Why Many Christians Can’t Understand Atheists

atheists going to hell

One of the advantages that people like me, who have been on both sides of Christian/atheist fence, have is our ability to understand the arguments that Christians make against atheism. Simply put, been there done that.  We are not ignorant of Christian theology. We understand the arguments that are made for faith in Jesus and we understand how atheists are viewed by Christians. We too, when we were Christians, viewed atheists the same way.

The person who grew up in the Christian church or was indifferent to religion before they made a decision to follow Jesus, has a hard time understanding how atheists think and why they think the way they do. After all, they think Jesus is wonderful and Christianity and the church gives them purpose, meaning, and direction. It even gives them a cushy home in the kingdom of heaven in the afterlife. What’s not to like, right?  They can not fathom not wanting this. Doesn’t everyone want purpose, meaning, and direction? Doesn’t everyone want to go to heaven when they die? Surely, submitting to the authority and teaching of the Christian church is a small price to pay for what is gained. Who, in their right mind, would ever want to turn down such a wonderful offer, right?

What the Christian fails to see is that they are projecting their own desires and needs on to the atheist. They assume that everyone should want what they want. Because Christian faith meets an emotional need in their life, they assume every human has the same emotional need and, in one size fits all fashion, every human should become a follower of Jesus.

For atheists like me, who spent a lifetime in the Christian church, we tend to view these things differently. While we might still wish there was a heaven we could go to when we die, we know the foundation that this belief is built on is false.  We value critical thinking and rational enquiry and because we do we can not accept as true the claims Christians make about life and what gives life meaning, purpose, and direction.

Most atheists  I know understand religious belief from a sociological, environmental, cultural, and geographical perspective. We can explain, without appealing to the supernatural, why people embrace a particular religious belief.  Why are most people in America Christian? The atheist can answer this question by looking at the sociological, environmental, cultural, and geographical evidence. This same methodology can be used to explain the religious proclivities of every country and people group.

Some scientists are now suggesting that the human need for religion is hardwired. Few could argue the fact that most people in the world, in the history of the human race, are religious. Is this because ,through natural selection, that religious belief gives the human an evolutionary advantage? If this is true, what about atheists? Are we a species doomed to become extinct? Or is the recent atheist/agnostic/humanist revival that is sweeping the globe a sign that we are outgrowing our need for religion?

The committed Christian thinks these kind of arguments and explanations are just a sign of the bankruptcy and depravity of atheists. Gary, a Lutheran who has been  lately commenting a good  bit on this blog, drug me into a discussion about atheism on a Lutheran blog. Here is what several commenters had to say about atheists:

Joe Krohn: It never ceases to amaze me when I come across atheists/agnostics how true to the mark Luther’s Bondage of the Will is. A man is either ridden by God’s righteousness or his own self righteousness.

Jim Pierce: I think it worthwhile to point out that we should not muddle law and gospel. Following Walther (and our confession), we don’t give gospel to the unrepentant. Rather, we give them the law and pray they are stricken by it and come to repentance. IOW, we don’t want to be derogatory with our remarks, but we also don’t want to pull punches. Bruce is in trouble with God and he needs to hear that. We speak the truth in love. We aren’t Westboro Baptists, but we aren’t Emergent “generous orthodoxy.”

Abby: This will not help the atheist either. But it might be helpful to us in seeing where they are coming from.

“When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death. So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.” John 4:47-50

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

To these Lutherans, the real problem is, atheists are self-righteous, their hearts are set against the law of God, and we are seeking a sign (evidence) rather than believing by faith. Add these claims to the ones that Evangelicals make, that atheists hate God, secretly want to live an immoral life, or are the agents of Satan, it becomes quickly clear that many Christians can not understand why an atheist is what he is. No matter how succinctly he tells his story, no matter how open and honest he is, there must be some OTHER reason for him choosing atheism over the Christian God.

Yesterday I wrote a note to myself that said, why are so many Christians deaf and blind? Why do they refuse to hear or are unable to hear what I am saying? Why can they not see what is right in front of them?

ben boeshaarTake Pastor Ben Boeshaar. Boeshaar is a smart-ass, arrogant man who pastors Central Baptist Church in Stephenson, Michigan. He attended Maranatha Baptist College in Watertown, Wisconsin. He is a young guy, a diehard five point, burn the heretical Arminians at the stake, Calvinist.  One of the people who follow this blog via Facebook, mentioned Boeshaar on my post, Christians Hurt My Feelings and This is Why I am an Atheist.  Here is our “discussion“:

Pastor B:I think the author is being intellectually dishonest. The author didn’t give the intellectual reasons for his “deconversion” and sounded pretty emotional to me. Look, Christians are imperfect people. I don’t condone some of the dumb things Christians say and do. My opinion would be that a person who reacts like this now was probably never a Christian in the first place.

Bruce: Wow, I am intellectually dishonest. Evidently you missed So, whatever emotional harm may have happened to me during my 50 years in the Christian church and 25 years in the pastorate, THE reason I am not a Christian is that I no longer believe the Bible is the inerrant, inspired Word of God. I no longer believe the claims Christians make for the Bible and I no longer believe the central tenets of the Christian religion. I do not believe Jesus was divine, virgin born, worked miracles, atoned for sin on the cross, or rose again from the dead. Jesus was a man who lived and died, end of story.

Bruce: And I never was a Christian. Never heard that one before.  I hope you realize how silly this makes you look. You don’t know me, read 1000 words, and you conclude I am intellectually dishonest and was never a Christian.

