Knowledge: The Cure for Christian Fundamentalism

bible head vice

Cartoon by Angelo Lopez

Evangelicalism is inherently Fundamentalist, both theologically and socially. (Please see Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?) Evangelicals who say they aren’t Fundamentalists either don’t understand Fundamentalism or are Evangelical-in-name-only. I know more than a few people who are liberal theologically, yet they continue to attend Evangelical churches. Family connections, comfort, familiarity, and worship style are often given as reasons why they remain. I even know a few atheists who go to church on Sundays. Strange, from my perspective, but each to his own, right?

Christian Fundamentalism affects every aspect of our lives, regardless of whether we are believers. Fundamentalists currently have the ear of President Trump and can be found holding cabinet level seats in his administration. Fundamentalists regularly come to the White House to pray for Trump, reminding him that he is God’s super-sexy chosen one. Most U.S. people believe the Christian God created the universe, and many of them believe the earth and all therein was created 6,023 years ago. A majority of people believe the Bible is a supernatural book written by God. Worse yet, many people believe the stories of the Old and New Testaments really happened. Never mind the fact that there is no evidence for stories such as the flood or the exodus, and no evidence outside of the Bible for the supernatural claims found in the New Testament. Despite these facts, millions and millions of Evangelicals believe the stories of the Bible are true; that the Bible is an inspired, inerrant, infallible text. Simply put, ignorance abounds.

There is only one cure — besides death — for Christian Fundamentalism: knowledge. And therein lies the problem. Evangelicals aren’t known for their Einstein-like intellectual prowess. Evangelicals are encouraged to just read the Bible and select Christian books that reinforce their beliefs. Questions and doubts are drowned in the sea of faith. Congregants are warned about how Satan uses doubt to lead people astray. People such as myself are tools of Satan, pawns of the Evil One. How dare we cause people to question and doubt!

In a post earlier today, I mentioned the YouTube video lectures of Yale University professor, Dr. Christine Hayes.  As I listened to her lectures, I found myself saying, man, if only I had heard these things when I was training for the ministry at Midwestern Baptist College; if only I had stumbled upon these things as a pastor. Unfortunately, I was sheltered from any and all knowledge that challenged or rebutted Christian Fundamentalism, that called into question my beliefs. Of course, my pastors and professors knew that if I was exposed to non-Evangelical theology and history, it would likely lead to either unbelief or the adoption of liberal Christian beliefs. So, they hid the truth from me.

You can’t argue Christian Fundamentalists out of their beliefs. Deeply rooted in faith, it is almost impossible to get Evangelicals to question their system of belief. The only thing I know to do is encourage them to read non-Evangelical books and blogs and listen to videos that challenge the fundamentals of their faith.

The books of Dr. Bart Ehrman, a renowned New Testament scholar, are a good starting place:

The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why

How Jesus Became God : the Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee

Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior

Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them)

Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth

Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are

God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question — Why We Suffer

Want to gain a good understanding of the Old Testament? Try Dr. Christine Hayes’ free course, Introduction to the Old Testament. Over 20 hours in length, this course will literally destroy everything you were taught by Evangelical pastors and professors about the Old Testament.

Start here:

Video Link

Converting Christian Fundamentalists requires exposing them to authors, writers, and speakers who challenge their sincerely held beliefs. Arguing with them and getting into shit-throwing Twitter battles is a waste of time. It might feel good to put them in their place, but if our goal is to make the world a better place, then we are going to have to evangelize Evangelicals with the gospel of reason and truth — one person at a time.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

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8 Comments

  1. ObstacleChick

    It’s tough to convince them to read something. They live in a system that teaches them that their Bible/church/pastor is the ultimate authority and that anything contradictory is of Satan and to be distrusted. But I wholeheartedly agree that arguing with them is pointless, and that education is the key to breaking those ridiculous beliefs. (When I told my brother about things I had learned that contradicted fundamentalist belief, he said I should seek spiritual knowledge instead of worldly knowledge, so I knew that was the end of the conversation).

    Reply
  2. John Arthur

    Hi Bruce,

    Are the atheists you know who go to church Christian atheists? (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_atheism)).

    Reply
  3. John

    Hey Bruce, this is well written and so true! I have been fortunate to have a couple friends who, through my Christian years, asked me hard questions about the Bible and what it teaches. I think the key to me being open to their questions is that I actually went to them first with some questions. I would ask their opinion on certain topics and they would tell me what they thought, and asked questions in return. I don’t think either would say they are atheists, but skeptics for sure. These hard questions made me do research, in the Bible and outside of it. Gasp! Outside the Bible?!?! Shocking. Like you and ObstacleChick pointed out, we were discouraged from reading anything other than the Bible and certain Christian writers. Why this never sent up any red flags, I have no idea? The research I did brought more questions with it. So I read more, and then more questions. And so on. As I read your post I found myself going, “yep!”, through all of it. The leaders of the churches I came out of said all those things! Don’t read anything that makes you question your faith. It’s of the devil! Ugh. Thanks for posting the links by Ehrman. I’ll have to check those out.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Let me know what you think of Ehrman’s books. He’s a scholar, but his popular books are quite readable. He is a master at distilling complex textual issues down to a level where they can be understood by the average reader.

      Reply
  4. maryg

    so familiar. never read,see, or accept help outside the church. the worst advice came from the preachers. guess their special conduit to god was off that day? glad I am out and got my kids out before they were really indoctrinated. thanks for continuing to educate and write about these issues.

    Reply
  5. Melissa A Montana

    I agree. I believe it was the fact that I was allowed to read science books as a child that kept me from turning to Fundamentalism. Carl Sagan, Steven Jay Gould, and other science writers were a big influence on my early development. Unfortunately, I fell away from reason and embraced religious superstition, in my forties, when going through a stressful time. It was only when Jesus was clearly ignoring my suffering that I came to realize there was nothing to pray to. But, like addicts, we can only change when we are truly ready to change.
    I am followed by some Fundamentalist/Quiverfull people on Twitter. They never argue. They don’t troll me. They don’t comment. They are just quietly there, despite my anti-religious posts. I have heard from some ex-Christians who did the same. They secretly followed atheist/agnostic accounts because they were starting to doubt, but had nobody to talk to in real life. They are terrified of being shunned. We must remember that although it appears no one is listening, many are doing so secretly, and they will change in their own time. Rather than trolling and fighting, I try to set a good example for the secular movement. It will work better in the long run.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      My pastors drilled into my head the importance of having a good testimony. I still believe that today as an atheist and humanist. Every time I see a fellow secularist get in a shit-throwing contest on social media with a Fundamentalist Christian, I want to say, “you are not helping our cause.” Sure, sometimes it feels good to rip the head off a Fundy and spit in their neck. 🙂 But, such behavior does nothing to change minds and convert people to a humanist worldview.

      Reply
  6. Steve Ruis

    Dear Pawn of the Evil One,

    How is it possible that the all powerful god of the Bible brooks any opposition at all? Supposedly he brought Satan into this world and could take him out with a mere thought. How can anyone or anything oppose an all-powerful, all-knowing entity?

    If Satan is messing with God’s plans, heck the Mafia would take him out, so would many other organizations, but Jesus … apparently not.

    Reply

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