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Friday, March 26, 2010

5 Steps to Apostasy?

Michael Patton, an evangelical Christian and a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, has a blog entitled: Parchment and Pen. While obviously Michael and I disagree on the truth of evangelical Christianity, I think he is a good guy and he attempts to be fair and honest in dealing with the relevant issues. At least he is willing to deal with the issues, so many Christians smugly maintain that they have the truth and that anyone who disagrees is being deceived by Satan.

Patton, by his own admission, has a fascination with those who leave the Christian faith. He has done a number of posts on the subject with his most recent being, "How People Become Evangelists Of Uunbelief” Or Leaving (Christ)ianity – An Evangelical Epidemic. In the post, he says: I have found that the two primary reasons people leave the faith are 1) intellectual challenges and 2) bad theology or misplaced beliefs. . He finds five steps in the process of apostasy:

Step One: Doubt

Here is where the person begins to examine his or her faith more critically by asking questions, expressing concerns, and becoming transparent with their doubt. This doubt is not wholesale, but expresses an inner longing to have questions answered and the intellect satisfied to some degree. Normally this person will inquire of mentors in the faith, requesting an audience for their doubt.

Step Two: Discouragement

This is where the person becomes frustrated because they are not finding the answers. They ask questions but the answer (or lack thereof) causes them discouragement. Their church tells them that such questions are “unchristian.” Their Sunday school teacher says, “I don’t know. You just have to believe.” Others simply say, “That’s a good question, I have never thought of it before,” and then go on their way on their own leap-of-faith journey.

Step Three: Disillusionment

Now the person begins to become disillusioned with Christianity in general and proceeds to doubt much more deeply. They feel betrayed by those who made them believe the story about Christ. They feel that much of their former faith was naive since not even their most trusted mentors could (or would) answer basic questions about the Bible, history, or faith. In their thinking the intellect has become illegitimized and the church is therefore an illegitimate contender for their mind.

Step Four: Apathy

At this point in the journey, the disillusioned Christian becomes apathetic to finding the answers, believing that the answers don’t exist. They are firmly on their way to atheism, agnosticism, or pure skepticism but don’t have the courage to admit it to themselves or others. Many times those in this stage live as closet unbelievers, believing it is not worth it to come clean about their departure from the faith. They want a peaceful existence in their unbelief without creating controversy. Therefore, they are content to remain closet unbelievers.

Step Five: Departure

At this stage the fact that they have left the faith has become real to them and they are willing to announce to the world. Because of their sense of betrayal, they feel as if it is their duty to become evangelists for the cause of unbelief. Their goal and mission becomes to unconvert the converted.

Since we have a number of de-converted Christians who read this blog, I would be interested in what you think of Patton's five step process and if it aligns with your own personal experience. I would also be interested to hear if you think there is anything the church or Christians could have done to keep you from walking away? Patton believes that the Church needs to deal with issues in a deeper way and not just merely dismiss them. I commend him for that opinion.

I tend to think, however, that most Christians don't really want to think very deeply. Their Christianity makes them "feel-good;" it tells them they are special and that God loves them and watches over them. It provides them with a good social outlet (and in Southern Baptist circles a lot of good food!) where they can be around people with similar beliefs. It provides a support network when problems in life, such as sickness and death, arise. Why would they want to challenge all of that with examining carefully the basis of their religion? The simple truth is that most don't. In addition, they are usually told that doubts arise from Satan and the solution is to resist the Devil, pray harder, read the Bible more, and be faithful to the all the services of the church. If there is something that you don’t understand about the Bible or theology, just have faith and God will explain it all to you when you get to heaven.

As I look at his five step process, it seems to me that I experienced only 1) Doubt, 3) Disillusionment, and 5) Departure. I did not experience #'s 2 and 4. As far as anything the church could have done, I doubt it but it would have been nice to see them try. Instead, my local church simply ostracized me and demonized me. In their mind, I am like Judas.

I look forward to hearing other's comments about their experience. BTW, my friend and fellow apostate John Loftus, recently had a post on this subject and I see he has received 218 comments on it. In addition, I have recently become aware of a book entitled: If God Disappears: 9 Faith Wreckers and What to Do about Them By David R. Sanford. Some other books on this subject which I have read include: Leaving the fold: testimonies of former fundamentalists, ed. by my friend and fellow apostate, Ed Babinski; Walking away from faith: unraveling the mystery of belief & unbelief by former Calvin College professor Ruth Tucker; Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity by my friend and fellow apostate, John Loftus; Beyond Born Again: Towards Evangelical Maturity by theology professor, Robert Price (available to read on-line; Farewell to God: My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith by former Billy Graham associate, Charles Templeton and the book by my new friend and fellow apostate Ken Daniels, Why I Believed: Reflections of a Former Missionary (available to read on-line). And as I mentioned in a previous post, Ed Babinski has compiled a list of books by former believers.

That should provide a lot of data for anyone who wishes to investigate the reasons why Christians leave the fold. I would love to see a doctoral dissertation done at one of the leading evangelicals seminaries on this topic.

54 comments:

  1. Very interesting! I never experienced apathy, but I did spend time as a closet unbeliever, even from myself. I just kept praying and trying to find answers during that time. And I don't think that discouragement for me was much different from doubt. They were the same step, or the descriptions describe a process I went through simultaneously. I would put mine like this:
    1. Doubt--a few questions here and there
    2. Serious doubt--deeper questions that made me doubt and question *everything*
    3. Disillusionment
    4. Desperately trying to hang on to a shred of faith
    5. Departure

    What could the church have done? Been honest in the first place that there are problems with the Bible, and that not everything is perfect. Not that that would have "saved" me, but it would have at least PREPARED me for that day in college when talking to a minister who thought I'd had more ministry classes and started ranting about how Peter didn't write Peter, etc, etc.