Pastor B: Well, nice to meet you Bruce. Jeremy asked my opinion so I gave it. Nothing personal but at the same time, welcome to blogging. Public articles bring public comments. Also, I understand you don’t believe those things any longer but the real reason is why you don’t believe them and that is where the honesty comes in. What happened to cause you to no longer believe those doctrines? An intellectual debate would give reasons why one should not believe in those doctrines. On the other point, Scripture teaches that a TRUE believer will persevere in his faith and are sealed by the Holy Spirit for eternity. They will not turn their back on the Savior. Why are you bothered by that statement if you don’t believe in or follow Christ? I would think a true atheist would have no problem with that statement and would welcome the idea that they were never a Christian. But I digress. I don’t know you and yes, all I had to go on were your written words and statements. Based on those, as a pastor and counselor, I think you have more heart searching to do. Again, my opinion, but you do sound like a hurt individual who has given up.

Bruce: No a true atheist understands what he once was and what he is now. Fundamentalists like you are forced to strain everything through the sieve of their peculiar theological system. Yours says a true believer perseveres so since I am not persevering I never was a true believer. This means that all the years I spent following Jesus were all a delusion. This means all the sermons I preached were preached by a deluded man. This means 50 years in the church was a lie. I find it interesting that out of the thousands of people who heard me preach, and out of the numerous ministerials colleagues I had, not one person ever questioned my Christianity. It is only after I deconverted that they say, oh you never were a Christian. Instead of rationally judging what is right in front of them they are forced by a commitment to a theological system to deny reality. It is only Baptists and Calvinists you have a problem with this. The Arminian can see and understand I once was a Christian and now I am not.

Pastor B: It’s not a theological system alone, Bruce. It’s Scripture. Yes, I’m am Sola Scriptura…Scripture alone. Not sure where else you can find out what God says or expects. I’ve found that “atheists” say they don’t believe the Bible as a way to not have to deal with what it truly says.

Bruce: No I am saying the Bible is internally contradictory, hopelessly convoluted, and outdated. Since it is a fallible human book written by, for the most part, unknown fallible men, it has no more authority over me than any other literary work. Most of the atheists I know were once Christians, many for much of their life. They know the Bible well. It is not their lack of knowledge that is the problem. Their willingness to critically look at the text of the Bible and the claims Christians make for it is why they no longer are a Christian.

Pastor B: And I believe that Arminianism is heresy! But that’s me. Probably best to save that for another time. But yes, let’s consider your years as a pastor. How do you now look back and tell all of those people who looked up to you as a pastor and listened to your words of Faith in the Bible. Your only logical answer has to be I didn’t really believe those things. I’m sorry, but you take people for fools if you want them to think that you woke up one morning and became an atheist.

Bruce: You are not listening. Of course I believed those things. I was believing those things before you were born. And I was believing them until I no longer believed them. It is that simple. You don’t strike me as someone who is really interested in the path I took from Christianity to Atheism, so I am not going to waste my time. Six years of blogging have taught me one thing…many Christians don’t give a shit what I think. They aren’t interested in understanding because they arrogantly think they already know. Their certainty, their theology makes it impossible for them to genuinely understand the differing path others take. So, rather than get into a meaningless tit-for-tat, if you are really interested in the journey, please read my blog.

Pastor B: Well Bruce, a relationship with Christ is a full on heart relationship. Addressing what you just said means quite a long conversation. I’d be fine having it a bit later. It’s late and I have the privilege of heralding the mighty and powerful Word of God in the morning so I must retire for the night. Just remember, none of us is the standard. Just because you don’t believe it doesn’t mean it isn’t true. How unfortunate for you and all those others when you realize it is and it’s too late. I close with 1 Corinthians 1:21-24,”For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

After I read the last comment from Boeshaar, I told Polly, Boy this guy is an arrogant prick. I checked to see exactly how many pages Boeshaar read on this blog and I found out he read a grand total of, drum roll please, ONE page, the post he commented on. He showed no curiosity about who I am, what I was, or anything else. He already knows all he needs to know and this is but another example of what I call the blind and deaf Christian. They lack any sort of curiosity about those who differ from them. Boeshaar already has all the answers and his divine answer books tells him all he needs to know about atheists. In case you don’t know what that is, the fool says in his heart there is no God.

None of this is new. If I have learned anything over the past six years, it is that I am wasting my time trying to thoughtfully engage Christians like Ben Boeshaar and the Lutherans I mentioned above. Ironically, Boeshaar and the Lutherans probably think the other is heretical, yet they both can agree on their condemnation of atheism.

Of course this is not an apologetics site and I am not an evangelist for atheism. I will leave it to others to fight the flame wars and battles of the trolls. My interest lies in helping people who are considering leaving Christianity or who have already left. It is for them I wrote this post. I think it is important for them to see how many Christians think (or don’t think) about those who have different beliefs about God, Christianity, and the Bible. While some people sincerely want to think that Christian churches are places of acceptance, kindness, and love, the comments above show that such a belief is a fantasy. If atheists are really as bad as these people say they are, shouldn’t they extend to us the greatest love and compassion? Instead, they attack, demean, and treat us like they would a child molester living next to an elementary school. They show no interest in trying to understand why a -person like me became an atheist. Their actions reveal much about the Christianity they preach.

