Tag Archives: Atheism

Evangelicals and the World

love not the world

According to John 8:44, all non-Christians have the Devil as their father:

Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.

When well-meaning liberal Christians and other religious practitioners say that we all are the children of God, they are speaking from sentimentality and not the Bible.

Ephesians 2:2,3 states:

Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

Before becoming a follower of Jesus, the Christian was worldly, living a life of fulfilling the desires of the flesh and the mind.  They were molded, manipulated, used, and controlled by their father the devil. Without Jesus, they would live out meaningless, hopeless lives and then die and go to hell.  Their father and his world, this world, must be repudiated and overcome if the Christian is to have any of hope of entering heaven.

According to 1 Peter 5:8, the father of all non-Christians, the devil, walks on the face of the earth like a lion seeking to attack and destroy. The Christian, according to Ephesians 6:11-18, is to be like a well-armored soldier wielding a sword against the devil. The Christian is constantly reminded that they must be watchful against the schemes of the world. The devil delights in nothing more than ruining the life and testimony of a Christian.

The Christian is warned that they should not be “spoiled” (seduced, led away) through vain deceit and the philosophies and the traditions of the world. They are also warned that they should not be conformed to the world. Instead, they should make themselves a holy, acceptable living sacrifice to God. After all, since Jesus died for their sins and by his resurrection from the dead he secured eternal life for them, it is quite reasonable for God to expect the Christian to:

If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. Luke 9:23

The writer of 1 John reminds Christians that they are to:

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 1 John 2:15,16

So what do we know? Every non-Christian follows after their father the devil. The devil is the king and ruler of this world and the Christian must resist and fight against him. The devil will, along with those who are his children, do everything they can to destroy the Christian. The Christian must not let this happen. They must fight back, using not fleshly methods, but spiritual ones.  When they do this, they will find favor with God because their resistance against the world is evidence that they are a true follower of Jesus.  They should also understand that, just as the world hated Jesus, so will the world hate them. Until they die, they will be a participant in a cosmic battle against the world, sin, and all that opposes God and the Bible.

Yet, when we look at American Christianity what do we see? Do we see people who are battling against sin and the world? Do we see them denying self, taking up their cross, and following Jesus? Do we see them denying the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life? When we look at their methodology, do we see them using spiritual weapons rather than fleshly weapons?

Generally, the answer to all of these questions is NO. 78% of Americans say they are a Christian. In other words, almost 8 out of 10 Americans believe the gospel narrative found in the Bible.  If this is so, if 8 out of 10 Americans are Christian, why then is there so much sin and debauchery in the world? If almost 250 million Americans are Christian, why hasn’t America become the theocracy that many Christians clamor for? With such a large Christian majority, shouldn’t we be living in some sort of perfect, sin free millennial kingdom where God, Christianity, and the Bible rules and reigns?

Yet, according to some studies, 80% of Christians can’t even be bothered to show up at a local house of Christian worship. (an ABC poll reports that the percentage is 62%) And of the 20% that do show up, the majority of them attend one service a week and are not actively involved in the church. As any pastor can tell you, the vast majority of church work is done by a small percentage of people and the vast majority of the money contributed is by that same small percentage. The average Christian shows up to church irregularly, is non-involved, and gives a small percentage of their income to the church. No matter how often the pastor preaches about faithfulness, doing more for God, and tithing, most Christians aren’t listening.

Jesus said, For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Evidently, for most Christians, their heart is somewhere besides the church and its mission. According to a 2011 Christianity Today article titled, Are American Evangelicals Stingy?, Evangelicals give about 4% of their income and Christians in general give about 2.4% to the church. It seems that the world is definitely winning when it comes to money.

