FormerFundy

I am pleased to join John and the others on this new blog. Here is a brief introduction to my background:

I was "saved" at age 18 in a fundamentalist home. My parents had recently converted and I saw a dramatic change in their lives, especially my father. He was 40 years old and had a drinking problem. He immediately stopped drinking and smoking (3 packs a > day) and has never picked it up again (that was 30 years ago). He and my mother are sincere and devout and I would never criticize them. Lets face it Christianity (or any sincerely held belief) does work for some people. That doesn't mean its true (objectively) but, just as perception is reality, if someone holds a belief strongly enough it can change their lives. After getting "saved", I entered a fundamental Baptist college in Atlanta. After 4 years, I graduated with a Bachelors degree in Theology (3.9 > GPA, summa cum laude). In addition to my studies, I was very actively involved in the local church. I worked in a bus ministry. I preached in nursing homes, jails, etc. I attended church three or more times a week.

After graduating with my BA, I went off to Bob Jones University. There I earned a Masters and a Ph.D. in Theology. Whatever you want to say about BJU, and there is a lot to be said, they were in touch academically in a scholastic sense. Namely, the languages were greatly stressed. I passed language exams in Hebrew, Greek, and German in order to get my degree. I wrote a 326 page dissertation. During my time in Greenville, I taught an adult SS class and worked in other various ministries. Lest someone say my faith was only intellectual, let me add that I spent an average of one hour a day in prayer, memorized Scripture, I wept over "lost souls," and "won souls" for the Lord.

Upon graduation from BJU, I took a position as a professor in a small Baptist college in the Western United States. I taught there for 10 years. I taught Greek, English Bible classes, Theology, Church History, and Apologetics. During this time I began to have my first doubts about the validity of my faith. I have never been one who could just accept something without investigating it for myself. The more I studied and the more I thought, the less I believed. I finally came to the conclusion that all religions are man-made and represent wishful thinking on the part of the believers. All of us want to think that there is some meaning in life and that we will see our loved ones again. Religion offers simple answers to those and other deep questions. I can discuss in detail at some future time the specific doubts that eventually led to my "deconversion," but lets just say that the major stumbling block was the whole concept of the atonement. How could someone else be punished in my place and I go free. That strikes against any sense of fairness. We would not allow that in any court of law. Punishment is only valid if it is the guilty person being punished. I have read every major theologian's discussion of the atonement and I have never been satisfied by the various answers.

Since I left Christianity my mind has started to "clear" (from the brainwashing) and I am amazed that I was ever that foolish to believe. Its not a matter of intelligence, though, there are extremely intelligent people who are Christians but there are also intelligent Mormons, Catholics, and members of other faiths as well.

I remain interested in the academic study of the Bible and religion although from a different perspective these days.

FormerFundy

17 comments:

exbeliever said...

Holy Crap! You were a Bob Jones guy?!!!

Wow. I went to a Fundy Bible College too and even we made fun of BJU (not for the lack of scholarship, but for their secondary separation stuff). (Did you know that the telephone number there is 1-800-BJandMe? I shit you not.)

I really can't wait to read stuff from your perspective. Welcome aboard! So far, you definitely win the prize for the most astonishing background for an atheist.

Former_Fundy said...

Yes, I was married while I was a student there so I lived off campus. I spent most of my time there in classes or the library.

The problem with the school is the fact that all of the power has been centralized in one person, beginning with Bob Jones, Sr. who founded the school. His son, Bob Jones, Jr. was IMO, a nut case and often made public statments that were very embarassing. Bob Jones III was somewhat of an improvement but he has recently turned it over to his son--Stephen Jones (There is a Bob Jones IV but he was not interested in becoming President of the school.)

Paxton said...

regarding atonement: (you prolly already know this)

Hebrews 7:24-28
Because Jesus lives forever, his priesthood lasts forever. Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf.
He is the kind of high priest we need because he is holy and blameless, unstained by sin. He has been set apart from sinners and has been exalted higher than the heavens. Unlike those other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices every day. They did this for their own sins first and then for the sins of the people. But Jesus did this once for all when he offered himself as the sacrifice for the people's sins. The law appointed high priests who were limited by human weakness. But after the law was given, God appointed his Son with an oath, and his Son has been made the perfect High Priest forever.


I admit that I would never have though up atonement by myself. Now that you point it out, I don't have as good an understanding of it as I want to. But just as the heavens are higher than the earth, God's thoughts are higher than mine, and I am trusting him. =)

Robert S. said...

