Humanism

Is Religious Belief a Virus and Why Atheism is not the Antidote

religion is for fools

I hate Twitter. I am not a fan of having 140 characters at a time discussions and I think many “discussions” on Twitter quickly devolve into the equivalent of two monkeys throwing shit at each other. I tweet every time I post a new blog and I try to “engage” those who respond on Twitter, but I am convinced that a lot of people never read one word of the post they are responding to. They seem to respond to the title rather than the substance of the post. I do not get into Twitter flame wars and I tend to ignore or block anyone who displays childish, trollish behavior.

Apologists for Christianity and atheism roam the internet seeking out opportunities to abuse the opposing side. I have watched with amusement countless unprovoked Twitter wars between Christians and atheists. Each side thinks they have the upper hand and is “winning” the war.

Yesterday, a denizen of the atheist Twitterverse sent me a tweet about Should We Respect the Religious Beliefs of Others? This post has receieved a lot of attention and some atheists are not happy with my approach to religion and those who practice it. Of course, this is not new. I have been branded an accommodationist, a denier of the one holy atheist faith, and a closet Christian.

The above mentioned atheist tweeted the following about religious beliefs:

Absolutely not! They should be publicly ridiculed and shamed until they cease to exist.

I responded with one word, WHY?

The atheist responded:

because religion is a virus. It’s dangerous. Never mind bronze-age thinking that doesn’t apply in today’s world.

I want to focus on notion that religious belief is a virus that atheism is the antidote for. It is bad enough that this atheist thinks the religious should be shamed and ridiculed, but it is even worse that they think religious belief is some sort of harmful, deadly virus that must be eradicated. I don’t want to get into the philosophical or biological arguments for or against religious belief. If you want to investigate further please read:

What I want to focus on is notion that religious belief is a virus that must be eradicated.

The first problem I have with this argument is that it lumps all religious people together.  Doing this makes it quite easy for the atheist to dismiss the beliefs of billions of people. All religious belief is a virus and the antidote is atheism. Most atheists who think this way usually conflate all religion with fundamentalist religion. (specifically fundamentalist Christianity)

Five or so years ago,  I drove to Fort Wayne with a friend of mine to hear atheist Robert M. Price speak. In his speech Price said positive things about Christianity. During the Question and Answer time, one young atheist, full of hostility towards Christianity, stood up and challenged badgered Price over the positive things he said about Christianity. According to this atheist, in 2,000 years Christianity had not done one good thing. Not one.

I was astounded to hear this atheist talk this way and I later wrote about in on my blog. I think it is ludicrous to suggest that Christianity has not done one good thing in its 2,000 year history. While we can certainly debate whether the good they did/do outweighs the bad they did/do, only a person blinded by hate for Christianity can fail to see that Christians, through the sects and churches they are a part of, have done many good things. (regardless of what we may think of their motive for doing so)

The second problem I have with this kind of thinking is that atheists have yet to prove to me that atheism is an antidote for the Christian virus. I am of the opinion that atheism offers little when it comes to life, morality, and ethics. Atheism is, and always will be:

The rejection of belief in the existence of deities

Atheism is not a worldview, a moral system, or a way of life. It is simply “the rejection of belief in the existence of deities.” The problem the atheist movement has is that many atheists never move  beyond this statement. They spend all their time arguing/debating/attacking Christianity rather than developing a comprehensive worldview, complete with a standard of morality and ethics.  They need to intellectually grow up and start thinking about what a post-religion world might look like. Are we sure the world would be better off if everyone became an atheist? I am not convinced.

When I tell someone I am an atheist, what does this statement tell the person about me? Not much. All they know is that I don’t believe in God. (and here in America God is defined as the Christian God) They know nothing about my morals, ethics, or beliefs. They know nothing about how I view the world. This is why it is important for me to tell them that I am not only an atheist but I am also a secularist and a humanist.

It is my humanist beliefs that give my life a moral and ethical foundation, a foundation atheism can not provide. Perhaps this is a good spot to remind readers of what I call the humanist ideal (from the Humanist Manifesto III) :

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

The lifestance of Humanism—guided by reason, inspired by compassion, and informed by experience—encourages us to live life well and fully. It evolved through the ages and continues to develop through the efforts of thoughtful people who recognize that values and ideals, however carefully wrought, are subject to change as our knowledge and understandings advance.

This document is part of an ongoing effort to manifest in clear and positive terms the conceptual boundaries of Humanism, not what we must believe but a consensus of what we do believe. It is in this sense that we affirm the following:

Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis. Humanists find that science is the best method for determining this knowledge as well as for solving problems and developing beneficial technologies. We also recognize the value of new departures in thought, the arts, and inner experience—each subject to analysis by critical intelligence.

Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change. Humanists recognize nature as self-existing. We accept our life as all and enough, distinguishing things as they are from things as we might wish or imagine them to be. We welcome the challenges of the future, and are drawn to and undaunted by the yet to be known.

Ethical values are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience. Humanists ground values in human welfare shaped by human circumstances, interests, and concerns and extended to the global ecosystem and beyond. We are committed to treating each person as having inherent worth and dignity, and to making informed choices in a context of freedom consonant with responsibility.

Life’s fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of humane ideals. We aim for our fullest possible development and animate our lives with a deep sense of purpose, finding wonder and awe in the joys and beauties of human existence, its challenges and tragedies, and even in the inevitability and finality of death. Humanists rely on the rich heritage of human culture and the lifestance of Humanism to provide comfort in times of want and encouragement in times of plenty.

Humans are social by nature and find meaning in relationships. Humanists long for and strive toward a world of mutual care and concern, free of cruelty and its consequences, where differences are resolved cooperatively without resorting to violence. The joining of individuality with interdependence enriches our lives, encourages us to enrich the lives of others, and inspires hope of attaining peace, justice, and opportunity for all.

Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness. Progressive cultures have worked to free humanity from the brutalities of mere survival and to reduce suffering, improve society, and develop global community. We seek to minimize the inequities of circumstance and ability, and we support a just distribution of nature’s resources and the fruits of human effort so that as many as possible can enjoy a good life.

Humanists are concerned for the well being of all, are committed to diversity, and respect those of differing yet humane views. We work to uphold the equal enjoyment of human rights and civil liberties in an open, secular society and maintain it is a civic duty to participate in the democratic process and a planetary duty to protect nature’s integrity, diversity, and beauty in a secure, sustainable manner.

