Faith Beyond Belief: Stories of Good People Who Left Their Church Behind ~ Margaret Placentra Johnston.

Are you tired of the warring factions between religious believers and non-believers? Did the New Atheist writers seem to make good sense, yet leave the impression that something was missing? Are you willing to consider a new, overarching explanation for the atheist/believer controversy itself?

In Faith Beyond Belief: Stories of Good People Who Left Their Church Behind, real life stories from a former Mormon, a clandestine Muslim apostate and two others demonstrate how complete confidence in human reason can lead a person out of literal religious belief—but not out of the life principles and values that govern a good life. Exemplified to the extreme in the New Atheist writings, this “Rational” mindset is a necessary step on the road to spiritual maturity.

But determined Rational level seekers may eventually begin to suspect that human reason may not be the ultimate determinant of reality. They may become aware of complexities that muddy the waters and beckon expansion beyond the black and white thinking—the “binary logic”—that led them out of their religious beliefs in the first place. The second set of six real life stories in Faith Beyond Belief demonstrate what can happen next if the person remains open to further growth.

At the “Mystic” level literal religious belief is replaced by a more amorphous—and far more mature—form of spiritual faith. Here, truth and reality are recognized as multi-dimensional, doubt and paradox are tolerated, and spiritual concepts are interpreted metaphorically. The differences among the religions are seen as mere details. The person who has transformed to this level essentially takes on the traits of an evolved consciousness— humility, forgiveness, gratitude, acceptance and a unitive or universal worldview. The six Mystic level stories provide a glimpse of how these traits and the worldview of spiritual maturity might play out in everyday faith.

The ten Faith Beyond Belief stories and the surrounding discussion pave a painless path for the reader toward an understanding of how pre-critical (read “literal, fundamentalist, or the religious right”) religious belief differs from the post-critical (read “metaphorical and unitive”) stance of spiritual maturity. The faith process described is based upon basic commonalities in the writings of twelve spiritual development experts from academia, the spiritual literature and even New Age spirituality.

Faith Beyond Belief: Stories of Good People Who Left Their Church Behind challenges both traditional believers and non-believers alike to a more sophisticated understanding. It offers a broader explanation for readers whose rational minds demand a strictly scientific basis for our existence, but whose hearts still tug at the validity of a greater spiritual reality. This book aims to promote understanding and tolerance by illuminating a faith process that places us all at varying points along a common path toward unity and love.
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Margaret Placentra Johnston

Margaret Placentra Johnston has spent most of her life helping people see better. A practicing Optometrist, she examined eyes, one pair at a time, in Springfield, VA for twenty-five years before detecting the need to offer clearer vision of a different kind, on a larger scale. The author of Faith Beyond Belief: Stories of Good People Who Left Their Church Behind, Margaret has shared how a bird’s eye view of the religious belief versus non-belief debate from a spiritual development perspective can lead to a kinder, more gentle world. She is confident that the spiritual stages, if everyone understood them, could bring an end to religious intolerance.

But spiritual development suffers from the fact that its researchers and theorists focus on details that complicate and separate their findings, rather than the simplicities and commonalities that unite them. Their readers are left unable to see the forest for the trees. Margaret has illustrated the stages using real life stories and described them in simple terms, minus the arbitrary distinctions found at the academic level. Her book brings the spiritual development stages to life for the general reader, while maintaining the integrity of the academic concepts.

Dr. Johnston holds a Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Master of Arts (MA) in Education from the Catholic University of America; a Bachelor of Science (BS) and a Doctor of Optometry (OD) degree from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (now called Salus University.) Her writings have appeared in the Optometry journals, and in the personal growth journal, Recovering the Self. She serves as an expert on in the categories of spiritual growth, atheism, skepticism and ophthalmology/​optometry. Margaret gives talks about spiritual development issues to interested groups. She has two grown sons and lives with her husband in McLean, VA.
Faith Beyond Belief: Stories of Good People Who Left Their Church Behind BOOK

Hear clips from some of the true stories featured in Faith Beyond Belief: Stories of Good People Who Left Their Church Behind by Margaret Placentra Johnston (Quest Books).

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