sent in by Kevin
I’ve been reading Marlene Winnell’s book “Leaving the Fold.” She makes a very good point, namely that the doctrine of original sin as taught by evangelicals/fundamentalists is a source of tremendous psychological harm. As a counseling intern, I could not agree more.
I had become a Christian at the age of 18 largely because of extreme psychological stress that I was experiencing in my life at the time. My parents had split up, I was living in a fifth wheel trailer while my dad was reliving a sort of second childhood, and my entry into active duty with the Air Force was on the horizon. My family life was at an all time low, and I now believe that I was searching for something to replace my family.
Too bad that the “Borg” came along!
I was taught by Calvary Chapel that I was inherently evil. I was worthless and that only by filling my sinful self with the love of Christ could I become whole. Once I did that, I was constantly reminded that my “flesh” was evil. I must constantly surrender myself to Christ so that the “old man” wouldn’t come back to haunt me.
Rather than being taught to face the pain in my life, I was taught to simply blame myself, and then denounce myself as hopeless. Surrender to Christ really meant “obey the collective mind of the congregation.” Subtle pressures were brought to bear upon me. Shame was liberally applied anytime my “thinking” started to get the better of me. Indeed, during many Bible studies I was “corrected in love” for having “immature” ideas about sex, the nature of God, the scriptures, whatever. This coercion was reframed as the “conviction of the Spirit” and thus the “collective mind” of fundamentalism became the “will of God” for me.
The more I abandoned myself to the collective, the more I lost myself and the more receptive I became to fundamentalist teaching. My attempts to please God were nothing more than attempts to assuage the profound source of shame that fundamentalism had placed within my soul. When the call to “go ye into all the world” rang forth from the pulpit, I felt I had no choice but to surrender to the mission field. My hypersensitive conscience would not allow me to even think about remaining in the States. I abandoned my Air Force career and attended Bible College.
My first two years of Bible college were the most destructive. I was encouraged to spend every waking moment recruiting others for the collective. I willingly accepted low paying positions so that I could have my days free to faithfully study and proclaim the gospel. At first I felt guilty about my actions. After all, I had specific technical skills that could easily earn me in excess of $40,000.00 per year if I would have been willing to pursue such an opportunity. I rationalized away my guilt (which I now recognize as my better judgment) by telling myself that “God would take care of me.” My pastor confirmed this by roaring from the pulpit that “If we would take care of God’s business, God would take care of ours.” I shudder when I remember this: I had three small children at home. I refused to allow my wife to accept food stamps, yet I dutifully paid my tithes and offerings, on many occasions leaving her less than $20.00 to buy two weeks worth of groceries.
My last two years of Bible College is where I began to think a little. The first incident that comes to mind is a run-in I had with the dean of men. For more than two years I was a faithful drone. I went street preaching, preached in the jail on weekends (in both English and Spanish, sometimes as many as three different services in the jail alone) I drove a bus, performed visitation for the Spanish church, and taught both Sunday school and preached.
One weekend I developed car trouble. I had a problem with my starter, and I absolutely had to get the thing fixed or I would not be able to get to work or church for that matter. For one Saturday I decided to work on my car instead of going “soulwinning.”
Of course when the dean of men read my activity report he called me into his office. He chastised me for my unfaithfulness. There was no mention of my spotless service to my “liege.”
And for the first time, I found myself getting very ANGRY with my Christian “leader.” When he told me I would receive 10 demerits I looked him in the face and said “Fine. Give them to me.” I then turned and walked out of his office.
At this point I began to realize that fundamentalism didn’t give a damn about my wellbeing or about my family. It wanted a mindless robot to do its bidding. It was perfectly content to shame me. I was a fully grown man with a family to support, a veteran with a ribbon for serving his country overseas. Yet he treated me as though I were some kind of child unable to think for himself.
At that moment, a small window opened in my mind, and I began to glimpse the light of reason for the first time in a very long time.
Though I did not realize it at the time, my journey toward becoming an atheist had begun . . . . .
After the incident with the dean of men at Bible college (please refer to “Deprogramming”) I settled back in to live the life of a drone.
During my third year of Bible College I began to adapt a little more of a cynical attitude toward the establishment. In particular, two courses of instruction stood in diametric opposition to one another: Advanced Greek and “The King James Issue.”
Yes, my college dedicated an entire semester to studying why the King James Bible was perfect and users of all other translations were either deceived or actively serving Satan.
I have always been adept at the study of languages. Two years of High School Spanish and then practice with friends made me fluent by the time I was about 24. I enjoyed the study of Koine Greek, and my friends thought I was crazy! Our instructor was extremely demanding and seemed at times to have a photographic memory. During our second year of Greek we were tasked with translating passages into English. The instructor carefully told us that we should not be concerned if our rendering did not exactly match the King James Version, as we were not trying to “improve on what God had already done.”
I had an advantage in that I could also compare my copy of the Textus Receptus to the Spanish “Reina-Valera.” I was intrigued with the fact that the Reina-Valera did not in every case match the King James in translation. In some instances I found it followed more modern translations of the Bible. In others, it followed readings peculiar to it and other Bibles, but I get ahead of myself.
I was concerned, so I shared my findings with other students. The reaction I got was mixed. All of them came to the conclusion that there was “no worthy translation of the Bible into Spanish.” The more amusing ones told me to just “preach from the King James and translate it into English.” One told me that “I was wasting my time thinking about such things and that the devil was distracting me from the business at hand.” My Greek instructor was perhaps the most ethical of them all: He took the Fifth Amendment, and simply stated that he knew nothing of the text underlying the Spanish Bible.
The individual who taught the class devoted to the King James Issue was a character in his own right. He selected books by Peter Ruckman to teach his position. The class consisted of daily rantings against modernism, women in pants, Pentecostals, and those who would dare read the New International Version. His lack of knowledge in Greek became embarrassing. I won’t bore you with the technical difficulties, but he made errors that anybody who has had even a cursory exposure to the language would not make. Of course, nobody from the more advanced Greek course dared lift a hand in question, as he would humiliate and lash out at anybody who looked like they might disagree with him.
The real jewel in his crown was his insistence that the King James was the last authority on earth today. He even stated that if a contradiction is found between the Textus Receptus and the King James Version that the King James corrects the Greek!!
At this point I was still a loyal follower of the King James Version. But I had questions. And nobody would answer them. Later while I was on the mission field I really struggled with this issue, and attempted to send an e-mail to my Greek professor. He had corresponded with me before, but would not answer my questions about the King James Issue. I always wondered why that was the case . . . . .
Interestingly, another instructor encouraged me to get to the bottom of the issue of the Spanish Bible and why it did not square with the King James. I was preparing for missionary service in Latin America, and he knew that I would have easier access to information about the Spanish Bible. On another occasion he told a class that “We should not be afraid of finding the truth, whatever it is.”
I don’t think he was bargaining on what I was about to uncover.
Became a Christian: 18
Ceased being a Christian: about 36ish
Labels before: Calvary Chapel; Independent Baptist
Labels now: Atheist
Why I joined: read the post
Why I left: reason
Online Reading List
- An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish by Bertrand Russell (1943)
- Bible Teaching and Religious Practice by Mark Twain
- God is Imaginary
- Is there an Artificial God? by Douglas Adams (1998)
- Skeptics Annotated Bible
- The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine (1795)
- Which Way? by Robert Ingersoll (1884).
- Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell (1927)