Tag Archive: Atheism

As Seen on Social Media: Why Atheists Are Praying for the Rapture

Graphics, Memes, Quotes, and Comments I’ve spotted on Facebook or Twitter.  Today’s graphic comes from Facebook. I think it accurately describes how many atheists feel about the rapture. That great day, sometime in the near future, when every Evangelical will be raptured from the earth and taken to their reserved seat in Heaven where they will gleefully watch God savagely maim and kill the majority of the human race.

rapture

Dear Pastor Eric Strachan: What’s the REAL Reason You Are a Christian?

 

eric strachan

Pastor Eric Strachan

Eric Strachan, retired pastor of  New Life Community Church, Petawawa, Ontario, Canada, recently wrote an article for The Daily Observer titled How Come Some Don’t Believe Their is a God?  Strachan decided to answer the question of why some of us don’t believe in God. And, like most Evangelical pastors who take on this question,  Stachan gives the wrong answer. Here’s what he had to say:

Tell me, what do the following have in common – renowned feminist Gloria Steinem, film maker Woody Allen, billionaire Warren Buffet, Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki, martial arts expert Bruce Lee, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg and last but not least Rolling Stones front man Mick Jagger?

Scratching your head? Stumped? Let me give you a hint by adding to that list Jim Gibson, the mayor of Head, Clara and Maria who sits on the Renfrew County council. If it didn’t click before, now it has. All of the foregoing lay claim to being atheists. That means they’re not theists. A ‘theist’ is one who believes in God, but put an ‘a’ in front of that six-lettered word and you come up with what the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines as ‘one who denies the existence of God’. That’s an atheist! And let’s face it, whereby in another era many atheists kept their personal denial of God’s existence somewhat private, today, in this post-Christian age they’re out of the closet and not just out of the closet, but preaching their unbelief with unashamed evangelical fervour.

Take for instance Ronald Reagan Jr., the son of the one-time Christian president of the United States of America, Ronald Reagan. Junior is now part of the ‘Freedom from Religion Foundation’ that bemoans the intrusion of religion into the political sphere. In a series of television ads Reagan advocates for the complete separation of church and state, finishing the brief ad looking straight into the viewer’s eyes with the bold pronouncement, “Ron Reagan, lifelong atheist, not afraid of burning in Hell.” That’s bold isn’t it? I mean, really bold! But there is a brash radical boldness about today’s atheism, just listen to some of the front runners of the movement, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, they are preaching their ideology brother, and there’s an enthusiastic chorus of atheistic ‘Amens’ coming from all corners of the globe!

I don’t know about you, but a few weeks ago I stood in the Maternity Ward of our local hospital and looked at a pair of newborn twins, and then the other day I held them. It was an awesome moment for me, I was in absolute awe, strangely and mutely silenced as I touched tiny fingers, beheld tiny eyes, felt skin as soft as velvet and pondered to think that what I now held in my arms, these beautiful babies, had their mysterious beginnings in a microscopic cell. Who, I ask you, but a Supreme Omnipotent Creator could engineer such a marvel? You simply cannot look into the face of a newborn and declare “There is no God!”

But all that asides, I’ve discovered throughout the years that there are many reasons why many men and women today align themselves with people like Mark Zuckerburg and Ron Reagan Jr. I think there are many people who are atheists today because they’ve experienced human tragedy, painful traumatic events in their lives, wars, rapes, a dysfunctional childhood, abuse, the tragic loss of a loved one and they’ve simply not been able to come to a satisfactory answer to the perennial perplexing question, “If there is a loving, all-powerful God, then why would He allow this to happen to me?”

Outside of their own personal traumas, many embrace atheism today because they read of the Jewish Holocaust, see and witness human tragedies on a widespread scale, famines, genocides, ethnic cleansings and they ask themselves despairingly, “If there is a God, why would He allow such atrocities?” Together with that, there are many who fly under the banner of atheism today because at some memorable junction in their lives they have been desperately hurt, wounded and scarred by someone who professed to be a believer. Tragically the messenger has discredited the message by his/her inappropriate behaviour and the wounded one has committed the classic error that all of us are inclined to do, of throwing out the baby with the bathwater!

Personally, I would love to sit down with guys like Woody Allen or Mark Zuckerburg and Mayor Jim Gibson. I would love to ask them “Why are you an atheist?” And then I would love to sit and listen, without interruption or defence on my part, them tell me why. I would venture to say that some of them would come up with some very strong intellectual arguments as to why they reject God, but I’m also absolutely convinced that many of them would tell me that they have embraced the belief system of atheism because they’ve been wounded by professed believers, or they’ve seen too much hypocrisy in the ranks of those who believe.

As a theist and a Christian, I’d love to ask any of them what they think of Jesus Christ. I’d furthermore like to invite their responses to the question, “What do you think of the comments made by historian after historian down through the generations that this man Jesus Christ is the most important man who ever lived?”

