The Latest from Bruce

Please Submit Your Questions

i have a question

Previously, I asked readers to submit questions they would like me to answer. While I still have about a dozen or so questions to answer from my previous request, I am asking you, yes you, to submit new questions that you’d like me to answer. I plan to answer this round of questions using a video format. Yes, as my Facebook page followers know, I’m ready to start producing videos. I know I’ve been promising this for a long time. That time has arrived.

Please leave your questions in the comment section. You don’t have to be an atheist to submit a question. Honest questions from people of faith are welcome. If there is some aspect of my story you’d like to me to clarify or explain, please ask. I’ll do my best to answer every submitted question. I plan to answer questions in the order they are received.

The videos will be posted to this blog. They will  also be available through my YouTube Channel. If you FAVORITE my channel, you should receive a notification every time a new video is posted.


Blood Washing the Past

blood of jesus

Anyone raised in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church has likely sung numerous times the hymn There’s Power in the Blood. The lyrics reinforce the IFB belief that the forgiveness of sin, any sin, is but a prayer away. According to 1 John 1:9, if a Christian confesses his sin to God, he will find instantaneous forgiveness. This is only possible because of the atoning blood of Jesus. Through the shed blood of Jesus on the cross, the sinning and confessing sinner’s sins are washed away, never to be remembered again. Sing with me now:

Would you be free from the burden of sin?
There’s pow’r in the blood, pow’r in the blood;
Would you o’er evil a victory win?
There’s wonderful pow’r in the blood.

There is pow’r, pow’r, wonder-working pow’r
In the blood of the Lamb;
There is pow’r, pow’r, wonder-working pow’r
In the precious blood of the Lamb.

Would you be free from your passion and pride?
There’s pow’r in the blood, pow’r in the blood;
Come for a cleansing to Calvary’s tide;
There’s wonderful pow’r in the blood.

Would you be whiter, much whiter than snow?
There’s pow’r in the blood, pow’r in the blood;
Sin-stains are lost in its life-giving flow;
There’s wonderful pow’r in the blood.

Would you do service for Jesus your King?
There’s pow’r in the blood, pow’r in the blood;
Would you live daily His praises to sing?
There’s wonderful pow’r in the blood.

blood of jesus

No matter what Christians do, the blood of Jesus washes their sin away. Many Evangelical sects believe that any sin committed BS, before salvation, is forgiven and forgotten. One pastor I know refuses to do background checks on church workers because crimes committed before the super-duper blood of Jesus washed away their sin and are remembered by God no more. And if God doesn’t remember the sin, why should we?

Another man, an evangelist, was accused of having sex with minors. He refused to talk about his past, claiming his past behavior is under the “blood.” Unfortunately, there are allegations that he continued to prey on minors after Jesus washed away his sin. But, don’t worry, forgiveness is but a prayer and a blood-washing away. Young girls can rest easy, at least until the blood of Jesus loses its power and the evangelist seeks out new potential victims to molest. Why is it that a Jesus’ blood transfusion is only temporary? If Jesus is who and what Evangelicals say he is, shouldn’t his miraculous blood protect children from Christian sexual predators? Evidently not.

Consider how amazing the blood of Jesus is. No matter what Christians do, no matter how heinous their behavior is, a quick prayer to Jesus asking for forgiveness will unleash the sin-cleansing power of the blood of the Lamb. This supernatural blood allows the Christian to escape accountability for bad behavior. Just pray, the Christian is told, secretly confessing the sin to God, and forgiveness will be granted. This is no different, BTW, from what goes on in Catholic confessional booths. No matter the crime, Jesus will forgive. Even repeat offenders can find forgiveness if they sincerely plead for the blood of Jesus to be applied to their sin-darkened hearts. Dear Lord Jesus, please forgive me for watching porn. I know this is a sin. I ask you to forgive me and wash away my sin. In Jesus name, Amen. Two nights later…Hey Jesus, it’s me again, Pastor Billy Bob. The devil got a hold of me and I looked at porn again. I’m so sorry for my sin. I ask you to forgive me and wash away my sin. In Jesus’ name, Amen. A week later, Hey Jesus, it’s me again…

And so it goes. The Evangelical sins, feels guilty, prays for forgiveness, promising, with fingers crossed behind his back, that he will never, ever commit the sin again. Rather than being accountable for his bad behavior, the dirty sinner is given a get-out-of-jail-free card to be used any time he “sins.”

Those of us who are agnostics or atheists have no way for our bad-behavior slate to be wiped clean. All we can do is admit what we did and make restitution. In some instances, we’ll carry the stain of our “sin” until we die. Unlike the Evangelical, we acknowledge that bad behavior can and does have lasting consequences.

Preaching: The Ruminations of a Former Evangelical Pastor Part One

bruce gerencser 2002

Bruce Gerencser, 2002

Part One of a Two Part Series

For many Evangelical church attendees, the manner in which the pastor gets his sermons has an aura of wonder about it. How does he, week after week, come up with sermons that speak directly to them? Where do these sermons come from? How are they prepared? In this two-part series, I will focus on pastors and their preaching.

I have little respect for lazy-ass preachers who rarely, if ever, spend any time crafting their own sermons. Week after week they rip off the work of others and pass it off as their own. They scour the internet looking for sermons to preach. They subscribe to sermon clubs that provide them with new sermon material. They buy sermon outline books or lectionaries and use them to prepare sermons that they then pass off as their own; anything that allows them more time for schmoozing with their fellow clergymen at the local golf course or diner.  In any other profession they would be considered thieves.

Let me  give a few examples of what I’m talking about.

In 2005, my family and I visited for a number of weeks at a local nondenominational church. On our second visit I began to sense something wasn’t right about the pastor’s sermons. He quoted a lot of Scripture, but his quotations were from various Bible translations. Lots of them. I thought “hmm…there’s something about this that seems familiar.” I went home and consulted the mind of God (aka the Google) and my suspicions were quickly confirmed. The pastor was ripping off the sermons of Rick Warren and preaching them as his own word for word. We visited this church half a dozen times and the pastor never preached an original sermon of his own. Ironically, one Sunday the pastor asked for testimonies from congregants and several people stood up and praised Jesus for how wonderful the pastor’s sermons were. I thought “If they only knew.”