 

Comments (60)

  1. Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    *shakes head and wonders why fundagelicals cannot realize how brain washed, foolish and lacking reality when they say the crap this Pastor spouted*

    Bruce, you’re rubbing off on me. The more I read the Bible, the more I question it as the ‘word of God’. Reads more like a historic document combined with fear tactic fictions.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Come to the dark side, my friend! :)

      Reply
      1. Byroniac

        Just don’t believe anyone who tells you the Dark Side has cookies. I came to the Dark Side, and I haven’t seen one darn cookie yet. Worse yet, my doctor still thinks they’re bad for me.

        Reply
  2. sgl

    i’ve seen a variety of the “friendly” evagelists visit here in the past, but before i only saw what they posted here, not anything they discussed elsewhere, or anything that was a private email to you.

    this time, with gary, i got to see parallel conversations on your blog, on his blog, and the lutheran pastor’s forum. fascinating to see the different tones and comments on each.

    hope he continues to read erhman. he at least is getting a glimpse of issues he wasn’t even aware of before. however, from the tone of all the other commenters on his blog and the lutheran forum, i doubt anyone else will spend any time trying to understand the issues erhman raises.

    Reply
  3. mikespeir

    It ought to read like this: “You can tell atheists they’re going to Hell all you want, but if they believed that, they wouldn’t be atheists.”

    Be assured, if I thought there was the remotest possibility of truth in the claim, I would care. The problem is, I find the notion of Hell laughable. I don’t believe in it, so I’m immune to the threat of it.

    Reply
  4. Stephanie

    I can honestly say there was a point in time where envisioning life without the concept of a deity was utterly impossible for me. All I could see were questions, emptiness and meaningless. Nothing made sense. The one thing I still really wonder about is where the entire universe arose from or if existed in some form or another for all of time. Scientists don’t know the answer and neither does anyone else, maybe we never will. This doesn’t prove the existence of God, just raises a lot of questions.

    I can say that the threat of hell did work for a while. I still have relapses. Then I realized it really has to do with my own feelings of obligation toward my family, upbringing. It was more about wondering if I could be a good person even if I didn’t follow the rules set out for me. Fear of hell is a reflection of my worrying about letting people down, not reaching that higher standard. I think it came from inside of myself all along, if that makes sense. We all know the rational does not touch the emotional sometimes.

    Anyway, I’m not an atheist, at least I don’t identify as one and I think that once your mind is so firmly in one worldview you can’t see through it clearly. I think this applies to both sides. It is hard to have an open mind since we are such complex beings with so many vast experiences, meaning we are inherently bias.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Thanks for sharing this, Stephanie.

      Reply
  5. Lynn

    It seems like atheists have focused on “Is it actually true?” whereas Christians like to focus on the emotional “heart” “relationship” they have.

    For him to say that you must not have really believed what you were preaching all those years-to me, that idea is ludicrous. Surely the vast majority of preachers sincerely believe what they preach. Of course there are some who are con men and maybe a small number who once did believe but have come to not believe but can’t easily get out of their positions. Also, if your whole life, Bruce, was one grand delusion, don’t Christians need to worry greatly that maybe the same could be said of them-they know they were always sincerely believing with all their heart, they loved Jesus, they devoted their life to him-yet they were living in some kind of make-believe dream world that they didn’t notice AND NEITHER DID THOSE AROUND THEM. You know, all those with the Holy Spirit living inside them and directing them to all truth???

    His saying that no real Christian just wakes up and becomes an atheist. Actually I think it can happen suddenly like that. But it usually happens over time with living life, observing people, studying church history, going my your actual experience of God in your Christian life, new ideas coming to you from non-Christians or from wide reading, the courage to hold your beliefs up to the light to see if they really ring true, etc.

    It’s also ridiculous to think that there are no emotions involved in any of it along the way. We are not robots. We are human. We don’t appreciate being lied to. It bothers us when we come to realize that what we thought and trusted to be true is actually likely NOT true-well, who wouldn’t be a little annoyed, upset, etc.? After all, our heart was involved in our Christian life. It wasn’t an intellectual game. We believed with all our heart.

    I’ll stop with this. Another difference, as you pointed out, is the complete lack of curiosity. I find people fascinating. I find people like this pastor fascinating. You can have very interesting discussions with them. I like discussions. Sometimes I learn something. But it seems like these Christians have no interest in learning something. They are not curious. People do not fascinate them. It seems their head is in a box called the Bible. They can’t go beyond that box.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      That is what I thought when I saw the good Pastor didn’t even bother to read the about page. He had no curiosity whatsoever. I was wrong, God/he was right, discussion over.

      Reply
  6. Lynn

    I think atheists are treated like the child in “The Emporer Has No Clothes” could have been treated. The Christian says, “Oh boy, get that kid out of here. He’s not playing the game. He’s gonna cause others to start thinking independently and they might start believing their own eyes!”

    I would even say that maybe those that seem to be most devoted to their religion being true are the ones that are terrified to look at it with critical eyes. Maybe they don’t truly believe it as much as they think they do, so they dare not let in a sliver of light that might cause them great angst. Sorta like a woman who suspects in the back of her mind that her husband is cheating. She may refuse to check his cell phone. She’s afraid of what she might see. And she doesn’t want to go there.

    Reply
  7. Lynn

    Oh! I think I’m starting to truly understand this more. The pastor above, and I’m sure many other Christians, truly cannot imagine how someone could go from true Christian to sincere atheist. So since they can’t wrap their mind around that, they then say, “What? No way! He was never a Christian at all.” It’s their incorrect answer to the problem in not understanding how it could happen.

