Fugitives from Fundamentalism

The Musings of Adult Missionary Kids (MKs) & Former Born-Again Believers

Archive for the ‘Essays on Belief’ Category

Godfather of the Adult Missionary Kid Bastards?

Posted by Clamence/The Chaplain on March 23, 2011

Giving Xians an offer they can't refuse

Despite the fact that most of my friends on Facebook are adult missionary kids (AMKs), for the most part, I am out of the loop when it comes to the Evangelical, fundamentalist missionary community. This makes sense, since I myself would likely be a topic of missionary circle gossip, being a lapsed Christian. Still, I have always found it hard to imagine that folks would find me an interesting topic for a conversation (or gossip, as the case may be). Sure, I find myself interesting, but what person with a (semi)healthy ego doesn’t? I don’t find the vast majority of my AMK friends in the least bit interesting. In fact, almost all of them are the most boring people I have ever encountered: most of them don’t care about literature, art or any music other than the kind that serves the utilitarian purpose of worshiping their god. Most of them pathologically read their Bibles and parrot verses and platitudes as a way of life. They are all the same–they have become sheep for the shepherd.

I had always assumed the feeling was mutual on the other side, that I would be seen as uninteresting due to my difference, so it came as a big surprise when I recently discovered I had been discussed in a missionary circle by someone I didn’t even know. What was said about me was not something I was expecting. If I had to imagine what Christian AMKs would say about me it would go something like this:

Sheep One: “Have you heard about Clamence?”
Sheep Two: “No, what about him?”
Sheep One: “Well, he’s turned his back on God and is this really arrogant atheist, and he even has this website where he talks about everything that’s wrong with God and Christians.”
Sheep Two: “Oh my goodness, that’s terrible!”
Sheep One: “I know! He was always so funny and friendly. It just goes to show how much energy Satan will put into attacking the children of those who carry out God’s most important work.”
Sheep Two: “Amen! So tell me more of the evil things he does…”

Since some variation of the above dialogue is what I expected, I steeled myself for this when a Christian AMK friend of mine (currently living in Africa) offhandedly mentioned that I had been a topic of conversation. Instead of reporting what I expected, he told me a Christian missionary had expressed admiration at “how you’ve taken all the ICA bastards under your wing,” and have “become the godfather for all those who have finally escaped fundamentalism and were rejected by their own families.” I received these thought-provoking comments a few months back, and I really didn’t know what to make of them. Here is what I said in response back then:

That’s interesting what you said about my being the Godfather of the fugitives. Haha! It’s interesting to hear about me when things trickle down the missionary grapevine. From my perspective, I’m just a guy who is shameless and outspoken about my worldview. Most MK non-believers I have observed have decided to simply extricate themselves from missionary and MK circles–they seem a little cowed into silence, from my perspective. I have always thought I have just as much of a right to hang out with MKs and missionaries as anyone else. The non-believing minority of MKs shouldn’t have to feel like they are social pariahs because they aren’t passing the missionary circle’s litmus test. I do realize some missionary circles will never be welcoming to a secular minority, but that just helps to emphasize their lack of tolerance. I don’t know about the accuracy of the mother hen metaphor; I don’t really know too many non-believing MKs, and I haven’t ever felt like their leader, or anything like that. I’m also not aware of anyone I know who was rejected by his family (unless “rejection” is meant in a less severe manner than I am imagining).

