Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God


A faith-oriented autobiography with an unconventional approach.

“All we have is our stories,” writes novelist Schaeffer (Crazy for God, 2008, etc.) in this entertaining, energetic new memoir. He follows through on this point by filling his book with story after story, all told with the clarity and catchy pacing of a born raconteur. There are tales of his wry, wisecracking mother; his wife, Genie; his grandchildren Lucy and Jack; and his friend, the artist Holly Meade, whose unexpected death, he writes, “broke through my innermost protective layer of denial.” There are more complex reminiscences about his life as a professional writer; among his many books is the quite good 1992 novel Portofino. But the stories that cast the longest shadows are those about his straight-laced religious upbringing as the son of evangelical missionaries. At one point, he confesses, a bit ruefully, that “[m]yth or not, I sometimes like the result of my parents’ delusions.” Fairly early in life, he abandoned strictly conformist religious attitudes, and after “fleeing the evangelical machine,” he embarked on a broader, more ecumenical inquiry into the nature of faith and spirituality, which fills much of this new book. Interwoven with his personal stories, he sketches an appealingly open-minded and even paradox-embracing approach to nonbelief: “An agnostic neither believes nor disbelieves in God,” he writes. “I’m not that person. I believe and don’t believe at the same time.” The book is often plagued by the unavoidable vagueness that accompanies such philosophizing, but Schaeffer’s essential levelheadedness always asserts itself to prevent excessive spiritual navel-gazing: “If we wait for correct ideas to save us—theological or otherwise—we’ll never be saved, even from ourselves,” he writes in a typically winning passage.

An intriguing, readable memoir aimed squarely at the post-faith modern era.

Pub Date: May 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-1495955013

Page Count: 162

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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