    Also,” Just because you don’t believe it doesn’t mean it isn’t true.” That’s true. And this is also true-”Just because you believe something, that doesn’t mean it is in fact true.”

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Correct. As you point out that is is a two way street. That’s why we have to look for evidence for our claims. There are people who don’t believe the Holocaust happened. They could say, just because you don’t believe it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. I can then say, well, the EVIDENCE suggests______________.

      Reply
  8. Scott

    Hi Bruce,
    It took me a long time to figure this out, but it keeps going back to the fact that the first premise, that the bible is the word of god, is false. I’ve come to the conclusion that it was a document constructed in its time to gain psychological control, and it worked brilliantly. Since then, we’ve all been reading someone else’s mail that doesn’t apply to us (other than as you said, it’s interesting ancient literature), and we all got sucked in too. Until you can correct, or get past, that first premise, pretty much everything else is a waste of time.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Great analogy, Scott. Maybe it is time to return the mail to sender? :)

      Reply
  9. amimental

    I think it’s easier for the Christians to believe that YOU never believed rather than admit that you are a thinking individual who looked at all the evidence (or the lack of it) and made a decision based on facts.

    And childhood conditioning is incredibly difficult to overcome. Most believers were indoctrinated as children and are completely unable to think about life any other way.

    Mostly, I feel compassion for those who can’t consider anything else. Because when you think about it, their fear is stronger than anything else they have.

    That’s a shame. It really is. So limiting. Imagine spending your entire life, the only one you have, in fear of, well, your imagination. And then you die. Never having lived an honest life.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Reminds me of Thoreau’s quote:

      I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.

      I think a lot of Christians are going to die not knowing that they never really lived.

      Reply
      1. Aram McLean

        This is the tragedy

        Reply
  10. Josh

    I find it ironic that the same people who claim christians turned atheists can’t have been true believers to begin with seem to think its possible for people to change their beliefs from not being a christian to accepting christianity. They love these “testimonials” (as they call them). Surely, according to their reasoning, those people never really converted but were always christians making their testimonies lies?

    Of course not – it’s only when you stop believing in their religion that you were a liar. Its a great way to not think about the reasons people no longer believer because that might make them question it too.

    Reply
  11. Jason

    I am a Christian and I have seen many people such as Bruce come and go. Some come and go several times. I think that the problem is that most people know what they believe but they don’t know why they believe it. I have heard people that believe in evolution say they believe it because their high school teacher said it was true. I have talked to atheists who can’t explain why they believe God does not exist. I have talked to people who have no idea why they do believe that God does exist. We all believe in something. Why do we believe it? Bruce this preacher asked you a few times why you quit believing in God. This is something that I also am curious about. I have read a few of your blogs but I do not recall seeing one that explains why after all your years as a Christian you no longer believe in God. Maybe there is one and I’m just missing it. If there is could you point it out to me? Thanks.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Jason,

      In this post, I said:

      “THE reason I am not a Christian is that I no longer believe the Bible is the inerrant, inspired Word of God. I no longer believe the claims Christians make for the Bible and I no longer believe the central tenets of the Christian religion. I do not believe Jesus was divine, virgin born, worked miracles, atoned for sin on the cross, or rose again from the dead. Jesus was a man who lived and died, end of story.”

      I think this is pretty clear, but if you would like some other explanation or clarification, please let me know, and I will gladly answer your questions. I do want to clear why I am no longer a Christian.

      Thanks.

      Bruce

      Reply
      1. Dale

        That’s great, Bruce, but can I ask you a question? How come you became an atheist after being a Christian and a pastor for all those years?

        LOL!!!

        Reply
        1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

          Funny boy! :)

          Reply
  12. Jennesh

    I’ve never understood the arrogance of some religions. I went with one of my friends to a couple of fun events with her church youth group. They were perfectly nice to me and we were having a great time, until I told someone that I go to St. Mary’s church. “You’re . . . CATHOLIC?”

    They quit talking to me and sat far away from me on the bus and just whispered about me. It was incredibly creepy. I had no idea that I was evil (or, apparently, that my evil Catholicism was contagious! ;) )

    I went one more time with my friend to her youth group. That was the day that they were going to talk about other religions so that the group could learn what others believed.

    Of course, it was really just small group discussions about “why other religions are wrong.” That’s when I learned that I “Catholics worship statues.”

    I raised my hand. “Catholics don’t worship statues. That’s ridiculous.”

    And her response was “Well, I have a Catholic friend so I know.”

    So I said, “Well, I went to Catholic school for 7 years, so I think I might know something about this, too.”

    So she said to the youth group (seriously, with a straight face) “Well, even though Jennifer thinks she’s right, we know she’s wrong and what we are telling her is the truth.”

    I wished I had walked out. But I didn’t. I was only 13. I just opened the Bible to the “judge not yest ye be judged” verse and stared at it. I never went back to that church, and I don’t think my friend did either.

    That was my experience with Southern Baptist churches. Although it did cause an inside-joke when my friend and I would say “I’m mad at you! I”m gonna lock myself in my closet and pray to my Mary statue!” :)

    I’m no longer a practicing Catholic, either.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Thanks for sharing this. It really helps me understand you a bit better.

      You learned one of the hard and fast rules of the Baptist Church: The Bible always trumps reality. :)

      Reply
  13. Reverend Greg

    Eek, I’m an Arminian heretic. I must be in the same boat with Bruce!

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Yes you are. :) I heard more than an few times in my Calvinistic days that preachers like Charles Finney and DL Moody are burning in hell for their heresy. Spurgeon? He is the Calvinistic St Peter at the Gate. While I was a five point Calvinist, I never bought into the Arminians are lost way of thinking.

