The Vast Comfort of Literalism.

Sometimes it still shocks me that I ever converted into a fundamentalist, literalist religion after having been raised Catholic. Last time we talked, I touched on some of the science- and history-based apologetics techniques as part of our Handbook for the Recently Deconverted and wanted to break this out into its own post for a bit. Usually when you run into a Christian using those sorts of arguments, you’re dealing with someone who buys at least to some extent into the idea of Biblical literalism, and I want you to know what’s happening under the surface of those interactions.

Childhood indoctrination covers a lot of ground regarding why grown adults think that the world was created some 6,000 years ago by an invisible wizard trickster who planted dinosaur bones and sped up the light reaching us from faraway stars, all to fool everybody into thinking the universe was much older. Usually you have to be a kid to believe that sort of nonsense; older people know better. (And not even all kids fall for it!)

But that doesn’t quite cover people like me, who knew perfectly well what the prevailing scientific consensus was about the subjects of evolution, geology, astronomy, and paleontology–and still converted to a religion that has now become known for its self-serving science denial. I’ve had to give a lot of thought to just how I landed in something like that.

None of these reasons I’m about to give could be considered any kind of prevailing one; I don’t know if there even was a prevailing reason that dominated all the rest. Nor are they given in any order of importance, nor to be considered universal, though I’ve noticed that they’re common. I only want to give outsiders–those who’ve never been involved in anything like fundamentalism or evangelicalism–some idea of what the attraction is to some fundagelicals, so maybe they can engage better with those who are or who have been there.

Here is why I found myself drawn to the idea of a literal Bible:

* I was primed to believe in the idea of magic and magical thinking.
I use the term “magic” not in the sense of D&D-style wizardry, but more like psychologists use it: to mean the idea some folks have that doing some specific act or saying some specific words can have an effect on something totally unrelated to those words and deeds–like prayer or Wiccan rituals do. My entire world was permeated with magic from a young age. I was raised with fairy tales and mythology. When I was told as a child about angels and Jesus and everything else, I believed it 100%. I trusted the people around me to tell me the truth about the world and how things worked. Though I’m sure the vast majority of the adults in my life were well-meaning and believed what they were telling me, I got raised thinking, as they surely had before me, that invisible friends were real and that magic really happened. I got raised to distrust my senses and believe things for no good reason whatsoever. Even into adulthood, I struggled hard with this early indoctrination. I didn’t have a real way to evaluate magical thinking because I’d been taught that some magical thinking was okay (even great!). Because magical thinking isn’t based on reality, there’s nothing stopping someone raised that way from sliding further into the fundagelical pool.

* I didn’t understand science or critical thinking very well.
Even educated in a public-school system, I didn’t know much about what theories really are or how we know the facts we do about the universe. Certainly I never learned how to analyze Christianity’s claims on any kind of critical level. It didn’t even occur to me back then that people could sound very, very, very certain about a subject that they didn’t understand. I certainly never even imagined that someone might lie–be it by omission or commission–about something important like religion.

* My misunderstanding of the Bible led me to believe that “lukewarmness” was bad and that it meant “anything less than total freakout zealotry for Jesus.”
I’m sure a host of youth pastors across America are sort of regretting this tactic now. When I survey how young people especially are handled in fundagelical churches, it seems very much to me that their instructors and mentors are trying to inculcate them with as much rah-rah as possible so when the kids get older, they’ll hold onto that enthusiasm at least a little bit as adults. Youth groups are generally a lot more fun than adult church services, and the activities are a lot more relevant to kids and teens. Between mission tourism and camps and Vacation Bible School, kids get a lot of attention. I can’t speak for every church out there, but at the ones I attended, Sunday School, CCD (that’s the Catholic version of Sunday School), and the like were used to instill in children a sense of wonderment and devotion that would hopefully carry them through later in life. “Extreme” was a good word, not one that might alarm anybody. When I ran into the Pentecostals, I’d been disillusioned with how little fervor I’d seen among the churches I’d attended–and how much hypocrisy and blatant sinning I saw there. Fundagelicals seemed very different, and I didn’t notice till much later that all that fervor hid exactly the same hypocrisy and sinning–and maybe more of it. All I saw was the “on fire” part. The Bible said a lot of bad things about lukewarm Christians, and I didn’t want to be one. The last thing anybody could say about the Pentecostals I met was that they were anywhere close to lukewarm.

