Humanism

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: 0

Please Stop Writing So Much About the Dumb Asses

Of late, my focus has been on my critics,the hate mail I have received, and the predatory behavior of certain Christian pastors and church leaders. While I think it is important to talk about things like this, I can find myself consumed by these things and I stop being a help to others. Most people, as one reader told me, know the dumb ass things these dumb asses do. There is no need to focus on them or spend an inordinate amount of time detailing their dumbassery.

I think this reader is right. I have nothing to offer the hardcore Christian zealot, and it is a waste of my time trying to play theologial tennis with them. A game every so often is fun, but playing every day is exhausting and not the best use of my time.

I am going to gone for parts of the next three days (dirt track race, baseball game) so my writing volume will be light. Come Monday, Zeus willing, I will try to focus on answering the questions readers have asked me. If you have any other questions, please send them to me via the contact page.

As always, thank you for reading.

Bruce

 

Published: July 18, 2014 | Comments: 8

The Evangelical Gospel of Self-Flagellation

self flagellation

We are all familiar with this or that movie showing a Catholic priest removing his shirt and whipping himself with a multi-tassled leather whip. The purpose of self-flagellation is the mortification of the flesh. According to Wikipedia, mortification of the flesh is:

…the institutional expiatory self-flagellation of a person or group’s penance for atonement of sins and path to sanctity

While Evangelicals do not literally practice physical self-flagellation, they do practice emotional and mental self-flagellation. From their earliest years in Sunday School, Evangelicals are taught that they are vile, wicked, sinful beings, unworthy of the mercy, love, and grace of God. Thanks to Adam and Eve, every human comes into this world as a vile, wicked, sinner. They come forth from their mother’s womb speaking lies. They are the enemy of God, a hater of all that is good and holy. There is none righteous, no not one, there is none that doeth go no not one. As the old Calvinistic Southern Baptist evangelist Rolfe Barnard used to say, mankind was ruined by the fall. Not just slightly bruised or damaged, but from head to toe ruined. So much so that the Bible describes the sinner as being dead in trespasses and sin. Like Lazarus lying 3 days rotting in the grave, so is every human. Unless God the father, through the merit and work of his son Jesus, and the wooing, drawing power of the Holy Ghost, grants spiritual life to dead sinners, they will remain in this wretched state until they die. They then will be cast into hell and later the Lake of Fire to pay the just penalty for their rebellion against the thrice holy God.

Imagine spending your entire life having this kind of thinking drilled into your head. Is it any wonder that so many Evangelicals have self-esteem problems? They have spent their entire life being told how vile, worthless, and sinful they are. If they dare assert any sort of self-determination or self-worth, they are quickly reminded that the Bible commands them to deny self. Like Jesus dying on the cross for humanity’s sin, the Evangelical is to crucify their own flesh. They are to die to any sense of ambition and self-worth. Even though they are a bought by the blood, sanctified child of God, the only thing that stands between God the father seeing them as vile, wicked, sinful beings, unworthy of the mercy, love, and grace of God, is Jesus. Jesus is the propitiation for the Christian’s sin. He is all that stands between an angry, wrathful God and the Christian.

In recent days, I have spent significant time reading Evangelical blogs, websites, Twitter feeds, and Facebook pages, especially those of a Calvinistic bent. Person after person gloried in how unworthy they were to be chosen by God. As I read these things, I began to think about how damaging emotionally and mentally this kind of thinking is. Any sinful behavior is the fault of the individual. God certainly can’t be blamed for evil, even though he is sovereign, decrees all things, and nothing happens apart from his purpose and plan It is the created being that bears all the responsibility for bad behavior.

However, when it comes to the praise given for good behavior, God pushes his way to the front of the line and says, all the praise belongs to me. He is the ultimate narcissist.  According to Evangelical theology, the only reason a Christian can do any good at all is because of God. They have no ability of their own to do good, so any good that they do is because of Jesus.

Many of you know exactly what I am talking about. We spent our lives being reminded of how unworthy we were, how sinful we were. When we did good things, we were reminded the good we did was because God was working in and through us. All praise, honor, and glory to Jesus! This kind of thinking destroys any sense of self-worth a person has. It should come as no surprise that secular counselors see in their practices, a significant number of ex-Evangelicals who are trying to regain some sense of self. After a lifetime of being told how sinful they are and how every good work they do is because of Jesus,  they are often an emotionally and mentally battered abuse victim, victimized by Evangelical theology wielded by preachers who think their calling in life is to make sure that people understand they are the worm sung about in the hymn At the Cross.