      Reply
      1. Reverend Greg

        Well, I believe Catholics can be Christians as well so there’s not much hope for me.

        Reply
        1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

          Man, you are a heathen for sure. :)

          Baptists are taught from their youth on up to hate the great whore of Babylon. I was a Catholic hater for many years. A doctor, who was a Catholic, through his love and compassion when our daughter Bethany was diagnosed with Down Syndrome, forced me to rethink my view of Catholics. Since then, I have met many fine Catholics. Funny how my theology met reality in the middle of the road and reality won.

          I know a fair number of good Christian people from a variety of Christian sects. My best friend is a Nazarene. I suspect you are like me, in some regard, that what matters is how a person lives their life. Don’t tell me your faith, show me. The doctor I mentioned above, Bill Fiorini, had us come to his office after hours and he sat down and held our hands as we wept. He then picked us up and helped us to see way forward. He almost killed me once when he missed that I had mono, but I give him a pass. (and he admitted that he had made a mistake) A good man in every way, a man who spent countless hours caring for the sick and poor. I can’t tell you the times our fee statement had no charge written on it. He even told us to bring our kids to his office instead of the ER so he could treat them. He stitched up several of our kids. If I had a Saint Rushmore he would be on it.

          Reply
  14. Boomslang

    It’s simply astounding to me that one of the defenses in the Christian’s arsenal when they encounter deconverted Christians is that they “never really believed” or “weren’t a True Christian” to begin with. So much for that “free will” crap, I suppose.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Correct. The lost man can freely choose to become a Christian but the Christian can not freely choose to become a lost man. Evangelicalism is heavily influenced by Calvinism and this is why they must contend that I never really believed, never was a Christian. But, even then, I could yet return to the faith, right? I could yet, persevere to the end, right? So at best, I am a conditional lost man. Until I die, who knows? :)

      Reply
  15. Jason

    Bruce that explains the no longer believe part but not as to why you no longer believe it. What would cause someone with your Biblical education and years of preaching the Word of God not just claiming to be a Christian but also living it one day decide to not believe and do a 180 and turn your back on it? Also since you no longer believe in Creation do you now believe in evolution? I know it’s 2 very different questions. If it’s not something you want to get into I understand.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      These are good questions, Jason. I will tackle them in a post in the next day or two.

      Thanks.

      Bruce

      Reply
    2. sgl

      when the economist keynes was criticized for changing his mind on something, he replied: “When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir?”

      Reply
    3. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Jason I plan to tackle your questions tomorrow.

      Reply
  16. Pastor Ben Boeshaar

    Well, I suppose it’s time for me to respond to the comments written in this article. So that everyone knows (and in case you cared) Bruce and I have had a private discussion regarding this issue and he is aware that my response was coming.

    I think it is very unfortunate that Bruce had to go ad hominem in his discussion with me. For those of you that may not know what that means, Webster defines in this way, “appealing to feelings or prejudices rather than intellect…marked by or being an attack on an opponent’s character rather than by an answer to the contentions made.” This is exactly what took place in the article in the names that I was called all because I didn’t agree with what Bruce was saying. Typically this is the result of being put on the defensive and not having relevant facts to bring out in a debate or discussion.

    Bruce claimed that I said all that I did only after reading one of his posts and that I didn’t know him well enough to say some of what I was saying. Well the same is true for him. He took a few comments that I made and judged me. Well, here it goes…drum roll please…I was once an atheist who became a Christian. Sure my parents made me go to church and sure I had to attend mass and all of those things, but I couldn’t wait to get out. I couldn’t wait to join the gangs down in Chicago. But, all of that changed for me when I was thirteen and Christ genuinely changed my life. Why am I so passionate about this? Because I know the emptiness and lack of peace that I wrestled with as a young teenager and Christ has given me that and changed not only my life, but the lives of those in my family as well. Ok, Bruce, you can pick your jaw up off the floor now. :)

    I wanted to clarify my comments about being intellectually dishonest. This happens whenever you present (or don’t present) a set of facts in an argument and expect a person to believe only what was presented. It has already been asked in the discussion here…Bruce, WHY did you chose to reject all of what you believed. You certainly said what you no longer believed, but never why. I see that you are planning to answer that question and I look forward to reading those posts. But here’s the thing….you’re article that I first commented on stated that you did not leave Christianity because your feelings were hurt and yet almost your entire article stressed that very thing. All you talked about was how you were hurt and that was the reason for my comment on intellectual dishonesty. You wore your feelings on your sleeve in that article and because I know the place from which you came, I know that you were indeed hurt and have reacted to it. This is clear in your writing (and I have indeed read more than one article). There is yet another example, Bruce. In this article, you state that this blog is, “not an apologetics site and I am not an evangelist for atheism.” YES YOU ARE and YES THIS IS! Who are you kidding! This is everything that you are about in having this blog and in posting the information and articles that you do.

    Finally, I want to be clear. I am a pastor and I wouldn’t be a pastor if I didn’t want to help people. I spend hours counseling people and helping them through things like addictions and marriage problems. No one would ever come into my church and say that they weren’t welcome and accepted. There is nothing wrong with a good debate, Bruce. I fear that you have tried to turn this debate into an opportunity to malign Christians by making my comments (and me) out to be something other than what they were. Oh yes, I disagree very much with the information put out on this blog, but last I checked this is still the United States of America, and at least for now, we still have free speech rights. That’s why blogging exists in the first place. I would just hope that you would be honest in the facts your present and the statements that you make.

