- Hardcover: 224 pages
- Publisher: Viking Adult; 1st edition (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: 58 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #856,701 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality Hardcover – December 27, 2007
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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.
Top customer reviews
I. Can we do without religion?
II. Does God exist?
III. Can there be an atheist spirituality?
In Part I, Andre argues that humanity survives on the same moral, spiritual, and cultural values that religion cultivates, but that religion itself is unnecessary. Religion doesn’t provide the basis for our morals, but rather our morals provide the basis for religion. We do have a foundational need for our spiritual well-being, but Andre shows these basic needs to be communion, fidelity, and love … of which atheists can partake without entering a church building.
Part II you may skip with no feelings of regret. It’s a rehash of various arguments against God, and refutations of the common arguments for God, and there is not enough depth nor originality here to bother with.
Part III makes up for the lazy part II, by exposing both the smallness and the awesomeness of our being. Just staring at the stars is a religious experience. Sensing nature in all its immensity helps the spirit break free, at least partially, of the tiny prison of the self. What a relief, when the ego is driven away and nothing remains but the All, the enormous thereness of being!
Why would you need a God? The universe suffices. Why would you need a church? The world suffices. Why would you need faith? Experience suffices. Says Andre, “the certainty that you cannot fall out of the universe, the sense of being at one with the All … never have I experienced anything more powerful, more delightful, more overwhelming and more soothing.”
It turns out that atheist spirituality is as experiential and meaningful as promised, but the training course may be more cerebral than fulfilling. You have to dive below the surface or get trapped in a head bubble, trying to “oppose sophistry with rationalism and nihilism with humanism” or some such similar commandment. I suppose that’s a struggle with any worthwhile philosophy.
Fun book, written with wit and intelligence, and which does indeed titillate your spiritual side without looking to God.
Andre-Comte Sponville showed that this is not necessarily the case. Sponville argued that if one looks back in history, philosophers like Epicurus, Lucretius, and a sage-figure like the Buddha, were not supernaturalists. He even pointed out that many the reason why mysticism has been suppressed by both protestant sects and Catholicism is because of it's "atheistic" tone (I find this somewhat questionable, since there are forms of mysticism that are not really atheistic like Rudolf Otto's Mysterium Tremendum). Interestingly, Sponville is arguing that spirituality can find its place in Naturalism (or Metaphysical Naturalism), and he conveys this approach by using interesting "spiritual" terminologies such as "The All" "Absolute" "Being-Itsel", by emphasizing the mysticism of Immanence rather than that of transcendence. In other words, rather than having spiritual or mystical experience of the Transcendent Being (God), Sponville is insisting that there is also an alternative spiritual experience of Immanence (The All, or Nature). Sponville, in some sense, takes a "Spinozist Turn" on spirituality by emphasizing on Immanence rather than Transcendence; the sum of all conditions is the uncondition, The All, the reality that is simply self-sufficient not only to itself but also in regards to spiritual tranquility of the individual.Consequently, Sponville beautifully fits in the language of spirituality inspired by Buddhism, Toaism, Avaita Hinduism, Wittgenstein, Spinoza, etc, into his naturalistic framework. In this sense, Sponville beautifully articulated "religoius naturalism". The amazing thing is that Sponville didn't reduce spiritual experience, but rather elucidates it in the Naturalistic framework by showing the possible compatibility between Naturalism (and Atheism) and Spirituality.
To sum up Sponville's view: One does not need to believe in God to have a spiritual life, but rather one needs to realize that this reality,The All, in the fullness and enrichment of Being, is self-sufficient Eternal now (or Eternal Present) which does not promote hope (which is desiring the future conditions which the presence "lack") but rather embracing acceptance of the present as the Eternal by being in the present rather than constantly anticipating the future (thus letting go of the Ego). To be aware that one is part of something possibly infinitely greater than himself (and herself) in the All, the natural Absolute. By being aware of this, it trivializes one's Ego.
All I can conclude is that this book beautifully synthesizes the traditions of spirituality with atheistic naturalism, by pointing out the mysticism of immanence as opposed to that of transcendence (God). Such synthesis elegantly integrates many traditional aspects of spirituality (non-duality, simplicity, eternity, plentitude, etc) into one's relation to the Immanent reality. Consequently, Sponville showed an alternative spiritual lifestyle that is just as spiritual as any mystical traditions that posits the transcendent being. In this sense, I think of myself as being influenced and indebted to Sponville for showing this alternative perspective.
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a very interesting perspective ..Read more