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  2. I think these steps identify what I went through. I went through all of these.
    Doubt-Started with college but then more through reading (e.g. Who Wrote the Bible, Evolution of God, etc.)
    Discouragement- No one had any answers except the typical pat-pat Christian answers
    Disillusionment-I started to doubt my pastors and Bible study leaders. I didn't understand why they had never researched some aspects of their faith (particularly the Bible).
    Apathy-Started sleeping in on Sunday mornings. Yay!
    Departure-I still haven't told my family and I don't feel that I need to deconvert others, though I do share openly w/friends

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  3. It seems to me (born a Jew and quite extensively educated in Hebrew, Aramaic, and study of Talmud, etc., but now an agnostic/atheist) that the largest part of the process that leads to apostasy is the discovery that one's parents, teachers, pastors are quite often hypocritical and do not necessarily "believe" as they claim in public. For me, the process began when I was about 18 years old and, for the first time, began to see past the tradiitons and observances of Judaism enough to actually ask myself whether or not I believed any of it. I then had the opportunity to study Chriatianity, as well as sevral of the other major religions, whereby I realized that none of them had any more "truth" than Judaism. Finally, I was able to realize that I could find neither real world knowledge that supported belief in a Deity nor that "kernel" of faith, without which the existance or non-existance of God is irrelevant. Because I was by then no longer dependent upon family or the social groups I grew up with for support or affirmation of who I was, it wa relatively easy to "come out of the closet". To be truthful, I don't think I was ever really in the closet. I can readily understand, however, that for Christians (particularly fundamentalists), the need to distance oneself from or, more likely, to be ostracized by one's family, friends, and perhaps one's entire social milieu would be the most difficult obstacle to accepting one's lack of belief.

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  4. Harvey,

    Thanks for your comments. The fact that people don't live like they really believe their religion resonates with me. When I was a Christian I was quite disappointed in how many Christians lived. I don't mean their failures or sins necessarily but that they didn't do much from a positive standpoint to reflect what they were supposed to believe. Since I am convinced that the best test of what a person believes is what they do, that was another factor in my losing faith in the Christian religion.

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  5. Since I am convinced that the best test of what a person believes is what they do, that was another factor in my losing faith in the Christian religion.

    So your own actions were a factor in your losing faith?

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  6. To be honest, I'm not sure how well this list applies to me. I was raised Episcopalian, and for most of my youth I was a believer; but I was maybe twelve or fourteen when I quit self-identifying as a Christian, and that was quite a while ago now. So my memory of the 'stages of the process' is hazy at best, and probably completely unreliable. Still, here's my impression:

    I was a bit asocial as child, and church was just one of a long list of things that seemed very important to everyone else and didn't make much sense to me (c.f. team sports, cars, fashion). I didn't so much leave the Church, as wander off and never come back. I fiddled around with other belief systems for a while, and finally settled into my current agnosticism.

    What I remember about the process is that it was basically a matter of looking at the way the various pieces of Christian theology fit together. It wasn't the individual assertions that caused the problem, but trying to assemble them into a coherent whole. The longer I looked, the less sense the basic arrangement seemed to make. I am not a Christian because, on a fundamental level, Christianity does not make sense to me.

    Even then, I might still have remained (nominally) a Christian. Episcopalians aren't, as a rule, terribly concerned with having every jot and tittle of their theology straight. Nobody was going to excoriate - or excommunicate - me just for thinking that (for example) the Doctrine of the Trinity seems like a shaky post-facto attempt to reconcile the worship of Jesus with the command not to worship anybody but God. By the same token, I don't necessarily have to understand every tiny detail in order to accept something. So, as I said, I might just have accepted Christianity as something that I considered true but didn't completely understand.

    The other half of my... I hesitate to call it deconversion, or even departure; it was more like a decision to explore elsewhere.

    Anyway, the other side of my inability to accept Christianity is that my experience of the Divine is simply different from what Christianity describes. There are places that are alive for me, in a way I find difficult to describe. Sacred, but not to any particular god; haunted, but in a good way. I've felt a profound sense of Presence, and the Peace that Passeth Understanding - or at least a peace that passeth understanding - but I never had any sense that the presence wanted anything from me, or had any particular message for me. It was just this... gift... of transcendant calm.

    I've never felt anything like that in a church, with any sort of congregation, or while reading the Bible or contemplating Jesus' sacrifice. If I had, I might still be a Christian of sorts... though admittedly not what the more hard-core types would consider a Real, True Christian. As it stands, though, my experience of the Divine is better described by animism, or perhaps pantheism. Christian beliefs just don't resonate with me.

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  7. Michael Patton left out the part where you look around you and realize how crazy everyone else is.

    I would also be interested to hear if you think there is anything the church or Christians could have done to keep you from walking away? Patton believes that the Church needs to deal with issues in a deeper way and not just merely dismiss them.

    I think avoiding discussing the problems with theology IS the way that churches try to keep members from walking away. They would lose even more members if they were open and honest about what biblical scholarship reveals.

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  8. Ken,

    I just discovered your blog. Thank you for the work you're putting into this, it's impressive and informative.

    I identify with all of the steps listed except for apathy. I was never apathetic about my loss of faith.

    However, it was not intellectual challenges or bad theology which pushed me out of Christianity, but a growing moral disgust. I managed to shove aside my problems with various issues as being my own lack of understanding until my father's death. When I was told he was going to hell I realized that I could not reconcile that with any possible concept of justice.

    This led me to the realization--and it was extremely emotional and difficult--that you cannot have an incomprehensible justice. Justice which is not understood by those it is applied to is not justice. That was the crack that brought down my belief, and it was a moral difficulty.

    I would be interested to know if Mr. Patton ever addresses moral conflicts with Christianity, or if it is his experience that they are not often the cause of apostasy.

    Harvey,

    Interestingly, it was the realization that people actually DO sincerely believe in hell and damnation, and that I found that belief too horrible in myself to continue in, that drove me away. In some cases, a lack of hypocrisy can be worse than the alternative.

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  9. The biggest question I wrestled with from my mid-teens through my mid-thirties (a long time) was Christianity's exclusive truth claims: the promise of eternal life balanced against the threat of eternal fiery torment pivoted over nothing more than a creedal commitment (belief that Jesus was God's son, died for my sins, & rose from the dead).

    Over the years, I gravitated to Bible verses that reflected on the topic; I read multiple apologetical books from evangelical Christians on the topic; and I attempted to formulate a more compassionate apologetic for Christianity's exclusive truth claims.

    Again and again, I was disillusioned by the dry and insensitive exegesis I found in many apologetic works, and by the tendency of evangelicals and apologists to defend Christianity's exclusive truth claims with arguments that negate the intrinsic dignity of being human. Again and again, evangelicals appeal to man's utter depravity and utter unworthiness before God, the infinite offense of his sin, man's lack of standing before God (who are you to protest, "O man"?), and the inexplicable and revolting insistence that death and hell, or a blood sacrifice is what God's holiness and justice "logically" requires.

    For years I went through repeated cycles of wrestling with this issue, feeling deeply dissatisfied with the answers I read or formulated myself, and then halting my intellectual wrestling match with the issues.

    If you have any humanity, Christianity's exclusive truth claims -- if you subscribe to them -- should cause anguish and deep and very sensitive humility; or so I thought.

