I doubt there’s a long-running ex-fundamentalist blog on the internet which hasn’t received a comment along the lines of “You were never a REAL Christian”. I got just such a charming message the other day.
What’s with that? Why are fundamentalists not sniffing around their churches for impostors? There must be a fair few of them around, if everyone who has ever left the faith turned out to be a fake. Why are fundamentalists so intent on denying that I was ever one of them?
It’s all part of the problem I discussed in “Why fundamentalists will never listen to me“. Fundamentalists believe that in order to understand the Bible, and real Christian faith, you must yourself be a real Christian. Without salvation, you cannot understand the things of God.
This has the handy side-effect of meaning they never have to listen to anyone who disagrees with them. People who disagree with fundamentalists are Not True Christians, and therefore incapable of understanding Christianity. It follows that these people cannot possibly make valid criticisms of their faith. Who says fundamentalists can’t do logic?
In addition, fundamentalists claim that they have a direct relationship with God. All those atheists who claim God doesn’t exist are simply ignorant. They know God exists because they experience him directly on a daily basis. Only believers can have this experience.
But then I come along, and the “You just don’t understand because you don’t believe” gambit won’t work. So the fundamentalists will try something else. Much as they claim there’s no such thing as a true atheist, faced with the challenge of apostates like me, now they take the radical step of also claiming there’s no such thing as an ex-Christian.
You see, I was a true believer, and I did everything fundamentalists say is necessary for salvation. This means, according to them, I was in a position to understand the Bible. I truly believed I had a direct experience of God every day. Now I say all that is bollocks. The experiences I thought were of God were nothing of the kind, and even with the magic goggles of salvation, the Bible still didn’t look like the inerrant, infallible, incontrovertible Word of God. It looked like a very old collection of books written by many human authors who were trying (often failing) to make sense of life, religion, and the universe. Because that’s what it is.
This is a problem for fundamentalism. If I had the same religious experiences they had, and now deny God’s existence, does that mean those experiences are not the foolproof evidence they thought? Could they lose their faith too? Could my criticisms of the Bible be valid?
Of course, doubt must be crushed, because doubt is the opposite of faith, and faith is necessary for salvation.
So I get a comment on my blog like this:
I do not know all of your story, but I presume it was when you left the environment in which you had been brought up, and began to mix with young people who professed no Christian beliefs that your own professed faith totally fell apart. I would also assume that some or all of your grandparents or great-grandparents were Christians.
Such an experience is quite common in the second and third generation. Sociology shows that with the passing of generations, strong beliefs decline, becoming firstly passive, then becoming simply nominal and finally disappearing altogether. A belief that one holds simply on an inherited basis will disappear when faced with any sort of opposition, or with a lifestyle that appears much more attractive – you speak often of girls, alcohol, etc. Obviously these held an attraction for you. However those individuals who are fortunate enough to possess a belief system which they view as fully their own, which is not just inherited but also deeply personal and of immense importance to their lives, will be the only people who will successfully be the moral leaders and characters of this decade.
Jonny, you never were truly a Christian and that is essentially your problem. You have much talent but unfortunately you are jumping onto a bandwagon which is already carrying many disgruntled people who are childishly looking for some way to air their personal grievances. What a pity that, in your attempt to become famous, you have to attack a belief system you never truly understood in the first place.
Sorry to disappoint you, but my faith was very much my own, and I would have been wildly offended by the suggestion that I was just following my parents. I left my faith five years after I started mixing with non-Christians, so it was hardly the case that I left due to peer pressure. I left fundamentalism because it isn’t true.
And the notion of a fundamentalist being a moral leader is a joke. Fundamentalism is a morally repugnant dogma that oppresses women, children, and people of other faith. It fails to care properly for the poor and the needy because of the assumption that these people deserve what they get because of sin. If it tries to help at all, it is to offer them ‘salvation’, in the belief that if they repented of their sin, God would sort the rest out. It acts as a pillar to support the worst excesses of selfish capitalism. It crushes human flourishing with absurd strictures on sexual behaviour and other pleasurable pursuits, and it uses tithe money to further propagate fundamentalism instead of meaningful charitable work.