How Evangelicals Can Be Very Hurtful Without Being Very Hateful

The weekend after George W. Bush’s reelection, I attended a MoveOn.org get together at my friends’ house. The idea of the event was that people would volunteer their homes to host nationally coordinated local strategy discussions. So, it was me, my two friends, and a whole bunch of hard-left Upper West Side Manhattanites all of whom were strangers.

My friends wanted to devote their home’s strategy discussion to the topic of religion and how the Democratic party could address religious voters. Though I would rather both parties take hard-line secularist approaches to the separation of church and politics than see the political left define itself by left wing theology, I was interested in addressing to the others assembled what it was like to be an Evangelical, in order to understand the enemies of secularism on the right wing.

The thing I wanted to stress, having lived in an Evangelical bubble at Grove City College for four years and having spent years devoutly in church before that networking with numerous Evangelicals, was that Evangelical Christians did not sit around hating people all day. I tried to convey how wonderful an experience I had had for most of my time as an Evangelical Christian and especially at Grove City. I talked about studying at Grove City, where our primary daily focus was neither hating gays nor abortion but, you know, the everyday stuff of (religious) life—living together, studying together, delving into abstract theological topics that had nothing remotely to do with politics, intimately praying with each other, worshiping together, talking about ways to be morally and spiritually better people, confessing our sins to each other and being forgiven and loved by each other, etc.

We shared the same values in common, so there was little political or spiritual discord, and back then I usually found nearly everybody to be energetically nice, conscientiously supportive, highly morally accountable, spiritually earnest, and positively joyful. We sure hated sin and racked ourselves over our own sins constantly but we truly (at least in the abstract) loved all kinds of people and rarely if ever did I see someone bully anyone else over his or her sins. No one was beyond redemption and there was no one’s salvation we didn’t hope for.

Some of us (like me) were even passionately upset by, and spent a great deal of energy trying to refute, doctrines like “unconditional reprobation” (the Calvinist interpretation of the Bible in which God deliberately makes it literally impossible that those who wind up in hell could have wound up anywhere else). And even those who defended it didn’t like the concept at all but felt compelled by the plain words in numerous places in the Bible to draw that conclusion. And if they were going to take the Bible seriously as an indisputable source of truth, they couldn’t just go ditching the uncomfortable stuff without serious cognitive dissonance.

What I was trying to do in explaining all this was to humanize Evangelicals and explain that they exist elsewhere in the world besides outside abortion clinics picketing and in the Senate comparing gay love to bestiality, and that when they don’t feel compelled to defend the harsh teachings of their religion or their religious politics on principled grounds that they take to be matters of honesty, that they are, in fact, quite often lovely people to each other and, they think, lovely people to others. I only remember interacting at any significant length with one truly abominably hateful Christian whose theology was unambiguously a philosophical expression and projection of a hollow-hearted-hatred, driven by some deeply problematic (but never explained) relationships in his youth. He is now, unfortunately, making local political bids where he lives and it sends shivers down my spine. He is one of few people I have repeatedly denied Facebook friendship with. He’s a monster.

But the rest of us were just a community of like-minded people who shared a glow of religiously-induced happiness with each other and only intended to spread that to others. It was far more out of dogmatism and thoughtlessness than malice that we prejudiciously assumed that all those outside our fold were “lost” and in need of what we had to offer. Our happiness was entirely constructed in religious categories and practices, so it was hard to see how it could exist in wildly different and alien categories and practices, in which ideas and ethics were shuffled and arranged so differently. Our happiness, as it turned out, sure could be found in different categories and practices, of course, and I feel far happier even and, in retrospect, as an atheist for a decade now, I am amazed at how many negative drawbacks were the price of that Christian joy, though I hardly realized at the time that my mistaken religion was the unnecessary cause of those miseries.

But being at a self-consciously Evangelical college and within the wider Evangelical Christian church, for me, was a joyful experience of tightly knit community. And so I wanted to say to the Move On types that there was a way to understand and to reach out to Evangelicals as entirely well-meaning humans rather than write them off as malevolent hateful demons and that when you describe their motives (rather than the consequences of their actions) as hateful they will simply write you off as clueless.

But my description of what I experienced in many ways as an idyllic and constructive part of Evangelical life was met with horror by the Move On crowd. Everything I described could be summed up to them in one word: “Cult”. Or two words, “Dangerous Cult”.

This stunned me and was a lesson in the differences in the way cultures (and not just cults) structure the lives of their members. You can have a great number of very good things constructed within one culture such that you cannot imagine those same very good things being rearranged and constructed totally differently using a different set of beliefs and practices. What would most completely squelch all the sense of joy and freedom and virtue and love out of one way of life, and so is most feared within that way of life, is the very source of joy and freedom and virtue and love themselves, within another way of life.

This door swings both ways. It is at least part of the psychological reason that both the secularist and the fundamentalist in our culture find in each other the specter of malicious evil and find in themselves the salt and light of the world. Regardless of the abstract merits of one’s positions (and having examined both sides from fully within them, I am confident of the secularist’s superior intellectual, ethical, and political merits), this is an inevitable psychological contributor to exaggerated enmity and to related feelings of deep hostility.

This is Nietzsche’s point in his section on “One Thousand and One Goals” wherein his character Zarathustra marvels that what is “decked out in purple” (i.e., treated as royally supreme) in one culture is decried as the worst evil on the tablets of the neighboring culture, and vice versa.

Now I bring none of this up to argue for simple cultural/moral relativism which says we cannot criticize Evangelicals since their thing works for them. I am a moral pluralist who wants to say that while in some ways different virtues and values and beliefs can work objectively better better for some individuals and groups, sometimes they can be objectively worse for those same individuals and groups in other ways.