    But most evangelicals I talk with harbor very little anguish over this issue. Most don't care. It doesn't affect them and it doesn't bother them. They and the people they care about are part of the heaven-bound tribe; and most don't really give a "damn" -- apart from occassionally supporting mission efforts -- about the damned.

    I was repulsed by fellow Christians who regularly expressed assurance of their own salvation combined with assurance of the damnation of others.

    So I increasingly viewed Christianity as a tribal ethic: you had dignity, value and acceptance as long as you were in and stayed loyal to the tribe; and the greatest sin was to betray the tribe by disputing its creed.

    And I couldn't help but see a parallel between Christianity's creedal ethnocentrism and other popular forms of ethnocentrism among evangelicals, including:

    1) the comfortable marriage between Evangelicalism and Zionism, coupled with a Bible-prophecy-fueled belief that Israel ought to drive out and annihilate, if necessary, Palestinians and Arabs to reclaim their "Promised Land." The Palestinians' and Arabs' made-in-God's-image status apparently counts for nothing.

    2) An America-first philosophy and complete unquestioning support for any U.S. military adventure; coupled with the idea that you are not a true "patriot" if you express any qualms about those adventures.

    3) Viewing illegal immigrants first and foremost as "lawbreakers" and the utter inability or unwillingness among many Evangelicals to empathize with their pain and struggles.

    4) The mostly unchallenged tendency among some Evangelicals to demonize all homosexuals as perverts and potential pedophiles.

    I could go on, but you get the idea.

    I began to realize that far from being "hypocritical," many Evangelicals have remade themselves in the image of the jealous, raging, chosen-people-favoring God that they imagine.

    Once I began to link Christianity's exclusive truth claims to this bitter enthnocentric fruit, I found myself unable to resist the unraveling of my faith. And boy have I tried to resist it -- reading Brian McLaren's books, for example -- but it has been to no avail.

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  10. Holy crap. I left a long post that was just eaten by the interwebs. And I really don't want to re-create it. So I'll give the Cliffs Notes:

    I find numbers 1-3 to be spot-on. I had doubts, I asked questions, I was told, "Just read your Bible more," I said, "Um, that doesn't help." After enough of that I realized that there weren't any answers to be had from Christianity. There was one day when I was in church and looked around and thought, "I have to do this every week for the rest of my life? That's gonna get old." Mind you, I was planning on going to Seminary at the time...

    Numbers 4 and 5, though, are wrong. They appear to be standard strawman building and I find them subtly offensive. They indicate that the author really doesn't get the whole thing, even though I do give him credit for trying way harder than just saying, "People leave because they want to sin."

    First of all, I didn't just drift in to skepticism. I experienced it as a positive force. My skepticism, then, created my apathy, because I got tired of the same answers and got tired of trying to morph reality to fit them.

    Second, the reason I kept my non-Christianity hidden from my former brethren is not because I didn't want to admit it. It's because I didn't want to deal with them trying to re-convert me. I knew what I knew and I didn't want to deal with it. I've had to deal with some of it since, but I just let them talk about me to themselves.

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  11. These steps match my experience quite closely, with one exception: I haven't become evangelistic about unbelief. I have announced my position and attempted to account for it in a blog telling my story (http://absquefide.blogspot.com), but it is not my goal to make everyone else more like me.

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  12. On point #4, I have never felt apathetic about it, not the slightest.

    On point #5, yes I do feel a sense of betrayal, but that doesn't motivate me.

    The main reasons that I feel a need to "come out" of my no-longer-believing closet is (1) a need for authenticity (I'm tired of pretending to be part of the tribe), (2) my evangelical upbringing taught me to be courageously and bravely outspoken in a hostile world; and (3) I've lived my whole life deeply immersed in theological thoughts, and I will probably always have a somewhat obsessive interest in those issues.

    I think the people here encounter more hostility in expressing one's reasons for leaving the faith than they ever did in witnessing that faith. But in any event, we were all taught to not to be ashamed for our beliefs. That's probably why many of us are still outspoken.

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  13. Satkara: "...you cannot have an incomprehensible justice. Justice which is not understood by those it is applied to is not justice."

    That is a GREAT point. Truly great. I'm going to write that one down.

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  14. The 5 steps toward apostasy almost mirror my own journey toward atheism. I think the steps are correct, but the author's reasoning as to why these steps occur and the motivation behind some steps like apathy and disillusionment show that he is projecting what he THINKS I should feel at each step. I'm not sure he understands why these things occur.

    Step One: Doubt

    This started for me when I was as young as 8 and no one could tell me where God came from. It extended into my bible classes at school when we did projects on what was logically and scripturally wrong with other religions. I would apply the same logic to Christianity and realized there was a problem. Also by exposing us to the other religions and teaching us that these false religions have hundreds of thousands of people following them. I remember thinking "What if we're the ones who are wrong." But the soul consuming guilt for doubting god always brought me back.

    Step Two: Discouragement

    Can't even count how many times requests for answered were denied with "It's something you have to believe by faith." This step was the most frustrating because I could not understand why no one else saw the problem. Why the people who were counceling me to have faith were not as concerned as I was. Most times the question/answer sessions were followed by an admonition to stop doubting and fearful prayer to god to forgive me because I really did believe.

    Step Three: Disillusionment

    I became very disillusioned my first semester at Bob Jones University. And it continued until I left 3 semesters later. If you are doubting your faith at admission, BJU will push you over the edge.

    Step Four: Apathy

    Apathy was an important step for me. I found it offensive that the author said it was because we lacked the courage to admit it. I had been indoctrinated since birth to believe in creationism the infallability of the bible, the holes in the evolutionary theory, and to fear the horrible horrible people who were unsaved.
    So when I finally admitted to myself that Christianity did not make sense, there was a void of what I did believe. And at the time, I had been conditioned to reguard athiests with the same revulsion as mass murderers. I couldn't even say the word. So for a couple years while I dove into researching religions, skepticism, agnosticism, and evolution, if asked what I believed I would only answer "I don't know, and I'm ok with that right now"
    Also, one of the hardest things to accept before taking the final step toward atheism is the fact that this finite time we have on earth is all we will ever have. There is no eternal life or reincarnation. I will die and cease to exhist. That thought was more terrifying then hell.

    Step Five: Departure

    I have never pushed atheism on anyone. And I expect the same respect and decency from Christians. If you want to talk about religion and try to turn it into a witnessing opportunity, I will oblige you and tell you why you are wrong. I'm not here to eradicate Christianity from the world, I know that's what many Christians believe. I just want you to stop pushing your beliefs on me.

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  15. My process was off and on over several years with some times of fervent belief. I blogged about this once before here (shameless blog plug) but it was a combination of things.

