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The God Factor: Inside the Spiritual Lives of Public People Hardcover – March 7, 2006
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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)
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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.
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There are (at least) two levels on which a book like this can be interesting. One is that the subjects interviewed are of such interest or importance that we feel we need to know more about their beliefs, and the other is that the actual beliefs and stories of faith themselves are unusually engaging.
I felt that much of this book consisted of marginally interesting people telling marginally interesting stories of faith.
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.