For several years, on an off and on basis, we visited the local Episcopal church. When the parish priest was there the sermons, as a rule, were excellent. However, there were many Sundays when the priest was absent, and at those times the sermons ranged from mediocre to absolutely dreadful. The worst ones were the sermons that were taken from books, magazines, or lectionaries and read to the congregation (These sermons reminded me of some of the worthless college classes I took where the professor read the textbook to us).  The justification for reading the sermon was “Hey, it is better than nothing.” No, it wasn’t.

In 1984 I invited a pastor I knew come to the church I was pastoring to hold a week of special meetings. He asked me what I wanted him to preach. He then proceeded to list off numerous sermons of other preachers which he had memorized—famous sermons by noted preachers. I was shocked by his willingness to rip off the sermons of others and pass them off as his own. I told him I would rather he preach his own material. Little did I know, at the time, that using sermons preached by others, was a common practice.

Many pastors recycle their sermons. The average Baptist pastor changes churches every 2-3 years. No need to craft new sermons, just reuse the sermons you preached before.  If they worked well in Ohio, surely they will work well in Texas, right? I remember one well-known, Bob Jones-associated, evangelist who kept long silver cases filled with recordings of his previous sermons. After collecting his sermons for many years, he would just pick a recording to re-familiarize himself with the sermon and then preach it that night. Rarely did he preach new material.

One more example: in the mid-1980s, I managed a Christian bookstore in Newark, Ohio for Bill and Peggie Beard. Over the course of my employment I came into contact with dozens of pastors from a variety of denominations. I was astounded by how many pastors bought sermon outline books or lectionaries. I was beginning to wonder if any preacher crafted his own sermons!

Now, I don’t necessarily blame a pastor for using bought sermon outlines or reading verbatim from a lectionary. Truth is, there are a lot of pastors who lack good communication skills and, in many cases, they received little training in proper sermon construction and delivery. I think some pastors know they suck at preaching, so they do what they can to limit their suckiness. (I know, not a word)

From 1976-1979, I attended Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan, a fundamentalist institution started by Tom Malone in 1954. Every preacher-in-training was required to take speech and homiletics. The speech class was pretty much a waste of time, and very little of the instruction transferred over to the art of preaching a sermon. In fact, my homiletics teacher, Levi Corey, told the class on day one that we needed to forget everything we were taught in speech class.  According to him, preaching a sermon was all about the text and the pastor’s ability to deliver it passionately. Outlines and illustrations were essential to successfully delivering a sermon.

Years ago I was acquainted with a pastor who had horrible preaching skills. He was a Bible college graduate, yet he didn’t even know how to make a sermon outline. I tried to show him how to make a basic outline but he had a hard time understanding the process. His approach was quite simple: read the text, chase the rabbits, bring it back to Jesus, pray, and give an altar call. I never heard this man preach a coherent sermon. While he had great people skills, his preaching, at every point, was lacking.

There are a lot of preachers like the man mentioned above. Poorly trained or lacking the requisite skills necessary to effectively communicate with others through a well-preached sermon, they go from church to church killing everything they touch. They may have great people skills, but if they can’t preach passionately and effectively, they often do more harm than good.

Far too many men become preachers because someone told them that their gift of gab made them great candidates for the ministry. The truth is, running on at the mouth is not a gift at all, especially in the pastorate. All of us have heard those sermons that drone on and on and on. Don’t blame the preacher. Blame the person who told him he would make a great pulpiteer.

BTW, what I have said here also applies to other teaching-related jobs in the church such Sunday School teacher or bible-study leader. I’ve had to sit though  more aimless, heresy ridden, ill-prepared Sunday School lessons than I care to remember. One man, my high school Sunday school teacher, told me that he studied his lesson on Saturday night while he was sitting in the bath tub. As this man’s class on Sundays proved, a lack of preparation yields a barren crop.

Here’s my point: the ability to preach and teach is a gift (not in a supernatural sense)  just like the ability to do virtually anything else people do. Each of us has things we do that come easily to us. We enjoy it. And if we are smart we will further develop the things we enjoy. Far too many people spend their lifetime trying to become things they will never be good at. It’s less than honest to tell everyone they can be anything they want to be. The sky is not the limit and no not everyone can become President. A lot of men enter the ministry lacking the requisite skills necessary to be a good pastor. They simply are in the wrong profession, but since they believe GOD called them to the ministry they refuse to admit that maybe they might be better off doing something else.

Many pastors would have you believe that their sermons come directly from God. I know I believed this for many years. I was certain God was leading and directing me to preach on a particular Biblical text. I believed that God was guiding me through the delivery of the sermon all the way to the altar call.  I was simply a mouthpiece for God.

As I look back over the thousands of God-inspired sermons I preached, I can now see who it was that was guiding me. It wasn’t God. It wasn’t the Holy Spirit. It was me. Through my own thought processes I decided what the church needed to hear. Sometimes I had an agenda that I wanted to advance and what better way to do so than to couch my agenda in Thus saith the Lord  terms.

Preaching came easy for me. I loved the intellectual aspect of preparing the sermon. I loved to read and study, preparing my mind for delivering the sermon. I devoted hours of study to virtually every sermon I preached (though I also was quite comfortable preaching extemporaneously). While most preachers won’t admit it, lest they give the impression that they are taking praise and glory away from God, they love the attention that preaching brings their way. As a person who has struggled with self-esteem issues his entire life, I found the love, respect, and adoration showered on me by parishioners quite affirming.

Remembering my preaching is one of the things that makes my defection from the Christian faith so troubling for many former parishioners. As Baptists we believed once saved, always saved (eternal security, perseverance of the saints). This means that once people put their faith and trust in Jesus they can never, ever lose their salvation. People are left, then, with either believing I am still a Christian or that I never was. Neither choice sits well with them, especially for those who heard me preach and viewed me as someone who played an important part in their spiritual formation.