Like their non-Christian hell bound siblings in the world, Christians love the world and the things that are in the world. Their lifestyles make a mockery of the moral and social high ground they profess to walk.  Not long before Jesus ascended back to heaven, he said to his disciples:

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world (Matthew 28:19, 20)

This is commonly called the Great Commission but what it really should be called is the Great Omission. Most Christians have little concern for the spiritual welfare of others. Most never share their faith, content to let the world know that they are a Christian by having a honk if you love Jesus bumper sticker on their car or their house/work space decorated with Jesus junk made by poverty-stricken people in a third world country.  They get riled up over things like same-sex marriage, abortion, and teachers not being allowed to lead public school students in prayer or Bible reading, yet when it come to fulfilling the one, direct command that Jesus gave to every Christian, they say nothing.

How does your Christian neighbor live? Do they fundamentally live differently than you? I doubt it. They own houses, lands, and cars and spend most of their life enjoying the fruit of their labors. How they live their life betrays what they really think is important. If hell was a real place that every non-Christian will be tortured by God for all eternity, shouldn’t Christians spend every waking moment and every extra dollar trying to keep people from going to a Christless hell? Yet, even the most fundamentalist of Baptists spend little time trying to evangelize the world.

The small percentage of Christians who consider themselves sold out, on fire, committed, sanctified, hardcore Jesus loving, Jesus obeying followers of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, will likely shout AMEN to everything I have written here. But, in doing so they will be missing my point.

Christians need to know that non-Christians, including atheists like me, see them for who and what they really are. We see the hypocrisy, the denial of the teachings that they say are the words of God. We measure our lives by theirs and we see little difference. Like us, they live in the world, want to enjoy the fruit of their labor, and desire to live as long as possible. Like us, they have good days, bad days, and a lot of in between days. They love, hate, and are kind, mean, nasty, arrogant, gracious, impatient, long-suffering, jealous, and envious just like their non-Christian neighbors.

If hell and heaven are real, dear Christian, why would you not work night and day evangelizing others, forsaking wealth and health, and burn yourself out for God. This way you will get to heaven much sooner. I doubt that many Christians will choose this path. Why? Despite their certainty and their talk of eternal bliss in the afterlife, they deep down doubt that there really is an afterlife. Like the atheist, they want to wring as much as they can out of life. For if there is no afterlife, what a waste it will have been to not live life to its fullest.

Even among Christians who consider themselves sold out, on fire, committed, sanctified, hardcore Jesus loving, Jesus obeying followers of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, they don’t seem to be in a hurry to get to heaven.  It seems that for all their talk about being a temporary citizen of this world, they are really planning on applying for permanent residency.

I guess I have said all this to say, that what we have in America is cultural Christianity. It is a religion that people give lip service to, a religion good for weddings and funerals, but not overtly applicable in the day-to-day lives of those who profess that Jesus is the son of God. Not even the professional Christians, those who call themselves pastors, elders, bishops, and priests, seem to be immune from being very much a part of the world.  Their cars, houses, suits,entertainments, expense accounts, retirement funds, and bank accounts, tell all who bother to listen that this world is really their home and that they are in no hurry to leave.

Take a look at the modern mega church movement. What do you see? Church leaders in love in with power and money. Even the most ardent of culture warriors live an opulent life funded by book royalties and exorbitant salaries and speaking fees. These churches build multimillion dollar buildings, places that house tens of thousands of passive sheep who come to listen to the superstar preacher tell them what they want to hear. Rarely, if ever, do they consider what could be done with all the money they spend on having the nicest sheep pen in town.  They tell themselves that God deserves the very best, when in fact their lifestyle betrays the fact that THEY are the God that deserves the very best.

You see dear Christian, I don’t care about what you believe. Your beliefs mean little to me. Only in the insulated Christian ghetto do beliefs matter. Outside the pogrom, the only thing that really matters is how a person lives their life, and from my seat in the pew what I see is people who don’t live any different from me. In fact, I live better than many of them do. When Christians begin to really live out the teachings of Jesus, then maybe, just maybe, I might pause and consider the claims of Christianity. Until then, what’s on TV?

As long as Christians do as they did this week with World Vision when they decided to hire same-sex Christian married people, then Christians are just talking to the hand when they try to preach Christ to me. According to one report, the day after World Vision’s press release, 2,000 Christians called in to cancel their monthly financial support for hungry children. Rather than support fairness, justice, and equal rights for all, these offended Christians would rather withhold money that children need to feed themselves.

