Atheism

After I am Dead

cheating death

As soon as some Christian fundamentalists read this headline they will shout at their screen:

  • You will be burning in hell!
  • You will know that there is a God!
  • You will know I was right!

They will see my death as a vindication of their belief system, and I wonder how many of them will say to themselves, I bet Bruce wishes he had listened to me! The Calvinists will says to themselves, now we know he was not one of the elect!  They will speak of the preacher turned atheist who now knows the TRUTH.

Now, if they bother to read the read the rest of this post they will see I that this post is not about my e-t-e-r-n-a-l destiny. I have no concern over God, judgment, or hell. I am satisfied that hell is the creation of those who want to control people through fear so they can demand moral conformity or gain wealth. Since their holy book lost its power and authority over me, I no longer fear God or hell. I am confident that this is the only life I will ever have, and once I die I will be…drum roll please, d-e-a-d.

So, this post is not about the afterlife or my eternal destiny. What I want to do in this post is share what my last will and testament is regarding what happens after I draw my last breath.

First, I do not want a funeral service. Waste of time, effort, and money. No need for fake friends or distant family members to show up and weep fake tears. No need for flowers. Ugh, what a waste of money. I want Polly to spend as little as possible on disposing of my dead carcass. Trust me, I won’t care.

Second, I want to be cremated. No special urn. A cardboard box will work just fine. If Polly wants to show her love for me, a Hostess cupcake box would be sweet.   As I jokingly told someone, when I am cremated, I will go from ass to ashes.

Third, I want my ashes to be spread along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. Polly knows the place. I hope my children, daughter-in-laws, grandchildren, and close family, will be there. I want no prayers said and as few tears as possible. Perhaps those who are gathered will share a funny story, one of their many Butch/Bruce/Dad/Grandpa stories. I hope they will remember me for the good I have done and forgive me for those moments when I was less than I could or should have been.

And that’s it. Dust to dust ashes to ashes, as the waves of Lake Michigan lap up and absorb my ashes.

I hope Polly will let the readers of this blog know that I won’t be blogging anymore. I guess I better leave her specific instructions so she can successfully login and post.  If not, readers will start wondering if I have “quit” again…yes, I have, but this time it really will be for good.

You see, for me, as an atheist, life is not about dying but living. Since I am on the short side of life, I dare not waste any time. When death comes, the battery in my life clock will be depleted. Like the Big Ben clock beside our bed, the one I listen to late at night as it clicks off the seconds, I know there is coming a day when I will hear click and that will be it.

I have no time to think about death. It’s coming and it will find me whether I am ready or not. All I can do is live my life the best I can and let how I lived my life testify to the kind of man I was.

How about you? As an atheist, what do you want to happen after you die? Have you made funeral plans? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Published: July 28, 2014 | Comments: 8

Arguing with an Evangelical is Like Pissing Into the Wind

Pissing Into the Wind

As a blogger, one of the hardest things I’ve had to learn is to not argue, debate, or engage every fundamentalist/Evangelical that comments or sends me an email. When I started blogging, I was quite naïve. I thought if I just “explained” myself they would understand. I quickly found out that they didn’t want to understand. They didn’t leave a comment or send me an email to engage me in thoughtful discussion. They simply wanted me to know that they were right and I was wrong.

Then I went through the angry “I’m going to get in the last word” phase. I knew I had no hope of changing their mind, but I was going to make sure they knew exactly what I thought of their beliefs. These “discussions” proved to be quite exhausting, mentally and emotionally.  Finally, I decided to stop making any attempt to engage fundamentalist/Evangelical Christians. I have yet to see an Evangelical moved off their certainty as a result of something I have said or written. This is why when a fundamentalist/Evangelical Christian leaves a comment or sends me an email arguing for the inspiration/inerrancy/infallibility of the Bible, the first question I ask them is, have you read any of Bart Ehrman’s books? If they haven’t, I know it is a waste of time to have a discussion with them about the Bible. (inerrancy is intellectually untenable and inspiration is a faith claim)

Arguing with fundamentalist/Evangelical Christians is like pissing into the wind. Just mentally picture that the next time you feel the urge to argue/debate/engage a closed-minded, certain I am right fundamentalist/Evangelical Christian. And if you can’t picture that (I know this illustration is better suited to men) just remember the urban dictionary definition of pissing into the wind: Engaging in a pointless activity; something futile.

I subscribe to the law of diminishing return. After seven years of blogging, what value is there in engaging in endless, pointless, futile discussions or arguments with Evangelicals? I no longer feel the need to make sure I am “understood” because I now know that they don’t want to understand me. They just want to be right, and for them to be right means I am most certainly wrong. I would rather focus on helping people who have doubts/questions, are considering leaving Christianity, or who have already left Christianity. It’s all about deciding how best to use my time and what benefit is derived from engaging a fundamentalist/Evangelical Christian in a discussion.

People who deconvert from  fundamentalist/Evangelical Christianity often go through various emotional stages. Most often, anger is the first stage. I remember how angry I was after I left the faith. Angry about a wasted life, angry about the lies I was taught, and angry about how Christians treated me. While I think this stage was necessary for me, I came to see that I could not stay angry. Unrelenting anger will eat a person alive. Over time, my anger died and in its place came a calm, a sense that I was on the right path. While I can still have moments of anger, I am at a place in life where I know my writing has a purpose and helps others, so I am less inclined to get all worked up over people who make no attempt to understand me and the path I have taken. Instead, I use their comments and emails as opportunities to help others.

