“Those” Christians are Crazy: I’m Not That Kind of Christian

crazy christian

Cartoon by Adam Ford

This blog attracts all sorts of readers, from ardent Fundamentalists to atheists. I long ago stopped trying to figure out why this or that group reads my writing. I am just happy that ANYONE does. Most of my focus is on Evangelical Christianity. Liberal and progressive Christians, along with fringe Evangelicals, enjoy my critiques and takedowns of religious beliefs they consider insane. Such people will often leave comments that say, “Those Christians are crazy. I’m glad I am not that kind of Christian!” In their minds, Fundamentalists are crazy, and real Christians would never believe such things. Rejecting the God of wrath, liberal and progressive Christians assert that “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) Any belief that’s not consistent with “God is love” is wrong — regardless of what the Bible says. Thus, when Fundamentalists thunder and rage against sin, consigning billions of people to the flames of Hell, liberal and progressive Christians say, God is love! While I certainly appreciate the love and kindness injected into Christianity by such a view, I find it intellectually lacking. Only by dismissing or reinterpreting vast portions of the Bible can one come to the singular conclusion that God is love. God is “love,” but he is also a vindictive, mean, capricious son-of-a-bitch. Both Gods are in the Bible, but liberal and progressive Christians choose to ignore the latter. (And it could be argued that Christian Fundamentalists have lost all sense of God’s love.)

When Fundamentalists preach creationism or claim the earth is flat, liberal and progressive Christians rightly say, “those” Christians are crazy. Yet, when pressed on their own beliefs, most of them admit that they are to some degree or another theistic evolutionists. Seventy-five percent of the people of the United States believe that God, either by direct action or guided evolution, created the universe. (Please see Jerry Coyne’s post, Secularism on the rise: new Gallup poll shows that 40% of Americans are young-earth creationists, 33% are theistic evolutionists, and 22% are naturalistic evolutionists)  So, then, it seems that “crazy” is just a matter of degree. Sure, theistic evolution as a belief is better than nonsensically believing that the universe is 6,024 years old, but it is hardly a scientifically rigorous system of thought.

Fundamentalists are known for being literalists — people of the Book. They aren’t, but that’s how they perceive themselves. Fundamentalists, much like liberal and progressive believers, are cafeteria Christians. Down the Bible line they go, picking and choosing what they want to believe. This is why we have millions of Christianities and Jesuses. Each believer makes and molds Jesus in his or her own image. The only difference, really, between Fundamentalists and liberal/progressive Christians is the foods they put on their trays — each believing that their food choices best represent Jesus and historic Christianity. Good luck trying to figure out which group is right. While I prefer liberal and progressive Christianity due to its harmlessness, I find Christianity, in general, irrationally and intellectually stupefying. (Please see The Michael Mock Rule: It Just Doesn’t Make Sense.) I am convinced that more than a few liberal and progressive Christians are actually atheists/agnostics. Many liberal and progressive believers have jettisoned more of the Bible than did Thomas Jefferson, yet, for some reason, they hang on to Christianity. Fear? Family connections? The need for spirituality? I don’t know. I can’t speak to the reasons why people refuse to let go of the bones of faith. What I do wish they would do is at least be honest about their beliefs, hermeneutics, and how they rationalize the teachings of the Bible — rejecting literalism when it’s embarrassing, yet clinging to it when it comes to Jesus, saving faith, and life after death. And perhaps therein lies the crux of their faith: the need to believe that there is more to life than the here and now; that death is not the end.

Liberal and progressive Christians think Evangelicals are nuts. Who in their right minds believes as Fundamentalists do? liberals and progressives think. But, to those of us who are no longer Christians, we see craziness in Evangelicalism and liberal/progressive Christianity alike: a virgin teenager being impregnated by the Holy Ghost and giving birth to a God-man, that God-man working countless science-defying miracles, dying on a Roman cross, resurrecting from the dead, and ascending to Heaven. Every liberal and progressive Christian I know, along with every Evangelical, believes that Jesus was the Son of God, died for human sin, and resurrected from the dead. These three claims alone are, to unbelievers, absurd. So, when liberal and progressive believers say, “those” Christians are crazy, what atheists, agnostics, and unbelievers see is a matter of degree. We recognize the world is a better place the more liberal and progressive religions become, but we can’t ignore the “craziness” that is found in every system of faith.

