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Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious [Kindle Edition]

Chris Stedman
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)

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Book Description

The story of a former Evangelical Christian turned openly gay atheist who now works to bridge the divide between atheists and the religious

The stunning popularity of the “New Atheist” movement—whose most famous spokesmen include Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and the late Christopher Hitchens—speaks to both the growing ranks of atheists and the widespread, vehement disdain for religion among many of them. In Faitheist, Chris Stedman tells his own story to challenge the orthodoxies of this movement and make a passionate argument that atheists should engage religious diversity respectfully.
Becoming aware of injustice, and craving community, Stedman became a “born-again” Christian in late childhood. The idea of a community bound by God’s love—a love that was undeserved, unending, and guaranteed—captivated him. It was, he writes, a place to belong and a framework for making sense of suffering.
But Stedman’s religious community did not embody this idea of God’s love: they were staunchly homophobic at a time when he was slowly coming to realize that he was gay. The great suffering this caused him might have turned Stedman into a life-long New Atheist. But over time he came to know more open-minded Christians, and his interest in service work brought him into contact with people from a wide variety of religious backgrounds. His own religious beliefs might have fallen away, but his desire to change the world for the better remained. Disdain and hostility toward religion was holding him back from engaging in meaningful work with people of faith. And it was keeping him from full relationships with them—the kinds of relationships that break down intolerance and improve the world.
In Faitheist, Stedman draws on his work organizing interfaith and secular communities, his academic study of religion, and his own experiences to argue for the necessity of bridging the growing chasm between atheists and the religious. As someone who has stood on both sides of the divide, Stedman is uniquely positioned to present a way for atheists and the religious to find common ground and work together to make this world—the one world we can all agree on—a better place.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Current discussions about atheism seem to be defined as much by the caustic and confrontational manner of its proponents as by the actual examination of its characteristics. Enter Stedman, avowed atheist, former Fundamentalist Christian, and current interfaith activist whose heartfelt and thought-provoking account of his struggle with God and religion serves as a call to arms for those seeking to bridge the gap between the religious and the secular. Stedman believes wholeheartedly in storytelling and its power to not only communicate values but also engender action. This book, then, is his attempt to use his own story to highlight the values of fellowship, equality, and “engaged religious diversity,” which he believes can bring about true social change. To that end he paints an intimate and deeply affecting portrait of his own life, one characterized by the sort of staggering dissonances—gay Christian teen, religion-degree-seeking atheist—that could cripple a person. But Stedman is nothing if not determined, and his resulting journey toward personal reconciliation through service work and interfaith dialogue is inspiring. Stedman’s story is motivational, his thoughts on interreligious dialogue insightful, and in this short memoir, he proves himself an activist in the truest sense and one to watch. --Taina Lagodzinski


“Christians like me have heard lots of ‘testimonies’—how I once was lost but now am found, was blind ... and so on. We've heard how atheists converted to Christianity, how backsliders came back to piety, and how heretics returned to orthodoxy. What we haven’t heard enough of is testimonies about how a Christian became an atheist or how an atheist became a faitheist or how a gay Evangelical came out of the closet and out of the church. I’ve never read, heard, or met anyone better suited to this task than Chris Stedman. His beautiful writing voice, his poignant story-telling skill, his clear-eyed insight, his humane and humble empathy uniquely equip him to bear witness to everyone—especially Christians like me. Rigid anti-theists and theists alike will be challenged as they read—challenged to greater humanity, empathy, and understanding. Wholeheartedly recommended.”—Brian D. McLaren, author of Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?

“Smart. Funny. Heartening. Inspiring. Faitheist is the perfect book for those seeking a middle path between the firm, opposing certainties of religious fundamentalism and intolerant atheism.”—Reza Aslan, author of No god but God and Beyond Fundamentalism

“If Chris Stedman had become a pastor, he’d have a big, big church. Instead, he’s a humanist hero, a compelling writer whose efforts to build bridges between non-believers and the faithful will leave a lasting mark. Faitheist should be required reading in Sunday schools and Richard Dawkins’s house alike.” —Kevin Roose, author of The Unlikely Disciple

Agree or disagree with Chris Stedman (and there will be many who do both), no one can deny that he has written a deeply human book—human in its description of his own pilgrimage and human in its call to theists and non-theists alike to seek out common ground. The world would be a better place with more Chris Stedman’s in it and fortunately he has provided us a roadmap to just such a world.”—The Rev. William F. Schulz, President, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee

“Who can we be together? Chris Stedman asks in this powerful book. Faitheist reveals that it’s not what we believe that matters, but how our beliefs shape what we do with our lives—a timely reminder for both atheists and the religious that the goal should be neither conversion nor the destruction of religion, but rather to make a better world.”—Sarah Sentilles, author of Breaking Up with God: A Love Story
 “Stedman the atheist pays God the ultimate compliment: He provides a vigorous, amusing dissent to the all-too-glib magical ‘thinking’ both most Americanized big time religion and most so-called New Atheists are selling. Unlike the New Atheist stars and America's blathering religious fundamentalists Stedman lays the groundwork for constructive engagement between all of us—no matter what we believe...or don't.”—Frank Schaeffer, author of Crazy For God

“Chris Stedman’s remarkable work has spanned from advocating for LGBTQ rights among Evangelical Christians to, in his current role at Harvard, founding the first-ever atheist-led interfaith initiative -- and he's only twenty-five. Part memoir and part blueprint, Faitheist not only recounts his personal journey (which would be a riveting story on its own), but also shows -- sensitively and humorously -- how Humanists can live out our values with both empathy and honesty. This book represents the growing secular movement at its very best.” —Greg M. Epstein, Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University, author of Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe

The searching, intelligent account of a gay man's experiences growing away from God and into a thoughtful and humane atheist Brave and refreshingly open-minded.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Enter Stedman, avowed atheist, former Fundamentalist Christian, and current interfaith activist whose heartfelt and thought-provoking account of his struggle with God and religion serves as a call to arms for those seeking to bridge the gap between the religious and the secular… To that end he paints an intimate and deeply affecting portrait of his own life, one characterized by the sort of staggering dissonances—gay Christian teen, religion-degree-seeking atheist—that could cripple a person. But Stedman is nothing if not determined, and his resulting journey toward personal reconciliation through service work and interfaith dialogue is inspiring. Stedman’s story is motivational, his thoughts on interreligious dialogue insightful, and in this short memoir, he proves himself an activist in the truest sense and one to watch.”
Booklist, Starred Review

"Faitheist, a new memori by local author Chris Stedman, promotes a warm, loving, and witty serving of intercultural dialogue."—Scott Kearnan, Boston Spirit 

“An enlightening and engaging memoir.”  
Minneapolis Star Tribune  

"His book about being religious and being secular, together, offers his hope for a better world"
Toledo Blade 

From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1375 KB
  • Print Length: 209 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0807014451
  • Publisher: Beacon Press (November 6, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #105,084 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A New Perspective for Atheism November 22, 2012
This was a very different book from anything I have ever read about atheism. It was refreshing and wonderful. Stedman discusses his struggles with fitting in and wanting a community to belong to. He thinks he's found it at church, but is also coming to terms with the fact that he is gay, and this is not allowed. His silent struggle with this heartbreaking, but it is beautiful to watch how he comes to terms with all aspects of his life.
The important thing to note is that he does not leave the church or God because of this. He simply realizes that what he believes does not match up with the ideas of the church. He is unable to find a way to believe in God anymore. He says it's like he came home one day to find that God was no longer there; that he had packed a bag and not even left a note. He was simply not a part of his life anymore.

A lot of atheists have a bad reputation because the loudest voices are ones that people find offensive (Hitchens, Dawkins, etc). There is finally a voice telling a story of not religion bashing, but wanting to work together to find a way to better the world regardless of religious affiliation. I enjoy reading the other atheists' works, but this is necessary as well. We can't be constantly bickering or nothing will change for the better.

What I liked: This was the easiest biography I've ever read. I was sucked into his life story and wanted to know more about him. I loved his explanations of how he was raised without religion and still turned out to be a good moral person.
This is a call to action not to erase religion but to find common ground. There are enough calls to end religion already.
He is so young and has already figured this much out, and is working to put his words into action.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
So, yes, there are times when it's obvious this is a memoir written by a twenty-five-year-old. There are passages that either read like a term paper or a diary entry. But the premis could not be more exciting to me so I overlooked it. (I felt exactly the same way about Zach Wahls' book My Two Moms.)

Chris Stedman is a gay atheist who, unlike many atheists, is not anti-religion. In fact he spent many years as a fundamentalist Christian even though it often filled him with loneliness and self-loathing because of his sexuality. He studied religion in university (as did I) even as he was coming to terms with his own atheism (just like me!). He even went on to study theology at the graduate level which would essentially make him a minister if he were Christian (okay, I never did that, but I did consider studying to be a high school religious education teacher in Quebec even though I'm an atheist).