Every day, Christians, tired of the cycle of mental and emotional abuse and worthlessness, decide to walk away from Christianity. They are tired of never being good enough. They are tired of their good works not being their own. While they are quite willing to own their bad works, they have reached a place in life where they want the praise for their good works too. They know they are a good person, a decent, kind, loving, and giving person,so they are tired of being made to feel like they are the scum of the earth no matter what they do.

Some of these Christians who exit stage left seek out religious expressions that affirm their goodness and humanity. They join up with churches and sects that see the value in the inherent good that is in all of us. Some of them leave organized religion altogether, and declare themselves spiritual or non-religious. Others become atheists, agnostics, deists, or humanists,

Once freed of original sin and grace that is anything but grace, we are free to be authentic, honest people. We recognize that we are capable of doing bad things. The difference now is that we have no need of Christian expiation or redemption. We are free to own our bad behavior, and through our own works make whatever restitution is necessary. No need to take it to God in prayer and seek his forgiveness. We cut out the middle man,God, and directly seek the forgiveness of those we have hurt.

Greater yet, we can now revel in the goodness of our fellow humans.  We are free to accept the praises of others who recognize our good works, Their praise and respect is a reminder that we are good people, that we have the capacity, without a divine middleman, to do good things. We freely live by the two great commandments:

  • Do unto others as you would have them do unto you
  • Don’t be an asshole.

Published: July 18, 2014 | Comments: 9

Everyone Believes in God

proof that god exists

No, they don’t.

Yes, they do.

No, they don’t.

Yes, they do.

The Bible says in Romans 1:18-21:

 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

and in Romans 2:14-15:

For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)

According to those who think EVERYONE believes in God, God has revealed himself through nature and human conscience, but those who reject this God do so by suppressing their knowledge of God. Modern Bible versions like the English Standard Version, AKA the Calvinist Bible, translate “who hold the truth in unrighteousness” in Romans 1:18 as “who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”

According to the everyone believes in God crowd, every human being is born into this world with the innate understanding that God exists. As a person ages, they either embrace this innate understanding that God exists or they begin to actively suppress it. So, when a person says they are an atheist, they are not telling the truth. They are actively suppressing what they know to be true…that God exists.

Let me be clear about their use of the word God. They are not using the word God in a generic, inclusive sense. When they use the word God they mean the Christian God as revealed in the 66 books of the Christian Bible. All others Gods are false Gods and those who believe in them are, to some degree or another, suppressing their belief in the one, true Christian God.  In other words, billions of people, from atheists to Buddhists to Muslims to every other religion but Christianity, are actively suppressing the truth that the Christian God is the one true God.

On one hand, I am inclined to dismiss people who think like this as arrogant buffoons. As my counselor likes to tell me about God exclusivists; here they are, people with itty-bitty brains, living on an itty-bitty planet, thinking that, out of all the gods humans have ever created, that their God is the one and only true God and that all the other Gods throughout human existence are false. Their proof for this? The Bible says….

As I was reading some of Joshua Whipps blog posts and some of the posts by his presuppositionalist Calvinist friends, I noticed that they believe that there is no such thing as an atheist. In their mind, as soon as the atheist asserts that there is no God, they are admitting there really is a God. Evangelist Justin Cox used a similar line of illogic when he stated that because I write posts about God this means I really believe in God. On the face of it, this is a silly argument but I do want to address it.

Some scientists think human belief in a God and need of religion is an evolutionary trait that our species found beneficial. This does not mean that a God of some sort exists. It just means that believing some sort of God exists was/is beneficial to the human species. As I have stated many times before, humans can believe all sorts of things that are not true. Billions of people, through religion, find purpose, meaning, and direction. The fact that they find purpose, meaning, and direction doesn’t mean that the locus of their belief, God, exists.

Evangelicals think their belief system is truth and all other belief systems are false. Often they appeal to history, pointing out that millions (billions?) of people have believed in the Christian God. The sheer number of believers, according to them, is proof that the Christian God exists. When someone tries this approach with me, as the street preacher in Cincinnati did, I ask them if they think the God of Mormonism is the true God. They always emphatically say NO! Mormonism is a cult! But, wait a minute. I thought that the sheer number of believers is proof that God exists. Millions of people believe in the Mormon God, so this means their God is true. The same argument could be made for Islam or any of the religions of the world that had a God or Gods as the locus of their belief.

