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I loved a lot of the points he made, but it's also clear that it's a memoir by a twenty-something
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.