O Me of Little Faith

O Me of Little Faith


Rapture Orphan Rescue: The Interview (Part 1)

posted by Jason Boyett

Last week I called your attention to a new online business called Rapture Orphan Rescue. Like Eternal Earthbound Pets but with kids, it promises to care for children who potentially get left behind should their parents get “caught up in the air.” The proprietors expect to be left behind themselves because they are atheists. (They suspect, however, that if the rapture DOES happen, that’ll be good enough reason to convert to Christianity.)

We had some good discussion about the ethics of such a service, and I thought it would be interesting to go right to the source: I asked the owner of Rapture Orphan Rescue for an interview, and he graciously complied. His name is Justin and he lives in Texas, but I’ve promised not to reveal any more than that. (Not because he doesn’t stand behind the business, but because of a few other quite legitimate reasons.)

In the interview, I’ll call him ROR.

I’ll split the interview into two parts. Look for Part 2 tomorrow.

——————

JB: What’s your religious background/story? Have you
always been a nontheist or did you “de-convert” from a religious
tradition?

ROR: I grew up in the
Texas-shaped buckle on the Bible-belt. However, I’d say that my parents
were divided on their degree of religiosity. I fell in line with my
mother’s creationist, born-again version of Christianity with
an inerrant Bible, while my father had a more liberal view but typically
stayed out of the discussions. I was pretty evangelical even in my day-to-day life, attempting to ‘witness’ to all of my friends. I was so scared
that they were going to hell, that it consumed me.

By the age of 12 I
had made it my mission to save as many people as possible. Despite my
youth, my enthusiasm and an eye for detail actually yielded a moderate
amount of success. By 13, I had read many of the 90’s-era creationist
and Intelligent Design creationist books — even read the whole Bible — and
was all fired up and ready to debate. Once again, I met with moderate
success. I kept refining my technique, and growing my subject-matter
expertise. 
Probably
about a year or two later I finally decided to see just exactly what
those pesky atheists were trying to say with all of their flawed
arguments. I felt bulletproof, but even more than that, I felt like I
was the bullet and the atheists needed the proofing.

I spent weeks
culling the internet, library, and even a book or two that had been
recommended to me. My plan backfired. I was taken aback at the logical
and philosophical arguments, but those didn’t sway me yet because I had
faith that I would find adequate answers and rebuttals later (I didn’t).
What really made me snap was an article on the Talk.Origins archive
about “problems with flood geology” (it’s
still there). That article was not attacking the existence of God, or
using philosophical arguments that I could wiggle out of, or any vague
concepts at all. It was attacking something very specific that I
happened to believe in: that Noah’s ark was real, that the world was less than
10,000 years old, and that these two concepts were proof that evolution was a
lie.

Now I know that your readers may have all sorts of different
perspectives on this (and really every issue within Christianity), but if
you take an honest look at that article, how could you not conclude
that my beliefs were wrong? It was page after page of science, logic,
and empirical data that directly contradicted my beliefs so thoroughly
that I actually began to cry. 
I cried for three days. I went back to my Bible, my
parents, my creationist websites, and my notes. I found nothing there
that hadn’t also just been utterly decimated by the facts presented in
just that one article, amongst the hundreds I also read there.

So I just
shelved it all — all of my doubts. I still identified as Christian for a
few more years, but never really brought it up with other people like I
used to. Over the next few years, I was exposed to more science and how
the scientific method actually works, and secular humor from people
like Bill Hicks, and even George Carlin. All of the self-defense
mechanisms that I had set up for my cultural identity began to crumble,
and I finally was able to look at the questions again.

I went through this progression in my late-teens and early
twenties: Liberal Christianity (very brief) -> Deist (brief) ->
Agnostic -> Militant Agnostic -> Weak Atheist -> Strong Atheist
-> Anti-theist -> Explicit Atheist. For those unfamiliar with the
terms, Weak and Strong Atheism are summed up here.

Where did the idea for Rapture Orphan Rescue come from?

My wife and I were driving home from the OB/GYN two weeks ago, as she is
pregnant with our first child. On the way home I mentioned that somebody
had made a website that offers a ‘pet-rescue’ for pets that were left
behind in the Rapture (Eternal Earthbound Pets). We had a laugh, and some
light discussion. She jested, “But what about babies? Aren’t all babies
atheist? Somebody should start a baby rescue site.”