I wonder what they’d say. I wonder what Gloria would say, and I wonder what Woody, Warren and Bruce would say. And I guess for that matter, I wonder, I really wonder, what Jim Gibson, the mayor who sits on the Renfrew County Council would say. It would be interesting to know, wouldn’t it? For let’s face it, if you forthrightly profess to be an atheist, deep down, at least according to you . . . there’s a substantial reason why!

Strachan did wonder what Bruce would say, not me, of course, so I thought I would tell him.

Strachan, like many Evangelical pastors and apologists, refuses to accept at face value the stories atheists tell about their deconversion. While he paints himself as a man willing to listen, he knows what their real problem is; they were hurt and they need Jesus; or they couldn’t reconcile the evil in the world with their being any God, let alone the Christian God. In one short post, Strachan gives all the reasons Christians say people like me are an atheist. All except one, that is. While many atheists certainly struggled with some or all of the issues mentioned by Strachan, the primary reason for their deconversion was an intellectual one.

Stachan seems to not know that many atheists were at one time Christians.  It’s not that we don’t understand the teachings of Christianity. We do, and we find them wanting. If you are not familiar with the reasons for why I deconverted, please read Why I Stopped Believing.

Here’s what’s offensive about Strachan’s line of reasoning. He refuses to allow the atheist to tell their own story. He wants to rewrite their storyline, making it fit his understanding of faith and unbelief. Imagine if atheists treated Christians the same way. Imagine if atheists refused to accept at face value Christian conversion stories. Why, Christians would be incensed over our refusal to accept their narrative at face value.

Imagine a discussion between Pastor Eric Strachan and Bruce Almighty, the Atheist:

Strachan: I am a Christian.

Atheist: Why are you a Christian?

Strachan: I realized I was a sinner and I needed my sins forgiven. I realized Jesus died on the cross for my sin. Jesus offered me salvation and deliverance from sin if I would put my faith in him. I did, and I have been a Christian for over sixty years.

Atheist: Yeah, but why are you REALLY a Christian?

Strachan: I told you.

Atheist: No, I want to know the REAL reason you are a Christian.

Strachan: I told you, don’t you believe me?

Atheist: Well, I just know there must be some other reason you are a Christian.

Strachan: Uh…

Atheist: What aren’t you telling me?

Strachan: Well…

Atheist: Did you become a Christian so you could be a pastor?

Strachan: I told you the reason I became a Christian. Why don’t you believe me?

The atheist and Strachan goes back and forth until Strachan realizes the atheist refuses to accept his story at face value and nothing is going to change his mind. Strachan hands the atheist a tract, promises to pray for him, and sadly walks away.

The next week, the atheist writes an article for The Daily Observer about the REAL reason Eric Strachan became a Christian.

I wonder how Strachan would feel?

Strachan makes a plea for civility, discussion, and understanding. However. such understanding only comes when we treat others with respect and allow them to tell their own story. Both Christian and atheist should have the freedom to tell their story, to explain how they came to where they are. When a Christian tells me why they became a follower of Jesus, I believe them. I’ve been there, I understand what it means to commit one’s life to Jesus. I also understand what it means to lose one’s faith, to wake up one day and realize you no longer believe in God. Since these experiences are mine, who better to understand them than me?

If Christians like Eric Strachan really want to understand WHY atheism, agnosticism, secularism, and religious indifference is growing in North America, they are going to have to listen to what the defectors have to say. Throw away the apologetics books that purport to give the REAL reasons people turn to atheism. These books are filled with distortions and lies. Who better to answer the WHY question than the atheist?

Jason Lisle Says There is No Such Thing as an Atheist

atheist foxhole

Imagine, for a moment, that every time someone told me they were a Christian I told them that they weren’t really a Christian because there is no such thing as a Christian. It says right here in the Book of Bruce Almighty® that everyone knows that Bruce Almighty exists and that anyone who says they are a Christian is suppressing their knowledge of the existence of Bruce. The Christian would likely say that they know they are a Christian because Jesus saved them and they believe the teaching found in the Bible. Imagine if I REFUSED to allow the Christian to authentically tell their own story.  Can you imagine how outraged Christians would be if I refused to accept their story at face value?

Yet, this is EXACTLY what fundamentalist Christians like Dr. Jason Lisle do. Last week, Jessa Duggar and her husband Ben Seewald Duggar visited the  “Institute for Creation Research in Texas, where they spoke to members of the self-described leader in scientific research within the context of biblical creation.”  When Seewald asked Institute scientist Dr. Jason Lisle if he could prove the existence of God, Lisle replied:

“The evidence of God is ubiquitous. It is everywhere. In fact, Roman 1 tells us that God has revealed himself to everyone, and what that means is, there is really no such thing as an atheist.”

According to Lisle, humans are hardwired to believe in God and God reveals himself to everyone, so there is no such thing as an atheist. Lisle went on to say:

“So I don’t really have to give new evidence to a professing atheist. All I have to do is expose his suppressed knowledge of God.”