To my liberal and progressive Christian readers, I say this: I would love to have you explain your worldview, how you understand the Bible, and what hermeneutics you use to interpret the Bible. I would love for you to explain to readers how you make Christianity work for you. I mean it. I am more than willing to grant you the floor and let you explain why you still believe. I am certain that the unbelievers who frequent this blog will give you a fair hearing and treat you with love and respect. We fight a common enemy — Fundamentalism. On that, we can agree. All I am asking for is for liberal and progressive Christians who are willing to do so, to explain “why” they continue to put their faith and trust in Jesus — and by extension Christianity. If you would like to write a guest post, please send your submission to me via the Contact form.

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.

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10 Comments

  1. Karen the rock whisperer

    I am an atheist, raised Catholic, and was exposed to Fundagelical Christianity for a few years on my way out of faith. Sop, maybe I’m the wrong person to comment. However, I want to speak specifically about the women I’ve known well who have steadfastly adhered to the version of Christianity they were raised in, though their theology might have changed dramatically.

    I’ve observed that what these women desire is comfort about the vagaries of the future, and religious belief offers that. They’ve lived through a lot, but after their darkest hours always came dawns, dawns that were desperately requested in prayer. To them, God doesn’t answer every prayer positively, but their prayer-nudging has helped create overall good outcomes for their families. So they can plausibly believe, if they don’t think about it too hard, that prayer works and God is manifesting himself in their lives in positive ways. He, or in the case of Catholics, his sidekicks, are watching over believers.

    If you’re an anxious person, and the evils of life haunt you (whether they’re likely to affect you and your family or not), being able to connect with a supreme being who cares about you and your loved ones is greatly comforting. Feeling loved, when everyone around you is caught up in their own worries and you don’t feel they appreciate you, is greatly comforting. What’s theology compared to that? If thinking about theology (i.e., the rationality of your beliefs) is going to perturb your comfort, surely there are other things to think about. We humans have strong needs for social support and are often not very good at giving it to those we love. God steps in to help, in our minds.

    Mind you, what I’ve said is not a meant as a criticism. We like to think of ourselves as rational beings, but in truth many of the thought processes that have allowed our relatively physically weak and insensitive species to thrive before we developed civilization are NOT rational. They’ve worked really well on a species level, though, and not everyone can shake them off even some of the time. I don’t believe any of us can shake them off all of the time.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      I totally get the emotional aspects of believing. I’m under no illusion that people who want/need to believe in the existence of God are going to change their minds if they just hear the right argument for unbelief. That said, when liberal and progressive Christians root their faith in theological beliefs, it is fair to ask how they come to those conclusions while ignoring/dismissing/revising vast portions of the Bible. The very notion of Jesus rests on a text — the Bible. Without the Bible, there’s no Jesus/Christianity (at least not in any meaningful way).

      I am not in any way suggesting that I am a pillar of rationality. Like all of my fellow primates, I have irrational beliefs. (e.g. I don’t fly on airplanes.) I do, however, genuinely want to know how liberal and progressive Christians come to the conclusions they do about God/Jesus/Christianity/Bible. I tried, for a time, to find a resting place among liberal/progressive Christians, but at the end of the day I couldn’t intellectually reconcile their beliefs. Maybe the fault was mine, but I made a good faith effort to believe in their God (And I can say the same about emerging/emergent Christianity and Universalism). In the end, atheism was the only thing that made sense to me.

      Reply
    2. Angiep

      For my part, I find it comforting to think of the vast, cold universe and to understand that it doesn’t all revolve around me/us. That there is something much, much bigger out there, and a divine being we have created for our own comfort doesn’t begin to rise to that level. But I am a part of that much larger whole, and always will be even after I am gone from this earth. I don’t need life after death or a supreme being to reassure me. Not that I wish to promote myself as superior, just to say that when I relied on God, I found he failed me anyway.

      Reply
  2. ObstacleChick

    It’s a fair question and one I have pondered for a long time. Growing up, I understood deep down that fundamentalism was anti-intellectual. When I did leave fundamentalist church, I picked and chose those parts of Christianity I liked and focused on the social justice loving Jesus. I ignored God, actually, because I couldn’t get over what a horrible SOB he was in the OT. I clung to the comfort and familiarity of Christianity like a child clings to a security blanket, and I crafted the christianity that suited my needs. I ignored the impossible things, considering them metaphors to convey some deeper meaning. I still find some of the music comforting, familiar, and beautiful though some of the lyrics are completely cringeworthy now.

    I would be interested in hearing what current progressive Christians say and hope they will feel comfortable sharing their thoughts.

    Reply
  3. Troy

    I’m curious to any armchair theologians out there. As mentioned, the Bible says God is love. I’ll take that as face value but then ask the question, is God more than love? Is it “love” that created the universe?