Immediately, the two
of us realized what a great idea it was, and we ran with it. 

On your website, you spend as much time trying to talk people out of their rapture beliefs as you do describing your services. I’m
impressed by the lengths you go to here, but I’m wondering: how committed you are to Rapture Orphan Rescue
as an actual business? Which is more important to you in this venture:
making money or making a statement?

I’d say that making
money takes a back seat, because I really don’t expect anyone to sign
up. Yes, it’s true that the pets site has 200 contracts already. But as you say, I
go to extraordinary lengths to convince potential customers not to hit
that Paypal button. (Other than the donation of course!)

But I am taking
the business seriously, just in case. I really am doing the following:

  • Putting together a team of committed and like-minded atheists in every state (more sign up every day)
  • Requiring a job
    application form, with plans to incorporate official background checks
    on every person I hire (I’m just waiting for that first customer so I can pay for
    this)
  • Working with a lawyer
  • Prepared and refined several contingency plans ‘just in case’

——————

There’s more to the interview, but I don’t want to run too long. Come back tomorrow as Justin and I discuss the ethics of his business, accountability issues, and the sticky question of whether evangelical Christians even believe their unsaved kids will be left behind.

In the meantime, what do you make of his de-conversion story? Does his path from super-committed Christian kid to explicit atheism surprise you? Are other kids with a similar commitment to biblical inerrancy and Young-Earth Creationism faced with the possibility of a similar de-conversion when they meet logical and philosophical challenges to these beliefs?

Let’s discuss, but please keep it civil.



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Melanie

posted August 9, 2010 at 8:30 am


Aren’t all babies actually elect? Or, at least that’s one prominent orthodox view.



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Kurt

posted August 9, 2010 at 9:43 am


What was interesting to me was he had a deep belief in the geography and literature of the faith, but never mentioned any deep-seated relationship-based belief in Jesus.
Its like someone was pointing to the moon, and he was fixated on the finger. When the finger ceased to point, he believed the moon ceased to exist.
As for his business, I’d like to know what his ethic is that justifies his behavior. I often hear arguments against the moral argument for the faith from atheists (that you can live a moral life outside the existence of a good god), but the behavior of preying on and taking advantage of the gullible or mislead hardly seems ethical. That is, unless they have a Darwinist ethic, in which case they are simply demonstrating their faith in the world-view of survival of the fittest.



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Jonathan Chang

posted August 9, 2010 at 9:55 am


I’m glad you did this interview, they’re not the big jerks I thought of them as.
nicodemusatnite.blogspot.com



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Headless Unicorn Guy

posted August 9, 2010 at 10:36 am


In the meantime, what do you make of his de-conversion story? Does his path from super-committed Christian kid to explicit atheism surprise you?
No, because it’s a common pattern these days. Over at Internet Monk, it’s one of the factors in “The Coming Evangelical Collapse” that put IMonk on the news.
And just from what’s said in the interview, it sounds like ROR went through a Burnout and Crash — HARD.
“I was pretty evangelical even in my day-to-day life, attempting to ‘witness’ to all of my friends. I was so scared that they were going to hell, that it consumed me.
“By the age of 12 I had made it my mission to save as many people as possible.”

