Tag Archive: God

The Christian God Has an Optics Problem

richard dawkins quote on the nature of god

Stacy Long, a writer for the American Family Association, admits that when taking the Bible at face value, the Christian God comes off looking more like a murderous psychopath than the loving, doting father Evangelicals say he is. Long writes:

Often we read the Bible and have a hard time making the connection between God’s role in the Old and New Testaments. How do we reconcile Jesus’ teachings of God’s love and longsuffering, of kindness to our fellow man, of redemption and sacrifice for all people with the Old Testament instruction to pillage and conquer the Canaanites (Numbers 33:50-56), with instant death for one who so much as laid a careful hand on the Ark of the Covenant (2 Samuel 6:3-7), with stoning an entire family because one man went astray (Joshua 6:18-19; Joshua 7:1, 20-26)?

There are stories in the Old Testament that cause us to stop in dismay and wonder how this is the loving, gracious, merciful God that we learn about in Sunday School and read bedtime stories about to our children.

The Christian God’s optics problem is one of the reasons often given for people leaving Christianity. If the Bible is taken at face value (literally), especially the Old Testament, God is a vindictive, petty, petulant, narcissistic son-of-a-bitch deity who doesn’t deserve one second of obeisance and worship. From the Father God perspective, the Christian God is a father who neglects his children, refuses to meet their basic needs, and physically abuses them when they fail to meet his exacting, perfectionist standard of living.

Even in the New Testament God has an optics problem. What kind of father allows his son to be brutally tortured for the crimes of others? While the Christian God certainly is viewed in a better light in  much of the New Testament, he returns to his Old Testament self in the book of Revelation, a 22-chapter story of God’s slaughter of the human race and the destruction of earth. Perhaps God suffers from multiple personality disorder or is schizophrenic. Perhaps from Matthew to Jude God is well-medicated and refrains from returning to his murderous ways. In Revelation, tired of the calming effects of anti-psychotic medications, God goes off his meds and makes up for lost time by slaughtering billions of people.

While Long recognizes that God has an optics problem, she attempts to rehabilitate God’s psychopathic resume by suggesting that God operates according to a different moral and ethical standards than sinful humans. Long writes:

And so, God’s ways are not our ways. But even when His ways seem strange to us – unlike what we know of Him – His ways are still the same, and He is still good.

….

So, maybe it is not so much that God’s actions are inscrutable, as our understanding of them is precarious. Not that we lack some secret key to biblical exposition, but simply because we are not God. He’s looking at the picture from a whole different angle, and what He sees may be very different from what we see. What He knows and understands may be completely unknown to us. In short, what we may misunderstand and call bad, He may call good.

Over the years, as I have attempted to challenge Evangelical beliefs by pointing out God’s immoral behavior, Christians have reminded me that it is impossible for us to judge God using human reasoning. According to Evangelicals, God’s ways are not our ways. Where do they get such a notion? Right out of the Bible:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8,9)

According to Evangelicals, God’s behavior can never be questioned because his ways are beyond human reason and understanding. In other words, God can do whatever the hell the wants because he is God. The Apostle Paul, when questioned about God choosing to save some people but not others, wrote:

For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? (Romans 9:17-21)

Simply put, Paul is saying, Shut up!  How dare you question God! God is God and he can do whatever he wants to do.

Long concludes her defense of the Christian God’s immoral behavior with the Biblical story of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus:

Take the birth of Jesus for instance. Looking at the story from a human viewpoint, it is a completely tragic affair. A girl gets pregnant out of wedlock, her fiancée is compelled to marry her against his own inclination, they are forced into an arduous journey through unfriendly terrain, they are destitute and homeless when it comes to the time for childbirth, and the whole thing ends with a lot of innocent infants being massacred and Jesus’ parents having to flee for their lives to a foreign land not knowing if they will see their home and families again. For a sad tale of a couple who really get their lives messed up, that beats Romeo and Juliet hollow. Oh, and then that baby who came into the world through so much trouble and pain ends up being horrifically executed as a criminal and denied by His closest friends. And yet, from our retrospective understanding of God’s purpose, we celebrate His birth as the sweetest, most joyous event of all time.

Long, as every Evangelical, reads the Bible selectively. When Evangelicals read the story of the conception and birth of Jesus, all they see is the wonderful babe in the manger — God incarnate who came to earth to save sinners. While rose-colored-glasses wearing Evangelicals know that there are morally perplexing and contradictory aspects of the incarnation story, they shut their minds off from reason, believing instead that their God would never do anything that was not for their good.

So then, God raping a virgin teenage girl and making her the surrogate for Jesus is okay because these heinous behaviors led to the birth of Jesus, the savior of the world. Is this not why many Evangelicals believe that there should be no abortion exceptions?  According to Evangelicals, if a woman is violently raped and impregnated by a psychopath, she still should be forced to carry the fetus to term. Why? Well, look at how things worked out for Mary. She carried her fetus to term and that fetus became a miracle-working prophet, a God-man hybrid, who was violently tortured and executed so his blood could be used to wash away our sins. Amazing and wonderful, right?

God, who is all-knowing and all-powerful, could have chosen to impregnate Mary another way (by having Joseph impregnate her and then supernaturally turning the fetus into Jesus, the son of God).  In fact, he could have provided a different method of salvation. But, he didn’t. Evangelicals often focus on the heathen ruler who massacred all the male babies in Bethlehem and the surrounding area under the age of two. What an awful, murderous man, Evangelicals say.  Wait a minute, couldn’t God have stopped Herod’s slaughter?  Shouldn’t God, who is the creator of the universe and the divine human puppet master, be held accountable for what happens on his watch?

