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WHY I AM AN ATHEIST WHO BELIEVES IN GOD How to Create Beauty, Give Love and Find Peace By Frank Schaeffer *** Caught between the beauty of his grandchildren and grief over a friend’s death, Frank Schaeffer finds himself simultaneously believing and not believing in God—an atheist who prays. Schaeffer wrestles with faith and disbelief, sharing his innermost thoughts wit WHY I AM AN ATHEIST WHO BELIEVES IN GOD How to Create Beauty, Give Love and Find Peace By Frank Schaeffer *** Caught between the beauty of his grandchildren and grief over a friend’s death, Frank Schaeffer finds himself simultaneously believing and not believing in God—an atheist who prays. Schaeffer wrestles with faith and disbelief, sharing his innermost thoughts with a lyricism that only great writers of literary nonfiction achieve. Schaeffer writes as an imperfect son, husband and grandfather whose love for his family, art and life trumps the ugly theologies of an angry God and the atheist vision of a cold, meaningless universe. Schaeffer writes that only when we abandon our hunt for certainty do we become free to create beauty, give love and find peace. *** “As someone who has made redemption his work, Frank has, in fact, shown amazing grace.” — Jane Smiley, Washington Post *** “To millions of evangelical Christians, the Schaeffer name is royal, and Frank is the reluctant, wayward, traitorous prince. His crime is not financial profligacy, like some pastors’ sons, but turning his back on Christian conservatives.” — New York Times *** “Frank Schaeffer’s gifts as a writer are sensual and loving. He’s also laugh-out-loud funny!” — Andre Dubus III, author of House of Sand and Fog


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WHY I AM AN ATHEIST WHO BELIEVES IN GOD How to Create Beauty, Give Love and Find Peace By Frank Schaeffer *** Caught between the beauty of his grandchildren and grief over a friend’s death, Frank Schaeffer finds himself simultaneously believing and not believing in God—an atheist who prays. Schaeffer wrestles with faith and disbelief, sharing his innermost thoughts wit WHY I AM AN ATHEIST WHO BELIEVES IN GOD How to Create Beauty, Give Love and Find Peace By Frank Schaeffer *** Caught between the beauty of his grandchildren and grief over a friend’s death, Frank Schaeffer finds himself simultaneously believing and not believing in God—an atheist who prays. Schaeffer wrestles with faith and disbelief, sharing his innermost thoughts with a lyricism that only great writers of literary nonfiction achieve. Schaeffer writes as an imperfect son, husband and grandfather whose love for his family, art and life trumps the ugly theologies of an angry God and the atheist vision of a cold, meaningless universe. Schaeffer writes that only when we abandon our hunt for certainty do we become free to create beauty, give love and find peace. *** “As someone who has made redemption his work, Frank has, in fact, shown amazing grace.” — Jane Smiley, Washington Post *** “To millions of evangelical Christians, the Schaeffer name is royal, and Frank is the reluctant, wayward, traitorous prince. His crime is not financial profligacy, like some pastors’ sons, but turning his back on Christian conservatives.” — New York Times *** “Frank Schaeffer’s gifts as a writer are sensual and loving. He’s also laugh-out-loud funny!” — Andre Dubus III, author of House of Sand and Fog

30 review for Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God: How to Give Love, Create Beauty and Find Peace

  1. 4 out of 5

    Clif Hostetler

    This book contains the introspective musings of the author Frank Schaeffer who has traversed the wide spectrum from Christian fundamentalist (including being an organizer for the religious right in the 70s and early 80s) to being an atheist who now offers apologies for his actions during that era of his life. His 2007 autobiography, "Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back," tells the story of his change This book contains the introspective musings of the author Frank Schaeffer who has traversed the wide spectrum from Christian fundamentalist (including being an organizer for the religious right in the 70s and early 80s) to being an atheist who now offers apologies for his actions during that era of his life. His 2007 autobiography, "Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back," tells the story of his change of heart. But his adopted version of atheism apparently has an asterisk--he's still able to say he believes in God. He continues to experience aspects of spirituality as a part of being in touch with what it means to be fully human. The author admits it's a paradox, but he has decided he can live with it. This book is the author's attempt to explain why in his mind the paradox makes sense. I suppose readers camped on the extremes of the theism/atheism divide will fail to understand Schaeffer's thinking. To the atheist he's too religious; to the conservative religious he's a humanist. However, most progressive/liberal Christians can probably accept him to be one "untimely born" to an enlightened understanding of the narrative of Jesus. And like the Apostle Paul who was also untimely born, he's stirring things up with his writing. Readers who have experienced similar transitions along the path from conservative Christianity toward agnosticism and perhaps on to atheism will likely be able to identify with many of the feelings expressed in this book. Here are a several quotations from the book that caught my eye:"Embracing paradox helped me discover that religion is a neurological disorder for which faith is the only cure" "Jesus was the first of the Enlightenment philosophers." "The words objective reality are just a metaphor for something I’ll never encounter." [referring to his grandchildren] "Their world is a safe place where ... there’s no need to justify clinging to a sustaining myth by embracing fancy terms like apophatic or mystery. "... there are no good reasons for anything, just circumstances." "You will always embody contradiction. You--like some sort of quantum mechanicals physics experiment--will always be in two places at once." "Belief is never the point--actions are." "There are no objective facts, just personal histories and the coincidences of time and place seen through the lenses of short lives. Deal with it." The letter contained within this Huffington Post article does a good job capturing the spirit of this book. Here is a Forbes Magazine article about Frank Schaeffer.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jim

