Bonus Essays

If you enjoy reading Secular Wholeness you will probably enjoy reading these shorter works:

Web Links

Below you will find the "back matter" of the book, live and clickable:


Eagle-eyed reader Joanne found some typos. If you would like to correct them in your copy, here is the errata sheet (a one-page PDF).

Recommended Books

Chapter 1: Benefits of Religious Experience
William James's Varieties of Religious Experience is essential to anyone who wants to understand the range of meanings that religion can have. It is written in graceful, 19th-century prose, and full of first-person experiences as well as wise commentary by James. The full text can be read online but a bound copy is a better way to enjoy this classic.
Michael Shermer's. How We Believe: The search for god in the age of science is a careful examination of the reasons people give for their religious beliefs.
Aaron Lynch's Thought Contagion is a wide-ranging review of the possible applications of the concept of the meme, packed full of intriguing ideas, many highly debatable. Yes, I am aware that Richard Brodie has done a better job of promoting himself as "Mister Meme" but Lynch was first, and I think still provides a better introduction.
Chapter 2: Finding Validity
Ursula Goodenough's The Sacred Depths of Nature is a thoughtful, lyrical, highly readable reflection on the depth and wonder to be found in the world through science.
The Fermenting Universe by J. McKim Malville, a cooler, more abstract examination of the self-justifying universe than Goodenough's, is out of print but can be ordered used.
Kenneth Miller's Finding Darwin's God presents detailed arguments against Creationism in all its various forms, but Miller goes on to attempt to show how the splendor of an evolved world is compatible with religious belief.
Daniel Dennet is an enthusiastic explainer of ideas, especially Darwin's. Darwin's Dangerous Idea is an exhaustive (some might say, exhausting) tour of the breadth of the idea so simply expressed as “evolution by natural selection” — a phrase that rivals E=MC2 for the compression of the greatest meaning into the fewest symbols.
Tom Paine's Age of Reason is a mordant critique of organized religion and an exposition of Deism by one of the greatest writers in an age of great writers. When you feel deeply alienated by the treacly flood of American religiosity, you can gain heart from reading Paine’s thunderous prose, preferably aloud. Read it online here or here or here (among others), get it the library, or buy a copy.
Chapter 3: Finding Community
Edward M. Hallowell's Connect is a therapist’s eloquent explanation of why human connections are so important to mental and physical health.
Like Hallowell, Dean Ornish in Love & Survival enthusiastically makes the case that connections to other people are essential to physical health.
Chapter 4: Practicing Contemplation and Tranquility
Mindfulness in Plain English by the Venerable Henepola Gunaratana is a detailed, practical introduction to mindfulness meditation, without any trace of supernaturalism. An earlier edition can be read online, but when used as a guide to a beginning meditation practice, a hardcopy rewards careful and frequent study.
Jon Kabat-Zinn's Full Catastrophe Living describes the use of meditation in a clinical setting, for pain and stress relief, with examples and exercises.
Sharon Salzberg in A Heart as Wide as the World goes into detail on the methods and benefits of metta practice, the Buddhist method of reprogramming yourself toward attitudes of compassion and generosity.
Chapter 5: Using Ritual
Susan Lieberman's New Traditions is a wonderful compilation of the experiences of real people who invented traditions to serve the needs of singles, families, single parents and neighborhoods.
Robert Fulghum's From Beginning to End is a warm and folksy study of ritual in daily life, and very good on wedding rituals.
The Joy of Ritual by Barbara Biziou contains some new-age flakiness, but it also has good ideas for designing rituals.
Chapter 6: Pursuing Bliss
James Austin's Zen and the Brain contains several good books interwoven: One is a detailed, well-written tour of the brain and what is known of the function of each of its parts; another is a layman’s study of Zen meditative practices; a third is a doctor’s survey of different methods of Bliss induction, with special attention to the use of mind-altering drugs.
The Mystical Mind by d’Aquili and Newberg presents a detailed, credible model for how religious belief and the Bliss experience might work, based in neuroanatomy. (Andrew Newberg continued the theme of "neurotheology" in Why God Won't Go Away.)
Chapter 7: Inspiring Self-Transcendence
Marjorie N. Allen's What Are Little Girls Made Of contains capsule reviews of many current and classic children’s books provide a useful resource for any parent who wants to build up a stock of hero material.
Moira Reynolds' Immigrant American Women Role Models has short biographies of fifteen interesting women, clearly written in matter-of-fact style.
Shambhala by the late Chogyam Trungpa is an inspiring, poetic, yet purely secular invocation to reach for the best you can find within yourself. It calls you to be a “warrior,” in the sense of one who fears nothing and acts with decision and forethought. Check the reader reviews on their number and passion show that this is an extraordinary book.
Chapter 8: Articulating Your Ethics
Ethics for the New Millennium by His Holiness the Dalai Lama is an eloquent argument for the need of a secular ethical system that can be respected world-wide. It explores the highly practical reasons why ethics cannot be separated from the need to rid oneself of anger and replace it with compassion.
Chapter 9: Dancing with Mr. D.
Living Through Personal Crisis by Ann Kaiser Stearns is a deservedly popular manual on the experience of bereavement. Don’t give a copy to a bereaved person; the bereaved lack the patience to read. Read it yourself in order to get practical knowledge on how to be truly helpful.
Andrea Sankar's Dying at Home is a comprehensive guidebook for home care of the dying.
R. E. Markin's The Affordable Funeral is a detailed consumer’s guide to purchasing funerary services. Markin explains industry jargon and reveals the marketing tricks. Amazon doesn't seem to have a good stock of this book but it is available from the author's web site.
In Estate Planning Basics Denis Clifford explains in lucid and reassuring style the options of preserving and passing on an estate.
Chapter 10: Being Happy
The Pursuit of Happiness by David G. Myers is a readable, entertaining survey of the research on happiness.
In Learned Optimism Martin Seligman went at length into the many effects that cognitive style (optimistic versus pessimistic outlooks) have on every part of life.
A Guide to Personal Happiness by Albert Ellis is a brisk introduction to Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, a therapeutic method that promises a short route to the removal of learned pessimism.

