Ask a Fundamentalist Christian September 15, 2007

Ask a Fundamentalist Christian

We had a pretty successful series of postings from Christian pastor Mike Clawson a while ago where he answered your questions. Mike’s a liberal guy and that set him apart from many others in his faith.

So when I received a nice email from a conservative Christian (believes in Creationism, the Bible as the literal word of God, etc.) who was willing to answer your questions, I figured we should take her up on it.

Maria is a self-described “31 year old, married, Christian, homeschooling mom of a 12 year old and a 2 year old.” You’re welcome to ask her anything you’d like.

There are a lot of obvious questions atheists ask of fundamentalist Christians. You can ask those, but I hope we can be more creative given this opportunity.

I’ll pick a handful of the more interesting questions and pass them along to Maria.

Don’t be evil. But don’t hold back, either.

[tags]atheist, atheism, fundamentalist, Christian, fundie[/tags]

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  • Kate

    I can’t think of any questions right off but I would like you to pass on the message that I’m very impressed with her volunteering to do this. Good job, and I hope everyone is KIND in their questions since she was brave enough to offer herself up for questioning.

    Please…be nice to the fundamentalist and let’s put our best faces forward. 🙂

  • Q: Is there any amount of evidence that would be able to dissuade you of your belief in the Bible? If not, why not? If so, why do you not think the current evidence is to that level?

  • PrimateIR

    Maria, how do you reconcile contradictions and misinformation in the Bible? In other words how do you make peace with God telling people that a bat is a bird and pi is 3?

    Does in make you uncomfortable worshiping such a violent God? Does it bother you that your God ordered the killing of babies?

    Why do you think it is that there is no physical evidence that Jesus existed and mention of him until 75 years after his death?

  • PrimateIR

    Kate said

    Please…be nice to the fundamentalist and let’s put our best faces forward.

    Meaning what? This felt really patronizing Kate, but perhaps that wasn’t your intent. Please elaborate.

    Do you mean we shouldn’t ask her any questions that cause her to question her faith? Do you mean don’t swear? Do you mean that she will need her own parking place and that we should select a group of friends for her….what?

  • Becksi

    I’m impressed too. Good luck answering our questions =D

    This question I could ask any believer:

    There are so many religions and beliefs, and a believer of any other religion may be just as sure about her religion as you are in yours. But from your perpective she must be mistaken. Don’t you ever think that you could be this mistaken person, or that’s it’s impossible to know which religion, if any, is true?

  • This should be very interesting!

  • Mriana

    I’ll sit back and watch this one and just try to keep my mouth shut, unless I know I can ask something without causing an intersteller incident. Mike is liberal, but I’m sure he struggled with not taking offense to some of my questions to him. I seriously doubt a Fundamentalist can tolerate me for more than one minute.

  • Here are some questions:

    How long have you been born again?

    How many people do you know who have remained born again and active in the church for 10, 15, 20 years?

    Were you born again after something bad happened in your life, like a divorce, and accident, or a bout with depression?

    I’m asking beause in my experience, born again Christians tend to burn out after a few years and go back to their old life. I think that’s because most of them turn to God or religion because they had a low time in their life. After they recover from the downturn, they find they don’t need the support (some would call it a crutch) any more.

    That’s it for now.

  • Does your faith affect how to feel about issues, like science, or planning for the future? For example, do you distrust scientists who say the Universe is billions of years old, and therefor distrust any finding they may later claim? Do you believe the rapture will happen in your life time? If so, how does that affect your day to day decision making? Do you have a retirement account? Do you believe it’s ok to not worry about environmental impacts we may cause today which won’t manifest until many years down the road, because the Second Coming is soon? How do you view society, generally, outside of your church?

  • I want to try to pick your brain as to how you see the theory of evolution. Two questions:

    * How would you outline the theory of evolution if you had about a paragraph or so? I’m looking for something more detailed than “From goo to you by way of the zoo,” which I’m sure we’ve all heard before.

    * From where did you get your information on the theory of evolution?

