12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on March 11, 2006
Finally, a book that gets the most taboo subject out there without blushing or politicizing. People certainly talk about sex more openly than they talk about how they really feel about Jesus and they'll talk about their psychiatric health with Dr.Phil before they'll talk about their spiritual life. Here, Falsani, makes the metaphysical, the existential, and the personal... tangible. I don't think Hugh Hefner has been as intimate with a woman as he is with Falsani in his interview. He is so shy, but when she reveals that her idea of a spiritual pop-culture cannon includes the cult favorite Harold and Maude, he virtually gushes with excitement and proceeds to divulge the most intimate of spiritual details about this own life. I never thought that I would learn something about God from Hugh Hefner, but as Falsani talks openly, without judgment, to these mostly American icons, we learn that God's truth permeates every pore of our culture. How inspiring and uplifting to know that God is that big!
Great stories from Studs Terkel, Tom Robbins, and Sherman Alexie. Best moment in the book, however, comes from Irish poet, Seamus Heaney. Moved me to tears.
Falsani is funny, self-depricating, and searching for truth not in an "I'm okay, you're okay" kinda way, but through a deep faith that God is good and just and loves us all - even if we don't know He's there.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on March 21, 2006
I wasn't crazy about this book as a whole, but there were some gems within that moved me deeply.
First, why I wasn't crazy about it: "God" shouldn't be the first or second word in the title; "Celebrity" should be. The premise of the book is that famous people talk about their take on God.
There are a few problems with that. One is that many of these folks aren't much interested in God, and aren't the most interesting people when talking about God.
The other problem is that if you are attracted to a book that talks about celebrities' take on God, you'll probably want bigger name celebrities. There are quite a few folks here who aren't all that famous. So, if celebrity is what draws you, you might not be drawn by the celebrities here.
The other factor that didn't work so well for me was Cathleen Falsani's extremely gentle interview style. Falsani lets her subjects say pretty much whatever they want, and does not press them when another interviewer, a Terry Gross, say, might.
For example, performance artist and practising Jew Sandra Bernhard rants against non-Jews who are attracted to Kabbalah. She also condemns those who claim to follow Kabbalah and who get tattoes.
Bernhard's ranting has its value, but I wish Falsani had pressed her a bit harder. Bernhard, after all, is an openly gay woman who posed for Playboy and who speaks, especially in her interview here, in four letter words.
There are many Jews who would object to Bernhard's word choice, her Playboy photos, and her orientation. (For the record, I do not.) How does Bernhard reconcile her own departures from what many regard as Jewish orthodoxy, even as she inveighs against others whom she identifies as inappropriately unorthodox in their following of Jewish tradition?
I'd like to know the answer to that question, but I didn't find the answer in this book; there is no record of Falsani asking.
But I loved a few of the interviews here.
The interview with Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel was outstanding. I've read Wiesel's books, and heard him speak, and read others work about him, and, even so, I cherish his interview in this book.
As ever, Wiesel, who survived the worst hell on earth, talks about how and why someone who has suffered profoundly can continue in a life of faith. This is very, very worth reading.
The interview with U2 lead singer and political activist Bono astounded me, mostly because of Bono's beautiful and unique language use. Example: "The idea that some love and logic would choose to describe itself as a baby born in [dung] and straw and poverty is genius. And it brings me to my knees."
Seamus Heaney, Nobel Prize winning poet, politely declined to be interviewed, but sent along a lovely poem instead. His brief poem is as good as any other lengthy interview in the book.
The interview that surprised me by bringing tears to my eyes was with John Mahoney, the actor we all remember from the Cher movie "Moonstruck," where he was so memorably dating younger women who threw drinks into his face, and as Kelsey Grammer's father on the NBC sitcom, "Frasier."
I don't want to say much of anything about this interview; I don't want to reveal its details so as to spoil it for you. I will just say that I've been watching, and appreciating, Mahoney for years, and this interview offered me a glimpse into this celebrity's, and human being's, life, that gave me pause, and made me think, and really touched me.
It's worth the book to read the Mahoney interview.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on March 26, 2006
By way of disclosure, I have never met Ms. Falsani in person, but we have corresponded via email on various issues. Now-on with the review!
One of the joys for people living in Chicago is the vibrant writing found in the city's newspapers. Cathleen Falsani is on the religion beat for the Chicago SunTimes and she brings a new and fresh and dare I say "fun" perspective to writing about religion. She does the same in the "God Factor". Her style of listening and careful questioning brings out unexpected insights from people you might be surprised to find out even think about issues of faith.
Originally, I was going to give this book only four stars. I wish she had been a bit more challenging of some of the answers to her questions. In her shoes, I would have gagged on some of the replies given by interviewees. However, that's not her style and that's why Falsani could bring us a book as good as this. In constrast, I will only bequeath book reviews to posterity.
