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Showing posts with label fundamentalist. Show all posts
Showing posts with label fundamentalist. Show all posts

Cynicism on Christianity/Calvinism

From: Ed Babinski
To: Erica
Sent: Monday, November 10, 2003 3:54 PM
Subject: Re: Fw: Dear Ed

From: Erica F.
To: ed.babinski
Sent: Sunday, November 09, 2003 1:09 PM
Subject: Dear Ed

Hi Ed! I'm Erica and I'm 16.


ED: Hi Erica, I'm Ed and I'm 47.


I ran across your site while looking for stuff on Alexander the Great. I would just like to know why you are so sarcastic and cynical about the Christian faith?

ED: Perhaps because your history classes and Sunday School classes simply glossed over the history of Christianity, especially the 16th century (Luther and Calvin's era), the Thirty Years War (European Catholics vs. Protestants, possibly a worse war than WWII in terms of the porportions of people killed and the time it took to recover from all the damage done. If they had modern day weapons it would have indeed been the worst war. Also that was the century during which the most witches were burnt in all of western history, thanks to Catholics and Protestants getting together to finally get the job done right. And by the way, Luther and Calvin exiled Catholics. Calvin even had a 13 year old girl beaten in public for simply saying she wanted to be a Catholic. It was a crmie to be caught with Rosary Beads in Calvin's Geneva. You had to make sure you burned them. In fact, it was a crime to miss church in Calvin's Geneva, could cost you a day's wage or worse, or finally, exile. In fact, at the height of Calvin's influence a young boy was beheaded for striking his parents, another child was hung by his armpits to show that he deserved death, because he called him mom a she-devil. And today there are still Christians advocating the execution of disobedient children your age, as well as stoning homosexuals. Go to the Chalcedon website and read the articles for yourself by modern day conservative Calvinists. I am cynical because great men of faith like Luther and Calvin, the founders of Protestantism, do not seem to have enlightened by the Holy Spirit. Luther got the rulers of Germany to exile anyone who didn't adhere to the Lutheran faith as he understood it and with his version of the sacraments. That meant they even killed noisy Anabaptists, and unitarians, and even kept out Calvinists from Germany! Calvin exiled everyone from Geneva who didn't agree with his view of predestination, and put noisy unitarians to flight to sought to have them executed. If you don't know history, then you don't understand the basis of cynicism in regard to religious faith. Religious toleration is the result of Christians fighting it out amongst themselves in such bloody sixteenth century wars that they realized it was impossible for any one group to impose its faith on all the rest, hence religious tolerance was born. As for arguments from the Bible on religious toleration, Luther and Calvin and Catholic sixteenth century theologians agreed that Jesus never laid down the laws for a society. And if a society were simply to follow Jesus' law of turning the other cheek and giving to all who ask, asking nothing in return, it would collapse as a society. Jesus was interested in the individual and how he might "save his soul." God revealled the rules for societies to Moses, rules that fully honor God, including the command to stone disobedient children, stone anyone who tried to lead you to worship "other gods," etc.

And, I noticed, you don't seem to come down on or downplay any other religion besides Christianity.

ED: I was brought up in Christianity, raised Catholic, then converted to Protestantism when I was 15 or 16 in high school, was very convinced and a devout believer until a few years after college, when I began reading more widely. All I know is Christianity. Would you rather I wrote about things I didn't know?

You make remarks about the Bible contradicting itself, about verses that say to stone people who do things that displease the Lord, and about the inconsistency of Christianity. But, can I ask you, what about the other relnigions out there that are not consistent? Why don't you say things about them? Take a look at Islam. Muslims are called to wage a holy war (jihad, the inner and external war between good and evil), but some groups take this to the extreme, such as the Lebanese group Hezbollah. How about New Age religions that teach you to trust your feelings? If truth is relative, and I must trust my feelings, then I could do whatever I wanted. I could go kill people, steal things, sell my body (none of which I have any interest in doing), whatever. But you couldn't say I was wrong, even if you didn't like what I was doing, because it's my truth and that was how I felt. So what about consistency then? I ask that you be consistent in degrading religions. If you are going to find a point of faultn with Christianity, please follow through and find the points of fault with other religions.

ED: The Secular Web has a section on non-Christian religions with articles critical of them, and evangelical Christian websites contina even more pages denouncing Islam and the Koran.

And, I must say, for being so negative, you have read an awful lot of scripture, even analyzing and dissecting it. How did you miss the Gospel and the hope it offers? It's as plain as day.

ED: It is to you, obviously. But there are many Christian historians and theologians you have not read. Continue to read, branch out your reading patterns, things do not become so "plain as day" after a while, what with moderate evangelicals who are so happy to no longer be fundamentalists, and liberals who were once moderates. And agnostics and atheists who were once liberal Christians. Moreover, there are tons of fundamentalist groups that can't get along with one another's interpretations of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Some groups can't even agree on which translation to use.

I do admit that there are Christians who skip the loving people and go right to the part about hell, fire, and brimstone. But you know what? Though they may be harsh, they tell the truth.

ED: Like you know the truth about God, the devil, the afterlife, all religion. You're 16. My uncertainties are the result of reading and thinking about more than you will probably ever encounter even by the time you are my age.

I just have one more thing to ask you, and then I will be done. I ask that when you go through the scripture and use it for whatever pnurpose you will use it for, please look at it in context and use it in context. That is how so many things get misinterpreted. Take a look at the big picture and what the message of the entire passage is.

ED: Please give me an example. And please read what Jews have to say about "Christian contexts" applied to their own scriptures. Visit www.jewsforjudaism.com

I appreciate the time you have taken to read this rather lengthy email. I pray that the Lord will take the scales from your eyes, soften your hard heart, and shed the light of His truth on you.

ED: And I pray that you continue to read more widely and slowly grow to recognize that my heart is about as "hard" as your head is presently "soft."

Sincerely and in Christ's love,

ED: What, no love from you? Just "in Christ?" Learn to love, Erica, for love's own sake. So many creeds that wind and wind, but all this sad world needs is the art of being kind.

Erica F.

Philippians 2:14-16, Matthew 6:33, Colossians 4:5, Jeremiah 29:11,13

"Live wisely among those who are not Christians, and make the most of every opportunity."

"Erica F." writes:

Dear Ed,

Thank you for responding. You made some really good points. Yes, at 16, I haven't totally learned much of what you have told me. Seeing as how I do enjoy learning, I will look into the various histories and view points you have presented.

You asked if I would rather you write about things you don't know. The answer is no. But I think it would be great if you looked into them, even if it's just to be familiar with them.

Thanks for you time again. God bless!

Love,

Erica F.

From: Ed Babinski
To: Erica F.
Sent: Tuesday, November 11, 2003 6:31 PM
Subject: Re: Fw: Dear Ed

Dear Erica,

Thanks for writing back.

I have read about Islam. But Christianity is far more interesting to me, especially the way the movers and shakers of Christendom keep getting put on pedestals far above the rest of us, folks like the popes, or Augustine, Luther, Calvin. If you knew what I knew about them, and about the history of Christian doctrines and divisions, you'd think twice before blithely attributing it all to the work of the Holy Spirit leading men into all truth with the aid of a perfect holy book. The same goes for the history of ancient Israel, and even the questions raised in the Gospels by the story of Jesus. Jesus did not fulfill prophecies for instance. The Gospel authors were stretching the Old Testament to suit their needs. Read what the Jews have to say about this matter at www.jewsforjudaism.com

And also read Multitude of Prophetic Passages and Lowdown on God's Showdown

Best, Ed

Mel's Former Fundamentalist Story

Mel gives his account of deconversion from Fundamentalist Christianity.

Mel's Former Fundamentalist Story
by Mel Emurian 09/23/2000


Hi Ed,


You had mentioned to me before that you would be interested in reading the story of my exit from evangelicalism. I am including it as part of this email, not knowing whether you would be able to read it as an attachment. Thanks for your interest!


Mel



THE DEPARTURE OF MEL EMURIAN FROM EVANGELICALISM
Sorry that this is a bit impersonal, but it saves me the aggravation of doing separate names on each copy. I will get right to the point. I can no longer accept the biblical Christian faith that I once believed. My life's journey has been a long and rough one at times, but I was in no way prepared for the harsh realities of the Christian ministry. The treatment that my family and I have had to endure in the name of God has been nothing short of brutal. Oh, not brutal in any sort of physical way, and not brutal as with some forms of persecution from those antagonistic to Christianity, but brutal in the damage done to the soul. Were the perpetrators of this cruel treatment those hostile to Christianity, it would not have affected me so deeply. Sadly, the perpetrators have been and are fellow Christians. These Christians include those in the pew, former friends, fellow clergy, and other leaders. No, not everyone has been so harsh, but more than is acceptable to me. This mistreatment resulted in my having serious doubts about the validity of evangelical Christianity and the biblical understanding of God. As such I began to read other viewpoints, and now see evangelical Christianity in a new light. For me to reconsider it would be akin to an African-American reconsidering Jim Crow. I do want to stress that not all evangelicals are cold-hearted, indifferent, and rigid. Some are kind, concerned, and considerate. But there are way too many that are hard-line, and sometimes it seems that all of them are that way.


I entered the ministry in November of 1988 with high hopes of serving God in that capacity and bringing increase to his kingdom. The church I served was the Kingsborough Presbyterian Church in Gloversville, New York. Things were going along well when in July of 1989 I contracted CFIDS (Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome). This was not diagnosed until a year and a half later. All I knew at the time was that after having the flu I could only sleep 3 to 4 hours a night. It doesn't take long under those conditions for depression to set in and mental impairment to take place. Some in the congregation understood, but others held me to a standard that I could not live by. Key fellow presbyters thought that my problems were all in my head, and that I just was not cut out for the ministry. The attitude was one of "how dare I, a pastor, need a great deal of encouragement and uplifting." So there I was, essentially alone, in a difficult situation with peers who were tired of hearing my struggles at presbytery meetings.


About a year after I contracted CFIDS, the church went through a split. Among others, we lost our pianist, treasurer, and two Sunday school teachers. The reasons for the split revolved around me not being Calvinistic enough (I was a five-point Calvinist at the time, but I believed in such horrible things as love of the self (love your neighbor as yourself) and practical preaching. I was supposed to believe that to love the self is a sin and that all preaching was to be primarily doctrinal, with an emphasis on the doctrine of Christ), and the way I was dealing with an abused woman (my approach was supposed to be distant and aloof. After all, I was the pastor). Of course no split is without its "love letters". "In love" I was told that I was a heretic, an Arminian, and perhaps unsaved. The letters were very hurtful. Other clergy in the area were quite willing to take those that left, with no questions asked. In one case, a pastor believed the things said about me without any attempt at verification. After this the church rebounded somewhat, but never fully recovered. This was a very painful time for Cheryl and me. Several of the people that left had been good friends, and their loss was difficult for us, especially considering their change of heart toward us.


With all of the stress, even though I was now on medication, my condition slowly deteriorated. People started leaving the church, discouraged with the church and with me. I almost had a nervous breakdown. Finally, in June of 92, I resigned from that particular ministry, hoping to rest and recover.


The next several years were better. My health improved and I worked the interim ministry circuit. My first interim ministry began in the fall of 1993 at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Gloversville. At the time, I was still a member of the presbytery in the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church, the denomination to which the Kingsborough Church belonged. My taking the interim position at Emmanuel did not please the presbyters, and at a presbytery meeting (which I was unable to attend) it was decided that I was an affront to the Kingsborough Church congregation in doing so. I was told that if I was going to minister at a Baptist Church, I should do so in another town. Prior to taking the Emmanuel ministry, I had discussed it with the elder at Kingsborough, and he had no problem with it. Later I learned that no one from the presbytery had contacted the elder prior to the meeting, to see what his take on me taking the Emmanuel ministry was. That was it for me, and so I resigned the presbytery and joined the Conservative Baptist Association (CBA).


I was at Emmanuel for a little over a year and a half. Overall, the work there went fairly well until near the end of my time there. Two deacons at the church would go to Florida for the winter, and during the last winter I was there, I preached a series on divorce and service in the church. Sadly, my more liberal view on that issue upset one of the women in the church, and she called the deacons in Florida and complained. When they returned, I was not Pastor Popular with them. One was upset that I had stirred things up by preaching on such a touchy issue. The other (and I still can see this clearly) pounded his fist on the table and essentially accused me of being too forceful in pushing my views on the subject. A third deacon sided with them while two younger deacons sided with me. After the meeting, I called the CBA New York State Director and sought his advice on whether I should resign or not. It is my belief that once a majority of the leadership in a church is against you, your ministry in that church is over. We agreed that it would be best if I resigned (I was not forced to, it was a mutual decision), so I did. Fortunately, some good came out of it in that my resignation shocked the deacons who were opposed to me, and they said that they would not accept gossip against a pastor again. I accepted their apology, and we went our separate ways.


My next interim was at Trinity Reformed Church in Rotterdam, New York, where I served from October of 1995 until June of 1996. This church was evangelical, but part of the more liberal Reformed Church in America. I was there just over eight months, and I found it to be the best church that I had ministered in. There wasn't a lot of quarreling, and when there were differences, I found it easier to get people to compromise. I left that interim when a permanent pastor was hired. It was so good to leave on good terms.


Immediately after this I ministered for about a year at New Covenant Community Church in Johnstown, New York. The work there was OK. Nothing really bad happened, but I really did not fit in that well, in my own estimation. After just less than a year, the church hired a permanent pastor and my work there was finished.


That brings me to where I am currently, the Living Hope Baptist Church in Gloversville. Like Emmanuel Baptist, this too was a CBA church. My ministry began in May of 1997. The previous pastor had been gone for about a year, and a young interim served until I started. The church was small, but in a very large building. It was a congregation of 20 in a building that would hold 1200. Obviously something had to be done, so I took my time and eventually convinced the folks to move from the building to another more suitable location. The church had also developed a bad reputation over the years (mainly due to church splits - it was so bad that a local attorney gave me his condolences when he heard that I had become the pastor) and so along with the move I encouraged a name change to give us a fresh start. All of this went well, and we moved to our current location in January of 1998. At that time, our name became the Living Hope Baptist Church (formally we were the First Baptist Church). We did not lose one person through all of these changes, so I knew I had a good group of folks to serve and work with.


As we were preparing for our changes, I approached CBA state director Peter Mason about the possibility of getting some support from the two other CBA churches (Emmanuel Baptist and the Baptist Church of Northville) in the area. We did not want financial help, just several families to help us in areas we were weak in, such as children's Sunday school. Peter Mason encouraged the pastors of the other churches to help us, and that was the end of it. I finally had to approach one person myself (this was either the late winter or early spring of 1998), and not long after she began working with us, that turned sour. I will have more on that later. These two churches had a combined attendance of 300 - 350 people, but they could not help us, a church of 20. Whether you are an evangelical Christian or not, I hope you see that there is something wrong with this picture. In fact, experience has taught me that those reading this who are not evangelical Christians will have more of a problem with this than those who are. I have found the attitude of many evangelical churches to be what I call "ecclesiastical Darwinism". That is, survival of the stronger, larger churches.


