My parent’s relationship seemed always strained by their different religious backgrounds. Mom was a mostly bitter ex-catholic, at first a very private pseudo-believer in “God”, and later almost an atheist; dad (I think) a born-and-raised (Wisconsin, then Minnesota) evangelical Lutheran. Among seven siblings, I was semi-faithfully brought (“against my will”) by dad to the local Lutheran Church and Sunday school as a kid. I say against my will because I always dreaded and “fought” as stubbornly as I could the idea of being awoken early on a weekend morning! When I was a child, dad’s angry insistence most often won out. But that became gradually less so through my adolescence, until after 13 when I had “officially put in my time” by completing doctrinally-focused “Confirmation Classes”, which marks the Lutheran teen’s transition to being a “professing Christian”—the ceremony where you “CONFIRM the jesus who saved you as an infant at your baptism”, and also when you confirm your belief in all the right doctrines. By that age, the Lutheran child had been pretty much programmed into unquestioning acceptance of the other unshakeable truths of the (orthodox, evangelical or fundamentalist) Christian faith—like the ‘fact’ of our intrinsic bent toward, or our innately corrupted nature with, evil and immoral thoughts motives words and deeds [Sinful Nature], and the ‘fact’ of our [my paraphrase] “wholly deserving of the death penalty as well as an eternity of torturous suffering, (of some kind anyway) [Hell], except that Jesus, who was a man but also God, took the beating, torture and horrifically bloody death that I should have gotten (really?! that’s how bad I am?) to appease the wrath…wait, we better not put it in those terms very often…um…to satisfy God’s (loving?) ‘justice’ [“Atonement”], so that if we believe in and worship God/Jesus (and decide to live a holy life…?), we can be ‘saved’ from the wrath of…i mean…saved ‘into fellowship with’ (that’s better!)…into fellowship with Him…er Them…um…It (the HolySpirit) you know what I mean…” [Trinity]
I’m convinced that this kind of early indoctrination into the complex basic theology and doctrines of “the faith” had a profound and lasting effect on my psyche for my first 30 years and well beyond (especially in regard to the supposed degree of my own “sinfulness”, and in the feeling of being continually, judgmentally “watched” with disappointment!)—but for the most part any kind of heartfelt reverence for God and church didn’t “stick” after Confirmation…and wasn’t really any particular concern of mine as a newly-pubescent and fun-focused early teen.
I had been a somewhat enigmatic cross between a typical sports-minded, sex-obsessed (who never got any!), socially-active, gifted with a satirical sense of humor boy….and an intelligent A-student, geeky-looking, low-self-esteem, living-inside-his-mind loner . The final push to being awkwardly anti-social was triggered by a frustrating summer as a 16 year old (1971!), and my transfer to a new high school that year where I knew nobody and had no friends. The real turning point might have been a set of elective English classes on, among other subjects, “Examining Comedy in Hollywood Movies”, “Interpreting Rock Music Lyrics” and, especially, “Existentialist Philosophy” (hey…it was the end of the 60’s…and my long-haired, i assumed pot-smoking hippie English teacher WAS a devotee of the new experiments in liberal education!). This had turned me on to reading Capote, Salinger, Sartre, Camus, Nietzsche, Hesse, Huxley, Orwell and others…and, with those influences and because of my basically quiet/shy personality and social isolation from the strangers around me at the new school, I tumbled more and more inside myself into loneliness, sadness and fear…and a major habit of truancy and absenteeism from school. (? Yes, I said fear. Capote’s “In Cold Blood”…book and movie, along with certain horror films, really did scare the shucks out of me…)
Having become a teen in the mid-late 60’s, I was at least internally heaped in the dramas of political assassinations, radically violent bombings and protests, counter-cultural upheaval and civil rights battles. I wept watching the news reports and films of the beatings and murders of blacks, wept at 14 when Bobby Kennedy and MLK were both murdered in ’68….and wept over some of the horrific photos and films from the war in Viet Nam. All of that contributed to an increasing confusion, irreverence and despair. I was still an enigma of a kid: geeky-looking but hippie at heart, effortlessly handling comprehension of Sartre and Nietzsche…my Sat’s in the top 4%-8%….while flunking out of too many of my classes (except English! and math), good-hearted but intensely lonely and even sometimes suicidal.