    First, in high school, it was the question of free will or predestination and I got no real answer on this. So stage 1 and 2 as described above. After that though I just let the question slip away and came back to the church.

    During college I attended church regularly only a few years. I came back home after college while looking for a job and attended church with my parents regularly. I got married to a pentacostal girl and stayed that way for 3 years. We got divorced and I became more of a fundamentalist.

    I then let my brain take over and started checking out little things. I learned how people deceived themselves and my doubt came back. Back to Stage 1. I researched my questions and my doubt grew, Stage 2 again.

    This time I did go into Stage 3 and disillusionment. That made me thirsty for more knowledge though. The more I learned the more I realized that there was no evidence for any god much less the Christian God.

    I never became apathetic and stopped looking. Instead I wanted more knowledge. I am not open to my family, as they are all creationists, but I am open to my friends. I don't try to change them I just reason with them.

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  16. "Also, one of the hardest things to accept before taking the final step toward atheism is the fact that this finite time we have on earth is all we will ever have. There is no eternal life or reincarnation. I will die and cease to exhist. That thought was more terrifying then hell."

    This is, in fact, both the reason that it is difficult for some people to accept their lack of belief and, I think, the yardstick by which one can come to peace with the realization. If one can accept that this life is "all there is" and that as far as we can tell we all return to that state of non-existance that we all had before our moment of conception, I think that one can honestly say that he/she has no "need" for belief in any creator, let alone any organized religion. In my own case, when some years ago I approached a major open-heart procedure, expecting that I would wake up in a cold sweat some night and begin praying to God, and this never occurred, I relaized that I was truly at peace with my recognition that I did not need to create a God to comfort me or to force me into ethical behavior.
    As an aside, I have never felt the need to proselytize for atheism/agnosticism, nor have I ever felt that it would be a kind or caring thing to cause someone to abandon a belief system that offered them some help in coping with the sometimes frightening and often cruel realities of this world. I only wish that Christian (and, I suppose, Muslims too) believers would offer those of us who do not agree with their "take" on God the same courtesy and kindness.

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  17. My reasons were intellectual and watching people. I'd say it started with people-watching long before the intellctual
    part kicked in.

    From childhood I tried to figure out the meaning of life, and I'd look at different people and see if they were the ones who had it right.

    It was obvious that my parents and most other church people were just like everybody else basically. But they would take me to church all the time, so I could hear these drastic sermons that I took very seriously. Obviously most of the adults took them with a grain of salt. That was very confusing to me.

    So it began with confusion between what was preached and what was actually lived.

    Then I noticed that my Bible world and the real world did not match up well.

    I can relate whole-heartedly to #3. Expresses my feelings very well. Wait, let me back up a second-discouragement and depression did come before that from all the years of confusion and frustration of trying to make it make sense and work for me.

    I also relate strongly to #5. I researched on my own, then questioned a little at church (you all can imagine what vibe I picked up from them)
    then stopped attending, kept studying, and got brave enough to "come out" on my facebook page.

    Could the church have done anything to persuade me to stay? No. By the point that I started timidly asking questions at church, I had made up my mind. I knew they weren't going to say anything I hadn't heard already. It's like a veil had been lifted and there was no going back.

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  18. For me step 2 was brief, I guess it was present but not much.

    Step 4 never happened. Instead there was fear and sorrow. I did not want to lose my faith. I was fearful of doing so -- what if I was wrong?

    I also disagree with a sense of betrayal being the cause of non-theistic evangelism. I think many people who leave the faith do so because they're honestly searching for the truth. When they find that religion isn't true they want to tell others. It's the same motivation the religious have for evangelism -- sharing the truth.

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  19. Oh, also, I like what Laura said about how it would have been nice to be less clueless about Bible problems. When you do learn about what scholars think, it's quite a shock. And made me angry.

    Also I agree with everettattebury that NOT talking about Bible problems, church history, etc. probably helps keep church members.

    I also agree with Ken that if the church did start offering those discussions-especialy from the pulpit, most people would NOT say "Oh, boy, this is great!"

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  20. Derek,

    I really like what you said about why people who've left their faith might want to share with people. I have the anger from feeling betrayed, but it is also what you said: feeling like you have found the truth at last and you want the world to see it too. Sort of a justice thing.

    I'm not out there preaching or anything. You probably understand what I mean though.

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  21. I think Patton is fairly correct, but these kinds of stages are not so cut and dried. After I came to the conclusion of deism or liberal existentialism I went through a period of about six years of apathy where I didn't care much about the issues. That's six years of time where I just lived my life and never much thought about the issues.

    Now I wish I could go back to that stage in some ways. This debunking thing is time consuming and very frustrating.

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  22. Seems to me that Patton's 5-step model of apostasy is one believer's attempt to codify the phenomenon so he can better account for it. I think this is a common human tendency: to try and break down disparate and ill-defined thoughts and emotions into definite, clear-cut stages.

    I tried a similar trick during my deconversion, except that I identified with the classic Kubler-Ross five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Certainly for me, the "death of God" in my life was like losing a beloved family member.

    But all models can be easily falsified by one incompatible experience. Let's be honest, we are not machines who are all bound to go through distinct predefined stages in this matter. I can't help feeling that since Patton is a Calvanist (as he claims at one point) - and in my experience the Reformed theology model really appeals to those of a pernickety just-so mentality - he just has to have everything neatly defined in tidy theological boxes in order for it to compute.

    What Patton will miss, since he is on the inside of this, is what Eric Cernyar above refers to as Christianity's tribalism. I prefer the term cultism - the English word cult comes from the Latin word for worship - since religion is organised around the veneration of a being above all else. Everything you may have read about people who join cults, the mental tricks that cultism relies upon to keep people faithful, the compliant attitude that is inculcated in these groupings, the sheer emotional struggle that is necessary to wrench oneself away, ALL of this is how Christianity works. ALL belief systems take advantage of the same basic flaws in human credulity. ALL religions insist that their revealed knowledge is above human reasoning.

    Forsaking any form of cultish way of thinking isn't easy and we all experience it in different ways. But those still in the bubble of belief will never get it until they stop regarding their position as the default, the god-intended normalcy. To them, we have all departed from the truth and the truth is still in the bubble. The exclusivism of all cultish tribes is what polices the doctrinal borders and keeps the patriots in and the illegals out. (And again, I both allude to and borrow Eric's fine observation that American Evangelicalism is hugely and dangerously conflated with jingoistic nationalism. Thankfully a scenario I never had to deal with as a Brit. Though ironically when I was still a Christian the election of G W Bush made me question the will of God.)