Bottom line? I got tired of having to change my pants all the time. I finally learned that it is better to turn my back to the wind and piss rather than piss into the wind.

Published: July 28, 2014 | Comments: 12

Dear Christian: What Your Blog Comments Say About Your God

stephen hawking

In 2011, Stephen Hawking said:

“I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first,” he said.

“I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark,”

Hawking received a tremendous amount of vitriol from fundamentalist Christians. Roofer on Fire  compiled some of the comments Christians hurled Hawking’s way:

AS A SPACE FREAK MYSELF,I RESPECT MR. HAWKING AS A PHYSICIST.BUT HE’S IN NO POSITION TO SAY THERE’S NO GOD.HE WILL KNOW THERE’S A GOD WHEN HIS LIFE SUPPORT FAILS HIM,AND STEPHEN WINDS UP BURNING IN HELL FOR ETERNITY.BUT I LOVE HAWKING’S VIEWS ON SPACE AND THE COSMOS.BUT IT’S TERRIBLE THAT HE BAD-MOUTHS JESUS AND TRIES TO GET OTHERS LOST.

I am so sorry for you Stephen Hawking! At least I don’t need science to be there where I’m going when I die! The earth, cosmos and every living thing did not originate out of thin air with one atom and even you the genius can’t see that it… takes a genius to achieve simplicity (quote Bob Seger). Unfortunately, you don’t have that quality of genius! We are not computers, we are human and our brains are 100′s of times more complicated than a computer. Of course being the intellect that you are, go ahead and quantum leap anywhere you want but you’ll never achieve the leap to Heaven like me and others who are not just believers, but testifiers of a truth that your science will never begin to understand.

Well Stephen Hawking, even if you could prove there was no Heaven, I would think you were just failing a test From God himself. I’m sad with all God has given you, that you don’t know who to thank. Its not a matter of belief. God WAS, IS, and ALWAYS WILL BE.

If you chose not to believe in God, oh YOU WILL REGRET IT WHEN YOU ARE DEAD!!!

This dear person Stephen Hawking is in pain the kind only GOD can take away.as I send up this Prayer please comfort my friend Stephen.And in your own unique way let him know you are there. Me and Facebook will do our part too by Praying showing him that GOD care’s. Stephen I like you and I think you are a very smart man may GOD Bless you your Pow for life O-dee

Dear Mr Hawking: You can continue to talk through your little computer and sound like a robot. Enjoy the rest of your life, talking crap while everyone feels sorry for you. I’ll only feel sorry for you when you find out there IS an afterlife….a good one and a bad one. And since you don’t believe in either, have fun in the bad one 

Mr. Hawking I don’t know if you even view this page, But I am here to tell you there is a God! And no matter how smart you think you are there is one that holds the key to Death and Hell. He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords he is Jesus Christ. He is real! Act 2:38..If you would have Faith and Believe with me he can Heal you. He can make you whole. Sometimes he is waiting on us to make the first step. Some never will come to know Christ because they have so much hate lives. You can come to know him by – Repenting of your sins . Ask God to forgive you of your sins everyday. Even if we think we haven’t done anything wrong. Be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ . And he will give you the gift of the others the holy spirit. The evidence is that you will speak in other tongues . Don’t be afraid let it happen. That is God dwelling inside of you. You telling others there is no God you will have to answer to God for the lost souls you help send to Hell.

These fine folks represent the God who said in his divine book, called the Bible:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Ephesians 5:22,23)

Please, no comments suggesting these Christians don’t represent you or that they are not “real” Christians. They are in your family, so deal with it.  This kind of behavior is all too common. I have experienced it on this blog, in letters to the editor written about me, emails, and letters mailed to my home.

Christianity is best served when Christians shut up and live according to the teachings of Jesus. Matthew 5-7 would be a great place to start.  For some reason atheists bring out the worst in Christians. I wonder why that is?

Published: July 27, 2014 | Comments: 9

Dealing With Family After You Have Left the Faith

family

Leaving the fundamentalist/IFB/Evangelical Christian faith can be hard.

The first question that a defector often asks themselves is “what am I now?”

An atheist?

An agnostic?

A liberal Christian?

Spiritual?

How do I best describe myself?

Not an easy task is it? We live in world where we tend to label most everything. Yet, there is no purity in our labeling Most of us are an eclectic mix of various labels. While I consider myself a progressive and a liberal, I have certain political views that don’t quite fit the progressive/ liberal viewpoint. (and perhaps there isn’t a homogenous progressive, liberal viewpoint)

My life seems to be always moving. Rarely does the grass grow under my feet. My ideas, values, and worldview are shaped daily by the things I read and experience. I am a work in progress and I suspect that when I draw my last breath I will still be under construction.

I receive a lot of private email from people who are thinking about leaving fundamentalist/IFB/Evangelical Christianity or who have secretly left already but are afraid to publicly declare their defection. One person I knows goes to a fundamentalist/Evangelical Christian church every Sunday with their spouse. The spouse does not know  their husband/wife no longer believes. I can only imagine the travail of soul that one goes through listening to sermons they no longer believe and singing songs that speak of a faith that they no longer embrace. Another person I know owns a business in an area that is dominated by fundamentalist/Evangelical Christianity. They want to “come out” and declare their independence from Christianity, but they know if they do so their business (and livelihood) will be ruined.