I’ve been criticized for a lot of things I did as a pastor, and justly so. I was arrogant, narrow-minded, and rarely put up with dissent. I ran off a lot of good people. That said, few people have ever criticized my preaching. For the most part, the people I pastored found my sermons well crafted, worth listening to, and, at times, quite entertaining.

Hundreds of people made public professions of faith as a result of one of my sermons. Lives were changed and people were delivered from sin. If I was never saved what does that say about all the fruit I gathered over the course of 25 years in the ministry? If by their fruits ye shall know them, surely I proved that I was a great fruit grower?

I have no doubt that I could, even as an atheist, go to a church and preach a sermon that everyone would find inspirational and entertaining. I’m sure those listening to me would think God was speaking through me or using me to touch their hearts. What if I then told them I was an atheist? How would they explain their response to my oratorical gem?

Effective preaching requires passion and charisma.  Our last two presidents are good examples of what I mean here. Forget the party affiliation or platform for a moment. Who would you rather listen to giving a stump speech? Barack Obama or George W Bush? Only Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh would dare say George Bush.

Good preaching moves people to go beyond themselves. Good preaching inspires and motivates. A good example of this is Martin Luther King, Jr’s I Have a Dream speech. And this is why preachers who excel at their craft are so dangerous. The potential for abuse and manipulation is great. Far too often parishioners check their mind at the church door. When the winsome pastor preaches they soak up his words like a sponge. If they are not careful and cognizant of the potential of manipulation they can easily be led astray. (Please see Should a Christian Preacher Turned Atheist Stop Using His Public Speaking Skills?)

I still like hearing a well-crafted sermon. I respect people who attempt to excel at what they do. Sadly, I have heard more sorry, pathetic, poorly-crafted, rabbit trail sermons than any one person should ever have to listen to. I feel sad for church members who have to sit under this kind of preaching week after week.  In fact, they sit under it long enough that they begin to think that their preacher’s pathetic sermons are the norm.

Why I am being so hard of preachers? Why should I, a card-carrying atheist, give a rat’s ass, over the quality of sermons in the Christian church?

First, preaching is what I did for so many years and I still like to talk about it.

Second, I think people should do what they do well. I hate half-assed wherever I find it, whether it be in the pulpit or the local fast food restaurant.

Third, I realize that the world is always going to be predominantly religious. If that is so, I think people of faith should have leaders that thoughtfully and honestly teach them the dogma of their particular religions.They deserve to have leaders who are passionate about what they do. Sadly, in many denominations, the higher a man rises in the denominational hierarchy the more worthless he becomes. Does anyone consider any of the popes a great orator?

I know this post is pretty pointed. I am of the general opinion that America is awash in mediocrity. It seems everything has been turned into an audition for American Idol. People are told that they can be whatever they want to be, so they become what they want to be and not what they ought to be. Result?  School teachers who can’t teach. Retail workers without basic people skills. And yes, preachers who can’t preach.


While the ability to preach well is a gift, every preacher would benefit from further instruction and training.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you would like to ask Bruce a question, please contact him via the Contact Form. If you would like to financially support this site, you can make a donation through Patreon or PayPal. Buying books though our Bookstore is also greatly appreciated.

Another Day, Another Christian Attempts to Show Me the Error of My Way

see the truth

What follows is an email I received from a Christian who felt the need to show me the error of my way. My response is emboldened and indented. I get letters like this quite often. Unfortunately, many Evangelicals have a pathological need to be right. Not only do they have the need to be right, they are driven to make sure everyone else thinks and believes exactly as they do, They can’t conceive in their minds of any reason why someone would believe differently. Jesus becomes the perfect man or woman every person should want to marry. When confronted with stories like mine, many Evangelicals lack the capacity to wrap their minds around the notion of someone purposely walking away from the most a-w-e-s-o-m-e God e-v-e-r. (Please read last three words out loud with a valley girl voice.)

Email begins here

I was just reading your blog and my heart was touched. The Father definitely loves you, and his children should also. I want to apologize sincerely for every person who has spoken harshly to you in the name of Christianity. Please do not mistake there  words or feelings for God’s. Jesus loves us all so much that when we sin and mar ourselves with the grime of this world He consistently reaches for us and continues to ask us to take his hand so that He can rescue us. I’m sure you’ve heard some of this before, and if not, i would guess that this is probably the reason you have “fallen” away. Just know that it is never too late to grab His hand. He doesn’t care how long it takes to win your heart, just as long as you receive and believe in Him.

So, what you are saying here is that I should ignore what Christianity is and instead embrace some form of hypothetical Christianity. Here’s the deal, and Christians need to understand this….It doesn’t matter to me what the Bible says, what you believe, or what you say your church believes. All that matters how you and your fellow Christ-followers live your lives.

If Jesus is all you say he is then it seems to me he would make a big difference in the life of Christians. But he doesn’t. For all your preaching and Bible verse quoting, the truth remains that there is little to no difference between an atheist and a Christian. Outside of where one sits on Sunday Morning the difference is nil.

Why would I want to embrace a religion that makes no difference in my life? Look around. Christians bicker and fight amongst themselves. They argue over the most trivial of things. Christians don’t agree on anything. Christians can’t even agree on salvation, baptism, and communion. If you can’t get those things right, why should I believe that you are right on anything else?

I would like to caution you though, because teaching people to blaspheme the Holy Spirit is a serious offense to God.

Since I don’t believe your God exists or the Bible is truth, your threat carries no weight. This might work for people who are still Christian, but not with me. I gladly and willingly blaspheme your God. He knows where I am. If he wants to kill me, here I am.

Imagine if you had 3 children, and one of them gets upset with you because you wouldn’t do things their way, so out of anger, frustration & disappointment that one decides to run away and tell everyone how horrible you are, or better yet, tell people that you never existed, that your other children made you up in their minds because they needed to feel secure and were not intelligent enough to take care of themselves. Now, say if you came back to that parent’s home and found a way to sneak in and convince the other 2 children that the lies you have been spreading about that parent are true. If you convinced them to join you in running away, can you imagine how that parent would feel? They would be enraged because you not only put yourself in danger, but you drug their other children into the situation and now they will be out of a home, without food and security. You all would be exposed to horrid things that the parent was only trying to protect you from in the first place. He would have to punish you.

