My beloved mom died last week.   She lived a long and good life; she brought a lot of good into the world and made many people very happy; and she died a good death – peaceful, in comfort, in the presence of family.  How good can it get?

There are many things I have long been thankful for about my mom.  I would like to reflect on one of them here.

Many years ago, when I left the Christian faith that my mom held so dear –  a faith that meant almost everything to her – it caused her a great deal of pain.  But she did not allow our stark differences to destroy our relationship.  We continued to love and honor each other even though we were deeply at odds on issues that both of us considered among the most important in our lives.

My mom was not raised in a religious household.  She grew up in the small town of Burlington Kansas and her parents were not church people.   When she was in high school she started becoming interested in religion – a friend invited her to Sunday school, she attended a revival meeting, and started thinking seriously about God and her spiritual life.  In college she began attending church and by the time I came along she understood belief in God, the Christian tradition, and the Bible as central parts of what it meant to be a good and loving person.

She was not particularly interested in deep theological issues and was not overly concerned about denominational differences.  When we moved back to Lawrence KS after an eight-year hiatus in Fremont Nebraska (I was in fifth grade) we went church hunting.  We kids rather liked the Methodist Church because the minister told jokes during the sermon.  That church and most of the others we tried were fairly main-stream liberal, concerned with social issues.  That wasn’t a problem for my parents per se, but my mom was insistent that any church we joined should be one that actually talked about God.   Fair enough.  And so we ended up at the Episcopal church with its rich liturgy and a focus on prayer, confession, eucharist, and, well, God.

Mom became increasingly devout – not in an evangelical Bible-thumping way at all, but just as a personal commitment to God and to doing what was right to and for others.  I don’t recall her ever discussing religion in social contexts (at work, with neighbors, at cocktail parties).  Her faith was simply part of her life: she was active in the church and she served on the altar guild.

I was confirmed in the church and served as an acolyte, all the way through high school.  In my junior year I became a born-again Christian through a Youth for Christ club; my mom was delighted and we began to talk religion seriously together.  She was always the kind of Christian who focused almost exclusively on a personal relationship with God, and that intensified at that point.  My dad, who was not particularly drawn to the faith for most of his life, became more devout.  My brother and sister both became more seriously religious.

When I went off to Moody Bible Institute my mom was thrilled, very pleased indeed that I had committed my life to Christ and would probably go into some kind of ministry as a pastor, evangelist, or missionary.  She became more involved with Bible studies, prayer groups, and fellowship meetings.  She and my dad followed me out of the Episcopal church to the Lawrence Bible Chapel (which was Plymouth Brethren).  For me as a hard-core evangelical it seemed a more seriously committed form of the faith based intensely on an understanding of the New Testament rather than English liturgy.   My folks became more and more invested in their Christian commitments, and assumed that for all of us these commitments would deepen over the years.

Then, to their chagrin, I started to change. I went to Wheaton, an evangelical liberal arts college, to finish my degree, and there began to study something other than the Bible and theology.  I majored in English literature, learned ancient Greek, took classes in wide ranging subjects that showed me that there was a very big world out there with lots of diversity and challenges to a narrow view of reality, classes from European intellectual history to geology.  My mind began opening up.  But I was still a very committed evangelical Christian.

When I went to Princeton Theological Seminary I remained evangelical for several years.  But as I studied the Bible more intensely in the original languages, took courses in theology by decidedly (and strongly) NON-evangelical scholars, made lots of friends (ministerial candidates) who had very different views from mine, and so on – I became more open to other views and less convinced that what I had believed as a fifteen-year old was necessarily eternally true, just because it was what I had heard at the time.

A big turning point came when I realized there really were contradictions in the Bible, historical mistakes, and errors of various kinds.  For what it’s worth, I prayed and agonized over the issues for a long time; I didn’t leave the evangelical faith quickly or easily but kicking and screaming.  Still, once I admitted that my earlier views were just wrong, I became even more intensely focused on learning more and more and on developing my scholarship.

My mom was not a scholar.  She believed the Bible had no mistakes in it and that faith in Christ was the only way to salvation.  Anyone who refused to believe in Christ would be condemned to hell forever.  This was simply how it worked.  God was eternally loving but he was also completely righteous.  And his righteousness could not allow those who rejected him to receive his grace.  The grace was on free offer.  If someone foolishly refused to accept it, it wasn’t God’s fault.  If a hungry person stupidly refuses to accept food, they’ll starve.  The person who offered the food isn’t to blame.

Tied up with belief in Christ, for my mom, was the simple acceptance that the Bible was the Word of God that revealed the truth.  Anyone who rejected that rejected God.  Arguments, logic, research, study, analysis – none of that had anything to do with it.

I need to emphasize that my mom was highly intelligent.  She was not a brainless blob.  She was very sharp and knew how to use her smarts.  But faith was not a matter of the intellect.  It was a matter of trust and faith.  You can’t outsmart God.

