Godless Grace

GodlessGraceIf you believe all grace comes from god, then the phrase “godless grace” probably sounds like an oxymoron to you. Or maybe even a blasphemy. You would probably maintain that grace cannot come from anywhere except from god.

But if you know that god does not exist, the word “godless” is just a superfluous qualifier. Of course all grace is godless. Just as is all love and ethics and compassion. We don’t specify “godless gumdrops” after all.

Still, when used in the context of god, grace is certainly a Christian concept defined as divine assistance or favor. The implied threat is that there would be no grace without god. And without divine grace there would be no good will, no altruism, and no self-sacrifice for others. Therefore, many believe, there simply must be a god.

In their book “Godless Grace: How Nonbelievers are Making the World Safer, Richer and Kinder,” (see here) authors David I. Orenstein Ph.D. and Linda Ford Blaikie, L.C.S.W  reclaim the concept of grace from Christians. Grace, they say, cannot be bestowed by a god that after all does not exist. But that doesn’t mean that a purely human godless equivalent of grace is not a force for good in the world. The authors show that in fact grace does exist in the world and it is found in the good works of men and women who have no religious motivations. In the face of that reality, god becomes no more than a rain-dancer claiming credit for spring showers.

In this beautifully written love letter to secular altruists and do-gooders and sleeve-roller-uppers all around the world, Orenstein and Blaikie introduce us to dozens of actual people doing actual good works without any fear or promises from religion. These are not big name celebrity philanthropists, but regular folk from all around the world who are doing modest but important humanitarian work to benefit mankind. The authors did a magnificent job finding these unheralded pearls of humanity’s best. But they would be the first to modestly point out that their job was not all that difficult. There are far, far more “graceful” secular humanist folk than religious proponents would have us believe.

Beyond just identifying these great people, Orenstein and Blaikie help you to get to know them in easy yet pointed prose that make you feel not only that you know these people after only a mere page or two, but that you WANT to know these people. The authors were insightful in learning what motivates each one, non-religious motivations as varied as the people themselves, and are adept at effortlessly sharing those insights with the reader.

About these people overall, the authors conclude:

“… they see themselves as servants to and for humanity – people who do their good work not to please any gods, but to benefit all humans and other beings on the planet.”

Godless Grace is a splendidly crafted book that blends meticulous research and insightful observations into positive and inspiring tones that never sound mushy. It’s not too hot, nor too cold. Godless Grace is just right and you will feel better about your fellow humans and about the world after reading it. Godless Grace is exactly what the atheist/humanist movement needs at this stage. It doesn’t preach, it doesn’t debate, it doesn’t argue, it doesn’t play logic games. It simply shows us, in a positive and sincere way, just a bit of the good that real people do every day without god.

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