A Favorite Conversion Story

I was talking with a good friend about deconversion, and we commiserated that it’s a depressing topic. He told me of one of his favorite conversion stories, which I had read years ago and loved for its power and authenticity. It’s from the autobiographical writing, in Traveling Mercies, of Anne Lamott.

She was going through a very tough time in her life, addicted to cocaine and alcohol and just having had an abortion of a child conceived in an affair with a married man. In the week after the abortion, she took to bed with alcohol and pain medication. She writes (p. 49-50):

“After a while, as I lay there, I became aware of someone with me, hunkered down in the corner, and I just assumed it was my father, whose presence I had felt over the years when I was frightened and alone. The feeling was so strong that I actually turned on the light for a moment to make sure no one was there–of course, there wasn’t. But after a while, in the dark again, I knew beyond any doubt that it was Jesus. I felt him as surely as I feel my dog lying nearby as I write this.

And I was appalled. I thought about my life and my brilliant hilarious progressive friends, I thought about [Read more...]

Those (Ir)Religious Asian Americans?

So I still haven’t answered the question about whether there was a more prevalent Asian American Christian community in college. My focus on this topic isn’t just a nostalgic obsession; it had apparently been a major observation just around the time I graduated and had a strange resurgence about a decade later. The first major attention that appeared in academic circles came from Asian American Studies scholar Rudy Busto way back in the 1990s where he reported that the Asian American evangelical presence was “anecdotal”.

His bigger point was whether there was something important racially about the presence of so many Asian Americans in groups like Campus Crusade for Christ and Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, and home-grown groups with names like Grace Christian Fellowship and Asian American Christian Fellowship. I’d like to revisit this question in a later post. For now, I want to point out that there was a lot of buzz over the remarkable presence of religious Christian Asian Americans on a lot of college campuses in the 1990s. At the same time (the same year even), there was another news report that made huge waves in the Christian Asian American scene. It was called the “silent exodus.” [Read more...]

Why Do Christians Leave the Faith? The Problem of Responding Badly to Doubt

Part 3 in a series on deconversion

Does Christians’ bad behavior cause people to leave the faith? When we started this research project deconversion, I assumed that the most frequently-referenced cause would be Christians’ misbehavior—something along the lines of “I left the Church because Christians don’t act like Christians.” After all, this “Christians don’t act like Christians” narrative is extremely popular among Christian writers.

A majority (42 out of 50) of the deconverts that we studied did mention frustration with the Christians they knew, but it usually wasn’t misbehavior, per se, rather it was something that I never would have guessed: Frustration with how their fellow Christians reacted to their doubts.

The way that Christians react to the doubts of others can, inadvertently, amplify existing doubt. Many of the writers told of sharing their burgeoning doubts with a Christian friend or family member only to receive trite, unhelpful answers. These answers, in turn, moved them further away from Christianity.

For example, a former Southern Baptist, rather harshly, identified this tendency among the Christians that he had known: [Read more...]

Faith-Based Social Services: An Essential Part of American Civil Society

Did faith-based social service provision begin when George W. Bush started the office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives in 2002? No. Did it begin with Charitable Choice provision in 1996 Welfare Reform legislation? No. Despite all the media attention to those initiatives, most research shows that these initiatives did little to change the size or focus on faith-based social services. Why? Because most of these faith-based social services existed long before recent federal programs, and because some of what religious organizations do best in social services focuses on deep personal transformations, goals best pursued without government support.

In his book Saving America, the eminent sociologist of religion Robert Wuthnow argues that debates about faith-based social services are often polarized around deeply-held opinions about what the relationship should be between the state and faith-based social services rather than facts. How prevalent are faith-based social services? How does their service delivery or client satisfaction differ from secular social services?

Wuthnow agrees with other prominent scholars of U.S. religion like Mark Chaves and Robert Putnam that, on the whole, most religious congregations do not directly provide social services, but that religious congregations are one of the most prevalent motivators for people to volunteer their time and money for social causes.

The most successful and notable faith-based social services, Wuthnow interestingly points out, are unique not for the type of service they provide but for their approach. Because religious communities generally are [Read more...]

Are Atheists More Generous? QRS #1

For various reasons, public discussion of religion tends to attract (and create) a lot of inaccurate statistical information. This was a theme of my first book, Christians are Hate-Filled Hypocrites… and Other Lies You’ve Been Told, but there’s plenty more to write about.  So, I thought that I would start a periodic feature where I examine some of the questionable information making the rounds on-line.  I call it Questionable Religious Statistics (QRS).  Examining these claims not only clarifies what’s happening in the world of religion, but it also gives us practice in evaluating such information.

I start with an article written last week by Hank Pellissier at ieet.org. In it he claims that atheists are more generous financially than are religious people. He summarizes: “Atheists, non-believers, secular humanists, skeptics—the whole gamut of the godless have emerged in recent years as inarguably the most generous benefactors on the globe.”

Mr. Pellissier bases his claim on two pieces of evidence.  One, the magazine Business Week lists the billionaires who have donated or pledged the most money to charity, and this list is headed by Warren Buffett and Bill & Melinda Gate who have given 41 and 28 billion dollars respectively to worthy causes. Mr. Pellissier refers to both of them as “atheists.” (George Soros is a distant third, having given 7 billion).

The second piece of evidence comes from Mr. Pellissier’s own [Read more...]


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X