  • Maria

    Wow. Good questions. Hemant asked me not to answer in the comment section and we’ll see which ones he picks for me to answer.

    I appreciate Kate and Becksi’s encouragement. As to anyone who is afraid of offending me, I’m a fundamentalist Christian living in the most liberal state in the union. 🙂 I’ve learned not to offend easily.

    So bring on the questions. I’m looking forward to it.

  • Jen

    What sins, in your opinion, can cause a person to get sent to Hell? Yes, I know, many Christians will say they can’t know the mind of their God, etc, but every day I see Christians saying they know. Are there any sins that can get a person sent to Hell regardless of whatever else they do in their life- abortion, gay sex, killing a person?

    What are you teaching your children (especially the older one, obviously) about politics and feminism? Where do you and your husband fall in terms of politics? How does your religion impact your politics, and visa versa?

    What will you do if your children turn into atheists?

  • “From goo to you by way of the zoo,” which I’m sure we’ve all heard before.

    Nope, sorry, never heard that one. Funny tho’.

  • miller

    What do you think of liberal Christians and their views?

    And a related question:

    Some atheists seem to think that liberal Christians “enable” fundamentalists, or that both are symptoms of a single root problem. What do you think of that?

  • John

    Science has landed a man on the moon, cured a myriad of diseases, created means of transportation that make the world ever smaller, and peer into matter at a scale so small it is virtually beyond imagination. When scientists have so overwhelmingly proven that the theory of evolution is every bit as real as the theory of gravity, what makes you so sure that in this case they have got it completely wrong?

    Is there any scientific/religious disagreement in human history that you can point to where religion has been proven right, and science has been proven wrong?

    If your child suddenly became seriously ill, would you take him/her directly to the priest with his prayers or the doctor with his science?

  • How do you condone a God who condones genocide in one testament, and eternal separation in the next?

  • Claire

    Why do fundamentalists (most of them, anyway) think it’s necessary to attempt to turn their beliefs into legislation, especially when it’s a belief or choice that most people think should be left to the individual conscience? I’m not specifically asking about any particular issue, but the general attitude that it would be a good thing to have the state enforce certain conservative christian beliefs in a diverse society that does not agree with them.

    And another – why is it so important to fundamentalists that elected figures should be religious, especially the right kind of religious? Isn’t it more important for an elected official to represent (as far as possible) all the people and to enact good laws? To me it seems that this is a classic case of “no man can serve two masters” (yes, I know where that’s from, and I know it was about god and money, not government, but the principle is the same), and that someone who has truly dedicated his or her life to any faith should refrain from trying to be public servant as well – do you see this as not a conflict, and how so?

  • Richard Wade

    Is there a set of core beliefs that are more essential than more secondary or peripheral beliefs for you? Such as a core belief might be the divinity of Jesus Christ, while a peripheral belief might be the literal seven-day creation of the universe only a few thousand years ago. Could you retain your core beliefs while letting go of such a peripheral belief, if the evidence finally persuaded you that a literal interpretation of Genesis was not correct?

    You are very brave to do this, by the way.

  • I know how I, as an emerging Christian, would answer most of these questions, but I am very intrigued to see what Maria does with them. And Richard Wade is right, you are very brave for putting yourself out there like this Maria. Trust me, I know!

  • Claire

    Now I’m curious – while I think it’s very nice of Maria to take the time and trouble to do this, I don’t really see why she is being called brave. She is doing this with the same anonymity most of us have here, so there would be no repercussions, and I don’t see that it requires that much courage, just a willingness to put yourself out and maybe some of the nearly-universal desire to be understood. Unless – does just talking with atheists require such courage? Is that it? That would be a sad commentary on our times indeed.

    I did think of another question – why is conservative christian so often equal to politically conservative? From what I have read, I would have thought that the “love everybody”, “help the unfortunate’ liberal-Democrat viewpoint is much more consistent with the new testament (and therefore christianity) than the “live our way or leave”, “the unfortunate just need to try harder” conservative-Republican views, but in practice it seems to be the opposite. Any idea why?

