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Atheist Mind, Humanist Heart

Rewriting the Ten Commandments for the Twenty-first Century

Lex Bayer and John Figdor

Atheist Mind, Humanist Heart asks an essential question for the 45 million Americans who self-identify as nonreligious: “So, you don’t believe in God; now what?” This question is increasingly important, as one-third of young adults under the age of thirty consider themselves nonreligious. With a scientific eye and an empathetic heart, the authors turn conventional perceptions about atheism on their head. They show that atheism need not be reactionary (against religion and God), but rather that it can offer a clear set of constructive principles to live by, which establish atheism as a positive worldview. Following a philosophical approach grounded in logic and evidence, Bayer and Figdor take readers on an inspiring journey to discover how to live a reasonable, ethical, and happy life without God. The readers are engaged at every step, encouraged to self-reflect and ultimately uncover their own set of personal beliefs. « less more »
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Pages: 188Size: 6 1/2 x 9 1/4
978-1-4422-3679-0 • Hardback • September 2014 • $34.00 • (£23.95)
978-1-4422-3680-6 • eBook • September 2014 • $33.99 • (£23.95)
Lex Bayer serves as a board member of the Humanist Connection, a humanist, atheist, and agnostic nonprofit organization serving Stanford University and Silicon Valley. His foray into the philosophy of belief began with an award-winning paper on religion while an undergrad at Stanford University. Lex is a technology entrepreneur and inventor holding more than twenty patents. As CEO and cofounder of his first company, he pioneered a payments platform that grew to service five million customers and was ultimately acquired by Visa Inc.

John Figdor is the humanist chaplain serving atheist, humanist, and agnostic communities at Stanford University, where he organizes events and programs for both students and community members in the San Francisco Bay area. Figdor and his work have been discussed in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Huffington Post, and the San Francisco Chronicle. He speaks regularly around the United States on humanist topics. He holds a master of divinity degree from Harvard Divinity School and was previously the assistant humanist chaplain at Harvard.

Visit their website at http://www.atheistmindhumanistheart.com/
Introduction: Questioning Everything
1Rewriting the Ten Commandments

Part I: A Framework for Facts
2The Paradox of Belief
3The Reasoning behind Reason
4Beliefs about the Unknown
5The Assumption of a God
6Putting Factual Beliefs to the Test

Part II: A Framework for Ethics
7From Beliefs to Behavior
8How “Ought” One Behave?
9Moral Happiness
10Societal Happiness
11Putting Ethical Beliefs to the Test
12Finding Your Own Non-Commandments

Appendix ACommon Religious Objections
Appendix BOur Ten Noncommandments
Appendix CTheorem of Belief
About the Authors
Bayer and Figdor begin their book by acknowledging that the existence of a god or transcendent being can be neither proved nor disproved. Atheism and religious faith are, therefore, both belief systems. While religious traditions are good at defining the tenets of their faith, atheists too often define themselves merely by what they reject, failing to articulate affirmatively what they believe and why. This book sets out to right this wrong. The epistemological and ethical positions, presented in a highly readable and nontechnical fashion over several chapters, form the basis of the authors’ 10 noncommandments, which state in part that there is no god or universal moral truth . . . [The authors] should be commended for encouraging critical self-reflection and the examination and articulation of one’s beliefs. Skepticism, rigorous logic, compassionate ethics, personal integrity, and morals may well be characteristics of atheist minds and humanist hearts. They are also characteristics of people of faith. Readers may contemplate whether the two camps are more alike than different.

I was drawn to this book by its subtitle . . . [T]his book functions best as a manual for chiseling out a summary of your own core beliefs. . . .Once I caught on, Atheist Mind, Humanist Heart became a fun and . . . fascinating exercise. It even led to a rare discussion of ethics with a colleague who happens to be both a doctor of- and a professor of Philosophy. Therefore, as an impetus to further discussion, Atheist Mind, Humanist Heart was a success, for me. . . .In conclusion, I enjoyed Atheist Mind, Humanist Heart. I could especially see it as a book to share among a group of similarly-inclined individuals, particularly those who are in the phase of re-examining inherited cultural and familial beliefs. As a bonus, the book’s website offers readers online tools and a community of interested non-believers. . . .[T]he authors have fulfilled the most important promises that they’ve made. . . .Atheist Mind, Humanist Heart is sure to get people thinking and talking about ethics and why they believe what they believe.
The Freethinker

The promise of this wonderfully entitled book is fully realized in its pages, which speak with both intellectual integrity and heartfelt care for humanity.
Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, MacArthur Fellow, American Humanist Association 2011 Humanist of the Year, author of Plato at the Googleplex

This is an interesting, thoughtful, and challenging book. Atheists who take their worldview seriously need to grapple with precisely the issues considered here, and this is a great place to start.
Sean Carroll, theoretical physicist at Caltech and author of The Particle at the End of the Universe

It's gratifying and exciting to see a new wave of humanist and atheist leaders step up and make their voices heard in a prominent and eloquent way. Atheist Mind, Humanist Heart is the right message at the right time for the most secular generation in American history.
Greg Epstein, Humanist Chaplain, Harvard University; author of the New York Times Bestselling book, Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe

There’s no shortage of books about why we shouldn’t believe in God, but Lex Bayer and John Figdor have done us all a favor by shining a spotlight on what is arguably a more important question for non-believers: Now what? Atheist Mind, Humanist Heart walks us through both the logic that leads us to atheism and the moral principles that help us lead a worthwhile life. It's a remarkable contribution to the growing canon of non-religious literature.
Hemant Mehta, blogger at FriendlyAtheist.com and author of The Young Atheist's Survival Guide

Conversational, thoughtful, inviting. A very reasonable, very sound, and at times quite visionary offering.
Phil Zuckerman, Pitzer College, author of Living the Secular Life

What a smart and joyful read—like a flight over the terrain of my own mind and heart with intelligent guides to point out what I’ve never noticed before.
Dale McGowan, author of Parenting Beyond Belief, Raising Freethinkers, and Atheism For Dummies; 2008 Harvard Humanist of the Year

Atheist Mind, Humanist Heart delivers compelling answers to the simple question of what we should each believe. This easily understandable yet profound guide will leave you inspired to define your own beliefs.
Peter Boghossian, Portland State University, author of A Manual for Creating Atheists

An excellent book; worth reading regardless of one's religious or a-religious inclinations. Delicate, fair, courteous, the authors are expressing their humility and courage, not confrontation or condemnation. They face every issue in a penetrating, transparent, and down to earth way. It is unreservedly honest, written with genuineness and holding nothing back.
Raymond F. Paloutzian, Ph.D., Co-Editor, Handbook of the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 2nd ed.

This book is NOT the Ten Commandments 2.0. It's what you get when you use the tools of reason and humanism to rationally craft and promote better ways of life for everyone in the 21st century modern world and beyond.
David Fitzgerald, author of Nailed and The Complete Heretic's Guide to Western Religion

Atheist Mind, Humanist Heart is a wonderful exploration of life as a religious skeptic. Truth, meaning, and fulfillment—Bayer and Figdor show that there is much awaiting those who step away from superstition and embrace life in the real world.
David Niose, author of Nonbeliever Nation, President of the Secular Coalition of America, and former president of the American Humanist Association

Okay, so you've become an atheist. Now what? Read this book. That's my recommendation. It will help you build a new foundation for thinking and living a good life without God.
John W. Loftus, author of Why I Became an Atheist and The Outsider Test for Faith

The authors approach their very readable and engaging refurbishment of the Ten Commandments with wisdom, intelligence, accessibility, lucidity, and almost pious sensitivity. However, to increase the sum of human happiness I would add one non-commandment to their ten: Thou shalt read this book!
Peter Atkins, Lincoln College, University of Oxford

It is welcoming and refreshing to see a book on atheism that is not a polemic, but a respectful and reasonable discussion of how a non-believer might engage the large questions that every human faces. Readers might discover that believers and humanist atheists share more in common than they think.
Dudley C. Rose, associate dean, Harvard Divinity School

Atheist Mind, Humanist Heart exemplifies a welcome new trend in secular America—the turning of attention from all that's wrong with religion to a positive vision of what nonreligious people can be for and about. With clear heads and good hearts, Lex Bayer and John Figdor articulate a way to be secular that is not just rational, but also compassionate and devoted to expanding the public good.
Tom Krattenmaker, USA Today contributing columnist; author of The Evangelicals You Don't Know

Atheists need to begin constructing positive principles to live by - and Atheist Mind, Humanist Heart provides a thorough demonstration of how to do just that.
Paul Chiariello, Co-founder of Yale Humanist Community, and Editor of Applied Sentience

Starting with a simple question, "What do I believe?" the authors take us on a delightful journey to uncover the truth behind what forms our core beliefs.
David Silverman, President of American Atheists

I've devoted my adult life to encouraging everyone to check society's work: How do you know there is a god or gods? What makes you think that democracy is the best form of government? Figdor and Bayer have done a beautiful thing in Atheist Mind, Humanist Heart as they have presented their moral theory. They have shown their work. In doing so, they have presented moral problems as something that all people must and can engage personally. I love it!
August E. Brunsman IV, Executive Director at Secular Student Alliance

With more and more young Americans abandoning organized religion today, toward what values and institutions can—and should—they turn to construct a morally-coherent world? This gently-voiced but finely-crafted book offers answers that may surprise you, and will certainly engage you. If you are among those who want to know more than what you don’t believe, Atheist Mind, Humanist Heart offers a rich opportunity to discover what’s worth believing—and why--in a world moving past traditional religious institutions and creeds.
Richard Parker, Harvard Kennedy School

Interweaving personal stories, philosophical dialogues, and lucid arguments, Atheist Mind, Humanist Heart provides an accessible and practical guide to some of the biggest questions faced by human beings: "Is there a God?", "How would we know?", and "If not, how do we live with each other?" Anyone interested in these questions—and isn't that everyone?—will learn something from this book.
James Croft, Research Fellow, Humanist Community at Harvard