Why I Stopped Believing

why

Jason, a Christian commenter, asked:

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?

While I will deal with this question at length in the From Evangelicalism to Atheism series, today I want to give a short, condensed answer to this question.

People like Jason are often perplexed about how it possible for someone with my background and training to one day walk away from it all. Most of the clergy who deconvert do so at a much younger age, often in their 20′s and 30′s. In my case, I spent fifty years in the Christian church and I pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years. (I preached for a total of thirty-three years)  When I first started going to counseling, my counselor told me that it was quite rare for someone my age and with my experience to walk away from a lifetime of belief and work. It happens, just not very often.

Jason is not alone. A number of my ex-friends, family members, and former parishioners can’t understand how it is possible that the man they called Preacher or Pastor is now an atheist. Often they can not or will not believe the reasons I give for my deconversion. Instead they try to find some other reason to explain why Bruce Gerencser, the man of God, the pastor, the preacher, their fellow colleague in the ministry, is now an apostate, an enemy of God.  Is there some secret past I am hiding, some secret sin, they ask themselves? They wonder if I have mental problems, that I am unstable.  They wrack their brains trying to come up with a plausible explanation, anything but accepting the reasons I give for my deconversion.

Christian fundamentalism taught me to stand firm on my beliefs and convictions. When I was a pastor, people appreciated and applauded my willingness to stand firm on my beliefs and convictions, But now that I do the same when it comes to atheism and liberal politics, they think there must be some other reason I so drastically changed my mind and life. I am the same man, a man who thinks that beliefs matter. As I mentioned in another post, my mother taught me, from my youth up, that it was important to stand up for what you believe. Now this does not mean that I am not now tolerant of the beliefs of others. As I get older, I realize that tolerance is an important virtue. Stepping outside of the box I spent most of my life in, I found a rich, diverse, and contradictory world that forced me to be more accepting and tolerant.

When I entered kindergarten I could already read. My mother had taught me to read and she developed in me an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. This may seem counter intuitive at first, since I was raised in fundamentalist environment that is not known for an  unquenchable thirst for knowledge. But, by becoming a proficient and avid reader, I had at my disposal countless opportunities to expand my knowledge. Sadly, my quest for knowledge became quite confined as a pastor because I rarely read books that would conflict with my Christian beliefs.  However, when I began to have doubts about Christianity and its teachings, my thirst for knowledge kicked into high gear and I began reading books that I would have once considered heretical.

I never made a lot of money pastoring churches. I never had church provided health insurance or a retirement plan. The only benefits I received were a check I got once a week IF the offerings were enough.  Outside of the time I spent pastoring Community Baptist Church in Elmendorf, Texas, every other church I pastored paid a part-time or poverty-level wage for the full-time work I gave the church. I often worked outside of the church, as did Polly when I pastored Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio. (she also worked part-time jobs here and there, along with helping deliver newspapers) I am not pointing a finger at the churches I pastored. Most of the churches were either small or in poverty-ridden areas. Over the years, I was privileged to pastor many gracious, giving poor people. They gave what they could.

About now you are thinking, what in the world are you talking about, Bruce? I thought this post was about WHY you stopped believing. It is, but these tree points are very important:

  • I was taught to stand firm on my convictions and beliefs
  • I was taught to read at an early age and I developed a thirst for knowledge
  • I never made much money in the ministry

Since I never made much money in the ministry, there was no economic reason for me to stay in the ministry. (as is not the case for some)I always made more money outside of the church, so when I decided to leave the ministry, which I did five years before I deconverted, I suffered few economic consequences.

Freed from the ministry, my wife and I spent five years visiting over a hundred Christian churches. We were looking for a Christianity that mattered, a Christianity that took seriously the teachings of Jesus. During this five-year period, I read countless books written by authors from a broad spectrum of Christendom. I read books by authors such as Thomas Merton, Robert Farrar Capon, Henri Nouwen, Wendell Berry, Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, John Shelby Spong, Soren Kierkegaard, and NT Wright.  These authors challenged my Evangelical understanding of Christianity and its teachings.

I decided I would go back to the Bible, study it again, and redetermine what it was I REALLY believed. During this time, I began reading books by authors such as Elaine Pagels and Bart Ehrman, These two authors, along with several others,  attacked the foundation of my Evangelical belief in the inerrant, inspired word of God. Their assault on this foundation brought my Evangelical house tumbling down. I desperately tried to find some semblance of the Christianity I once believed, but I came to realize that my faith was gone.