I have no idea what you are saying here. It makes NO sense. That said, I encourage people to think for themselves.

A just God cannot just tolerate sin, that is why He made a way for them to be pardoned. He sent His Son to live a sinless life, and at the end take a punishment that anyone who sinned deserved [brutal death]. Afterward He rose from death to prove that He had power over it and went before the Great Judge [God] so that if anyone believed (so wholeheartedly that they would openly confess it before anyone) that Jesus indeed was the Son of God and subjected Himself to murder that He would trade what He [rightfully] deserved [eternal life enjoyed with the Father] for what we [rightfully] deserved (brutal death). He’s coming back to earth again, and this time he will be stripping the planet of every evil so that His people can live in freedom and in close relationship with Him. He can’t rid the earth of evil without being extremely severe because evil does not play nice or fair. Besides that, his anger is burning because of the suffering of not only human beings, but all creation, as a result of our sin. God is righteous and so are His judgments! Holy Spirit, please open their eyes to see the truth!

A just God cannot tolerate sin? Really? Look around.  Your God is tolerating all sorts of sin. In fact, it seems God doesn’t care about sin at all; even among his followers: they sin willfully and often. When’s the last time there has been an Ananias and Sapphira report? Christian TV is proof that God is not serious about sin.

God’s anger is burning over suffering? How do you know this? What proof do you have? In the Bible when God was angry he acted out. I don’t see God anywhere today. Suffering abounds and your God does nothing.

You are parroting the Bible. You believe that it is truth. I get that, but you need to understand that I believe what I can see. When your God shows up and does some real God work then I will believe. Until then, I remain unconvinced that your God is anything more than a fiction concocted by people to explain their understanding of a pre-science, pre-modern world. Perhaps it is time to create a new God that is modern and understands science.

Whether you believe God is real or not, He is! And I will pray that you will have an encounter with him for yourself that will change your heart toward the Lord. I pray that your eyes will be opened to the truth. God is real, His love is real and a true encounter with Him is life changing. Prayerfully you will truly meet the King and willfully submit to Him without Him having to force you to. The bible does say that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus, the Christ [Anointed One] is Lord. There is a great judgment coming to all who deny Him. I pray that you will not have to be judged in that day.

So God is real because you say he is. Awesome. End of discussion. Do you believe faeries are real? Why not? Whether you believe or not, faeries exist! I have never seen one BUT I read about them in a book so they must be real. Believe!!

I love you Bruce, although I have never met you and my hearts desire is that you will give in to the wooing of our Lord and savior Jesus the Christ. He loves you soooo much, I just wish you could see it. He won’t condemn you, if you would just turn to Him and admit your need for His forgiveness. He needs you to recognize that you have wronged Him, but He’ll treat you like nothing ever happened once you repent. Repent, for the Kingdom is at hand and the hour of destruction is approaching quickly.

No, you don’t love me. Don’t give me this syrupy, cheap Christian love. My wife, kids, grandkids, family, and friends love me. They don’t have some fucked-up Jesus-love for me. They love me for who I am. You can’t do that. Unless I become like you, you can never accept me for who I am. Just as your God does not love everyone, you really don’t love everyone either, and you need to stop telling yourself that you do. Your email to me is filled with invective and judgments. You, a total stranger, think you have the right to speak to me like this. Such arrogance.

I wronged God and need to confess it to him? It will be a cold day in a mythical hell before that happens. The people doing the wrong are people like you. You come preaching a religion and a God I want nothing to do with. You offer me no tangible proof for God other than “you say so.” You shit all over my front porch and then say to me, isn’t that wonderful!

You say the hour of destruction is approaching quickly. Today? Tomorrow? Next week? Next year? When? Christians keep threatening nonbelievers with “God is coming to whip your ass,” but he never shows up. Either God is a coward, he’s dead, or you are misrepresenting him. Perhaps your God is like the God Baal Elijah mocked in 1 Kings 18:27:

And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them (the prophets of Baal) , and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.

Perhaps your God, like Baal, is busy talking, using the toilet, on vacation, or asleep.

I am sure you mean well, but I am to the place in life where I am no longer willing to ignore people like you. I have had enough. When people like you come into my house and throw around feces covered in a veneer of love, I’m going to expose you and your God for who you really are: arrogant control freaks who demand everyone be like them lest they suffer eternal damnation and torture in hell.

What a wonderful God you serve. On behalf of my fellow atheists, let me say, NO THANKS!

Christianity and Certainty


Guest Post by Exrelayman

It seems to me that there are three approaches to certainty. These would be, science, philosophy, and faith. I will delineate what I mean by these terms and discuss their relative merits and weaknesses. I recognize that my use of these terms may not accurately reflect how someone else thinks about them, but I have tried to think clearly. How well I have succeeded in this I leave to the reader.

Faith basically means accepting that which cannot be investigated, that which you do not choose to investigate, or that which has been investigated with results contrary to the proposition accepted by faith. The strength of faith is that it requires little work to attain. You simply accept what you have been told, or accept that your own thinking about the matter is sufficient and true. A weakness of Biblical faith is that great apologetic effort is required to protect faith from facts (some support of this contention to follow). Another weakness of Biblical faith is that the emotions of hope and fear are used to inculcate and reinforce it, emotions being less reliable means of knowing than reason. A weakness of faith in general is that a bias is established in the mind in favor of the proposition believed, clouding judgment. So that, as is often observed, the person attached to a faith proposition tends to seek information confirming the bias, and downplay information that disconfirms it. Faith often attempts to use the other approaches to certainty for confirmation, but generally misuses them because of the bias faith entails.

Philosophy is simply thinking more in-depth about things than accepting what you are told, or believing your first thought about the matter in question. It uses logic and constructs arguments (in the logical sense, not the disagreement sense, although logical argument often is used in disagreement arguments!). Philosophy thus has the merit of using logic and order to organize the thinking. But philosophy as generally understood (or misunderstood) means thinking about things without empirical testing. Some will object, and say science is a branch of philosophy. This may well be technically true, but my usage here reflects a rather common view of philosophy: sophisticated thought not necessarily grounded in the tangible world. It is stronger than faith by virtue of using the tools of rationality, but weaker than science by being divorced from empirical confirmation.

