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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finding Our Common Humanity, 26 Nov 2012
Paul Thibodeau (Canada) - See all my reviews
Chris Stedman's Faitheism is a wonderful story of his deeply sincere journey through sexual self-acceptance, faith, atheism, humanism, and finally the simplistic and easy caricatures of 'the other' that destroy our humanity. I found the most disturbing part of the book to be when PZ Myers `was asked when these in-group versus out-group walls would come down, he replied: "The walls will come down when religion is eradicated."' (p. 151 Kindle edition) It is precisely this form of bigotry that keeps the cycle of `us vs. them' going, the very thing so strongly condemned in religion.

After his moving story of mutual growth and understanding through shared interfaith experience and dialogue (Chris lives the truth that atheism and humanism can fall under the interfaith umbrella without losing their distinct identities, or being misunderstood to be faiths), his encounter with the new atheism was shocking:

`But I was also quickly taken aback by the amount of antireligious rhetoric I heard-- and the degree of negativity directed at me for questioning it. For the most part, the antireligious claims I encountered weren't considered critiques of theology, which I've often relished in both academic and interpersonal contexts; they were based in a willful ignorance of what it actually means to be religious and of the way religious lives are lived, and turned religious people into a cheaply mocked caricature. My first atheist conference, an American Atheists gathering in New Jersey, was packed full of blasphemy sessions and speeches comparing religion to sexually transmitted diseases. It was, for me, a nightmare. Witnessing the sheer vitriol some expressed toward the religious, I actually cried-- hot, angry tears. I called friends of mine back home-- atheists, no less-- and recalled what I'd seen. They were shocked and appalled. One friend said to me: "You see, this is why I don't want to call myself an atheist." I returned to my work in an interfaith context and was relieved to be surrounded by people dedicated to advancing human rights and understanding, not dehumanizing those with different metaphysical beliefs.' (p.145 Kindle edition)

Chris recognizes clearly that: `A world absent of religion would not necessarily be a more cooperative or peaceful one; a world absent of fanaticism, totalitarianism, and tribalism would certainly be.' (p. 154 Kindle edition)

It is easy to forget that self-justifying and intolerant bigotry is the problem, not the solution, no matter how high the ideological rhetoric, or attractive the scapegoat. His goals are spot on: `I work to promote critical thinking, education, religious liberty, compassion, and pluralism, and to fight tribalism, xenophobia, and fanaticism. Many religious people are allies to me and other atheists in these efforts-- and a good number of them cite their religious convictions as the motivating factor behind their work. I am far more concerned about whether people are pluralistic in their worldview--` (p. 153 Kindle edition)

In the final chapter Chris gives four arguments for atheist engagement with religion: `we're outnumbered; we want to end religious extremism and other forms of oppression and suffering; we have a lot to learn; and we have a bad reputation and are discriminated against.' (p. 165 Kindle edition) I think all but the third (mutual enrichment) don't directly challenge new atheist assumptions and so may be viewed as unpersuasive. However misguided, new atheists view their stance as the principled position that religion is evil, and all we hold dear is tottering on the brink of annihilation because of it. So appeasing a deluded majority, or working with the enemy for pragmatic gains, or compromising on truth to not offend are not viewed as an option. Here Chris' wealth of personal experience, genuine humanism, and honest engagement with the issues are a model for the way forward.

I highly recommend reading Chris' personal journey. We have a chance to get this right. Chris is showing us the way.

Chris has a Master's in Pastoral Care and Counseling and a Bachelor of Arts in Religion and is currently Assistant Humanist Chaplain at Harvard.

Paul Thibodeau
Author of The Call: Moving from Science vs Religion to a Better World
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Faitheist - looking for common ground, 24 Dec 2012
G. Ash-porter (England UK) - See all my reviews
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Whilst I understand that we need to look for common ground with religion, just so we can get along, now that the majority of religious ignore the terrible part of 'holy' books.

Whilst the garbage, violent, bigoted, misogynist, anti-gay, anti-aposty and anti-atheist teachings remain in their book (whether Christian, Judaism or Islam), then I feel we can't even give religion the time of day. It only encourages them to think that those teachings are still acceptable.

It is not as if the religious keep their religion to themselves.
They try to convert by street preaching, door knocking and bringing religion into law to make it compulsory.
They try to insert their so-called morals into modern life. Sorry, but we do not take disobedient children or adulterers to the edge of town and stone them. We have have advanced beyond such barbarism. Although we still have a long way to go...
They try to insert their incorrect myth/history into schools, insisting the earth is 6,000 years old!
They interfere in politics by blackmailing government ministers to accepting bans on abortion, stem cell research and gay marriage.

However, the vast majority of religious folks are kind, considerate and no problem, but they do absolutely nothing to bring religion into the 21st century, but more especially, they do nothing to curb the bad behaviour of the violent, bigoted factions within each and every religion.
A good attempt, but make the religious understand what they must do to get accepted, as we get on with our lives, without stone and bronze age myths!
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