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Short Stories: The Story of Fish Lips

Bruce Gerencser, Ninth Grade 1971-72
Bruce Gerencser, Ninth Grade 1971-72

The year is 1972.

I am a ninth-grader at Central Junior High School in Findlay, Ohio.

I am a typical boy.

The need to prove I am “one of the guys” is important to me.

I want to fit in.

I want to be part of the club.

The “retards” have a classroom in our building.

You know who they are.

The freaks.

The morons.

The half-wits.

A wonderful opportunity to prove that I belong.

Fish Lips.

That’s what we called him.

He had big lips like Mr. Limpet.

Every day he wore a tin sheriff’s badge and carried a toy gun.

No post-nine-eleven worries in 1972.

Why do the retard’s parents send him to school like that?

Don’t they know boys like me lurk in the hallways looking for opportunities to mock and harass their son?

And so I did.

I mocked him and made life miserable for Fish Lips.

So did other boys, but I am the boy I remember.

I was part of the group now.

I hope Fish Lips didn’t mind being the price of admission.

It is 1989.

I am thirty-two years old now.

I have three children.

I am the pastor of a thriving Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church.

My wife is pregnant with our fourth child.

Our beautiful red-headed daughter was born on September 1st.

Our first girl.

We are so excited to finally have a girl.

It was not long before we realized something wasn’t quite right with our daughter.

The doctor sent us to University Hospital in Columbus.

A genetic test . . .

We didn’t need the results.

We already knew . . .

Our daughter had Down syndrome.

Her features were mild and the doctor missed all the signs.

We found out she had Down’s the same day our second daughter was born.

I had a developmentally disabled child.

All of a sudden I had a flashback to 1972.

Visions of a hateful boy persecuting the mentally handicapped, all because the boy wanted to belong.

I thought of what I would do to that boy today if he did today what he did then to my daughter.

I wept.

I couldn’t undo what I did.

But I could make sure I am never that boy again.

The least of these deserve my protection and care.

They deserve to be who they are without worrying about a boy with something to prove.

I am glad that boy died in 1989.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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How to Witness to an Atheist

good news

Many Evangelical Christians take seriously Jesus’ command to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. Every creature includes atheists.

Here is what Christians need to understand:

  • Many atheists were Christians before they deconverted. In my case, I was a Christian for fifty years and I was an Evangelical pastor for twenty-five of those years. Granted, most atheists’ stories are not like mine, but many of them were raised in the Christian church and know what the Christian gospel is and what the Bible teaches.
  • Many atheists have read the Bible numerous times. In fact, many atheists have likely read the Bible more than the average American Christian.
  • Many atheists attended church before they deconverted. They know a good bit about Catholic and Protestant Christianity. They know what it is to worship God, pray, and live according to the teachings of the Bible. They are not ignorant of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
  • People become atheists for a variety of reasons. Often there are psychological and cultural reasons why people become atheists, but most people become atheists for intellectual reasons.
  • Most atheists are not atheists because they are angry with God, mad at the church, or hurt.

Here are some evangelistic methods that will likely not work with atheists:

  • Preaching at the person
  • Quoting Bible verses (the atheist has likely heard the verses before)
  • Giving a testimony of how Jesus saved you and changed your life (atheists place little value on subjective stories such as testimonies)
  • Giving the atheist a Christian book, tract, sermon tape/CD/DVD
  • The Romans Road, John Road, Four Spiritual Laws, The Way of the Master, or any other evangelistic program you have been taught
  • Inviting them to church
  • Friending them on Facebook
  • Trying to become friends with them using friendship evangelism methods
  • Threatening them with Hell

Personally, I suggest you not witness to atheists. You are likely going to be disappointed with the result. There are a lot of “other” prospects for Heaven — low-hanging fruit — who are much easier to evangelize than atheists. However, if you are certain God is directing you and the Holy Spirit is leading you to witness to atheists, I would encourage you to be all prayed up and ready to have an intellectual discussion about God, Jesus, and the Bible. Be prepared to talk about theology, philosophy, history, science, and archeology. Be prepared to give evidence for the assertions and claims you make. Saying the Bible says won’t work since atheists do not accept the authority of the Bible.

atheists read the bible

You might as well face it, if atheists refuse to accept the Bible as a God-inspired authoritative text, there is no hope of you successfully witnessing to them. You should kick the dust off your shoes and evangelize those who accept your presuppositions about God and the Bible.

Atheists are the swine in the don’t cast your pearls before swine Bible verse. Atheists are reprobates whom God has turned over to their evil desires. Atheists are followers of Satan, deaf and blind to your God and the Bible. With so many billions of other people to witness to, why bother witnessing to people who have no interest in your message, are likely to make great intellectual demands of you, and are probably not God’s elect? Be a smart fisher-of-men — go where the fish are.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Doing Good Because it is the Right Thing to Do, Not Because Jesus is Watching

Imagine for a moment that you find a wallet someone has accidentally dropped on the ground. In the wallet are the person’s ID, credit cards, and $300. What would you do?