    I love it when people think. I love it when people doubt. Nothing is worse than blind, arrogant certainty. Frank Schaeffer provides us with a set of paradoxes. At the same time, he believes in God and doesn't believe in God. He has rejected religion yet finds great comfort in it. I have to say, I love this book. I don't know if it hit me at the right time in my life to hear this, but I think it's amazing. Not that the writing is just wonderful or anything, but the ideas he sets forth in this boo I love it when people think. I love it when people doubt. Nothing is worse than blind, arrogant certainty. Frank Schaeffer provides us with a set of paradoxes. At the same time, he believes in God and doesn't believe in God. He has rejected religion yet finds great comfort in it. I have to say, I love this book. I don't know if it hit me at the right time in my life to hear this, but I think it's amazing. Not that the writing is just wonderful or anything, but the ideas he sets forth in this book are really resonating with me. Doubting is okay. We don't ever have proof beyond a reasonable doubt that there IS a God or that there's NOT a God. And that's okay. It doesn't have to impact faith, or belief, or how we live out our lives. I know that sounds wishy-washy and fence-straddling. But what other choice do we have? The religious fundamentalists on one side and the New Atheists on the other, with their certainty, their anger, and their hate. But doubt is divine, I think, and is where the true path lies. We're all doing just doing our best to figure it out. What more can we do? But it's not fence-straddling. Regardless of what you believe, or who, or what you believe in, there's a consistent thread of love making the world better throughout mankind's history. Either you're part of that, and are creating heaven, or you're not, and you're responsible for hell.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bruce

    It's good to finally read an account that comes close to describing my "religious views." I typically refer to myself as a Christian Atheist or Hindu Agnostic, although sometimes it's just No Categories Apply. It's refreshing to see an acknowledgement that we are capable of simultaneously holding conflicting beliefs. I discovered that when my wife passed away and my faith died, but I would still pray on my wife's behalf. I discuss this in the introductory chapter of my book on how Vickie's passin It's good to finally read an account that comes close to describing my "religious views." I typically refer to myself as a Christian Atheist or Hindu Agnostic, although sometimes it's just No Categories Apply. It's refreshing to see an acknowledgement that we are capable of simultaneously holding conflicting beliefs. I discovered that when my wife passed away and my faith died, but I would still pray on my wife's behalf. I discuss this in the introductory chapter of my book on how Vickie's passing impacted me, which is viewable at brucekeener.com As I note there, even the late great Richard Feynman appears to have been at least occasionally effected with this human ability to simultaneously believe and disbelieve. (My book is I Know You're Dead But I Still Worry About You) I think Mr. Schaeffer’s unique contribution in addressing this facet of human nature is that we should accept it for what it is and reject our tendency to want certainty. With my engineering degrees, and with OCD, I have a strong tendency to want certainty in every aspect of life. But, while my desire for certainty may be stronger than most, most of us have it to some degree. Mr. Schaeffer just accepts the uncertainty. He also, as an expert in art, notes how our appreciation of art is impossible to explain mechanistically, arguing that there is real beauty in the world, independent of whether we appreciate it or not. Mr. Schaeffer is a good writer, although the book seems to wander a bit from time to time. I read a few of his dad's books when I was trying to "refind" God/god/gods in the years following Vickie's death. Looks like he inherited and improved upon his dad's excellent communication skills. I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for answers to the questions of meaning, life, and God.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca

    (3.5) On his way back from his mother’s funeral in Switzerland, Frank Schaeffer met a Swedish opera singer on a plane and they discussed their spiritual experiences. Even though he doesn’t really believe in life after death or divine intervention, he knew it was his mother’s doing. That’s just one of the many accessible anecdotes in this short, readable book about accepting uncertainty and paradox. After all, Schaeffer writes, “We’re all of at least two minds.” (I was pleased to interview Schaeff (3.5) On his way back from his mother’s funeral in Switzerland, Frank Schaeffer met a Swedish opera singer on a plane and they discussed their spiritual experiences. Even though he doesn’t really believe in life after death or divine intervention, he knew it was his mother’s doing. That’s just one of the many accessible anecdotes in this short, readable book about accepting uncertainty and paradox. After all, Schaeffer writes, “We’re all of at least two minds.” (I was pleased to interview Schaeffer and several other religion authors for this Kirkus Indie feature article.)

  5. 5 out of 5

    Krista

    I picked up this book because I had read "Crazy for God" by Frank Schaeffer and resonated with his story and experience with the right-wing, conservative church. I am always curious how people who have left the conservative church deal with faith later on and so this book appealed to me. But the first few chapters were hard going- they seemed to lack a thesis and point and I felt like each chapter was random musings not designed to go anywhere. I pressed on and am glad that I did, because I thin I picked up this book because I had read "Crazy for God" by Frank Schaeffer and resonated with his story and experience with the right-wing, conservative church. I am always curious how people who have left the conservative church deal with faith later on and so this book appealed to me. But the first few chapters were hard going- they seemed to lack a thesis and point and I felt like each chapter was random musings not designed to go anywhere. I pressed on and am glad that I did, because I think that was an intentional style choice designed to highlight Mr. Schaeffer's view of faith. I enjoyed his honesty and doubt and the idea that faith isn't about "believing" one thing to the exclusion of all other ideas, but is about hoping for something true and using all evidence to find it. That there can be meaning in ritual if it connects you with peace and truth despite the faults in the tradition. That having faith in God and Jesus doesn't mean you must agree whole-heartedly with the bible or church tradition. That having belief in God doesn't mean you dont doubt it just as much.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Bryan Neuschwander