Funny thing happened on my way to being a transient or suicide!….There was this girl….
In the summer before my senior year a very rare visit back to the Lutheran church (because one or two neighborhood friends and family members were still attending and inviting me along), I found out that a certain alluring girl from my new school was now going to that church…and regularly attending a young adult bible study affiliated with it. Between severe loneliness, intense infatuation, a (Christian) older brother’s sudden (uncharacteristic!) concern…and the old subconscious doctrinal/coercive “programming” revisiting my psyche…the short of it is….after many months, I (enigmatically) responded to a particularly high-intensity, dramatically emotive “altar call” and became a “born-again” Christian. I now call that, without reservation, a “bittersweet and tragic turn of events”!
Sure…it meant that I wanted to live again. (Although, I think the power of infatuation had already accomplished that…)
But, by the time my senior year was over, and after it became clear that, among other disappointments, I wasn’t going to “get the girl”…even after joining her as a fundamentalist Christian…it also became clear that my school records and family’s meager finances meant I wasn’t going to go to college—probably the single most long-term consequentially limiting and debilitating circumstance of my life. (Of course, almost 40 years later, it is true that today almost anyone who really wants and is determined to go to college CAN—but back then…not so much…or at least I was more ignorant of the possibilities…for a D to C-minus student from a large lower-middle class family living on the edge of poverty…)
Because a college education didn’t seem an option…(“must not be god’s will”),
I was inspired to turn my latent intellectual abilities and emotional energies toward my “personal relationship” with God, Bible Study, Christian literature, church, prayer…and trying to find out “what God’s plan for my life” was!? After all, I owed Jesus a debt of gratitude and devotion for saving me from the wrath—oops, again…i mean saving me “into fellowship with”…God…(ya gotta get that “spin” right!) “After all, because of His omniscience it’s obvious his anger isn’t REALLY for His ‘chosen’ (or “predestined”?) ones like me or other orthodox believers anyway, but for those who Jesus himself allegedly called ‘children of wrath’ or ‘children of the devil’, whether heathen or religious, who he ‘knows’ will reject Him…(i guess??) Because OF COURSE he must already know who’s going to end up in heaven anyway, HE’s GOD, right?!” It’s significant that Christian theologians and apologists, even after a couple millennia, haven’t even remotely come to a consensus among THEMSELVES about the mega-confusing concepts surrounding THOSE ideas! How are the rest of us supposed to easily digest the consequential implications and potential, confusing harm to our minds and lives that such ideas foster?!
In the meantime, ignoring at that time the (multiple!) “800-pound gorillas in the room” of possible theological controversy, I took extremely menial (“humble”) jobs to be able to afford bibles, commentaries, books, groceries…and post-bible study, late-night snacks in restaurant booths having “fellowship” with my new Christian friends! Somewhere in the whole process I became passionately fundamentalist—completely sincere, uncompromising and “biblical” in my basic desire and commitment to stick to the correct doctrines and to please and serve God however and wherever “His Will” might take me, including the possibility of “full-time ministry”.