Science is basically applied common sense. It should thrive in Missouri, the ‘show me’ state. It recognizes that we all have biases, and strives to minimize their effect using investigation and logic. (Of course science doesn’t do this, men thinking scientifically do.) Thinking in a scientific manner means subjecting the mental model to empirical test. It is thus stronger than philosophy (as used herein) by virtue of seeking confirmation in the real world. One observes some aspect of reality, or some proposition. One thinks, ‘how can I go about learning why that phenomenon occurs, or whether that proposition is true’. The thinking will then consist of, ‘If X is true, I would expect Y’. Examination of the real world seeks to observe Y or ‘not Y’. There cannot be certainty about X. Finding Y offers confirmation of hypothesis X. Finding Y repeatedly, while never finding ‘not Y’, is greater confirmation of X, but always some miniscule possibility of a ‘not Y’ result remains. Thus all knowledge is provisional, with the level of confidence proportionate to the amount of evidence. While this is true, vast, overwhelming quantities of evidence support most established science, so that withholding belief in well established science is not reasonable. Out on the frontiers of science, there is less confidence because the evidence is less.

But nota bene: in science, ‘not Y’ results have equal power and serve to disconfirm proposition X. More investigation is then indicated to attempt to learn if this investigation is flawed, or proposition X is flawed. One application of this principle to the faith proposition that there was a Christ who was crucified and resurrected approximately 30 AD is as follows. Earthquakes, and the resurrections of many dead saints are said to accompany this occurrence. If X is the proposition that these things occurred, then Y would be the expectation that they are so remarkable that some contemporary non-Christian historian or writer about natural phenomena would have noticed them and written about them. Since we in fact have ‘not Y’, proposition X has disconfirming evidence and is questionable. Though this be but one example (brevity for the sake of a blog post), instances of disconfirming evidence to Bible story elements are plentiful, to the extent that belief in the Bible as a reliably true document is not reasonable. The more so, as incredible rather than credible stories are predominant.

In recognition of many such weaknesses in Biblical accounts, and in response to enlightenment thinking, some Christians have resorted to ‘metaphor’ and ‘allegory’ to exculpate Bible elements that are clearly contradicted by real world observations. They then are apparently Godlike in their ability to rightly discern what is metaphor and what is not. The fact that other equally sincere and equally intelligent Christians divide the Word differently, so that Christianity disintegrates into myriad sects and factions, troubles them not. Those more scientific and skeptical entertain the proposition X, that if the Bible were a revelation of a God who wanted us to understand it and worship It, then Y, it would be clear and understandable, as evidenced by the one united church. We see instead ‘not Y’, another disconfirming evidence.

We thus observe that science works, and that as more and more scientific study is conducted on the world around us, hypotheses converge into one theory accepted by the vast majority of scientists. While as more and more people perform exegesis (or eisegesis) on the Bible, division of thought, and more and more sects, ensue. This is in contrast to the results of the most effective approach to knowing.

Let’s Suppose


A guest post by Neil Robinson, atheist apostate, whose blog is Rejecting Jesus.

Let’s suppose…

Let’s, for the sake of argument, suppose that Christians could prove that the universe was created by a supernatural agent.

Let’s further suppose that they could demonstrate conclusively that this supernatural agent is none other than their very own God, as opposed to, say, Allah or Atum or Marduk.

And then let’s say they are able to show us, with sundry proofs, that an itinerant Jewish preacher, generally known by the Greek name, Jesus – though he was never called that by those who knew him – was somehow a manifestation of this God on Earth.

Then let’s say we grant them, although it doesn’t seem it from reading Jesus’ story in the synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew and Luke, all written between forty and sixty years after this man lived)  that his death somehow or other bridged the gap between humanity and this very touchy deity.

And then let us suppose that, although he never met Jesus but only had some sort of hallucination about him, the man Paul was right to say that through magically invoking Jesus’ name, people could be reunited with God and completely remade.

Let’s further grant them that, although their book about Jesus and Paul doesn’t actually say so in so many words, they really are going to go and live in Heaven when they die.

Assuming all of this is true – even though Christians are unable to demonstrate even the first of these propositions (the one about the universe being made by a supernatural being) – why is it they disregard and otherwise ignore most of what their god-man, Jesus, tells them about how they should live their lives?

Why are they, for example, so cavalier about forgiving others when he says in order to be forgiven they must first forgive those who have offended them? (Matthew 6.14-15)

Why are they so harsh in their judgements of others when he tells them that how they judge others will be how they themselves will be judged? (Matthew 7.1-2 & Matthew 25.34-46)

Why are they so lacking in compassion, when he says the amount of compassion they’ll receive is directly related to the amount they show others? (Matthew 5.7 &  Luke 6.38)

Why are they so vociferous in their condemnation of others when they should be dealing with their own ‘sins’ first? (Luke 6:42)

Why do so many of them fail to serve others sacrificially, without expectation of reward and with no ulterior motive? (Mark 9.35 & 10.43-44)

Why are they not known for selling their possessions, giving to all who ask and going the extra mile? (Luke 12.32, Matthew 19.21, Luke 6.38 & Matthew 5.41)

Why do they not turn the other cheek, bless and pray for those who abuse them, and treat others like they want to be treated themselves? (Luke 6.28-29 & Matthew 7.12)

Why do they not love their neighbor as themselves, and their enemies too? (Matthew 22.39 & Matthew 5.44)

Shouldn’t they be doing these things, and more, as if their eternal lives depended on it? Especially when Jesus says their eternal lives do depend on it! (Matthew 25.37-40) Shouldn’t they be just so much more radical than they actually are, changing the world by serving others? (Matthew 25.34-40)

Yes, they should, but they’re not, and they never have. Deep down, they know that Jesus is too extreme, too demanding. They make excuses for themselves; he doesn’t really mean the things he says; he speaks in metaphor and uses hyperbole (specially when he’s saying something they don’t like the sound of) and they invoke the bumper-sticker theology of ‘we’re not perfect, just forgiven’, even when ‘perfect’ is the very thing Jesus tells them they must be (Matthew 5.48).

