Seminary-Educated Southern Baptist Speaks Out Against Faith December 17, 2013

Seminary-Educated Southern Baptist Speaks Out Against Faith

Christian Nightmares has a fascinating interview with Larry Pate, a gay, former Southern Baptist preacher who now speaks out against the faith.

What caused him to change his mind? Seminary.

Without devolving into extraneous details, I will say that it was my seminary courses, the texts, coursework, lectures and research, which cast into question Biblical authority and thereby theology. While I had studied the Bible devotionally for years, it was only in the context of seminary that I was expected to study it critically. In other words, is the Bible the inerrant, infallible, unchanging word of God? Was it what it purported to be? Learning that the bulk of the Hebrew scriptures were altogether fictitious, plagiarized versions of other ancient mystery religions with a desperate agenda to galvanize and perpetuate an ethnic minority, and then to learn that the Gospels were not in fact the actual words or deeds of Jesus, since they were authored in thousands of variant forms generations after the death of Jesus, all produced an intellectual and theological crisis for which I could no longer authenticate myself as a minister of the gospel.

Pate also believes there’s an “intellectual scam” at the heart of religion that we don’t often hear about:

Every graduate of an accredited graduate school of theology has been exposed to church history, linguistics, Biblical and textual criticism, Christian ethics, clinical pastoral care, and advanced theology courses. Yet popular and prevailing myths of Biblical literalism, magic and miracles, apocalyptic violence, the “second coming,” heaven and hell all still pervade the belief systems of too many religious people. The crime is that those who teach and preach such nonsense know better. At best it’s intellectual dishonesty; and at worst it’s economic, cultural, and political opportunism.

Read the whole interview. Totally worth it.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Let me stop you right there. He is obviously not a True Christian™, and therefore his argument is invalid.

  • T-Paine

    But dem tats…

  • WallofSleep

    ” The crime is that those who teach and preach such nonsense know better.”

    Heh. Show me a snake oil salesman that doesn’t know his product is bunk.

  • WallofSleep

    Look, just because you’re not as well endowed as Mr. Pate doesn’t… oh, you said “tats”? Never mind.

  • KMR

    These are some strong words and I don’t know how I feel about them mostly because I suspect he’s right. I have a ton of respect for my last pastor, one of the best men I’ve ever come across. Kind, generous with the small salary he made, never judgmental and so, so intelligent. Now that I don’t consider myself a theist though and looking back on some of the conversations we had in my new lenses…..I don’t know if he’s a theist either. If he is, I suspect he’s a universalist working in baptist churches (granted liberal baptist churches if you can believe there are such things) keeping most of his true thoughts and opinions to himself so that he can support his family. If my suspicions are correct, I don’t necessarily blame him since I am sure the good he is doing is immense. But yet is it right? Is not sharing the same as lying?

  • Rain

    I blame it on the tattoos.

  • Rain

    How many famous preachers have been to seminary? All liars every one of them.

  • Proteus

    Good for the man realizing that the Abrahamic faiths are a complete farce. Something you’re bound to notice if you research comparative religion.
    Also INB4 apologists parrot their retarded mantra a la WLC, “But he didn’t study the bible through spiritual eyes” or “He’s not a true christian”.

  • Spec

    No true Scotsman….. If your comment was serious please read more books or stay away from the internet and public places. Thank you have a nice day.

  • MyScienceCanBeatUpYourGod

    I was on the fence until I took a religious history class my freshman year at a Catholic High School. Just like he said, once you learn the history of the text, you realize everyone else who knows this stuff can’t actually believe dogma anymore. I went to public school after 9th grade.

  • Neko

    This interview is a must-read in full. If an alien wished to learn in short order about the religion problem in the United States, I would recommend this interview.

    Thank you!

  • T-Paine

    Speaking of books, I seriously recommend you read this one:

  • SpyPlus

    Yes! “I’m now fully, 100% convinced, that gods have and are and always will be human constructs to satisfy human insecurities, provide for social order and control the culture. They are products of overactive imaginations, human desperation to believe there is life after death, and—too often—calculated schemes to extort and exploit vulnerable peoples.”

  • cyb pauli

    His seminary education was successful, now he is a preacher of the goddam truth.

  • Gehennah

    Gotta love that argument. Instead of thinking critically and examining things carefully, you should just accept it as is, and ignore all evidence to the contrary no matter what.

    Just like 9-11 truth claimers

  • Gehennah

    There is a local pastor that I work with on some charity events, and I have a similar feeling about him.

    He’s actually a great guy, he keeps his church looking nice, but not flashy, and after talking to him, a vast majority of the money that comes into the church that doesn’t go to bills goes towards actually helping others. His wife makes most of the money, and whatever he does take seems to be very modest.

  • What sucks is that an example like this will be so easily dismissed.

    “All of that worldly intellectualism is nothing more than a disingenuous attempt to justify your abominable same-sex lust. Your true self is plainly revealed by the pagan symbols on your body.”

    …Not that he wouldn’t probably be dismissed anyway.

  • baal

    Paging WLC, WLC you have a call on line 1.

  • Lilly Munster

    And of course, your Mythical Documents and woeful ignorance of Theological History and Facts, leads you to have the only definition of a
    “True Christian?” What does Jesus think of you copyrighting it?

  • I agree. His education wasn’t a total waste. He’s come out of it stronger and more aware of reality and the truth. I’m glad that we have someone so eloquent and passionate speaking against theocracy and the forces of hatred and bigotry.

  • They are damned impressive, as is the mind and inner strength of the person owning them.

  • islandbrewer

    See the little Trademark symbol by the capitalized “True Christian”?

