Evangelical Journeys – choice and change in a Northern Ireland religious subculture

Cover of Evangelical Journeys - by Claire Mitchell and Gladys GanielOver the last decade, Claire Mitchell and Gladys Ganiel (no stranger to this parish) have interviewed ninety five self-declared evangelicals in Northern Ireland to build up a picture of their dominant spiritual journeys and the individual choices that have determined the routes they have followed.

The analysis of these interviews has recently been published by UCD Press in a fascinating book Evangelical Journeys.

The authors spoke about their book in an In Conversation event at Contemporary Christianity in Belfast back in October. The audio from that evening is still available online. And just a few weeks ago, William Crawley interviewed Gladys and Claire on Sunday Sequence – there’s a link to the audio on Gladys’ blog.

Based on each person’s description of their faith development and their spiritual turning points, the authors loosely categorise them into one of six journeys.

  • Converting to evangelicalism
  • Deepening evangelicalism
  • Maintaining a steady faith
  • Moderating evangelicalism
  • Transforming evangelicalism
  • Leaving evangelicalism

The main part of the book consists of a chapter per type of journey, dipping in and out of the individual stories, noting the similarity and diversity in the experiences.

For non-believers, we think these stories can provide insight into what it is like to be religious in the contemporary world. For those who are evangelicals, we think these stories may help in the process of reflecting on their own religious journeys … readers may also be able to identify with some of the people they meet in the book.

Because it’s peppered with the voices of those interviewed, Evangelical Journeys is a captivating read. There’s an element of spot-your-own-journey as you read, as well as a constant challenge to the tenets that prop up – or are the foundations of – your own faith as you grow to understand so many other people’s journeys.

One fundamental observation is that although someone’s initial denominational involvement tends to be an accident of birth (primarily their parents), subsequent decisions that “change and alter their religious views … are not random choices” but stem from conscious reactions to their physical and mental health as well as to their peers.

The authors steer clear of trying to define ‘evangelicalism’ or adopting stereotypes. They acknowledge that “aspects of evangelicalism have contributed [enormously] to the conflict in Northern Ireland” but dismiss any simplistic notions that evangelicalism is either “rigid and unchanging” or “preoccupied with politics” pointing to examples of change, diversification, political withdrawal as well as strong social action resulting from ethical outrage and conscience.

Converting to evangelicalism. Unlike the other five journeys, nearly all interviewees described conversion as part of their religious journey, most commonly referring to one (or more) incidents before the age of ten. Childhood socialisation through attending church and Sunday schools – even with only nominally Christian parents – has a major influence on individuals.

All of those who converted as adults had some familiarity with evangelicalism from childhood. When they encountered evangelicalism in later life, this was not radically new information.

Relationships with evangelicals (‘advocates’ who initiate conversation), crisis and trauma were all noted as tipping points on the conversion journey.

Even where conversion takes place in a dramatic or emotional way, it seldom occurs without a great deal of prior active deliberation on the part of the potential convert.

Deepening evangelicalism. A subset of evangelicals become more deeply conservative. At the time of their interview, all identified themselves as DUP voters – though remember it was a qualitative sample rather than demographically balanced (the chapter on methods explains more).

Quite a number of people in this chapter identified themselves as fundamentalists … A smaller group … detailed study of biblical doctrine was paramount … Some … value Calvinistic interpretations of the relationship between church and state. Some people whose faith was deepening described themselves as ‘right-wing conservatives’, ‘traditional’, ‘saved’ and ‘born-again’.

Church activity fills the week of many of these people, surrounded “with godly people”, and a reduction of individuals’ contact with non-evangelicals. The authors found that some of their interviewees saw the NI peace process as a sign of the end times. One forty-something policewoman (identified as ‘Helen’ in the book) felt that it is getting harder for Protestant Christians and said the “green [nationalist] victory” in Northern Ireland is “a sign of the times”.

For her, the presence of ‘murderers’ in the Northern Ireland Assembly ties in with predictions in the biblical book of Revelation that in the last days evil men will rule the earth.

At one time extremely politically active and vocal, Helen has withdrawn from political involvement. A keen home-decorator, she says that “if she is doing anything in the house she will ‘hurry up and get something picked’ before Armageddon”. The authors note:

Whilst we should not make more of this comment than was intended, it is interesting to note that Helen continues to improve those temporal things around her that she has control over, such as her home, and does not attempt to change things in areas of life where she feels powerless, such as Northern Ireland politics.

Maintaining a steady faith. For these evangelicals, “their religious beliefs and practices as adults in mid or later life closely resembled their beliefs and practices as teenagers and young adults”. While all interviewees “mentioned going through a period of finding out about faith for themselves rather than simply accepting what they had been taught without question”, some intentionally protected their faith “by not studying certain subjects at university or only reading books that confirmed their faith”. Others “chose not to dwell upon any difficult questions that arose”. Many described a faith that was “personal and devotional, rather than being over focussed on doctrine”.