I suspect most of us would attempt to track the person down and return the wallet. Why? Because it is the right thing to do.

The Christian Post reported a story about an anonymous Christian finding a wallet and returning it to its rightful owner. The Christian did the right thing and he should be commended for doing so. If you have ever lost your wallet or ID, you know how stressful and gut-wrenching the experience is, especially in this day of identity theft.

The problem I have with the Christian Post story is the motivation the Christian had for returning the wallet. Instead of it being a good, decent, honorable thing to do, the Christian had a “Biblical” reason for returning the wallet.

The Christian attached a Post-it note to the wallet:

returned wallet

The Christian who returned the wallet stated that the following verses were his reason/motivation for returning the wallet:

And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. Luke 10:27

He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. Luke 16:10

That men may know that thou, whose name alone is Jehovah, art the most high over all the earth. Psalm 83:18

In other words, the Christian’s act of decency and kindness was all about God.

From my seat in the atheist pew, it seems to me that religion and the Bible complicate the issue. Would the Christian have returned the wallet if these verses weren’t in the Bible? Would he have returned the wallet if he weren’t a Christian? While these questions might be viewed as trying to turn a good deed into an argument, I think motivations are important.

This story is connected closely to arguments over morality and ethics. Most Christians think morality and ethics require religion — theirs — and a supernaturally written book, the Bible. They think they do good because of their religion and its teachings. It is God that keeps them from being bad people. If it weren’t for Jesus, the world would be overrun with thieves, rapists, and child molesters.

It is not enough, then, for an act of goodness to be performed just because it is the right thing to do. Instead, it is God who gets all the praise and glory because, without him, humans would do bad things. In other words, without God, the Christian would have kept the wallet.

If the Christian had left a Post-it note with these two verses:

And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. Luke 6:31

Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Matthew 22:39

. . . perhaps I would see this story differently.

All of us should treat others as we would want to be treated. Isn’t that a universal moral value?

I commend the Christian for returning the man’s wallet. It was the right thing to do, whether the man was a Fundamentalist Baptist, an Episcopalian, or an atheist. Would an atheist have returned the wallet? I’d like to think so. But I know among atheists and Christians alike, some would have viewed the lost wallet as an opportunity to steal. Finders keepers, losers weepers, right? As we all know, religious belief does not inoculate someone from being a bad person. (Please see the Black Collar Crime Series.) The religious and godless alike have the capability and power to do bad things. Why? Because bad people do bad things. A narcissistic view of the world often motivates people to only think of self. When presented with an opportunity to return the lost wallet, the narcissist is only concerned with what he can gain. In this case, he gains the money that is in the wallet.

We should all strive for a higher ideal regardless of our religious beliefs. As a humanist, I try to treat others as I would want to be treated. If I lost my wallet, I hope someone would return it and I would gladly offer the finder a reward. Far more important than lost cash is lost ID. And I know if I found a person’s wallet, I would return it to the owner. How do I know I would do this? Because that is what I have done in the past. It is the moral/ethical code I live by. I know how panicked I get when I can’t find my wallet in the house, and I can only imagine how stressed out I would be if I knew I had lost it at a store or parking lot somewhere.

Here’s the point I want to make — good people do good things. Yes, sometimes good people fail and might, at times, do bad things, but the arc of their lives is toward good. The same can be said of those who lack moral and ethical character. They may sometimes do good things, but the arc of their lives is toward bad. Religion does not determine goodness or badness, though it certainly can, for some people, play a part. What determines the kind of person we are is our character. People with good character do good things like returning a lost wallet. People with bad character, don’t.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Ronnie Killingsworth Sentenced to 84 Years in Prison for Sex Crimes Against Minor Girls

pastor ronnie killingsworth

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Earlier this year, Ronnie Killingsworth, pastor of Rephidim Church (an Independent Bible church) in Wichita, Texas, was charged with six counts of indecency with a child by sexual contact.

Texoma’s reported:

Ronnie Allen Killingsworth, 78, of Wichita Falls, is charged with six counts of indecency with a child by sexual contact. The indictment alleged Killingsworth committed sex crimes against three different female victims under the age of 17 over the course of eleven years.

On Tuesday, February 27, 2024, officials with the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office, tasked with prosecuting the case against Killingsworth, filed a notice filled with multiple alleged bad acts or offenses they intend to introduce into evidence.

The state’s notice filed on Tuesday includes previously unreleased details on the indecency charges pending against Killingsworth, the longtime “Pastor-Teacher” of Rephidim Church, a non-affiliated congregation located on Allendale Road in Wichita Falls.

Previously, it was unknown whether or not the allegations against Killingsworth were connected to Rephidim Church. However, new details in the state’s notice appear to confirm that at least five of the six charges are linked to the church.