I get email from fundamentalist/IFB/Evangelical Christian pastors who no longer believe the Bible is the inerrant, inspired word of God. They have read Bart Ehrman’s books and found them to be persuasive. They don’t know what to do. They still believe, but they no longer believe like THAT. They fear coming out publicly and declaring their true beliefs. So they rehash old sermons making sure that their new-found liberalness doesn’t seep in. They feel like hypocrites.

It is not easy to leave the fundamentalist/IFB/Evangelical Christian Church.  It was a long, long, long process for me that took over 10 years. I gradually moved left to a progressive/liberal brand of Christianity. I found comfort at this spot for a long time, but over time I continued to move left until I finally fell out of the Christian fold into the arms of agnosticism. Eventually, I decided to call myself an atheist. Actually I am an atheist and an agnostic,for the sake of those keeping score, I simply say, I am an atheist.

The biggest challenge a person faces anytime they make a  big change, like leaving fundamentalist/IFB/Evangelical Christianity, is what to do about family. Sometimes a husband and wife are on the same page and they turn to a new chapter in life with their spouse. Many times though the journey is solitary, with the spouse deciding to remain in the Fundamentalist/IFB/Evangelical Christian church.

Then there are the children. The grandchildren. Mom and Dad. Grandparents. Aunts. Uncles. Nieces. Nephews. Close friends. Coworkers.

Complications.

Lots of complications.

My wife has six Fundamentalist/Evangelical Christian preachers in her extended family. (I made seven in the day) My family? Religious, but not overtly devout, with a few atheists sprinkled in here and there.

Family is important.

Sometimes family is all that matters.

So how does a defector from Fundamentalist/IFB/Evangelical Christianity deal with family that is still following in the footsteps of Jesus.

Some family members ignore the defection. “Oh this is just a phase they are going through. They’ll be fine.”

Other family members choose confrontation. They preach, quote the Bible, send Christian messages on Facebook and via email. They let them know they are praying for them. Sometimes, they become belligerent and hostile, willing to ruin a relationship to make sure the defector knows that there is one true religion and one true God.

Some family members just love the defector. Not in a deceptive way that has the ulterior motive of winning the defector back, but a familial love that transcends religion, sexuality, and politics.  Such people are rare among Fundamentalist/IFB/Evangelical Christians. Taught that their brand of truth is THE truth and that evangelism is the duty of EVERY believer, they feel compelled by God  to confront the defector.

Five years ago, Polly and I spent time with my her family in Newark Ohio. On Christmas Eve the entire family got together at my Polly’s parent’s home. 43 people in a cramped space. Six preachers and one agnostic.(at the time I was not calling myself an atheist)  Lots of kids. Lots of food. Did I mention six preachers and one agnostic?

I feared that there would be a problem. The family had been talking about my defection for a long time. Of course, they never talked to me directly. Always behind my back at family gatherings. I feared that one of the preachers in the family would try to straighten me out. “Bruce how far you going to let this go? My God, you let your boys marry Catholics and your wife even wears pants now!” “Now this agnostic stuff.” “You know you can’t lose your salvation but if you keep this up God is going to chastise you.” “Perhaps your health problems are God trying to get your attention!”

So I went to the family Christmas gathering with great trepidation.

And it almost happened. The patriarch of the family is an uncle who has pastored the same Baptist church for over forty years. He is a DR. (an honorary doctorate given to him by the school he graduated from) Even in my days of fidelity to the family religion, he and I clashed. He was arrogant and pushy, a know-it-all…and so was I.

The uncle let it be known that he intended to “confront” me. Everyone knew what that meant. Then a “miracle” happened. A miracle I could never have expected. My mother-in-law told him (this being recounted to my sons by a cousin) “I’ll not have any of that in my house. I have lost one daughter and I won’t lose another.” In a moment’s time my mother-in-law went to the top of my chart.

Her stopping the challenge had nothing to do with religion or my agnosticism. It was all about a motorcycle accident.

Memorial Day 2005. My wife’s parents are at our home. We were eating, watching a movie.

The phone rang.

The news no one wants to hear.

She’s dead. A car hit us and she is dead,

In a split second a mother lost a daughter and my wife became an only child.

My mother-in-law still grieves the loss of her youngest daughter. She fears losing her oldest daughter.

So she put a stop to what she knew would drive us farther away.

She understood what I wish every defector’s Fundamentalist/IFB/Evangelical Christian family would understand…The family relationship is more important than the tribal religion.

Oh, I am sure she wishes things would go back to the way it was; Bruce and Polly pastoring, going to Church, living for Jesus. Perhaps she even hopes we may yet return to the fold. The chances of a return to the fold are z-e-r-o.

What kind of family relationship can be built from the rubble and ashes of the past remains to be seen.

I am hopeful.

Life is too short.

We are dying.

Let’s agree on what we can and forget the rest.

Let’s hold one another’s hand in that final moment and say:

I love you!

Note

Another post I wrote related to this, Christmas After There is No Christ in Christmas

Published: July 25, 2014 | Comments: 7

Bruce, You Misunderstand Evangelical Christianity

misunderstand

Today, I received an email from an Evangelical Christian who thinks I misunderstand Evangelical Christianity. He doesn’t question my understanding of Evangelical theology. Instead, he thinks I misunderstand  WHY Evangelicals continue to evangelize me. He hopes that I will “PLEASE listen with open ears (unless you want to stoop to the same level as those people who comment without reading your posts).”