    Reply
  4. Mary

    I’m an atheist too and have always been one. To me all religion is based on fear and a desire to feel special for the believers and power and control for the leaders. It’s all nonsense.

    But with today’s fundies and Evangelicals , the liberal or progressive Christianity needs to step up the pace to counter this new fake Christianity that is so full of hate, spite and bigotry. The best thing would be no religion, but second best would be to try to steer it back to some semblance of sanity, kindness and inclusiveness or before you know it, it will be like Hitler and WWII .

    Reply
  5. Michael

    This post is the way I had intellectually left Christianity. It was a hardcore evangelical (Assembly of God). I first left Fundamentalism, then after a short spell, left any type of Christianity, then, after a spell, I left all forms of “Spirituality”. I don’t believe in anything “supernatural”. “Natural” (or nature) is all that exists.

    Reply
  6. thatotherjean

    I am, on my best days, an agnostic. I used to be an Episcopalian, before the cognitive dissonance got too bad to maintain, but I did read a lot of the Bible. Not being a literalist, I don’t see a “vengeful, prideful, all-or-nothing God, demanding to be worshiped and consigning sinners to Hell in the Old Testament, or the kindly, forgiving, loving God of the New. What I see is religious people trying to make sense, over a long period of time, of what has happened, and is happening to them. In a pre-scientific age, when so many phenomena were not understood, it made sense to assign these things, good and bad, to the will of God–good things to his kindness and mercy, and bad ones to his wrath, when humans strayed from the rules they believed he had set for them.

    A good many of those attitudes remain in force today, particularly in fundamentalist Christianity, unfortunately, stoking the fear and guilt of believers. I hope they’re completely wrong, although I also find it impossible to believe that we, humans on earth, are the pinnacle of life in the cosmos. I’d prefer to give that place to alien life far more intelligent than we are, rather than to the Bible’s God, though.

    Reply
  7. Chris

    I am definitely not a theologian and someone may have better thought answers for this than me. I am currently deconstructing the toxic fundamentalism I grew up with (and which caused me to torture myself for being bi for years). Yes, there may be some nostalgia of the community life and perhaps that feeling of security that holds me back to my faith, though I have also experienced too much pain and spiritual abuse in life, so don’t miss any of that.

    However, the reason why I still keep some faith in God is to do with human dignity. Knowing that human life is not a mere cosmic accident, but that every life matters, every life bears the image of God is a huuuuuuge thing for me. The implications of this for me are the following:

    1)A sense of worth/identity (I am a human being, therefore I am worthy, I bear part of the image of God)
    2) Ethics: if everyone bears the image of God, I must treat every one as holy. Thus, every life matters, every life is worth. I don’t have the right to violate or attack that dignity.

    3) A sense of mission; Not every human being is being treated with dignity, not everyone has the resources for a life with dignity (because of slavery, poverty, oppression, lgbtphobia, etc… In the world). My task in this life is to fight for justice, peace and equality so that everyone gets to recover that dignity.

    I still don’t know where to put Jesus in this story,but I do really like his radicality and teachings. (Note, not every liberal/progressive believes that Jesus died for people’s sins, I would say most don’t buy onto the Atonement Theory, including myself).

    In any case, other beliefs/religions may have good stuff, but so far, I find the best answers for me on that reasoning (as incoherent as it may be at this current stage of my journey).

    Reply
  8. Jen

    I’ve always been incredibly sensitive to pain and suffering, even in the smallest of critters. What I hate the most about my fundie years was how I had to repress those sensitivities and embrace a god who slaughtered on a whim. Fundamentalism is rooted in cruelty and it affects everything it touches.

    Once I realized how many contradictions were in the bible I began looking into its history, and found credibility sorely lacking. As I began to unpack a lifetime of beliefs, I also started asking questions—and found out many of the “testimonies” I grew up hearing were blatant lies (surprise surprise).

    Due to personal experiences I don’t want to go into right now, I still believe in God, although not the one I learned about. I was a progressive for about 5 minutes, but have found peace in Universalism. I’m also reading up on evolution (I still flinch when I see/hear “millions of years ago” due to fundie rants) and love feeling intertwined with other living beings. It gives one a sense of responsibility for others and for the planet.

    I see myself as having a foot on each side. I’m a hard-core liberal, but the bulk of my acquaintances—including family—are Evangelicals. My goal is to help them see all living things as worthy of care, compassion, and dignity. It’s going about as well as you can imagine… I’ve been verbally abused and lost friends along the way (well, fundie friendship isn’t really friendship anyway). But I’m finding some amazing people too. I’m thrilled that I can be authentic now, and have room to continuously grow and explore and learn.

    Reply

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