Evangelicals argue that God cannot do wrong, and that he is morally pure.  When confronted with Bible stories that suggest otherwise, Christians rush in to defend their God from charges of immorality. I get it–the Christian narrative must be protected at all costs. If God is shown to be culpable for his behavior, why that would mean that he is not a deity worthy of human fealty, fidelity, devotion, and worship. And this is exactly what Evangelicals-turned-atheists such as I believe. Even if the Evangelical God exists, and he doesn’t, he would not be a deity worthy of our devotion and worship. We refuse to bow in worship to a God who has spent the last 6,020 years murderously working its way through human history. We refuse to bow in worship to a God who considers sickness, disease, starvation and war “good.” We refuse to bow in worship to a God who had stood on the sidelines of human history doing nothing as blood flows in the world’s streets.

I know all the excuses Evangelicals give for their God’s behavior. I used them myself in sermon after sermon, and they were little more than defenses of the indefensible. God has the power necessary to radically change life on earth, yet he does nothing. Outside of helping Granny Louise find her car keys and helping Tim Tebow keep his virginity, God is largely AWOL.  When will Christians realize that their God is not who they claim he is? Anyone with a modicum of reason and basic observation skills can conclude that the God being peddled by Evangelicals is a work of fiction.

Evangelicals are forced to ignore or reinterpret vast portions of the Bible in order to main the Christian narrative: that God is a kind, loving, long-suffering deity who desires to save people from their sins, that he is a God personally involved in the affairs of the human race, right down to giving each of us the breath to breathe. I ask, dear Christians, where is this God of yours? Outside of your minds, where can I find this God? Better yet, based on what I read in the Bible, why should I devotedly worship the Christian God? What is there about your God that deems him worthy of my love and devotion? From my seat in the atheist pew, if I knew of someone who behaved in a fashion similar to the Christian God, I would advocate for his immediate incarceration and execution. Such a loathsome creature does not deserve life. In every way, the Christian God is worse than the most vile of humans. Why would I ever want to worship such a God?

Simple, Bruce, if you don’t, God will torture you in hell for eternity after you die.

Thank you for making my point.

Dear Christian: YOU are the Problem, Not Your God

odin

Compare this picture to the descriptions of the Christian God in the book of Revelation. Similar?

Atheists do not hate God. While Evangelical Christians will certainly suggest otherwise, I do not know of one atheist who hates God. Think about it for a moment. Do atheists believe in the existence of the Christian God, or any other God, for that matter?  Of course not, so it makes no sense to say that atheists hate a non-existent, mythical being. Surely even the densest of Christians can understand this. If I asked Evangelicals, Do you believe in the existence of Odin, the Norse God? how do you think they would respond? I have no doubt Evangelicals would laugh and say, Odin is a mythical being. It would be silly of us to hate a being that doesn’t exist. Bingo. Just like the atheist and the Christian God.

Evangelicals often refuse to accept at face value what others say/believe about their God. When atheists deny the existence of the Christian God, Evangelicals say that atheists are suppressing their knowledge of this God. Supposedly, atheists KNOW that the Christian God exists, but they, having a hard heart and a seared conscience, deny his existence. Couldn’t the same be said of Christians who deny the existence of Odin?  Christians KNOW that the Norse God exists, but they refuse to accept this, clinging to a God who is no God at all.

The fact is, atheists do not hate God. Anyone who suggests otherwise is either deliberately ignorant of what atheists believe or are so blinded by their own beliefs that they cannot fathom any other belief but their own. Wait a minute, Bruce, Evangelicals say. If atheists do not hate God, then why do they spend so much time talking about God? Good question.

While atheists know that the Christian God is a myth, they also understand that much harm has been done in his name. It is not the Christian God that is the problem. God, divorced from his followers, is little more than an ancient explanation for human existence. Who cares, right? Myths, in and of themselves, have no power. The Harry Potter books tell a wonderful story of mystery and magic, but no one in his or her right mind thinks the stories are true. Imagine if a group of people believed that what was written in the Harry Potter books is some sort of divine message from God. Does the fact that this group of people believe the stories are true mean that they are? Of course not. So it is with Christianity. That people believe is no proof that something is true. Millions of people believe in the Mormon God, yet Evangelicals, for the most part, believe Mormonism is a false religion. I fail to see how Mormonism’s God is any different from Christianity’s God. Taken at face value, both myths are absurd.

The real issue for atheists is what Christians DO in the name of their God. It is Christians that are the problem, not their God. If Christianity was little more than a Kiwanis Club, I suspect that most atheist writers such as myself would put down their digital pens and turn their attention to other pursuits. However, because many Christians will not rest until the entire world worships their God and bows to their interpretation of an antiquated religious text, atheists, humanists, agnostics, and secularists are forced to do battle with Evangelical zealots. Believe me, I’d rather be writing about sports or photography, but as long as Evangelicals continue to clamor for a Christian nation governed by Christian laws, I intend to raise my objection to their theocratic ambitions.

Five years ago, I wrote a post titled, If Christianity Doesn’t Matter, Why Do You Bother With It? I think what I wrote then still applies today:

Bruce, if Christianity doesn’t matter, why do you bother with it?

