What's the best way to leave fundamentalism?

sent in by Mike

I'd be grateful if anyone could tell me the best ways of coping with leaving fundamentalism.

I've been a Christian for 23 years, mainly in the charismatic movement. But after several years of increased doubting about the inerrancy of the bible, I've reached the stage where I can't go on any further.

I've debated long and hard with my friends at church, trying to get them so see the contradictions, atrocities and mistakes in the bible, but all I get is a glassy-eyed stare and a mantra of "you need more faith. Try reading the bible more."

From reading previous posts, I realise that leaving a fundamentalist church isn't the easiest thing in the world to do. Even though all my friends know the validity of my faith thus far, I'm still expecting barbs such as "you must never have been a true Christian if you now doubt." Things like that will hurt, but I don't want to be a whipping post for other people's insecurities. Even now, during our debates, people have started to admit that the strength of my research and logic is proving taxing to their faith.

Like many who've posted on this site, I've considered attending a UU congregation, as I'm not yet convinced whether I'm an agnostic, an atheist or a very liberal Christian. All I know is that I can't pretend any longer that I'm a fundamentalist.

How have you all coped with leaving fundamentalism? Is it at all possible to keep fundy friends as friends? Do you find that you get ostracised? Please help me out with your experience.

Oh, and thanks for the site. It's really kept me sane and helped me realise that I'm not the only one who sees that the emperor hasn't any clothes.

Birmingham
England
Joined: 17
Left: 40
Was: Charismatic, fundamentalist
Now: Agnostic? V. Liberal?
Converted because: Thought the bible was the truth
De-converted because: Realisde it wasn't

36 comments:

jim earl said...

Hello Mike and welcome to the real world! You will find that you can get real help on this site.
Now on to the problem at hand. Leaving any religion is not an easy thing to accomplish. But know this: No matter how hard it seems to be, the truth is it is worth every pain you may encounter on your way out of the world of fantasy. Time will take care of lots of the problems you are facing or will face in the near future. Simply knowing the truth about religion is the best way to cope with the problems. If you haven't read about the history of Christianity, then by all means find some books and dive right in. There is a wealth of info waiting for you and will provide the much needed answers to many of your questions. I was a long time member of a fundy church and I am living proof you can leave and never look back. I am much happier than ever and look forward to many more years of being religion free. I still have several friends that remain religious but we cope with it when we have too. Most of the time, religion never comes up because they have no answers to my questions and they have admitted as much. However, they are content to continue on their road to nowhere and I am content to let them travel that road. BTW, I live in one of the most religious states in the US, South Carolina. And I do have several friends that are freethinkers like myself so we really have fun when we get together. I might add to check out my website, www.freefish.us. Anyway, remain here and read as much as possible (plenty of good articles on this site) and you will do well. Just remember to think for yourself. Cheers, Jim Earl

ryan said...

One of jim earl's fine comments.

Mike, jim is right; there is help here, and lots of it. I believe I can offer a bit.

I was not secure after I walked away--it was as though I needed to make excuses. Before I did anything, said anything, or even thought anything, I had to have the reasons; the arguments; the logic. No more. It is my right as a sentient being to think for myself, and to choose the course of my life to the extent that choice is possible. I need make an apology to no man. Mike, just do it. I am not trivializing your experience--I am not dealing in simplism. I know it is hard.

And I know that we can hang on for years, trying to appeal to non-existent gods. The worst part was enduring the horrors of "christian councelling". No matter how confusing or painful your experience has been, your pastor will twist everything around to make it your fault: "you lack faith; you lack committment; you are holding on to sin; you need more prayer; you are too involved with the world; you need fellowship; you need bible study" and bullshitbullshitbullshit. Your mind has been tampered with, and no one will take the responsibility.

What I found as an exchristian has been just about as bad. Your accusers will come up with ad hoc definitions of christianity to again put you in the wrong. I was debating this sorry excuse for a woman here at exchristian, and I told her that her religion gave me no help for my problems. She replied: "christianity is not about your problems, it is about the truth".

See Mike, fundies have nothing to offer but disrespect. You have no worth; you have no mind; you have no feelings. You dance to their god's tune, and it doesn't matter how you want to dance, or if you want to dance at all. If there is a god--which I doubt--then we as the crown of creation were made to be more than puppets on strings.

Ayn Rand said "I will never live my life for another, nor compel another to live his life for me"

Take care, and write us back.

Ryan from Indiana

RJ said...

Mike- It is like giving birth- there is no way out but to go through it. And what you will find in the end is that you are much stronger than you ever gave yourself credit for. A few years ago I simply stopped going to church, and I have found that none of my christian friends really wants to talk to me about it at all. So I don't push them where they don't want to go, but I "plant seeds" and am ready to give an answer! : )

muttmutt1978 said...

youll have to cut ties with fundie friends, and family. family will be harder. heres a book that helped me: ten things i learned wrong from a conservative church by john killinger, the dark side of christian history by helen ellerbe and the book your church doesnt want you to read by tim leedon

Bentley said...

Hi Mike, By all means do not tell anyone you're an atheist, this is the worst thing you can do, your friends and acquaintances and will black ball you and tell everyone they know that you are an atheist and put you into a class like Hitler and say that you hate god and worship satan. These people are sickly brainwashed, we get them here all the time, thats one reason we have to use allias's.

Just tell them you're taking a break away from religion right now, doing some soul searching, maybe someday return and enter the ministry....lol That should give you wide birth away from them, leave them scratching their heads.

