8 Ways Christian Fundamentalists Cause Their Followers to Become Agnostics or Atheists
If the Catholic bishops, their conservative Protestant allies , and other right-wing fundamentalists had the sole objective of decimating religious belief, they couldn’t be doing a better job of it.
Testimonials at sites like ExChristian.net show that people leave religion for a number of reasons, many of which religious leaders have very little control over. Sometimes, for example, people take one too many science classes. Sometimes they find their faith shattered by the suffering in the world – either because of a devastating injury or loss in their own lives or because they experience the realities of another person’s pain in a new way. Sometimes a believer gets intrigued by archaeology or symbology or the study of religion itself. Sometimes a believer simply picks up a copy of the Bible or the Koran and discovers faith-shaking contradictions or immoralities there.
But if you read ExChristian testimonials you will notice that quite often church leaders or members do things that either trigger the deconversion process or help it along. They may turn a doubter into a skeptic or a quiet skeptic into an outspoken anti-theist, or as one former Christian calls himself, a "devangelist."
Here are some top ways Christians push people out the church door or shove secret skeptics out of the closet. Looking at the list, you can’t help but wonder if the Catholic bishops, Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann and their fundamentalist allies are working for the devil.
1. Gay Baiting. Because of sheer demographics, many gay people are born into religious families. The condemnation (and self-condemnation) they face if their families see homosexuality as an abomination can be excruciating, as we all know from the suicide rate. Some emotionally battered gays spend their lives fighting or denying who they are, but many eventually find their way to open and affirming congregations or non-religious communities.
Ignorant and mean-spirited attitudes about homosexuality don’t drive just gays out of the church, they are a huge deconversion issue for straight friends and family members. When Christians indulge in slurs, devout moms and dads who also love their gay kids find themselves less comfortable in their church home. Young people, many of whom think of the gay rights issue as a no-brainer, put anti-gay churches in the “archaic” category. Since most people Gen X and younger recognize equal rights for gays as a matter of common humanity, gay baiting is a wedge issue that wedges young people right out of the church. That makes Fred Phelps a far better evangelist for atheism than for his own gay-hating Westborough Baptist Church.
2. Prooftexting. People who think of the Bible as the literally perfect word of God love to quote excerpts to argue their points. They often start with a verse in 1 Timothy: All scripture is given by inspiration of God (as if this circular argument would convince anyone but a true believer). They proceed to quote whatever authoritarian, anti-gay or anti-woman verse makes their point, like, Whoever spares the rod hates their children...Blows and wounds cleanse away evil, and beatings purge the inmost being or Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination . In doing so, they call into question biblical authority, because the Bible writers so obviously got these issues wrong. Literalists who prooftext are a tremendous asset to those who would like to see Bible worship fade away – because prooftexting on one side of an argument invites the same in return, and it is easy to find quotes from the Bible that are either scientifically absurd or morally repugnant.