The state’s notice alleged that in October 2000, Killingsworth touched a female victim under 17 years old and kissed her.

According to the state’s notice, in September 2001, Killingsworth allegedly touched a second female victim under the age of 17 and told her that if she didn’t separate from her friendships outside of the church, she would be kicked out.

The state’s notice also alleged Killingsworth told the victim that she was a bad child and that God would punish her if she didn’t do what he said. He’s also accused of telling the victim that God would punish her family if she disobeyed.

Court documents alleged that when the victim told her mother that Killingsworth touched her, Killingsworth said that all he did was spank her and that the child was a liar. He is also accused of telling the victim that if she continued to dress provocatively, she would end up getting treated in a derogatory way.

According to the state’s notice, on May 29, 2011, Killingsworth allegedly touched one of the victims, a female under the age of 17, while discussing “duties such as sex and babies.”

Killingsworth is also accused of making the first alleged victim touch him and grooming the victim by showing favoritism by giving the victim books and instructing them to “keep the books secret and not tell anyone.”


While released on bond, Killingsworth is prohibited from having any contact with the victims. He is also prohibited from going to the victims’ home, daycare, or school. Killingsworth is also required to provide a specimen of DNA to local law enforcement.

Concho Valley Home Page reported:

Killingsworth is the longtime “Pastor-Teacher” of Rephidim Church, a non-affiliated congregation located on Allendale Road in Wichita Falls, founded in 1972.

According to former members of Rephidim Church, Killingsworth previously served as the pastor of a Southern Baptist church in Iowa Park before he was asked to resign. A small following of members split from that church and formed Rephidim Church.

In January 1999, several former members of the church told reporters with KFDX and KJTL that they’d decided to leave the church due to the teachings of Killingsworth, claiming they contained “the tell-tale signs of a cult.”

However, during a phone interview with former KFDX Reporter Megan Henderson in 1999, Killingsworth adamantly denied being a cult leader.

After the recent indecency with a child charges were filed against Killingsworth, several former members spoke out with similar allegations.

Many of the “extraneous offenses and bad acts” alleged by the prosecution in the notice filed on Tuesday are teachings from Killingsworth that appear to confirm the statements made by former members of Rephidim Church.

According to the notice, the prosecution alleged that Killingsworth “controlled the congregation through fear, manipulation, and brainwashing.”

The state’s notice alleged that Killingsworth taught his congregation that they weren’t allowed to have a personal relationship with God. They said Killingsworth taught that they couldn’t know God without the teaching of their “right pastor teacher,” who was Killingsworth.

According to the state’s notice, Killingsworth discouraged his church members from reading the Bible and to only listen to his interpretation. The notice said the congregation was not allowed to question Killingsworth, his teachings, procedures, or authority.

The notice alleged that Killingsworth “preached that he was the only pastor in the United States who is teaching the truth.” The notice said Killingsworth claimed to be the only person in the area authorized to teach God’s word and that “all other pastors in the area are considered evil and leading people astray.”

The prosecution alleged in the notice that Killingsworth taught his congregation the doctrine of separation, meaning that his members were only allowed to socialize with people within the congregation.

The notice said Killingsworth taught that congregants were not allowed to associate with family members unless they were members of the church and that Rephidim members were only allowed to marry someone in the church.

According to the prosecution’s notice, Killingsworth taught that once someone left the church, they were to be shunned or exiled, that people who left the church were called “Satan’s minions,” “enemies of the cross,” or “dead flies.”

The prosecution’s notice also alleged that Killingsworth would single out people from the pulpit, would yell for people to sit down and shut up from the pulpit, and would kick people out during his sermons. Members were not allowed to miss church unless there was a serious medical condition, and if they did miss, they were required to listen to recorded lessons.

The prosecution listed in its notice of extraneous offenses and bad acts several additional teachings and actions of Killingsworth that don’t qualify as a warning sign of a cult but are nonetheless shocking and alarming.

The prosecution accused Killingsworth in its notice of having lunch with a minor child and the child’s parent just days after he was indicted for indecency with multiple children.

According to the state’s notice, Killingsworth would preach in front of children about sexualized topics from the Bible, including sodomy, rape, homosexuality, bestiality, BDSM, and demonic influences during sex. The prosecution also alleged that Killingsworth taught “rape is divine discipline from God.”

The prosecution alleged in its notice that Killingsworth preached that “all homosexuals should be put to death” and that “gay people are demon-possessed.” They also accused Killingsworth of kicking his own daughter out of the church due to her sexual orientation.

The prosecution also accuses Killingsworth of racist teachings. The notice alleged that Killingsworth taught “the Black race is cursed by God” and that “their skin is black because they are cursed.”

