Customer Reviews: Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious
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on February 11, 2013
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. I think there are atheists who don't care if religion EXISTS or not, but are critical of the special status that it holds. For instance, one's "freedom of religion" is protected in all manner of laws and statutes, but most of those do not include "freedom of personal philosophy," which can impact things like being a conscientious objector during a war, etc. These are the sorts of specific issues that many atheist activists are concerned about, but Stedman paints them all with the "anti-religion" brush, which is a disservice.

Nonetheless, I am grateful to this book for being an important part of the atheist discussion, a voice for those for whom "atheist" means something other than "person who condescendingly puts down other people's religions."

I'd be curious to read the memoir he writes at fifty!

Disclaimer: I received a digital galley of this book free from the publisher through Edelweiss. I was asked to write an honest review, though not necessarily a favourable one. The opinions expressed are strictly my own.
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on 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.
What I didn't like so much: Toward the end, it got pretty repetitive about needing to work together. Probably could have cut out 20 pages of it.
I think the "New Atheists" or "angry Atheists," however you want to look at them, were/are vital. Atheists needed someone to stand up and say, "Hey, not everyone agrees with religion." There is tolerance for any belief system except the lack of one. There are so many books written about why people should be Christian, or Jewish, or Muslim. But there needed to be some about this as well. Stedman negates everything that this men say. While we do need balance, I think they did a great service to atheists by helping them come out about their lack of belief.

This was a wonderfully written book, truly engaging, and I would recommend it to anyone. Of faith or not. It finally offers the position of someone who wants to just get along.
*This book was received as a free advanced copy from the bookstore I am employed with*
*This review can also be found on my blog, Book Addict Anonymous, link located on my profile.*
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on September 4, 2014
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. However, Stedman points out that there are many believers with whom cooperation on a basis of mutual courtesy and respect is possible and is to the advantage of all. This has certainly been my experience.

Stedman also points out that the intensely abrasive and aggressive approach of the "new atheists" is not helpful in bringing believers and unbelievers together on matters of mutual interest. I find their arguments in support of atheism quite convincing. I agree with Stedman, however, that their expressed hatred and unconcealed contempt for religion in any way, shape, or form has not helped to make the public sympathetic to atheists, agnostics, secular humanists, and other unbelievers. He notes that we are the most despised group in America. A pity.

On one point I disagree with Stedman--on diversity. Historically, diversity has generally led to trouble--discrimination, prejudice, violence, pogroms, and wars. Diversity is a benefit only under rather specialized circumstances. People must be sufficiently well off that they are not desperately competing for vital resources, which usually involves looking for any excuse to dehumanize the group(s) whose resources they covet. People must be sufficiently confident and comfortable in their world view and their place in that world not to feel threatened by other world views that are not actively hostile. And people must be sufficiently curious about these other world views to be willing to reach out to learn about them. Without these circumstances history makes it all too clear that diversity can lead to tribalism, racism, religious persecution, wars, and genocide.

A most interesting read.
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on February 7, 2014
While I agree with the substance of Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris, I find that they are too antagonistic towards moderate and progressive religious people. Religion is not going away, so being antagonistic works against agnostics and atheists. The approach that Chris Stedman takes is, to me, a much more intelligent and realistic approach to dealing with religion. Atheists and progressive religious folks have a lot in common, particularly a desire to combat religious fundamentalism, so why not be respectful and work together?
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on December 20, 2014
I had really wanted to read this book for a number of reasons but two of the biggest are that 1. I have always wanted a way of connecting with others regardless of their beliefs (so I thought this book might help address that) and 2. I am a Christian in seminary, yet despite this I do not feel at home or entirely safe within the Christian community. More often I find it easier to have friendships with Jews, Muslims, Atheists, and other religious groups. It is difficult to see the hatred that goes on between these different groups.

In a nutshell Chris Stedman shares with the reader his journey of converting into an evangelical Christian, discovering he is gay, and then eventually switching to atheism. His experiences show some of the negative encounters that occur, are perpetuated, and/or ignored in the religious/secular world. They depict what is missing, namely a way of interacting with one another on a level of respect and compassion towards understanding. Some of his experiences made me cringe for the ignorance and brutality he had to face (and that others face) but also of the actions of the people of faith which I identify with. It shows that where we are now is not working. Changes need to be made in our interactions.

If anything the book is great to understand another person's experience (something I always find fascinating). But it is more than understanding another person's experience. It is about learning to be open to sharing your whole self with another and give that person the same respect in sharing their self. It is a call to challenge and break down stereotypes (from all sides) and to see each other as people. It is a call to action. I agreed and felt connected to many of Chris' experiences and ideas. Furthermore Chris is inspiring with the interfaith work he does.
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on October 1, 2014
Chris did a good job explaining why atheists should get involved in interfaith operatives. As a person who loves interfaith and understands its value while also identifying as an atheist, it was really refreshing to see someone - anyone who would challenge the dominating voices of the new atheists. Chris opens up a new dialogue for non-theists to participate in which diversified the image of us to be more full and more accurate.
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on February 25, 2015
Stedman is a skilled storyteller of high Emotional Intelligence. The first section of this book, in which he tells his own story of being a young gay man growing up in a mostly loving but homophobic congregation was moving. The great leadership he is ready to exercise at a remarkably young age shows in the second part of his story, as he reveals his process of growing beyond dismissive impatience with religion, how he began to understand his need for solidarity in our care for the world, and as he shows practically and specifically how best to do that. I deeply identify with his goals, and am grateful for his gifts.
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on February 27, 2013
I really enjoyed the insights the book offered. It made me reflect on my own atheism. The overall message of the book was poignant and important, but he has a tendency to go off on what I would call excessive introspective writing. At times, the reflections would just seem unsubstantive and a little gratuitous.

While it was a personal story piece, it was became a bit drawn out.

I'd look forward to seeing him speak.
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on November 17, 2014
I bought this book not really knowing what to expect; I am not an atheist but I respect their views and believe that we can all learn fron each other. Chris has written a book that is much needed today to bridge the gap between theists and nontheists. We all share this one home and we must work together to save it; Chris has put forward a book to help us to do just that, and I thank him. Also, it is a book about Chris's journey and his identity about being gay; it is an open, honest and emotional journey that he shares with us all.Great book!
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on March 6, 2014
I recommend this book to other people because it provides examples of how the religious and irreligious people can understand each other better.

Like Chris, I have my own experience of trying to overcome religion. I understand very well the anger that a person feels when they learn that they have been lied to and that years of their life were possibly wasted. But Chris did not stay that way. He instead learned to relate to people. He learned how to be relevant!

Far too often, I have found that when people leave a religion, they no longer believe the same way but they remain just as closed minded as they were. There is no quick fix to healing from the fear, guilt, and shame that usually comes with religion. It takes time, but the process is sped up when you read or hear stories of people who were in the same spot as you but found a way out.
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