Saturday, August 22, 2009

Are Christians a Marginalized Group?

Dear Reader,



I grew up in the following churches:

St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, Worcester, MA

Latter Rain Christian Fellowship, Ashland, MA

Discovery Church, Orlando, FL

Pine Castle United Methodist Church, Orlando, FL

I attended several other churches. Some I forget the names of. All were of the Christian faith and teachings.

So, what I say here comes from a place of someone who has, like many non-believers once believed.

My experience as a Christian was what you see above. It was like a jumble of thoughts and feelings of joy that covered up some serious fears I didn’t dare address. How could I? If any of my afeared questions were to be true, how would I come to grips with such a grave reality? I often wonder, is what I experienced more or less universal among believers or was I unusually paranoid? My lifelong doubt led to a long journey away from the church’s teachings allowing me to separate the clamor of thoughts from the underlying fears I had so I could deal with each of them appropriately to make my peace. That’s how I became an atheist.

A simple search on the subject of Christian doubt reveals frustrating references to scriptures such as blogger Cheryl Stotesbery’s explanation, “Perhaps the primary cause is Satan (Genesis 3:1-6).” A more formal search produces doubt eradication reasoning like that of the American Baptist Church USA (ABCUSA). The ABCUSA includes doubt in their vision statement, but only to say, “The heart of the gospel is God's redemptive love. In our life together, the world will see the power of forgiveness to overcome alienation, the strength of love to transform hate, the power of grace to break the bonds of guilt, the triumph of hope over despair, and the victory of faith over doubt.” Again to a nonbeliever, this is frustratingly cyclical.

I understand the logic that relates everything good, bad, holy and unjust to biblical scripture. That is the whole point of using the bible as the primary reference point for all topics of faith discussion. What I don’t understand - and really would like some comment on (other than what I pose below) – is how believers can overlook the drastic changes in believer’s opinions of scripture throughout history? I know what the retort is – ‘Just because certain people used scriptures like Genesis 9 25-27 to justify slavery, doesn’t make those people right in the eyes of god. There are several scriptures that make it clear slavery is a sin.’

OK, so doesn’t that bring up a vital point when examining the bible? If a book is contradicting itself, how can you trust any of it to be true? Of course, to this I have usually heard things like, ‘I’m not going to talk to you about this. You’re not going to change my mind so just drop it.’

For a long, long time I did just drop it. I thought, ‘We are never going to see eye to eye so it’s a waste.’ And then as I found my own voice I realized just dropping it is part of the cycle that needs to be broken.

I am not influenced by Satan when I question the logic of believers. I am not possessed. I can’t prove that of course – just as believers can’t prove I am anything but a normal, logical person.

When I hear Christians say they are a marginalized group, that their rights are being threatened – I am thoroughly confused. They won’t engage me in a civil conversation discussing questions that to a child would seem obvious. What goes through the mind of the believer when you question what seems worth questioning? Do they really feel resolved that they are right and I am wrong? Or is there a schism where part of them insists what they hold to be true is true so they can enjoy the afterlife, see their loved ones again and have something to hold to that makes sense of this life while part of them is too afraid to face the possibility that God may not exist?

As a non believer, I want believers and non believers alike to question me. I invite that. Talking with others can educate me and make me a better person. Isn’t that one of the tenets of learning? Why would it not be applied to matters of faith? Wouldn’t having civilized conversations with people and answering all their questions help a marginalized group become more main stream?

Question for you…

Why do you believe/not believe in God? Please post your reply below.

Thanks for reading.

Alan L. Bounville


  1. Interesting blog, Alan. It's worth noting that most of the examples offered above are of the fundamentalist or conservative Christian varieties. While it's true that they are the most vocal, they aren't very representative of Christendom. Doubt is an essential part of my faith - I'm not sure there can be faith without doubt. I wish you much success in your spiritual journey.


  2. Thank you for your comment. I go to your point on doubt being an essential part of your faith. What are the doubts you have?

  3. My biggest issue is that most every religion or "relationship" is premised on their way being the only way to heaven. Doesn't anyone question how that can be?

    * Something to ponder...Have you noticed how many people post scripture and prayer requests on their Facebook headline? Imagine what would happen if you posted atheistic views on your Facebook headline. Who is really the marginalized group? Ponder that.

  4. Actually that's not neccesarily true. The Hindus and Buddhists don't believe in heaven. The Buddhists don't believe in God either. Muslims are varied on their beliefs, and well the Jews and Christians are one and the same really. Jesus was Jewish and he came to the Jews first. It was later on that He made it possible for the gentiles to be saved as well as the Jews. So we're really Jewish in a spiritual sense.