I'm another Bob Jones grad - BA and Master's - who is now an "unbeliever," heathen, etc. You may be interested in checking out my blog from time to time as I sometimes do mention BJU and often touch on tangential subjects, such as evolution and gay rights.

Morne said...

Jeeez! You can't even introduce yourself on a Blog and you have a damn crazy person... oh sorry a xcian, trying to preach to you! Shame on you Paxton!

Hi FormerFundy ("FF" for short?), Just want to say I am looking forward to reading what you have to say.

streetapologist said...

See here:
http://thegooseiscooked.blogspot.com/

Edward T. Babinski said...

Speaking of former Bob Jones students...EVERYONE BELOW IS A FORMER BOB JONES STUDENT

1) Rich Merritt--Author of "Secrets of a Gay Marine Porn Star." See: "The Gay Marine Porn Star... From Bob Jones"
http://www.metrobeat.net/gbase/Expedite/Content?oid=oid%3A3545

2)Vic Lee--Syndicated cartoonist who does the "Pardon My Planet" cartoon strips, attended the BJU Academy (not the university, but the Academy for younger kids, so they got him when he was young and impressionable, and it still didn't "stick!"). His cartoons can be seen here:
http://www.cafeshops.com/cp/category.aspx?category=fav_strips&storeid=pardonpl

3) Barbara Allen--Author of Still Christian After All These Years, writes of the long and painful progress from her childhood in a rigid fundamentalist home to the embrace of a generous, loving [Anglican] Christianity. Along the way she spends a year at Bob Jones University, accompanies her pastor husband to a dizzying number of small churches, has a nervous breakdown, goes back to school, and takes halting, but steady steps into a joyful independence. She tells her story with honesty, humor, and irony, evoking not only the religious milieu of her experience, but also the mores and attitudes of the second half of the twentieth century.

4) Dr. Virginia Ramey Mollenkott--Author of several scholarly feminist works, and writer for The Other Side magazine, attended and taught at Bob Jones in the 1950s, when the above author was in her class. But Dr. Mollenkott chose not to mention the years she spent at BJU in her curriculum vitae. Dr. Mollenkott reviewed the above book by Barbara Allen for The Other Side magazine.

5) Dr. Conrad Hyers (retired Chair of Religion at Gustavus Adolphus), author of The Meaning of Creation; Google up Hyers' article online too, "Genesis Knows Nothing of Special Creation." Hyers also has numerous books available on comedy and religion; and a fascinating little book titled, Once-Born Twice-Born Zen. Hyers' story about being a Bob Jones student can be found in Leaving the Fold: Testimonies of Former Fundamentalists (though he chose to keep the school's name anonymous, as he told me when he sent me his testimony for inclusion in LTF; because he wanted his testimony to represent a broader criticism of schools in that vein of fundamentalist thinking).

6) Dr. Dennis Ronald MacDonald--no relation to the hamburger shilling clown (Prof. of N.T. and Christian Origins at Iliff School of Theology, Denver). Check out the moderate/liberal books on different aspects of Christian literature that he's written by plugging his name into the search engine at amazon.com Dennis' testimony about his Bob Jones experiences and leaving fundamentalism behind is in Leaving the Fold: Testimonies of Former Fundamentalists.

7) The late great (and wonderful) Mike Yaconelli, the founder of the Wittenburg Door (a magazine written by and for Christians who sought to move their brethren with humor to stop doing such silly and or embarrassing stuff "for Christ"). The magazine also interviewed an extremely wide variety of Christians and some non-Christians. Teriffic interivews from all along the religious spectrum, and published today in two volumes. Some great cartoons too. Check out The Door online, since they have a free e-news letter which is great informative fun both for Christians and freethinkers alike: http://www.wittenburgdoor.com/
http://www.wittenburgdoor.com/newsletter/index.html
Mike's testimony and story of his Bob Jones experience is in Leaving the Fold: Testimonies of Former Fundamentalists.

8) Dr. M. Lee Deitz, Bob Jones graduate, author, student of religion (obtained a higher degree recently), atheist, currently president of the upstate secular humanists of Greenville, S.C.
http://www.uscsh.org/vos.htm
Lee's testimony is in Leaving the Fold: Testimonies of Former Fundamentalists.

9) Harry McCall, perennial student of religion, huge reader with a large library, atheist, another former Bob Jones student, whose testimony is, you guessed it, in LTF.

10) Dwayne Walker, producer of "Bible Madness" and "Rapture Dreams," filmaker, author, TV interviewer: http://www.postfun.com/pfp/news/iviews/walker.html

11) A FEW OTHER FORMER BJUers whom I know: Chuck Wuest (atheist), and David Windhorst (atheist).