The short of it is that we began to clash.  I was learning things that I simply could not deny were true.  She thought I was becoming blinded to the truth.  And so we started to have some very painful arguments.  They usually started with the Bible; she would say something, I would point out the problem with it, she’d stick to her guns, I’d stick to mine, and it was awful, emotionally wrenching on both sides.  More on hers, because she not only thought I was completely wrong but also damnably wrong.  And she loved me.  That was truly bad.  She also wondered what had happened to me.  I was the one in the family to develop a (rather excessively) passionate commitment to the Bible and God; and now I was abandoning it.  What was wrong with me?

And so we were stuck.  What could we do?  I couldn’t agree with her views and she couldn’t agree with mine.  On some of the most important issues in our lives.  Ouch.

BUT.   But “love conquers all.”   After a time, my mom and I realized that there was no point arguing or disagreeing, or even talking about it.  We were irreconcilably different.  But that didn’t mean we were irreconcilable.   In fact, we never ever had a personal falling out. We were divided on the key issue.  But we were not divided from each other.  Ever.

Those painful times were over thirty years ago.  In some weird ways the differences deepened our connection.   She was deeply proud of me as my career advanced, even as she wept and prayed for me.  But we simply stopped talking about the dividing issue.  We instead enjoyed all the things about each other that we shared.   We enjoyed each other’s presence.  We lived half a continent apart but I went to see her when I could.  We worked in her yard, ate together, laughed together.  I took her on trips to the West Coast (she sat through a week-long series of lectures I gave in Oregon, and never complained about what I said!) and on a cruise in the Caribbean (more lectures). I took her out for a round of golf on her 80th birthday.  I took her trout fishing every year – up until she was 88.   Up until the end I’d visit her in her senior-living residence.  When I saw her over the past few months, even though she didn’t remember my name or who I was exactly, her face would light up and she would laugh with me.

I’ve thought a lot about the things that divide all of us lately.  We as a human race are far more divided than ever, polarized over seemingly everything: cultural views; social issues; politics; religion.   And its not just that we can’t agree.  We have demonized those we disagree with, even former loved ones, family members, friends, neighbors. We genuinely believe that those who don’t agree with us on issues ranging from abortion, to immigration, gender and sexuality, gay marriage, race relations, governmental spending, political party, history itself, religion itself, and most everything else itself – those who disagree with us are not just wrong, they are pig-headedly wrong, evil, and dangerous.

Just about everyone I know is like this.  I am like this.  I have a very, very hard time thinking that someone with different views from mine on all these major issues can be in any sense a good person.  I think of all the terrible harm they do to others, to the “Other,” the immigrant, the African American, the transsexual, the impoverished, the … well, the list goes on a very long way – I think that the views of the “Other” are monstrous.  We all seem to think that.

But surely there is a better way to deal with conflict than to build a fortress around our views and to start launching missiles at the outsider hoping to wipe them off the planet.  For one thing, that ain’t gonna happen.  For another thing, it will never change anyone’s views.  And for yet another thing, anyone who is in principle committed to a life of love absolutely must not in practice be committed to a life of hate.

My mom disagreed with me on lots of things, not just religion.  We disagreed on social issues, politics, issues of gender and sexuality, and so on.   But we also loved each other and tried to bring out the best in each other.  We certainly could have demonized each other.  That’s what so many people now do:  neighbors, friends, families – falling apart over differences.  But there is a better way and my mom took it.  We don’t back down an inch from our convictions.  We believe in them.  We stand by them.  We fight for them.  But we don’t have to cut off the person who disagrees.  We find common cause with them.  We find shared values and mutual interests.  We help them become the best person they can be and hope they do the same for us.  We love those we love, for who they are.

My mom believed “God is love,” and she did her best to put that belief into practice.  I’d like to become more like that.

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2022-11-25T16:00:18-05:00November 23rd, 2022|Bart’s Biography, Reflections and Ruminations|

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  1. jachandler November 23, 2022 at 10:59 am

    A lovely Thanksgiving post. I know your loss and, I suspect, you describe the family differences of many people on this blog. Thank you.

  2. MichaelHenry November 23, 2022 at 11:56 am

    This was an amazing post. It was a wonderful tribute to your mom, her relationship with you, and to self-examination.

    Thank you for sharing and for being so vulnerable.

    My heart and thoughts are with you and your family.

  3. charrua November 23, 2022 at 12:04 pm

    Fuerza Bart. Abrazo.

  4. Ken2w November 23, 2022 at 12:23 pm

    A truly fantastic post, Bart. I’m very sorry for your loss but the way you have managed to overcome (or perhaps sidestep) your ‘God disagreements’ and focus on other things that brought you closer to your mum is admirable and clearly made you both happier. Religion doesn’t need to divide families but it can take a lot of effort to avoid that happening. I’m currently on that road myself. Thanks!

