21 17

When you questioned, was critical thinking discouraged?

In the last church I was a member of (almost 2 decades ago), I wrote a letter to the paster. It was a letter of resignation (from membership) and a fairly detailed explanation of some of my findings and concerns. I had been in conference with him several times in the past asking questions. He never answered them to my satisfaction and attempted to make me doubt reason and ethics.

"Just keep praying and studying", he said.

Well, that was kind of a slap in the face. It had become clear to me that I knew more about the Bible than he did. About a month before presenting the letter, I resigned from my position as the director of music and member of the church board. I didn't share why except to say that I had a lot going on and needed to lighten the load. My plan was to slip out of the church quietly, although I was a bit naive thinking that was possible.

Anyway, back to the letter. I made two copies, one for me and the other I gave to my best friend at the time. I knew she'd be stunned that I was leaving and would want a detailed explanation. I also asked her to keep this confidential.

Her copy of the letter was found by her spouse. Turns out he made multiple copies and passed them around to other members the following Wednesday during the mid-week church service. I was informed that around a 3rd of the regularly attending members didn't show up for church the following Sunday. Typical attendance was around 200.

There was panic in the upper echelons of the hierarchy. The pastor informed the regional director and together, they sent out invitations to all members to attend a "very important" service with the regional director as guest speaker. My daughter attended out of curiosity. I was able to get a recorded copy of the sermon that day.

This meme reminded me of what went down. What was your experience?

VictoriaNotes 9 Mar 15

Enjoy being online again!

Welcome to the community of good people who base their values on evidence and appreciate civil discourse - the social network you will enjoy.

Create your free account


Feel free to reply to any comment by clicking the "Reply" button.


Love it. When I got up at Confirmation of 10 years of Jewish Sunday School denouncing the existence of god with 2 male friends of mine that was my break. However, it didn't stop my parents from shipping me to Israel on a Bible Study Tour.

That is so awesome and brave. I couldn't help but laugh at what your parents did, although I doubt you found that funny at the time.

Surely the water is warm for Atheists breaking with Judaism ? Not so with the hell threat and heaven bribe believers......glad you made it out just the same

I've always been a rebel - had a blast out till 2:00 in the am in Israel at age 16. Got thrown out of YMCA camp at 15 by hell and brimstone counselor.

how did you feel when they moved you to Israel and what was your thoughts

Thats where I partied till 2 in the am with my Israeli BF. No complaints till I got home. LOL


Well that is quite a story.

I did not formally question leadership like you did but certainly in concept, questioning was equated with the "sin" of doubt and therefore strongly discouraged. If facts or evidence contradict scripture, then scripture governed. The proof-text generally cited was "Let God be true and every man a liar". That pretty much says it all. It sounded noble to me when I was a believer, now it just sounds idiotic.

I guess I didn't see much point in grilling anyone in power based on that. I knew what the answer would be.

I was one of those who just faded away from the church. There was a time when this would have been noticed -- probably when I was in Bible Institute and deeply involved in a particular church right after that. But then I moved around the country and got married and attended a series of larger churches where I was more invisible, plus, I didn't have extended family who were part of the faith locally. So I just sort of faded away. The only questioning of my motives or reaons has been by total strangers on the Internet in places like this.

"If facts or evidence contradict scripture, then scripture governed."

Exactly. This was drilled into me. I was a bit too trusting of others, and for the longest, I thought I lacked "spiritual discernment" -- that I was "leaning on my own understanding" and that god's ways and thoughts were higher as noted in Proverbs and Isaiah. Looking back now, I realize how clever and strategic biblical indoctrination is. I watched a deconversion video series a few years back by Prplfox, and he said:

"If an idea can’t stand on its own truthfulness, it has to find another way to survive. And often the way that happens is by the gradual, intentional refinement of the hijacking of our emotional architecture.

Possibly the most effective, most powerful way a belief could do this would be to devalue or eliminate all other sources of self-affirmation—which Christianity does with devastating efficacy—so that there is no hope, or beauty, or meaning, and more importantly, no integrity of the self without it.*

If a belief can do this to you, you will have almost no chance of being able to critically evaluate its truthfulness. Christianity alters your identity to ensure the survival of itself.

@VictoriaNotes Yes theism alters our brains to perpetuate itself.