    Schaeffer somehow wishes to wield the metaphysical blade of both/and's, clasping the business edge of the vorpal blade with both hands, that is (with props to Charlie Dodgson). I'm not so sure Schaeffer's ideas survive the snicker-snack, so to speak. I wonder if all of us homo sapiens are fundamentalists at a primal level. For all the uncertainty expressed, he seems awfully certain of certain things. Maybe in our uffish thoughts we all just find it easier to face a maxome foe in a tulgey wood. I' Schaeffer somehow wishes to wield the metaphysical blade of both/and's, clasping the business edge of the vorpal blade with both hands, that is (with props to Charlie Dodgson). I'm not so sure Schaeffer's ideas survive the snicker-snack, so to speak. I wonder if all of us homo sapiens are fundamentalists at a primal level. For all the uncertainty expressed, he seems awfully certain of certain things. Maybe in our uffish thoughts we all just find it easier to face a maxome foe in a tulgey wood. I'm glad he still thinks that beauty and love and peace are cool, even if Jesus is somewhat suspect and the Bible certain silliness. Maybe in the looking glass of life "There are no objective facts, just personal histories and the coincidences of time and place seen through the lenses of short lives." And if so, perhaps we can just come galumphing back, waving at art and ultimate meaning with our nearly severed fingers. O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! Or maybe we're in another story entirely--one we didn't create ourselves. Maybe we just see as through a glass. Darkly.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Socraticgadfly

    Tosh. You're either an atheist, or a god-believer. Not both. (Not the first time I heard such mush. I once heard a Ph.D. in philosophy and self-defined atheist talk about regularly praying.) Many religious believers have doubts about their relationship to god, but never call themselves atheist. Many also reject certain ideas or definitions of god, but never call themselves atheist. I think Frankie is trying to cash in further with the last couple of years worth of buzz and huzzahs he's gained with Tosh. You're either an atheist, or a god-believer. Not both. (Not the first time I heard such mush. I once heard a Ph.D. in philosophy and self-defined atheist talk about regularly praying.) Many religious believers have doubts about their relationship to god, but never call themselves atheist. Many also reject certain ideas or definitions of god, but never call themselves atheist. I think Frankie is trying to cash in further with the last couple of years worth of buzz and huzzahs he's gained with political progressives. Pass.

  8. 5 out of 5

    John

    Schaeffer believes in an Apophatic theology (p. 16).... whatever that is. The very word suggests that the realties of love, peace, and beauty—words that sum up the theme of his thoughts—that religion ascribes to God are aspects of life we experience individually. I see Maslow's peak experience in Schaeffer's attempt at explanation. They are as unexplainable as the taste of apples described for someone who never had one. So Schaeffer cannot call himself an atheist even though he has left fundament Schaeffer believes in an Apophatic theology (p. 16).... whatever that is. The very word suggests that the realties of love, peace, and beauty—words that sum up the theme of his thoughts—that religion ascribes to God are aspects of life we experience individually. I see Maslow's peak experience in Schaeffer's attempt at explanation. They are as unexplainable as the taste of apples described for someone who never had one. So Schaeffer cannot call himself an atheist even though he has left fundamentalism or the theology of his parents. But he is not an atheist either or only because God is visible to him in his granddaughter's, Lucy's, playful exploration and expression of her reality... in her love and the peaceful recollection of her eating a tomato. And then there's the life of Jesus which revealed to Schaeffer the face of God in bold contradiction to the fundamentalism of his youth. Notwithstanding, he attends church more out of guilt, perhaps. I’d feel guilty because Mom and Dad conditioned me to be in church on Sunday! (p. 43) This is a delightful read because it is his life not his theological opinion or philosophical argument of choice, per se. It is his life. It is delightful to read because he remains confusedly clear and naturally spiritual while trying to describe the paradox that has become his life. The book is full of one liners for your wall!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Georgina Li

    I had a lot more difficulty with this book than I anticipated. Between the author's massive ego and his (related) unwillingness to be edited, I had a hard time wading through his opinions on art, music, child rearing and spirituality, and grandchildren. So much about his grandchildren. There should have should have been something about that in the title, or the subtitle. Or maybe a warning sticker. For real. From what I could gather, his whole belief system is wrapped up in childbearing/childrea I had a lot more difficulty with this book than I anticipated. Between the author's massive ego and his (related) unwillingness to be edited, I had a hard time wading through his opinions on art, music, child rearing and spirituality, and grandchildren. So much about his grandchildren. There should have should have been something about that in the title, or the subtitle. Or maybe a warning sticker. For real. From what I could gather, his whole belief system is wrapped up in childbearing/childrearing --- of you don't have kids, you can't really access his God, or his spirituality, or whatever. Anyway, if you don't care about other people's grandkids, or love listening to old men go on and on about how beautiful it is to see ones own genes in action and ones own love reflected back, and if you don't dig listening to old guys opine about the wonderful women in their lives, friends, lovers, and mothers, then this book probably isn't for you. It definitely wasn't for me.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kevan

    Frank Jr. has grown up -- a lot -- since Crazy for God. Some of the wisest and most thoughtful musings on faith I've read in a while, encouraging the embrace of paradox as a simple reality. Sure, his thoughts can be a little scathing, a little rambling, but his writing is sharp and his points are needed right now. It seems so much of the world wants to draw huge dividing lines between camps ("You're either with us or against us" style, or Dems vs Republicans, creation vs evolution, name your bat Frank Jr. has grown up -- a lot -- since Crazy for God. Some of the wisest and most thoughtful musings on faith I've read in a while, encouraging the embrace of paradox as a simple reality. Sure, his thoughts can be a little scathing, a little rambling, but his writing is sharp and his points are needed right now. It seems so much of the world wants to draw huge dividing lines between camps ("You're either with us or against us" style, or Dems vs Republicans, creation vs evolution, name your battle), but Frank won't have it. We're all a little of both.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kirk

    Excellent. I hope my kids will read this.

  12. 5 out of 5

    F.E. Jr.

