Book Review: Atheist Voices of Minnesota

avmBy Nathan Curland

When I was first offered a copy of Atheist Voices of Minnesota to review I was less than intrigued. After all, I knew plenty of atheists and had heard many stories of miserable childhoods and escape from religion, so reading 36 variations on this theme seemed a bit less than stimulating.

Boy was I wrong.

From the moment I started reading, I was totally absorbed by the 36 individual narratives of the backgrounds and journeys of these people, some that I knew, many that I have heard of, and others that are (regrettably) still strangers. Their stories are unique and compelling. Many, you will find, hit close to your ‘home’. Did you ever have to fib to be able to do something at your church/synagogue? Or realize that your parents were just going through the motions and you were following in their footsteps? Or maybe just going to a university opened your eyes? Maybe you are gay and religion was not helping you. It’s all here.

Many of the narratives will touch your soul. How about a story that contrasts giving birth first as a Jehovah’s witness and later as an atheist? Or those recounting the details of the agonies one goes through coming out as an atheist. There is even one about spending years researching ghosts only to realize the futility of the quest. Another about growing up with Channelers!

So why do theists become atheists? The common thread seems to be that they never stop asking questions. Why do I have to believe? Why do I have to go to church? Or even Sunday school? What is death? Why is there a devil? Or Hell? Why is what you believe depend on where you were born? Why do good people die and bad ones live? The backgrounds are diverse: Catholic, Lutheran, Jehovah’s Witness, Mormons, Pentacostal, etc. etc.

Bill Lehto has put together an incredible and unique collection of 36 "tales" in a professional and well organized fashion. There are four parts into which these stories have been assigned depending on whether the pieces deal with Life as an Atheist, Coming Out as an Atheist, Letting Go of Faith, or Ethics and Action. Each section starts with an appropriate quote to ‘set the stage’. The forward, by Greta Christina, is inspiring (don’t skip it!) and the cover, by local artist Lynn Fellman, is appropriate, meaningful and beautiful.

This is a book that you will not only enjoy, but want to give (or lend) to friends, family and acquaintances. Don’t miss it.

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