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Breaking Up with God: A Love Story Hardcover – June 7, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


“Honest, like down-to-the-core honest, beyond what most people are capable of, especially in public on the topic of faith. I admire her as much for her conviction as for her talent as a writer.” (Kelly Corrigan, author of the New York Times bestsellers The Middle Place and Lift)

“Provocative, penetrating, honest and real. Sarah Sentilles, in chronicling her own story, chronicles the journey that all of us must take in search of our own humanity. Would that institutional religion were big enough to embrace and affirm her work.” (John Shelby Spong, author of Sins of Scripture)

“Breaking Up With God is a beautiful reminder that truth is found in questions, not answers, in seeking, not finding. From Sarah Sentilles, I have learned my ‘No’ to God can be every bit as helpful as my ‘Yes.’” (Philip Gulley, author of If the Church Were Christian)

“Sarah Sentilles’ book is a treasure and a triumph of the heart. Wise, funny, and fearless, she dares to take the ultimate questions seriously enough to be outrageously honest. May her journey be a challenge to those whose imperturbable faith may filter out the anguish and fragility of our world.” (Joanna Macy, author of World as Lover, World as Self.)

“This is a wonderfully moving book, written with rare elegance, real passion, warm humor, and penetrating insight. Breaking Up With God will comfort those who no longer believe, guide those who are plagued with doubts, and challenge those who wonder how anyone could leave the faith.” (Bart D. Ehrman, author of Misquoting Jesus)

“[Sentilles] tells her story in a way that is never preachy or pushy. She is not angry or bitter and seems to have no intention of converting readers to her viewpoint. She simply shares her journey with a tenderness and authenticity that is both heartbreaking and hopeful.” (Library Journal)

“There is so much to love about this book...Her language is always straightforward, and her voice is strong and consistent, but straightforward isn’t just simple. At times the language is exalted, breathtaking, captivating and just stupid f-ing brilliant.” (The Parish)

From the Back Cover

I broke up with God. The breakup was devastating. It was like a divorce when all the friends you had as a couple are forced to choose sides and end up not choosing yours.

Sarah Sentilles's relationship with God was not casual. When it began to unravel she was in the ordination process to become an Episcopal priest, a youth minister at a church, and a doctoral student in theology at Harvard. You might say they were engaged and that the wedding was all planned. Calling it off would be more than a little awkward. But in the studying of the religion she'd been raised on and believed wholeheartedly, one day she woke up and realized . . . it was over.

In this powerful memoir of faith, Sentilles reveals how deep our ties to God can be, and how devastating they can be to break. Without God to mold herself to and without religion as her script, who was she and what was her purpose? Her relationship with God had been connected to everything—her family, her friends, her vocation, the places she frequented, the language she used, and her way of being in the world.

Not unlike after a divorce, she had to reorient her life and face a future that felt darkly unfamiliar. But this beautiful, brave book is surprisingly filled with hope, a coming-out story that lets others know it's safe to come out too, and that there's light on the other side.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne (June 7, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061946869
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061946868
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #540,938 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 41 people found the following review helpful By The Spinozanator VINE VOICE on June 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Sarah Sentilles bares her soul in this rather complex memoir as she writes about many issues: growing up in a religious family where the Episcopalean mother begrudgingly joins the father's Catholic church, fighting bulimia, the usual issues of becoming an adult - but mainly, how she loses her faith. Her insecurities about herself are constantly intertwined with her relationship with God. I was struck by how vulnerable she pictures herself to be while waltzing right through Ivy League schools.

Readers are privy to her tumultuous spiritual life while she gets a degree in literature from Yale, serves in the Teach For America program (a "within our borders" version of the peace corps), attends Harvard Divinity School, gets in and then out of an Episcopalean ordination program for the priesthood, and finally, finishes a PhD in Theology at Harvard. At the commencement for Harvard Divinity School she was chosen to be the student speaker. Academically, this girl is not a lightweight - she presents herself to be more fragile than she apparently is.

Her writing is irreverent, matter-of-fact, and elegant - all at the same time: "It was like an arranged marriage, my faith, God like an older man: He invited my parents to his house. They sipped wine and ate bread. They promised him their firstborn."

Her split with organized religion had something to do with feminism. Most of her teachers were female and they made it painfully clear what a misogynist book the Bible is. It also had to do with the other well-known liberal theologians she studied under - Gordon Kaufman and John Shelby Spong, among others - while she simultaneously had a position in a church, preparing her for the Episcopal priesthood.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Eliza Bennet VINE VOICE on June 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Author Sarah Sentilles writes in her prologue, "Still, I hesitate to call what happened to my faith a breakup." Then she doggedly sticks to the breakup format throughout the whole book, not only in her chapter titles, but in continuous references to her affair and love and breakup. But I am not finding faults with the prologue - in many ways it was the best part of the memoir.

The first hundred pages or so, detailing her upbringing, should have been edited and condensed. We got the idea, fairly quickly, that she was scared of religion and prayed a lot as a child. The repeating of this in different examples was redundant. When she finally got into the `meat' of the subject, it felt disconnected and confused.

The promise in the prologue never fulfilled. I wanted to know about her realizations, and the anxiety facing those realizations, and what it was like for her to face life with a completely different outlook. Her story didn't match mine, at all, and I had wanted to read a similar story. Of course, no one would have the exact history that I have. But the problems created from losing one's religion could be more universal. I faced then, and now, discrimination for not believing. How did she tell those around her? How did the pity and disdain change her? These things I wanted to know, and she didn't tell. In fact, her breakup with god didn't really fully happen. She seems now to be agnostic, and not an atheist. She broke up with her career path. Maybe she'll write a more complete memoir when she comes fully to grip with her disbelief.

It's important for those of us who have chosen to step off the ingrained path of religiousness to speak out. Kudos to Sarah Sentilles for attempting to share her story with the rest of us, even if the attempt is flawed.
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29 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Herblady22 VINE VOICE on May 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I really was interested in this subject, but found Sara Sentile's book to lack both passion and the skills of a good editor. The first 80 pages which describe her childhood relationship to God as a fearful "good girl" could have been condensed into a short chapter. When she finally developed a relationship with God in an active and passionate Episcopal church, the passion was filtered through the lens of someone who no longer felt that way and her voice lacked conviction. Her "break-up" didn't seem real, and seemed rushed into print without the insight that time and distance might have provided.

In fact I didn't understand why she suddenly felt she needed to become a priest, given her spotty history and it seemed another way of jumping around professionally instead of developing skills at what she was doing. Instead of leaving a good church for Harvard Divinity School, she would have been better advised to consolidate her spiritual growth and deepen her resources. So when she arrived at Harvard, she stopped attending church, intellectually distanced herself from any meaningful concept of God, took a position with a church that had a much narrower concept of God than she had and set herself up to fail.

In fact, I didn't have a sense that she actually broke up with God, so much as rejected a narrow concept of divinity and resisted the need to move from school to the real world. As a priest she would have real responsibility, but she didn't embrace stepping away from ivory-tower idealism. I think this is more the story of a perpetual student who keeps changing her focus than a spiritual journey,
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