I Was Immersed In The Religious Right's World. An Appreciation For Religious Freedom Led Me Out.
My upbringing was strict fundamentalist Christian, marked by a firm belief in a literal interpretation of the Bible, creationism and the kind of cocky confidence that comes from viewing yourself as a soldier eager to do battle with the forces of secular America.
I spent countless hours memorizing books of the King James Bible, and my early forays into preaching and teaching were framed by harrowing stories of the heroes of church history. "Here I stand, I can do no other" was a mantra not of some academic forefather, but a living example of my own readiness to face the inevitable battle with the forces of godlessness that pervaded our nation. I looked forward to the fight--and the victory for God I was certain was inevitable.
That was then. Now, more than a decade later, my life has taken a much different turn. I serve as executive director of the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix, a group of people dedicated to the proposition that one can lead an ethical life without belief in God.
What happened? Blame it on the Protestant Reformation.
The stroke of Martin Luther's hammer fell on the church door at Wittenberg 502 years ago with an echo that resonated in that church as loudly as it has in all churches since. The steely criticism he drove into that ancient facade became the wedge to divide not only Catholics from Protestants, but ultimately, far down the stream of history, to divide church from state. The five centuries since the Protestant Reformation began have seen countless wars of religion, inquisitions and the gradual realization that questions of faith and conscience are too personal for the state to enforce.
The shadow of the Reformation loomed over my upbringing and early education unlike anything but the Bible itself.
Growing up, I had a mix of theological influences that ranged from the hyper-Calvinism of the home-schooling movement to the dispensational doctrine of a home church that more than once hosted Earl Radmacher, then retired from Dallas Theological Seminary, to preach. I wrestled vigorously with doctrines such as eternal security and predestination, scouring the Bible for the subtleties that would clue me in to the one infallible theology as it was whispered into the ear of Paul.
My politics mirrored my religion: heavily conservative. I entered a conservative Christian law school and embraced legal thought that paralleled...