I tried, for a time, to convince myself that I could find some sort of Christianity that would work for me. Polly and I visited numerous liberal or progressive Christian churches, but I found that these expressions of faith would not do for me. My faith was gone. Later, Polly would come to the same conclusion.

I turned to the internet to find help. I came upon sites like exchristian.net and Debunking Christianity. I found these sites to be quite helpful as I tried to make sense of what was going on in my life. I began reading the books of authors like John Loftus, Hector Avalos, Robert M. Price, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins.

The four books that made the biggest impression on me were:

I read many authors and books besides the ones listed here. (I say this to keep someone  from saying, but you didn’t read so and so or you didn’t read _______)  So, if I had to give one reason WHY I am no longer a Christian today it would be BOOKS.  My thirst for knowledge, a thirst I still have today, even though it is greatly hindered by chronic illness and pain, is what drove me to re-investigate the claims of Christianity and the teachings of the Bible.  This investigation led me to conclude that the claims of Christianity and the teachings of the Bible could not rationally and intellectually be sustained. Try as I might to hang on to some sort of Christian faith, the slippery slope I found myself on would not let me stand still. Eventually, I found myself saying, I no longer believe in the Christian God. For a time I was an agnostic, but I got tired of explaining myself, so I took on the atheist moniker, and now no one misunderstands what I believe. (see A Letter to Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners and Dear Friend)

The hardest decision I ever made in my life was the day in late November of 2008  when I finally admitted to myself, I am no longer a Christian, I no longer believe in the Christian God, I no longer believe the Bible is the Word of God. At that moment, everything I had spent my life doing was gone. In a sense I had an atheist version of a born-again experience. For the past five years, I have continued to read, study, and write. I am still very much a work in progress. My understanding of religion and its cultural and sociological context continues to grow. Now that I am free from the constraints of religion, I am free to wander the path of life wherever it may lead. Now that I am free to read what I want, I have focused my attention on history and science. While I continue to read books that are of a religious or atheist nature, I spend less and less time reading these kind of books. I still read every new book Bart Ehrman publishes, along with the various Christians/atheist/humanist blogs and publications I read, and this is enough to keep me up-to-date with American Christianity and American atheism/humanism.

I hope this post adequately answers the question of WHY I stopped believing.

Notes

  1. This is a brief answer to the question WHY? I will fully develop my answer in the series From Evangelicalism to Atheism.
  2. I also spent some time investigating the other religions and gods that humans have created. (a study I still find quite fascinating)
  3. There is also a political aspect to my deconversion. I will talk about this in the aforementioned series.
  4. Jason asked if I believed in evolution. The answer is yes. I am no expert when it comes to science, but I have done enough reading to be comfortable with saying that I believe evolution/natural selection best explains the natural world.

 

 

 

 

Comments (67)

  1. kcchief1

    Bruce, thank you for sharing ! I was never a pastor but always very much involved in churches I attended. I started reading many of the same books you mentioned. Plus, I was fortunate to have traveled to Egypt, Italy and Greece and visited many ancient sites where many religions flourished 1000′s of years ago. It was because of those travels and books that caused me to de-convert as well.

    Reply
  2. Lynn123

    Same here, Bruce. Random comments by a couple of people, quitting my job, which caused me to have time to study my new interest, thinking about the problem of prayer, etc. then-what else?-reading. I love to read. I dived into reading on the internet. Discovered a guy named Christopher Hitchens, and the rest is history.

    Reply
    1. brbr2424

      I’m curious about the random comments by a couple of people. I thought that there is nothing that a non believer can say to a believer that will put a chink in the armor.

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      1. Oberon

        I remember being presented with strong evidence that the bible was not reliable when attending university. I found ways to deflect that, my faith was not harmed. Perhaps it was even strengthened. Thirty years later when I began to question the bible’s origins, I found my way out of Christianity. Did that evidence from many years before cause the deconversion? It’s hard to say what impact it had, probably very little. It’s when I became receptive to understanding the facts that I began to change. Efforts to help people find their way to reason is never wasted, I feel. Especially when we present the facts in a non-confrontational and gentle manner.

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      2. Lynn123

        brbr2424,
        Thanks for asking. I can’t remember which came first, but they were within a couple months, I think. One was from my 2nd-eldest daughter, who was attending Williams College. We were getting out of the car and talking, and she casually mentioned that she was an atheist. That was a shocking statement for me to hear.

        The other comment was when I was walking with my neighbor. We were talking about religion and finishing up our walk, and she casually mentioned that of course she didn’t believe in the virgin birth. Wow! I’d never heard of that before.