The email writer seems to be a decent person, but I learned a long time ago that just because an Evangelical is initially kind, decent, and respectful doesn’t mean they will continue to be this way. Recent emails from David R. Leach are case in point. Leach’s first email was every bit as thoughtful as this man’s email. However, once I responded in kind, Leach dropped the façade and went for my throat. (see Bruce, You Have a Narcissistic and Bankrupt Heart) Long time readers of this blog remember a Baptist preacher by the name of Marty. Marty came across as a decent, thoughtful man. His comments were generally polite and respectful. But, over time his comments became increasingly hostile and then BOOM the proverbial shit hit the fan. It was not long before Marty was permanently banned from this site. So, I hope the email writer will forgive me if I don’t necessarily trust him.

Like many Evangelicals who write me, he wants me to know that he is NOT like the nasty, bombastic, hateful Evangelicals who write me or leave comments on my blog. In other words, yes we are family but those folks are the crazy uncle of the family. Here’s what he had to say:

First off, I want you to know that I am sympathetic. It makes me angry when “Christians” comment on blog posts, send emails, or write letters simply to condemn a fellow human who doesn’t believe the same thing.  I also want you to know that my goal isn’t to try to convert you, quote verses at you, accuse you of bitterness or anger, or to claim that I know the “truth” about you. My goal is simply to explain, in love and humility, why (not all, obviously, but some) evangelical Christians do try to “convert” you.

I understand where he is coming from. When I see some atheists act like petulant children who think that a turd throwing contest with a fundamentalist is a thoughtful conversation, it embarrasses me. I want to shout, I am NOT like them. Most Christians who take the time to get to know me come to the conclusion that I am, in their eyes wrong about many things, but, as a person, I am decent, kind, and loving. Those who don’t see me this way are agenda driven, having a need to justify their horrendous behavior towards me. What better way to do so than paint me as a demonic inspired evil man This Bruce Gerencser exists only in the addled mind of Christian fundamentalists.

The email writer asks:

Have you ever seen the video where the atheist comedian Penn Jillette speaks about his encounter with the loving evangelist?  This stranger gave Penn a Bible, along with a note, and Penn’s response describes exactly what evangelical Christianity is all about.

He said, “If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell and people could be going to hell—or not getting eternal life or whatever—and you think that, well, it’s not really worth telling them this because it would make it socially awkward. . . . How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”

Yes, I have seen the video and I agree with Penn Jillette. If I really believed what the Bible says, then I would witness and evangelize too. How could I not do so, knowing that judgment and hell await those who do not repent of their sins and accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior? And that is exactly what I did for over twenty-five years. I took seriously the teachings of the Bible and the exclusivity of the Christian gospel. As a result, hundreds of people were converted through my preaching. I get it. Life is short, hell is real. Only one life twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.

And that’s the point…I GET IT. Been there, done that. What is an Evangelical going to tell me that I haven’t heard before? Is there a new gospel or a new method? Did God throw over the portal of heaven some new books to be added to the Bible?  Of course not. Same gospel, same methodology. I suspect I have used, at one time or the other, almost every Evangelical evangelistic method. At this late date, as the sun is long in the sky of my life, I highly doubt an Evangelical is going to surprise me with something I haven’t heard before.  After seven years of blogging and hundreds and hundreds of Evangelicals emailing me and commenting on my blogs, I have yet to read something new. I suspect the former Evangelicals who frequent this blog will say the same.

That’s why when the email writer says:

Now, I understand your frustration when Christians try to tell you you’re wrong, try to convert you, or tell you they’re praying for you.  I know it’s frustrating when they assume things and accuse you of being a filthy sinner. Sometimes they are in the wrong (lacking love and humility, speaking in anger, etc), but often times they are just warning you of what they believe is truth.  I’ve read a couple of your posts now, and you seem like a reasonable man.  My request to you is simple: try to hear what evangelicals are saying without assuming cynical motives–consider what they’re saying from their own point of view.  When I “evangelize,” I’m doing it out of love. I’m doing it because I don’t want to see another human suffer; because I believe that the Bible is true and hell exists.  If I didn’t try to share that truth with people, what kind of person would that make me?

he fails the appreciate the overwhelming amount of email, tweets, blog comments, and Facebook comments, I have received from Evangelicals. He fails to appreciate the sermons that have been preached about me and the blog posts that have been dedicated to deconstructing my life. Many of these things are just a reminder that there are a lot of assholes in the Evangelical church. Others? I am sure they are sincere. They want me to be saved, brought back to Christ, etc. But, here’s the thing, there’s seven billion people living on planet earth. From the narrow perspective of the Evangelical, this means there are billions of people who need to hear the Evangelical gospel. Why spend one moment trying to evangelize someone who has zero interest in the snake oil that Evangelicals are selling? Since I have no need of being educated in the gospel message, if God wants me saved or brought back into the fold, surely he is able to do it without further human instrumentation, right?

The email writer wants me to know that Evangelicals write me because they love me. They don’t want me to die and go to hell. I am not sure I believe this. I think that many Evangelicals THINK this is their motivation for writing me, but, I ask again, why focus on me, a man who has made it very clear that he has no interest in Christianity or the Christian gospel. Since I think many Evangelical churches are either cultic or have cultic tendencies, in what universe would I be considered a viable candidate for salvation and re-entrance into the Evangelical church?