Lisle is a perfect example of an educated idiot. No matter how much scientific knowledge Lisle has, the words of the Bible are the final arbiter of truth. For example, in a game I have often played with people like Lisle, I willingly accept the premise that creation reveals to us that there is a God. I then ask them to give me evidence from creation that the God creation gives testimony to is the Christian God. Discussion over, because the fundamentalist is forced to retreat to the safety of THE BIBLE SAYS! You see, it’s not creation that reveals that the Christian God exists, it’s the Bible. At best, creation reveals that a deity, a divine being, or an advanced species created the earth and its inhabitants. If it is abundantly clear just from creation that the Christian God of the Christian Bible is God, why do other cultures and religions claim that the creator God is a different deity? Humans, over their long history, have worshiped a plethora of Gods. If creation makes it clear that the Christian God created everything, why do billions of people worship other Gods? Perhaps God has a marketing problem and should hire Don Draper to write a God advertising line that every human will know and understand. As soon as anyone hears it, they will say, Oh, that’s the Christian God jingle.

Ben Seewald, showing his deep understanding of science said:

“I know there is also a lot of scientific evidence, we are here at the Institute for Creation Research, and there is a lot of — really, all science points to the validation of the Genesis account,”

It’s true…you can’t argue with stupid.

One more quote that I am sure my fellow atheists will love. Lisle said:

The atheist is like a little child sitting on his father’s lap, slapping his father and spitting on him, and insulting him, and so on. He are only able to do it because his father is supporting them. And the atheists are like that. Their using God’s laws of logic, their using a sense of morality that God gave them in order to argue against the very God who makes such things impossible.

To which, Ben Seewald said, WOW, that’s really amazing!

Yeah, my thought e-x-a-c-t-l-y.

Here’s the video of Ben Seewald’s “discussion” with Dr. Jason Lisle.

Video Link

Selflessness: Are Atheists Only Concerned with Themselves?

Here’s a graphic one of my son’s sent me from their Facebook news feed:

selflessness

As they read this, thousands of atheists hit head on table and mutter, really, this old canard? Let me kill this thinking in one, swift easy statement.  If selflessness is consistent with Evangelical Christianity, why are so many Christians selfish? Bam! Shut the door!

People who post things like this have the IQ of a walnut. Rather than THINK they post. No thinking Christian would EVER claim that selflessness is the domain of Christianity. All the Christian has to do is think about all the selfless non-Christians who have helped them over the years and all the selfish Christians who haven’t.

If the question is, can the morality taught in the Bible lead to a life if selflessness, then the answer is yes. But, the same could be said for humanism and other ethical and religious systems of belief. Christianity has no corner on the selflessness market. If anything, American Evangelical behavior often reveals a crass indifference to the plight and suffering of others. The Republican clown bus is rapidly filling up with men and women who want to be President in 2016. All of them profess to be a Christian, yet their policies are in direct contradiction to the teachings of Jesus and the Bible. Only one candidate for President, Bernie Williams, has dared to challenge the American capitalistic system, which is, by design, a heartless, selfish system of economics. Again, I am having a hard time seeing the Christianity selflessness connection.

Many Evangelicals wrongly think that atheism is a moral and ethical system of thought. It’s not. Atheism is, and will always remain the disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods. That’s it. Me telling someone I am an atheist tells them nothing about my morals or ethics. The fact that I think evolution best explains the natural world says nothing about my morality or ethics. Evolution is a statement of fact. There are Christians who are evolutionists. A conundrum…Christian=selfless Evolutionist=selfishness. Just another two-cent reason why the whole Christians are selfless argument is groundless.

As a humanist, I live my life according to the principles of humanism. These principles are succinctly stated in 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.

As I try to live by the humanist ideal, I am ever aware of how far from the ideal I am. I would never say to anyone that unless they become a humanist they have no capacity for selflessness. Humans are social creatures who thrive in interdependent relationships. Rare is the person who wants solitude and loneliness. Thousands of people read this blog because they want the sense of community and connections that comes from doing do. Facebook is a hit because we desire to connect with like-minded people. We want to belong. As part of a tribe or group, we help those we have a connection with. If I had a serious medical need and required $10,000 to save my life, I know that a mere mention of this by my fellow bloggers and Facebook friends would result in the need being met. Why would people who have never met me face to face selflessly help me? It is our humanness and the bond we have with one another that drives us to selflessly help others. Are we always selfless? Of course not. All of us, Christian or not, can be a selfish asshole, thinking only of what’s best for ourselves. But, more often than not, atheist, humanist, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Hindi, pagan, or Buddhist, when called upon, will selflessly help others.

Years ago, I was at Sam’s Club checking out and in the line next to me was an Asian young man trying to buy some stuff for his Mom’s restaurant. The cashier wouldn’t let the man make a purchase because he was using his Mom’s membership card. The man spoke with broken English and was thoroughly embarrassed by how the cashier was treating him. I left my line and went over the cashier and gave her a piece of my mind. And then I told her to put his stuff on my card and he could pay me for it. Now she was the one thoroughly embarrassed, having been called out for her ill-treatment of the Asian man. She quickly corrected course and took care of the man’s order. As he left, he looked to me and said thanks. I said, no problem. Did I do what I did because I was a Christian? Of course not. I have no tolerance for those who berate and belittle others. In other words, I don’t like assholes and that’s why I came to the man’s defense.