Textbook Wretched Urgency — the obsession with “Soul-Winning” at all costs. From my own experience, backed up by the threat of Hellfire through Ezekiel 33 “God WILL Hold You Accountable.” This combination leads to some really crazy levels of desperation and equally-crazy high-pressure “Witnessing” tactics and tricks. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. You can only keep up Wretched Urgency Soul Saving at full honk for only so long until you go crazy, burn out, or bail out.
“Now I know that your readers may have all sorts of different perspectives on this (and really every issue within Christianity), but if you take an honest look at that article, how could you not conclude that my beliefs were wrong? It was page after page of science, logic, and empirical data that directly contradicted my beliefs so thoroughly that I actually began to cry. I cried for three days. I went back to my Bible, my parents, my creationist websites, and my notes. I found nothing there that hadn’t also just been utterly decimated by the facts presented in just that one article, amongst the hundreds I also read there.”
Again, Internet Monk. This is almost word-for-word what has been described on the periodic Creation-vs-Evolution knock-down drag-outs that periodically convulse that blog. To Wit:
Young Earth Creationism Uber Alles is made a Core Doctrine equal to (or superior to) Christ, and the entire Bible (emphasis on YEC Uber Alles) is presented as a single package, take it or leave it. When the young Uber-Uber-Christian finds himself in the real world outside his increasingly-unreal Christian Enclave, he finds much of what he was taught as The Core of the Faith does not match observable reality, and as it was all taught as one Take-It-Or-Leave-It-Under-Pain-Of-Hell package, he leaves it. All. And YEC Uber Alles is the main reason in such stories.
And Ken Ham/AIG’s solution to so many young Christians bailing? Increase Young Earth Creationism Indoctrination, of course. Ban Evolution in All Schools So There Is Only Young Earth Creationism Uber Alles, with its latest coat of Intelligent Design camouflage paint. And All Heretics Must Be Burned. (Exactly the same response to their system breaking down as the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, except there they called it “Political Consciousness” and Gulaged their Heretics who thought otherwise.)
I would not be surprised to hear that ROR’s upbringing also included Darbyite Dispensationalism, Pre-Trib Rapture, The World Ends Tomorrow and It’s All Gonna Burn, and Pin-the-Tail-on-The-Antichrist obsession. These are often bundled in a dogma package with YEC Uber Alles.



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Kenny Johnson

posted August 9, 2010 at 11:06 am


The deconversion story interests me,
As someone who doubts and who has had friends leave the faith, I often wonder what I would be like if I lost my faith. It seems to me that often those with the most fundamentalist Christian beliefs then have the most fundamentalist atheistic beliefs. And often the ex-fundamentalist Christian is the angriest atheist. It sounds like Justin has calmed down, but he did describe some of his past as “militant agnostic” and “anti-theist.” I had a friend who became VERY anti-Christian after he left the faith.
I think one thing the church does not do a good job at is presenting honest explanations of what the others believe (even within Christendom). Even within Evangelicalism you have a variety of views on evolution, the first 11 chapters of Genesis, etc.
Too often (especially in the more fundamentalist churches), anything besides the pastor’s view is wrong, liberal, heresy, etc.



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Gina

posted August 9, 2010 at 12:09 pm


Sounds like it was hard on him–and to me, it’s like he was on one extreme and swung to the other extreme… I just really felt for him when he said he cried for several days. The sense of disappointment and loss is heartbreaking.



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Justin

posted August 9, 2010 at 12:42 pm


@Kurt, I agree with you to a certain extent about the geography and literature, but please don’t commit the No True Scotsman fallacy on me, I definitely had the so-called ‘Personal relationship with Jesus’. The finger analogy holds true, however I can see the moon most nights. Once the pointer finger crumbled, I tried desperately to ‘see/feel/hear/know’ God, and you know the rest.
I’ll admit that my adolescent intrigue on the subject of creation and even creationism has still not abated, obviously (:
@Headless Unicorn Guy,
I think you are pretty much right on with what you are saying there. Thanks for the link to Internet Monk, I hadn’t heard of it, before.
“When the young Uber-Uber-Christian finds himself in the real world outside his increasingly-unreal Christian Enclave, he finds much of what he was taught as The Core of the Faith does not match observable reality, and as it was all taught as one Take-It-Or-Leave-It-Under-Pain-Of-Hell package, he leaves it. All. And YEC Uber Alles is the main reason in such stories.”
That was a very concise and touching description of pretty much what happened to me. I don’t feel less of a person for fitting a stereotype, though. I was too young to be dealing with such things, and too immature to realize ‘I don’t know what I don’t know’. I’m glad I went through it though, it was an important lesson to learn. I now highly value self-improvement, and try to make sure that any hypothesis / idea / concept I subscribe to is not only based in reality, but is also potentially falsifiable. I also learned that being wrong is not a sign of stupidity or weakness. Refusing to change when you have been shown to be wrong is very much so.
@Kenny
Yes, I have indeed calmed down to a certain degree. I’m glad you noticed that backtrack in my stance. (:
Thanks for the comments everyone, I’m glad that my de-conversion story sparked such a nice round of discussion. Part 2 should answer a lot of the other questions asked, specifically about ethics and ‘age of accountability’. Please feel free to contact me directly, I’ll talk to you more in depth if you’d like. If you happen to blog about this interview or my site, let me know, I’ll probably link to it.



