About the Book

In this deeply revealing and engaging autobiography, Herb Silverman tells his iconoclastic life story. Equal parts Bertrand Russell, Woody Allen, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, he takes the reader from his childhood as an Orthodox Jew in Philadelphia, where he stopped fasting on Yom Kippur to test God’s existence, to his adult life in the heart of the Bible Belt, where he became a legendary figure within America’s secular activist community and remains one of its most beloved leaders.

    Never one to shy from controversy, Silverman relates many of his high-profile battles with the Religious Right, including his decision to run for governor of South Carolina to challenge the state’s constitutional provision that prohibited atheists from holding public office, and his experiences facing Christian fundamentalists of all stripes in open debate. He is equally candid about the battles he has faced in the secular community itself and the many hurdles he overcame in the historic step of politically uniting the country’s major secular, humanist, and atheist groups under the banner of the Secular Coalition for America.

    Silverman combines a satirist’s pen with an activist’s passion, revealing in humorous and often moving ways a personal side few know. Famous for dispatching his opponents and those who might question him with a few carefully chosen words, here he disarms with refreshing candor about his own foibles and flaws, and unabashed honesty about his work and life.

    With a voice that crackles with effortless wit and with prose that reveals deep, often hidden wisdom, Candidate Without A Prayer offers an intimate portrait of a central player in today’s increasingly heated culture wars. It will be sure to charm both believers and nonbelievers alike, and will lead all those who care about the separation of church and state to give thanks (if not a prayer) for Silverman’s many gifts to humankind and America’s future.

About the Author

Herb Silverman is Founder and  President Emeritus of the Secular Coalition for America, and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at the College of Charleston. He ran for governor of South Carolina in the 1990s to challenge a state law that required religious belief to hold public office. After an eight-year battle, Herb won a unanimous decision in the South Carolina Supreme Court, which struck down this religious test requirement. You can browse a collection of Herb’s public speeches and debates at his Web site http://www.herbsilverman.com.

“An entertaining and informative look at America’s culture war from a writer who has been embedded in the front lines.”

Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor of Psychology, Harvard University,

and author of The Better Angels of Our Nature

Op-ed in Los Angeles Times

“Herb Silverman’s autobiography is not an anti-theological treatise. It is, however, a warm, deeply personal, and inspiring tale of one atheist’s travels through life in one of America’s most religion-drenched regions. Silverman ‘plays well’ with believers and nonbelievers who share this core belief: no government official dare treat a person as a second-class citizen because of what she or he believes about God, gods, or the nonexistence of them.”

Reverend Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State

“Herb Silverman’s lively history of an atheist raised as an Orthodox Jew fills a real gap in the literature of the ‘New Atheism,’ in that it describes the emergence of a creed based on human goodness without godliness in highly personal rather than abstract philosophical terms. In an account that will resonate with people raised in all faith traditions who have made the same journey, Silverman captures the essence of what it means to realize that you think differently from those around you—including the people who brought you into this world.”

Susan Jacoby, author of Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism

“It isn’t often that inveterate honesty and inviolable reasonableness are combined with such a sweet disposition and a wonderful sense of humor. Those who don’t yet know Herb will find in this wonderfully entertaining tale of how he became a fighting atheist a man of true wit, true warmth, and true wisdom.”

Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, author of 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction

“Herb Silverman has long been one of the most important secularist activists in the United States. With this book, you’ll find he is a wonderful storyteller as well. Herb’s warm and thoughtful self-portrait shows what it can mean to be both Jewish and a Humanist. And his story of running for governor of South Carolina as an open atheist is laugh-out-loud funny and worth reading for anyone who ever loved and/or hated the bizarre but hopeful theater that is American political life.”

Greg Epstein, Harvard Humanist Chaplain and author of Good Without God

“Dr. Silverman is certainly unique for Charleston, maybe even unique for anywhere. When he came down here as a fine math professor but a cultural fish out of water, he simply created a flood of reason in which his newly discovered fellow infidels could swim. Herb presents a rational and persuasive alternative to those of faith, both with his words and his behavior.”

Judge Alex Sanders, Former President of the College of Charleston and Founder and President of the Charleston School of Law

“Iconoclastic atheist, humorist, and mathematician Herb Silverman takes you on an entertaining tour of his irreverent life, so far.”

Wendy Kaminer, lawyer, social critic, and author of seven books

Advance Praise


ISBN: 978-098449328-9/978-0984493296 (hardcover/paperback)

SRP: $22.95/$15.95 (hardcover/paperback)

Page count: 255 pages

Trim size: 6 x 9

Pub date: June 2012/May 2015

Ebook availability: Yes (Humanist Press, 2012)

Audiobook availability: Yes


Herb Silverman’s contributions as a

Washington Post blogger

Dave Niose reviews Candidate Without a Prayer on his Psychology Today blog

Herb Silverman’s contributions to the

Huffington Post

“A Woody Allen-esque tale of an uneasy conscience in Christian America.”

Kirkus Reviews

Article on Herb Silverman and his book in Charleston City Paper


On the Slopes

Herb Silverman on Candidate Without a Prayer

“South Carolina’s Secular Crusader” in Tablet Magazine

Book review in The Humanist

Review in ForeWord Reviews

Review in Free Inquiry magazine, October/November 2012. Reprinted with the permission of the Council for Secular Humanism.