The following is an exchange I participated in on AML-List; in fact, I've been cross-posting all this Dutcher stuff back and forth between this blog and AML-List, sometimes with edits.
What if a person comes to understand that they no longer believe the church is true? What is such a person to do?
Well, either hang in there or leave, I guess. I'm in deep enough already that I may as well keep letting in all hang out: I feel that if someone gets to a state of unbelief, it's not a valid or acceptable state, though it's certainly one we can understand on a human level.
Reaching such a state is probably due to hundreds or even thousands of little, medium, or large bad decisions/choices related to behavior, attitude, thought, ego, faith, etc. This is such a gradual, almost-imperceptible process that by the time you reach the end state, it just seems natural and inevitable somehow. But it's a process that I believe could have been nipped earlier with some conscious intervention/discipline/humbling, and it's a process that could possibly be reversed with enough effort.
(Hey, that's similar to my argument of the process that contributes to homosexuality too—not that there aren't plenty of other factors that also influence such spiritually disordered states. OK, I'm cringing and ducking now, and also giggling just a little.)
Some people just don't believe and can't force themselve to believe anymore than you or I could force ourselves to believe that romance literature is the one true literature.
I believe that God will help anyone believe who goes about it the right way in terms of repentance and faith. It's a copout to accept unbelief as an acceptable conclusion. But you're also right that you can't force yourself, and certainly some people seem burdened with an almost-unfair, almost-organic predeliction to unbelief their whole life, again sort of like ho—oh, nevermind. But the gospel can still work, if we keep at it over a long-enough period of time.
I'm not saying that Richard believes the Church is false, but some do. I know some of these people.
Then these people are mistaken and need to repent.
This is precisely a major reason why one of my friends left the church, because of this attitude that, if one leaves, there must be something defective about that person.
There's something defective about ALL of us.
As a writer, you should try harder to relate to people who flat out leave. I understand why Richard felt he had to leave. I don't agree with his decision but I understand.
Oh, believe me, I could easily be in the same boat without much effort at all. I understand it all too well—maybe that's why I get a little strident about all this. It's partly self-talk to remind myself of what's really going in here.