I found some of the stories of buffering faith to shut out challenge quite disturbing. Colin explained his strategies for surviving university:

You are taught to think in university and investigate and look at things from a different point of view and what you have to be careful not to do is transfer that onto your Christ beliefs … because you are constantly taught to question and you could start doubting it.

Choosing to compartmentalise and ring-fence fence their faith in the knowledge that other critiques of their faith exist.

Moderating evangelicalism. Interviewees in this category tended to describe themselves as ‘liberal evangelicals’, ‘progressive evangelicals’, ‘followers of Jesus’ or just plain ‘Christian’. Some were uncomfortable with the term ‘evangelical’ point to heavy association with Paisley. Many had moved them “away from their conservative evangelical upbringings, but also away from strong forms of union ism, loyalism and range Order politics. The authors found that “a significant minority of people on a moderating journey had come to see themselves as Irish”.

We found that many evangelicals on a moderating journey had progressed beyond [‘some of my best friends are Catholics’] and established deep relationships with, and genuinely positive attitudes about, Catholics. Rather than holding on to the strong religious unionism with which they were raised, and seeing Catholics as hell-bound sinners, their faith has become more open and inclusive … people on moderating journeys began to see that, rather than being the enemy, Catholics were actually ‘fallow pilgrims’.

Bible study, ECONI, Evangelical Alliance, university Christian Unions and experiences at Bible College were all cited by individuals as tipping points onto a journey that better coped with alternative interpretations of evangelicalism.

Most moderating evangelicals who were interviewed had experienced disappointment with their churches. Crucially, when leaving a conservative church they had ‘outgrown’ they were able to find other churches “they could be happy in”. (This is not always the case for transforming evangelicals can be “disillusioned with all churches”.) Some remark on the scriptural grounding and protection they received from conservative churches in their youth.

Throughout the stories, there’s an openness to challenge – often through a wider range of books (Douglas Copeland gets a mention), films and music (U2). Some had experienced life outside Northern Ireland, often choosing to get away to seek out different experiences.

Transforming evangelicalism.

This chapter considers the stories of people who at one time considered themselves evangelical, but now think about and practise their faith in a radically different way. Although most continue to see their lives as part of a Christian story, they now interrogate and critique their former evangelical subculture. They have varying degrees of attachment to evangelical institutions, networks and friends.

Some interviewees used the term ‘post-evangelical’ or identified with the ‘emerging church movement’ to describe their journey. Highly educated, one interviewee described people of transforming evangelicalism as “a sort of liberal, intelligentsia, middle ground”. Communities – or ‘support groups’ to deal with “the trauma of their evangelical past” – like Ikon, Zero28, names like Rollins, Tickle and McLaren and talk about ‘truth’ abounds. Peter Rollins was amongst those interviewed for the book.

For him, evangelicalism reflects modern assumptions about being able to ascertain ‘truth’ and to verify facts. For evangelicals this means constructing an overarching religious narrative that explains everything, from the formation of the universe to the most intimate details of people’s lives. People like Peter disagree with over-arching narratives and want to construct alternative, diverse, open-ended narratives that they feel are more helpful for having a meaningful spiritual life and authentic relationship with other people … But this openness to uncertainty and doubt by no means precludes religious seeking.

Some transforming interviewees had found that evangelicalism “forced them into a zealous public persona that they were not comfortable with”. Two interviewees explained:

Melanie: You don’t have to get your neighbours saved – what a relief.

Sophie: You can just make friends with people and be friends, you don’t have to think ‘oh this person’s really nice, I want to be friends, oh, I wonder are they saved?’

Transforming evangelicals found that “Jesus has just become this formula for restricting people”. One interviewee Ross said that evangelicalism “can be reduced to agreeing with the penal substitutionary theory of the atonement, not doing conspicuously conservative moral things like smoking or being drunk or having the wrong kinds of sex, won’t let women drive cars, forms that won’t let people who have been divorced and remarried pray in church”.

There was a suggestion from one interviewee that churches, like cigarettes, should have “a health warning: church can seriously damage your health”.

People on a transforming journey also had a deep frustration with the churches’ response to global issues. They said that evangelicals had become too caught up in narrow Northern Irish concerns and failed to see the bigger picture.

Kate explained her frustration:

I think it’s quite amusing in a sick kind of way that those on the fringes of the church are those who seem to give a crap more than anybody else. The problem is that they give a crap but the church doesn’t change, you know it sits there. We worry about this stuff, it really matters. [But] this dominant [church] culture, it just carries on.

While frustrated, doubting and questioning, transforming evangelicals have chosen not to leave religion behind altogether. Indeed “because they seek to challenge and change mainstream evangelical culture, some have continued to attend church alongside their participation in groups like Ikon”.

