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I Need Your Help: Dear Preacher, HELP! I Think I am Losing my Faith!


I am thinking about writing a book that will be marketed to people who have questions and doubts about their faith. I don’t want the book to be polemical. I am more interested in writing a book that has a pastoral tone, one that gently helps people on their journey from Evangelicalism to unbelief (and all the stopping points in between).  My head is filled with ideas about what I should cover in this book, but I thought I would ask the readers of this blog to offer suggestions about what they think should be covered in the book.

While I think that books written by authors such as Bart Ehrman, John Loftus, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens can be helpful, I want to write a book that allows me to be  a pastor of sorts. I have a working title for the book: Dear Preacher, HELP! I Think I am Losing my Faith! Since many of the readers of this blog — a cast of thousands— are former Evangelicals, I am  soliciting your help with this project. What questions or subjects do you think I should address in this book? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section. If you do not comment on this blog but would still like to make a suggestion, please use the comment form to send me an email.

Thank you for your help. I will make this post a sticky for a few weeks so every reader has an opportunity to make a suggestion if they so desire.


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    I would buy your book. I’d love to hear about how you gathered courage to come out knowing how this would affect relationships with friends and family. How have you benefitted or been hurt by coming out, and
    What might you do differently in retrospect.

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    Wayne Beamer

    Hi Bruce,

    I’m a writer-editor and would love to talk to you about this more in depth. Do you see this as a self-help book that helps people sort out where they are and taking steps forward through exercises and journaling to guide them?

    Or, will it be a first-person account of your life and those you want to document? Or, an amalgam of both? Or, maybe the book is structured like a series of counseling sessions you might have had with parishners, except with the express goal of encouraging them to question their beliefs and lead them to a better understanding.

    I’m glad you don’t want to go polemic, because I “hear” a lot of anger in your posts from time to time.

    You know how to reach me if you want to brainstorm…. Cheers!

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    Bruce, since you know Calvinism inside and out, and because I was a former Calvinist, I would love to see things like Biblical errancy (sometimes you do not even have to prove the Bible has errors in it, but just persuade someone that such things are real possibilities and force them to consider the issues). Also helpful to me at least were things like forcing myself to face the question, how do I really know I am elect, which has a twin element on the other side of the coin of, how sincere were these ex-Christians in their faith and the process of coming out of faith? And last but certainly not least for me was where is all the scientific evidence for the Biblical miracles, or even better, do we have scientific evidence that contradicts the miraculous accounts in the Bible (evidence of origins, global flood, etc)? Those are three areas which really hit home to me as a Calvinist, though I realize that is probably a minority position in the faith especially here in the States and other approaches are needed to help people coming from a more freewill standpoint. I would look forward to buying your book. I would especially love something I could introduce to open-minded Christian friends (all both of them, LOL) as an ice-breaker and not a polemical tome (in the same spirit as the book, “50 Simple Questions For Every Christian” by Guy P. Harrison, which you may have mentioned already on this blog, which I think is wonderful because it is friendly and earnest without being condescending).

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    As a former calvinist (deliberate small c) of the Presbyterian ilk, my own coming out centred around a number of areas – theodicy, the place of historicity, miracles, authenticity, fable after fable in the OT, timing of when gospels written, so few independent eyewitnesses etc, and then a study of other world religions, origins of human ‘worship’ of all sorts of gods…. then ending in full circle that one is f***** if not one of the elect…. or even worse double predestination! (And some of the biggest priks I know a xians!) Oh and add to that xians treatment of LGBQT (of which some in my family fit), plus views on abortion and euthanasia, you have a soup to cook!

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    I think pastorally you could address people’s fears. What if this is not true?
    Will I lose any sense of right and wrong?
    Will I need to become a liberal?

    Showing that peoples views on the bible needed nt affect how they see right and wrong or politics may help to show that in rejecting god you don’t need to reject everything.

    Also a lot of books/ blogs are written with an us and them in mind. They critique christians as the enemy. Perhaps a book written to christian doubters with real empathy for their view might be more powerful.

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      I like this a lot. So much of doubt is about fear.