  5. dankoh November 23, 2022 at 12:34 pm

    Condolences on your mother’s passing. She lived a good long life and touched in a positive way the people around her, especially including you. I’m also moved by the way you demonstrate how people can totally disagree on the most important things in their lives and still be kind to each other.

  6. mannix November 23, 2022 at 1:00 pm

    Please add my name to the litany of condolences.

    Both my parents were fairly devout Roman Catholics. I did the Sunday mass, Sacraments, altar boy routine. Catholic schools from 4th grade thru college. If they were familiar with your scholarship, they would not have been thrilled about my blog membership and collection of your books. My marriage to a non-Catholic undoubtedly didn’t help.

    But, like your situation, it probably would not have mattered “at the end of the day” since the love was always there.

  7. blclaassen November 23, 2022 at 1:52 pm

    So sorry about your Mom, Bart. Your story is nearly identical to mine, both parents devout believers who were distressed about my leaving the faith as a young man. Fortunately they did not condemn or pressure me but I was still riddled with guilt for years – a symptom of my inability to deal with confrontation rather than having doubts about my decision. The avoidance of believers to deal with fact and reason and go where the evidence leads them is a testament to human ego and psychology which I believe are the roots of faith in the first place. The need to rely on faith to believe in something is proof that that something cannot stand on its own merits. How much better this world would be without faith displacing reason! My Mom was also a warm, loving pillar of steadfast belief, however, and no one can doubt her convictions. I miss her.

  8. jsgleeson November 23, 2022 at 2:04 pm

    So sorry for your loss, Bart. Thank you for sharing that story. I think it’s one that many of your readers will identify with. I am living through aspects of it now. It’s difficult. You can make yourself do things you’d rather not do; you can make yourself endure things you’d rather not endure. But you can’t make yourself believe things that you don’t believe, even if you want to.

  9. AlaskaRoy November 23, 2022 at 2:21 pm

    זכרה לברכה May her memory be a blessing

  10. robgrayson November 23, 2022 at 2:21 pm

    Amen, and amen. Thank you, Bart. May your mom’s memory be eternal.

  11. giselebendor November 23, 2022 at 2:42 pm

    So sorry to hear. It’s never easy.

    A Jewish blessing :” May her soul be bound in the bond of the living”
    ( 1 Samuel 25:29).

    Thank you for a beautiful, profound post.

  12. petfield November 23, 2022 at 3:09 pm


  13. Ruby November 23, 2022 at 3:26 pm

    Bart… sorry to hear about your mom. So glad to hear that y’all landed on Love as common ground. Reading your story, I find hope that my 85 yr old Mama and I can land on common ground too. I think we are well on our way. Thank you for sharing and looking forward to “Finding Moses” in December.

  14. Pegill7 November 23, 2022 at 3:49 pm

    First of all, you have my sincere sympathy on the passing of your mother. Thanks for revealing your very personal account of your relationship with your mother. My mother was very much like yours but she died many years before I broke with formal religion. I’m sure she would have been heartbroken. For a while I had the notion of going into the ministry and she was ecstatic about that prospect but very hurt when I changed my mind. I can only imagine how she would have felt if the found out that I was no longer a believer.

  15. jayakron November 23, 2022 at 3:50 pm

    Brilliant essay. Also, when I hear Episcopal church it always reminds me of this short scene from True Grit.

    Texas Ranger La Boeuf: I was raised in the Episcopal Church.

    Mattie Ross: I figured you for some kind of kneeler.

  16. AngeloB November 23, 2022 at 3:50 pm

    Your relationship with your mother reminds me of my relationship with my brothers.

  17. veritas November 23, 2022 at 4:38 pm

    Bart,this is a beautiful story,maybe the best I’ve read on this blog. Your words, and of your mom, were speaking to me with an enriched deepness. My condolences on your loss. I think,even though you were divided on issues, like the world is, Agape love has remained with you from the splendid example your mother was. For me, just like your mom, the Bible is a love story, in how God always reedemed His children He loved,”Relational”❤

  18. Finandgill November 23, 2022 at 4:53 pm

    Thanks for sharing that Bart and my condolences. I think many of us reading your books and blogs were like you in that we were once believers and left religion. I and I’m sure many others here live the experience of having family members who are evangelical believers. I for instance have no more than a superficial relationship with my siblings and their families. It saddens me that we can’t be closer. In a way it diminishes my life. They simply are unable to stop trying to re-convert me. Their beliefs infiltrate every thought and conversation they are capable of having and any activity they undertake. This beautiful life is just a test to them. The world around them is destined for destruction. This evangelical world view harms a lot of people. Thankyou for the work you do and the genius and humility with which you carry it out. Have a few cold micro-beers and enjoy the turkey!

  19. RonaldTaska November 23, 2022 at 5:25 pm

    I am sorry about your mother’s death. Thanks for sharing this. In many respects, she was a lot like my mother.