The only reasonable conclusion we can draw from all of this is that Christians don’t really believe the man they call God and Savior. Their actions, or lack of them, speak far louder than their words. It’s so much easier to claim Paul’s magical incantation, looking heavenward and damning the rest of us, than it is to do what Jesus demands. Who cares what Jesus said anyway. What did he know?

Another Christian Who Doesn’t Get It

saved or lost

Deon Nel43, a devout, I-know-I am-right, filled with the Holy Ghost Christian, left a comment meant to show the deluded readers of this blog the error of their way. What follows is Deon Nel43’s comment and my response. My words are emboldened and italicized.

Email begins here

It is sad to notice that when people on this site describe their past conversion, it ends up to be something like:

  1. Being a member of a church.
  2. Doing what the church and the pastor expected i.e. reading my bible, praying, outreach etc..
  3. Having lots of zeal and being sincere or even on fire for the Lord.

I don’t know of anyone who describes their conversion this way. The things listed by Deon Nel43 are what we would have called the fruit of faith, the evidence that we had been converted.

Is Deon Nel43 suggesting that Christians aren’t members of a church, don’t have to submit to those who the rule over them, or don’t need to pray  and read the Bible? Is Deon Nel43 suggesting that Christians shouldn’t be zealous unto good works? I would be glad to provide proof texts for each one of these. Let the Bible proof text duel begin.

Bruce’s testimony of his past Christian experience sounds much the same and is also a bit confusing.

See above.

In one post he says that his past experiences was ‘REAL’ yet he turned his back on it??? Figure that one out. Maybe he should say that he was sincere.

My experiences were real because I physically, emotionally, mentally, and intellectually experienced them. These experiences are what we call life. I lived it and I know what I experienced. Is Deon Nel43 suggesting I had some sort of out-of-body experience?

And I was sincere too. Deon Nel43 wants to paint me as someone who was sincere but lost; someone who intellectually knew the “facts” but didn’t spiritually possess them. The only problem with this argument is that it is not true. This is just Deon Nel43’s way of dismissing a story (mine) that he can’t explain within the context of his version of Christianity.

That I can understand but how can something be real and then discarded like a dirty rag? Contradiction of words used. Unfortunately, the conversions described on this blog are not the conversions spoken of in scripture.

Who discarded Christianity like a dirty rag? I didn’t. It took several years before I was willing to say I was no longer a Christian. I agonized over this, and it was, by far, the hardest decision I ever made in my life.

It took a lot more soul-searching to get unsaved than it ever took to get saved. People like Deon Nel43 have never walked the path of deconversion so they have no idea how difficult it is to come to a place where you are willing to walk away from all that you considered precious and true.

conversion has always been:

  1. A personal conviction of one’s fallen state and sinfulness
  2. A personal revelation of my inability to do what God requires consistently.
  3. A personal  revelation of His justice and goodness and that those who do such things will not go unpunished.
  4. A personal revelation of God’s love towards one in Jesus Christ.
  5. A personal revelation of Jesus, the need for His death on the cross, His resurrection and ascension.
  6. Jesus personally coming to live in the person through the infilling of His Spirit.

Memo to Deon Nel43: When I was a Christian I wholeheartedly, without reservation believed every one of your six points of conversion. Not only did I believe them, I preached them to others.

Of course, I know how Deon Nel43 will respond to this…I didn’t REALLY believe these things, because if I had I would still be a Christian.

And around and around we go…

Bible conversion therefore takes place when one had the above mentioned revelation, then turns from serving himself and gives himself fully to the Lord never to turn back (true repentance). God will then fill him with His Spirit as He promised. When His Spirit enters that person, a change takes place. This change is describe in the bible as ‘being born from ABOVE’ and ‘conversion’. Conversion is the same as transformation and metamorphosis e.g. a worm that transforms into a butterfly.

How can one be transformed and not know it? How can one have a revelation of one’s sinfulness, of God’s love and righteousness, of Jesus Himself and having His Spirit abiding inside one and still be totally unaware of it? How can one turn from darkness to light and see no difference?

I agree with Deon Nel43. I knew I was a blood-bought child of the living God. I knew the Holy Spirit lived inside me.  And many of the people who read this blog would say the same.  We were there when Jesus saved us. We were there when Jesus transformed our lives. Our attitudes and desires were for the things of God. We were, as the Bible says,  reborn from above.

The bottom line is this: we were every bit as much a Christian as Deon Nel43 is now.  It doesn’t matter whether Deon Nel43 can square this with his particular brand of theology or personal experience. The fact remains, I once was a Christian and now I am not; I once was saved and now I am not. To suggest people like me “never were saved” is to deny reality.

The answer is plain.The conversion experienced does not come from above but is earthly, sensual and demonic and should be repented of, rejected, and cast away…

However there are a true conversion that leads to an abundant life here and in the hereafter…

Here is what is plain for all to see. Neon Del43 thinks his interpretation of the Bible is truth and that his experience is normative. Anyone who does not believe as he believes is not a Christian. Simply put, Neon Del43 is the template for all those who want to be Christian and go to God’s Motel 6 when they die.

The real issue here is that Deon Nel43 doesn’t know what to do with the former Christians on this site. His theology tells him a true follower of Jesus can’t fall from grace, yet here we are.  Rather than recognizing his theology might be wrong, he insists that people such as myself “never were saved,” He ignores the fact that a persuasive case can be made for the Bible teaching that Christians can, in fact, lose their salvation.

Deon Nel43 is just another example of a Christian who doesn’t get it. Many have come before him and I am sure many more will follow.

A Man and His Wife

polly gerencser 2013

Polly Gerencser, 35th Wedding Anniversary, 2013

repost from July 2013, edited and corrected

It is a warm summer day in Manistee, Michigan. A man and his wife of thirty-five years get out of their black Ford Fusion to view Lake Michigan. They love the water, and if their life’s journey had taken them on another path perhaps they would live in a cottage on the shore of one of the Great Lakes or in a small fishing village on the Atlantic coast.

