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Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite
A collection of essays is far from what I would usually choose to read, but a title like Empty the Pews was irresistible. This collection, edited by Chrissy Stroop and Lauren O’Neal, had to have something to do with organized religion...one of my biggest personal dislikes...so I tore into it eagerly. Not only did this collection of 21 essays cement the reasons for my dislike even further, but they enlightened me as to why others, not born Catholic as I was, have also turned against the religion of their parents. Little wonder there are fewer believers sitting in church pews!
Now, I hate to say it, but as much as I and others like me will enjoy reading this book, I know there are thousands who will throw it aside in disgust at what the 21 contributors have had the courage to express ie. their inability to accept religious, biblical or other beliefs on faith alone. These contributors share life experiences that have made them question an almighty god whom no-one has seen and who doesn’t interfere in the atrocities humans commit against each other. They have grappled, for good reasons in my humble opinion, with the archaic concepts of how one earns a prestigious, glorious position of everlasting happiness in heaven or an eternity of fiery pain in hell. They have rejected the questionable branding of LGBTQ practices as sinful in the eyes of so many religions. As essay after essay reminded me of the youngster I was, full of fear at the possibility of God’s punishment for my “sinful” thoughts, I recognized how terrifying all those teachings rammed into my child’s brain really were.
Between my own life experiences, the never-ending violence in our world, the child trafficking, the sexual assaults and the gender and racial intolerance, I’ve come to believe that organized religion and those who cannot, or refuse to think outside what they were taught as children, are the root of so much of the evil we see around us. Many of us who have dared to question what we were taught are spiritual people; we are just no longer followers of organized religion. A book like Empty the Pews might anger some readers but for the rest of us, it shines a light into dark, unfounded reasoning and teaching. Pick up a copy of Empty the Pews. Perhaps you will want to do what I plan to do next: follow #EmptyThePews on Twitter. I’m all for mind-bending, enlightened and liberated thinking! If more collections like this are in the works, add my name to the subscribers’ list.