Once upon a time I was a Christian. I was a true Christian, not just in name only. I was not a perfect Christian, but then who is? I went to church every Sunday. I, in fact, attended several different churches from time to time as I tested the waters. I prayed. I repented. I was baptized. I sang the hymns. I made the offerings. I attended bible study. I read the bible on my own. I witnessed for Jesus.
I also was very interested in science. I became a science teacher with a master’s degree in biology. For many years, there was no conflict between my belief as a Christian and my acceptance of scientific facts. The two were not mutually exclusive.
But I was hammered continually by the fundamentalist wing of Christianity. They attacked me as not being a “true Christian.” They asked how I could possibly believe in something like evolution and still believe in God. They told me they would pray for my soul and for me to one day see the light.
But I knew for certain that the scientific method was not a spurious concept. I knew that there were many religions and, in fact, many different kinds of Christianity in the world. But there is only one science and it is the same everywhere in every country, regardless of political or religious culture. I knew science was self-correcting and that evolution had been proven in many different ways for decades.
But there they were, the fundamentalist Christians, attacking my beliefs and saying I was going to hell, even though I had repented and accepted Jesus and had done all the other things Christians are supposed to do.
I talked to my pastor about it. I was having a crisis of faith and needed his guidance. He assured me that these fundamentalists were in the minority and represented only a fringe element of Christianity. He told me that all the mainstream Christian denominations accepted the facts of science, including evolution.
But those words were small comfort to me. The fundamentalists might be in the minority, but they speak the loudest. And their minority status is now threatening to become a majority. Recent polls indicate that, while the number of Christians is dwindling, the number of fundamentalist Christians is increasing rapidly.
Eventually, I got tired of it. I started to wonder if I had been wrong. Since Christianity is so splintered, and since all the fundamentalist churches make the claim that theirs is the true religion, I started to apply logic to my beliefs. Before that, I had been able to compartmentalize my faith so that it not conflict with what I knew about science.
But the fundamentalists sparked an internal controversy. Although I had always believed that the bible was allegory, written as a guide to spirituality and not as a history book or a science book, I now started to wonder if there was any part of the bible that could be trusted.
I researched the bible. I discovered that it was compiled in the early fourth century by a group of Catholic cardinals who were working under duress from Emperor Constantine, who had recently been converted to Christianity in order to maintain easier control over his empire. I discovered that the inclusion of certain manuscripts was politically motivated. I learned that some manuscripts that were used by early churches were ordered destroyed, because they did not fit the new Catholic dogma.
Coupling that research with the intransigence and unintelligent blathering of the Christian right, I came to the conclusion that I wanted no part of it. I, as it turned out, was not a Christian. Christianity was associated with blind faith and lack of education. It was associated with a denial of facts. I wanted no part of it.
In fairness, not all Christians are uneducated morons. My pastor certainly did not fit that category. But even he once called himself a “Christian Buddhist.” He was a little uneasy with the title of Christian as well.
But the increase in the number of fundamentalists has, I believe, been one cause of why the number of Christians as a whole is decreasing. Christian fundamentalism has given Christianity a bad rap. It became a catalyst that caused me to eventually turn my back on Christianity. I believe it has caused others to turn away, too.
So maybe we freethinkers who have seen the light of day and no longer need to depend on an antiquated superstition owe these fundamentalists a debt of gratitude. They have pushed us away from religion, and we are better off because of it.