Just don't tell them you do not believe in what they believe, it makes them look like such fools and they cannot accept that they've been taken to the cleaners and been had, Christians become angry and mad and hateful when you show them how foolish they are for believing the lies and they've kept the preacher up in high society, with their tithes.

Best of luck, tread lightly and keep most of your non-beliefs to yourself, most people believe in freedom of speech, as long as it's what they want to hear. TC, Ben

Rebecca said...

Dear Mike,
As a Christian and believer in the Bible who has gone through agonizing times of doubt and deep searching, I truly empathize with you. When I looked for answers, I too was often met with a lack of understanding. People dismissed my questions, or gave simplistic answers which irritated me all the more (my issue was women and the Bible). For about two years, my faith was really shaken, and I made a lot of compromises with sin in my life that really burned me both then and later. In the end, I found the answers I needed, but it took a while, it took leaving the door open to God, and saying, "Although it looks and feels this way to me right now, I may be wrong; I may not be seeing this clearly" (which was not easy for me to say! My heart had really hardened with anger and pride). It also took continued searching and the continued work of the Holy Spirit in my life--drawing me, showing me love, and convicting me of sin ("God gives grace to the humble", 1 Peter 5:5, and "If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have heard me", Ps. 66:18. I can almost guarantee that in order for God to answer your questions, he will have to change your heart--and you will have to respond with repentance.)

I came through my seasons of doubt (and I'm sure there will be more down the road)--and I didn't have to check my brain at the door. Jesus said we are to "love the Lord with all our hearts, souls, MINDS, and strength." The trouble is, a lot of Christians (tragically) believe that one should "just have faith", that there are no real intellectual answers to doubts and questions (or that its wrong to seek them). That is not God. Your questions are valid, and there are answers. God created human reason and logic to show the way to him--not to be repressed or scolded out of existence. Romans 1 says that the visible world reveals the invisible attributes of God. In Isaiah, God pleads with Israel, "Let us reason together." God actually commended Job for honestly venting his pain and doubts (42:7). Please don't give up on finding answers to your questions. I know a number of great websites that address questions like yours (such as godandscience.com). Jesus promised that those who sought would find. I am so glad that I did not choose to be led by my emotions and sacrifice my faith in God. You can have an awesome truth encounter with God through this if you don't give up!

J. C. Samuelson said...

"...I'm not yet convinced whether I'm an agnostic, an atheist or a very liberal Christian. All I know is that I can't pretend any longer that I'm a fundamentalist."

Is it really necessary to label yourself at all, Mike? Feel free to explore a bit.

"Is it at all possible to keep fundy friends as friends?"

That really depends on your friends. Many fundamentalists take a position that won't allow fraternization with non-Christians unless the purpose is conversion. My guess is that if you do remain friends that they will continue to attempt to re-convert you, tensions will rise until they become unbearable, and either you or they will choose to associate less and less until you don't see each other at all.

That's what happened in my case, anyway.

The thing is that you're leaving the fold, as they say. Since their chosen faith permeates so many aspects of their lives, many fundamentalists have difficulty drawing a distinction between their human relationships and their "relationship" with God/church. That is, it's all one big package deal.

I used to be a praise leader for contemporary services at two different churches. When I "fell away," my contact with several other members of the praise group dwindled. They didn't know what to say to me, because I was implicitly challenging their assumptions about their faith simply by stating my doubts. Mostly, they exhorted me to pray and read the Bible more. No matter how much I insisted that I had done so, they just couldn't understand how it wasn't working to "Open the Eyes of My Heart."

At any rate, we drifted apart. Their lives were inextricably linked to their faith and the practice thereof. I was no longer a part of that, and could not be. In fact, one of them did finally tell me (last ditch effort, I guess) that if I wanted to play with them again (guitar), that I would have to publicly re-dedicate myself to Jesus, confess my sin (doubt), and apologize to the congregation. Needless to say, I felt no desire to do so.

It's a tough choice, because the emotional bonds are so powerful. I do miss a few of the people in our praise group. Two exceptionally talented people in particular, the lead singer and keyboardist. However, overall my life has improved and it no longer feels like I'm engaged in spiritual warfare. It's a good feeling.

Bill Shroyer said...

Hi, Mike,

Congratulations on finding your way "home", so to speak. I don't know about you, but that's what it felt like for me when I truly and fully realized what I really felt about Christianity - it was like just suddenly stopping and realizing where you are when you hadn't been paying that much attention, and finding that you're awestruck with the view.

I am now comfortable with the fact that I am technically an atheist agnostic - that is one who doesn't have any active belief in any gods, but who supposes there "may or may not" be some such critter lurking about the nethers somewhere. If such a critter exists, it's obviously not that important to it that we believe in it (otherwise, its existence would be more obvious), so there's no real point in obsessing the issue.

I'm single, gay, and the family I grew up in are still fundamentalist. My father was also homophobic - one of the main ingredients prompting me to finally realize the church had gotten something seriously wrong. I never officially "came out" to them with regard to my deconversion, I just sort of stopped attending church and stopped doing things which to them would indicate my compliance with their faith. They eventually asked, and I told them. It wasn't easy, but I must admit the hardest part was in simply doing it. They didn't "like" the fact that they now think I'm bound for Hell, but they learned to live with our differences of opinion.

So that's what I've found that works - if you don't push the issue, but don't pretend that you're still one of them, they'll eventually figure it out. Some of them will accept it and move on, and some of them won't. As long as you're not trying to push their hand, it will be entirely their choice that makes them either stay in your life or cut you off. And as long as it's their choice, I find it's not very difficult to live with at all. Fortunately, my immediate family didn't choose to cut me off, but I know now that I would have been able to live with it if they did. Just determine whether you can accept -them- or not - if you can, then simply do it (quietly) and move on with your life. They'll catch up eventually.