Let me be clear dear Christian. You may try to convince yourself that atheists like me hate God or have a secret desire to live an immoral life, and that is why reject the Christian God, but, the truth is, one the biggest reasons we reject your God is because of how you live your life. You preach one thing but live another. You demand of others what you do not demand for yourself.  Your life betrays the fact that you are, in almost every way, an atheist too.  You rail against the world and claim to be a pilgrim on your way to the celestial city, yet your lifestyle and behavior shouts from the rooftop that you are a well-heeled resident of the world that is in no hurry to leave.

Published: March 28, 2014 | Comments: 10

Nice to Your Face Christians

pretend friends

One day, a new family moves in next door to John and Sally. After they are all settled in, John and Sally walk over to their new neighbor’s home and introduce themselves. John and Sally are quite friendly to their new neighbors, Bruce and Polly. Every time John and Sally see their new neighbors they wave and shout out, Hi neighbor. Bruce and Polly begin to think that John and Sally are wonderful people. Such great people to have for neighbors, they say to themselves.

One day, John and Sally walk over to  their new neighbor’s home to ask them a question. It is a very important question, one that could affect Bruce and Polly’s future. You see, John and Sally are members of First Evangelical Church. First Evangelical is known for being a friendly church, a church that really cares for other people. John and Sally have been members of First Evangelical their entire lives. Their pastor, Bro. Certainty, taught them that it is very important for them to witness to all their neighbors. After all, the Bible says, go into all the world and preach the gospel to everyone and everyone includes  John and Sally’s new neighbors.

Bro. Certainty, the skilled marketer that he is, taught John and Sally what is commonly called friendship evangelism. Rather than telling Bruce and Polly that they are sinners, headed for hell unless they repent of their sins and put their faith in Jesus, John and Sally are encouraged to pretend friend Bruce and Polly. Try to find a common interest, they are told. Be nice. Bake them a pie or do some other act of kindness. By doing these things, Bruce and Polly would be more receptive to the gospel, Bro. Certainty told them.

So this was the day that John and Sally put aside pretense and revealed what it was they really wanted from Bruce and Polly.

John: Hey, how ya doing today?

Bruce: Great, how about you? Isn’t this warm weather awesome?

John and Bruce trade pleasantries as Sally and Polly talk about flowers and gardens. After a few minutes…

John: While we are here, I would like to talk to guys about something very important.

Bruce thinks to himself, great here comes the Amway pitch. I knew they were being TOO friendly.

John: Sally and I are members of First Evangelical Church. We have attended First Evangelical ever since we were little children. We think it is the best church in town. Our pastor, Bro. Certainty is so winsome, everyone LOVES him! We were wondering….next Sunday is Friendship Sunday…and since you guys are our new-found friends we thought that you might be interested in visiting our church next Sunday.

Bruce thinks to himself. Fucking awesome. Our “friendly” neighbors are Bible thumpers.

Polly snickers to herself. Can’t wait to see how this turns out.

Bruce: John, Polly and I are not church-goers. We don’t believe in God.

John: But Bruce, surely you believe in some sort of God? Only an atheist says there is no God.

Bruce just looks at John…giving him THAT look.

John: Oh, I see you guys are a-t-h-e-i-s-t-s.

Bruce: Yes we are. (Bruce refrains from giving a smart-ass response)

For the next twenty minutes or so, John and Bruce argue back and forth about God, Christianity, sin, salvation, and atheism. When it becomes apparent to John that Bruce is one of those apostates that have committed the unpardonable sin that Pastor Certainty talks about…

John: Well I hope you will think about what I told you about Jesus. What if you are wrong?  Wouldn’t it be better to believe in Jesus and then you wouldn’t have to worry about going to hell when you die? Better safe than sorry, right?

Bruce, without uttering a word, mentally bangs head on a wall.

Bruce: No thanks, John.

John: Ok, then. Well, let’s go Sally. If you ever change your mind, you know where we live.