Thus engaged in the flow of life, we aspire to this vision with the informed conviction that humanity has the ability to progress toward its highest ideals. The responsibility for our lives and the kind of world in which we live is ours and ours alone.

The humanist ideal is what provides me with a view of how I want the world to look. It provides the parameters for how I want to live my life and how I want to engage others around me. Standing on a street corner screaming I am an atheist might feel good, but it does little to change the world for good.

Look, I understand the anger some atheists have as a result of being misused, abused, and attacked by Christian fundamentalists. I share their anger and frustration over Christian fundamentalism’s war against justice, fairness, science, and freedom. But, suggesting that all religious belief is inherently harmful, a virus for which atheism is the antidote, helps no one. It makes the atheist out to be no different from the  fundamentalist.

I have my own misgivings about how fundamentalist Christian parents indoctrinate their children at an early age, about how they teach them to think about the world. It troubles me that children often don’t choose a religion but a religion is chosen for them by their parents. But, don’t we all do this? Whatever our beliefs and values are, don’t we teach them to our children? I don’t know of any parent that treats their child as a blank slate and allows the child to write whatever they want on the slate. Parents have an obligation to teach their children how to think and how to navigate the world. If parents don’t teach their children, others will. From the moment a child is born, they are faced with countless beliefs, ideas, and values competing for their allegiance.

Like most atheists, I want children to be taught to think critically. Instead of being told what to think, I want them to be taught how to think. But, as every parent knows, there is a limit to allowing a child to think for themselves. Parents have an obligation to care for and protect their children until they are ready to fend for themselves. So, if a 12-year- old girl uses her “critical” thinking skills and decides she wants to be sexually active with the 16-year-old neighbor boy, should her parents allow her to do so? Of course not, because there is more to life than just developing the right thinking skills. Maturity comes with age and experience, and until a child is mature enough to survive on their own, their parents have an obligation to protect them.

Since we live in a world that is dominated, influenced, and controlled by religion, should our children not be exposed to religion? (as I mentioned in a previous post, I think every high school student should be required to take a class in philosophy and world religions) If we don’t expose them to religion then we make them vulnerable, easy targets for cults and proselytizing religions. I see no harm in a child attending the local religious social club with the parents. As long as they are not aggressively evangelized, they will be fine.

Like it or not, most children will graduate high school with a borrowed system of beliefs. Taught by their parents, extended family, teachers, culture, and peers, they will begin life with what others have taught them. As they  get older, they will begin to develop their own system of beliefs. They will likely hang on to some of what they have been taught and abandon or reshape the rest. Every person must determine for themselves what they REALLY believe. Thanks to the internet, young people have a limitless source of information to consult as they develop their own beliefs. Atheists have to decide if they want to be a source of information for inquiring minds or just another billboard advertising a truncated, intolerant atheism.

I think humanism is the best hope for the world and this is why I try to engage the religious. Nothing is gained by getting into Twitter or Facebook wars with Christian zealots. They can’t be reached, but there are millions of people who can be reached and they should be our focus. The hold that fundamentalism has on a family can be broken in one generation. All it takes is reaching one person with the gospel of humanism. Once they see that humanism is the best hope for the world, the fundamentalist “virus” can no longer replicate and it dies. The person may become an atheist but maybe not. Maybe they will become a religious humanist or a liberal/progressive Christian, or maybe they will  say that they are spiritual. It’s their journey and wherever they end up is where they need to be. And we atheists need to be OK with that.

Published: March 21, 2014 | Comments: 22

Abortion, Euthanasia, Hell, Marriage, and the Problem of Evil

question

A regular commenter by the name of Scott asked me to comment on:

  • Abortion
  • Euthanasia
  • Hell
  • Marriage
  • The Problem of Evil

Scott describes himself as:

Spoken by a closet unchristianising (??) Reformed doubter (sorry believer) of 40+yrs, who still gets something out of Christianity although I never tell those around me where I’m really at….

Those of us who have deconverted from Christianity can readily understand where Scott is right now. It’s like standing in the middle of a busy highway with traffic coming at you from both directions. Do I go this way, that way…if I go the wrong way I am sure to be hit by the traffic. The good news is Scott understands where he is and he continues to read, ask questions, and consider carefully what direction he should go.

While I will certainly not be able to give each of these subjects the time they deserve, I do want to take a stab at them. If I have written on the subject before, I will link to the appropriate post.

Abortion

I have written on abortion previously, Abortion Facts, Lies, and Contradictions.  At one time, I was an ardent life begins at conception, abortion is murder, pro-lifer.  As my politics became more liberal so did my view on abortion. While I agree with the pro-lifer that we should protect human life, I disagree with them on when that life begins. Does life begin at fertilization? The pro-lifer says yes and I say no. At the moment of fertilization potential life is created and if left undisturbed it may grow into a human that can exist outside of the womb of its mother.

The line for me is viability. Once a fetus reaches the point that it can live outside of the mother’s womb, then government should regulate when an abortion is permissible. This would mean that 1.5-5% of abortions would be regulated by federal/state government.

The bigger issue is making sure that there is no need for abortion, and here the United States we must put an end to the Christian/Political right’s incessant war on abortion. They want to prohibit all abortion, yet they are also against woman/teens having free access to birth control. Their religious beliefs get in the way of what should be sound government policy; free birth control, including morning after drugs, for all.

Euthanasia

My position on euthanasia (physician assisted suicide) is quite simple. I think a person who is mentally competent should be able to determine how and when they die. I do think the government should regulate the who, what, and why of the discussion, but every person should have the right to say, I don’t want to live anymore.

This subject became a real topic of discussion recently when we had to have our cat euthanized. I decided to let Polly and our youngest daughter handle Salazar and his declining health. For several weeks, I reminded them that he was suffering, that it was “time.” They just couldn’t bring themselves to make to the call. Finally, I realized they never were going to make the call so I said, call the vet, it is time. Once I made the decision, they were relieved and quickly acted upon my decision.

This taught me an important lesson and it caused me to rethink my end-of-life plans. If Polly can’t make the hard decision to euthanize a cat, how can I expect Polly to make the right call when it comes my time to die? (and I am not criticizing her here. I am simply being a realist)  While I have an advance directive, I have decided to add my two oldest sons to the list of those to be involved in my end-of-life decisions. Polly knows what I want, she knows at what point I no longer want to suffer with pain, but I don’t know if she can or will do what I want her to do. So, I think having my two oldest sons as part of the process will be a great help for Polly when the end of life comes for me.

