Many of us grow up conditioned by the religions we are born into that are practiced by our parents. For most of human history, since religions came about, people did not question what they were taught, much less consider changing or abandoning the religion of their family. Fast forward a few centuries and things began to change, where people began to question what they were being told to believe. Fast forward to the last century and we have people not only who dare to question, but also those who dare to think for themselves, to wake up and to see beyond the man-made dogma, which aims to institutionalize itself.

A wonderful example of one person’s journey who began to awaken and explore his own relationship with religion comes to us in the book A View From the Back Pew, which explores the viewpoint of the author who was brought up within the Catholic Christian religion and the implications this had on his life. After a long journey of seeking answers to many of the so called mysteries, the author has a spiritual awakening and frees himself from the confines of limited dogma. The book explores topics that include how we view and understand God, church, dogma, the Bible, Jesus and much more.

This is not just a really good or valuable book that one wants to recommend to others, but one that I would say is almost essential to read for anyone who was brought in any religion, but especially so in any Christian background. This book has the potential to completely transform the lives of those who read it and either spark them to begin, or propel them forward on a deeply meaningful spiritual journey.

It is a book that resonated with me very much, as it parallels in many ways my personal journey with religion, quest for truth and liberation into the richness of spirituality. It is therefore my pleasure to share with you this review in which you can learn more about A View From the Back Pew and how it can enrich your life.

About the Author

A View From the Back Pew is written by Tim O’Donnell and was released March 2011.

Tim O’Donnell grew up in Chicago in a Catholic upbringing. He entered the workforce in his early 20’s growing through various experiences and opportunities, including personal success highs and lows. Led by an inner knowing within, Tim eventually owned and ran a daily newspaper publishing company and won dozens of awards for excellence. He has also been a speaker, organizational consultant, writer and lecturer.

Having retired at a young age thanks to following his inner guidance system, today Tim keeps busy writing, blogging and speaking—engaging others in meaningful dialogue as he continues asking life’s big questions.

For more information on Tim O’Donnell and his work, please visit his site

About the Format

A View From the Back Pew is just over 260 pages. It is composed of an introduction, a not-to-be-missed epilogue and 14 chapters in between. It is an easy book to read, which flows from chapter to chapter and can be pleasantly read in one day. The chapters are as follows:

Chapter 1 – Doctrine and Dogma – Taking Mysteries on Faith
Chapter 2 – What is God? – Infinite Intelligence and Our Ascending Urge
Chapter 3 – Discussion and Doubt – Looking for God in All the Wrong Places
Chapter 4 – What is Religion? – Putting God on Paper
Chapter 5 – Disillusion and Discovery – The University of Life
Chapter 6 – What is Christianity? From Deposit to Doctrine
Chapter 7 – The Deal – When in Rome…
Chapter 8 – What is the Trinity? – The Math Behind the Mystery
Chapter 9 – Rise and Fall – Down Payment on the Deal
Chapter 10 – Who Are the Clergy? – Personnel “Matters”
Chapter 11 – The Deal Delivers – God’s End of the Bargain
Chapter 12 – Who is Jesus? – Christ Consciousness and the Kingdom Within
Chapter 13 – Discerning the Divine – Out of the World and Into the Woods
Chapter 14 – Practicing Oneness – The Conversation of Our Life

About the Content

In A View From the Back Pew, Tim O’Donnell explores, asks and probes into the bigger questions of life that surround religion and spirituality. The main question being—where do we really find God? For many over the centuries—religion—has been the answer to that and Tim is exploring how fitting that idea really is.

In his book, Tim bravely forges into territory which many today are still all too uncomfortable to venture into. However, as we are in the midst of a massive consciousness awakening on our planet, more and more of us are going where Tim has gone. More of us are allowing ourselves to ask the bigger questions with the fundamental one being—why we believe what we believe.

Tim’s purpose for writing this book was to inspire people to begin their own personal journey from ritualized systems of belief to a more vital connection with the intelligence that animates the Universe. It was written to help any of us who have ever wondered, questioned or struggled with organized religion and knowing where to find God.

Religion comes from the human mind attempting to answer questions originating in the human spirit.

Tim O’Donnell, A View from the Back Pew

Tim begins the book recalling his early childhood years and the impact this had on him and his life. He was brought up in a Catholic home and attended Catholic schools his entire life, with grade school run by nuns and high school run by priests.

The book then alternates every other chapter, between being autobiographical and philosophically investigative. It is in this way that Tim takes us through his life journey, recalling key events and life experiences that shaped his views and challenged his beliefs. Likewise in the investigative sections, Tim provides the reader with sets of probing questions, as he shares the research and historical evidence known to date with regards to the theological topics he is referring to.

At about the age of 20, he has a deeply moving spiritual experience out of which is born what Tim calls “The Deal”. This experience greatly shapes the next 20 years for Tim as he tries to live out his end of the “The Deal.”