Bruce thinks to himself, that’ll be a cold day in the hell I don’t believe in.

Off John and Sally walk, sad that they were unable to reach their new neighbors with the truth. Oh well, we told them, they say to each other.

A few days later, Bruce and Polly pass John and Sally on the street. They wave, but John and Sally advert their eyes and don’t wave back.

Polly: What’s that all about? I thought they were our friends?

In a recent post about the death of Fred Phelps, Andrew Hackman wrote:

To me, the only difference between Fred Phelps and the average conservative Christian is delivery style. It is similar to Delores Umbridge and Voldemort in the Harry Potter story. Both stood against Harry. Both wanted him eliminated. Both hated him.

Voldemort’s hate blazed in his eyes. Delores hid hers behind soft tones, feigned concern, and a predator’s smile.

But both had similar plans for Harry.

I don’t believe there is an afterlife, but if I did I would hope that Phelps can now rest from the burden of his hostility, and that his wounds have been healed.

In the end, I preferred the bigotry Fred wore on his sleeve, to the slippery words of “love” offered by so many Christians who quietly share Fred’s heart.

Remember this the next time your Christian neighbor or coworker tries to befriend you. What is their real agenda? Do you really want to be friends with someone who thinks you will tortured by God in hell for eternity if you don’t believe exactly like they do? I know I don’t.

If you have not already done so, I encourage you to read The Bait and Switch Evangelistic Methods of Evangelicals and Why Ex-Christians Don’t Trust Evangelicals.

Notes

Graphic by David Hayward

Published: March 24, 2014 | Comments: 21

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

Eight Good Rules to Remember When Having an Internet Discussion

internet discussion

I know that many of the things I write about are controversial. I know that my writing irritates and inflames many Evangelicals, Independent Fundamentalist Baptists, and virtually anyone else who has right-wing political, social, or religious views. I know that these same people are going to email me, leave comments on this blog, and use their own blogs, forums, and church pulpits to challenge me and discredit me.  I know, as long as I write about the things that I do, some people are going to react in a negative, often hostile, way. I can’t control how they react or what they say. All I can control is how I respond to them.

My friend Mike recently wrote a post titled How Not to Argue on the Internet.  In this post he gives some rules for having a discussion/debate/argument on the internet.  I think Mike’s list of rules is quite good, so I thought I would share them with you. I am going to make a permanent copy of these rules because I need to reminded of them every time I sit down at my desk and begin to craft a response to a comment left on this blog:

  • Stay on topic.
  • If you’re baited to go off-topic, don’t take it – or at least explain how your answer is relevant to the broader discussion.
  • Be as clear as you can.
  • Be concise – show you respect others’ time by avoiding essay-like comments
  • Avoid passive-aggressive behavior. Insults cloaked in a thin veil of intellectual maturity are still insults.
  • Never, ever get personal.
  • If you feel your interlocutor is out to “win” rather than understand where you’re coming from, politely end the conversation. You’re not going to change their mind.
  • Once you feel you’ve made your point, you’re not obligated to keep re-explaining yourself. If you don’t feel you’re being understood, yet you sincerely feel you’ve done your best, let it go.

Thank you Mike for reminding me of these important rules. I suspect my blood pressure will thank you too.

Published: March 19, 2014 | Comments: 9

The Angry Atheist Podcast Interview

ney ohio and 1 atheist

Yesterday, I had the privilege to be interviewed by Reap Paden for The Angry Atheist Podcast. You can listen to the hour-long interview here. You can also download the podcast here.

I am going to make this post a sticky for a week so everyone has an opportunity to access the interview.

Enjoy!

Published: March 17, 2014 | Comments: 23

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

Should We Respect the Religious Beliefs of Others?

respect relgious beliefs 2

In a recent Atheist Revolution post, Jack Vance had this to say about respecting the religious beliefs of others:

The demand from religious believers to “respect my religious beliefs” is one with which most atheists will be familiar. We have encountered it more times than we can count.

