Zoe, a dear internet friend of mine, left an interesting comment on Erin Word’s blog, Reason for Being:
I was born into it. Then born-again at age 13. My conversion was emotional. Did anyone care about that being some “false” conversion because it was “emotional”? Up and until that time Jesus loved me. The Bible told me so. The Sunday School teacher reminded me. The Reverend preached it. Then I learned Jesus loved me “if” and this scared the proverbial waste matter out of me and so I talked to this “loving” Jesus who really would burn me forever if I didn’t ask Him into my heart and was born-again which started this convoluted and dare I say emotional journey into the morass of Christian evangelicalism now commonly known as fundamentalism with a swirl and a twist, heavy on the twist of literal legalism.
How many people “come to the Lord” bawling their eyes out? Shaking in their boots? Broken and prostrate, filled with guilt and shame, up to their whatever in sin(s). A lot of them. How many of them prayed their sinner’s prayer without emotion? How many of them “found” Jesus without emotion? How many of them think their “mountain top” experience was not emotional?
When I read Zoe’s comment I wanted to jump out of bed, shout praise, uh praise somebody, and have an old-fashioned Holy Ghost camp meeting run the aisles experience. Zoe states succinctly what I have thought for a long time when Christians accuse me and other atheists of deconverting for emotional reasons. As Zoe clearly shows, most people when they get saved, come to Jesus, are born again, are filled with the Spirit, are baptized in the Holy Ghost, or walk down the saw dust trail at an old-fashioned revival, are quite emotional.
In Evangelical circles, few people become a Christian for intellectual reasons alone. (in Most Americans Christians are born into Christianity, live in a Christian nation. How could they NOT be or become a Christian?) Evangelical preachers frequently tell people that they are sinners, the enemy of God, empty with a God-shaped void in their life, and living a life without purpose and meaning. How can one not be emotional when finding out the Jesus can forgive your sins, make you a friend of God, plug the hole in your heart, and give your life meaning and purpose? (please read Emotional Manipulation in the Evangelical Church)
So why is it that Christians disparage atheists when they admit that emotions played a part in their deconversion? Isn’t this one of those good for the goose, good for the gander moments? After all, atheists are human, and as a human beings they have emotions. I readily admit that my deconversion had an emotional component. No I didn’t deconvert because I was angry at God or the church hurt me in some way, but my deconversion did have an emotional component that certainly played a part in me exiting the Christian faith.
My emotional response came not when I was questioning or doubting my faith, but when I started asking questions out loud. When I started blogging I was still a Christian, of the emerging/emergent variety. Andrew Hackman, who I think has followed me longer than anyone else (truly he is long-suffering) , can give testimony to the fact that I was trying to make peace with Christianity and its teachings. Where emotions came in was when I was openly, viciously attacked by people who were pastor friends, former parishioners, and friends. No one sidled up to me and tried to understand. Instead, they mercilessly, with no thought of anything but their own certainty and righteousness, attacked me. I think this is clearly shown in some of my posts like A Letter to Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners, Dear Friend, Dear Ann, A Letter to My Fundamentalist Grandmother, Dear Bruce, A Letter to My Former Youth Pastor, Dear Mom and Dad, A Letter to Fundamentalist Christian Parents.
Gary, a recent frequent commenter on this blog, rages on his blog against the emotionalism found in Evangelicalism. Yet, he doesn’t seem to get that his blog posts are filled with emotion. He may want to paint himself as a person who is dispassionately seeking the truth, but it is evident he is quite passionate about the resurrection of Jesus, the one holy catholic church, and the Lutheran church. He is every bit as emotional as the people he met, and now despises, in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church of his youth.
When I came to saving faith in Jesus Christ at the age of fifteen, it was a very emotional experience for me. I was sitting with my friends at an Al Lacy revival meeting at Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio, and all of a sudden I felt an emotional heaviness, as if God himself was talking directly to me. Even though I had made a number of professions of faith, as many IFB kids do, this time I felt conviction, and when the invitation was given I went forward and put my faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Afterward, it felt as if a weight had been lifted from me. My life changed, I was baptized and I confessed to the church that I believed God was calling me to be a preacher. And here we are forty-two years later.
As I type this post, I am listening to Southern Gospel music. Why? It’s not because I believe one word they are singing. (i.e. The Poet Voices are singing, Jesus builds a bridge you can not burn) Polly HATES any sort of Christian music, so I don’t listen to it while she is home. I listen to Southern Gospel music because it elicits an emotional response from me. God? The Holy Spirit? Of course not. My mind has been deeply imprinted with Christianity and its beliefs, values, morality, ethics, and music, and it should come as no surprise that “some” things Christian still appeal to me emotionally. Preaching, on the other hand, does the opposite. Like my good friend, and former preacher, Jim Schoch says, going into a church and hearing someone preach causes a rise in blood pressure. Preaching elicits a deep, negative emotional response from me. Not only do I intellectually reject the bullshit sandwich they are selling, I also reject the emotional manipulation and control that subtly lurks under the surface of most everything that goes on in church.
Today Dale sent me an, are you OK, Bruce, email. I appreciate him doing so and I know many of you have done so in the past. He was worried that Jason had gotten to me and that I was having one of my historic mental meltdowns. While I wasn’t near meltdown level, I was quite depressed. Earlier in the week, I attempted to clone the SSD drive on my desktop computer so I could move the operating system to a larger SSD drive. The cloning did not work properly and I had a *&^%*& big mess on my hand for a couple of days. And then after I got everything back up and running, my Seagate hard drive that held all of my programs decided to fail. This was yesterday, so I spent yesterday trying to get things back in working order. Added to this, the basement flooded, the power went out, and the internet was down off and on throughout the day. Jason’s comments were the icing on the cake. (and I am very grateful for everyone of you who took Jason to task for his comments)
So, no I wasn’t OK, yes I was depressed, but, Hey…today is a new day. I am in a tremendous amount of pain today (stress, depression don’t help when it comes to chronic pain) but my computer is back up and running, the power is back on, the internet is working, and it stopped raining. Praise, Zeus.
Let me summarize my rambling post. Let’s admit that all of us are human and that we all have emotions. Our emotions play a part in most everything we do. However, rarely are emotions the only reason we make a decision. Yes emotions played a part in my leaving the ministry, leaving Christianity, and deconverting, BUT the primary reasons were intellectual. I, with great passion, thirst for knowledge, and with as much enthusiasm as a chronically ill person can possibly have, I continue to walk the wild, woolly, scary, and wonderful path I am on. Can I get a witness, church?