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New 2nd Edition
Release Date: 4/13/21
the sense of wonder
Cover 2nd Edition
Trade paper; 218 pp.
ISBN: 978-0-938513-69-8

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Review by Fred March

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by Harry Willson

Thinking about God went into a black hole in the 60's with "God Is Dead." Fundamentalism doesn't count, because there's no thinking there. Here's a book that goes all the way into that black hole and comes out the far end -- into liberation. This challenge is for persons who can read and like to think, and can still sense wonder. The fresh air is wonderful!

"Former Pastor Willson has written an engaging and unusual account of his own release from the traps of false ideas about God and the self. His theology amounts to no less than a revival of a kind of monism, the assertion that all reality, the whole universe, is one substance. His journey will seem familiar to many agnostics and independent minds, but his account is told with zest and is supported by experience and deep feeling. Highly recommended." --LIBRARY JOURNAL

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also in this series:

MYTH AND MORTALITY: A Humanist Tests the Stories
FROM FEAR TO LOVE: My Journey Beyond Christianity

   Harry Willson has not lost his faith. He has, however moved from credulity to a profound trust in the universe of which he is a thinking part. In this book he celebrates the liberation one achieves by abandoning theism and invites the reader to experience the joy in this freedom. Willson holds the reader's interest with many personal anecdotes.
-- Hershey Julien, Ph.D.,
U.S. Representative, Sea of Faith

   For many, many individuals, the struggle between honesty and religious indoctrination is a hard one -- especially for those of us who were indoctrinated as children. This book should be a great help to anyone wrestling with such problems.

-- Chaz Bufe,

   Freedom from God is double edged and double sharp. Double edged, because Willson writes both to strengthen the convictions of those who think that the concept of God is outmoded, and to shake the assumptions of those who may still think that the old time religion possesses integrity. Double sharp, because Willson writes with a sharp, ironic mind, and with a sharply pointed 'pen.'

-- Joseph S. Willis,

   For those whose experience of organized Christianity has turned to ashes, Harry Willson provides a fine framework for picking oneself up and dusting oneself off. More important than disenchantment validated is his marvelous call to wonder. He reminds us that if there is grace it must build on nature. And, if there isn't grace, he bravely points to what it means to be deeply human.

--Michael E. Daly,
former RC priest,
retired professor of Social Ethics at UNM

   Where was Harry Willson when I needed him, exploring the mine fields of systematic theology in seminary? If you, the reader, want answers so you can avoid thinking, especially about god-stuff, don't read Freedom from God. But if you want your mind stimulated, don't delay; read this book!

-- Lee Huebert,
minister emeritus,
El Paso Universalist Association,
Otero UU Fellowship, Alamogordo, NM

    I and everyone who reads it will never be the same. Freedom from God is at once mind expanding and spine chilling; that's what wonder does. When we view our being in a cosmic, all-inclusive perspective, we are very apt to lose track of where we are... Then 'The only way out is through' becomes a mantra... Willson would persuade us to give ourselves over to the Whole Thing... 'All the multiplicity we see and feel around us is made up of interacting interlocking parts which make up One.' (page 112) The word 'God' is inappropriate in that context because we cannot strip it of its anthropomorphic connotations.

--Bruce Ferguson,
Presbyterian minister, retired,

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Book Review by Fred March
by Harry Willson

FREEDOM FROM GOD is a very personal case study in the psychology of self-fulfillment.Willson writes from a highly emotional space that makes his book come alive with the joys and pains of living. At the same time Willson brims with the wisdom of one who has integrated a sophisticated understanding of history, science, theology and human nature, with his personal struggle to make sense of his experience. He reveals his intellectual power in his cogent assessment of how religion can work on the human mind to support or suppress our innate sense of wonder, fairness, and love of just being alive. Yet his writing style is colloquial, lively and virtually free of academic jargon.

Willson reveals that his entire world outlook was formed within the fold of an authoritarian patriarchal family and a mainstream religious community, the Presbyterian Church. He pursued the vocation of Minister to the faithful. He earned a Master of Divinity from the prestigious Princeton Theological Seminary, and served as a missionary-pastor in New Mexico for eight years. And then his life took a radical turn.

FREEDOM FROM GOD is Willson's personal narrative of his transformation from a controlled agent of a religious community to a liberated free thinker. For Willson this was not an intellectual conversion (although his powerful intellect was clearly involved), but a deep-seated reaction to what he experienced. He rails against his religious community's reduction of its flock to passive, unquestioning acceptance of absurd beliefs. He focuses his laser vision on the hypocrisy of a church leadership that teaches obedience to clerical authority that actually suppresses the personal spiritual experience that the faith community preaches. For example he writes:

Religions may not be much help in the wonder department even though that's what they pretend to be all about ... Religions for the most part ... harness, channel, control ... stultify, mediocritize and asphyxiate that sense of wonder or mystery ... Religions channel ecstasy into pageantry. They trade conviction for tradition ... Religious organizations prefer to control people, rather than turn them on to wonder, which will turn them loose or make them free ... The sense of wonder, and our wonder organ could make our lives so exciting, so vibrant, that it would become unthinkable that we would permit the life-hating forces and powers of religion to spoil everything. So the wonder organ is an evolutionary advantage.

I highly recommend this short and lively book to anyone who feels unfulfilled in their faith commmity. While Willson does not prescribe, he simply "bears witness" (to use a religious term) to his encounter with ideals that are higher than those conveyed by his former church. Even persons who were always atheists and agnostics will benefit from this book because of the intimate insights provided into the mind of an author who struggled with the ethical contradictions of his religious denomination.

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