Tag Archives: Atheism

Those Who Fall Away Just Didn’t Love Jesus Enough

facebook jesus

Susan, who blogs at Susan’s Flutterbys, continues to be infatuated with yours truly. In today’s missive, she quotes Joshua Whipps, agrees with him, and says since I used my real name in a comment she is officially “outing” me. Which is kind of funny since I have never been “in”. I have always used my real name on the internet. I am readily accessible, with nothing to hide.

Susan tells a bold-faced lie when she states:

…Mr. Gerencser ruins attempts at meaningful dialogue with Christians and only gives kudos to those who agree with him.

Meaningful dialog is ALWAYS welcome. Susan made no attempt to have meaningful dialog with me, accusing me of being an hater, and when asked to give here reasons for this claim, refused to do so. Even on her own blog, after my good friend John Arthur commented on a previous post  about me, Susan closed down the comments. As far as Joshua Whipps is concerned, I asked him to comment on the blog posts he disagreed with, yet he made it clear that he was not going to lower himself and waste his valuable words on the people who read The Way Forward. Whipps could have engaged in meaningful dialog with me but he chose not to. Whipps wrote a total of three posts about me but allowed no comments. Whipps considers his posts about me “teaching” posts. Yet, according to Susan and Whipps, I am the one that “ruins attempts at meaningful dialogue with Christians and only gives kudos to those who agree with him.”

Now, on to the focus of this post. Susan recently listened to a sermon by Phil Johnson,the executive director of Grace to You and a longtime member of John MacArthur’s church. This is what she learned:

One thing he says towards the beginning is the thing that I was (thankfully I can say “was”) having trouble with. He says that institutions and persons have failed and will continue to fail into the future, but the gospel of Jesus will be triumphant. I admit that I was overly concerned by individual persons failing and falling away. Pastor Johnson says that this is actually a blessing in disguise in that the Lord is weeding out through this process the pretenders and keeping the faithful remnant. Pastor Johnson sees the season of unpopularity of the Church having a purifying effect on the Church because the ones who go for any other reason besides their love of Jesus, will drop out. They can deny and deny and speak of their previous love for Jesus, but in the end TRUE LOVE DOESN’T FAIL, so their denials are about as valid as an alcoholic saying he’s not a drunk.

Here’s the gist of Susan’s Johnson Bruce inspired post:

  • The Lord is weeding pretenders like Bruce Gerencser out of the church
  • Bruce Gerencser had some other motivation than love for Jesus and this is why he fell away
  • Bruce Gerencser didn’t really love Jesus or didn’t love Jesus enough

I always find it amazing that people from afar, people who never sat under my ministry, never heard me preach, never observed my life, can make such severe judgments about my life. I suppose I am to blame for this. I am quite open and honest as I tell my story and this gives my critics a lot of information by which to judge my life. Yet, not one church member, fellow pastor, or personal friend ever thought that I didn’t love Jesus. This charge is silly, unfounded, and a lazy attempt to explain away my life.

Here’s two questions I have for Susan and the “I really didn’t really love Jesus or didn’t love Jesus enough” crowd:

  • How much love for Jesus is enough?
  • What is the standard for determining if a Christian really loves Jesus or loves him enough?

Susan’s post is a reminder that Calvinists, for all their talk about salvation by grace, actually believe in salvation by works. The measure of love for Jesus is what? Good works. Since I didn’t persevere and continue to produce good works that showed I really, really, really loved Jesus, I never “really” loved Jesus and was never a true Christian.  Unless the Calvinist continues producing good works and continues to do so until their last breath, they can not be certain that they are a Christian.

I know I can not convince the Susan’s and Joshua Whipps of the world of anything. Their minds are made up. They have weighed me in the balance and found me wanting..

Let me close this post with one of my favorite songs when I was a pastor. When I led and sang this song I did so with every fiber of my being. It is ludicrous to say that I was a deceiver or that I never loved Jesus. Like two people who were once married, their marriage likely ended with a loss of love, but who can doubt they, at one time, loved one another. So it was with my relationship with Jesus. Here’s the song, Gone From My Heart the World and All its Charms:

Gone from my heart the world and all its charms;
Now through the blood I’m saved from all alarms;
Down at the cross my heart is bending low;
The precious blood of Jesus cleanses white as snow.