        Neither statement was meant to shock me or influence me. They were simply two people that I held in high regard simply expressing themselves. They had no agenda, no desire to influence me in any way.

        It was like those two statements opened up a whole new world for me. I started exploring the world outside the box that I had lived in for about 50 years. It was like if everybody you’d ever known thought the world was flat, then you met a guy who said, “Actually, I think it’s round.” You’d think, “You DO?”

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        1. brbr2424

          That’s really interesting. Your comment reinforces my belief that atheists should be out and proud. Once we come out of the closet, the reality will set in that nice respectable people are atheists – people who volunteer in our kid’s school and sports. Or so I would hope. My eighty-one year old parents live in South Carolina and they are closet atheists. My mom freaked out when she was asked to lead the prayer at her meeting of Colonial Dammes. She actually lost sleep over it. Ideally atheists would have the status of Jewish people. We’re not going to join the Christian club but we have immunity from being bullied.

          On an unrelated note, I wish women who have had an abortion would also come out of the closet and wear a yellow armband on a given day. The people in the pro-life racket would have to deal with the reality that their grandmothers, siblings, trusted neighbors and everyday people have made that choice.

          Reply
          1. Dale

            brbr2424,
            what a great idea about wearing the yellow arm band. It would surprise the more sanctimonious pro-birth supporters that some of those they most dearly love have had to make one of the most difficult decisions a woman can make. Perhaps, at the very least, they would stop screaming in the faces and generally harassing women who are already torn to pieces emotionally.
            I’m sure Dobson and gang would claim this would be the left’s attempt to glorify and idealize abortion, but maybe it would make many think about their obscenely brutal methods.

            Sorry, I went off topic, huh?

  3. kittybrat

    Bruce, I am so happy that you did find your way out. Your relentless quest for knowledge is what brought you to the understanding that religion is not reality. As kcchief1 expressed, it was also his reading and travel that facilitated his own deconversion.

    You have to keep your mind open when you are reading and studying, and that is the most lethal when it comes to dogma. Hallelujah we have all made it out, and that we are happier with knowledge, warts and all. Living in ignorance, particularly willful ignorance, will never fly for me!

    Reply
  4. juliet1128

    Your story is inspiring and it’s good to know that your pursuit of knowledge can be embarked on more freely without the constraints of fundamentalism. My lapse from Catholicism and eventually Christianity originally stemmed from the emotional effects of not fitting in due to my sexual orientation, noncompliance with gender roles, and definite critical thinking. I’m still raw because of my recent last-ditch effort to give Christianity a chance and finding out the young-adult church I was attending was WAY more conservative than I thought. I’m dipping my toes in the waters of Wicca, but I don’t plan on rigidly following a religion again. Good on you for reaching your own conclusions and finding peace.

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  5. Erin

    I relate to so much of this. Doubts, then reading, then visiting countless churches trying to find the Christianity I could still believe in, trying to make this god make logical sense to me, more books, books about other faiths, even more liberal churches…and so on. It took 6 years. They say hindsight is 20/20, but I did know from the start where it was going…it just took me that long to adjust to it.

    What you said here hit home, and I think it’s the reasons for the crazy stuff Christians say about us deconverts:

    “They wrack their brains trying to come up with a plausible explanation, anything but accepting the reasons I give for my deconversion.”

    It’s so terrifying to them, especially those closest to us who knew us well and truly believed in the power of our faith…to see us fall…well, I have had people tell me if it could happen to me, it could happen to anyone. Terrifying. Of course, in retrospect, I’m not sure quite what is so terrifying about being free of the nonsense, but there it is. For me, freedom from religion was one of the most amazing experiences of my life…right after childbirth and marriage. Seriously.

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  6. Ivan

    The authors you mentioned are very challenging for a christian, especially for evangelicals.

    I would like to add Marcus Borg and John D. Crossan, E.P Sanders, Geza Vermes.
    I have never read a book of them, but I know who they are and I have read some articles and interviews of them. Most christians don´t know and don´t care to read these authors. I have seen some Ehrman´s debates and interviews on internet and because of him I got more interested in early christianity and origin of the bible. I am catholic.

    I was surprised to see EP Sanders´s, Crossan´s and Borg´s books in a catholic bookstore in my country… their books are quite pricey…

    A good thing is that you read books from different backgrounds Merton (catholic) NT Wright (anglican) and for sure many protestant books.