    As for getting along with those with whom we disagree, I think my family, friends, and I did that pretty well until Trump came along. That changed everything. It’s really hard to get along with people who quote Fox News constantly even as they sit on the front row of pews and call you all sorts of names, like “socialist,” after knowing you for decades.

    • AngeloB November 27, 2022 at 5:30 pm

      Thank goodness Australia is nowhere near as polarised as America!

  20. rfleming November 23, 2022 at 6:11 pm

    My sincere and heartfelt condolences for the loss of your mom. It is so wonderful she lived a long and good life and brought happiness to you and many people.

  21. WM November 23, 2022 at 6:32 pm

    My mother and I had a very similar life you described. I loved her as she loved me. Even though I believed she had accepted a dogmatic religious ideology, she was a loving mother.

    In high school I read about 50 books on Yoga. In fact my mom got me my first book on yoga. She started me on my path of researching world religions and my dad gave me the original Strong’s complete concordance.

    We had arguments like you did, but less as she aged. I wrote The Cosmic Religion: Love God, Love Neighbor, Love Self to explain to others, what I thought was the original message of Jesus. I realize that I wrote that book for my mom. 

    My book helped to clarify my own understanding of Jesus’ original message (Luke 10:25–28) so I could share it with others.

    I hope that where my mother is, she will learn that God does not punish or torment his children forever.

    What I’d like to accomplish now in honor of my mom, is to write another book which will discuss the “many mansions” Jesus referred to and explain his words on “the way, the truth, and the life.”

  22. kt November 23, 2022 at 6:41 pm

    I am sorry for your loss and I offer my condolences.

    To put it so simply, even as simple as I feel I am, I can identify with your reflection of unifying love,,,, reflected in your message. In a world full of different concepts, beliefs organized, produced by many individuals and denominations etc etc.,,,,,i sink back to a position where I agree with Meister Eckhart,,,,even the late thologican Paul Tullich, whom John Shelby Spong called his teacher,,,about God as “the ground of being”. Love lies within this very “Ground of being”!

    In the end,,,, nothing feels better and true to me, than unifying love (as “simple and pure” as it can get) that your mother gave you, and you gave to your mother.

    Thank you for sharing.

  23. RD November 23, 2022 at 6:54 pm

    I grew up in a fundamentalist “meeting” place called the Gospel Hall. Beliefs/practices there are nearly identical to those of the Plymouth Brethren. When I was around 15 I felt pressure to make a profession of being “saved” and did so. But as time went on I knew hadn’t “gotten it.” After college I joined the military and embarked on a 25-year guilt trip, still believing the teachings of the Gospel Hall and feeling like a “black sheep.” My fundamentalist beliefs gradually faded and I eventually wound up as an Episcopalian but have drifted away from that too. I still have great affection for the Episcopal Church though in that it helped me escape fundamentalist beliefs for good. My immediate family and most of my extended family are still immersed in fundamentalism. I’ve never felt free to discuss my beliefs, or lack thereof with my family. The subject is avoided. I still have a good relationship with them but fear that might end if I “came clean.” I’m surprised, in a good way, that you were able to do so and still maintain a close relationship with your mother.

    • PersephoneK November 27, 2022 at 8:42 pm

      I’m very sorry for the loss of your beloved mother. This was a wonderful tribute to her. Thank you for sharing.

  24. fragmentp52 November 23, 2022 at 6:59 pm

    Bart, that’s a really lovely story. Thank you for sharing. I could fill 20 posts giving my personal opinion on the various themes / issues that your post touches upon. “Agree to disagree” is a good way of dealing with this situation on a personal level, but not so easy to implement at a broader societal level. What is the end result of the pro and anti Roe v Wade groups agreeing to disagree ? The legislation has to fall one way or the other, Do the “losers” simply agree to disagree with the law ?

    • BDEhrman November 26, 2022 at 4:52 pm

      THey fight it politically. I don’t think you budge an inch. But you don’t have to demonize the person who thinks abortion is murder. In your view, they are just dreadfully wrong and are doing very serious harm in the world and need to realize that. But you can still love them.

      • fragmentp52 November 27, 2022 at 8:23 pm

        Ah yes. Thanks Bart. That’s a fair point : love your enemies, but “despise” their opinion / belief.

      • ChimpoChimperoo November 28, 2022 at 12:48 am

        Hi Bart,

        Your mom sounds like a very decent and loving person. I am truly sorry for your loss.
        I can agree with both of you on not wanting to demonize the opposition. What concerns me however is that on that issue, it takes two to Tango. If you try to reach agreement, but the other side doesn’t it presents major problems. Personally, I respect other people’s opinions on gay marriage, Sex role identity, abortion and so on. I would never try to disrupt their lives or beliefs structures in a fundamental manner. However, I must draw the line when they try to legislate their narrow beliefs and deprive millions of non believers of basic human rights and in effect–force them to adopt their religious and philosophical perspective.

