Book review: Good Without God

by Greg M. Epstein


This is a book about Humanism, a “religion” that is badly misunderstood, trampled in Christian media as selfish. Epstein sets the record straight, articulating the beliefs he preaches as a Humanist chaplain. He points out that in our generation “we’ve successfully responded to the head of religion, but not to the heart of religion … we’ve produced a very heady atheism. But I believe in the heart of Humanism.”

I can’t call this an evangelical book, since Epstein stresses goodness over belief. He seems to care less about which religious setting we claim as our own, and more about our humanitarian practices. Epstein calls for a unified approach to human goodness, transcending religion. The real point of Humanism is that God is beside the point. Epstein seems to be no fan of the aggressive new atheism, and instead calls for atheists and agnostics to strive for religious literacy, while imploring religious people and Humanists to enter into a deeper dialogue and cooperation.

As such in this book, you will learn a great deal about the “religion” of Humanism. I continue to put quotations around the word “religion” because, while Humanism is a lifestyle and philosophy, it does not embrace the supernatural in any way. Faith is required, but not in any particular caricature of God, especially since (as Epstein points out more than once) the word “God” itself can mean pretty much anything we want in today’s world.

Film writer/director Joss Whedon put it this way: “The enemy of Humanism is not faith—the enemy of Humanism is hate, it is fear, it is ignorance … But faith is something we have to embrace. Faith in God means believing absolutely in something, with no proof whatsoever. Faith in humanity means believing absolutely in something with a huge amount of proof to the contrary. We are the true believers.”

Let me close with a poem by Yehuda Amichai that Epstein promotes as a sort of Humanist prayer:

Roshi, Roshi—when I banged my head on the door
When I banged my head on the door, I screamed,
“My head, my head,” and I screamed, “Door, door,”
and I didn’t scream “Mama” and I didn’t scream “God.”
And I didn’t prophesy a world at the End of Days
where there will be no more heads and doors.
When you stroked my head, I whispered,
“My head, my head,” and I whispered, “Your hand, your hand,”
and I didn’t whisper “Mama” or “God.”
And I didn’t have miraculous visions
of hands stroking heads in the heavens
as they split wide open.
Whatever I scream or say or whisper is only
To console myself: My head, my head.
Door, door. Your hand, your hand. 


  1. “Faith in God means believing absolutely in something, with no proof whatsoever.”

    I beg to differ…. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.” Psalm 19:1-2
    “Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.”
    Romans 1:19-20

  2. I tend agree with you, it’s a bit harsh to claim there is no evidence for God. There isn’t ENOUGH evidence, though, or Christians wouldn’t be asked to live by faith, I suppose. That adaquate evidence doesn’t exist can be observed merely by noting that many of the top minds in the world remain unconvinced.

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