Good luck! :-)

Lorena said...

Mike,

It seems to me that you have the right idea—to leave slowly. It does appear that you started a long time ago, but now it is time to take it to a new level.

Many people who post on this site have gone cold turkey from Christian to atheist. That isn't the case with me. I think atheists are great, and I don't believe they are doing anything wrong, or that they need improvement. I am just not an atheist myself.

If you are willing to try a UU church--which I haven't--I would also recommend that you try the Unity Church and Religious Science.

I attend a Unity Church sometimes, other times a Religious Science church, and more often than not, I just sleep in on Sundays.

What is good about Unity and Religious Science is that they teach good ideas about self-esteem, positive thinking, and loving and accepting all people unconditionally. My family didn't teach me that stuff, so I am learning from those good people.

I particularly like their acceptance of gays and people of diverse lifestyles, and their lack of rules and regulations. Not judging others is an unspoken rule, so they are helping me shed the judgmental nature I acquired when I was a Christian.

Eventually, I may stop going even to those churches, and I may even turn into an atheist. I am open to that. But I am doing what I feel is good for me right now. I am listening to myself and doing whatever I feel like doing.

I may end up a pagan too, since New Thought, to which the aforementioned groups subscribe, is somewhat pagan.

I only know where I am today, and that is free of dogmatic Christianity. Good luck to you.

Lorena said...

Rebecca said:
"Jesus promised that those who sought would find. I am so glad that I did not choose to be led by my emotions and sacrifice my faith in God."

Lorena responds:
Wow, Rebecca. So you claim that you had "intellectual" questions that were later answered. Yet you admit that it was your emotions that were faltering you.

Actually, it was your intellect that asked the questions and your emotions which responded the questions. If you had stayed with your "intellect," you would no longer be a Christian, because Christianity is historically inaccurate, dogmatic, cruel, and many other things.

I have to say I feel sorry for you that you caved in, that you let your emotions come in the way of your reason, which would have made you free. Yes, the truth shall make you free. The truth just isn't Christianity. It is much broader than that.

susan said...

Hi Mike I'm Susan from Scotland and I find it a real problem getting help in the UK for any kind of counselling regarding this... I was involved with Fundies for 25 years of my life before getting out of it 7 years ago and decided to write my own web site to which helped me deal with it... here is a link to my site and story if you want to check it out...
http://www.geocities.com/susancasey261/fun_d_mental.html
you will get throu this in the end I am almost there!
Good Luck...
Susan

susan said...

Hi mike here is a link to my story and it is similar to yours...
http://www.geocities.com/susancasey261/fun_d_mental.html
Hope you are ok

Never Going Back said...

Hi Mike, you are on your way to enlightenment. Now, that doesn't mean you will find "THE TRUTH", but I believe that you are beginning to find out what the truth IS NOT. The Bible IS NOT. Most of us here at Ex-Christians were deeply involved in the church and our faith. A mistake many present Christians make is assuming otherwise. As you said, they just recycle the same old arguments that are an insult to any rational mind. They assume there is some hidden sin in your life (who doesn't have "sin" anyway?) They assume you are angry with God. They assume you haven't prayed enough or read your Bible enough. They assume that you were never sincerely devoted to Christ in the first place. What they can't fathom is that it is the BIBLE that causes us to leave the idea that the Bible is inerrant. It is the BIBLE that proves itself wrong, which inevitably leads one to conclude that if the book ABOUT God is wrong, than maybe the men who wrote the book about God were WRONG ABOUT GOD. This then leads us to wonder whether there really is a God afterall. This is usually the process of elimination that an Ex-Christian goes through to come to a point of de-converting. It is not as though we wake up one day and say: "Ya know what? Fuck all this Jesus shit!" Your decision to leave fundamentalism is a painful one. We've all been there. It is usually one that takes years to come to. See, what happens is that we don't intentionally say to ourselves, "I think I'm going to research this religion and the origins of the Bible before I accept it as truth." It is usually a very slow process that begins with the discovery of one or more errors in the Bible which leads us to seek out a plausible excuse for such a discrepancy. Then, we leave the denomination we are currently a member of, because our conscience will not allow us to absorb a lie any more. Perhaps that lie is the lie of the rapture or the doctrine of Hell, or predestination, or salvation by grace alone, or salvation by works....whatever it is at the time, we can not stomach hearing this or that preacher teach this or that anymore so we seek out a like-minded congregation. A little while longer and we find more discrepancies and so the process continues over and over until there are so many contradictions that we can not find a congregation that teaches the truth, because the Bible IS NOT TRUE! So there we are feeling like Forrest Gump when he decided one day to just stop running. We just can't go on anymore. There is usually a profound feeling of loss coupled with anger at being duped all of this time. Ironically though, there is also a profound feeling of freedom. Christians assume that this freedom is one in which we feel we can now do whatever we want, because we are no longer morally accountable to some God. They equate A-theist with A-moral. They assume that we have lost our moral compass. What i find irreprehensible is the fact that Christians CHOOSE to stay blind. We, on the otherhand, have natures that demand we actively seek out truth even if that leads us to conclude that what we previously thought was true turns out not to be. We are willing to humble ourselves by proclaiming: "I was wrong", but they call us "Proud".

Anonymous said...