  • infideljoe


    Do you home school your children, because you feel your children will start to question their own beliefs if they are exposed to children at public school that hold different beliefs or no believes at all? Do you not think your faith is strong enough to hold up to scrutiny for people of nonbelieve?
    Do you think people become scientists because they want to disprove biblical things or because they are truly just looking for the answers to how the universe works or how to cure what ails the human race?

    Thanks for taking the challenge.

  • J.S.Brown

    Thank you, Maria, for participating in this Q & A. I look forward to reading your answers.

    My question is simpler than the others, but it goes along with previous inquiries relating to evidence. In the quest for truth, or getting as close to it as possible, one must try to be objective when dealing with alternative perspectives. This means a willingness to admit the possibility of being wrong no matter how certain one feels. So I ask…

    Are you willing to admit the possibility that your religious supernatural beliefs are not in alignment with reality, and that you might be wrong concerning such things?

  • Maria

    Hi again, everyone.

    These are some really great questions. I did agree with Hemant to not answer questions in the comment section. Of course, that was a lot easier to agree to before I saw all of these great questions. I also appreciate how kind everyone is being to me, in general, being as I am coming from a completely different viewpoint than many of you.

    As far as me being called brave, though, I am more inclined to agree with Claire. I feel I, like mostly anyone who takes the time to express themselves in a forum like this, am operating on the desire to increase understanding of my beliefs and that of those who belive like me, not any special courage.

    If you say that you believe in something, but then don’t have the nerve to say why, do you really believe it in the first place? If I can’t answer questions of people who see the world differently than I do about what I believe, then I need to do some soul searching and see if I really believe it.

    All we’re waiting on now, is Hemant to pick what he wants me to answer.

    In the meantime, I have a question for anyone who wants to answer it. How does an atheist define the term fundamentalist? I know what it means to me, but what is connected to the that term for an atheist?

  • Ben

    I have a two part hypothetical question:

    First: Let’s say I am a father with a son who has become disobedient. He is staying out late chasing the girls and not listening to me or his mother when we discipline him. I consult with some other men whose opinions I respect. We go to my son, rocks in hand, and start throwing and beating him with them. He quickly goes from screaming in pain to unconscious and bleeding badly to dead. Was this the right thing to do ? Why or why not ?

    Don’t read the second question until you write down your answer to the first.

    Second question: An omitted detail is that the above is taking place 100 B.C. in Israel. Does the answer change knowing these additional details ? If so, why ?

    All of the above is in reference to Deut 21:18 – 21.

  • Richard Wade

    Two more questions based on hypothetical situations: They are very unlikely scenarios but please don’t avoid the question by objecting to that.

    1. If you had the power to make your particular version of your particular religion the official, legal, constitutional religion of the United States, would you use that power?

    2. If all by yourself you came upon an injured, dying person in an isolated place and that person, knowing that he or she would presently die, asked you to administer a simple last rite for their religion that was completely different from your religion, would you grant him or her that last wish? Assume that side issues such as first aid, physical discomfort or any chance of rescue or assistance is not a pertinent part of the scenario.

  • Claire

    Thanks, Maria – the thought that this would make you so uncomfortable that it required all kinds of bravery was not a happy one, I feel better that you don’t see it as such an ordeal.

    You wanted a definition of fundamentalist? I have one and a half – the denotative definition is someone who believes that the bible (or other sacred text) is literally and unquestionably true, historically as well as spiritually. I think most people would agree with that definition. The connotative meanings are where the differences crop up – they would include, in varying degrees, a lot of negative attributes (hey, you know what group you asked!) so I’m not going to elaborate them (hence the half definition), since you are a guest, and I suspect you pretty much know what they would be anyway.

    And one more question for Hemant to consider asking – how do you feel when you either meet an atheist (not an agnostic or generic non-believer, but a genuine dyed-in-the-wool atheist) or when you find out that someone you already know is one? Is your first instinct to convert them, run screaming, dismiss them as unimportant, smack them upside the head, or maybe even just think “oh, ok, fine”? And would your friends and family mostly react the same way?

