Contrary to what some of my critics say, I have no great need to convert others to what they derisively call the atheist religion. I’m quite content to live and let live. I fully recognize that many people find great value in believing in God and the afterlife. I even understand the deep emotional need such beliefs meet. Who am I to rob someone of anything that gives their life deeper meaning and purpose? It doesn’t matter whether their belief is true or if I think their belief is true. All that matters is that THEY think their belief is true and I have no pressing need to deliver people from their fantasies, delusions, or irrational beliefs.
As much as I think that I am a rational person driven by evidence and knowledge, I know I can, like any other human being, be led astray by false or misguided beliefs. No human being is a god when it comes to rational thinking. We all can and do fall off the wagon of rational thinking. As long as a religious person does not try to convert me, I am inclined to leave them well enough alone. I suspect if the Christian religion was a private, pietistic religion practiced quietly behind the closed doors of homes and houses of worship, I would have little to blog about. Since it is anything but these things, I have plenty to blog about and I am inclined to push back at those who believe their beliefs should be the required beliefs for all, whether believed voluntarily or under threat of law.
For twenty-five years I was pastor to hundreds of people in churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. I was their friend, counselor, and confidant. I married the young and buried the old. A few times, I buried the young and married the old. I led to them to faith in Christ. I baptized them. They looked to me to give them certainty and hope and a message from God that he loved them and cared for them. Through every phase of life, I was there for them. That’s the life of a pastor. I cared for them, loved them, and even to this day I want only what is best for them. And this puts me in a real spot, what I call An Ex-Pastor’s Dilemma.
I pastored my last church in 2003. In 2005 I left the ministry and 3 years later I left the Christian faith. By late 2009, I was self-identifying as an atheist. I am not a person that is hard to find. I have a unique last name. I am the only Bruce Gerencser in the world. (ain’t I special) My Google, Facebook, Twitter, and email contact information is readily available via any search engine. I guess what I am saying here is this; I am not an ex-Pastor in hiding. I am not trying to forget a past life and make a new life for myself. It’s not the simple.
Here’s my dilemma…
Former parishioners and Christian friends often try to touch base with me . They haven’t found this blog yet or read any of the other things I have written that are posted on the internet, so they assume I am still a pastor. A middle-aged woman, a woman I first met when she was a troubled teen, contacted me to let me know what a wonderful difference God was making in her life. She just knew I would want to know that FINALLY God was using her to help other people. Quite frankly, I AM glad God is using her to help other people. I am glad God has made her life better. I remember the tough time she had growing up, the great sorrows and difficulties she faced.
I didn’t respond to her inquiry. I didn’t want to open the door to her being discouraged or disillusioned. It is one thing if she stumbles upon this blog. If she dares to search a bit she will find the truth, but I would rather she come to it on her own and not by me telling her. I am not being a coward. Those who know me know I don’t play the coward’s part very well. But, at the same time, I still have a pastor’s heart. I don’t want to see people hurt. Maybe she will never find out I am an atheist. Maybe she will live a good life, thinking that Pastor Gerencser is proud of her. Such a small deception is one I will gladly commit if someone like her finds peace and purpose as a result of it.
It is one thing if an ex-parishioner or Christian friend comes after me like a hungry lion chasing a bleeding deer. Those who find out about my defection from Christianity and become angry, combative, defensive, and argumentative will find that I am quite willing to meet them in the middle of the road and do battle. If I am forced to do so, I will speak my mind and pointedly share what I believe. (or don’t believe) However, for those who are only looking for the man who loved them and nurtured them in the faith, I am not inclined to hurt them or cause them to despair.