DEAR MIKE,

I AM ALMOST THE SAME AGE AS YOU ARE. ONE MISTAKE YOU SHOULD NOT MAKE IS TRYING TO FILL THAT VOID!
I WENT FROM JESUS TO BUHDA IN 3 DAYS, FROM THERE I WENT TO NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCES, NEW AGE, AND BACK TO THE SAME OLD CRAP..!!!

I COULD NEVER SEE MYSELF AS AN ATHIEST 6 YEARS AGO WHEN I LEFT CHRISTANITY....BUT WHEN YOU READ ENOUGH, LEARN ABOUT THE WORLD AS IT REALLY IS....ITS HARD NOT TO ACCEPT WE ARE AN ENIGMA..!!

I HAVE COME TO THE CONCLUSION OVER THE LAST 6 YEARS THAT THE CONCEPT OF "GOD" IS A MYSTERY. "HECK", I HAVE JUST ACCEPTED THAT I DON'T HAVE ENOUGH INFORMATION TO MAKE A VALID CONCLUSION IF GOD IS REAL OR NOT.. I JUST DON'T CARE ANYMORE..!!

I HAVE ALSO GIVEN UP ON TRYING TO TELL PEOPLE HOW I FEEL..IT' A LOST CAUSE....

THE BIBLE IS A BUNCH OF CRAP...SCIENCE IS NOT PERFECT BUT IT IS SELF CORRECTING AT BEST. HISTORY TELLS THE TRUTH, BUT WITH A TWIST!

FOR NOW, I JUST SAY!!!YOU DON'T KNOW, AND I DON'T KNOW...SO LIVE YOUR LIFE...!!!AND IN THE END..WE WILL BE NOTHING OR SOMETHING!!!!WHO KNOWS!!

emptycan said...

Hi, Mike,

Frankly, I don't know which one is the best way to leave fundamentalism except learning more of the real truths.

Actually I did not work hard to leave it. But I found the fundamentalism leaving me with a lot of hesitation and sinister fears.

If you have more and more knowlege about the truths, I guess you will find yourself being pulled away from fundamentalism by the truths.

emptycan said...

Anony said, "I WENT FROM JESUS TO BUHDA IN 3 DAYS, FROM THERE I WENT TO NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCES, NEW AGE, AND BACK TO THE SAME OLD CRAP..!!!"


I am surprised by your ability of learning that fast. Three days were enough for you learn BUHDA(sic). And I wonder how many days did you take to master "NEAR DEATH EXPERIENCES, NEW AGE AND BACK TO THE SAME OLD CRAP."

There is no way of expression of my admiration to your amazing (and superficial and fake) ability.

Man, you are too shallow...

Ha Ha Ha....

Anonymous said...

well it depends on what you want to do mike, there are many people in the church that "fake" having faith simply because they do not want to lose their social ties and basically put on a mask and would never let anyone know, that is a viable route or you can join another church or more liberal faith with more secular minded people.

dmaas said...

Hi Mike,
First of all you have come to the right place for assistance. Since all the exchristians here had to deal with their realization that they are believing a lies at some point. Or they are still dealing with it.

It is real hard to know how to plan to leave, and I know there are many ways. There is the cold turkey way, which will work for some, but I think you will need to be a strong individual or have weak ties to your particlar church or group of friends. You could also, do the fade away approach. Slowly stop attending things until you are doing nothing with the church.

For myself it turned out to be a combo of the two. I did the fade away approach until I was pushed by friends as to why the change over the past few months... At that point it was prettty easy to go cold turkey because in their mind I was already on the way out. Also, I did manage to keep a few friends, and we just don't talk about "church" or if they do try I just give them a look a of irriation. I believe they are still hoping I will come back, but I also think they do enjoy having me as friend as I do enjoy having them as friends.

Good Luck,
Dave

mq59 said...

Rebecca,

Elaborate, please. What questions did you have that got answered, and what were the answers?

mq59 said...

Mike,

Perhaps some form of more liberal/intellectual Christianity may be more to your liking, so you don't seem to have abandoned Christianity totally (you said "Liberal Christian" is an option).

Presbyterian Church USA?

Anonymous said...

"I'd be grateful if anyone could tell me the best ways of coping with leaving fundamentalism."

An education. Either fundamentalism is being placed onto you, or you are hanging onto it, or a little of both. If placed on you, its a physical restriction, you can still leave mentally. If you are hanging onto it mentally, you just need to read, read, read, start with anything that provides an "extreme" opposing view, and weigh the opposing viewers' arguments to the argument for fundamentalism, I'm not sure the "best" arguments would come from liberal christians, as they obviously are still holding to the fundamentals of the religion itself. If its a little of both, then, think over the pros and cons of doing research, if you feel you'd be better off knowing the truth, then, seek ways to get the time away from those who speak in only one direction. When you take other points of view, and attack an argument from multiple sides, a truth core will begin to form, and the more angles you attack from, the more stable the center of truth becomes.

There are no absolutes in life, as all absolute statements, like, "god in fact exists", are undone by the universal constant "change". The best you can do, is to derive a manner by which you will seek truth, instead of just seeking out who seems to have the best arguments. A process, is better than finding a well written argument... "give a friend a fish, feed them for a day", "teach a friend to fish, feed them for life", seek that which will sustain you for the long-haul.

tigg13 said...

Hi Mike, and welcome!

I agree with Jeff - you cannot make your friends be your friends; they'll either accept you as you are or they won't. That's their choice and you will have to respect it.

