Tag Archive: Atheism

The Long and the Short of Not Coming Out

atheist closet

A guest post by Grammar Gramma

The long

Recently my husband and I attended his high school reunion. It was held at a ranch in central Texas and was a weekend-long event. My husband and I were raised in small west Texas towns which are heavily protestant and quite conservative.

There were some 30 attendees, about half of whom were the original classmates. We began to get the idea that we were in a strongly Christian home when we noted several bibles, many more Christian-oriented books, and numerous placards with biblical sayings. When it was time for dinner, the host called us all in to pray before dinner. I lingered out on the porch, hoping to sit it out, but beckoned me, repeating “come on in – we’re going to pray.” He read a bible verse from his mobile phone, then offered up a prayer. This occurred before every meal. For the other meals, I “disappeared” at prayer time.

Our hosts are Church of Christ, and probably some of the others are as well. Some, at least, are Baptist (probably Southern Baptist). Evangelical? I don’t know, but likely. I also do not know what affiliation the others are. One woman told my husband and me that her life is much better now that she has discovered there is no hell, but we were interrupted before we could get any further in that conversation. Later, I heard her professing something about being a Christian. I wanted to get back to her about how not believing in hell is the beginning of a slippery slope at the bottom of which is non-belief in a god, but the opportunity never arose again. I wasn’t completely sure I wanted it to.

During our discussions with several people, they talked mentioned how blessed they are, and I am under the impression we were the only non-believers there. We did not spill the beans, but just listened.

There was no alcohol served at the house – no beer, no wine, no hard liquor. There was no cursing. I suspect that some of the people live that way. There are others who, although they probably are Christians, engage in at least a bit of cursing. One of them is a Vietnam vet who has various ailments which he attributes to his service, but he cannot get the VA to agree with him. I imagine he knows how to cuss up a blue streak. Others probably live the way they did this weekend.

There was a huge amount of white privilege at the reunion, although I suspect at least some of them were not conscious of it. We didn’t comment on it. There was a bumper sticker on a side table which said “Guns Kill People like Spoons Made Rosie O’Donnell Fat.” It took me several readings of that to realize that is it NOT an anti-gun sentiment!

The last morning, the hostess and I were talking about Facebook and she tried to friend me, but on her little phone I couldn’t determine which icon was mine – I change my photo often and couldn’t find mine among the choices. So she told me her FB name and suggested I friend her – hers is unique. After we got home, I pondered long and hard about whether to let her see my FB page, which is full of pro-choice and atheist posts. I wasn’t sure I wanted to let her know that we (my husband is strongly skeptical about the existence of any gods) have “strayed from the fold.” I am quite sure that if these people knew of our lack of faith, they would have spent the entire weekend trying to save us. We left with our secret intact, unwilling to come out to those people with whom my husband had grown up.

The Short

Today, I decided not to come out to a young lady today, a lady whom I will never see again. A kid was standing alongside the road today in front of a church waving a sign that said “Free Car Wash.” I opted in. After I surrendered my car for a brief, exterior-only cleaning, I was approached by a college student. I started to give her some money, but she declined. She said they are washing cars for Jesus, and will not accept a tip or donation. She asked if I go to church around here and I told her “no” and left it at that. She did not probe further. We chit-chatted about her small home town in Arkansas, her mission trip here, and her college experience. Then my car was clean. We shook hands and I left.

I wonder why I was unwilling to even mention that I am an atheist, let alone challenge her lightly on her beliefs. After all, I will never see this woman again, nor she me. I wish now that I had risked asking her why her god doesn’t heal amputees. I’m trying, more and more, to come out as an atheist, but it is hard to do in person. I have been out on Facebook for seven or eight years, and to my family for longer than that. I don’t know why I find it so difficult to come out to strangers.

Help! I am a Believer, but my Husband is Not

good question

Recently, a new reader sent me several questions she would like me to answer. Her questions and my answers follow.