According to the state’s notice, Killingsworth allegedly told his congregation not to read certain books or watch certain TV shows and movies. He’s accused of teaching that “Harry Potter would cause children to practice witchcraft” and that “the rhythm of rock music came from African tribes who were worshipping Satan.”

Killingsworth is accused of not allowing women to hold positions of power or be deacons in the church.

The state’s notice alleged Killingsworth told parents to spank their children for any infraction that went against his teaching. They also alleged Killingsworth himself would spank children.

According to the prosecution, Killingsworth allegedly taught that if something bad happened to a member of the congregation, they were being disciplined by God. He’s also accused of dissuading congregants from seeking outside therapy or counseling for mental health medication.

The prosecution also accuses Killingsworth of plagiarizing his sermons and writings. The state also alleged Killingsworth taught lessons by a theologian who was an open antisemite and a supporter of Nazi Germany.

On May 7, 2024, a jury found KIllingsworth guilty and later sentenced him to eighty-four years in prison.

Texoma’s reports:

The same jury of seven men and five women that found a local pastor guilty on six counts of indecency with a child on Tuesday have determined his punishment.

Ronnie Allen Killingsworth, 79, of Wichita Falls, was convicted on Tuesday, May 7, 2024, of all six counts of indecency with a child by contact that occurred between 2000 and 2011 and involved three underaged victims. The jury deliberated for about 45 minutes.

Killingsworth, who faced up to 20 years behind bars and a fine of up to $10,000 on each of the six counts, elected to have the jury set his punishment.

On Wednesday, May 8, 2024, in the 30th District Courtroom, the jury returned a total punishment of 84 years in prison and $60,000 in fines after just under an hour of deliberation.

Judge Meredith Kennedy granted a request by the prosecution for the sentences for counts 1 through 4 to run concurrently, with count 5 running consecutively to the first four counts and count 6 running consecutively to count 5.

The earliest Killingsworth would be released from prison would be after serving 21 years behind bars, at which time he would be 100 years old.


Killingsworth’s wife and son took the stand for the defense. Allen Killingsworth, a detective with the Wichita Falls Police Department, told the jury that any lengthy sentence given to his father would be a death sentence due to his age.

During closing arguments, Killingsworth’s defense attorney Chuck Smith apologized to the jury on behalf of Killingsworth’s wife for her “attack” on them during punishment testimony on Tuesday afternoon.


Smith requested the jury sentence Killingsworth to the minimum sentence of two years on each count due to his age and health, claiming that anything more than that would mean Killingsworth would likely die in prison, and asking them for community supervision on the two probation-eligible counts.

Assistant prosecutor Dayve Jo Estes with the Tarrant County District Attorney’s office argued that probation is for those who admit they need help, and that doesn’t describe Killingsworth.

“He is clothed in his self-righteousness so tight, it’s only matched by his arrogance,” Estes said.

Estes asked for prison sentences on each of the six counts due to the message it would send to both the community as well as Killingsworth’s victims.

“Their lives are irrevocably changed. Why should the defendant not feel the weight of that?” Estes asked. “Your verdict will say to the victims, ‘There is a beacon of hope. There are people who will believe you’.”

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Pastor Elias “Solomon” Jothi Shoots Upskirt Videos of Women, Pleads Guilty to Disorderly Conduct

Elias Solomon Jothi

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Elias “Solomon” Jothi, pastor of Crystal Lawns Church of the Nazarene in Joliet, Illinois, pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct. Unauthorized video/dissemination through clothes was dismissed as part of Jothi’s plea agreement.

Patch reports:

Several months after being arrested by the Joliet Police Department and subsequently being removed as the pastor of Joliet’s Crystal Lawns Church of the Nazarene congregation, Elias “Solomon” Jothi worked out a plea bargain on Tuesday with the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office of Jim Glasgow, an agreement that does not involve a sentencing.

Last year, the Joliet police had Jothi arrested in connection with several upskirt videos of a young woman shopping at the Target store on Plainfield Road.

“Jothi stated that he had struggled, especially during the summer, with pornography,” Joliet Police Detective Paul Rodriguez noted in one of his 2023 reports. “He stated that on 5-6 occasions during the summer, he used his cell phone to take unauthorized photos up women’s dresses. He advised that he did not remember the locations of these incidents.”

Tuesday’s plea agreement was handled over Zoom by Will County Judge Sherri Hale, that way, Jothi could remain back in India. Over Zoom, Jothi pleaded guilty to count two, disorderly conduct. Count one, unauthorized video/dissemination through clothes, was dismissed as part of Tuesday’s plea agreement, according to the Will County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Because his work visa has been revoked, and he had to leave the United States, or face deportation, the judgment of conviction was entered into the court record, however, Jothi will not be returning to Joliet or the United States to serve a sentence. He did agree to pay fines and court costs, roughly $720, according to prosecutors.

Last year, Joliet Patch reported that the then-26-year-old Jothi was from India, and he came to the United States a few years ago on a student visa.

