Tag Archive: Atheism

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.

Questions From an Evangelical Pastor

i have a question

Recently, Joel Yoon, the Covenant Theological Seminary-trained pastor of Gospel City Church in Seoul, South Korea, sent me a thoughtful email containing several questions. Since Joel was polite, I thought I would take a stab at his questions. Joel wrote:

I find your blog fascinating! I am a pastor and I stumbled across your website through a random google search. I would like to ask you a question and I believe it doesn’t fall in the category of any questions you wouldn’t want to discuss.

I read that your walk away from Evangelical Christianity was largely based on you understanding of Scripture. In addition, it seems that not only did your faith unravel due to your view of Scripture, but your blog also seems to reveal that you now have resentment towards Christianity. My question to you is twofold:

Are there parts of Evangelical Christianity that you still appreciate? If so, could you share why?

As an agnostic and practical atheist, is there any part of life that makes you question your views or at least makes you curious about a deity? If so, what would that be?

In order to better understand where I’m coming from, let me share why I ask this: Granted, my theological beliefs give me a bias, I’ve always found it hard to believe the world we have now was created simply by chance. I’m not even arguing against The Big Bang theory or evolution. I’ve just saying that in some sense, I’ve found it harder to be an atheist when I see and experience this world. For example, learning more about the complexities and the beauties of this world, or thinking about and experiencing love, or just even the whole idea of pregnancy, birth and life, these areas of life have made me feel like one needs more faith to not believe in God than to believe in him. So I was wondering, with your journey from being so deeply embedded in a Judeo-Christian worldview — and now a staunch agnostic/atheist —  is there anything that makes you even a little bit curious?

My abandonment of Christianity primarily rests on my rejection of the Bible as an inspired, authoritative text. I think it is impossible to be a Christian and not, to some degree, believe the Bible is God’s Word. Since I came to understand that the Bible was an errant, fallible, contradictory text, there was no possible way I could continue to call myself a Christian. I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically reject all the beliefs that are the foundation of Christian orthodoxy.  I realize that some people are able to reduce the Bible to God is love and Jesus love me too, but I was unable to do so. Christianity, along with its sister religions Islam and Judaism, are text-based religions. I can’t imagine a Christianity without some sort of fidelity to the written Biblical text.

That said, my deconversion certainly had an emotional component. This was not clear to me at first, but I now can see that my loss of faith started when I began looking for a Christianity that mattered. Over time, I became disaffected, realizing that regardless of what name might be over the door, churches are all pretty much the same — social clubs focused on meeting the needs of its members and improving club enrollment. Does this mean, as Joel suggests, that I have resentment towards Christianity? Not in the least.

Not all Christianities are created equal. I generally think that liberal and progressive Christianity is benign, doing little to no harm to unbelievers. While I have a different set of problems with liberal Christianity, I don’t think being part of such churches harms people. I cannot say the same for Evangelicalism. Evangelical Christianity is inherently Fundamentalist, and Fundamentalism is a cancer that must be eradicated wherever it is found. (Please see Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?)  I am well aware of the fact that Evangelicalism is a somewhat  broad tent, but I am of the opinion that Evangelical belief and practice can and does cause psychological damage and results in intellectual stagnation. Does this mean I am resentful? I don’t think so. It does mean, however, that I do have strong opinions about Evangelicalism. When doubting Evangelicals ask for my advice I usually encourage them to seek kinder, gentler forms of faith. There are sects and churches that promote diversity and tolerance. These sects often encourage unencumbered intellectual inquiry. Evangelical churches cannot do so because they are bound by their interpretations of the Bible. Since I place great value on reason and intellectual pursuit, I could never in good conscience recommend people attend Evangelical churches. Both McDonald’s and the local gastropub serve hamburgers, but that’s where the similarity ends. I view Evangelicalism as McDonald’s. If you have never eaten any other hamburger but a Big Mac, you will never know how good the burgers are down at the gastropub. Once people eat a real hamburger, they will never want to eat a Big Mac again. So it is for Evangelicals. Until they venture outside of the safe confines of their little box, they have no idea about the wonders (and dangers) that await them. (Please see The Danger of Being in a Box and Why it Makes Sense When You are in it  and What I Found When I Left the Box.) Once free of the constraints of their Bible box, people rarely return. They don’t necessarily become atheists, but they also don’t return, to use a bit of Biblical imagery, to Egypt — the house of onions and bondage. Once freed Evangelicals realize that the potential paths to freedom, happiness, and fulfillment are many, they rarely return to their former beliefs.

