Why are you a Christian, or not one?

Before Christmas I was really excited about some ways to connect with Christian friends in discussions.  I’m sure you are wondering what has happened.  Now that I’ve reminded you 😉

The bible study on controversial topics never met again.  It turns out, there weren’t enough Christians willing to look at those topics.  At least, not at that particular church.  The Christians I know that are willing to look honestly at the bible and moral issues don’t stay in conservative churches, if they stay in churches at all.

I am scheduled to speak to a Christian group later this month though.  If any of you have something to say on the topic of healthy friendships and conversations between Christians and atheists, I’d love your feedback!  I’d also love to hear reasons why any of you deconverted or are still Christian.  If you don’t feel comfortable leaving any of this in a comment, post an emoticon or something and I’ll email you.

We’re also talking about having the same discussion with my old church age cohort.  It appears some people are confused as to why someone would leave a church community that preaches absolute obedience to leaders, even if a person is harmed.  Or not understand why a woman would not want to wear a symbol of her inferiority on her head.  Or treat homosexuals in loving committed relationships as unworthy of belonging to the community.  And so on.  However, they are willing to talk about it!

 

16 thoughts on “Why are you a Christian, or not one?

  1. tlethbridge says:

    I don’t know exactly how to define myself, some days I may be somewhat of a deist, other days agnostic fits better, sometimes I identify better with atheist. In any case, I am a long way from the conservative evangelical Christianity of my youth. One of the reasons your blog is the first link I hit in my “blogs” folder is that you have not divorced yourself from the Christian community and I find those posts to be the most interesting.

    I am now something of an outsider on the inside. I continue to attend church with my family. I am “out” to my wife, my Sunday School teacher and his wife, and somewhat “out” to the associate pastor. I still value friendships I have with others in my church but I am increasingly bothered by feeling like a hypocrite.

    My deconversion was from the inside. Questions about how we got the canon led to questions about textual criticism which led to higher criticism, apostolic authorship, the documentary hypothesis, and finally reading the Bible for what it says, conflicts and all, and not interpreting everything through an assumption of inerrancy. Eventually, my whole belief structure collapsed around my ears. For me personally, if I had found the Bible to conform to my belief it was perfect, infallible, authored by God dictating it to apostles and prophets and faithfully copied and handed down to us, I would still be a Christian today.

    I wish I could give you advice on how to open that conversation. I am afraid trying to lead someone down the same path I took, pointing out internal conflicts, etc. is just going to sound like an attack rather than opening a conversation. Heck, it probably is an attack. And clearly I am not very good at this conversation because I still get assigned a small group in youth and asked to substitute teach in Sunday School. I think you need to speak from your own heart. This is the kind of discussion that activates all kinds of automatic defense mechanisms in our own heads.

    I recently read Marcus Borg’s The Heart of Christianity and I am still trying to digest it. I think I could be happy finding my way to a much more liberal Christianity. I think my wife would be happier as well. I am not sure if my reluctance stems from intellectual honesty or from four decades of bias against non-evangelical Christianity.

    Good luck with your discussions and I am looking forward to your posts about how it went.

    • prairienymph says:

      Thanks T.L. I appreciate your feedback. May I use your story as a church-goer who stays in the closet? If it weren’t for the contradictions of the bible, I’d still be a Christian too. Maybe. The immorality of the biblical god is hard to swallow. Even Jesus’ concept of eternal hell for thought crimes is horrific.
      If it helps, in Canada about 1/3 of Catholics and 1/4 of Protestants aren’t convinced god is real. You aren’t as alone as you think, especially since its possible the numbers are higher in the States where there is more stigma.

      • ... Zoe ~ says:

        I keep wanting to chime in here. My first thought is, do these people know you are no longer Christian? And either way, what is your personal goal in speaking with them. In the end, what will make your topic successful? Do you require anything back from them in response. If it is all negative feedback are you okay with that? (Am I hovering too much?) 😉

      • tlethbridge says:

        Sure feel free to use my story. I understand what you mean about how God is portrayed in the Old Testament and the whole concept of an eternal hell for most people who ever lived. When I did believe, I had the hardest time reconciling any of that with a God who supposedly loved us and was all good. When I stopped believing, it was something of a relief. God may not be there, but at least he is not a monster.

        There are several reasons I still attend. One is my wife and I are not on the same page on this matter, and it is important to her. I also appreciate some of the relationships I have there. Surprisingly, I also enjoy my Sunday School class because it mostly focuses on life application and the group can have some great discussions.

