Why do Christians leave the fold?

I recently rec'd the following e-mail from a creationist Christian
friend of mine. He was once into eastern religions before he became a Christian. He attempts to psychoanalyze people who have "left the fold." If anyone would like to respond to this, please send your responses to me at ed.babinski@furman.edu and I'll cut and paste them together and send them on to James.


Edward T. Babinski (author of Leaving the Fold: Testimonies of Former Fundamentalists, Prometheus Books, 1995; editor of Cretinism or Evilution? at the talk origins archive; and author of "The Uniqueness of the Christian Experience" at www.infidels.org )

Just my thoughts:
I have visited some of those Websites for people who have decided to
abandon the Christian faith and have banded together to discuss their
Christian experience. They have a number of different names on their
sites: "Ex-fundies", "Infidels" (founded by a former minister),
"skeptics.org", etc. The title to one of these organizations is known as "Walk Away", but that is a misnomer, for they have not walked away from Christianity; instead they have become obsessed with it, although from a hostile viewpoint. In their attitude towards Christ and His Kingdom they have become like the deranged Glenn Close character in "Fatal Attraction". The same type of unhealthy zeal that consumed them when they believed in Christianity is now being directed towards attacking Christianity . In other words, they were never simply nominal, ordinary believers even when they were Christians. They were compulsive Christians, obsessed with
proving their faith, or else proving themselves worthy of God through
their excess acts of zeal. They had the same type of religious "fever"
that some of the Moonies have; the overly zealous need to make converts of
others because they never really had the assurance themselves of the
genuineness of their own faith.
They felt, "If I can just get this other person to believe, then maybe my
faith might be real after all."
I must admit that I work to defend the faith, and apologetics is a
necessary part of being a Christian in today's skeptical world, but my
desire is to glorify Christ, and I do it out of love for the truth, and
love for my Savior, and love for lost souls, but not to "prove" my love
for God.
I do nice things for my wife because I love her, not to "prove" that I
love her. That would be self serving.
I wonder if they ever really felt the desire to witness from the simple
love of Christ instead of feeling pressured to witness as part of working
out their own unresolved guilt. For this is another aspect of former
Christians. They have never really come to terms with accepting God's
unconditional love. They were still caught up in guilt, even as believers,
either through some type of preformance belief system, or else through the
opposite, which is that our salvation is not affected by anything that we
do, and thus they fell into habitual sin while justifying it with the
"once saved always saved" doctrine. Eventually they either could not live
with the guilt or the hypocrisy and they turned their backs on Christ.
On the other hand, I have read the stories of many Christians who have
kept their faith through extremely trying times. I have heard the
reports from other parts of the world where Christians have been tortured
and martyred for their faith. Interestingly enough, it is unusual for
someone who has truly suffered for their faith, that is to say because of
their faith, for them to have "blamed God" and gotten mad at him in a huff
and become disillusioned with Him and abandoned Christianity. Most stories
of those who have genuinely suffered for their faith tell of their faith
being strengthened through their ordeal. And there are the stories of
those who have had dramatic conversion experiences, where God literally
reached down into the midst of some incredibly difficult situation and
brought them "out of a horrible pit" and set them on solid ground.
These genuine stories of salvation usually result in a reverential,
humble, and eternally thankful attitude towards the Savior, much like the
woman who anointed Christ's feet with the costly ointment with her hair.
Christ said of her "One who loves much has been forgiven much."
Many of these former Christians have never even come close to such geniune
love and gratitude towards their Savior, even when they were believers.
Even the ones who were in the ministry, in reading their testimonies, one
can see that long before they lost their belief in Christ they had lost
their love for Christ.
Most of them were comfortable, middle class believers who had the best of
both worlds and then like Esau, they chose this world in exchange for an
eternal one. For many of them their salvation experience was really one
like the Roman who was "almost persuaded", while in their hearts they had
never reached that position of full and total surrender. It was either
emotionalism, or else it was like joining some club, or following some set
of mechanical rules.
The two types of people who have abandoned their faith, for the large
part, were either the compulsive Christians, the "zealots", or the
"anything goes" type of Christians who never had a genuine life style
change in the first place.
And like the seed that fell by the wayside, and the seed that was fallen
on stony ground, and the seed that fell on the ground choked with
weeds, they have brought no lasting fruit into the Kingdom of God. And
like Judas, who was not content to merely abandon Jesus and walk away,
they have returned with a band of soldiers to try to re-crucify the
Savior, to attack and try to destroy the best Friend they have ever had in
their entire lives, in all of eternity.
For them, and for the state of their eternal souls, it would have indeed
been better had they truly "walked away".