    Frank Schaeffer's work has given meaning to my own personal/ spiritual/ doubter journey. As a former IFB (Independent fundamental Baptist) I regarded religion as a poison and God nothing more than a Brute. A bully. A devil. And then you get the New Testament which shows Jesus as an alright kinda guy. Which is the Bible's most GLARING contradiction since JEsus was supposedly God made Flesh. Yet through the years and through the softening of my cynicism, I've found that, I too, exist in multiple p Frank Schaeffer's work has given meaning to my own personal/ spiritual/ doubter journey. As a former IFB (Independent fundamental Baptist) I regarded religion as a poison and God nothing more than a Brute. A bully. A devil. And then you get the New Testament which shows Jesus as an alright kinda guy. Which is the Bible's most GLARING contradiction since JEsus was supposedly God made Flesh. Yet through the years and through the softening of my cynicism, I've found that, I too, exist in multiple places at once. Both skeptic and believer. Both saved and unsaved. Both atheist and devout.Profane and most Holy. And in the meantime I find myself searching for the meaning of life, the meaning of truth, and oftentimes throwing myself at one belief system or another instead of trying to be all "NPR-ISH" and consider all things to be true on some level or another. And with age and time come wisdom. Although I have abandoned my own evangelical roots, I can't help sometimes that I speak with evangelical ferocity and 'cast myself out Eden' so to speak. Frank makes a compelling argument about life and while he props up all belief systems he castigates absolutism in both the believer and the non believer alike - and makes a case for a centrist view of the world. With anecdotal stories about his own personal experiences with life (and some words I admit I had to go look up in a dictionary) a portrait of a man who left religion to discover God wrapped up in love and light is painted with brilliant strokes of genius as well as kindness. He admits that his work may be a little self indulgent, but I think that perhaps here he may be wrong. As creatures with the infinite need to connect to others of our species, Frank has made a path in Frost's Yellow Wood - and unlike his contemporaries of evangelical notoriety, he kindly suggests that the path least taken shall always make the difference. And as far as his addressing the fundamentalistic strain of the modern NEw Atheistic movement, I say good on him as well. There are other forms of 'knowing', Plato's anamnesis comes to mind. And dismissing our attraction to beauty, truth, love, and justice as mere chemical and evolutionary constructs dangles men over a perdition of absolute nothingness - which is by far worse than anything Jonathan Edwards could have conceived of when he wrote "Sinners in the hands of an Angry God." I highly recommend this to those of you who are trying to break free of the mundaneness of either side of the argument. If you want to immerse yourself into the rich experiences of the world, of God, of man, and occasionally well placed (and often hilarious ) profanity - I highly suggest this book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Todd Wilhelm

    One can always count on Frank Schaeffer to be brutally honest, which is why I like to read his books. "My dogmatic declarations of faith once provided status, ego-stroking power over others and a much better income than I’ve ever earned since fleeing the evangelical machine. Certainty made things simple, gave me an answer to every question and paid the bills. With the acceptance of paradox came a new and blessed uncertainty that began to heal the mental illness called certainty, the kind of certa One can always count on Frank Schaeffer to be brutally honest, which is why I like to read his books. "My dogmatic declarations of faith once provided status, ego-stroking power over others and a much better income than I’ve ever earned since fleeing the evangelical machine. Certainty made things simple, gave me an answer to every question and paid the bills. With the acceptance of paradox came a new and blessed uncertainty that began to heal the mental illness called certainty, the kind of certainty that told me that my job was to be head of the home and to order around my wife and children because “the Bible says so.” Embracing paradox helped me discover that religion is a neurological disorder for which faith is the only cure." p. 13, Kindle Edition. "Our best hope is not found in correct theology, the Bible or any other book, but in the love we express trough action rather than words. Our best hope is that love predates creation and thus that the Creator sees us as ever young. Our hope is that when we look at God through the eyes of the loving Christ we will see who God really is. Our ultimate hope is that God will be looking back at us as we'd like to be seen." p. 138, Kindle Edition. "Where we go to church, or whether we go, isn't the point. The point is who are we becoming? Does the church help you to become the sort of person you'd pick to be stuck on a desert island with? Good! Go! Does it hurt your chances of becoming that person? Run! p. 90, Kindle Edition. "Liturgy is about providing a silent space inside me where words are replaced by an experience of another dimension where I may sense the love of God. What I'm "looking for" in church is inner stillness and peace of the kind my friend Holly Meade lived out as she faced her death, not an adrenaline rush or entertainment, let alone spectacle. I do not need more entertainment! I live in a time and place where I'm bombarded by entertainment 24/7. Nor do I need more celebrity leaders or Bible teachers. I'm not looking for clever new words about so-called theological facts but for the experience of spirituality itself. The last thing I crave is to be exposed to the sort of grandstanding preachers that so many evangelical churches seem to breed with the ubiquity of maggots appearing in road kill. The last thing I want is a new and improved "worship experience." The last thing I want is for the service to be socially and politically relevant, or worse yet, politicized, as if faith is about who I should vote for according to a moralist left wing or right wing litmus test." p. 87, Kindle Edition.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kirsty Shark

    I found myself highlighting lots of passages in the first few chapters and Schaeffer has many cutting insights into the evangelical world but the writing just wasn't for me. He constantly uses stories from his day to day life, most of which involve spending time with his grandchildren, to illustrate his points. Maybe this appeals to a certain audience but I found it incredibly boring after a while and a little overindulgent on his part. I'd compare it to going to a dinner party and getting a sli I found myself highlighting lots of passages in the first few chapters and Schaeffer has many cutting insights into the evangelical world but the writing just wasn't for me. He constantly uses stories from his day to day life, most of which involve spending time with his grandchildren, to illustrate his points. Maybe this appeals to a certain audience but I found it incredibly boring after a while and a little overindulgent on his part. I'd compare it to going to a dinner party and getting a slideshow of family pictures rather than some interesting conversation. I also found the section dealing with art and post-modernism to be out of place. I get the points he was trying to make about art and beauty but it came across a bit snobby and unnecessary to me. I would love to have rated this book higher because I rate the overall ideas behind the book very highly. There are certain sections where he is incredibly on point and hits right to the heart of issues around hypocrisy, religion and belief. Unfortunately, I found it average at best. Great ideas but poor execution.