Things were going along well when I learned that my secretary, Michelle, was having marriage problems. She and her husband Chuck were members of the church, and she had begun to open up to Chuck with her concerns as to how he was treating her after I had preached a series on the responsibilities of men and women in the home and in the church. He was manipulative and emotionally abusive, and knew how to use a Bible to keep his wife under foot. Well, abuse is one of those things that I do not tolerate, and next to physical abuse, abusing someone in the name of God is anathema to me. Michelle was also a good friend from the Emmanuel days, so I stood with her. The church did also, with no opposition.


This infuriated Chuck, and he accused me of interfering with his ability to work out his marriage problems. (Previously, I had met with him and explained to him what I saw as the problems, and he said he would work on them. But it did not take long for him to fall back into his abusive ways.) He tried to turn the elders on me, but that failed. Then he went to CBA state director Peter Mason. To say it mildly, this is where the dung hit the fan, so to speak, and as a result our church withdrew from the CBA in May of 1998.


This is what happened. Mason received the accusation (without two or more witnesses - a biblical requirement) that I was interfering in the marriage, and Chuck left a message on my answering machine saying that I was to meet with him, Mason, and another CBA official named Andy Alexson. Mason also called me and said that I was to have no further contact with Michelle, and that she should step down as secretary. I refused. I also refused to be at the meeting, because I knew what Chuck was up to. Peter Mason had the meeting anyway, and then called our head elder, Ted Perham, and was rough with him over the situation. He told Ted that we were not a true church but only playing church. He also said that I was a smooth talker in order to discredit my views on the matter. Enclosed is a letter from Ted to another local pastor regarding the way he was treated by Peter Mason. By the way, the pastor did not respond to Ted at all. All of this is bad enough, but it gets even worse. It seems that Chuck overheard this phone conversation, or he was briefed on it at a later time, based on a letter he wrote to Michelle. Enclosed is the letter. Is this what Christianity has become?


Whatever went on during that meeting, Chuck came out of it ready for bear. In his writings to Michelle and to other people, he has called me a "cult leader" and our church a "cult". He also sent letters with misleading information and out and out lies to my in-laws and to Cheryl, both at home and at work. Depending on whom he was talking to, he accused me of adultery. He even went so far as to file a police report accusing me of molesting he and Michelle's then seven-year-old daughter. Obviously, he wanted me out of the picture, and he hoped to do this and gain leverage in his court action to get custody of her with the accusation. Fortunately, the interviewing officer saw through him and no charges were placed. He also failed in getting custody.


When Chuck finally settled into a local Assembly of God church, Ted and I went to meet with the pastor so he would be aware of what his actions had been concerning our church and me. We told him of the molestation and adultery accusations, as well as the name-calling. The pastor seemed as if this was hard for him to believe. We were glad that at least he now had been made aware of the situation. Sadly, nothing was done. Chuck is now a member of the church, and somewhat active in it. Strange isn't it?


Leaving Chuck behind, now I want to bring up Marcy Stearns. She is the one that came from Emmanuel to work with us. Being that neither Emmanuel nor Northville Baptist provided help for us after our needs were made known to them, I approached Marcy to see if she would teach our children's Sunday school for one year. After the year was up, she could choose to stay longer or go back to Emmanuel. She agreed, knowing the situation with Chuck and Michelle, and began to work with us in late April. Then she discovered that Michelle and I worked alone at times. (I thought she already knew this). On a Sunday after church she and her husband Russ, who rarely attends church services, approached our head elder and gave him the "above reproach" argument against it. Then that afternoon Russ called me and gave me the same argument. In essence, I was not to be alone with Michelle, ever. There was no regard for the impact of that on her or her daughter. My image was everything. He did push several of my buttons during the conversation and I said some things to him that I should not have said. The next day I apologized to him. Then Marcy tried to convince me to never be with Michelle alone and when that failed, she quit with no notice and returned to Emmanuel. There she was welcomed back and we were not contacted so we could present our side of the story. All of this occurred in June of 1998, about a month after we withdrew from the CBA.


Marcy had been my friend and she and Cheryl were best friends. Not any more. Marcy hurt Cheryl, Laurel, and me very much. Laurel cried when she learned that Marcy had quit. She didn't do our Sunday school children any favors either.


Oh, it gets even better. That September we found out that Marcy had had contact with Chuck earlier in the summer, enough so that he subpoenaed her to appear in court on his behalf concerning custody. There were also several comments in the spiteful letters he sent to my in-laws and Cheryl that could have only been learned through Marcy. When the court date arrived in September, those from Living Hope that went to support Michelle saw Marcy sitting with Chuck's brother and wife in the waiting area and heard them discussing me in a negative light. All of this, my dear readers, was done using the "the Lord wanted me to do it" argument. As for Emmanuel's pastor and church leaders, their silence shows me that they had no problem with any of this. I should add that in May of this year, Marcy, along with her four children, left her husband and moved in with her parents who live over an hour away.


Please understand, I do not spend time alone with women with reckless abandon. But I have no problem being alone with one whom I trust, especially one that is going through a difficult time and needs all of her friends and her support system in tact. And I will not let what other people might think be the supreme concern in the decisions I make. There are without any doubt much higher values that come into play. Grace, love, and compassion are among these.


It must not go unmentioned that several other evangelical pastors know of my struggles and yet have not reached out to me. Back in June of 1999 I wrote to Pastor Rick Klueg of the Baptist Church of Northville, explaining my situation to him. He was head of the local evangelical pastors' fellowship at the time. In his response he was more concerned that I did not take Peter Mason's counsel and that our church had withdrawn so quickly from CBA than anything else. I responded, clarifying our reasoning further.


I also explained to him the Marcy Stearns situation, and how Emmanuel took her back into full communion and fellowship without contacting us. He had previously sent out a letter to all of the pastors in the fellowship and included a paragraph on the discouragement some of the pastors were facing. He mentioned how we needed to be more encouraging to one another. Here is the pertinent paragraph from the letter I wrote to him: "Further, there is the matter of Marcy Stearns. You wrote in your letter to the pastors about discouragement in our ministries. Cannot you see that what Marcy Stearns did to us would be discouraging to me and the church? Being so, is it right for her to be accepted back into fellowship at Emmanuel without their leaders at least hearing our side? I think not. If we are going to talk about encouraging one another, that kind of thing should not happen. Consider also that Marcy must believe that what she did was all right, being that she was accepted back into full communion and fellowship at Emmanuel. Seems to me that we are teaching others that it is fine to discourage other pastors and other churches."


Sadly, I have heard nothing from Rick Klueg since. I should add that back in the Kingsborough days I suggested to the pastors fellowship that we should each make a covenant that we would not take people in from other churches without contacting the leaders at the other churches first. Only one pastor liked the idea. His church had lost a number of people to other churches without contacts being made. More recently, the new Free Methodist pastor was telling me that he suggested a similar thing at the pastors' fellowship. He got nowhere either. I hope, my dear readers, that you understand how this makes evangelicalism look.


Another pastor that knows of my situation but has remained silent, at least to my face, is Peter Ellis of the Emmanuel Baptist Church. He's the one that told me that my TV show "Life Issues" was bringing great harm to the cause of Christ. He was more of an isolationist and expected that all pastors should be like him. Wrong! But that is the way it is too often in the evangelical camp, you are supposed to think right down to the nth degree on doctrine or else it's "lets lord it over the conscience" time. There is a contemporary evangelical song about freedom that goes something like this: "...freedom, freedom is in Jesus, or it's just another wall." That really is a bunch of bull. Too many evangelicals want to enslave you to their unique way of thinking and acting. Actually, it is the evangelical faith that is just another wall!


Anyway, Peter Ellis's silence, as well as Rick Klueg's, speaks volumes to me. Perhaps they are afraid that I will refute their arguments, especially with me being such a "smooth talker" and all. Or perhaps they see me as a threat, and hope that if they ignore me I will just go away. (Obviously they don't know me very well.) Ultimately, to me it says that they really do not care, especially with what they believe about eternal life and eternal punishment. It's not that they would convince me to see things their way, but at least touching bases with me would show me that they care. Then again, that is not the way the evangelicalism works. I do not want to play along with the program, and so I am expendable. You see, with evangelicalism, if you don't play, you are just a thing to be discarded. You are hardly a recipient of love.


Without going into details about how it came about, Ted and I had a meeting with Peter Mason and Andy Alexson in June of 2000 to discuss a number of concerns that I had with Mason over his handling of the above situation. When I asked him why he received an accusation without two or more witnesses, he interpreted his actions with Chuck in such a way that he believed he had not done so. As for saying that we were not a true church, Mason didn't remember saying it. He did remember the smooth talker comment, and said it was intended to reference my very persuasive abilities. I thanked him for the complement, although he did not intend it as such. Mason also said that he did not suggest that Michelle step down as secretary, but that I was not to be alone with her. Yet Michelle, Ted, and I heard him say that she should step down.


It was obvious to me that Mason and Alexson were primarily concerned about image - God's image, their image, and the image of the CBA. They were concerned about what things "looked" like. In fact, Alexson went so far as to tell me that I was overly loving. Fine. I would rather overly love than be overly rigid, overly strict, overly legalistic, and overly image-conscious...well, you get the point. Mason also pointed out that our withdrawal was cultlike (sound familiar?), in that the church and I had no one to be accountable to. Well, what other options did we have, considering that our side was not being heard?


Ted and I also brought up the letter Chuck had written where he detailed certain parts of the phone conversation Mason had with Ted. Alexson was present with Mason when that conversation took place, and they both said that Chuck was not present at that time. However, as you can see, if he wasn't present he certainly was briefed about the conversation. Yet both Mason and Alexson denied any collusion or aiding and abetting Chuck. I even asked if it were possible that he could have listened in on the phone conversation without their knowing it, and they said that this was not possible. Something is clearly amiss, and I believe that I have legitimate reason to smell a rat.


Near the end of the meeting, Ted asked as a point of clarification whether we would have been disassociated by the CBA if we had not taken Mason's advice, and Mason said that it was possible. But in the phone conversation referenced above, Ted had been led to believe that we would in fact have been disassociated. Mason never apologized to us and in no way tried to understand our point of view. Ted had said to me that he found it odd that after we withdrew from the CBA, there was no attempt to meet with us to hear our side as to why we took such an action, or to see if we had misunderstood Mason's position. It really showed that they were glad to be rid of us.


Let me emphasize, ministry is tough when some in your congregation turn on you in the name of God. But that is small potatoes as compared to your peers doing so.


I sincerely believe that I have genuine concerns with the way that I have been treated in the ministry. It isn't about me being too sensitive and thin-skinned. Something is really wrong with evangelicalism!


All of this has led me to reconsider my former beliefs about the Bible and God. Over the years of ministry I have wondered how evangelical Christians could be so mean and unconcerned in the name of God, especially considering some of the teachings in the New Testament which revolve around love and concern for one's fellow man.


I was reading an article by Dan Barker, a former evangelical pastor who is now an atheist. When a similar thought was posed to him, he answered with something along these lines - "Look at who they worship." My dear readers, he is right. The God of the Old Testament was vengeful enough and cruel enough to justify the meanness and indifference that many of those who worship him today are guilty of. You see, the grace of Christ isn't enough. Step outside the boundaries that others expect you to stay within and you are done, unless of course you repent and step back inside those boundaries. You must think the way they want you to think, and act the way they want you to act. And not just in the core teachings of the faith, but in the interpretations and principles that man has added to those teachings.


Back while I was in Presbyterianism, there was a heavy emphasis on doctrine, and as such you had better be correct with your doctrine. With the Baptists however, although there are certain doctrines like believers' baptism where there is no give and take, there is a greater emphasis on practice. You are freer to think, but not to act. So, for example, while broader than the Presbyterians on things such as God's sovereignty in salvation, they are stricter in things such as alcohol consumption.


Yet what both groups have in common is the placement of the "divine stamp" on what they believe, and there is little hesitation to manipulate you with it in order to get you to get with their program. And if you don't, well, you become expendable. You can expect to be called names, looked down on as inferior, mistreated, shown little respect, slandered, ignored, and ultimately rejected. In other words, your soul, that inward and immaterial part of you that makes you a special human being, gets trampled and spat upon.


And from the evangelical perspective, why not? If God in his vengeance could order such things as the slaughter of the Amalekites, right down to the nursing infants (1 Samuel 15), why not try to crush the soul of a person who doesn't get with their program? So you see, it is not too difficult for the evangelical to legitimize his actions. All he or she has to do is find some place in the Bible where God is pretty rough. Besides, the evangelical is to be holy as God is holy isn't he? Ludwig A. Feuerbach wrote "Wherever morality is based on theology, wherever the right is made dependent on divine authority, the most immoral, unjust, infamous things can be justified and established." He is most certainly correct!


The mistreatment that my loved ones and I have endured has shown me that the God of evangelicalism is not worthy of worship. It offends my sensibilities as a human being to worship a deity that would order the slaughter of infants (contrary to the bumper sticker I have seen, the God of evangelicalism is hardly pro-life), or stand by and watch while his people use him to abuse and mistreat others who are supposed to belong to him, and do absolutely nothing about it. As a parent myself, if an actual child of mine or someone claiming to be a child of mine mistreated my daughter in my name, I would immediately do something about it as any loving father would. Yet the God of evangelicalism, who is supposed to be a loving heavenly father, does nothing, or acts in such an unclear manner that those who need to get the message do not. No, the God that I have been shown since I have been in the ministry is not a God that I want any part of. He is rigid, unmerciful, distant, untrustworthy, unloving, a betrayer, indifferent, unconcerned, a slanderer, and mean-spirited.


I have had it. I am tired of being told how to live, what to think, and how to pastor. I am tired of having people's own principles and interpretations from the Bible held up as the standard to which I must adhere. I am tired of the Bible being used by evangelicals to oppress, manipulate, and control people in the name of God. I am tired of evangelicals laying the pain that they inflict on others at the feet of God saying, "The Lord wanted me to do it". It is time that they start accepting responsibility for the pain they cause! The mistrust, the bitterness, the lack of grace, and the callused indifference to me, my family, my friends, and my church wear me down. As such, I renounce what evangelicalism is and have stepped outside of it forever.


Have I fallen away from the faith then? Evangelicals would have to answer yes. Yet it seems that the only stumbling blocks evangelicals are willing to consider are the ones put down by those who are too libertine. They do not want to see that being too strict, rigid, and callused can also be a stumbling block in the lives of others. Please understand, I suggest my own stumbling from the perspective of the evangelical Christian. I do not believe that I have in fact stumbled. This painful journey has had a positive influence on me, in that my eyes have been opened so that I may indeed see the light.


In my search for what is true I have read a number of books and articles with differing points of view on Christianity, theism, and atheism. When you are an evangelical, doing such a thing is considered taboo, unless you have someone to help you interpret any opposing viewpoints in evangelicalism's favor. For me, after what I have been through, I have seen that the search for truth must not be limited by any religious dogma. If the dogma is legitimate, it can withstand any other viewpoint.