Leaving evangelicalism. The ten interviewees explained that leaving their faith was a gradual process.

Unlike people who are transforming or moderating their faith, people who had left their faith found that there was nothing worth saving.

Some got to this position by “granting oneself permission to question” and having passed the ‘what if’ threshold found that there was no going back. Others like Liz who had a child outside marriage found that harsh moral judgments from fellow Christians “delivered a blow from which her faith could not recover”.

The authors discovered that some of the interviewees had ‘relapsed’ and come temporarily back to religion. And more leavers than any other category had spent time away from Northern Ireland.

While the “high point for religiosity is the teens and twenties”, this is also the stage that interviewees tended to leave evangelicalism. The peak time for changing religious beliefs was in late twenties and thirties, particularly for moderating and transforming evangelicals.

Politics played its role as a basis for being interested in faith and “deepening in a conservative direction”. Yet politics was also reason for dissatisfaction: “anger at evangelical churches’ maintenance of the segregated status quo”. And people’s “focus on global political issues, social justice and peace-building led them to further deconstruct their faith” and distance themselves from previous expressions of faith.

Throughout the book, personal choice jumps off the pages. Stories of people choosing to eliminate opportunities to question or be challenged, choosing to embrace doubt, choosing to stay in relationship with God, choosing to reject their childhood faith.

As I say above, I found the snippets of the interviewees’ explanations of their journeys fascinating, an honest insight into the complexity of faith and practice. And while the book at times takes an academic tone and approach, it was accessible to me as a layperson.

Evangelical Journeys is certainly worth a read if you’re curious about Northern Ireland evangelicals.

[Thanks to the authors and UCD Press for a review copy of the book.]

, , , , , , ,

  • Turgon

    An interesting read Alan. I am sure the book will contain more but a few points:

    There seems an excessive obsession with politics. Some evangelical Christians I know (me as an example) are very interested in politics. However, I know very many who have little or no interest in it.

    The fact that all the “Deepening Evangelicals” are DUP voters makes me a bit suspicious. Since Brethren would be a major example of what might be called “Deep evangelicals” and they usually do not vote, it makes me wonder how well constructed the research was. Furthermore some “Deep evangelicals” who are not brethren do not vote and I know quite a number who vote Alliance. It is far too easy a stereotype to say that very committed fundamentalist evangelicals are DUP supporters.

    The idea that “Transforming Evangelicals” reject terms like evangelical I find highly odd. I know many on the emerging church movement and none I know are uncomfortable with the term evangelical.

    The main reason I see for people becoming disenchanted with churches is the tendency for churches to develop cliques which is unpopular with those outside the clique. The other factor is often the leaving of a popular and long serving minister.

    The main cause I see of people leaving evangelical Christianity is actually time, interests etc. What the Bible calls the “Cares of the World” often materialism. Those who leave tend not to like to admit that a fondness for money led them to spend their time on other things and tend to blame all sorts of other things especially when interviewed.

    I am sure this book contains some interesting things but I must admit from your excellent review it looks like a rather predictable set of lazy stereotypes. I would have expected better.

  • carl marks

    As an atheist I’m completely fascinated with the whole god thing. I find all beliefs interesting but Fundamentalists (christen Muslim etc) are the ones who intrigue me the most, the whole persona the present of “I’m right your wrong and I know who god hates” has always seemed to me to be directly opposed to what Christ actually said in the gospels and whenever you hear the bible quoted by them on the subjects that enrage them (gays, alcohol, single parent families etc) they never quote Christ but normally some part of the old testament.
    The war in Iraq is a classic example, the DUP which claims to be Christian party fully supported the invasion (and I believe still support it) despite the fact that they had to know that many innocents (women children etc ) would in effect be murdered by the invading armies ( to explode a bomb in a city whether its a car bomb on a cruise missile is in the end the same thing a no warning attack in which the innocent die) they have always in my opinion made god in their image.
    We have all heard the saying “good living for a living” which describes to many people the “saved” among us. This book looks like a must read for people like me (I could be wrong in my attitude to the born again) and I would suggest that perhaps Christians could also benefit from it.
    In short I’m going to get a copy read it and maybe learn something.

  • Alan, thanks for the thorough and generous review.

    Turgon, as you will see if you read the book, one of the main points (which we say in the interview with William Crawley) is the lack of politics that we encountered among evangelicals. Alan also makes this point early on in his review. I think the more apolitical and Alliance-voting people that you think we should have on our deepening journey actually show up among the people who are on the journey of maintaining a steady faith (though people can and do move between these types of journeys).

    Carl Marks, I hope you do read the book! It is temporarily out of stock on Amazon, but can be ordered direct from UCD Press for the discount price of €22, http://www.ucdpress.ie/display.asp?K=9781906359638&aub=Claire%20Mitchell&m=1&dc=1

  • Turgon

    Thanks Gladys, that has reassured me. I would have been very disappointed had you been propagating simple stereotypes.

