Why I left, Why I Stayed: Conversations on Christianity Between an Evangelical Father and His Humanist Son
by Tony Campolo and Bart Campolo
176pp.; $ 15.99; $ 10.99 (Kindle)
Most books about atheism, or about Christianity, are written by one person, with one viewpoint, for one audience. But in Why I Left, Why I Stayed, Bart Campolo, humanist chaplain at the University of Southern California, and his father Tony Campolo, a bestselling Christian evangelical author and pastor, present two very different perspectives in an attempt to honestly discuss the religious differences that now divide them.
This short book consists of alternating chapters written by father and son, telling and reacting to the path Bart took from believer to nonbeliever, and the resulting changes in his life and belief system. Both authors write well, with engaging and concise styles. The first half recounts Bart's falling away and its effect on both him and his family, while the second half is more issue-oriented, covering topics such as Jesus, the basis for morality, and dealing with death. The love and respect each has for the other shines through both accounts and provides a good example of how both sides in this debate might better approach each other.
For Bart, who earlier in his career followed his father into the Christian ministry, the road to atheism was a slow, intellectual one, devoid of anger and resentment but filled with sorrow and a feeling of loss. I think it's true for a fair number of atheists (myself included) that the loss of faith wasn't something we sought, but something which found us, despite a happy upbringing in a religious household. In many ways this path makes a stronger argument for atheism, since the easier, happier path would have been to stay a Christian.
But it's not an argument that persuades Tony, Bart's father. Tony's faith is not of the fundamentalist, the-world-is6,000-years-old variety, but is based on a strong and vibrant belief in God's place in the world. His evangelism is strong on helping fellow humans and bringing Christian values of charity and love to this world. So there are no easy arguments to be made against Tony's role for religion based on hypocrisy or...