Wednesday, November 5, 2008

How I Left Fundamentalism-- Part 1

The stories of my leaving-- excerpted from my book...

The introduction to this book begins with the words, “I was once a Christian absolutist.” I hope that I have demonstrated through some of the experiences related in these pages that I can honestly lay claim to the title. An absolutist? Really? Maybe the text leads the reader to doubt if I really ever fit the model. Was I truly part of “the fold?” Indeed I was. However, I must admit that the personality factors making me an absolutist contained the seeds of absolutism’s demise in my life. It is, in many ways, a question of logic.

One might think, after reaching this point in the text, that absolutists are some of the most illogical people on earth. That is true. However, here is another truism: Absolutists are some of the most logical people on the planet. This undoubtedly appears paradoxical. Still it is true. Absolutism possesses little logic when one examines it through the lens of scientism. Still there is another lens to look through as well—the lens of internal consistency. I am of the opinion that history bears out the idea that humans have deep religious inclinations. If one denies God, I firmly believe s/he will find a different god to lend meaning to his or her life. We simply cannot live without our gods. In denying the one God, in some measure, human existence is impoverished. Soon another god (or maybe we should say pseudo-god) will fill the void. I have always heard that our gods are what we worship, that which brings us ultimate meaning. It is here we find internal logical fits in.

Absolutism has a certain internal logic. If the entire Bible is completely without error, and if it is all of equivalent inspiration, the problems of absolutists become mathematical. Ultimate meaning is available in an additive sense. Consider, for example, the famous “Four Spiritual Laws” that lead to salvation. Here they are in order (as least the version I recall).

1. All people have sinned.

2. The “wages of sin is death” (and hell).

3. Christ paid the penalty for our sin.

4. Those who repent and believe the above propositions will find salvation.

I think one would be hard-pressed to find a passage or pericope in the scriptures containing all of the laws. So where then do they come from? They come from taking a scripture from here and adding it to one over there and next adding in this or that one. You can ignore the ones that do not fit because the entire Bible is inspired equally. Therefore, the Bible is an additive document. This is perfect for logical people. Once they are convinced of the inerrant truth of the Bible and the verbal, plenary nature of inspiration, the rest is pure logic. “Here a little, there a little,” it all just adds up. It is logical. People are by nature religious. Religion is confusing because it deals with the unknown. Now, however, we discover a system by which it all makes perfect sense.

It is true, I was an absolutist, but I never was a very good one. You see, I had both types of logic always going on in my mind. The logic of scientism made perfect sense to me (the reader will recall my struggles with evolution), and the logic of absolutism worked well too. I, like many absolutists, longed for order and a world that made sense. Both the logic of science and the logic of absolutism caused my world to appear more ordered and sensible. Always pulled from two directions, I became a bit of a “thorn in the flesh” to the absolutist leaders. I never could learn to stop “doubting my doubts,” as they so frequently recommended. Things worsened as the absolutist world began to seem more and more out of touch with my reality. Eventually, I reached the end of my rope. There were four events precipitating my leaving.

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