In my ardent studies (I’d been through the Old Testament a dozen times, the new Testament probably at least fifty, had committed huge sections to memory…and selectively devoured a limited selection of devotional and doctrinal literature), as inherently intelligent as I was I couldn’t help but notice the “problems”…both with the bible itself…and with the logical consistencies of the theology and doctrines. The “bad” news is, in those early years of my funda-gelicalism, I had encountered and continued to be indoctrinated simultaneously with both options for evangel-mentalists to escape from having to deal with the absurdities:
1) the “don’t ask questions, just believe!”-mentality of “see no evil, hear no evil”, “put your head in the sand” anti-intellectualism and anti-reason’s single-minded focus on God and biblical orthodoxy, inspired by various bible passage like “The wisdom of man is foolishness”…and “All scripture is inspired by God”;
2) the option of being enamored with the emerging influence of the Christian apologists in orthodox, evangelical and fundamentalist circles, and the (quasi-) evidential and (pseudo-) “logical” defense of the faith that said “Hey…what absurdities?! Christianity makes sense historically, scientifically, intellectually and rationally…and we can ‘prove’ it!”
The other important feature of the “defense of the faith” that would have a profound effect on my psyche for years after was the characteristic emphasis on the “fact” that to reject Christianity and its God would mean also (“logically necessarily”) rejecting all possibility of having morals (“…there would be no right or wrong”), or purpose (“..all of life would be meaningless.”) or a positive outlook on life (“…there would be no hope.”). This set of ideas in defense of the faith—stating that without the Christian god, human existence could only possibly result in a-moralism, nihilism, meaninglessness and despair—are among the most debilitating ideas for those attempting to objectively and sincerely examine the truths of orthodox, evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity. Tending toward coercively (and illegitimately) creating the kind of psycho-emotional fear and dread that might “keep many sheep in the fold”….they are a set of ideas and a psychological dynamic that greatly, negatively impacted my life and intellectual journey!
Often torn confusedly between both camps or ideas about human reason (anti-intellectualism and pseudo-rationalism)…I always fell back on my “relationship” with God and trying to find out how I was going to find a “ministry”…yet still without the resources or possibility for a college education! (And, of course, I was confused about THAT….about the biblical “promises” that “God would provide” both the desires of my heart…and the material resources needed to serve him…?!…so what the hel-LO was he doing?! Where was he?…wait..i better “just believe”…)
Years passed like that, including (besides studying and praying, of course) working blue-collar jobs, “church-hopping” (looking for a better alternative to the Lutheran church, whose odd doctrines and formal worship services I’d already left behind) and in my spare time attending retreats, youth groups, evangelist meetings, gospel music sessions and bible studies…and even sometimes leading bible studies—even though still trying to deal with or shrug off the nagging questions in order to prepare for God “opening a door” to full-time ministry! Then suddenly, through some of the Christian music and artists I was listening to, I heard about “Youth With A Mission”. (Affectionately pronounced in the ministry “Why-Wham”…) YWAM is an international, evangel-mentalist, interdenominational, independent Christian Missions group—specializing in intensive training schools and innovative and eclectic evangelistic methods and ministries, in and alongside a diversity of church denominations in the U.S and in other countries.
After, of course, “seeking God’s will”, I somehow “got a sign” (I don’t remember now for the life of me what it was…though now i think it was likely psychologically manufactured!)…and at 26…in 1981….i moved to Lyndale, Texas…to YWAM’s “Twin Oaks Ranch”…to attend my first “Discipleship Training School”. (Surprisingly, sacrificially paid for by my parents…)
Again….a funny thing happened on my way to stuffing the absurdities deep down into my mind and entering full-time Christian ministry….
I would say….an extremely IRONIC thing happened!
YWAM’s format and leaders (at least in Texas) were passionate proponents of the “intellectual” approach from #2 above….and they encouraged me to THINK!?! Yes..that’s right…a group of very committed funda-gelical Christians who encouraged me and freed me to think seriously about the Christian faith and its theology and doctrines and apologetics. Their biggest emphases were “Moral Government” theology, and the philosophical, presuppositional apologetics of Francis Schaeffer. Their intention was to give my/our Christian faith “intellectual muscle” for venturing out into Christian missions, and during three years there (half as a student, the other half as a school counselor and a field trip leader in Mexico and Canada) and in the midst of always pretty intensive studies, they promoted serious and RATIONAL THOUGHT about Christianity and its core ideas—so that’s what I did….