      What if God doesn’t exist? But also what if God does exist and my questioning his existance will bring his wrath or disapointment over me?

      Rejecting God may affect a lot of your worldview, but like you say, it doesn’t need to affect anything else, like politics or your habits or values.

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    For me what was a huge thing which made me question was the gap between what the Bible promises and what I saw in reality. Christians were not better people than non-believers (sometimes they were even worse!). God promises people heaven and safety when they are harbouring under his wings but what about all those Christians who die in fear of hell? What about the miracles that Jesus promises us we will do? The healing we might bring the world, or simply making it a better place: why do we see so little of it? (And why are non-believers doing the same if they don’t have God’s help or urging and how can they be sometimes more succeful at it if we have God on our side?)

    It seemed to me that non-believers sometimes were more loving, friendlier and less judgemental, and therefore had more of Jesus’ characteristics than his actual followers had: this should not even be possible and it puzzled me. The answer would be something along the lines of them being more tolerant = wrong because God is just and ultimately does judge or it was just the devil playing tricks, making them seem better than they really were etc. etc.

    In short: what the Bible tells you v. what you perceive for yourself.

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    one of my biggest conflicts has to do with ritual (Roman Catholic here). I haven’t believed in 5 years or so and I am not upset or conflicted by that. This will sound self-serving and petty, but I am a very good cantor and much in demand within the parish and the diocese. I really like singing and I really like the satisfaction and comfort my singing gives to other parishioners – this by their own comments, not my ego speaking (tho it sure WANTS to sometimes 😉 ). The priests, deacons and bishop I could care less about quite frankly.

    How does one let go of the more satisfying aspects of being part of the church? The good relationships with other parishioners, although the minute my unbelief hits the streets – not all, but most of those would be off? The comfort my talent gives others during tough times (especially funerals)? While other dominations would hire me for my singing ( I really dislike most of the current Christian music, tho), the RC church in this diocese would not, especially once word is out. By the way, my singing is on a purely “for free” basis, I make my living elsewhere. When folks offer me money, I tell them to donate to St Vincent de Paul society – one of the more non-judgmental religious charities around, IMO.

    I am having a tough time with this, as the stuff coming out of the mouths of the deacons, priests and bishops during this election cycle is highly pissing me off.

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        Well, thank you. I only have a few more years left for singing as I hit the big 60 this year. Eventually, I will devolve into the warbly voiced old church lady…… until then, I will keep trucking on.

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    some rough, disjoint ideas:

    1) use you own story as the thread throughout, to give it authenticity

    2) clergy and their motivations / conflict of interest / pressures (ie, why clergy are rarely good an dealing with doubt, doubts many clergy struggle with, impact of clergy if they encourage someone’s apostasy and lose their job, etc)

    3) roadmap:

    a) all the different doubts various people have. (ie, your doubts started in a particular place, but other people get hung on on why there’s evil in the world, bible stories can’t be true, why christians are hypocritical, archeological issues, how/when the bible was written, etc.)

    b) emotional process (eg, 7 stages of grief, etc.)

    c) different belief stopping points along the way (eg, liberal christian, deist, agnostic, atheist, etc.)

    4) survival strategies (eg, staying in the closet with family, being out to family but not at church, changing to a more liberal church or denomination, going to church only for major holidays, stop going to church entirely, etc etc. challenges/pressures for each, eg, difficulting in not being honest with immediate family/spouse, questions from others, feeling like a fraud, etc.)

    5) famous good people that are not fundamentalists, and their views (to make people feel they are in good company, and that decent people can end up liberal christian, deist, agnostic, atheist, etc. and that most of those people also had doubts, which led them to where they were. eg, einstein, founding fathers like jefferson, franklin, paine, etc. show there’s a long line of perfectly respectable people that noted the same doubts they’re feeling, and ended disbelieving some or all of the fundamentalist tenets.)

    6) community (where to find another community to replace what they no longer have. eg, online forums, charity work, ????; as many have noted, this is something lacking and i don’t know there is a great answer.)

    think of it like a travel guidebook. if you’ve never been to europe, it’s rather daunting. but a guidebook that tells you what’s in each city makes you realize many have travelled the same path as you, and there are plenty of hostels along the way.

