I won’t tell you how good this book is. That isn’t because I don’t think it’s remarkably good. That’s because I don’t expect you to believe I’m anything but biased. Also because there are plenty of people who aren’t in the book who are willing to gush over it. Jennifer Michael Hecht, Hemant Mehta, Dave Silverman, they all like the book and are happy to tell you about it.
Listen to them. They’re right.
What I will tell you instead is that this is an important book. This I say despite my bias for my own work. Truth be told, it would probably be a more important book if I weren’t in it, or PZ or Greta or Greg or Chris Stedman. Why? Because much of the value of the book comes from hearing from people who aren’t the “normal” faces and voices of atheism.
Who do you hear from instead? This book collects 36 essays from people whose commonalities are limited to having a connection to Minnesota. Many of the people in the book come from somewhere other than Minnesota, and they can compare how different parts of our world see atheism. (Okay, so Greg’s contribution, which talks about this specifically, makes this a more important book.) Some of them have left Minnesota after growing up here, including Greta, who has posted her foreword for all to read.
Some of the contributors can make you feel the wind across their prairies. Others pull you into their cities or their traditional family life in the suburbs. One contributor came to atheism through skepticism, while another is far more atheist than skeptic. One is using his essay here to come out, while others never had religion. One even grew up surrounded by atheist activists when such activism was a much harder thing.
There are former Catholics and Protestants and Jehovah’s Witnesses. One writer grew up in a New Age cult. Some feel freed by losing their religion, while others regret the lack of an emotional prop. One author had to leave the church her father (literally) built. Another was only able to figure out who she was when she let go of the messages she was getting from her religion.
The contributors want to talk to you about politics…and social support and death and grieving and raising children and addiction and patriarchy and childbirth and activism and summer camp and the wonder of the natural world. And veganism. Two of them would like to talk to you about veganism.
What you won’t find in this book is a lot of philosophy or counter-apologetics or science or anti-theism. Despite having a couple of good-sized names on the cover, what you find here isn’t what you find in most atheist writing. You find stories. Personal stories, small stories, the kind of stories that explain who were are.
These are the kind of stories that build up our own collective mythos, one based in reality. To the best of my knowledge, this is the first book that does that. It shouldn’t be the last. Pick up a copy. You’ll not only help shape the future of atheist publishing, but the book is a fundraiser for the Minnesota Atheists, as the editor explains in the video below.