Non-Fiction Book Reviews

Book Review: Writing God's Obituary

By Sandy Amazeen Mar 12, 2014, 2:13 GMT

Book Review: Writing God's Obituary

A former African American minister reveals†his unusual journey from faith to atheism. Anthony Pinn preached his first sermon at age twelve. At eighteen he became one of the youngest ordained ministers in his denomination. He then quickly moved up the ministerial ranks. Eventually he graduated from Columbia University and then received a Master of Divinity in theology and a PhD in religion from Harvard University.† †† All the while, Pinn ...more

Do in part to his motherís regular participation in the local church, Anthony Pinn embraced religious doctrine from an early age. Like many of the men in his neighborhood, Pinnís father ignored religion and remained an aloof figure at home. Candidly admitting that part of his decision to become a child minister could have been to win adult approval, Pinn went on to become one of the youngest ordained ministers, all the while absorbing how church doctrine was reinforced within the parish. As Pinn was exposed to real world problems and questions parishioners faced, he began to have difficulties balancing cut and dried religious doctrine and the nature of good and evil. Clearly, life was not a simple matter of saved or unsaved souls and frequently, distinctions were hard to identify. Desire to become a teacher and for the prestige of the title, Pinn pursued his PhD while continuing to serve in the church though still plagued with questions that eventually led to him becoming a humanist. Deciding to move from Minnesota to a tenured teaching position at Rice University in Texas led to Pinn and his wife divorcing but even then, the choice was sound. Now Pinn has rare insight into the way religious beliefs assist and delude people and how, even among atheists, certain biases can make their presence felt. This slow moving autobiography recounts the experiences of an African American male and the role of religion within his community while also revealing how a minister became an atheist. Honest in its telling, Pinn offers a rare personal look at the challenges he faced going to college where he was the only black man. The difficulties of finding a job that best matched his abilities and windrowing through differing religious doctrines to discern the truth are issues anyone can relate to. Not a riveting or fast moving autobiography but interesting nonetheless.

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