I see no value, in fact I think it is cruel and inhumane, to require someone to suffer until the bitter end. I think Christian teaching on suffering, which permeates our society,  promotes needless pain and suffering, and vilifies those who want to end their own life. It is my life not God’s or the church’s, and, as a free moral agent, I should have the right to determine when, where and how I die. Because I write about chronic illness and chronic pain from time to time, there are a lot of sickies who read this blog. I suspect most of them want when, where, and how they die to be in their hands. They don’t want the government or religious do-gooders to get in the way of them negotiating their own death.

Hell

I have written several posts on the subject of hell, Do You Still Fear Going to Hell?, Dear Christian, If You Believe There is a Hell, Learning to Face Death.

The only hell is the hell that human beings and nature causes. Since I don’t think there is an afterlife, I have no thoughts of eternal life in hell or heaven. We live, we die, end of story.  The only hell and heaven we have is in this life, so my goal is to lessen the hell and expand the heaven.

I know that shaking thoughts of hell can be very hard for someone who no longer believes. Remember, these thoughts are just vestiges from your religious past. I call them a fundamentalist hangover. Over time, as our minds are cleared of mythical and harmful religious beliefs, thoughts of hell, heaven, and the afterlife fade away. What matters is now, this life, and the future of our children and grandchildren.

Of course, you need to decide this for yourself. I don’t want to be in hell someday and have a reader of this blog come up to me and say, So much for listening to you, Bruce!

Marriage

Polly and I will celebrate our 36th wedding anniversary in July. I am a happily married man 99% of the time and I think Polly and I are a great match for each other. I love her dearly and I don’t regret for one moment asking her to marry me. Our marriage is quite traditional, not much different from the marriages of our parent’s generation.

That said, what I may like about marriage or what I think is a good marriage might be different for someone else. So, from a legal and social perspective, I think marriage is a legal contract between two people. The government regulates the legal parameters of marriage. Culture, religion, and personal beliefs regulate the moral and practical structure of a marriage. I don’t think the government has any business, outside of setting the age for marriage and determining whether a person can marry someone they have a familial connection with, determining who can and can not marry.

35 years ago, Polly and I stood before our family and friends and said our vows. We made a commitment to each other and we expect each other to keep the terms of our commitment (contract). (though how we define these commitments has changed over the years) But, our commitment should not be the standard for anyone else. Each couple must decide what the terms of their contract is. Polly and I committed ourselves to a monogamous relationship, as I suspect most Americans do. But, different strokes for different folks. Some couples have an open marriage or their marriage is bound by economic, social, or political terms rather than physical/sexual terms.

The Problem of Evil

I think Bart Ehrman’s book, God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question–Why We Suffer, is an excellent read on this subject.

The problem of evil (theodicy) is one of the primary reasons I deconverted. I came to the conclusion that, according to the Bible, God  created/allowed evil and that he capriciously holds humans accountable for what he alone is responsible. He could have created humans so they couldn’t sin. He could step into human history and stop evil from happening. If God is all that Christianity says he is, then he is quite the monster if he refuses to stop evil. Everywhere I look I see evil. I see sickness, disease, suffering, violence, starvation, and war. And what does God do? Nothing.

Of course, the reason God does nothing is because he does not exist. It is up to humans to stop evil and to help those who are afflicted. God is not coming to rescue us. There is no miracle fixing to happen if we just believe. It is up to us, as thousands of years of human history clearly show us.

Does evil exist? Sure, evil exists in the bad actions of humans, whether they act alone or as a political, social, or corporate body.  For our own sake and the sake of our species future, we must stand against evil.

Scott asks whether we should kill people who are mad or bad?  It depends. We must first decide what is mad or bad. All of us agree that getting drunk and then driving an automobile is a bad thing to do. Sometimes, people die because inebriated people cause an accident. Should we be proactive and kill every person that is inebriated? After all, if we did this we would put an end to people being killed by drunk drivers. I doubt many people would advocate preemptive strikes against people who drink too much.

But, what about the drone strikes that are now routinely carried out by the Obama administration? We know that terrorists can and do commit evil acts, but should we preemptively kill all suspected terrorists? Some might say yes, but I say no. Why? Because I think drone strikes are too subjective and they lead to innocent people being killed. (and I think they do little to decrease the threat of terrorism)

I strenuously oppose both the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan, but I would have supported the government hunting down and killing the men responsible for 9-11.  Punish those who are responsible for the evil, thus eliminating their ability to commit evil acts again.

I realize this is a complex issue and there are many nuances and shades of gray to consider.  While I am a pacifist, I am not so naïve to think that the US government can/should sit by when evil men do whatever they want. Unfortunately, the US government has often perpetrated their own evil, like the nuclear bombing of Japan, the fire bombing on Dresden, and the indiscriminate use of Agent Orange in Vietnam. Like an evil Dr. Jekyll, the US government has conducted evil experiments on blacks and the mentally handicapped. They have rounded up Japanese Americans and put them in concentration camps. They supported and profited from the subjugation of an entire race when they supported or turned a blind-eye to slavery.

I think the US government is quite hypocritical when it decides what evil it goes after. Evil terrorists, yes. Genocide in Sudan and Rwanda, no. As an aging man, I have come to realize that the US government can be evil and it can be good and often it can be evil and good at the same time.

Here’s what I know. Few people would object if we could go back to 1933 and put a bullet in the head of Adolph Hitler. In fact, I would abandon my pacifistic principles to do so myself.  Every one of us have the obligation to root out evil and promote good. Unfortunately, most people don’t give a shit, think they are powerless, or have a warped, shallow understanding of evil and good. (i.e. the people on Faux News who think Christians being persecuted in America, you know the “war’ on Christians, is evil. Their ideology keeps them from understanding what evil really is. We all need to be aware of this.)

Have I said enough in this post to piss everyone off? :) Hopefully, I adequately answered Scott’s questions. I am sure he will let me know if I didn’t.
 

Published: March 14, 2014 | Comments: 15

Dear Evangelical

writing a letter

Dear Evangelical,

Thank you for stopping by to read my blog. You probably came to this blog via a web search, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, Reddit, a link on another website, or a link in an email sent to you by someone asking you if you had seen this blog. Whatever path you took to get here, I want you know that I appreciate you taking time to read my blog.

