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Nonbeliever Nation: The Rise of Secular Americans Paperback – December 17, 2013
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“[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 Secular Coalition for America and an attorney who has litigated on behalf of secular groups and individuals in church-state and equal rights matters. Author of the popular Psychology Today blog "Our Humanity, Naturally," he has been interviewed on national television and radio including Fox News, the Associated Press, The National Journal, the BBC, Thom Hartmann's show, Alan Colmes Radio Show, and many others.
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"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. Homicides, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy, abortions, social dysfunction, etc...
9. Great chapter on Secular Heritage, the founders would be proud. Debunks many myths.
10. Setting the record straight about how the Holocaust and communist Russia relates to secularity.
11. Great quote from Alan Dershowitz regarding rights, "Rights are not divine or naturally existing but are invented by societies through experience, often by learning from mistakes".
12. The negative impact of the Religious Right. Taxpayers of Kentucky's $40 million proselytizing theme park, denying separation of Church and State, in bed with corporate interests (environmental concerns, global warming), tax-payer funded faith-based initiatives, overpopulation denial, denying evolution, etc...
13. What Secular Americans want...the emergence of Secular Americans.
14. The impact of conservation religion and women's rights.
15. The rise of the Secular Movement and reason for hope. New concepts of community.
16. Legal setbacks and successes. Many great examples.
17. A wonderful job of laying out a new plan of action. Provides a model that is copied from...I won't spoil it.
18. The future of the Secular Movement. Education and politics.
1. Going through the book I had a sense of déjà vu. As an avid reader and a supporter of secular values, I am very familiar with a lot of what is in this book, so many times it felt more like a refresher. Be that as it may, this book is well organized and well thought out and will serve as a personal reference. Furthermore, Niose does provide new ideas and a sound approach to advancing secular issues.
2. No formal bibliography.
3. More charts and illustrations would have added value.
4. Table of contents not linkable.
In summary, I really enjoyed this book, so why not give it 5 stars? Because if you are an avid reader and familiar with the secular movement as I am you will find very little new here. That being said, the book is very sound and reference quality. Niose does a wonderful job of capturing the essence of the secular movement and provides sound advice for its future and how it relates to the welfare of our society. I highly recommend it!
Further suggestions: "Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism" by Susan Jacoby, "Society without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us About Contentment" by Phil Zuckerman, "Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless" Great Christina, "Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson" by Jennifer Hecht, "Can We Be Good Without God?" by Robert Buckman, "Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars" by Sikivu Hutchinson, "The Religion Virus" by Craig A. James, "Infidel" by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, "Man Made God: A Collection of Essays" by Barbara G. Walker, "Godless" by Dan Barker, "God's Defenders" by S.T. Joshi, "God and the Folly of Faith: The Incompatibility of Science and Religion" by Victor Stenger, "Atheist Universe" by David Mills, "The Conservative Assault on the Constitution" by Erwin Chemerinsky, "Attack of the Theocrats!" by Sean Faircloth, "The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science- and Reality" by Chris Mooney, "Republican Gomorrah: Inside the Movement that Shattered the Party" by Max Blumenthal, "Merchants of Doubt" Erik m. Conway, "Why the Religious Right Is Wrong About Separation of Church and State" by Rob Boston and "American Fascists" by Chris Hedges. I have reviewed all the aforementioned books; look for the tag "Book Shark Review".
Niose's book seeks to advance the position of secular America and halt the advance of the Religious Right. He acknowledges the strength of the strategies and tactics that worked for the Religious Right, and explains why secular America failed to appreciate the movement until the hitherto fringe group grew to be the behemoth it is today. He points out that it is incorrect to assume that secular activism equates religion bashing. That assumption, he believes, has caused many religious Americans as well as those who are religious skeptics from opposing the Religious Right. Noise writes: `The vast majority of Americans, religious and secular, have great distaste for anyone who engages in attacking the deeply held personal convictions of others, particularly when those convictions are not infringing on anyone's rights. Most of us realize that life is hard, and if you have found a religious view that brings you personal peace of mind and helps you maintain a healthy outlook, that's probably a good thing. Whether you worship Jesus, Allah, Vishnu, or no god at all, and whether you pray all the time, once a week, or never, few of your neighbors, religious or secular, are going to care. Your religious views only become relevant to me when they encroach into my life, and vice versa. When you insist that government should be used as a means of promoting your religious views, then of course I become concerned and your religion becomes relevant to me.'
Niose writes about the meaning of `a religious people' and the fact of America being more secular than many other countries (though not the developed countries), the secular heritage of America - the building of `a wall of separation between church and state' as Thomas Jefferson described it. He draws attention to the intolerance of the Religious Right exemplified by people such as David Barton who wrote against having a Muslim (Keith Ellison) serving in Congress. Worse, Barton objects to secular Americans serving too: `Members of Congress who refuse to swear an oath on any religious book represent a greater threat to American faith and culture than those who swear on the Koran.'
`Nonbeliever Nation' is not just an historical account of the rise of the Religious Right but it sets out in some detail the reason for hope for a secular America and the action plan that can be implemented. The aim and the hope expressed by Niose are that secular Americans will no longer be marginalized by having patriotism being equated with religion as the Religious Right had been doing for some time. The greater scope of that is the breaking down of tribalism.