To Thrive Beyond Belief
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To Thrive Beyond Belief

Plundering religion to benefit the “Nones”

About the Book

We all want to lead a life of excellence: an honest life; a creative life; a generous life; a life that, when it is over, leaves a monument of good memories. Once, religions claimed to own the map to that well-lived life. Today, for the many who don't make religion part of daily life--we who pollsters and sociologists like to call "Nones"--the old answers don't work, but the questions remain: Why do we exist? How should we behave? How do we face death? In this book we look for secular tools for the well-lived life. We pick from various religions the things they did well, but we prefer answers that don't depend on dogma, and above all, answers supported by contemporary science. With them we can thrive, beyond belief.

About the Author

David Cortesi
David Cortesi

Dave Cortesi has been writing programs and prose since the 1960s. In the 1990s he published a number of technical books, both under his own name and as an employee of first Informix and later Silicon Graphics, all of them about computer software that nobody even remembers now. So it goes. After formal retirement he wrote Secular Wholeness just for fun, then wrote some software, and now circles back to take up the question of living well without religion in a new era when religion isn't even a question for first-world millenials, bless their skeptical little hearts.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
    • What’s ahead in these chapters
  • Chapter 1: What Are the Benefits of a Religious Practice?
    • What’s the cost?
    • Existential validity
    • Community
    • Contemplation and tranquility
    • Ritual and pageantry
    • Self-transcendence
    • Ethical structure
    • Comfort facing death and loss
    • Summary
  • Chapter 2: Finding Validity
    • The basic choice: contingent, or not?
    • Consequences of a predetermined nature
    • Surviving Absurdity
    • On being a mere accident
    • Filling the Abyss with light
    • Revelation without end
    • Bestriding the world
    • The price of knowledge
    • Being more than a spear-carrier
    • Summary
  • Chapter 3: Finding Community
    • What the research shows
    • Opportunities for community
    • Obstacles to community
    • Confession good for the body
    • Summary
  • Chapter 4: Contemplation and Tranquility
    • The many practices of tranquility
    • Contemplative practices
    • Cultivating a limitless heart
    • The efficacy of prayer
    • Summary
  • Chapter 5: Using Ritual
    • Doing lucky science
    • Rituals are everywhere
    • Uses of ritual
    • Elements of ritual
    • Unmaking rituals
    • Making rituals
    • Summary
  • Chapter 6: The Usefulness of Heroes
    • Self-definition and Heros
    • Are there heroes any more?
    • Recognizing excellence
    • Finding heroes
    • Summary
  • Chapter 7: Articulating Your Ethics
    • Uses of an ethical code
    • What a code is not
    • Your Ethical Touchstone
    • Candidate guidelines
    • Your own guidelines
    • Summary
  • Chapter 8: Death and Dying
    • Ten billion to die
    • Fighting the fear
    • Using death to motivate virtue
    • Grief
    • Living with the dying
    • Arranging your own affairs
    • Summary
  • Chapter 9: Being Happier
    • Positive Psychology
    • The Happiness Set-Point
    • The weakness of circumstance
    • Building toward happiness
    • Summary
  • Chapter 10: Contentment and Resilience
    • Freedom from debt
    • Having nothing to hide
    • Detachment
    • Forgiveness
    • Learning Optimism
    • Summary
  • Chapter 11: A Partner in Infinity’s Dance
  • Appendix A: Lubben Social Network Scale
  • All the References
    • Recommended Books
  • Notes

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