* Fundagelical culture–based as it is on what such Christians at least think is a “plain” reading of the Bible–is extremely structured especially for women, and I think I needed some kind of structure in my life.
Much like how the military provides aimless young people a strong sense of structure and purpose in life, fundagelical life provided me a lot of structure in my own. I’d grown up military and had moved a lot. I felt awkward and poorly-socialized, and it wasn’t till years after graduating from high school that one of my friends from back then let me know that I’d actually been popular and well-liked; I sure had not thought that during my time there. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life and I didn’t have the faintest idea how to adult. By giving me a firm sense of direction and solid expectations for interaction and behavior, fundagelical culture provided something to me that I’d never had in my life. I didn’t know that what it prescribed for women was deeply unfair in practice, and I sure didn’t know that what they said all women wanted was far from a universal life-path for all women. My leaders said that it was fair, divine, and universal, and I took their word for it because I had too little life experience to know better.

* Literalism made a great many promises to me about the benefits I’d see from being a literalist.
I was taught that I’d be physically safer and face fewer tragedies and losses in my life by holding this worldview and complying with it. Women who dressed in a “worldly” way, men who drank or smoked, people who didn’t tithe, you name it–there are a lot of penalties thought to happen to those who don’t hew to the fundagelical model. I’ve seen Creationists threaten society with rapes everywhere if Creationism is rejected; I’ve seen pastors threaten the Earth with meteors and school shootings and worse if their literal interpretation of the Old Testament isn’t made law. Threats worked great on me because I had been raised with a lot of violence, uncertainty, poverty, and chaos. I felt I needed protection, and what gave better protection than a god? (What, indeed!)

* Literalism provides a solid sense of certainty to its believers–and feeds into fundagelicals’ near-paranoid distrust of anything new or different.
Quite a bit of literalism is talking points and groupthink. These talking points are quick, catchy, and simplistic–and that appeals to a lot of folks in fundagelical denominations. Book after book after book comes out regurgitating the same simplistic talking-points, logical fallacies, historical revisionism, and pseudoscience, to the point where this bullshit becomes all but Biblical canon. None of it is meant for non-believers, though; it’s meant for believers, who will read it and become more and more certain of their belief. When I read the writings of Christians, what springs out at me most is their yearning for certainty in a fast-changing world. I remember feeling that way too. Even in the late 1980s, the world was changing so quickly that it seemed like it’d be all but unrecognizable to me soon. When I sang “Give Me That Old Time Religion,” it was with the most heartfelt possible aching for something that was familiar and would always be familiar. I sank further and further into literalist churches and dogma seeking what I thought was “the original church,” and I loved best the Bible verse that talked about “God” being “the same, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.” When people accuse fundagelicals of being trapped in the past, fundagelicals only wish aloud that that could be true.

* Literalism made me feel smart and superior.
I wasn’t stupid, but fundagelical culture made me feel like a mental giant compared to all the people around me who didn’t know what I knew. I was like one of those weird conspiracy theorists. I knew the world was going to end soon. I knew that the Rapture was going to kick-start Armageddon. I knew that there’d come a massive and awful persecution of Christians. I knew that the Bible was literally true, every word (somehow). I knew, I knew, I knew that there was a Hell and a Heaven–and that I could tell who was going where. I knew about types and shadows (which is how the Old Testament “predicted” the life of Jesus–as if it’s especially difficult to fire an arrow and then paint a bulls-eye around it! Also see this about whether those “predictions” hold water). Nobody else knew or understood what was really going on, not even so-called “experts” in theology. With very little effort and reading, I could make myself feel like ten times their superior. I could feel like an expert. That was appealing to someone like me, who wasn’t really good at failing and got frustrated fast with not understanding stuff.