You see, I think Evangelicals are less than honest about their motivations. Perhaps, I should give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they might not even be aware of what their motives are. Here’s what I think:

  • Wouldn’t  it be great story if someone was the means God used to bring me to saving faith or to bring me back into the Evangelical fold?  I am not just a generic sinner in need of saving. Oh no, I am the Evangelical pastor turned atheist, a man who once preached the gospel and now preaches atheism. Can you imagine the book sales and speaking opportunities I could have if I renounced atheism?
  • Many of the Evangelicals who write me need to have their beliefs reinforced. They NEED the battle. They NEED the bloodshed. What better place to come than They Way Forward? By sending me an email or leaving a blog comment, they reminding themselves of the truth of the Evangelical gospel. I am not their real target. They want affirmation that they are right.
  • Some Evangelicals who write me actually have doubts about their own salvation and beliefs. They have questions about the Bible. They wonder, is what I believe really the truth? They may initially come off as just another evangelizing Evangelical, but underneath their bravado is a doubter, a person who wonders if they will some day become just like me.

Regular readers know I have six children. I love my children and I want them to have safe, peaceful, happy, productive lives. When our children started moving out and getting married, Polly and I established a hard and fast rule that governs our involvement in the lives of our children. If they ask a question or want our opinion then we will give it. If they get upset at our answer then that is their fault. Don’t ask if you don’t want to know. If they don’t ask, we keep our opinions to ourselves.  They know we have opinions about most everything they do, from the color of the paint in their kitchen to the car they bought. But, it is not our place to meddle in their life. If an issue is important, perhaps life threatening, we will give our opinion one time. The discussion usually goes something this, I know you might not want to hear this but I need to tell you __________________. Most often, they will reply, I know or I hear you.  And that’s it. Their life and they are free to do with it what they want. I still love them even if they make choices that I don’t approve of.

Here’s my point, I don’t need to harp at my children to get my point across. We are adults and we are capable of having adult conversations. No need to keep repeating my objection. They get it, I object, but they are going to do what they are going to do. I wish evangelizing Evangelicals would see things this way. Over the course of seven years, I have been evangelized more times than I can count. I really don’t need to hear it anymore. I get it, you think I am going to hell and you want to save me from myself. I don’t want to be saved, and quite frankly if I have to choose between a heaven filled with Evangelicals and a hell populated with the eclectic unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines that read this blog, I am going to choose hell every time.

The email writer doesn’t think much of the page Dear Evangelical. It is a page I put together to answer every question and objection an Evangelical might have. It is meant to keep people like this email writer from wasting their time by emailing me or leaving a comment. He writes:

When I read through some of your posts, especially the “Dear Evangelical” page, your comments regarding evangelistic responses seemed somewhat unfair to me.  In your rules, you make it clear that any sort of “warning” from Christians is unacceptable and will be disapproved. Those Christians are sharing what they believe so that fewer people will have to experience the eternal torment they know as hell.

Whether you believe in that eternal damnation or not, please understand that the warning is an expression of love. To ban this sort of comment is the same thing as saying, “Nobody is allowed to warn that man over there, even though some of you believe he’s about to get hit by a truck. This blog isn’t for people who believe that the truck is coming, so warnings are not allowed.” There are two points that I’m trying to make: 1) Why disregard the comments and portray them as annoying, when they’re meant as an expression of love? And 2) What if you’re wrong about the existence of that truck? Wouldn’t it be better to allow an open discussion about that truck, so the man has the ability to decide for himself whether he’s about to get hit or not?

Despite all the warning signs and roadblocks I put in the way of zealots for Jesus, they either ignore them or they think they don’t apply. They show me through their behavior that they have little respect for me. If they respected me, they would accept the fact that I am not a prospect for heaven and they let me go to hell in peace. It is, after all, my choice, right? And here come the Calvinists to remind me that it is NOT my choice but God’s. Fine, then let God email me. When THAT happens I will most certainly pay attention.

The email writer is confused about the purpose of this blog. Like many Evangelicals, he thinks his God-given right to evangelize supersedes my right to personal space and free association. (see Steve Sanchez Thinks He has a Right to Harass People for Jesus) While anyone can read my writing, that doesn’t mean they also have a right to comment. I want to build a community here, a community of people who have common interests. Oh, we squabble every once in a while over politics or Honey Boo Boo, but generally the people who comment on this blog are in agreement with what I write. When they don’t agree with me, they voice their objection and I try to learn from them. That’s how it works here.

heinz 57 dog

The Way Forward community is a varied lot. Dare I say a motley, Heinz-57 lot?  Think everyone who comments here is an atheist? Don’t put that in writing…you will find out quickly that the spectrum of belief and unbelief is quite broad. There’s even a smattering of Evangelicals, odd ducks to be sure, who have learned to play well with others. Christians of all sorts, atheists, agnostics, humanists, secularists, universalists, and pagans. We are one, big messed up adopted family.

The one thing most regular readers and commenters have in common is that we understand Evangelicalism and fundamentalism. Some us spent a lifetime in the Evangelical trenches and we have the mental and emotional scars to prove it. And some, tragically, have the the physical scars to prove it.  Since I think Evangelicalism is generally abusive and mentally and emotionally harmful, would it be right for me to allow Evangelical zealots the freedom to evangelize at will in the comment section? In my mind, that would be like inviting a convicted child molester to my child’s birthday party. Not going to happen.  Since I know that back story of some of the people who regularly comment, it would be irresponsible for me to let Evangelical evangelizers run roughshod over people I consider my friends.

The email writer needs to understand that I am not interested in open discussion with Evangelicals. I have no desire to debate them, argue with them, or disabuse them of their mythical beliefs. I give each Evangelical one opportunity to say whatever they want to say. No one has been banned before they comment. Every Evangelical that has a Jesus hard on is free to leave one comment; one comment for them to say everything they think God is leading them to say. If they show the ability to play well with others I might let them comment again. If I think some good can come from having a discussion with them then I will play along. Sadly, in almost every case, when I give an Evangelical enough rope to hang themselves, they in short order follow in the steps of Judas.