The everyone believes in God crowd believes that the existence of God is self-evident. All one has to do is look at nature and they will clearly see that God exists. Remember, they are not arguing for the existence of just any God. In their mind, there is only God, the God of the Christian Bible. But, here’s the problem with this argument, there is nothing in nature that testifies to the existence of the Christian God. Unless one is presupposed to think that God is the Christian God, then looking at nature and saying God did it will not  lead to the specific belief that the Christian God of the Bible did it.

When Evangelicals appeal to nature as proof that God exists, just for fun, I agree with them. I tell them that I fully understand how someone could look at the wonders of the natural world and universe and conclude that a God of some sort created everything. Intellectually, I think the deist argument for God can be made by appealing to nature. But, saying a God of some sort created everything is vastly different from saying the Christian God, as revealed in the 66 books of the Christian Bible, created everything.

What is there in the natural world that says to us that the Christian God of the Bible created everything? Nothing. There is nothing observable that points us to the Bible and the God revealed within its pages. The Bible God is a personal God, a God that is intimately involved with its creation. Any cursory look at our world reveals that the Bible God does not exist. We see no evidence for a God that is intimately part of our day-to-day lives. Millions of Christians pray to this God, yet all that the pray-ers hear is silence.

Claims of answered prayer are subjective and unverifiable. Sure, it is “possible” that there is a God in Heaven manning the prayer switchboard, but if this is the case, it seems that a lot of the prayer calls are being disconnected. Prayers for missing keys are readily answered but prayers pleading for the end of war and violence, for food to eat and clean water to drink, and safety from hurricanes and tornadoes, go unanswered. It seems the Evangelical prayer answering God is focused on minutia, stuff that doesn’t matter. Of course, the Bible teaches this very thinking when it says that God knows the number of hairs on your head. This God may know the number of hairs on our head but he seems unable to keep them from falling out.

babies have no religion

As I have stated countless times, I see no rational, intellectually satisfactory way to get from A God created everything to THE God, the God revealed in the Christian Bible, created everything. Coming to this conclusion requires a person to believe the Bible is truth. Without this presupposition, it is impossible to conclude that it is self-evident that the Christian God of the Bible created everything. In fact, sociologists tell us that religious belief is taught and learned rather than being self-evident. Any cursory look at a map of the world’s religions concentrations show this to be true. I am of the opinion that a child comes into the world as a blank slate and that through parental and societal instruction and example, a child embraces a particular God and religion. (along with morals, ethics, and other beliefs)

It is important to understand that the everyone believes in God crowd often have a poor understanding of atheism. Their arguments are often addressed to atheist absolutists that assert that there is NO God, period. Many of the atheists I know, myself included, do not take this approach. I am agnostic on the God question, as is Richard Dawkins. It is impossible and irrational for me to say with absolute certainty that no God of any sort exists. I can say, with a great degree of certainty, that the Gods that humans in the past or present have worshiped don’t exist. I can look at human history and the various branches of science and conclude that the Christian God of the Bible is a human fabrication. Yet, it is possible that there is some sort of God that has not yet revealed herself to us. Perhaps we are the creation of an alien race or little more than a mind game being played by bored teens on a distant planet. Perhaps the hands off God of the deist exists. There is no way of knowing because this God does not involve itself in its creation.

There are all sorts of God possibilities, but as an atheist I look at the probability of such Gods existing. The probabilities are slim, so slim that I do not give them a moment of my time. I live my life as if no God exists because I see no evidence for a God’s existence. Realizing that I  am a social creature, willingly part of a culture and a tribe, humanism becomes the foundation of my moral and ethical beliefs. When I am asked about my worldview, I respond that humanism is my worldview. It is through humanistic ideal that I live my life and pattern my interaction with others. Humanism provides me with a satisfactory way to understand the world and my place in it.