I think some of my confusion, resulting from all the “Godfather” and “ICA bastards” talk, was due to why this person (a missionary) who had admired the role I was supposedly playing had seen it in such a positive light. It took me awhile to figure out that this person is self-identifying as a moderate, non-fundamentalist Christian. In other words, this missionary is agreeing with me that fundamentalism is a negative thing, and he thinks that his form of belief is non-fundamentalist and (therefore) healthy. It was difficult for me to recognize that he was implying this, since I make little differentiation between types of Christians. To me, if you’re a Christian, the very root of your paradigm is absurd; any house built upon the sand of a falsehood will result in a way of interpreting the world that will collapse at the faintest wind of reason. The only real difference I see between a liberal Christian and a fundamentalist Christian is that the liberal ones have more of a live and let live attitude (and they’ll drink a beer with you); the fundies, on the other hand, have much more of a Hitler complex: they know the way the world should be, and they are damned sure going to try their hardest to force others to share that vision. To summarize: 1) Liberal Christians=enjoyable to hang out with, but preposterous ideas about upward-sky floating zombies and invisible creatures, 2) Fundie Christians=assholes.

Posted in Essays on Belief, Liberal Christians | 16 Comments »

Huffington Post Author Makes Weak Attempt to Understand Atheists

Posted by Clamence/The Chaplain on January 23, 2011

I meant to post this article, “Why Do Atheists Read the Religion Section?” when it first appeared on The Huffington Post two weeks ago. The author, Shira Hirschman Weiss, offers several possible answers to the question in her title. None of her answers are very credible, and a few of them show a real lack of understanding, when it comes to the internal workings of the non-believer’s mind. Her underlying assumption–that atheists actually go to the religious section to read the articles–is a bit suspect. After all, I only read her article because it was featured on the front page of The Huffington Post and had the word “atheists” in it. I don’t want to belabor the point though, since I have read the religious section of the local paper numerous times.

My very simple answer to her question relates back to her statement that “Atheists want to be well-informed.” Exactly, but I don’t think it is for the same reason she assumes: “to keep up with all that they’re contesting.” And it most certainly isn’t her other explanation that “some self-professed atheists may actually be agnostics who are seeking answers to address internal doubts.” The real reason atheists will bother to read an essay written from a religious perspective, and have more knowledge about religion in general than even believers do, is probably due to the fact that we read more than believers. For the most part, believers just aren’t a very curious or intellectual bunch.

It wasn’t too surprising to see that the best explanations for why atheists read the religion section come from the atheists quoted in the article. An atheist who writes for The Huffington Post religion section, Alex Wilhelm, is quoted as saying, “I must admit that I read the religion section partially for a laugh,” Wilhelm wrote to me, “Why else? To keep an eye on things that I am wary of: anti-intellectualism, pseudo-science, lying to children, extremism, scriptural literalism, anti-blasphemy laws and the like. If you don’t know what you are up against, you can’t fight it as well as you could or should. I am for a free and secular society where the individual is protected from not just the majority, but from the moral laws of the religious. And so while I do read the oddest articles for a cheap chuckle, I tend to read to gird myself to protect individual liberty.” I love this explanation, but my reasons for reading articles on religion and by the religious are so much simpler! I just like to read. Period. If a headline catches my attention, I will read it, and there are no higher motives involved at all.

The thing about reading that really drew me in at a young age is the experience of living through the thoughts, feelings, and actions of someone other than myself. If you have ever tried to get a believer to place themselves in the shoes of another–just as a simple exercise to illustrate a point–I’m guessing you soon found yourself banging your head against a wall. I have heard believers insist they are capable of seeing outside of their belief system, but I don’t believe them for a second. They are never truly able to see outside of the believers’ paradigm, because to do so would feel like apostasy to them. At least, that’s what it was like for me when I was a believer. To be able to strip yourself of the idea of good and evil is what allows you to see others and their actions non judgmentally. If you can’t do that–if everything always looks like sin or goodness–you are still trapped within the labyrinth of irrationality with that minotaur named Faith. This is why the believers’ explanations for atheist-reading behavior in this article all point back to faith: atheists read religious articles because they are searching for God! No moron, that’s you. I read because I like to read and think. You read about religion (and practically nothing from a secular perspective, if you can avoid it), because you think it will provide you with more insider tips on how to grovel more effectively for your invisible deity.