I do have some pointers for you:

1. Don't confront your friends with your new worldview when they are all together - do it one at a time or they will certainly try to gang up on you. And if there happens to be somebody who is willing to hold on to your friendship they may find themselves caught in the middle.

2. Avoid making any critical remarks about christianity while your friends around. (This can be tough!) If you don't, you will only put them on the defensive and create problems that you don't need.

3. Let them know that you are there for them as a friend, but set boundaries and stick to them. (If they need a ride home from church you can be there - so long as you don't have to go inside.)

4. Don't make a big deal about your deconversion - just stop showing up at church or taper off slowly. This is not about who's right and who's wrong. You don't have to explain anything to anybody or get anyone's permission to not go to church.

5. Look for other avenues of interrest, meet new people and take the time to be nice to yourself.

6. Don't allow your friends to brow-beat you. If they aren't willing to enter into a fair debate with you then they are being disrespectful towards you and you don't have to let them.

7. What you are doing, really, is leaving a cult, and it may take awhile for you to deprogram yourself. Expect some depression and/or anxiety - stay strong, sober and self-confident.

I hope these ideas help you and that you find peace, fulfillment and much to celibrate in the days to come.

Tigg

tigg13 said...

rebecca said "I can almost guarantee that in order for God to answer your questions, he will have to change your heart--and you will have to respond with repentance"

So, what happened to free will?

Oh wait! I get it! First you have to have complete faith in god and keep telling yourself over and over and over again that he's real. Then he will change your heart.

There's another word for that. Its called brainwashing.

Anonymous said...

Hey Mike!

Sadly, you will loose many people you thought were friends when you decide to leave the church. These people build their friendship based on a lie, so it is really no friendship at all.

From what you said, it seems that you might need a place like UU to keep a feeling of community about you. In my area, there is a great UU church that is very open to people who have been burnt by fundie churches.

It will take you a while to divest yourself of all the religious garbage that you have accumulated over the years, so do not be discouraged. Freedom and enlightenment are at hand.

Onanite

barb said...

HI Mike,

It's tough, and it can be depressing. It's a little like a death, so take some time to mourn the security blanket; go easy on yourself, and seek out healthy outlets. Join another club, go bowling, seek out new normal friends that have nothing to do with church-- and avoid the old friends. Be nice, but just tell them you're going through something that might present a problem to their faith, and that you want to protect them (and refuse to be prayed over).
I'm a member of the UU church and I love it-- but I came to it after 18 or 20 years of NO church whatsoever. I wouldn't jump right into another church right away, no matter how liberal, because you can be "triggered" and get disillusioned again.
Be kind to yourself, above all. It's a hard transition-- but worth every injury. In time, you will know what REAL peace is.
Take care,
-Barb

freedy said...

Mike,...my simple advive is to stay healthy,...physically and mentally.
I left church may times and eventually returned to destructive habits and friends.This would only lead to me to crawl back into the familar womb of churchianity.
Go to a used book store and buy some books that expose the myths of christianity,(very important)!
I wish there were more organizations out there to support people like us ,..someday.This site is one of the best!

Piprus said...

Hi, Mike,

I'm a little late in getting in my welcome, not unusual for me, but welcome to the group just the same, and thanks for posting your testimony.

I've little to add to the great advice posted by my colleagues, except perhaps that the more you explore the utter fallacies of christianity, and seek alternative views, the better it gets and the easier it is to live in a more realistic frame of mind. I left the flock going on forty years ago, and there is no way I could ever even consider fundie christianity again. It is in my eyes the biggest piece of nonsense ever foisted on the human race. Best wishes in your new found freedom from christian bondage.

SkepticOfBible said...

"In Isaiah, God pleads with Israel, "Let us reason together." "

you forget to read the verse afterwards

Isa 1:18-20
Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land:
But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.


Read in it's context, this is an ultimatum demanding complete compliance which you've attempted to disguise as an invitation to man from a God who values objective reasoning skills.

Rebecca said...

mq59 said: Rebecca,

Elaborate, please. What questions did you have that got answered, and what were the answers?


I really appreciate you asking about my questions. Three of the biggest issues I have struggled with are the male / female issue, the inerrancy of scripture, and the work of the Holy Spirit in someone's life (what the Bible said about it, what I was taught about it, and the host of abuses and excesses I observed). The most challenging issue by far was the one dealing with women, i.e.: Are women less valuable than men? What are their real differences and roles (nature vs. nurture, etc.)? What was the nature and relationship between men and women pre-fall and what should it be like now? struggling with historical abuses of women both within and without the church. Struggling with scriptures that seemed to put women down and misogynist church teachings both past and present. All of this culminating in a lot of confusion, anger, anxiety about myself, distrust toward God and the scriptures, a growing feeling that he was unfair. The irony was that my time of greatest doubt and intractability coincided with a time of incredible overtures on God's part toward me! I experienced his providential arrangement of circumstances in my life, continued conviction of sin--which sucked in a way, but also proved that he cared deeply about me--and miraculous physical healing when I was at my lowest point and had very little faith. It was these proofs of his reality and love that kept my heart open to continue seeking and yielding to him (although that was REALLY hard. I had to leave a relationship I was in that I knew was sinful and not of God; I had to oppose my flesh (Aaaaaahhhhh!), I had to override my feelings of his unfairness, and all the anger I had built up about the feminist issue). But in light of all he had already done in my life, and truly supernatural encounters I had with him that showed me his love, the healing I experienced, and what I already knew of scripture--its historical reliability, the amazing fulfillments of prophecy to know that I couldn't blow him off or disregard scripture. (In regard to Biblical prophecy, the book of Daniel is a real smoking gun--no atheist in the world has a naturalistic explanation for how a man living in the 500's BC was able to make incredibly detailed, accurate predictions regarding the Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and Roman Empires--almost 1,000 years of history. The prophecies of Messiah fulfilled by Jesus are also staggering. The chances of anyone in history fulfilling 48 of those prophecies has been computed as one in a trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion (ok, you get the point--trillion repeated 15 times--I get my information from “The Case for Christ“ by Lee Strobel, a former atheist who decided to search out the truth). So, when you factor in objective proofs of the divine inspiration of scripture in terms of predictive prophecy and scientific and historical accuracy, as well as all the ways I’d experienced him in my life, and a supernatural healing, all of this added up to a compelling circumstantial case in his favor. I did not have "complete faith." I was struggling to hold onto the smallest shreds of faith. I had "a mustard seed" of faith, if you will. I had just enough to leave the door open, to have a bit of humility (a tiny, tiny amount!). I am eternally grateful that God kept reaching out to me and that I was able to respond.