Still, I cannot help wondering if some of us might have misunderstood what a believer who makes this demand is actually requesting of us. Moreover, I am convinced that many of my fellow liberals misunderstand what is being requested so much so that they run the risk of creating a host of other problems by attempting to comply with the demand.

When a religious believer demands that you respect his or her religious beliefs, what is he or she really asking of you? Is there something in particular that the believer wants you to do differently? Imagine yourself responding to the demand with something like the following:

I hear you asking me to respect your religious beliefs, and it is clear that this is very important to you. I’d like to comply, but I’m honestly not sure what it is that you are asking me to do differently. Please help me understand what you’d like to see me do more of or less of. That is, if I could manage to increase the degree to which I respect your religious beliefs tenfold, how would my behavior change? What would I do differently?

What I am getting at here is that I do not think the religious believer actually cares that I change my thoughts or my feelings; I don’t think respect is what the believer is after. I think what he or she is really after is a change in my behavior. So what does this change look like? What does the believer want to see me do differently to provide evidence of an increase in my respect for his or her beliefs?

It seems to me that there is really only one thing the religious believer wants to see change in my behavior: a cessation in criticism of his or her religious beliefs. “Respect my religious beliefs” is little more than a demand for silence. It is about silencing dissent and criticism. It is a request that I no longer exercise my right to free expression when it comes to the religious beliefs in question. The believer who demands respect for his or her religious beliefs is demanding that the rest of us grant him or her the privilege not to have these beliefs critically examined…

…I strive to respect people, their rights, and their freedom.What I will not respect are the beliefs themselves. Some beliefs do not deserve respect and cannot reasonable command it. We respect religious beliefs at our peril…

The other day, Polly alerted me to a Facebook discussion between a person who was once a member of a church I pastored and her liberal brother. This church member, while quite polite and kind, is a homophobic, bigoted, racist. This species of Christian is quite common here in white, Republican, Evangelical  rural NW Ohio. Political and religious liberals are quite rare around here and atheists/agnostics/humanists/secularists are even rarer still.

disrespecting religion

The Facebook “discussion” was about homosexuality and the church member was defending her homophobic bigotry by appealing to her Christian faith and the Bible. Her brother, who is also a Christian, albeit a l-i-b-e-r-a-l one, challenged his sister’s beliefs saying that the real issue was justice and civil rights. It wasn’t long before the sister’s fundamentalist Christian family and friends entered the fray to put in a good word for Jesus, the Bible, and homophobic bigotry.

The brother stood his ground and I admire his resolve. This tit for tat went on for a while until several Christians, including the sister, thought the brother was disrespecting their beliefs. They demanded that their beliefs be respected. In other words, they wanted the brother to shut the hell up.

Were these Christians demanding that their peculiar beliefs be respected?  I don’t think so. As Jack makes quite clear in his post, this is a tactic used by some Christians to cut off any further discussion of their beliefs. Underneath their demand is the belief that their version of the Christian God is the one true God and the Bible is an inerrant, inspired text that is meant to be read literally.  They are not interested in open, honest discussion. They are certain they already know the truth and what they really want is for you to admit this.

There are a number of Christians who comment on this blog that I admire and respect. Over the years, we have become friends. Some of them put up with my atheism because they like my liberal politics. Others are quite tolerant, willing to recognize we live in diverse world where people believe all kinds of things. While they appreciate and agree with my critique of Evangelicalism and fundamentalism, they still believe in God.  Many of them are liberal Christians or universalists. None of them, as far as I know, are card-carrying Evangelicals. (they may say they are Evangelical, but they reject the theological and social fundamentalism of Evangelicalism so I suspect they are really liberal Christians)

I have no problem with these kind of Christians. They don’t try to convert me, they accept me for who and what I am, and they respect me as a person. I have had many a delightful discussion with these folks and I have no doubt we would get along well if we lived next door to each other.