    Here's the best part though: Most of you have heard the parable of the prodigal son, I'm sure. Let me summarize it for you if you haven't. There was a man (God) who had 2 sons (us), 1 was faithful and never strayed, the other left his family and went off spending all his money on partying and having a good time. He decided to return to his father (God) because he was HUNGRY. Not because he felt remorse or he knew he was wrong. Basically he spent all his money, he was broke and couldn't get a good meal. He goes back home and on the way his father (God) sees him coming. What does his father (God) do? He runs toward him, throws his arms around him and kisses him. Then when they go back home he prepares a feast for him. Name ONE, JUST ONE other religion that portrays a god like our God. You can't, because there is none. There is no other God like ours, no, not even one.

  5. That story does speak to unconditional love, which is good, but are you saying that all the stories of God smiting people are irrelevant?

  6. I stand corrected on my wording. However, whether it is "heaven" or eternal life, the thought I had is the same. Buddhists believe in reincarnation(understood differently than in Hinduism, with no surviving soul) until you gain enlightenment. Their purpose is to avoid suffering and gain enlightenment. Islam believes humans must submit to the will of God to gain Paradise after death.

    The point is that each religion believes their way is the only way. If there is a heaven or eternal life(which we have no idea of), then not everyone can be right...or maybe everyone is wrong. The possibility is there.

    Atheism is premised on this one life being of great importance. My life focuses on the here and now and not some possible afterlife(no matter what it may or may not be).

  7. Alan,
    I love you and my belief and faith in God and Jesus are real!! I have FAITH in God and his son Jesus and I know that I am going to live in eternity with him FOREVER. My job as a christian is not to judge others, because I am not God and we ALL fall short of the goodness of God. It is only by God's unending grace and mercy that I will be going to heaven, not by anything I have done. The difference between christianity and other religions are we don't get to heaven by our good works, the only way to heaven is to believe that Jesus is the son of God and that he died for our sins. That is it. I do not need to prove myself to God that I am good enough because I AM NOT and I do not need to prove myself to anyone else either. All I can say is that I believe and I too have found my voice and I am not afraid to say it. I am proud of being a christian, and the only person I do and will ever answer to is God. I am sorry if you feel rejected or persecuted, but I can only speak for myself and tell you that I love you, and whether you are gay or not has nothing to do with my love for you. I know it is of no significance to you, but I pray for you and I am confident that God will reveal himself to you in a mighty way so that there will be no denying that he is who he says he is. Again, just so we are clear, I love you and I am not judging you in any way, but I am only telling you what I know is the truth in my life. God is real, and he has shown himself mightily on my behalf and I have ZERO doubt. Love, Gina

  8. Gina,

    You say, "God is real, and he has shown himself mightily on my behalf and I have ZERO doubt." My question to you is how has God shown himself to you that you know him to be real? That I feel is a valid and very important question.

  9. First of all the reason my thing comes up as anonymous is I can't figure out this whole blog thing. LOL! I will give you a few instances, because believe me when I tell you that there are too many to count. I believe in the power of prayer and complete and total trust in God, and that he knows my every need. You know my situation with Mark and I am not bad mouthing him because he is doing the best he can, but he has not given me money consistently for child support. Hailey started school this week and when I say I had zero dollars for her daycare, I mean I had zero dollars. I prayed and trusted that God would provide, not telling anyone of my situation and Mark came the next day with a check for the exact amount and in the memo it said daycare. He had no idea that I needed money, but God did and he provided. The other night I was crying out to God and reminding him that he promised to be my husband and that I missed the warm embrace of Mark when I sleep. I went to bed that night, and I NEVER dream and in my dream I felt like I had snuggled all night long, and when I woke up in my dream I was in my kitchen and I saw a man standing there with his back to me and his hair was exactly like Jesus's. When I woke up for real, I honestly felt like I had cuddled in bed all night long.
    These are just 2 simple examples, and I have plenty more in a journal I keep because I have only truly had a real relationship with God this past year, and he amazes me every day. These things may not be proof enough for you, but again I can only speak from experience and every single time I have asked him to reveal himself to me he does either through his word in the Bible, another person, a song, whatever. Bottom line is he has always come through for me and I have zero doubt that he is real. Sorry I got wordy, but I get excited. Hope this helps. Love ya

  10. Thank you for your moving reply. Can it be said that both circumstances were coincidences? I think we all have times in our lives when something we hoped for happened. Does that mean it is from a divine source? And what for suffering and pain? I often think 'if I were a god' - I would have heaven be here on earth. Why would a god want any suffering of those she/he loves? I can't understand that. Can you?