The climax of the book comes when Tim turns 40 and thanks to a financially successful career is able to retire, yet he knows there is a bigger purpose for him. “The Deal” does not seem to be settled. All his life Tim searched for answers from the time he was a little boy and still he feels unsettled as to what role religion really plays in our connection to God.

Inspired to retreat into the woods, Tim builds a log cabin and begins to dive deeper than ever into the bigger questions that plagued him his whole life. And it is amidst nature, peace and solitude that Tim uncovers some astonishing answers, while liberating himself to the fullest version of his spirituality to date.

It took a long time of contemplation and stillness in the woods to realize that I had been ignoring my oneness with God in favor of the duality I was taught.

Tim O’Donnell, A View from the Back Pew

Personal Commentary

Okay, so where do I begin…I have so many great things to say about this book and I will be honest to tell you why—because it spoke to me on a very personal level. I will not hide the fact that I strongly favor this book, but I feel I have good reasons to do so.

You see, I know what Tim is talking about and where he is coming from in this book almost too precisely. There were many parallels between the personal journey he outlines with religion and my own. What separates us is mainly a couple decades of time.

Like Tim, I was brought up in the Catholic religion and had a quest for knowledge and answers when it came to all things theological. Unlike Tim, I questioned internally and in many ways thought I had it all figured out, rationalizing questionable beliefs to ensure my personal comfort. Without going into the details of my own story here, in my mid-20’s I was given the gift to wake up and snap out of the trance I had been living in. Due to a series of very serendipitous circumstances, the veil began to lift and for the first time in my life, I saw clearly the illusions I was living in when it came to the beliefs associated with religion. For the first time I was acutely aware of the separation that was instilled in me from a young age between myself and God, which did not need to be there at all.

It was shocking, but somehow wondrously liberating, to uncover the hold that religion had on my life.

Tim O’Donnell, A View from the Back Pew

Regardless of how hard or easy each spiritual awakening is, I know for 100% it is worth it no matter how it may seem in the midst of it. It is so worth it to question, it is so worth it to be honest with ourselves, for out of this space grows a deeper, broader and more encompassing understanding for us of everything. This is part of the amazing gift that Tim is giving us through his book—the gift of taking accountability for our beliefs and asking questions to ignite a powerful spiritual journey and reconnection to the Divine.

I found Tim’s story inspiring on many levels. I enjoyed the writing and felt the book was written in a very easy to understand, friendly tone, which probes questions in a smart, and non threatening way. Even though religion is a touchy subject for many, there is nothing about Tim’s tone or language that is offensive in any way. He is respectful, but real and authentic at the same time. I applaud Tim for his courage to speak out so openly on a topic that makes many fearful, because he is truly providing such a valuable gift through this book.

Throughout the book Tim supportively encourages us towards our own quest for truth with gentle reminders like “God is not threatened by your examination” and “mankind’s metaphysical awareness evolves as our ability to explain expands.”

Tim does an outstanding job covering every major Christian topic from the Virgin Birth and Trinity, to the role of women in the church and celibacy. The book is truly outstanding and I feel it can be such a valuable asset for so many of us out there to move into a space of religious and spiritual maturity. If you have ever pondered on why you believe what you believe, if you have ever thought that something doesn’t add up, if you yearn for a closer relationship with and understanding of God, I strongly encourage you to pick up Tim’s book.

Yet Christianity allows for little or no “evolution” in the understanding of Jesus’ message.

Tim O’Donnell, A View from the Back Pew

I really feel it is a must read for all those tied to an organized religion who are open enough to consider their beliefs. And I feel it is especially a must read for Christians, specifically Catholics. I know my personal relationship with God and Jesus was never more clear and more present in my life, then when I released myself from the clutches of organized religion.

I am sure by now you can feel how strongly I feel about this topic, but it is because I know the cloak of fear and guilt I have lived under, and the liberation I attained when I chose to examine my beliefs. I see that same cloak of fear and guilt limiting so many others daily and I know it doesn’t have to be this way. I wish for them all a similar sense of freedom and liberation that I attained. Religious dogma shapes every facet of our life and unfortunately greatly stagnates our spiritual journey while it limits and/or disempowers our personal relationship with God. It masks us from knowing and embracing our personal divinity and living up to what the great masters like Jesus, Buddha or Muhammad were exemplifying for us. The Kingdom of God truly is within. There is nowhere to get to, no points to earn and no one to please, fear or worship.

The time for awakening and stepping into the rich fullness of a deeply meaningful spiritual journey is now, and Tim O’Donnell’s A View from the Back Pew brilliantly guides us to take that step.

We are moving toward the infinite state of Divine Awareness. What I’m encouraging you to do is to follow your own Ascending Urge.

Tim O’Donnell, A View from the Back Pew

If this topic interests you, I encourage you to learn about two other books that I reviewed, which cover similar ideas and can support a spiritual awakening beyond religious dogma: 1. If the Church Were Christian by Philip Gulley and 2. The Lost Gospel – The Book of Q and Christian Origins by Burton L. Mack.

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