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  7. ashualec

    Bruce, this was an interesting. Have you read Osho?The man who is condemned the most religions specially Christianity. Thankfully I read him when I was 19 so I know that God and religion are two different aspects.

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  8. NJ here, no clever tag though.

    A quote from above: “My understanding of religion and its cultural and sociological context continues to grow” I guess that is where my questions come in. If there is no God/Bible what do you expect, hope for new generations? Okay it is a big picture beyond daily living concept, but I guess I wonder where “we” would be if the last 3,000 years were Atheist driven. Yes, maybe my reading of the “Lord of the Flies” as a teen still lingers in my dreams thinking Godlessness destructive therefore by definition not able to sustain itself and we would have all come crashing down centuries ago.

    Reply
    1. sgl

      and this god/bible and beliefs derived from it gave us the inquisition, the crusades, the dark ages, burning/drowning of witches, ~350 years of slavery justified by folks spouting scripture.

      and what about all those other civilizations, egypt, greece, rome before christianity, who also worshipped gods, but not the same ones? do you think those other civilizations worshipped false gods? is it better to worship a false god than no god? why?

      and why does everyone in the entire society have to have the exact same source of “hope”, officially designated by the state? can’t we let each individual create their own reason for hope, and gather together in voluntary association to work on the own goals?

      you don’t have to read much history, or observe much human nature, to realize that as soon as some people are given authority over others, they abuse it.

      Reply
  9. mikespeir

    I don’t believe there’s anyone who just “one day” decided to “do a 180.” I’ve actually seen atheists claim this is what happened to them. Suddenly, they were confronted by contrary evidence and their faith vanished. I’m not buying it.

    We’re first and foremost emotional creatures. Because we confuse our desires with our beliefs, we are absolutely incapable of accepting radically oppositional views without first having been prepped emotionally to do so. We may be blind to that prepping as it’s happening, but one never just “wakes up” to a completely contrary point of view when there’s an emotional attachment to the previous one. Whether we see it or not, we all turn relatively slowly, by degrees, as the emotional bonds to the current belief are loosened. (Which is not to say the rate of this turning can’t vary considerably from one person to the next.) That loosening can come in any number of ways, but it often takes a stout jog to make us realize what’s happened. Sometimes that’s the “waking up” that some people mistake for instantaneous deconversion.

    Reply
    1. Lynn123

      Interesting idea to explore-what “types” of Christians are more susceptible to changing their minds? Certain personality types? Book-lovers? Those familiar with psychology?

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      1. mikespeir

        Those who have had some contrary blows in life. As people get tired of me saying, in order to think outside the box we often have to get knocked outside the box.

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        1. brbr2424

          One group that gets knocked, or kicked out, of the box is LGBT. That is quite a choice, but not really a choice – deny who they are on a very basic level or be rejected by family and their church.

          It’s preferable when someone walks out of the box vs. getting kicked out, but any way out is a win.

          Reply
      2. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

        Most of the people I pastored tended to only read the Bible and Christian books. I think this went with our withdrawal from the “world.” I remember giving one woman grief over her reading books about serial killers. So worldly, I thought at the time. A broad reading habit is a great antidote for fundamentalism.

        Reply
        1. sgl

          re: “I remember giving one woman grief over her reading books about serial killers.”

          and the bible didn’t qualify as a book about serial killers? ;)

          Reply
  10. Jason

    Basically what you are saying is that it came down to your 3 points. You should stand strong in your beliefs. Which you didn’t. You had a thirst for knowledge. Sounds like 90% of everyone I have ever met, and you thought you were not making enough money. Once again 90% of everyone I have ever met. Sounds petty to me but I’m sure you tried very hard to justify this in your own mind. One thing I am confused about. If you have this “thirst for knowledge” as you say you do then why believe in evolution?

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      No I am NOT saying it came down to money. I am saying money wasn’t a motivator for me to continue using believing. You missed the point on standing strong on my beliefs. Beliefs change. They are never static and anyone who says their beliefs haven’t changed are either dishonest or intellectually lazy. When confronted with new facts I was willing to change and bear the consequences of that decision.

      You asked, I was honest. Do with it what you will. No I did not try to justify it in my own mind. I don’t think you get how hard of a decision this was to make. If any thing, as I said in the post, I was looking for reasons to keep believing.

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    2. Kat

      Non-creationists don’t “believe” in evolution; we simply acknowledge the scientific, factual evidence that evolution best describes how the physical world works, much as we acknowledge the theories of gravity or electromagnetism or plate tectonics. A “thirst for knowledge” is quite different from uncritical acceptance of stories whose only claim to truth is that they say they are true.