Good question.

On one hand, Christianity doesn’t matter. The Bible doesn’t matter. Jesus, the Holy Spirit, God, the Church, none of it matters.

If Christians want to worship their God, I have no objection.  I subscribe to the “live and let live” school of thought. Each to his own. May Jesus be with you. May the force be with you. May nothing be with you. I don’t care.

However…

I do care about the influence Christianity has on our culture and government. I do care about the damage done to society in the name of the Christian God. I do care when people are hurt, maimed, and killed in the name of the Christian God.

When Christians want to turn the United States into a theocracy…It matters.

When Christians want their religion to have preference over any and all others…It matters.

When Christians demand atheists and agnostics be treated as the spawn of Satan…It matters.

When Christians attempt to teach religious dogma as scientific fact in our public schools…It matters.

When Christians attempt to force their religious moral code on everyone…It matters.

When Christians attempt to stand in the way of my pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness…It matters.

When Christians abuse and molest children in the name of their God…It matters.

When Christians wage wars thousands of miles away in the name of their God…It matters.

When Christians mentally and emotionally abuse people…It matters.

When Christian expect preferential treatment because of who they worship…It matters.

As long as Christians continue to force themselves on others, and as long as they attack and demean anyone who is not a Christian…It matters.

As long as pastors and churches get preferential tax code treatment…It matters.

That said…

As to who you worship and where? It doesn’t matter.

As to what sacred text you use? It doesn’t matter.

I want all Christians to have the absolute freedom to worship their God.

And…

I want that same freedom to NOT worship any God or another God…

And as long as that courtesy is not extended to me and to every human being on the earth…

It matters.

Does the Christian God Really Care About Me?

where is god

One of the reasons given by atheists/agnostics for leaving Christianity is the belief that the Christian God doesn’t give a shit about those who devote their lives to following Jesus Christ. No matter how much time is expended in worship and service, God never says, thanks, good job, or I have your back. Why should he? According to Evangelical theology, Jesus, the sinless son of God, came to earth to atone for humankind’s sin. He suffered horrific brutality at the hands of the Romans. He was then, like a common thief, nailed to the cross. According to the Bible, Jesus was beaten to such a degree that it was hard to tell that he was a man. After hours of suffering, Jesus died. All of this was on behalf of sinners (or the elect, if you are a Calvinist).  Knowing all that Jesus suffered, Christians should be satisfied with knowing their sins are forgiven and a home in Heaven awaits them when they die. The least the Christian can do is, in slave-like manner, devote themselves, without bitching and complaining, to the Kingdom of God on Earth. In other words, shut up, stop complaining, and be thankful for what Jesus has given you. Just remember, God owes you nothing.

Recently, Dieudonne Tamfu wrote a post titled Suffering is Our Story for The Desiring God website. In the opening paragraphs, Tamfu writes:

Suffering tends to produce loneliness. We feel lonely, isolated, sealed off, and detached from others. It is common for us to believe that no one understands our pain.

We can be deceived into thinking that God is distant and uncaring. While I do not wish to invalidate these emotions, I do want to extinguish the lie that the sufferer is ever alone. We are never alone in suffering because in it we join other saints in the pattern of righteous suffering that has been going on from the inception of salvation history.

Are you or other believers around you facing rejection for your faith? Do you feel lonely in your suffering? Does it seem that God is distant and has detached himself from your pain? Do you feel disappointment, bewilderment, or dismay? Are you sitting in darkness, searching for answers and grasping for hope?

Tamfu readily admits that there are times when God seems distant. There are those times when God seems uncaring, content to leave the Christian sitting alone in the dark, weeping. The good news, according to Tamfu, is that there are other Christians facing similar circumstances. Yea! You aren’t the only follower of Jesus who is writhing in pain as cancer robs you of your life!  Are you suffering? Are you alone? Do you feel abandoned? Do you feel like an orphan without a coat, left in a back alley to die on a cold winter’s night? Good news! There are millions of Christians going through similar circumstances. God has abandoned them just as he has abandoned you.

When Christians go through dark trials and adversity, those who are not currently being ignored by God are called on to cheer up those who find themselves under the boot heel of God. They are encouraged to take matters to the Lord in prayer. Seek and trust the Lord, Evangelical preachers tell the downtrodden. What is that God is trying to accomplish in your life? Remember, no matter what happens, God means it for your good. He promises to never, ever leave or forsake us. 

Those under physical, emotional, or economic assault are urged to submit to the “loving” hand of God. Perhaps God is teaching you a lesson, Evangelical preachers tell the afflicted. Or maybe he is testing you or punishing you for disobedience. Regardless, God only wants what is best for Christians. His goal is to make them more like Jesus and to prepare them for the peace and bliss that awaits on the other side of the grace. If God made life easy for Christians, preachers say, we would never appreciate Heaven and all that Jesus did for us on the cross.

Yet, despite all the flowery platitudes and blame-shifting, some Christians come to the conclusion that the reason God seems so distant is because he doesn’t exist. When help came in times of suffering, it was always their fellow humans who helped them. When prayers went unanswered, phone calls were always picked up. When bank accounts were empty and the cupboards were bare, it was family and friends who lent a helping hand. As these former Christians survey their lives, they conclude that wherever God might be, he is not on earth. At best, he is a deadbeat father who cares not for those who love and adore him. At worst, he is a cruel hoax, little more than a promise that is never fulfilled.