* Literalism made me feel a lot more sure of my faith.
I didn’t need to grapple with the total lack of support for the veracity of the Bible’s mythology–my faith system was filled top to bottom with junk history and pseudoscience to support that it’d all really happened. I didn’t need to ponder why the Bible had so many contradictions in its pages–talking points handled that. I didn’t need to wonder why a divinely-written or at least divinely-inspired book had so many atrocities or barbarities within its myths–there is always a way to dismiss those or to read something miraculously-modern into its verses. It’s a very simplistic way to look at Christianity, and it’s popular for a reason. One thing I admire about Judaism is that there’s none of that nonsense in it; quite a few of its scholars know the source material is filled with problematic passages and don’t care if it’s totally authentic in its history or science. They wrestle with it and try to figure it out and fit it all together, and they accept that sometimes there’ll be some uncertainty. They don’t pretend to have all the answers, and they don’t pretend there’s some one-size-fits-all aphorism or folksy bit of wisdom that’ll explain everything just right. I’ve seen some Christians go that route as well, and they tend to be really decent folks. I just couldn’t, is all.

* Literalism made sense to my rather black-and-white way of looking at the world.
I’m not sure if I was that bad before Pentecostalism got to me, or if I got that bad after getting into it. But I can tell you that I was that bad a very short time afterward. I was “all or nothing,” “go big or go home.” I didn’t want to do anything halfway. Literal interpretations of the Bible present themselves as an all-singing, all-dancing, end-all be-all comprehensive way of seeing Christianity–and the world itself and society. The problem with this sort of interpretation is that if even one bit is wrong then it’s all wrong, but as long as nothing is demonstrated to be wrong then everything is okay.

* Literalism gave me an excuse to feel both dominant over other groups and persecuted by those selfsame groups.
Ever notice how weird it is that fundagelicals treat LGBTQ people like vermin (usually cloaked in pious-sounding declarations of “love”), and yet insist that there is some massive conspiracy on the part of LGBTQ people to destroy America or take away Christians’ Bibles or behead TRUE CHRISTIANS™ or something? That in a nutshell is where I was,decades ago. As a fundagelical, I was part of the vanguard of Christians meant to rule America and take care of all those lesser non-Christians (and not-so-true Christians). But I also saw that selfsame America as a very inhospitable place to my kind of Christianity. There was a conspiracy afoot to destroy the true religion of Jesus, and we had to stop it. That kind of weirdly militaristic apocalyptic thinking was very common in my denomination–and it seems like it’s only getting worse now. I didn’t have a whole lot of reasons to feel superior–remember, I thought I was gawky and awkward, and I knew I wasn’t a genius or a supermodel–and religion gave me that reason. I had to learn at great cost where I stood in the world and I’m glad I did, but religion kept me from having to confront my strengths and weaknesses by exaggerating (or creating from whole cloth) the former and letting me ignore the latter. When I deconverted, I came face to face with reality in this regard, and it was not a fun or happy time for me.

Sewing 01

Sewing 01 (Photo credit: Wikipedia). Creating something out of whole clo–OH MY GOD WHAT IS THAT MARKER DOING THERE NEXT TO ALL THAT WHITE FABRIC?!? IS SHE MAD?!?!?

There you have it, friends. That’s a lot of what I got out of being a fundagelical Christian. Literalism–in the form of fundagelical teachings and culture–formed the backbone of a lot of my self-delusions and fed my illusions of how the world worked. Remember that saying we’ve talked about here before? “When someone’s paycheck depends on not understanding something, you can bet that person won’t understand it.” My paycheck was huge, and it depended utterly on buying into the false promises and assurances made by what I thought was a literal reading of the Bible. So yes, you bet your ass I held onto it for a long time even in the face of constant reminders that it wasn’t quite right.

Please notice I said–and often say–“what I thought was” a literal reading. Given how little we really understand of the Bible, its cultures, its languages, and its context; given how little we know about the provenance of much of its passages; given how long ago this stuff happened and how hard it is to corroborate anything about it; given how much Christians have clouded up and shat all over what we do know, I don’t think there’s a single chance in the world that there is a “plain” reading of anything about the Bible, much less any “literal” way to follow its commands.

I know what I’ve listed here might seem downright weird-sounding to outsiders. It sure doesn’t make my younger self look really bright! But I stumbled my way into fundamentalism and its weird literalist fetish at a time when the worldview it presented sounded infinitely superior to the one I was operating with before then. I needed structure and certainty; I needed to know how to fit myself into society. I wanted reassurance and a sense of community. By buying into this way of viewing the Bible, I bought into not just a general viewpoint but an entire way of life–one that pandered exactly to what I needed most.