      Reply
      1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

        I deleted his mindless response to you where he said evolution has nothing to do with science. :) Done messing with Jason Shuler.

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        1. Kat

          Heh. I understand — what’s the point at that point? :-)

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        2. gimpi

          Good decision to blow off Jason, Bruce. Hitting your head against the wall just gives you a headache.

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    3. sgl

      jason, your world view is so limited you simply can’t understand anyone that isn’t exactly like you. bruce explained his reasons clearly, and you re-interpret them to fit your own preconceived notions of the world.

      from the tone of your questions and comments, it’s clear that you don’t care to try to understand him (or likely anyone else). it’s quite condescending to anyone who doesn’t share your specific view. so whatever it is you think you’re doing, you just look like a jerk to those of us that don’t share your world view.

      re: your comment about “thirst for knowledge” and evolution. notice that you bring up no data, no interpretation, nothing to indicate you understand both sides of the issue yourself. in your mind, anyone that doesn’t agree with you has no “thirst for knowledge”. it’s simply not true.

      Reply
      1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

        Thank you. I have done my best to try and communicated with Jason but it just ain’t going to happen and so it is time to stop trying. I don’t know why I keep trying. :) Rare is the fundamentalist that can, as you state so well, understand any other view but their own.

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        1. sgl

          you do communicate well. that’s why you have the audience you do. the jason’s are a tiny sliver of the audience, (albeit a legend in their own mind).

          the lurkers see the interactions (and some of those on the fence probably see a bit too much of their past selves in jason!).

          the lurkers are your audience. they need a safe place to see alternative views without having to get into battle-mode/debate-mode themselves. standing on the sidelines allows them to do that, without having their own ego, doubts, and personal foibles on public display. and the jason’s are part of that mirror that shows the lurkers a part of who they are/were when in fundamentalist mode. i suspect a few of them are cringing, seeing a bit too much of themselves in the interaction, bit too little of that christian love they claim to espouse. of course jason himself doesn’t see it; but the lurkers, by being passive on the sidelines, likely see it more clearly than they’d like.

          i’m sure it’s a hassle, but please, don’t let the jason’s of the world get to you, as i suspect there’s a lot of lurkers that need a breath of new perspective that can’t get it too many other places. they are your audience.

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          1. Griff

            I agree. I read this blog every day. I WAS Jason. Black and White. With us or against us. Hell Fire and damnation, six literal days and pass the casserole. I can’t speak for him, but when I was that person, my certainty and condescension were a mask for the anxiety and insecurity of a slave to a fear based religion. He is the type of person who will be here talking about his deconversion one day. To paraphrase Revelations, his combativeness and obnoxiousness is merely a sign of the beginning of birthing pains. Don’t hate Jason. Pity Jason. Get ready to welcome and comfort Jason, because if my history is any indication, he will be one of us one day.

    4. Dale

      Jason, I’m stumped about what is so difficult to understand and how you could have deduced that money had anything to do with Bruce’s departure. His statement made plenty of sense to me: whether he pastored or not, the financial impact to Bruce and his family was negligible. Personally, I believe that if it was only about money, Bruce could have done what many others in the IFB have done and either start or accept a “calling” at a mega-church…and I’ll bet he had opportunities to do just that.

      Standing strong in his beliefs? So if a person believes something in particular which is later proven to his/her satisfaction to be false, is that person somehow honor-bound to continue to believe that it is still true? Assuming you believed in the Tooth Fairy, Santa, and/or Easter Bunny, do you still believe the Tooth Fairy gives money for teeth? Why not?

      But, the more I type here, the more I realize you’re either trying to bait Bruce or you’re just really fucking stupid and/or obtuse.

      Shalom, Chump (with apologies to John Arthur).

      Reply
    5. brbr2424

      I enjoy Bruce’s blog and it seems a lot of others do too. It’s the top search result when “the way forward” is typed in to Google. One thing is very clear. Bruce stands very strong for his beliefs. You don’t happen to like what he believes, but he gives no evidence of wavering.

      Reply
      1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

        Thanks!

        I am certainly open to new information, but Christians like Jason don’t realize that “Christianity” is not new information for me. I am surprised by how much I have changed over the last ten years and this was made possible by being willing to a least peer over the top of the box and see what was outside. It is quite liberating to be able to follow a path wherever it leads. Kind of like taking a vacation with no destination. Polly and I have taken some day trips where we had no destination, no route to follow. I said, what direction do you want to go? North…and off we went. These trips often allow us to experiences places and things we never would otherwise. This is how I view life. I may burn in hell some day :) but I am going to enjoy life until I do.