What I ultimately found was that, as I wrote to Mike earlier, I could not have gotten answers if I had chosen to disconnect from God, and what it really came down to was a question of his credibility. Were there enough compelling reasons to hang in there and trust him a little and keep seeking (and believe that he was good)? I had to admit there were more than enough, and because I continued walking with him over those next couple of years (starting in 2002), I got to know him better, and learned to recognize his ways. I realized that most of the trouble stemmed from reading scripture with worldly lenses on. As I got to know God, I learned that the way I interpreted things, and the things to which I tended to assign value (or the lack thereof) were very different from the way he thinks and sees things. (As Jesus said, "The things that are highly honored among men are detestable in God's sight" Luke 16:9--and often vice-versa). My logic was false. I thought that because man was created first then the woman was derivative, less valuable, which is not at all necessitated by the text. I thought that because the Bible does describe and prescribe role differences in men and women, then that meant women were inferior or God was unfair, or maybe the Bible was wrong. However, these role differences (when they are lived out in a healthy way, in accordance with the truth) are absolutely critical in the family, in marriage, in society, and in the life of God's church (believers wherever they might be found, in relationship with one another). Women and men are different--but neither is better or more valuable in God's sight. Both are needed and valuable, and have their own indispensable spheres of authority, function, and influence. I also felt that sense God gave a certain authority to men in marriage, family, and the Church, that this also was downing women, but I have learned that in God's economy, authority is not equated with worth, and is not meant to be lorded over someone else; it is a matter of function. Similarly, a lot of the erroneous interpretation of the Bible that have led to a lot of misogynistic abuse stem from adding human assumptions to scripture--things that are not in the text but are inferred by others and then taught as doctrine.

I also found that a lot of what I struggled with were emotional impediments that, again, were a matter of perspective. Part of it was an overreaction to abuses against women (which are guarded against by a proper understanding of scripture), and part of it stemmed from the baneful aspects of being a fallen creature. So, some of my objections / questions were perfectly legitimate, but attached to that were problems due to my sinfulness. That's why I told Mike that in order to get his answers, he will have to be willing for God to change his heart. Human reasoning is NOT perfect as God's is. Our sins DOES separate us from understanding him and seeing things in the right light. But he promises to give wisdom to those who ask (James 1). I did not have "blind faith". In a difficult situation of doubt I held onto things that were immovably solid, acknowledging the things that were clear and trusting him to help me clear up what wasn't, and he did. Since the time I made that initial decision to trust him (remember: mustard seed!!), he has only proven his love and truth more and more, and we have a truly beautiful relationship. One scripture that helped me with my transition out of a worldly perspective and into God's is James 3:17, "But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and hypocrisy." Over time, I have been able to better recognize that wisdom, and submit my life to it, and I have been incredibly blessed. I have come to deeply appreciate godly womanhood and manhood. I can appreciate God’s wisdom in the creation of the sexes, and how they are meant to relate to one another. I appreciate my own femininity, have grown in it, and feel peace in it. I see the testimony of scripture validated by real life.

I'd be happy to address issues in more depth if you'd like. You might also check out a book called "Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood" by John Piper and Wayne Grudem. I haven't read it yet, but intend to. My husband says it is VERY balanced, very faithfully interprets scripture from the Hebrew and Greek, and deals with the issue from the standpoint of church history, biology, psychology, sociology, and law in a very reasonable, reliable way. My questions might not be ones that you have struggled with particularly. If you are interested in general, objective proofs of God's existence regarding biblical prophecy, Big Bang Theory, Old Earth Creationism (as opposed to the literal six day understanding with a 6,000 year old earth), or quantum theory, there are a lot of great sites such as www.godandscience.org. Or let me know, I’d love to continue the conversation.

PS--It’s really hit home for me in reading the testimonies on this site that people have been so burned by misinterpretations of scripture and the church’s misrepresentation of God. I have discovered that a lot of the teachings of the traditional church are indeed false, and the institutional church is a very sad distortion of what Christ intended. But true Christianity is reasonable, knowable, and livable.

Never Going Back/Tiffanie said...

Rebecca said: "It’s really hit home for me in reading the testimonies on this site that people have been so burned by misinterpretations of scripture and the church’s misrepresentation of God."