      • FrankLoomer November 29, 2022 at 7:44 am

        Wow! That was a doozer, right up there, and of course my condolences to yourself and your family. Out of curiosity, did you once mention your wife was (and is?) an evangelical Christian? How do your views work out with the various members of your immediate family?

        • BDEhrman November 30, 2022 at 8:30 pm

          Oh no, she’s as far from an evangelical as you can imagine. And never ever had a single inclination to move that way. she thinks they *completely* miss the boat. She is an Anglican who reads lots of theology, writes on theological topics (in reference to the Middle AGes, early in her career, an to Shakespeare for the past 25 years), and knows a lot more about theology than I do.

          • AngeloB November 30, 2022 at 10:35 pm

            There is a strand of Anglicanism that is evangelical.

          • BDEhrman December 3, 2022 at 6:16 pm

            OH boy is there. And she’s nowhere near it.

  25. Neurotheologian November 23, 2022 at 7:32 pm

    Wow Bart, that’s a touching story about love winning out. What’s more important than that? Thank you for sharing it at such a difficult time.

  26. dellajo November 23, 2022 at 8:45 pm

    So sorry. R.I.P., Mrs Ehrman. Lovely tribute.

  27. cmayfield33 November 23, 2022 at 11:12 pm

    So sorry for your loss. Excellent post and great reminder.

  28. mkoufakis November 24, 2022 at 2:13 am

    Thank you for the honest and touching story. Faith is a matter of personal choice. Man’s free will is the exception to the laws of nature. There is only so much we know and can prove. For me the message is more important than the person. If religion fills a need, makes us strive to be better people and gives us some sort of comfort, even if it is not all true, then I’m OK with it.

    On this Thanksgiving, I’m reminded of William Bradford. Moses leaves Egypt and transfers power from the Pharaohs to God and goes to Israel, the promised land. Bradford becomes the new Moses and America becomes the new promised land and power is transferred from the king to the people. The Indians help us but are largely wiped out due to disease. History repeats itself.

    My wife is Jewish. I was raised Greek Orthodox. We have 4 children. My oldest had a Bar Mitzvah on a birthright trip to Israel, 2 special needs adult children were baptized and my daughter is undecided. It’s all good as we head to my Hindu sister-in-law’s house for Thanksgiving.

  29. pjdesmond November 24, 2022 at 2:20 am

    I found your unqualified admission, “I am that way”, to be refreshing. Very often, and for some never, the recognized faults of others remain unidentified in oneself; or, alternativeky, greatly discounted.

  30. Highfits November 24, 2022 at 2:54 am

    Deepest sympathy for your loss.
    My mom Maude died in the last stages of dementia which lasted for some 5 years. A year before she died I visited her at her care home and met a lay preacher on his way out who visited to give services for those unable to go out. He said “Maude must have been a faithful churchgoer as she knows all the prayers and hymns and sings along with them” I politely thanked him without saying that she never went to church in her life. Later trying to puzzle it out I realized that at age 2 she was orphaned in 1905 and the orphanage in the UK took the kids to Sunday services and that’s how she remembered!
    It was the last thing to go, a true Alpha and Omega, and it brings tears to my eyes even now.

  31. mjardeen November 24, 2022 at 3:43 am

    The Parent/Child relationship is a complex marvel. I could never talk to my mom again and many would say I was right for the hell she put me and my siblings through. We love each other, we disagree about faith, but we find our way. It just isn’t worth it. The is how I want to be remembered.

    I’m feel for you losing you Mother, mine is till there. I lost my biological Father a few years back — now that was a complicated mess that makes my Mom and I seem simple. The last time I saw him he hugged me and said ‘I love you son’. That was the only time that happened in my entire life. Complicated stuff.

  32. Rodge November 24, 2022 at 8:03 am

    At my mainline (socially liberal) Protestant church, we are trying an experiment that may be helpful in bringing folks of different religious views together in a respectful, weekly 45-minute encounter following the main worship service. The encounter, which we call “Reflection,” is based on four assumptions: 1) Each person has a unique inner life based on their personal experiences and beliefs.
    2) We get greater benefits from this inner life if it is nurtured and deepened. 3) We benefit from hearing about the inner lives of others. 4) We cannot know (or claim) that one inner life is superior to another. This has led to some intense personal testimonies, plenty of warm laughter, and participants leaving the session feeling energized.

    • AngeloB December 1, 2022 at 3:21 pm

      As a non-Christian, I would be interested in participating in an activity like that!

      • Rodge December 3, 2022 at 9:01 pm

        And you would be precisely the kind of participant we would welcome — and even a Fundamentalist. Being in an established church, we have some variety in beliefs, but we would benefit from more variety. If only you were in Minneapolis on a Sunday.