How do you help a loved one even if you still believe? I am okay with my husband not believing in Christianity, and I want to be supportive, even though I remain a believer. I still love him and don’t want anyone shoving religion down his throat.

This is an interesting question. I think this is the first time a believer has written me to ask how best to help his or her unbelieving spouse, Usually I get emails from unbelievers who need help as they try to live with spouses who are still believers.

The first thing you need to do is make sure that you are really are okay with your husband’s unbelief. You say that you love him, and I am sure that you do, But, do you love him enough to grant him intellectual and psychological freedom? You don’t mention the sect that you are a part of, but if you are part of a Christian group that believes in eternal punishment and hell, you must be honest with yourself about whether you are really okay with your husband dying without becoming a Christian and going to hell.

Each of us should grant our significant other, along with family and friends, the freedom to walk their own path, even if doing so results in those we love end up far from where we are, Sadly, many unbelievers aren’t granted this freedom, and their spouses subtly attempt to evangelize them or coerce them into attending church. I know countless unbelievers who attend church every Sunday because it keeps peace in their families. These unbelievers suffer silently because of the love they have for their spouses, children, and extended family, While doing this is laudable, it does force them to surrender their intellectual integrity for the sake of others. Many unbelievers can’t do this, and often their marriages do not survive.

I encourage you to let your husband know that you really do want him to be happy. Make sure he understands that you want him to be intellectually honest and true to self. Of course, your husband should desire the same for you.

How do I deal with uber-religious family members and friends? How do I protect him from those who will try to force him to reconvert against his wishes?

First, your husband must be willing to stand his own  ground. You mentioned in your email that your husband is “a real people pleaser.”  Predatory Christians love to target people who are not assertive. These evangelizers will likely view your husband’s easy demeanor and politeness as openness to their preaching. Either your husband must avoid those who see him as a prospect for heaven or he must develop the necessary intellectual skills that can be used to combat their evangelizing efforts.

Second, You could tell family members that you don’t want them trying to convert your husband, that you are fine with his unbelief. Those who refuse to do as you ask are bullies. Personally, I would cut such bullies out of my life. Life is too short to allow religious zealots to treat family members as people in need of fixing. Those who value their beliefs more than having a personal, loving relationship with you and your husband are people not worth having in your life. Religion is by design divisive. All religious sects believe they have the truth. When a group believes they are the depository of truth, this necessarily means that they view others as inferior or in need of “correction.”

It is crucial that you and your husband have an open, no-subjects-off-limits discussion about his lack of belief, your belief, how best to live life in a way that grants both of you intellectual and emotional integrity, and how best to deal with evangelizing family members who don’t respect either you or your husband. Remember, if they respected you they wouldn’t continue to preach, witness, and evangelize. Sadly, many Christians believe that obeying what the Bible says or what they think God has told them is more important than respecting the personal space of others.

How can I get some good information about the truth behind Christianity from the atheist perspective?

Here are a few books that I would recommend for you to read:

In Faith and In Doubt: How Religious Believers and Nonbelievers Can Create Strong Marriages and Loving Families by Dale McGowan

Atheism For Dummies by Dale McGowan

The Evolution of God by Robert Wright

Mortality by Christopher Hitchens

God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question–Why We Suffer by Bart D. Ehrman

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why by Bart D. Ehrman

Christianity Is Not Great: How Faith Fails by John W. Loftus

The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails by John W. Loftus

The Outsider Test for Faith: How to Know Which Religion Is True by John W. Loftus

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens

I encourage you and your husband to read these books together and then discuss them. And when I say “discuss” I mean have open, thoughtful, calm discussions. The goal is not winning an intellectual battle or converting the each other to a different viewpoint. Both of you must  come to terms with what you have learned. When confronted with new facts/data/evidence/information, it is important to honestly and openly wrestle with what you have learned. Sadly, many people, when confronted with new knowledge, try to make it fit previously held beliefs or they ignore it hoping that the problem is just a lack of understanding. Many religious people are taught to never question or doubt. When confronted with contradictory or conflicting facts, such people dismiss them and run to the house of faith. DON’T do this. Be intellectually open and honest, doing business with each new bit of knowledge as it is presented.

