Although this blog can sometimes give the wrong impression, not everyone who leaves fundamentalism becomes an atheist. Tim Chastain is one blogger who has hung on to faith with an appealing combination of good sense and an admiration for the person of Jesus. This is his story.
When I ‘got saved’ in a fundamentalist church at seven years old, I embraced all the church’s fundamentalist baggage. I am now 61 and fundamentalism is far behind me; it has been quite a journey!
Let me say that my journey from fundamentalism is somewhat different from Jonny’s. First, mine was an older fundamentalism of the 1950s, and ‘60s. I fed on the writings of John R. Rice and the Sword of the Lord and I even corresponded with him. I listened to Carl McIntire and Oliver Greene on the radio and attended an Oliver Greene revival in my town.
Secondly, my leaving fundamentalism did not result in atheism, though I am comfortable with atheists. However, it did lead to a spiritual crisis in which I lived for over a year (1994) with deep despair, depression, and grieving for the loss of God. The crisis began after I abandoned creationism and then realized that Paul was mistaken about the historicity of Adam. Paul was not inerrant!
Starting March 28, I have three posts scheduled for my blog that describe this crisis in my life, but readers of Leaving Fundamentalism can see and comment on them now at:
The reason I did not become an atheist is because when I read about Jesus from the memories of his earliest followers, I found him to be intensely compelling even though I did not consider those memories to be the inerrant word of God. So all my religious beliefs are now based on Jesus and not the inerrancy or authority of the Bible. This makes a HUGE difference in perspective!
There is a third difference. Home schooling and private fundamentalist schools were uncommon when I was a child, so I attended public school in the USA. In third grade I began to feel different from others. Nobody treated me badly, but as time went on I realized it was because of my fundamentalist beliefs. I couldn’t do things that normal kids did. Twice, my classes went to a swimming park on the last day of school, and I could not participate. Later, I couldn’t participate in the joint dancing class, and I couldn’t wear the required shorts for gym or shower with other boys. I couldn’t participate in some important after-school activities because mid-week church services were more important.
Even in elementary school, I made it clear that I followed my religious beliefs. I carried my Bible with me to school and read it whenever I finished tests early. Both my fifth and sixth grade teachers called me their Bible student. Once, for the daily Bible reading, I read a passage to prove that the world was square instead of round.
I liked my school friends, and I was sorry they were going to hell—except for Jerry. Jerry was also a fundamentalist—but of another denomination. As fundamentalists do, we argued about the one thing we disagreed on. Actually, it was a proxy battle; through us, his father and my mother exchanged scriptures defending opposite sides of a doctrinal issue. From that time, I continued to defend fundamentalist views to my other classmates and I challenged other kids, including seniors, whenever they used vulgar words. Instead of calling me ‘Tim’, some addressed me as ‘Watch Your Language.’
My focus was following the truth. Even though, at first, this meant defending fundamentalist ‘truth’, it turned out to be a good thing. In my search for truth, during my senior year I questioned whether attending movies was a sin and I eventually abandoned legalism completely. Gradually, I examined other beliefs until I came to a number of conclusions contrary to fundamentalism.
- Does Satan exist? Answer: No
- Is there an eternal burning hell? Answer: No
- Is the Genesis creation account historical? Answer: No
- Is the Bible inerrant? Answer: No
- Is God angry and violent? Answer: No
- Is homosexuality a ‘sin’? Answer: No
I left fundamentalism long ago, but I am still enamored with the Jesus I see in the memories of his early followers. However, because I believe the baggage often associated with the message of Jesus is extremely destructive, I blog on that subject at Jesus without Baggage.
If you have had the courage to abandon your religious baggage, I applaud you!
Jonny again: So what do you guys think? Where has leaving fundamentalism taken you, and what other possible views did you consider?