How and why she left evangelicalism:
I would say that from adolescence on I struggled to fend off moral and rational contradictions in my faith, evolving more and more idiosyncratic ways of holding the pieces together. In particular, I couldn’t understand how I was going to be blissfully, perfectly happy – indifferent to the fact that other people were experiencing eternal anguish.
Bingo. That’s something that always troubles me (to put it as mildly as possible) about non-questioning evangelicals – that indifference to the fact that other people are experiencing eternal anguish. It’s a horrible, unspeakable thought, yet some people are apparently perfectly fine with it.
The final straw came while I was completing a doctoral internship at Children’s Hospital in Seattle. My job was to provide psychological consultation to kids and families on the medical units. I was working with kids who were dying of cancer or enduring horrible, frightening treatments in order to survive it. As I listened to the explanations offered by people who believed in an all powerful, loving, perfectly good interventionist God, it seemed to me these “justifications” were comforting, but they didn’t make things just. I re-read The Problem of Pain, and the resident rabbi offered Why Bad Things Happen to Good People. Both rang hollow. Finally I said to God, “I’m not making excuses for you anymore.” And suddenly it felt like I had been holding my God together for so long with duct tape and bailing wire that all I had left was tape and wire. So I walked away.
She took the problem seriously, as so many people fail to do.
Morality doesn’t come from religion. Healthy human children come into the world primed to become moral members of society, just like they come into the world primed to acquire language. Moral emotions like empathy, shame, guilt and disgust begin to emerge during the toddler years regardless of a child’s cultural or religious context. A toddler may pat an injured peer or offer a grubby toy to an adult who is distressed. A preschooler may hide behind a couch to cover a transgression. As a child’s brain develops, moral emotions are joined by moral reasoning. By age five or six, kids can argue long and loud about fairness.
Research is just starting to show how our moral emotions and reasoning are guided by powerful moral instincts.