Jothi served as the Crystal Lawns church pastor since early 2022. Even though Joliet police arrested Jothi and released him on an I-bond in August, the church did not know about Jothi’s arrest until Joliet Patch ran an article on Oct. 6 about Jothi’s prosecution.

Last Sept. 26, Will County State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow charged Jothi with two misdemeanors of unauthorized video/dissemination through clothes and disorderly conduct.

Through a Freedom of Information Act request, Joliet Patch obtained dozens of pages of Joliet police reports surrounding the criminal investigation at the Target store that led to Jothi’s arrest and charges. Joliet police obtained a search warrant for Jothi’s phone and other electronic devices on Aug. 16, a week after the Target store incident.

Some of his keyword searches had the following words or phrases: “have mercy on me a sinner,” “Joliet Patch” and also “the Joliet Police Department” on the day Jothi surrendered to police, Joliet police reports show.

According to Officer Danielle Reilly’s police reports surrounding Jothi’s arrest, Jothi visited the Target store on Plainfield Road during the early evening of Aug. 9. During the 18-minute period he entered the women’s clothing section before exiting the women’s department, Jothi used his Apple iPhone camera application a total of 11 times.


“Jothi stated that he has a fixation with an ‘upskirt’ view. Jothi stated that on those other occasions, he would take the videos, exit the store, then delete the videos so that he didn’t raise suspicion or be caught by (name redacted from police report). He stated that he would then go home and masturbate to the memories of the videos.”

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Black Collar Crime: IFB Church Volunteer Angela Klickner Accused of Sexually Assaulting Minors


The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Angela Klickner, a volunteer at Landmark Baptist Church in Grand Junction, Colorado, stands accused of sexually assaulting several minors. Landmark is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregation.

Channel 9 reports:

A church volunteer on the Western Slope was arrested on suspicion of sexually assaulting at least two juveniles.

The Mesa County Sheriff’s Office said 31-year-old Angela Klickner is facing 13 potential felony charges.

Klickner was arrested on suspicion of the following:

10 counts of sexual assault on a child, position of trust – pattern of abuse

2 counts of obscenity

1 count of criminal extortion

Klickner, who lives in Clifton, was a volunteer at Landmark Baptist Church in Grand Junction from 2022 to 2023, the sheriff’s office said.

Church officials were told about Klickner’s inappropriate contact with the victims and in turn notified the sheriff’s office.

Klickner turned herself in after sheriff’s investigators obtained an arrest warrant.

She’s being held in the Mesa County jail under a $100,000 cash-only bond. Her next court date is scheduled for May 22.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

According to This Evangelical Christian, Atheists Live Hopeless, Senseless Lives

empty life

Several years ago, I 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

Preacher Dog 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 yet unknown deity created the universe. Unlikely, but within the realm of possibility. 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 God because I see no evidence for his/her/its 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 can read and study the Bible, the odds are even less that the Christian God — in all his various iterations — exists (and is personally involved in our lives). Having spent fifty years in Evangelicalism and twenty-five years as a pastor, I think it is safe to say that I know the Bible inside out. I can’t remember the last time I 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 do not 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 a 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 as 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 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, namely Jesus. 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.

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 something 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 for 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 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 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 things 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, then, to think that there is 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 out. 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 this another way. Suppose a man is driving down the road with his eight-month 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, 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, most 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 Preacher Dog’s baseless 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. 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 the time necessary to enjoy life. Being human and alive is enough for me. Having a wonderful wife, six children, and sixteen grandchildren is 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 there is life beyond the grave, but based on evidence found in cemeteries and 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 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 sixty-seven, just a hop, skip, and a fall to seventy. 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’d 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 rearview mirror and I have no desire to turn around.

Let me finish this post with a story from my teenage years. When I was fifteen, 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 seemed to go on forever. As I looked 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.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Offending Others: A Constitutionally Protected Right

free speech

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

— U.S. Constitution, First Amendment

Central to our way of life in the United States is the First Amendment of the Constitution: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of peaceable assembly, and freedom to petition the Government for redress of grievances.

In this post, I want to briefly talk about freedom of speech (or expression).

The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts’ website defines and explains free speech this way:

Among other cherished values, the First Amendment protects freedom of speech. The U.S. Supreme Court often has struggled to determine what exactly constitutes protected speech. The following are examples of speech, both direct (words) and symbolic (actions), that the Court has decided are either entitled to First Amendment protections, or not.

The First Amendment states, in relevant part, that:

“Congress shall make no law…abridging freedom of speech.”