When I come in contact with others, I do my best to be kind and considerate. A year or so ago, I had a meltdown at the local Meijer customer service desk. The young woman running the desk didn’t help me as I thought she should in the time I had allotted for her to do so. I told her, forget it, and walked away.  Everything was fine until I swiftly turned around and went back to the desk and shouted, and you don’t give a SHIT do you! Polly helplessly stood by while I made a public spectacle of myself. She didn’t say a word, but by the time we were half way home I realized that I had acted like a first class asshole. As soon as I got home I called the customer service desk and talked to the young woman who had been the subject of my anger. I apologized for my behavior. Several times she told me, that’s OK. I told her, no it’s not. No one should treat someone like I treated you. The next time I was at the store she let me know that she appreciated me apologizing.  She told me that she had never had a customer apologize for treating her like shit.

You see, I am a saint and a sinner. I can act selflessly and I can act selfishly. No one has the selfless market cornered. Take the drowning story in the graphic above.  Does any Christian REALLY believe that an atheist would idly sit by and so nothing while someone drowns? I am a cripple. Anyone who sees me knows I have problems getting around. I have had uncounted people extend kindness and courtesy to me as I try to navigate a store, stadium, or restaurant. Yes, I have met a few selfish people who wouldn’t offer me help if my life depended on it, but they are the exception to the rule. Even when I complain about how people often ignore someone in a wheelchair, I don’t think they are being selfish as much as lacking in instruction about people with disabilities.

The underlying issue is that many Christians, particularly Evangelicals, believe that morality comes from God and that without God a person cannot act morally and ethically. When challenged with examples of godless people who act morally and ethically, Christians often attack the motive for the godless person’s good behavior. The atheist is acting selflessly because they have an ulterior motive, they say. How can they know this? Can we really know the motives of others? Besides, isn’t the moral and ethical behavior of the Christian predicated on gaining a divine payoff, a mansion in heaven and eternal life? Whose the selfish person now?

As a humanist, I am deeply interested in seeing my progeny thrive. Because I love them and desire their company, I try to protect them from injury and harm. Because I desire to live in peace and harmony, I do my best to be a selfless member of the human race and the community I live in.  I don’t need the threat of hell and judgment or the promise of heaven and eternal life to motivate me to act according to the humanist ideal. My country, community, tribe, and family are important to me and because they are I act accordingly. Why is that so many Evangelicals fail to understand this? Why do they arrogantly think that morality, ethics, and selflessness are the domain of their religion alone? Why are they deliberately blind to overwhelming evidence that suggests that every person has within themselves the power to act morally, ethically, and selflessly?

Perhaps it is selfishness that drives their blindness? Imagine what would happen if people realized that living a moral,ethical, and selfless life does not require Christianity. Once the threat of hell and the promise of heaven is removed from the equation, people are less likely to join up with fundamentalist religious sects. Instead of looking for the one road that leads to heaven, they could choose one of the many road that lead to a virtuous, well-lived life. Imagine people doing good and acting selflessly because it is the right thing to do, not because they fear God or covetously desire a divine payoff after death.

Does God Hate?

god hates me

Warning! Snark ahead!

THUS SAITH THE LORD:

Thou shalt not plant thee a grove of any trees near unto the altar of the LORD thy God, which thou shalt make thee. Neither shalt thou set thee up any image; which the LORD thy God hateth. Deuteronomy 16:21,22

For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee. The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity. Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing: the LORD will abhor the bloody and deceitful man. Psalm 5:4-6

Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre. Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. Psalm 45:6.7

Therefore shall his calamity come suddenly; suddenly shall he be broken without remedy. These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren. Proverbs 6:16-19

Shall not the day of the LORD be darkness, and not light? even very dark, and no brightness in it? I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. Amos 5:20-22

The Lord GOD hath sworn by himself, saith the LORD the God of hosts, I abhor the excellency of Jacob, and hate his palaces: therefore will I deliver up the city with all that is therein. Amos 6:8

I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob, And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.  Malachi 1:2,3

And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously. Malachi 2:15,16

Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. Revelation 2:5-7

God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day. Psalm 7:11

When God heard this, he was wroth, and greatly abhorred Israel: Psalm 78:59

Does God hate? The Bible is clear, God hates.

But, but, but, the Bible says God is God of love! Yep, and it also says he is a God of hate. Deal with it, or as many Christians do, explain it away.

But, but, but, these verses are in the Old Testament! Is the Old Testament no longer a part of the canon of Scripture? Christian could only hope. Either the Old Testament accurately describes God as a hater or it doesn’t. Your choice. Besides, isn’t God the same yesterday, today, and forever? Didn’t God say, I am the Lord, I change not?