  33. jscheller November 24, 2022 at 8:58 am

    My condolences, Dr. Ehrman. I am so glad that you and your mother were able to remain close in spite of your split over the eternal question. I know firsthand the pain that arises out of such issues in the religious spectrum. My children never knew their grandfather because of it; in spite of our residing in the same town for many years. I came to despise the story of Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice Isaac because of how dear that story was to my father in light of our schism. I would like to be completely free of that scar, but even 40 years later, it takes all my effort to withhold unleashing a theological blitzkrieg on those I encounter with the same faith as his. As Paul said “O wretched man am I”

  34. sLiu November 24, 2022 at 9:16 am

    thank you for this & everything you do for us mere mortals [you are super]!

  35. TomTerrific November 24, 2022 at 9:55 am

    Our condolences on your loss, DrE.

  36. Parable1990 November 24, 2022 at 11:22 am

    Sorry about your loss. I enjoyed your article and agree with you that “we don’t have to cut off the person who disagrees.”

  37. tcdc November 24, 2022 at 2:56 pm

    My deepest condolences. My mom passed away three years ago. I was there with her, and am so grateful for that. She brought me into this world in Lawrence, Kansas. We lived in Olathe for several years before moving.

    We had our religious and political differences, too, and always did, to the end. I went through many phases in my religious life: Believing in God, but not devout; converting to the Jehovah’s Witnesses for almost a decade; leaving the sect and becoming an evangelical for a short while; agnostic; progressive Christian; non-Christian; and finally Buddhist-leaning.

    She was Baptist, but not hard-core Baptist like her parents, and remained Baptist until the end. And a conservative Republican. But through all of this – every day, every year – we never let this divide us. We had conversations and disagreements (many), but never a hard argument or hurt feelings. I attribute that more to her than me, particularly through my years was a Jehovah’s Witness (quite the feat, as you can well understand).

    Thank you for sharing this intimate part of your life story. It touched me. I wish you a Thanksgiving to be filled with warm memories.

    • AngeloB December 1, 2022 at 3:48 pm

      What a spiritual journey!

  38. Helen Young November 24, 2022 at 3:29 pm

    So sorry to hear about the passing of your mother. I hope that all is well with you and your family and that you get through this trying time with strength and love.

    Best Wishes and Blessings to You and Your Family.

    Best Wishes

  39. Martin Brody November 24, 2022 at 5:04 pm

    My condolences on the loss of your mother. My father was as set in his views as anyone. When he died, I felt a sense of loss that it took me a long to time understand. My father had not been a caring and loving father to me or my siblings. I eventually realized that my sense of loss involved a feeling of hopeless that I could ever have the father that I thought he should be.

    While, I can’t speak for you, I can imagine, a part of you hoped that one day your mother would be more “reasonable” in her views on religion and you could again have conversations about the topic to which you have devoted your life.

    As much as I can pretend to know your mother and you, other what you shared above, I really don’t. And rather than pretend to feel your sense of loss with you, I , as always in this situation, offer John Donne’s poem “No Man is an Island.” I expect you may know it.

  40. Vivbuckle November 24, 2022 at 5:25 pm

    Thank you for sharing your memories of your mum with us Bart . A mother’s love – a gift that goes on giving – something to be truly thankful for, to treasure and to emulate .

  41. Serene November 24, 2022 at 8:00 pm

    You are a rock for me and a legend, and it makes me happy that you and your mom shared an interest that you kept uncovering new things in.

  42. Stephen November 24, 2022 at 8:32 pm

    Condolences, Prof Ehrman. I’m glad you and your mom were able to navigate these turbulent waters with love and respect intact.

  43. jbhodge November 24, 2022 at 10:18 pm

    1 Cor 13 4-9

    The God (Love) I see in people such as your mom (and even you) is the “foundation” (rock) of my belief in God and Jesus. In my youth I went searching for God, and found it in “Love”. Love is the most powerful form of “energy” (conscious and unconscous) in the Universe. From the beginning of where I started reading the Bible I realized it was not the word “of” God, but words “about” God. The Gospels though conflicting did not conflict about Jesus’s Love for All.. Paul could not write 1Cor13: 4-9 without being emersed in the spirit of Love. God is not found reading words but just described. God is found in the witness of Love that if you look for it, you will find it all over the world regardless as to species, race, creed, sexuality, gender or even politics..

    I regret the loss of your mother, but obviously she is still here and with you.. That is the power of Love.

  44. ecafischer November 24, 2022 at 10:42 pm

    I’m sorry for your loss, Bart. I too understand the schism within your relationship, from a similar experience w/ my own dear mother. I wrote a note to God [whatever that may be] to …ah….I don’t quite know; just that you were grieving the loss.

  45. improv58 November 24, 2022 at 10:42 pm

    My condolences. My late mom and I had a similar relationship. Her faith was unshakeable. She was my greatest proponent in the world and she would walk through hoops of fire for me. Part of her faith was in me coming around to her view that Jesus was Lord and Savior unconditionally. I’m still trying. That’s part of the reason I’m here. To learn, validate , discover. I believe people like us, you and those that are on this blog, are here to establish integrity one way or another. That’s our purpose. I’d like to believe God allowed for the free will to have a purpose such as this. Its a system of checks and balances. Its a tough job, but some people need to do it. Sorry again for your loss.