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  11. Jason

    You were not looking for reasons to keep believing. Common sense tells us that an alcoholic does not look inside a bar for a reason to be be sober. A Christian does not look inside of atheism and/or evolution for a reason to be a Christian. You sir were looking for a way out. If your “counselor” was any good at all he/she would have told you this in some sort of way. I am not going to say that you were not a Christian or you never had it to begin with. I will say that Bruce hath forsaken me having loved this present world. Still no response on why evolution is your new belief in origin?

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      This is your last comment, Jason. I indulged your questions, answered honestly, and what do I get in return? Same old bullshit. Based on your prior ill behavior and inability to comprehend any other view but your narrow, truncated, fundamentalist Baptist view, I debated whether I should even bother to answer your question. So, this is it. No more comments will be approved. Interesting that you are the only person who commented that read my post this way. I wonder why? In fact, I talked about your question and how I thought you would answer my post in counseling today. I was a prophet. You certainly played your part.

      God with God, Jason, but just go.

      I previously answered the evolution question.

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    2. ... Zoe ~

      Who died and made you God Jason?

      Reply
      1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

        Well he is God’s son. :) Jason is a reminder of what I have had to learn the hard way, and seem to have to keep learning. I naively think if I am just honest, explain myself, they will at least understand where I am coming from. As my counselor told me, Bruce they don’t give a shit what you think. I KNOW this, but in my mind I keep thinking that I can at least get them to understand. Lesson learned for this week.

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        1. Boomslang

          “in my mind I keep thinking that I can at least get them to understand.”

          On the other hand, if they could understand your reasons for losing faith in Christianity, that might then suggest that “God” was somehow at fault. I mean, someone’s got to be at fault for the existence of apostates right? Yes – to the believer? most definitely – hence, why they try to blame you..e.g…you didn’t have enough faith; you didn’t pray with the right humility; you didn’t really believe in the first place, blah, blah…..and the list goes on.

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          1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

            Yeah, can’t have any of that blaming God stuff. :) Especially Calvinists. After all, if God decrees everything, being an atheist must be God’s will for me. :)

        2. gimpi

          Your counselor is right, Bruce, Jason and his fellow-travelers don’t give shit about what you think. They just want to pontificate. They are writing for an audience of one – themselves. Honest inquiry or disagreement is good, but this guy is a troll. Let him lurk under some other bridge.

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    3. Dale

      And Jason, if you’re still reading, perhaps Bruce believes in evolution because it’s correct? Oh, I know, it’s a “theory,” therefore it’s not proven, right? You fundies just can’t get over getting hypotheses and theories confused.

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      1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

        He missed where I said evolution best explains the natural world we live in. As I watched the Nye-Ham debate this was made very clear to me. Either I accept what the majority of scientists are saying or I accept an ancient book that says the earth is 6,000 years old. I am going with the scientists.

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  12. Jason

    Since this commenter shows he is unable to “evolve”, I have cut him out the comment gene pool.

    Reply
  13. kcchief1

    Bruce, every blogsite has their Jason . How does the old saying go ? “It is better to be silent and look stupid than to open your mouth and remove all doubt” :-)

    You showed more patience than most.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Thanks. Unfortunately, because of the subjects I write on, I tend to attract these kind of commenters. It has gotten better. A year or so ago, It seemed like it was a never ending stream of these kind of comments. (and worse) I usually give fundamentalists/evangelicals/zealots a comment or two to show they can play well with others. If not, I stop approving their comments. Sometimes, they will play well for months and then BOOM, it is like the pea in their head rolled to other side and they go full fundy on me. Kinda like our cats. They will be on the floor sleeping and then, all of a sudden, they are running at full speed through the house chasing each other. :)

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      1. kcchief1

        I know the kind you are describing. I was actually a fundamentalist christian (assembly of god) for many years but they kept making me take steps backward because of some of their beliefs and the hipocrisy within their organization.

