Beginning to See the Light
Living with a Wild God:
A Nonbeliever's Search for the Truth about Everything
by Barbara Ehrenreich
$26.00 List Price
There are two types of nonbelievers in the world: those who were raised without religion and stayed firmly in the realm of the godless, and those who were brought up with religion and rejected it. I fall into the latter camp, having converted to atheism with an enthusiasm to match the zeal of any evangelical Christian. I’ve always liked the way the journalist and essayist Barbara Ehrenreich, who was raised an atheist and educated as a scientist, talks about the values and morals she formed based on her knowledge of earthly things. So I was surprised to discover that her new memoir was about her attempts to understand the divine.
In some ways, Ehrenreich is the ideal guide for nonreligious people like me through the world of the spiritual (though she hates that word), or at least the inexplicable. But as I read the incredibly detailed accounts of her interior life, first as a precocious child and later as a postgraduate scientist, I found myself wishing she’d written either a traditional memoir or a more journalistic investigation of the mystical.
Ehrenreich’s preteen and teenage journals, quoted frequently in the book, offer a glimpse of a time in her life when she was preoccupied with trying to understand the inexplicable. Now, several decades later, she has reopened the investigation. As an incredibly smart child who was a voracious reader, Ehrenreich once asked herself whether other humans were “conscious” in the same way she was, and whether death could be real when she had no evidence for the continuation of the world without her in it. Presaging her journalism career,