Let me tell you a little about myself. Here’s the short story:

I am a fifty-six year old man who lives in rural NW Ohio. I have been married for thirty-five years, have six grown children, and nine grandchildren. I was baptized as an Episcopalian and at the age of five started attending Evangelical churches. All told, I was in the Christian church for fifty years. For twenty-five years I pastored Evangelical churches in Ohio, Michigan, and Texas. In 2003 I left the ministry and in 2008 I left Christianity. I am now an atheist and a secular humanist.

If you want more details about my life, please read the About page. If you want to learn more about my journey from Evangelicalism to Atheism, please check out the My Journey page.

I have been blogging since 2007. Every Evangelical that has ever come to this blog falls under one of four categories:

  • They have questions and doubts about Christianity and are seeking answers
  • They are a former friend, family member, or member of a church I pastored
  • They are curious about my life
  • They want to let me know they are praying for me or they want to  evangelize me, correct me, preach to me, lambast me, quote Bible verses to me, tell me I am going to hell, or tell me how wrong I am.

If you have questions and doubts about Christianity and would like my help, I am more than happy to help you. Please send me an email via the Contact form and I will get back with you.

If you are a former friend, family member, or member of a church I pastored, I appreciate you reading my blog. I know it must pain you to read my writing, but I hope you will do your best to try to understand the journey I am on. I am trying to be open, honest, and transparent, character traits you at one time admired.   If you are perplexed by the fact that I am now an atheist, please read the posts on the My Journey page.  I think you will find A Letter to Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners, Dear Friend, Dear Ann, A Letter to My Fundamentalist Grandmother, Dear Bruce, A Letter to My Youth Pastor, Dear Mom and Dad, A Letter to Fundamentalist Christian Parents, and From Evangelicalism to Atheism to be quite helpful.

If you are curious about my life, it is likely you have been reading a number of my posts. I appreciate you being willing to try to understand my journey. There are three posts I would like to point out to you that I think would be very helpful, Why I Stopped BelievingThe Danger of Being in a Box and Why it All Makes Sense When You Are in a Box and What I Found When I Left the Box. If you have any questions or need me to clarify something, please email me via the Contact form.

If you came to my blog so you can  let me know you are praying for me or you want to  evangelize me, correct me, preach to me, lambast me, quote Bible verses to me, tell me I am going to hell, or tell me how wrong I am, I want to let you know that I am not interested in what you have to say. After almost seven years of being mentally and emotionally brutalized by people like you, I have not interest in what you have to say. Here are some posts that might help you understand why I have no interest in what you have to say:

Based on years of experience, I know you likely will not read any of these posts. In your mind, you already know all you need to know. You have read one post and you are now ready to pass judgment. You are ready to leave the mother of all comments and I am sure you will be peacock proud when you are done. I want to help you, so I made up a form that should make your commenting easier:

Name: (Put in fake name because you are so fearless)

Email Address: (Put in fake email address because God knows who you are)

Reason for Commenting/Contacting Bruce Gerencser (Choose all that apply)

_____To tell him he is wrong

_____To preach to him

_____To quote Bible verses to him

_____To evangelize him

_____To tell him he doesn’t know anything about the Bible

_____To let him know God still loves him

_____To let him know I am praying for him

_____To tell him he never was a Christian

_____To tell him he is going to hell

_____To tell him he is still saved and can never be un-saved

_____To tell him he was/is a false prophet

_____To tell him he was/is a wolf in sheep’s clothing

_____To tell him he is angry

_____To tell him he is bitter

_____To tell him his writing shows he has been hurt

_____To tell him he is fat

_____To tell him I hope he burns in hell

_____To tell him that I am praying God will kill him

_____To tell him that he has a meaningless, empty life

_____To tell him he is going to die soon and then he will find out THE TRUTH!

_____To tell him that I know THE TRUTH about him!

Just cut and paste this into your comment or email.

You need to understand that the purpose of this blog is to help people who have doubts and questions and are considering leaving Christianity; and to help and encourage people who have already left Christianity. Those who frequent this blog are like family to me, so I hope you will understand if I don’t let you fill up the comment section with your trollish, abusive, argumentative, judgmental comments.

Please don’t try to claim that you have a First Amendment right to say whatever you want on my blog. You don’t and you know it. But I will make you an offer…I will allow you to say whatever you want in the comment section IF I can come to your church on Sunday and preach my atheistic beliefs. Deal?  That’s what I thought…

Generally, I give an Evangelical one opportunity to say whatever they want. I know my writing constipates them so I want to give them one enema, so to speak. Just one. Say what you think “God” wants you to say and move on. 99% of the time, I will not post any other comments after the first one. For the 1% of Evangelicals who leave a decent, thoughtful comment, I am willing to continue approving their comments if they can abide by the commenting rules:

All commenters are expected to use a functioning email address. The use of a fake or non-functioning email address will result in your comment being deleted.

Pseudonyms are permitted.

Before commenting, please read the ABOUT page to acquaint yourself with my background. You might also want to read the MY JOURNEY page.

The following type of comments will not be approved:

  • Preachy/sermonizing comment
  • Bible verse quoting comment
  • Evangelizing comment
  • I am praying for you comment
  • You are going to hell comment
  • You never were saved comment
  • You never were a Christian comment
  • Any comment that is a personal attack
  • Any comment that is not on point with what the post is about
  • Any comment that denigrates abuse victims

I write about issues that might not be child-friendly. Please be aware of this. I also use profanity from time to time and I allow the use of profanity in the comment section.

The Way Forward is not a democracy where anyone has a right to say whatever they want. This is my personal blog and I reserve the right to approve or not approve a comment. When a comment or a commenter is abusive towards the community of people who read this blog, I reserve the right to ban the commenter.

If you can be respectful, decent, and thoughtful, your comment will always be approved. Unfortunately, there are many people, Evangelical/Fundamentalist Christians in particular, who have a hard time playing well with others. They often use a passive-aggressive approach to me and the non-Christian people who frequent this blog. This kind of behavior will not be tolerated and will result in a permanent ban.

This blog is also not a place for hardcore atheists, fundamentalist atheists to evangelize for the atheist faith. While I am an atheist, not everyone who reads this blog and comments is. Frank, honest, open discussion about religion, Christianity, and Evangelicalism is encouraged and welcome. I do, however, expect atheists to not attack, badger, or denigrate people who still believe in God. If you are respectful, decent, and thoughtful, you will be fine.