Rebecca, there is no other way to interpret scriptures that continually call a woman unclean just for giving birth or being on her period. There is no other way to interpret scripture when it "records" Moses telling the Israelites to keep the virgins of another nation alive for themselves but to kill everyone else. There is no other way to interpret the words of Paul when he most specifically tells us that women should wear head coverings in church and ARE NOT PERMITTED TO SPEAK IN CHURCH, TO ASK QUESTIONS UNTIL THEY GET HOME, OR TO TEACH MEN. How do you feel about Joyce Meyers, Marilyn Hickey, or Paula White? They are FAR from unadorned. I do not see coverings on their heads, and they teach MANY men around the country through the writing of books, television programming, and extensive preaching. There is no other way to interpret Jesus's words when he says that a woman who remarries after her husband divorces her is guilty of adultery even if the bastard is remarried himself. Paul also says that as long as a woman's husband is alive she is an adulteress if she remarries. How else do you interpret that? Do not try to tell me that Jesus allowed for divorce due to adultery in the book of Matthew, because he was directing his comment to the Pharisees who were asking specific questions regarding divorce and leaves no wiggle room when it comes to the issue of remarriage. Have you ever been cheated on and completely abandoned by your husband, Rebecca? Do you know what it feels like to fall in love again with a wonderful Christian man and feel everyday for the rest of your life that you will burn in Hell because your ex-con husband who emotionally, verbally and physically abused you is living with another woman, never sees your kids or pays child support, or shows ANY desire to reconcile? Do you know what it's like to be a young mother of three and have the natural desire to have a loving husband to help you provide for and tend to your children only to learn that you can not under ANY circumstances remarry until your husband dies even if he doesn't die for another fifty years? No, Rebecca, there is no other way to interpret the scriptures that tell us that a man who rapes a virgin is punished by having to pay a fine to the virgin's father and then gets to MARRY the poor girl! How is that compensation? Would you want to look at your rapist for the rest of your life? There is no other way to interpret scripture when it tells us that the testimony of a woman had to be confirmed by a man or else it is worthless. There is no other way to interpret scripture that says if a woman is raped and doesn't scream she is to be stoned to death. You mean Yahweh couldn't take into consideration the fact that the rapist might have muzzled her from the start? Yahweh couldn't take into consideration the fact that he might have raped her in a remote area where she could not be heard and to which there were no witnesses to the rape? There is no other way to interpret scriptures that leave out the birth of women in the lineage of Jesus and all other "holy" men in your Bible. How did these holy men get here but through women? There is no other way to interpret scripture that punishes Rebecca for being beautiful and the love of Jacob's life by making her barren. How was it Rebecca's fault that her father tricked him by giving him Leah? Why would he punish Rebecca for Jacob's lifetime of conniving and her father's trickery? Mary was only found worthy to carry Jesus because she happened to be within the lineage of David (supposedly) I am sure if men were able to carry children, God would have found a more suitable choice. Jesus was unnecessarily rude to his mother throughout the gospels. So much for honoring your mother and father!

I can offer you so many more examples, but I'm sure you've read them all. If you need any more, I have a Bible full of useless information. Goodie for you for being able to ignore or explain away the disgusting bigotry contained within your God-inspired book, but don't expect the rest of us to pretend it isn't there.

You also said: "true Christianity is reasonable, knowable, and livable."

It's a good thing I wasn't eating when i read that or i would have choked to death. There is no such thing as "true Christianity" The New Testament continually contradicts itself on countless issues. The reason for so many denominations is the very existence of the contradictory content found within it. There seems to be no end to the splitting off and forming of new denominations. Christianity is not knowable if the Bible can't even make up it's mind what it takes to be saved. That would be a good place to start, but we can't even get past that most important aspect of Christianity. I would continue, but I'm getting that old familiar sick feeling in my stomach just thinking of all of the absurdities the Bible and Christianity demands we accept as truth in order to be "true Christians." I'll let someone else take it from here....

.:webmaster:. said...

"people have been so burned by misinterpretations of scripture and the church’s misrepresentation of God. I have discovered that a lot of the teachings of the traditional church are indeed false, and the institutional church is a very sad distortion of what Christ intended. But true Christianity is reasonable, knowable, and livable."

All I can hear right now is Cartman's voice in the background saying, "I AM THE AUTHORITAH!"

For those that don't understand the relevance of that reference, here's what I mean: Every Christian believes that their individual personal idea of the "truth" is the absolute authoritative version of truth. Every Christian believes that he or she is the authority when it comes to God. All other believers, for centuries, were or are mistaken, misled, not real Christians, decieved... add your label. This Christian, however, is authoritatively anointed with the ultimate, best version of the one holy baptized truth.

Self-promoting arrogance thinly disguised as a personal connection with deity never ceases to surprise me.

Listen lady, you assume there is a God and you've convinced yourself that your assumption is true.

Novels, adventure stories, and imaginary friends are all great entertainment, but a healthy adult realizes that they are all just pretend.

Your god and your feelings about your god are all generated in your imagination. It might seem real to you, but it's all in your head.

boomSLANG said...

Christian fundamentalist "Rebecca" stated:

"Were there enough compelling reasons to hang in there and trust him(God) a little and keep seeking (and believe that he was good)? I had to admit there were more than enough, and because I continued walking with him over those next couple of years (starting in 2002), I got to know him better, and learned to recognize his ways."


Question(s): Let me get this straight---so then, the act of "walking with him"("God") can be, like, equated with walking down the street with your best friend, right? And you can "recognize his ways" how?.... the same way you can "recognize" your friend's ways, correct? You can *see* "him", the same way you can *see* your friend? Is this what you're saying? Are you saying that what makes "God" a "him", is that this "God" has male features?....like, a penis and hairy chest? If so, then please tell us what "God" looks like. Please describe him in vivid detail...i.e...long beard/short beard?...blue eyes/green eyes?...tall/short?...a tenor speaking voice?...or deeper?..etc.