But, there is the OTHER kind of Christian…the Evangelical, the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist, the fundamentalist Catholic…those who have made it their life mission to convert others and to fill up the comment section of this blog  with irrational dogma and Bible quotations.  Not only do I NOT respect the beliefs of people like this, I also do not respect them as a person. (and I would say the same of anyone who behaves like a troll and displays arrogant, in your face ignorance)

So, if you want me to respect YOU then I expect you to respect me. However, when it comes to your personal religious beliefs, I can not respect them. (and I wouldn’t expect a Christian to respect my atheist/humanist beliefs) Christians believe things that I think are irrational and lack proof. Things like:

  • The Christian God exists
  • Jesus was born of a virgin
  • Jesus walked on water, turned water into wine, and walked through solid walls
  • Jesus resurrected from the dead
  • Heaven and hell

These Christian beliefs and many others insult my intelligence. As a critical thinker, I can not believe what I don’t think is true. This does not mean I don’t respect a person who believes these things, it just means I don’t respect their beliefs.

Many people have a false understanding of tolerance. They think that we should tolerate whatever bullshit comes out of a person’s mouth, regardless of how insane it is. But Bruce, Christian beliefs are different. Not in my eyes.  I view Christianity no differently than I do people who think the moon landing was a hoax or think they were abducted by aliens. I am not making this comparison to be offensive, but it is how I view things. When I person says, I think, I believe, the first thing I am looking for is the proof for their claim. If there is not sufficient proof for their claim then I am not going to accept it. (and we all differ on what we consider “sufficient” proof)

But Bruce, Christian belief requires faith! And that is the crux of the problem. I don’t have the necessary requisite faith to set aside what I know to be true. I know that virgins don’t have babies and I am unwilling to suspend my critical thinking skills and faith it.  I know that dead people don’t get out the grave and come back to life again, so I can not believe what I know to be not true. I know that a human can’t magically walk through a solid wall. I actually tested this by repeatedly trying to walk through the living room wall. In every instance I smacked into the wall and could go no farther. Should I suspend belief in what I know and by faith believe that a human, at least one, could magically walk through a solid wall? I can’t do this.

But Bruce, with God all things are possible. He is omni ___________. Again, this is a faith claim, a faith that I do not have.  As I have stated many times before, I can look at the natural world and easily understand how a person might believe in a deistic God of some sort. The universe is a wonderful, awesome place. But, when someone says, as most Christians do, that the Christian God created everything and he is personally involved in the affairs of his creation, I am going to want to see the proof for this claim. So far, what I can see and know is that the God that Christians say loves us and has a wonderful plan for our life is nowhere to be found.

So, my dear Christian friend, I love and respect you as a fellow human being. As long as you extend to me the same respect, I will do the same. But, when you demand that I accept your beliefs or demand that your beliefs be given preferential treatment, then I am going to critically examine the claims you make. When you drag your beliefs into the public square and demand that everyone accept their truthfulness, then I am going to study, examine, and test your truth claims.  Those beliefs that I conclude are intellectually lacking, socially harmful, or personally degrading, will be met with disrespect, and, if need be, mockery, from me. While I rarely mock a person’s beliefs, when someone tries to pass off creationism as science or the Bible as God’s divine moral standard and God’s road map for life, they can expect mockery in return.

Thanks for reading this post. Please share your thoughts about respecting others and their beliefs in the comment section.

Published: March 12, 2014 | Comments: 36

Links You Might Be Interested In

links

It is time to clean out my possible post fodder file. When I read an article or website and I think it might be something worth writing on, I save the link or send myself an email. If I don’t do this, I will forget. I have detailed for readers the short-term memory problems I have. I would be lost without saving links, sending myself emails, or writing things down in OneNote or on a post-it note.  I used to be able to remember long lists of things…these days…not so much.

Because I have to do things this way, I end up with a lot of notes, saved links, and emails that shout WRITE to me but I know I will never get the time to do so. Here’s some of them:

 A Truth Wins Out story on Mark Regnerus and his bogus study about same-sex couples.