Posted in Essays on Belief, Religion in the News | 3 Comments »

Ricky Gervais’ Article in the Wall Street Journal

Posted by Clamence/The Chaplain on December 21, 2010

Since Gervais has been mentioned in a few of the posts on this site, I thought I’d post the article he wrote that was featured in the Wall Street Journal. It’s been making the rounds on Facebook.

Update: The WSJ got a lot of response to Gervais’ article, so they asked him to respond to a few of the typical questions people sent in. Here is the link to his 2nd article, “Does God Exist? Ricky Gervais Takes Your Questions.”

Posted in Essays on Belief, Faith vs. Evidence | Leave a Comment »

Definite Fideism!

Posted by dsc01 on November 26, 2010

First of all, screw you, spell-check! “Fideism” is a word! This started as a response to Paulo’s comment on the “Evolutionary Metaphysics” entry, but then I realized my verbosity was turning my comment into a full-length take-down of Josh Thompson’s “MAN UP,” on his blog, the Outpost. You can find it here.

I think we’ve arrived at a point where fideism is the only alternative to ignorance, for fundamentalists.

If you do a little research, you quickly realize that mountains of evidence tell us that, even if they are in doubt, the origins of life bare little resemblance to what is described in the Bible.

One can only go so long dismissing scientific findings as being the intentional distortions of anti-theistic scientists.

The one thing fundamentalists have on their side (which Josh exploits in this blog) is that they have “unchanging Truth.” Of course, the intellectual dishonesty, there, is massive, but that is their claim–that God’s Truth never changes.

The nature of scientific inquiry is such that the scientist is free to (and should) change his mind as often as new evidence casts doubt on prior hypotheses. “Unchanging Truth” has little value (it only puts the cart ahead of the horse), and the possibility is always open that everything we know about the workings of the universe is not true.

Of course, that’s not a problem. The universe is very complex. What we know about it tells us that there is much more that we do not know and that we are almost certainly wrong–at least in some small way–about almost everything.

But Christians can make that a problem. They’ve got a long history of training their own to be unable to think logically. After all, “Jesus offers us eternal security,” is considered a valid argument for why we should believe in him.

So it’s no surprise that Josh says, “‘Being open to believing anything,’ sounds a lot like fear-based paralysis to me,” and challenges us to “man up” and pick a side.

Of course, he undermines his own position by quoting Rush and their assertion that refusing to choose is a choice. Josh assumes that this is passive, that fence-sitters are indecisive cowards, but it can be an active choice and a brave one, at that.

After all, definite answers are comforting. If sober analysis of the facts, independent of what one wants to be true, indicate that we don’t know what is going on for certain and likely never will, then why shouldn’t one choose to believe just that?

Now, the excerpt he quotes does sort of offer us a stupid dichotomy: either there is some kind of guiding force in the universe, or it’s all random and pointless, so we should remain open to both possibilities. It seems like the author is an agnostic who is afraid to go atheist because (s)he thinks that everything becomes meaningless without the possibility of a God. But who knows?

Anyway, Josh resorts, ultimately, to the odd doublethink that necessarily characterizes fundamentalist philosophy. Unless one chooses to believe in God, he says, “the most proudly open mind in the world is actually already blindly biased.” How does this work? Well, it doesn’t need to make sense, does it? Because faith is independent of reason, and these kinds of crazy non sequitors are like Escher’s impossible stairs to Christians–nonsensical but awesome (and God is awesome and makes the impossible possible, so whatever–proof!).

I suppose that the conclusion to all of this is that we can’t really hope to communicate with fundamentalists in a way that they will understand. Many of us went to school with Josh, and we probably agreed with him when we did. For me, moving away from fundamentalism was a long process, and Josh has spent that time getting deeper into it.

Even though we can’t reach him, I hope that the debate finds its way to those who, like we did, are moving away (or at least open to it).  I think that they’ll realize that our side is the reasonable one, we are not cowards, and disbelief can finally offer the happiness that we were always told Christ would bring, even though he never did.