Unfortunately.. (No…FORTUNATELY!), my new-found freedom for finally honest and objective thinking didn’t accomplish quite what YWAM leaders had likely intended it would in my case!
At 29…in 1983…I walked away from it all…the school….and Christianity.
It wasn’t an easy intellectual OR psychological “escape” to begin with. I had every PRACTICAL motivation for staying…including the “heady” promise of a full-time Christian leadership and ministry role, the financial and material security of knowing YWAM would provide housing and food and financially-supportive relationships with churches, the excitement of lots of travel and being a part of innovative music and drama and teaching ministries, the presence and fellowship of lots of single and impressive and devout Christian girls from whom to choose a life partner(too creepy?)….as well as continuing to have close-knit friendships with fellow Christian leaders.
Conversely, I walked away at 29 after three years without an actual paycheck, with still no formal education, no career, no “home”, few possessions, no money, no girl, “no phone, no pool, no pets”…no meaningful or sympathetic friendships (except a couple old golfing buddies from my early teens), with no clear direction for my future, and with a very pathetic resume for an intelligent guy…a guy about to become a 30-year old virgin(!?)…
So, justifiably, I also walked away with an enigmatic mixture of happiness, anger and real despair again!?…
I say happiness…because naturally a new-found freedom from years of “spiritual peer pressure” and the censure and sometimes unsolicited advise (“counsel”) of authoritarian religious leaders (including God!?!) is bound to create, if not genuine lasting happiness, at least a deep down, very nice sense of relief…
I say anger…but my tendency to bitterness at that time was NOT actually directed at anyone in particular. I wasn’t angry at dad for bringing me to church as a kid in the first place (though there were other issues between father and son that hadn’t ever really created affection). I wasn’t angry at any particular Lutheran leader for my early indoctrination—they were living out the logical consequences of their acquired church traditions (and, as leaders, were understandably wary of actually examining their dogma…because they had huge responsibilities for wives and families and financial security which would be jeopardized if they were to decide they didn’t believe any of it themselves anymore…). I wasn’t even angry at the devoutly and passionately evangel-mental YWAM leaders…as they faced many of the same issues as the Lutheran leaders, and besides, I felt like I actually owed them a debt of gratitude for unwittingly inspiring my “escape”!
The fact is i was just bitter about the absurdity of the life circumstances I was left in (maybe angry at myself?), AND angry at “God”…the same God who I was quickly (if AGONIZINGLY!) concluding might not even exist anyway!?….
How odd, isn’t it, to be profoundly angry at what might even be an imaginary nemesis?! ”But, hey, ‘WE’ had a history…’WE’ had a relationship…and ‘He’ disappointed me”!?!. (One would have to admit that I could hardly have been more committed to “worshipping” and serving “HIM”!? How many 30-year-old virgins headed to the mission field have YOU ever known?! lol) Besides, one of the rational conclusions I was slowly coming to was that the growing evidence (world suffering of an eclectic nature and epic scale, the need for ridiculous mental/semantic tricks to be played in order to take the doctrines seriously, etc.) seems to actually point to the fact that if “HE” really was there, “he must be either an incompetent boob or a sadistic a**hole”!?! (pardon my irreverent French) “How could The Bestest and Wisest and Most Lovingest Being in the universe devise plans and express purposes that result and end in THAT kind and degree of suffering…across the ages…around the globe…and on into eternity for a majority of people—and then blame it all on the same beings that HE had designed in HIS image”?! (It’s all our/YOUR fault!?) Over the course of years, with all of my intensive studies of the bible, theological works, philosophical apologetics, inspirational Christian literature (and even with a distinct passion for “Him” and an intense desire to believe it all), nothing and no one had seemed to provide an answer to THAT question—at least not an answer that (first subconsciously for a long time, then increasingly consciously) …not an answer that I could honestly find to be rationally sound or truly “kind” in terms that we can easily understand.
