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By Grant Steves


The Atheist's Way: Living Well Without Gods

By Eric Maisel

New World Library

208 pages


Embracing atheism means leaving religion behind. You give up the crutch of prayer, and the unknown of spirituality. In the last few years, you may have noticed books that address spirituality and the atheist. None of these books gave an answer. They all seemed to miss the mark of recommendation; e.g., The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality by Andre Comte-Sponville, and Spirituality for the Skeptic by Robert C. Solomon.

Eric Maisel has written a book that presents The Atheist Way. In one hundred seventy-five pages, he molds an atheist way of living well without gods. What people need, according to Maisel, is to make meaning. It is our human quest to make meaning that result in an integrated person. It is this quest to make meaning that appears to distinguish humanity from other living creatures. Maisel offers a brief look at faith-based spirituality, but dismisses it: "The mind is a terrible thing to waste on superstitions, and I am thrilled to have my mind return from its indulgent philosophical wanderings." At the same time he recognizes "the lack of community and not having a ‘church home,' which may not be comprehensible to an atheist who didn't grow up in one," is something that creates meaning for some people. However, atheists are still better off despite "lacking the certainty and security of knowing I have the answer and that God is going to take care of me.... In our freedom, we are offered signature truths about reality:

"1) That human meaning is subjective and malleable; 2) that self-interest can be discussed internally, leading to thoughtful decisions about what we intend our life to signify; and 3) that because this process is available to us, we can create ourselves in our own best image, marrying ‘high values' and ordinary pleasures in such a way that we feel proud about ourselves, while getting a full measure of happiness our of life."

How do we create meaning? What are the answers? Is there a formula that Maisel has to offer? Meaning is private, personal, individual, and subjective discovery. Putting the responsibility on the person, we may: 1) ignore the problem, 2) hunt for meaning as something lost, 3) submit to authority, 4) say that all is subjective, and 5) stare too long at reality but fail to discover the reality. "In the end, we may elect to pursue ‘passionate meaning-making.'"

Maisel strongly endorses the idea that we create ourselves and not submit to how others would define us. He would have us invest in meaning. It is where we invest that reveals who we are and the meaning we make.

Eric Maisel's experience as a psychotherapist, philosopher, and cultural observer has guided many creative people to make their meaning. He recognizes the roots of belief that attach to those who become atheists. In that transition from spiritually driven to atheist, some become lost in a search for meaning. We must realize that ‘self-awareness will not simply happen of its own accord.' Start making meaning by writing ‘your life purpose statement, whether it is a word, a sentence, or a page. This step helps you to continue making meaning in your life.

In your search to discover the terms that you fill with understanding, try ‘making meaning, investing meaning, reinvesting meaning, divesting meaning, meaning adventure, meaning container, meaning crisis, meaning conflict, meaning disturbance...etc.'. Eric Maisel does not give the formula, but he tells us that meaning is a wellspring. "You make it; it comes out of you; it is new each day; it is infinitely variable." Making meaning is a process. It changes and evolves as we do...You announce that you are the sole arbiter of meaning in your life, you nominate yourself as the hero of your own story, and you give up all religions and supernatural enthusiasms."

Dr. Maisel has written a book that encourages us to make our self and the meaning within that human being. In reading this book, you may be encouraged to read anyone of his many books. It may be that you are coping with depression - read The Van Gogh Blues. Perhaps you want to write - try The Art of the Book Proposal and A Writer's Space. If you need inspiration - explore Coaching the Artist Within or Creativity for Life. When you need a step-by-step guide to completing your art - examine Fearless Creating. None of them will disappoint and all will stimulate you to make meaning.

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