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Why Am I the Only One Who Changed My Beliefs?

bruce and polly gerencser 1978
Bruce and Polly Gerencser, in front of first apartment in Pontiac, Michigan, Fall 1978 with Polly’s Grandfather and Parents

Dr. Bart Ehrman, a former Evangelical Christian and now an agnostic, writes:

Two things have happened to me this week that have made me think rather intensely about the path I’ve taken in life, and how radically it has swerved from the paths of others who were like me at the age of 20. I emphasize “who were like me.”   The reality is that the path I was on already at 20 was (now I see) extremely weird, and to outsiders looks more than a little bizarre. I was a hard-core evangelical Christian dedicated to ministry for the sake of the gospel. Not exactly what most 20-year-olds (including any of my many high school friends) were doing at the time.  If ever I want a conversation-stopper at a cocktail party, all I need do is say something about my past.

Still, given that as my starting point, what happened next is even more highly unusual. And I was abruptly reminded it of it this week, twice.   First, on Monday I had a radio/podcast debate here in London on “Premier Christian Radio” (it is the leading Christian radio station in England) (not that it has a lot of competition, but it is indeed a high class operation) with another scholar of the New Testament, Peter Williams, one of the world’s experts on ancient Syriac as it relates to the Bible (both OT and NT), former professor at the University of Aberdeen and current head of Tyndale House in Cambridge.

I have known Pete for years; he is a committed evangelical Christian with a view of the infallibility of the Bible. Our debate was on the question of whether the Gospels are historically reliable (a topic of frequent recurrence on this blog, obviously) (some bloggers may think “interminable” recurrence). He thinks there is not a single mistake in the Gospels, of any kind.  I think there are. You’ve heard this kind of debate before, so I won’t be recounting the ins and outs (although they were quite different from those you’ve seen before; still, it won’t matter for this post).

The second thing that happened is that I received a Facebook post from a former friend (I emphasize “former” since we apparently are no longer friendly) and classmate of mine from my Moody Bible Institute days (mid 70s), in which he lambasted the fellow alumni from my graduating class for holding me in any kind of esteem. The implication of his lambast was that I’m the enemy of the truth and no one should respect me or my views. I haven’t talked with this fellow for over 40 years, but last I knew we were friends, on the same floor in the dorm and the same basketball team. OK, I couldn’t hit a jump shot, but still, is that reason to be upset four decades later?

In any event, these two events made me think hard about one issue in particular, one that I keep coming back to in my head, in my life, and, occasionally, on this blog: why is it that some people are willing to change their minds about what they hold most dear and important in their lives and other people retain their same views, come hell or high water?    Why do some people explore options and think about whether they were originally “right” or not (about religion, personal ethics, social issues, politics, etc.), and other people cling tenaciously to the views they were given when they were 14 years old? It’s an interesting question.

Because I changed my views on something near and dear to me and my then-friends, I’m a persona non grata in the circles I used to run around in. And granted, I have zero desire (OK, far less than zero) to run around in them now. But I don’t feel any animosity toward my former friends, or think they’re going to roast in hell because of their views, and wish that torment would begin sooner than later. I understand why they do (toward me), but it’s sad and disheartening.


What I’m more interested in is why I would have changed my mind and others like him absolutely don’t. Even scholars.  Their views significantly deepen, become more sophisticated, more nuanced – but the views don’t change. (My sense of my former classmates at Moody – at least the ones I hear about – is that their views don’t even deepen or grow more sophisticated; they literally think pretty much the same thing as they did when they were mid-teenagers, only now with more conviction and passion).

The reason I find the whole matter sad is almost entirely personal (I guess sadness by definition is). My former evangelical friends and current evangelical debate partners think I’m an enemy of the truth, when I’ve spent almost my entire weird journey trying to come to the truth. And so far as I can tell, they haven’t. I’m not trying to be ungenerous, but it does seem to me to be the reality.