Evangelical Christians do hurt gays, women, minorities, transgendered/transsexual people, Catholics, mainline Protestants, Muslims, atheists, indigenous peoples whom they evangelize, and countless other groups who live both within their churches and outside of them. And they hurt people in ways that are distinctively Evangelically Christian. Their faith beliefs and practices which contribute most distinctly to their strength of conviction, which is a catalyst for precisely their fervor in their beliefs and in their virtues, also indisputably are to blame for the strength of their vices and the damage they unwittingly do to non-Evangelicals (and even to many of their own). I say unwittingly because I do think Evangelicals, like most people, hardly can conceive that what they are doing is as destructive as it is.

On net, having lived both within Evangelical beliefs and values for a solid 16 years of my life and outside of them for twelve years since, I have no doubt that I and many other Evangelicals, ex-Evangelicals and total non-Evangelicals alike are, or would be, far better off without Evangelical vices than they would be with Evangelical resources for the cultivation of their virtues. I left Evangelical Christianity for primarily intellectual reasons and from the moral epiphany that it was just wrong to believe without evidence and especially wrong when religious beliefs had undeniable real world moral consequences (most notably to me at the time for gays). At the time I never imagined that overall greater virtue could exist outside the faith than within it but I have since become quite convinced of that too.

Before I ever left the faith, the dark underside of Evangelicalism began to be clear to me through the strain it put on my relationship with a close, suicidal, gay friend and since then I have learned of the antipathy some of my now uncloseted gay fellow alumni feel towards Grove City. And I have spoken up to try to get Grove City to think about its reflexively thoughtless, unintentionally cruel, but nonetheless deeply harmful treatment of its own gay community. (Read my interview with the brave and commendable senior who founded a gay group on campus: Meet Jesy Littlejohn, Founder of “Rainbow Bridge”.)

The dark and damaging extremes Evangelicalism can slip toward in its treatment of women are heartbreakingly chronicled nearly everyday on sites like Butterflies and Wheels and No Longer Quivering, which I hope that openhearted, thoughtful Christians will challenge themselves to read and take seriously.

But for all this, except for the most insincere/huckster/sociopathic preachers who prey on their flocks, I do not think that the very real hurt that Evangelicals do is usually inspired by very real hate, or at least that their hate is much different in kind than any other political, ideologically driven demonization of outgroup members when thinking abstractly is. There are layers of oblivious privilege of course, but no community is immune to that, as the atheist community has recently done a spectacular job of proving through “Elevatorgate”.

Now in saying that Evangelicals are no more intrinsically hateful than anyone else, I could be speaking only from my own experience. But I am inclined to think it is, more generally, the human experience—one in which ignorance and thoughtlessness about the effects of one’s own ideas, words, and actions, is far more often the motive for destruction than self-conscious hate could ever be.

Your Thoughts?

For more of my reflections one my former life as an Evangelical Christian and my deconversion, and on the downsides of Evangelicals’ treatment of non-Evangelicals and of Evangelical gays and women themselves, read posts such as the following:

Apostasy As A Religious Act (Or “Why A Camel Hammers The Idols of Faith”)

Sex And Apostasy

Confronting Conservative Christians With The Consequences Of Their Homophobia

Why “Loving The Sinner But Hating The Sin” Is Not An Option When Dealing With Gay People

Gays, Jesus, and Judging

Can You Really Love Religious People If You Hate Their Religion?

What Can An Atheist Love In People’s Religiosity?

Defending Apostates’ Intellects Against A Dismissive Christian Apologist

Love Virginity

Christian Anti-Kissing Propaganda

The Complicated Relationship Of An Apostate To His Religious Friends And His Reilgious Past

Sympathies for the Religious

A Follow Up Post on Gays and Christianity

Top Ten Tips For Reaching Out To Atheists

How Religious Bullying Makes Atheists So Angry: One New Atheist’s Story

Read posts in my ongoing “deconversion series” in order to learn more about my experience as a Christian, how I deconverted, what it was like for me when I deconverted, and where my life and my thoughts went after I deconverted.

Before I Deconverted:

Before I Deconverted: My Christian Childhood

Before I Deconverted: Ministers As Powerful Role Models

My Fundamentalist Preacher Brother, His Kids, And Me (And “What To Do About One’s Religiously Raised Nieces and Nephews”)

Before I Deconverted: I Was A Teenage Christian Contrarian

Before I Deconverted, I Already Believed in Equality Between the Sexes

Love Virginity

Before I Deconverted: I Dabbled with Calvinism in College (Everyone Was Doing It)

How Evangelicals Can Be Very Hurtful Without Being Very Hateful

Before I Deconverted: My Grandfather’s Contempt

How I Deconverted:

How I Deconverted, It Started With Humean Skepticism

How I Deconverted, I Became A Christian Relativist

How I Deconverted: December 8, 1997

How I Deconverted: I Made A Kierkegaardian Leap of Faith

How I Deconverted: My Closest, and Seemingly “Holiest”, Friend Came Out As Gay

How I Deconverted: My Closeted Best Friend Became A Nihilist and Turned Suicidal

How I Deconverted: Nietzsche Caused A Gestalt Shift For Me (But Didn’t Inspire “Faith”)

As I Deconverted: I Spent A Summer As A Christian Camp Counselor Fighting Back Doubts

How I Deconverted: I Ultimately Failed to Find Reality In Abstractions

A Postmortem on my Deconversion: Was it that I just didn’t love Jesus enough?

