A Freethinker’s Gospel is very amiable to belief. It eschews anti-theist talking points in favor of unification, yet without losing a secular perspective. There is a welcoming consideration to those of faith–reaching out like an open hand as opposed to the closed fist of an angry or jaded former member. The ultimate goal is seeing the humanity beneath religious or atheist labels.”

Alexis Record, Patheos review

“I’m really impressed that the Asheville newspaper is giving [Chris Highland] a voice and hope it — and [his] writing style – serve as a model for other media outlets looking to broaden their point of view.

Soothing and stimulating at the same time, these very digestible “meditations” show how a secular writer can convey very timely and worthy messages without being quarrelsome. Kudos to Chris Highland for taking us down this pleasant path of wisdom and realism.”

Linda LaScola, co-author with Daniel C. Dennett of Caught in the Pulpit: Leaving Belief Behind and co-founder of The Clergy Project

“In this lovely collection of essays, Chris Highland does a wonderful job introducing the atheist perspective to an audience that may not otherwise seek it out. Without being confrontational, he raises important questions while helping readers understand that atheists are a vital part of their community. I’m thrilled that these columns were published in the Asheville Citizen-Times and I’m sure many readers would agree.”

Hemant Mehta, editor of

“I often meet good people who feel lost and lonely because they’ve lost faith, friends, or family or, worst of all, all three in one fell swoop.  Adrift in an often indifferent society, they wonder if they will ever again feel the warmth and security they knew in the bosom of the Church.  How grateful I am to introduce such wanderers to Chris Highland, a wise, compassionate guide who has blazed his own trail through the wilderness on the other side of faith, and is more than willing to show it to others, in both his pictures and his stories.  If you love nature, but are still don’t feel entirely at home in it, give Chris a chance to show you his way.”

Bart Campolo, Humanist Chaplain at the University of Cincinnati and host of the Humanize Me podcast.

“This seminal work by former minister/chaplain Chris Highland is captivating, intriguing, and challenging.  It consists of a compilation of fifty-two [columns] he wrote over the last year for a daily newspaper in Asheville, NC, where he currently lives.  Each chapter is a gem in itself, and together they make for a powerful book by a very enlightened and savvy professional …

I strongly recommend reading this book for its enlightenment, its thought-provoking erudition, and for the sheer pleasure of savoring the delicious writing style.”

John S. Compere, PhD, Vice-President, The Clergy Project and author of Outgrowing Religion

“Chris always inspires me with his ability to connect with everyone, no matter what their background or belief or where they are in their life. He has such a unique view on life as a religious leader who is open to all religions. I love how he encourages us to extend our bubbles of belief to include everyone.”

Moji Javid, MAJCS/LCSW, Director of Synagogue Engagement, Congregation Rodef Sholom

“I very much enjoyed it…and since I have not been a regular reader of [the columns], I was particularly struck with [the] straight to the heart and straight to the point presentation. Your personal honesty and authenticity. You also draw very well upon your career experience, your personal experiences and wisdom, and your sources of inspiration. Overall, a very nice mix of well crafted, substantive columns. I think it will make for a great collection and I am sure it will be well received.”

Laurence Cotton, historian and producer of the documentary, “Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing America”

“While he may no longer be a believer, Chris Highland has not lost his pastor’s heart. He continues in these columns to teach and challenge, to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable, drawing on everyone from Henry Thoreau to Stevie Wonder. Taken to heart, this book will see walls come tumbling down, walls that keep us from one another.”

Bob Ripley, former syndicated columnist and clergyman.  Author of Life Beyond Belief: A Preacher’s Deconversion

“What I love about this book is that it truly — and intentionally — honors questions, not answers. Chris himself has lots of questions — and he is very comfortable not having answers for them. In his conversations with others, he asks questions and invites theirs in return. It seems that the best conversations are an exchange of wonderings….that may actually be what makes a conversation sacred.

Chris muses and reflects, wonders as he wanders. The essays are varied, inspiring, informative and creative. His gentle style builds bridges and opens doors with folks of many faiths, and those with no religious connection at all. He can raise thorny questions as well, which awakens a sharpness of vision and awareness. This book is a great companion for time alone, or for stimulating conversation with others.”