Joel asks “Are there parts of Evangelical Christianity that you still appreciate?”  I think what he means to ask is, are there aspects of Christianity that I miss? Professionally, I miss preaching and teaching. Personally, I miss the communal aspects of being part of a church —  things such as dinners, banquets, and social activities. As atheists, my wife and I are, at times, lonely. We are two pebbles in the Evangelical Sea. While my wife is quiet about her lack of faith, I am not. I regularly write letters to the editor of the local newspaper, challenging Evangelicals who write letters about evolution and creationism, homosexuality and same-sex marriage, Christian nationalism, or whatever “sin” is stuck in their craw. (Please see my two latest letters, Letter to the Editor: Is the Bible the Objective Standard of Morality?  and Letter to the Editor: Evangelical Hysteria Over Transgender Bathroom Use) I am a public figure who is widely known as THE atheist. Local Evangelical outrage over my letters has proved to be quite an eye-opener, a reminder of the fact that Christian food, fun, and fellowship is predicated on right belief. Because we are unwilling to bow to Jesus, my wife and I must live with the fact that we are not going to have very many local friends. We are, however, grateful for the countless people we have met and befriended through this blog and social media.

I will assume that Joel is using the word “God” to signify the Christian God or the Evangelical God. Do I have any doubts or questions about my rejection of THIS God? No, not in the least. I have weighed this God in the balances and found him/her/it wanting (Daniel 5:27). I have been an atheist for almost eight years. During this time, scores of Evangelicals have tried and failed to show me the error of my way. I think I can safely say that I have heard every Christian argument there is for the existence of God and the veracity of Christianity and its supposedly supernatural religious text. None of these arguments has proved to be compelling. I have concluded that the Christian God is a human fiction, brought to life centuries ago by men attempting to explain their understanding of the world. Science has reduced the Bible to a Cliff Notes-sized book of ancient interesting stories and spiritual sayings. It has very little to say regarding life in the 21st century. I certainly would not use the Bible as some sort of road map or blueprint. Does the Bible have value? Sure, but having spent most of my life reading and studying the Bible, I can’t imagine what more I could possibly glean from its pages. Unlike Evangelicals, I do not think the Bible is an inexhaustible well of wisdom and truth. Having read the Bible from cover to cover more times than I can count, I think I can safely move on to other books. Evangelical Rousas Rushdoony once said, most books aren’t worth reading once let alone twice. So it is with the Bible.

I have numerous friends who are liberal Christians, universalists, and deists. I readily admit that I think someone can look at the biological world and the wonders of the cosmos and conclude that some sort of deistic God set things into motion. However, I fail to see any possible way to get from there being A GOD to that deity being the God revealed in the Christian Bible. Any attempts made to bridge these two only raise more questions. Why the Christian God and not any of the other Gods humans worship?  Perhaps some unknown God created everything. Maybe, just maybe, earth is some sort of lab experiment for an unknown advanced alien race. Why do Evangelicals so quickly shut off their minds to any possible explanations but the ones they hear Sunday after Sunday at their houses of worship? (Please see Why Most Americans are Christian.) As atheists such as myself point out, Evangelicals are every bit as godless as atheists when it comes to other religions. I will assume that Joel thinks certain religious beliefs are false. If so, doesn’t this mean that he is atheistic towards these no-God religions? The only difference between the Joel and me is that I am atheistic towards one God more than he is.

Neither Christians or atheists can give a satisfactory answer to the various questions that have plagued man from the first moment he looked skyward and pondered the question, where did THAT come from? Evangelicals believe that their God is the first cause of everything. They can provide no empirical data for this claim. Either you believe it or you don’t. Evangelicals, by faith (Hebrews 11), believe their God is everything. Atheists look to science to give them answers about the universe and human existence. As the Bill Nye and Ken Ham debate made clear, science is willing to say, we don’t know, but we keep looking for answers. Evangelicals, on the other hand, appeal to the Bible. God said _______________, end of discussion. Ham repeatedly appealed to the Bible, a book he believes teaches the universe was created in six 24-hour days, 6,021 years ago. Science says the universe is billions of years old and that it likely came into existence through what we call the Big Bang. This, of course, is not a definitive, final answer. That’s what is so great about science: questions continue to be asked and theories are constantly being rejected or modified. I know of no better way to understand our world. Saying, God says or the Bible says no longer works. We now know too much to return to the ignorance found within the pages of the Bible. That Evangelicals continue to reject what science tells us about our world is troublesome and a hindrance to human progress.

I have often wondered how differently things might have turned out for me had I been raised in another manner. Suppose I had been raised a Presbyterian and went to Harvard instead of an Evangelical Bible college? What if I had been taught to value the sciences and rigorous intellectual inquiry? Would I still have ended up where I am today? I don’t know. Alas, little is to be gained from pondering what might have been. I am where I am and I am comfortable with the path that has led me to this point in time. I have many fond memories from the 50 years I spent in the Christian church and the 25 years I spent pastoring Evangelical churches. I am grateful for the many opportunities I had to help other people. In many ways, I am still a pastor, doing what I can to help others. The difference of course, is that there are no threats of hell or promises of heaven. The humanist ideal now motivates me to help all living things. No longer concerned with what lies beyond the grave, my focus is on helping fellow travelers make the best of this life. As a father of six children and grandfather to eleven, I want to use the what time I have left to make this world a better place in which to live. Things such as global warming, climate change, war, and Donald Trump threaten my progeny’s future. I owe it to them to do what I can to leave to them a better world, one not ravaged by religious ignorance, hubris, and greed. I also want to leave for them a testimony of sorts; of a man who lived a good life without God; a man who was loving, respectful, and kind. If I accomplish these things, it will be said of me, he did what he could.