I’ll try to put it in the most direct terms here: how is it at all plausible, or humanly possible, that someone can question, explore, look into, consider the beliefs they were taught as a young child (in the home, in church, in … whatever context) and after 40 years of thinking about it decide that everything they were taught is absolutely right? The views *they* were taught, out of the sixty trillion possible views out there, are absolutely right? The problem with these particular views (of evangelical Christianity) is that if they are indeed right, everyone else in the known universe is wrong and going to be tormented forever because of it.

I know most Christians don’t think this: I’m just talking about this particular type of Christian. And they don’t seem to see how strange it is that they are right because they agree with what they were taught as young children. Yes, they don’t see it that way. They think they are right because they agree with the Bible which comes from God so they agree with God and I (and everyone else on the planet) disagree with God. But the reality is that this is the view they were handed as young kids.

Dr. Ehrman brings up a question that I have long pondered “why am I different from my former Evangelical friends, parishioners, and colleagues in the ministry?” I spent most of the first fifty years of my life in the Evangelical church. I attended an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) college, married an IFB pastor’s daughter, and spent twenty-five years pastoring Evangelical churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Yet, in November 2008, I divorced Jesus. Several months later, I sent a letter titled Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners to several hundred people who knew me well. From that point forward, I became known as Bruce, the Evangelical pastor who became an atheist. As a result of my deconversion, I lost scores of lifelong relationships. I learned quickly that what held our relationships together was the glue of fidelity to orthodox Christianity; that once I repudiated the central claims of Christianity and rejected the notion that the Bible was, in any way, an inspired, inerrant, infallible text, all pretense of friendship was gone. Today? I have two Evangelicals friends (and former parishioners), and even with them, I find that our relationships are strained due to their utterances on social media about the evils of atheism and not believing in Jesus. I ignore the things they post and say, but I do take it personally. And that’s it, for me, when it comes to connections to my Evangelical past.

I have known a number of Evangelical pastors over the years, and without exception, all of them say that they still believe and preach the truths we all held dear decades ago. Several of them have retired or left the ministry, but I have searched in vain for one ministerial colleague who lost his faith and is now an atheist or an agnostic. One is a lonely number, and I am it!  A handful of these “men of God” have moderated their Fundamentalist beliefs and practices, but the majority of them still hew to the old-time gospel. Many of these men still believe the same things they did when they were in Bible college over forty years ago. Dr. Ehrman has written numerous books about the nature of the New Testament text, and in doing so he has shredded the notion that the Bible is inerrant and infallible. (I don’t mention inspiration here because it is a faith claim, whereas claims of inerrancy and infallibility can be empirically tested.) Either these Bible-believers — most of whom believe the King James Bible is the perfect, preserved Word of God for English-speaking people — have never read one of Dr. Ehrman’s books or they have, ignoring, discounting, or denying what he had to say.

I remember having a discussion years ago with a dear friend and colleague of mine about the notion that the King James Bible was inerrant. I provided him a list of words that had been changed in the 1769 revision of the KJV. I thought that telling him there were word differences between the 1611 and 1769 editions would open his eyes to the folly of translational inerrancy. Instead, he doubled-down and said that he wouldn’t believe the KJV had errors even if I could prove it did!  This conversation took place in the late 1980s. Thirty years later, this man, of course, is no longer friends with me, and he still believes that the KJV is inerrant and infallible. And based on a perusal of his church’s website, he still holds to the same doctrinal beliefs he had when he graduated from a small Ohio-based IFB Bible college in the early 1980s. I fondly remember the conversations we had over lunch about hot topics such as: Calvinism, pre-wrath rapture, divorce, and countless other subjects. My ex-friend always struck me as a man who valued and appreciated knowledge and intellectual integrity. Yet, despite decades of reading books and studying the Bible, he remains unmoved from his Fundamentalist beliefs. Why is that?

