One of the newest additions to the wildly popular “For Dummies” series—a collection of reference books intended to “present non-intimidating guides for readers new to the various topics covered”—is Atheism for Dummies. Authored by Foundation Beyond Belief executive director Dale McGowan, it looks like an incredibly comprehensive resource for anyone who wants to learn more about atheism and atheists, and I’m thrilled to say that NonProphet Status, as well as my book Faitheist, are featured in the book!
Chris Stedman became an evangelical Christian in his teens. But when he came out as gay, and that community turned its back on him, he began to question his beliefs. Eventually he decided he was an atheist.
Change a detail here and there and you’ve got the story of many an atheist. But Stedman’s story takes a different turn once he’s left the fold. Instead of diving into his new secular life without a backward glance, or glancing back only to berate, Stedman recognized that not everything he’d lost had been bad. He also became aware that for all of the obvious differences, there was a lot of common ground between the religious and nonreligious, more than either side usually saw.
Stedman had become a “faitheist” – a name some atheists use to describe other atheists who they see as too accommodating toward religion. Eventually he would write a memoir of his experiences and co-opt the word for his title: Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious (2012).
Unlike many of the other books in this chapter, Faitheist isn’t a collection of arguments or a work of history. It’s a story, specifically a memoir of Stedman’s own complicated path through religion and into atheism. He went through the phases so many people describe – thinking he could fix Christianity, then looking East for another religion, then deciding religion was garbage but God was real, then finally, in an instant, getting rid of God as well.
But as he engaged in the atheist community, he began to feel that something was missing. They had the intellectual side of life managed really well. But the more emotional, humane side of life, the side that religion had fulfilled for him, seemed to get very little attention.
The last chapters of the book describe Stedman’s re-engagement with religion – not for its beliefs, which he still rejected, but for what it seemed to know about satisfying human need – and his breakthrough work as an atheist in the interfaith movement.
If you want to have all of your preconceptions about atheists and atheism shattered, look no further than Non-Prophet Status, a blog founded by interfaith activist and atheist Chris Stedman and featuring eight outstanding contributors.The blog is described as “a forum for stories promoting atheist-interfaith cooperation that hopes to catalyze a movement in which religious and secular folks not only coexist peacefully but collaborate around shared values.”For a soft-spoken twenty-something from the upper Midwest, Chris Stedman has done a lot of world-shaking. He’s the Interfaith and Community Service Fellow for the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard University, Emeritus Managing Director of State of Formation at the Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue, and holds an MA in Religion from Meadville Lombard Theological School at the University of Chicago.Chris grew up Christian, then began to question the church when he came out as gay and felt the sting of judgment from those around him. He eventually decided he did not believe in God, but he continued to see the benefits religious people got from their involvement in religious communities. His work now is focused on achieving those same benefits for the nonreligious and encouraging bridge-building between worldviews along the way.The middle isn’t an easy place to stand. Chris takes a lot of grief and abuse from both sides – from the religious for being an atheist, and from atheists for consorting with the religious and for criticizing the New Atheist approach. But Chris also has a lot of supporters on both sides who see tremendous courage, integrity, and restraint in the work he does to build those bridges.If you’re interested in seeing this kind of conversation and connection between different worldviews, Non-Prophet Status is the place to watch it happen.