Guest Post: Looking Carefully at the Claims of Christianity

man with one eye

Guest post by Neil. You can read Neil’s writing at Rejecting Jesus.

I didn’t reject my faith so that I could wallow in sin (though I do like a good wallow now and then). I didn’t turn away from Christianity as an act of rebellion against God, nor did I give it up so I could set myself up as Lord of my own life (though why that would be a bad thing, I’m not sure).

Christians like to tell me that these are the reasons I became apostate, but of course they’re not. Rather, I’d become aware that there’s no such thing as ‘sin’. Sin is a peculiarly religious invention with no traction in the real world; there’s only human behavior. I had reached a point where I understood there was no God, certainly not the Christian version and it follows you can’t rebel against something that doesn’t exist, nor, indeed, can you set yourself up as it.

Instead, I’d taken a long hard look at the claims of Christianity and in particular what the Bible had to say about Jesus. I asked myself:

  • whether human beings can return from the dead (no), can be born of virgins (no), can walk on water (no).
  • whether Jesus’ claims – that he would be back within his disciples’ lifetime to establish the Kingdom of God on Earth; that he would appear to them in the sky with the heavenly host; that he would bring about God’s judgement, again during his own generation – actually happened. (Evidently they didn’t.)
  • whether his promises were true – that whatever believers ask of God will happen; that his followers would do even greater miracles than Jesus himself; that they would be as one. (Another resounding ‘no’.)
  • whether I as a Christian, and whether any other believers anywhere, actually did as Jesus commanded. Did we sell all we had to give to the poor? Love our enemies? Turn the other cheek? Go the extra mile? Give to all who asked? Heal the sick? Forgive repeatedly?

Some might have done so, but by and large, no, we didn’t. We couldn’t even manage not to judge in case we were judged in return. No-one I knew or heard preach or even read about did any of the things Jesus commanded.

I could only conclude that this was because a) Jesus’ expectations were far too demanding and b) Christians don’t believe in him anyway. They may think they do – they like what he appears to say about marriage when they’re up for a little gay-bashing – but really they’re only interested in Paul’s ‘Christ’. Christ, the mythologized version of Jesus, gives them a buzz and – extra bonus – doesn’t expect too much of them. They can even carry on with the gay-bashing if they want. But Jesus? Him they don’t want to know – he’s too demanding, too extreme, too dead.

Every time, then, Jesus came up lacking: his promises were hollow, his prophecies unfulfilled, his morality impossible and his miracles and resurrection more than unlikely. Reason, experience and evidence told me that Jesus as we have him in the gospels is nothing more than the creation of a credulous age; his alter-ego, ‘the Christ’, even more so. Once I realized this – once I had this revelation, my very own deconversion experience – I was free. Free to live my life, to think for myself and be who I am. I recommend it to you; let the self-evident truth that faith is nothing more than self-delusion set you free too.

Ken Ham Proves Yet Again That He Doesn’t Believe in the Sufficiency of Scripture

ken ham

Ken Ham, CEO of Answers in Genesis and stand-in for Captain Noah on the Kentucky Ark of Ignorance, is well-known for pointing to the Bible — God’s science textbook — as THE (only/final) authority when it comes to understanding how the universe came to be. Ham is noted for telling Bill Nye that the Bible was all-sufficient, that it alone explains how everything came to be. But here’s the thing, Ham doesn’t really believe this. Here’s proof of my contention:

ken ham tweet

Ken, I ask you, why do we need to read your materials? I thought all we needed to do is read Genesis 1-3. Now you are saying that the Bible is NOT sufficient for our understanding of how the universe and biological life came to be. What’s up with that?

Of course, Evangelicals don’t really believe that the Bible is one-stop and shop knowledge store. If this was really the case, there would be no need for the thousands of Christian books that are published every year. There would also be no need for “ministries” such as Answers in Genesis. Ham and his cadre of professional dispensers of ignorance have published over ten thousand articles that are meant to help Evangelicals understand what God said in Genesis 1-3. If God has spoken, why would Christians have any reason to read any of Ham’s articles? The answer, of course, is that Ham needs 10,000 loads of bullshit to cover up his irrational, anti-scientific, literalistic interpretation of the Bible.