As long-time readers know, my wife’s father graduated from Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan — the same college Polly and I attended — and worked for and pastored IFB churches until he retired. Polly’s uncle, Jim Dennis, attended Midwestern in the 1960s and pastored the Newark Baptist Temple for almost fifty years. Jim’s children are all in the ministry. His two daughters married Pensacola Christian College-trained preachers, and his son — also trained at Pensacola — is a pastor. And now, Jim’s grandchildren are heading off to Bible college. The third generation is attending institutions such as The Crown College and West Coast Baptist College. As I look at my wife’s family, I want to scream. Why is it that no one can see the error of Fundamentalist thinking; that no one can see that Evangelical beliefs cannot be rationally and intellectually sustained; that no one can see the psychological damage done by Fundamentalist thinking? What made Polly and me different from her Jesus-loving family? Why could we see what they cannot?

I do know that many Evangelical preachers take great pride in believing the same things today that they believed twenty, thirty, or fifty years ago. It’s almost as if they believe that God (and their pastors/professors) told them everything they needed to know in their twenties, and there’s no reason to revisit past beliefs. It’s as if these preachers are proud of the fact that “ignorance is bliss.” It’s not that these men don’t read books, they do. However, a quick inventory of their libraries reveals that they rarely, if ever, read books by non-IFB or non-Evangelical writers. These preachers know what they know, and there’s no reason to read anything that might change their beliefs. In fact, anything that might cause the least bit of doubt is suspect and considered the work of Satan.

For whatever reason, I was never one to sit still intellectually. I blame this on my mother. She taught me to read at an early age and helped me learn that the library was my best friend. Even as an IFB pastor, I read authors who were on the fringe of the movement, and my reading expanded well beyond Christian orthodoxy in the latter years of my time in the ministry. As a pastor, I devoted myself to reading books, studying the Bible, and making sure my beliefs aligned with what I was learning. This process, of course, led to numerous theological and lifestyle changes over the years. The boy who enrolled at Midwestern at age nineteen was very different from the man who walked away from the ministry at forty-seven, and Christianity at age fifty. In between these bookends were thousands and thousands of hours spent in the study. Whatever my critics might say about me, no one can accuse me of not taking my studies and preaching seriously. Noted IFB evangelist “Dr” Dennis Corle told me that my ministry would be best served if I just spent a few hours a week preparing my sermons, and spent the rest of my time soulwinning. I didn’t follow his advice. I believed then that the people who called me “preacher” deserved to hear quality, educated, well-crafted sermons. I could do this and STILL have time for soulwinning. I have since come to the conclusion that Evangelicalism is littered with lazy preachers who have little regard for their congregants; who barf up pabulum week after week, rarely spending significant time in their studies. And why should they, I suppose? If you KNOW that your beliefs are straight from the mouth of God, there’s no need to read books that might challenge said beliefs.

Several years ago, a former church member wrote to me about my loss of faith. She was sure she knew what the problem was and how I could get myself back on the proverbial sawdust trail. You see, according to her, all those books I read over the years were the problem. If I would just go back to reading only the B-I-B-L-E, then my faith would somehow magically reappear. In her mind, I knew too much, and that what I needed was some good old Baptist ignorance. Did not the Bible say about Peter and John in Acts 4:13:

Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.

Peter and John were thought to be unlearned, ignorant men, yet their lives revealed that they were men who had been with Jesus. Surely, being known for having been with Jesus is far more important than being known as a learned, educated man, right?

And at the end of the day, I can’t unlearn what I know. I refuse to limit my intellectual inquiries. I refuse to rest on what I know today being the end-all, the zenith of wisdom and knowledge. No, in fact, leaving Christianity has shown me how much I don’t know; that despite the countless hours I spent reading books, I have not yet scratched the surface of human knowledge and understanding. The best I can say is this, “I know more today than I did yesterday.” And to quote Buzz Lightyear, “To Infinity and Beyond!”

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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  1. Avatar
    Susannah Anderson

    “You see, according to her, all those books I read over the years were the problem. If I would just go back to reading only the B-I-B-L-E, then my faith would somehow magically reappear.”

