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The God Factor: Inside the Spiritual Lives of Public People Hardcover – March 7, 2006

4.4 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Religion reporter Falsani dishes up a whimsical and absorbing collection of interviews with assorted literati and glitterati, dissecting issues of faith, ethics and personal spirituality. Since several of these profiles originated as columns in the Chicago Sun-Times, it is perhaps not surprising that many of the interviewees have a Chicago connection, like radio shock jock Mancow, Smashing Pumpkins lead Billy Corgan and Dusty Baker, the manager of the Cubs. But the questions undertaken are truly universal. Some of the stars evince a fairly traditional stance on faith, including observant Muslim basketball star Hakeem Olajuwon, who prays in Arabic daily and runs all of his businesses according to the anti-interest tenets of Islamic law; novelist Anne Rice, who has recently returned to the Catholic faith and written a novel about Jesus' childhood; or Bush speechwriter and policy wonk Michael Gerson, a committed Protestant who like Falsani is a graduate of Wheaton College in Illinois. Others, like musicians Annie Lennox and Melissa Etheridge, fall into the spiritual-but-not-religious crowd, borrowing creatively from both Eastern and Western religions to craft a personal spiritual practice that works for them. Still others—primarily writers like Studs Terkel, Tom Robbins and Jonathan Safran Foer—place themselves in the agnostic camp. Falsani handles the profiles with sensitivity, painting the book's diverse spiritual seekers with compassion and grace. (Mar. 14)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

Library Journal
In this charming book, Falsani, columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, interviews more than 25 people of note—politicians, celebrities, writers, and musicians—about their spirituality in an effort to lift the reader's spirit while satisfying a certain guilty delight in gossip; indeed, some hitherto-unrevealed divine secrets of the famous and infamous are as tasty as their first marriages and real names. Who could have predicted that Hugh Hefner would describe himself as "a moral guy"? Or that, according to popular novelist Tom Robbins, we live in hell "because we take ourselves too seriously"? By turns surprising, dismaying, and entertaining, this work is recommended for most collections.
 
Christian Science Monitor
In an absorbing first book - The God Factor: Inside the Spiritual Lives of Public People - she takes the reader along on spirited, often-surprising interviews with more than two dozen creative artists and thought-leaders. The journey becomes engrossing because of the remarkable openness and candor she encounters among the famous, as well as the depth and variety of their beliefs... This sensitive spiritual portrait of popular culture evokes, in thought-provoking fashion, the vibrant and highly individualized nature of contemporary faith.
 
Chicago Tribune
Cathleen Falsani is above all else, an exemplary conversationalist...She is enthusastic, well-read, articulate and open-minded. [In The God Factor,] she sweeps us right along... She has done what only great interviewers have the wisdom and patience to do. She has set the stage and dimmed the lights just so. She has invited us in to the conversation and left us with wonder, confusion, elation and grace.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition; Signed edition (March 7, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374163812
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374163815
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,118,519 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Hardcover
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.
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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.
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