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Headless Unicorn Guy

posted August 9, 2010 at 12:44 pm


As someone who doubts and who has had friends leave the faith, I often wonder what I would be like if I lost my faith. It seems to me that often those with the most fundamentalist Christian beliefs then have the most fundamentalist atheistic beliefs. And often the ex-fundamentalist Christian is the angriest atheist. — Kenny Johnson
That’s because those “most fundamentalist Christian beliefs” go into the personality on a deep emotional level. And when you feel betrayed by them (as ROR found out about the YEC package), the betrayal and hurt also go deep.
Plus, the only behavior they know of is Fundamentalist behavior; from Fundamentalist Christian they flip into Fundamentalist Atheist, every bit as zealous and dogmatic in their Atheism as they were in their Christianity.
Citing “one of the Internet’s Weirder Fandoms”, I have observed the same thing in Furry Fandom re the “Pathological Furry Haters” who constantly denounce Furries as “Furverts” through the safe harbors of 4chan, YiffInHellFurfags, and other Internet Troll sites. They hate Furries with every fiber of their being, yet they go to Furry Conventions, hang out trolling on Furry boards and sites, and pretty much act like Furries in every other way. All I can explain it as is these Pathological Furry Haters are every bit as FURRREEEEEE as the Furverts/Furfags they flame, just flipped one-eighty from Total Blind Adoration to Total Blind Hatred.
And I think a similar dynamic is at work in the Fundie Christians turned Fundie Atheists. All the trappings of Fundamentalism, all the behavior of a Fundamentalist is still there, just now put into the service of Atheism/Anti-Theism.
Madelyn Murray O’Hair and Fred Phelps are just funhouse-mirror reflections of each other.



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NancyTung

posted August 9, 2010 at 1:00 pm


It sounds to me like he has a logical mind and he used that mind to try and make sense of Christianity. In the end, he couldn’t do it, like many other logical thinking people, it’s difficult to be deeply absorbed in something, so big you are supposed to worship it, and “just have faith” and ignore the contradictions. There is a strong moral and ethical need for a logical person to never be a hypocrite, which is often required to straddle the real world and an intensely religious environment. Hypocrisy “feels” like a sin because it is a form of lying and deception. Once you realize one or two big things are, beyond a doubt, fiction writing, then the logical person has to start questioning everything. Once you go down that path, it starts to feel foolish living your life by the words of a fiction novel. At this point, a logical person realizes they are living a moral life in all regards, except that they are deceiving others about their faith. That the only sin left in their lives is that they are worshiping a book they have doubts about. If there is a reckoning at the pearly gates, would they be accepted more as a person who lived a good honest life but didn’t pretend to believe in the Christian bible or would they be more accepted as a good honest person who didn’t live a deceptive life. Did no one go to heaven before Christianity was invented? Even those who lived an ethical and moral life?



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@LaureeAshcom

posted August 9, 2010 at 1:42 pm


i found this interesting and can’t wait for part 2….
i am curious about how justin’s mom feels about his beliefs



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Charlie's Church of Christ

posted August 9, 2010 at 1:56 pm


That’s the price of fundamentalism and being extreme – the pendulum isn’t meant to stay stuck on one end, and when eventually it’s let loose it goes propelling all the way to the other side.



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Tropmirl

posted August 9, 2010 at 2:24 pm


There was a mistake
Looking to make extra money for your IT business? Try N-able remote pc access



