I’ve been posting through some chapters of Phil Zuckerman’s book on Apostasy, Faith No More: why people leave religion and am fast forwarding to the end.
Zuckerman’s book is a good read. But after a while a curious reversibility becomes more and more apparent. Just as the journey to apostasy is (usually) gradual, so is conversion.
It strikes me that it would be perfectly possible to write a mirror image of this book based on 87 stories of conversion to ‘religion’ (a fairly useless word to describe something to leave or convert to but let’s stick with it). Indeed it could be argued that all conversions are a form of apostasy from something. In other words, apostasy can go the other way; from irreligion to ‘religion’.
Zuckerman argues that apostasy represents a refusal to conform and ‘is thus strong evidence of the undeniable significance and importance of individuality, variability, and human agency.’ (170). But the same thing could be said of conversion to faith, especially in the increasingly secular, post-Christendom culture of the West.
Throughout the book it is implicit where the author’s sympathies lie. This is made explicit in his self-confessedly impressionistic description of apostate characteristics: ‘courageous’, ‘bright’, ‘inquisitive’, ‘freethinkers’, ‘life-lovers’ and so on. Yet, the same words could be used if I was to compile a similarly impressionistic description of committed Christians I know (leaving out the fearful, slow, uncurious, conforming and life-hating ones I know 🙂 )
So while this is a well written and engaging read that sheds light on the stories, emotions, thoughts, experiences and struggles of men and women in the United States who have left faith and religious involvement for a more secular life, I am not sure that it tells us anything definitive or new.
Comments, as ever, welcome