I get it, Evangelicals want the right to defecate in my cat box They see all the heresy and error espoused by not only me but the deluded people who comment here, so they want to make sure we all know the truth. They either forget or don’t care that most of us have forgotten more theology than they will ever know. I know it is shocking, but there are people who look at the wonderful grace of Jesus and say no thanks! There is nothing within the Evangelical church and its beliefs that is even remotely interesting to me. If I am given the opportunity to choose between Sunday church with a bunch of Jesus loving Evangelicals and an NFL football game, even if it is the Jets vs the Raiders, I am going to choose the NFL e-v-e-r-y time.

In the end, no matter how nice this Evangelical seemed, he couldn’t help himself. Here’s how he ended his email:

Even though you obviously don’t appreciate when Christians pray for you, I just did. I prayed for you because I love you as a fellow person, and because I believe that this matter is of the utmost importance. I will continue to pray for you, because I don’t want to see you face eternal damnation.

He KNOWS I don’t appreciate Christians telling me that they are praying for me, yet he tells me anyway. In one brief act he illustrates the point my counselor made to me several years ago. I naïvely thought that if I just told my story and explained myself to Evangelicals they would “understand.”  My counselor laughed and said, Bruce, you think they should give a shit about what you think. They don’t. I now know this to be true

The email writer could have prayed for me without telling me. Does his prayer become more efficacious if he tells me? Why not pray in secret for my soul? Why not go into the holy of holies and grab the horns of the altar and bombard the heavens with prayers for my soul? Instead, this Evangelical does the one thing I ask him not to do.

3,090 words. Didn’t I just say in a previous post that people quit reading after a thousand words?

Bruce out.

 

Published: July 24, 2014 | Comments: 30

Where is the God of Elijah?

elijah

Elisha, the prophet who succeeded Elijah asked, in 2 Kings 2:14, where if the God of Elijah? Christians of today should be asking the same question.

Elijah’s God is one that sent fire from heaven and killed the prophets of Baal. Throughout the Old Testament, we see Elijah’s God dealing harshly with those who opposed or disobeyed him. Elijah’s God drowned everyone in the world, except Noah and his family, because the world was increasingly wicked. The God of Elijah, rained fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gomorrah, used his followers to slaughter countless enemies, and even killed a man for trying to keep the Ark of the Covenant from tipping over. Elijah’s God, at least in the Old Testament, was a vengeful, angry God that was the meanest son-of-a-bitch in town. He was not a God to be trifled with. As the writer of Hebrews said, it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

However, once we get to the New Testament, outside of killing Ananias and Sapphira because they lied about the price they received for a property, Elijah’s God seems to have successfully completed anger management class and is being treated for a split personality disorder. Granted, according to the book of Revelation, God will, someday, go off his meds and revert to the vengeful, angry, petulant God of the Old Testament. But, for now, we have to wonder…exactly where IS Elijah’s God?

Evangelical preachers and TV talking heads frequently say that we are living in the Last Days. Some think it is just as bad now as it was in the days of Noah or when God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. Since the advent of the internet, atheists, agnostics, humanists, and virtually every non-Christian religion you can think of, has taken to the blogosphere to preach heresy and ridicule and mock the Evangelical Christian God. Abortionists, homosexuals, Hollywood actors, and Democrats, promote godlessness and give nary a thought about Elijah’s bad ass God. Where is Elijah’s God? You know that God who routinely killed false prophets and those who dare to disobey him?

It seems to me that there are two explanations for Elijah’s God being AWOL. Either he is on vacation and when he comes back he will take care of those who blaspheme his name or he doesn’t exist.  I am inclined to think that Elijah’s God doesn’t exist. Supposedly, God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Surely, God should act consistently, yes? Why then, does he not strike down evil, wicked, Christ-denying false prophets like me? Why has he allowed Bart Ehrman to have such a devastating effect on the Christian church?  These days, vocal atheists live full lives and the Evangelical God does not touch them? Again, is God on vacation? Or perhaps this God does not exist.

According to Evangelicals, God is knows the number of hairs on their head, helps them find their car keys, and blesses them with jobs, cars, vacations, and palace-like church buildings. He is a micromanaging God, interested in every detail of their lives, yet when it comes to modern false prophets he does nothing. Doesn’t this seem strange to you? More than one Christian zealot has prayed an imprecatory prayer over my head, yet here I am. Why? Wouldn’t it be awesome if the Evangelical God struck me dead or caused my hands to wither up so I couldn’t type? Imagine the stories preachers could tell about the atheist God killed. Imagine books that could be written about my life, cautionary tales about a man who thought he was bigger than God. Yet, despite all the prayers, sermons, blog posts, and indignant calling fire down from heaven blog comments, I remain alive.

Perhaps it is time for Evangelicals to ask, where IS the God of Elijah? Let me know when you find him. For now, I fear his crazy, right-wing followers a lot more than I do him. You know, the ones who say they would love for someone to slit my throat.  If the Evangelical God wants to straighten me out, chastise me, or kill me, he knows where I live.

Published: July 23, 2014 | Comments: 4

Those Who Fall Away Just Didn’t Love Jesus Enough

facebook jesus

Susan, who blogs at Susan’s Flutterbys, continues to be infatuated with yours truly. In today’s missive, she quotes Joshua Whipps, agrees with him, and says since I used my real name in a comment she is officially “outing” me. Which is kind of funny since I have never been “in”. I have always used my real name on the internet. I am readily accessible, with nothing to hide.