I love Him, I love Him,
Because He first loved me,
And purchased my salvation on Calv’ry’s tree.

Once I was lost, and fallen deep in sin;
Once was a slave to passions fierce within;
Once was afraid to meet an angry God,
But now I’m cleansed from every stain thro’ Jesus’ blood.

Once I was bound, but now I am set free;
Once I was blind, but now the light I see;
Once I was dead, but now in Christ I live,
To tell the world around the peace that He doth give.

Responses to Joshua Whipps

Another Deconstruction of My Story

Joshua Whipps: I’ve Read Your Blog

Fundamentalist Christian Gnats

Response to Susan

The Anti-Christ’s Brother is Revealed: His Name is Anti-Pastor

Evangelicals Use the Wrong Equation to Determine Their Beliefs

Published: July 23, 2014 | Comments: 22

One Passage of Scripture My Critics Always Ignore

2 timothy 3

The Bible says in 2 Timothy 3:1-5:

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

Most of my fundamentalist Christian critics likely think that this passage from the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God accurately describes the Evangelical Christian pastor turned atheist Bruce Gerencser. This text is meant to be descriptive of certain people alive during the Last Days. Since most fundamentalist Christians think that we are, at this present moment, living in the Last Days, this means that 2 Timothy 3:1-5 is describing people who are presently alive. Ergo, Bruce Gerencser.

What they seem to always miss is that verse five contains a command, from such turn away. Or as the English Standard Version (ESV) says, AVOID SUCH PEOPLE!

When fundamentalist Christians comment on this blog they are disobeying the clear, unambiguous teaching of the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. Not only do they ignore what Paul wrote to young Timothy, they go out of their way to engage, attack, and disrupt. (i.e. like the person who spent the last 24 hours hammering the login page with attempts to log into this blog’s admin page. Over 6,000 attempts) Avoid means stay away from. Seems to me that a number of fundamentalist Christians are doing everything BUT staying away from me.  In fact, I could argue that they are actually the most effective tool I know for drawing people away from their version of Christianity. Keep up the good work!

As I have stated many times over the years, while they may make me the target, the real reason for what they do is their need to be right. They need to feel “right” and what better way to feel right than going after an Evangelical pastor turned atheist. They think if they slay the dragon that this means their beliefs are true. In doing so, they not only ignore the command in 2 Timothy 3:5 but they also reveal who they really are. The Bible says in Galatians 5:

But if ye be led of the Spirit…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

I smell an awful lot of rotting fruit.

Published: July 21, 2014 | Comments: 2

Explaining the Unexplainable

god did it

Things happen that defy explanation.

I spent a good part of my life within a religious structure that took great pains to explain the unexplainable.

No matter the issue or the circumstance that couldn’t be explained, the answer was always the same.

God.

God did it.

To God be the glory.

Usually, the God did it answer was reserved for unexplainable things that were perceived as good.

Bad things?

God was never held accountable for what was perceived as bad.

Sometimes God would be given credit with a disclaimer. God was testing us, trying us, or punishing us.

Usually bad things were attributed to the Devil, to the flesh, to sin.

Every unexplainable thing that happened was explained.

To God be the glory great things he hath done, the old hymn says.

God is sovereign.

God is in control.

God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.

In simple words God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and always present.

Prayer.

Pray. Pray. Pray.

Then out of nowhere an unexplainable answer comes.

God.

As I reflect on 50 years spent thinking God was the answer to every question, I am forced to ask myself “how many of those God sighting in my life were just human sightings or Bruce sightings?”

I can count on one hand the things I have experienced in life that have no explanation.

Everything else that I attributed to God can just as easily be attributed to self or another human being.

I prayed for countless numbers of people who were sick, dying, mentally afflicted or bankrupt. I can not point to one prayer over 50 years where I can honestly say “there is no human explanation for what happened.”

All of the dying people I prayed for died.

All the prayers in the world didn’t keep my wife and I from going bankrupt.

All the prayers in the world didn’t keep me from debilitating illness.

Either I was a bad prayer-er or their was something amiss in the whole “let go, let God” kind of praying.

I prayed every day for 35 years.

I read my Bible almost every day too, reading through the Good Book dozens of time.

I witnessed, preached on street corners, and preached almost 5,000 sermons.

I worked for a pittance of money, believing that my self-sacrifice was pleasing to God.

