Science and Religion/Ethics and Morality/Practical and Motivational Self Help
This book, subtitled, ‘Universal lessons on finding purpose, meaning and joy’ encapsulates ideas I’d already formed from life experience, wide reading, and a deep love of the natural world.
Every religion has its individual text, presented as a guide for how to live your life. In the case of the Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, these texts overlap, of course. I’ve read the Bible from cover to cover and done the same with a translated Qur’an. The other world religions have their own texts, and I’ve made myself familiar with many of them over years of seeking guidance in a world so full of questions.
None of them inspired me in the way this little book of wisdom has. I’d already rejected them long before I came to this guide, which is ‘dedicated to all those who think for themselves and act for others.’.
The book is divided into ten chapters, plus a short explanatory appendix that deals with the practicalities of humanism and gives details of the authors of the book and those many thinkers quoted throughout: 108 individuals spanning many centuries from 623BC to the modern day.
After the short welcome, the chapters flow as follows: Children of earth, The unique you, Diversity and equality, Being good, Thinking clearly, Science and progress, Religion and faith, Thinking about death, and Living well.
Throughout, the book is illustrated with subtle photographs and drawings, as background to the text.
The opening sentence in the welcome explains the reason for the book. ‘Here’s a secret that more and more people are discovering: you don’t need religion to live a good life.’ It goes on, without preaching, to explain the fundamentals of humanism, revealing ideas very many will recognise as chiming with their own. It’s quite likely that most people are humanists at heart; they just don’t know it, yet.
The chapters that follow comprise a selection of quotes from people you will have heard of, and others who may be new to you. All are wise and, perhaps more importantly, kind. For kindness is a fundamental quality of humanism. The authors provide short passages in each chapter to describe the humanist attitude to the subject under discussion.
You’ll find no dictators here, no blustering preachers, no condemnation, no demands, no threats of dire consequences should you fail to obey. Instead, you’ll find reasonable statements, truth, explanations, tolerance, love, and a sense of real purpose.
Here, I’d like to reveal a pertinent quote to you, but that would be to select from hundreds written by people far wiser than me. How does one select a gem from such a treasure trove?
If you’ve ever wondered about the purpose of life, about how we can be good people, about how to best live your life, about what to believe in a world full of contradictory advice, about the how and why of life itself, you’ll find answers here. It’s a small book, beautifully presented, and will take little of your precious time to explore. But imagine the joy and relief you’ll experience when you find you really aren’t alone in those thoughts, those ideas, those dreams.
I ask you to look around you at this wonderful, extraordinary world we’ve inherited, to look at what we’ve done with it, done to it, and to ask yourself, ‘Could we have done better? Can we do better?’. The answers are, we could have, and we can.
Finally, I wrote this review as a humanist. An organisation I voluntarily joined after being raised as a Christian, a religion I was introduced to as an infant by my parents without choice on my part: the fate of billions of humans over many centuries. If I’d been introduced to this book earlier in life, as a teenager, it would have prevented the many years of mental and spiritual torture I endured whilst trying to find my way in the world. I would love to see this book gifted to every child, as each reaches the questing age of the teenager. It is possible to see the world, to see life, to live, without belief in any supernatural power. I invite you to explore that road with this wonderful little book as your guide. You’ll find the freedom, creativity, imagination and sense of purpose it gives you worth the effort of transition.
[Any review is a personal opinion. No reviewer can represent the view of anyone else. The best we can manage is an honest reaction to any given book.]