  46. granitemiller November 25, 2022 at 11:05 am

    My condolences to you and your family for your loss

  47. BobSeidensticker November 25, 2022 at 1:04 pm

    Very relevant during the holiday season, when different views sit at the same table. Thanks.

  48. katharinamacke November 25, 2022 at 1:31 pm

    Dear Bart,
    My condolences on your mother’s passing! Your description of the warm and loving relationship you enjoyed with her sounds truly wonderful.

  49. TheologyMaven November 25, 2022 at 7:22 pm

    This is lovely, Bart! Thank you for sharing it.

    Your quote . “And for yet another thing, anyone who is in principle committed to a life of love absolutely must not in practice be committed to a life of hate.” reminds me of a recent trip back East to receive an award. I attended some alumni presentations, and one was about how if you are about love, you can only vote one way (the other party is a party of hate, see?). As if I were interested in other alums’ political views. Point being I think that that’s the most important thing, to .. try to love your perceived enemies, or at least act lovingly as best we can, while protecting ourselves and our space. I think there was a fellow in the NT who talked about that…;)

  50. johnsotdj November 25, 2022 at 8:06 pm

    Dr. Ehrman,

    I’m so sorry to hear of your loss, but what a wonderful remembrance. Thanks for sharing.

    I wish you well.

    Tom Johnson, Loveland Colorado

  51. garymcc November 25, 2022 at 9:06 pm

    My mother raised me with a pretty tight fundamental view of Southern Baptist theology but the war in Vietnam, participation in peace marches to Washington, DC, and the slaying of Martin Luther King, Jr and Robert Kennedy forced me to make some decisions I had never before had to confront. Among many ~ my mother and career military father were very disappointed when I filed for conscientious objector status based on my religious beliefs. Their response over and over was: “We just don’t understand.” After seminary, in my first pastorate, the break increased when I preached a sermon that simply stated I did not believe in hell ~ except for the hells we created for ourselves. Through it all, I never had to doubt my mother’s love. She gave me strength even in her disapproval. On her deathbed, she asked me if I was still “marrying the gays.” I told her: “Only if they ask me…” Thank you for sharing the story of your mother’s love ~ a love that truly knew no boundaries.

  52. jdub3125 November 25, 2022 at 10:35 pm

    Deepest sympathy, Professor.

  53. Cwellik805 November 25, 2022 at 11:19 pm

    Please accept my deepest sympathy for your loss. I’ve been following you for a few years now and have been significantly changed by your work. I’m 75 and have been an Evangelical, Bible believing Christian my whole life, even a licensed minister in my local church for over 20 years!
    I suppose it is only natural to feel a heartfelt response to your loss, just being a fan and follower of your teaching over the years. I have never commented on the blog, or on your YouTube channel, but this post was so profound and so provoked a desire to follow your example in my own relationship with family and friends, I just had to say thank you.

  54. roy November 25, 2022 at 11:29 pm

    my condolences also, very well thought out and expressed . i myself am in virtually the identical situation and do the same as you did, basically be quiet and avoid the issue. she is 87 and certainly is not open to change nor do i wish her to. i think many of our older folks believe in that “happy ending” so i would never try to dissuade someone of advanced age from their beliefs. we are of a similar age and i have very much enjoyed your work since i came across you a few years ago ( and learned a fair amount in the process.) thank you again for what you do

  55. capitana52 November 26, 2022 at 11:21 am

    So very sorry for your loss Dr Ehrman. This was a beautiful tribute to your wonderful, loving and very intelligent lady. May her soul RIP and may her memory always be a blessing to you and all those who loved her.
    Salwa Beheri

  56. R_Gerl November 26, 2022 at 6:50 pm

    My condolences too. My mom passed away a number of years ago and I still miss her. Your post about people hating each other is excellent and reminds me of three religious’ teachings. The first is from the Tao Te Ching: “Wise men do not need to prove their point; men who need to prove their point are not wise”. The second and third is from the Buddha: “In this world hate never yet dispelled hate. Only love dispels hate. This is the law ancient and inexhaustible. You too shall pass away. Knowing this, how can you quarrel?” and “For one who is free from views there are no ties, for one who is delivered by understanding there are no follies; but those who grasp after views and opinions, they wander about in the world annoying people”. The country wouldn’t be so divided if people really learned some of the genuine ancient truths. Professor Ehrman, thank you for sharing your story and your comments on the current state of human relations.

    • TheologyMaven November 27, 2022 at 2:37 pm

      Thanks for these quotes, R.! Reminds me of Hillel and Shammai. I like this version of “Arguments for the Sake of Heaven”
      There are so many sources of wisdom.. thank you for sharing them.

