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nov 27 2012

Chris Stedman – Faitheist : How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious

Where New Atheist movement (what’s new in this?) famous spokesmen include Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and the late Christopher Hitchens may impress some like-minded people, their pedantic attitude towards fellow humans that do adhere a faith or consider themselves religious, caused lots of animosity with others. In Faitheist (mind the words: fag, faith, atheist; kidding, it’s a previously coined term), a twentysomething named Chris Stedman challenges both sides and pleas for a respectful treatment. Quite shocking to learn to many Americans even don’t know one Muslim personally, but have strong opinions on Islam. I bet that’s the same for Hindus, Buddhists, Mormons, Jews and Christians. If you’re willing to reach out to other people and build relationships outside your comfort zone or natural / religious / cultural habitat, respect is good starter.
Stedman tells his own story, from one Seder meal on Friday night to literally taste some of the Jewish religion to his entry into and exit from American Evangelical type of Christianity. VeggieTales songs, the performance of a worship team, Left Behind series, that stuff. Yes, free pizza and a community for social care are valued. The need to belong to a community is a main theme throughout the book. Raised in a broken family, Stedman struggled with his homosexuality, didn’t get accepted by the local Christian church folks and going through the motions while upholding a “trendy” Christian image doesn’t work out well.
Stedman put of Christianity as a whole, his story has some pedantic elements as well, as if one teenager oversees a faith family that holds more than a billion people worldwide and whose American brothers and sisters aren’t the only flavour around. Exit Christian-era, exit True Love Waits certificate, coming out and live out a queer life. But there’s more to life: reaching out, learning at seminary and work in communities, such as the Interfaith Youth Core, founded by Eboo Patel who delivered a foreword to this book. The life and work of fellow Dutch man Henri Nouwen came to my mind.
The author found added value in raising interfaith communities, bringing together people regardless of their religious or other belief system. Humanism is the common ground Stedman builds on. What exactly interfaith means to both writer and reader is left unsorted. Next, I missed the philosophical standpoints in the humanism paradigms around, as well as explaining to a less involved reader what all the “isms” and abbreviations like TEC, LGBT and LGBTQ mean. Nevertheless: Faitheist is a book that makes you (re)think through your own beliefs and convictions.
About 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.

I received a complimentary advance copy through Edelweiss to read it and write an honest review.

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