I sincerely committed my heart, soul, and mind to following Jesus.

Yet, God was silent.

Oh, I attributed many things to the hand of God, the voice of God, the leading of the Holy Spirit.

All lies.

Well intentioned lies, but lies nonetheless.

I really thought God filled my mouth with the words to say when I preached.

But I always wondered, if the Bible is the Words of God why not just read the Bible to people? Wouldn’t it be better if people heard directly from God without an intermediary?

I pastored a lot of people who had unexplainable things happen to them.

The answers were always the same.

God.

Satan.

The flesh.

I have come to see that most things in life, even the surprising things, can be attributed to  human volition.

And those, count on one hand, things I can find no explanation for?

They are just that, unexplainable.

God never enters the equation.

I have no desire to rob anyone of their God.

I know the power of having God as the answer to the great questions of life.

It is comforting.

If God is always on the job there is no need to lose any sleep over what may come our way.

But for me…

Life happens.

Shit happens.

Unexplainable things happen.

Life is what it is.

Let me finish this post with quote from Ecclesiastes.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

Published: July 21, 2014 | Comments: 2

Fundamentalist Christian Gnats

calvin obstetrician

Drawing by my friend, David Hayward. Please check out his new website.

Here in the Midwest, one of the annoyances of summer is gnats flying around your head. Yes, they are irritating, but Midwesterners know that winter is coming and gnats, along with flies will be dead. So it is in the blogging world. The subjects I write about attract fundamentalist Christian gnats. With righteous indignation they buzz around my head, irritating to be sure, but of no lasting consequence. From time to time I might swat one of them, but, for the most part, I know winter is coming and they will be d-e-a-d. They will move on to new people to dissect, deconstruct, and rage against. Since Christian fundamentalists are certain that they are right, there is no lack of people for them to annoy. Bzz Bzz Bzz, as they attempt to make themselves important and larger than life. Sometimes, they get in your ear and their buzzing sounds deafening, but just remember they are just a tiny insect of little consequence. Winter is coming…and they will be no more.

Six years of writing has resulted in countless buzzing gnats around my head. I am sure long time readers could even name some of the gnats that once buzzed loudly and are now dead. Filled with zeal for God, armed with an inerrant Bible, and certain that their peculiar interpretation of the Bible is straight from the lips of God to them, they rage against the preacher turned atheist. No matter how many gnats have come before them, they are certain that they are gnat above all gnats.

The latest fundamentalist Christian gnat to focus their attention on me thinks he is a gnat that flies faster and is smarter than all the gnats before him. In fact, he considers himself a gnat with great expertise. But he, like all who have come before him, will die come winter. So I am content to wait.

When a fundamentalist Christian gnat makes me the focus of their ire, as one such gnat has in recent days, writing 10,000 words about yours truly, I am reminded of my place in the internet animal kingdom:

Fundamentalist Christian gnat (choosinghats.org)

alexa metric choosinghats

Poor, pathetic, deluded, ignorant, atheist who blogs at brucegerencser.net

alexa metric

Over the course of the four days this fundamentalist Christian gnat spent buzzing around my head, a total of ten fellow gnats flew over to check out my writing. A mighty fundamentalist Christian gnat army indeed. Just remember, winter is coming.

It’s been a good two weeks, yes? One fundamentalist Christian gnat wishes someone would slit my throat and another sends me a $100 before he starts dive bombing at my head. And now it is the Calvinists, BZZ BZZ BZZ. I can only imagine how buzzingly indignant the fundamentalist Christian Calvinist gnats will be when I begin to write my series on Calvinism, a subject, according to the mad gnatters, I know nothing about.

Published: July 20, 2014 | Comments: 27

Everyone Believes in God

proof that god exists

No, they don’t.

Yes, they do.

No, they don’t.

Yes, they do.

The Bible says in Romans 1:18-21:

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

and in Romans 2:14-15:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

babies have no religion

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

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

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

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

Published: July 17, 2014 | Comments: 2

Another Deconstruction of My Story

ill pray for you

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

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

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

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

RazorsKiss states:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Note

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

Published: July 17, 2014 | Comments: 13

A Letter From Gary

writing a letter

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

Dear Bruce and Bruce’s readers:

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

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

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

I was insulted.

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

So I did.

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you, Bruce!

I intend to post this public apology on my blog also

You can read Gary’s blog here.