The reasons I left the Christian faith are many, but one of them is that I came to the conclusion that God is not intimately involved in the lives of those who devotedly serve and worship him, despite his promises. Over the course of 50 years in the Christian church, I had many so-called God experiences. After I deconverted, I went back through my life and gave a reckoning  of the times I thought God was blessing me, answering my prayer, or meeting my needs. A careful accounting of these events led me to conclude that the only God (s) in my life had a flesh and blood body. Human instrumentation, and not the mighty wonder-working power of God, was the reason my prayers were answered and my needs were met.

While there were certainly a handful of unexplained — dare I say miraculous — events, these moments in time were not enough to lead me to the conclusion that God is who and what Christians claim he is. While coming to this judgment is certainly not sufficient evidence to deny the existence of God, it is enough for me to conclude that the notion of a loving, caring, hands-on God who is intimately and minutely involved in the lives of those who worship Jesus is a myth.

I am unwilling to swear allegiance to a God who cares no more for me than does my cat. My cat demands constant attention, no matter what may be going on in my life. Yet, if I found myself crying out for help, I know for certain that my cat would waddle up to my leg, rub up against it, and with a voice I have heard countless times before, would say, feed me. This is how I view the Christian God.

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Abraham and Isaac: God Has a Right to Command You to Kill Your Child 

abraham sacrificing isaac

Recently, Petrus Klopper, a writer for the Isaiah 53:5 Project and Solid Rock Apologetics, attempted to answer the question, How Could God Command Abraham to Kill His Son? I say “attempted,” because Klopper miserably failed at his task, just as every other Christian apologist has failed when attempting to do the same. According to Klopper, God had every right to ask Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. Notice that I used the word “sacrifice,” not “kill,” as Klopper did in his title. God, in no uncertain terms, asked Abraham to put his only son Isaac on an altar and sacrifice him. Someone is sure to ask, “don’t the words sacrifice and kill mean the same thing?” Yes and no, and I will demonstrate in a moment Klopper’s sleight of hand by using the word sacrifice.

For those not schooled in the mystical stories of the Christian Bible, here’s the text, Genesis 22:1-13, that tells the story of God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac:

And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together. And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.

According to seventeenth century Baptist theologian John Gill, God commanded Abraham to:

… offer him (Isaac)  there for a burnt offering; this was dreadful work he was called to, and must be exceeding trying to him as a man, and much more as a parent, and a professor of the true religion, to commit such an action; for by this order he was to cut the throat of his son, then to rip him up, and cut up his quarters, and then to lay every piece in order upon the wood, and then burn all to ashes; and this he was to do as a religious action, with deliberation, seriousness, and devotion… (John Gill Commentary, E-Sword)

According to eighteenth century Anglican John Wesley, God wanted Abraham to not only kill his son, but also offer him as a burnt sacrifice. Wesley wrote:

…offer him (Isaac) for a burnt offering – He must not only kill his son, but kill him as a sacrifice, with all that sedateness and composedness of mind, with which he used to offer his burnt – offering. (John Wesley Commentary, E-Sword)

Eighteenth century theologian Matthew Henry, chiming in agreement with Gill and Wesley wrote:

 …offer him (Isaac) for a burnt-offering. He must not only kill his son, but kill him as a sacrifice, kill him devoutly, kill him by rule, kill him with all that pomp and ceremony, with all that sedateness and composure of mind, with which he used to offer his burnt-offerings. (Matthew Henry Commentary, E-Sword)

Nineteenth century Presbyterian theologian Albert Barnes called Abraham’s potential sacrifice of Isaac  a “human sacrifice.” Recognizing the moral issue raised by human sacrifice, Barnes writes:

The only solution of this, is what the ease itself actually presents; namely, the divine command. It is evident that the absolute Creator has by right entire control over his creatures. He is no doubt bound by his eternal rectitude to do no wrong to his moral creatures. But the creature in the present case has forfeited the life that was given, by sin. And, moreover, we cannot deny that the Almighty may, for a fit moral purpose, direct the sacrifice of a holy being, who should eventually receive a due recompense for such a degree of voluntary obedience. (Albert Barnes Commentary, E-Sword)

Based on the aforementioned references, we can conclude that God, as a test, commanded Abraham to take his only son Isaac to Mount Moriah, and kill him so he could be offered as a human burnt sacrifice to God.

Klopper makes clear in his post that there are three things God is NOT doing in this story:

  • God was not tempting Abraham
  • God was not instituting or condoning child sacrifice
  • God was not telling Abraham to do wrong

Christian apologists like Klopper will go to great lengths to justify God’s command to sacrifice Isaac. Klopper used the word kill in the post title because he doesn’t want readers to confuse what God is asking Abraham to do with human sacrifice. However, it is clear from the text that a human sacrifice of Isaac is EXACTLY what God is asking Abraham to do.

Is Isaac human? Yes. Does Abraham build an altar to be used for sacrifices? Yes? Did Abraham place Isaac on the altar, preparing to offering him as a human sacrifice to God? Yes. Does Abraham implicitly obey God’s command to sacrifice his son? Yes. Then, pray tell, how is what God commands Abraham to do NOT child sacrifice? Any fair and honest reading of the text shows that God clearly intended for Abraham to kill (murder) his son as a flesh and blood sacrifice.