James Foard

my "home page" at the Secular Web
Edward T. Babinski

Interesting letter you posted here Ed; thanks for the thought provoker! I would agree with him in part. I would agree that some of the characteristics displayed by some ExChristians would imply some of the conclusions he supposes. However, as with any attempt to marginalize a group of people with stereotypical rhetoric, the conclusions are flawed. It is painfully obvious that your friend is accustomed to thinking in “either/or” patterns, as in everything is either black or white. Hasty generalizations are seldom satisfying as a means of support in either argument or debate. Nonetheless, he is entitled to his opinion, as are we all.

Having said that, I would like to present the writer of this letter other alternatives to add to his amateur psychoanalyzing. It could be that some of the people who become ex-Christians have had a very sincere and lively faith. It could be that some of these former regenerates believed they had a personal relationship with the Creator of the universe and His Son. It could be that at least a few of the vocal apostates out there were what we “Born Agains” would have definitely considered “in the faith”. Quickly dismissing large numbers of people who made the painful decision to abandon a lifestyle and worldview they once accepted as the ultimate truth as he has done is too simplistic. What motivates a person to do what he or she does is far too complex, especially when it comes to dramatic life changes such as occurs in conversion or de-conversion from a religion. I wonder if an Ex-Mormon, or an Ex-Jehovah Witness, or even an Ex follower of David Koresh were to set up a website or write books exposing the fallacies and foibles of there respective faiths they would be condemned as passionately by your friend for their new stance? Imagine that if on top of publicly proclaiming their realization of the deception endured while under the influence of their previous cult, they were to announce that they had become Evangelicals fully convinced of the truth of Biblical Christianity. Would your friend disapprove of their attempts to let the world know? If these same former cultists saw their previous religion as a danger, as a mind numbing experience, as brain washing, as rife with false claims and unrealistic expectations, would he applaud their outspokenness or criticize them as he does the former Xtian for his or her vocalization. Does your friend think Martin Malachi is overly preoccupied with false cults, or is what he does and writes about okay?

While a lack of empathy is a fairly common quality in our generation, it is not very attractive, especially in one who portends to be the representative of Love. I personally set up my own website as a sort of catharsis. I wanted a place to collect my thoughts, and work through my transformation from “totally sold out Christian” to my present position of “Rational Human Being” (if there is such a thing!). I had no idea of the onslaught of negative attention I would receive by supposedly Holy Sprit filled saints, as they stumble upon my web creation, and react. I mean, if it really offends them, they could just click off. Nothing compelled them to show up at my site. I don’t’ go to their home, they come to mine, in a manner of speaking.
There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that I was a real born again Christian. I knew what I knew was true and had the “witness of the Holy Ghost” in my heart to confirm it. The human mind is complex and belief a strong instrumentality with diverse effects depending on the genetics, background, upbringing, education, culture, race, intelligence, sensitivity, personality, etc. of the individual affected by it.

To conclude, I am tempted to generalize a bit myself by saying that this letter gives me the distinct impression encapsulated by the trite overused cliché, “The pot is calling the kettle black”. If he thinks we should just walk away from our previous life without a word, then why doesn’t he follow his advise and walk away from disbelief with out a word? I can’t criticize the faith I once belonged to, or those who cling to it? Well then conversely I would say he is not entitled to criticize his former lack of faith, or those adhering to that. In other words, your friend is silly.

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