Doing what I have prescribed here can be dangerous and disconcerting for believers. In your case, as the believer, you have a lot more to lose than does your husband. What will you do if, after reading these books, you conclude that your religious beliefs are false? Are you willing to join hands with your husband in unbelief? Perhaps your beliefs will survive. I know a few believers who have read some of the books mentioned above, yet they still believe. All of them would say that reading these books radically changed how they view Christianity and unbelievers. All of them left Evangelical/Fundamentalist/Conservative sects, seeking out inclusive sects that don’t neatly divide the world into two groups: saved and lost. Are you willing, based on what you have learned, to seek out a more friendly, inclusive expression of faith? Unitarian Universalists, for example, would gladly welcome both you and your husband into their churches.

I hope my answers to your questions are helpful. If I can be of further help, please let me know. I hope you will continue to read my blog. I think you will find that many of the readers of this blog understand your struggles, having once walked similar paths.

I Need Your Help: Dear Preacher, HELP! I Think I am Losing my Faith!

help

I am thinking about writing a book that will be marketed to people who have questions and doubts about their faith. I don’t want the book to be polemical. I am more interested in writing a book that has a pastoral tone, one that gently helps people on their journey from Evangelicalism to unbelief (and all the stopping points in between).  My head is filled with ideas about what I should cover in this book, but I thought I would ask the readers of this blog to offer suggestions about what they think should be covered in the book.

While I think that books written by authors such as Bart Ehrman, John Loftus, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens can be helpful, I want to write a book that allows me to be  a pastor of sorts. I have a working title for the book: Dear Preacher, HELP! I Think I am Losing my Faith! Since many of the readers of this blog — a cast of thousands— are former Evangelicals, I am  soliciting your help with this project. What questions or subjects do you think I should address in this book? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section. If you do not comment on this blog but would still like to make a suggestion, please use the comment form to send me an email.

Thank you for your help. I will make this post a sticky for a few weeks so every reader has an opportunity to make a suggestion if they so desire.

Patrick Holt Thinks I Hate Christians, God, and the Bible

bible baptist church grover hill ohio

A man by the name of Patrick Holt from Grover Hill, Ohio responded today to my May 25, 2016 letter to the editor of the Defiance Crescent-News concerning the Transgender bathroom use issue. Holt, as far as I can tell, pastors an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church in Grover Hill. I featured his church in the On the Road Looking for God’s True Church series. Here’s what Holt had to say:

This is a reply to the May 25 letter by Bruce Gerencser.

In his letter he implied that someone, like myself, who objected to a male using the same bathroom that my mother, wife, daughters, and granddaughters were using was hateful. So, basically, if you disagree with someone, then that, according to Bruce, is hateful. Using that same logic, then Bruce Gerencser, must hate Christians, God and the Bible. Would that not be a proper statement?

Patrick Holt, Grover Hill

Holt would like people to think that the whole Transgender bathroom use issue is all about differences of opinion. It’s not. Holt knows that many Evangelicals — himself included — hate transgendered people and homosexuals. Many Evangelicals — especially those at the far extreme right of Evangelicalism — want sexual perverts (code for non-heterosexuals) to be punished for their deviance. Some Evangelicals even go so far as to call for the incarceration and executions of such people.  I think I am on firm ground then when I say that many Evangelicals HATE, not just the sin, but also the sinner.

Holt, as most people who hold to his version of sexual hysteria, sees the Transgender bathroom use issue as one of men using the women’s restroom. He fails to understand that most of the “men” using the women’s restroom are in the process or have completed chemical/surgical gender reassignment. This means that the “men” Holt is so worried about look like women. In fact, some of them are quite beautiful.

