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#READdifferent #READspiritually

Open your mind at this year’s festival and step outside your comfort zone, whether that means looking into a different genre, a new perspective or a topic that’s foreign to you. We will use the hashtag #READdifferent to celebrate that challenge at the AJC DBF. The festival provides a breadth of content to give nearly everyone an opportunity to #READdifferent.

Not sure where to start on your journey of literary exploration and discovery? We’re here to help! Each week we will be featuring a new theme or genre that you can use to READdifferent at the 2016 AJC Decatur Book Festival.

This week we are diving into the vast category of spirituality. For those who have rejected religion in part or altogether, or are interested in learning about different beliefs, here are a few titles from the 2016 AJC DBF that delve into the changing landscape of religion and spirituality in America.

One in four Americans reject any affiliation with organized religion, and nearly half of those under thirty describe themselves as spiritual but not religious. In her book, Agnostic: A Spirited Manifesto, widely admired writer Lesley Hazleton celebrates agnosticism as the most vibrant, engaging, and ultimately the most honest stance toward the mysteries of existence. She gives voice to the case for agnosticism, breaks it free of its stereotypes as watered-down atheism or amorphous seeking, and celebrates it as a reasoned, revealing, and sustaining stance toward life.

In Grace Without God: The Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Belonging in a Secular Age, writer, journalist, and secular mother of three Katherine Ozment takes readers on a quest to understand the trends and ramifications of a nation in flight from organized religion. She traversed the frontier of American secular life, sought guidance in science and the humanities, talked with noted scholars, and wrestled with her own family’s attempts to find meaning and connection after religion.

When most people hear the word “witches,” they think of horror films and Halloween, but to the nearly one million Americans who practice Paganism today, witchcraft is a nature-worshipping, polytheistic, and very real religion. Witches of America follows Alex Mar as she sets out to film a documentary and finds herself drawn deep into the world of present-day magic. She illuminates the world of witchcraft while grappling with the question underlying every faith: Why do we choose to believe in anything at all?

The Talmud, the great repository of ancient wisdom that is one of the sacred texts of the Jewish people, presents a formidable challenge to understand without scholarly training and study. In Six Memos from the Last Millennium: A Novelist Reads the Talmud, critically acclaimed novelist Joseph Skibell reads some of the Talmud’s tales with a storyteller’s insight, concentrating on the lives of the legendary rabbis to uncover the wisdom they can still impart to our modern age. He unifies strands of stories that are scattered throughout the Talmud into coherent narratives or “memos,” which he then analyzes and interprets from his perspective as a novelist.

Many recent social changes in the United States—such as the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage—seem to challenge or overturn long-standing Christian teachings, while disputes over issues such as immigration, racism, and the abuse of police authority create uncertainty and confusion about what a faithful Christian response looks like. In A Letter to My Anxious Christian Friends, leading Christian ethicist David P. Gushee explores the many social and political changes that are causing Christian anxiety, offering ways to understand and act on these issues that are grounded in the reign of God rather than in human fear.