“To be a liberal Protestant, is often taken as a halfway house to atheism. Dan Fincke, an atheist philosopher argues that we’re “half way liberated” while one evangelical site calls us “closet atheists.”
The picture (see link) is from Christmas 1977. I’m in the back row, second from the left under the candles. It’s a program of a Lutheran congregation in Billings MT, a predecessor to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, or ELCA. While I lived in a range of families since I was in foster care, my primary church experience growing up was mainline; first Lutheran and then Presbyterian Church USA.
I mention this because to be mainline, in particular to be a liberal Protestant, is often taken as a half way house to atheism. Dan Fincke, an atheist philosopher argues that we’re “half way liberated” while one evangelical site calls us “closet atheists”. One gets the idea that we were once evangelical or orthodox or conservative but having been acquainted with the sciences, religious pluralism and the all too human nature of our sacred texts we are those folks who are engaged in an “endless desperate contortions to justify their religious traditions” so as to remain Christian.
Now clearly on the individual level, as someone who grew up in this tradition, I didn’t adopt it to remain Christian. It’s the only form of Christianity that I’ve ever participated in. I simply never grew up with hell and the fear of other religions. And never heard of creationism until I was in high school. Most of the trappings of evangelical protestantism I was oblivious to until I went to college and ran into para church ministries there. And I never ran into reactionary Catholicism until after college. So liberal Protestantism, was the only thing I knew. Everyone was mainline, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian and religious diversity meant Catholics.
Now, the para church groups and the rise of the religious right, as expressed in the late 80s and early 90s did shake my faith. It did make me question what I believed and didn’t believe, while in college. It certainly fed into my interest in reading up on religion. Because if there was a fault in my growing up years, it was that I was exposed to so few religious doctrines that despite spending a childhood in the church, I felt like I was ill prepared to sort out these questions. Non creedalism, as a child, means not having to overcome bad religious ideas but also floating on a sea of unknowns.