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Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious

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Overview

The story of a former Evangelical Christian turned openly gay atheist who now works to bridge the divide between atheists and the religious
 
The stunning popularity of the “New Atheist” movement—whose most famous spokesmen include Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and the late Christopher Hitchens—speaks to both the growing ranks of atheists as well as their vehement disdain for religion. In Faitheist, Chris Stedman challenges the orthodoxies ...
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Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious

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Overview

The story of a former Evangelical Christian turned openly gay atheist who now works to bridge the divide between atheists and the religious
 
The stunning popularity of the “New Atheist” movement—whose most famous spokesmen include Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and the late Christopher Hitchens—speaks to both the growing ranks of atheists as well as their vehement disdain for religion. In Faitheist, Chris Stedman challenges the orthodoxies of this movement and makes a passionate argument that atheists should learn to respect religious identity while remaining secular. Stedman draws on his work organizing interfaith and secular communities, his academic study of religion, and his experiences as a former born-again Christian who struggled with his homosexuality and became, for a time, a New Atheist—until he saw its shortcomings. As someone who has stood on both sides of the divide, Stedman is uniquely positioned to present a way for atheists and the religious to find common ground.
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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
The searching, intelligent account of a gay man's experiences growing away from God and into a thoughtful and humane atheist. Religion blogger Stedman first heard the term "faitheist" used by a fellow atheist to disparage Stedman's tolerance for the religious beliefs of others. In this book, he reclaims this misunderstood concept for himself and other like-minded individuals. Stedman embraces the faitheist label because it clearly shows his interest in "putting 'faith' in my fellow human beings and our shared potential to overcome the false dichotomies that keep us apart." He began his religious explorations as a young teenager, not long before his parents divorced and he became aware of his homosexuality. However, he soon found out that the born-again Christianity to which he had dedicated himself shunned homosexuality. Stedman desperately tried to hide his orientation and "pray the gay away." His mother took him to see a minister who validated Stedman and gave him hope that he could still have a positive relationship with God. By the time he entered college, however, his religious fervor was gone, and he had declared himself an atheist. Nevertheless, he still sought to understand religion, both intellectually and through community interfaith work. The more he delved into the deeper questions of religion and morality, the more he saw the commonalities he shared with men and women of faith. He also realized that too many atheists were demonizing "those with different metaphysical beliefs" in the same way others had demonized him for his homosexuality. Stedman concludes that greater understanding and tolerance for religious diversity is possible, but only by rehumanizing the "other" through "intentional encounter[s] with difference." Brave and refreshingly open-minded.
From the Publisher

“Christians like me have heard lots of ‘testimonies’—how I once was lost but now am found, was blind ... and so on. We've heard how atheists converted to Christianity, how backsliders came back to piety, and how heretics returned to orthodoxy. What we haven’t heard enough of is testimonies about how a Christian became an atheist or how an atheist became a faitheist or how a gay Evangelical came out of the closet and out of the church. I’ve never read, heard, or met anyone better suited to this task than Chris Stedman. His beautiful writing voice, his poignant story-telling skill, his clear-eyed insight, his humane and humble empathy uniquely equip him to bear witness to everyone—especially Christians like me. Rigid anti-theists and theists alike will be challenged as they read—challenged to greater humanity, empathy, and understanding. Wholeheartedly recommended.”—Brian D. McLaren, author of Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?

“Smart. Funny. Heartening. Inspiring. Faitheist is the perfect book for those seeking a middle path between the firm, opposing certainties of religious fundamentalism and intolerant atheism.”—Reza Aslan, author of No god but God and Beyond Fundamentalism

“If Chris Stedman had become a pastor, he’d have a big, big church. Instead, he’s a humanist hero, a compelling writer whose efforts to build bridges between non-believers and the faithful will leave a lasting mark. Faitheist should be required reading in Sunday schools and Richard Dawkins’s house alike.” —Kevin Roose, author of The Unlikely Disciple

Agree or disagree with Chris Stedman (and there will be many who do both), no one can deny that he has written a deeply human book—human in its description of his own pilgrimage and human in its call to theists and non-theists alike to seek out common ground. The world would be a better place with more Chris Stedman’s in it and fortunately he has provided us a roadmap to just such a world.”—The Rev. William F. Schulz, President, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee

“Who can we be together? Chris Stedman asks in this powerful book. Faitheist reveals that it’s not what we believe that matters, but how our beliefs shape what we do with our lives—a timely reminder for both atheists and the religious that the goal should be neither conversion nor the destruction of religion, but rather to make a better world.”—Sarah Sentilles, author of Breaking Up with God: A Love Story
 