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      7) guide to other atheist sources. (eg, why would you choose hitchens vs erhman? if you’re interested in bible inerrancy from scholarly perspective, choose erhman, if you’re interested in learning about religious hypocracy thru the years in polemic style, choose hitchens. so based on what led to your initial doubts, and whether you’re looking for polemics or sober scholarly data, you could have a good outline of what’s available out there. plus, all the people you recommend would want to endorse your book — bonus!)

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    Allan G

    I agree with sgl. There is plenty of info out there on why a person should abandon christianity, but scarce are the resources that aid a person along the journey out of it. Thanks Bruce for being such a great resource and collecting your thoughts into a book would be a great idea.

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    I would definitely say that people who leave thee church, ease into agnostic info, and a supportive (pastoral)warm voice. I grew up Capital C, as did someone who I care about, a lot. He agonized for years about not being elect, and painfully admitted to me his doubts. I frequently joke that I am in Recovery from Calvinism, but, given the amount of brain-washing we went through, it makes sense that people who are leaving church would need a place that is as home as churches plan to be. If ever there was a group of people hurting, it I people whoever families don’t love them any more, because they are, who they are. Exciting times!

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    Appalachian Agnostic

    Sometimes I think the most harmful line in the Bible is, “lean not to your own understanding” because this tells us not to trust our own judgement, but to accept whatever we are told. I began to doubt when I stopped being afraid to think for myself. I would like to see people encouraged to trust their own thoughts and emotions.

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      That line gets me. I worry about how Christianity and the anti intellectual thing effects society. My husband and I watched Zeitgeist together and I thought it was so interesting. I think part of how my husband became an atheist and why I may end up one day on the same road, is that. This started because where I tend to go with the flow, and usually keep my thoughts private, my husband questions everything. I love that about him. I hate it when people don’t only fail to use logic, but then blame God. If God is perfect, wouldn’t he expect us to use logic?

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        Michael Mock

        “If God is perfect, wouldn’t he expect us to use logic?”

        The sort of Christianity I grew up in would answer with a resounding “Yes!” For that matter, the sort of Christianity that I grew up in was also generally of the opinion that a just God would not end up punishing His imperfect creations for being honestly mistaken, even on topics like His existence.

        But, as I’ve noted before, my experience with Christianity is not everybody’s experience with Christianity.

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    (1) Reassurance that it is ok to doubt, and that you are not alone in your journey.
    (2) Ideas on how to deal with the people you are leaving behind “in the faith,” since deconversion is not just a matter of unbelief but also of relationships.
    (3) Guidance on where to turn when you feel like praying, even though you may no longer believe in God, especially when you need a coping mechanism.

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    I am not sure what might have helped me in my escape from the brain/heart gulag of evangelical Christianity. It might have been simple information offered openly in the earliest days. I was so far under water that even plain old info was hard to endure, the Devil being the author of all questioning, of course. Later, when I began to consider myself not just a fallen, evil being, I needed help to have simple human feelings, to allow joy and sorrow to come out and not be buried in the sick Christian smile of everything-to-God!
    As I realized more and more how horribly brainwashed I was, I felt amazing anger inside and so needed someone to tell me that was okay, natural in fact and very necessary. I was fortunate to find a childhood-group gathered under the auspices of the groundbreaker Alice Miller and the purpose of that group was to allow survivors to speak together and have at it among themselves in a place that was safe from abusers. Many of us, in fact all of us brought our damage with us to this group and smashed our way among ourselves, desperate to be able to be, to feel openly and be… We cried and raged and fought among ourselves for months as we moved along.
    Nowadays, years on, I still value open places like your blog, Bruce, a forum for expression that does not condemn me for just being human. I have grown more and more over the years to see that the gentle Jesus veneer of evangelical faith is an ingrained virus in humanity and will not soon be cured.

