I departed from you; I never knew you.

If you want to know why I turned my back on “the Church” forever, look no further than this video.

Dawkins is usually annoying, although he’s quiet in this clip. Haggard is the sneering, hateful, ignorant, hypocritical face of American Evangelical Christianity unveiled.

Eleven years of trying to break bread with people like that was enough. How many times did I literally sit at a table with people and listen to them express their hate for everyone like me? Churches were behind enemy lines. If discovered, I would be shot.

Of course I never believed that Christianity itself demanded that I love money, hate gay people, and support bombing babies while I opposed abortions, or any of it. The trouble is, that’s where it led. The strain of belief that moved my heart moved the people around me to nauseating moral, political, and scientific conclusions about the world. And if they wavered an inch, it seemed, they’d lose eternal life. I looked around me at my fellow American evangelicals and saw the Inquisition and the Crusades, not Christ.

Since then, believers and others have often said “Those people and their views should not have killed your faith; they’re not what it’s about. Why can’t you still believe?”

I’ll leave my answer to the man in red type:

Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. — Matthew 7:15-17

The fruits of Christianity — and other religions that promise salvation from death — are bitter. I couldn’t practice a faith that was attracting, encouraging, creating murderous chauvinism and warmongering and a hatred of knowledge. Evangelicals supported wars and executions, preferred disease and death to sexual immorality, rejected science, and expressed open hatred for people like me and my family and friends. I could smell brimstone at church. If the New Testament is at all accurate, Jesus was a great guy. But he’s been a terrible influence despite his best efforts.

To the tiny number of people who share my concerns and stay, and try to “light their corner”, I offer this: I respect your courage tremendously. You’re far stronger than I ever was. Every time I was among the faithful I had at least one moment where I had to think: Speak up? Leave? Or just do nothing? I did all three att different times, without changing anyone else’s opinion or doing much for my own conscience.

The rest of you, goodbye and good riddance. I don’t break bread with people like Pastor Haggard.

11 thoughts on “I departed from you; I never knew you.

  1. Wow.
    1) I’ve never seen Dawkins so restrained.
    2) I have no idea how he managed it, though I did see some signs of extreme effort.
    3) I want to find that guy and punch him in the throat on Richard’s behalf.

  2. As regards Christians, I have the complementary experience — I am not remotely religious and rarely move among the religious, and yet some of the people in my life that I love and admire most are devout Christians. It hasn’t moved me to adopt religion but it has softened their public persona for me.

    1. I think “Christian” is coming to mean different things in Canada and the US. People here use the word almost as a synonym for right-wing evangelical fundamentalist. I’m not sure if that’s accurate, statistically.
      It shocks me a little when SFers talk casually about how crazy Christians are, and that they’re a malevolent force. On the other hand, the most visible Christians here certainly fulfill that stereotype.

      1. Different things
        Even in a single denomination, Anglicanism, the “it means different things here” situation is becoming pronounced, as gemütlich UK Anglicans discover that the African Anglicans are pinwheel-eyed crazies, belligerent and numerous. Hilarity ensues.
        As to the US: Gellner certainly thinks that religion in the US is very idiosyncratically cultural and, incidentally, not basically religious — more of a lower-class conservative <a href=
        >nationalist singalong than anything else. (My words, not his.)
        However, Gellner (at least in the early 90s when he wrote that) thought that basically religion everywhere was on the decline, with the single exception of Islamic fundamentalism and with the note that what looked like US Christian fundamentalism was really non-religious.
        I think that if he had it to rewrite now (he died in 1995), he’d probably start seeing similarities between the various surly fundamentalisms — Moslem, USianese, Israeli, and Hindu BJPish.

      2. “Christian” in the U.S. means evangelical Protestant. In particular it almost always means premillenial post dispensationalism, biblical literalism, and right-wing politics. This arose from the usual sectarian delusion that they were actually not a sect, but were practicing the faith as the original First Century believers did, without any of the later corruptions. When they talk about this they try to sound ecumenical, and frequently refer to C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity as a statement of unifying faith, but they’re actually practicing a very particular American religion that has its origins in the religious enthusiasms of the 1840s.
        One of the giveaways for this sect is that they will say “I don’t have a religion, I just love Jesus”. Ten minutes later in conversation one discovers that they believe in the Rapture, are always converted in an altar call, hold their hands in the air a certain way during worship, etc. It’s pretty frequent to hear people say things like “Are you Catholic, or Christian?” and it’s obviously understood what that means.
        And if in conversation a third party is described as “Christian” no one thinks of a Greek Orthodox priest or an Episcopalian church mouse.

      3. “Are you Catholic, or Christian?”
        You’re serious? Jack Chick is mainstream? I have to look at those comics in a whole new light.
        Now I see that we’ve always experienced them differently. I laugh at them because I imagine some isolated crank scribbling in his basement. But you always knew that there were megachurches filled with people like that.
        And as for Catholics… well, for a Quebecer, Christian = Catholic. When I think “Christian”, I think of an endless series of rummage sales and bake sales and talent shows, all justified by this year’s charity for some brown people somewhere. Catholicism has some terrible themes, like guilt and obedience, but it also celebrates caring and forgiveness.

      4. Chick is the extreme.
        But yeah, that’s what Christian means.
        I know it’s code for Catholic in most Catholic countries, for example the “Christian Democratic” parties in Europe etc.
        If you hear “christian bookstore” or “christian college” or “christian music” you can assume you’re dealing with evangelical protestants

  3. That video is clearly edited. I bet Dawkins did say lots of arrogant things, which were conveniently removed, so Haggard looks like he’s losing his cool too quickly.
    Not that I sympathize with Haggard. Would it be impolitic to point out that he’s baring his teeth in a typical primate threat display?

    1. Yeah, Dawkins is a dick. I fault Haggard much more, not least because he calls himself a pastor and is behaving more like an enraged orangutan.
      Raar, teeth.

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