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Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious Hardcover – November 6, 2012


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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

Review

“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 
 

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press; 1st edition (November 6, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807014397
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807014394
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #646,764 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Customer Reviews

Not only does Mr. Stedman have an important story and message to share, his writing ability makes reading this book a complete joy!
BBFK,MDiv
I highly recommend this book to all atheists and to anyone who is religious but interested in interfaith activism and religious tolerance.
Britt
Chris Stedman's Faitheist is a compelling, quick, and touching story of a rising young voice for pluralism and interfaith understanding.
Paul C

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A. E. Handley on November 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover
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.

So
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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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Mary Lavers on February 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By David J. Wilson on September 4, 2014
Format: Paperback
I was interested to read Stedman's account of his tortuous journey to an atheism that allows him to work with both believers and unbelievers in friendship and mutual regard on matters of practical ethics and social justice. My path to atheism was much smoother than his, not being complicated by questions of my sexuality nor by any serious excursions into Christianity or other faiths. My parents were both agnostic. My mother encouraged her three children to become familiar with the Christian tradition she'd been raised in and parted from while in college, as well as with other religions. The communities we lived in were predominantly Christian or Christian-Jewish, with just a sprinkling of unbelievers of various degrees and persuasions. There were very few occasions when any of us felt persecuted in any significant way. Religious discussions with our peers, both unbelievers and religious, were fairly common, with religious evangelicals attempting to convert us being as perplexed by our lack of faith as we were by their faith.

Throughout my life I have been involved with believers on a number of projects involving environmental issues, health, and social justice. I found that, despite our religious differences, on these matters we had a great deal in common.. I'd therefore most strongly endorse Stedman's eloquent exhortation to us unbelievers to speak and act in such fashion that we not alienate people whose religious beliefs we do not share but with whom we have many interests in common. Admittedly there are some who are so intensely hostile to any beliefs (or lack of belief) than their own that cooperation with them is not possible.
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