When I Deconverted:

When I Deconverted: I Was Reading Nietzsche’s “Anti-Christ”, Section 50

When I Deconverted: I Had Been Devout And Was Surrounded By The Devout

When I Deconverted: Some People Felt Betrayed

When I Deconverted: My Closest Christian Philosopher Friends Remained My Closest Philosophical Brothers

When I Deconverted: I Was Not Alone

The Philosophical Key To My Deconversion:

Apostasy As A Religious Act (Or “Why A Camel Hammers the Idols of Faith”)

When I Deconverted: Some Anger Built Up

After I Deconverted:

After I Deconverted: I Was A Radical Skeptic, Irrationalist, And Nihilist—But Felt Liberated

After My Deconversion: I Refuse to Let Christians Judge Me

After My Deconversion: My Nietzschean Lion Stage of Liberating Indignant Rage

Before I Deconverted:

Before I Deconverted: My Christian Childhood

Before I Deconverted: Ministers As Powerful Role Models

My Fundamentalist Preacher Brother, His Kids, And Me (And “What To Do About One’s Religiously Raised Nieces and Nephews”)

Before I Deconverted: I Was A Teenage Christian Contrarian

Before I Deconverted, I Already Believed in Equality Between the Sexes

Love Virginity

Before I Deconverted: I Dabbled with Calvinism in College (Everyone Was Doing It)

How Evangelicals Can Be Very Hurtful Without Being Very Hateful

Before I Deconverted: My Grandfather’s Contempt

How I Deconverted:

How I Deconverted, It Started With Humean Skepticism

How I Deconverted, I Became A Christian Relativist

How I Deconverted: December 8, 1997

How I Deconverted: I Made A Kierkegaardian Leap of Faith

How I Deconverted: My Closest, and Seemingly “Holiest”, Friend Came Out As Gay

How I Deconverted: My Closeted Best Friend Became A Nihilist and Turned Suicidal

How I Deconverted: Nietzsche Caused A Gestalt Shift For Me (But Didn’t Inspire “Faith”)

As I Deconverted: I Spent A Summer As A Christian Camp Counselor Fighting Back Doubts

How I Deconverted: I Ultimately Failed to Find Reality In Abstractions

A Postmortem on my Deconversion: Was it that I just didn’t love Jesus enough?

When I Deconverted:

When I Deconverted: I Was Reading Nietzsche’s “Anti-Christ”, Section 50

When I Deconverted: I Had Been Devout And Was Surrounded By The Devout

When I Deconverted: Some People Felt Betrayed

When I Deconverted: My Closest Christian Philosopher Friends Remained My Closest Philosophical Brothers

When I Deconverted: I Was Not Alone

The Philosophical Key To My Deconversion:

Apostasy As A Religious Act (Or “Why A Camel Hammers the Idols of Faith”)

When I Deconverted: Some Anger Built Up

After I Deconverted:

After I Deconverted: I Was A Radical Skeptic, Irrationalist, And Nihilist—But Felt Liberated

After My Deconversion: I Refuse to Let Christians Judge Me

After My Deconversion: My Nietzschean Lion Stage of Liberating Indignant Rage

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • Hercules Grytpype-Thynne

    one truly abominably hateful Christina

    No names, please.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Camels With Hammers

      HA! Thanks for the heads up. And no, I wasn’t outing anyone as abominable (though with that asshole, it might be necessary as a public service). I just have a weird typing quirk where I constantly mistype Christian as Christina.

  • Kiwi Sauce

    The fundamentalist baptist environment in which I was raised, until I walked out at age 18, was in New Zealand, but imported all its interpretations from the USA. There was a youth group, of which I was an active member (I could stay out to 1am with no punishment!) and we had hateful things such as: communist evenings (get from church to the youth leader’s house without being caught by the “communists”), we were taught that catholics were all going to hell because they worshipped an idol (Mary) and the pope was the anti-christ, we were told if we married a non-xtian we would go to hell, etc. One of my friends got told off for dancing in church (he was happy and dancing while we were singing) because some of the older people thought it was the devil’s influence, so there was also picking on less popular members of the in-group as well.

    There was also the misogyny: no women elders, pastors, or youth leaders “ladies a plate” (men don’t bother bringing anything to meetings or doing other women’s work like washing the dishes). I didn’t start university until somewhat later than most because I had been brainwashed into thinking that it would be a waste of time because I would get married and start having kids immediately after graduation (with a bachelor degree, none of this postgraduate study!). But none of this was done in hate, it was all done in “love”. It’s so Orwellian: hate is love, love is hate…

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Camels With Hammers

      Oh yeah, some of that stuff I participated in at the time in good conscience, some was just conceived of as spiritually difficult issues that people had different views on. I don’t know if it’s all so much Orwellian, since again, I’m not convinced actual psychological hate and desire to destroy was behind all the harmfulness, just immersion in a way of life and being convinced it’s totally correct.

      And to my circle, we were not the far right crazies that the more explicitly fundamentalist types were. In practice I was somewhat fundamentalist but I disassociated my identity from the anti-dancing, anti-alcohol, proud-misogyny crowd completely.

  • Surgoshan

    I only remember interacting at any significant length with one truly abominably hateful Christina whose theology was unambiguously a philosophical expression and projection of a hollow-hearted-hatred, driven by some deeply problematic (but never explained) relationships in his youth.

    Obviously it was with whoever named him Christina.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Camels With Hammers

      HAHAHAHA

  • jakc

    GWB’s re-election? You mean election.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Camels With Hammers

      HA—that night, some of the Move On folks disputed he had ever been elected.

    • jakc

      I think GWB won fairly in 2004, but I’ve heard the “Ohio” argument.