    I am interested in where you drew your sample from. There is a tendency to perceive evangelicals as predominantly either Free Presbyterians et al. or the markedly politicised ECONI types. In reality the majority of evangelicals are probably contained within the mainstream denominations which especially in the rural areas are religiously very similar to the smaller churches.

    I think the difference both within the mainstream churches and the smaller ones between rural / country town and Greater Belfast is marked and probably has not been looked at as much as might be interesting.

  • oracle


    All these religious christians keep telling us how wonderful God is and how brilliant and awsome paradise will be…….

    I don’t see any of them in a big hurry to get there do you!

  • Well “Oracle” I think Death would be brilliant if it wasnt for the unfortunate business of “Dying”.
    Ive never seen anybody being enthusiastic about living to 150.

    In the 1970s I dabbled with some cross community religious groups or simply religious people. We are far too apologetic about “Religion”. We much prefer to call ourselves “Spiritual”…….from Wicca to Buddhist and anything in between except of course Christianity.
    As a general rule I prefer people who believe in “something” to people who pride themselves in believing in “nothing”.
    In my experience people who GENUINELY believe in Something are usually people Id describe as decent people.
    I wish I could say the same for people who seek to disparage the genuine feelings of others.

    Evangelicalism (within Protestantism) is perhaps the hardest concept for a Catholic to get. The individual testimonies (Ive listened to many) where lives are changed around by being “re-born” is hard to take at face value (especially when people are re-born while on remand for a serious offence).
    Likewise the concept of “confession” and a weekly visit to a priest to wipe out sins up to and including murder is something about Catholicism that Protestants dont “get”.

    Not least because I have over-simplified these concepts.
    But there is actually an evangelical streak within Catholicism (actually NOW two streaks) and its probably re-asserting itself/themselves.

    But Im not sure about something which seeks to “explain” journeys is more worthwhile than the fact that people have made the journeys.
    The testimony of a man who has (as seems traditional) encountered Jesus while out on the farm is much more powerful than his experience being “understood” or “moderated”.

  • nightrider

    I believe in Evolution. Do you?

    I also believe in providing evidence for my beliefs.

    I’m willing to bet that a majority of people ‘believe’ in the faith/religion of their parents. not so long ago people believed in Thor and Zeus. Voodoo is the belief of many people in certain countries. no doubt ‘decent’ people.
    Are scientists not capable of being ‘decent’?

  • Comrade Stalin

    carl marks :

    The USA is infinitely worse. Right now, you have a bunch of people calling themselves Christians arguing for more wealth to be returned to the already-rich (tax cuts) and taken away from the poor (spending cuts).


    I believe in Evolution. Do you?

    Using the word “believe” here implies that it is a matter of faith. I’m an atheist and I don’t see it in those terms.

    Evolution is currently the best-fitting explanation for the available facts that we have. A time may come when an alternative theory which better fits the available facts. All through history, great scientific minds, including Newton, Einstein and recently Hawking, have turned out to be wrong and on occasion their theories – groundbreaking and important as they were – have been replaced as our understanding has advanced.

    I also believe in providing evidence for my beliefs.

    I’d never ask anyone to provide evidence for their beliefs. What a person choses to believe is their own business, and not mine.

    I’d certainly ask people to provide evidence for any claims they make in the course of trying to persuade me of something. That’s different.

  • nightrider

    No argument with your comments. I was using the term ‘believe’ in the context of FJH’s post, and what I thought was his misjudged narrative that atheists ‘believe in nothing’.
    Ex evangelical Christians, who have become sceptical, for example Michael Shermer, have attempted to look at ‘belief’ from a scientific viewpoint. The conclusion is that superstition and delusion are hard patterns of behaviour to shift, because people have so much psychological investment in them. When reality intrudes the ‘believer’ makes whatever mental adjustment necessary to cope with preserving the delusion.

  • Nunoftheabove


    “The main cause I see of people leaving evangelical Christianity is actually time, interests etc.”

    So you wouldn’t necessarily subscribe to the theory therefore that it’s more typically the realization of what utter childish bollocks it all is which contributes to their abandonment and repudiation of this empty, sinister rubbish, no ?

  • Rory Carr

    My experience of ‘leavers’ from the evangelical tradition comes from my wife who was brought up in the Brethren and from those of her friends and acquaintances from a like background who are now finding recovery from the mental, emotional and spiritual damage they suffered a result.

    In no single case did they break away because of “time, interests etc.” much less “money” as Turgon would have it. Nor did they leave because of a “realization of what utter childish bollocks it all [was]” as Nunoftheabove might think but rather they fled (sometimes quite literally) from the terrible brutal restrictions on their emotions, their intellect and their very ability to give and receive love, which we might think is a most terrible indictment of a sect of a religion which is surely founded on the concept that we ought love one another, that we should “judge not lest we be judged”..