But, but, but, God hates the sin, but loves the sinner!  Still trying to use that lame, worn out, unsupportable cliché?  Sin is what sinners do, right? When Jesus died on the cross did he die for sin or sinners? Cue “When He was on the Cross I was on His Mind.” (YouTube video of song)  Sinners sin, and God is angry with all the workers of iniquity. According to Psalm 7:11, God is angry with the wicked every day.

Christians have several choices:

  • Own what the Bible says.
  • Explain it away using big important sounding theological terms.
  • Make some Old Covenant/New Covenant defense for God.
  • Argue  that God went to rehab, took an anger management class and he is much nicer now.
  • Ignore what the Bible says and just keep living for Jesus.
  • Use Hebrew, Greek and Latin, along with West Virginian and Calvinese, to explain that the word hate doesn’t meant hate.
  • Use the same scissors that Thomas Jefferson used to cut up the Bible and make it palatable. Just get rid of all those pesky hate verses.

every word of god is pure

I am a Bible believer. When the Bible says God hates, who am I to suggest otherwise?

The God hates verses make me wonder if  the Christian God exists at all.  If God really exists, he would have blown up this whole planet by now. We ARE a vile, nasty, wicked, sinful, depraved, dead in trespasses and sin, Barack Obama supporting, gay-loving people. We deserve God’s hate. Ex-preachers like me really deserve God’s hate. We know better, yet we trample under the blood of Jesus anyway.  Yet, here we are, untouched by the hand of the Almighty. Perhaps when NASCAR is over God will have more time to take care of us sinners. That is unless Tim Tebow makes the Philadelphia Eagles roster. Then God will be tied up all winter guiding Tebow’s errant passes into the hands of Philadelphia receivers.

Leaving the Ministry: Dealing with Guilt and Regret

no regrets

A friend of mine, a former devoted, committed Evangelical pastor’s wife, wrote me recently and asked:

I’ve been struggling a lot lately. re: all the wasted years, harm my kids experienced, folks I hurt as a pastor’s wife and later a homeless shelter for women,  fundamentalist BS I taught and lived. I know you’ve talked about how you deal with such stuff before. If you can direct me to previous links or have any advice I would be oh so grateful! Thank you!

Over the years, I have corresponded with a number of people who were at one time an Evangelical pastor, pastor’s wife, evangelist, youth pastor, missionary, or college professor. Having walked or ran away from Evangelicalism, they are left to deal with guilt and regret . For those who were true blue, sold-out, committed, on fire followers of Jesus, their past life is often littered with the hurt and harm they caused not only to themselves, but to others. The more a former Evangelical was committed to Jesus and following the teachings of the Bible, the more likely it is that they caused hurt and harm.

Literalism and certainty, two hallmarks of Evangelical belief, often cause untold mental, emotional, and physical harm. It is often not until a person deconverts or moves on to a kinder, gentler form of religious faith, that they see how much damage they caused. I was a Christian for fifty years. Twenty five of those years were spend pastoring Evangelical churches. I think I can confidently say that Evangelicalism made me the person I am today. Every aspect of my life was touched and shaped by Evangelical beliefs. No area of my life was unaffected. Any sense of self-worth was sacrificed at the altar of self-denial. I sang with gusto, All to Jesus I surrender, All to him I freely give. I lived and breathed Jesus. Everything, including Polly, my children, my parents, my siblings, and my extended family, were secondary to Jesus and his call to follow him.

I was, in every way, a fanatic. A fanatic is one who is intensely, completely devoted to a cause. No matter how Christians try to say that I never was a real Christian, those who knew me well in my pastoring days know that I was part of the 100% club. (see You Never Were a Christian and Jose Maldonado Says I Never Was a Christian) My ministerial work ethic put most pastors to shame. While they were busy taking vacations, going to Cedar Point, or golfing, I was working night and day trying to win souls and raise up a God-fearing, Christ honoring church. I had little tolerance for lazy preachers who gave lip service to their calling or Christians who thought coming to church on Sunday was all that God required of them.

As I look back on the twenty-five years I spent pastoring churches, I see that I caused great harm to my family and parishioners. I expected everyone to work for Jesus as hard as I did.  Polly will tell you that I hounded her about reading her Bible more and spending more time in prayer. Never mind that she had six children to care for and taught in our Christian school. Never mind that I was paid to pray and read/study the Bible. Devotion to Jesus always came first.

Setting impossible expectations, not only for myself, but for my family and the church, resulted in a constant feeling of failure. No matter what I did, no matter what my family did, no matter what church members did, it wasn’t enough. Hell was hot and Jesus was coming soon. The Bible taught that we were to be watchman on the wall, ever warning the wicked to turn from their sinful ways. Since the Bible contained everything necessary to life and godliness, every Christian had a duty and obligation to, without hesitation, obey its teachings. Pity the person that was not as committed as I was.

Guilt and regret are the products of living life in this manner. Let me be clear, I am not saying that this was the wrong way to live life. If one believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Words of God, how can they NOT live in this manner?  If Evangelicals really believe what they say they believe, how can they NOT give every waking moment to the furtherance of the gospel and the Kingdom of God? If God is who and what the Bible says he is and judgment awaits everyone of us, how can any Evangelical idly sit by and let the world go to hell?

