The president of the student body at Northwest Christian University publicly announced that he has been a longtime atheist despite his enrollment at the Oregon-based college and is now urging Christians to practice what they preach by becoming accepting of those who do not fit their same "pattern."
Eric Fromm, 21, published an article last week in his school's news website as his way of denouncing his former Christian beliefs. He says he was an atheist before enrolling as a student but decided to attend the 600-student university because of his interest in its communication program.
"I was baptized Lutheran, and raised Methodist, but as time went on I slowly came to the conclusion that God wasn't real," Fromm wrote in his article. "I knew that the school catered to Christian thinking, so before I enrolled, I visited the campus to make sure that the chapel services were comfortable enough that I could fulfill the requirement. No one was speaking in tongues or handling snakes, so I decided to stay."
Fromm said going to church used to be an "empty ritual" for him but he attended simply to fellowship with friends because he found the Bible to be mythological and considered Jesus to be a "great moral teacher" but not God. He also says his freshman year became a pivotal point for him after realizing that he no longer had peace although he felt comfortable being at the school and amongst classmates.
"I struggled with religion constantly throughout my freshman year. I would attend chapel, see all the energy and community, and want to be a part of it, but I knew I couldn't because I couldn't force myself to believe in God," said Fromm.
During his sophomore year, Fromm confided in a few friends about his atheism and while some were supportive, others began to treat him differently.
"Sometimes they would verbally attack me, sometimes they would give me the cold shoulder, and sometimes they just gave me dirty looks. I find it ironic that some NCU students will talk about how they were ridiculed in high school because for their faith, but now, when the roles are reversed, they are doing the very things that hurt them. Matthew 7:5, right?" Fromm said, referring to the Biblical verse about not judging others.
Ever since he declared his atheism, Fromm says he is "burdened" by the prospect of his peers rejecting him.
"Growing up in church I heard a lot of lessons about how Christians shouldn't judge others, but it seems like some people slept through that lesson," he said.
Although he no longer believes in God, he hopes that others will not see him as a person who embraces antitheism, which is the belief that religion is harmful to society, and he assures people that he continues to respect the Christian faith.
Fromm also continues to hold his position and according to Michael Fuller, the university's vice president for enrollment and student development, the university continues to embrace him as part of their community regardless of his disbelief in God.
"I want students like Eric here…students who are looking to explore their faith and willing to look hard and make their faith their own," Fuller said, according to Eugene, Ore.-based, The Register Guard.
He added, "If we all had our wishes, we wish Eric would be a strong Christian man. We're an open and welcome community, and we meet students exactly where they're at."