    But in order to get some idea of what I am talking about and, more importantly, to see for yourselves, I suggest that you check out the survivors* (which is what ‘leavers’ call themselves) stories on the various PEEB sites (just Google “PEEB” which is short for Plymouth Brethren).

    * Given that the suicide rate of former members is quite high (I know of two in our own small circle) the term “survivors” is more appropriate than might be thought.

  • Rory Carr

    Try this site which is probab;y the most comprehensive.


  • carl marks

    Comrade Stalin (profile) says:
    21 August 2011 at 6:33 pm

    carl marks :

    The USA is infinitely worse. Right now, you have a bunch of people calling themselves Christians arguing for more wealth to be returned to the already-rich (tax cuts) and taken away from the poor (spending cuts)

    Cant disegree with that.

    It’s wrong to claim that atheists believe in nothing, because we do not share a faith (and that is all it is) in a supernatural being does not mean we have no beliefs. I believe in respect for other people with the proviso that they show respect for others, I believe in the supremacy of logic and science (even though I may lack either skill or training in these fields) stick the rights of man on the end of that lot and your starting to get there,
    What I find disturbing is the idea that if I don’t believe in a big man with a beard who insists we worship him or go to a terrible place and be tortured for ever then I am somehow incomplete.
    My atheism is the result of a long and sometimes difficult journey in which I not only questioned the faith I was born into (Catholicism) but the other facets of Christian theology, I have lived in Muslim and Buddhist countries and like Christians I have found both good and bad people among those faiths and seem great beauty in there ceremony’s and practices but nothing that has changed my stand that it was all based on a falsehood.
    By the here is a quote from Napoleon Bonaparte
    “God must love atheists as they do not thank him when they massacre their enemies “

    Gladys I look forward to reading your book

  • pauluk

    I’m what you might call an aflyingsaucerist, i.e. I don’t believe in flying saucers. I never think about flying saucers, unless I see them mentioned in a newspaper or something. So, it always amazes me when so-called atheists say something along the lines, ‘As an atheist I’m completely fascinated with the whole god thing’ as someone commented earlier. Why in the world would a person be ‘completely fascinated with the whole god thing’ if they don’t believe there is a God? Just doesn’t make sense. Their very fascination in God negates their claim to being atheists.

    Moving on, Turgon actually makes a very good point. His thinking comes straight out of Mark 4.1-20 when he talks about people becoming so concerned about money and other such temporal things that it replaces their interest in spiritual things. Jesus taught the parable of the various types of ground on which seed falls. Out of the four types of soil, only one reflects the true ‘evangelical’. Very instructive indeed when considering the journeys presented in the book. I wonder how many of these folks are ‘good soil’, i.e. genuine ‘evangelicals’.

    As for definitions, I would humbly suggest that without definitions, words mean absolutely nothing, or they can be made to mean whatever you want them to mean, which of course makes a mockery of semantics.

    The word ‘evangelical’, as a noun, I understand to mean, a person who adheres to a belief that emphasises the complete authority of the Bible and that teaches that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

    It has nothing to do with one’s political or religious affiliation but rather has to do with a relationship to Jesus Christ. I suggest that any attempt to obscure or make ambiguous this simple, straight-forward sense of the word is nothing short of dishonest.

  • can I just make something perfectly clear before the mis-interpretation (whether by accident, evolution or creative design) becomes the narrative of what I “said”.

    To repeat
    “As a general rule I prefer people who believe in “something” to people who pride themselves in believing in “nothing”.”……thats applicable in Politics as well as Religion by the way.
    “I wish I could say the same for people who seek to disparage the genuine feelings of others”.
    I have little or no time for people who feel that its part of their mission (as Christian, athiest or whatever) to denigrate other genuinely held beliefs.

    “In my experience people who GENUINELY believe in Something are usually people Id describe as decent people.”……..whether Christian or Other.

    Congratulations on believing in Evolution. Im not sure why you thought Id be interested.
    Scientists can indeed and often are decent people. They arent all Josef Mengele. Im surprised you would think I thought negatively about Science.
    carl marks,
    Congratulations on your athieism although again Im not sure why you thought Id be interested. Again I was at considerable pains to point out that I dont mind anyones belief or disbelief…….except of course if a fundamental (no pun intended) tenet of their belief is to ridicule other beliefs held as genuinely.

  • Nunoftheabove


    The relationship cannot be other than make-believe given that there is no persuasive evidence of any kind for the existence of the person/being/thing with which they are pretending to have some form of ‘relationship’. What could be less honest, less false, than this pretence ? It really does take some brass neck to be utilizing the concept of honesty in this context given your plainly – to put it at its very kindest – delusional perspective on the matter.

