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Spokane Author Chronicles Losing Her Faith in New Book “Giving Up God”

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Spokane Author Chronicles Losing Her Faith in New Book “Giving Up God”

News Story by Cindy Hval | FāVS News

When Sarah Hayward began to evaluate and question her devout evangelical faith, she looked for books that would help her on her journey — books that would address the grief of letting go of belief while reflecting on the wonder of a newfound identity.

She found plenty of tomes about the deconstruction movement and volumes profiling those who left their faith due to trauma, but nothing that resonated with her experience. So, she wrote her own.

“I wrote the book I couldn’t find,” she said. “I truly wrote the book I needed.” 

Giving Up God: Resurrecting a Spirituality of Love and Wonder” charts Hayward’s path from lifelong born-again Christian to agnostic atheist.

 “I didn’t set out to leave my faith. I tried very hard to stay,” she said. “For me, it was an intellectual process.”

And it started with questions — big ones like, how could God allow suffering while supposedly all-powerful?

“Couldn’t he have come up with a better system?” she asked.

The black-and-white answers she was taught as a child no longer worked for her.

“It all unraveled,” said Hayward. “Then the pandemic and racial tension really poured gas on my fire!”

A journaler and blogger, writing has always been how she processes, so the book evolved naturally.

“It’s for people like me, who had a deep profound faith and left it or seriously changed their views.”

Hayward said the first half of the book focuses on her questions about her faith and how she analyzed and adapted her views. The second half focuses on her identity struggle.

 “After letting myself die with Christ, how was I to rise from the grave?” she wrote.

Slowly, she found a way to morality without God as the facilitator, but the process was not without pain.

“Who am I if I’m not a Christian?” she asked. “It’s a lonely journey.”

Her husband and parents are Christians.

“Grief is an ongoing process. Christmas and Easter were weird that first year,” she said.

She Still Attends Church with Her Family

While she left her faith, she hasn’t left her church. She still attends New Community with her husband and children.

Russ Davis, pastor of New Community, has walked beside her during her journey.

“Sarah is wonderful and thoughtful,” he said. “She was very engaged with her faith and is now engaged with discovering what a lack of faith looks like.”

As he followed her progress in writing “Giving up God,” he valued her gentle viewpoint.

“She’s not angry, not bitter, not telling people to leave the church and God.”

He understands that the structure and authority of the church doesn’t mesh with her worldview. Though she reached a conclusion that differs from his, Davis isn’t threatened or offended by her decision. He said New Community is about unity, not uniformity.

“The church should be a welcoming place for those without faith. Jesus welcomed anyone and everyone,” he said. “We’re all on a journey. Where you’re at in the journey shouldn’t preclude you from community and love. There’s space for everyone at the table.”

While Christianity is no longer her identity, Hayward said she holds the door open.

 “I value curiosity and humility.”

And she’s finding much to appreciate in embracing atheism and agnosticism. 

 “I have a deeper level of peace than I ever had in religion,” Hayward said. “There is hope without God.”

More information at sarahhennhayward.com.

Note: Hayward is a FāVS News columnist.

Cindy Hval
Cindy Hvalhttp://cindyhval.com
Cindy Hval is the author of "War Bonds: Love Stories from the Greatest Generation," and has been a  columnist and correspondent for The Spokesman-Review newspaper since 2006. In addition, her stories have been published in numerous magazines and anthologies including 12 volumes of the "Chicken Soup For the Soul" series. Cindy is the mother of four sons, Nana of twin grandsons and is owned by two cats, also boys. She and her husband, Derek, recently celebrated their 37th anniversary. Her idea of heaven is a room full of books and all the time in the world to read them.

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Walter A Hesford
Walter A Hesford
5 months ago

Thank you for this book review which draws attention to New Community church, which in my opinion is what a church should be–open to all perspectives. I suspect many who go to traditional churches also enjoy a diversity of perspectives

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