Month: March 2021

Why Did I Write ‘Prisons With Stained Glass Windows’?

Why Did I Write 'Prisons With Stained Glass Windows' featured header image
After several years of work, my latest book, Prisons with Stained Glass Windows, is now in print. It’s a large and heavy volume – heavy in both weight and subject matter -- but I’ve been told by several who have read it that it’s not at all ponderous but, instead, easy to read.  
With its release it will be helpful to briefly outline my objectives in writing Prisons. There are several:

To tell my own story about leaving Christian evangelical fundamentalism.
For decades after bolting from organized conservative Christian churches I assumed my experience was rather unique. I met few who could relate to what I’d gone through but beginning around the turn of the century pollsters and media began discovering hoards of us former evangelicals and fundamentalists. Over the past 20 or more years there has been a virtual flood of people, measured in the millions, who have walked away from the churches – all churches have seen their Sunday audiences dwindle. Even the mega-churches have noted that longtime attendees are fewer and fewer as time passes; Sunday crowds are increasingly made up of first- (and seemingly short-) timers.

It became increasingly obvious to me that my experience of leaving Christendom may have been earlier than these throngs recently defecting, but the motivational factors compelling me to depart were also being shared by the newly un-churched. So, the book was begun as an effort to explain why I felt it necessary to walk away from organized Christian religion.

In my case, the reasons for exiting the church were primarily intellectual. I was not physically abused as so many were in the church. I had some good experiences during my time as a believer and, yes, the actions and words of some other believers were difficult to take but, by and large, it was the teachings of the church that caused me to revolt. As explained in the book, research convinced me that many of those teachings were simply wrong while others were discovered to be a blow against healthy living. Being continually reminded that we are rotten, filthy sinners, totally unworthy of God’s love was an untrue insult. The book became a tool for me to record my findings and to share the path I walked toward greater understanding.

It should be pointed out, however, that this book is aimed at those who are already dealing with doubts about their faith. I’m not trying to proselytize nor am I targeting my message to believers who are satisfied with where they are. Why not try to change the believers’ minds? Because most of them are not ready to consider anything other than what they’ve been told. For example, here is an excellent example of the mindset of most devout conservative Christians: "If somewhere in the Bible I were to find a passage that said 2+2=5 then I wouldn't question what I'm reading. I would believe it, accept it as true, and then do my best to work it out and understand it." That statement of religious closed-mindedness was penned by Peter LaRuffa, a pastor at Grace Fellowship Church, Fort Thomas, KY. Nothing said to such a person would make any difference.

To render encouragement to others who are leaving churches.
As the pace of church defections began to increase around 20 years ago, I began to worry that all those suddenly churchless people would feel isolated, as I did almost 40 years before. They needed to know they were not alone, that others had made the same journey and survived, and that life outside the church could be a vast improvement over what they’d left behind. Thus, the book was seen as a tool to help reach these defectors, provide them with valuable information about their exit plus offer reassurance that they were far from being alone. In recent years there have been efforts to organize online support groups for former fundamentalists, evangelicals, Catholics, Mormons and others. Several professional therapists have penned amazing accounts that provide education for other therapists and for those leaving the church. My book, hopefully, will fulfill a need by helping to (a) give comfort and factual information to those on the path out of the churches and (2) support the ongoing efforts to provide a community for the formerly-churched.  

To offer several alternatives to organized religion for those abandoning traditional orthodoxy.
Over several years of involvement with thousands of former evangelicals and fundamentalists organized in online support/discussion groups I’ve seen that a large majority of those who have left toxic religion adopt a materialist mindset that denies our spiritual nature and describe themselves as atheists or agnostics. Sadly, most people upon leaving organized religion think their only option is to reject all the dogma leaving them with little choice but to become a materialist (i.e., “the doctrine that nothing exists except matter and its movements and modifications. Also, that consciousness and will are wholly due to material agency.”) But science has clearly shown that the rigid materialist doctrine is not provable and, furthermore, evidence is mounting that shows there is much in the universe that cannot be explained by the materialist theory. Human consciousness, for example, has been shown to be more than the function of the brain and ongoing research about near death experiences, telepathy, clairvoyance and other phenomena is further expanding our understanding of the universe. Physicists have long postulated that the universe and all that is in it more closely resembles consciousness than what materialists propose.  

In other words, materialistic atheism is not the only alternative to a religious point of view. As the book points out, much of organized religion is seriously tainted and ill fitted for modern people but we must acknowledge that humans – being greater than mere matter – have a spiritual source and a spiritual nature that dogmatic materialism cannot nourish. In the book I explore some of the latest research on human consciousness and then go on to explain what this may mean to searchers who have left institutional religion. There are several non-creedal options presented in the book for readers to explore. A chapter on ethics also provides insight into enlightened approaches to life.  

So, there you have it – my set of reasons for spending countless hours writing the book. It’s my hope that my experiences and discoveries as outlined in the book will be helpful to some of those who are escaping authoritarian religion in order to reclaim their lives, freedom of thought and action.