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.
"Everyone knows, deep down, that there is a conflict between reason and faith-between having good reasons for what one believes and having bad ones. This conflict finds its most poignant expression in the lives of men and women who have lost their belief in God despite their best efforts to maintain it. Faith No More offers a fascinating look at these lives, and at the myriad ways in which thoughtful people can come to their senses."
--Sam Harris, author of the New York Times bestsellers The Moral Landscape, Letter to a Christian Nation, and The End of Faith
"With Faith No More Philip Zuckerman has given us a fascinating look at how individual contemporary Americans raised in various religions awakened out of a belief in the supernatural. His care in not rounding all these up into any facile overarching theories is itself almost supernatural, and yet in this careful reporting of their stories he manages to offer a great deal of insight. It is a wonderfully informative and provocative study and should be read by everyone interested in the real experience of religion and irreligion."
--Jennifer Michael Hecht, author of Doubt: A History
"Faith No More helps us understand the diverse routes people take to irreligiosity and the dilemmas they face in a culture that often condemns them. Far from being kneejerk atheists, it turns out that the most secular Americans have actually spent a lot of time wrestling with their faith. Documenting their journeys and placing them in sociological context, this book establishes Phil Zuckerman as one of the most sophisticated analysts of secularity today." --Arlene Stein, Professor of Sociology, Rutgers University
"This could-be-dry content proves immensely engaging becuase of Zuckerman's jargin-free exposition and his seamless incorporation of interview material rendered apparently verbatim-verbal tics("like,""you know," etc) and all-in the manner of a good documentart film."--Ray Olson, Booklist
"Zuckerman's writing is engaging and straightforward, which makes for enjoyable reading...[Faith No More] is laudable for its rich interview data, readability, and insight into the lived experiences of American apostates."--Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion
"This is an absorbing book that puts flesh on the bones of recent identifiable trends in American nonbelief and, in turn, profoundly questions the assumption of a 'spiritual turn' in Western societies. Moreover, it provides distinctive insights into the complexities of belief, nonbelief, doubt and scepticism."--Social Forces
"Zuckerman here builds on his previous work which examined 'Society without God,' that is, Nordic countries which rank amongst the least religious places in the world. In this book he combines qualitative interviews and rich descriptions to produce an interesting and well written book."--Catholic Books Review
"The interview data are valuable for research on irreligion in America. The book will probably be enjoyed most by readers who, like Zuckerman's subjects, have lost their religion. These readers are likely to feel encouraged that they are not alone, that it takes courage to do what they have done, and that life can be good without religion."--Sociology of Religion
About the Author
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