Boulder author offers 11 commandments for the ‘Inspirational Atheist’

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Photo: Buzzy Jackson feature
Boulder-based author Buzzy Jackson

There are a number of books in the vein of the inspirational series “Chicken Soup for the Soul." There are versions for teenagers, dog lovers -- even for auto racing fans.

How about a "Chicken Soup for the Soulless"?

That’s what Boulder author Buzzy Jackson initially wanted to name her new book, infusing some humor in the title. Instead, she and her publisher decided on “The Inspirational Atheist: Wise Words on the Wonder and Meaning of Life.”

It’s a collection of motivational quotes for the nonreligious.

Jackson is an atheist and she's often been troubled by how inspirational books rarely speak to people with secular views. She says nonbelievers have the same big questions about life that believers do.

“Where, I wondered, was the book that collected and reinforced the feeling of awe we feel contemplating the cosmos and our place in it, our amazement at the puzzle of life itself, for those who are not religious?” Jackson says in the book’s introduction.

Jackson, who grew up in a nonreligious household, has never identified herself as an active member in the atheist community. But she became inspired to compose this book after hearing a radio interview with Australian comedian Tim Minchin.

She says hearing Minchin on the airwaves was refreshing because he didn’t attack religion. Rather, he talked about atheism as a perspective on the world and how being an atheist can make one more appreciative of things in life.

Photo: 'The Inspirational Atheist'
"The Inspirational Atheist" book cover

“We all need a little inspiration now and then -- and that includes the humanists, atheists, skeptics, agnostics and the ‘spiritual-but-not-religious’ among us,” Jackson writes.

“The Inspirational Atheist,” which hits stores Dec. 30, quotes famous individuals, such as writer Oscar Wilde, chef Julia Child, scientist Albert Einstein and even the satirical films by British comedy group Monty Python.

A 2008 survey by the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan organization that oversees public opinion polls and social science research, indicated the number of Americans who claimed no religious affiliation was on the rise. Despite this influx, another poll conducted by the research center last summer says Americans, on average, tend to view atheists more coldly than they would Jews, Catholics and Evangelicals.

Jackson says labeling oneself as “atheist” indeed can come with some negative connotations. Living in Boulder, she says she hasn’t been the direct recipient of this antagonism, but many of her friends living in other parts of the country have.

In her interview with Colorado Matters host Ryan Warner, she speaks at length about her research process and how her investigations revealed many famous quotes to be wrongly attributed. She also talks about how she hopes the book will help the those unaffiliated with a religion realize they are not alone and their philosophies date back thousands of years.

“The 11 Commandments for Atheists”

Jackson lists 11 quotes on an insert in the book called “The 11 Commandments for Atheists.” Her intention is to highlight that people don’t have to be religious to live by a moral code.

  1. “Do not destroy what you cannot create.” - Hungarian-American physicist and inventor Leo Szilard
  2. “Do unto others 25 percent better than you expect them to do unto you. The 25 percent is for error.” - American biochemist Linus Pauling.
  3. “Be hard on your beliefs. Take them out onto the verandah and beat them with a cricket bat.” - Australian comedian Tim Minchin
  4. “Try to leave the world a better place than when we entered it.” - American popularizer of science Michio Kaku
  5. “A man’s duty is to find out where the truth is, or if he cannot, at least to take the best possible human doctrine and the hardest to disprove, and to ride on this like a raft over the waters of life.” - Plato
  6. “Live your life with integrity...Let your credo be this: Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me.” Russian novelist and historian Alexandr Solzhenitsyn
  7. “You cannot save people, you can only love them.” - author Anaïs Nin
  8. “To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world.” - American film critic Roger Ebert
  9. “The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the [heck] out of love.” - Cheryl Strayed, author of bestseller “Wild”
  10. “Try to be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations.” - “The End of the Film,” Monty Python’s “The Meaning of Life”
  11. “There are far too many commandments and you really only need one: Do not hurt anybody.” - American director and producer Carl Reiner