I regularly cross paths with people who were once evangelical and/or fundamentalist Christians but now identify as atheists or agnostics. My observations are anecdotal. I’ve not conducted a Chi-squared analysis, but I’ve noticed some commonalities as to why people abandon their belief system. In almost no cases is it because of some sin or moral failure. Instead, the reasons I’m observing fall into common categories.
· They were taught a view of God in which God was presented as a strict, intolerant, brutal warlord.
· The eschatology they were taught is toxic, escapist, and untenable.
· They were taught that the Bible is literally true, whereas it is clearly not scientifically accurate and it contains minor textual errors.
· They were taught that God hates LGBTQ+ folks.
· They were taught that unless a person purposely accepts Jesus, they will experience conscious torment forever.
· They were taught that humans popped into existence fully mature 6,000 years ago.
· They were taught that God created the world within the last 10,000 years in six 24-hour periods.
· They were taught that the only way God could save them was by brutally murdering his own son.
· They found more love and acceptance in other groups than they did in churches.
· They were taught in church that it is not only ok, but one’s patriotic duty to kill.
· The Christians they knew held extreme right-wing political views, embraced conspiracy theories, and supported policies that are racist, xenophobic, homophobic, and misogynist.
· “Pro-life” seemed to only apply to abortion. The same people were pro-gun, pro-capital punishment, and militaristic.
· Their churches were corporations run by highly paid CEO-types, doing relatively little to alleviate poverty, racism, or social injustice.
· They experienced abuse from church leaders.
· They experienced judgement and rejection from church people.
· They found no concern for environmental care in the church.
· They are unable to reconcile the reality of suffering with an all-powerful, good God.
I have a friend who owns an historic home. It was recently damaged in a storm, requiring them to move out for months while major demolition and new construction takes place. My faith has been kind of like that. I think I have personally faced every one of the issues listed above. Doing so lead me to do a great deal of deconstructing, a lot of demolition. But just as the bones of my friend’s house are strong, after I cleared out all the theological asbestos, I found a solid core.
His name is Jesus.
The theology I was taught in evangelical/fundamentalism was just surface structure. The foundation is Jesus. He didn’t go anywhere. I want to cry out to all those people, “Please, don’t throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater. Jesus probably doesn’t look like the guy your church called by that name. God is different that you were raised to believe. But God is real. God is love. God is welcoming. God is nice. God likes you. God would love to hang out with you.”
Shall we journey together more deeply into the divine heart?