Thoughts of a former evangelical Christian

Archive for the ‘Christianity as Tribalism: Leaving the Tribe’ Category

Improbability of Disbelief

In Christianity as Tribalism: Leaving the Tribe on March 19, 2013 at 1:56 am

Many who have never been steeped in religious faith are baffled at the seeming imperviousness of faith to reason. For many, however, faith is not merely a set of ideas. It is an identity. Doubts and disbelief represent existential threats to that identity. The more deeply embedded faith is in a person’s positive sense of self, and the more negative a person’s self image is outside of his or her religious identity, the more difficult it is to escape. One reason religion is so effective is that it systematically strips away every positive sense of self one might have that is not rooted in one’s religious identity.

Some time ago, I developed a flow chart to illustrate some of the common thought processes and defense mechanisms that believers employ to maintain and preserve their faith. The flowchart below, while merely illustrative (the order is not critical) and incomplete, should be helpful in shedding some insight into the mind of a true believer.

Click on the image below.



Born Again — A Documentary

In Christianity as Tribalism: Leaving the Tribe on May 2, 2010 at 3:51 pm

Watch this eye-opening, compelling documentary (70 minutes) about growing up in a mainstream evangelical Christian home, the pain of the faith’s renunciate teachings and the war with a divided self it produces, and the divide between those who leave the faith the family members that remain in it.

The Freedom to Search

In Christianity as Tribalism: Leaving the Tribe on April 21, 2010 at 5:18 am

“From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.  God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’”  Acts 17:26-28.

Imagine growing up without the Bible, without Christianity, without a creedal dogmatism that demanded your submission, and without its threat of hell.

Imagine being free to search for meaning, value, and purpose in life.  Imagine being free to ponder your temporally and spatially limited existence in the context of the vast universe and the vastness of time.

Freed from the dictates of your parent’s or your culture’s theology, what would you reach for?  What might you find?

Confronting the profound silence of the universe, would you imagine – or expect to find – Yahweh?  The jealous, violent, and mercurial war deity of an ancient Bronze Age tribe that commanded the slaughter of Amalekite infants and children (I Samuel 15), who burned with lethal anger against Uzzah for reflexively touching the ark in an effort to steady it (2 Samuel 6), who commanded Israelites to stone a man to death for gathering sticks on the Sabbath (Numbers 15:32-36), and whom the Bible documents with either carrying out, or approving, 154 separate killings?

Would you expect to discover a Creator of our vast universe that demanded a human sacrifice to atone for sin and placate his wrath?  Would you expect to find a deity that created billions in “His image and likeness,” but “prepared” most of them “for destruction” and “wrath” in a place of eternal conscious torment in order “to make the riches of his glory known” (Rom. 9:22-24)? 

Would you reach out for that deity, worship it, surrender your whole life to it, and explain away all that violence and madness as a manifestation of the deity’s “holiness” and “higher” and “mysterious” ways?

Well, I did, for decades.  And most evangelical Christians do too.  But even the Biblical God – according to Acts – deliberately placed some people in circumstances where they would not be exposed to his sacred text, because he wanted them to seek God in their own way (Acts 17:26-28; see also Acts 14:16).  Even the Biblical God gave them that freedom.

As a believer, I pondered Acts 17:26-28 and grew increasingly jealous of their freedom.  I never had that freedom.  I was relentlessly taught, from an early age, a gospel of salvation by creedal commitment.  I was forcefully taught that the Biblical God would condemn me to eternal conscious torment if I did not believe.

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