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    Some of the things that kept me in the fold even though I no longer liked being a Christian:
    1. Israel being restored according to prophecy
    2. Several occasions where I saw “demons” at night (hallucinated i guess)
    3. Couldn’t understand how the universe could exist without a creator
    4. Man’s inhumanity, which we see every day in the news

    Some of the things that made me leave:
    1. No evidence of the Holy Spirit indwelling Christians
    2. Black and white thinking preached throughout the bible
    3. God didn’t make me a better person, just a more religious one
    4. Christians don’t ever become really good at anything. A real Christian has to put God first, but to be a doctor or something like that, you have to make that pursuit number one. For Christians that is a sin, so they are mediocre in their fields.

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    Jeffrey Brown

    Thinking back on my childhood growing up in a Wisconsin IFB church, there is one topic I heard over and over that stands out. That is the idea that there will be a second coming of the Messiah and it could happen at any time so make sure your heart is right. We believed that no man known the hour or day of this event but it always was presented as being imminent (close at hand). As I grew out of my teen years and into young adulthood I remember hearing stories from my mother and grandfather that they as well, during their formative years (1937-1957) for my mother and (1910-1940) for my grandfather that at that time in their lives events in the world were just as bad as in my lifetime and they thought THEY were living in the end times. Fast forward to today and I sit here a 59 year old man who now understands that there cannot be a second coming of the Messiah. My simplified logic tells me that the reason for this is because there was never a first coming of the Messiah. The Jewish people had it right all long, Jesus was not the promised Messiah that the deluded apostles believed him to be but just another pretender in a long line of supposed Messiahs.
    So, I would like you to speak to this topic, as you understand it, as to why the Messiah never came in the first place, how Jesus ended up as (according to modern Christianity)as the Messiah, and expound on the issue I believe is relevant today. No second coming is imminent because there was never a true 1st coming.

    Thanks Bruce,
    Jeffrey Brown

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    I suggest a Q&A format, with the questions being what a doubting congregant might come ask his pastor about. I would avoid deep theological concepts…write for the average Ohio layman. Or if you do feel compelled to do deep dives on some topics, maybe segregate them into to chapters that can be skipped.

    As for as specific topics, Jeffrey Brown just beat me to it. “Brother Bruce, the way I read the NT, it seems pretty clear the second coming was supposed to be imminent in the first century. Yet here we still are 2,000 years later. Why?”

    For other topics, maybe take Lee Strobel’s Case for Christ and provide counterpoints to each of his points/topics.

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    The anger.

    Some people say, “Bruce, you seem angry.”

    And then they offer to pray for you or whatever.

    But you know, I think anger is a very rational response to being conned. And conned for years and years and years. I was conned, too. And thought I needed to help con others.

    It’s a religious pyramid scheme. And I think people should know that being angry is okay, is a rational response to the scheme, and that people shouldn’t feel like they need to hide that.

    I love the way you’ve pointed out the most ridiculous shit that was foisted on you… and the things you thought you needed to foist on others. I don’t hold it against you, of course… it’s all part of the game and you thought you were playing for the right team.

    Just let people know that it’s okay to have what are considered negative emotions. That it’s not wrong to be pissed as hell.

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      What Ami said above, yep…
      Fundagelical faith is about self-harm… When we walk/limp/run away, there should be an experienced triage nurse who could look us in the eyes somewhere in no man’s land and say, You go that way: You’ve got to find your feelings again, all of them.

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    I just read an interview with a Baptist pastor from one of the few mega-churches we have over here. This church is pretty closeby and I’ve been there a couple of times.

    Anyway, at the end of the interview he says: “Without vitality and professionalism, I don’t believe the Church has much of a future.” It’s basically an insult to other churches that he considers to be too old-fashioned for his taste. My mouth sort of fell open and I thought: But what about your God? Isn’t He supposed to keep His church growing, thriving even?!

    So on some level he knows… He knows his church grows because he’s a good preacher and has great effects: a good band, spotlights, music etc. but other churches don’t and that, in general, attendance is declining quite rapidly.

    The cognitive dissonance, the way you have to keep twisting your mind with excuses and explanations as to why things don’t work the way the Bible promises you: I think it is a huge part of people’s doubts and questions. It was for me. Anyone can see that it doesn’t work like it’s supposed to and you have to keep explaining it away if you want to continue believing.