But as fate would have it, Ohio has been their home for most of their marriage. No matter where they moved, be it Texas, Michigan, or Arizona, they always came back, like the proverbial bad penny, to Ohio.

For the past six years they have lived in rural NW Ohio, in a small community with one stoplight, two bars, two churches, a grain elevator, gas station and 345 people. They live in a town where nothing happens, and the safety and stillness that “nothing” affords is fine by them.

They have made their peace with Ohio. After all, it is where their children and grandchildren live. This is home, and it is here that they will die some moment beyond their next breath.

But from time to time, the desire to dip their feet in a vast expanse of water, to hear the waves crashing on a shore and to walk barefooted on the beach calls out to them, and off they go.

They can no longer travel great distances; four to six hours away is the limit.  The man’s body is used up and broken, most days he needs a cane and some days a wheelchair to get from point to point.  Long trips in the car extract a painful price from his body, a toll that is paid weeks after they have returned home.

But today, the water calls, and on a warm July day they travel to South Haven, Michigan and then up the eastern shore of Lake Michigan to Manistee. Their travels will later to take them to Sault Ste Marie before they return home to Ohio.

Few people are at the Manistee beach, so unlike South Haven where the beaches and streets are filled with pushy, bustling, impatient tourists. The man and his wife have been to South Haven many times, but as they see the scarcity of people and the quietness of Manistee they say, I think we have found a new place to stay when we vacation.

plovers manistee michigan 2013

The beach is owned by thousands of Plovers. It is an amazing sight to behold. The man and his wife are mesmerized by the birds, and the man, ever possessed of his camera, begins to take pictures.

Soon the serenity of the place is ruined by a stupid boy who sees the birds as worthy of his scorn and derision. The birds are covering the landscape of HIS beach, and he will have none of that. So he runs through the mass of birds screaming and waving his arms. This put the birds into flight, complaining loudly about the stupid boy.

The man and his wife turn their attention to the pier and lighthouse in the distance. She asks, Do you think you can make it? He replies, Sure. So off they go.

As they begin their slow, faltering stroll on the pier, they notice a sign that says, No Jumping or Swimming off the Pier. The man smiles quietly to himself as he sees four teenage boys doing what the sign prohibits.  He remembers long ago when he, too, would have looked at the sign and proceeded to do exactly what the sign prohibited. He thinks, the folly, wonder, and joy of youth.

As the man and his wife pass the boys in the water, one of them calls out and says, How are you today, sir? The man thought, Sir? Am I really that old?  He knows the answer to the question before he asks. For a few moments the man talks with the boys, then haltingly continues to walk down the pier with his wife.

Not far from the boys, the man and his wife come upon a pair of ducks: a male, his female, and their brood of ten young ducklings. New life. The man wonders: How many of the ducklings will survive their youth? He knows the answer and this troubles him a bit. A reminder, that, for all its beauty, life is harsh, filled with pain, suffering, and death.

The man and his wife turn back to where the boys are swimming. The man thinks, as he looks at the shallow water with its rock-filled bottom, This is a dangerous place to be diving into the water.

But the boys are oblivious to the danger. The man’s mind races back to the days of his youth, remembering a time when he too lived without fear, enjoying the freedom of living in the moment.

One of the boys climbs back up on the pier and prepares to jump into the water. The man, a hundred feet or so from the boy, points his camera toward him. The man quickly adjusts the shutter speed, focuses the lens, and begins to shoot.

boy manistee michigan 2013 (2)

boy manistee michigan 2013 (3)

boy manistee michigan 2013 (4)

boy manistee michigan 2013 (5)

boy manistee michigan 2013 (6)

boy manistee michigan 2013 (1)

The man and his wife laugh as they watch the boy. Collectively, their minds wander back to a hot summer day in July when they joined their hands together and said, I do. Thirty-five years ago, they embraced one another and jumped off into the rock strewn water of life, and survived.

Together they turn to walk back to the car. As they pass the boys, the man shouts, I am going to make you famous. The boys laugh and continue on with the horseplay that dominates their day.

The boys will never know that their innocence, their sign-defying plunges off a pier in Manistee, Michigan, warmed the heart of the man and his wife.

One Man’s Journey from Faith to Unbelief


What follows is a guest post by a regular reader of this blog. He is writing this anonymously, and after you read his post you will understand why. If you have a story you would like to share in a guest post, please let me know. It is important that Christians who are struggling with their faith or who have lost their faith know that they are not alone. Telling your story, like the one below, will encourage and help many people.

This is the story of my spiritual migration so far.  Like my ancestors who immigrated from Europe to ________ a century and a half ago, I feel like I have crossed the ocean, and don’t know yet where I will settle on this vast continent.

I was raised Southern Baptist. Until about 15 months ago, I would have said we were pretty fundamentalist, but then I started reading The Way Forward (the previous name of this blog) and many other websites.  Now I would call all the churches I have belonged to throughout my life as only moderately conservative.  My time in the church has been a positive experience, and I’ve seen little of the pettiness, jealousy, domineering, and other bad traits so many others have experienced and written about.  I’m not saying it does not exist, just that I have not observed it.

I have especially fond memories of the church I grew up in from the age of 5 until I left for the military at 22.  This church wrapped its arms around me and my mother when she became a single mother after my father died when I was 9.  Many of the men there filled a void and were positive role models to me. The church gave me my first job, as the church janitor, when I was 15.  I made life-long friends there, and if I went back and visited there next Sunday I would still get hugs and handshakes even though I have been gone 30 years.  Because of the positive influence the people in that church had on me as a child and young adult, I have always been drawn to working with children in the church.  I have been a children’s Sunday school teacher, VBS worker, Awana leader, and led Royal Ambassadors (the Southern Baptists’ version of Boy Scouts).

At my first military assignment, on the west coast, I joined a church and made many friends.  One was a girl who was on staff at the church part-time and going to seminary part-time.  One of my roommates also went to seminary at this time.  Our church called a brand new seminary graduate as pastor, although he was older and was starting a second career.  I also read the Bible all the way through for the first time in my life.  With many questions and access to those who were studying at seminary, we had many deep conversations as I asked my questions.  Many of their answers weren’t particularly satisfying, but I suppressed the dissonance and soldiered on in the faith.