        I think one of the things that causes the few people who know I deconverted to doubt my deconversion is the lack of any change in my life. If I had come out and said I really doubted God existed, then left my wife, gambled away our home, and taken up with drug addicted stripper they would have nodded sagely and said “Oh yes, he became an atheist.”

  2. Ahab says:

    If you ever decide to lead a discussion on controversial topics in Christianity, may I suggest a book entitled LAYING DOWN THE SWORD: WHY WE CAN’T IGNORE THE BIBLE’S VIOLENT VERSES by Philip Jenkins. The book provides an in-depth discussion of the unsavory parts of the Bible, such as genocide and slavery.

    To answer your question about deconversion, I deconverted from Catholicism because I couldn’t reconcile the religion’s internal contradictions, or the many ways doctrine contradicted established facts. Things like a seven-day creation period and a virgin birth flew in the face of science, and I could no longer ignore it. Suddenly, it because obvious to me that the Christian God and the Bible were made up by humans. It didn’t help that the fear of hell and my futile attempts to obey all the rules were making me a basketcase — so I wasn’t happy staying in the religion anyway.

    • prairienymph says:

      Oh, would I love to lead discussions on controversial topics! I wasn’t really able to before, being female, and if it comes out I’m an atheist too… I’ll check out the book though.
      Conflicts with science and psychological damage? Sounds familiar 🙂

  3. prairienymph says:

    Zoe- thanks for the questions.
    1) No they don’t know my belief status. I’m really torn about it and have discussed it quite a bit. For now I’ve decided not to correct their assumptions (since the last time I gave a talk there I was a Christian). I won’t lie but I won’t offer extra information. This is mostly because a girl from my old church will likely be there.
    2) Besides my love of captive audiences and stagelights, my goal is to correct misinformation. I know people at this group have friends and family who are not believers but they way they have talked about them gives me the impression they don’t have a clue what an atheist is, unless as T.L. point out- they gamble, divorce and have promiscuous sex. My goal is to promote understanding. If nothing I say is heard, at least I’ve tried and can wash my hands 🙂
    I don’t know how I’d respond to negative feedback. Since I’m using teachings of Christ and Paul to talk about how to have productive conversations with atheists, I’m not really anticipating much. I’m wondering whether to mention that some people never believed because of their brain type, especially those in the Autism spectrum. That would have touchy theological implications.

  4. […] standard that others (deep down) wish they had the strength to hold themselves up to. In reality, many people view the religious right leading the fight for deplorable values like unfounded prejudice and […]

  5. ... Zoe ~ says:

    I think I’m hovering. 🙂

    Aren’t you already talking to people who believe they are informed?

  6. prairienymph says:

    I’m talking to people who have realized that they need help in talking with atheists. The people who think they know all about atheists but don’t are the ones I’m gearing towards.
    Hover away. At least your hovering can’t get anyone pregnant or separate the firmament from the waters.

    • ... Zoe ~ says:

      😆

      Okay, that explains it. It didn’t realize that you are talking to people who are looking for that kind of help. Now, if I was in the group I’d probably ask you how it is that you are qualified on the subject. Aren’t you glad I’m not in your group? :mrgreen:

  7. prairienymph says:

    I have an answer to that one! I know how not to do it because I have experience with my atheist friends. Please, give me more. This is helpful.

    • ... Zoe ~ says:

      Another question. How is it that these Christians collectively came to a position of wanting to learn “how to talk to atheists” . . . ?

      What is their motive? To better know how to evangelize the atheists?

      • prairienymph says:

        Some of their members and speakers don’t come from Christian backgrounds so of course they want to evangelize to family. This bit in particular was kickstarted by an interfaith event in which their leader ended up talking to the atheist speaker. And various church events in our city have been on the theme of talking to atheists, including the secular humanist church. I think partly its just the fad right now.

  8. tlethbridge says:

    I would be prepared to talk about the Christian perception that ethics and morality are traits only Christians possess. One of the questions I was asked why I did not immediately go and rob a store. Christians really have a hard time understanding how ethics can exist without being imposed from the outside; I can’t fault them, I was the same way.

  9. prairienymph says:

    Yes, I had the same assumptions. Of course, I thought that about some other Christians too since they didn’t go to my little church. Which I still catch myself referring to as The Church. I tell myself I call it that so the people who still go know what I’m talking about.

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