My writing is direct and pointed and so is my response to a comment. Please do not confuse my directness and pointedness with me attacking you or your religion. This is a grown-up blog, so crying that I offended you or “attacked” your religion will fall on deaf ears. Again, it is mostly Evangelical/Fundamentalist Christians who do this.

If you can play by these rules, I hope you will become a part of The Way Forward community and join the discussion.

Here’s another thing I have learned over the years…most Evangelical zealots will ignore the comment rules. They think they have a right to say anything they want because they speak for God. But, invoking the name of God carries no weight here.  If God really wants to speak to me, I am sure he doesn’t need you to carry the message. God knows where I am and he can speak to me any time he wants. So far, God has not said a word. Either he is busy, mad at me, or he doesn’t exist. I am going with the last one.

If my unwillingness to allow you to foul the comment section offends you, I encourage you to start your own blog.  You can have your own blog in as little as five minutes and(Blogger, WordPress, and Tumblr) then you can rage against me and deconstruct my life all you want. Be aware that several people have, in the past, decided to do this and they have found it hard to faithfully, regularly  deconstruct my life. (like Tony Breeden, whose deconstruction of Bruce Gerencser lasted all of two months)

Most of all, I hope you will consider what your words and actions say about you as a person and the God you say you serve. What in your behavior would draw me to Jesus and compel me to come back to the Christian religion? Hundreds and hundreds of Evangelical zealots have come before you. In every case, if given enough space to expose who and what they really are, they proved to be a poignant reminder of why l am glad I am no longer a Christian.

I wish you well.

A sinner saved by reason,

Bruce Gerencser

Published: March 13, 2014 | Comments: 12

Are We Committing Mental Infidelity?

what do you really believe

Warning! If you love my atheism but hate my politics, you might want to skip this post. You have been warned.

“It is necessary to the happiness of man that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what one does not believe. It is impossible to calculate the moral mischief, if I may so express it, that mental lying has produced in society. When man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind, as to prescribe his professional belief to things he does not believe, he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime.Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason

No, I am not talking about Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:27, 28:

Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

As sexual creatures, most of us have lusted after someone at one time or another. The pious among us who say they have NEVER done this are, let me see how I can put this, LYING! The mental infidelity I am talking about in this post happens when we profess to believe things that we know we really don’t believe or we say one thing but do another. Paine calls this mental lying.

All of us can have times in our lives when we doubt what we really believe. The process of deconversion is a messy process laden with doubt. When breaking from a theological system of thought like Evangelical Christianity, it is not surprising that the person deconverting has a lot of doubts and might even have inconsistent or contradictory beliefs. Often they know what they DON’T believe, but are uncertain as what they DO believe.

Like many people who left Christianity, my path out the church was long and arduous. For a time I was an emerging/emergent Christian. Then I moved on to liberal/progressive Christianity, stopping briefly to dabble with universalism. Ultimately, I embraced agnosticism and atheism. Humanism became the foundation for my moral and ethical beliefs.

These days, I am far more concerned about presenting and advancing the humanist ideal than I am being a general in the atheist army of faithlessness. Like many atheists, I have reached a place in my life where I have little taste for the wars between Christian fundamentalists and atheists. No one wins and everyone smells like shit when the war is over. I understand the need for newly minted atheists and agnostics to get the feet of religion off their neck. Really, I do. However, to quote the Apostle Paul:

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

Sooner or later, hopefully sooner, we have to grow up. As an atheist/agnostic/humanist/liberal, I want to devote the rest of my life to understanding what it is I really believe. Once I am relatively sure of my intellectual/moral/ethical foundation, then I want to put those beliefs into practice.

We rightly and quickly  point out the hypocrites in Christianity. They are easy to spot because they are everywhere. We watch with glee as they say one thing but do another. They publicly say this I believe, but in their heart they really don’t believe what they are saying. They preach of hell and judgment, yet they live lives that seem like a contradiction of their moralizing.  They speak of heaven and just passing through this world, yet they live in expensive houses, drive fancy cars,have maxed out credit cards,  and own the same worldly accoutrements as their atheist neighbors.  They preach up sexual fidelity and heterosexual marriage, yet they screw around and get divorced just as often as their unwashed, uncircumcised Philistine neighbors.

As an atheist/agnostic/humanist/liberal, I know what life I don’t want. The Christian church is my Egypt and I have no intentions of going back into bondage. As the old gospel song goes, I have come to far to turn back now. As I intellectually mature, I want what I say publicly to match what  I really believe. I’ve had a lifetime of hypocrisy and I want no more of it. I want to be, as Thomas Paine calls it, mentally faithful to myself.

If I have learned anything in life it is this…give a person enough time and they will always reveal in their behavior what they really  believe. The Bible says in Proverbs, as a man thinks so is he. Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.” We show with our actions what we really believe.

the conservative bible

Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” Not, blessed are those who think peace is a good idea, but blessed are those who make peace, who pursue peace.  Right-wingers, theocratic preachers, and military hawks, speak of peace, yet in their heart they really believe in power and dominance. Christian George Bush spoke of peace in the Middle East, and then proceeded to  slaughter tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi and Afghan men, women, and children. His lips spoke of peace, but his heart spoke of imperialism, cheap oil, and getting even.

Even now, these same saber rattlers are trying to goad President Obama into military conflicts with Syria, Iran, and Russia. With their lips they speak of preserving the peace, but what they really believe in is American exceptionalism and global domination.

Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk, rightly stated that war NEVER brings peace. It only brings a cessation of hostilities. In the 56 years that I have been alive, the United States has fought one bloody immoral war after another. Our leaders speak of America being a city on a hill, a place where freedom and democracy reigns. Yet, these very same leaders have no problem with incarcerating more people per capita than any other country in the world. They have no problem spying on us and invading our privacy. They speak of being concerned about the poor and the sick, yet they stand in their congressional office with their pants down getting a daily blow job from those who really own their hearts, lobbyists and corporations. Again, they say one thing but really believe another.