    That’s exactly what I did; I stopped reading all those confusing, contradictory theologians and stuck to reading only the Bible, for going on 20 years. And that’s what made me an unbeliever.

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    There are probably a few dozen reasons why Bart Ehrman, Bruce, readers of this blog, and others out there left fundamentalist evangelical Christianity. Each person’s path away is different, and each person travels at a different speed.

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    MJ Lisbeth

    The Roman Catholic Church in which I grew up discouraged people from reading the Bible. We were spoon-fed selected verses during sermons and in the religious instruction of the Catholic school I attended.

    As I discovered, the Church had its reasons: I read the Bible for myself, and the result was “faith no more!”

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    I think most evangelicals don‘t see a need for seeking the full truth, because they think they know the full truth.
    As with many areas of knowledge, if you have a superficial knowledge of the area, then you think that you understood most of it. But the more you understand, the more you realize how much you do not know yet.
    And then, many years down the line, there comes a time where you really have understood the fundamentals.

    So, to come back to the evangelicals, they don‘t take their own beliefs seriously enough to dig deeper.
    They are evangelicals because that‘s the tradition in their family. Most people are content with that.

    Why are Bruce Gerencser, and Bart Ehrman, and many commenters here, and me, different?

    I guess we were all independent-minded enough to dare to question the beliefs of our social group.
    And we took our beliefs seriously.
    And we have enough self-esteem to admit that we were mistaken.

    Apparently, that‘s a rare combination.

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    Steve Ruis

    I think in answer to your question it takes a certain kind of courage/folly to challenge your beliefs. Most people play it safe and do not. Why ask questions if the answers can make you uncomfortable. (These people are steeped in a culture that reinforces “no questions” as a guiding principle, too.)

    I can remember wondering if all of the precepts my parent’s taught me were true or did I just accept them blindly. So, over a multi-year period I challenged all of those I could identify. I ended up confirming virtually all of those precepts as life fulfilling.

    Challenging one’s religious beliefs is a much more challenging task. Most are not up to that task as there is no visible reward for doing so and a great deal of possible punishment and uncertainty.

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    Evangelical Christianity has all of the earmarks of a cult, although you would never convince the members of this cult of this. I was able to escape the cult and can’t imagine any scenario in which I would return. But escaping was extremely difficult. I assume anyone who has made a clean break from any cult would feel the same way. Once you are able to escape the mind control and can critically evaluate the contradictions and logical fallacies of your former belief system it seems impossible you could ever return

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    Such a good post. I’m the oddball, as I was was not raised in a religious home, nor were any of my closer friends or husband and his parents religious. Some may have believed in God, but not in a Bible thumping church going way.

    For me, it’s inconceivable how anyone could seriously take this stuff as fact. I also think that the fact that they refuse to even think about it or do the tiniest bit of research or logical critical thinking, speaks a lot to true verifiable brainwashing. I don’t mean brainwashing in a sarcastic sense, but the brain’s neurological workings in some individuals as opposed to others. To me it’s not really the religion, per se, but some deep need or drive to hold onto a belief no matter what proof or logic says otherwise. It’s the “holding on” to any selected belief that is the driver and not the belief itself. It satisfies some need, especially if something is missing in their lives.

    It could even be like a drug addiction. In reading from the Bible or talking to people who reinforce their beliefs, it triggers something in their particular brains, that acts as an addiction to the feelings they get, so they want more.

    Most normal people could not have been brainwashed by Jim Jones, but yet, some were and there will always be those that are. I think it’s a different dynamic somewhere in the neural synapses or some region of the brain that differs from the majority of humans.

    • Avatar

      We changed our beliefs because we dared to follow the truth about the possibility of being wrong. We dared to look beyond our own comfort zones and at differing points of view. We dared to follow honesty and integrity over dogma and control. We dared to change even if it meant that our life will be turned upside down. We dared because it is the right thing to do.