 

 

A Song for Polly and All of Us Who Are Still in Love With Our One and Only

polly 2013

Despite the many challenges Polly and I have faced over the past 40 years, we, amazingly, still love each other. We began life together as two naïve young people mutually infatuated with one another. As most couples who have been married a long time will tell you, deep, abiding love takes time to grow. Young love is often focused on the physical, but as couples age, their love for one another becomes more complex. Certainly, the physical is still important, but love is so much more than biological needs and urges. As people age, they change. We get up in the morning, look in the mirror, knowing that the youthful beauty and virility of 40 years ago is waning. It’s not that I don’t think Polly is beautiful — I do — but she is much more than just a pretty face. She is my friend and confidant. She’s the hand on the till when my life is spinning out of control. I am there for her and she is there for me. Oh, we still fuss and fight, often over the same things we fought about 30 years ago. Each of us is still as irritating to the other. But love forged in the fires of human experience sees beyond the irritations and personality quirks. Some days we don’t like each other very much. That’s life. Loves sees beyond the moment, reminding us that we have been privileged to experience a life that many will never know.

There are times when I feel guilty over being happily married. I correspond with people whose marriages are on the rocks thanks to their loss of faith. I wish I could wave a magic wand over their marriages and make them whole again, but I know I can’t. Stress and loss often reveal cracks in marital relationships. Sadly, many marriages don’t survive when one party says I no longer believe. Similar to the loss of a child, losing Jesus can and does cause great heartache and often leads to marital conflict. Some couples find a way to make things work, others can’t find a way to build a bridge from loving Jesus together to one partner not believing God exists. For whatever reason, Polly and I were able to walk away from Christianity together. While our reasons for deconverting are different, both of us number ourselves among the godless. Sometimes, people will suggest that Polly is some sort of lemming blindly following her husband. I think there are members of her family who sincerely believe that once I am dead Polly will return to Christianity. The fact that they think this reveals that they have likely never understood Polly. She’s quiet and reserved, and people often mistake her demeanor for passivity. Nothing could be farther from the truth. She is, in every way, just as committed as I am to living according to the humanist ideals. And it is this commitment that continues to strengthen our marriage.

I usually listen to Spotify when I write. Today, I am in a country mood. What follows is a song by Jon Pardi that aptly expresses the love I have Polly. I hope she enjoys it, and I hope you do too.

Video Link

Lyrics

I wanna sweep you off your feet tonight
I wanna love you and hold you tight
Spin you around on some old dance floor
Act like we never met before for fun, ‘cause

You’re the one I want, you’re the one I need
Baby, if I was a king, ah, you would be my queen
You’re the rock in my roll
You’re good for my soul, it’s true
I’m head over boots for you

The way you sparkle like a diamond ring
Maybe one day we can make it a thing
Test time and grow old together
Rock in our chairs and talk about the weather, yeah

So, bring it on in for that angel kiss
Put that feel good on my lips, ‘cause

You’re the one I want, you’re the one I need
Baby, if I was a king, ah, you would be my queen
You’re the rock in my roll
You’re good for my soul, it’s true
I’m head over boots for you

Yeah, I’m here to pick you up
And I hope I don’t let you down, no, ‘cause

You’re the one I want, you’re the one I need
Baby, if I was a king, ah, you would be my queen
You’re the rock in my roll
You’re good for my soul, it’s true
I’m head over boots for you

You’re the one I want, you’re the one I need
Baby, if I was a king, ah, you would be my queen
You’re the rock in my roll
You’re good for my soul, it’s true
I’m head over boots for you

I wanna sweep you off your feet tonight
I wanna love you and hold you tight
Spin you around on some old dance floor

 

Fundamentalist Matt Barber Says Big Bang Proves the Existence of the Christian God

ray comfort atheists hate god

Christian bloviator Matt Barber — a former boxer who evidently took one too many hits to the head — took to his blog today to regale readers with his ignorance concerning atheism. Barber, a creationist, wrote the post to detail his Bible-based beliefs about the creation of the universe. He vomits up arguments that have been repeatedly refuted, and like a peacock strutting his stuff, Barber arrogantly states that his argumentative brilliance deals atheism (and science) a mortal blow. Of course, only in Barber’s Fundamentalist universe do such arguments find adoring and cheering crowds. In the real world, suggesting that the Big Bang proves the existence of God — God being, of course, Barber’s Evangelical deity — is rightly ridiculed and dismissed.

Barber writes:

Be they theist, atheist or anti-theist, on this nearly all scientists agree: In the beginning there was nothing. There was no time, space or matter. There wasn’t even emptiness, only nothingness. Well, nothing natural anyway.

Then: bang! Everything. Nonexistence became existence. Nothing became, in less than an instant, our inconceivably vast and finely tuned universe governed by what mankind would later call – after we, too, popped into existence from nowhere, fully armed with conscious awareness and the ability to think, communicate and observe – “natural law” or “physics.”

Time, space, earth, life and, finally, human life were not.