  57. LarryAAngus November 27, 2022 at 11:17 am

    Thanks for sharing your family history; it is so realistic, and your advice is like a torch for such a divided world today. Sorry, to miss you at SBL. Hope you get back on that band wagon. You add a spark for too many dull sessions. Rev. Larry Angus

    • BDEhrman November 27, 2022 at 12:34 pm

      Thanks. I was very sorry to have to miss it.

  58. ByronS November 27, 2022 at 7:07 pm

    Hello Dr. Bart. My deepest condolences for your loss. May her memory live long within you and your family and be renewed every time you gather and share your stories. These shared memories are the true immortality.

    I lost my father earlier this year. My mother takes great comfort in her beliefs (traditional Catholic) of salvation and the afterlife. While I don’t share those beliefs, I am so happy that she finds peace in this way. Any argument is clearly not worth the pain.

  59. johnpmtodd November 27, 2022 at 11:54 pm

    Condolences Doctor Ehrman

  60. jmoore049 November 28, 2022 at 2:25 pm

    Mother … the first word of god … so glad you had a long read … the reflection … continues

  61. Duke12 November 28, 2022 at 2:25 pm

    My condolences as well! Memory Eternal! My own mother died over a year ago, a grief common to so many of us. “God is love”–indeed! Once I developed a self-understanding of the biological basis of love and stopped being bothered by it (for instance, I consider any form of cooperation by even non-sentient life to be a form of what we call “love”), I was able to mentally deconvert and still stay within the faith I joined so many years ago. I focus on the beliefs I still share with my ecclesiastical family: the power of love expressed in ritual and relationships being first and foremost.

  62. Philmonomer November 28, 2022 at 7:38 pm

    Thank you.

  63. KingJohn November 28, 2022 at 10:50 pm

    Dr. Ehrman: Thank you so much for sharing this; as I read it, I reflected on my own divisions in my family; my father was Serbian Orthodox; my mother was a German Lutheran! (Boy, talk about diversity!) Anyways, us kids were baptized Lutheran as long as my mother agreed to marry in the Orthodox church; she did. That said, she also had German Catholics on her side as well; my grandmother from Bavaria was Catholic; my grandfather, from northern Germany was Lutheran; I did not know this until years after my mother’s passing. Most of my family is currently Catholic, save a few. That said, it is difficult to consult with my fellow Catholics on doctrinal and scriptural issues; most of them will not budge and I consider this to be a tragedy! EXAMPLE: PURGATORY, I just do not believe in it. However, finally, Pope Francis has opined that “Purgatory” is a state of purification, not a PHYSICAL place! (Not sure if you knew that.) My condolences to you: I will light a candle for your Mother. 🕯

  64. ian.phillips November 29, 2022 at 6:51 am

    Bart, this is a fantastic post. Thanks for sharing; I can relate to this post—my condolences to you and your family.

  65. dabizi November 29, 2022 at 4:53 pm

    I’m sorry to hear about your Mom, you loved her deeply.
    My Mom fell out with a “cult” (JW) when I was a teen and I was unsure what to think; I trusted her.
    She swung 180° to being anti-religious and contemptuous of anyone who thinks differently. The beliefs changed but the mentality remained.
    I do research in medicine and I’m an uncertain atheist.
    I’ve seen conventional wisdom and “consensus” in medicine change like a pendulum during my time (treating pain as a “fifth vital sign” and safety of HRT are just two examples). Individuals see scientists advocating for policy positions and think those positions are necessarily informed by incontrovertible data.
    With age, I have questioned dogmas and I’m wary of well-intentioned policy evangelists.
    This resonated:
    “…those who disagree with us are not just wrong, they are pig-headedly wrong, evil, and dangerous. Just about everyone I know is like this. I am like this. I have a very, very hard time thinking that someone with different views from mine on all these major issues can be in any sense a good person.”
    I fear blowback from my fellow atheists & university colleagues more than anyone; tolerance is lacking everywhere.

  66. Em.Freedman November 30, 2022 at 12:53 am

    Hi Dr Ehrman

    I am so sorry to hear about your mom’s passing. Sending my deepest condolences. Thank you for this beautiful tribute.

  67. TJohnston November 30, 2022 at 9:35 am

    So sorry for your pain Dr. Ehrman.

  68. Admiraal November 30, 2022 at 5:31 pm

    I’m very sorry to hear of your loss. Please accept my condolences. Your mother greatly contributed in your strength to be able to write such a wonderful remembrance. Thanks for sharing.

  69. WSChatham December 2, 2022 at 9:31 am

    This is a lovely tribute for your mom. I am so sorry for your loss.

  70. Adiehl December 9, 2022 at 8:55 am

    Beautifully written and thank you for sharing! I have had a very similar experience with my father. I also strive to not dehumanize another person for having different beliefs and, in fact, go to great lengths to build meaningful friendships with those that disagree with me.

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