Global climate change is ravaging our planet. Only the deliberately ignorant among us ignore what is happening. Our planet is warming rapidly, and by the start of the next century, according to some models, rising sea water could be lapping at the doors of Harvard University. Hurricane Katrina and Sandy have taught us nothing. Oh, we talk like we are serious about climate change and environmental degradation, but our actions speak louder than our words.  We want the deified American dream and American way of life, and the rich among us are determined to keep this way of life even if it means tens of millions of Americans end up in the poor house. As countries like China and India enter their own industrial revolution, they want to have the same prosperous life that Westerner’s have. Not only can we not survive their prosperity, neither can we survive the prosperity of the West. Continued, never-ending economic growth and prosperity is a delusion that will end badly. Some day the last widget will be bought, then what?

calvin on global warming

I, for one, am weary of speeches, slogans, bumper stickers, programs, action alerts, news reports, blog posts,and books. Men like Al Gore scold the world about global warming, and then fly around the world in fuel guzzling jets, drive SUV’s, and live in houses that could support a dozen or more families. Their lifestyle doesn’t line up with their words.

Each of us need to ask ourselves, what is it we really believe? Do our words match our beliefs? Even more importantly, do our actions match our beliefs?

Published: March 5, 2014 | Comments: 11

Letter to the Editor February 6, 2014

letter to editor

I sent the following letter to the editor of the Defiance Crescent-News. It should appear in the paper in the next week or two. I am sure it will elicit a response from local fundamentalist Christians. I will put their responses to my letter in another post.

Dear Editor,

Every week readers of the Crescent-News are subjected to the rants of Bible quoting fundamentalist Christians. Perhaps it is time to rename the editorial page the sermon page. What do these letter writers hope to accomplish?

They seem oblivious to the fact that non-Christians, atheists, humanists, and secularists are immune to their sermonizing. The Bible has no power over us because we do not think it is an authoritative or supernatural book. At best, it is an ancient text written by unknown fallible men centuries ago.

As any student of the text of the Bible knows, the Bible has errors and contradictions. While it certainly has value as an inspirational text, it is no different of a book than any other book. Some of its teaching are now considered immoral, and anyone with a modicum of science training knows that the universe was not created in six literal twenty-four hour days. Most Christian sects accept evolution as the best explanation for the natural world; it is only  fundamentalists that continue to hang on to a thoroughly disproved belief.

The United States is a peculiar country when it comes to religion and science. On one hand, we are known for scientific advancement, yet because of Christian fundamentalism, we continue to fight battles over creationism, global warming, and human sexuality.

I come into contact on my blog with people from all over the world. They are, at times, stunned by how scientifically backward the Unites States is. We continue to fight battles that were fought in their countries decades ago. Why is it we still fight these kind of battles in the United States?

One of the reasons is that we have a hands off approach to Christian beliefs.  Driving this approach is the historically ignorant belief that the United States is a Christian nation and that the Bible was our “real” founding document. Because of this, Christianity is given preferential treatment and mustn’t be criticized.

It is time to end this hands off approach. Christianity has no right to special status. While I have no problem with people worshipping the Christian God, I do object to the notion that they should control our government and schools. The United States is a secular state, and a secular state should be governed by laws not the Bible. In a secular state, our children should be taught science not creationism or its gussied up sister intelligent design. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to make sure that they have facts and evidence. If their parents want them to have religious instruction they can take them to church or teach them at home. We must continue to make sure there is a wall of separation between church and state.

When this letter is printed, fundamentalists will be outraged and they will write letters expressing how wrong I am. They are certain that they are right. They have God’s inspired, inerrant Word to “prove” how right they are. And ‘round and ‘round we go.

Bruce Gerencser
Ney, Ohio

Published: February 6, 2014 | Comments: 10

Why Many Christians Aren’t Interested in What I have to Say

i just don't care

As many of you know, I see a secular counselor on a regular basis. More than once, he has challenged me about what he considers my naïvety about my fellow humans. For the longest time, I sincerely believed that if I just explained myself to someone they would at least understand where I am coming from.  While they might not agree with me, they would at least understand my viewpoint. I now know, that many people, especially Evangelical Christians, aren’t interested in understanding where I am coming from. They are not interested in my beliefs, explanations, or story. Armed with certainty, God living inside of them, and an inspired, infallible, inerrant text, they already know who and what I am. Nothing I say will change their opinion of me.

These kind of people think they know the REAL reasons I left the ministry and left Christianity. They are certain they know exactly why I became an atheist. If me telling my story contradicts  their conclusions, then I am lying, deceived, delusional, or a con-artist. Because their mind is already made up, anything that does not fit into the narrative they believe to be true, is rejected out of hand. One commenter told me years ago, Bruce, I know you better than you know yourself. I think there are a lot of Evangelical Christians who think this way about me. They think their special relationship with God gives them an understanding of me that other people might not have. Most of these people have never met me and the only things they know about me are what they read on The Way Forward. They are quite certain that they know me inside and out.

When I tell them I left Christianity primarily for intellectual reasons, they don’t believe me.  There must be some other reason, perhaps a “secret” reason why I am no longer a Christian. They can not imagine how anyone, having all the training and experience I have, could ever intellectually reject Jesus Christ. They are like a person who drives a Ford. They love driving a Ford and because they love driving a Ford everyone else should too. They can’t imagine ever driving any other car but a Ford. When asked what kind of car their parents drove, they will proudly say, a Ford! It never dawns on them that perhaps the reason they drive a Ford is because their parents drove a Ford. They are convinced they drive a Ford because it is better than every other automobile make, even though they have never driven any other make of car but Ford.

Most of the atheists/agnostics I know, were Christians before  they became an atheist/agnostic. Many of them were serious, devoted followers of Jesus Christ. They attended church regularly, were active in the church, read and studied their Bible, prayed regularly, and financially contributed to the church. In every way, they were true-blue Christians.

These atheists, like myself, reached a place where they began to have questions about the Bible and Christianity. They began to have doubts and questions, and their doubts and questions led to more doubts and questions. They never intended to not be a Christian, but as they read and studied, they came to the conclusion that they could no longer believe the tenets of Christianity. They lost their faith in God, the Bible, and Christianity. Few people can understand the pain and heartache that they faced and continue to face as they walked always from that which was once most precious.

Many of my critics assume that I jumped from fundamentalist Christianity to atheism. They refuse to take a careful look at the path that led me to where I am today. It goes something like this:

  • Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Christian
  • Evangelical Christian
  • Emerging/Emergent Christian
  • Progressive/Liberal Christian
  • Universalist
  • Agnostic
  • Atheist/Humanist

I tried to find a natural stopping point, but I couldn’t. No matter how much I tried  to shut off my mind to the questions, they would continue to come to the forefront of my thinking and demand an answer from me. It is the seeking of answers that finally led me to where I am today, and will lead me to where I will be tomorrow. While I certainly haven’t tried and examined every religion, I am comfortable with where I am today.