  • carl marks

    pauluk (profile) says:
    21 August 2011 at 9:34 pm

    I’m what you might call an aflyingsaucerist, i.e. I don’t believe in flying saucers. I never think about flying saucers, unless I see them mentioned in a newspaper or something. So, it always amazes me when so-called atheists say something along the lines, ‘As an atheist I’m completely fascinated with the whole god thing’ as someone commented earlier. Why in the world would a person be ‘completely fascinated with the whole god thing’ if they don’t believe there is a God? Just doesn’t make sense. Their very fascination in God negates their claim to being atheists

    I am fascinated by belief because it is used by so many people to (with absolutely no evidence) explain the universe, also the amount of suffering that has been caused by this fable not only in this country but through history by those who not only believe in god but believe that god wants them to kill certain people, invade other countries, enslave people because of their colour, etc.
    As a matter of fact a great deal of the suffering in the world past and present can be laid at the door of religious belief now if that is not worthy of study what is.
    As to it negates my claim to be an atheist what complete drivel, I believe in women’s rights does that mean I can’t be a man.

    If I miss understood you I apologise.

  • carl marks


    As a aside if you are so not interested in other peoples views it begs the question why are you bothering posting on this site.

  • Not a problem Mr Marks. And certainly no need to apologise.
    I am interested in other peoples views but their religious beliefs or lack of belief is of absolutely no concern to me. And I dont think mine should be of interest to anyone.

  • carl marks

    then why engage in a debate about religion.

  • It wasnt….it was about evangelicalism.

  • carl marks

    hair spilliting

  • nightrider

    FJH neatly avoided Darwinian evolution, but didn’t miss on the chance to throw Mengele in to the mix.
    Eugenics (and the nazis) are an irrelevant sideshow in Science, history is different.
    Christians, evangelical or otherwise, have to encounter scientific facts, and Evolution is the factual wall.
    We are all apes, and our particular variety has come up with a variety of creation myths. Every ethnic group on our little planet has one. Science has slowly eroded, and finally kicked the door in every single one of them.
    Our common ancestor was a trilobite.
    A lot of people can’t seem to deal with that fact.

  • pauluk

    Why do so many ‘atheists’ hang around religious blogs? Acting the troll? Perhaps. Or maybe they are searching for something more certain that what they already claim to believe. Here’s a couple of links that might be a help and encouragement to those atheism skulking around Slugger:
    Life after atheism
    <a href="http://www.google.com/#hl=en&safe=off&q=leaving+atheism&oq=leaving+atheism&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&gs_sm=s&gs_upl=151921l159908l0l163606l29l16l0l0l0l0l0l0ll0l0&bav=on.2,or.r_gc.r_pw.r_cp.&fp=aed57691fff67dd0&biw=1280&bih=687"Resources for leaving atheism

  • nightrider

    seem to have hit a nerve

  • aquifer

    In any social relationship it is worth observing who gets material goods, sex, and social status, even if it may be possible to exist in a contemplative state where a lack of access to these is not stressful.

    Belonging to these groups can be rewarding in a small closed society such as nothern ireland, but who decides who gets? and what is done to non-believers or non conformists?

    What is the impact on a shared civic identity?

    Sectarianism can still be about what small sects do.

  • nightrider

    Is straight out of Private Eye’s ‘online commentator’ nutter column, the biblical quote and wiki link to other nutters.
    very funny.

  • Manfarang

    Evangelical journeys are on a very narrow path.
    Religion is much broader than this group would have everyone believe.

  • carl marks

    . What amuses me the most about ‘evangelical’ Christians is their ability to ignore the very book that they claim to follow, the eagerness to judge everyone else despite the clear instruction not to judge others. also how uptight they get when you disagree with them, once a fundie I worked with went around behind my back telling my workmates I was possessed by a devil, his reasoning was that since he was unable to convert me (seems he had his whole church praying for me at meetings) then I must have had a devil in me nothing to do with the fact that I had heard all the BS before.
    Using words such as dishonest Skulking etc, about those who disagree with you is just more of the same, add to that the fact that you don’t seem to think that I have the right to post on this subject tells me that you have lost the argument.
    If your belief was so strong and your truth as evident as you would have us believe then you would have no problem countering my points, instead you put forward the view that I don’t have the right to speak at all,
    oh and just so there is no confusion, i am not interested in your mythical god but i am interested in why people should believe in him/her/it

  • Turgon, Back to your question about the sample …

    The rationale behind our sample is all explained in the methods chapter. 🙂

    But briefly, here, I’ll just say that evangelicals living in urban areas are over-represented in the sample, in part because we were interested in variety of belief and you do seem to tend to get more people on moderating, transforming and leaving journeys in urban areas. We have plenty of evangelicals from the ‘mainline’ (especially Presbyterian and Church of Ireland) denominations across the board – more than the smaller denominations.