Susan tells a bold-faced lie when she states:

…Mr. Gerencser ruins attempts at meaningful dialogue with Christians and only gives kudos to those who agree with him.

Meaningful dialog is ALWAYS welcome. Susan made no attempt to have meaningful dialog with me, accusing me of being an hater, and when asked to give here reasons for this claim, refused to do so. Even on her own blog, after my good friend John Arthur commented on a previous post  about me, Susan closed down the comments. As far as Joshua Whipps is concerned, I asked him to comment on the blog posts he disagreed with, yet he made it clear that he was not going to lower himself and waste his valuable words on the people who read The Way Forward. Whipps could have engaged in meaningful dialog with me but he chose not to. Whipps wrote a total of three posts about me but allowed no comments. Whipps considers his posts about me “teaching” posts. Yet, according to Susan and Whipps, I am the one that “ruins attempts at meaningful dialogue with Christians and only gives kudos to those who agree with him.”

Now, on to the focus of this post. Susan recently listened to a sermon by Phil Johnson,the executive director of Grace to You and a longtime member of John MacArthur’s church. This is what she learned:

One thing he says towards the beginning is the thing that I was (thankfully I can say “was”) having trouble with. He says that institutions and persons have failed and will continue to fail into the future, but the gospel of Jesus will be triumphant. I admit that I was overly concerned by individual persons failing and falling away. Pastor Johnson says that this is actually a blessing in disguise in that the Lord is weeding out through this process the pretenders and keeping the faithful remnant. Pastor Johnson sees the season of unpopularity of the Church having a purifying effect on the Church because the ones who go for any other reason besides their love of Jesus, will drop out. They can deny and deny and speak of their previous love for Jesus, but in the end TRUE LOVE DOESN’T FAIL, so their denials are about as valid as an alcoholic saying he’s not a drunk.

Here’s the gist of Susan’s Johnson Bruce inspired post:

  • The Lord is weeding pretenders like Bruce Gerencser out of the church
  • Bruce Gerencser had some other motivation than love for Jesus and this is why he fell away
  • Bruce Gerencser didn’t really love Jesus or didn’t love Jesus enough

I always find it amazing that people from afar, people who never sat under my ministry, never heard me preach, never observed my life, can make such severe judgments about my life. I suppose I am to blame for this. I am quite open and honest as I tell my story and this gives my critics a lot of information by which to judge my life. Yet, not one church member, fellow pastor, or personal friend ever thought that I didn’t love Jesus. This charge is silly, unfounded, and a lazy attempt to explain away my life.

Here’s two questions I have for Susan and the “I really didn’t really love Jesus or didn’t love Jesus enough” crowd:

  • How much love for Jesus is enough?
  • What is the standard for determining if a Christian really loves Jesus or loves him enough?

Susan’s post is a reminder that Calvinists, for all their talk about salvation by grace, actually believe in salvation by works. The measure of love for Jesus is what? Good works. Since I didn’t persevere and continue to produce good works that showed I really, really, really loved Jesus, I never “really” loved Jesus and was never a true Christian.  Unless the Calvinist continues producing good works and continues to do so until their last breath, they can not be certain that they are a Christian.

I know I can not convince the Susan’s and Joshua Whipps of the world of anything. Their minds are made up. They have weighed me in the balance and found me wanting..

Let me close this post with one of my favorite songs when I was a pastor. When I led and sang this song I did so with every fiber of my being. It is ludicrous to say that I was a deceiver or that I never loved Jesus. Like two people who were once married, their marriage likely ended with a loss of love, but who can doubt they, at one time, loved one another. So it was with my relationship with Jesus. Here’s the song, Gone From My Heart the World and All its Charms:

Gone from my heart the world and all its charms;
Now through the blood I’m saved from all alarms;
Down at the cross my heart is bending low;
The precious blood of Jesus cleanses white as snow.

I love Him, I love Him,
Because He first loved me,
And purchased my salvation on Calv’ry’s tree.

Once I was lost, and fallen deep in sin;
Once was a slave to passions fierce within;
Once was afraid to meet an angry God,
But now I’m cleansed from every stain thro’ Jesus’ blood.

Once I was bound, but now I am set free;
Once I was blind, but now the light I see;
Once I was dead, but now in Christ I live,
To tell the world around the peace that He doth give.

Responses to Joshua Whipps

Another Deconstruction of My Story

Joshua Whipps: I’ve Read Your Blog

Fundamentalist Christian Gnats

Response to Susan

The Anti-Christ’s Brother is Revealed: His Name is Anti-Pastor

Evangelicals Use the Wrong Equation to Determine Their Beliefs

Published: July 23, 2014 | Comments: 32

The Anti-Christ’s Brother is Revealed: His Name is Anti-Pastor

fake church sign for anti pastor

A recent commenter by the name of Susan stopped by to let me know that I was a “hater.” She had this to say on the post Fundamentalist Christian Gnats:

I feel very sad for you and everyone who chooses to agree with your hatred…I know…you’ll say that I’m the “hater” or gnat or what have you…sad

I responded:

What in this post even remotely suggests I was being hateful? I responded in a slightly snarky way to fundamentalist Christians that threaten to slit my throat and who take great delight in deconstructing and attacking every aspect of my life, and I am the one that is a hater and those who see these things for what they are are haters too?