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

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

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

Published: July 16, 2014 | Comments: 38

Writing a Letter to Those Who Try to Evangelize You

writing a letter

If you were once an Evangelical Christian and are now an out-of-the-closet atheist/agnostic, it is likely that you have had family, friends, and members from the last church you attended, try to evangelize you.  I know that has been the case for Polly and I. Since 2008, numerous friends, family members, people who once called me pastor, and men who were once my colleagues in the ministry, have tried to get me to repent and return to the Christian fold. In my wife’s case, it is primarily family that has tried to gently woo her back to the faith once delivered to the saints.

These people certainly want what  they think is best for us. For those who think we are still saved, they fear that God is going to severely judge us and might even kill us. Those who think we have fallen from grace or never had faith, their goal is to win us to Jesus. While I certainly understand their motives, after years of attempted evangelization efforts, I am bone weary of their attempts.

The last Sunday of November in 2008, Polly and I attended church for the last time. We were well on our way out of the church long before that, but on the Sunday after Thanksgiving in 2008, we knew that we were no longer Christians. We weren’t sure what we were or what we would become, but we knew for certain that we could no longer honestly call ourselves Christian.

In early 2009, I wrote a letter titled A Letter to Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners. This letter set off a firestorm that, even to this day, continues to burn. I sent this letter to our family, former church members, friends, and former colleagues in the ministry. I sent this letter to around 50 people. Since then, I have written other letters:

  • A letter to a former church member, dear friend, and man who considered me one of his spiritual fathers. Bill is older than me and was called to the ministry late in life. He is currently a Christian Union pastor in Millersport, Ohio. Here’s the letter I wrote to him, Dear Friend
  • A letter to the man who was my youth pastor at Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio in the 1970′s. Bruce was instrumental in my salvation and my calling to the ministry. Here’s the letter I wrote to him, Dear Bruce, A Letter to My Youth Pastor
  • A letter to my fundamentalist Christian step-grandmother. Here’s the letter to I wrote to her, Dear Ann, A Letter to My Fundamentalist Grandmother
  • A letter to Polly’s Mom and Dad. Polly’s dad is a retired fundamentalist Baptist pastor. Her parents attend a fundamentalist Baptist church in Newark, Ohio pastored by Polly’s uncle. He has been the pastor there since the 1960′s. I wrote to them, Dear Mom and Dad, A Letter to Fundamentalist Christian Parents

In 2011, I wrote an update about the response to my first letter. Here’s what I wrote, excerpted from Count the Cost Before You Say I Am an Atheist:

Almost two years ago I sent my friends, family and former parishioners a letter concerning my decision to deconvert from Christianity. I wish I could say my letter was well received.  I wish I could say that people told me they supported my decision. I wish I could say I have been treated in a kind and respectful manner.

But I can’t.

A longtime friend of mine, Bill Beard, pastor of Lighthouse Memorial Church, drove over three hours to my home to talk (argue) with me about my deconversion. He and I had been friends for over 25 years.

Laura Hardman, wife of Evangelist Don Hardman, wrote me a scathing letter telling me that I never was a real Christian, I had been friends with the Hardmans for over 20 years.I wrote them back and I have not head from them since.

Friends of mine for over 40 years, missionaries with Child Evangelism Fellowship, wrote to me and told me I was under the influence of Satan. They sent me literature to read. I returned it with a letter of my own. They never wrote back.

I stumbled upon a forum discussion about me. They were discussing what to do about Bruce.

I have received numerous emails from former parishioners telling me of the errors of my ways.  Some of them are deeply troubled about how this could happen.  How could their pastor now be an agnostic who doesn’t believe in the Bible or God?

A few former parishioners took it upon themselves to tell me their conclusions about me. Many of them mentioned my reading habits. They told me I read too many books and they suggested I just read the Bible.

Two former parishioners wrote to tell me that, though they disagreed with me, they loved me and were my friend. I really appreciated their love and friendship.

I hear bits and pieces of the gossip about me that is floating around Bryan and Defiance. People questioning whether or not  I was ever a Christian. Some raise issues about my mental stability. One thing they never do…..talk to me personally.

My adult children have to field questions at work about their apostate father. Once again, the questioners never talk to me personally.

It is not much better on the family front.