...::tic-toc, tic-toc::.....




What?.....you can't describe "him"? Okay, so then you MUST be speaking metaphorically/allegorically then, right? Yes, because by logic and reason, you "recognize" your friends, family members, etc., by setting limits on them in reference to their *physical* attributes---yet, the Christian mind-set says that "God" HAS NO LIMITS. Consequently, we can conclude that it's 100% IMPOSSIBLE to "see", "walk with", "recognize" an entity that is "limitless"...or, "omnipresent". Now, no offense...but from there, we can reasonably conclude that this "God" that you claim to "know", exists nowhere---NO WHERE---outside of your head. All you have to go on is "a feeling" of knowing this "male ghost" you speak of. Not by coincidence, just like the Egyptians had a "feeling" about Ra; just like Muslims have a "feeling" about Mohammed; just like children have a "feeling" about the Easter bunny.


Rebecca closes with: "It’s really hit home for me in reading the testimonies on this site that people have been so burned by misinterpretations of scripture and the church’s misrepresentation of God. I have discovered that a lot of the teachings of the traditional church are indeed false, and the institutional church is a very sad distortion of what Christ intended. But true Christianity is reasonable, knowable, and livable."

Ah, the most common Christian soundbite known to man---it's the ol'.... "I feel sorry for you because you didn't interpret the bible the 'right way', nor did you choose the 'right' church...and hey, I can help you with both, if you'd like....let's discuss it."

News flash: The bible is nothing but one big subjective "grab-bag". If there was an "objective" truth ANYWHERE in it, there wouldn't BE debates about it, nor would there be a gazillion denominations. Think.

J. C. Samuelson said...

"I get my information from “The Case for Christ“ by Lee Strobel..."

Which, among many other reasons I'm sure, is why you're so ill-informed. I don't intend that as a condemnation or an insult. Many people are ill-informed about many issues.

What I'm speaking about here is your ignorance of the creation of the Bible, and how interpretation is done. You assume that everyone who disagrees with or cites mistakes is simply misinterpreting the text. While that might seem reasonable to you, and could be a factor, it also assumes that there is one correct interpretation, and that you know what that is.

Without going into too much detail, you are probably unaware that there is no single textual tradition that's used as a basis for the modern Bible. This is partly why there are so many versions; no one - not even Christian scholars - wholly agrees on which textual tradition is most accurate or authoritative. It is truly impossible to know what the original writers intended, because in spite of the number of extant documents available, many do not agree entirely with one another. Many contain scribal corrections that stem from years of use by copyists, and it can be extremely difficult to determine whether the correction is valid.

Not only that, but many ancient languages don't translate well into modern english, having different meanings or multiple meanings that depend on a number of different factors. Interpreters must find the closest approximation that fits the context of the culture of the time and surrounding text.

In other words, what you read is someone's best guess at the words and the intent of the original writers. Those guesses might come very close, even be accurate in many (but not all) places, but an interpretation is still, at its most basic level, a guess.

Assuming that much of the Bible is an accurate represenation of the original intent, NGB is right - there are passages that do have but one interpretation.

Finally, with regard to prophecy, ask a Jew about those passages you think reference Jesus. There's more I could say about prophecy but I've got to get my daughter some lunch, so I'll have to pass for now.

Food for thought.

Dano said...

The best way to give up religion is to open your eyes and see that we humans have been here on earth for only an instant in celestial time, and we are very close to disappearing and giving the planet back to the bugs.

There is absolutely no indication that our creator ever intervened into the demise of any species, and there have been billions.

Dan (Live, love, and be happy, for tomorrow global warming is going to kill you!)

barb said...

Rebecca,

Christians often make the assumption that the church has gotten warped only recently, in modern times.
I won't even touch on the Crusades or other atrocities, but will ask you just this: is it POSSIBLE, even remotely, that just as there NOW are selfish Christians who use the church and its influence for their own ends, there were also selfish Christians back THEN (whenever, you name it), who manipulated the story of whatever jesus DID do in order to create a messiah as was foretold... or who later edited scripture to suit their political agenda... or who were misogynists, homophobes, racists, misanthropes, or narcissists?
Is it POSSIBLE that any or all scripture was screwed with?
Ummm... YES. I will look for god on my own, and not listen to others, no matter how many they number.

ryan said...

Rebecca, about your fascination with Daniel......the author called Daniel lived and wrote during the Greek period, under the reign of Antiochus; the book of Daniel dates between the years 167 and 164 BCE. He was writing about the events of his day, but by putting his time during the Babylonian exile, he can be made to look like a "prophet". People who want to make him into a fortune-teller have done a lot of tampering. Example: the statue of gold, silver, bronze and iron. (ch. 2)The metals represent the empires of Babylon, Medea, Persia and Greece, but by combining the Medes and Persians as one empire, the bronze can become Greece, and the iron can become Rome; thus, a futuristic prophecy. It is all phony, like the rest of your religion.

About the supposed prophecy of jesus in ch. 9: this is about the high priest, Onias III, whom Antiochus had murdered.

The old testament is full of shit that you christians think is soothsaying, such as isaiah 7 and micah 5. These passages are not about your jesus. Try to get it through your head that the jews were writing about what concerned them--the jews were not writing christian prophecy.

If you want to believe in a deity of some kind, no one is stopping you. You can bay at the moon for all we care, but please do not try to tell us that some guy with his crystal ball has foretold your savior.

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