Former Fundie

Hello, my name is Mike, and I am a former fundamentalist.

I’m defining the word as Seth Godin does in his book Tribes.

“A fundamentalist is a person who considers whether a fact is acceptable to his religion before he explores it, as opposed to a curious person who explores first and then considers whether or not he wants to accept the ramifications. A curious person embraces the tension between his religion and something new, wrestles with it, through it, and then decides whether to embrace the new idea or reject it.

“Curious is the key word. It has nothing to do with income, nothing to do with education, and certainly nothing to do with organized religion. It has to do with a desire to understand, a desire to try, a desire to push whatever envelop is interesting.

“Once recognized, the quiet yet persistent voice of curiosity doesn’t go away. Ever.”

“Curiosity” describes what has happened to me. I have always had an inquisitive mind but until the last few years it has been held in check by a concerned heart. Being a people-pleaser, I didn’t want to challenge those I respected or hurt those I loved. I still don’t.

Yet somehow I’ve wandered off the spiritual reservation. (Probably due to a lack of adult supervision.) I’m out where the buses don’t run, as Kinky Friedman would say. At least the church buses.

I sometimes refer to myself as a Christian Agnostic, an oxymoron I know, but no more egregious than “progressive brethren” or “bipartisan support.”

I BELIEVE in God but not in all the doctrines or deeds attributed to him/her/it.

I BELIEVE theology reveals more about its authors than its subject.

I BELIEVE curiosity comes from being made in God’s image. If he was not curious we would not be here.

I BELIEVE asking questions is not a sin, even if we sometimes come up with the wrong answers.

I BELIEVE changing your mind can either be a sign of gullibility or maturity and that it takes some of the former to acquire the latter.

Are you a former fundie? Or perhaps a closet questioner? Share your insights and experiences with the rest of us by posting a comment.


17 thoughts on “Former Fundie

  1. Great discussion.
    I have always enjoyed questioning things … but I guess I arrived at a little different place as a result of my questioning.
    First … I realized there are only two ways to view God.
    1) Either God created man … or
    2) Man created god
    If man created god … then he gets to decide what he wants god to be and has a right to know just about everything about him. It also gives man the right to decide what “makes sense” and what does not. If it does not make sense that God would allow so many people to go to hell … then I will exercise my right to redefine the God I made and save millions of people from that horrible fate.
    If God created man … then by definition, there will be a whole lot of questions for which the answers are not going to be comprehensible since the created can only understand a portion of the Creator … only that portion that the Creator helps him to understand.
    So … in a strange kind of way, the fact that there is much I do not understand about the Creator … gives me the peace of knowing that I did not create Him … and that faith is needed to provide the covered bridge between that which I understand and that which I cannot.
    My lack of answers to some of my big questions gives me the assurance that a God exists that is beyond the scope of my full understanding.
    If I had answers to most of my big questions … God would seek to be God.

    1. Thanks, Dave – I certainly agree that faith can’t be based on understanding God or having all the answers. But part of what attracts us to God is nobility and consistency of character. We believe he is holy, just, loving, etc. So when actions and attitudes are attributed to him that seem unholy, unjust or unloving (Hell?) it causes quite a dissonance. Especially when those actions match the world in which they were written.

      Joshua slaughtering the Canaanites fits the times. The design of the Jewish temple is mostly Phoenician, yet it is said to be an exact replica of the heavenly realm is another example of the divine being put into an earthly mold. God is beyond knowing in most ways, so what often happens is we explain him in our terms. Fundamentalists (of any religion) do this in the most restrictive ways. Hence God has been seen as supporting slavery and apartheid. He is said to hate homosexuals and despise democrats. The list goes on.

      The right kind of questioning in my mind is to ask if something that is attributed to God fits what we think we know about him or if it reflects the ideas of those doing the talking (TV preachers for instance).

      Beyond it all, God is God, regardless of what we think.

      1. We agree … When one’s ideas about God reflect there personal views … then that is another aspect of “man creating God.”

      2. I love Ann Lamott’s musing on this…

        “You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”
        Ann Lamott

      3. I like what Anne says about writing in her book Bird by Bird. It applies to life in general. “One of the most annoying things about God is that he never just touches you with his magic want, like Glinda the Good, and gives you what you want. Like it would be so much skin off his nose. But he might give you the courage or the stamina to write lots and lots of terrible first drafts, and then you’ll learn that good second drafts can spring from these, and you’ll see that big sloppy imperfect messes have value.”