I began by reading Robert Price's "Beyond Born Again: Toward Evangelical Maturity". It is an excellent read for those who realize that evangelicalism isn't it, yet do not want to jettison Christianity altogether. Price does a good job exposing the fallacies of evangelicalism, and does so tastefully.


I have also read "Leaving the Fold: Testimonies of Former Fundamentalists" by Ed Babinski. It contains the stories of over two dozen fundamentalists who left that way of life and found fulfillment in other approaches. Some became moderate to liberal Christians. Others became agnostics, while still others became atheists. Some sought out alternative spiritual beliefs. I related to many of the contributors, and found their arguments compelling. There is an excellent part in the book entitled "Fundamentalism's Grotesque Past". Here Babinski exposes the persecutions and killings done by the evangelicals of yesteryear in the name of God. For example, in Saxony in 1536, the Protestant reformer Melanchton prepared and Martin Luther signed a document demanding the death penalty for the denial of any article of the Apostle's Creed. And both Luther and John Calvin, with the aid of the Bible and supposedly with wisdom from the Holy Spirit, advocated the persecution and/or massacre of witches, unbelievers, blasphemers, Jews, Catholics, Anabaptists, and others, without mercy. If these Christian leaders lived today and had the power, you who are reading this and who don't think like they do would be sentenced to death - in the name of the God of evangelicalism, of course.


Episcopalian Bishop John Shelby Spong is the author of two books I have read. Both "Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism" and "Why Christianity Must Change or Die" are interesting works from a man who refuses to ignore the Bible's problems or deny the realities of the experiences of life in one's search for who or what God is.


The book that I am currently reading is Edmund Cohen's work "The Mind of the Bible Believer". It is a fascinating book that gets into the psychology of evangelical belief and exposes the mind-control techniques found in the Bible and used by evangelicals. I am finding this one especially eye-opening, and Cohen is helping me understand just why so many evangelicals are rigid and unloving toward other Christians who think differently than they do.


You may be wondering how I can still pastor a church with this change in beliefs and with where I will end up still in doubt. For me it is simple really. I love the people that I pastor, and while I do not expect their journeys of faith to be identical to mine, I want them to see that God is so much more than just one system of thought. I also want them to see that God does not carry a #1 driver so that he can tee people up and drive their heads 350 yards when they step out of line. I am so tired of seeing people question whether God is punishing them because they are going through difficult times. Some of the deepest despair I have seen in people occurs when they think God is making their lives a living hell because they haven't toed the line.


I want the folks I pastor to see that grace and love are to be central in their walk with God, and not peripheral to it. I want them to be unlike the local evangelical man who convinced a woman that God didn't want her to take her medications, with the tragic result that she committed suicide, or the evangelical who laughed when another evangelical threatened to "snap my neck". I want them to see that while people are not perfect, they are to be treated with dignity and respect. They are not to be used, abused, and considered expendable, for one cannot love God without loving his neighbor.


So where am I going, having experienced all of this? I believe that life teaches us many lessons, and that we ignore them to our own peril. Those lessons, if we listen to them wisely, direct our course and assist us in being better, more complete persons. We are growing up and in so doing we leave behind that which we have found to be false, destructive, and limiting. I believe that I am better equipped to be a positive influence in people's lives and to contribute my gifts and abilities toward making the world a better place.


Now, as for God and who he is, I am in a period of transition. I don't see myself becoming an atheist, because I don't believe that evangelicalism defines God. If that were the only choice, I would be an atheist! But I am searching for truth by broadening my horizons and by reading many different viewpoints. There really is nothing to fear in doing so.


As for evangelicalism, without intending to put anyone down, I believe I have grown beyond it to something more mature and humane. To remain in it would for me risk turning me into that which I abhor. The following paragraph of mine illustrates that plainly. "I was once a compassionate Christian. I never clobbered those who differed with me, but preferred to coexist with them and emphasize what we had in common while agreeing to disagree on the things with which we differed. Now I see that I had the wrong approach in dealing with other Christians who differed with me. The name of the game is to view them as adversaries with whom I must practice a scorched earth policy. After all, God at times did this with his adversaries. I must also see them as things to conform to my way of thinking and acting, and discard them if they refuse. I am much more at peace now that I am doing God's will and protecting his name from all those sinful and misguided Christians. And whom do I have to thank for my newfound attitudes? Evangelical Christians - former friends, fellow clergy, and zealous leaders. Their godly example has helped me see the light." It is so sad, my dear readers, that things are this way.


Things do not need to stay this way though, and while I realize that there is little hope that evangelicalism will change for the better, I am eager to do my part. I do want to reach out to those who have been hurt by evangelicals and give them hope for a better life. And although I am quite sure that I will be accused of being vindictive (those doing so not wanting to face the truth), I want to expose the faults of evangelicalism and help people from the outside to see what they would be getting into if they chose to get involved with it. This would not only help those people, but just maybe would help the evangelicals to clean up their own act. I don't believe the incentive will be there unless they begin to have some serious image problems. I will use my people skills, my writing abilities, and my on-air talents to get the message out. Simply walking away from it will solve nothing and will be of no help to anyone.


For those of you who are evangelicals and want to stay that way, I encourage you to address the kinds of problems that I have shared with you. You have some serious injustices to address, and I can only hope that you will address them. For those who are not, the next time the evangelist comes knocking on your door, ask him about the hurting, the persecution, and killing that has been done in the name of Christ. Ask him how he can worship a God who would order the slaughter of nursing infants. Get him to explain to you the bait and switch, where he will try to bait you with your supposed need for God's love and grace and then when you bite switch you to laws, rules, and principles ad nauseum. To you I say, please watch out for that hook. It really hurts!


Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias is quoted as saying "We search for thrills here and there and when each thrill is consummated our emptiness intensifies. The reason is that we are more than just empty. We are, in fact, broken." While I know Zacharias believes what he says, my experience is very different. I have never felt so empty and broken as I have at the hands of rigid, indifferent evangelicals. The truth is, too many evangelicals contribute to the emptiness and brokenness of people, and as such are a part of the problem, not the solution! My story proves that, beyond the shadow of any doubt.


Blessings to you and yours,


Mel
Gloversville, NY




Dear Rev. Klueg,


Mel has given me the liberty of reading your letter, of June 07, to him and responding to all or any part of it as I choose. The paragraph concerning our abrupt withdrawal from the CBA concerns me and the church body more directly so I have decided to respond to that portion.


It was either our abrupt withdrawal or an abrupt dismissal. We choose to withdraw and save the CBA the embarrassment of terminating our membership. The verdict was in and the sentence already decided before we were even spoken to. Mel, as a pastor, would have to abandoned one of the members at a time when he was most needed. If we had taken the advice of the CBA our church would be non-existent. For myself, I was accused of being weak, not willing to accept a confrontation. It has always been my belief that the Christian society was to help and uplift one another. My experience has been quite the opposite. The greatest damage comes from within the church. The secular world has no concern for the church, but when the church starts judging it's members through the eyes of the world can destruction be far behind.


That seems to have been the situation.in our case. An accusation was made with no witnesses, no justification. A judgement was made that would have destroyed a church and damaged the lives of several individuals because of appearances and the perception of above reproach~ in the eyes of the world.


Thank God, He looks at the heart. I believe that the hearts of those accused is, and has been, in the right place. A full knowledge of the situation, and a close relationship has proven that to be true. At the time the full truth was not sought. The accusation was received from an individual that is still accusing us of practicing witchcraft, being a cult and putting Ideas into the mind of his spouse. We responded to a members request for help and offered advice to both parties with the hope of keeping the marriage intact. Unfortunately this wasn't accepted by the other party. It was all his way or nothing. Perhaps when all this is over the truth will be known. We took the steps we felt necessary to keep our church intact as I am sure you and your board would have done. What God has in store for us only He knows. We do not believe that the destruction of a church and individuals that truly believe in Him is taught in His Word. The Christianity that is taught in His Word certainly wasn't extended to us.


Yours truly,
Ted Perham. Elder




June 18, 1999


Dear Michelle, Here are some answers to you various letters,


Matthew 18:15 ¶ "Moreover, if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone. If he shalt hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. I DID


Matthew 18:16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that 'in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. YOU HEARD - I heard Thats two - Then the Letters are proof- then there PASTORS Mason and Andy. There is David, Tom also asked Mel to get away (nicely) How many more do you need.


Matthew 18:17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church, but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.


I think this was mentioned to the church by the letters and my letter. Mel was force to quit before being booted by the Conservative Baptist. I sat in Pastor Masons office and heard your heathen say on the answering machine I have talked it over with Cheryl and I've decided to resign, I then heard the message (Sunday) that the "church" voted to withdrawal from the CBA. Not only did he remove you from this home, he then takes a church as cover, the coward. If the ~'church" would have heard ALL the testimony, they may at that time, not have been so quick to keep that heathen. Heck, his own denomination considers him "checkered." So I think this Holy Joe attitude is somewhat over doing it.


Pastor Mason called Ted at work and asked if the church now supported adultery. Pastor Mason then asked him if he realized he was messing with the church of Jesus Christ. Do you know what Teds answer was, "well the church will close down if Mel leaves" that is almost funny, Pastor Mason then told him the "church" was already dead. If the spineless "waiters" would have upheld their sacred obligations this would not be happening. But, they are not obligated to me, even in this, they will answer one day to the person who put them there!


And while your at it, ask Ted what I wanted to start the healing process - That Mel get away from you and you be counseled by the older woman.


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What is Fundamentalism?

Definition of Fundamentalism
by Edward T. Babinski


MICHAEL: "What is YOUR definition of 'fundamentalism' as related to Christianity?"


ED: You will find "Christian fundamentalism" defined in the first two chapters of my book Leaving the Fold, but here's some additional observations:

FUNDAMENTALISTS
To a lot of fundamentalists, God's love just isn't any fun unless you can find somebody else to deny it to.
- Bruce Bawer, Stealing Jesus: How Fundamentalism Betrays Christianity




Nowadays the "universalistic" Buddhists and "universalistic" Christians and "universalistic" Moslems feel closer to one another than they feel to the fundamentalists within their own religious traditions. And the fundamentalists of each tradition can't even get along with the other fundamentalists of that same tradition.
- Brother Steindal-Rast, "The Monk is a Radical," The Laughing Man, Vol. 2, No. 2, 1981




When the apostle Paul departed for Palestine his Christian brethren "all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck and kissed him" (Acts 20:37), obeying a sacred command found in the New Testament:


Greet one another with a holy kiss.
- 1 Corinthians 16:20 & 2 Corinthians 13:12


Salute one another with a holy kiss.
- Romans 16:16


Greet one another with a kiss of charity.
- 1 Peter 5:14


Greet all the brethren with a holy kiss.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:26


So why isn't there a "Church of the Holy Kiss?" There's "Foot Washing Baptists" and even "Snake Handling Baptists," who take their cue from more obscure and less well attested Biblical commands. But there are no "Holy Kissing Baptists?" I guess fundamentalists won't follow certain commands even if God tells them to.
- E.T.B.




YOU MIGHT BE A FUNDAMENTALIST IF?
?you belong to a Christian weight-lifting team.


?you think the Bhagavad Gita is an Italian sports car.


?you believe the ancient Israelites were great scientists.
- Neal Kelsey ( http://www.religion4now.com )




Most fundamentalists wish to serve God, but only in an advisory capacity.
- E. T. B.




Eternal rewards can't possibly make up for a lifetime spent conforming to Southern Baptist rules.
- Jayelle Lukash


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Fundamentalists - Helpful Links

RESOURCES FOR RECOVERY FROM RELIGION
Helpful Links for those Leaving Fundamentalism
by Edward T. Babinski and Kenneth Nahigian
Some of the websites listed feature the testimonies of former fundamentalists which some might find interesting, or which they might like to visit in order to add their own stories. Some might like to connect their own websites to a particular "ring" listed.


FORUMS:


Van Allens: Encouraging Ex-Christians


Walk Away From Fundamentalism


WEBSITES:


The Door Magazine - Religious satire for moderate evangelical Christians, though liberals and atheists can enjoy it too!


Landover Baptist Church - "Conservative. Godly. Republican. Unstoppable" - an amusing satire revolving around Mega-church mentalities.


Things They Don't Tell You About Christianity - The dark side of Christian history.


Critical Evaluations of the "Bible Code"


Biblical Errancy - A newsletter whose editor, Dennis McKinsey, takes believers in Biblical inerrancy to task, even engaging them in debates. Also publishes some letters from former fundamentalist Christians.


Detox - A website for people who suffer from toxic faith syndrome.


The Christian Heritage - More of the dark side of Christianity.


The Ex-Tian Home Page - Website that features books, testimonies and webrings by ex-Christians.


Recovery from Christianity? A list of websites devoted to that topic.


The Skeptical Review - Edited by Farrell Till, a former fundamentalist minister, its articles deal with the Bible, including debates with fundamentalist defenders of the Bible, and letters from fundamentalists and former fundamentalists in a section titled, "From the Mailbag," beginning with Vol. 4, No.4, 1993.


The Secular Web - Gargantuan collection of secular humanist books, articles, essays, news, reviews, even humor. The premier website for freethinkers, with frequent additions and updates.


The Jury Is In: The Ruling on Josh McDowell's Evidence That Demands a Verdict


Religious Satirist, James Morrow's website, which features information on "The Godhead Trilogy"


The "Official" Robert Anton Wilson Website


MOVIES


Dogma - A comedy about God and the end of the world by Kevin Smith.


Glorious! - British comedian, Eddie Izzard, addresses the Old and New Testaments.


Rowan Atkinson Live! - British comedian, Rowan Atkinson, plays both a priest reading from an unusual Gospel, and Satan welcoming people to hell.


The Life of Brian - The comedy troupe, Monty Python, depict the life of the extremely unlucky fellow who was born on the same night and next door to?Jesus.


Bedazzled - A 1960s comedy about a man (Dudley Moore) who sells his soul to the devil (Peter Cook), featuring a cameo appearance by Racquel Welch who plays "Lust." (In the year 2000 a whole new version of this film was made.)


CDs:


Only the Truth is Funny - Comedian Rick Reynolds (atheist). Contains some very funny bits about Rick's reaction to his very conservative Christian brother.


Rant in E-Minor - Comedian Bill Hicks (former conservative Baptist).
Warning: Caustic wit, and that's putting it mildly.


You Are All Diseased - Comedian George Carlin (atheist) loves to rant about "humanity" and "God," and this is his most biting work to date. His earlier works, Toledo Window Box, and George Carlin: Class Fool, have a lighter, more poignant air about them, especially when he talks about "God" in the former, and his Irish Catholic upbringing in the latter.


BOOKS:


Good Omens - An extraordinarily funny novel about the Antichrist and the end of the world by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.


Bible Stories for Adults - A collection of funny and intriguing short stories by James Morrow, including the Nebula award-winning short story, "The Deluge."


The Bible According to Mark Twain - Edited by Howard Baetzhold and Joseph McCullough.


Pope-Pourri - Funny and interesting facts about Catholicism, edited by John Dollison.