Web References

Web Adherents A rich compendium of statistics on religious membership and attendance, covering most countries and all religions, assembled by Preston Hunter:
Web AHP The web presence of the Association for Humanistic Psychology, containing historical and philosophical overview papers, a list of practitioners, and an annotated bibliography:
Web Bible The complete text of the Bible is available at several sites.Two sites that allow you to compare multiple translations are the Unbound Bible,, and the Bible Gateway, The Blue Letter Bible provides the King James version with word-by-word translation to Greek and Hebrew and commentaries: (The Bible and Quran Browsers at Brown University, mentioned in the reference list, are, sadly defunct.)
Web Book Search There are several used-book search engines, but BookFinder is a meta-search engine that interrogates several others:
Web Carlyle Carlyle, Thomas P. On Heroes and Hero Worship. Quotes taken from the online text of the Complete Works available from Project Gutenburg:
Web Catholic Enc. The Catholic Encyclopedia is online at:
Web Cognitive Therapy The International Association for Cognitive Psychotherapy:

The Albert Ellis Institute supports Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy with online articles and a catalog of books and tapes at:

Web Dhammapada The Dhammapada, an ancient collection of poetic aphorisms illuminating aspects of the Buddha’s teachings, is available at:
Web Dostoevsky The text of the Constance Garnett translation of Dostoevsky’s Brothers Karamazov can be found at the English Server at the University of Washington:
Web Dying

A good starting point for an Internet exploration of dying, with many useful articles and links, is: (but: popup ad windows). Other useful starting points include:

Web EHE The Exceptional Human Experience network is an earnest attempt to collect and document a variety of experiences, including unitive or mystical ones:
Web Epictetus Epictetus. Enchiridion. Elizabeth Carter (tr). Available on the MIT Internet Classics Archive,
Web Epicurus Epicurus. Letter to Monoeceus. Robert Drew Hicks (tr). Available on the MIT Internet Classics Archive,
Web Forgiveness Luskin’s Forgiveness research is documented at
Web Freud The text of On the Interpretation of Dreams (1900) is online at:
Web Funerals The Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Guide to Funerals is at A condensed version of Dr. R.E. Markin's The Affordable Funeral is online at The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) has a guide to pre-planning funeral costs and options at

Web Genealogy Amateur genealogists are everywhere on the internet; start with:
Web Gunaratana The text of the first edition of Mindfulness In Plain English is online at:
Web Happiness A comprehensive bibliography and database of multinational happiness research is maintained for free access by the Erasmus University Rotterdam:
Web Holidays Suggestions for secular seasonal holidays are at:
Web James The text of William James's Varieties of Religious Experience is online at:
Web Kant The works of Kant are available online at the English Server sponsored by the University of Washington: The Categorical Imperative is covered in his Metaphysics of Morals,
Web Lucretius Lucretius, Titus Carus. “Folly of the fear of death.” in On the Nature of Things, Book III. William Ellery Leonard (tr). Online in the Project Gutenberg system:
Web NAS 1 The pamphlet “Science and Creationism”: (see also WEB NCSE).
Web NAS 2

The National Academies’ website on Creationism: (see also WEB NCSE).

Web NASA Images of the planets from all NASA/JPL missions:
Web NCSE The National Center for Science Education ("Defending the Teaching of Evolution in the Public Schools") is an invaluable resource for defenders of evolution in education:
Web Nolo Nolo Press offers ree articles on estate planning and other legal topics, as well as selling highly-regarded self-help legal books and software, at:
Web Pali Canon The English text of large parts of the Pali Canon can be read at Access to Insight, along with a number of interpretive books and papers:
Web Philosophy A useful, brief encyclopedia of philosophical topics (which includes explanations of most philosophical schools and biographies of most philosophers) is at
Web Pirsig Home page of the Metaphysics of Quality organization has many resources related to Pirsig’s philosophy: The paper “Subjects, Objects, and Data Values” can be read at
Web Quran The complete text of the Quran is available at several sites. The Quran Browser mentioned in the book, once provided by the Scholarly Technology Group at Brown University, is unfortunately defunct. Try:
Web RERC The home page of the Alister Hardy Trust, sponsoring society of the Religious Experience Research Centre (now at the University of Wales, Lampeter) is
Web Rotary The internet presence of Rotary International is The story of Herbert J. Taylor and the Four-Way Test originally appeared in The Rotarian, vol 175 no 4. That document is not online, but you can read the history of the Rotarians and the Four-Way Test at
Web Simplicity Two internet entry points to the subject of voluntary simplicity are:

Many books on the subject are revealed by a search at using the subject keyword “simplicity.” You can cause the books to be sorted with the most popular first, and thus discover which are most-read.

Web Thoreau Information about Henry David Thoreau is available at several sites online. The complete text of Walden can be found at

Related Sites

Unitarian Universalism Online provides a wealth of information about this nearly-secular form of religious congregations.
The Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance operate a site packed with readable, well-balanced essays on every aspect of religion and religious belief. Look for our banner ad in certain esssays!)
The Review of Arts, Literature, Philosophy and the Humanities published a thoughtful, complimentary review of Secular Wholeness in the midsummer 2002 edition (scroll halfway down the page).
Midwest Book Review/Wisconsin Bookwatch published a short, flattering review.
Atheists of Silicon Valley liked the book & invited David to talk to them.
The Bay Area Humanist Community provides for its members many of the kinds of community support described in chapter 3. David's talk to them was well-received.
The Secular Web sells our book, and they have a very gratifying reader-supplied review on their catalog page: "David Cortesi has given us a great gift."
The Infidel Guy promotes free thought and atheism, and features a live call-in show.
The Atheist Parents site offers advice and interactive forums for parents who want to bring up their children without religion. The webmaster has posted a thoughtful review of Secular Wholeness.