Sara Vurek, Buddhist, Board Certified Clinical Chaplain

“Chris Highland’s, A Freethinker’s Gospel, is a compassionate collection of secular articles that are delightful and stimulating excursions for anyone interested in how beliefs effect the way we relate to each other. His genuine interest in the thoughts of others, and his willingness to describe his own, reveals a well grounded sensibility that seeks to bridge the gaps between people divided by the beliefs or doubts that we happen to hold.”

Jim Gronvold, former shelter administrator/counselor, and author of Pith & Piffle: overt verse.

“For a self-proclaimed secularist there is an awful lot of religion in these pages. This is as it should be. Nothing is separate unto itself and when we try to alienate ourselves from even the smallest connection, we have diminished ourselves and the world around us. Chris, column by column connects the connections we all yearn for to be whole.

This is not a book meant to be read, but savored slow with the heart in devotion to our natural world.”

Judith Slater, Presbyterian clergy, Intuition Medicine Practitioner ®, Transformational Coach

“Gospel means good news! Chris Highland’s A Freethinker’s Gospel is indeed good news. In a time of chasms that divide, this is a book of bridges. In a time of polarized certainties, it is a book that models how clear commitment to a humanistic, naturalistic approach to life can walk hand-in-hand with genuine curiosity about differences of belief. Reading this collection of reflections felt like taking a walk through the fascinating and endlessly complex landscape of the Earth community with an amiable, knowledgeable, keen-eyed, open-minded, open-hearted companion and guide, who has a genuine interest in what other people think. Essentially, Highland has a passion for how all kinds of thinkers can come together in common humanity to create a world of good. This book, like the natural world, calls you to linger. To pay attention. Based on my reading, I believe you’ll experience moments that will elevate your spirit, take your breath away, fill you with a sense of wonder, and cause you to ask questions, reexamine your preconceptions, reflect, and dig deeper as you see possibilities you may have never before noticed – possibilities to build a bridge to a better world.”

The Rev. Canon Charles Gibbs, Episcopal Priest, Senior Partner for the Catalyst for Peace foundation, founding executive director of the United Religions Initiative

“Enjoyed [this] work very much…

Chris Highland has been offering his wisdom and kindness through the written word for many years…his explorations of religion and spirit remind me of a saying I once heard during a Marin Interfaith Council meeting out here in California…
“We may not be like-minded, but we are certainly like-hearted”.

Thank you Chris for your like-hearted gifts.”

Rev. Furyu Nancy Schroeder, Abiding Abbess, Green Gulch Farm Zen Center

“Chris Highland has written a book of essays filled with caring, humanity, inclusion, compassion and love. In these ways it is a very religious book, brimming with appreciation of the sacred – life! It speaks of life that is around us and of which we are a part. As an ethical humanist, a freethinker, I find it inspirational.”

Jackie Shropshire Simms, Ethical Culture Officiant, Ethical Humanist Society of Asheville

“Most popular writers try to avoid either being too secular for pietists or too religious for the secular. Chris Highland walks that tightrope with the ease of a circus acrobat. He is a naturalist who is at home with the ambiguities and paradoxes of theology. He builds bridges between non-believers (atheists) and those devoted to traditional doctrine. He is especially comfortable with finding wisdom in the sacred teachings of divergent religious faiths. He insists that life itself is our reliable Bible, our teacher of sacred value. An atheism that evolves into a humanism with values of compassion, mercy, and peacemaking has much to teach the church; and congregations would do well to listen non-judgmentally to the voices of non-believers.”

Rev. George Thompson, Retired Methodist clergy, Chair, Interfaith Peace Conference at Lake Junaluska

“Lately, I’ve heard increasing numbers of people say that, when they go into nature, they feel like they are at church. This collection of essays from Asheville Citizen-Times columnist Chris Highland might be their hymnal. A Freethinker’s Gospel is a book for those who find meaning under tree canopies as easily as in cathedrals.”

Leigh Ann Henion, author of Phenomenal

“I love your essays. Your thoughts are my thoughts too. I chuckled when you spent a few sentences wondering about your soul, if you have a soul!

You write essays. I write poems. When the sole of my hiking boot fell off my boot, I tried to write a poem about souls. I was not successful. I know more about soles than souls.

Thank you so much for the gift of your thoughts and your book.

I treasure the thought that I have more of your essays to read.”

Mary Anne, poet and retired college chaplain