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Kathryn

posted August 9, 2010 at 2:51 pm


Does it surprise me that he made this conversion? No.
I think one of the most damaging things that Evangelical/Fundamental Christianity (as is practiced by most of these churches these days) is to pound this nonsense into kids.
I visited a Baptist church last spring, & on our second visit i requested to sit in on the Sunday School program to see what they were teaching. Over all it wasn’t too bad, but at the end their teacher reminded them that all their friends were going to hell if they didn’t know Jesus. And that it is their duty to share Jesus with them.
Gag me.
I grew up with this militant stuff. But i was very shy & struggled with it over & over. I felt guilty every week that i hadn’t “saved” my friends or preached to them. When i was 11 my parents moved me to a school system i did not want to attend (they had the choice of that one or the one i’d been in for 3 years). I decided that this must be “God’s will” for me to go & preach to those at that school. I even tried to carry this out. As i had no support from home or church in this endeavor, i went thru 7 years of hell as i had made myself very unpopular. When i eventually ran across an atheist teacher who ripped me apart (& i liked that teacher very much) i was totally unprepared for it & had no where to turn.
My path did not take me where Justin’s has taken him. However, i am very opposed to teaching children to be evangelists. I think they need to have a good sense of self & confidence in their own worth before they begin to “preach” to their peers. I would venture that given my own history, i believe that teaching children to feel they have this duty to “save” their friends borders on child abuse.
I also think that some of the churches have lost sight of the fact that we don’t save. God does. The question “how many did you save” or “how many did you lead to the Lord” makes me queasy. Paul said that he planted & Apollos watered but God made it grow. We don’t know if a seed will lie fallow for a long time. Not having an instant conversion doesn’t mean failure. We need to leave that up to God.
http://4katekattoo.blogspot.com/



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Mauro

posted August 9, 2010 at 3:02 pm


I think this is a smart idea. You could say that Justin’s taking advantage of credulous Christians, but I don’t think so; he’s just making a bet against the Rapture with whoever will take him up on it. In my opinion, though, anyone who believes the ridiculousness of a Rapture doesn’t deserve to keep his or her money anyway.



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julie

posted August 9, 2010 at 7:47 pm


@Headless Unicorn Guy- thanks so much for posting the link to the “wretched urgency” post by the internet monk- that was an awesome post.



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Loysboy

posted August 10, 2010 at 1:23 am


Basing your faith on understanding all that God did to create the Universe AND understanding exactly what the Bible says is akin to basing your existence on understanding every jot and tittle of your entire genome. How are we to comprehend the Creator and His proclamations through scripture that have been debated by theologians over the centuries? That is where true faith lies, in belief in God, even when we don’t have answers to every question and “see through a glass dark”. This is also why I have a problem with most Creationists, when they take a book meant to explain creation to a group well before the foundation of man’s doctrine of Scientific Reasoning and say that it is THE recipe for how all matter came into being.



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Lorelei Mission

posted August 10, 2010 at 2:44 am


The story of how he lost his faith, reminded me of my father. My father went to college intending to become a minister. He began studying atheist arguments so that he would be able to skillfully refute them. Instead, through reading all those arguments, he lost his faith.



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Headless Unicorn Guy

posted August 10, 2010 at 10:32 am


I also think that some of the churches have lost sight of the fact that we don’t save. God does. The question “how many did you save” or “how many did you lead to the Lord” makes me queasy.
As someone who has experienced Wretched Urgency from both the inside and the outside, I can tell you it often comes down to a Christian version of One-Upmanship. Who has the most notches on their Bible/the most brownie points with God.
And this attitude shows through. The “mark” can tell whether the Christian is neurotically driven by Ezekiel 33 (i.e. God holding a gun to his head, hammer back and safety off) or is just trying to get another notch in his Bible. And as someone who’s been on both ends of the equation, They Fear the first and Resent the second.



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Rainy

posted August 10, 2010 at 5:41 pm


My own experience was somewhat similar. Though I never attempted to be an apologist. I accepted everything I was taught by faith, until another religious person introduced some questions I’d never taken the time to really consider. I never even would have had this discussion with an atheist.
What ended up happening was just a bit of doubt. I accepted that the bible couldn’t be literal and that everything was not so black and white. I went with that for a few years. Then I just dropped it all. I realized I didn’t believe any of it. I was a little devestated for a short period. Losing something that I had considered special. I adjusted though, and once I realized I didn’t need those things to be me or to be happy, it wasn’t even something I had to deal with again.