    The pastor I just gave as an example doesn’t blame his God, but blames the other churches and the way they deliver the message (the wrong way, he thinks) and that’s his explanation for a general decline in attendance. He does not wonder (at least not aloud in the interview) why his God doesn’t just fix this problem in an instant.

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    My thoughts back then:

    Why don’t the Elect feel sorry for the Un-Elect?

    How can people go from deep emotional involvement during the altar call every Sunday to laughing, chatting, going out to Sunday dinner-and then do it all over again the next week, week after week? This doesn’t seem to make sense.

    If praying is talking with God and if the Bible is God’s Holy Word-why do preachers have to beg people to read the Bible each day and pray? This does not compute.

    Why are there Christian jerks? Why do Christian women gossip?

    Why do people die from cancer with thousands of Christians praying for them?

    Why do pastors seem just like other people during the week? Why do pastors do home repairs and beautify their property and care about sports, etc.-don’t they spend tons of time with God in prayer?

    If God accepts all who call on Him, why does it not seem to work for me? How do you keep the feeling you had on Sunday going on Monday – Friday?

    Why do Christians have problems like depression, etc. just like other people? Why don’t they have the fruits of the Spirit if they have the Spirit and are NEW CREATURES? Makes no sense.

    And, finally, the big one: Why do I think something’s wrong with ME when this stuff doesn’t really work as presented? Why do I spend YEARS AND YEARS of my life trying to figure out what I’m doing wrong? I have the sincerity-nothing I want more than to be God’s child.

    My last idea: Ask the question-“What if nothing’s wrong with you? What if you’re thinking clearly and logically? What if it makes sense that you’d have these concerns and questions?

    Also knowing your personality type helps to explain why some have concerns and some don’t. That is huge.

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      To emphasize-I think your personality affects the whole thing greatly. But you might not realize that at the time when you’re watching others and comparing yourself to them and comparing the whole thing to what the preacher is telling you.

      Bruce, I’d want your book to definitely address the serious, analytical child.

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        Oh, this one was big for me, so I wonder if it has been for others. Both Arminians and Calvinists read the same Bible!! Yet, their very basic theology is very, very different. And also all the many denominations that can’t unite, even though Jesus (God Himself) prayed to God to unite his followers.

        I guess the main gist of the book might be “No, you’re not crazy, back-slidden, evil, etc. for having doubts about all this. Maybe you should consider that YOU are not the problem.”

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          Michael Mock

          I have to admit, it was a huge step for me when I stopped wondering why I just didn’t get it (which, in my defense, was common theme with me and things that other people seemed to think were vitally important, like Sports and Cars) and started wondering if it was maybe just that Christianity didn’t make any sense.

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    Another one: where do you go with negative feelings/ guilt etc. ?

    In Christianity it can be simple, talk to God, pray, get forgiveness and you’re done. God can give a sense of comfort, perhaps the suggestion that all is not lost, and gives (depending on denomination) plenty of forgiveness.

    So: what other sources of comfort can someone seek when God falls away? And how do you deal with negative feelings, either sadness or guilt, if you don’t get to take them to your God?

    I think you adressed this in a blogpost somewhere as well? But I am not sure.

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      J.D. Matthews

      I’m still working this one out myself. One thing I miss is singing (although I don’t miss the songs) and so I’ve downloaded a bunch of karaoke files, and whenever I’ve got the house to myself and the neighbors aren’t home, I crank my voice up to about 11 and let fly. It may not be great, but it makes me feel better.

      Community was another difficult source, but I’ve replaced the friends that I’ve lost. Instead of going to church together on Sunday morning, we meet at the pub or bar on Friday night. Instead of devotionals, we’ll play Cards Against Humanity or Settlers of Catan.

      As for the sadness… still working on that one. But I have to say, a nice stiff drink or even a bit of ..ahem… herbal remedy (y’know, wherever it’s legal to do so and all) can make that sort of thing go away for a while. 🙂 Also, it is never a bad idea to seek out professional help in the form of a counselor or therapist.

