Theism Thursday: The Answer to Bad Religion is Not No Religion

Posted 13 February, 2014 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Theism Thursday: The Answer to Bad Religion is Not No ReligionThe Answer to Bad Religion Is Not No Religion by Martin Thielen
Published by Westminster John Knox Press on February 2014
Genres: Christian Life, Religion, Spiritual Growth
Pages: 160

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange honest review consideration. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

If you think the only logical response to bad Christianity is to leave Christianity completely, this book is for you. In an effort to help those who've been hurt by or turned off by negative religion, Martin Thielen explains that there is an alternative to abandoning religion: good religion. Thielen uses personal stories to illustrate the dangers of religion that is judgmental, anti-intellectual, and legalistic. While addressing the growth of the new atheism movement and the "Nones" (people that have no religious affiliation), this book argues that leaving religion is not practical, not helpful, and not necessary. Thielen provides counterparts to the characteristics of bad religion, explaining that good religion is grace-filled, promotes love and forgiveness, and is inclusive and hope-filled.

Depending on how long you’ve been hanging around you know that I’m an atheist, but I don’t consider myself an anti-theist. I read a lot of Galley titles intended for Christians and I try to be fair in reviewing them. I believe that religion has the power to do a lot of good, when used correctly. I’m a pretty ‘live and let live’ kind of girl, so as long as you’re keeping within the First Amendment of the United States, not blowing people up, and generally not hurting others me, you, and your religion will probably get along. Let’s get on with the review  shall we?

Let’s start with the good. This book could almost be described as liberal. It’s pro-science, anti-judgmental, and entreats Christians to keep religion out of politics and keep nationalism out of religion. That in and of itself makes it a breath of fresh air.


YES! (Do you see how excited I am?) I love and respect my religious friends that have beaten up and battered their religion and still come out on the other side faithful. But I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about this book. While the author encourages inclusiveness and welcoming into the church he does have some non-negotiable stances. The two big ones are what you would expect, the divinity and resurrection of Christ. Cool, I can respect that. 

This book will be great for left-leaning Christians who feel like their religion has been hijacked by the American right-wing nutjobs wackos political party. The message is love, love, love. All you need is love. [insert more Beatles snippets here, dear Readers]

The bad. I’m almost reduced to nitpicking but there are some passages that I would be remiss if I didn’t mention. This book will be unconvincing for atheists and probably for most agnostics as well, it really is not geared towards those people no matter what the title says.

This book continues to perpetrate the myth that one must have religion to have a full and meaningful life. As an atheist I must disagree. I see wonder in the universe, my heart fills with love for my friends and family, my life has meaning and not believing in a divine power does not negate that meaning.  

The author also claims that charity would be greatly diminished in a world without religion. Again, I must disagree and such statements are harmful towards creating a more harmonious world.

Indeed, Mr. Thielen. Now friends, go in peace.

April @ The Steadfast Reader


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