  • http://thelatinone.com thelatinone

    Excellent post! In this polarized political environment is refreshing to see someone who understands political opponents beyond the caricature-level image we have of them. I went to Christian (both evangelical and Catholic) schools and my experience with both groups shapes much of my way of dealing with religion. Aside from growing up Latino in a place (Puerto Rico) where religion is bombarded at you from every possible direction.

    BTW, do you teach in Fairfield U, the Jesuit place in Connecticut?

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Camels With Hammers

      Thanks, Latinone! Yes, I teach at the Jesuit Fairfield University in Connecticut. Do you have connections to Fairfield?

    • http://thelatinone.com thelatinone

      I’m not connected to Fairfield, though a friend of mine teaches there every now and then, but I teach political science at UConn and research at Trinity College’s Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Camels With Hammers

      Oh, that sounds terrific, I’m pleased to have you reading!

    • http://thelatinone.com thelatinone

      Nice blog, added it to my reader. Are you going to the FFRF meeting in Hartford. I’ll be attending promoting the new secularism scholarly journal. Maybe you’ll be interested in publishing there. Heres my website and my blog.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001373579092 martalayton

    Well, my experience is with what I called pseudo-evangelicalism. I grew up in a mainstream Protestant church, but in a small town in NC where pretty much all Protestantism has some strong fundamentalist tendencies. And of course that varied from person to person, and church to church. But it wasn’t so institutionalized and so universal, which of course makes a big difference.

    Even so, you are right about bad consequences coming even if the people aren’t really hateful. I had a lot of people very much dismayed that I would want to go off the grad school at all rather than focus on starting a family. This in 2006! It was meant out of love, I think, and came from a a real desire to see me flourish (my friends and family sincerely thought having a family contributed more to a woman’s happiness than having a career, so careers ought to be built around the family rather than the other way around). The fact that they had good intentions didn’t keep those conversations from stinging, but it did affect how I reacted, I think.

    I have thoughts about your early comment “I would rather both parties take hard-line secularist approaches to the separation of church and politics than see the political left define itself by left wing theology“, but I don’t have time to go into them tonight. If I do get my thoughts together, I’ll tag you in the FB status where I announce the blog post.

  • Pen

    Thoughts, yeah… What the hell can we do about it?

    Thanks for an excellent post. I think it’s something we need to be told. I’ve also had some contacts with very devout though perhaps not evangelical Christians through the homeschool movement. They build closer families than I would say is the typical in this society, because they really think about it. The average number of kids is 2-4 and they do a normal number of chores. There is nothing very submissive about the women who are, frankly, leading from behind. The kids are happy, curious and have the kind of sociability that you found at Grove. They don’t get spanked. They read a whole lot of books other than the Bible and do science experiments. They love nature, cooking, art projects and park days.

    Meanwhile they are taught that evolution is wrong, that the Bible is ultra-important, and they like religious imagery and affirmations just about everywhere. And ugly battles with homosexuality, unwanted pregnancies and preferred lifestyle choices are lying in wait for some of them.

    Also, of course, the only reason I know anything about them is that I observe them from afar, through forums and blogs, because you know, people like me are just barred, as far as they’re concerned. I know we are very scary to them, especially while their children are young and vulnerable! Later on, of course, they expect those grown up children to go out and do battle for our souls.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Camels With Hammers

      Later on, of course, they expect those grown up children to go out and do battle for our souls.

      Yeah, hahaha, and boy are they going to lose…

  • AYY

    Agree that it’s an interesting post. My experience with very religious people is different (I found there to be a lot of angry, petty people), but I won’t question your view of the community you were involved with.

    The idea of hard left Manhattanites smugly addressing how the Democrats can address religious voters, was befuddling to me. Did they forget the Dem candidate was Al Gore? Didn’t they ever hear of the Episcopalians, the Unitarians, the Reform Jews, the Presbyterians, the liberation theologists, etc. etc? Liberal talking points are constantly being preached from the pulpits in those congregations. The Dems are not going to reach Southern Baptist voters unless they stand for the things that Southern Baptists stand for. If that happens they won’t stand for the things the upper West Side Manhattanites stand for.

    I have to wonder about whether in retrospect you would expect to get a different response than the one you received. If those people were so emotionally involved in seeing themselves as superior to the evangelicals, they wouldn’t likely be amenable to seeing your point at all. They would probably see evangelicals as they’re stereotyped in the media, and would consider your point as coming from someone who was either terribly naive, or was drawing a faulty generalization.

  • ema

    Now in saying that Evangelicals are no more intrinsically hateful than anyone else, I could be speaking only from my own experience.

    I do think you are speaking only from your own experience. Even a cursory exposure to the goings-on in the reproductive health arena will quickly disabuse you of the notion that ignorance and thoughtlessness about the effects of one’s own ideas, words, and actions are credible alibis.

  • raven

    Now in saying that Evangelicals are no more intrinsically hateful than anyone else, I could be speaking only from my own experience.

    You very well might.

    My own experience with fundie death cultists started with a group hacking my computer, getting my real name and address, and threatening to kill me. What followed was several months of terror ending when the FBI arrested two idiots and charged them with felonies. It turns out that death threats are illegal.

    Not much has changed. That was over a decade ago and I still get death threats on a routine basis. Occasionally they attack and sometimes kill one of my colleagues. BTW, what sets off the crazies is real simple. I’m a scientist, a medical researcher. A lot of scientists get death threats. PZ Myers, on a good day can get 100 death threats. In one day. That’s a lot.

    Far as I can tell, the defining characteristic is fundie xians is that they are homicidal maniacs held in check only by the power of our secular laws. Which they hate.