Guilt. I had little time for Polly and the kids. No time for vacations. No time for leisure. No time for enjoying nature. No time for relaxation. No time for anything that took away from my calling. Even the one big vacation we took, I scheduled it around preaching for a friend of mine. Road trips were to visit churches or attend conferences. The old acronym for Joy, Jesus First Others Second Yourself Last, had no place in my life. It was Jesus first, period. Polly and the children were along for the ride, mere appendages to my ministerial work.

Regret. As the old gospel song goes, wasted years, oh how foolish. I gave the best years of my life to Jesus and the work of the ministry. I worked night and day building churches, winning souls, and preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ. While most of the people I pastored and many of my colleagues  in the ministry were living the American dream, accumulating wealth, houses, and land, and preparing for the future, I was living in the moment, busily waiting for Jesus to split the eastern sky. Thousands of hours were spent doing God’s work, God’s way, and to what end? Here I am with a broken body and most of my life in the rear view mirror. No chance for a do-over. No chance to make things right. No chance to correct the harm and hurt I caused.

Bruce, you sound bitter. I know this post might sound like the bitter whining of an old man, but it’s not. It’s just me being honest.  I know I can’t undo the past. It is what it is. I am simply reflecting on how life was for my family and I. Who among us doesn’t look back on the past and wish they had the opportunity to do things differently. Unfortunately, there are no time machines. All we can do is make peace with the past and try to move forward.

A few years ago, a man who was raised in one of the churches I pastored came to visit me. This man attended our Christian school and sat under my preaching for almost a decade. He had the full Bruce Gerencser experience. This man is gay. I’ve often wondered when he decided he was gay. I preached a lot of sermons on the sin of homosexuality. Thinking about the pain I might have caused this man still grieves me to this day. As he and I talked, I apologized to him for my homophobic, harsh, judgmental preaching. I told him I had guilt and regret and wished I could go back in time and make things right.  I’ll never forget what he told me:

Bruce, everyone who sat in the church was there because they wanted to be or their parents made them. The truth is, a lot of people want someone to tell them what to do. A lot of people don’t want to think for themselves . You were that someone. If it wasn’t you it would have been someone else.

His words have greatly helped me as I continue to battle with guilt and regret. As I told someone recently, I was a victim and a victimizer. I was schooled in all things Evangelical from kindergarten to my days at Midwestern Baptist College. I was indoctrinated, much like a cult indoctrinates it members. That I turned out the way I did should surprise no one. It should also be no surprise that I then took what I had been taught and taught it to others. How could it have been otherwise?

What my friend really wants to know is how to deal with the guilt and regret. If she is like me, she wants it to go away. Sadly, it doesn’t. A person can’t spend their life deeply immersed in something like the ministry and not come away with scars. While I have found atheism and humanism to be transformative, I still bear the marks and scars of a life spent working for the Evangelical God.

Two things greatly helped me post-ministry and post-Jesus. The first thing that helped me was this blog. (one of the many iterations of this blog, any way) When I started blogging, I cared little if anyone read what I wrote. My friends Zoe has written about this, as have many of my other heathen friends. Putting into words feelings is therapeutic. Over time, other former Evangelicals began to read my writing and my words resonated with them. They saw that I understood, having experienced many of the things they were going through. Now, seven years later, the raw, painful emotions that filled me as I walked away from the ministry and God have faded into the background. They are still there and can quickly be resurrected in the right circumstance, but my focus is now on helping others who are at the same place I was a decade ago.

Second, I sought out professional, secular counseling. When I left the ministry and later left Christianity, I burned the house to the ground. Now what?  All I have is a heap of ashes, the sum of a life that no longer exists. It took seeing a counselor for me to rebuild my life and rediscover who I really am. Self had been swallowed up by Jesus and the ministry. After I deconverted, I had no idea who or what I was. My entire being was wrapped up in being a pastor. The same for Polly. She spent most of her adult life being a devoted pastor’s wife. Now all of that was gone. Bit by  bit, my counselor helped me reconstruct my life. That process continues to this day.

As I answer the emails of those who were once in the ministry, I encourage them to put their thoughts and emotions into words. Even if it is just a journal, write. I also encourage them to seek someone to talk to, someone who will listen and not judge. If nothing else, correspond with someone who will let you vent. Over the past seven years, I have entered into email discussions with hurting former Evangelicals. Some of them still believe in God, others are not sure what the believe, and others have lost their faith. Their letters are filled with mental and emotional pain and anguish. Writing me provides them a sounding board, a secular confessional. Sometimes, all a person needs is to know someone cares and is willing to listen.

Are you a former pastor or pastor’s wife? Are you a former on fire, sold out follower of Jesus? How did you deal with guilt and regret? What advice would you give to my friend? Please leave your wise thoughts in the comment section.