To the everyone believes in God crowd, none of what I have written here matters. Armed with absolute certainty that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God, their answer to every question is, the BIBLE says. Atheists, agnostics, deists, Unitarians, and non-Christians might as well save their breath when it comes to trying to move Evangelical zealots away from their infallibility. They are like the line in the old gospel song, like a tree planted by the waters, I shall NOT be moved. Until they can consider the notion that they might be wrong, there is no hope of reaching them. Certainty of belief renders a person incapable of seeing things from any vantage point but their own.  Until they are brought to the place of seeing that the claims they make from an ancient text written thousands of years ago are not true or are suspect, then there is no way to reach them. As long as they parrot GOD SAYS there is nothing a skeptic can say that will change their mind. Until they move from GOD SAYS to YEA HATH GOD SAID, as Satan told Eve in the Garden of Eden, any discussion with them is a waste of time. (and this is why I ask Evangelical zealots to read several of Bart Ehrman’s books before engaging me in a discussion about the Bible)

Published: July 17, 2014 | Comments: 2

Another Deconstruction of My Story

ill pray for you

My recent post, Bruce You Have a Narcissistic and Bankrupt Heart, has elicited a response, well kind of a response, from a blogger named RazorsKiss, AKA Joshua Whipps, who blogs at Choosing Hats: Biblical Apologetics to the Glory of God. RazorsKiss’s post is not so much about my post as it is an attempt to deconstruct my life. I tried to leave a comment, but since his post is considered a “teaching” post, no comments are allowed. Evidently, when RazorsKiss teaches his teachings are infallible.

RazorsKiss, tries his best to color the thinking of his readers about me before they click on a link and come to The Way Forward. He writes:

The comments will be off, anyway, like they are on most of my teaching posts.  If he wants to respond, fine, but from what I have read, I won’t be expecting much, except a string of profanities, insults, complaints about x, y, and z, then an altar call for atheism, because they treat people so much better.  Yeah.  I’m buying that. Just as soon as you buy this oceanfront property in Arizona.

I will assume that RazorsKiss is either drunk or using hyperbole because I am not aware of any posts that are ” a string of profanities, insults, complaints about x, y, and z, then an altar call for atheism, because they treat people so much better.” Do I use profanity from time to time. Yep, but it hardly the norm and certainly not to the level of the fine people of God who comment here from time to time. And I make no apology for the fact that I think humanism is superior in every way to Christianity. No hell and twice as much fun, with a serious, compassionate love for the human race.

RazorsKiss states:

…The author, in order for you to be, in his words, a “decent, thoughtful human being,” demands that you deny what you believe concerning the truth or falsity of your respective beliefs.  He demands 1) That you acknowledge that he was “saved” (although it should be fairly obvious to him that this is directly antithetical to our beliefs).  2) That you acknowledge that you might be wrong concerning this whole Christianity deal (even though he would never have granted that demand during his own tenure, pre-liberalism)  3) Acknowledge his “expertise”, despite glaring examples like 1) and 2).

I don’t expect anyone to deny their beliefs. People can believe what they want and I am quite indifferent towards most religious belief. Fundamentalism is the problem, not religion itself. I don’t ask anyone to deny what they believe nor do I expect them to bow to any supposed intellectual or theological superiority I may or may not have. Discussions are welcome here as long as they are respectful and on point. Sadly, Evangelicals have no understanding of respectful and on point.  Their goal is not understanding. They are called to preach, evangelize, and put a good word in for Jesus wherever and whenever they can. Even, when it is unsolicited and unwanted, as with the emails from David R. Leach.

What I want from people is for them to accept my story as I tell it. I try to be honest and authentic. I understand that my story causes all kinds of problems for people trying to square it with their theology. But, that’s not my problem. I can only tell my story as I know and understand it. No one is forced to read it.

But how could you have been saved or a “real” Christian if you now believe there is no god? Simple. To believe you are saved or a Christian does not require the existence of a God to be true. A religious belief such as salvation requires faith and I had faith. I believed…It matters not if my belief was true. By faith I believed that it was, patterned my life around that belief, and countless others believed my belief was true. None of this required the existence of a God. It can easily be explained from a sociological and cultural perspective if one is willing to abandon their theological presuppositions.

RazorsKiss wants to believe, dare I say must believe, that my entire identity is wrapped up in me being an ex-pastor turned atheist. I am not sure how that can be because I am still trying to regain my identity, my true sense of self. It is the Christianity, the church, and the ministry that swallowed up my identity. Isn’t that how it is supposed to be? Jesus is the first, last, the beginning and the end. He is the sum of all things. He is all that matters.