Fast forward 10 years and I was married and living on the other side of the country.  After a severe accident, my father-in-law lingered comatose in intensive care for 24 days before finally dying in spite of a coast-to-coast prayer vigil.  The fact that my wife never got to have a last conversation with her dad about his salvation motivated her to get intentional about spreading the gospel, so we took the Evangelism Explosion course and went out knocking on doors every week. At the next assignment and church, the evangelism program was called FAITH, and we did that. That church asked me to be a deacon.  The ‘examination’ was an open book essay test of my personal beliefs.  The military moved me a year later, so my active deacon service was short-lived.

About six years ago my wife amped up her passion and embarked on a master’s degree in Christian apologetics.  I thought it was useless to spend money on an actual degree, although the subject interested me too.

In the spring of 2012 I was driving home one day when I heard the PBS segment on Teresa McBain’s coming out as an atheist.  It sent chills down my spine.  Here was a person raised like me, a Southern Baptist, who had gone on to become a minister, who was renouncing her faith.  A few months later, by myself at home, I found a link to the broadcast and listened again.  This time I caught the reference to the Clergy Project.  I googled it, and found their website.  There I found links to former ministers who had left their faith behind.  That is where I went over the edge of the waterfall.

Over the next few weeks I read and listened to everything I could find from Dan Barker, John Compere, Ken Daniels, Bruce Gerencser, and Rich Lyons.  Bart Ehrman’s Jesus Misquoted was one of the textbooks my wife read for her master’s degree, so I pulled it off the shelf and read it.  One day, looking out the window at the sky it all came together and I told myself “it’s just not true.”  I didn’t get mad at God.  No one at church did me wrong.  I just concluded there was not enough evidence for me to continue to believe.

I don’t know when or how I will ever come out to either my family or church.  I don’t see bringing up the subject with my wife any time soon.  I know she has noticed I don’t insist on saying a blessing before a meal anymore, and that I don’t pull out the checkbook to write a check every Sunday morning, and that I find reasons to not go to the adult Sunday School class (she still teaches a children’s class), and sometimes even admit to just skipping.  If she ever directly challenges me I will probably come clean, since I am a terrible liar.

I have two sons who, for better or worse, think their dad can do no wrong, and I don’t want to damage my relationship with them. My teenage son made a profession of faith as a younger child.  He enjoys going to the youth camps and retreats, but shows little inclination to be there every time the door is open.  He is smarter than his engineer dad and accountant mother put together, so I am hopeful he will reason his way out of Christianity, perhaps with some subtle nudging from me, as he grows older.  For now, whenever he says something outrageous I challenge him to examine the evidence and ensure his beliefs and opinions are well founded.

My younger son has been totally brainwashed by his mom, and made his profession of faith and was baptized last summer, about a month after my ah-ha moment.  Interestingly, he still holds on to a belief in Santa Claus at an age when all the other kids have figured it out.  In fact, we were so frustrated that he wasn’t figuring it out, Christmas before last we told him flat-out that mom and dad were Santa, not some guy who literally comes from the North Pole in a sleigh with reindeer.  Nevertheless, a few days ago he asked me how Santa got around to all the houses he had to go to on Christmas Eve.  I said “well, let’s do the math.  How many houses does he have to go to?  How long does it take to go to each house?  How many hours are there in the night?”  We did not do all the calculations, but hopefully I planted another seed to use reason and evidence.  Maybe once he figures out Santa then he’ll apply the same logic to Christianity.

I’ve never talked about spiritual matters with my older siblings, but all the evidence points to me being the last one to get where they have been for about 40 years, so there is no issue there.  Both our parents are gone now, so that is also not a problem.  Most of our extended family is still Christian, but they live far enough away and we see them rarely enough that there is no need to come out to them.

At church, I had already started working to extract myself even before my epiphany.  I had informed our Sunday School director a few months before that I would not continue as a teacher after the current Sunday School year ended in August 2012.  My term on the one committee I am on will end this year, and I declined to be chairman of the committee this year.  I guess I was too subtle however, since I was surprised to be pulled aside one Sunday morning this past spring and told I had been nominated to be a deacon again.  I was given another examination questionnaire to fill out, and asked to pray about it.  I thought about using the questionnaire to express my new beliefs as a way of coming out, but decided there was nothing to be gained by that approach.  Instead, when they followed up a few weeks later I just said I didn’t think it would be appropriate to go through the process at this time.

I go to the adult Sunday School class about half the time now.  Sometimes I find a good reason to not go; sometimes I just skip out. I can do this and admit it to my wife without fear of condemnation because she has always hated adult Sunday School for its lack of depth of discussion and study (remember she went and got a seminary degree just for her own edification), and teaching children is her escape. I agreed with her that there was little value in the Bible study, but always enjoyed the social aspect. When I go now I usually stay quiet unless someone says something so outrageous I can’t stand not to comment.  One day the teacher opened the lesson by asking what would cause someone to doubt the existence of God.  I suppressed a smile, but did say that when a child is born with massive birth defects I think that would cause someone to doubt God.  Nobody else said anything, but heads nodded up and down.  Another time the topic was love between husband and wife, and the supporting text came from Song of Solomon 6:3 (I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.)  Everyone oohed and aahed about how poetic that was and how wise Solomon was until I spoke up said to keep reading to verse 8 (There are sixty queens and eighty concubines, and maidens without number).  Silence.

We sit together as a family in the service.  Once the sermon starts and the scripture has been read and we sit back down, I use the time reading other parts of the Bible to research and document inconsistencies and fallacies I’ve heard.  I do this to bolster my case for the day when I eventually do come out.

I’ll probably continue like this indefinitely, short of someone at the church making one of us mad enough to leave.  That would actually be a good cover story to use.  If I was still in the military it would be easy…we would eventually move and then just not make an effort to find another church.  But for now I am unwilling to perturb the relationship with my wife and sons.

So here I am in _________.  I’m standing firmly on dry land, but who knows where I will go from here, how I will get there, when I will go, or who might go with me.