  15. 4 out of 5

    David Steele

    Just sad ...

  16. 4 out of 5

    Elf

    “If evolution has no direction or purpose, what on earth was Duke Ellington doing here?” Good question, mate! And the central idea behind this book which is, in the usual manner of Frank Schaeffer, all about life itself in its myriad hues with the author cocking a snook at scientists, theologians, and a variety of other folks (the Bloomsbury Group and Modernists) who are too damn sure about where they stand ideologically. Frank, unlike his father Francis Schaeffer, an influential fundamentalist E “If evolution has no direction or purpose, what on earth was Duke Ellington doing here?” Good question, mate! And the central idea behind this book which is, in the usual manner of Frank Schaeffer, all about life itself in its myriad hues with the author cocking a snook at scientists, theologians, and a variety of other folks (the Bloomsbury Group and Modernists) who are too damn sure about where they stand ideologically. Frank, unlike his father Francis Schaeffer, an influential fundamentalist Evangelical leader who had his feet mostly planted firmly in sola scriptura and sola fide, proves that he is truly human but with several octopus-like tentacles placed in different rocking boats, and he enjoys the experience of a roller coaster ride through life even as he seeks to draws us into sharing his viewpoints and insights through his expressive, free-flowing and humorous prose. His distaste for both fundamentalist Evangelicalism and radical scientism and evolutionism (a la Richard Dawkins and his ilk) is obvious as he proclaims his enviable 'position' of being caught in the paradox of being both an atheist and (Jesus-lovin) theist, an intellectual of sorts who is also an artist of sorts, leading a kind of anachronistic existence in a world where everyone has to wear a proper label while he continually seeks to find out who he is! The book has sections devoted to how he discovers the meaning of life in both his family, with his wife Genie and children and grandchildren, and community setting, in the Greek Orthodox Church. Apart from this, he speaks of books he has read, his intellectual companions, his love for art and artists, music and writing to thank for his 'being alive'. All of it is highly personal. I especially liked a section in which he explains why he made the move from the prison of Evangelicalism to the Greek Orthodox. The primary reason is a combination of aestheticism and a seeking after authentic spirituality. To quote him extensively, perhaps because it is a position that resonates with my personal belief system: "Jesus did that. He criticized everything religious around him yet still participated in the traditional liturgical formal worship of his day. The ancient Byzantine liturgies abide. Speaking only for myself, the Liturgy provides the interior space I crave, wherein I may “lay aside all earthly cares,” as the words of the prayer during the Great Entrance instruct. During these rituals, I’m not listening to a sermon or trying to decide if some preacher or other is clever or if I agree with him. The Liturgy isn’t about being taught, any more than music is about doing math. As Jesus said, it’s all about the spirit, not the geography. Liturgy is about providing a silent space inside me where words are replaced by an experience of another dimension where I may sense the love of God…not an adrenaline rush or entertainment, let alone spectacle. I do not need more entertainment! I live in a time and place where I’m bombarded by entertainment 24/7. Nor do I need more celebrity leaders or Bible teachers. I’m not looking for clever new words about so-called theological facts but for the experience of spirituality itself. The last thing I want is a new and improved “worship experience". The Orthodox view of salvation is that it’s not a series of magical steps, akin to the one-time born-again experience, but a journey. According to the Orthodox tradition, a person never becomes saved, because we are always becoming. The point is who are we becoming? I go to church as my means of trying to encounter God. I don’t go because I think my church is a better church, let alone the one true church. It’s just where I go. It’s just my means of establishing relationships with people who share my commitment to a liturgical tradition that I am fed by aesthetically and spiritually. Or put it this way: the Dude abides." Roving through history, from the Reformation to the Enlightenment (a Christian heresy, he calls it), scientific developments, evolution, gender issues, and so on, he keeps coming back to a fundamental issue he has grappled with all his life. In his mind, there is the Jesus Christ who unleashed the most powerful ethical revolution on the planet. Then there is the Jesus Christ in whose name fundamentalism, intolerance and violence is unleashed and people are forced into the religious binary of choosing to go to heaven or hell. For Schaeffer, the Jesus who is cited in Luke 6 contradicts the Jesus who is shown as willing to let people burn in hell for unbelief in Himself or other reasons. The second Jesus is the creation of interlopers who tampered with the writings on Jesus to create a religion, he suggests. Well, whatever the wide-ranging content of this book, like his other books, Frank is always a delightful read and an excellent counterweight to fundamentalist thinking, Christian or otherwise. One might even dare to say that he is 'enlightened' and can therefore embrace the paradox of being an atheist who believes in God. Read the book to figure out how to do it.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Marshall