And then they were.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Christian author Eric Metaxas notes, “The fine-tuning necessary for life to exist on a planet is nothing compared with the fine-tuning required for the universe to exist at all. For example, astrophysicists now know that the values of the four fundamental forces – gravity, the electromagnetic force, and the ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ nuclear forces – were determined less than one-millionth of a second after the big bang. Alter any one value and the universe could not exist. For instance, if the ratio between the nuclear strong force and the electromagnetic force had been off by the tiniest fraction of the tiniest fraction – by even one part in 100,000,000,000,000,000 – then no stars could have ever formed at all. Feel free to gulp. … It would be like tossing a coin and having it come up heads 10 quintillion times in a row. Really?”

Secular materialists claim it can’t be – that such explanation is a “God of the gaps” explanation and, therefore, must be banished from the realm of scientific inquiry. They demand that anything beyond the known natural is off-limits. Atheists attribute all of existence to, well, nothing. It just kind of happened. Genesis 1:1 of the materialist bible might read: “In the beginning nothing created the heavens and the earth.” Even in the material world that’s just plain silly. Nothing plus nothing equals something? Zero times zero equals everything?

And so, they have “reasoned” themselves into a corner. These same materialists acknowledge that, prior to the moment of singularity – the Big Bang – there was no “natural.” They admit that there was an unnatural time and place before natural time and space – that something, sometime, somewhere preceded the material universe. That which preceded the natural was, necessarily, “beyond the natural” and, therefore, was, is and forever shall be “supernatural.”

Reader, meet God.

In short: the Big Bang blows atheism sky high.

Scientists readily admit that they do not yet have answers for what preceded the Big Bang. Like  Ken Ham, Barber ultimately appeals not to science, but to the Bible. God said ______, end of discussion. Barber thinks that by invoking God as the cause of the Big Bang that he has provided an argument that cannot be refuted. Of course, even a child can refute this argument. If everything in the universe has a cause, then where did God come from? The God who caused the Big Bang and created the universe acted within time and space, so he/she/it must also have a beginning. Neither scientists or religionists have answers for what happened before the Big Bang. The difference is that scientists are still trying to find answers. Creationists, on the other hand, appeal to the Bible, trusting that unknown ancient sheepherders or tribal lords had a better understanding of the universe than modern scientists.

I am curious however of one thing. Is Matt Barber saying he actually believes that God used the Big Bang to bring the universe into existence? If the answers is yes, then what happened to believing the Bible, particularly Genesis 1-3? You know, the verses, if taken as written, that say God created the universe in six literal 24 hour days, 6,021 years ago. Surely creationists have no need of making an argument for fine-tuning. Isn’t it enough to say God did it?

Barber also had these things to say about atheism/atheists in general:

“They say there are no atheists in the foxhole. Even fewer when death is certain. None once the final curtain falls. God’s Word declares, “The fool hath said in his heart ‘there is no God’” (Psalm 14).”

“In my experience it is something common among atheists: an inexplicable, incongruent and visceral hatred for the very God they imagine does not exist. Indeed, Romans 1:20 notes, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” Yet excuses they make.”

“As I see it, atheism provides a case study in willful suspension of disbelief – all to escape, as the God-denier imagines it, accountability for massaging the libertine impulse.”

I know, nothing atheists haven’t heard countless times before.

If you have some spare time during your daily constitution, you can read Barber’s post here. Warning, doing so could cause diarrhea.

According to This Christian, Atheists Live Hopeless, Senseless Lives

empty life

I recently received an email from an Evangelical named Preacher Dog. Here’s an excerpt from his email:

1. In stating you are an agnostic, although you think it is highly improbable that there is a God/creator, is it logical to think that the creature can possibly exceed its Creator in terms of intelligence, wisdom or virtue? I mean, if you are actually leaving the door open to the potential that God might exist, then it’s fair to say that the clay cannot be superior to the potter, right? Think about it. When people shake their fists and [sic] God, scream at Him, curse Him, or question Him, etc., what they are really claiming is that they are superior to Him. They are charging God with having less love, or less righteousness, or with caring less, etc. Of course, this is a very silly premise, to say the least. So if you are leaving the door open to the possible existence of God, and God does indeed exist, then you must admit and concede to God’s superiority to yourself on all fronts. Do you see my point? You are a personal being, so can God be any less personal? If you are a loving being, is it reasonable to think God is some cold, heartless, unfeeling entity?

2. Okay, let’s assume God doesn’t exist. If such is the case, then where then does this leave you? Well, it leaves you stuck in the hopeless, senseless, futureless bog of mere naturalism. Yup, stuck in the mud, as the old saying goes. All of life is the product of mere time and chance. Everything is therefore “natural” ( including religion), and there’s no sense putting morality to anything, because authoritative morality doesn’t exist under such a naturalistic worldview. Hey, the only difference between man and all other creatures is conscience and a greater dose of  intelligence, right? But as soon as chickens develop self awareness and start talking, then it will be a heinous, murderous act to sit down to a chicken finger dinner with coleslaw and a thick strawberry shake.