 “Stedman the atheist pays God the ultimate compliment: He provides a vigorous, amusing dissent to the all-too-glib magical ‘thinking’ both most Americanized big time religion and most so-called New Atheists are selling. Unlike the New Atheist stars and America's blathering religious fundamentalists Stedman lays the groundwork for constructive engagement between all of us—no matter what we believe...or don't.”—Frank Schaeffer, author of Crazy For God
 

“Chris Stedman’s remarkable work has spanned from advocating for LGBTQ rights among Evangelical Christians to, in his current role at Harvard, founding the first-ever atheist-led interfaith initiative -- and he's only twenty-five. Part memoir and part blueprint, Faitheist not only recounts his personal journey (which would be a riveting story on its own), but also shows -- sensitively and humorously -- how Humanists can live out our values with both empathy and honesty. This book represents the growing secular movement at its very best.” —Greg M. Epstein, Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University, author of Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe

The searching, intelligent account of a gay man's experiences growing away from God and into a thoughtful and humane atheist Brave and refreshingly open-minded.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Enter Stedman, avowed atheist, former Fundamentalist Christian, and current interfaith activist whose heartfelt and thought-provoking account of his struggle with God and religion serves as a call to arms for those seeking to bridge the gap between the religious and the secular… To that end he paints an intimate and deeply affecting portrait of his own life, one characterized by the sort of staggering dissonances—gay Christian teen, religion-degree-seeking atheist—that could cripple a person. But Stedman is nothing if not determined, and his resulting journey toward personal reconciliation through service work and interfaith dialogue is inspiring. Stedman’s story is motivational, his thoughts on interreligious dialogue insightful, and in this short memoir, he proves himself an activist in the truest sense and one to watch.”
Booklist,Starred Review

"Faitheist, a new memori by local author Chris Stedman, promotes a warm, loving, and witty serving of intercultural dialogue."—Scott Kearnan, Boston Spirit 

“An enlightening and engaging memoir.”  
Minneapolis Star Tribune  

"His book about being religious and being secular, together, offers his hope for a better world"
Toledo Blade 
 

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807014394
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 11/6/2012
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 1,368,875
  • Product dimensions: 5.84 (w) x 8.64 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Meet the Author

Chris Stedman is the Interfaith and Community Service Fellow for the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard University, the emeritus managing director of State of Formation at the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue, and the founder of the first blog dedicated to exploring atheist-interfaith engagement, NonProphet Status. Stedman writes for the Huffington Post, the Washington Post’s On Faith blog, and Religion Dispatches. He lives in Boston.
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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 7, 2012

    As a follower of Chris Stedman's work, I've come to know a bit o

    As a follower of Chris Stedman's work, I've come to know a bit of the path he's taken over his short yet full life and how that path has brought him to the space he now occupies. I, too, am of the "kinder, gentler atheist" ilk and knowing for over a year this book was forthcoming has been an almost agonizing wait, exacerbated even further by the tantalizing snippets posted on his blog.

    I understand how Chris strives daily to promote constructive pluralistic discourse among all belief systems and have heard how moments in his past have shaped the ideals of his work. But I also had to wonder: what could a 24 year old possibly have accrued in life experiences that would warrant an entire book? Was this ambition wrought from naiveté, conceit, or both? After consuming its pages in just over a day of reading, how wonderful to discover that neither virtue weighed very heavily in its conception.

    Part of the plight of an atheist is the pervasive, incessant discomfort we feel at being open about who we are. Nearly every revelation of this identity is in some small measure akin to a gay person coming out of the closet. Over time we grow weary and often find ourselves avoiding the subject altogether. In Faitheist though, Stedman bravely blows down the proverbial door of his own closet and invites the reader in, leading us along the winding path of his journey, intent on baring naked all the missteps and lighted tunnels that molded the Humanist he is today. Without taking the professor's lectern, he pushes us to consider finding ways in our own lives to listen, question, and even embrace different ideas for what good they can do and how they relate to our own.

    But in the end, Faitheist really isn't a Humanist "manifesto" nor is it a directive of action. Its intent is to get us to look inward and reflect on our own choices, past and future. Stedman asks "Given that we are here, what will we do? What is the greatest value of our action?" This is the message, the goal, the endpoint. Ultimately, it's a story, Chris's story. Raw, heartbreaking, beautiful, challenging, and (most importantly) hopeful.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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