Similar stories can be found in other tribal cultures, and Evangelicals are quick to label these stories as murderous and barbaric. Evidently, according to Evangelicals, there is some sort of difference between stories of human/child sacrifices to false Gods, and the God/Abraham/Isaac story. Try as I might, I can’t find the difference.

Klopper, perhaps realizing that his, this is not child sacrifice argument is intellectually vacuous and lame, goes on to say that God is not commanding Abraham to do wrong. Really? In what universe is child/human sacrifice not wrong? Every civilized society in the world condemns child/human sacrifice. Even atheists consider such murderous actions wrong. Yet, somehow, according to Klopper, God asking Abraham to slice, dice, and sauté his son is not, in any way, wrong.

Klopper makes one final argument which, according to his Fundamentalist-infused mind, should silence every critic. It is the one argument, next to faith, that Christians will turn to when no other argument will work: God is God and he has a right to do/command whatever he wants to. Klopper states his argument this way:

God has the right to take human life and could therefore authorize Abraham to do so in a particular case. Note that had Abraham decided of his own accord to sacrifice Isaac, he would have been wrong and his act would have been condemned by God (as were other human-initiated sacrifices).

According to Exodus 20, murder is a sin. Thou shalt not kill, right? But, according to Klopper, if God authorizes (commands) someone to commit a murder (human sacrifice) then it is okay. Hmm, so then, Christians who have, in the past, said that God commanded them to kill their children or spouse, these murderous behaviors are okay, right? I’m sure that Klopper will object to my line of inquiry, but is this not exactly what he is saying? Or is he making a distinction between murderous stories in the Bible and those found on page one of the newspaper? Evidently, if a God-sanctioned murder is recorded by an unknown author in a so-called divine religious text, that makes the slaying moral. However, if a devout twenty-first century Christian — a person we can see and talk to — says and does the same, it is not a God-approved murder. This makes “perfect” sense to me.

human sacrifice

Comic by Scott Maynard

Surely we can all agree that a God, ANY God, commanding someone to commit murder is wrong. It matters not whether it is Abraham or Victoria Soliz, a woman who tried to drown her 3-year-old son in a puddle because Jesus told her to do so.  While Evangelicals will attempt to make a distinction between God speaking to Abraham and God speaking to someone like Soliz, there is no difference between the two. Both are hearing voices in their heads that are telling them to murder their children. And hearing voices in one’s head commanding immoral, unethical, or dangerous acts is always a sure sign of mental distress or illness. Despite knowing this, Klopper is determined to present Abraham as a great man of faith who was willing to do whatever God commanded him to do.

It is too bad that Klopper is boxed in by his belief that the Bible is an inspired, inerrant text. Such a belief requires Klopper to accept the Abraham/Isaac/human-sacrifice story as factual history. While Klopper does make numerous spiritual applications from the Genesis 22 text in his post, he is hamstrung by the requirement to accept the text as history. Jews, on the other hand, treat this text as an allegory or a metaphor. They understand, along with everyone else except Evangelicals, that no one in his or her right mind should accept Abraham sacrificing Isaac as literal truth.

And here’s the thing, IF Abraham had actually murdered Isaac, twenty-first century Evangelical preachers would be preaching sermons about Abraham’s great faith and his willingness to explicitly obey God, even if it meant murdering his own son. Praise Jesus!! (And how is this any different from the Muslim who believes God is commanding him to kill in Allah’s name?)

Notes

Any God who demands his followers to murder as a test of obedience is not a deity worthy of our worship.

1999 Letter to the Editor of the Bryan Times by Bruce Gerencser: Evolution Incompatible with Christianity

adam or ape creationism

Published on March 18, 1999. At the time, I was pastor of Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio. This is a good example of how I used to think about life, God, the Bible, sin,  and culture. I encourage readers to read a letter to the editor I wrote January 19, 2016 about the same the subject. You will quickly see that my viewpoint has changed a wee bit over the past 17 years.

Bryan Times:

I am writing in response to the recent editorial that suggested evolution is not being taught in public schools because teachers fear right-wing religious zealots. The zealots are portrayed as being anti-science and intellectually stunted. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Evolution is a theory. Even the writer of the editorial admits such. Yet, just a few paragraphs later, he advocates teaching the theory as fact. He then states that man cannot understand biology without evolution.

What arrogant presumption and distortion of truth. Evolution is a theory of “how” things came into existence. It is, at its root, a faith religion that suggests a random existence apart from a divine being. Evolution demands that there is no God, no creator, and that man is nothing more than the most evolved of creatures. Man becomes nothing more than an animal that has evolved to a more mature state than that of other animals.

Evolution is incompatible with Christianity. Christianity begins with the premise that God is, and whatever God says is true. The Bible is God’s revelation to man, and he reveals in the first three chapters of Genesis how this world came into existence. To deny the biblical record is to deny God and his revelation, and the result is eternal damnation. Christians fear being viewed as ignorant if they deny the teachings of evolution. They become just like the schoolteachers who fear the religious zealots. If God is who he says he is, and he meant what he said in the Scriptures, then let us not fear, but instead declare boldly “Thus saith the Lord.”