Leaving the Fold: Testimonies of Former Fundamentalists - Edited by Edward T. Babinski, a former born again, Bible believing, tongue-speaking Christian, who is now a "reverent agnostic" or "irreverent theist" (take your pick). The book features nearly three dozen first-hand personal testimonies of people who "left" their fundamentalist folds for more moderate to radical religious or non-religious, destinations. It also contains a chapter on "Fundamentalism's Grotesque Past" with information that is not readily available elsewhere, including a look at some of the inhumane actions and teachings of Protestant icons like Luther, Calvin, and Jonathan Edwards and the Biblical teachings that drove them to say and do such things.


Leaving the Fold - Marlene Winell, a former fundamentalist Christian, now a psychologist, tells her personal story of transformation, and discusses some of the basic mind traps that, once recognized, help release people from narrow "fundamentalist fold" mentalities.


Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist ? Dan Barker (former evangelical Christian song-writer and producer), tells how and why he became one of the leaders of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and writer for the nation's only weekly Freethought newspaper, Freethought Today.


Beyond Born Again - Robert M. Price (who went from fundamentalist Christian to atheist and who now holds two Ph.D.s and is a member of the "Jesus Seminar") examines the arguments employed by conservative evangelical apologists. (This book is available on the Secular Web. See following section on "Websites.")


Prometheus Rising and Quantum Psychology - Robert Anton Wilson explains how individuals and societies create their own "reality tunnels," why we misunderstand each other, and how we can widen our understandings and perceptions.


RELIGIOUS OR SEMI-SO SITES:


The Baptist Joint Committee on Public Affairs, reverent religious church/state separationists.


The Interfaith Alliance.


The Unitarian Universalist Association.


The World Union of Deists. "Deism, America's Forgotten Religion."


Also called ChurchState.org, this is a Seventh Day Adventist site supporting a decent separation of Church and State.


The Event Horizon Reader. Thoughtful writings on spiritual dangers of fundamentalism and the Religious Right.


The J. M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University.


Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, promoting tolerance, diversity, fairness.


Jews for Judaism, saying no thanks to Jews for Jesus.


A Buddhist Critique of Christianity.


The Isaac Bonewits neopagan homepage. Quirky, but he does get in his digs.


POLITICAL SITES FIGHTING THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT:


Americans United (for Separation of Church and State).


Americans for Religious Liberty.


American Civil Liberties Union.


Archive of articles from the old Institute for First Amendment Studies.


People For the American Way.


America’s Real Religion. Author Gene Garman defends the First Amendment and Church/State seperation.


CONTRA-RELIGIOUS AND “WALK AWAY” SITES:


American Humanist Association.


Freedom from Religion Foundation.


The Council for Secular Humanism.


The Campus Freethought Alliance.


The Truth Seeker, oldest freethought magazine in the West. A good rag.


The Atheist Alliance.


The Atheist Network


Positive Atheism.


American Association for the Advancement of Atheism.


Originally the Quest for the Historical Jesus, now reborn as Atheist Talk Central.


A support site for Christians just starting to doubt.


Watchers of the Watch Tower A breakaway site for ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses.


Our real Christian heritage.
The dark side of Xian history, the things "They" don't want you to know.


The real scuttlebutt on the Bible. Not a pretty sight.


A vast page of resources and links, but the ones in the "Heresies" section are what you want to see.


The (religious) Skeptic's Corner.


Judith Hayes, the Happy Heretic.


The Right Rev. Jim Huber, also Heretic.


The Infidel Guy. Try his audio show!


All about atheism and agnosticism. Questions answers, issued mulled.


Alan Dechert's Go-to-Zero page. He wants to renumber the years.


Adrian Barnett's Wasteland of Wonders – his atheism sub-page.


The freethought supply house for all your argumentative needs.


Christian origins. This writer argues that the resurrection of Jesus was a deliberate hoax.


Reason Works, a commercial site with some incisive writings.


The War on Faith homepage, guns locked and loaded.


Things we didn't learn in Sunday School.


One archeologist and historian dissects the Christ myth.


Celebrity Atheists and Agnostics, a list.


Famous non-theists of history, a bigger list.


The Jesus Seminar, lightning rod for debates about the historical Jesus.


Secular cards, t-shirts and posters.


PARODY, SATIRE AND SARCASM:


Jeff Swenson's cynical comic strip.


The Leviathan, putting the "fun" back in Fundamentalism.


The Landover Baptist Church


Ask Sister Rosetta.


Queen Jane's Version of the Bible.


SPEWED FROM THE BELLY OF THE BEAST:


The infamous "Rev" Fred Phelps, gay basher.


Kingdom Identity movement. Weird and scary.


Jack T. Chick, the man behind all those tracts.


The earth is the center of the universe. Listen to us, dammit!


The real International Flat Earth Society does not have a website, unfortunately, but this parody site is almost as cool.


The classic Virtual Hell site
(http://www.virtualhell.org/) is offline, alas. But this one remains to remind us that Hell is real. Be sure to wear shoes!


MORE ARTICLES


Don't feel like you belong?

Essay on some historical figures who were not Christians, but made great contributions to society, such as Helen Keller, who was a Humanist.


Changes we undergo "without knowing why"

Essay which takes a critical look at changes that occur in people's lives, influenced by religion and fellowship. Is transformation caused by God or man.


Christopher Reeve (1952-2004)

Article by Warren A. Smith on the life and spirituality of Christopher Reeve. Reeve's life demonstrated that one does not need to hold Christian beliefs to serve as an upstanding example to society on morality.


Religion as Gang-Warfare - Coming to a Theater Near You
Dale Murphy wrote this article, addressing how he sees religion as a dangerous force, that leads to conflicts between ethnic groups. He expresses his disdain about the international and domestic problems created by Religion.


Richard Yao: Founder of the Original "Fundamentalists Anonymous" Resurfaces (briefly)
On 'Diana Speaks' the book which was written by one claiming Diana spoke to them. The author might possibly be Richard Yao, founder of the Original Fundamentalists Anonymous.


Starting a Support Group in Your Area
How do I go about organizing a Fundamentalists-Anon support group in my area? Tips and suggestions.


My Advice about debating with Christians

Advice from Ed Babinski on debating with others of an opposing belief system.


The Great Awakening, Revivals and Calvinism
Discussion on the Great Awakening, Revivals and the lack of longterm effects they have on people.


Why Jesus?

Essay which questions about Jesus, in terms of morality, social justice, equality and compassion.


Christian Psychologist admits manic-depression amongst Pentecostals
Commentary on Manic Depression and what statistics show, with a higher than normal percentage rate among Pentecostals, than other groups.


Fundamentalism and Christianity

Personal discussion on the topic of Christian History, and Persecution of Christianity and other religions.


Original Thoughts on Original Sin

Essay on the Original Sin, guilt and sin, includes compiled quotes by Deitrich Bonhoeffer, Conrad Hyers and Edward Babinski.


Evangelism and Christian Indifference
by John Davies (additional notes by Ed)
Religious leaders should set the example for the nation, on moral issues. Read an article which lists major scandals and fraud committed by well-known televangelists and evangelical preachers.


Definition of Fundamentalism

Collection of quotes and excerpts which define Fundamentalism, from a satirical point of view.


The Psalms, God and Mother Nature

Ed Babinski gives a satirical review of the Old Testament Psalms, based on science. Read how the Psalmists overlooked certain aspects in Nature.


Agnosticism: Reasons to Leave Christianity
Questions from an Agnostic for the Biblical Apologist to answer. These unanswered questions are reasons to leave Christianity and become an agnostic.


FORMER FUNDAMENTALIST TESTIMONIES


Testimony about the Worldwide Church of God

by former Member/Co-Worker David Lee Mooney.


Former Pentecostal Testimony

by Anonymous: FormerX.


Guillaume's Testimony, "Recovering from Christianity"
by Guillaume
Testimony of deconversion from Fundamentalist Christianity.


Still Silent, My Journey through Christianity

by Kevin
Testimony of deconversion from Catholicism.


Mel's FORMER FUNDAMENTALIST Story
by Mel Emurian

Mel gives his account of deconversion.


RECOMMENDED BOOKS

Dare to Think for Yourself: A Journey from Faith to Reason
Born in the Bible Belt of the American South, Betty Brogaard, had questions regarding God and the Bible. Primarily because of growing doubts about the organization’s teachings, she eventually left amidst threats of eternal judgment and punishment.


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Unitarian Universalists

INFO ON UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISTS
The famous Unitarian Univeralist, Hosea Balloh, once told a fundamentalist minister, "The difference between us is that YOU are trying to keep people out of hell, while I am tryiing to keep hell out of people."


Charles Francis Potter was a famous Unitarian Minister of the largest Unitarian church that probably every existed in New York City. Potter was also a former fundamentalist and as a Unitarian Minister debated the famous Baptist Fundamentalist minister, Stratton for three nights in CARNEGIE HALL in the 1920s. Potter also coached Clarence Darrow on Bible stuff to quiz Will Jennings Bryan on the stand at the Tennessee "Monkey Trial," and even was the author of that famous line in the trial that created a huge commotion, when Darrow asked Bryan "It says in the Bible that the snake was cursed to go on his belly, how did he travel before that? By hopping on his tail?"


Potter's story is told at length in a chapter of my book, Leaving the Fold: Testimonies of Former Fundamentalists.


The most famous Universalist of recent fame and who has written some wonderful small books is Dr. Church of the Unitarian church in New York, which I believe used to be Potter's. Dr. Church has written wonderful books like The Devil and Dr. Church, and, The Seven Deadly Virtues, which examine the excesses of religion and Biblical interpretation, and also inspire one with great true tales of non-denominational saintliness and forgiveness.


The only problem with the Unitarians in my town is that I live in the South and their worship service seems styled after that of Baptist services, which to me are just dull. In fact, I enjoy hearing a good lecture over singing dull Unitarian all-inclusive language hymns to God.


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Christianity's Superiorities

Name : Harry
Date : 09.13.04
Email : dazzo_dazzo@hotmail.com
City : toronto
Country : Canada


Your bit on the atheist versus the christian benefactor has got to be a low point of your website which I generally have always respected.


You sound like the flip side of Ravi Zacharias picking on a few atheists and proposing this as how all of them are. There\'s good and bad in ALL human undertakings and selectively highlighting only those to make your case is rather pathetic. I personally know of many religious people in business whose ethics are impeccable (and some not). You dropped the ball big time!


Dear Harry,


Thanks for writing. That article you read may be from an email I sent someone a while back, but I don't think we disagree, because you perceived my point exactly. I am NOT trying to say all Christians are as bad as the worst ones. Nor that all atheists are as bad as the worst ones (as Ravi Zacharias apparently thinks). I am merely levelling the playing field and pointing out that Christian claims of superiority above and beyond all other people and their beliefs, are false. Pious people can be just as bad or act just as ignorantly as other folks. But what's unusual about Christianity is the claim to have a perfect instruction manual, God living inside them, and a Holy Spirit that "leads" them "into ALL truth." Yet with all of those things, Christianity fails to impress with any degree of blazing superiority throughout history. Christianity even admits it can't keep a single family together, but is liable to break them up as well, and just think of how divided early Christendom was, or how divided Europe became during the Reformation leading up to the Thirty Years War, which was relatively speaking perhaps the bloodiest most brutal such war Europe has ever seen, depending on the historian you speak to, and during a time when all the nations of Europe were Christians and agreed on Jesus' divinity, the Trinity, and creationism.


Or as Dr. Albert Schweitzer once put it: "For centuries Christianity treasured the great commandment of love and mercy as traditional truth without recognizing it as a reason for opposing slavery, witch burning and all the other ancient and medieval forms of inhumanity. It was only when Christianity experienced the influence of the thinking of the Age of Enlightenment that it was stirred into entering the struggle for humanity. The remembrance of this ought to preserve it forever from assuming any air of superiority in comparison with thought." Also in the same book, Schweitzer cautioned against "the crooked and fragile thinking of Christian apologetics." [Albert Schweitzer, Out of My Life and Thought: An Autobiography (New York: The New American Library, 1963)]


Lastly, think of Christian sectarianism:


CHRISTIANITY RUNS THE GAMUT

From silent Trappist monks and quiet Quakers -- to hell raisers and serpent-handlers;


From those who "hear the Lord" telling them to run for president, seek diamonds and gold (via liaisons with bloody African dictators), or sell "Lake of Galilee" beauty products -- to those who have visions of Mary, the saints, or experience bleeding stigmata;


From those who believe the communion bread and wine remain just that -- to those who believe the bread and wine are miraculously transformed into "invisible" flesh and blood (and can vouch for it with miraculous tales of communion wafers turning into human flesh and wine curdling into blood cells during Mass);


From those who argue that they are predestined to argue in favor of predestination -- to those who argue for free will of their own free will;


From those who believe everyone may (or will) eventually be saved -- to those who believe nearly everyone (except themselves and their church) will be damned;


From Christian monks and priests who have gained insights into their own faith after dialoging with Buddhist monks and Hindu priests -- to Christians who view Eastern religious ideas and practices as "Satanic;"


From castrati (boys in Catholic choirs who underwent castration to retain their high voices) -- to Protestant hymns and Gospel quartets -- all the way to "Christian rap;"


From Christians who reject any behavior that even mimics "what homosexuals do" (including a rejection of fellatio and cunnilingus between a husband and wife) -- to Christians who accept committed, loving, homosexual relationships (including gay evangelical Church groups like the nationwide Metropolitan Baptist Church);


From Catholic nuns and Amish women who dress to cover their bodies -- to Christian nudists, and even born-again strippers;


From those who believe that a husband and wife can have sex for pleasure -- to those who believe that sex should be primarily for procreation -- to those who believe celibacy is superior to marriage (i.e., Catholic priests, monks, nuns, and some Protestant groups like the Shakers) -- all the way to those who cut off their genitals for the kingdom of God (the Skoptze, a Russian Christian sect);


From those who believe sending out missionaries to persuade others to become Christians is essential -- to the Anti-Mission Baptists who believe that sending out missionaries and trying to persuade others constitutes a lack of faith and the sin of pride, and that the founding of "extra-congregational missionary organizations" is not Biblical;


From those who believe that the King James Bible is the only inspired translation -- to those who believe that no translation is totally inspired, only the original "autographs" were perfect -- to those who believe that "perfection" only lay in the "spirit" that inspired the writing of the Bible's books, not in the "letter" of the books themselves;


From those who believe Easter should be celebrated on one date (Roman Catholics) -- to those who believe Easter should be celebrated on another date (Eastern Orthodox). And, from those who believe that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (Roman Catholics) -- to those who believe it proceeds from the Father alone (Eastern Orthodox view as taught by the early Church Fathers). Those disagreements, as well as others, sparked the greatest schism of church history (the Schism of 1054) when the uncompromising patriarch of Constantinople, Michael Cerularius, and the envoys of the uncompromising Pope Leo IX, excommunicated each other;


From those who worship God on Sunday -- to those who worship God on Saturday (Saturday being the Hebrew "sabbath" that God said to "keep holy" according to one of the Ten Commandments) -- all the way to those who believe their daily walk with God and love of their fellow man is more important than church attendance;


From those who stress "God's commands" -- to those who stress "God's love;"


From those who believe that you need only accept Jesus as your "personal savior" to be saved -- to those who believe you must accept Jesus as both savior and "Lord" of your life in order to be saved. (Two major Evangelical Christian seminaries debated this question in the 1970s, and still disagree);


From those who teach that being "baptized with water as an adult believer" is an essential sign of salvation -- to those who deny it is;


From those who believe that unbaptized infants who die go straight to hell (or at least risk hellfire) -- to those who deny the (once popular) church doctrine known as "infant damnation."