Many of those who refuse to accept my story at face value are sure that there is some other underlying motive for my unbelief. Brad, a recent commenter on my post about Steven Furtick, is an excellent example of this. Here is what he had to say:

I’m sorry to hear that you left the ministry and even more that you decided to leave Christ for a life of Atheism. I do agree with some of your comments about Furtick and his financial lifestyle.

I actually relate more with the approach of Francis Chan, as described in his book Crazy Love, which I’m assuming that you are probably familiar with. The reason I wanted to comment is because the bigger picture that you are missing is salvation. No matter if Furtick is making poor decisions regarding his finances, that does not change his salvation.

I’m concerned for you Bruce. I understand that I came on your website and read your blog, but as a Christian and believer in Christ, I feel like that someone needs to simply remind you of God’s grace, mercy, forgiveness, and unfailing love. I wonder if you were hurt somehow in the church?

Why did you serve God for so many years and then decide to leave from the protection and shadow of his ‘wing’? If you were hurt in the church, I’m sorry for that. You can’t however, hold God accountable for something one of his crazy kids may have done! I had a bad experience at Wal-Mart one time, but I still go back and buy my groceries there!

I will pray for you and believe that you will come back to Christ. I am a licensed therapist (Masters in Counseling) and an ordained minister and I own a private practice and work with hurting people everyday. My experience is that hurt people, hurt people! I think there is a possibility that you are hurt and bitter. Maybe not. I do know that you are confused because you left God’s calling for your life! Peter Pan, you have forgotten how to fly! Don’t worry, God still loves you more than you could ever imagine. Prodigal son, when are you going to return to your Father?

Brad thinks there is an underlying reason for why I am no longer in the ministry and no longer a Christian. He made no effort to read anything else I wrote but this post, and based on the post he read he “intuited” that I must be hurt. You can go to the post itself to see my terse, unkind response to Brad. I want to conclude this post by dealing with the notion that the reason I deconverted was due to some underlying emotional issue.

For the longest time, I refused to see my deconversion as anything other than an intellectual pursuit. I knew that admitting that I was angry, jaded, cynical, or hurt would allow critics to dismiss everything else I wrote. All that would matter to them is that I left Christianity for some other reason than an intellectual one, (though they rarely consider that their own faith is often for reasons other than intellectual)

This past September, it has been ten years since I pastored a church and five years since I walked away from Christianity. As I continue to analyze and understand why I no longer believe, I now know the reasons are many. While the intellectual reasons are certainly the main reason I no longer believe in God, I now know that there was/is an emotional component to my deconversion.

Was I hurt in some way? No. There was no crisis event that led me to renounce my faith. There was five years between pastoring my last church and my loss of faith. During this five-year period, I had numerous opportunities to pastor. I could have started a new church, and Polly and I had discussions about starting a church as late as 2007. I even contacted the Quaker/Friends denomination about starting a church in the Defiance, Ohio area. Until the last Sunday in November 2008, when I walked out the doors of the Ney United Methodist Church for the last time, I still thought of myself as a Christian pastor. I knew I was hanging on by a thin thread, but I still thought I could intellectually make it work. In the end, I couldn’t.  No one hurt me, no church so injured me  that I had no other choice but to leave Christianity. If anything, my deconversion was more like a married couple who loved each other dearly but couldn’t stand to be around each other. My lifelong marriage to Christianity ended, not only for intellectual reasons, but because I could no longer stand to be around American Christianity.

Anger came after I deconverted. For the longest time, I was angry at myself for wasting so much of my life in the ministry. I was angry over how the ministry hurt my wife and children, and how my preaching hurt other people. I was angry over what Evangelical Christianity was doing to America. But, most of all, I was angry at Evangelical Christians who refused to take me at face value and who refused to allow  me to authentically tell my story. (please read, You Don’t Get to Control my Storyline)

While I can still get angry at belligerent, self-rightous, arrogant, cement-headed Christians, most of the time I just sigh and shake my head as they deconstruct my life or let me know that they know the REAL reason (s) I am not in the ministry and no longer a Christian. I now know that I can not make the blind see. While I can readily accept their confession of faith in Jesus Christ at face value, they can not grant me the same respect. I suspect this is because of who I am.

I am not just a generic, run-of-the-mill Christian turned atheist. I am not someone who was raised in the church and then when I became an adult I rejected the faith of my parents. I am a man who spent fifty years in the Christian church. I am a man who started preaching when he was fifteen. I pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years. Even among the apostate pastors, I have more time on the job than most. Many pastors who deconvert do so after five or ten years in the ministry. Rare is the man who spends fifty years in the Evangelical church and walks away from it all.  I think this is the real reason many of my most vocal critics try to reduce me to dog shit on the bottom of their shoes. I wonder if they, deep down, fear that if someone like me can lose their faith, that it is possible they can too? Perhaps when the doubts and questions they say they never have come to the surface in the still of the night, those doubts and questions have my face. Perhaps they are like a few former parishioners who can not talk to me any more because they find my deconversion so unsettling? They wonder, how can this be? How can Pastor Bruce be an atheist? He led me to Christ, he baptized me, he taught me the Bible, he loved me, cared for me, and prayed for me. If Bruce is an atheist, is the faith of anyone safe?

Published: January 20, 2014 | Comments: 22

What Evangelicals Mean When they Use the Word GOD

all religions

Many people use the word God in a generic sense of the word. To them, the word God encompasses many, most, or all the deities ever known. Many people use the word God in a spiritual sense;God is the universe or God is love.

When these type of people hear Evangelicals use the word God, they wrongly assume that Evangelicals are defining the word the same way they do. Many times, Evangelicals do little to discourage people from thinking this way. Get into a discussion with an Evangelical about the God found in America’s founding documents and early history and they will say that God is a generic God. The same goes with discussions about the creator God and intelligent design. Evangelicals often refuse to state clearly what God it is they are talking about. They want people to think that they are non-sectarian and tolerant. They surely aren’t the narrow-minded, our God is the one, true, living God people that the liberals or atheists paint them to be. Except that they are exactly as liberals and atheists paint them to be.

When an Evangelical uses the word God, he is referring to the Christian God of the Bible. He is referring to the Great Three-in-One: the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. If an Evangelical says otherwise, they are either lying, have questions about God,  or aren’t really an Evangelical.