    I found this book incredibly irritating and snooty. I didn't get very far in before I gave up reading it. The premise is the dumbest thing in the world. He is simultaneously an atheist and not an atheist. In other news, I am simultaneously human and not human, the sky is simultaneously blue and not blue, and my dog is currently simultaneously snoring and not snoring. I figured, hoped, this book would be about an atheist who finds comfort in some aspects of religion--the community, the rituals, t I found this book incredibly irritating and snooty. I didn't get very far in before I gave up reading it. The premise is the dumbest thing in the world. He is simultaneously an atheist and not an atheist. In other news, I am simultaneously human and not human, the sky is simultaneously blue and not blue, and my dog is currently simultaneously snoring and not snoring. I figured, hoped, this book would be about an atheist who finds comfort in some aspects of religion--the community, the rituals, the sermons--but I should have taken the title at face value. No, he really does think he believes and doesn't believe in something at the same time. His reasoning? Here, let me tell you about my mom. Seriously, that's what this book does. It's personal stories that basically make him wish there was a god, or things that baffle him in the world, or things that fill him with joy and wonder. Guess what, num nuts, that's called the human experience. It's not a "god" thing. It's a human thing. All humans grapple with these things, not just religious people. Realizing that life is complex doesn't make a god appear. It makes you appear. I tried to be patient, but this was the line that pissed me off and made me realize this guy has his head shoved completely up his ass: "There are no objective facts, just personal histories and the coincidences of time and place seen through the lenses of short lives. Deal with it." Okay, first of all. The second someone tells me to "deal with it" I want to punch them. The premise behind "deal with it" is "I'm more in touch with reality than you are. You're having trouble coping with it because of your feeble, inferior brain. I am not going to help you understand this because it is beneath me to do so." But the rest of the quote is almost as pompous. There are no objective facts? Oh really. If you jump off a building, you will fall to your death. I posit that that is an objective fact. If you really believe there are no objective facts, then you should have no problem making that jump. And what the hell does "just personal histories and coincidences of time and place seen through the lenses of short lives" even mean? Okay, it's poetic, I get that. I think the point is that it isn't supposed to really make objective sense, because the author believes life doesn't make sense, and therefore god. Make this book stop. Oh look. I already did.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Picked this back up again after having read it when it was first published. Schaeffer's honesty, self-examination, and calling something what it is is so very necessary and rare. Picked this back up again after having read it when it was first published. Schaeffer's honesty, self-examination, and calling something what it is is so very necessary and rare.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Yashar

    Ideas discussed were worth consideration, and the author had really a point to make. Nonetheless, some of his reasonings and arguments were unfortunately very bad. The most awful parts were when the author tried to support his ideas with scientific data, which were always inaccurate (no reference had been mentioned, and just those unreferenced scientific experiments were inadequately mentioned that would support his ideas), oversimplified, and presented as absolute truths while it's obvious that Ideas discussed were worth consideration, and the author had really a point to make. Nonetheless, some of his reasonings and arguments were unfortunately very bad. The most awful parts were when the author tried to support his ideas with scientific data, which were always inaccurate (no reference had been mentioned, and just those unreferenced scientific experiments were inadequately mentioned that would support his ideas), oversimplified, and presented as absolute truths while it's obvious that every scientific observation has its own uncertainties. If the author had just discussed his ideas, narrated his personal experiences and omitted the parts in which he tried to prove them, this book could be a much better work. For example there is no need for mentioning some kindergarten level quantum mechanics I order to support your claim that the life is inherently paradoxical and all of our experiences are multifaceted. The latter could be discovered, as has been discovered in antiquity, from daily life experience, without any knowledge of quantum mechanics. One of the most awful reasonings was presented in the following paragraph: "Like the best rock, rap and pop, film scores are also still stubbornly tonal as is country, rap, DJ- created techno- dance tracks, blues and jazz. Why hasn’t atonal music caught on after more than a hundred years of earnest striving by dedicated composers and professional critics? These days the failure of certain forms of ideological modernism appears to have a scientific explanation. Humans share common aesthetic ideas that arise directly from our physical beings. Maybe this is because our brains process sound in an orderly manner so we can survive." First and foremost, the unpopularity of an artwork doesn't mean that it is aesthetically inferior, as the mere popularity doesn't give a piece of work any credentials beyond being popular. Second, the author has put a very specific claim that there are only certain and specific true aesthetic ideas that originates from our genetics, which is a very ambitious one. The scientific data for backing up it is presented in the next 2 paragraphs, where the author has just mentioned that neurobiologists and ethnomusicologists have found this without even troubling himself to mention who these neurobiologists and ethnomusicologists were, what their experiments were, where these findings were published, how accurate these experiments were, or at least some references just for the sake of the reader to cross check such an assertive claim. This way of mentioning scientific data (oversimplified, generalised into the form of absolute truths and unreferenced) is very dangerous, because it may lead to various forms of manipulation of scientific data for backing up a specific claim, which could be even completely wrong. The other problem arose when the author tried to present his ideas by bundling evolution, Big Bang, gospel, personal experiences and his ideas about love together. Like financial derivatives in which a tiny portion of various assets are bundled together to minimise risk and making them more applicable to costumers, which in reality lead to production of worthless assets, bundling so many themes together to make an idea more reasonable or applicable doesn't always work.

