing" or "draining" meaning from your life.
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