Note

The next to last church I pastored was Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio. I was there for seven years. It was at this church that I seriously began questioning how I had done things in the past. Bit by bit, I became like those lazy pastors I once condemned. I learned to take a break, go on vacation, and enjoy spending time with my family. What pushed me in this direction? Getting sick. It’s amazing what sickness will do to a person’s priorities.

Is it OK for an Evangelical Christian to Marry an Unbeliever?

unequally yoked together

The Bible is clear on this subject. The Bible, the infallible, inspired Word of God that millions of Evangelicals SAY they believe says:

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. (2 Corinthians 6:14-17)

2 Corinthians 6:14-17 is not an ambiguous or hard to interpret passage of Scripture.  It means exactly what it says. Believers (Christians, followers of Jesus) should not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. The Bible describes marriage as “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:27)

One would think bought by the blood, Bible believing Evangelicals would, because of their love for Jesus, obey what God has commanded. God calls on every single Christian to be like Tim Tebow, a virgin until the day they marry a fellow believer of the OPPOSITE sex.

But, in another, all to typical, example of  the fact that Evangelicals only believe the Bible when it fits their lifestyle and ignore it or explain it away when it doesn’t, the Christian Partner for Life website (website is no longer active) gives this advice;

Finding your husband or wife can be quite a process.  Often, whether through school or elsewhere, we meet people in our lives who are not committed Christians.  A common question that we receive is: “Is it OK to date someone who is not committed to Christianity?”  While many advisors and ministers that we encounter have said definitively “NO,” we think it is important to have a more secular view of the situation.  If you have a great connection with someone, and they would potentially want to explore raising your future family with predetermined beliefs, we see no reason to object….

….We believe that marrying a non-Christian or a non-practicing Christian is not a definitive “no” answer, as is commonly taught.  Would you rather stay single or marry a loving and wonderful person who is agnostic of Christian beliefs?  If this future partner is devoted to you and has a great moral compass, we think the possibility of marriage should very much exist.  If a relationship is based upon love, trust and mutual respect, there is a good chance that a marriage will succeed, regardless of religion.

The caveat to this question becomes whether your future spouse is willing to raise a family the way that you would like to.  Would your future spouse be open to raising your children as committed Christians?  If so, we think that a relationship could work…

In other words, ignore the Bible.

The Bible says that nonbelievers are dead in trespasses in sin. Unbelievers are at variance with God, vain in their imaginations and haters of God. Unbelievers are bad people, After all, their father is the devil himself.

Yet, John at Christian Partner for Life  says “If this future partner is devoted to you and has a great moral compass”  then perhaps it would be OK to marry them. How can an unbeliever have a great moral compass? According to the Bible, they can’t.

Here’s what I think…unbelievers are hotter…And baby, when it comes to chasing after hotness, let the Bible be damned darned.

All silliness aside, John’s post  at Christian Partner For Life is just another reminder that Evangelicals, for all their bluster about the Bible being truth, really don’t believe it.

Now for MY marriage advice for unbelievers.

Actually, the Bible gives some pretty good advice here. In most circumstances it would be unwise for an unbeliever to marry an Evangelical. Unless the believer is willing to live as an unbeliever then it is probably unwise to marry. I can hear the howling now, Evangelicals everywhere are screaming, HOW DARE YOU EXPECT A BELIEVER TO DENY THEIR FAITH AND LIVE AS AN UNBELIEVER!! I bet it seemed OK  to most Evangelicals when John suggested the very same thing when he suggested making sure the unbeliever would be willing to raise future children as believers. Evangelicals seem to always expect OTHERS to compromise so they can be true to their beliefs, but they rarely seem to be able to compromise their beliefs for the sake of others. The message is clear: my beliefs matter, yours don’t.

Generally, it is a bad idea for an unbeliever to marry an Evangelical, especially if their prospective marriage partner’s family is Evangelical too. If you marry anyway, you are sure to have conflict over issues like:

  • Baptizing or dedicating the children
  • Attending church
  • Tithing
  • Praying over meals
  • Having family devotions
  • Cursing
  • What entertainments to participate in
  • What movies to watch
  • Sex

You will also likely subject yourself to a life of “I am praying for you” and subtle attempts to win you to Jesus.

It is almost impossible for an Evangelical to NOT talk about their faith. (nor should they be expected to) This is why the Bible actually gives sound advice about an unequal yoke.

Contrary to the little ditty, opposites attract, successful marriages are usually built on the things that the husband and wife have in common. While my wife and I are very different, we do have many things in common. We cultivate our common values and beliefs, and with things we differ on we leave each other free to pursue those things.

Over time, the things a couple differs on can become something both like or agree upon. When Polly and I married she was a sports atheist. I was a jock. I mean one of THOSE kind of guys. I played sports year-round for the first ten years of our marriage. Age, knee problems, and a busy church ended my sports playing career. Polly made a good faith effort to enter into my world. For a long times. her ignorance was quite amusing, but bit by bit she became conversant in sports-talk. I did not reciprocate. I still do not know how to sew or put the toilet seat down.