      I think that it is extremely difficult for people to admit that they are wrong. Doing so means loss of control and makes you vulnerable. For fundamentalists, living in, and twisting everything to conform to their own fantasy version of god is easier than contemplating that they may be wrong.

      Fear plays a big part in keeping fundamentalists in check. Eternal bliss or endless torture are pretty high stakes when you believe that these are the only two paths before you. I remember church officials constantly warning us about temptation and how easy it is to go down the path of perdition – all it takes is one tiny misstep.

      Another factor is the time and personal investment that was put into the fantasy. Having to destroy and rebuild everything from the ashes is not an easy undertaking. Some fundamentalists cling on because they cannot bear to face the fact that they have wasted their time building and investing in a lie.

      It irks me that fundamentalist use some throwaway line about us wanting to live in sin and/or not following their version of truth in dismissing our experiences. Fundamentalists cannot fathom how much we had to go (and are still going) through during our deconversion journeys. If the fundamentalists were not so horrified by us apostates, they would be dissing each other over the correct elements of their version of the fantasy.

      • Avatar
        Hugh D. Young

        I’d say this is an excellent post, and I’d add one more MAJOR, to me anyway, point……Some of us tried, and tried, and TRIED to ‘fix’ our broken lives thru Evan G. Ellikal’s program, and got nothing but WORSE to show for it! Seriously, how can this CRAP possibly work? It’s completely outdated, childish gibberish that on so many fronts, FLIES IN THE FACE OF WHAT WE NOW KNOW, PROVEN BY SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH…….They still believe that mental/ emotional disorders are caused by ‘demon possession’, despite the fact that we’ve had brain scans showing us a DISEASE PROCESS for DECADES now-smh.-

      • Avatar
        Hugh D. Young

        And BTW…….If my bipolar disorder is caused by a ‘demon’, why didn’t god drive the mother fucker out, based upon all my prayers, and those who were praying for me? Either A) Because it’s all BULLSHIT, or B) He could have, but for some STUPID reason, chose not to. Either way, why do I need ‘him’? 🙂

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    Every little thing has to line up with evangelical beliefs or else. It really is a cult. I’m the only one in my family who’s left it. Trying to keep those relationships intact is incredibly exhausting, so I have to limit interactions. It’s so sad that it has to be that way.

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    This is a very good post Bruce… I was also that young person who was asked to teach a training union class, and after determining the southern baptist curriculum was too watered down, really started studying the Bible.
    When I get into something, I get into it!
    I really believed that the Bible, if true, would have to be the greatest book ever written…two years of NT Greek, and countless hours examining and comparing the biblical texts and different systematic theologies later, I came out an atheist.
    I can remember many opportunities trying to talk to the pastor, deacons, and other members about theology, and the contradictions that I was coming up with, and to the person, no one wanted to spend the time!
    They didn’t want to know…they didn’t want anything to shake up their faith.
    I gave up…I agree with you, the average preacher gets his sermons from the internet, and spend most of their time simply running a business. They don’t care, nor do they want anyone else to care about in-depth study of their precious book.

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    Melissa A Montana

    This is why they always want to ban books. Allowing people to study different beliefs and make their own choices always leads to some leaving the church, or maybe joining a different religion. It’s about keeping bodies in the pews, even if the bodies are miserable or stuck in ignorant, harmful bliss.

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    davey crockett

    The only power the fundamentalists have in their theology is the threat of eternity. The fear of what might be on the other side if you don’t believe correctly. And they use it religiously. If their gospel was so powerful and accurate the fear of eternity would not have to be used like a disciplining belt on one’s backside. The proof would be in the pudding.

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    This makes me think of how Evangelicals who homeschool or only send their kids to Christian schools always talk about how public schools are ‘indoctrination centers’. Don’t they get that they’re indoctrinating their kids too? We all pick a kind of ‘indoctrination’ when we’re raising children. Ours just consisted of no religion, freedom of thought and speech, and learning as much as possible about all things and all people so as to fit better into a global (dirty word, I know) society and make a positive contribution for the benefit of all. We didn’t raise our child to believe there is only one way, one role, one belief system.

