How To Be An Agnostic – what's new?

I’ve had a couple of enquiries about what’s new in How To Be An Agnostic, compared with the older edition, After Atheism.

(i) Introduction, has some new sections, and frames the question differently. Chapter 1 is revised slightly.

(ii) Chapter 2, on cosmic religion, as Einstein put it, is almost entirely new. It takes readers on a tour of the five different ways physicists find meaning in their science, or not – considering the spiritual significance of quantum physics, fine-tuning, consciousness and so on. I then, more briefly, look at the same trend amongst biologists. I then ask what we can make of science as inspiring new sacred stories.

(iii) Chapter 3, is on whether science can provide an underpinning for morality, and is largely new. It looks at recent work on happiness, empathy and fairness, and explores the links between religious traditions and virtue ethics.

(iv) Chapter 4, on being spiritual but not religious, is entirely new. It begins by asking why people call themselves spiritual but not religious, and asks whether we’re in the midst of a spiritual crisis today. It then looks at a number of alternatives, particularly Western Buddhism.

(v) Chapters 5, 6 & 7 are broadly the same as before – with new material added here and there.

(vi) Chapter 8 is about half new – with longer entries on matters like Jesus, the probability of God, the agnostic spirit and silence.