    It’s cost two of my friends their lives, killed in Iraq as well as my 401(K) plan. When your friends turn up dead, you know something is wrong.

    A lot of fundies are xian Dominionists who openly hate the USA and its secular democracy and quite clear they want to destroy it. They have their own party, AKA, the Tea Party/GOP.

    They are well on their way to destroying us. The fundies won’t win their culture war which they are losing. But they discovered the weak spot of the USA. In turns out our economy is very fragile and they’ve managed to all but destroy it in 8 years of a fundie president.

  • raven

    Now in saying that Evangelicals are no more intrinsically hateful than anyone else, I could be speaking only from my own experience.

    The terms “young” and “ivory tower” come to mind.

    Manhatten isn’t even remotely close to the average fundie hellholes which comprise most of the south central USA.

    I was the same way for decades myself. It took a long series of events to wake me up and look around. I’m in the west coast bay area myself. We have a lot more New Agers and Pagans than fundies. It is really different out there in the heartland.

    One of the few fundies I know is a lot more representative than anyone you will find in NYC.

    Pregnant at 15, married at 16, second kid at 17, husband, who is the same age, disappears shortly thereafter. She is actually a nice woman, not too bright or educated, and knows the earth is 6,000 years old and she didn’t come from no monkey.

  • http://criticallyskeptic-dckitty.blogspot.com Katherine Lorraine, Chaton de la Mort

    Evangelical Christianity made me afraid to be myself. Enough said. For fear of hellfire, I refused to acknowledge my TG and bi(pan)sexual nature.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Camels With Hammers

      forgive me, what is TG?

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Camels With Hammers

      Transgendered, figured it out on my own. Carry on.

  • raven

    CwH:

    I could be speaking only from my own experience.

    Probably. You need to get out more.

    If you look at fundies, this is what you see. Atrocities, like the one below. Nearly every day. One of the most obvious is human child sacrifice, usually by witholding medical care but sometimes by torture. It is estimated that human child sacrifice happens to 10 to 100 children a year. I saw one case up close once.

    Not too mention sponsoring and supporting US xian terrorism.

    More telling is the leadership of the fundies. They are all vaguely humanoid toads, among the most evil and worst our society has produced. Dobson, Hagee, Robertson, Parsley, Mohler, Kennedy, Falwell, Warren, Palin, Bachmann, Perry, and a veritable army of less known but just as cuckoo trollike amphibianoids. Many are Dominionist theocrats or crazies who claim a New Apostolic Era with them having magic powers given by the gods.

    These leaders and their followers are repulsive and dangerous enough that they created the New Atheists and are destroying US xianity. Dobson or Robertson make more atheists in a day than Dawkins or PZ does in a year.
    ******************************

    OT The fundie xians have sacrificied another child to their Clown Sky Monster god.

    This girl was starved, beaten, and tortured to death.

    And Oh, BTW, did you know xianity is the source of all morality. And, of course, this is another example of that sophisticated theology we’ve all heard about.

    Case file: Parents starved and beat girl, locked her out in the cold
    By KOMO Staff Published: Sep 30, 2011 at 6:31 PM PDT

    Police arrest parents of girl who died in rain, cold
    SEATTLE – A 13-year-old girl who died of hypothermia earlier this year was systematically starved, beaten, forced to use an outdoor toilet and sometimes locked in a dark closet for days by her adoptive parents, according to court documents released Friday.

    Larry P. Williams and Carri D. Williams of Sedro Woolley were arrested on Thursday and booked into Skagit County Jail for investigation of homicide by abuse and assault of a child in the first degree. Each is being held on $500,000 bail.

    The Williams’ adoptive daughter, Hana Williams, was found dead in May – naked, in her own backyard – after she had spent much of a cold, rainy day outside as a punishment, according to court documents.

    Hana had been adopted from Ethiopia deleted for length.

    Other punishments included locking Hana inside a dark closet for hours or days without food while the parents played the Bible on tape and Christian music for her while she was locked inside, according to court documents.

    Hana also was forced to sleep in the barn on some nights or kept outside for hours in the cold without adequate clothing or shoes, court documents say – but she was allowed to wear shoes if there was snow on the ground.

    The Williams also confirmed that they used a flexible plumbing tool as a switch to punish Hana and some of the other children in their household.

    A witness told investigators that the Williams got their ideas for the disciplinary measures from a book, “How to Train Up Your Child,” which recommends switchings with a plumbing tool, cold water baths, withholding food and putting children out in cold weather as forms of punishment.
    This is Michael Pearl’s book, a fundie xian pastor. It’s killed several kids already.

    Howard Cooper, a retired pastor who said the Williams and their children sometimes attended worship services at his church, said he had no idea abuse was going on inside the home.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Camels With Hammers

      raven, I have literally hundreds of posts on this blog over the last two years detailing all the evils committed by fundamentalists which are fit to print. My point is that it’s not self-consciously malevolence motivating it (except, maybe, as I noted among some of the more demented or sociopathic leader figures) but rather obliviousness to the effects of what is internally experienced by the strongest adherents as a positive contributor to their lives on outsiders and on vulnerable members of their own circles.

      The point is not that fundamentalism is not extremely harmful. I assume throughout the piece that it is and then explicitly note some of the ways it is. The point is that there is a difference between having hateful consequences or an implicitly hateful structure of thought and explicitly hateful mindsets.

      By your own account it took decades to get you to leave Christianity. It took me until age 21. Apparently the evil was not as blindingly obvious from the inside as it is from outside. (And even less so in your case, as you stayed longer than I did!)

  • raven

    By your own account it took decades to get you to leave Christianity.