Freedom of speech includes the right:

  • Not to speak (specifically, the right not to salute the flag). West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943).
  • Of students to wear black armbands to school to protest a war (“Students do not shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate.”). Tinker v. Des Moines, 393 U.S. 503 (1969).
  • To use certain offensive words and phrases to convey political messages. Cohen v. California, 403 U.S. 15 (1971).
  • To contribute money (under certain circumstances) to political campaigns. Buckley v. Valeo, 424 U.S. 1 (1976).
  • To advertise commercial products and professional services (with some restrictions). Virginia Board of Pharmacy v. Virginia Consumer Council, 425 U.S. 748 (1976); Bates v. State Bar of Arizona, 433 U.S. 350 (1977).
  • To engage in symbolic speech, (e.g., burning the flag in protest). Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397 (1989); United States v. Eichman, 496 U.S. 310 (1990).

Freedom of speech does not include the right:

  • To incite imminent lawless action. Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969).
  • To make or distribute obscene materials. Roth v. United States, 354 U.S. 476 (1957).
  • To burn draft cards as an anti-war protest. United States v. O’Brien, 391 U.S. 367 (1968).
  • To permit students to print articles in a school newspaper over the objections of the school administration. Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 260 (1988).
  • Of students to make an obscene speech at a school-sponsored event. Bethel School District #43 v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675 (1986).
  • Of students to advocate illegal drug use at a school-sponsored event. Morse v. Frederick, 551 — U.S. — 398 (2007).

What about “hate” speech? Iowa State University answers the questions, “What is hate speech?” and “Is hate speech protected by the First Amendment?”:

The term “hate speech” is often misunderstood. “Hate speech” doesn’t have a legal definition under U.S. law, just as there is no legal definition for lewd speech, rude speech, unpatriotic speech, or other similar types of speech or expression that people might condemn. The term often refers to speech or expression that the listener believes denigrates, vilifies, humiliates, or demeans a person or persons on the basis of membership or perceived membership in a social group identified by attributes such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or other protected status. Speech identified as hate speech may involve epithets and slurs, statements that promote malicious stereotypes, and speech denigrating or vilifying specific groups. Hate speech may also include nonverbal depictions and symbols.

In the United States, hate speech receives substantial protection under the First Amendment, based upon the idea that it is not the proper role of the government to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive. Instead, the government’s role is to broadly protect individuals’ freedom of speech in an effort to allow for the expression of unpopular and countervailing opinion and encourage robust debate on matters of public concern even when such debate devolves into offensive or hateful speech that causes others to feel grief, anger, or fear.


However, it goes without saying that just because there is a First Amendment right to say something, doesn’t mean it should be said.


The First Amendment does not protect illegal conduct just because that conduct is motivated by an individual’s beliefs or opinions. Therefore, even though hate speech is protected by the First Amendment, illegal conduct motivated by an individual’s hate for a particular protected group may be regulated by local, state, or federal law, and / or university policies. These laws are sometimes identified as “hate crimes.”

It is important to understand that the First Amendment restricts government from regulating speech (expression), though there are exceptions. The First Amendment does not apply to speech restrictions enacted by businesses and private citizens. Over the years, countless Evangelicals have said that I am violating their right to free speech by not letting them say whatever they want on this site. However, this blog is not connected with the government in any way. It is owned and operated by a private citizen: me. No one has the right to comment on this site unless I permit them to do so.

As a writer, I have the right to say what I want, regardless of whether people agree with me. We do have civil slander and defamation laws, but the bar is high for the prosecution of such offenses. Just because someone says something about you that you don’t like doesn’t mean he is slandering you.

The Ohio Bar has this to say about defamation:

Yes. Individuals, not just the media, can be held liable for defamation if they either publish (libel) or say (slander) something about someone that isn’t true and that person suffers harm as a result. If you defame a private individual, that person would have to be able to prove: 1) that you made a statement, reported as fact, to another person; 2) that the statement was false; 3) that the statement caused damage to that person; and 4) that you were negligent in making that statement. If you defame a public figure (such as a celebrity or member of government, for example), that person will have to prove: 1) that you made a statement to another person, reported as fact; 2) that the statement was false and caused damage; and 3) that you made the statement with actual malice-that is, with knowledge that the statement was false or with reckless disregard as to whether the statement was false or not. 

Remember, however, that you cannot be held liable for voicing your opinion, only for making untrue factual assertions.

Sadly, many people think they have a constitutional right not to be offended. This, however, is not true.

In 2022, Michael Bruce wrote:

Our right to be offensive is increasingly being seen as this pesky, little symptom of the First Amendment that must be either begrudgingly entertained or reluctantly accepted. People will casually write off being offensive as uncouth or unbecoming of a civilized society; they are, however, mistaken. The ones who are annoyed by our right to be offensive are the same ones who are likely to be ignorant of the fact that we are where we are today as result of individuals offending the orthodoxies of their day. They are also likely unaware of the consequences that limiting offensiveness can have.

One might ask themselves whether it’s worth being offensive in today’s era of wokeism, microaggressions, and cancel culture. The answer should be (and always will be) a resounding and resolute yes. Below are three reasons why we must embrace, and continue, our tradition of being offensive. 