That’s why it’s not as easy as just showing a fundagelical Christian why there’s no way the Exodus could have happened, or knocking down Creationism, or pointing out how drastically unfair and nasty a lot of its culture is. You’re not just dealing with the raw facts of the Bible. You’re dealing with an entire mindset and more than that, a mindset that makes its adherents feel smart, certain, superior, and correct. It’s a mindset that justifies any amount of overreach–and even encourages it. It’s an entire lifestyle and a sense of community with like-minded believers. It forms the foundation of one’s entire belief in Christianity and is often the only way its adherents believe is the correct way to practice the religion–and remember, deconversion means eternal torture. Losing one’s grip on literalism threatens so much that a literalist Christian holds dear. Even one’s sense of purpose and place becomes lost when that mindset is lost. That’s why fundagelicals struggle so hard to let go of literalism.

I’m nothing but happy that I found my way out, and nothing but happy that I got knocked down those necessary pegs. I’d rather build my sense of self and my opinions on what’s real than what I wish was real.

With this post I want to share why someone might get dragged into literalism. With that said, I want to reiterate that this kind of Christianity is declining fast–and I’m sure a lot of folks leaving its churches are, like me, more interested in the truth than in a worldview built upon the foundation of sand that is literalism.

We’re going to return to the Handbook next time, with a list of sources I use to educate myself about Bible-related stuff. Please do join me on Saturday!

About Captain Cassidy

I blog over at Roll to Disbelieve about religion, culture, cats, and tabletop RPGs.
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38 Responses to The Vast Comfort of Literalism.

  1. The Eh'theist says:

    *80’s slow clap* Tremendous. I can’t imagine the amount of unpleasant reflection that it must have taken to write this. Just like Catholics use an examination of conscience to identify any sins lurking in the back of their souls, Christians could use this post to ask themselves “are any of these the reasons why I believe?” and then take steps to meet these needs in a more positive way.Those of us on the post side of theism can also use it to remember why life beyond faith is healthier and safer (besides the whole “truth” thing and all). Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much in turn, and you’re right, it wasn’t easy to come to some of these conclusions at all, but if we don’t know what went wrong we’re at risk of doing it again, right? I hadn’t thought of it the way you’re describing, as a thought-provoking list for current Christians, but if it helps someone that way then I’m all for it. My fear is that the flaws in the system are seen as features, not bugs.

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  2. Hmm…Very intriguing Captain. Thanks for another incisive article.

    But when reading your post, I wondered why I, raised in fundamentalism and a devout believer, grew so quickly beyond it. Because I see some similarities to your religious life, especially the need for certainty.

    But the decisive difference seems to have been when you say “I didn’t understand science or critical thinking very well.”
    In contrast, a love of science and thinking about stuff helped me get out early.

    Not that I understood either very well at 11 years of age. But from a combination of my own temperament and choice (from my earliest memories I was fascinated with ‘why’s’ and science), and my own parents’ rejection of extreme fundamentalism, I had an escape hatch:-)

    While my dad helped lead the town movement to ban dancing at the high school, on the contrary when I became full of fundamentalistic zeal, even burning my comic books because the teacher at our Vacation Bible school said they were bad, my parents cautioned me not to “go over board.” And my parents were practical, taught me how to learn.

    So when I discovered at 11 that the Old Testament said God sent bears to attack kids, I got upset and began my quest. Then I discovered that the punctuation in our Bibles hadn’t been put there until the 14th century and no one could answer to me why the New Testament condoned slavery, not condemn it, I left fundamentalism.

    Strangely, my parents didn’t because they later attended churches and listened to leaders which led them backwards deeper into it.

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    • I truly wish I’d had parents who were a bit more involved in my spiritual life! Very lucky that you had that perspective. Mine were lapsed Catholics and more or less stayed totally out of my private business, so I was on my own once we moved away from the stabilizing influence of my mother’s extended family. I think it makes a big difference when there’s someone around with more perspective; young people sometimes lack perspective and go overboard as you’ve mentioned you got cautioned against. Fascinating how different we came out, isn’t it?