    Not comparable. My xian sect was moderate. They had a god is love belief that isn’t in the bible but a modern invention and a huge improvement. Their big causes weren’t overthrowing the US government and setting up a theocracy, or cheering while the gays and Catholics go to hell, but world peace and eliminating poverty.

    A fundie in my old church would stand out like a two headed, green martian.

    The point is that there is a difference between having hateful consequences or an implicitly hateful structure of thought and explicitly hateful mindsets.

    Not seeing the difference. Or that it matters. The result is the same in the real world.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Camels With Hammers

      Not comparable. My xian sect was moderate. They had a god is love belief that isn’t in the bible but a modern invention and a huge improvement. Their big causes weren’t overthrowing the US government and setting up a theocracy, or cheering while the gays and Catholics go to hell, but world peace and eliminating poverty.

      And seeee, neither was my Evangelicalism about “cheering” people going to hell or dwelling on a god of hate. That’s my point. A whole lot of regular Evangelical folks who in aggregate and in politics are one-dimensional awfulness are, on an individual level, actual human people.

      You don’t get the point of addressing this fact? Maybe it helps so that we don’t demonize them and develop their very vices in the process. Maybe understanding how people can do evil out of confusion more than of malice, we can more effectively think of them as human beings and treat them as such, rather than grow further and further away from any and all common ground with them.

    • ema

      Maybe understanding how people can do evil out of confusion more than of malice….

      But what evidence do you have, other than your personal experience, that confusion, rather than malice, is the problem?

      For example, 1) legislation to allow MDs to lie to patients that their pregnancy is OK in order to trick them into not terminating; 2) attempts to legalize the assassination of Ob/Gyn; 3) pharmacists stealing patients’ prescriptions; 4) legislation to allow access to medical care only to virgins who are raped in the most vile and brutal manner.

      Are large numbers of these people unclear about lying, killing, stealing, and utterly confused about the difference between personal S&M fantasies and public health policies?

  • http://langcultcog.com/traumatized DuWayne

    I don’t know how accurate your assessment really is, but my own experience has been that there are significantly more hateful people who could be labeled evangelicals, than there are who couldn’t be. A very good example would be that my eldest son (youngest was too young at the time) lost friends because I came out as an atheist. Mind you he believes in God and sometimes goes to church, considers himself a Christian and was even recently baptized. I am an atheist and the demons of intellectualism (I am totally fucking serious) are sure to rub off on my kids and from them, who else?

    The second to the last church I attended, an non-denominational, pentecostal church, shunned a young woman in the youth group because she got knocked up. Mind, she wasn’t the only kid there who was screwing – the father was also part of the youth group (which came out and, shockingly, he wasn’t shunned). I was barred from the property of the church when I took advantage of singing one of my songs to chastise the core members of the church (I was one of them until then) for their bullshit. The only upshot was that they lost the staff members who were most important to me, as well as a couple of members who I cared a great deal for.

    By and large the evangelicals I have been close to have been the loving sort, but that is largely due to selection bias. I was that sort of Christian (and remain that sort of person) and so was is my mother. The hateful types generally avoided me, some after learning that “loving” doesn’t equal “punching bag.” Not that I was violent very often, to the contrary I have always found violence distasteful. But I cut my theological teeth on John Wesley when I was ten and made quite the study of it into my teen years (then I started using drugs and my dogmatic perspective shifted rather dramatically). I didn’t quote scripture, I made logical (at least as such things can be) arguments based on scripture that tended to make a lot of people uncomfortable.

    Yes, I know a lot of very loving, compassionate and even several very consistent evangelicals. Many of them will always be very dear friends whose friendships are very important to me. But I know, have come across or know of many more of the hateful sort. Most of them try to hide it, try to pretend they actually care – but then they show a tell tale, the most common being the exposure of some degree of pleasure at the sure knowledge that people they don’t like are going to suffer eternal damnation. I’m sorry, but if you are a Christian and don’t hurt (to some degree) for people who are doomed to such a fate, instead finding even the least pleasure in it, you’re nothing but the most vile sort of hateful fucking asshole.

    And ultimately I don’t care how much you genuinely care about people, even sinners, when you repeatedly say hateful things, you have no reasonable defense against being accused of being hateful. I have been told that I cannot possibly love my children by someone who may, or may not have actually cared – either way that was a hate filled message. I have been accused of being a pawn of Satan, bent on oppressing and hurting people, because I am working to become a psychologist – again, a hate filled message from someone I believe genuinely believes he is a loving person. While all of us, myself included, sometimes say terribly hurtful things to others that are essentially hateful, that is not the same as saying such things as a matter of course and in the name of loving people.

    Dogmatically born hatred is still, in the end, hate – no matter how lovingly expressed.

  • Brad

    Thanks for this post, Daniel.

    I’ve been a lifelong Evangelical (now exploring skepticism, with growing serious doubts about my faith), and your experience from within Evangelicalism matches up very closely with what I’ve observed.

    What some of your commenters don’t understand is how radically different the same event or idea is seen from “inside the bubble” (within the church/faith/movement) vs outside (skepticism/atheism/”reality?”).

    You see anti-abortion efforts as hateful, anti-woman, and regressive. They truly believe they are working to save innocent lives.

    You see anti-gay hatred and bigotry. They believe they are being compassionate when they hold that gay people are (like all of us) just sinners in need of God’s grace.

    You see a radical right-wing activist movement trying to take over American politics. They believe they are doing God’s will by pushing back against the “increasing secularization” of America, and returning to the nation’s “Judeo-Christian roots”.