Why doesn’t Holt mention “women” using the men’s restroom? I have yet to hear a peep from Holt’s crowd about Transgenders using the men’s room. Again, most of the “women” using the men’s restroom look like men. I think that the primary reason Evangelicals focus on the “men” using the women’s restroom is because they view their mothers, wives, daughters, and granddaughters as weaker vessels (1 Peter 3:7) in need of protection. I think that if a man actually went into the women’s restroom while women were present, well…he would likely run screaming from the room, minus his testicles.

Holt’s attempt to paint me as a hater falls flat on its face. People who know me know that I am not inclined to hate anyone. I hate certain ideas and beliefs. I despise Holt’s Evangelical beliefs because I think they lead to intellectual stagnation and can and do cause psychological damage. And in some instances these beliefs can cause physical harm. Politically, Evangelical beliefs are the theological currency which drive the move towards establishing a Christian theocracy. Denying the separation of Church and State, many Evangelicals will not rest until King Jesus is sitting on a throne in the Oval Office. Socially, Evangelical beliefs lead to cultural stagnation and impede progress. Evangelicals, armed with an ancient religious text, have waged war against women, undocumented workers, abortion doctors, atheists, humanists, secularists, Democrats, non-Evangelicals, liberal Christians, Barack Obama, and those who have sex outside of monogamous heterosexual marriages. Scientifically, many Evangelicals are determined to teach creationism and Noah’s flood in the public school classrooms.  You see, there are plenty of Evangelical beliefs to hate, but unlike Holt with Transgenders and homosexuals, I don’t hate Evangelicals. While I think people such as Ken Ham, Steven Anderson, the Phelps clan, and a cast of thousands, are first-rate cretins, dolts, morons, halfwits, loons, numbskulls, schmucks, or numbnuts, I don’t hate them. If anything, I pity them, knowing that religious ignorance keeps them chained to the Bible with its fables and contradictions.

Holt — like many Evangelicals — thinks atheists hate God — God being, of course, the Christian deity. If Holt were sitting across the table from me I would ask him if he hated Harry Potter, Santa Claus, or Darth Vader. Holt would surely reply, Of course not. These characters are fictional. I wonder if Holt would see the irony in his response?  Atheists don’t hate the Christian God — or any other God for that matter — because he is a fictional being. Suppose in 2055, the followers of Harry Potter have turned J.K. Rowling’s books into divine texts read each Monday at Potterite churches. Taken literally, these divine texts lead people to do all sorts of mischief, often leading to physical harm or death. Atheists in 2055 would likely hate the beliefs of the Potterites. Does this mean these atheists think Harry Potter is a real person? Of course not. So it is with the Christian God. I don’t hate God for one simple reason — he doesn’t exist. What I DO hatehowever,  is what is done in the Christian God’s name.

As far as hating the Bible, Holt surely knows that the King James version he holds dear is an inanimate object, right? Hating inanimate objects is a waste of time. What I DO hate is what is done with inanimate objects. Guns are used to wage war and murder. Cars are used by drunks to kill and main. And the Bible is used to indoctrinate and enslave. I hate how the Bible is used in our modern world to promote ignorance, often leading to bloodshed and loss of freedom. So, yes, Patrick Holt, I hate God, Christianity, and the Bible, but NOT in the ways you think I do.

I have added Holt’s letter to the Local Response page. If you would like to see how local Evangelicals and Catholics have responded to past Letters to the Editor, please check out this page.

Tim Wildmon Shows He is Clueless About Secularism

tim wildmon

What follows is a video produced by Tim Wildmon and the American Family Association. This video purports to “explain” to Fundamentalist zealots the true nature and ideology of secular progressivism. What the video really does is show that Wildmon and his costars either know very little about secularism and progressivism or they are deliberately lying in hopes of providing yet another red meat meal for culture warriors. My money is on the latter.  This video is 3 minutes long. Enjoy!