My life now is nothing close to the Jesus absorbed life I lived until the age of fifty. Yes I am an atheist, but I am also a father, husband, and grandfather. I am a photographer and a sports junkie.  None of these things mattered much when I was a Christian because Jesus came first. There was  a church to nurture and souls to save. That’s all that really mattered. These days, my life is fuller in every way. Is being an atheist important to me? Sure, but nowhere near as important as being a Christian was. I could easily stop writing tomorrow and never utter another word about atheism and my life would be fine. Atheism is not the end all.

I won’t spend any more time on RazorsKiss’s post, but I will challenge him to one thing. He states that my observations about Christianity are shallow and stale and show little evidence of any understanding of apologetics. You know apologetics…where Christians go round and round and round and…well you get the picture.

By all means RazorsKiss, engage me on one or more of the posts you condemn.  Let’s start with the one about Evangelicals being Fundamentalists, shall we? I do hope you will come to the discussion prepared to talk about the wide spectrum of fundamentalism within Christianity and the difference between theological and social fundamentalism. Just remember, this blog is for people who are considering leaving Christianity or who have already left. It is a place of safety for those who want to work through their questions and doubts. If my engagement with you is helpful to others then I am game. I have no interest in cut and paste, sermons, long Bible quotations, and the like. Engagement, on point, is expected.

You can read RazorsKiss’s entire post here. Remember you can not comment because it is a “teaching” post. I will leave it to you to determine exactly WHAT it is teaching. I look forward to your comments.

Note

I do give RazorsKiss credit for recognizing that David R Leach was way over the top. See, we can agree on something. :)

Published: July 17, 2014 | Comments: 13

A Letter From Gary

writing a letter

Some of you may remember Gary, a fundamentalist Lutheran,  from several discussions on this blog. In recent times, several of you, including myself, have commented on Gary’s blog. Today, Gary posted a nice open letter to me and the readers of The Way Forward. Here’s the letter:

Dear Bruce and Bruce’s readers:

I am the obnoxious, self-righteous, judgmental jerk mentioned in Bruce’s article above.

I came across Bruce’s website by pure chance one day.  I think I had googled “ex Baptist fundamentalists” out of curiosity as I was a former Baptist fundamentalist.  I was very surprised to find an ex-fundamentalist Baptist pastor turned atheist!  As I read Bruce’s blog I realized Bruce’s “problem”:  Bruce had not been exposed to the RIGHT form of Christianity…MY form of Christianity…orthodox Lutheranism!

So I tried to “help” Bruce.  I tried to share the “truth” with Bruce.  But Bruce simply told me that my “truth” was just another form of Christian fundamentalism, not really any different from Baptist fundamentalism.

I was insulted.

As I tried to “share the truth”, Bruce continued to shoot down my assertions…and my assumptions.  He told me to go read Bart Ehrman and once done, come back and then he would talk to me.

So I did.

And I was blown away!  I was taught as a fundamentalist/evangelical Christian that God would preserve “every word” of his Word.  Therefore, the existing manuscripts of the Bible, in the original languages, MUST be inerrant.  Well, I found out quickly that they are not.  And then, more and more beliefs that I had never questioned were shown to be false assumptions.  I finally had to admit that the Bible is full of errors:  the Resurrection stories in the Gospels, Acts, and I Corinthians are completely irreconcilable to any thinking human being (who has not been brainwashed by fundamentalist Christianity).  Hades(Hell) and the Lake of Fire were ancient Egyptian and Greek concepts long before the Jews picked up these beliefs under the Greek occupation of Palestine just prior to the Roman occupation.  And finally, the realization that there is not ONE shred of archaeological evidence of the two millions Hebrew slaves living in ancient Egypt for 400 years, nor their wandering, and all but TWO of those 2,000,000 dying, in the Sinai.  There was no Exodus, no conquest of Canaan, no great David and Solomon empires.  They are all just Jewish fables.

Fundamentalist/evangelical/orthodox/catholic Christianity is one big “house of cards”.  It is based on so many ignorant assumptions that it is baffling how educated, civilized people living in the 21st century still believe it.

So, first, I owe Bruce a HUGE apology. And I should have come back to his blog to apologize alot sooner than today.  I’m really sorry, Bruce!  I’m sorry for behaving like the stereotypical hateful, self-righteous, judgmental fundamentalist Christian.  I was an ass.  I was a jerk.  Please forgive me!