From those who teach that "baptism in the Holy Spirit" along with "speaking in tongues" are important signs of salvation -- to those who deny they are (some of whom see mental and Satanic delusions in modern day "Spirit baptism" and "tongue-speaking");


From those who believe that avoiding alcohol, smoking, gambling, dancing, contemporary Christian music, movies, television, long hair (on men), etc., are all important signs of being saved -- to those who believe you need only trust in Jesus as your personal savior to be saved;


From pro-slavery Christians (there are some today who still remind us that the Bible never said slavery was a "sin") -- to anti-slavery Christians;


From Christians who defend the Biblical idea of having a king (and who oppose democracy as "the meanest and worst of all forms of government" to quote John Winthrop, first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, with whom some Popes agreed, as well as some of today's Protestant Reconstructionist Christians) -- to Christians who oppose kingships and support democracies;


From "social Gospel" Christians -- to "uncompromised Gospel" Christians;


From Christians who do not believe in sticking their noses in politics -- to coup d'etat Christians;


From "stop the bomb" Christians -- to "drop the bomb" Christians.


All in all, Christianity gives Hinduism with its infinite variety of sects
and practices a run for its money.


- E.T.B.




Live long enough and you'll encounter a lot of folks who say you are not really a Christian for a host of reasons. I've found the "no-true-Christian-would-or-wouldn't-do-or-believe-XYZ" game one of the more popular among... well... Christians.
- Jonathan




In my journeys in Christianity both in America and abroad I've run across a myriad of believers, a mosaic of Christianity:


I remember a converted Christian who used to be a "Satanist ," saying, "What's the big deal about smoking marijuana?"


A Pentecostal pastor in Holland sat crying at a street side cafe worried that one of his woman parishioners was going to hell since she had stopped coming to church and was now wearing make-up. And as he cried, his tears rolled off his cheeks into his beer. (Many Pentecostal Christians in the U.S. ascribe to an ethic of absolute abstinence from alcohol.)


I've known Christians who won't own a TV. Others who won't allow playing cards into their house. And others who drink alcohol liberally and have every material possession imaginable. Others who attempt to memorize the Bible to such an extent it blocks most of their own original thoughts about anything. Others who are social activists who take up causes like opposing abortion or picketing a Marilyn Manson concert. Others who are simple and humble and feed the poor and house the homeless. Others who are missionaries in third world countries suffering hardship for the "cause of Christ." There was a sub group, however, in my institute who were King James Only -- they believed the KJV was the only true inspired Bible for today and that all other versions were corrupted. As a group, they were radically enthusiastic and were proud to be KJV ONLY, and often fueled arguments over alternate translations. Something like the Living Bible, which is a paraphrase, was "the Devil's work."
- Karl Arendale




THE WORLD'S NEED


So many gods, so many creeds,
So many paths that wind and wind,
While just the art of being kind,
Is all the sad world needs.


- Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919)


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Christian Persecution and the Bible

Name : Kim
Date : 09.12.04
City : Sydney
Country : Australia
Message : Hey Ed, Whilst searching the net for some info for an assignment that I'm doing, I came across what you wrote concerning what an adventist sent to you. I read your comments and I'm saddened by ywhat you wrote concerning the Bible. Throughout history people have died for the Bible and what it stands for, currently there are people that are persecuted for beliveing in God. This isn't because all these people think that it's fun to be different from the rest of the world, but because within the world, a loving God is revealed. I won't go through point by point an rebuff what you wrote, all I simply ask is that you repsect others. You don't have to believe in what I believe in as an SDA, but all that I think a lot of people in this world as is respect for who we are. I hope that you are searching for truth in this world, and that in your journey of life you live with a beautiful peace. Kim

Dear Kim,


Thanks for writing, I also wish you the best in your own search. I am not sure which of my pieces may have elicited your response, but I know I have replied before to people who point out that Christians are persecuted. Persecution is a ubiquitious phenomenon, as is "dying for a cause." People have suffered at the hands of other people (regardless of the relative sizes of their hearts and minds) over more political and religious squabbles than anyone can possibly count. Of course, if Christians don't want persecution, why be so insistent about dropping Bibles from planes or smuggling them into countries or dragging your wife and kids along with you to lands were it remains perilous to try and seek converts? You can't have your cake of seeking to actively spread your beliefs in perilous lands, and also eat it, by complaining how "persecuted" you are.


Even more importantly, martyrdom does not prove the truthfulness of anyone's beliefs, and the Christian church itself has martyred, or actively tried to hinder and inhibit "unorthodox" believers from spreading their beliefs, ever since Constantine's day. Later, during the Reformation, John Calvin prosecuted Servetus, and even tossed out everyone but Calvinists from Geneva. Then there's Luther's prononcements against the Anabaptists, and against the Jews, and against the Catholic church and lending his rhetorical skills and plans for changing all churches into Lutheran ones via political decree of the rulers that Luther and his beliefs were able to influence. Later, even the followers of Protestantism couldn't get along with one another, Lutherans rioted against Calvinists in some places in Germany after Calvinism had begun moving into Luther's homeland. In fact, laws against "blasphemy" and against profaning "The Sabbath" were still in effect not too long ago even in America. One of the last blasphemy trials in America was held around 1912, though the "blasphemer" in that case was allowed to go free. So as I said, religious persecution proves nothing. The religious have been persecuting unorthodox versions of their own religion, or persecuting those of other religions, or no religion, for millennian, and will probably continue to do so for millennia to come, what with "God" being in the balance according to them, and that includes breaking up their own families over differing religious views.


As for Seventh-Day Adventist beliefs, maybe you should consider getting a hold of a book titled, THE WHITE LIE, to discover out what a plaigarist the Seventh-Day Adventist "prophet," Ellen G. White was. Prophetic inspired utterances? Hardly. Simple plaigarism. I also read in the news about ten years ago, about how some Adventist missionaries in Africa, who couldn't swim, tried walking on water in a river. They got out of a boat in the middle of a river, and drowned. And it was more than one SDA minister who got out of the boat and drowned! I have the newspaper piece on file at home. Just an interesting piece in the news that I had read, I'm not saying that you or anyone in your particular church would try such a stunt.


Best, Ed


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Reviews of Leaving the Fold: Testimonies of Former Fundamentalists

DECONVERSION

all I know, all I believe

are crumbling images no longer comforting me

this ground is not the rock I thought it to be

thought I was high, thought I was free

thought I was there: divine destiny

I was wrong. This changes everything.

-- Maynard James Keenan


The late fall afternoon is peaceful as I cozy up on the sofa for a few hours of cable television movies. Flipping through the channels, I happen upon a prerecorded televangelist rally. I pause to observe. The small man on the stage shouts into his cordless microphone about the power of God and the salvation of Jesus, stomping up and down the length of the stage, visibly energized by the clamorous feedback of his audience. Although the program is nearing its end I know he has been performing in this manner for about an hour. He concludes his sermon with an emotional prayer backed by a solemn minor-key melody on electric piano. I watch then as hundreds of people stream from the arena seats to the stage, seeking salvation in the small man's invitation to become "born again." There are close-ups of teary-eyed individuals with upraised arms, singing and praying, overcome by joy to have finally found salvation.


Edward T. Babinski
Edward T. Babinski

The scene transports me back in time to my mid-teens when I, too, once responded to an altar call in a very large arena. I know what the people on the television are experiencing. I know also that many of them will one day abandon their "salvation."


Fundamentalist Christianity was for me an 11-year ordeal of confusion, self-censorship and self-abasement. After the joy of my initial religious experience wore off, I moved into the modus operandi of Christian fundamentalists everywhere: I shut down emotionally and instead relied on the Bible to dictate my feelings. In Christian fundamentalist circles this is known as "living by faith."


In my mid-20s I experienced a severe crisis which led me to question the wisdom of living in this manner. Over a period of about a year I allowed myself to think the doubtful thoughts which I had been filing away in the back of my mind for so long. I felt as if I was issuing a direct challenge to God himself, and lived in great fear of divine retribution. My doubts led me to discover that it was indeed possible to make sense of life, to make decisions for myself, to set and attain goals, and to know my own heart. My spiritual path forked. Do I remain true to honesty, or true to the faith? I chose honesty. Thus was I deconverted.


For several years I believed my experience to be unique. In time I met another person who had defected from the ranks of Fundamentalist Christianity; then another, and others still. I am now convinced that the number of Americans who have had a "deconversion" experience of some type is much greater than one would suspect.


Deconversion is currently an under-studied phenomenon which could provide an important perspective from which to understand religion in America. The specific psychological, sociological, cultural, and political implications of large numbers of religious deconverts are beyond the scope of this paper. Nevertheless, it is important to understand that deconversion births as radical a psychological shift as the original conversion experience. It is quite enough to impact American culture and religion, just as conversion experiences produce "born-again" Christians who impact American culture in clearly manifest ways.


To understand these questions I turn to Leaving the Fold: Testimonies of Former Fundamentalists, edited by Edward T. Babinski. This volume is a collection of 33 deconversion autobiographies from people once active and highly visible within the ranks of Fundamentalist Christianity. These essays give articulate voice to the deconversion process. They are at once diverse and congruous. Leaving the Fold is not intended to provide scientific statistical data; rather, it is an informal survey which provides much useful anecdotal material.


Surprisingly, the testimonies present only two key factors in their authors' deconversions. The first is related to external circumstances, including the behavior of other church members, leadership, or the denomination. The second is wholly internal: church doctrine simply becomes untenable.


The most common and compelling motivation for leaving fundamentalist Christianity cited by Leaving the Fold's contributors is, by far, a loss of personal faith. For the majority, the deconversion process begins with a single question, or group of questions, for which he can find no answer. This pattern emerges repeatedly. It is as if their fundamentalist faith is a large puzzle. Slowly at first, random pieces begin to fall away, creating holes in the overall image. These holes weaken the puzzle structure, allowing more pieces to fall away. Eventually all the pieces fall away leaving the deconvert free of the fundamentalist worldview. While this process is painful in many ways, all the writers consider it to be, ultimately, a great liberation. It is surprising how many of Leaving the Fold's writers consider their deconversion experience to be a "rebirth," or liken it to being "born again."


Another interesting aspect of the deconversion experience is that it is largely involuntary. Not one of Leaving the Fold's contributors relates a process in which he consciously decides to leave the faith with deconversion as a goal. The testimonies are of those who set out to find their answers in an effort to maintain their faith. Only grudgingly did they come to accept that the answers for their questions were to be found outside church doctrine. In various ways each describes how he was forced by intellectual honesty to face his discoveries.


It may seem surprising at first to think of deconversion as an involuntary act. However, I would point out that the initial experience of being "saved" is very often itself involuntary. Converts are generally not provided with all the facts necessary to make an informed decision. Instead, revival meetings and proselytization efforts are engineered to create a specific vulnerable emotional state within the target. The convert is then manipulated into accepting whatever religious message the evangelist has to peddle. Individuals converted by such deceptive methods have not voluntarily chosen to convert; they have been coerced. It is a difficult thing to accept that one has been duped. No one chooses discover that he has been lied to.


Because of their experiences, Leaving the Fold's contributors demonstrate a thorough disgust with Christian Fundamentalism. None view it as a positive religious expression.


The least hostile view its role as a stepping-stone toward greater faiths, such as Dennis Ronald McDonald's essay titled From Faith to Faith and Joe Barnhart's Fundamentalism as Stage One. I found Ernest Heramia's The Thorn-Crowned Lord/The Antler-Crowned Lord the most interesting of the stepping-stone testimonies. His deconversion path led him from Christian fundamentalism into neo-Paganism. I find this distinctly courageous, considering that of all religions, Paganism draws the wrath of the Fundamentalist like no other. In a very real though metaphoric sense, this particular move requires standing up at the Gates of Hell, facing one's demons, turning to the so-called "dark side." Neo-Paganism is eventually where my deconversion process brought me as well. His spiritual path is in some ways quite similar to my own.


Many of the testimonies are openly hostile to the very existence of Christian fundamentalism and view it as a kind of sickness. David Montoya's The Political Disease Known as Fundamentalism, Marlene Oaks's Old Time Religion is a Cult, and Kevin Henke's A Little Horse Sense is Worth a Thousand Inerrant Doctrines portray especially dysfunctional religious experiences. Frank Zindler's innocuously titled Biography depicts a deconversion which propelled the writer into anti-fundamentalist activism. So convinced was he of religion's evil that in 1978 he joined Dr. Madalyn Murray O'Hair "in her lawsuit to remove religious graffiti from American currency." Their efforts were unsuccessful, but to this day Zindler remains a pro-atheism activist.


In all, Leaving the Fold provides a solid overview of the deconversion process and what it means in the lives of ordinary Americans. The lack of data regarding the wider implications is disappointing to the say the least. Until scientific data are available, there is no way of knowing for certain how large a segment of the population has had a deconversion experience. However, the public status of most of this book's contributors may indicate that there is indeed significant impact being made throughout the American religious landscape. For this reason religious deconversion should receive the full benefit of future scholarly inquiry.




Edward T. Babinski, Leaving the Fold: Testimonies of Former Fundamentalists

(Nashville: Prometheus Books).


alpha.furman.edu/


Most fundamentalists regard their faith as the only true form of Christianity. Sociologists like Bryan Wilson, on the other hand, regard it as a sect. Persons from both perspectives would have to agree, however, that fundamentalism is not a religious tradition that can be taken lightly. Consequently, those who leave behind this tight-knit community of faith take a giant step, as editor Edward Babinski, a member of the Furman library staff, himself testifies.


This book contains the stories-- testimonials-- of a variety of individuals who have left the security of the fundamentalist fold to become more liberal Christians, adherents of other religions, agnostics, or even atheists. The term testimonials is the best way to describe the accounts found here, for even those who understand themselves now to be profoundly atheistic use passionate and religious language to describe their journey.


For all who tell their story in this book, leaving the fundamentalist faith involved struggle. For most it involved pain. Yet one ends the book virtually certain that there will be no going back for any of them. Still, some of the contributors look back to their past saying that it was a good place to come from. For them fundamentalism provided a safe haven from more "degenerative pursuits" or ideas. For others, though, fundamentalism was a virtual cult, stealing not only their minds but their very lives.