First, we owe it to all of those who came before us and who sacrificed so much in the name of giving offense. We owe it to those who were mocked and ridiculed, booed and hissed at, beaten or imprisoned, exiled and ostracized, and hanged or burned at the stake all for simply offending the doctrines and dogmas of their day. Literal blood, sweat, and tears were given by countless generations so we could be where we are today. 

Secondly, giving offense has been the main driver of change over (at least) the last millennium. As pointed out above, our society has gotten to the point it is at today because individuals thumbed their noses at the norms and orthodoxies of their day.


Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, it is imperative that we continue our long tradition of offending contemporary orthodoxies because the only other alternative is clamping down or dismissing speech and expressions that are deemed offensive. The notion that any idea that is legitimately expressed can be silenced or banned on the grounds that it is merely “offensive” is censorship, and as one of our greatest founding fathers, Benjamin Franklin, put it, “Censorship is the handmaiden to tyranny.” So, if you are against tyranny, you have to be for offensiveness. 

As was stated at the start, the right to be offensive, which has been affirmed to us as citizens by various Supreme Court cases (RAV v. St. Paul, Texas v. Johnson, Snyder v. Phelps) is increasingly being portrayed as a thorn in the side of modern society; as if the only thing stopping us from achieving an idyllic society is our individual right to give offense. It is time that that misconception comes to an end and we start to view this inalienable right for what it really is: the heart and soul of the First Amendment. 

British writer Charles Hymas wrote earlier this year:

No religion has a right to be exempt from criticism, the security minister has said ahead of a crackdown on extremism.

Tom Tugendhat said no faith had a right not to be challenged amid concerns that some extremists have used intimidation and threats of violence against those perceived to have insulted Islam.

It follows the case of a teacher in Batley, West Yorks, who received death threats after showing pupils a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed during a religious education lesson almost two years ago and has remained in hiding ever since as he fears for his life.

Mr Tugendhat declined to comment on individual cases but he said: “There is absolutely no right for any religion to be offended, if we accepted that then we’d still be Catholic.

“Every religion has the right to be challenged and there is no religion that has the right to be immune from that for any reason at all.”

Speaking on GB News, he added: “Anybody can challenge any article of any faith, it is absolutely fundamental, and there is no right to be immune from that.

“You know very well, because it’s the fundamental tenet of your job as a journalist to have freedom of speech.”

I primarily write about religion (particularly Evangelical Christianity) and politics — two subjects never spoken of in polite company. I know my writing offends some people, but that doesn’t mean I must stop doing so. The offended are free to respond in the comment section (as long as they abide by this site’s comment policy), send me an email or social media message, write a blog post or news article in response to my offensive writing, write a letter to the editor of the local newspaper decrying my writing, or any other constitutionally protected, legal action. The offended have numerous tools at their disposal to rebut my writing. They don’t, however, have any legal grounds to force me to remove something I have written from this site.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Bruce, Science Can’t Tell Us [Fill in the Blank], Yet You Are Certain There Is No God?


A reader named Ron Lawson recently commented on the post The Scandalous Life of Jack Hyles and Why it Still Matters. That post is about Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) megachurch pastor Jack Hyles, yet Lawson’s comment says nothing about Hyles or what I wrote about him. Instead, Lawson wrote (all spelling and grammar in the original):

I am amazed at the incredible intelligence on this post. Science cant even tell how a single cell developed from non-life to life or where the book of our DNA came from or how it teaches cells to differentiate themselves into various organs, eyes etc. and yet we are certain there is no god.

I pray there is a God or we are cursed to be the highest intelligence and we have nothing to hate for all of the inhumanity to man that is caused by evil people… if evil is even a thing… that very concept presupposes there is a standard outside of ourselves that pre-dates our birth that has somehow come to the awareness that there is such a thing.

Lawson begins his comment by sarcastically saying “I am amazed at the incredible intelligence on this post.” Lawson makes no effort to respond to or address what I wrote about Jack Hyles. Instead, he wants to insult me personally — suggesting I am lacking in intelligence when it comes to biology. Granted, I am not a scientist, and I assume neither is Lawson, but he once spent the night at a Holiday Inn Express, so that means he is qualified to speak on scientific matters.

I will soon turn sixty-seven years old. I have made a lot of mistakes in life. As a young IFB preacher, I was certain that I was right. Arrogantly, I thought I could opine on every aspect of life even if I lacked knowledge, training, and education on a particular subject. This was especially so with matters of science. In high school, I took biology and earth science. In college, I took biology — which was a colossal waste of time. That’s it. While I have tried my best to advance my understanding of science over the years, I am in no way qualified to speak on such issues. I rely on experts in their relevant scientific fields to educate me when I have questions. When people raise science-related questions in the comment section, I typically defer to readers who actually know what they are talking about. I know what I know, but more importantly, I know what I don’t know.

