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

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Alan L. Bounville