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.