I believe I know who "Former Fundie" (the agnostic) is as well, but I ain't tellin.

I also rec'd this email from a former BJUer: Hi Ed, I read your condensed "leaving the fold" testimony on the internet, but haven't read your book yet. I will check at the library to see if they can get a copy... By the way I am a former fundamentalist minister, who graduated from Bob Jones University with a Masters in Christian Ed. I self published a little book about my experiences... [Escape From Depression by David Goliath, ISBN 0-936407-02-6] Thanks, Jerry

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Funny BJU-related article:

"Dealing With the BJU Jones-Jaw"

http://www.commonvoice.com/article.asp?colid=1760

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Interesting BJU-related article:

“Where are the Young Fundamentalists?”

by Steven P. Crawford

In a recent article in the periodical Frontline, the official organ of the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship, Pastor Don Harrelson asked the question “Where are the young fundamentalists?” Don observes that many coming out of fundamentalist seminaries and schools are not practicing all that they were taught, turning towards what he describes as “aberration of belief and practice.” Don relates that ...

... ever since graduating from seminary in 1998, I have heard about too many fellow classmates or fellow alumni who have left the fold of Fundamentalism. Instead, they have become "seeker-sensitive," or they have embraced Contemporary Christian Music, or they have joined liberal Presbyterian, Lutheran, or even Episcopal churches. What went wrong? [1]

Don no doubt considers this to be true for us at the FHF, even though we don’t quite fit into his description above. I mean, we literally sat side-by-side with Don in the classrooms of Bob Jones Seminary but are no longer considered to be “fundamentalists” by that institution. And we agree with Don’s observation that there seems to be a crisis of sorts facing fundamentalism today (as fundamentalists tend to think of crises) – but the “problem” is actually worse than what Don or other fundamentalist ministers may realize...

While we’re certainly not among the movers and shakers of fundamentalism, the FHF still has its contacts within the movement. We know of Sunday School teachers in fundamentalist churches who listen to contemporary music and drink alcoholic beverages in moderation. We’ve been contacted by fundamentalist missionaries who have said that they wonder about the lack of consistency in how the highest echelons of fundamentalist leadership practice the movement’s official positions. We know of a fundamentalist minister who has attended interfaith prayer breakfasts complete with Muslim, Jewish, and women clergy, and yet he is still considered to be a full-fledged fundamentalist because he doesn’t let others know of all that he does. We know the names of ordained fundamentalist preachers who have gone to movie theaters. Indeed, we know for a fact that a certain dean at a fundamentalist college has gone to a theater and enjoyed The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. And we can now openly state that the editor of Frontline magazine itself, the very man who published Don Harrelson’s article, has left the Fundamental Baptist Fellowship in favor of an evangelical Presbyterian denomination. In fact, it has been our experience that fundamentalists will generally admit things in private that they would never say in public for fear of having their fundamentalism questioned by the rest of the group.

So there does appear to be a sizable exodus occurring from within fundamentalism whereby people are moving away from the movement’s official traditions. The trend is so noticeable that fundamentalist leaders are organizing a conference to try and stop the hemorrhaging. The Conference on Biblical Belief and Balance is scheduled for July 26-28, 2004, in Indianapolis and includes speakers like Mark Minnick, Douglas MacLachlan, and Fred Moritz. Its stated goal is “to frankly address the questions of conference participants with biblically-defensible, balanced answers” because there is a general awareness that “Fundamentalists at times have taken right positions with a wrong spirit or positions which have proven wrong altogether.” [2]

[CATCH THE REST OF THE ABOVE ARTICLE WHILE IT'S STILL IN THE GOOLGE "CACHE!" IT MIGHT NOT BE THERE IN THE NEAR FUTURE-E.T.B.]

SteveJ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SteveJ said...

>Lets face it Christianity (or any sincerely held belief) does work for some people. That doesn't mean its true (objectively) but, just as perception is reality, if someone holds a belief strongly enough it can change their lives.

This makes sense to some degree, but why are the life-changing beliefs usually religious? I've never seen a person give up alcoholism and wild immorality overnight after adopting a belief like, say, transactional analysis or vegetarianism. How come?

Valerie Tarico said...

I think that Steve J asks a fascinating question.

People do have "snapping" experiences that are non-religious in nature, and there are secular groups that are structured to trigger these experiences: Context International, for example or EST. Also snapping that is akin to the born-again experience occurs in counter-cultural cults and a variety of religions (see the book, Snapping by Flo Conway). But it seems like a frequent common element is a sense of having one's will or intelligence taken over by an external force.