Bruce Gerencser, Pastor
West Unity, Ohio

Seven Things Evangelicals Say to Atheists and Why They Shouldn’t Say Them

 

jesus loves atheists

Seven years ago, I walked out the doors of the Ney United Methodist Church, never to return. While I still had a modicum of believe in the existence of a God, I was done with organized, institutional Christianity. Once free of the church, it was not long before I slid to the bottom of the slippery slope of unbelief.  Since then, numerous Evangelicals have attempted to win me back to Jesus or restore me to good standing with the church. Try as they might, I remain an unrepentant atheist, an apostate and enemy of Christianity.

What follows is a list of seven things that Evangelicals have said to me over the years in their attempts to get me to renew my membership with Club Jesus. I have no doubt that every Evangelical-turned-atheist has heard the same things.

I’ll Pray for You

I’ll pray for you is the number one statement Evangelicals make to those who have left the faith. According to Evangelicals, prayer can fix any problem, including turning atheists into a believers. Here’s the problem with this kind of thinking. Prayer doesn’t work. For many former Evangelicals, unanswered prayer is one the reasons they deconverted.

During the deconversion process, I made a careful accounting of past prayers and their answers. I specifically focused on answered, big-need prayers. In every case, I was able to trace the affirmative answer back to human instrumentality. While I certainly had several I can’t explain it moments, these were not enough to lead me to believe that the Christian God answered prayer.

And here’s the thing, I don’t know of one Evangelical-turned-atheist who has ever returned to Evangelicalism.  Despite all the prayers, those who leave don’t return. Wouldn’t it be a big boost for Evangelical stock if God reached down and saved Bruce Gerencser, the atheist preacher? Imagine what a splash it would make if someone such as I returned to the faith. But it doesn’t happen. Why is that? For many former Evangelicals, we deconverted because we learned that the Evangelical church is built on a faulty foundation: the inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility of the Bible. Once people  realize and accept that the Bible is not what Evangelicals say it is, they are then free to examine more carefully the central claims of Christianity. In my case, I found that Evangelical beliefs could not withstand intellectual scrutiny.

No matter what I say, Evangelicals are going to continue to pray for me. Rarely does a week go by without several Evangelicals letting me know that they are storming the throne room of God on my behalf (or praying God will kill me). Fine, by all means pray. But there is no need to let me know that you are doing so. Surely God is able to hear and answer your prayer without me knowing about it.

Have You Ever Heard the Gospel?

The short, snarky answer is, of course not! I spent 50 years in the Christian church and pastored churches for 25 years, yet I never heard the gospel one time. Amazing, isn’t it?  When Evangelicals take this approach with me, what they really want to know is whether I have heard their version of the gospel. You see, there is no such thing as THE Evangelical gospel. Evangelicals incessantly fight over whose gospel is true. Calvinists and Arminians are fighting a seven-century war over which group has the faith once delivered to the saints. The Bible says, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, yet Christians have spent 21 centuries proving God a liar. The Bible tells us that Christians will be known by their unity and love, yet these beliefs have been turned on their head by sectarians who believe that the only unity and love possible is with people who are part of their exclusive club.

When Christians ever figure out what the gospel is, I hope they will let me know. Until then, I plan to pop some popcorn and watch the comedy known as the internecine wars of Christianity. As one commenter on Facebook recently said, and I paraphrase,  Evangelicals think that their battles over right doctrine are some sort of intellectual pursuit. They are not. From the outside, all the wrangling over doctrinal minutia looks a lot like toddlers fighting over toys.

God Laid You on My Heart

Several weeks ago, a former long-time friend and colleague in the ministry contacted me, out of the blue, on Facebook. A few years back, he contacted me and told me what he thought of my deconversion and its effect on my family. Needless to say, his words were not kind, and after we traded a couple of emails he stopped writing.

Now my former friend is back. Why? God laid me on his heart. This time, he decided to approach me in a kinder, more respectful way. We traded emails that talked about our families and that was the end of that. While this man was, at one time my closest friend, we no longer have anything in common. The elephant in the room will always be my atheism and intellectual assault of Evangelical Christianity. And I get it, I really do. It is hard to maintain a friendship with someone who thinks your beliefs are intellectual rubbish.

Over the years, numerous former church members and ministerial friends have contacted me because they believed God had laid Bruce Gerencser on their hearts. Instead of wanting to catch up or talk about old times, they thought God has a personal mission for them: contact Bruce Gerencser. In most cases, their message from God is preceded by them doing a web search on my name. In others words, they wondered what I was up to, so they fired up their browser, loaded Google, typed in my name, and were then presented with pages of links for Bruce Gerencser (I am the only Bruce Gerencser in the world). Was it God who was leading them to do the search, or was it curiosity, wondering what Bruce is up to these days?

As an atheist, I don’t think God exists, so Evangelicals telling me that God laid Bruce Gerencser on their heart has no effect on me. Sometimes I want to ask Evangelicals how they KNOW God talked to them about me, but I already know all the stock answers for such a question. Evangelicals know what they know, and all the reason in the world won’t change their mind.

God is Trying to Get Your Attention

Evangelicals believe that their God, as owner of everything, is personally and intimately involved in his creation. Despite evidence to the contrary, Evangelicals believe that God is an everyday, real presence, not only in their lives, but the lives of every person, saved or lost. When Evangelicals read my story, they often focus on the health problems I have. See, Evangelicals say, God is afflicting you so he can get your attention. If I really believed this to be true, I would immediately become an Evangelical again. I would be quite willing to put time in at Club Jesus if it meant that my pain would go away.