So there's a lot I can relate to personally in this book. I came to atheism from a place of religious searching and although I am critical of many aspects of religion, I still sometimes long for the community, charity and sense of sacred time that religion provides. So maybe I'm a faitheist too.

One thing I'm not sure Stedman quite got right is his portrait of atheists whom he believes are "anti-religion." He cites many examples of those atheists whose goal is to dismantle religion completely, eradicate it from society completely. Yes, I understand that this viewpoint exists, but I would argue that there are a large number of atheists who are more concerned with churches getting things like tax exemptions and government funding and then being allowed to create policies that are exclusionary and discriminatory.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Look, I love Sam Harris, okay? I love Christopher Hitchens, I love Ayaan Hirsi Ali, I love George Carlin. I did not expect to love Chris Stedman. But this book sure gave me a lot to think about. I listened to Chris when he came and gave a very enjoyable talk at Portland State University several months ago. Afterwards, Center For Inquiry-Portland took him out to dinner, and I enjoyed his company even more. When I finally got around to reading his book, I was pretty sure I knew what to expect: the New Atheists are doing it wrong, we need to build bridges and create dialogue, you catch more flies with honey, all that stuff. And yet there were several moments in Chris's story when I was caught off guard. In the beginning, I found myself disagreeing with him on certain points, but by the end of the book, I was convinced that Chris was really onto something and that his ideas are much needed and long overdue. I still don't agree with every little thing Chris said, and I made a few notes in the margins every time I thought he was off the mark. Still, I think this book has enormous potential to bring a lot of positive change into the world. I want to buy a copy for my conservative Christian father, because I think reading this book will help him cultivate a level of compassion and understanding for queers and atheists that would otherwise be close to impossible. Likewise, I know some obnoxious, bullheaded atheists who might benefit from reading Chris's story. Love it or hate it, this book is sure to keep making waves, and I'm eager to see what Chris does next.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
A great read!
Published 12 days ago by Kenneth Walsh
5.0 out of 5 stars Reformed New Atheist Finds Faitheist Relatable
My first atheist literature was Sam Harris' End of Faith. That was soon followed by Dawkins, Hitchens, and of course the prominent New Atheist bloggers. Read more
Published 18 days ago by Courtney Caldwell
5.0 out of 5 stars A compelling antidote to what ails or conversations on faith.
Chris Stedman's Faitheist is a compelling, quick, and touching story of a rising young voice for pluralism and interfaith understanding. Read more
Published 20 days ago by Paul C
5.0 out of 5 stars Stedman's memoir reads like a story by an old familiar friend
Stedman's memoir reads like a story by an old familiar friend. He does a great job of connecting people through his writing, sharing stories without veiling them in his own bias,... Read more
Published 20 days ago by Dean
5.0 out of 5 stars An incredible memoir
Much to its detriment, atheism has long existed as a in the public eye exclusively as something folks argue about. Read more
Published 1 month ago by S
4.0 out of 5 stars Are the "New Atheists" Misguided?
Chris Stedman’s career is in “interfaith work,” but his book, Faithiest, is addressed mainly to his fellow atheists, urging them to lighten up. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Frank S. Robinson
5.0 out of 5 stars Liberating, Loving, and TRUE!
As a 68 year old gay American Baptist minister, this book by someone who could be my grandson brings me to tears. Read more
Published 3 months ago by William H. Taber
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing read
practical, personal, reflective. We all have a story to share, and our differing beliefs, cultures, and identities makes that story more vibrant, alive, and real. Read more
Published 4 months ago by jordan
5.0 out of 5 stars Chris learned to be relevant
I recommend this book to other people because it provides examples of how the religious and irreligious people can understand each other better. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Chandler Isaac Klebs
5.0 out of 5 stars A courageous enlightening memoir
This book, though written by a 25 year old, presents a wisdom well beyond the author's years. With full candor, and an informed articulation of the intersection of issues... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Joe Zoske
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More About the Author

Chris Stedman is the Interfaith and Community Service Fellow for the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard University; the emeritus managing director of State of Formation at the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue; the founder of the first blog dedicated to exploring atheist-interfaith engagement, NonProphet Status; and the author of "Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious" (Beacon Press, 2012). Stedman writes for the Huffington Post, the Washington Post's On Faith blog, and Religion Dispatches. He lives in Boston.

Photographer Copyright Credit Name: Alex Dakoulas, 2012.

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