    • Avatar
      Brian Vanderlip

      Hi Caroline, You did not indoctrinate your children in any manner whatsoever as I read your post. Indoctrination requires as a fundamental foundation, the effort to pass on a way or direction so that it is accepted uncritically, without even minimal common sense encouraged. You did not do that at all. In fact it sounds like you made efforts to encourage criticism. You treated your children with respect instead of harming them for God. Your statement reminded me of the Christians who suggest that my lack of belief is just another belief like theirs, just that I am wrong and Satan got me!
      Thank-you for sharing your history about raising your kids. It does my heart good to hear of children who are offered love and respect instead being sacrificed with evangelical fervor to the big abuser in the sky: What’s his name? Is it Donald Delusion? Godfather? Thugman?
      Regarding my own departure from delusional belief, I feel it had to do with the fact that I continued to sin in some manner or other throughout my life as a Christian and could not follow how I was being perfected by Jesus and worthy of heaven. I began to consider that I did not fit in world and never had, that even as the most popular boy in grade five, I felt an alien in the world. It was nice to have my delusion Jesus to whimper to and unload guilt on after I lifted a candy-bar or three from the corner store but finally, later in life, I just got so tired of faking and lying. When I said to myself, “I don’t believe,” it rang true as a cathedral bell and it rings on like that to this day. I do not share the studious depths of most commenters here and have only read one of Ehrman’s books. But I feel better when I tell the truth, that’s all. I suppose its an evolutionary need when you get down to it: If you constantly lie to yourself, you necessarily do harm to your own heart and mind and this translates poorly into your interactions in the world. You don’t properly look after yourself. Is it any wonder a Steve Anderson comes to your door to collect you, then and tells you what a shit you are and how you are going to burn forever unless you attend his little fifedom of whack-jobs? (Well, I stretch it a bit but you get the drift.)

      • Avatar

        Thanks, Brian ! My husband and I were not raised in repressive religious environments (just garden variety Catholic) and therefore didn’t have a lot of brain-washing about a god who punishes to overcome. We were also encouraged to acquire as much education as possible and accept people for who they are despite what they believe, practice, love, etc. I draw the line at religious people of all stripes who try to change our culture and established laws . That’s why I’m so curious about the evangelicals among us. And I’m concerned about their political power. I’m proud to say that our daughter is a free-thinking, well-educated and truly thoughtful young person who is excited to take her place as a contributing member of society. Good for you for getting out of such a negative belief system. I can’t imagine how difficult it was/ is.

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    While checking my credit purchases online yesterday, I was reminded how my consumption of news and opinions has changed over the last several years. I am now donating irregularly or paying small subscriptions to various sources through a credit card, Paypal, and Patreon to get news headlines and opinions through email, then I click and follow the stories. Often a book is mentioned, then I put the book on hold at the library.
    Bruce, I realized that I look forward to your columns and the responses, and I didn’t realize the, hmm, psychological and financial cost to you of offering yourself online to two types of people. Some appreciate what you do, and some are apparently trying to earn virtue points with a fictional deity shaped by their minds in a cult. I may never have full-time professional work again, but right now, I am in a position to donate a small amount regularly to you through Patreon.
    I was about to announce that change on FB, which WordPress makes easy to do. But I realized that I am linked to high school classmates who are dedicated Christians. Right now, I am not willing to give up seeing them in my feed. (I started this reply after reading your post on what you are giving up.) If those Christians click to see who you are, they will be shocked and unfriend me. As I write this, I wonder how long I will care about that.
    I have gone through a lot of changes in the last few years, and I am interested in how and why people do and don’t change. I track my habits on an app, and one habit is “Do something new every day.”
    Thanks for all that you do on your website.