    Please know that I’m not DEFENDING these positions, just agreeing with Daniel that those within the Evangelical movement aren’t MOTIVATED by hate, even if their actions ultimately end up harming others. This is why I believe that you should be judged by the RESULT of your actions, and not by your motives. People can do hurtful things for (purportedly) good reasons, or do good things for selfish reasons.

    • Brad

      And with regard to the *personal* negative impact of some of these ideas (some of the stories other commenters are telling), I’d imagine that most evangelicals are similarly blind to it.

      The young woman who visits the church the weekend the pastor preaches a sermon on how she should be submitting to her (abusive) husband. The in-the-closet youth who is subjected to a lesson on homosexuality that reinforces the fact that he won’t be accepted if he comes out.

      Neither of these people ever return to church, so nobody there has to confront the personal issues that these ideas create.

      On both sides of my extended family, nearly EVERYONE is part of the evangelical church. I have no idea how they are going to react if/when I “come out” as a former believer…

    • Brad

      Some final thoughts regarding how to approach an (open minded) evangelical: sympathize with their goals (or at least pretend to) but get them to really understand the ACTUAL real-world results of their policy ideas (over-simplified examples to follow):

      Abstinence-only sex education? Sure, I know you THINK you are helping to promote morality while reducing teen pregnancy and STDs, but the studies show that teens from these programs have the SAME AMOUNT of sex as teens that take comprehensive sex education, but they use condoms LESS (because they’ve been taught to mistrust them), therefore INCREASING the amount of teen pregnancy and disease.

      Want to reduce abortion? So do I! The reality is that the best way to do so is to prevent the pregnancies in the first place (see prior discussion regarding ineffective sex education).

      For what its worth, discussions like this have been persuasive to me as an evangelical. Accusations of “evil, Evil, EVIL!!” aren’t likely to be similarly discussion-starting :)

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Camels With Hammers

      Thanks for your thoughts, Brad. As should be obvious from the post, I agree completely with what you’re getting at. If I can be of assistance to you in giving honest answers to questions you are personally working out, either philosophically or theologically or personally as you question your faith and consider leaving it and subsequently “coming out”, let me know.

    • http://langcultcog.com/traumatized DuWayne

      Hi Brad -

      Some final thoughts regarding how to approach an (open minded) evangelical: sympathize with their goals (or at least pretend to) but get them to really understand the ACTUAL real-world results of their policy ideas…

      The problem I have had with this, is that there are really relatively few evangelicals who are open minded – especially about most of your list. There are some, but mostly what I have engaged with are people who appear to be open minded, people who will even listen – but who will then explain why you’re (me) wrong. I have regular contact with rather a lot of evangelicals (my mother is rather hardcore and I built an apartment in my parents basement after becoming an only parent) and most of them are genuinely loving people – who believe hateful things. That they believe these things doesn’t prevent me from loving them, but it absolutely creates some friction.

      Before finally losing my war of attrition with Christianity almost three years ago, I was attending a very lovely Nazarene church. Conservative evangelical, relatively poor and very small, it was largely populated by very caring people. The pastor is a very intelligent and in some contexts, open minded person – but there was a solid brick wall that just couldn’t be crossed. The most egregious problem was with teen sexuality and sex education.

      There was a rash of teen pregnancies at a partner church, one of which a boy from our youth group was responsible for. At the time I was heavily involved with a disorganization that utilized volunteers to help people with HIV and AIDS in their homes when they needed it and to moderate self-help groups for people who were recently infected (oddly, as I am not infected, I did both at times) and so a couple of parents approached me about talking to their kids about safe sex. They also talked to our pastor about it, because they felt it would be good to have a larger discussion about it. When he called me in to meet with him about this, I assumed he wanted to talk about a larger youth discussion. Instead he wanted me to consider not talking to the kids whose parents had approached me, because he believed that it would send the wrong message.

      Mind you, he had seen statistics out of the Nazarene conference indicating that teen pregnancy and STIs are a major problem in the Nazarene church. He was also well aware that those rates were higher than they are in the general population. And he was aware that comprehensive sex ed cuts those rates considerably. The issue wasn’t whether or not the results in the context of sexual health would be better, it was about his belief that sex ed is essentially giving kids permission to screw.

      This is an extremely common response to the discussions you list. I have had each of them several times. “Gays are human and you’re alienating them” – “they just aren’t open to God’s grace.” “Abortion is demonstrably the result of abstinence only sex ed,” – “we can’t be giving kids permission to have sex.” About the only issue I have gotten any traction with at all, is politics being mixed in with religion. While many of the evangelicals I know believe in political activism, I know many more who believe that such activism runs directly counter to the bible.

      For what its worth, discussions like this have been persuasive to me as an evangelical. Accusations of “evil, Evil, EVIL!!” aren’t likely to be similarly discussion-starting.

      To be perfectly blunt, when I engage in that sort of discussion I couldn’t possibly care less about how Christians might view it – except if it happens to make them curious about where that vitriol is coming from. I engage in those discussions because I spent nearly thirty years in an abusive relationship with Christianity and I am still angry about it. Not angry at people and not angry with any gods (I really don’t believe they exist). I am angry with the entire supernatural paradigm for several reasons – not the least being my personal experience of it.

      I engage in those discussions (though to be clear, I don’t throw out accusations of Evil EVIL EVIL!!! as such) because while *I* know that I am not alone, all too many atheists – especially those who were solidly engaged with a faith community – do think they are more or less alone. It is because I am very open about my lack of belief and am sometimes downright derisive about the supernatural paradigm. Note that I rarely attack people and only when actual hate is evident – I attack ideas.

      It is only because I am as open and sometimes angry as I am that I am aware of just how not alone I am.