Video Link

Depression and Lightening the Load

eeyore

I have battled depression most of my adult life. For many years, I denied that I was depressed, attributing my melancholy to God testing or trying me, Satan tempting me, or God punishing me for this or that sin. My religious beliefs told me that depression was a sign of a backslidden, sinful, or rebellious life. After all, the Bible says in Isaiah 26:3:

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee [God]: because he trusteth in thee.

Psalm 43:5 states:

Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.

The Apostle Paul — a First Century Tony Robbins and Wayne Dyer — had this to say:

 Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. (Philippians 4:4)

Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. (Philippians 4:11)

For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7)

And if these verses weren’t enough, there was always the “look at all Jesus suffered just so you could be saved and go to Heaven someday!” Compared to what Jesus went through, my depression was nothing.

I had numerous colleagues in the ministry, but talking to them about my depression was not an option. Talking to them meant admitting I was weak or “sinful.” I never considered seeking out the help of a psychiatrist or a psychologist. How could I? I had preached numerous sermons on the aforementioned verses, and on my bookshelf sat books such as Psycho-Heresy: The Psychological Seduction of Christianity by Wayne and Deidre Bobgan and PsychoBabble: The Failure of Modern Psychology–and the Biblical Alternative by Richard Ganz. No, I concluded that I was the problem.

I now know that having a Type A personality and being a perfectionist and a workaholic didn’t help matters. No matter how hard I worked, I never measured up. The church growth craze of the 1970s and 1980s only exacerbated my depression. The ministry was reduced to a set of numbers: attendance, souls saved, and offerings. Push, push, push. Like a crack addict seeking his latest fix, I focused on attendance increases and souls brought to Jesus to push my depression into the background. And as sure as the sun comes up in the morning, declining attendance and a lack of “God working in our midst” forced my depression to the forefront. I spent countless nights alone in the darkness of the church building praying to God, pleading that he would fill me with his Spirit and use me to bring in a large harvest of souls. In the end, no matter how hard I worked or how much I sacrificed— money, family, and health — it was never enough. Success was a temporary elixir that soothed my depression, but its effect soon wore off and I retreated for the thousandth time into the deep, dark recesses of my mind.

depressionIn 2005, two years after I left the ministry, I told Polly I needed professional psychological help. It took me another three years before I was willing to pick up the phone and make an appointment. At first, finding a “Christian” counselor was important to me. Once I found one, I then had second thoughts about people seeing me entering his office or noticing my car in the parking lot. I live in an area where everyone knows me — both as a pastor and now as an atheist. It wasn’t until I deconverted that I began calling counselors, hoping to find a non-religious, secular counselor. Fortunately, I found just the right person to help peel away the layers of my life, allowing me to finally embrace my depression and find ways of handling what Dexter the serial killer called his “dark passenger.”

Readers who have been with me since the days of blogs named Bruce Droppings, NW Ohio Skeptic, The Way Forward, and Fallen From Grace have helplessly watched me psychologically crash and burn, only to rise again out of the ashes like a Phoenix. Surprisingly, the current iteration of my blog has been active for 18 months, besting the previous longevity record by 6 months. Let’s Party!!

In recent weeks, numerous readers have written to express their concern about my health and declining level of literary output. I deeply appreciate the fact that people care and that they are discerning enough — having studied the Bruce Gerencser species — to know when I am teetering on the brink of the abyss.

I mentioned earlier today on Facebook that I feel like I have tied a knot on the rope of my life and I am desperately trying to hold on. There are days when I feel my grip slipping, leaving me to wonder if I can make it through another day. I do what I can. Whether that will be enough remains to be seen.

Health problems continue to drive my depression and virtually every other aspect of my life. Tuesday I attended my granddaughter’s softball game; Wednesday, my grandson’s baseball game. I shot hundreds of photographs, hoping to leave for them a reminder of a Grandfather who loved them very much. They don’t understand it as such right now, thinking that I am an annoying old man who is always taking their picture, but someday, perhaps when they have children of their own, they will be glad that I — for a few hours on a summer day long ago — endured great pain to see them play. As it stands today, I am bedfast, hoping to recuperate enough from the previous two days to attend a dirt track race with several of my sons on Saturday.