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  23. I started to read Patton's post, and got as far as this: (And this is coming from a Calvinist who does not believe that the truly elect will ever leave).

    That was all I needed to see. This young man has absolutely nothing to say that I would consider to be of value.

    Also, Ken, he admits to having a "fascination, obsession, and focus (neurotic impulse?)" with deconverted Christians (even though he obviously believes they weren't "real" Christians in the first place). What he's saying, although he'd obviously deny it, is that he's satisfying his curiosity by studying them, dispassionately, until the inevitable day they're whisked off to hell. Lovely.

    Ken, this kid is not a "good guy". He'll happily see you, me, and everyone we care about burning forever in a lake of fire while he gets to sit in baby Jesus' lap and toast marshmallows. These people and their belief system are a collective abomination. I see no point in engaging them in any way.

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  24. As someone who was an evangelical for a long time, one very big factor (aside from the threat of hell) that keeps evangelicals in the fold is the intense anticipation and fear of persecution. The NT is filled with passages warning of the world's opposition and coming persecutions.

    I know. I was motivated to go to law school because of that anticipation and fear.

    If it wasn't for the respect for my rights and affirmation of my value that liberal Christians and non-Christians demonstrated to me, while I was still an evangelical, I doubt I would have ever left evangelical Christianity.

    Fear of persecution only intensifies the tribal, us-versus-them instinct.

    Secular-minded people would be wise to avoid, at all cost, intensifying those fears.

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  25. "Ken, this kid is not a "good guy". He'll happily see you, me, and everyone we care about burning forever in a lake of fire while he gets to sit in baby Jesus' lap and toast marshmallows. These people and their belief system are a collective abomination. I see no point in engaging them in any way."

    Wow. All I can say is that nothing could be further from the truth. I am not saying that this post was intended to open the gates of discussion, but this is quite a conversation stopper.

    BTW: The typ
    e of Calvinists you are talking about represent a form of Calvinism that I don't hold to. Don't assume so too much about me. I have been teaching theology for a long time now and Calvinism is the most misunderstood issue both from the inside and out. You can see my views on my blog under the "Calvinism" catergory.

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  26. I was interested in engaging the blatant contradiction that C. Michael had within his post at his site regarding his grief over limited atonement yet his adherence to Calvinist Christianity. Calvinist theology is a strong catalyst for my drift to skepticism, then agnosticism and ultimately atheism.

    In good Calvinist fashion he sought to control the terms of the conversation and said my questions of his theological interpretation were tangential to the post.

    He then banned me.

    What these Calvinists don't realize that is without our secular protections they would be stacking fire-wood and burning us at the stake.

    I have found that christians looking to understand atheism are simply embodying a thin pretense towards unbelief that barely masks their fear and resentment towards it.

    They are not interested in making space for or respecting atheism's claims to honesty. They are only interested in better defining their concept of sin.

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  27. C. Michael,

    Your unwillingness to engage in the Calvinism you brought up is completely consistent with the type of Calvinism John Calvin created.

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  28. Michael, you employ the term "elect". That is all I need to hear. I have no intention of making myself angrier by reading more of your writings; fifty-three years of experience informs me that Chuck O'Connor's assessment in the previous comment is most likely correct.

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  29. ---

    Patton left out a very important part of the model, and I think I’m pretty sure I know the reason why.

    Step 1-A should be “God never reveals the answers”.

    During the steps that led to my de-conversion, the single greatest factor was the deafening silence from God. After I began doubting, I wasn’t gung ho about leaving Christianity. The last thing on my mind was leaving the faith. I loved God, I loved being a Christian, I loved my church and the people within (still do). I felt loved, accepted, purposeful and meaningful. But, I was also scared. And not about my own salvation; I was completely assured of that. I felt scared for others were undoubtedly heading for Hell. The terror in knowing that at the end of the world, the VAST MAJORITY of mankind would be suffering unconscionably and without end was nauseating and dreadful to me. It began eroding away at my joy, at my passion and at my very sanity. But all the while, I questioned God’s goodness very little, if at all. I remained in complete supplication to his will and prayed fervently for answers or solace.

    On the last youth camp that I attended with our church as an adult team leader, I reached the breaking point. After excusing myself from the final message/worship session, I walked down a dark mountain road, at my wit’s end, pleading with God to deliver me from the fear, anxiety and suicidal tendencies I had been suffering through for well over 3 years. I was ready to listen to God; I was ready for him to answer me. I needed deliverance and I knew the only place to go for deliverance was God.

    At least, that’s what I thought.

    What I got was exactly what I should have expected; absolutely nothing. God was as silent then as he’d always been. It wasn’t long after that that the wheels came off. Since then, I realize how utterly ridiculous the claims of Christianity are, and how utterly ridiculous it is to torture yourself over something that may not even be true. If I ever find out that I am wrong about Christianity, my anger wouldn’t be directed at people in my church, or apologists, or those who witnessed to me, or the Bible or myself. My anger will be with God, because in my darkest hours, when my faith was waning and I was on the precipice of apostasy, the being with the most power and ability to turn me around stood by and did nothing, but instead allowed me to jump off the cliff and land in Hell.

    So, I implore Mr. Patton to include God in his list, since he would be the being most capable of preventing apostasy and limiting the number of ex-believers who end up in Hell for all eternity. Without God, his list is hollow and just a Christian’s way of rationalizing how people could truly believe in Christianity and then one day, not.

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  30. The terror in knowing that at the end of the world, the VAST MAJORITY of mankind would be suffering unconscionably and without end was nauseating and dreadful to me. It began eroding away at my joy, at my passion and at my very sanity. But all the while, I questioned God’s goodness very little, if at all. I remained in complete supplication to his will and prayed fervently for answers or solace.

    The compartmentalization is staggering, isn't it? Five decades, and I still can't get over the fact that the human mind works that way.

    If I ever find out that I am wrong about Christianity, my anger wouldn’t be directed at people in my church, or apologists, or those who witnessed to me, or the Bible or myself. My anger will be with God, because in my darkest hours, when my faith was waning and I was on the precipice of apostasy, the being with the most power and ability to turn me around stood by and did nothing, but instead allowed me to jump off the cliff and land in Hell.

    You're absolutely right, and they don't get it. Most of them will never get it. The only ones who will even deal with it are the Calvinists, and they think God preordained it, and that's just fine with them.

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  31. And, Eric -

    Fear of persecution only intensifies the tribal, us-versus-them instinct.

    Secular-minded people would be wise to avoid, at all cost, intensifying those fears.