Babinski's book features contributions from a variety of people, including well-known scholars such as Harvard professor Harvey Cox and writer Sam Keen; Ernest Heramia, an adherent of Wicca; and Mike and Karla Yaconelli, editors of The Door (formerly the Wittenburg Door), a magazine that combines humor with a hard-edged examination of Christianity. Of particular interest to Furman alumni and friends might be the stories of people like New Testament scholar Dennis MacDonald (a graduate of Bob Jones University); David Montoya, who became known in Southern Baptist circles for revealing what he claims were the dishonest practices of Southern Baptist Convention fundamentalists; or Joe Barnhart, author of the book The Southern Baptist Holy War.


-- Helen Lee Turner, Associate Professor of Religion




From: "Harry N."

To: Edward T. Babinski

Sent: Thursday, September 11, 2003 9:20 AM

Subject: re: Leaving the Fold


Hi!


I recently got my hands on a used copy of your book "Leaving the Fold" and have to say it is really an outstanding collection of the experiences of the individual authors. It's also a big plus reading the experiences of people who have spent years studying Christianity and the Bible from all angles and being able to tap into their knowledge. As I've come to learn over the last many months doing my own "seeking", it can be a daunting task to review the historical context of the time, the competing mystery religions etc etc. I think Farell Till said it best in one his debates on the secular web, when he said the average guy in the pew has no idea how his religion came about.


Upon reflection I also thought it highly bizarre that decades and centuries later, many Christians willingly died for their beliefs, yet the apostles all abandoned Jesus at the time of his arrest. I mean, if I had hung out with someone for three years who could perform real miracles like raising the dead, that person would have my unswerving loyalty to the end. Heck, we know of people who have died for their cult leaders throughout time, yet the accomplishments of these cult leaders aren't even in the same league as the "biblical Jesus".


Anyways thanks for a great book..............best regards.............Harry




Protestant fundamentalism claims many converts each year as the devout serve as "witnesses" to draw people "into the fold". This is where the media hype stops. Little is known of the thousands who leave, frustrated, anguished, confused. For them there are no trumpets of glory, no energised fanfare.


No one knows fundamentalism like a fundamentalist, and no one can express what it means to struggle with one's faith to the breaking point, like an ex-fundamentalist.


After presenting a fascinating history of "Fundamentalism's Grotesque Past", this riveting new collection offers testimonies of former fundamentalists who became so disillusioned with their church that they chose to leave. Presenting more than thirty personal journeys, this book gives a clear picture of what attracts a person to the fundamentalist faith and what can drive believers away from their religion.


Leaving the Fold includes the religious odysseys of those who left the fundamentalism behind in favor of atheism or agnosticism, as well as the spiritual journeys of those who remained Christians but backed away from the powerful attractions of fundamentalism. These testimonies convey not only deep feelings and penetrating facts, but the appeal of dogmatic fundamentalism and each individual's struggle to maintain their faith.


Leaving the Fold discusses the fears and dilemmas faced by each person who chose to part ways with the church, their gradual dawning of courage to continue asking questions, and their success in giving their intellectual curiosity the freedom it craves. Christians, atheists and those who may be questioning their own religious convictions will find Leaving the Fold engrossing. This volume also contains a collection of quotations and an annotated bibliography for those interested in tracking down further testimonies.


About the Author:

Edward T. Babinski was the editor of Theistic Evolutionists Forum and Monkey's Uncle.

He is currently on the staff of the J. B. Duke Library at Furman University.




Editorial Reviews from Amazon.Com


From Library Journal

Between an introduction and appendix provided by Babinski, 33 former Christian fundamentalists explain how and why they first embraced, and later abandoned, that belief system. Of these, eight have become atheists, eight (including Babinski) agnostics, one a wiccan, and one a Zen Buddhist; the remainder have remained Christian. Major contemporary religious writers such as Harvey Cox and Sam Keen are included. The agenda here is unmistakably antifundamentalist, and the occasional leak of vitriol does distract. Also, in its ambition to be comprehensive, Babinski's annotated "list of additional testimonies" neglects a distinction between trash and treasure. However, in the main the individual statements and recollections are clearly, thoughtfully, and intelligently presented, and documentation is thorough. For this reason, and because no similar collection of such breadth and depth is available, this work is reservedly recommended as a useful addition to church, academic, and larger public library collections.?Bill Piekarski, Southwestern Coll. Lib., Chula Vista, Cal. Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.


From Book News, Inc.

Beginning with an essay titled "Fundamentalism's Grotesque Past," this fascinating collection, written and edited by a former fundamentalist Christian, offers more than 30 personal accounts of former members of the flock who became so disillusioned with their churches that they chose to leave. Organized by the subsequent spiritual choices made by each contributor, this collection provides a revealing picture of what attracts people to fundamentalism and what can drive believers away from it. Annotation copyright Book News, Inc. Portland, Or.


Ingram

This riveting new collection offers testimonies of former fundamentalists who became disillusioned with their churches and left. Presenting more than two dozen personal journeys, this book gives a clear picture of what attracts a person to the fundamentalist faith and what can drive believers away from their religion. Photos throughout.


Ceationism is merely one issue, July 5, 2002

Reviewer: propa-gandhi from Peeking Over Your Shoulder, USA

According to fundamentalist reviewers like dave---f, the reasons people give for leaving the fold are nonsense. Let dave tell you the REAL reason they leave, i.e., because they "don't like being accountable to their Creator." So if you want to read dave's book it's quite short, but if you want to read this book, written by people who give their first hand accounts of why they left, then you'll have to take a bit more time and effort to understand all the reasons they left.


Dave---f mentions John Woodmorappe's book "Noah's Ark: A Feasibility Study" which he claims shows how fallacious and even dishonest all attacks on Noahs ark and the Biblical Flood are. Actually, Woodmorappe's book is full of "could be's" and "might be's" as a means of propping up the Biblical Flood story. And there are numerous in-depth critiques of his book on the web from far more qualified geologists than Woodmorappe. In fact there are plenty of critiques of "Flood geology" written by some of Dan's fellow evangelical Chrisians like Dan Wonderly, Alan Hayward, Hugh Ross, Glenn Morton, not to mention the American Scientific Affiliation that consists of evangelical Christians who are scientists. ...In fact many early Christian geologists are the ones who first rejected "Flood geology" based on the plain evidence of the rocks themselves (the strict divisions in the fossil record -- right down to even fossil fragments and microfossils being carefully separated, even the chalk and coal layers in England not mixing, not to metion the tracks left by live land animals, the nests of dinosaurs with hatched eggs intact inside the nest, meaning it took time to mate, build a nest, lay an egg, gestate the egg, have it hatch, and then on a layer above that, having the same things happen again, and even paleosols [fossilized soil horizons]). The revival of "Flood geology" is a recent phenomenon, spurred on during the early 1960s by Henry Morris's The Genesis Flood, a book with so many misunderstandings of the geological record (the photos of the Lewis Overthrust in that book aren't even of the Lewis Overthrust!) that even Morris's Institute for Creation Research and the staff geologists there like Steve Austin, have backed down from continuing to defend many arguments in that book, from the debunked Paluxy "man-tracks," to the "human skull in coal," even to the Lewis Moutain Overthrust, that ICR now accepts was an overthrust and not evidence against the geologic column.


Dave---f adds his view that "Christianity hangs upon Genesis," by which I suppose he means, "Genesis as I understand it." But that is a matter best taken up with his fellow Christians who are old-earth and theistic evolutionists, who disagree with dave...


Emotional apostasies backed by pseudo-scientific "reasoning", June 16, 2002

Reviewer: dave---f from Brisbane, Australia

The essays in this book are yet more proof that people apostatize from their professed Christian faith because they don't like being accountable to their Creator. Then they find it easy to rationalize and pretend that their rejection of Christianity is because of 'evidence'.


A case in point are the essays giving ... attacks on Noah's Flood and Ark as their 'reasons' for rejecting the Bible. John Woodmorappe's book "Noah's Ark: A Feasibility Study" shows how fallacious and even dishonest these attacks are. All the apostates can do is spout on about Ockham's razor (never mind that Ockham was a strong Christian) and fail to address the points or admit the many crass blunders.


But a good thing to come out of this book is how Christianity hangs upon Genesis. It's significant that the many of the contributors are a virtual who's who of the amateurs active in the Internet anti-creationist world. It shows that they need to keep fighting creation to justify their rebellion against their Creator.


Testimony to the Failure of Fundamentalism, December 30, 2001

Reviewer: Kevin R. Henke from Lexington, KY

I contributed a chapter to this book. Some have accused me and the other authors of this book of not having sincere conversions or not wanting to be "accountable" to a "creator." Because no one, including these "know-it-all" accusers, can know the minds of the authors of this book, I will only speak for myself. My conversion and deconversion testimonies in this book are entirely SINCERE. I wanted salvation. I committed my life to Christ and I encouraged others to do so. However, after I read the Bible, and especially the false prophecies in Revelation and the countless contradictions in the Gospels, I realized that the claims of Christianity were false. Also, I could no longer swallow the irrational and far-fetched excuses that fill the "Christian apologetics" literature. As discussed in my essay, the arguments used by fundamentalists are no different than the feeble and subjective attempts by Mormons to defend their "scriptures." The excuse-making of the "apologeticists" clearly violates the Principle of Parsimony (that is, "Ockham's Razor": a principle that now goes far beyond the embryonic thoughts of William of Ockham).


I finally had the courage to stop lying to myself and admit that the claims of the Bible are wrong. Fundamentalism FAILED us. The authors of Babinski's book discovered alternatives, which they found to be more realistic, fulfilling and moral than Christian fundamentalism. At the same time, it's just so easy for fundamentalists to blame the victims of fundamentalism rather than be adults and responsibly admit that there are SERIOUS problems with fundamentalism and its interpretations of the Bible.


My moral life has not changed since I left Christianity, so there's no evidence that I left because of any "love for the world." Indeed, a person would have to be insane to turn down a REAL offer for eternal paradise. I would like nothing better than to have eternal life, but conclusive evidence (some of which is presented in this book) says it's an illusion. Therefore, I prefer to be an honest agnostic with a clear conscience than a frustrated and self-deceived Bible fundamentalist.


Does "A reader" have the real thing?, May 26, 2000

Reviewer: Michael Zanussi from Albuquerque, NM USA

I chuckled when I read "A reader" from Chicago in his/her review ask, "Is it possible that they mistook an emotional or cultural experience for a real receiving of Christ as Savior?" as if that somehow answered why these "fallen" individuals are no longer fundamentalist Christians. I found it amusing because, in fact, I've always wondered the same thing about professing fundamentalist Christians themselves, whether that is the reason why they believe the way they do.


One would surmise from the negative reviews that these former fundamentalists are now heathen unbelievers, but such is not the case, as one would realise had they read the book itself. True, some have become atheists, but the majority of the testimonies presented were from fundmentalists who are now moderate/liberal Christians, or non-Christians (i.e., some religion other than Christianity), or simply agnostic. I suppose it is inevitable that these individuals would come under fire for abandoning their fundamentalist, evangelical beliefs, but isn't that decision between themselves and their maker (if they believe in one)? Who are we to judge them for their decision, their change of heart?


As I see it, this book, this collection of biographies, is a study of the human heart and intellect. These individuals looked at their life, their beliefs, and their world, and decided that they were following the wrong path. For us the readers, it's a chance to see into their minds and understand the change that was going on within them, and ultimately the reasons why they decided fundamentalist Christianity was not for them. Is there something so wrong in that? Can we not learn from these people? Are one's beliefs so fragile that they fear ideas that are polar opposites to their own will destroy their own beliefs?


If that is indeed the case, and if I felt that way, I'd begin to wonder just exactly why I believe the way I do myself.


How Evangelical Christians Rate Books "Outside the Fold", May 11, 2000

Reviewer: A reader from Greer, South Carolina

The "Reviewer" who gave this book but one star has either not read it, or, not digested its contents. Like a lot of reviews written by people of an evangelical faith he rates it with only "one star" because he disagrees with its contents on apriori religious grounds and hopes to discourage others from being contaminated by its contents (not because the book was written badly or researched badly or lacked interesting information - it is in fact, written well, researched fastidiously, and contains much interesting information not found in other such works).


Predictably, the reviewer suggests a "better" book that agrees with his particular evangelical faith, like "Why Christian Kids Leave the Fold." Such a "review" is both "sad" and "not surprising," and says more about the reviewer than the book he has "reviewed."


To put what I said above in perspective, even having "left the fold" I, for instance, have not searched for books by Evangelical Christians to give them only "one star" and then suggest that readers would be better off reading "Leaving the Fold" instead. (Though come to think of it, what better way to try and draw attention to books you wish others to read. Though such "non-reviews" are also an annoyance to those of us seeking to gain knowledge from a book review. ...


As for the naive and deprecating comments concerning "people leaving the faith" due to their pursuit of "sinful pleasures," it proves the "Reviewer" never read the book, because he ignores the rational arguments and reasons given by those who left Christianity, moreover, fully a third of the book's testimonies were written by fundamentalistic Christians who REMAINED CHRISTIANS after leaving their "fundamentalistic" beliefs and/or attitudes behind. Neither have "most of those who have fallen away" in the book ever returned to their former "fundamentalistic" ways or views. You can look up a number of them on the web and ask them for yourself. And one of the contributors in this book was Billy Graham's best friend and a former evangelist, whose book, "Farewell to God: My Reasons For Rejecting the Christian Faith" was published just this year.


Lastly, I have read the book the "Reviewer" suggests, "Why Christian Kids Leave the Fold," and I'd like to say that a close friend of the person who wrote that book, whom the author knew to be one of the brightest and most enthusiastic Evangelical Christians he'd ever met, left the fold, never to return. The author's conclusion and embarrassing admission after he saw that happen to such a close dear Evangelical Christian friend was that intelligent and enthusiastic Christians who love Christ, can and do "leave the fold."


(Just to keep the playing field level and "average out" the scoring of this alleged "review," I think I'll give this book five stars.)


Sad But Neither Complete Nor Surprising, May 8, 2000

Reviewer: A reader

This book lacks the proper context about those who abandon a profession in Christ. When many of Christ's disciples stopped following Him, He was not surprised. To the contrary; He gave the following challenge to the remaining disciples: "Will you also go away?" (John 6:67). The Lord never forces anyone to follow Him. Nor is it at all surprising that apostates can often find a fulfilling life without Him. After all, the Bible recognizes that sin is pleasurable (Hebrews 11:25)--that is, for a season. Finally, the book is woefully incomplete in that it totally ignores those who fall away for whatever reason but then return to active practice of the Faith. The book "Why Christian Kids Leave the Faith" is much more informative overall, and especially in regard to the latter issue. Most of those who fall away eventually come back.


Yes Chicago, IL - we are legion., April 10, 2000

Reviewer: Michael from Brisbane, Australia

After reading the reviewer from Chicago, please take the time to read Mr Babinski's full comments. I read a library copy of this book and have now placed it on my birthday list. It's greatest value is for people like me, ex born again Christians. 'Chicago, IL' can't imagine the other side of the great divide you pass through when you 'come out' of Christianity, but WE know and Mr Babinski's subjects do. If you once loved Jesus, worshipped him and shared the gospel with others but now find yourself in a wilderness, take heart! This book is a great first step to discovering 1)You're not alone in this experience and 2)A joyful and rewarding life still awaits you.


