In his debut nonfiction title, Markham explores what religion could be without fundamentalism.
Markham’s brief book asks the big questions: Why does anything exist? Why do bad things happen? What is the nature of the soul, heaven, hell and God? What is truth—for that matter, is there one truth at all? Drawing heavily from his own experience, Markham argues against fundamentalist beliefs. Instead, he regards religion (primarily Christianity) as a guide and metaphor rather than a set of iron-clad rules and truths. In a well-rounded, deeply considered purview, Markham pulls in many modern thinkers—Paul Tillich, Karen Armstrong, Martin Buber and Erich Fromm—as part of an unaggressive, readable narrative that will be palatable to even the most rabidly dogmatic believers. Markham sees God as unknowable yet nonetheless inspiring. Heaven is a state of being where one is connected to the divine presence, whereas hell is a state of disconnect—as opposed to a reward- or punishment-based delineation for adhering to a particular set of beliefs. He believes the soul is not a separate self but an awareness of the interconnectedness of all beings. While this belief system may veer toward concepts found in modern interfaith practices, the author argues against the relativism that can arrange all beliefs as being equally valid; instead, he recognizes the values of unique religious beliefs and the dangers of simply doing away with them. Markham’s grounding in religious practices makes for a refreshing read, and the earnest, lucid prose invites readers to consider their own beliefs. Unlike some works that challenge faith, this title considers all sides of the issue, including a fair, thoughtful dialogue between a fundamentalist and a secular agnostic.
Abundant food for thought for anyone who thinks religion should build more bridges and fewer walls.