Salon runs an excerpt of the book, Faitheist: How an Atheist Found Common Ground With the Religious, in which the author explores atheist fundamentalism:
Our conversation continued, and I offered up petitions that the positive contributions of religious people be considered with equal weight alongside the negative.
“I understand what you’re saying,” I said, trying to weigh my words carefully, “but how can we discount the role religious beliefs played in motivating the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi?”
“Oh, I get it,” the man jumped in with a sneer. “You’re one of those atheists.”
I wasn’t sure what he meant, but it didn’t sound like a good thing. I shifted my weight from one side to another — another nervous habit — and picked at an hors d’oeuvre that I thought might be some kind of cheese.
“What do you mean, ‘one of those atheists?’”
“You’re not a real atheist. We’ve got a name for people like you. You’re a ‘faitheist.’”
Not a real atheist. I’d heard words like that before — in my youth, when I was told I couldn’t be a real Christian because I was gay. Once again I didn’t fit the prescribed model, and I was not-so-gently shown the door.
The author, Chris Stedman, attends a religion class at Chicago’s Loyola University, where he finds common ground with believers:
The next day, I attended my weekly religion class at Loyola University’s Institute of Pastoral Studies, a Jesuit Catholic-run program for priests, nuns, and lay leaders. As the only self-identified nonreligious person in the class, I was regularly met with many questions. Once, a Catholic classmate cornered me in the elevator after class, proclaiming, “I’ve been dying to ask you about your atheism!” Yet it never felt like an affront — she and the others were genuinely (and understandably) curious.
Sitting in class the day after my botched attempt at seeking secular community, I realized that I felt more at home with my religious colleagues than with the atheists from the day before. I looked around the room, focusing on each individual face; here were people who believed in a God I had theorized away years ago, yet they felt more like kin than most atheists I knew. While my classmates felt that their religious beliefs were right, they not only tolerated my beliefs but also enthusiastically embraced and challenged them.
Read the full excerpt here.
Michael J. O’Loughlin