Today, the founder of NonProphet Status and our close friend, Chris Stedman, officially released his memoir Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious. We at NonProphet Status are so unbelievably happy and proud of this achievement, and we’d like to extend to Chris our warm congratulations and well-wishes for his greatly-deserved accomplishments.
Chris has been a friend, mentor, and inspiration for everyone at this blog, and we wanted to take some time to say how much Chris and his efforts have meant to us. NonProphet Status started as a way to share stories and engage others in our activism, so we’d like to take it back to our roots to mark this special occasion. We want to share how Chris has influenced us in our lives, so for the next week, we’ll be sharing our stories about Chris, and I encourage any of our readers, nonreligious or not, to share stories of their own. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to post, and we’d gladly put it up. You can read Stephen’s entry here.
I flew into Boston this past Friday to see Chris for his book release party. I felt a solid buzz from the free alcohol and spent my time wandered the room, feeling the crowd’s love for Chris while meeting people I’d known only online. I met my co-bloggers Stephen Goeman and Walker Bristol, and finally duked it out with Patheos blogger and member of the Humanist Community at Harvard, James Croft. These were people I grew to know because of Chris.
James described the event better than I could, and he explained the warmth and positivity I felt—Chris is genuine and ready to meet everyone halfway. I’m near the end of Faitheist, and I’m amazed by how Chris has been dedicated to living out and promoting his values. A few commenters on James’s blog have suggested that Chris’s never seems to extend this gesture to new atheists, but that’s exactly what Chris did to me.
I don’t like to admit it, but I was a new atheist. I spent my high school years trolling the Myspace religion forums, where I eventually got banned. It wasn’t long before I started posting on reddit’s atheism forum, instead, doing little more than making myself feel better by bringing down believers.
Around Chris’s kitchen table after his book release, we and a few friends were gathered in a circle, drinking and eating pizza and playing videos by Nicki Minaj and Lana Del Rey until two in the morning. At one point I laughed and noted that I was legitimately unsure of how Chris and I came to be friends; Chris remembered.
We met at a student leadership conference two summers ago, and I aggressively argued with him about how great the French Burka ban was. At the time, I was at the tail-end of my new atheist phase, and I was nothing if not an abrasive jerk. But Chris was kind to me, eager to discuss issues with me, and there for me as we stayed in contact over the coming months and years. Chris consistently met me more than halfway, much further than I deserved. He was patient with my rudeness and brashness, and he showed me by example how to be kind and thoughtful to less-than-agreeable voices.
During those few years, I invited Chris to Yale for a handful of events, and I was always surprised by how much more I agreed with him in person than in his writing. I think I realized later that I had never been reading Chris fairly; it’s too easy to read and fight a caricature while filling in the space between the lines with something that no one had ever said. I suspect that many of the negative voices responding to Chris’s work do just that: read him as insincere and sneaky and unprincipled, when nothing could be further from the truth. When speaking in person or reading charitably, I think there’s more common ground than we ever realize; often times we just need to meet someone more than halfway to get there. It’s not as fun or easy, but it’s more rewarding.
Chris taught me that.
I’ve grown up over the last two years, and I know I’m not perfect. I still relapsing from time-to-time with a short temper or hot head. But though the arc of my moral development has been long, it’s bending closer and closer to kindness, fairness and charity, in no small part because of the continued friendship, patience, and example set by Chris Stedman.
Good luck Chris, and thank you.