IFB pastor says that married couples should not take vacations with their parents. He basis this belief on Mark 10:6-9:

But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

IFB pastor blackens his face for a skit for the National Young Fundamentalists Conference. (helping to pass on IFB racism to a new generation)

Airline passenger tells female pilot that the cockpit is no place for a woman. He even left his thoughts in writing on a napkin.  (my money is on this guy being a Christian fundamentalist)

Dr. John Michael Lonergan is a former federal prison inmate who was convicted of tax evasion, mail fraud and healthcare fraud in Ohio. He got his license back and now he is under investigation for “allegedly injecting patients across Oklahoma with a mysterious formula called the “Jesus shot.”

Denise, a Christian fundamentalist, blogs about those terrible Sodomites who lie about being sexually assaulted. Her words just drip with the sweet, refreshing love of Jesus. Evidently heterosexuals never lie.

Did angels have sex with human women before the flood? Brian Godawa says yes. Bonus points for counting how many ads there are in the post for his latest book, Noah Primeval.

Ken Ham and Ray Comfort have teamed together to tell you what is wrong with the movie Noah. And they will gladly SELL you this information. It is called a Ham and Comfort package. (there is a joke in this somewhere)

Mike at A-Unicornist shares his thoughts on the Sean Carroll-William Craig debate. The other articles linked to in the post are well worth reading.

Is Whole Goods a temple of pseudoscience? Michael Schulson says yes. Schulson asks “Americans get riled up about creationists and climate change deniers, but lap up the quasi-religious snake oil at Whole Foods. It’s all pseudoscience—so why are some kinds of pseudoscience more equal than others?”

A Russellville, Kentucky Baptist pastor by the name of Kevin Lohse exposed himself to a 15-year-old girl in a department store. He was there shopping with his son. (talk about exposing sin)

Victor Stenger shares some tips on how to debate a Christian apologist. This is a must read for anyone who spends time debating/arguing or attempting to have a discussion with Christian apologists.

The Panda’s Thumb has an excellent article on Dr. Terry Mortenson, one of  Ken Ham’s creationist “experts.”

An old post by VJack at Atheist Revolution about What Atheism+ Could Have Been is well worth reading. He has also posted an interesting video that deals with, among other things, atheism+.

A Daily Banter article on why A&E brought Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson back from suspension so quickly.

A VICE article on a British porn star who is now a Christian. She swapped lesbian porn scenes for Jesus. Good trade?

An Alternet story on why a Duke University student does porn.

Daniel Fincke, at Camels with Hammers, shares why he is really not into Jesus. He takes issue with atheists and liberal Christians who try to rescue the moral Jesus of the Bible. (and no this is not a pro-mythicist post)

Morgan Guyton, at Mercy not Sacrifice, writes about Two Biblical Commands No Christian Will Ever Obey.

Paula Deen thinks her recent struggles are just like ‘That Black’ Openly Gay NFL Prospect Michael Sam.

And let me leave you with the quote of the day from Tristan Vick’s, Advocatus Atheist blog:

“If we would presume to contemplate theism from an intellectually honest perspective, we would try to decide what kind of universe we would expect to live in if theism were true; then we would do the same for naturalism; and finally we would compare those expectations to the real world. But when we do that we find theistic expectations failing to match reality over and over again. Now, I know perfectly well (from experience as well as from cogitation) that you can never make headway with theists by claiming “If God existed, He would do X, and He doesn’t” (where X is “prevent needless suffering,” “make His existence obvious,” “reveal useful non-trivial information to us,” “spread religious messages uniformly over the world,” etc.) Because they have always thought through these, and can come up with an explanation why God would never have done that. (According to Alvin Plantinga, our world — you know, the one with the Black Death, the Holocaust, AIDS, Hurricane Katrina, and so on — is “so good that no world could be appreciably better.”) But these apologetic moves come at a price: they imply a notion of theism so flexible that it becomes completely ill-defined. That’s the real problem. Craig’s way of putting it is to suggest that God is “like the cosmic artist who wants to splash his canvas with extravagance of design.” That’s precisely why naturalism has pulled so far ahead of theism in the intellectual race to best model our world: because it plays by rules and provides real explanations for why the world is this way rather than that way.” –Sean Carroll (Physicist)

Published: March 7, 2014 | Comments: 7