  20. 4 out of 5

    David

    Maybe the best book I've read that I'd be reluctant to recommend largely due to its title. In fact, if you read Frank Schaeffer's blog (which seldom has had an entry lately that didn't advertise this book), if you scroll down to the comments (usually a bad idea), you'll always find at least one person who is offended by the use of the word "atheist" in the title. To be clear: this is not a book about being an atheist. As the author points out, it would be wrong to place it on an atheism section Maybe the best book I've read that I'd be reluctant to recommend largely due to its title. In fact, if you read Frank Schaeffer's blog (which seldom has had an entry lately that didn't advertise this book), if you scroll down to the comments (usually a bad idea), you'll always find at least one person who is offended by the use of the word "atheist" in the title. To be clear: this is not a book about being an atheist. As the author points out, it would be wrong to place it on an atheism section when trying to sell books. It is also a little too far removed from traditional Christian thinking to make the Christian section of a bookstore. This book will probably reach a small audience. Those who are content with a version of fundamentalist Christianity will find this book to be superficial and overly humanistic. Militant atheists will think he hasn't gotten far enough from Christian thinking. This is a largely autobiographical account of the author in his journey of faith in God, going from being the son of famous evangelical parents to rebelling and finding his own understanding. He explains how he takes comfort in many things his parents said or did, even if he doesn't always agree with what motivated them. He explains how science can not be explained way by a literal interpretation of scripture, but also how science itself cannot explain our own desire to rise above the laws of natural selection: to be kind rather than to kill the weak, to love the beauty of nature and not just survive in it. For those who feel that God is real, but not as easily described as pop culture would have you believe, but that the truths of the Bible are largely symbolic, this book will reach its mark for those readers. Schaffer's blog is usually enlightening and entertaining, but quite a few of his posts have what I gather to be an angry tone. It's for that very reason that I usually prefer Benjamin Corey's blog, with a similar theological take but more on the gentle side. Reading this book wasn't high on my list, but when it was offered in a 48-hour promo as a free e-book, I downloaded and started to read it. Schaffer's anger isn't absent, but it's way in the background here. This book is about the beauty he sees in life, through his grandchildren, through his painting and writing, through music. It describes the process of God, while demonstrating what he believes to be the shortcomings of fundamentalist thinking. There are many rich, quotable passages throughout. This one sums up the book: "Want to be sure you have THE TRUTH about yourself and want to be consistent to that truth? Then prepare to go mad. Or prepare to turn off your brain and cling to some form or other of fundamentalism, be that religious or secular." I also loved this one: "How we treat others is the only proof of truth we have. That proof is not found in any book. It is only found in the expression of unconditional trust we may sometimes see in the eyes of the people who know us best." Highly recommended...but only if you're in the small demographics of readers who could appreciate such a book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Theo Logos

    A large part of the charm of Frank Schaeffer's writing is his conversational, stream on consciousness style. At his best, Frank is a story teller, making his points in an informal, chatty manner. With this book his approach largely fails. His stream of consciousness becomes disjointed, unfocused, even at times confusing, subverting his story telling skills. The promise that he makes in the book's title, the main hook that drew me in, namely exploring the meaning of the contradiction of being an A large part of the charm of Frank Schaeffer's writing is his conversational, stream on consciousness style. At his best, Frank is a story teller, making his points in an informal, chatty manner. With this book his approach largely fails. His stream of consciousness becomes disjointed, unfocused, even at times confusing, subverting his story telling skills. The promise that he makes in the book's title, the main hook that drew me in, namely exploring the meaning of the contradiction of being an atheist who believes in God, was sadly neglected. He touches on the theme with a few fascinating sentences, but then meanders away from it, never really wrestling with this paradox in any kind of satisfying way. Essentially, this short book is Schaeffer sharing the moments of his life that give him meaning. If you already have a history with his writing, his journey, and his life story, this is not totally without value, but if not, it is slight fare, indeed. If you haven't read any of his other works, definitely don't start with this one, and even if you have read and enjoyed his other books as I have, you won't lose much by skipping this one.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tim

    This was the first book by the author that I have read, and I enjoyed it. Schaeffer talks about how his relationships with his wife, friends, and grandchildren are so close to his heart, and even affect how he sees the world and religion. His candid reflections and stories are touching, and his apophatic view of life is wiser than one might want to admit (we all tend to cling to identities and justifications!).

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    I enjoyed Schaeffer's writing style, more musing than telling. I enjoyed Schaeffer's writing style, more musing than telling.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lance Carlson

    I like his point of view where faith is floundering in uncertainty but overrun with love. Not a bad way to live.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Frank Schaeffer wrote a love letter to his grandchildren, children, wife Genie, his mother and father and a dear friend he met on a flight from Switzerland to Boston after his mother died. In the midst of that story, Frank explained how and why he believes what he believes because of and in some ways in spite of how he was raised by Christian missionary parents. I was raised Catholic, moved to Arizona from upstate New York as a young teen (age 13) with my divorced mother and didn't return to chur Frank Schaeffer wrote a love letter to his grandchildren, children, wife Genie, his mother and father and a dear friend he met on a flight from Switzerland to Boston after his mother died. In the midst of that story, Frank explained how and why he believes what he believes because of and in some ways in spite of how he was raised by Christian missionary parents. I was raised Catholic, moved to Arizona from upstate New York as a young teen (age 13) with my divorced mother and didn't return to church until after high school. Whether I knew it (then) or not (mostly not) these things defined how I looked at the world. I didn't see things like Jews or Muslims or Hindus or any other religion. While serving overseas in the Armed Forces, my world view narrowed to that of a fundamentalist. I spent 12 years involved in a fundamentalist Christian cult. For the 34 years since, I've been working on expanding my world view as far as possible beyond the fundamentalism. Like Schaeffer, some days I believe, some days not so much. But I still rely on what I learned from the Bible to interpret my world and my life. Long ago, I realized life and spirituality were overflowing with paradox. Schaeffer's story is one of embracing paradox. In that regard, his message resonates greatly with me. The author's words bring to life that his grandchildren are among his greatest joys. To which I can heartily say, me too.