I have deconverted from Christianity.  I have deconverted from the superstitious, ignorant, bigoted belief system of fundamentalist/orthodox Christianity.  And I owe alot of that to Bruce for opening my eyes to the TRUTH.  There may be a God…but it’s not the Christian god, because the Christian god does not exist.

If it means anything Bruce, despite all the hate mail you receive from Christians, know this:  You have rescued one man and his family from this false, ancient, fear-invoking, middle-eastern cult.

Thank you, Bruce!

I intend to post this public apology on my blog also

You can read Gary’s blog here.

I appreciate Gary’s apology and kind words. I wish him well in the days ahead. As I told several people on his blog who were trying to save him from himself, my hope for Gary is that he finds peace and happiness. Isn’t that what you want for him? No answer, and I know why. Zealots and apologists aren’t interested in peace and happiness. For them, it is all about right belief and converting others. Gary is not an atheist and I am OK with that. Any move away from fundamentalism is a good move. It’s his journey and where it leads him is up to him. I encouraged him just like I do anyone I come in contact with…follow the truth, the evidence wherever it leads. When you meet truth in the middle of the road, don’t try to go around it or back up. Engage the truth and you will end up right where you need to be. This is a long process and I think I speak for most atheists when I say, I haven’t arrived.

I should mention that people like Sgl, Kat, and DaoodS, were also instrumental in helping Gary. They showed great patience and kindness and I think their interaction played a huge part in Gary’s deconversion. We all have a part to play, whether it is by blogging or just telling our story. This is why I encourage The Way Forward readers to tell their story. It matters! The more people who tell their story the more likely it is that those caught in the pernicious trap of fundamentalism will listen. When they begin to have questions and doubts, they will know that they are not alone.

Now if Gary can learn to spell my last name all will be well.  :) It is Gerencser, not Gerenscer. Common mistake. Not as bad as one blog that recently spelled it Grenzer.

Published: July 16, 2014 | Comments: 38

Is the Christian God Good? Are Non-Christians Good?

god is good all the time

Is the Christian God good?

Does the Christian God expect humans to be good?

Every Christian, regardless of what denomination they are a part of will answer both of these questions with a resounding YES.

One local church outside of the town I live in regularly uses this little ditty in their worship services:

God is Good all the time. All the time God is Good.

If God is good all the time and God expects human beings to be good, then it seems that God should at least be as good as the human beings he expects to be good.

Is the Christian God as good as good human beings?

Do we see a good God in the Bible? One would be hard pressed, after reading the Bible, to conclude that God is good all the time. Yes, God does do some good, but the Bible is filled with violent, murderous, capricious acts done by God that no human would call good.

Christians will object I am sure and say God is not bound by the same standard of goodness as humans. So, God expects humans to live by a standard he is unwilling to keep? God, because he is God, can do whatever he wants even if it means acting in ways that no human would call good?

Humans judge goodness based on actions. Good people DO good things. Good people ACT good. Good people live lives of goodness. Sure, they fail from time to time, but, for the most part, they try to live good lives.

human goodnessThe Bible says humans are dead in trespasses and sin and they can’t do good. The only way a person can ever do good is to become a Christian. Then the person will have the Holy Spirit living inside them and they will be able to do good. But even then, all the good the Christian does is because of Jesus. Any bad the Christian does is their own fault, but any good they do is because of the relationship they have with God.

An additional problem is introduced by saying that goodness is the domain of Christians alone. Why is it that so many Christians aren’t good? If God saves the Christian and God lives inside the Christian it would seem that the Christian would always do good.

The Christian has free will, someone is sure to say. Yes, God lives inside every Christian but the Christian has free will and they can choose how they want to live. So, a Christian’s free will is more powerful than God? God can not overcome the Christian’s free will and force them to do good?  God then, is not as powerful as Christians claim. He can be stymied by human free will.

This whole scenario is quite strange. A good God that doesn’t do good because he can do whatever he wants. (of course if doing what he wants is not an act of goodness then I must conclude that God does evil acts) God requires all human beings to be good, yet he does not give them the power to do so.  He empowers all Christians to be good by living inside of them, yet there are times when they are not good. I conclude that God is stymied by the Christian’s free will and is unable to force the Christian to do good.  Is such a powerless God worthy of worship?