        When I expressed my concerns to my pastor he said, “well ken sometimes the gospel light attracts a few bugs ” To which I said, “they are attracting way too many for me !” :-)

        The ones I see on the blogs I follow tend to swoop down, make some totally bizarre statement with no references to defend it then off they go to another blog to do the same thing. I call them christianazi’s :-)

        Reply
  14. richardmarlowe236

    Thanks for sharing Bruce. The Bible led me out of Christianity. I was a hard core believer that the Bible was the inerrant, inspired, infallible word of God. I had other believers challenge what I believed from the basis of Scripture. Did I believe what I said I believed because the Bible said it or because of upbringing? I set out to look at the Bible objectively. I read arguments on both sides of the equation. Soon, I had discovered “Some Mistakes of Moses” by Robert Ingersoll and “The Age of Reason” by Thomas Paine. These destroyed my belief in the inerrancy of Scripture by comparing Scripture with Scripture! Most arguments in those books have not been resolved by theologians and the supposed replies showed me how apologists will change meanings of words and go to crazy lengths to hold to an inerrancy position.

    Reply
  15. Steve

    Crap, Bruce! Three of those four books made the biggest impression on me as well. Now I have to read “The Evolution of God.” Just when I was enjoying some historical fiction and not worrying about things religious! :)

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      :)

      Reply
  16. Aram McLean

    Nice to see the mention of Robert Wright’s book. I really enjoyed that one. Highly thought-provoking. I did finally read Misquoting Jesus as well. Very interesting stuff. I’ll have to read some more of Bart’s books (as you listed).
    Oh, and yeah, Jason ain’t worth your time. But still, you were impressively patient and long-suffering as always Bruce. I try to learn from your example.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Thanks, Aram.

      Reply
  17. Buddy

    This could easily be something I would write. I’m in your shoes in a way, although without that many years. My mother encouraged thirst for knowledge in me despite being a fundamentalist Christian, and I too could read by Kindergarten and was naturally extremely curious. I eventually became a bible study leader in a chapter of the Christian Legal Society during law school and about two years after graduating and having no job prospects, I found myself with ample free time. I began reading and researching questions I had had, and this started a two year process in which the more I learned the more the God of the Bible became an ever shrinking pocket of ignorance. I vividly recall the day, nearly the exact moment when I thought to myself, “you know…I can’t pretend to believe this anymore”. And now, I can’t understand how it took me 29 years to come to that conclusion.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Thanks Buddy for sharing a bit of your story.

      Bruce

      Reply
  18. Charlie

    Bruce, I have enjoyed reading your blog for years and the answers you give I can almost always relate to. Thank you for the time you spend writing, explaining, answering questions. I too am a big fan of Bart’s work. Anyone who has questions about the bible should DEFINITELY check him out!

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Thanks Charlie.

      Reply
  19. Adam

    I find your explanation lacking specificity and substance. Perhaps you realize this and wish to push people into reading the other series in which you go into lengthy discussion. Perhaps you didn’t realize just how vague you actually were.

    Which arguments, which statements, which values presented to you via these books made you question your life and faith?

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      I think I said all I need to. If you don’t buy my explanation, I am not sure what more I can tell you. I just started a series on the contradictions in the Bible and I think other posts I have written deal with some of the particulars that played a part in my deconversion. Since this is the only post you read, you might want to check out the My Journey section or follow along with the Contradictions in the Bible series.

      Reply
    2. sgl

      read the books and find out for yourself! another poster, gary, started reading the books and recommends them to fellow christians. it’s not so much any single issue, it’s the cumulative effect of all of them.

      bruce was specific enough for anyone who is actually interested. or, if they had a question, the question would be more specific. it’s quite clear from your question that you’re not actually curious, you’re just trying to be confrontational. by what right do you demand that he spoon-feed your interests in exactly the format you want to hear, with no effort on your part to attempt to understand?

      Reply
      1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

        Thanks for this.

        Sometimes, I think people want to drop my pants and show them, See I really AM circumcised. :) But then, they will say, yeah but you didn’t explain the circumcision procedure, who the doctor was, where it was performed, and for what reason. I suspect, in the almost 500 hundred posts I have written, that I have explained all of these things. Sadly, a lot of first time,only time readers, read one post and they demand the complete Bruce Gerencser Chronicles. I am not going to do all the work for them. This is why I ask people if they have read Bart Ehrman? No? Well read and then we will talk.

        This post is getting a lot of attention on Reddit today. Quite a few first-timers reading the blog today. If they will take the time to read a bit, I am sure they will find most of their questions answered. If not, all they have to do is ask. I have no problem entertaining and answering honest questions. Even with Jason, knowing that my answers were not likely going to result in the response I desired, I still answered his questions. Like most people, I do have my limits. :)

        Reply
    3. Dale

      Oh boy, an organized trolling event! Or maybe you are Jason under an assumed name.