Silence is how family has decided to deal with me. It’s like I never wrote the letter about deconverting from Christianity. Behind the scenes there is a lot of gossip about me and what to do about the Bruce matter. Last Christmas, the patriarch of the family, a pastor of 40 plus years, was intent on confronting me about my apostasy. I am grateful my mother-in-law quashed his plan to confront me. It would have been ugly.  I mean ugly, ugly.

My wife decided that we would not do Christmas at her parent’s home any more. The stress and undercurrent are such that it is impossible to “enjoy” time with the family during the Christmas holiday.

Since this update, Polly and I have had to stop attending family Christmas in Newark, Ohio due to the stress and pressure that comes from being around six fundamentalist Baptist preachers and their families. Not only are they Christian fundamentalists, they are also political right-wingers, and a few of them are quite racist. After attending family Christmas for over 30 years, we finally said, enough is enough. I wrote about this in a post titled Christmas After There is No Christ in Christmas.

Writing letters continues to be the best way to communicate with people who are trying to evangelize me or trying to badgering me back into the faith. Letter writing enables me to avoid the emotional tension and confrontation that comes when talking to someone face to face. I am not against sitting down face to face and having a discussion with someone about why I left the ministry and Christianity, but I prefer to write a letter, hoping that they will respond. Over the past six years, I have received very few responses to my letters (not counting the response from blog readers). The few responses I did get? They generally were nasty, hateful, judgmental, and preachy. (And I am also convinced that some of my former preacher friends didn’t respond because they didn’t want to be held accountable for their words.)

One of my post-Christian friends is Mike D. Mike regularly blogs at The A-Unicornist. Mike recently wrote a post about being invited to attend church. He wrote a letter in response to the invitation. I found Mike’s letter to be a wonderful example of how to write a letter to those who want to evangelize you. Mike was direct, yet polite. Here’s what Mike wrote:

Vanessa and I both appreciate the invitation, and we both know that it comes from a place of sincerity for both of you. As non-believers, Vanessa and I often feel a bit marginalized given that we live in such a religiously-minded society. To that end, we tend to keep our religious views to ourselves. Our beliefs have, on occasion, caused some friction within our families so we generally feel it’s a topic best left alone.

Over the years, she and I have both been invited to countless church services, implored to talk to church leaders (we have), given books on Christian theology and apologetics, and drawn into debates in which our beliefs are put on the defensive. Just this week, Vanessa was cornered by a priest at her aunt’s funeral who questioned her decision to get married outside of the Catholic church. Imagine if a non-believer wrote to you and said, “I know you usually go to church on Sunday, but this Sunday why not stay in and I’ll loan you my copy of Richard Dawkins’ book ‘The God Delusion’ to read”, or if a Muslim invited you to their mosque imploring you to open your heart to Allah and his prophet. Vanessa and I don’t want to disabuse anyone of their religious beliefs, but we also don’t want to be marginalized or treated as though there is something missing in our lives because our beliefs are different — we are living fully happy, purposeful, moral, and meaningful lives without religion.

I feel it’s important to emphasize that Vanessa and I both left the church for deeply studied and well thought out reasons. Our shift in belief was gradual and reflective, not impulsive and reactive. The impasse we feel with the church runs to the core of historical and theological claims, and they are not the types of issues that could be resolved by attending a service and hearing an inspiring message. We both agree that if anyone is interested in what we believe and why, the best course of action is to approach us with a sincere sense of curiosity – in other words, to simply ask. So while we are grateful for your invitation, we must respectfully decline.

I put this post together in the hope that it might help some of you who are considering writing a letter to your religious family and friends or someone else who is trying to evangelize you. Whatever you write, the most important thing is to be open and honest. If they don’t respect your openness and honesty, that’s their problem. I also think it is important to be firm, yet polite. As Mike firmly, yet politely said, “so while we are grateful for your invitation, we must respectfully decline.”

It is important not to burn bridges. (and I know sometimes it is impossible NOT to) Leave the door open for further discussion and dialog, but make it clear that you should not be considered a target for Jesus.  Remember, you changed, and maybe, just maybe, your fundamentalist brother, sister, son, daughter, or friend, might wander down a similar path as you. For now, it may seem they are hopelessly mired in fundamentalist thinking, but, to steal one of their lines, as long as they are breathing they are a prospect for reason.

Published: July 13, 2014 | Comments: 6