The fact is, the end of the argument for fundamentalists always seemed to have to, by logical necessity, revert to: “Who are you, a man, to demand an answer from “God’?” (As Falwell said, “Christians, like slaves and soldiers, don’t ask questions”…!?)
Oh…..almost forgot my story….I did get ahead of myself!?….
Truthfully, I hadn’t consciously figured out half of all that when I first walked away from missionary training school in 1983.
I mentioned the “real despair” that followed, and no doubt the source for at least a big part of that despair was the seeming hopelessness of my financial and career status. I went back to work at one of the seasonal (seasonal in Minnesota!) blue collar occupations I had drifted in and out of during the years of preparing for ministry, groundskeeping at golf courses and country clubs, which, though low-paying as a laborer, I had actually grown to love both for being able to work outside…and, while riding various pieces of equipment every day, having plenty of time to think through the nagging absurdities I was still struggling with…! (By the end of 2000, I had surprisingly put in a total of 20 years in the industry before “retiring”, but that’s getting ahead of myself again…)
No doubt because of the lasting and powerful nature of the indoctrination of the kind of dogma that innately affected the entire intellect and psyche and personality and relationships and circumstances….my walking away from Christianity and “God”…if that was indeed what I had done…had left me with a lot of latent fear and anxiety! What if it WAS true? What if I was now an “apostate”…and God was determined to make me miserable and bitter in order to either “win me back” or be justified by my attitudes and behaviors in sending me to hell? “What if, like sometimes seemed easier to believe than in the existence of “God”, there was such a being as the devil, or such a dynamic as “demonic forces” out to get us, and I had now “joined the dark side”? (funny, even though most Hollywood movies were frowned upon in many fundagelical circles, Star Wars WAS actually shown at one of the “movie nights” at YWAM’s Twin Oaks ranch!…but I digress…) Or, maybe worse, What if there WAS a Christian God, and he really was a malevolent being laughing at the tricks he had pulled in convincing so many to believe the nonsense about Him being “good”—and was angry that I had seen through the scam!?!?…Also, what if, god forbid (so to speak! but this does describe the attitude of evangelicals to “the cults”!), what if one of “the devil’s religions” like Hinduism or Buddhism or some other benign or New Age “spiritual” ideas about human and divine existence was true? (which, come to think of it, I thought wouldn’t be all that bad after all…)
And, of course, the still latent fear/anxiety that rejection of Christianity might really mean that I would be left with an amoral, nihilistic, meaningless and hopeless philosophy of life and existential experience was a constant intellectual/psychological battle for me.
So, really for a lot longer than you might expect, those kinds of questions and fears (about evil, satan, hell, cults, nihilism, meaninglessness…and about my own non-redeemable apostasy), , did plague my post-fundamentalist psycho-emotional health and intellectual clarity—-
—-even or maybe especially during those first five years when I was mostly concerned with just a couple of goals: As a 30-year-old “teenager” (years that I had “missed” because of thinking so seriously about life and the world as a kid), I…1) wanted to have some FUN again, in general (!)…and, 2) wanted specifically and especially to get laid!?!!
Problem was, there were virtually no female fellow employees at work on golf course grounds crews to ask out…..and obviously church was not an attractive option anymore for meeting chicks (“hey…while I’m up can I get you a sip of wine and a communion wafer?!?”…)….and (believe it or not, you readers in your teens, twenties and early thirties!) the Internet, with online dating websites and other social media were still things mostly belonging to the future…..so….
Welcome, Drew, to the world of the 1980’s singles bar scene!!!!!….and, on one superficial level, to the “pursuit of pleasure”, as in….eating, drinking, cruising, one night stands (and hangovers!), and, on a more heartfelt level “looking for love” that would be lasting…even if that meant looking in “all the wrong places”.