As depressives will tell you, small problems often pile up for them and turn into full-blown depressive episodes. I mean, suicide level, I can’t deal with this any longer. My counselor — who is also my friend — is keenly aware of how quickly things can pile up for me. Starting with chronic illness, unrelenting pain, loss of mobility, and decreased cognitive function, my plate is quite full before I even get out of bed — that is, if I can get out of bed.

Recent events have filled my plate as I would on Thanksgiving Day. What’s one more helping of ham, turkey, and candied sweet potatoes, right? While I find it too painful to write about many of the things that have been added to my plate, I have talked to my counselor about how overwhelmed I am with life. His advice was quite direct. He told me that I like to help people and that my family sees me as some sort of “fixer,” but now declining health is forcing me to stop taking on everyone’s problems and burdens. It’s time for me to focus on what is best for me, and not what’s best for others. I am not sure how well I can heed his advice, but I am trying.

Last year I wrote about my father-in law who — contrary to our advice — had hip surgery. Six months later he is still in the nursing home and it likely that he will be in a wheelchair the rest of his life. I have had moments when I have wanted to scream, God dammit, I warned you that this could happen, but I know nothing good would come from such an outburst. My father-in-law will never return home to the house where he lived for 40 years. It was sold today, and now the hunt is on for a suitable apartment. But I won’t be joining in the hunt.

Having been blamed for countless things thing have befallen my in-laws, I can no longer be their go-to person when problems arise. One of my sons got a taste of their blaming when he helped them get a new car. They don’t like their new car, so whose fault it that? Not theirs. My son is to blame. This storyline has been played out numerous times over the 40 years Polly and I have known each other. I took away their daughter and now she no longer believes in God or goes to church. Who’s to blame? I am. They blame me for ruining their grandchildren, infecting them with my godlessness. In their minds, if Polly had just married the right preacher boy none of this would have happened. Year after year, I have lived with their slights and insults — mainly coming from my mother-in-law —  and being told that I wasn’t good enough for their daughter or that I was “different.” Several weeks ago my mother-in-law — unsolicited — took it upon herself to give a running report to my two youngest children about my past sins. Why? I have no idea.

When hearing of my latest attempt to assist them — selling their house and helping them find an apartment — my counselor advised me to stop doing so. You have too much on your plate, he told me, to have to also deal with their problems. Besides, they are your wife’s parents, not yours. If they are going to blame someone, let them blame her! I took his advice, decoupling myself from their train wreck. I still want what is best for them, but I can no longer be the target of their blame when things don’t go as planned.

I have written all this to say that I must continue to find ways to “lighten my load.” My health will never be as good as it is today, and someday I will likely be unable to leave my home. In the interest of improving the quality of what life I have left, I must identify the unnecessary things that are weighing me down and cast them aside. This is not easy for me to do. Giving in has never been my strong suit. I hate to let go of things (and people) who have been very much a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I am in the process of identifying what matters to me and how best to spend my time doing these things. As things stand today, writing and photography are number one and two on the list. I have sold my library and woodworking tools, knowing that I will never enjoy these things again. I still collect Library of America books, but I do so because I want to leave them for my grandchildren — several of whom are ravenous readers. I am left with my writing and my cameras. How long I can continue to productively write and shoot photographs is unknown. For now, I am holding on to the knot at the end of the rope.

It goes without saying that above everything I could ever do or own, I deeply love my wife, children, and grandchildren (and yes, my daughters-in-law and son-in-law too). As illness and pain whittle down my life, I am learning that what matters most is love and family. The praise of congregants and the approbation of fellow clergy are but distant memories. I would trade all of them for one day without pain. We silly humans so often focus on things that don’t matter. Age brings perspective, and what really matters — at least to me — fits on a small Post-it note. And even now, I continue to mark through things on my list. I suspect that when death claims me for its own, my list will contain a handful of names and the words “they loved me until the end.”