    It isn't as though not feeding into those fears is going to cause them to change either their behavior of beliefs. You are one of the very, very rare exceptions who was moved to leave for the reasons you cited. Most couldn't be pried out with a crowbar.

    Eric, our current socioeconomic crisis is the direct result of the behavior of the criminals and lunatics these people have spent the past thirty years voting into office. We aren't coming back from this; America is too badly broken, and cannot be repaired. Due to the interconnect nature of the global economy, as we continue to go down, we'll be taking everyone else down with us. We are looking at the end of civilization within the next several years, quite possibly the end of our species - and they did it. Ultimately, conservative evangelicals turned out to be far more toxic to humanity than the Islamic fundies have ever had the opportunity to be.

    So, I'm sorry, Eric, but I have absolutely no compassion left - none. It's almost certainly too late to undo the damage they've done, but I can vent and let them know what I think of them while we're going under. It at least makes me feel a little better, and you know what? They owe me.

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  32. I don't know if this thread needs another post on the "5 stages," etc., and I've given my story in other places. So, for here, super brief, but an add-on of something that may indeed be helpful to anyone willing to do some more reading.

    My transition from life-long, well-educated Evangelical (BA, MDiv, MA from Biola U/Talbot Sch. of Theol. and later 64 PhD units at Claremont Sch. of Theol., when real transitioning began, but didn't end) was very gradual, and thus not particularly traumatic or tough. I was almost like an outsider observing myself and my milieu, though issues over influence on my kids, and relationships with other family WERE challenging. I don't mean "observing" as split-off, defending, but that I'm SOOO analytical and curious (inevitable I'd eventually de-convert, I now see).

    Therefore, a broader look at the Christian world (esp. via Claremont) and the entire data of science and the "paranormal" (normal stuff that is less common or "admissible" and poorly understood...yet) told me revelation, as supposedly unique to the Bible, indeed was not, and was not representative of some distinct category of "supernatural." That settled, I still wanted to better understand HOW and WHY concepts did get in the Bible, what truths they DID perhaps hold, how much was or wasn't historical, etc. (Note this was after 11 college and grad years of mostly Bible, theology and psychology in Christian--tho one largely non-orthodox--schools, with a lot of personal study in addition).

    So, in the 15+ years since Claremont, I've read tons more, and enjoyed it thoroughly! I've become increasingly settled and focused (tho never lost intellectual curiosity!) I'm seeking to transition asap to more of a "giving out" than mostly "taking in," or a rough balance. In that spirit, here is a paragraph I just wrote to a post-er on my blog, that I hope may benefit someone here:

    I'll also mention another author, who has become my favorite for Christian Origins and understanding the religious and social dynamics as well as more technical biblical studies issues that pertain to the formation of the New Testament. That is Burton Mack. I have, a couple times at least, come back to re-read parts or all of 2 works I particularly find fascinating and important: "Who Wrote the New Testament?" and "The Christian Myth." The latter is a kind of anthology of several separate smaller works of his, and thus not as "even" or unified as the first... parts may seem too technical or narrow in focus. But I think almost everyone can enjoy, understand and greatly benefit from chapters 4 and 5 at least... the real core of his main thesis about social formation/social experimentation. As to "Who Wrote..." when I first read it, although already sure of the major distortions in the "traditional" views of how the NT was created and selected out (as a "canon of Scripture"), I thought he must be doing a LOT of speculating and filling gaps with mere guesses, etc. That was at least 5 or 6 years ago, maybe nearly 10. Since then, as well as before, I've read numerous books on NT biblical studies and Christian origins, 1st to 4th century Church history, some Josephus, etc. Now, as I come back to Mack's work in both those (or others, like his work on Q), I have little I believe he is off base on or likely to be wrong about. Yes, some requires a bit of speculation, but I find it to make better sense of the data than any other "theories" or written explanations of what probably went on, where authority patterns lie, how concepts developed, etc. And please note: he is not a part of the "Jesus Seminar" and tends to mostly avoid the rather pointless (in my view) speculations about just what Jesus may have said or not said, done or not done. He takes a whole different tack, and one I think much more insightful and helpful for ongoing study.

    Howard

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  33. Exploring the Unknowable,

    Great point about leaving out how we've all certainly (I'm sure) done lots of praying and asking for insight, peace, understanding, and getting the same silence from God.

    That continual silence leads to a break-through in our thinking eventually-"maybe there's no one listening up there!"

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  34. Patton's sister killed herself. He writes about it. I think his rigid superstitions allow him comfort in a world where randomness like that occurs. Having first hand experience with depression of the sort that wreaked havoc on his life, I know that Calvinism can provide temporarily useful guard rails in the form of a positive cognitive bias and friendly, insular and agreeable community. The placebo effect this offers may work for the rest of his life (I know many PSTD survivors who use religion as a therapeutic tool) but, it does not mean it is true or even sustainable. I know it stopped working for me and I needed to address the physical causes of my depression and the psychological realities of my grief, apart from superstition, before I started to realize a mature mind-set. The by-product was religion and theology no longer held any real utility outside of interesting intellectual considerations that have provoked a new hobby within philosophy of religion but, have discredited supernaturalism for the mythology it is. Ironically, the trauma provided by Calvinism and the dissembling christianity offered has led me to a more lasting and personal "savior" in the form of intellectual humility driven by reason and empiricism.

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  35. Well, Chuck, you obviously weren't one of the elect!

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  36. ... they feel as if it is their duty to become evangelists for the cause of unbelief. Their goal and mission becomes to unconvert the converted.

    That's code for:

    Be very afraid: those dirty atheists (especially those deconverts - who were never really Christians in the first place) want to take your god away from you.

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  37. cipher,

    I agree, I am an object lesson to the truth of Calvinist theology and therefore am perpetually confused when I encounter Calvinists (like Patton) who are concerned over apostasy. Isn't my atheism proof that the exclusiveness of god's grace is true? I don't get it. They should be high-fiving me.

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  38. cipher,

    I want to read more about your own experience, and how you were personally wounded. Could you write more about it?

    Most evangelicals were raised with their exclusive faith, and many who were raised in evangelical Christianity have been seriously wounded too. For example, evangelicals are often ill equipped to deal with the many challenges of life. The answer to every hardship in life is always some pious formula, like "have more faith," "turn to God," "surrender," "submit," "pray more fervently," "read the Bible," and for charismatics & Pentecostals, to "bind Satan" etc. The pressure to pronounce that God has helped you overcome any hardships is overwhelming, and when none of the formulas work, the sense of personal guilt, failure, and shame is intense.

    I think many evangelicals are also wounded themselves over Christianity's exclusive truth claims.