However, when I take a careful look at the “health” of Evangelicals, I see that they are every bit as “afflicted” as the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. Well, the Evangelical says, God uses sickness to test, try, or punish Christians. Far more important than bodily health is spiritual health.

Each and every day is a struggle for me. I’ve detailed this many times over the years, so I won’t bore you with the details again. If I thought that the unrelenting pain I suffer with is God’s doing, I highly doubt knowing this would turn me into worshiper of Jesus. What kind of God hurts people so they will love and worship him? In the real world, such abusers are considered criminals, the scum of the earth. Yet, when God abuses people it is because he loves them and he has a wonderful plan for their lives. No thanks! I have no interest in worshiping such a God. I would rather burn in hell than worship a God who spends his days inflicting pain, suffering, disease, and death on not only humans, but all living things.

You’ll Go to Hell if You Don’t Accept Jesus

The more Fundamentalist the Evangelicals, the more likely they are to tell atheists and unbelievers that they will end up in Hell unless they repent of their sins and put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. In others words, God is saying that if people don’t accept his ordained way of salvation, that he plans to torture them eternally in a pit of fire and brimstone. In what other setting does such an approach work? Hello, I am your local Kirby Sweeper salesman. If you don’t buy a sweeper from me, I will burn your house to the ground. Such a psychopath would quickly be arrested and locked up. Yet, God, who is every bit as psychopathic as the Kirby salesman, is given a pass.

When Evangelicals try the Hell approach, I quickly tell them that I don’t believe in the existence of Hell; that the only hell is that which humans inflict on each other. Sometimes, toying with them, I will ask them, exactly WHERE is hell?  Most of the time, I let Evangelicals know that threatening me with Hell will not work. I am immune to being threatened into anything. I spent most of my preaching career threatening people, warning them of the suddenness of death and the surety of hell. Over the years, hundreds of people responded to my threats, embracing the wonderful, loving, psychopathic God of Christianity. I now know that such an approach mentally and emotionally harms people. Constantly being warned about impending eternal judgment often leaves a deep and lasting emotional scar. Consider me scarred.

I Know the Holy Spirit is Speaking to You

Some Evangelicals, those who are more liberal-minded and have kind hearts, read a few of my blog posts and then “discern” that the Holy Spirit is speaking to me.  Such people often have a great affinity for my critiques of the Evangelical church, In fact, some of them, not paying attention to the fact that I am an atheist, think I am a member of their club. I have received numerous emails from “fellow” brothers and sisters in Lord. When I respond and let them know that I am an atheist, they often can’t believe that I am a child of Satan. How could the Devil’s spawn ever write the way Bruce does? they think to themselves.

I happen to be quite conversant in all things Evangelical. Even though I haven’t pastored a church in over a decade, I still follow the machinations of Evangelicalism quite closely. It is a subject that interests me, and I suspect this interest shows in my writing. However, my pastime should not in any way be confused with the Holy Spirit speaking to me.

Since I don’t believe in God, telling me that third part of the Trinity is speaking to me has no value. First, how can anyone possibly KNOW that the Holy Spirit is carrying on a conversation with me in my head? Isn’t such a thing beyond the purview of even the sharpest of God’s discerners? Telling me that the Holy Spirit is speaking to me is akin to telling me that aliens from a far-away galaxy are telepathically speaking to me. The only voices in my head are mine.

Do You Want Your Children or Grandchildren to Grow Up Without Knowing God?

Ah yes, the classic do it for the kids line of thinking. Here’s the thing: now that I am closing in on 60, I have had six decades to contemplate belief in God and its effect on the human race. That’s a long time. I have spent most of my life drinking deeply at the trough of Christianity. I now know that the water in the trough was a mirage. I thought the healing waters of the Christian God imparted morality and ethics to all who would drink, but these days I’ve come to see that, while religion can play part in dispensing morality and ethics, it often, thanks to rigid dogma, proves to be an impediment to moral and ethical development.

Evangelicals, in particular, think that morality and ethics ONLY come from the Christian God. No matter how many studies prove that such a claim is not true, Evangelicals continue to hang on to the belief that their God and the Bible are the sole sources of morality. This kind of thinking has turned into the culture war. Evangelicals demand that everyone live according to their moral code. They even go as far as using the government to force others to live by their peculiar interpretations of the Bible. If only the Ten Commandments were taught in school, America would be great again, the Evangelical says. However, when unbelievers take a close look at how Evangelicals live, they quickly find out that God’s chosen ones don’t practice what they preach. If the Evangelicals are anything, they are hypocrites.

My six children are all grown. All of them have made up their own minds about God. None of them worships the Evangelical God. For the most part, my children are indifferent to religion, ALL religion. My grandchildren? I hope they never see the inside of an Evangelical church. I think Evangelical belief often causes emotional and mental damage. In some cases, such beliefs can lead to abuse or turn people into abusers. Why would I ever want my grandchildren within a light year of an Evangelical church?

If I could script the lives of my grandchildren (and I can’t) I would love for them to take a World Religion class. I know that exposing them to other religions besides Christianity will dampen or destroy any affinity they might have for Evangelicalism. Exposure to knowledge is a sure cure for Fundamentalism. The more my grandchildren learn about religion (and humanism and atheism), the less likely they are to follow down the same pernicious path Nana and Grandpa followed decades ago. If they still decide to embrace some sort of religion, I hope they will embrace practices that affirm their self-worth and cause them to love others. Such values cannot be found in an Evangelical church because they are always secondary to right belief and rigid obedience.

