Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious [Book Review]

Faitheist is a new book by humanist and interfaith promoter, Chris Stedman. Bearing the full title, Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious, promises an interest read filled with personal revelation regarding the intersection atheism and religion, a task that seems a pipe dream rather than reality.

A large portion of the book is autobiographical, starting with the author's early childhood, the discovery of being gay, his early religiosity, his loss of faith and, ultimately becoming an atheist. The way the book begins, makes the reader think that it is just another typical Christian story of atheist conversion, but they would be right to a degree, but mostly wrong.

Faitheist is a derisive term used by some atheist to signify a person calling themselves an atheist when they remain hooked to their previous religious training. In the book, it was the term that started Stedman on a journey of self-discovery and ultimately to Harvard University where he created a pilot interfaith services program for the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard.

If you are seeking an anti-religion screed or a scientific evisceration of religion, you will be disappointed. As the title implies, the book is one man's story of how he found a way to work with religionists in a positive and constructive manner. For instance, although he expressed respect and even admiration for public atheists like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens, Stedman says he sees little difference between their stance and that of religious fundamentalists.

Whether there is any truth to that is up to the reader. Still, Stedman is certainly correct when points out that atheists and the term atheist paint a negative picture verified by atheists being rated poorly in nearly every public opinion poll, including one where Americans said they would vote for a homosexual or Muslim candidate for President over an atheist.

Meat on the bone comes in the book's last chapters where Stedman outlines his humanist viewpoint along with his ideas of working with the religious community to overcome common issues such as poverty, helping the elderly, starting community based youth programs, public service and a variety of ways to do it.

At various points, Stedman sounds like “flower-child” of the 60s and 70s when he speaks of love and brotherhood, but when tied with a his humanist viewpoint, the observations are on point. As he notes, for the most part, atheists want the same things as religionists like family, friends, respect, freedom, tolerance, love, education, understanding and many more things he believes provide common ground for interfaith dialogue.

Whether you agree with him or not, Stedman makes valid points worthy of consideration, including one that may be the most important—the construction of an atheist image more in line with the tenets of humanism.


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Comment by Donald R Barbera on November 5, 2013 at 10:44pm
A neurological lawsuit would be precedent setting and damn interesting to see how the lawyers would approach the suit. I would love to hear the arguments and expert witnesses. I never exposed my children to religion. Also, I never disparaged religion in front of them, but when they asked--I explained.
Comment by Donald R Barbera on November 5, 2013 at 10:39pm
Doggy, you are certainly on the mark. I've fought to overcome early indoctrination even though I had rejected Catholicisms tenets by then. It still comes around from time to time. Having cancer may have broken the chain. Once you face that, it is easy to wash off the remains. I too think that religious indoctrination is a form of abuse. I never gad a chance. I was born and baptized Catholic. I never had a chance to choose.
Comment by Donald R Barbera on November 5, 2013 at 10:31pm
Sentient, don't bite your tongue! LOL No, I hear what you're and as you, keeping a civil tongue in my head is nigh impossible when confronted by the continually obtuseness of religionists. That's why I debate. I have to let off steam. I don't seek confrontation, however, fundamentalists and evangelicals almost force me to aggressiveness because of their inane comments and distaste for living. Of course, I've encouraged them to meet their master, but strangely no one wants to go.
Comment by Dyslexic's DOG on November 5, 2013 at 5:31pm

For instance Charles Manson.

It may be possible through neurology to show that even though he was born with or had childhood injuries (shaken baby syndrome) that caused him to have psychopathic tendencies, that if it was no for his religious indoctrination, he would most likely have been an intelligent, shrewd business millionaire or musician, and it was his religious indoctrination entirely that was the cause of his religious concepts that led to the mass murder crime he orchestrated.

He blamed the Beatles song "Helter Skelter", though this song may have triggered the underlying deeply indoctrinated twisted mindware he gained from his time in the heavily Catholic, Gibault School for Boys, while he was very young.

It'd be very interesting if his psychosis and crimes could be pinned on his indoctrination.

Maybe Charley may have a chance at trying such a ploy.

The outcome, if it was made public, would be amusing.

Comment by Dyslexic's DOG on November 5, 2013 at 5:03pm


I wonder how a lawsuit of Psychological Damage could run, since our Baptism Register entries is proof or our childhood indoctrination into the church and once Neurology finally proves (which is certainly is heading towards) that indoctrination really does damage the mindware (thinking tools and processes) in a way that lowers the potential Intelligence of the individual.

It's fun to imagine the precedents set if such a case actually won.

All churches would likely plead bankruptcy and likely close.

That would be fun.

Aye M8!  :-D~

Comment by Dyslexic's DOG on November 5, 2013 at 4:18pm

The other problem with having been brought up in a religious society is indoctrination.

Whether you leave the faith or not, there is always going to be the issue of mindware contamination through indoctrination.

This has exposed itself in many accounts of atheists returning to belief in their old age or after trauma.

The sense of the existence of spirits and god that have been indoctrinated into the young child's mind will contaminate their mindware for life, whether thy try to ignore it or not.

All indoctrinated children have damaged mindware.

This is why I continually attack Institutionalized Religion.

It is strictly a business for making money and gaining social power, they really have nothing to do with Belief in God, because Belief in God is an Individual thing, because all brains are wired differently, like fingerprints, everybody's belief is different, whether they belong to a religious group or even non-religious group.

Our perceptions of everything differ, so do our beliefs.

There is no justification for Institutionalized Religion.

Even Jesus did not support Institutionalization of his beliefs.

Comment by Donald R Barbera on November 5, 2013 at 6:07am

I think I'm still a Catholic even though I haven't attended, been in contact with or corresponded with anyone at the old diocese where I grew up. I think once baptised a Catholic you are a Catholic for life. I'm pretty sure that's how they keep their numbers up. I'm not sure, but I think I have to be excommunicated before I am no longer a Catholic. Ah! I found it. This is what you have to do to stop being a Catholic:

You must file a copy of the "Defectio ab Ecclesia catholica actu formali," ("Defection from the Catholic Church by a Formal Act"), with the Office of the Bishop.

An of defection includes 3 sections:

A) an internal act of will;
B) an external manifestation of that act; and
C) communication of the fact in writing to your local Bishop.

The processing of a "Declaration of Defection" means that an annotation of this declaration is made in the Baptismal register in the relevant parish and diocese. The actual data cannot be deleted from the Register as it is essential for the administration of Church affairs to maintain a register of all the people who have been baptised. Indeed it is of course a factual record of an event that happened.
Comment by Dyslexic's DOG on November 5, 2013 at 12:14am

Yes Donald, @ "Catholics in Rome and Catholics in the US are two different animals"

The Catholics I associate with here in Australia are Tim Minchin fans and they love his bawdy shot at their Church's leader with "The Pope Song".

Catholics here appear to love anti-Catholic humor.

Especially since the child-sex scandal.

They have lost all respect for the Papal Authority.

Comment by Donald R Barbera on November 4, 2013 at 8:52pm

Amen! You can't get across your point of view if you alienate everyone. Of course, Dawkins gets in his piece in his own writings, but there is nothing is wrong with that. In fact, I like it better.

Comment by Dyslexic's DOG on November 4, 2013 at 3:16am


Even Richard Dawkins is kind to religion.

It's only Words!



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