The truth is there is no God. No God of goodness, who does good according to a different standard than what he expects human beings to follow. There is no God that lives inside of Christians influencing them to do acts of goodness, acts that God himself is not required to do.

Good people do good. I have said many times that, fortunately, many Christians are far better people than the God they worship. Millions of Christians go about their lives every day trying to do good. What they fail to realize is that they are doing good because they are good and not because a God made them good. Theists and nontheists alike do good. Their acts of goodness have nothing to do with a God.

The next time someone does good and you benefit from it thank the person who did the good. Don’t shoot a prayer to the heavens thanking a not-so-good fictional God for the goodness in your life. Good people do good things and they are the ones that deserve the praise.

Let me conclude this post with a prayer Jimmy Stewart prayed in the 1965 movie Shenandoah:

“Lord, we cleared this land. We plowed it, sowed it, and harvest it. We cook the harvest. It wouldn’t be here and we wouldn’t be eating it if we hadn’t done it all ourselves. We worked dog-bone hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you Lord just the same for the food we’re about to eat, amen.”

Stewart rightly understood where goodness comes from.

Published: July 12, 2014 | Comments: 11

Fear the Atheist

fear of punishment albert einstein

Dan Miller, pastor of Eden Baptist Baptist Church in Burnsville, Minnesota writes:

…When a society begins to believe there are no eternal consequences for individual deeds, that society quickly loses its moral bearings. When people believe they can lie, steal, cheat, oppress others, fornicate, and worship self with no fear of a final accounting before God, their social relationships are constrained by little more than the fuzzy parameters of whatever they can get away with, and vengeance is meted out by whoever holds positions of power.

Milosz witnessed this hazard in the repressive regimes under which he lived. We see the occasional outbreak of this orientation when we witness another school shooting (sadly we now speak in terms of “another”). When a shooter walks into a school building, murders innocent people, then takes his own life, that gunmen demonstrates an utter disregard of any notion of accountability to God after death. If you believe you will stand before your Maker to give account for your life on earth, you do not prepare to enter God’s presence with the blood of children dripping from your hands!

Such a gunman also demonstrates the beclouded notion that he alone can right the wrongs he believes he has suffered at the hands of others. Since there is no God reigning from heaven’s throne who will judge the living and the dead (1 Peter 4:5), vengeance must be taken by my own hand, in this life, where, when, and however I may choose to secure it.

If the notion that we will render final account to God is a myth, it is a remarkably serviceable one. Put me next door to pagans who believes the gods monitor their actions and that their deeds have eternal consequences over anyone who has imbibed the cultural opiate that our actions perish with us. People who believe we are accountable only for what other human beings happen to witness, and that vengeance is theirs to be meted out as they may, frighten me…

Yes Virginia, there really are people who think like this. The good pastor thinks atheists are immoral hedonists constrained by little more than the fuzzy parameters of whatever they can get away with.” He also implies that the school shootings that are so common these days demonstrates an utter disregard of any notion of accountability to God after death.” In fact, if people believe in God, life after death, and final accountability to God, you do not prepare to enter God’s presence with the blood of children dripping from your hands!”

People like Miller can only think this way IF they live in denial of the sociological and cultural facts that clearly reveal that MOST of the crimes committed in this country are committed by people who believe in God, who have some cursory understanding of God’s moral law, and believe in life after death. (that is unless Miller can produce any data that shows that most of the crimes committed in the United States are committed by the 6% of Americans who self identify as an atheist.

What a sad commentary on Christianity that the only thing  keeping Pastor Miller and those who believe like them from raping and murdering others is the threat of divine judgement and punishment. Besides, since the forgiveness of sin in only a prayer away, and any act, no matter how heinous, can be wiped from the slate by one, sincere prayer of repentance and contrition. why sweat the judgment and punishment of God? Like countless Christians do on Sunday, just fire up a prayer to God and reset the accountability clock.

Miller is seemingly oblivious to the fact that atheism is NOT a moral or ethical system. There is nothing about atheism that demand a person think or act a certain way. This is why many atheists are humanists. It is the humanist ideal that provides a moral and ethical framework for living life. From this framework, we establish laws by which we govern the society we live in.

Notes

Eden Baptist Church

Humanist Manifesto III

Published: June 18, 2014 | Comments: 5