Did They Ever Have the Real Thing?, February 3, 2000

Reviewer: A reader from Chicago, IL

Various reasons are given for leaving the faith. Some, for instance, clearly bought into humanistic ideas. Others fell into sin. However, most if not all of the authors in this anthology testify to once having "gone up to the altar" and "feeling saved". Is it possible that they mistook an emotional or cultural experience for a real receiving of Christ as Savior? Or, as the Biblical Demas, did they simply fall in love with the world?


OUCH! NOT AT EASE IN ZION, December 15, 1999

Reviewer: A reader from Orange, California

Parts of this book are painful for those of us who are still Christian believers, but Ed Babinski has done a superb job of bringing together a wealth of material and presenting it clearly and efficiently. Not all Christians could read through such a litany of disillusionments without going into depression (just as not all anti-Christians could read through it without gloating). I think this book is too harsh for naive, well-meaning Fundamentalists, but that it contains valuable information for moderate and conservative Evangelicals who care about truth even when it hurts. Mature Christians, seminary students, and seminary professors would do especially well to ponder and discuss the contents of this book.


There are others like me--what a relief!, November 6, 1997

Reviewer: A reader from Greenville, South Carolina

There are other atheists who are former Christian fundamentalists--I am not alone! Some of them had, as I did, ties to Bob Jones University, perhaps the foremost incubator of fundamentalists. After reading "Leaving the Fold," I felt free to talk openly, for the first time, about my recanting Christianity. I even told my family--incorrigible fundamentalists! I am indebted to Mr. Babinski.



MID-TO LATE 1980s

In those years I produced and edited two zines (each of which grew thicker by leaps and bounds, and featured contributions from Dr. Howard Van Till, Dr. Conrad Hyers, Mark Hartwig (of Origins Research), Rev. Robert Farrar Capon, and Robert Anton Wilson; the zines were titled, Theistic Evolutionists’ Forum, and, Monkey’s Uncle, copies of which can be found in the Iowa State Library’s Creation-Evolution collection and indexed in World Cat/OCLC). I also composed my first manuscript, "Does the Bible Teach Scientific Creationism?"




SCHOLARS REVIEW MY FIRST MANUSCRIPT

Gustavus Adolphus College

May 30, 1984

Dear Ed, Thanks for sending your manuscript on creation myths. I have read it with keen interest and found it profitable. Lots of research, well marshaled.

Best wishes,

Dr. Conrad Hyers--Former Bob Jones University student who continued his religious studies and became Chair of Religion at Gustavus Adolphus College (now retired), author of The Meaning of Creation: Genesis and Modern Science (Word, 1984). Also author of the online article: "Genesis Knows Nothing of Scientific Creationism: Interpreting and Misinterpreting the Biblical Texts"




Concord College

Dear Mr. Babinski:

Thanks for sending me your book manuscript, Does the Bible Teach Scientific Creationism? I have read it and am delighted because it seems to do the kind of thing that I have been saying for years needs to be done by someone: detailed critiques of creationist Biblical scholarship that parallel the detailed critiques of creationist scientific scholarship that have been produced by the scientific community. Biblical cosmology, as you describe it, is summarized in a diagram in The Interpreter’s Bible and is well known to reputable Bible scholars. But what you have done is to bring together a large number of Biblical and other citations that make it very difficult to shrug this interpretation off as a concoction of 1iberal
theologians, or, indeed, to accept any other conclusion -- and all in a form readily accessible to the layman. At least, so it seems to me... I believe you have written a much-needed resource.

Best wishes,

Sincerely,

Dr. Karl D. Fezer—Retired professor and author of Scholarly World, Private Worlds: Thinking Critically About Science, Religion, and Your Private Beliefs




University of Denver / Center for Judaic Studies

November 21 1984

Dear Mr. Babinski,

Enclosed is the manuscript you had sent me that I have now read with great
pleasure and benefit. As you mentioned, your approach is somewhat similar to what I had undertaken and, I think, that you have done a very nice job... I congratulate you on a thorough and nicely done job.

Sincerely,

Dr. Frederick E. Greenspahn--Judaic studies professor and ordained rabbi, he has said that the purpose of the Bible’s creation narratives is “to interpret the meaning of the universe rather than to make a scientific statement as to its origin or history.” Also author of the online article, “Biblical Views of Creation”




Gonzaga University

May 7, 1985

Dear Mr. Babinski:

I have read over your ms carefully. I am, of course, in complete agreement with your position on Creation and science. As a Biblical scholar I consider the creationism of Henry Morris and others as wrong; far from being scientific it is a camouflage for the religious tenets of a politically active group of Biblical fundamentalists.

Frederick L. Moriarty, S.J.--Visiting Professor in Biblical Studies

(author of Introduction to the Old Testament)




LEAVING THE FOLD


Leaving the Fold: Testimonies of Former Fundamentalists, Ed., Edward T. Babinski (Prometheus Books, 1995). One county library received complaints and removed the book for review, but later placed it back on the shelves after no complaints were voiced at the review meeting that had been advertized in the press. I was phoned by a South Carolina public radio news person to make a statement concerning the attempt at library censorship of my book by residents of the aforementioned county; and two front page local newspaper articles carried the story regarding the “Controversial Religious Book Banned in Anderson County," as did a national censorship watch group.




Dear Ed

I hate you.

I sat down with "Leaving the Fold" last night at 9:30. Before I knew it, it was 2 in the morning! And I had to get up at 6!

Thanks a lot.

verrrrrrrry interesting. A lot of quite amusing anecdotes.

I'm amazed at how similar your and my own "testimonies" are. We're about the same age (I graduated high school in 1976) and I recognized all those same authors and books that were a part of your (and other peoples') early Christian development.

Good job,

Bryan




Mr. Babinski: I read your book and found it very entertaining. Do you by chance have an email address for David Stamos, the ex-New Apostolic Church member? Thanks,

Ralph




Mr. Babinski, I read your book, Leaving the Fold, two years ago. Your book was the beginning of my exodus from fundamentalism. I have always wanted to thank you.

Thank you.

A.V. Puglisi




Hello Mr. Babinski, I happened to find your book, _Leaving the Fold_, on Amazon and recognized your name. I wrote you some years ago when you were editing your evolution/creation newsletter. At the time, I was a strong believer in creationism, and with the arrogance of my (relative) youth, thought I could take you on in argument. You sent me an envelope full of stuff I just couldn't answer.

As a result, I am an ex-creationist, although I still remain unsure about a lot of things. But then that's partially what life is about, yes? Learning to live with a certain amount of ambiguity and uncertainty without becoming a raving dogmatist. And it is just this that fundamentalists can't seem to grasp… Anyway, thanks for opening my very closed, insecure mind.

Regards,

ASH




Having just purchased Babinski's book, "Leaving The Fold" just a few days ago, I noticed that the creationist webmaster, J. Scott, who had tried setting up an alternative to the talk origins archive, is displaying the classic characteristics of one who's doing just that, leaving the fold. Clearly, he's still in a state of confusion. As I said before, we should leave him alone for a while, and watch him carefully to ensure that all of this isn't just a bluff. Time will tell.

[Time did tell, J. Scott left the creationist fold, here is his testimony]

By the way Ed, that is one great book. It's downright spooky.

[The same kind person, above, sent me the email below. --ETB]


Hi Ed. I love your book. Are you considering a sequel? I notice your book calls testimony a powerful force for those leaving the fold. But don't you feel that folks in your book also want to give their testimony so they could at least attempt to come to terms with why the did what they did and why they thought what they thought? I know that I'm haunted by my religious past every day. If I were to write my own testimony that would certainly be part of my motivation. Anyway, congrats on a great book.

P. Stromberg

Pacific Northwest Skeptics




I read Edward Babinski's "Leaving the Fold", and the testimonies in that book were compelling. (How shocking it was for me, with my Calvinist training, that people really "lost" their salvation!) I had to admit eventually that I no longer believed all the fundamentalist doctrines about hell fire, Biblical inerrancy, wives submitting to husbands, etc.

I stopped attending my church a year ago. It was hard: I still have friends there, and much of my Christian life was marvelous... When I was a young believer it was so exciting to hear Bible doctrine and to witness to others. As I grew older I stopped witnessing, and those previously exciting Bible stories seemed boring.

Right now I'm somewhere between being a liberal Christian and a secularist. Who knows how it will end up? I'm in no rush to come up with the "right" answer. I can't deny that when I was born again my life immediately changed, but if that was the Spirit working in me, then the Spirit seems to have given up on me in recent years.

Bill




Ed, I have written you once before congratulating you on your superb book of testimonies.... Do you have any more papers on creationism or ex-Christian stuff?

Thanks,

A. Nielsen




Mr. Babinski, Thanks for the list. I'll look into it right away. By coincidence I just today finished your book "Leaving the Fold". :)

K. Brown




Hi Ed, and thanks for the response. Yes, I have read "Leaving the Fold", and need to read it again. Unfortunately, I don't have complete freedom to explore materials of that type due to the extreme amount of discomfort it generates for my dear wife..... Although not a fundie per se, she has definite leanings towards it. Right now, she's deep into the "Left Behind" novels, etc. Thankfully, I don't get preached at, she's not that kind. Her concern is totally based on the fear that I will one day step out too far onto the path ending at Hell's gate. In her defense, if the situation was reversed, and I was leaning toward religious fundamentalism, or toward fundamentalism of any sort, I am sure I would not be near as subtle as she has been... She has a deep need to be "in church", and the last 4-5 years have been very difficult for her. Formerly, our social life TOTALLY revolved around the church, we were church leaders, choir members, etc. As I recall (after reading "Leaving the Fold"), I had hoped at some point to be able to have some person to person dialogue with you. I'll be a little reticent to talk about certain things in the ***** forum [I deleted the name of the forum for this person’s privacy—ETB], it's a little too public! If (and only if) you are open to it, I would welcome some direct conversation between us.

I would love to take a peek at your upcoming Chicken Soup for the Damned Soul manuscript, at your discretion.

[This kind person also sent me the message below.—ETB]

My, my, how the coincidences continue to stack up!

I was just perusing your "Chicken Soup For the Damned Soul" manuscript that you sent. Sorry that I didn't acknowledge the receipt earlier--this mail comes to work, so I don't have to worry about worrying my wife with any of this stuff...

The chicken soup manuscript is incredible! Thank you so much for sharing!

You've obviously spent considerable time on this project. Maybe one of the best plusses for me is the list of additional resources you've tacked to the end.


While the wife was out shopping (and I was brewing a batch of beer) on Saturday, I had a chance to sneak another peak at the "Leaving the Fold" book. We definitely have some common past experiences though you are more well read, and a better researcher than I am! I had been thinking about some of the things I wanted to "bounce" off of you, and a couple of them reared their ugly little heads in your manuscript. While involved in the Pentecostal church I read/studied extensively with some of the following material/authors/historical figures: "Caught Up Into Paradise" by Richard Eby, Smith Wigglesworth, Jack Van Impe (you name it - Revelation Revealed, etc.), Grant Jeffrey (heard him speak several times and bought a bunch of books/tapes - the Pastor of the A/G church we were going to had performed the marriage ceremony for Grant and his wife). It is astounding to me considering the fervor and volume of material that these folks pump out, that there isn't anything you can seek your teeth into! How can people write stuff like this without there being any beef in it? As a starry eyed fundie, you just accept the stuff "on faith" because that's what you are conditioned to do. The fact that a sincere and (supposed) expert is telling you that "the end is near" makes it all but impossible to deny... I was convinced that the ark of the covenant was about to be revealed any day to the modern world, according to Jeffrey. I was convinced that the tribulation was right around the corner according to Van Impe. I was sure that God could still do miraculous healings like the ones attributed to Smith Wigglesworth... And then there's all the 700 Club junk reporting healings during prayer, Pat Robertson mania, and Focus on the Family trying to take over the political world.... the volume is deafening to say the least...
And yet, we reach full circle again from my original post to the **** forum: the expectations simply don't match up to the (boring) day to day reality... and the fundies like to talk about non-believers being "blinded by Satan"?!? Then what are they blinded by? If all this stuff is happening and is REAL, there ought to be boatloads of incontrovertible evidence! Not emotional stories, but hard core see-it-for-yourself results. You mentioned Benny Hinn in chicken soup... I was completely offended at the one and only "crusade" we attended. This was right at the time when my cognitive dissonance was first emerging. The whole thing was ridiculous, even from a Pentecostal perspective!

My dear wife is convinced that people like the calmer non-Pentecostal preacher, Charles Stanley, have all the answers. What's worse, is that I was the one that prayed with her to "receive the Lord." I'm not sure what that means any more... She always looked to me to provide spiritual direction, and my doubts and re-evaluations have thrown her for a loop!

She agrees that there is room for doubt--she herself has taken a peek at some of the "heretical" literature I've looked over, including "The Book Your Church Doesn't Want You to Read". I have decided NOT to be an anti-evangelist--she needs to come to her own conclusions.

Peace and Long Life,

R.




Mr. Babinski, I read "Leaving The Fold" a couple of months ago and found it extremely helpful and fun to read. I want to personally thank you for putting together such a book. What do you do these days? Write, lecture, or teach? Thank you for your time,

Paul




Hi Ed, I received your book last night and I really like it. Naturally, I jumped right to page 206 to read your testimony first. I'm now an expert on you. Feel free to ask me anything you might want to know about yourself. And I know you said that one atheist reviewer didn't like your notes but I think your notes are great. They're so meaty you could probably put them in a separate book! Personally, I always enjoy reading an author's notes. Author notes are right up there with bibliographies on my list of what attracts me to a book. Of course, what the book is actually about is also important. If your book had been about cheese mold I don't think notes and a bibliography would overcome my basic lack of interest in such things. I really enjoyed reading your testimony and I think it is a good mix of story and information. I didn't just learn about you, but I also feel that I got a mini education in biblical criticism. I think that's a very effective way to teach. Have you ever thought about teaching?

I'm sure I'll have more comments and questions later, but for now I'll just say that I'm very impressed and I think you've done a good thing for the world by writing that book.

Appreciatively,

Dan




Hi Ed, I'm thinking of putting together a 6-8 wk workshop on leaving fundamentalism. I'd prefer to have handouts to expose people to books like yours. Could I have your permission use your book in class, and to perhaps photocopy a short piece from it? I would certainly talk it up, and suggest that people buy it. Also, do you know of anyone who is doing anything similar? Might you have suggestions for a syllabus? How are your projects going?

Ms. P.




Hi Ed, I have almost finished reading your book and want to commend you for a job well done! As one who has left evangelicalism himself, I am encouraged by reading the many stories. Currently, I am in a period of transition, not knowing exactly where I will end up. Your own story is very interesting, and I find your agnosticism optimistic.