If your view of religion extends beyond the stained glass stereotypes, Falsani is going to be one of your favorite reads.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on March 11, 2006
It seems that reporter (and theologian, and pop culture maven) Cathleen Falsani can put anyone at their ease--and simultaneously provoke them into saying the most unusual and evocative statements I've heard these most public figures ever say. "The God Factor" is an incredible walk through a varied landscape--rappers, rockers, moguls, and senators--speaking candidly not just about "God" with a capital G but about morality, spirituality, and their place in the world. At a time when religion makes big bucks and guides presidents, and Americans continue to fight over what, exactly, "our values" are, Falsani's deft walk through the minds of some of the people who most define our culture is brave, adventurous, and completely compelling.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on March 10, 2006
For all those who like a good page-turner and have a basic curiosity in what famous people are really like, this is a fascinating read. Falsani just gets people. She has a way of bringing all the important details to life. You come away from this book knowing something intimate about these people you've otherwise studied from a distance. She gets them to open up about big things - their faith or lack of faith, and how they answer big questions - but there's even more to it. She has real conversations with them. Billy Corgan is smarter than you thought. Sandra Bernhard is sweeter than you thought. David Lynch is stranger than you thought (yes - it's true. STRANGER than you thought!) and Hugh Hefner is surprisingly shy, really down to earth once he starts talking about his favorite movies.
Reading this book is like sitting in a coffeeshop and eavesdropping on a really good conversation at the table next to you. You'll finish reading and want to pass on so you have someone to talk about it with.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 30, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition
"The God Factor" is a collection of short journalistic interviews with thirty-one influential people in American culture about their personal faiths and spiritual lives. The personalities span a wide range, from rock stars, actors and novelists to economists, attorneys and politicians; as do their perspectives, which paint a richly diverse portrait of the American spiritual scene.
The interviews, done in 2004-2005, are each about six pages long, and include background information on the interviewee, along with a photo. The writing style is smooth and engaging, making this book a fun read for anyone interested in learning more about faith in popular culture.
The interviews that I enjoyed the most were with then-Senator Barack Obama, and screenwriter David Lynch. Obama's interview interested me because it was deeply revealing of the faith of the man who later became our president. The quote from his interview, pasted before the interview, is "I think there is an enormous danger on the part of public figures to rationalize or justify their actions by claiming God's mandate". David Lynch's interview interested me because he spoke about his passion for Transcendental Meditation and "yogic flying", an advanced meditation technique that he says brings him to experience "bliss consciousness".
To give a sense of the diversity of the religious backgrounds of the interviewees, and their present affiliations, I am providing the following two lists:
Religious background of the 31 interviewees: 13 Protestant, 8 Roman Catholic, 7 Jewish, 1 Muslim, 1 Buddhist, 1 no religion.
Current religious affiliations of the interviewees: 8 have "no label" (including "undecided", "spiritual seeker", "non-affiliated believer"), 4 Protestant, 3 weakly affiliated with Christianity, 2 Roman Catholic, 2 Jewish, 2 weakly affiliated with Judaism, 1 Muslim, 2 with Buddhist leanings, 2 Yoga enthusiasts, 2 Humanists, 2 Agnostics, 1 Atheist.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 18, 2007
Whatever your spiritual bent (or even if you are bent about spirituality), this wonderful work is valuable in its wide-ranging subjects, as well as the respect, curiosity and non-judgmental way in which Cathleen Falsani shares these 30-plus people's stories.
There are numerous gems in here...Sandra Bernhardt is a riot---and truly fascinating. Leading off with Bono was a good choice---it hooked me into the next one, and the next one. With more room than her customary newspaper space, Falsani allows the reader into the setting...how an individual carries himself or herself, little moments that reveal so much.
The essay on Hugh Hefner was beautifully done, with sparkling moments, including the one when Hef discovered he was not toe-to-toe with a stereotypical fire-and-brimstone Christian, but an intelligent, thoughtful person yearning to understand what makes others tick, on a spiritual level, and its impact on their public works and whatever remains of their private lives.
Perhaps more than anything else about Falsani, I admire her courageous honesty. When Jerry Falwell died a few months ago, in her Chicago Sun-Times column she admitted that her first reaction to the news was something along the lines of "Good!" She then goes on to explore why that was, and delve into more of her thoughts on Falwell's legacy.
Like Falsani, I am Christian, and like Falsani, that happened to my own initial (but not overall, I should note) response to news of Falwell's death.
But you need not be Christian, or of any particular faith, to benefit from reading The God Factor. As Falsani probes people about such a significant aspect of their lives, any reader paying even a bit of attention can gain important insights into their own choices, the common ground that so many of us share as well as the many differences that go a long way toward making life so interesting.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on November 27, 2006
I enjoyed this so much I bought a second copy for a friend. Inspiring, entertaining and honest.
6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on August 15, 2006
In The God Factor author Cathleen Falsani has brought together the thoughts and life directions of some 32 famous, or at least publicly known, people from all walks of life and many different religions. Ms. Falsani interviewed these people, usually in their own homes or places of business, attempting to get beyond labels with often surprising results. Each short interview is headed with information about the religion the person was raised in and which they currently espouse.
Examples of the philosophies include (with the current religion and occupation):
Tom Robbins, (cosmic lounge lizard) writer: We're all agnostics...even the prophets of old.
John Mahoney, (Catholic) rector: Religion means being charitable.
Annie Lemay, (no religion) singer/songwriter: I ask myself "Am I being kind?"
Jeffrey Sachs, (secular Jew) economist: We should end poverty and hunger now, because we can. Americans are unique in the world in having the opinion the the poor have only themselves to blame for their poverty.
This book is a veritable cookbook of relgious and spiritual options. Not recommended for those who are positive they already have a lock on the truth.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2006
I did enjoy this book . it is a book of thoughts from various celebritys about their beliefs in/of God - or their offerings of what motivates them spiritually, in life. i enjoyed hearing the note of zeal in most of the voices about their beliefs. i was often inspired to re-think - or, re-affirm, that is - my own spirituality and beliefs. this book is interesting, and sometimes takes you by surprise and touches your heart.