    Also, our book is in the qualitative tradition of sociology so we are not necessarily going for ‘representativeness’ of evangelicalism as a whole; the research is designed to look at varieties of evangelical experience – going for depth and nuance in the variety .

  • Turgon

    Depth and nuance yet all the “Deepening Evangelicals” were DUP voters? A bit odd. Looks a bit like confirming predetermined beliefs on the part of the researchers.

    Whilst having mainly CoI and Presbyertains is indeed likey to be more representative; the over representation of urban dwellers very likely makes the sample unrepresentative. Though as you say you were going for variety: in other words you wanted interesting stories rather than a representative analysis. I hope you have exlained that you were being deliberately unrepresentative: nothing at all wrong with that provided it is admitted openly.

    Maybe the outcome of the research was “predestined”.

  • Of course we explain, I said in the previous comment that we explain our rationale. It is all in the book.

    You also seem to be misunderstanding or misrepresenting the earlier comment I made about the deepening and maintaining types of journey. You seem determined to believe what you want to believe about the research without actually reading it.

  • Turgon

    Ah Gladys, you are giving me the possibility of free will: do not worry my wife makes this mistake as well. I am afraid as a strict Calvinist I am simply predestined to believe what I do.

  • Greenflag

    As an non God believer i.e atheist- I just note the following excerpts from thread leader .

    ‘While all interviewees “mentioned going through a period of finding out about faith for themselves rather than simply accepting what they had been taught without question”, some intentionally protected their faith “by not studying certain subjects at university or only reading books that confirmed their faith”. ‘

    ‘Others “chose not to dwell upon any difficult questions that arose”. Many described a faith that was “personal and devotional, rather than being over focussed on doctrine”.

    ‘You are taught to think in university and investigate and look at things from a different point of view and what you have to be careful not to do is transfer that onto your Christ beliefs … because you are constantly taught to question and you could start doubting it.’

    It’s fairly obvious from the above that theres not a whole lot of diffference between some of these present day evangelicals and their medieval and reformation age ancestors and even some present day followers in the main denominations including even Catholicism. .

    How can one take seriously people who insist the world was created a mere 6,000 years ago -that evolution is not proven and that bread and wine are turned into the body and blood of Christ or that they can only be ‘saved’ by grace alone 🙁

    Sorry for being blunt -but what a load of old cobblers . I’m sure these people mean well and are just trying to understand the human predicament from a religious mindset which is not a new phenomenon but one almost as old as humanity . But in essence it’s not a whole lot different from the ostrich trying to understand the desert by burying it’s head in the sand.

    When people refuse to keep up with modern science or medecine or technology because it causes them ‘doubts’ or undermines their faith then they have opted out of humanity’s future and their own .

    Sad and in a way ‘pathetic’ but given the difficulty that all human beings everywhere will have in unlearning -not surprising and understandable .While we have to be careful of the use of ‘reason ‘ as in the scientific sense we have a lot more to fear the triumph of ‘unreason’ particularly among those who’s fingers may be too close to the red button that triggers off a worldwide nuclear winter .

  • andnowwhat

    I think it’s fair that atheists (of which I am not one) are interested in religious matters as much of our lives (especially in NI) are touched by religion.

    Where is the logical argument, for example, as to why tourists have few places to go to on a Sunday morning while the rest of the UK is open for business? There are still parts of Belfast that are like a ghost town all day Sunday.

    Then, there’s issues such as football/soccer being played on a Sunday, a subject that raised it’s head again a couple of years ago or so.

    I don’t buy the religion causes evil thing. That’s a hook to hang a hat on which could be any ideology. Having said that, I do not believe that christians (or followers of any religion for that matter) have a superior morality. Especially the modern christian movement, such as that in the USA, is cursed with complete self assurance, a quality no human being is entitled to. As the expression goes, a little doubt, a little wisdom. A lot of doubt, a lot of wisdom.

  • Turgon – when my thumbed copy falls through your letter box you should have that as a sign from above that you need to read the chapter on methods, followed by all the other chapters!!!

  • Greenflag

    @ andnowwhat,

    ‘A lot of doubt, a lot of wisdom.’

    Not always . There are some things which are of no doubt and those who doubt them would be rightly judged as being close to the idiot end of the’intelligence ‘ spectrum . One undouted fact is that the Earth revolves around the Sun and has been doing so now for several billion years despite the assertion by the Papacy i.e Christ’s Vicar on Earth that it did’nt and in spite of Bruno’s burning at the stake and Galileo’s avoidance of a similar fate, the Earth and Sun continue as they have for eons . No matter how often the ‘creationists ‘ repeat their 6,000 years fable or no matter how frequently the Mormons repeat the mantra that JC took a quick transatlantic trip to drop of some stone tablets for Brigham Young no person with a modicum of common sense will ‘believe’ this kind of nonsense anymore unless they’ve been thoroughly brainwashed from birth ,

    There’s not a lot of difference between papal ignorance in the 16th century and what is today ‘evangelical ignorance ‘ except of course in the punishments that are meted out to those who refuse to kowtow to unreason . But given half a chance the ignorati of evangelism or their Catholic or Islamic or Jewish counterparts would be back to stake burning or it’s cultural equivalent given a chance .

