THE GOD FACTOR: Inside the Spiritual Lives of Public People. By Cathleen Falsani. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux Book Publishers. 263 pages. $24.00.
What do celebrities, politicians, authors, writers and other public figures have in common? They all have their own definitions of spirituality and what it is and isn’t, according to the book “The God Factor” by Cathleen Falsani.
The book is a compilation of Falsani’s syndicated columns from the Chicago Sun Times. She includes interviews and photographs from a diverse group including playboy Hugh Heffner, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, NBA star Hakeem Olajuwon, the Rev. Al Sharpton and rock star Melissa Etheridge.
The majority of her columns are about people in public life whose names are not easily recognizable, but they still make for an interesting read. The selection of people is limited primarily to the Chicago area because the author is a religion writer for the Sun Times.
Falsani includes basic facts about each person before the interviews, such as their early religious backgrounds and training as well as their religions of choice and spiritual practices of today.
It was eye-opening to learn that so few of them who had religious backgrounds as children still practice them today. Among the few exceptions were Olajuwon, who was and still is a practicing Muslim, and John Mahoney, who played the father in the sitcom “Frasier” and who continues to be a devout Catholic.
Most of the 33 interviewed believe there is a God, but their descriptions are as varied as they are, and most perceive God quite differently from the God of the Christian faith. Under the heading of their religious preferences today included: “cosmic lounge lizard,” “journeyman Christian,” “agnostic,” “spiritually unlimited,” “Buddhalupist” and “aspiring yogi.”
The general thread throughout the book is that God is whatever you want God to be. Many took pieces from other religions and merged them to form their own forms of spirituality. It’s a stretch to find a “God Factor” in many of them.
One can’t help but believe that there are others who would be more suitable to be included in a book with this title, but they weren’t asked or are keeping personal their relationships with God.