We still have a lot of things that we do not hold in common and that’s OK. But, the bedrock of our marriage of almost 37 years is the values, beliefs, and likes we hold in common.  I believe it would be very hard for an Evangelical and an unbeliever to find common ground to build a successful marriage. It’s not impossible, but it is hard.

On this issue I am much more of a Bible believer than John at Christian Partner for Life. Granted, I see the principle taught in scripture from the other end of the equation, but it still is good advice. When it comes to the foundational issues of life and the philosophies we live by, having a common mind is always best. Certainly, compromise is possible, but willingly chucking your beliefs (whatever they might be) for love will usually leave you disappointed, and if you are not careful may land you in divorce court.

If you are in an unequally yoked marriage or relationship, how do you make it work? Please leave your thoughts in comment section.

You Never Were a Christian

daniel finke

One of the ways that Evangelicals dismiss my life and current beliefs is to say that I never was a Christian, I was a false Christian, or I was Christian in name only.

I thought Christians have been given a spirit of discernment. I thought Christians are filled with Holy Spirit. I thought the Holy Spirit is their teacher and guide. I thought the Bible gives the Christian everything they need know concerning life and godliness. If these things are true, How is it then that  NO ONE, not one single person, ever suggested that I was not a real Christian until I openly said I was an agnostic? I was part of the Christian church for fifty years. I preached my first sermon at age fifteen and for the next thirty-five years I was a committed, devoted follower of Jesus. I spent twenty-five years in the ministry, pastoring churches and helping thousands of people. I prayed, read and studied the Bible, witnessed, tithed, attended public worship services, and tried to pattern my life according to the teachings of the Bible and the life of Jesus. I sacrificed my life for the sake of the gospel. I willingly lived a life of self-denial, accepting poverty wages so churches could have a full time pastor. This was my life, yet according to some Christians, it was all a charade, a game, or the work of a man inspired by Satan and possessed by demons

A pastor on Facebook said that he could discern the true Christian from the false Christian.  I replied that I did not believe he had any such gift.  I told him my family and I could put on our Sunday best and come to his church and I could preach for his congregation and EVERYONE would think the Gerencser’s are a wonderful Christian family.  Perhaps my older children could come along with us and bring their guitars so we could lead the church in a divine, inspiring time of praise and worship.  I bet people would even remark that they “felt” God’s presence and that the Gerencser’s are a godly example of how a family should be.

I’ve been telling my story online for over seven years. Uncounted Christians have told me that I never was a Christian. Some of these deniers were close friends and colleagues in the ministry. Why do they say I never was a Christian?  By saying this, it allows them to ignore the glaring truth that they have no discernment andthat the Holy Spirit did not warn them I was a sheep in wolf clothing.  This also allows them to avoid the hard theological questions that arise when trying to square my life with their beliefs.

It’s easy to say, in hindsight, I never was a Christian. Why is it no one spotted my deception while I was their pastor? Was I just a great con artist, an Elmer Gantry? Think about this for a moment. For twenty-five years, I was able to successfully con seven churches, thousands of people, and dozens of colleagues in the ministry. Does anyone really think I could pull this off?

Here’s the truth, like it or not. I was a Christian and now I am not. I don’t care how you square this with your theology, you know and I know that I was a true-blue, washed in the blood, sanctified, Holy Ghost filled, Bible believing, sin hating Christian. Jesus was my one and only, the passion and love of my life. I was willing to die for him if need be. If I wasn’t a Christian then nobody is.

bruce gerencser 1991

Bruce Gerencser, 1991, Somerset Baptist Academy. Surely everyone can see form this picture that I was a real Christian. :)

I am sure someone will ask why this matters to me? If God doesn’t exist and the Bible is fairy tale, why should I care whether someone thinks I was a Christian? Imagine, for a moment, that you were a star baseball player in high school. At age eighteen, you were signed to a minor league contract by the New York Yankees. You worked your way through the Yankees minor league system, finally making it to the major leagues at age twenty-three. For the next fifteen years, you played outfield for the Yankees. At the age of thirty-eight you retired. Fast forward to age sixty. You are having a discussion with someone and they tell you that you never were a baseball player. You may have had a ball glove, a bat, and a uniform, but you never were a “real” baseball player! Would you be offended by this? Would it be OK for someone to dismiss your life on the baseball diamond? Of course not. You being a baseball player from the time you were a child to age thirty-eight was a very important and real experience for you. Tens of thousands of people KNOW you played baseball, yet there are a handful of deniers who are sure you never, ever played the game. While fans are certainly free to discuss and debate how good of a player you were, how well you played the game, or if your play helped the Yankees win, but saying you never were a player is irrational.

Yet, this is exactly what some Christians do. They deny I was ever what I said I was. They take a knife to my life and cut huge portions of it away and toss it in the garbage. While this might help them avoid the hard questions my life requires them to answer, the evidence for me having once been a Christian is overwhelming, making their denial  ludicrous and irrational. I wonder if the real issue for deniers is that my shocking deconversion forces them to consider that they too could fall from grace, that they too could one day be numbered among the godless.