So, when an Evangelical asks you, do you believe in God, keep in mind there is only one correct answer to the question. Your God may be any of the thousands of Gods that humans worship, but if it isn’t the God that is defined by the Evangelical interpretation of the Bible, then it is a false God. Evangelicals are so certain on who the right God is that they even condemn as heretics some Christian sects. Apostolic and Oneness Pentecostals? False God. Many Calvinists think Arminians worship a false God. Some Evangelicals think Catholics worship a false God. Some cessationist Evangelicals think Charismatics worship a false God. And don’t even try to say that Seventh Day Adventists, Mormons, or Jehovah’s Witnesses are Christian sects. Most Evangelicals think these sects are cults that worship a false God.

how many gods are there

Evangelicalism is a rather modern expression of Christianity, yet they co-op two thousand years of church history and claim it as their own. Baptists are notorious for doing this. Some of them believe John was the first Baptist and he baptized Jesus, so this made Jesus a Baptist. The Church of Christ and some Church of God sects do the same. They think that they are the church Jesus started.  The Catholics object and say, NO we are the church that Peter founded and the gates of hell will not prevail against us. From all of these competing claims, many  Evangelicals pick and choose a historical narrative that states they are the true church of the living God and they alone worship God.

The next time an Evangelical asks if you believe in God, ask them to define the word God for you. Ask them to be specific. If they are honest, they will answer you with some sort of Trinitarian formula complete with proof texts from the Bible. These Evangelicals know the Bible says:

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Matthew 7:13-15

The path to God, the Christian God, the Evangelical Christian God, is a straight gate and a narrow way. According to the Evangelical, the wide gate and the broad way is where all the Gods of the world are found but theirs.

Here in the 21st century, many Evangelicals are increasingly embarrassed by the narrowness of Evangelicalism. They have a hard time believing and understanding that the vast majority of the human race will die and go to hell. These kind of Evangelicals are liberals or universalists in the making. They might even slide down the slippery slope and embrace some sort of spiritualism, agnosticism, humanism, or God forbid, a-t-h-e-i-s-m.

Understand this. When it comes to hardcore Evangelicals…believe in the wrong God and their God is going to torture you in the Lake of Fire for all eternity plus a hundred years. Trying to intelligently, honestly talk to these kind of Evangelicals is a waste of time. They are not interested in anything you have to say. In their world, it is their God or hell and damnation for you.

But there is a growing segment of Evangelicals who are questioning the exclusivity of Evangelicalism and the Evangelical God. They wonder about the good people they know that aren’t Evangelicals. They wonder what kind of God would torture people for all eternity in the Lake of Fire just because they were born in the wrong place. These Evangelicals are open, honest, and searching. Those of us who are non-Evangelicals have a golden opportunity to help them down the path of inclusivism and tolerance IF we are patient and willing to let the person go in a direction different from ours. Too many atheists/agnostics become a godless version of a fundamentalist Bible-thumper. Instead of patiently engaging the person in thoughtful discussion, they leave snarky comments on Facebook or Twitter and try to make the questioning Evangelical look stupid. This is exactly what happened to me on exChristian.net years ago when I first started to deconvert. The viciousness of some atheists sent me running for the hills. Fortunately, several people came looking for me and helped me on my journey.

By all means, if it makes you feel good, get into shit-throwing contests with hardcore, our God is the only, true, and living God, Evangelicals. I understand how tiring and depressing it is to have these kind of Evangelicals constantly hounding you and parsing every word you say on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+. Just remember, not EVERY Evangelical is like this. Questioning, searching  Evangelicals have honest, sincere questions and maybe we need to practice a liberal/godless version of Colossians 4:6:

Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man

and 1 Peter 3:16:

…and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you…

If we agree that the world would be better off without Evangelicalism, then we must consider what is the best way to accomplish this goal. So the next time an Evangelical asks you if you believe in God, pause for a moment and consider how best to answer them. What kind of Evangelical are they? Often answering their question with a question will tell you what kind of Evangelical subspecies you are dealing with.

What do you think, readers?

Published: January 12, 2014 | Comments: 13

Polly Answers Your Questions Part Three

This entry is part 3 of 5 in the series Questions for Polly

In a post titled, Questions for Polly, I asked readers to submit questions for my wife, Polly Gerencser, to answer.  If you have any follow-up questions, please leave them in the comments. I appreciate Polly being willing to answer your questions. If you wish to contact Polly personally, you can contact her on Facebook.

IFBfree asked, Since you have left the IFB church…How has that affected your relationships with family members that are still involved in the IFB? Are you an atheist also?

Since we have left the church and Bruce has sent the letter to the family about no longer believing…my relationship with believing family members has been stiff, to say the least. It is like the elephant in the room, a very large elephant in a very small room. My relationship with my believing parents is good, but we never talk about “it”. Since my sister died in a motorcycle accident, 2005, I am the “only” daughter now. They don’t want to “lose” me, therefore we don’t even come close to discussing “it”. To the rest of the family, I am just a sad by-product of Bruce’s influence. They have felt from the beginning of our marriage that I have been brainwashed by Bruce and only do what he tells me to do.

No, I am not an atheist. I consider myself a humanist. It fits my personality!

Tammy asked, What do you love to do when its all and only about you?

After reading your paragraph, before the question, I would say we are kindred spirits! I am a pleaser. I am always waiting on other people. My three daughters-in-law think their husbands are spoiled. Maybe they are! When Bruce writes about trying to get me to make my own decisions…that is totally true! I am either indecisive or double think myself. What is best for everyone, not just myself! Anyways…when I am rarely alone…I have a book in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. And other times, you can find me in the kitchen. I love to cook and bake (for others). I would also like to make a living, doing what I love the best, but I wouldn’t make enough money to support us.

Monica asked, Hi Polly, I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences of no longer having to live in the shadows of a preacher husband in the way of having your own identity and your freedom to think for yourself.

I believe it took about a year for me to finally come to terms with losing my preacher’s wife status and identity. I truly didn’t know  anything else. Now that I am “just” Bruce’s wife, there occasionally is still a small shadow of my former identity.  The freedom to think for myself is the hardest part. I can do it at work, because I have three employees under me, and the decisions are all company based. But at home, I am still taking baby steps, sometimes two steps forward and one step back. For instance, if I know, in advance, what restaurant we are going to, I try to make my menu choice before I get there. That way, the waiter/waitress doesn’t have to return half a dozen times. Or if we are in line at McDonald’s, the cars aren’t lined up ten deep.

Published: December 2, 2013 | Comments: 7