Former_Fundy said...

SteveJ,

I am not a psychologist but I have read various psychological and sociological explanations beginning with William James famous book: Varieties of Religious Experience.

An article I stumbled across by Lewis Rambo give four major components of religious conversion.
(see http://www.religiousfreedom.com/conference/Germany/rambo.htm)


1. Religious conversion is deeply personal and takes place almost always through interaction with another human.

"people who convert or change religions usually do so through personal contact, and not through impersonal methods of communication, although that happens sometimes."

2. Religious conversion involves being identified with a whole new sociological group.

"Secondly, what is very clear is that virtually all religious groups emphasize the importance of relationships with the leader of the group, and with members of the group. One of the things that is very striking when you go into a religious group is that there is enormous affection. People in some groups will even address one another as brother and sister, or other terms that communicate that relationships are very important."

3. Religious conversion involves a completely new way of viewing the world.

"they now have an interpretative system that applies to anything and everything."

4. Religious conversion involves a totally new way of viewing one's self and one's role in the world.

"Role is very powerful in shaping peoples’ perceptions and behaviors. When people become a member of a new religious movement, or when they become a passionate Roman Catholic, they have a new perception of themselves that often empowers them to do things, to believe things, and to feel things that they have not have been able to prior to that time."

I would add, from my own observations, that most adults convert because they are dissatisfied with their present life. In most religions, guilt plays a big role. People want to change and religion offers them a placebo making the change easier.


The important thing here is that radical change in conversion is not something that only evangelical Christianity can lay claim to. For example, the talk show host, Glenn Beck, was an alcoholic and drug addict before he converted to Mormonism.
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glenn_Beck)

Similar conversion stories are to be found in many other religions.

Lee Randolph said...

SteveJ,
Back in the day,
I personally helped a few people have life changing christian experiences. I was shocked to see that they didn't stick. I atrributed it to 'the seven devils that come back'.

I have seen some AA people doing the meetings for years with no obviously meaningful 'higher power'. While I know that AA takes a beating from some skeptics, I have personally seen long term success stories in various parts of the country.

My point is, that it depends on the person and what internal factors they have going on inside. Could be psychological or physiological.
People are too complex to be handled by the Dogma of Religion.

Lee Randolph said...

Welcome aboard!

richdurrant said...

Actually you might, or not, be interested to know that their are people who formed AA into a religion. As in they hold regular church like meetings.
Welcome F'n fundy, I look forward to your posts. Maybe you'll get used to my humor, and maybe not.

SteveJ said...

Good points. Something for me to chew on.

Pastor Brent said...

Former Fundy,
I too went to Bob Jones University and graduated in 1996ish with a Bible Major. Went to Seminary, started a church in Seattle.

I feel for your situation because I think BJ is a cult. Not only do they represent a false gospel, but many people have fallen from the faith because they feel that if they represent Christianity then we want nothing of it.

However, I think you threw the baby out with the bathwater. Through coming out of all that shit, I am perfectly convinced not only that God exists, Jesus did his redemptive work on earth, but that Christianity is both true and practical.

I'm doing a blog series on this from more of a philosophical point of view and I would welcome comments.

http://www.dyingtolive.org/blog/index.htm

Peace Out,
brent

Every Member a Minister said...

I was one of Former Fundy’s students. One of the things Mr. Fundy would teach said to the effect… that theology is not biology. Study is not merely enough to know God. It required obedience and submission to God.

I find that many precocious Christians get advanced degrees far earlier than they have the moral and spiritual skeleton to hang those on. I think Mr. Fundy enjoyed the ego stroke while being a professor as everyone stood in awe of his intellectual prowess. He was and is very educated and intelligent. I think, however that he like many of us struggle with our vanity. As I read this blog and listen to some of you Sam Harris wannabes heap praise upon him it reminds me a little of my first year of Bible College.

Although very intelligent, Mr. Fundy was a complete tool from the earliest time that I knew him. He attempted to sleep with some of his college students and successfully slept with other young women who were not his students. His level of godliness was never anywhere close to his education while I knew him. It is no wonder that doubts and a depraved mind follow.

For each of you in a similar struggle… confess your state to God instead of a blog full of people that glory in your behavior. (Romans 1:28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.)

Did you really turn your back on you one true friend so you could play a little “tug tug” in front of your computer, or for an excuse to leave your spouse?

There is some truth to many of the attacks against certain types of Christians or BJ or other organizations. A cursory study of logical fallacies however should be sufficient to turn our attention off of them as the problem and back on to our own depraved hearts.

Steve