Why I Never Used the Word “Religious” When I Was a Christian

born again or religious

I recently participated in a two-and-half-hour phone interview on the subject of the labels we use to identify ourselves. The man doing the interview is working on his master’s thesis. One label he asked me about was the label religious. Focusing on my days as an Evangelical pastor, he asked if I ever considered myself religious. I told him, absolutely not. The “religious” label was reserved for Catholics, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and other mainline groups. THEY were religious, WE were Christians. This was especially true back in my Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) days.

I viewed most other Christian sects with a good bit of skepticism. Catholics were immediately dismissed as fish-eating, beer drinking believers in works salvation. Catholics were prime evangelistic targets, even though I found them almost impossible to evangelize. Protestants such as Lutherans, Methodists, and Presbyterians were far easier to lead to saving faith in Christ. I considered such people, as a whole, to be religious, but lost. I found these kinds of people to be ignorant of what the Bible taught concerning salvation. Using the soulwinning (salesmanship) techniques I was taught in college, I would show them what the Bible “really” said about life, sin, God, Jesus, salvation, and life after death. Often astounded by what I showed them in the Bible, these prospects for heaven would pray the sinner’s prayer and become born-again Christians. These new converts went from being religious to new life in Jesus Christ. Or so I thought, anyway.

Of course, I now know that the only difference between Bruce, the Baptist preacher and those I targeted for evangelization was our religious beliefs. I was every bit as religious as Catholics, Methodists, Lutherans, and Presbyterians. My refusal to use the word “religious” allowed me to view myself as superior to others. I was a True Christian®, a devoted follower of Jesus. Christian people outside of my cult lacked the right beliefs and commitment to God. It took me a number of years to realize how arrogant I was, thinking that my God, my beliefs, and my way of living were the right/only way, truth, and life. When modern-day Bruce Gerencsers stop by this blog to regale us with their infinite and absolute understanding of truth, I am reminded of the fact that I once was just as they are. I remember when “absolute truth” fit within the confines of the whatever Baptist church I was pastoring at the time. Like the prophets and apostles of the Bible, I was a man of God who was given a message by God to share with saints and sinners. My goal was to turn religious people into Christians/Baptists/people who thought just as I did.

In recent days, several Christian commenters have attempted to show readers of this blog how exalted their reasoning is compared to that of ignorant atheists, agnostics, and, well, anyone who doesn’t think as they do. These men have even self-described themselves as brilliant. These preachers of TRUTH are certain that their interpretations and beliefs are right. As I read their words, I say to myself, Bruce, you said the very same thing years ago. Thinking I was a True Christian®, I considered everyone else outside of my little corner of Christianity to be religious, but lost. I had such a small view of the world, with every person fitting into one of two categories: saved or lost. True Christians® were saved, everyone else, including billions of people who worshiped some other sort of God, was lost. As a younger pastor, thanks to my IFB training, I even viewed many Evangelicals as religious, but lost. Calvinism later did the same for me, allowing me to cast aspersions and doubts upon those dirty Arminians who believed in salvation by works.

I still have moments when I think that I have an exalted intellect and understanding of the world, but tripping over the cat or a forgotten toy quickly brings me back to earth. I am not suggesting that all worldviews and beliefs are the same. I reject attempts to smooth out the edges of the public space. But, at the end of the day, all of us are feeble, frail people who will soon find ourselves six feet under or the smoke wafting up from a crematorium smokestack. Knowing this should teach us humility, a reminder that none of us is an all-knowing deity — not even Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, or Neil deGrasse Tyson.

How about you? Did you consider yourself religious? How did you view people who were not a part of your sect?  Please leave your thoughts in the comment section.