      Finally, it was only through a mixture of both kindness and anger that I was as engaged as I was in this sort of discussion before I shed my faith. I had a lot of baggage to work through and I doubt I would have, had I not been driven to it by both types of discussions. Specifically, defending my beliefs in the face of an angry onslaught forced me to become increasingly introspective about my faith. Had I been forced to do so twenty years ago, I might have had that incredible weight lifted a whole lot sooner. But all of the faithless in my life were too polite and accommodating to engage me that way.

      But that kind of introspection is extremely uncomfortable and for someone raised with an absolute terror of hell, it was extremely frightening. While my dogmatic frame changed a great deal over the years, to better accommodate reality, I deftly avoided really exploring my underlying doubts. Instead I just compartmentalized them and mostly forgot they were even there. I suspect that my substance abuse helped that process a great deal. In any case, I am far from alone in that experience of faith and doubt. And those who insist on just letting it be, leaving faith alone – or on only taking the most polite shots, make it really easy to maintain what in many cases is a very painful, difficult relationship with faith.

      Finally, I have engaged in rational, polite discussions about the hatefullness of a lot of evangelical commentary for years – many years before I became an atheist. I have been rebuffed with variations of “that only seems like hate because they’ve hardened their hearts to Christ,” far too many times. I’m sorry but hate is hate, no matter the intentions of the person spreading it and the response above angers as much as it does, because there is no acknowledgment of what is happening – on any level. It is pure wrong, a wrong that actively harms people – made all the worse because having brought it up, I can be casually dismissed by the very same reasoning.

    • http://fidesquaerens.dreamwidth.org/ Marta Layton

      A very interesting comment, DuWayne. I don’t have time to reply to it all but did want to focus on one comment:

      The problem I have had with this, is that there are really relatively few evangelicals who are open minded – especially about most of your list. There are some, but mostly what I have engaged with are people who appear to be open minded, people who will even listen – but who will then explain why you’re (me) wrong.

      So does this mean that being open-minded means not having an opinion of your own, or not being willing to share it? Let’s say you and I disagree over some point but that we are both open-minded. I take that to mean that while we both are willing to argue for our view, we are both willing to consider the possibility that our view is wrong, and change if we’re convinced of that. But does the fact that we’re open-minded have to mean we won’t continue on with the conversation and present our side of things, perhaps passionately?

      In my experience people don’t change their views at a drop of a hat; it takes some consideration, some mulling over what the other side has said. In the meantime we already have our opinions and we have a conversation to play them out even more. So you present evidence youf find convincing and I think it over at a superficial level, as much as conversation allows. I also store it to think it over at a deeper level and live with it and try to integrate it into my belief system if I accept it. But in the mean time I might proceed with the conversation and still try to convince you that my “old” view is right – because I still believe it. I don’t know that that’s antithetical to being open-minded. It just seems to be the way human psychology and conversation works.

    • http://langcultcog.com/traumatized DuWayne

      Sorry, I wasn’t very clear on that point. Generally when I am commenting or writing my own blog posts, I am also engaged in dealing with homework, parenting (3 and 9 year old boys = frequent distractions) and general domestic work (3 and 9 year old boys = a lot of housework). Unfortunately that means I sometimes miss points I intended to make. I started writing that comment yesterday afternoon…

      It isn’t just that they tell me I am wrong, it is that they will respond very simply – essentially with “the bible (or my dogma) says you’re wrong.” I can sit there and provide evidence suggesting, for example, that sex ed prevents pregnancy, abortions, STIs and as shown in three studies that I am aware of, incidents of teens having sex and *still* be told that sex ed is essentially giving kids permission to have sex – which we can’t do – and that I am over-intellectualizing. The latter I hear rather a lot, regardless of the topic.

      There is never any attempt to actually respond with any kind of substance, because many evangelicals don’t believe they need it. The bible and their dogma trump everything else, leaving no room for any kind of discussion. Even raising theological arguments is a non-starter, because it’s not just the bible they’re sticking to – their dogma also gets in the way.

    • Brad

      I’ll defer to your experience here, DuWayne, and I’m not especially surprised that many or even most evangelicals would react that way. I’d expect those kind of reactions if I raised my doubts at my current church or among most of my family (which I haven’t, yet).

      I’m not sure how I would have reacted if someone had raised those points to me, say, two years ago. I’d like to say I would have been able to have a rational, logical discussion, but what I’ve since learned about how we react when our beliefs are challenged suggests otherwise (Shermer’s “The Believing Brain” was excellent on this point).

      I guess everyone’s journey is different, and being able to examine issues from “outside the bubble” I’ve lived in for nearly 40 years is both frightening and liberating.

    • http://langcultcog.com/traumatized DuWayne

      Hopefully this lands where I intended – if not, hopefully you see this Brad…

      Just to be clear here, there have been many points in my life where I have been solidly and absolutely close minded about my faith – though it’s been years since I would have been about these specific issues. And honestly, there are issues where even now, I am nearly that close minded. I am generally willing to listen to what people have to say, but I am very likely to pay little head to someone who, for example, makes the assertion that vaccinating children is a bad idea. I try to be as open as possible, but I am raising two kids on my own and working towards two related PhDs. I don’t have a lot of patience for bullshit.

  • Ambaa

    Wonderful post!

    I’ve felt a conflict between knowing many wonderful evangelical Christians (even being close friends with them) and hating so much of what evangelical Christianity does just by virtue of being what it is.

    I definitely agree that most are not motivated by hate at all and at the same time harm happens.

    It goes back to that “we’re all the heroes of our own stories” thing.

    That said, I harbor a lot of anger against Christianity just for its position that my religion is not a valid path to spiritual experience.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X