  2. My name is Vern, and I was a fundy.

    The beliefs I had were passed to me honestly.

    It is so easy to believe that the most OCD rule keeping person in the room is the most holy. There is something intuitively so right about it.

    And it is SO counterintuitive to finally figure out that the heart is the deal, and that love displaces fear, and that most of the rule keeping of the fundy view is based on fear.

    Try to suck all the air out of a bottle, and if you’re really good, you might almost completely evacuate the bottle… but seal it, and come back tomorrow, and whatdaya know, the air’s leak’n back in. Nature abhors a vacuum. Wanna get ALL gthe air out of a bottle? Fill it with water.

    Love displaces fear like water displaces air in a bottle.

    So when I started to REALLY believe that God loves me, the love displaced the fear, and a lot of what it meant to be a fundy quit making sense.

    In the context of fatherhood… looking at our relationship to Christ and the Father in terms of my own fatherhood. Clearly God is a better father than I… but considering the resonance for a minute between my fathering and His… how brokenhearted I would be if my kids kept jumping through awkward hoops that made them miserable in a misguided attempt to “win” my love. If they told THEIR kids what hoops they’d have to jump so that granddad would love them. It’d hurt.

    And when I consider these things, I reconsider my view of God, and the underlying reasons for fundy perspective.

    I hope that when I wax poetic, my kids don’t analyze my words and beat each other over the literal sense of my poem. I hope they know they can ask.

    1. Fatherhood is a good analogy. So good, in fact, that it’s one God chose. It’s his most used metaphor. (If he had chosen to use “mother” instead, we would probably be living in matriarchal societies.)

      The downside is that so many people don’t have a good relationship with their fathers. I’m not sure what metaphor God would use today to illustrate his desired relationship with us. What do you think?

  3. I was raised as an orthodox Jew and lived in Natanya Israel but had no religion until I was assisted by Christians that convinced me that I needed Christ in my life. I started having all these supernatural experiences going on in my life which I was convinced was Christ inspired. I became a worship leader at a large Prespateran church and sang there for many years and services every week for thousands of people attempting to bring them to Christ.
    I feel shame at this point in my life for ever thinking that Jesus Christ or Christianity had anything to do with anything except that it is a pagan group always attempting to bring people into their fold. I can’t beleive that every person in the world that is not a Christian will burn in hell for ever if Christ comes back today. That’s alot of men women and children to burn in eternal hell. I won’ t get into how moving away from Churches, Christianity, Christ and Cristians has changed my life, for the better. My faith in God is stronger then ever before and I’m still growing at 63. I am upset with myself to have ever beleived in Christianity which is such a pagan religion. All paths do lead to God the Allmighty. The Meessiah will only have to return one time to earth, not two to get the job done. God is God. Anyone who wants to contact me can at I’m sure I offended many people and I’m sorry but I have been hurt for many years and this is a good forum to express a little of how I feel. I do love my family.

  4. This is exactly the kind of question I was hoping you would write more about. I also was a fundamentalist who gave it up from reading the Bible. If one has an ongoing, experiential relationship with Christ, it doesn’t need to have a label. Just living one’s life, doing the best one can, loving God, hoping to be a blessing to everyone one comes in contact with, wrestling with truth, being willing to live with ambiguity, enjoying the mundane glories of creation, understanding that we are always a liability and not an asset to God; these are among the best possibilities for serving and pleasing God. But they are hard to label and systematize.

  5. Hmmmm…..maybe a closet questioner coming out of the closet! However, I did grow up fully agnostic, but sort of jumped into christianity to appease someone else only to back up and actually ask the questions I wanted to ask before accepting Christ. I am not one to have those moments when my whole life changes and I change all actions. I am very slllooowww at change, but want change and lots of it. I pretty much make no sense! No wonder why I am so confused 🙂

    1. Confusion is key to learning. When life makes sense and all the pieces fit smoothly, we aren’t looking for answers or insights. There are no loose ends for the Velcro of knowledge to stick to.

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