  11. Again, I certainly do not claim to have all of the answers, but God gave us dominion over this world until the day that he does come and make heaven on earth. I think of it as when someone gives you a gift, they don't follow you around and make sure you take care of it. Once they give it to you they hope and trust that you will enjoy it and take care of it. God created us with free wills and he gave us the gift of life and this earth and he trusted us to take care of it. I believe that God holds every one of our tears in his hands, and he cries with us, but again most of what people go through in life is related to choices, good, bad, or whatever. The above instances that I told you about were not coincidences in my opinion. I wish I could explain it better to you, but up until last July, I believed in God, but really did not know him. Since last July I can honestly say that I know God, and have a real intimate relationship with him. Again, I am only speaking for myself, but I know that what I have experienced this past year is 100% real. I am the most peaceful I have ever been in my life, because I have complete and total faith in God and his word. I guess that is why they call it faith. I'm trying to explain it to you as best I can, but all I can say is I asked God to reveal himself to me and he has come through every time.
    P.S. Please tell me how to post these correctly so I don't have to keep coming up as anonymous. LOL! Love ya

  12. To post with your name you need to sign up through

    I want you to know I don't doubt your belief in a god. But what you are saying is just not true. People do not bring on their own suffering all the time. Babies die. People get hit by cars. Are those choices a person makes?

    And what about the people who don't believe in a god who are perfectly healthy and happy? People who feel no need for a god to reveal itself to them. What do you say to those people?

  13. Again, Alan if you read what I wrote, I said most of what people deal with is a result of choices, not all. The bottom line is we live in a world of sin and unfortunately the wages of sin is death.
    As for the people who are perfectly healthy and happy and don't believe in God the only thing that I would say to them is to be 100% sure that there is nothing else after death. I guess I would challenge them to actually read the bible through before they go around criticizing bits and pieces of it. If a critic is going to give a review of a book or movie they first have to read or watch the whole thing to give their opinion.
    All I can say is I don't believe in a god, I believe in the one and only God. He will not force himself on anyone, but he does tell people to seek and they WILL find. He gives every person alive the same opportunity to get to know him, but again it comes down to choices. My job as a christian is not to judge, but to speak the truth. If people turn away from me because of it(which many have recently), I am not going to cut them off, I will simply pray for their hearts to be softened.
    I am actually glad that you are on this journey, because there is a journalist Lee Strobel who wrote a book called, "The Case for Christ" who went on this same journey that you are on right now. He set out to prove if there was or wasn't a God, and he thought that christianity was a bunch of nonsense. After 2 years of extensive research, he discovered the facts and he is now a christian. He says the same thing that I have been saying, after reviewing the facts if you still believe there is not a God then again that is your choice. I really hope you will get this book, and keep in mind he thought how you do when he began this book.

  14. Again, what you say is simply not true. Much of what people do deal with is not because of choice - just as much of what they deal with is because of choice. And the idea that choice has anything to do with a deity is a tactic to keep people at bay.

    The journey I am on is not the one you seem to think I am on. I am on a journey to understand why people become spiritual. I do believe, having been a self proclaimed Christian in the past that religion serves the purpose of filling a void a person chooses not to fill themselves.

    As far as reading, I would suggest to you to read God is Not Great, The God Delusion, Society Without God and Letter to a Christian Nation.

    Further, you are talking to someone who has studied the Bible from birth. I would challenge you to present me with a scripture that can not be refuted with simple logic or a historical/critical understanding of the text.

    I will look for the book you suggest as I would hope you would do the same before holding fast to a one sided view on this issue.

    Would you commit to that? To read say just one of the books I mentioned above?

  15. I wish you luck on whatever journey you are on, however I do not need to look anywhere else for my answers. I am at total peace and I have full confidence in my future.
    I too proclaimed to be a christian, but I now know that there is a HUGE difference being a christian and having an intimate relationship with God.
    You can call it coincidence or whatever but the day that I came to your house last year and left because of you attacking my beliefs in front of Kaitlyn proved to me that I am different. I was so upset that night because I did not do or say anything differently then I ever had with you and I couldn't understand what was happening. I called one of my friends afterward and she reminded me that I was different because I now have the Holy Spirit living in me and I am a new creation. I didn't have to do or say anything different but I am because he is with me always.
    Unless you have that relationship, you won't understand so I am not going to be like the Israelites and keep going around the same mountain for 40 years.
    I have found my answer and I believe in God, Jesus, and the Bible 100% and I don't need to search any further.
    If you choose not to read the book I suggested then so be it, because it was just that a suggestion. You have already made up your mind that there is not a God and me going around and around with you every day is not going to change that. I responded in the first place because you asked us to, but we are not getting anywhere so it is pointless to continue. I am not going to change my mind and I have the feeling neither are you, so it is best to just leave it at this. I am not going to try to force you to believe the way I do, so again I love you, I will pray that you find what you are looking for.

  16. wowza! what a read that was.

  17. Gina - you were teaching your child that the "I kissed a Girl" song was wrong and then left my house with your daughter to go buy cigarettes and get gas for your car saying you would return after you ran those errands. I hope your peace suits you well when you're dying of lung disease later in life. Seriously - think of the facts here. Or don't. What is the message you were sending to her in that moment?

    I see there is no answer to my questions but those that incorporate cyclical reasoning. I stand at the end of this chain no more enlightened than I did at the beginning of my post. But I tried.

  18. please help by sharing this petition to get prayer back in school..