Thursday, 8 May 2014

Something Other Than God by Jennifer Fulwiler, Book Review

I know, I know, enough with the book reviews. But it's my blog so nah nah. Hahaha :D  

**PLEASE NOTE THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!!** Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It

Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It by Jennifer Fulwiler
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I've been reading Jennifer Fulwiler's blog, Conversion Diary for at least a couple of years now. I first came across her writing when I was researching atheistic beliefs [just out of interest because I'm always wanting to know!].

Her story starts by describing her childhood. She was brought up by an atheist father and non-devout theist/agnostic mother. Her father taught her to question everything and this, along with his encouragement to find wonder in science, stirred an enquiring mind in her, one that actually helped her to find God.

The first chapter describes an encounter with a 'counselor' at a Christian summer camp where the children are asked, "Do you want to accept Jesus as your Lord and Saviour?" Jennifer describes well the uncomfortableness of being put on the spot with this question. In fact, even though I am Christian and rejoice when someone turns to God, this makes me livid. To put a child though emotional manipulation ["I've never had a girl in one of my cabins not get saved"] and fear mongering [playing the hell card], using authority as pressure and using other children as peer pressure to 'accept Jesus...' is horrendous. Anyway, she shows great fortitude for a child, not willing to bow to the pressure to convert, wanting to think about it. [Stop and think! As I have just learned from my other recent read Brainwashing: the science of thought control by Kathleen Taylor, stop and think is the key to resisting undue influence.]

She then describes how after this experience she finds herself marginalised in a predominantly Christian Texas neighbourhood. Because her family did not attend church and because she had not 'accepted Jesus Christ as her Lord and Saviour' her friendship pool suddenly becomes restricted by suspicion and downright abuse - "Usually they just call me a Satan worshipper." (pg 15). This too makes me cross. Why can't we Christians behave like normal people and be friends with people who are non-Christian? What are we so scared of? "He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world" said Jesus, either we believe that or we don't. Of course we all protect our children from bad influence, but normal healthy children of other religions/non-religion are not going to destroy a child's faith.

But I digress...I'm supposed to be reviewing a book and not going off on a rant. :)

The title 'Something other than God' is taken from a CS Lewis quote:

'All that we call human history...[is] the long, terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.'

And that is Jennifer Fulwiler's quest in this book, to find the true source of happiness instead of that which she discovered was her 'kind of atheism': a "firm foundation of unyielding despair" (pg 58).

The catalyst for this realisation was having a child, and I can relate to that, what else can account for motherly love? It's more than a simple hormonal/chemical reaction in the brain. There must be something else.

One of the main things I love about this book is Jennifer Fulwiler's honesty and down-to-earth attitude to her understanding of faith. She doesn't claim to great spiritual insight, she doesn't claim a great miraculous conversion experience...but neither does she neglect reason or reject the spiritual. In her search for the truth about God she researches tirelessly and asks determined questions.

During her search she begins her first blog: The Reluctant Atheist, and she finds that those theists/Christians who seem to answer her deepest questions and best defend the Christian faith are Catholics. I can understand that, although I am not Catholic, when you are genuinely searching for answers to deep questions the protestant sectors of Christendom have so many differing viewpoints on scripture and the meaning of scripture that it is mind boggling.

Throughout her story you see the little droplets from heaven that God sends to us to gently draw us back to him. It's quite beautiful. Even through some of her most difficult times she sees the hand of God in her life. It made me look back and reevaluate some of the things that have happened in my own life and to see what God has done and how he has led me through various life crises.

One thing that she finds out is that as a child she was baptised Catholic for her grandparents, as the book comes to a close she writes:

The moment the priest baptised me, I was sealed with the sign of belonging to Christ, an indelible mark on my soul that not even a life as an avowed atheist and unrepentant sinner could wipe away...My entire conversion was less of a journey to a foreign place, and more of a discovery of my long-lost home

All in all, it's a very encouraging read, it's both moving and humourous, I thoroughly recommend it.

View all my reviews


  1. I've seen mention of this book on so many blogs, but yours is the first review I've read of it - thank you! You write the best reviews, because they are very personal but not rambling, and you actually tell quite a bit about the books you read...there are probably other reasons I tend to read your book posts, that I am not aware of.

  2. Oops - how embarrassing....I thought I was reading this review on a different blog - so what I said about all your book reviews, well, it may be true, but I haven't read any others. This one was good, I know that much! (this might be the first time I read your blog)

    1. Hi Gretchen, thanks for visiting. You know I recognise your name a little...perhaps you visited one of my old blogs? Sunshine in the Home or Another Bend in the Road? I use the same profile but this is a new blog linked to my profile.

      Anyway, thanks for your kind words. :)

  3. This was a delightful review! I'm dying to read this book.

    1. Thanks Caroline. It's a great read. :)