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  3. Stan Bennett says:

    You mentioned something about believing what you thought was a literal interpretation, which is true. At the most, literalists pick out what they choose to believe and ignore any passage that is inconsistent with that view, or they interpret conflicting passages in bewildering ways in order to make it all agree (so much for literalism). In fact, literalists don’t really believe the Bible; they believe what they are TOLD about Bible. And yes, if you disprove even one little portion of their belief, that means it’s all wrong.

    I’m so sorry I was ever a part of this, but I was born into it and it took a while to get clear of it.

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  4. I was taught that I’d be physically safer and face fewer tragedies and losses in my life by holding this worldview and complying with it.

    This was a VERY big attraction held out to the religious people in the little Southern town of my youth. By devoting their lives to God, God would be the Big Daddy, like in the Tennessee Williams play Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. All you had to do was everything exactly the way HE wanted. :) (Geez, the Gothic South! As a writer, I’m grateful. As a human, I’m glad I got away.)

    It’s the same Jedi mind trick that people use after any tragedy… if only they hadn’t gone to the store… sat in that bus seat… picked that day to come in early to work… it’s a natural response to try and get some control in a situation where we have none. Not facing that fact, and pretending we have supernatural powers, is a doomed tactic.

    Because the people who did have something terrible happen then had to wrestle with the something terrible, and the fact that their worldview told them they had made this happen, they deserved it, and they should further pre-torture themselves now, lest things get even worse in the future.

    While the people who didn’t have something terrible happen would double-down on the self-abnegation and pre-torture because Look! Look what happens when we waver even the slightest bit!

    I see it as a system that promises much, asks more, and delivers so very little. Which is why they have to back it up with the threat of eternal torture.

    When I laid it all out like that, it just didn’t make any sense. There was absolutely no fairness in it. And when, around 14, I had my “Huck Finn moment,” –okay, I’ll go to hell– I soothed my fears with the knowledge that, even if it did work like that, the Southern Baptists had to be doing it wrong :)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! Very yes. Exactly. I didn’t know what was right. I just knew what was wrong.

      I wonder if Flannery O’Connor had it like we did.

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      • This was a particularly good exploration of her position:

        http://www.brainpickings.org/2014/05/15/flannery-o-connor-letters-religion-faith/

        But then again, she’d already fled once, North to New York, and once illness forced her back home, she no longer had to make her way in the wider world. Without the challenge of lupus, things would have gone very differently for her.

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        • I had no idea.. wow. I got exposed to her writing in community college when I was still a high schooler and it was so different from anything we’d ever read in class before–and from anything I chose to read on my own. I had no idea she had lupus to deal with.

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          • One of the great Southern works is “Why I Live at the PO” by Eudora Welty:

            http://art-bin.com/art/or_weltypostoff.html

            Which has that incredible Southern Gothic blend of ridiculous and petty things being invested with grand opera levels of emotion. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Southern women are masters of the unspoken and the undercurrent. White Southern women have very particular slots allowed to them, according to their class, and black Southern women have even fewer. In all cases they are incredibly restricted and the more assertive and self-actualized they are, the more they are marginalized, as eccentrics, spinsters, and “crazy aunts.”

            As a highly religious society, the Southern culture has similar ways of creating coffins for people to lie in; one to a customer, and if it doesn’t fit… too bad.

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          • I’m glad that as people move around more and more, that culture is seeing such awful customs being diluted. I may cherish my copy of both volumes of White Trash Cooking, but I’ll remain grateful that a lot of the controlling, patriarchal lifestyles depicted in their pages is fading one funeral–and moving van–at a time.

            Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for this. I was raised in Pentecostalism, but my parents both converted as young adults. I have often wished I knew exactly how and why, and I strongly suspect it had a lot to do with the reasons you’ve listed. They were both in low points in their lives, they were probably looking for stability and certainty and a sense of superiority and “rightness”. I can only speculate. They, unlike you, dug themselves in deeper and deeper when their world started falling apart. They now won’t speak to me or have anything to do with me since I have “strayed from the path”, which has been a pretty horribly painful recent event for me. I can’t help but think that, if they had not been suckered into the Pentecostal church, this would never have happened. It is comforting to have a chance to look at someone’s perspective on this sort of thing and try to make sense of it since it’s honestly very difficult for me to understand how my once-loving and wonderful parents could turn so cruel and heartless. I’m a scientist, so feeling like things make no sense or are meaningless is maddening to me! :P So thank you for your insight. It helps.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re so welcome and I’m very sorry this happened to you. A lot of folks report this estrangement from their parents and it is heartbreaking every time. It’s hard to imagine a parent rejecting a child–and harder to imagine the child who got thus rejected. I hope you and your parents find some kind of reconciliation soon. Ostracism is one of the worst tools in the fundamentalist toolbox.

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  6. archaz says:

    A valuable article (and series) – thank you. There’s an excellent article by Joel Achenbach in the current National Geographic, “Why Do Many Reasonable People Doubt Science?” He makes observations similar to yours about group (tribe) membership and the risks of accepting evidence based explanations. I’m an old deconvert now but I clearly remember my first “huh?” as a third grade child in a fundamentalist Sunday School. The teacher told us as fact that Goliath was fifty feet tall. I was totally immersed and unquestioning but that didn’t seem quite right.

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    • Thanks! And jeez, we never got the 50′ Goliath! I feel cheated. We just heard he was super-strong, and here you got a giant. I want a refund.

      It’s fascinating to hear about where someone’s first “wait just a minute” moment happened. Thanks for the reading tip – I’ll check it out.

      Liked by 1 person

    • SirWill says:

      Yeah, I can see it now.

      David slings a rock at Godzilla, and the King of the Monsters fails to even notice it bouncing off his snout. He then goes back to casually walking all over the Israelites because he enjoys the sound of them squishing beneath his big, tank-crushing feet, while Yahweh’s prophets try to slink away to try another kingdom to run their con-job.

      Seriously, the original Godzilla was fifty feet tall. It was only later that he was actually expanded to the 80 feet tall of the 70’s and 80’s films, though the 300 foot fall one in the Legendary version is certainly humongous indeed.

      Thus if Goliath -was- fifty feet tall -and- he was strong enough to not collapse and die horribly under his own weight, he must, therefore, be a Kaiju. And we all know there’s only two ways to kill a Kaiju.

      Either get another Kaiju to fight them, or build a Kaiju-sized robot. There are no other options! Godzilla treats tanks like toys, you think a fifty foot Goliath would have a problem with iron chariots? Only Yahweh has trouble with those!

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    • Peter says:

      Rodney Stark had looked at the sociological aspects of religious affiliation by looking at the Moonies in the Western States of the USA. One of his findings was that people often became affiliated with organisations like this when enough if their social group were involved. Joining was not based so much on agreeing with the teaching. But once they felt themselves a member they invariably uncritically accepted the teaching and became zealous in regard to that teaching. A link to his relevant article is attached.

      Click to access rel213starkconversion.pdf

      What is interesting is when Stark starts applying some of these findings to early Christianity. His analysis of the personal greeting in Paul’s letters accord with those in the Moonies West Coast U.S.A correspondence where the numbers were really very small.

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  7. Peter says:

    Thanks for another wonderful article. I keep thinking back to the story of Billy Graham. How he struggled with issues in the Bible and eventually made a pact with God to treat the bible as true and to preach on that basis. It was from then on that his preaching developed power.

    I used to conclude that this was because the Holy Spirit empowered him. But when I consider the matter from a psychological perspective, the conviction that comes from accepting and not questioning can give one great assurance. I wonder whether it is the assurance that gives power in preaching. Just consider anyone who is passionate and convinced on a topic, say the environment, is their passion and power in extolling their case any different from that of a preacher?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly. Those soft skills aren’t divine in nature at all. Someone who leaves Christianity still has those skills and someone who was never Christian can develop them. Assurance goes a long way toward establishing credibility with an audience, and building rapport isn’t hard to learn. If I watch a Christian trying to witness at someone they don’t know that well, there’s a reason it reminds me of a “psychic” trying to cold-read a mark.