    Look, here’s the end of it all. To not believe in God is a belief. You (and most of those who follow this blog) have a set of beliefs regarding what you don’t believe. This carries you forward to a worldview and to standards of morality or immorality. Your religion is really no different than that of the Christian, it’s just that you hate God in doing so. I am sorry that the idea of absolute truth as found in the Bible bothers you. But what is your standard as an atheist? There is no standard! Worse, YOU are the standard!

    God is the creator of this great universe in which we exist. Someone asked about this in the comments section above. Friend, there is no getting around the fact that there is a real creator God who made all of us and everything that surrounds us. I close with the very sober words written in Romans 1:

    “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
    Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.” (Romans 1:18-25)

    I will very directly say that this day Scripture is fulfilled before your eyes because this is indeed what is happening on this blog. I commit to pray for all of you and am happy to to talk further with anyone who feels they are in a crisis of belief. Please don’t hesitate to contact me. My email is (removed) This will probably be the last time I comment like this. I will probably take my thoughts to my blog from here on.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Ben,

      I called you an arrogant smart ass prick because of your behavior. If you don’t want to be called that act differently.

      Your first words, minutes after reading one post was to call me intellectually dishonest. Instead of asking for clarification or getting off your digital ass and reading a bit more of what I wrote, you stated I was being intellectually dishonest.

      I am not doing apologetics or evangelizing in the sense that I hope to convert someone to my beliefs. People can believe what they want. All this blog is is one man telling his story. This is all it has ever been. People can love, appreciate, hate or despise what I write, I don’t care one way or another. I try to write openly and honestly and I hope what I write helps someone. I have no greater goal. I don’t threaten people with damnation or hell, nor do offer them a home in the sweet by and by. I do offer them compassion, love, and understanding. Most of the people who write me have some sort of religious belief. I do not try to evangelize them. I am a facilitator, I try to help them on their journey and I am indifferent to where they end up. Well almost indifferent, because I think Evangelicalism is pathologically harmful both mentally, emotionally, and, for some people, physically harmful. I do encourage people to move away from fundamentalism that is inherent to Evangelical belief and practice.

      As far as your comments? I posted them in context, yes? I will leave it to the readers of this blog to decide if I maligned you in any way. I will tell you this, your comment here will not win many over to your side. All you did was prove what I stated in this post.

      You spend the majority of your comment preaching AT the people who read this blog. Your comment is a reminder to them of the abuse they received at the hands of their fundamentalist pastors. You may think you are a great guy, but your words tell a different truth. You show no desire to understand what atheists believe and you certainly don’t understand that most atheists are humanists. Like many of your ilk, you have an atheist stereotype you trot out any time you need to. We are haters of God, right? Consider, it would be foolish and childish for us to hate something that does not exist. It would be like hating Santa Claus. The absolute truths of the Bible? We reject your claim that the Bible is in any way divine, authoritative, or a standard for morality. It is just a book, you know, like 50 Shades of Gray. You claim there is a creator and that creator is revealed in the Bible, through the light of conscience, and creation. We reject such silly notions. If your God wants to make himself known to us, he is going to have to do better than this. So far, your God is no different than Baal in 1 Kings 18.

      I removed your email address. I doubt anyone having a crisis of faith will seek out a Bible thumper like you. It is guys like you that are the reason many people are having a crisis of faith. Hundreds of Baptist Fundamentalists like you have written me over the years. Some want to attack me, ridicule me, etc. Others want to break free from the cult, from the mind numbing, life killing fundamentalism that has destroyed their life. Yes, I know you “say” you aren’t a Fundamentalist. However, you got your training at Maranatha Baptist Bible College, a strident Fundamentalist college.(groups from your college used to come sing at the church I pastored) If it walks, talks, and acts like a Fundamentalist, it is a Fundamentalist.

      In a private discussion, I agreed to answer five questions for you on your blog. Due to your comment here, I am rescinding my offer to do so. I have no intentions of casting my pearls before swine. Feel free to excoriate the atheist on your blog.

      Since you violated the commenting rules with your comment, yeah I know you didn’t bother to read them, this is your first and last comment. I made a commitment to the long time readers of this blog that I would not get drawn into meaningless debates with Fundamentalists like you. Your private comments led me to believe that maybe you were a decent man. Your public comment here shows that you are not.

      Bruce

      Reply
      1. Becky Rogers Wiren

        Wow! Instead of showing any love or caring or compassion, he preaches at you and us and assumes we all hate God. Every time one of these so-called Christians “show” their love, it is in being condescending, judgmental, and uncaring of others actual thoughts and feelings. I reject this kind of religion, period. It is all about the show this minister can make.

        Reply
        1. Boomslang

          Becky, you nailed it.

          And on top of that, it doesn’t help the ministering apologist one iota when they offer things like…”I was once an atheist who became a Christian”, erroneously thinking that this is somehow the other side of the proverbial Atheist/Theist “coin”, when in fact, it’s no such thing. We were ALL born lacking a belief in “God”/gods. Non-belief is default. IOW, we were all at least implicitly Atheists at one point.

          Then the apologist goes on saying how, as a teen, “Christ” changed his life, saved him from gang-life, yadda, yadda, which is a big fat non-sequitur. It does not follow that because a belief in something changes and/or helps someone that this therefore means that said belief is good or has a referent in reality. A heroin addict will swear up and down that they’re happier on smack. A scientologist will swear that Dianetics gave them peace of mind, and on, and on.

