Faith No More Review
Phil Zuckerman writes his book, “Faith No More: Why People Reject Religion”, to find
out the reason why people are turning away from religion. Zuckerman tries to do this by
conducting interviews, 87 of them to be exact, with those who have left their previous religion.
In these interviews, Zuckerman explores the reasons, experiences, and values of these
apostates. Zuckerman offers a couple definitions of this word, “apostates”, but most likely the
best one he put forward was: “individuals who once held religious identity but no longer do so”
(5). In each of the first seven chapters of the book, Zuckerman discusses different experiences
that led to abandoning religion. In chapters eight and nine, he looks at the “Apostate
Worldview” and family life, respectively. In chapter ten, he lists nine reasons that apostates
gave for leaving their religion and then comments on each of those reasons. Zuckerman’s
investigation shows that apostates’ process for leaving their religion is not really what you
would think it would be, but, surprisingly, it is more of a “highly personal, complex, and drawnout
process” (Back Cover).
In the introduction of the book, Zuckerman lays out the groundwork of what he is doing
and why. He brings up the ever growing issue of apostasy, which is issue of people leaving their
religion. Zuckerman reveals that he wants to find out why this issue is becoming more and
more prevalent. In order to find that out, he interviews a large variety of apostates, and then in
the next chapter he will analyze their responses.
In chapter one, Zuckerman starts off with an interview with a man, Robert, and later
Robert’s brother, Ed. Robert and Ed were raised in a Christian home, and since, both have
turned away from their Christian upbringing. Zuckerman points out that this type of apostasy is
“quite rare”, because most people accept and keep the beliefs they are taught as children (24).
Robert described his letting go of religion of as life long journey. It was not really because of
one particular thing that pushed him away, but it was because of one thing after another,
especially certain doctrine that he simply did not believe in. For Ed, his loss of faith came partly
from his brother’s decision, as well as other things in his faith that did not make rational sense
In chapter two, Zuckerman begins interviews a man named David, who was once a
devote Jehovah’s Witness. The reason for David turning away from his religion is because
biblical stories stopped making sense for him anymore, and it drove him away. This is the case
with the rest of those interviewed in this chapter. Once they were at a place of faith,
sometimes devote faith, and then they simply found themselves at a place where they no
longer believed and became skeptics. Zuckerman points out at the end of the chapter that just
because these people have turned away from faith it does not always make them immoral
In chapter three, Zuckerman starts off by once again talking about David’s interview.
This time he explores another reason David gave for becoming an apostate, which was
misfortune. His issues with his wife and eventually divorce caused him to doubt God, and
eventually reject him altogether. Zuckerman goes on with other interviewees to understand
how their misfortune led them away from their religion too. Two big reasons were the “failure
of prayer” and death of a loved one; however, Zuckerman points out that normally people of
faith are unshaken by this.
In chapter four, Zuckerman specifically interviews previous Mormons to see why they
turned away from their faith. The first was a lady named Cecilia, who basically turned away
from Mormonism because she wanted to have sex and a few other things that was against
Mormon teaching. Another man, Andrew, also turned away from the religion, but it was
because he was a homosexual. Both of them decided to leave Mormonism because it taught
things that they did not want to abide by anymore.
Zuckerman continues to talk about sex and sexuality in chapter 5. He interviews a man
named Frank, who is no longer a Christian, but is now a homosexual. He turned away from the
faith because his sexuality was wrong in Christianity. The next interviewee was Geraldine.
Growing up, she was a devote Christian woman, but she drifted away after she continually
ignored God and indulged in premarital sex. Zuckerman interviews many other apostates that
have similar stories as Geraldine.
In chapter six, Zuckerman talks about those who left their faith, not based on some
experience of their own, but on others’ experiences. The first interviewee was a man named
William, who left the faith because of Catholic leaders that committed crimes. Zuckerman
points out with some other interviews that not just other people’s bad experiences apostates
away from their religion, but simply just getting to know other beliefs led people away from
Chapter seven starts off by talking about two women, Rita and Nancy, who both walked
away from Christianity. Zuckerman is intrigued by both of these women because they come
from circumstances where their faith should have flourished, and yet it failed. They both left
Christianity after a number of bad decisions and they felt like they just did not belong in the
church. Surprisingly, Zuckerman points out that they are probably more moral now than they
were as religious people.
In chapters eight and nine, Zuckerman talks about the “Apostate Worldview” and family
life that leads people to become apostates. In his discussion about the “Apostate Worldview”,
Zuckerman basically argues that even though apostates are no longer religious, that does not
mean that are not moral. He goes on to interview apostates on what their “meaning of life is”,
and he comes to the conclusion that they are not bad people and that the stereotypes about
them do not hold up. In his discussion on family life, Zuckerman tells how it affects religion, and
how religion affects it.
Zuckerman ends the book with chapter ten and then his conclusion. In chapter ten, he
lists nine different reasons that he learned why people left their faith. These reasons are:
parents, education, misfortune, other religions, friends, politics, sex, hell, and malfeasance of
religious associates. He gives a brief overview of how each of these caused people to become
apostates. Then, Zuckerman concludes his book by once again examining the issue of apostasy,
but this time in light of the knowledge that he has gained from his interviews.
Zuckerman’s, “Faith No More: Why People Reject Religion”, is an interesting book that
tries to explain the growing issue of apostasy. It was written by a secular point of view, which
made the book unbiased towards any certain religion and allowed for better examination of
apostates in my opinion. The selection of interviewees was fairly diverse, but it almost felt like
he tried too hard to make it diverse. They almost felt like they were cherry-picked to be
interviewed, which they kind of were, but I feel like it could have been better if they just did it
at random. One thing I would like to point out is that almost everyone interviewed in the book
seemed extremely open and happy to share and talk about their apostasy, which seemed to
make apostasy in praiseworthy thing. I do not recall anyone having much doubt, if any, that
leaving their faith was a bad thing, which also seems to promote apostasy. This was my biggest
issue with the book. Ironically, Zuckerman’s book does not help out the growing issue of
apostasy, and it maybe even makes it worse.
Zuckerman’s book was not all bad though. I really enjoyed Zuckerman’s summarization
in chapter ten of all the reasons that people gave for leaving their faith. It was pretty
informative, and might help me understand how to better witness to those who have strayed
from Christianity, or any religion for that matter. The interviews themselves were actually really
informative, and they did well to clearly show the beliefs and reasons that the interviewees
became apostates. I have never really talked to many apostates, myself, so their reasons for
leaving their faith were somewhat eye-opening to me. Zuckerman’s use of direct quotes of his
interviewees was both beneficial, and annoying. In most of the interviews, the direct quotation
allowed you to see and understand more of the thoughts and feelings of the person. On the
other hand, in the first chapter you have Ed, who cannot finish a sentence without saying “like”
or “you know what I mean”. This annoyance is less on Zuckerman and more on the
interviewees, but still, Zuckerman did leave that in there instead of paraphrasing. Overall, I
enjoyed reading Zuckerman’s book. It gave me new understanding into the issue of apostasy,
which before reading this book, I had no idea was even a word. I feel that Zuckerman did a
good job exploring the reasons for the growing issue of apostasy, but this book seems to affirm
apostates more than help the issue of apostasy. Regardless, Zuckerman’s book was really
informative, and it will possibly help me minister to apostates in the future.