  14. Avatar

    We have changed our beliefs over the years, too. The further we moved away from the church, the more we evolved into more caring and loving human beings and parents. We started homeschooling for religious reasons, but quickly moved into non-religious homeschooling. Take heart, we are seeing growth in non-religious homeschooling. So regardless of how we choose to educate our kids, non-religious childrearing/education is growing. There is hope on the horizon.

    • Avatar
      Brian Vanderlip

      Hello maryg, My wife had a full career as a public and private (international school) teacher and she quite naturally evolved into becoming a support person for home-school/unschooling folk. Sadly some of these people are religious and are intent on separating their children from the world and filling their heads with delusional goop. She offers them opportunities to step outside the box they live in, while at the same time working with them to help the kids along. She is a bit of an underground resistance fighter in this way, working in an oppressive system to open doors and windows to learning possibilities she has seen work wonders.
      Children are completely, utterly individual in their wants and needs around learning. When we have learned to let them lead by way of their own passions in living, we can support and assist them to become brilliantly educated, critical thinkers. I wonder, maryg, if you would be interested in reading about a teacher named Norm Lee who became a homeschooler with his two boys and wrote a revolutionary (to me) book about non-punitive parenting. Here is a link for your perusal. My very best wishes to you.

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    Brian Vanderlip wrote: “I suppose its an evolutionary need when you get down to it: If you constantly lie to yourself, you necessarily do harm to your own heart and mind and this translates poorly into your interactions in the world. You don’t properly look after yourself. ”

    And Zoe says: That is good and needs to be highlighted.

  16. Avatar

    I am a public school teacher (4th grade), and I really appreciate you linking this PDF…we have training after training on this very topic, (social contract with the students),and yet, I see it consistently ignored in classes.
    My students hate privileges taken away more than physical punishment…yet, the first comments about problem students is that “the teachers just can’t beat the crap out of students anymore, like the good book says!”
    And, they’re right! Their good book DOES say, “beat the crap out of kids “.

    • Avatar
      Brian Vanderlip

      The punishment paradigm does not work very well. When you share that your students prefer to be physically abused rather than “losing privileges” I wonder just how many of the students are used to being abused rather than being respected and how many are able to be free to make decisions based on their needs and not the pressures brought to bear on them.
      Norm Lee spoke with me by phone many years ago regarding my wife and I doubting that the public school situation for our kids was really healthy. He said, “The school is on fire. Grab your chidren and run.”
      Goyo, I am happy to know that you are doing the work you do and that you are a sensitive, critical mind. I am not sure if you have read John Holt’s work but my wife and I both found that it changed us, challenged our views and histories in education and learning. Please share your thoughts on this if you are able?

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    What I’m mainly referring to, is in my situation, the other teachers seem to yell and berate the students that become discipline problems due to struggling with work, instead of implementing the classroom contracts.
    This seems to be especially true between female teachers and male students.
    After an entire school year of this treatment, the students give up, and resign themselves to being bad.
    The teachers should know better.
    I have experience with a group of families that home school at a gated community nearby, and they are home schooling for the express purpose of not letting their kids be exposed to the Theory of Evolution.
    I’m still convinced that a public school education is valid and good…especially now…we have become a STEM school, partnering with a local chemical company that wants to hire our students in the future.
    I just don’t see how a home schooled child can get the same education.
    And, just to stay on topic of the post, there is a series on Netflix called “the Tudors”, a semi historical show about King Henry the Eighth, talking about the separation between the Catholic Church and the Church of England, and their amazement that people would actually want to read the Bible on their own, which they weren’t allowed to do before.
    One of the characters says, “I’d rather the Bible stay a mystery to me “.
    I think most churchgoers do too.

  18. Avatar

    I also feel that the love of reading and inquiry is what has caused me to question my faith.

    When I was a freshman at a Christian college my evangelical roommate told me I should be careful what I read, because I could lose my faith (I was reading an article about theistic evolution at the time).

    Years later I’ve come to see that any faith you can lose because you have read and investigated more fully isn’t worth holding on to.

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