    In fact, I think the psychological stress many Evangelicals feel (but never discuss) about the Bible's exclusive truth claims is most intense when considering the Jews and the Holocaust.

    As a youth, the evangelicalism I was brought up in was militant and Zionist in its support for Israel. Many evangelicals feel magnanimous and pluralistic for their unquestioning support of Israel. There is a strong relationship between the extreme but undiscussed anxiety so many Evangelicals feel over their exclusive truth commitments and their militant support of Israel. It provides them with some relief.

    But the nature of that support is perverse. By preaching that Israel should, preferably with America's help, drive out Palestinians and Arabs from the historic boundaries of the "Promised Land," evangelicals deny the intrinsic dignity of Palestinians and Arabs.

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  39. Most evangelicals were raised with their exclusive faith, and many who were raised in evangelical Christianity have been seriously wounded too.

    I think many evangelicals are also wounded themselves over Christianity's exclusive truth claims.

    I agree. Don't care.

    In fact, I think the psychological stress many Evangelicals feel (but never discuss) about the Bible's exclusive truth claims is most intense when considering the Jews and the Holocaust.


    Eric, I don't think, as a rule, they feel all that much anxiety. They support Israel b/c the Bible commands it - but, Jews don't accept Jesus, so they're going to hell. That's it.

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  40. When I lived in San Antonio, Hagee's Cornerstone Church often had Israeli PM Netanyahu over to speak at special pro-Israeli services. I was never a member of that church -- even at that time I couldn't bear Mr. Hagee's chilling theology -- but I attended a couple of those services b/c Netanyahu was speaking.

    Those services would also always be attended by a large group of Orthodox Jews. Jewish songs were sung, Jewish dances were danced, and a Rabbi spoke to the congregation.

    It was the most peculiar environment. I sensed that giving money to a pro-Israeli cause plus the thrill of having Orthodox Jews validate the church's mission was a balm to the unspoken anxiety and ambiguity over the Jews' eternal fate.

    It was strange; maybe you would have had to be there.

    You can get a sense of that strangeness watching Max Blumenthal's video of a 2007 convention orchestrated by the same church:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/max-blumenthal/rapture-ready-the-unautho_b_57826.html

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  41. Eric,

    Your experience speaks to the intellectual suicide and dishonesty offered by the orthodox christian theology.

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  42. Yes,I'm aware of Hagee's shenanigans. Eric, it's a plausible suggestion, but I think you were misinterpreting what you were seeing. Hagee is notoriously obsessed with Jews. For example, I've seen him wearing a prayer shawl, attempting to give the Kohanic - the priestly - blessing, which he's completely unqualified to do, for various reasons.

    You're probably unaware that the majority of members of Messianic congregations are not of Jewish ancestry, or have, perhaps, at most, one Jewish grandparent. They're evangelicals who tire of "vanilla" Christianity, and want to experience something they perceive as being exotic, while still, they believe, remaining under the umbrella of salvific grace.

    That's what you were seeing with Hagee and his crowd. It's just a bad case of Judeophilia, run amok. It isn't anything so noble as guilt, anxiety or concern over our impending damnation.

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  43. Actually, I think there was anxiety, because now that we are having this discussion I recall sermons (I'm not sure when, where, or who) on Romans 11:23-27:

    "And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.... Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved ..."

    I'm not defending or promoting this passage; but the fact that evangelicals often preached this passage reflects (to me at least) the anxiety of at least some over the fate of the Jews.

    I agree that evangelical theology greatly suppresses any sense of shared humanity and that Calvinistic theology almost entirely kills it off.

    Nevertheless, in conversing with evangelicals, including family members, I plan to try to appeal to any semblance of humanity I can find. Evangelicals need to feel the same sense of despair over these doctrine that I felt. Which means encouraging them, gently, to think and talk about these issues, which most evangelicals frankly are uncomfortable discussing.

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  44. Yes - And if they do not persist in unbelief. It's conditional.

    Some evangelicals spin this into a belief that all Jews will be saved. I recently saw Jimmy Swaggart, his son and grandson - three generations of ignorance - discussing this issue. They were adamant that all Israel will not be saved. Their argument: if it's contingent upon the Jews recognizing Jesus upon his return - what about the Jews who've die to this point? Where are they now? The answer, of course, according this brain trust, is that they are in hell - and they said it calmly, dispassionately; I can assure you it didn't trouble them in the least.

    Nevertheless, in conversing with evangelicals, including family members, I plan to try to appeal to any semblance of humanity I can find.

    They'll just tell you God's ways are not ours, and we can't, with our puny minds, comprehend his awesomeness.

    If you think you can make a difference, go ahead. Far be it from me to try to discourage a young person with ideals.

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  45. Ken, my experiences were similar - I did not experience a lot of discouragement or apathy. It was a logical progression as I read and learned and tried to keep an open mind. I did experience frustration and had been with the Christians in my circles for such a long time - as you said before, their lives didn't match much of their theology, they didn't see it (maybe didn't want to see it), and didn't seem to want to change. I think you said it elsewhere, the social status that is given to Christians in their social circles is usually too strong. No one wants to give it up.

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  46. I just watched Max Blumenthal's video. It parallels my experience from Evangelical Christians behind the scenes, when the camera isn't rolling.
    As an adult I had some good friends and neighbors who were Evangelical Christians. I went to their bible studies with them. I thought - just because I don’t like it doesn’t make it wrong. Maybe the Protestants have it right. I was very clear up front that I didn’t believe the bible nor did I believe in it’s god. People in my classes couldn’t believe how much homework I did. But I was taking the classes just as I would take any college class. And they couldn’t believe the questions I would ask. I made people nervous. One time they stopped teaching and everyone in our small group prayed for me.

    The fifth year of bible study they did a 32 week course on Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel 1&2, and Kings 1&2. They should have stuck with their specialty, NT. During the book of Ruth, I couldn’t understand how Ruth was allowed to marry Boaz since she was a Moabite and Moabites were not allowed to marry the children of Israel forever.

    Deuteronomy 23:3 An Ammonite or Moabite shall not enter into the congregation of the LORD; even to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the congregation of the LORD for ever: KJV

    Several people in the class said their bibles didn’t say forever. It never occurred to me that Christian bibles didn’t say the same thing.

    That started to bother everyone in the small group.