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  8. Glandu says:

    +1

    I remember, a few years ago, the local assembly of God did leave a paper in my mailbox(despite the “no ad” sticker). The first sentence was “You’re in need of structure?”. Yeah, before even speaking about God, or the Christ, or Sin, or hell, or despair, or values, whatever topic associated with christianity. “You’re in need of structure”.

    Military works also for giving you a structure, but does not lie WHY it gives you this structure : you need it to go kill & face death at war. You’re enlisted within the job of weaponry, and it needs some kind of brainwashing to be done properly(ironically, “you shall not kill” is one of the first things to unlearn). Churches are not so clear about their goals(besides recruiting, but recruiting for what?)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks :) And that paper in your mailbox sounds downright weird. That would have had me pretty disturbed.

      Christians now that you mention it often have this really strange conceptualization of themselves as holy warriors preparing for some vast war. I don’t know who they’re thinking they’ll be fighting or what fight exactly they’re being prepared to fight. Armageddon, I suppose. It’s weird. I’ll have to think about this one a bit more. Armor of god and whatnot. Creepy, isn’t it?

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  9. Hannah G says:

    I love that you had to link “Vacation Bible School” in case people don’t know what that is. I just figured everybody spent all summer in various VBSes… Recently mentioned it at a work function and got wary stares. It was kind of hilarious, at this stage of my life anyway. ;)

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    • Thanks! And yeah, I catch myself realizing when I edit these that not everybody knows the lingo some of us do. This blog’s helped a lot with my natural inclination to just assume everybody knows exactly what I’m referring to when I talk. The funny thing is that VBS–by that name–wasn’t something I knew about much when I was Christian, but Pentecostals back then did something very similar. Now VBS is huge huge huge huge in my current city/state; the signs start popping up advertising each church’s program somewhere around Easter.

      That must have been funny though–I get that look sometimes too from Mr. Captain, who wasn’t ever involved in anything too right-wing religiously.

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      • Hannah G says:

        :D When I was a kid we’d usually host one in the neighborhood, go to one at our church, go to one at another church, and probably go to yet another one while at my grandparents’ house… I thought it was reasonably exciting for a while, like an arts-and-crafts-and-movies Sunday School X-Treme, but it got very tedious after a while.

        Yup. The look is hilarious. I have no idea what I’d have thought of it back then, of course… probably become alarmed for the person’s soul.

        Like

        • Sounds downright tedious to me. I never got into arts and crafts much after like age 11 or so. It felt like busy-work. I used to get a catalog from a company that offered kits like that though–like leather lanyards and stuff, in bulk for Sunday Schools. Is making a cross-shaped leather keychain supposed to make kids more Jesus-y as adults? I don’t know what the logic is.

          Like

          • Hannah G says:

            I think it was mostly exciting in comparison to Sunday School. I’m not sure what the logic is other than “give kids something to do while they’re not in school,” and of course everything has to be Jesus-y to be approved…

            Like

          • Anything to keep ’em busy and out of the parents’ hair, I guess. If it’s Jesus-approved then doubleplusgood.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Hannah G says:

            Oh! Oh! The best? The best thing ever? The church down the street that had a crusades-themed VBS last year. You can’t make this stuff up. I’d forgotten until just now.

            Like

          • Some other folks have been commenting today about how scary this militaristic mindset is. That information does not help much! I wonder how the Muslims in the area felt about that VBS?

            Like

          • Hannah G says:

            Not many Muslims in Calera, Alabama. And I’m guessing this is why. But there is a substantial Muslim demographic from uptown, and I sincerely hope they didn’t notice it.

            Like

          • No, I bet not. I was at an SCA event in backwoods Alabama (can’t remember the name–Pratchett? Padgett? There was a riot at a high school basketball game there a few years ago that was all over the news) a bit after 9/11 and we got some stern warnings against looking “too Muslim” around the locals, who were feared to be rather trigger-happy about the whole thing.

            Like

          • Hannah G says:

            I’m not at all surprised. I remember one of the local Greek restaurants flew an enormous American flag outside for a long time right after 9/11, because Greek is close enough, amirite? Ugh.

            Like

      • Glandu says:

        To my ear, VBS is VBScript, a scripting language for Microsoft Windows environments. I’m coding right now…..

        Liked by 1 person

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