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Kurt

posted August 10, 2010 at 10:45 pm


@ROR: I didn’t commit the No True Scotsman fallacy. The operative word in my statement was “mentioned”. In this article, you did not once mention Jesus, but you frequently cited your relationship with the Bible.
I wasn’t even pursuing that line of thought, in fact. It’s a pretty stupid line of reasoning (though I’ve never heard of the No True Scotsman fallacy before you mentioned it.) As I said, I just thought it was interesting what part of your faith experience as a youth you chose not to mention.
I’m sorry if my writing tone came across harsh; again, not my intention. Oh, and I would have addressed you directly and not in the third person if I had known you were going to read and respond. It was silly of me to think otherwise. Third person tends to sound cold and critical.



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Headless Unicorn Guy

posted August 11, 2010 at 10:30 am


That was a very concise and touching description of pretty much what happened to me. I don’t feel less of a person for fitting a stereotype, though. — Justin of ROR
I wouldn’t say “stereotype”. I’d say more like “fitting a known pattern.” And that pattern’s been the subject of several postings at Internet Monk, how rigid YEC Uber Alles a la Ken Ham is causing a LOT of Christian-raised teens & YAs to deconvert when they finally get outside the Christianese bubble into the real world. It’s all tied up with today’s Christianese mania for “Enclaving”, sealing themselves off from the Big Bad World in their own little Thomas Kincade-decorated Christian Bubble World. As Slacktivist put it: “Dig a big hole in the basement and hide in it until Jesus returns.”



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Justin

posted August 11, 2010 at 12:14 pm


@Kurt thank you for the clarification. I can definitely see your point about not expecting replies and the third-person communication piece.
@Headless Furry
I see. I’m actually not surprised that I fit an existing pattern or profile, given the absurdity of the ideals I gobbled up. Part of me does feel responsible for spreading that theology further to my friends. I can’t know for sure whether my meddling stuck with them or not, but there were certainly no outspoken individuals to counter what I was saying at the time. It’s like I gave several heroin addicts their first hit, and then years later went to rehab and realized that my rebellion was part of what was holding me down. A lesson that my friends statistically will not learn.



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Headless Unicorn Guy

posted August 12, 2010 at 8:09 pm


My path did not take me where Justin’s has taken him. However, I am very opposed to teaching children to be evangelists. — Kathryn
Search YouTube for “Child Evangelist” brings up some REAL scary videos. Teach the children to be children and grow into adulthood; then they can “be evangelists” with some thought and wisdom and a grounding in experience. Unfortunately, “The World Ends Tomorrow” forces the issue to NOW NOW NOW and ramps up the pressure to some real crazy levels.
As for my own path, I was raised in a non-practicing Catholic family and introduced to Christ and Christians through a combination of Hal Lindsay, Jack Chick , and teenage high school Witnesses/Evangelists (like Justin at the time). BAD COMBINATION. Got mixed up in an aberrant control-freak “Christian Fellowship” that was a borderline end-of-the-world cult — helped me through my mother’s death in ’75, I’ll grant them that, but most of the rest of my experience with them was negative. (All the usual hyper-Evangelical reasons — denigration of the Arts, intelligence, thinking, everything except Bible Study and Soul Winning, where “Whatever was not forbidden was absolutely compulsory”. MAJOR continuing Rapture Scare and paranoia about The Coming Antichrist and Demons under every bed. Coercive pressure tactics including Moonie-style “Love Bombing”, Loving (TM) pressure to move into their “compound”, and all-night marathon prayer meetings.)
Discovered Dungeons & Dragons about the time of the resulting “Take Your God And Shove It” burnout (I credit D&D for pulling me out of that cult) and drifted around for a few years, finally drifting back into Catholicism in the mid-to-late Eighties — patronage of the arts and solid historical trace. Main reason was “Who Else has the Words of Eternal Life?” and I didn’t need to check my brains at the door or give up my dream of becoming an SF writer. “Romish Popery” put my head back together after that Fellowship (TM) took it apart — put it back together with duct tape and CA glue, but that’s still an improvement over the former condition. Never got to Justin’s point of total deconversion, but came close a few times.



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Gobus

posted August 16, 2010 at 4:46 pm


Remember children, there is this thing called DEATH, and none of you can avoid it! So treat each other well and walk in peace, no matter what your fellow human believes…else Goofy Clown Face will make you play “Golf” with him! http://watchingyousleep.ytmnd.com/



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