Mostly, those five years or so were marked by “working the ‘job’ in order to pay for the fun” …and the occasional, less-than-satisfying drunken-inspired sexual experiences—-sooo, both “missions accomplished”, I guess…but, as you might imagine i was no closer to finding the lasting cure for my underlying anger and despair….
It was in ’88, after a move to Arkansas where I could work year round at greenskeeping, and where my enthusiasm for the “party” years was by then waning…when after one of my (by that time not so frequent) nights at a bar….feeling lonely and philosophical….thinking through the confusing problems with my former fundamentalist beliefs….i was walking home in the wee hours across one of the resort golf courses where I lived….when I suddenly realized I “needed closure” for my “relationship” with the god who I was suddenly more and more convinced was actually imaginary (or an asshole!)…and looking up into an incredible starlit sky as I walked, I very deliberately and matter-of-factly said: “You know what?…..even if you ARE there….f*** YOU!…i’m going to find out what I DO believe…and move on with my life.” (“closure”.)
In the meantime, in those previous five years I had also somehow found time to begin the “project” that would at least keep me intellectually challenged and intrigued for the next decade-and-a-half: I had started to acquire and work my way through the reading of as much of the world’s classic works of literature and philosophy as I could! It was the kind of reading that picked up where I had left off at 17, reading that had been discouraged and virtually “banned” from my studies as a funda-gelical (banned, if not directly by Christian preachers, by “God” for sure!)…and reading that included the novels and essays of people like dostoevsky, eliot and sand, hemingway, melville, twain, plato, aristotle, huxley, orwell, tolstoy, virginia woolfe, sylvia plath, henry miller, kerouac, kierkegaard, simone de beauvoir, dickens, hardy, lawrence, james joyce, henry james, the brontes, susan sontag, anais nin, jane austen, somerset maugham……and literally dozens…maybe a couple hundred others! I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. I wanted to decide for myself whether and why they were great writers. I wanted an EDUCATION(!)…and if I had to do it one book at a time…in the context of 40-plus-hour work weeks…and invest years in the process…then so be it. In the meantime, I thought, it might also help me somehow in trying to figure out how to put an end to my confusion and anger and despair…figure out what I believed now about myself; about human existence and human nature and human morals; about the nature of the universe…and about the idea of “god”….
I mentioned Somerset Maugham…There’s a passage in “The Razor’s Edge” that, in my most pensive moments, I would read over and over, because it struck an obvious not-so-subtle chord with me…and helped define and ease somehow my own quandary. (chapter 2, section iv)
The hero of the story, Larry Darrow, had suddenly deserted his upper class friends and his beautiful and wealthy fiancé to go to France and study the great literature and “find himself”…to try to answer the questions about life that were plaguing him since he’d come back from a stint as a medic during World War I. The dialogue is from a scene where, after two years without word from him, his (former?) fiancée finally goes searching for him to find out what he’s been doing and whether he’s ready to come back and marry her….and she finds him in a tiny, book-filled room off the Champs elysees.
>>“Don’t you think you might tell me what you’ve been up to all the time you’ve been in Paris?”
“I’ve been reading a good deal. Eight or ten hours a day. I’ve attended lectures at the Sorbonne. I think I’ve read everything that’s important in French literature and I can read Latin, at least Latin prose, almost as fluently as I can read French. Of course, Greek’s more difficult. But I have a very good teacher. Until you came here I used to go to him three evenings a week.”
“And what is that going to lead to?”
“The acquisition of knowledge,” he smiled.
“It doesn’t sound very practical.”
“Perhaps it isn’t and on the other hand perhaps it is. But it’s enormous fun. You can’t imagine what a thrill it is to read the Odyssey in the original. It makes you feel as if you only had to get on tiptoe and stretch out your hands to touch the stars.”
He got up from his chair, as though impelled by an excitement that seized him, and walked up and down the small room.
“I’ve been reading Spinoza the last month or two. I don’t suppose I understand very much of it yet, but it fills me with exultation. It’s like landing from your plane on a great plateau in the mountains. Solitude, and an air so pure that it goes to your head like wine and you feel like a million dollars.”