  • Jeremiah Traeger

    I refer you to the comments on Spec’s thread

  • Colin Rosenthal

    “Yet popular and prevailing myths of Biblical literalism, magic and miracles, apocalyptic violence, the “second coming,” heaven and hell all still pervade the belief systems of too many religious people. The crime is that those who teach and preach such nonsense know better. ”

    There’s a wonderful David Lodge novel “Paradise News” which explores this paradox in a very sympathetic manner.

  • Rob P.

    “The crime is that those who teach and preach such nonsense know better. At best it’s intellectual dishonesty; and at worst it’s economic, cultural, and political opportunism.”
    Can I get an Amen?

  • Kingasaurus

    You’re generally right, but with a caveat. How many of these ministers went to fundamentalist seminaries who don’t teach the critical method of analyzing the text and always have their dogma come first? These places clearly aren’t teaching the same thing as places like Princeton or Harvard Divinity School. I’m sure there’s plenty of true-believing fundamentalist ministers who just happened to be “educated” in places that don’t challenge fundamentalism.

    All seminaries aren’t created equal. The ones that cause a faith crisis for a guy like this are the ones that are actually doing their job.

  • Alan

    I feel like what Larry is saying here pretty much exactly
    mirrors my experience. I resigned from my job as a pastor about 3 months ago
    now. Through 3 years of seminary I had all of the same questions raised as
    Larry did and the shape of my faith changed as I tried to fit what was obvious
    from a critical appraisal of the text with what my religious upbringing had
    taught me. My faith became far more ambiguous and mystical and less tied to
    fundamentalist dogma. In spite of this shift though, I still held to the
    divinity of Jesus, the virgin birth, the physical resurrection, the second
    coming and the inspiration of the Bible (although not necessarily inerrancy).

    About 5 months ago something snapped in my mind while I was
    reading through Plato’s Republic as research for a sermon and the whole façade of
    faith that I had built around what I inwardly knew to be the truth fell away. I
    hadn’t known that I had all these doubts waiting to burst out when I walked
    away from the church. I’m still new to not being a Christian and I have so many
    questions which I just answer “I don’t know” to these days.

    Having stood on the other side of the fence I have to
    disagree with Larry’s accusation that pastors are engaged in “dishonesty” or “opportunism.”
    In my experience most people I knew didn’t engage with the critical appraisal
    of Christianity with sufficient interest or in sufficient depth to be swayed by
    it even though most of these people hold MDivs. Many stopped asking questions
    before they got to the really difficult areas of criticism. Even when the facts
    were seen clearly, I know that in my case my faith was still genuine and I
    honestly was trying to help people through my role.

    I know that it would be nice to label all preachers as snake
    oil salesmen but the fact of the matter is that most genuinely believe in what
    they are selling. Your average pastor (at least in my neck of the woods) is not
    a mega-church founding televangelist with a private jet but a poorly paid,
    overworked guy who entered the profession because they truly believed in the
    power of their message and the reality of their God. They may well be wrong (I
    believe that they are), but self-deception and ignorance are very different to
    dishonesty and opportunism.

  • Camorris

    Thanks for this. From my experience, I believe what you say about most clergy. It is when a preacher tries to expand his influence beyond the size of a flock he can personally interact with (via TV, radio, franchise locations) that I doubt the sincerity.

  • Anymouse

    Trademarks and copyrights are completely different things.

  • meekinheritance

    Congratulations, and welcome.
    One of the things I actually like about being a humanist is that when I say, “I don’t know”, it doesn’t mean that I (or others) won’t keep looking for an answer. This is in contrast with the “God said it; I believe it; that settles it” attitude that many theists have.

  • Copyright? Who’s talking copyright? Not me, and not even Jesus who was so ignorant he didn’t even know when olives were in season. Just you, my friend. Just you. It must be lonely, being stuck so deep in sarchasm.

  • Really?

  • TheUnknownPundit

    “The crime is that those who teach and preach such nonsense know better. At best it’s intellectual dishonesty; and at worst it’s economic, cultural, and political opportunism.”
    It’s rather difficult sell your congregation that faith is a virtue while at the same time plant the seeds of doubt by pointing out the all the problems surrounding their religion’s ancient texts. Those pastors that do so usually find themselves looking for new work.
    On a personal note as an ex-Christian (Southern Baptist no less ), I share his complaint about what seminary students learn versus what they teach and preach in their churches. While the average layperson at the church is likely ignorant of the problems Mr. Pate identifies, the seminary trained pastor is usually well aware of these problems. When I look back on what I was taught in church versus what I’ve learned outside of church, I’ve reached the conclusion that I was defrauded by the pastors and teachers of the churches I attended.

  • Carpinions

    Personal experiences like this really make me wonder why more people in seminary don’t have this – forgive the usage – epiphany. I find it hard to believe that most seminarians don’t realize the line between critical thought and intentional ignorance. It’s an instinctual response when our brains encounter it, whether we make excuses like “god’s mysterious ways” or not. It happened to me as a devout Catholic child and altar boy. There were definitely times in my childhood experience under religion where I had that “say what?” moment. May not have been enough to get me to drop it (social pressures to accept it certainly were a strong counter force), but the fact it happened is the point.

    One thought that occurred to me reading this post is that so many religious leaders like priests and pastors tell us that things like the Bible cannot always be fully comprehended because of “god’s plan” or some such other excuse. Yet, when challenged on what the old translations and passages mean, they tell us to wait until more evidence comes in to make “god’s message” clearer. On the one hand they want people to have faith, but when challenged they steal the perspective of critical inquiry so they can hide in broad daylight.

    Hopefully more of seminarians will choose the path of honesty and integrity going forward.

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