Bill, as I see it, abandoning a belief in God has left you greatly wanting. Throw God out of the equation of life and you will not be able to define your origin, meaning, purpose and destiny. Well, you can define it, but not properly, sensibly or logically.

Bill, you are not a glorified frog.

Think about it.

meaning of life

He later emailed me and apologized for calling me Bill. Bill, Bruce, it matters not. Let me attempt to answer his questions.

In admitting that I am agnostic on the God question, I am in no way suggesting that a God of some sort exists. Since I lack absolute knowledge, it is possible that some sort of deity created the universe. In determining whether a God exists, all any of us can do is weigh the available evidence and make a rational decision. Since all of life is based on probabilities, all I can do is look at the evidence and make a decision as to whether some sort of deity exists. Having done so, I have concluded that God does not exist. Let me put it this way. It is possible that if I step outside my back door at a certain time a falling piece of an aircraft engine could hit me in the head and kill me. It’s possible, but not likely. I can, with calm assurance, walk out my back door at a certain time without a glance to the skies to see if something is hurtling my way. So it is with God. I have no thoughts or worries about the existence of Gods because I see no evidence for their existence.

I suspect that Preacher Dog thinks that I am leaving the door open for believing once again in the Christian God. I am even more certain that the Christian God is a fiction conjured up in the minds of humans millennia ago. Since I am able to read and study the Bible, the odds are even less that the Christian God — in all his various iterations — does not exist. Having spent 50 years in the Christian church and 25 years as a pastor, I think it is safe for me to say that I know the Bible inside out. I can’t remember the last time I have discovered a new “truth” about Christianity. The Bible is not an inexhaustible book. It can be read and studied to such a degree that one can fully comprehend its construction, message, purpose, and teachings — along with the various sectarian interpretations of Christianity and the Bible. I have no doubt that the supernatural claims of the Bible are false. While I think there was a man named Jesus who lived and died in first century Palestine, that Jesus bears little resemblance to the Jesus of the Bible. At best, Jesus was some sort of Jewish prophet or teacher who lived and died 2,000 years ago. His miracles, resurrection, and ascension should be rejected by rational thinkers and viewed no different from countless other mythical stories passed down through history.

People such as Preacher Dog are often clueless as to their own atheistic beliefs. While most Evangelicals — having been raised in Evangelicalism — reject all other religions but their own without studying them, some Evangelicals do study other religions before concluding that the Christian deity is the one true God. While I do have my doubts about whether someone can study world religions and still think that only one religion is right, I have had Evangelicals tell me that they had done their homework, so I am taking them at their word. Regardless of the path to Evangelicalism, once people embrace Christianity they are, in effect, saying that all other deities are false Gods. This makes them atheistic towards all Gods but their own.

Much of what Preacher Dog says in his first point doesn’t make sense to me. I think he is saying it is ludicrous for humans to say that they are morally superior to their Creator (assuming that their Creator is the Christian God). What reveals to us the existence of the Christian God? Not nature or conscience. Nature can, depending on how one views the universe, testify to the existence of some sort of deity or creating energy. However, there is zero evidence in the natural world that proves that this deity is the Christian God. The same could be said for human conscience. At best, all we can say is that some sort of God exists. I have written numerous times on the lack of a bridge that connects the God of nature to the God of Christianity. The only way that people come to believe in the Christian God is through the teachings of the Bible. Perhaps nature reveals A GOD of some sort, but the Bible reveals THE GOD.

Since the Bible reveals to us the Christian God, we can then determine the nature and morality of this God. Those who read the Bible without filtering it through the various Evangelicals interpretive filters, will conclude that the God of the Bible is an immoral monster. He is a misogynistic, violent, capricious psychopath who uses suffering, pain, loss, and death to teach frail humans so-called life lessons. While this God gets somewhat of a moral makeover in the New Testament, by the time we get to the book of Revelation, the nice New Testament Jesus-God has reverted to the moral monster of the Old Testament. Look at all the things God does to people during the Great Tribulation. Such violent behavior makes the Christian God a perfect candidate an episode of the TV show Criminal Minds. There is nothing in the behavior of the Christian God that I find appealing —  or moral. Where is this God of mercy, kindness, and love Evangelicals fondly talk about?  When I compare the behaviors of Evangelicals with those of their God, I find that Christians (and atheists) are morally superior to that the God of the Bible. And the world should be glad that this is the case. Imagine what would happen if Evangelicals started acting like their God. Why, there would be blood bridle deep in the streets (Revelation 14).