I have no idea if you are a hater. I suspect you are based on the blogs you list on your blogroll, but until you give me reason to think so, I am withholding judgment, a practice you might want to consider implementing in your own life.

A short while ago, Susan decided to write a blog post about me. She’s decided to crown me the Anti-Pastor.  Here’s what she had to say:

Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time.   2 John 2:18 (ESV)

I have heard that it happens from time to time, a pastor struggles with his faith…and gives up the struggle. Recently I stumbled onto the website of such a former pastor. God only knows if he truly was saved and if he was (I personally doubt it myself) the Lord will retrieve Him in His time. As of this time this ex-pastor not only says he has given up on Christianity, he also feels it his duty to anti-evangelize the flock. He goes about seeking whom he can “assist” in getting others to give up their faith just as he did. That is why I’ve christened him the anti-pastor. He doesn’t think it is enough to blaspheme God by saying He doesn’t exist, he also feels the need to yank people out of the fold. Yeah, that’s right…I truly thought I had seen it all. Is there no limit to the hurt the devil will inflict on Jesus? It seems not, however there is a limit. One day people like the anti-pastor will come to the end of the time the Lord will give to their foolishness which inflicts pain on others. He will limit it in such a way that the only pain they will inflict is on themselves for ever and ever. God in His mercy is still giving him time to repent (otherwise he would have passed from this life into his eternal fate) so I hope he will “get true wisdom” and learn truly of Christ instead of getting his learning from the spirit of antichrist. God only knows how much more time the anti-pastor has left on earth to turn around and repent of the error of his ways.

I’m not going to post a link to this man’s website because the teachings of this man are ugly to say the least. If anyone is interested in doing research into these ridiculous goings on I’ll make it available upon request with a warning to cover yourself in prayer before inflicting such ugliness on yourself. For most of us it is enough to be aware that he’s out there, and the Lord is allowing him to do his worst damage for a while, until He says “Enough!”, and then it will be too late for the anti-pastor. Let’s hope for him he wises up before it is too late for him.

By quoting 2 John 2:18, Susan wants to make a clear connection between the anti-Christ in the Bible and Bruce Gerencser, the anti-pastor. I am honored to be considered in the same league as one of the most famous people in the Christian Bible. My brother Anti-Christ and I have the same father, the Devil, so I am somewhat surprised that it took 57 years for someone to make this connection.

Let me summarize what Susan has concluded about me:

Only God knows if I was ever truly saved but she doesn’t think I was.

So if God only knows, why is she venturing an opinion on the state of my soul? The truth is, she is pretty certain that I was never a Christian.

My goal is life is to evangelize Christians and cause them to lose their faith.

What does this say about God, Jesus, and Christianity if one lowly Evangelical pastor turned atheist can cause someone to lose their faith?  I have stated many times before and I will state it again, my goal is not to turn people into atheists. I am a facilitator. I try to help people who are considering leaving Christianity or who have already left Christianity. Susan will look in vain for ONE person to testify that I tried to evangelize them out of their faith.

Susan spends most of her post threatening me, a blasphemer,  with God, judgment, and hell I don’t think exists.

According to Susan, the only reason I am not dead already is because God is giving me time to repent. I am not sure how she knows this? I wish Christians would make up their mind about what I actually am. One says I am a reprobate, another says God is giving me time to repent. One says I am taken over by Satan, another says I am a Christian that God is fixing to chastise. Please make up your mind people. Am I saved, am I lost? Am I in or am I out? If I am in, please turn the air conditioning on in my mansion. I am coming home sooner rather than later.

Susan doesn’t want to link to The Way Forward. I will assume she wants to avoid putting tender, impressionable souls in harm’s way. Evidently, I am one bad man, yet she tells her readers that it is the Lord himself that is allowing me to write all the horrible, blasphemous things I write on a daily basis. I guess I should stop typing for a moment and say thank you Jesus!

She warns those who dare to come in to my evil lair of iniquity, photography, decadence, and baseball, that they better be prayed up. Evidently, if a person is not prayed up they risk me snatching their Christianity right out of them.

Susan sees me as the enemy and I certainly understand why. I stand in opposition to her fundamentalist Christian beliefs. I suppose I might have responded to Bruce Gerencser, the atheist the same way when I was Bruce Gerencser, the pastor.

Here’s what Susan is missing. I am a loving, kind, decent human being, married to a wonderful heathen woman for 36 years. We have six children and nine, soon to be ten, grandchildren. We are happy, satisfied, and content as a cat getting a squirt of milk from a cow’s teat. Life is good. Susan never saw me as a person because all she saw was someone whom she determined was a hater of God.

Lost on her is the fact that I think it is foolish to hate fictional beings. Saying I hate God is like me saying I hate Santa Claus or the elf that lives in our maple tree. I hate real things, things like war, violence, political and religious oppression, and the St Louis Cardinals. My hatred of fundamentalism stems from the mental and emotional abuse done in the name of fundamentalist’s God. I hate the fruit of fundamentalism not the belief system. If I can get someone to look at the belief system then perhaps I can help end the abuse.

Susan and I agree on one thing, she hopes I find true wisdom. Unfortunately, she can not comprehend me leaving Christianity to find it.  A seeker of true wisdom is willing to travel wherever wisdom can be found. For Susan, the quest for wisdom begins and ends with the Christian God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and an inspired, inerrant text. For me, all I see ahead is open road.

I do hope that Susan will come back and actually have a conversation with me.

 

 

Published: July 22, 2014 | Comments: 30