  • I said she is brave because she’s opening herself up to the potential for ridicule and attack. As I discovered (though this certainly isn’t true of most people here) some atheists can be rather antagonistic and mean-spirited in support of their viewpoints. Of course that is very true of some Christians too.

  • Claire

    Ah ha – Mike, ok, got it. I had forgotten that a lot of people take these things personally. I worked as a temp in the customer service field once, and I remember that a lot of people left after just a day or two. It’s a rough field -some people would take being screamed at, cursed at, and threatened too much to heart and be out of there in no time, for others (like me) it just rolled right off. Just a matter of different personalities…. Thanks for answering, I did want to know.

  • Mriana

    As I discovered (though this certainly isn’t true of most people here) some atheists can be rather antagonistic and mean-spirited in support of their viewpoints. Of course that is very true of some Christians too.

    Have you ever wondered if these people were the opposite would they still be mean-spirited? That is, if the atheist were a Christian and the Christian were an atheist would they have a mood adjustment concerning their POVs?

    I know, it sounds like a silly question, but I thought I’d ask.

  • infideljoe

    Have you ever asked your kids if they want to be christians?

    Have you told them they have a choice as to what they want to believe?

  • Scott


    A basic question I have for so-called “fundamentalist” Christians is this: why is it that, in a religion whose basic doctrines are love, devotion to doing good works, and preaching these teachings to others, are there so many people advocating the sometimes revolt against opposing beliefs?

    The God of the Old Testament set forth different sets of commands for different kinds of civilization (ref. Genesis 9, Acts 15), in effect acknowledging the legitimacy of those civilizations which meet certain minimum standards but are not themselves Jewish or Christian. I don’t recall Jesus repudiating this idea; indeed, I recall that Jesus preached tolerance of the Jews, and suggested that they had their own separate relationship with God. So why are “fundamentalist” Christians so frequently intolerant of the religious viewpoints of other cultures?

    Lastly: My understanding is that a primary “fundamentalist” belief is that the Old and New Testaments represent the literal word of God. How is this belief reconciled with evidence in the post-Jesus historical record of changes made (by men) to the text? How can one be certain that these words are the ones Jesus actually spoke? And what about all of the things He said that didn’t make it into the Bible — were those things unimportant? In other words, how is it that Christianity can claim the ultimate authority on God’s intent, to the exclusion of anything else?

    Not trying to be antagonistic: these are points on which I would really welcome some clarification. Thanks for being so willing to share your viewpoint.

  • Polly

    I would say that for practical purposes a “Christian Fundamentalist” is one who believes that the Bible stories are literally true historic events and believes that anyone who isn’t a Christian will go to Hell, or at the very least, has a very high probability of going to Hell if they haven’t heard of Jesus.

    There are certain things that would convince me that the Bible is true if they were to occur – genuine miracles in my face like a limb growing back in the absence of any medical treatment, double blind studies showing that prayer ONLY to JC heals people a significant proportion of the time, etc.

    MY QUESTION: Is there anything that would convince you that Christianity is not true? If yes, then what?

  • It’s interesting to me that the atheist definitions of “fundamentalism” would actually include most evangelicals as well. Within the Christian world those two are rather distinct and fundamentalism has a more specific definition (though personally I use the term to refer to people of any belief system that hold their beliefs in a way that is unkind and intolerant towards those with whom they disagree)… but of course, all that is probably irrelevant since Maria wanted to know what it meant to you guys.

  • Have you ever wondered if these people were the opposite would they still be mean-spirited? That is, if the atheist were a Christian and the Christian were an atheist would they have a mood adjustment concerning their POVs?

    I doubt it. I’ve known plenty of mean-spirited people (my definition of “fundamentalist”) on both sides, so I doubt simply changing one’s philosophical beliefs would do much to change one’s character or attitudes towards others.

    On the other hand, I think a person choosing to genuinely follow Christ’s way of self-giving love for others does have the potential to effect positive inward change in both Christians and atheists. But that’s somewhat different than merely changing religions or philosophical beliefs.