In his second point, Preacher Dog regurgitates a well-worn Evangelical trope — that without God life would be senseless and meaningless. This is notion is easily refuted by pointing to the fact that the overwhelming majority of world citizens are not Christians. And if the only True Christians® are Evangelicals, then 90% of people are living sinful, meaningless lives. Preacher Dog cannot intellectually or psychologically comprehend the idea of the existence of morality apart from the teachings of the Bible. If all Christians everywhere had the same moral beliefs, then Preacher Dog might be on to something. However, even among Evangelicals — people of THE Book — moral beliefs widely vary. Christians can’t even agree on the Ten Commandments. (Please see Letter to the Editor: Is the Bible the Objective Standard of Morality?)

Evangelicals believe that the only things keeping them from being murderers, rapists, and thieves, is God and the so-called objective Bible morality. For the uninitiated, this argument makes sense. However, for those of us well schooled in all thing Evangelical, we know that Evangelicals incessantly fight about what the Bible does or doesn’t say. Just stop by an Evangelical preacher’s forum and watch them go after each other about what is the “law” of God. God may have written his laws down on stone tablets, but modern Evangelicals, just as their Pharisaical forefathers, have developed lengthy codes of morality and conduct. It is laughable to think that there is some sort of universal Christian morality. Christians can’t even agree on whether there are TEN commandments in the Decalogue. Some New Covenant Christians think the Ten Commandments are no longer binding A careful examination of the internecine wars Christians fight over what the Bible says reveals that Evangelical beliefs are the works of men, not God. There is no such thing as objective or absolute morality. Morality has always changed with the times (or with new Biblical interpretations). Behaviors once considered moral are now considered immoral. As humans adapt and change, morality evolves. There was a time when it was moral for men to have child brides. Most countries now have laws prohibiting such marriages. We wisely recognize that it is not a good idea to allow grown men to marry 12-year-old girls.

It should be obvious to everyone that morality flows not from the Bible but from the minds of humans. We the people decide what is moral and lawful. Our objective should be to build a moral framework on the foundation of “do no harm to others.” Of course, this maxim is not absolute. When a nation-state attempts to assert its will over another, war often breaks outs. Settling things often requires violence. People are injured or die as these nations settle their differences. This is regrettable, but it serves as a reminder that the maxim of “do no harm to others” can never be absolute. Let me explain matters another way. Suppose a man is driving down the road with his eight-months-pregnant wife. A car hits them head on, severely injuring the wife. Her injuries are so severe that doctors tell the father that he must choose between the life of his wife or the fetus. No matter who he chooses to save, the other will die. The father can choose to “do no harm” to one of them, but not both.

Preacher Dog thinks that atheists are incapable of defining their “origin, meaning, purpose and destiny.” Again, another worn out, shallow understanding of how atheists and other non-believers understand the world. While Preacher Dog will appeal to the Bible as “proof” of his origin, the fact is he is making a faith claim. Atheists do the same. We do not know what took place before the Big Bang. How life began is beyond our understanding — for now. Unlike those whose minds are chained to the pages of an ancient religious text, atheists put their “faith” (confidence, trust) in the scientific method. It is the best vehicle, so far, for explaining the universe. We may never have all the answers, but we will continue to seek out as much knowledge as we can. Evangelicalism, on the other hand, leads to lazy thinking. Genesis 1-3 is given as proof of how the world came into existence. Science easily shows such claims are false, yet Evangelicals are content to say, God or the Bible says ___________ (fill in blank with statement of fact not in evidence).

atheist life has meaning

As far as meaning or purpose is concerned, Evangelicals such as Preacher Dog have been duped into thinking that the Evangelical God alone gives their lives meaning and purpose. Again, billions of people live meaningful, purposeful lives without believing in the Christian God, so what does that say about this Preacher Dog’s assertion? I know P Dog can’t wrap his mind around what I am going to say next, but it is true nonetheless. I am a contented, happy person. In fact, atheism and humanism have, in every way, improved my outlook on life. No longer facing the moral demands of a deity is a big relief. Not having to devote my waking hours to slavish  worship of God allows me to have time necessary to enjoy life. Being human and alive is enough for me. Having a wonderful wife, six children, and eleven grandchildren are more than enough to give my life meaning and purpose. I challenge the Preacher Dogs of the world to examine my life and conclude otherwise. I suspect most atheists, agnostics, humanists, pagans, and non-Christians would say the same. Life is what you make it.

What lies behind Preacher Dog’s statement is the need for some sort of divine payoff. Evangelicals are told that suffering and loss are the price they pay for admission into God’s gated community. Life is, in effect, offloaded to the afterlife — an afterlife, by the way, that no Evangelical knows for sure exists. Yes, the Bible says that there is life beyond the grave, but based on evidence found in cemeteries and on obituary pages, such a belief is little more than fanciful thinking.  One thing is certain, dead people stay dead. To use a bit of reverse Pascal’s Wagers…are Evangelicals really willing to risk (and forego) the pleasures and joys of this life in the hope that there is life beyond the grave? What a waste if this life is all there is. Think of what you could have been done with all the money donated to the church or the hours spent in church services. And please, don’t tell me that living life according to the Bible is a better way to live. It is not, and if it wasn’t for the promise of eternal bliss and happiness, most Christians would abandon their houses of worship for the prospect of sleeping in on Sunday, followed by a relaxing afternoon spent with family, friends, and NFL football.