          Reply
        2. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

          Yep. As I shared in several other comments, he assumed that this blog and its readers is a monoculture. This is a fundamentalist way of looking at things. Sure, this is an atheist friendly blog but many of the commenters have some sort of religious belief or faith. They will always be welcome here. When my atheism gets bit strong they ignore me, knowing that I am normally a caustic, evangelizing atheist.

          Reply
    2. NeverAgainV

      Yeah – yeah- Pastor Ben we know you & people who believe like you -believe we will burn in a lake of fire to be tortured forever for “Thought Crimes”…according to your belief system.

      I’m so glad I don’t believe that.

      Oh and as far as you telling Bruce he is the standard…uh, most pastor’s I know are their own standard of truth as THEY pick and choose from their Pet Buybull verses.

      I’m just so glad to be out of that horrible religion.

      Unfortunately the real bottom line is guys like this Pastor Ben believe they have the truth and everyone else is wrong who doesn’t “accept” their truth. There is no honest debate because their minds are made up already. It’s pretty useless to engage with them because THEY ARE NEVER WRONG.

      Again, I thank my lucky stars I got out of that! Yaay for us who escaped that mind prison and the box it puts people’s minds in. It’s quite a journey. I’m glad to have encountered you Bruce- and so many others who understand the journey.

      Reply
    3. John Arthur

      Pastor Ben,

      You use the bible as a weapon of oppression. Why pick this specific passage (Rom.1:18-25) and say it is being fulfilled before our eyes? If ‘God’ is love (i.e.compassion, healing-mercy and loving-kindness) and if this ‘God’ loves his enemies, why do you write in this ugly, vindictive manner? You think that because you are quoting the bible that you are quoting ‘God’, otherwise why quote it?

      I take objection to your view that I have been given up to the lusts of my heart to impurity. You don’t know any such thing. You cannot read my heart. I take objection to your view that I am degrading my body with others. This is sheer judgementalism. You know NOTHING about how I behave, nor how others who frequent this blog behave.

      I take objection to being called a fool. You know virtually nothing about me.

      Why would anyone who is facing a crisis of belief want to contact you when you have this bible bashing approach to those who disagree with you?

      You believe Arminians are heretics and, I would bet that you believe, that anyone who dies as a heretic is going to suffer eternal torment in hell. Goodness me! No-one in their right mind, who is having a crisis of faith, would want to approach someone who fails to treat others with dignity and respect and threatens them with bible passages.

      You are a Christian pastor. If Christians do not love others whom they have seen, how can they love God whom they have not seen? Jesus told you to love your enemies. If you are trying to help people in a faith crisis recover their faith, then why not show empathy and understanding? Why threaten the wrath of God? I’ve escaped Fundamentalism and have no desire to return that that kind of hateful Christianity.

      I hope that someday you will reconsider your Fundamentalism.

      Shalom,

      John Arthur

      Reply
      1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

        Thanks for sharing this. I hope Ben realizes, as I shared in another comment, that the readers of this blog are quite varied. At best, all he can do is preach the Bible verses at me, since I am the one publicly declaring there is no God.

        Reply
    4. Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

      Who are you to judge who is and who isn’t a Christian here? You have exactly zero knowledge of that with the exceptions of the ones that have stated their beliefs here. Frankly, your attitude and “I’ll pray for you” is a perfect example of why atheists will never be converted by you. Think someone needs to pray for you to get a clue and stop misrepresenting the divine.

      Reply
      1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

        You raise a very good point. The good pastor wrongly assumed that everyone who reads this blog is an atheist. Why would anyone else read it, right? While I am an atheist, and many readers are atheists, the readership of this blog is quite varied, from lurking Fundamentalists to Catholics, to Hindu’s to Secularists to Hell if I know What I Am. Unlike Ben’s church, respectful diversity and disagreement is welcome here. Granted most readers would agree that fundamentalism, wherever it is found, is toxic and people should run from it, but outside of this, I am quite amazed at the various belief systems represented by the people who read this blog.

        Reply
    5. Aram McLean

      You wrestled with emptiness and lack of peace as a young teenager Ben! Well tickle me pink and call me Suzie. Who the hell didn’t? And you think this means something?
      The truth is, if you’d just grown up, matured, faced life head-on and overcome your childish worries and fears, guess what, that struggle goes away.
      But instead you stunted your own growth. You gave in to fear and created a perpetual teenager of yourself. Which is exactly how you come across here.
      Full of spit and vinegar, certain you are completely right, obsessed with sex, and quick to judge others immediately and conclusively with little to no information.
      Grow up Ben.

      Reply
  17. ... Zoe ~

    It does remind me of the spiritual abuse/legalism in my Christian experience.
    I wonder though, at the core of it, I seems that one is saved from one gang and joins another.

    Reply
    1. NeverAgainV

      Zoe I think you are spot on w/ that observation.

      Gangs for God…in a street gang I’ve heard often they threaten you w/ death if you leave, in God’s gang you are still threatened w/ death and torture forever and ever for questioning and leaving… In both situations you BETTER or ELSE!

      Reply
  18. Dale

    I’ve learned that when I’d have “…a crisis of faith,” that seeking the counsel of the purveyors of said faith is the last thing I would ever do again. I’m sure turning to this pastor would be no different.

