Riess decides to read religious classics like a new member of the Ecclesiastical Classics Book of the Month club who needs to get their membership obligation over and done with in a year’s time. She attempts to follow one religious practice each month associated with her chosen monthly reading. This was a set-up for writing the book; Riess is an author and editor.
Now, if I were religious, I would say I have a confession to make. However, I am an atheist, so just let me lay this out. I loved the book. What it brought to my awareness were all of the extremes that people will go to to try to be closer to something that is intangible and no one is able to quantitatively prove exists. What still confounds me is when people honestly believe “When we are in despair about a child getting leukemia, God is right beside us feeling righteously pissed” (page 110). Come on! Riess, you made me stop laughing here and made me righteously pissed that anyone could dare write this sentence.
The sub-chapter “Would I friend Jesus on Facebook” is what I had read immediately after having been invited to lunch at a student’s home. We had a lengthy discussion about Facebook and friendship. Was that God telling me something, having me come across this part of the book so soon afterward?. Hell no, but it was fun to read.
I am going to share this book with friends, especially the religious overachievers. I loved it. Another book that I am putting on my reading list is Passing the Plate: Why American Christians Don’t Give Away More Money by Christian Smith (love the first name), Michael O. Emerson, and Patricia Snell.
Jana Riess, PhD, is the Religion Book Review Editor for Publishers Weekly magazine and is also the author of The Spiritual Traveler: Boston and New England (HiddenSpring) and What Would Buffy Do?: The Vampire Slayer as Spiritual Guide (Jossey-Bass). She holds degrees in religion from Wellesley College and Princeton Theological Seminary, and a PhD in American religious history from Columbia University. She is frequently interviewed by the media on trends in religion and publishing. A convert to the LDS Church, Riess has spoken at Brigham Young University Women’s Conference and other Mormon gatherings, as well as professional conferences. She lives in Kentucky with her husband and daughter.