After 9/11, New Yorker and Muslim Ranya Idilby wanted to both educate her children about their religion and show children of the world how Muslims are not so different from everyone else. She spoke with a fellow mother at her daughter’s school, Suzanne Oliver, who she knew was a Christian, about collaborating on a childrens’ book about religion. Suzanne got in contact with Priscilla Warner, a Jewish woman living in a New York suburb, about the project, and she agreed to join. Thus, the Faith Club was born. The three women would get together, every week or couple of weeks or so, for a few years, and talk about their respective religions. What started out as the three of them writing a childrens’ book turned into so much more – the women became truly close friends, they were able to share their deepest fears and doubts about the other two religions (and their own) with one another, and they came to a real, honest understanding of their own religions as well as the religions of the other women. All three women said that not only did they come away with deep respect for all religious traditions, but also with deeper understanding and faith in their own religion.
I got The Faith Club from BookMooch ages ago. I’ve truly been meaning to read it for a long time, but the Social Justice Challenge finally inspired me to actually pick it up. The Faith Club was everything I expected – a frank discussion about three major religions, an honest analysis by three regular women about what religion means to each of them, and an examination of their own prejudices and preconceived notions of the other two womens’ religions.
The moral of this story is that we shouldn’t judge people or make assumptions about somebody based on their religion. These three women, as educated, intelligent, accepting, and understanding as they were, all had prejudices about the other two religions that they were forced to confront upon their collaboration. They were also forced to examine their doubts about their own beliefs – Suzanne’s doubt that Jesus is the only way to Heaven, Ranya’s doubt that some of the more extremist parts of Islam are actually required by God, and Priscilla’s doubt that God exists at all, among others. They found that talking through their fears and doubts, and explaining to the other women why they believe what they do, really helped to formulate a true understanding and solid foundation of their faith.
I really don’t have much else to say about The Faith Club except that I highly recommend picking it up for yourself. It is a great analysis of these three religions, and if you belong to any of the three of them, as I do, you will find yourself examining your own beliefs as you read. The book definitely gave me a lot of food for thought and, although I am pretty secure in my faith, caused me to think about God in a whole new way. I found a lot of what Ranya and Priscilla had to say really resonated with me, even though technically they believe in different things than I do. The Faith Club really brought to my attention the fact that God is many things to many people, and these things are not necessarily right or wrong – they just are. For me, God = Love, and reading The Faith Club truly solidified that in my mind.
If you are at all interested in Christianity, Judaism, or Islam, read this book. You won’t regret it.