My upbringing was Seventh Day Adventist, so I read lots of Ellen G. White books. Sometimes when I would quote her to make a point during a debate, I would get yelled at. If I questioned something she said, I’d get yelled at. So no matter what I did, I couldn’t win with these guys.

I attended an SDA church for a while. Also, the Amazing Facts Seminar. I read several of EGW's books and did some research. I pointed out that she was a fraud (I didn't exactly say those words) -- that she had plagiarized about 80% of her writings --- knowledge she claimed had been given to her directly from god. I had evidence, which I presented. Needless to say, that didn't go over well.

There’s a whole thing going on in the SDA church today over that, no that the estate has been sued. And a rereading of her diet books, show how badly she misunderstood science. But they’re still hanging on, and determined that she’s the “prophet” of God.

@Benthoven White was featured in the BBC documentary God on the Brain. She's been extensively studied and it looks like she had temporal lobe epilepsy caused by the traumatic brain injury she sustained after getting hit in the head with a rock when she was a kid. The segment about her starts at the 9:16-minute marker.



Of course... questions are not allowed if you expect a reasonable answer.


Yeah when things don't make sense they say "have faith"

gater Level 7 Mar 15, 2018

“Faith is a cop-out. If the only way you can accept an assertion is by faith, then you are conceding that it can't be taken on its own merits. It is intellectual bankruptcy.”

― Dan Barker


Wow, what an experience! Mine is very different, but the discouragement of any sort of independent thinking is a parallel. My mother was a controller and I was her favorite subject to control. She did not want me to question her, and since the religious tenets ordered her thinking, she demanded absolute compliance with her/god's will. Later in study groups in church, I aksed questions about things that didn't make sense to me. And I asked about discrepancies that showed up in the bible. I also never got satisfactory answers, and the questioning was greeted with "Don't worry your pretty little head" or "Just have enough faith". When I deconverted, I just stopped going. No one contacted me or asked why. That was more a relief than an insult at the time. It's been more than a quarter century. It's still a relief.

"It's been more than a quarter century. It's still a relief."

Isn't that the truth. When I was a kid I learned very quickly what questions I shouldn't ask. That was considered disrespectful to authority, which could result in punishment.


Just the opposite was the case for me. I never had any problems and religion was not shoved down my throat. Oddly enough, when I lived in Germany, Heidelberg was the home of the 2nd oldest university in Europe (1386). It had an amazing old city and American military officers actually attended the University. The mayor of the town knew they wouldn't have a chance so he surrendered to the Allies. It became the headquarters for the 7th army. As such it had the best of everything (biggest officers club, PX/Commissary). They also had the best clergy and for the Catholic priests that meant priests who actually encouraged questioning (but mostly things other than the religion) and I got used to this. One priest actually helped me get an annullment (I was the only one of 3 who filed - I bribed him with a beautiful sweater chest I had made).

When returning to the U.S I looked for this and found it in a British priest who was my age. He didn't care if I was not married and invited us to his birthday party. He encouraged change (which actually made him unpopular). When Iraq invaded Kuwait he talked about justice but when the U.S attacked Iraq he and the archbishop marched against violence. I sent him a letter criticising his move and reminded him religion and politics were not to mix. He passed the letter among the staff and even asked me to join the financial council. He disagreed with me but liked my willingness to speak what I thought. We became friends and his prayers were answered when he got reassigned to Green Bay WI (he loved American football).

After leaving the church I got into a written debate with the archbishop about religion and politics. I actually wanted to try and get excommunicated. No such luck, he answered all my letters and whereas we didn't agree at least we were civil, damn.

My mother was excommunicated from the Catholic church when she remarried but my dad wasn't when he remarried within the same timeframe. Surprise, surprise.

@VictoriaNotes Not really!

I don't know if you caught the comment I made about two good friends here. Her mother was on her deathbed when the priest came in for the last rites. He turned to the daughter and said she was excommunicated because she was living with her boyfriend (who she later married and they are still married- which doesn't really matter). She was very upset because this was done in fron of her mother.

I am curious. You were Catholic but, from what I know, Catholics are not very popular in the South.

@JackPedigo Lots of Catholics in Southern Louisiana and Mississippi. In New Orleans, it's the predominant religion.


@VictoriaNotes duh of course, I can see New Orleans.