    Regardless of how “hard” I’m trying to follow Jesus, regardless of how hard I’m trying to not sin, regardless of my tithing, I would be told that I’m trying to live life without Jesus, that I need to read my bible more, that I need to be faithful with my tithing, and that had I done right the first time, my life wouldn’t have gone to shit the way it did and I would have “peace” in my heart. I’d be told to quit looking for happiness; instead, I need to look for “JOY,” and I need to turn it ALL over to the Lord (Um, I did that over and over; then I was told turning something over to the Lord isn’t what I thought it was, yet never really heard what exactly it is).

    Yeah, that really helped a lot.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Pretty well sums up the help, Dale. :)

      Reply
  19. Geraint Agravain

    This all is shows the basic fact pattern – you won the “debate”; count me a new subscriber!

    Reply
  20. Ian

    I don’t understand why Pastor Ben is so bent out of shape. Since he is a Calvinist, what we do and believe don’t matter. God has already made the vessels of honour and dishonour, who is Ben to judge or question why we believe what we do. According to his beliefs, I can’t change who I am or what I did. So, why should I be held responsible for something I have no control over?

    Unfortunately, putting that right back in a Calvinist’s plate doesn’t matter. they are far superior to anyone else, since they were elect. Instead of trying to show us the love of the Jesus they worship, all they care about is trying to begin our eternal torture here, on earth. Maybe Pastor Ben would be happy trying to burn heretics, like Calvin did.

    This really worked me up because Pastor Ben’ s post is exactly what I heard from the group I left. It stirred up feelings that I thought I had gotten over.

    Reply
    1. Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

      Because some Calvinists will use any method, derision, emotional-mugging, etc… to force a conversion. I was once locked in an office with an IFB minister who would not let me out until I accepted Jesus. True story.

      Reply
  21. Jeff Brown

    Bruce,
    I like to tell Christians that their internal need for meaning in life and the need for a belief in an afterlife is a simple ‘FLAW of evolution’. It has not been well received by my largely IFB Facebook community. I am ‘blessed’, if I may use that word, that for the most part, my FB IFB-Evangelical family and friends 95% of the time to ignore me, which is fine with me. I don’t get involved in religion or politics threads so I am glad for their ignoring me. We did get a thread going on the Camel’s in Genesis post that I FB shared and eerily it affirmed why there are 1000′s of Christian sects. All commenters read the entire text link you provided but we all interoperated it differently. It was a ‘WOW’ moment for me, thinking this is the same with the bible.

    Typed way to much already so I’m signing off.

    As always Bruce I truly hope you can be the rational voice for all us ex-ians!

    Jeff Brown

    Reply
  22. Hank

    For myself, I found atheism to be a terrifying prospect. I still remember when a friend of mine, who went to church with me for years, told me that he no longer believed in God. I had to leave his house and called him later with a pat response that I figured would light a bulb above his head and bring him back to his senses. I failed and left it at that, but there was always this uneasiness between us that I think only I noticed. It frightened me that my friend was now going to Hell and there was seemingly nothing that I could do.

    About ten years later I quit going to church.

    My wife and I had been going to one church for some time until the pastor, who we had gotten quite close to, was fired. We kept going for a time but it wasn’t the same, and when we moved to a different area of the city it became such a pain in the ass that we quit going. We went to two other churches on two occasions but did not enjoy either experience. When we moved back to our hometown I attended the church I went to as a child a few times, but it wasn’t as I remembered it, and no other church seemed to welcome me.

    After I ceased going to church I kept praying. I would ask my wife how I could pray for her daily as I was taught by our pastor friend. I would pray in the morning as I showered and then put my Christianity away and go about my day. Every now and then I would drive by the church and say “I should really find a church to go to.” I never did.

    It wasn’t until I called up a few friends and asked them to come over and discuss spirituality that I realized where I stood. I figured that I would be speaking with guys who were in the same boat as I and we could set a course for ourselves and was stunned when they reflected what I was going through. I finally recognized that I was no longer a believer. I could finally admit out loud what was going on inside for so long, but I was so terrified of letting out.

    Christians cannot understand atheists because we challenge their worldview. They are taught, overtly or otherwise, that one cannot be a good and moral person without Christ. When confronted with such a person, it throws them into a complete panic. This is my experience anyway, and I wasn’t exactly a paragon of Christian virtue.

    Thank you, Bruce, for writing this blog. It’s a great read.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Hank, thank you for sharing a bit of your story.

      Reply
  23. Max

    I was arguing with someone once and he made accusations to the effect of that i was happy or smug about the godless state of existence and was shocked to learn that I was actually heartbroken. Lets be honest: Going to Heaven has a nice ring to it. There’s a reason they print John 3:16 on t-shirts. And I really badly wanted it be true. But it just wasn’t.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      The only bad thing about the heaven is all the fundies that will be there. :) I have met a fair number of Christians I would love to spend eternity with. I have also met some that will surely turn heaven into hell.

      Reply
      1. sgl

        hence the joke: “hell for the company, heaven for the ambience”.

        and also the joke of getting a tour of heaven, and seeing a wall, and being told, “that’s where all the baptists (catholics/etc) are. they like to think they’re the only one’s here!”

        Reply
    2. NeverAgainV

      It was devastating for me to realize the god of the bible was…fiction. I still hold out that there might be something more..better..than this. Lol. I’m just trying to live each moment the best I can, but I’ll admit i do hope for another dimension after this life, but certainly not the xian heaven. Droning on all day & night “worthy is the lamb”…& worshiping non-stop is not my idea of any heaven. Blegh…way too mindless, monotonous and boring!!

      Reply
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