The Text Online

Right from the start I opted to put the full text of the book online, believing that, first, anyone who really got interested would buy a copy anyway (hint, hint); and second, that people who like the book might want to be able to link to it, or to refer to it online even when they have a book.

This has indeed worked out. Some people have sent me email saying they bought after sampling online. And since I did it, several authors more famous than I (such as Cory Doctorow) have done the same with their books.

Just scroll down to find the whole book waiting for you, and welcome!

Chapter In which we... HTML PDF
Intro ...summarize the problem, lay out the plan, and thank our helpers.
1 ...list some benefits of religious practice and detail the values we want to reproduce in a secular way.
2 ...look for the freedom in being a "mere accident", note the downsides of the alternative; find the joy of a dancing universe, and stand in awe of the "canon" of nature.
3 ...show that better connections to other people help us live longer and better, and explore some of the ways of weaving them.
4 ...look at the documented benefits of a meditation practice, learn how to start one, and speculate about the uses of, and substitutes for, prayer.
5 ...define "ritual" and find it everywhere in life, sometimes being a help and support, and sometimes not.
6 ...learn that, although the mystic experience is undoubtedly real and powerful, little is known about its prevalence or about how to attain it. We struggle to decide if it is worth pursuing.
7 ...speculate that heroes are not taught but discovered in an idiosyncratic, unpredictable process, and what that means for us and our children.
8 ...compare some traditional ethical frameworks and show how to construct our own personal one.
9 ...acknowledge that death is omnipresent and inevitable, and look at the many positive steps we can take when empowered by that awareness.
10 ...look at what social psychology knows about happiness and examine some strategies for being happier that are based in that research.
11 ...look beyond happiness to contentment and equanimity, and the classical strategies for reaching those states.
12 ...summarize what a "secular life practice" can be.
Notes ...credit sources, and introduce a lot of tangential points. In HTML, notes in text link to this file automatically. In PDF, you have to download it so that Acrobat can find it when you click on a note number.
Refs ...list all the sources from which we drew. For the latest internet sources, see the online version.