I choose to embrace THIS life as it is. Yes, life brings pain, suffering, and loss. In June I will be 59, just a hop, skip, and a fall to 60. I know a good bit about life, and here’s a nugget of wisdom I would like pass on to Preacher Dog and his fellow zealots:

You have one life. There is no heaven or hell. There is no afterlife. You have one life, it’s yours, and what you do with it is what matters most. Love and forgive those who matter to you and ignore those who add nothing to your life. Life is too short to spend time trying to make nice with those who will never make nice with you. Determine who are the people in your life that matter and give your time and devotion to them. Live each and every day to its fullest. You never know when death might come calling. Don’t waste time trying to be a jack of all trades, master of none. Find one or two things you like to do and do them well. Too many people spend way too much time doing things they will never be good at.

Here’s the conclusion of the matter. It’s your life and you best get to living it. Some day, sooner than you think, it will be over. Don’t let your dying days be ones of regret over what might have been. (from the ABOUT page)

If I died today, I would die knowing that I had lived a good life — one filled with meaning, purpose, joy, and happiness. Preacher Dog’s religion has nothing to offer me. Like the Israelites of Moses’ day, I have shaken off the bondage of Egypt. Why would I ever want to leave the Promised Land for the squalor of Egypt? As the old gospel song goes, I have come too far to look back now. I may not know what lies ahead, but I do know what’s in my rear view mirror and I have no desire to turn around. Let me finish this post with a story from my teenage years. When I was 15 my parents divorced and my Dad packed everything up and moved us to Arizona. I wept many a tear as we drove farther away from all that I had ever known. Somewhere in the Plains states, we drove on a straight road that seem to go on forever. As I looked off into the distance, I could see how the road went on for tens of miles. And then there was a slight grade and the road disappeared. This is how view my life. There’s a lot of history behind me. Plenty of good and bad experiences lie in the rubble of my past. However, in front of me all I see is a long road. Where will this road take me? What lies beyond the horizon? There are experiences to be had, joys to be experienced, and questions to be answered. It is these things that still, even at my age, excite me. Possibilities, to be sure, but I will never know unless I put the car in drive and move forward.

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Letter to the Editor: Evangelical Hysteria Over Transgender Bathroom Use

evangelicals transgender

This cartoon correctly shows how many Evangelicals perceive the Transgender/bathroom issue. Their perceptions, however, are categorically wrong.

Letter to the Editor submitted to The Bryan Times on April 22, 2016 (never printed) Resubmitted to the Defiance Crescent-News on May 19, 2016

Dear Editor,

Recent news stories have highlighted Evangelical outrage and hysteria over Transgenders using public restrooms. I suspect most Americans at one time or another have taken care of business while in proximity to someone whose sexual identity or orientation is different from theirs. Why all the outrage now over such a banal issue as who and where someone pees?

At the heart of this issue lies Evangelical hatred and disgust, not only for Transgenders, but also for anyone who dares to be different from the God-approved, heterosexual-only, virginal, monogamous-sex-only-within-the-bonds-of-marriage Evangelical belief concerning sexuality. As a Baptist teenager, I vividly remember sermons and admonitions warning teens of the dire consequences of fornication and masturbation. All the scare-tactic preaching did was make us feel guilty when we acted upon normal, healthy human sexual desire.

Evangelicalism is now widely considered a hateful religion by many Americans. Why is this? In the 1970s, Jerry Falwell and Paul Weyrich birthed The Moral Majority — an Evangelical group dedicated to reclaiming America for the Christian God. Along the way new groups such as Focus on the Family and the American Family Association joined with the Moral Majority to fight the war against what they perceived to be the takeover of America by Godless liberals, Satanic secularists, atheists, and humanists. In the 1980s these culture warriors sold their souls to the Republican Party, joining church and state and producing the ugly monster now on display for all to see.

During this same time frame, secularists, their numbers increasing thanks to a growing number of Americans who no longer are interested in organized religion, began to push back at Evangelicalism’s message of hate and bigotry. Atheist groups such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation and American Atheists began challenging governmental preferential treatment given to Evangelicals. Now, thanks to a rising swell of secularism, Evangelicals feel threatened. No longer are they given special treatment. No longer are their blatant assaults on the First Amendment ignored. The more Evangelicals are marginalized, the greater their outrage.

Evangelicals must accept the fact that progress has brought us to place of inclusion and acceptance of those who are different from us. Evangelical preachers are certainly free to keep preaching against what they believe are sinful behaviors. But they might want to notice that many Americans — particularly millennials — are no longer listening.

Bruce Gerencser
Ney, Ohio