    The answer given was that Ruth had faith so she was allowed to marry in. I wouldn’t let it go and gave my argument that THIS was before Jesus fulfilled/cancelled the written code, so Ruth was under the law.....Well I couldn’t get a reasonable answer, even from the higher ups. So, I decided I needed to find a rabbi. I had no clue there were orthodox, conservative or reform rabbis, but the rabbi I called was an orthodox rabbi. I asked my question and he asked, “Well what do your people answer?” And there’s the problem. I don’t have a people. But he gave me his address and I went in person to see the rabbi. He gave me his answer and his explanation was made sense. I went back to class and answered what the rabbi told me and showed people the scriptures it was based on. The class loved the sensible answer. The leaders, not so much.

    Every few months I would go ask the rabbi questions. He let me come to introductory classes. I bought a TANACH with Hebrew and English. It had commentary. I had great answers for Christian bible study homework assignments. The small group leader, was replaced with a higher up. I was told that I couldn’t bring the TANACH to class. The reason - other people didn’t have access to it. Naively I told them where they could go and buy one for themselves.

    Eventually the higher up leader was replaced by the head of the Christian Bible Study. Was I really that troubling? I decided not to make waves, so I did my homework and kept a low profile.
    One woman, who went and bought a TANACH refused to leave it at home. By the end of bible study she was severely stressed out because she wasn’t sure anymore if Christianity was true. I had nothing else to offer her and I felt very responsible for her anxiety.

    Toward the end of the 32 weeks, the head of Christian Bible Study called me at home and asked if I was still going to classes with THAT rabbi. And when I said yes, the head of the bible study told me that I had to stop because the rabbi didn’t confess with his lips that Jesus was his lord and savior and therefore everything he said was demonic. I had never been exposed to anti-semitism. I couldn’t breath. I’d never heard anything of the sort from the nuns or priest. My major act of rebellion was continuing to attend the last 5 weeks of class. I was actually happy to find out that the god of the NT was something I didn’t believe in.

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  47. Emet,

    That's a fascinating but sad story. Many conservative Christian's are insecure in their beliefs and don't like being questioned, especially if you don't accept their "pat" answer.

    One of the reasons I am where I am now is because I was always questioning and always reading. Most people do not like to read "the other side." They just want to read those things that confirm what they already believe. That is another reason why most people never leave the religion that they are in.

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  48. It is sad. I felt terrible for the woman who was so upset. Today I resist the urge to engage in conversations with Christians unless they ask me directly. When my Christian friends, although some friendships were strained beyond repair, would confront we with reasons why I was wrong, I would take my Christian bibles and the TANACH and show directly from the verses what was wrong. They could see the problems, and they couldn't answer them. The pat answer was - well I can't answer but I know someone who can. They would take me to their pastors or ministers to prove me wrong. I was honest, and respectful, but serious with the pastor/ministers. Not one could answer my questions. One actually said he had to check with another authority. He never got back to me. Unfortunately, my friends were devastated. Grown men reduced to tears, although sometimes they threatened me. Not one pastor/minister could answer my questions. And these were questions directly from the verses. I wasn't even asking how they came up with the ideas you are discussing in your blog.

    When I listened to the Max Bluementhal video, I wanted to scream at the man who mentioned the Left Behind Series - It's a work of fiction.

    I've said before, I am an equal opportunity checker outer. When I went to Jewish bible studies (orthodox) I asked all the same kinds of questions. The difference between Christian and Jewish bible study is profound. Questions are welcomed and encouraged. Almost everyone in the class was Jewish. For the most part I didn't even have to ask, because there were at least 5 people who asked before I did. It wasn't unusual for people to say, I don't believe that. It was important for me to know what the Judaism says.

    I'm not sure I'll ask about Islam. I don't know how they feel about questions.

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  49. That Blumenthal video is terrifying. My deconversion began when I came to my senses and realized that my time in the Evangelical community had put me in too-close-for-comfort proximity to folks like these. The election of President Obama cracked the thin veneer of sanity many of the folks I knew wore. When I was told I was a "devil worshiper" for voting for Mr. Obama or that I was duped into not seeing his Muslim roots or had to field documents of how he had broken the 10 commandments, I paused and thought, "I have NOTHING in common with these people." I then saw how their commitment to the invisible (e.g. personal relationship with a character in a book) and my co-signing that BS was insane.

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  50. I kept going to church until recently for the sake of my marriage and in hope of being a moderating influence. But in the past 3 years, 3 different evangelicals have confided in me their belief that America "may need to" have another revolution. It's more than I can take.

    Unfortunately, you will find that rhetoric for revolution (and I don't mean that in a metaphoric sense) is pervasive.

    Fox's Glenn Beck suggests it often.

    Last year Chuck Norris, in a World Net Daily article, also discussed a potential "Second Revolution." (you can search for it).

    Unfortunately, militants can find plenty of Biblical support for their blood-lust. Jesus purportedly said "I have come to bring fire to the earth, And how I wish it were blazing already!" Luke 12:49. Yes, please read the full context, which makes it even more frightening.

    I honestly think (although I have never heard a sermon to this effect) that some people read passages like 2 Peter 3:11-13, together with their interpretations of end times prophecies, in a militant, let's-get-on-with-the-apocalypse way:

    "Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat."

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  51. Emet,

    You better be careful about asking questions to Muslims about Islam. It will be far worse than the reaction you got when asking Christians about Christianity.

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  52. When I went to Jewish bible studies (orthodox) I asked all the same kinds of questions. The difference between Christian and Jewish bible study is profound. Questions are welcomed and encouraged... It wasn't unusual for people to say, I don't believe that.

    I'm quite surprised to hear that, actually. Even among the Modern Orthodox (Orthodoxy of the non-black hat variety), certain things are taken as axiomatic, such as the revelation at Sinai - especially now, as Orthodoxy as a whole has moved sharply to the right in recent decades as a result of the influence of the ultra-Orthodox.

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  53. Thanks for this post. I've been reading your blog for a few months, and as a Southern Baptist PK who lost her faith in college (12 years ago now), I've really enjoyed and appreciated your insights.

    I, like you, went through steps 1, 3, and 5. I lost my faith the instant I had the epiphany that I only believed the things I believed because those were the beliefs of the adults who indoctrinated me. I immediately stepped back and stopped believing. To have gone to my dad or other Baptist leaders with my questions felt illogical to me, unless I went to leaders of all other religions too.... Besides, I'd asked enough questions and gotten enough pat, shallow answers over the years. I knew what their answers to any of my questions would be. I've done enough reading on both sides since then to confirm that there are no new arguments under the sun, none of them satisfying.

    I was never in the closet and was never anywhere close to apathetic. I was not interested in pretending. My true friends proved themselves quickly. There weren't many of them!

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  54. Becki,

    Thanks very much for sharing your story. I guess there are a lot of us out there.

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