  26. 4 out of 5

    James R

    Not too surprisingly I found this self-published book disappointing. The title promises much more than it delivers, still for people who might be looking for encouragement to step away from fundamentalist Evangelicalism you might find useful encouragement here. For those deeply attached to that branch of Christianity, you will likely be deeply offended or can use him as a troubled negative example. I found some interesting and occasionally inspirational musings about how he finds meaning in the Not too surprisingly I found this self-published book disappointing. The title promises much more than it delivers, still for people who might be looking for encouragement to step away from fundamentalist Evangelicalism you might find useful encouragement here. For those deeply attached to that branch of Christianity, you will likely be deeply offended or can use him as a troubled negative example. I found some interesting and occasionally inspirational musings about how he finds meaning in the world, but his personal focus read like a memoir with way too much self recrimination that he seemed to be confessing as much for gaining positive attention and sympathy as anything particularly spiritual. He spends most of his time explaining why he has abandoned belief in a theistic deity, but only suggests how or why his attachment to beauty in art fills the void the abandonment of his childhood religion created. And his musings about art criticism were for me easily skimmed through. He defends his parents’ religious views, particularly his mother’s, so often one wonders if it’s not so much religion that split him from their religion or something else entirely. The book for me was a mixed bag, some useful and interesting insights mixed with some troubling personal confessions that detracted from what I imagine was his purpose. I wouldn’t discourage everyone from reading this book. It’s a starting place if one is searching for meaning outside of Christian fundamentalism.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Flachman

    This book is a breath of fresh air to anyone who grew up Evangelical and ever wrestled with the 'God of the Bible' who gets a pass for all kinds of monstrous behavior. For those of us who were subtly or not so subtly taught to worship the Bible and it's inerrancy, but who always suspected there is indeed, error, in a book written by men (either with fact or in translation), Frank offers some very thoughtful ponderings from a very non-theological viewpoint...which is refreshing. If you love theol This book is a breath of fresh air to anyone who grew up Evangelical and ever wrestled with the 'God of the Bible' who gets a pass for all kinds of monstrous behavior. For those of us who were subtly or not so subtly taught to worship the Bible and it's inerrancy, but who always suspected there is indeed, error, in a book written by men (either with fact or in translation), Frank offers some very thoughtful ponderings from a very non-theological viewpoint...which is refreshing. If you love theology and think it brings fullness to your world, skip this book. It will only make you angrier. My only criticism of the book is that it needs a bit more thorough editing. At least the Kindle version does. I don't know about the print version. There were some sentences and paragraphs that were ill-placed and a bit non-sensical in their rambling and distracted from the point. Also, many of the typos could easily have been avoided. I give it five stars anyway because I'm a fan of Frank's and appreciate his 'take no prisoners' approach. His writing is so needed for all of us to heal from the last 40 years of Evangelical fanaticism that has poisoned our national psyche.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    This read like a mishmash of Schaeffer’s thoughts and memories - hard to follow sometimes. But he has an interesting perspective, and there were some beautiful passages that stuck with me: “When the words I use fail to tell the story, Genie knows what I mean no matter how inadequate my words are. Thus my truest and deepest consciousness resides outside of me in someone else. It’s a relief to be understood by someone who knows me better than I know myself.” (p. 34) “Scientists have found direct evi This read like a mishmash of Schaeffer’s thoughts and memories - hard to follow sometimes. But he has an interesting perspective, and there were some beautiful passages that stuck with me: “When the words I use fail to tell the story, Genie knows what I mean no matter how inadequate my words are. Thus my truest and deepest consciousness resides outside of me in someone else. It’s a relief to be understood by someone who knows me better than I know myself.” (p. 34) “Scientists have found direct evidence of the expansion of the universe, the previously theoretical event that took place a fraction of a second after the Big Bang nearly 14 billion years ago. The clue is encoded in the primordial cosmic microwave background radiation that continues to spread. My hope is that a trillionth of a second before the Big Bang, the energy animating the mystery of matter being created out of nothing was love.” (p. 139)

  29. 5 out of 5

    Molly

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I read this book after seeing this man on a cable news show. His parents were successful evangelists on the religious right, and he was raised to be one himself. This is not the book in which he described leaving his faith and his family. I know from Wikipedia that he converted to Eastern Orthodoxy after being raised in the community founded by his parents in Switzerland. This book talks about being a grandparent, and what he tells his grandchildren about religion. In this book he describes his I read this book after seeing this man on a cable news show. His parents were successful evangelists on the religious right, and he was raised to be one himself. This is not the book in which he described leaving his faith and his family. I know from Wikipedia that he converted to Eastern Orthodoxy after being raised in the community founded by his parents in Switzerland. This book talks about being a grandparent, and what he tells his grandchildren about religion. In this book he describes his need for liturgy, which is satisfied by his new religion. People really interested in this man should probably read the other books. I myself am not that interested. The point I found most interesting is the desire for the words and rituals of organized religion, even when the faith is gone or very weak. This happens to a lot of people, I think.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Brenda McCloud

    Loved this book and Frank Schaeffer's honesty. I heard his dad, Francis Schaeffer speak at the Moody Bible Church in Chicago in 1977 who was very influential in founding the evangelical/fundamentalist religious right. Francis, as told by Frank in an earlier book, "Crazy for God", was very abusive to his mother Edith and ruled their home with an iron fist. Myself, coming from an evangelical/fundamentalist background, majoring in Bible in college then majoring in Church History and Theology in sem Loved this book and Frank Schaeffer's honesty. I heard his dad, Francis Schaeffer speak at the Moody Bible Church in Chicago in 1977 who was very influential in founding the evangelical/fundamentalist religious right. Francis, as told by Frank in an earlier book, "Crazy for God", was very abusive to his mother Edith and ruled their home with an iron fist. Myself, coming from an evangelical/fundamentalist background, majoring in Bible in college then majoring in Church History and Theology in seminary (both evangelical schools), and now as a converted Reform Jew, I can be free to think and discuss. Frank Schaeffer goes to an Orthodox Church as he still identifies with the liturgy and music and especially the community but also an atheist. We live in paradoxes and that is why I really like his views.

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