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        Thank-you, J.D. Matthews, the knowledge that I am not howling to the wind alone gives me great comfort. To have some knowledge of how to feel better and let loose is hearttwarming and delight. The sadness continues because the human heart was made for it and it is a foundational part of being fully human. I wish you well, that you remain a legend in your own living room!

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    I think that having a place/voice to express my feelings was the way to freedom. As long as we are shut down and convinced that we are fallen and worthless and in need of the guilt, then we have no ears to hear. We refuse to listen even to ourselves. Christianity in its rigid forms executes this matter as well as fundamentalist Islam. You are scum. Only the good one makes you worth breath.
    So to have a listener, one who allows you to be, to have confusion and doubt and rage and any old fucking thing at all at the time, is paramount. People want to be themselves finally and the challenge is to let them be just that… It is not as simple as it might seem to just be yourself, at least it has not been for me. In the beginning, I had doubts and had to have guilt for doubting. I had to continue to chastise myself for thinking that God was a bully. Somehow I knew that I must be wrong and my thinking just that of a truly fallen man. I had to go along for months/years repeating this pattern because I did not deserve to be heard. To have somebody just listen to me, that might have helped me sooner. (This was pre-internet so quite some time ago…. now it seems to me that there are many willing to listen. Whether that allows the onion to be peeled any faster will be for others to say as time goes on….)

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    Maybe because I’m a historian at heart, but perhaps one thing you should discuss is the history of the KJV bible, calvinism, and how the revival movement affected the various faiths in the US. It might help people unwrap the inerrancy thing.

    Don’t neglect to mention UU as a possible place to gain fellowship and community. It might not work for everyone, but most UU congregations are welcoming and warm.

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    Hi Bruce. I probably ended up to your blog via patheos and have enjoyed reading stuff so far. I won’t lie and say that I can relate to your life or experiences. I hail from Finland for starters and like many here was a nominal Lutheran for the first 36 years of my life. Once I finally decided to be honest with myself, I left the church. If you have time or interest, check the Finnish system. As a bonus, I don’t pay church-tax anymore so I get 1,25 percent more to spend on something else 🙂

    I have dear friends in the US so also out of respect to them I’ve tried to understand your society – role of religion included. In short, I don’t (understand). The more I’ve read the less I comprehend – you guys are so unlike any I’ve encountered. It is not just the evangelicals or the religious right but even the “progressive” churches that leave me with my mouth open. Just recently I read and responded to a blog at patheos written by a seemingly nice lady (Jerseygirl,Jesus) and I don’t know if it’s more about me but I just wanted to vomit. The “crazy love in Jesus” and all that was just awful. It was Neil Flanders over and over again.

    I’venever had a personal relationship with baby Jesus so I cannot relate but while I truly loath the “social conservatives”, the progressives just make me sick. There is so much to love and wonder in this world without any deities or religions – if those people just trusted themselves and other people, things were so much better. Apparently they don’t see it that way.

    I wish you best of luck in your future endeavours.


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    a concept or maybe a title or subtitle idea: “funderground railway”, ie, like an underground railway for fundamentalists — how to escape the cultish mind control, and a roadmap and guide to leaving the fundamentalist world.

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      symbolically apt imagery, sgl…. I think yours is a great idea. I have been helped by therapy to support my deconversion… to have someone to talk with, to feel with, makes all the difference. Are you aware of the Journey Free site?

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        i think i’ve stumbled across the journey free site before, because i recall the religious trauma syndrome articles. i deconverted from a mainline church 30+ years ago, so i don’t think it applies to me. my interest is primarily how religion affects the political process today. ie, how did we as a society get so bat-shit crazy.

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    I think you have to go back to the very beginning and dealing with “Death”,,, that is what most humans fear and religion was created to appease this. Now it is on steroids.

    In the beginning people were told by the elders of their tribe that their poor child that died from some illness went to a warm and fuzzy place and their parents would see them when they die and go to that warm and fuzzy place themselves. Or something similar.

    Don’t fear death, it happens to all of us! Maybe have that in the forward of the book.

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Bruce Gerencser