Posted in Essays on Belief, Faith vs. Evidence, Opinion | 14 Comments »

My Christian Bizarro World Rant

Posted by Clamence/The Chaplain on August 1, 2010

Sometimes at the end of a long day, when I’m feeling exhausted and worn down by the stresses of everyday life, I grab a glass of red wine (the darker the better) and log onto Facebook. My only desire is to decompress and read a funny comment by a friend. Instead, what I am usually greeted with are endless religious status updates and comments. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Big Things, Essays on Belief, Opinion, Rants | 12 Comments »

Australian Atheist

Posted by Clamence/The Chaplain on March 20, 2010

Here is an article by an Australian atheist (thanks to Lauren): The atheist delusion. I know what you are all thinking: “Chaplain, is there a specific passage of the article that you found especially compelling?” Well, thank you for asking, and, yes, there is:

I realised, at the age of five, that I’d already been dead forever. Because what happened before birth – all those billions of years of non-existence was identical to what happened after death.

Posted in Essays on Belief | 2 Comments »

Richard Norman examines the “‘belief-lite’ version of religion”

Posted by Clamence/The Chaplain on November 24, 2009

Beyond belief:
Some sophisticated arguments for God have been made in response to the New Atheists. Richard Norman puts the ‘New Believers’ to the test.

When I read the following passage from this article, I immediately thought about my fellow MKs:

Most people give their allegiance to a particular religion not because they judge that its doctrines are uniquely true, but because it is the religion in which they find their cultural roots. It defines their identity. And it does so through a particular set of practices and rituals, and a particular set of metaphors, and a particular set of stories. And it is this above all, I think, that explains why, for all the intellectual implausibility of the traditional doctrines, intelligent and sensitive people continue to identify themselves as Christians or Muslims or whatever. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Essays on Belief, Faith vs. Evidence | 3 Comments »

Angry at God

Posted by Paulo on November 5, 2009

Believers have asked me before if I am angry at God. “No,” I said, “not any angrier than I am at Santa for not existing and not bringing me presents.” The belief that God is real is so ingrained in the minds of some believers that they can’t imagine a world without him. Either you’re on God’s side or you’re against him. Or you’re just plain lost. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Essays on Belief | 6 Comments »

The Personal God Conceit

Posted by Clamence/The Chaplain on July 28, 2009

Interesting and amusing article by Mark Morford about the tendency of believers to think that God cares about and is involved in the minutiae of their lives: “God is not your bitch–
This just in: It is hugely unlikely God cares much about your sex life.”

Posted in Essays on Belief, Links | 1 Comment »

The Double Consciousness of the Fugitive

Posted by Clamence/The Chaplain on April 25, 2009

At the end of March I came up with the idea of creating a sister site for this one. The idea sprang from my concerns about a limitation inherent in this Fugitives from Fundamentalism blog. I reasoned that this site was primarily negative in focus, since it consists of the reactions of former believers to their prior worldview, and so I needed to create a site that had a positive focus. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Essays on Belief | 1 Comment »

God Lives Under the Bed

Posted by Clamence/The Chaplain on February 27, 2009

The following is one of those chain emails that has been making the rounds in Evangelical Christian circles. Enjoy it in its entirety. My annotated version follows it:

I think this is perhaps one of the BEST email ‘forwards’ I have ever read. I
hope you will enjoy it half as much as I have!! Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Essays on Belief, Humor | 3 Comments »

The Devil’s-Heart Experiment

Posted by Clamence/The Chaplain on February 4, 2009

I don’t have to sell my soul
He’s already in me
I don’t need to sell my soul
He’s already in me.

-Stone Roses’ “I Wanna Be Adored.”

When I was in junior high and high school, it used to stress me out to no end to think that the Devil had similar powers to God and could observe me even when I was alone. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Essays on Belief, Reflections & Memories, Testimonies | 2 Comments »