Skeptics Offered Inspiration in SECULAR WHOLENESS, Available in Print and Online

March 18, 2002

Some of the smartest people in America are unmoved by conventional religions, but they need not do without the comforts that believers draw from their creeds. So claims David Cortesi, who applied professional research skills and the rigorous logic of a computer programmer to a search for rational, secular sources for the benefits of religious belief. The result, a “sourcebook for skeptical seekers” is SECULAR WHOLENESS: A Skeptic’s Paths to a Richer Life (ISBN: 1-55369-175-X).

“I’ve always been a skeptic and rationalist,” says Cortesi, “Which puts me in good company -- two-thirds of American scientists, by a recent survey. Yet I’ve known many devout believers, not least my late parents, and it’s plain that a genuine religious practice confers benefits. I set out to show that those same benefits are not uniquely religious, but are accessible to anyone, whether they find religious stories convincing or not.”

Some of the benefits usually found in a religious practice, but shown in SECULAR WHOLENESS to also have natural sources, include:

Existential validity, the sense of belonging in the world, a special challenge for rationalists because it means coming to terms with being a “mere accident” rather than an intentional creation.

Community: the religious devotee is automatically a member of a supportive group, while the skeptic, for his or her own longevity and happiness, has to create one.
Ethics: “Some American writers have said flatly that you can’t be a moral person without religion, which is just nonsense,” asserts Cortesi. But creating and justifying a personal code, let alone living up to it, is not simple.

Facing death: a clear-eyed appreciation of death neutralizes fear. The book shows how we can prepare to comfort the bereaved and serve the dying, and it urges readers to prepare to leave a legacy of serenity and love to their survivors.

Additional chapters include essays on meditation, on the value and pursuit of mystic experience, on constructing meaningful family rituals; and on what science knows about happiness. The book offers an extensive bibliography, end notes, indexes.

“The examined life is never easy,” the author says. “TA devout person’s religious practice occupies a big slice of life; and a secular life practice, to produce equivalent security, contentment, and health, needs as much. But the benefits are there for the taking.”
The text of SECULAR WHOLENESS can be sampled on the book’s web site,

To request a review copy, contact the author.