Andrew Sullivan highlighted this post by a woman named Rachael, the daughter of Matt Slick, the founder of Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM). Rachael is now an atheist, largely in response to what (at least according to her post) was a spiritually abusive upbringing at the hands of her fundamentalist father.
To sum up: For a long time, Rachael was the “perfect” Christian child. She memorized Bible verses, passionately debated esoteric theological principles, and even “spouted off” religious arguments in college philosophy classes. She was so certain of her beliefs and took solace in the strength of her intellectual prowess. But soon the arguments she would make turned into questions of her own. The one that particularly stood out: “If God was absolutely moral, and if the nature of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ surpassed space, time, and existence, then why were some things a sin in the Old Testament but not a sin in the New Testament?” She concluded that there wasn’t an answer for this:
Everyone had always explained this problem away using the principle that Jesus’ sacrifice meant we wouldn’t have to follow those ancient laws. But that wasn’t an answer. In fact, by the very nature of the problem, there was no possible answer that would align with Christianity. [Emphasis hers.]
She felt a “vast chasm” opening up in her identity, hearing a voice that said The Bible is not infallible. If it’s not infallible, you’ve been basing your life’s beliefs on the oral traditions of a Middle Eastern tribe. The Bible lied to you. “ I was no longer a Christian,” she said.
I recount her story here because I think it’s important to see how Rachael has jumped from one religious extreme to another without considering that there’s a middle ground. I’m blessed to have been reared in a positive, spiritually loving Christian home, so I can only imagine how difficult it was for Rachael to have endured such a destructive and rigid environment, and then to have her long-held and cherished assumptions smashed. In that context, I can understand why she has swung so strongly to the opposite end of the spiritual spectrum.
But I don’t think Rachael ever understood the crux of Christianity. She certainly understood it intellectually (or at least her father’s version of it), but by being so thoroughly fixated on the word of the law she seems to have ignored its spirit and its embodiment in Jesus. Reason was her idol, her “summum bonum identity” that was so easily destroyed when it came under attack.
But she has a new idol now. When asked whether she would have traded her childhood for another, Rachael said she wouldn’t:
Without that childhood, I wouldn’t understand what freedom truly is — freedom from a life centered around obedience and submission, freedom to think anything, freedom from guilt and shame, freedom from the perpetual heavy obligation to keep every thought pure. Nothing I’ve ever encountered in my life has been so breathtakingly beautiful. Freedom is my God now, and I love this one a thousand times more than I ever loved the last one.
This is ridiculous. Again: she has an understandably emotional aversion to the concepts of obedience, purity, and God. To her, obedience equals blindly following orders; purity equals punishing oneself for one’s humanity; and God equals a distant deity. But God is not the one who has lied about these things, and worshipping freedom is just as destructive as worshipping religion. Lord knows we Americans love to worship the god of freedom, but that also means we’re enslaved to it. We must have our guns, sugary drinks, money, land, power, sex, and so many other desirable but worthless things. We’re so subject to our whims and selfish desires that anyone trying to fight against them — a politician, pastor, or Jesus himself — is shouted down and has the Constitution thrown in his face.
I believe in freedom just as I believe in beauty, love, grace, joy, and many other blessed things in this world, but I don’t want to be enslaved to them. Only when used in tandem with obedience to their creator can they be fully realized. Since she barely mentioned Jesus in her article, I’m guessing this is why Rachael has such a perverted view of Christianity. Good things alone will never satisfy without the will to obedience towards Jesus. This true obedience — not the abusive, authoritarian kind of obedience so many erstwhile Christians like Rachael have unfortunately endured — gives us the freedom to rely upon something bigger than our fractured selves.
Despite becoming an atheist (and kind of a smug one at that), Rachael is no less religious than when she was a kid. Now, instead of worshipping words, she’s worshipping the god of her own volition. That probably feels better for her than what she had before, but it’s just as misguided.