@JackPedigo I was fuming about your comment regarding the priest saying that in front of your friend's mother on her deathbed, which is why I held off commenting right away. I wonder how many children this priest has sexually abused.

You did not realize that the Catholic church has ALWAYS been in politics, always made pacs with whomever is taking control. They are the most insidious religion there is. That's why the founders of America made sure no religion sullied the new government.

@GoldenMean I had another life and religion was not something I thought about. I have a degree in European History from the University of Md Eur Division and often traveled as a part of my classes. This included 2 weeks in Rome studying the Papacy. Eur. History is basically Christian history and the house/town I lived in was destroyed in 1690 from the Catholic French in retaliation for the city adopting Protestantism. For me that was the past and I did not make the connection simply because I was living on another plane. I basically did not care until a pivotal moment when I was forced to make a decision.


My mother answered no to the question, "If a Chinese baby, whose parents do not know about Christ, dies at birth, will it go to heaven?" Her god was unfair since babies with Christian parents who died at birth were supposed to go to heaven. It convinced me that she and her church were confused, at best. I was about 15, and didn't know the word, but was agnostic and have been since then.

Your comment compliments an excerpt of a debate between Sam Harris and William Lane Craig.

It really amazes me how many agnostics can't let go of Hell. I don't believe any of it anymore, but that hell thing...still scares me. The wonderful relief that it all is myth and a tissue of lies should especially include hell. Really weird.


They were angry with my questions, told my mother and step father who tried to beat me into believing. Back then beating kids was encouraged by society

I'm so sorry this happened to you, Sherry. Even today, in many evangelical circles, it's considered "godly" and scriptural to beat your kids into submission and obedience, thus sparing their "souls from hell."

Prov 23:13-14: “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell."

It's not true -- some do die. I never hit my child when I was a believer or ever. I remember being told that my parenting style went against biblical teachings.

@VictoriaNotes The saying in my tribe was "spare the rod and spoil the child". They also promoted James Dobson's book The Strong-Willed Child which basically advanced the notion that you have to literally break the spirit of a non-compliant child in order to save its soul.

Fortunately I had good parenting role models and never took this seriously. I had to live with myself -- unlike, apparently, some of my peers.


I have observed that often those with the loudest, most vocal "faith" are trying to convince others and then themselves. Questioning is discouraged because they don't really know the answers.

There's certainly a prevalent pattern.

So what if God did and said horrible, unfair things to humans. He's God. You must trust that it's all for good. Take off your faith glasses and see that a real god would not be so horrible to his creation.


Absolutely discouraged !


I asked the sterotypical question, "Can God create a rock that is too heavy for him to lift?" Blank stare, never went back on my own. I would go with my family occasionally when visiting, just to be cordial. The programming is really hard for some people to even admit. I have patience and understanding for those so afflicted as long as they aren't evangelical..

jeffy Level 7 Mar 15, 2018

Evangelicals and conservative Catholics are the ones who are the most programmed, most of them from early childhood during critical brain development.

@VictoriaNotes I was sad to see how easy it was to politicize the Methodist Church over the abortion issue over the years when I looked in as an outsider too. Very clever of the Republicans, I think they must have applied NRA research in mind control for the feat. Seems religion is the gateway "drug" to bad reasoning. There is so much logical fallacy afoot in traditional religion now, it is only their ability to abuse children with programing that keeps them afloat Religitainment though is something I still don't understand - you know the Pat Robinson Crowd. Are these people akin to junkies I wonder? How does one step away from that level of involvement? I think I'll ask.

@jeffy "Seems religion is the gateway "drug" to bad reasoning."

That's a great way to put it.

"Are these people akin to junkies I wonder?"

Judge for yourself.

"Neuropharmacological studies generally point to dopaminergic activation as the leading neurochemical feature associated with religious activity."

“Hyperreligiosity is a major feature of mania, obsessive-compulsive disorder, schizophrenia, temporal-lobe epilepsy and related disorders, in which the ventromedial dopaminergic systems are highly activated”


@VictoriaNotes Worse than I thought. Religion is then both a psychological and organic malady. Thanks for the reference.

I have said religion makes people stupid, and that can lead to insanity if challenged.


The pastor's actions were entirely inappropriate ane unethical. He should have been fired.