I do know that I want to challenge evangelicalism, if for no other reason than to protect people from its abuses. I've emailed you before about how I might get the message out there, and you had mentioned that your book had sold only about a thousand copies. [Over 2500 copies sold by 2005, but not sure what the numbers are since it went paperback. Though there are now four different books titled, “Leaving the Fold” at amazon.com—ETB.] It seems the written media does not provide a lot of coverage, at least in book form.

What about radio? I have six plus years in media (local host of a public access TV show called Life Issues) and can articulate my views well. In fact I was told recently by a leader in the Conservative Baptist Association here in the Northeast that I am very persuasive. He said it negatively. I took it as a complement. Anyway, I would love to tell my story over the airwaves. If you have any ideas, I would love to hear them.

Thanks!

M. Emurian




Dear Dr. Babinski [I am not a doctor. That’s perhaps what people think of when they imagine authors of books on religion or science.—ETB], I heard of your book "Leaving the Fold" (Prometheus Books 1995) from Glenn Morton during a discussion on the ASA. Would you be so kind as to sell me a copy? Please let me know what your price is and cost of postage.

Yours sincerely,

S. D. Olsen Ph.D

Norway



Ed: I read about your book, "Leaving the Fold," at amazon.com, and feel it will be a very good one for me to read. It sounds like we have a lot in common as to our respective fundamentalist pasts. I too spent about ten years in zealous leadership and apologetic ministries (having come out of 15 years of drug addiction); and I too finally became very disillusioned. I still seem to bounce between guilt, anger, and apathy regarding having left the church; but peace I have not yet found. I look forward to reading the book.

[This kind person later sent me the following email.—ETB]

I just wanted to drop a line to let you know that Leaving the Fold arrived from Amazon.com today. As promised, I will get back to you after reading it. I may be of some use on your next work. I still consider myself a Christian, but I don't think Jesus fits into the modern church that bears his name any more than I do.

Best Regards,

Pat




Hi Ed, Thanks for the info. I'll get a copy when I return home from my present trip.

Thanks again.

K. Shei

Atheists for Jesus




I look forward to reading your book.

Sincerely,

Professor Mark Noll--Christian historian and author, Wheaton College

(Billy Graham's Alma Mater)




Dear Edward, I recently read your brief story on http://www.infidels.org/. It very nearly parallels my own… Thank you for sharing your story… There are so many of "us" out there with stories to tell... both the joy and the pain of our experiences with restrictive religions. My son in law is an ex Catholic priest... now an Episcopalian priest, but very progressive (as much as you can be in any organized group) I keep pretty quiet about my own views... not many I know share them. I still have some anxiety and related problems from my experiences in the church, but I am working hard to remember who I was before I gave up so much.

Thanks again for the note,

E. Valli




Hi Ed, I read your condensed "leaving the fold" testimony on the internet, but haven't read your book yet. I will check at the library to see if they can get a copy... By the way I am a former fundamentalist minister, who graduated from Bob Jones University (not far from Furman University) with a Masters in Christian Ed. I self published a little book about my experiences... [Escape From Depression by David Goliath, ISBN 0-936407-02-6]

Thanks,

Jerry




Ed, I hope you persist in looking for a publisher for your second book because I'm sure it is only a matter of time and effort to get your manuscript published. I don't know that I have read anything quite so helpful as your quotes on ending the fear of hell, Satan and of making the wrong wager. I'm many years out of fundamentalism but still have lingering irrational doubts on occasion in spite of knowing how illogical and impossible these teachings are. I have saved what you wrote to read at such times.

Carol




Hello Ed, I was researching articles on the Internet regarding Christian Fundamentalism to help a friend who is conflicted. I spent 6 years in a Southern Baptist church before I left several years ago. You have a wonderful website and I thank you for all of the information you have compiled. Thank you once again for your terrifically informative and helpful website. God Bless you and your family.

Sincerely,

J. Ebbe




Hi Ed, I'm an old correspondent of yours. :-) I just thought you'd like this deconversion story I found. Based from this homepage.


Ken's deconversion testimony is probably the most captivating, sincere, detailed, and dramatic I've read. He even mentions reading your book! If you ever write a second edition for your book, Ken's would make an awesome addition.

Take care,

Jason




Dear Mr. Babinski, Thank you for your website. [I deleted her lengthy and personal testimony about coming out of an Orthodox Jewish fundamentalist background.—ETB] Wow! Thanks for all of those leads. I will be looking into this with much vigor. Your time and effort is most appreciated. If appropriate, I'll let you know if I discover anything noteworthy. I look forward to purchasing your book.

Sincerely,

D. Ann




Ed, I started reading your book Leaving the Fold this week, and I have to extend a GIGANTIC thank you for writing and getting it published! [I deleted her discussion of the fundamentalist mindset.—ETB] Thanks so very much for being bold enough to put it out there. I can just imagine the hate mail you must get! So count mine on the good stack. :) Thanks for the recommendations for additional reading--I'll definitely look into it. I have to share one experience I had recently with you! I'm a member of an online community, in which there is one zealous born-again who never hesitates to spew quotes and 'absolute certainty' at every turn. I
happened to mention offhand to the community that I was reading your book, and provided a link to it on Amazon.com.


They replied: "They were NOT Christians! They never knew Christ!"

I didn't respond. Partly because I don't know what to say other than, "Define 'knew'." Normal logic just doesn't work, and I don't know if I have the energy to talk to these nuts, or if it's even worth my time! It's almost like they are alcoholics, but with the Bible. Like it's a vital crutch which they can't live without. And once they start on it, they can't stop.


What started my interest on this topic was my missing my sister. [I deleted her personal discourse about her sister—ETB.]... I think I can understand evangelical folks much more compassionately, given those explanations that you [Ed] provided…I don't want to destroy the framework of living that my sister has become so comfortable with. However, I hear her echo the same feelings about missing her sisters and family. I also have two other sisters who don't share her religious excitement. Maybe it's her attachment to it that she feels when she says she also misses us, not only b/c we will be "gone forever" when we die (since we're not in the fold), but b/c of what she would have to give up to be "accepted" with her original family again. It must be a very tough position she's in to feel like she can't have both her families! :(


…And quite honestly, I have no problem whatsoever with people who need and have religion in their lives. I'm just tired of having the agenda shoved down my throat. I do wish there was some middle ground, as you say. What I wouldn't give just to have a conversation like this with Judy!... In some weird way, I'm reassured that no one can really force anyone to feel or think a certain way, and now that I have better insight into how they view things, it's not necessary to be threatened or defensive always. Just sometimes. :D Thanks for taking time with me.

B. Shankle




Ed, I came across your Web site while doing a google search for a supposition of mine about a self-fulfilling prophecy of the end times, and I must say that, as someone who groveled in Christian fundamentalism for ten years, five of them as a dyed-in-the-wool deacon, I find your research and observations to be a much-needed breath of fresh air…[Deleted exegetical comments.—ETB] Speaking of the Bible’s alleged predictions, especially regarding Israel, you stress that they are self-fulfilling. I agree…[Deleted exegetical comments—ETB] I appreciate your consideration of my questions. As for myself, I wouldn’t say that I have necessarily rejected my beliefs. Rather, I would say I rejected my former dogmatic interpretations of those beliefs. People can legitimately and sincerely understand and approach God in their own unique ways according to their culture, customs and traditions. But when people consign others to hell for not agreeing with their specific and exclusive views of God (which ironically also happens to be the case within Christianity), the God they believe in is certainly neither a God of mercy nor a God of unconditional love.

Thank you, and God Bless!

Raj




Dear Ed, As you can see, I work in a library, too. What do you do in yours? I just came across "Leaving the Fold" while I was weeding ("Leaving" stayed, no pun intended) and snapped it up to check out. Wow! I could have easily written one of the "testimonies" and I laughed out loud through some of yours. It is so the way it was in places with me. Hal Lindsay and everything. I graduated from a fundamentalist church related college in the 60's, so the opportunities for questioning were limited, but I did take a class on the Life and Teachings of Christ where the teacher talked about opposing viewpoints and left the conclusions up to us. That was mighty liberal of him. It did make me think, and through the next couple of years and getting married and having our first child, I had some serious doubts about my beliefs. But then I did have that little girl, and about the same time picked up a copy of "Late Great Planet Earth" and was sucked very deep into all of it again, mostly on emotion and need to find answers for a number of less than ideal aspects of my life.


It wasn't until about 10 years ago when various and sundry things took place in my life that I once again allowed myself to back away and take a better look. None of the things came to pass as I expected for remaining "faithful" through the years. So, here I am, a former fundamentalist, an agnostic, but a practicing Episcopalian (which participants, by the way, do drink out of the same communion cup) finding much needed spiritual community after being non-churched for several years and making a move cross-country. It is okay to be a skeptic in the Episcopal Church, and I find comfort in the sacraments and old Christian symbolism. Sometimes I truly miss the traditional Evangelical music (which really doesn't exist much anymore what with the new fangled mega churches and their media praise displays) and devotional emphases. But all I need to do is remind myself of the many "anti" positions of that genre of faith, and I know I can never again be part of something that narrow and scary. I didn't mean to make this lengthy. I just wanted to say thanks for helping people like us to know there are others and suggesting some intelligent ways to deal with it.

J. Miller

Ref. Librarian




Hello Ed! I just wanted to tell you, though I'm sure I'm not the 1st to do so, that your page is amazing!! I even had to pass it along to the members of my web ring and my friends. Thank you and your wonderful webmaster for putting what must be a large amount of energy into this website.

Sincerely,

Jenn




Ed, Thank you profusely for your thoughtful and purposeful work in the area of working toward a meaningful view of the individual's place in this world and this life. The service you are rendering is worth more than I can ever repay.

R. Greig




Ed, Fantastic articles! I'll definitely be linking to your site. Now get crankin' on that second book. I'll be the first in line to buy a copy. Consider selling a limited number of autographed copies for devoted website fans.

Corky




Dear Ed: Thanks so much for actually taking the time to reply. I had recently come across your site as I was researching fundamentalism. My background was in the charismatic churches (Vineyard, Calvary and similar small groups) via the "Jesus Movement" of the 1970s. I came to Christianity through a former high school teacher-mentor-friend after my mother had died of cancer when I was 15. I was persuaded by my very intelligent and charismatic teacher (a Jewish convert to born again Christianity) and became a Christian at 17 and had a somewhat on again off again involvement with the charismatic churches amidst many moves about the country until about 1990.


In the heyday of shepherding I had on a couple occasions been "rebuked" for my "resistance to authority, self-will, independence and rebellion," and general "ambivalence" about God and Christian ministry in general. Not to mention being told I asked too many questions and thought too much. Something I am quite proud of in retrospect.


I did not leave Christianity so much because of exhaustive apologetics research but the moral failures and "shepherding" abuse of the mentor pastors I was involved with, which led me to think, there's either something wrong with this religion or the teachers of it. That subsequently led me to apologetics and "discernment ministries" on the Internet -- all in the desperate hope to salvage what little faith I had. But the discernment ministries only led me to conclude that it must be by the luck of the draw that any body would be born at the right time and place and get the doctrinally correct version of the gospel to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus. Didn't add up with a God that desired that none should perish should also make it so difficult to find him...

The doctrines of "spiritual warfare," explanations for the problems of evil, suffering, death and hell seemed in the end untenable and certainly logically inconsistent with a loving God. The theodicy problem certainly continues to be a problem to me.

On the other hand I agree with the associated feelings you mentioned when you finally let go of the faith. [Deleted additional comments.—ETB]

I'll definitely be checking out your book.


Can't say as I would want to stick my neck out on the Internet the way you have. But I am glad you did. I would hope that true Christians would be able to understand the issues you have grappled with rather than judge you by what they perceive or misperceive your motives to be. Thanks again for writing!

Phil




Dear Ed: How extremely refreshing is your website and your book. I encourage you to circulate your ideas as widely as possible… Your message seems to be very gentle, loving and non-threatening (as was the true message of Jesus) and the true kernel of truth to be found in most of the world's religions.

I believe the true message of Jesus was completely at odds with that espoused by Evangelists. In fact, Jesus has no doubt been appalled at the death and destruction done in the name of Christianity throughout history. [Deleted additional comments.—ETB]

R. Saavedra




...An important insight came from Ed Babinski (thank you very much, Ed), who told me that religious beliefs can be internalized to the point that to attack them seems to be a personal attack; the defense is therefore not of a belief, but of the person defending their very selfhood, who they are. I hope I got that right. So by staying impersonal, when that is possible, I can make valid points and still avoid acute angles (pardon the geometry metaphors, "points" and "angles").

Duncan




MID TO LATE-1990s to 2005


In those years I produced a new zine, "Cretinism or Evilution," that the webmaster of the Talk Origins Archive heard about in a forum and asked to see copies of, and then asked if they could feature the issues digitally at their website.


Jeff Lowder of the Secular Web asked me to critique chapter 12 of Josh McDowell’s, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, "The Uniqueness of the Christian Experience." I contributed additional articles to the Secular Web, the most kudos going to one titled, "The Lowdown on God’s Showdown." The Secular Web created an "Author Page" for me in their "Modern Library" section.

One day a delightful woman, Sharon, who is a gifted website creator (and a former member of a fundamentalist religious group) googled up a post I had written somewhere on the web on cetacean evolution, and found it so interesting and apropos of the questions she had been asking that she contacted me and insisted we expand the post and add photos of modern whales with protruding hind limb rudiments, and solicit comments from leading cetacean evolution researchers. The enterprise was successful, after which she volunteered to fill several websites with any articles I may produce.




Ed, I just came across your "most provocative things" page at the talk origins archive while searching for the keywords "Darwin," "theodicy" and "wasps".

I read every entry.

Thank you for your excellent contribution to the intellectual commons.

-J. Rieger




Mr. Babinski, I am a freshman at the University of Wisconsin. I am writing a paper on the comparison of evolution and creationism. I stumbled upon your website and found your section on "Why we believe in a designer" to be quite interesting.

I plan on using it in my paper (with proper citations of course!).

Sincerely,

S. Creagan




[L. Wenke was a young-earth creationist in college and had created a website to battle evolution. Below is L.'s letter to Answers in Genesis in which he mentioned my name and the influence that a packet of geologist's reports I sent him on the Green River formation, had upon him. Sarfati of Answers in Genesis wrote L. a long letter urging him to reconsider the fact that what had been sent to him in that packet of materials was from an "apostate," and should not be heeded, only the word of God should be heeded. But L. refused to listen even to his former hero, Jonathan Sarfati of Answers in Genesis.]


Dear Answers in Genesis, I see you have a link to my creation-evolution website, "Dirt or Slime?" on your "Noah's Ark Site Chronology" page. I just killed that site today, so you should take that link off, because my pages no longer exist. About 2 months ago I became convinced that the earth is millions of years old by the Green River formation. I was sent material from a former young-earther (Ed Babinski) which included responses from creationists. Your article in Creation magazine raises no further evidence. Except that a hurricane left 6 inches of deposits. The formation is several hundred feet! It has dark and light layers and there are even layers with animal tracks and thin volcanic ash layers. There are 6 million layers and I think that means a layer every second or so, across many miles, if the Flood was true, etc. An old earth makes a lot more sense...


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