As I watch my grandchildren grow up, I can’t help but see how different they are from their parents (and this is due to their parents allowing them wander down paths they were never allowed to go). I revel in their thirst for knowledge, knowing that satisfying this thirst will inoculate them from being infected by the mind-killing disease of religious Fundamentalism. Perhaps, in their generation the curse will finally be broken. While Polly’s parents lament what my (our) unbelief is doing to my children and grandchildren, I see things differently. I now know that intellectual and personal freedom lead to a life filled with meaning and purpose. Most all of all, I want those who bear my name to live lives filled with happiness. Shouldn’t that be our hope for everyone?

Bruce, Do You Believe in God?

atheist and deist having sex

Written in 2010 Edited for clarity and grammar

I still get asked fairly often, Bruce, do you believe in God? Even though I self-identify as an atheist, some people doubt that I really, really, r-e-a-l-l-y believe that there is no God.

When it comes to the God question, I am agnostic. I can say with great confidence that I don’t believe any of the current deities in the human panoply of Gods is God at all. Could some sort of deity show up on the scene in the future? Sure, it is possible. Is it probable? No.

So why then do I self-identify as an atheist and not an agnostic?

First, I got tired of having to explain what I meant by the word agnostic. Saying, I am an atheist is pretty straightforward and less likely to misinterpreted.

Second, I live from day to day with no thought of whether a deity exists. I don’t do anything in my life that remotely says to someone else, Bruce believes in God (and I have met a lot of Christians who are just as atheistic as I am). Morally and ethically I do my best to live according to humanistic principles. (See The Humanist Manifesto III.)  My concern is with how I live in the here and now. I have no thoughts of Heaven (or hell), no thoughts of eternal life, and no thoughts at all about anything beyond the grave.

That said, when I look at the natural world I can certainly see how someone might adopt some form of deism. While I do not find deistic arguments intellectually satisfying, I do understand how someone might come to such a conclusion. Most of the deists I know are every bit as atheistic as I am. The difference between us is that they hope that there is some sort life beyond the grave.

Even if I grant the premise that it is possible/likely that a God of some sort created the universe, there is no plausible way for me to make the jump from this nonspecific, ambiguous God to the Christian God of the Bible. Believing that a God of some sort created everything is one thing, but believing that the Christian God of the Bible is that creator is a leap of faith I cannot take (and I wish Christians would admit that when they use the word God, it is not a generic God they are talking about).

At the end of the day, atheism and evolution offer the best explanations for what I observe in the natural world. Do they provide ALL the answers?  Of course not, but I no longer need certainty. I am quite content to live with ambiguity, and not knowing everything is a humble reminder that I am human. While I still thirst for knowledge and understanding, I know that my quest will never reach a place of certainty or infallibility.

Sin

sin can make you sickOriginally written in 2009. Edited for clarity and grammar.

Sin.

According to the Bible sin is transgression of the law.

Let the debate begin.

Which law?

Old Testament?

New Testament?

Both?

Christianity teaches that sin separates us from God.

Sin is what sent Jesus to the cross.

We are all sinners.

Born that way.

We sin because we are sinners.

Sin will ultimately land us in hell unless we trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins.

Sin is the problem and Jesus is the solution.

Our hearts are black, but Jesus can make them white through his blood that he shed on the cross.

Without sin, I wonder if Christianity would exist?

For those of us who are not Christians, sin takes on a different meaning.

Since there is no God to offend, and no God to give an account to, sin does not carry the force that it does for the Christian.

The list of sins, according to the Bible, according to the pastor, according to each Christian, is quite long.

Every person has his or her own sin list.

No two sin lists are the same.

As an unbeliever, my “sin” list is quite short.

And it gets shorter every day.

Since I reject the Bible as an objective standard of right and wrong, how do I determine my morals and ethics?

Do I need a god, church, or pastor to tell me what my morals and ethics should be?

Do I need a Bible to tell me what is right or wrong?

According to the Bible, all the law can be summed up in two commands:

  • Love God
  • Love your fellow man

My morals and ethics are based on the premise that I should love my neighbor as myself.

I should treat people like I would want to be treated.

I should not do things that would harm other people.

I should value my relationships with my family and my fellow human beings to the degree that I live in such a way that my actions cause them no harm.

God does not enter the picture. My only concern is the relationships I have with others. When I live in a selfish, unloving, unkind, unjust manner then I am “sinning” against my fellow human beings.

My “sin” does not bring the judgment of God, but it does hurt the relationships I have with others.

My “sin” causes personal loss and pain.

If what I do does not hurt others or damage my relationships with them then it is not “sin.”

This makes life much simpler for me.

I am still a “sinner” but I am much less a “sinner” now that I have abandoned Christianity.

Losing God, the Bible, and the complex, never-ending, sin list has allowed me to realize, for the first time in many, many years, that it is okay to be human.

After living a lifetime of denying who I am, I am now free to be Bruce. In many ways, I am still finding out who I really am.

I suspect I will always have a Christian sin hangover. A lifetime of being beat over the head with an angry God, a dying Savior, and a rule book called the Bible, has left a lot of deep wounds. In the time, the wounds heal, but the scars remain.