His actions were fully supported. Out of the initial 3rd who were absent, only two (to my knowledge) ended up renouncing Christianity after that episode. I later learned that they had been questioning, too. I think a lot of people stay because of the repercussions, especially when living in a very religious community and state.


As I’ve said in the past I was a Jehovah’s Witness and the straw the broke the camel’s back for me was going to an elder’s meeting at an assembly and being told that we could question nothing that came from New York through the publications. I had always questioned things but believed the good outweighed the bad. I was almost physically sick knowing what I had to do. As soon as we got home I wrote a resignation letter detailing why I had to step down from my responsibilities. Things spiraled down very quickly from there and I was cast out within months. It ended with the loss of my marriage and my son and about all acquaintances.

gearl Level 7 Mar 15, 2018

😟 Thank you for sharing.

That's the shame of such cults. Church over family. Always an assurance that it's a cult. No room for compassion--which is supposed to be one of Jesus' qualities.

That's the shame of such cults. Church over family. Always an assurance that it's a cult. No room for compassion--which is supposed to be one of Jesus' qualities.


Never have been to church much and never believed.


so did the spouse do you a favor ? copying a private letter and distributing it to cult leaders to retaliate against you >>>>????? leaving such a disgusting congregation is good news, true "gospel".... I'm glad you escaped and closed the door behind you


Well, I lost a lot and dealt with a good bit of depression, initially, because of the repercussions of being ostracized in my community. I wouldn't want to wish that on anyone.

@VictoriaNotes never having an emotional attachment to my mother and sister's "church" made it super easy to quit Sunday school when I was ten....I did go back when I was 14 promised a beautiful woman to lead our teen class.... getting up close and personal with 5 peers and a 22 year old nursing mother fed my fantasies of beauty and ideals.... however, my long preparations for the lesson went for NAUGHT.... she began the class saying: "I first want to say before our bible reading, THAT WHEN SIN ENTERED THE WORLD, IT CAUSED THE EARTH TO TILT 23.5 degrees off it's axis." I quickly left for the urinals shocked at the contraposition of beauty, stupidity and non-biblical claims she made up out of thin one ever called me back to that congregation, if they had I would have simply said I cannot be associated with organized ignorance anymore"


I was not as deeply involved in the church as you, so I just stopped going. Your questions obviously threatened the pastor. He didn't want to hear your sensible logic.

Job security.


Religius people still want to arguue against my use of reason.


After relocating to another part of the country and backing away from church life, I had one last tie with my evangelical past; a pastor as well. He was smart enough to actually see the circular argument of self-supporting scripture, so he didn't quote the bible in our discussions... he used ad hominium attacks to berate my new paradigm. "You just want to sin." "You're angry at God."

His interpretation of our orderly world was all the evidence he needed to support creationism and the bible as the innerant word of god. He claimed I didn't see it because I lost my faith. A living example of presuppositionalism.

You'd think these pastors could be a little more original. Those assertions are as common and as archaic as the book they're making a living off of. They pretty much knew it was BS before they were ordained.

“One of the most amazing and perplexing features of mainstream Christianity is that seminarians who learn the historical-critical method in their Bible classes appear to forget all about it when it comes time for them to be pastors. They are taught critical approaches to Scripture, they learn about the discrepancies and contradictions, they discover all sorts of historical errors and mistakes, they come to realize that it is difficult to know whether Moses existed or what Jesus actually said and did, that in fact we don't have the original copies of any of the biblical books but only copies made centuries later, all of which have been altered. They learn all this, and yet when they enter church ministry they appear to put it back on the shelf.” ~Bart Ehrman


I was raised Penecostal but never believed any of it. I came out as atheist when I was 12 when I found out there was a name for someone that didn’t believe and informed everyone the I wouldn’t be going to church anymore. Lucky for me my parents taught me to think for myself and to question everything. So sat me down and we talked about it. They didn’t have a argument for my reasoning. That kinda backfired on them. My dad to the day he died blamed himself for me being an atheist.


The atheist debaters say that Christians often admit that they get truth, but belief is more important, and that they'd rather their kids believe than have better lives. Not in those words, but....Modern churches surely get that it's a game holding juggling balls up just to keep status quo. If you could take out all the charlatans, would there be so many true believers left?

Write Comment
You can include a link to this post in your posts and comments by including the text q:37478
Agnostic does not evaluate or guarantee the accuracy of any content. Read full disclaimer.