  • Rory Carr

    Not so, Greenflag.

    There is a hell of a lot of difference “between papal ignorance in the 16th century and what is today ‘evangelical ignorance ‘”. The 16th century papacy did not have the advantage of the patently visible findings capable of being observed via modern astronomy with its superior telescopes and satellites and space probes to support it for a start. Furthermore there was quite a healthy debate taking place within the Church on heliocentrism and indeed although Copernicus published his thesis, On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres in 1543 .it was not much discussed let alone begun to be accepted by his fellow astronomers until the beginnings of the 18th century.

    Modern evangelical ignorance is a phenomenon of wilful ignorance however. Certainly most educated evangelicals know that they are wrong in dismissing Darwin and advancing Ussher but, depending upon ignorance as a mechanism for keeping their flock subservient, they choose to suffer the scorn of their educated peers rather than embrace intellectual honesty.

    Not only have such individuals forfeited any right to their views being respected they really are not to be trusted at any level. It is a different matter for the poor uneducated dupes who swallow what they are fed although they are not completely free of blame as every man has a God-given duty to exert his intellect to the maximum in order to understand more fully the universe into which he was thrust that he may all the more glory in the majesty and mystery of its creation.

  • Greenflag

    @ rory carr ,

    I stand corrected re your above point on degree of difference . I neglected to put on the 16th century retro blinkers and to stand in the shoes of the then fishermen :(.

    Your point re the modern phenomenon of wilful ignorance among educated evangelicals I’m reminded of a similar phenomenon which was extant during the 1930’s rise of nazism in Germany . Many leading and upcoming nazi politicians simply went along with Hitler’s racial ‘nonsense ‘ and some even told the US Ambassador at the time that Hitler would’nt be long in power and that his ‘histrionics’ about the Jews would soon end .

    They did’nt of course . But by the time the US Ambassador came to accept that the views of his high ranking contacts among the Nazi leadership were self serving for the latter and wishful thinking by many -it was too late .

    ‘Not only have such individuals forfeited any right to their views being respected they really are not to be trusted at any level.’

    Which is why any American who considers voting for Bachman or Perry or even Romney for President ain’t thinking straight . And I say that without being overly enthused by Obama’s failure to rein in the anarchists of Wall St and the criminal wasters of the health care private insurance sector 🙁

    ‘every man has a God-given duty to exert his intellect to the maximum in order to understand more fully the universe into which he was thrust that he may all the more glory in the majesty and mystery of its creation.’

    I’ll disagree with the God given but I’ll agree with your sentiment . For indeed the more one delves into the nature of both the macro and micro universes the more one realises that by comparison the ‘religious ‘ (all religions ) explanations of how this universe and life itself came into being – falls very far short of what scientists to date have discovered and there is still the Higgs Boson or ‘God ‘particle to find .

    At which point I’m afraid Greenflag’s meagre intellect comes up against that quantum universe wall beyond which the human mind may yet prove incapable of penetrating 😉 ?

  • tl;dr

    So the book is about the emergent church rather than a broad section of evangelicals. At one time there was Orthodox and Heretic… now there is Orthodox and “transforming” as if Christianity was some sort of Spiritual Optimus Prime rather than an unchanging Gospel.

    A handful of Happy Clappy types and a handful of self proclaimed prophets (I don’t want to hear that bucket rattle sort) speak about ignorance tempered with humility as though it were faith…

  • the difference between talking the talk and walking the walk, I would prefer to hear less about Christianity but see more of it.

    Christianity in Northern Ireland at the moment is a joke and let me give you an example. the good book tells us, ‘All have sinned and come short of the glory of God’, we are all, each and every one of us, sinners. except on the last weekend of July or first weekend on August, 2 separate groups of sinners, who happen to be Christian sinners, come into the city of Belfast, to protest about another group of sinners, some Christian some not, and the reason for the protest, SIN. 2 groups of sinners protesting about the sin of a marching group of sinners, You couldn’t make it up.

    Yet where are these Christian sinners protesting about the sin of the orange sinners who insist on walking where they know their catholic sinner neighbours will be upset and ill at ease by their presence? No where to be seen!

    And oh yes it is a sin, ‘And be there any other commandment it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

    Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.’ Romans Chapter 13 verses 9-10

    As I was saying I would prefer to hear less about Christianity but see more of it.