  • miller

    Oh, that would be a good question, Mike. What does “fundamentalist” mean? I mean, all I’m really told is that they hate science and freedom. I’m joking of course, but you get the idea.

    Since you asked, atheists usually define “fundamentalist” as someone who believes in a literal interpretation of the Bible. There are a bunch of negative connotations too. For example, you regularly ignore evidence going against your faith, and you believe an invisible anthropomorphic sky god will condemn everyone who thinks for themselves to eternal hellfire. You know, the usual stuff. Also, “fundamentalist atheist” is considered baseless insult. You can google “Blake’s law” for that.

  • If Hemant would allow, I would love to offer to answer questions also. I am a seminary student. I would not define myself as a “fundamentalist” by any definition, though I do believe the Bible is the Word of God, I think it has to be interpreted according to its genre. For instance the Bible contains history, poetry, letters, etc. We have to interpret it as it comes to us.

    Either way this is fascinating and I will watch the discussion.

  • Maria

    How does an atheist define the term fundamentalist?

    Hi Maria, from another Maria: as a non-theist, I define a fundamentalist as someone who takes literally all the fundamentals of their religion, and who tends to have a hard time questioning it and has a tendency to be more dogmatic. Someone who takes it all seriously and literally, whether it be the bible or the koran, etc.

    I’m glad you are here 🙂

    My question to you is this: do you honestly think, really honestly deep down truly feel, that anyone who isn’t a Christian is going to hell? What do you think of other Christians (liberal ones in particular who support political issues you don’t agree with?)? Are they in the same category as non-Christians for you? What about people who believe in a God/Gods and/or a higher power, but not the Abrahamic God? Are all of these people in the same category? Do you feel a tendency to think of them differently b/c of what they do or don’t believe, or do you try to focus on who they are and what they do? How do most people in your church feel about this type of stuff?

    Sorry if that’s too many at once…..good luck 🙂

  • Tao Jones

    Hi Maria,

    I’m glad you’re doing this too.

    I’m finding it rather interesting to read what my fellow atheists have chosen to ask you. I bet it is quite fascinating for you too, to see what others consider important aspects of your faith (that they require clarification on.)

    Here is my question…

    What is your take on the Agricultural Revolution?

    The relevance: The seeds of religion were sown in the Levant at about the same time as our cultural ancestors began a whole new way of life. Two massive revolutions going on at the same time and area, it would be a most extraordinary coincidence if they didn’t have anything to do with each other. It seems pretty clear to me that The Fall of Adam and Eve and the story of Cain and Abel (among others) were about the Agricultural Revolution and the events that followed. It seems far more likely to me that these biblical stories can tell us more about how we created God, rather than how God created us.

    For more info, see this page on Yahoo! Answers.

  • PrimateIR

    So, what happened with this?

  • Answers are coming soon enough 🙂

  • Tao Jones

    My comment hasn’t posted. It didn’t appear when I posted it last night but when I tried to post it again it gave me an error message saying it was a duplicate comment.

    I assumed it didn’t appear right away because there was a link in it which I assume had to be approved.

    Is it still pending?

  • Tao– I despammed the comment. It’s up now!

    — Hemant

  • Tao Jones


  • Steven Carr

    What did Jesus mean when he said (Matthew 18)?

    32″Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

    35″This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

    Had God not just forgiven the people he handed over to be be tortured?

  • Rodney

    These labels confuse me. I consider myself fundamental in that I try to order my life after the teachings of Jesus. I don’t consider the Bible to be a history book, especially the early chapter of the Old Testament. It is more like the preaching of the fable passed down for many generations. However, I believe that there was an creator who created the “big bang” or whatever started the universe, and that He eventually gave a light to a being we call “mankind”, which distinguishes them from all other beings. Gave them the ability to choose God, or not so choose.
    The resurrection of Jesus is the fact that convinces me that He lives today, and we can be like Him.
    I can understand why others can’t accept the idea that there is life beyond death. I am happy with believing.
    “Lord I believe, help thou my unbelief”

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