Maybe Lawson has a science education. I doubt it, but maybe. Most Evangelicals who leave comments such as his lack actual science training. Their scientific knowledge comes from apologetics books, websites, and podcasts. Scores of Evangelicals have commented on this site, pontificating on biology, cosmology, or archeology. Yet, when pressed on their educational background or how they came to “know” what they know, you quickly find out that they have no knowledge beyond their literalist interpretations of the Bible, what their pastors say on Sundays, or what they read or watched on sites such as Answers in Genesis, Dr. Dino (Kent Hovind), or the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) — to name a few.

If Lawson comments again, perhaps he will let us know why we should listen to anything he has to say; what qualifications does he have to speak authoritatively about biology? If Lawson wants to discuss Evangelicalism or the IFB church movement, I am more than happy to do so. Why? Because I am an expert in these subjects, and I am conversant on religion in general. However, I try not to expose my ignorance when it comes to science. I am more than happy to have general conversations about science, but an expert I am not. So, anything I say about science should be understood from that perspective.

Science does not have all the answers about anything. We know more than we did yesterday, but there is much we still do not know, and it is certain that we will never know everything. Evangelicals wrongly think that just because they can read the Bible, all of a sudden, they are an authority on what it says. Thus when they read Genesis 1-3, Evangelicals think they know how the universe and the biological world came into being. God did it. And since science can’t answer everything — cue up the God of the gaps argument — God did it. Just because science can’t answer a particular question doesn’t mean God is the answer. Most Evangelicals can’t even explain why there are two hopelessly contradictory creation accounts in the first three chapters of Genesis.

The Bible is a dead, antiquated religious text. When it comes to science, the Bible has nothing to offer. We know the universe was not created in six literal twenty-four-hour days. We know the earth is not 6,027 years old. We know Adam and Eve weren’t the first hominids. We know that many of the stories in the Old Testament, such as Noah and the Ark, Moses and the Jewish exodus, the tower of Babel, etc. are myths. Science tells us these things. The Bible? It is a product of its time, not meant to be used for scientific inquiry.

Lawson says that because science can’t answer certain questions — and I have no idea whether it can answer his challenges or not — we cannot say “there is no God.” I have never said that there is no God. I am an agnostic atheist. Unlike many theists, I know the limitations of my knowledge. I cannot know for certain whether a deity of some sort exists. A God of some sort may exist that has not yet made itself known to us. Is this likely or probable? No, but possible. Thus, I am agnostic on the God question. However, when it comes to the extant deities (all gods and religions are of human origin), I am an atheist, confident that these gods are myths. When it comes to the Abrahamic deities, I am confident that these gods and religions are the products of human minds. I am convinced that the central claims of Christianity are false.

As far as morality is concerned, I am persuaded that moral and ethical values come from our DNA and personal experiences and beliefs. If there was some sort of objective moral standard outside of ourselves, we would all have the same moral and ethical beliefs, at all times, throughout human history. Of course, we don’t. Even Christians can’t agree on morality. Morals change with time, and from person to person. Thus, morality is inherently subjective. It is when we gather into families, tribes, communities, and countries that we begin to develop moral codes and standards (which, again, vary from family to family, tribe to tribe, community to community, and country to country). We, collectively, agree that certain behaviors are moral (good) and others are immoral (bad). Because our highest goals are happiness and well-being, we often punish behaviors that negatively affect these goals. Ultimately, WE decide what is moral and ethical. (So, you think we are God? Yes.) 🙂 There is no God, who else decides besides us? Unless you think all morals are hardwired, you must believe morality is subjective. A separate issue, which I will not address at this time, is whether humans have free will. Even without free will, if happiness and well-being — both individually and corporately — are our goals, we can (must) govern human behavior through expectations and laws. While religions can and do play a part in the formation of our moral values, this doesn’t mean that a particular religion (and its deity and divine text) is the source, the grounding of human morality.

As far as evil, is concerned, evil is what humans do, based on what I stated above. We don’t need religion or a deity to declare a certain behavior or action is evil. I don’t need Jesus in my heart or knowledge of Lawson’s deity to know that slaughtering children and innocent civilians in war — as Israel is currently doing — is morally wrong. I make moral judgments every day, without God or appeals to a religious text (though I will readily admit my moral framework is informed by the five decades I spent as a follower of Jesus).

Lawson prays there is a God. Why? Isn’t it time we grew up and put off childish things, the vestiges of a pre-scientific age? Simply put, we don’t need the God of classical theism. He is a crutch people hang on to instead of doing the hard work necessary to determine how to morally and ethically live their lives. This path is messy, laden with challenges and contradictions, but more honest and fulfilling than appealing to mythical deities and ancient religious texts.

I appreciate Lawson taking the time to comment.

Saved by Reason,


Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Bruce Gerencser