      What angers me is that “both” of you have the gall to call Bruce a liar (no, you did not blatantly tell him that he’s a liar, but yes, you are judging him to be a liar when you reject his answers and attempt to tell him what you think the truth to be) as if you have the discernment to know Bruce’s beliefs better than Bruce himself.

      Have you even bothered to read the About or My Journey sections? Had you done so, you wouldn’t have needed to post your questions as the answers are there in black Arial or Tahoma or whatever font on a pristine white background…or maybe you did read them and are demonstrating your terrible reading comprehension skills.

      How about this: Jesus told his disciples to go, two by two, into various towns and preach. If the town rejected them, they were to kick the dust of the town off of their sandals and leave. He didn’t say to hang around town and stir up the townies until they were ran out of town or stoned. He said just LEAVE.

      So how about just LEAVING? If you are really curious and simply want to know where we are coming from, no problem. But it’s pretty plain that, in your opinion, we are all wrong and you are right because the Bible says so. You can now go back to your ilk and claim that you’ve been persecuted for your beliefs. Yeehaw. Very few, if any, of us jump on your blogs with the express purpose of “debating” with you to prove you’re wrong because most, if not all, of us respect your beliefs. Remember this though: Many of us here used to be a lot like you for many years; you’re not really evangelizing here.

      Reply
  20. Zoe Brain

    Just because someone doesn’t believe in gods doesn’t mean abandoning some of the gems amidst the dross.
    1 Corinthians 13 for example is something I try, however imperfectly, to follow.

    I think “not being an A$$hole” is more important than believing or disbelieving in fairies at the bottom of the garden.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Very true. I think the sermon on the mount has many good teachings worthy of our consideration and practice. You mean there really aren’t any fairies at the bottom of the garden? :)

      Reply
  21. Paul Nobossi

    Bruce,
    Funny, I though I was reading my own testimony. Seriously, I relate to your testimony almost to a “T”. I left the ministry in June 2011. I then embarked on a journey to “find” and “contend for” true biblical christianity. I was reading, studying, researching profusely. I eventually rejected the Trinity, flirted for some time with “Oneness” believers, then with “One God” believers (those who believe Jesus was the son of god, not god himself), then with Christadelphians (reject Satan, demons, Hell, etc). The slippery slope continued and finally in October 2013 the dam completely gave way and my faith was gone.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Thanks for commenting, Paul. And welcome the fraternity. :)

      Reply
  22. Lynn123

    Maybe people are truly confused, because they think if they had read Erhman’s books, they’d just dismiss what he says somehow and go right on believing. In other words, why would they dismiss it, and you didn’t dismiss it? There could be many, many reasons.

    A huge factor for me was that I had NEW info coming in. I had never had anyone tell me they were an atheist; I had never read criticism of the Bible. I had never heard anyone say that they did not believe in the virgin birth. I guess my experience was sorta like a kid going off to college, suddenly hearing this kind of info, and being very bothered by it. I know Christian parents worry about this very thing-and with good reason. But if I learn something new and feel I have good reason to believe it’s probably actually true-I do not want to return to ignorance.

    Bruce, here’s a question-the things that Erhman talks about-interpolations, errors, etc.-was that new information to you? Or was it stuff you were already familiar with?

    Reply
  23. H.Phillips

    Hi Bruce. Well done for coming out. I was an evangelical for 10 years and 1.5 years of those years in central Asia trying to convert people (church planting and evangelism). I was out and out for Christ but for me, the road to unbelief was a slow road. I, like you was deconverted by reading, namely Shermer, Dawkins, Pagels and Ehrman. I, like you enjoy reading ehrman. I became an unbeliever in the early 2000′s and for a few years I was eager to chat to my old christian friends and try to reason with them but when we talked it was like talking to an old version of me.

    Many things you wrote in your piece resonated with me, especially the bit were you wrote that you was an avid reader but only of christian books. When I look back, the thing which scares me is that I was so insecure that I was scared to read anything apart from evangelical books. Confirmation bias comes to mind. My brother always used to tell me off for being metally blinkered in my faith but I only sen this as confirmation of what Jesus said, brother will turn against brother.
    For me these days, I’m scared to join any group because you will always have strong willed people who exert strong mental influence over others. I am at my best if I’m in the quietness of my own home, reading and weighing things up rather than put under pressure.
    Many times I have since been to evangelical meetings and even jehovah witness’s meetings in order that I don’t become too closed but every time I’ve come away thinking critical about the bible.

    Anyway, thanks again for sharing your story.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Thank you for commenting, my friend,

      Reply

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