“When are you coming back to Chicago?”
“Chicago? I don’t know. I haven’t thought of it.”
“You said that if you hadn’t got what you wanted after two years you’d give it up as a bad job.”
“I couldn’t go back now. I’m on the threshold. I see vast lands of the spirit stretching out before me, beckoning, and I’m eager to travel them.”
“What do you expect to find in them?”
“The answers to my questions.” He gave her a glance that was almost playful, so that except that she knew him so well, she might have thought that he was speaking in jest. “ I want to make up my mind whether god is or God is not. I want to find out why evil exists. I want to know whether I have an immortal soul or whether when I die that is it”…
…“How long d’you think all this is going to take you?”
“I wouldn’t know. Five years. Ten years.”
“And after that? What are you going to do with all this wisdom?”
“If I ever acquire wisdom I suppose I shall be wise enough to know what to do with it.”
There’s a lot more to my own story from the past twenty-two years….but the conclusions I reached and the nature of my own answers to “The Big Questions” are probably fairly self-evident by now.
As for stories about my own misguided five-year marriage in the 90’s, or about romantic relationships since then—I won’t plague you with a recounting of all that for our purposes here.
Believe it or not, there are other aspects of and ideas within O/E/F Christianity that I haven’t detailed here, but that contributed to its negative impact on my mind and life—i.e. End-Times Theology (“Life in this earthly existence is doomed, and probably in our lifetime!…so why work to change THIS world?!”); the Pentecostal emphases (“You really need to be filled with the holy spirit, speak in tongues, dance in worship, prophesy…etc…if you really want to be in touch with God!” Kinda creepy stuff…for someone with a quiet temperament!); the prevalence of the infamous “holier than thou”, judgmental-of-all-others mentality; the enigmatic hypocrisy of so many Christian leaders and people succumbing to some of the very temptations they moralize about; the prevalence of outright scorn for and attempting to deny the human rights of GLBT fellow human beings, or people of other religions or ethnicities….and other destructively irrational and seemingly mean-spirited nonsense!
Probably the most relevant missing ingredients to my own story would include how, when I did finally attend a Technical College for a formal education in Horticulture, I “discovered” in the process of composing essays for homework assignments that what I really wanted to do was to become a writer! So after school and the ensuing five years in salaried positions in Greenskeeping, I’d suddenly resigned (in 2001) in order to rearrange my already unconventional life to try to make it more conducive to begin to write…(and specifically to write about some of the dogmas and issues I’ve been outlining here).
The other relevant part of the story of “my path from fundamentalism”…which I won’t detail here…would include the story of how my still occasionally intensive studies had introduced me to (and helped me get over my fear of!), the writings of people like Bertrand Russell (such as his collection of essays titled “Why I Am Not A Christian”), which had culminated (by 1999) in a series of, for me, dramatic revelations about what it would mean to be able to examine, reject and voice the commonsense refutations of the irrational and harmful dogma that had plagued me for decades—and, just as importantly, to develop and embrace the rational thinking that would allow the articulate, simpler, happy, logical and ethical humanist philosophy of life which is the primary source of my own peace of mind and passions today.
Those four years from ’99 through ’02 I do still refer to as “the happiest years of my life” (until now), when I first began to be able to write (without an underlying/dominating bitterness!) about those things.
My current manuscript-in-progress (while shaped by my critiques of the writings of current Pastor Rick Warren and the late apologist/theologian Francis Schaeffer) is an attempt to merge my specific critiques of Ortho/Evangel/Fundy Christianity with the positive affirmations and compassionate sentiments of an ethical humanist philosophy of life.
Oh…and I’m increasingly looking forward to enjoying “fellowship” and meaningful friendships with like-minded people in the kind of philosophical groups that can in a sense replace the admittedly sometimes poignant loss of “Christian fellowship” that I had enjoyed those now-many years ago.