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Faith No More: Why People Reject Religionby Phil Zuckerman
Synopses & Reviews
During his 2009 inaugural speech, President Obama described the United States as a nation of "Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus--and nonbelievers." It was the first time an American president had acknowledged the existence of this rapidly growing segment of the population in such a public forum. And yet the reasons why more and more people are turning away from religion are still poorly understood.
In Faith No More, Phil Zuckerman draws on in-depth interviews with people who have left religion to find out what's really behind the process of losing one's faith. According to a 2008 study, so many Americans claim no religion (15%, up from 8% in 1990) that this category now outranks every other religious group except Catholics and Baptists. Exploring the deeper stories within such survey data, Zuckerman shows that leaving one's faith is a highly personal, complex, and drawn-out process. And he finds that, rather than the cliché of the angry, nihilistic atheist, apostates are life-affirming, courageous, highly intelligent and inquisitive, and deeply moral. Zuckerman predicts that this trend toward nonbelief will likely continue and argues that the sooner we recognize that religion is frequently and freely rejected by all sorts of men and women, the sooner our understanding of the human condition will improve.
The first book of its kind, Faith No More will appeal to anyone interested in the "New Atheism" and indeed to anyone wishing to more fully understand our changing relationship to religious faith.
"In this sociological study of 'apostates,' defined as religious people who later become atheists, Zuckerman, a professor of sociology at Pitzer College, interviews former adherents from a variety of religions — among them Muslims, Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses — and examines their religious histories and motivations for rejecting belief. Though apostates are a steadily growing category of the American religious landscape, little research focuses on them and much of the public still mistrusts them. Though much work remains to be done on the topic, Zuckerman's interviews and analysis are an intriguing contribution to the literature, covering everything from a list of the main reasons people leave their religions (parents, friends, education, personal misfortunes, and sex all feature prominently) to a correlation between secularization and women entering the workforce. If anything, the book's greatest flaw is its brevity: the conclusion, for example, hints at a comparison between apostates in America and atheists elsewhere, which would have been an interesting topic for further exploration. Nevertheless, Zuckerman's solid research and insights make this book an important contribution to the field and a thoroughly fascinating read." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Phil Zuckerman is Professor of Sociology at Pitzer College. He is the author of Society without God: What the Least Religious Nations Can Tell Us about Contentment, Atheism and Secularity, and Invitation to the Sociology of Religion.
Table of Contents
Chapter One: Mother was an Exorcist
Chapter Two: Stopped Making Sense
Chapter Three: Misfortune
Chapter Four: To be Mormon, or Not to Be
Chapter Five: Sex and Secularity
Chapter Six: Others
Chapter Seven: Jail, Food Stamps, and Atheism
Chapter Eight: The Apostate Worldview
Chapter Nine: All in the Family?
Chapter Ten: How and Why People Reject Religion
Appendix: Research Methods and Sample Characteristics
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