Thank You For Reading The Life And Times of Bruce Gerencser. Your Support is Appreciated.

Want to Share Your Thoughts on Donald Trump, Brett Kavanaugh, or #metoo?

your story matters

Are you angry over how Donald Trump treats women and how he denigrates them publicly? Do you have passionate opinions about the sexual assault allegations against Donald Trump or Brett Kavanaugh? Do you support the #metoo movement? Do you have a personal story to share about being sexually abused, raped, or sexually harassed? Are you appalled by Evangelical support for President Trump, Brett Kavanaugh, and the idea that what happened in high school — even sexual assault — shouldn’t disqualify a man from public office? Are you sickened by how Evangelicals abandoned any sense of moral authority, choosing instead to be shills for the Republican Party? If so, I want to hear from you.

If you are a woman and have something you want or need to say on these matters, I want to extend to you an invitation to write a guest post (or multiple posts) for this site. I think it is important for readers to hear from women on these issues. Guest posts can be any length, and can either be written anonymously or under your own name. If you are interested in writing a post but fear your writing/English skills are lacking, please don’t let that hinder your participation.  I have a first-rate editor who will edit your post, making sure the grammar and structure is correct. Your point of view will not be changed in any way. My editor is a progressive woman, so you can rest assure that she will do all she can to help you.  You may have noticed frequent guest posts by ObstacleChick.  OC is also a woman. Her recent letter to Evangelical women was posted as written with only a few minor grammatical corrections. She will tell you that I don’t alter content. It’s your story, and I want to provide a forum for you to tell it. You don’t have to be an atheist or agree with me to write a guest post.

Interested? Please email me expressing your interest via the Contact Form. I will then provide you with my private email address to which you can send me your post. All correspondence between us will be held in the strictest of confidence.

Thank you!

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I May Burn in Hell, But Until That Day Comes. . .

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I am often contacted by Evangelical zealots who purportedly are concerned over my lack of belief and my indifference towards their threats of judgment and hell. Bruce, aren’t you worried that you might be wrong? Evangelicals ask. And right after they ask this question, they follow it up with an appeal to Pascal’s Wager (the number one apologetical argument used by defenders of Christianity). Evangelicals use Pascal’s Wager to attack the agnostic aspect of atheism. Since no one can be absolutely certain that God doesn’t exist, it is better to be safe than sorry. Of course, GOD in this equation is the Christian God. Evangelicals have deemed all other Gods false, even though they themselves can’t be certain these Gods do not exist. If Evangelicals were honest with themselves, they would do what they ask of atheists: embrace ALL other Gods just in case one of them might be the one true God. Better to be safe than sorry, right?

As an agnostic atheist, I can’t be certain a deity of some sort doesn’t exist. Of course, I can’t be certain that life on planet earth isn’t some sort of alien experiment or game. Perhaps, life on planet earth is more Westworld-like than we think. How can we know otherwise? Assuming that we are not AIs in a multilevel game, how, then, should rational beings deal with the God question? All any of us can do is look at the extant evidence and decide accordingly. I am confident that the Christian God of the Bible is no God at all. I don’t worry one bit over being wrong. Now, there’s .000000001 percent chance that I might be wrong, but do I really want to spend my life chasing after a deity that is infinitesimally unlikely to be real? I think not. Now, if I am asked whether I think a deistic God of some sort exists, that’s a different question. Not one, by the way, that changes how I live my life. The deistic God is the divine creator, a being who set everything into motion and said, there ya go, do with it what you will. This deity wants nothing from us, and is quite indifferent to the plight of the human race. Whether this God exists really doesn’t matter. She is little more than a thought exercise, an attempt to answer the “first cause” question.

Is it possible that I am wrong about the God question, and that after I die I am going to land in Hell? Life is all about probabilities, so yes anything is possible. However, when governing one’s life, our focus should be on what is likely, not on what might be possible. And what is likely is that there is no God, and it is up to us to make the world a better place to live. Evangelicals look to the Eastern Sky, hoping that Jesus soon returns to earth — thus validating their beliefs. This other-worldliness makes Evangelicals indifferent to things such as suffering, war, and global climate change. Jesus is Coming Soon, Evangelicals say. Fuck everything else! As an atheist, I live in the present, doing what I can to make a better tomorrow. I dare not ignore war and global warming because the future of my children and grandchildren is at stake. I want them to have a better tomorrow, knowing that all of us have only one shot at what we call “life.” It is irresponsible to spend time pining for a mythical God to come and rescue you. First century Christians believed Jesus was returning to earth in their lifetime. They all died believing that the second coming of Jesus was nigh. And for two thousand years, the followers of Jesus Christ have continued to believe that their Savior will come in their lifetimes to rescue them from pain, suffering, and death. Listen up, Christians. Jesus is dead, and he ain’t coming back.

I may land in hell someday, but until I do I plan to enjoy life. I plan to love those that matter to me and do what I can make this world a better place to live. I have no time for mythical religions and judgmental deities. I am sure some readers are wondering how I can live this way without knowing for certain that nothing lies beyond the grave. None of us knows everything. Those who say they are certain about this or that or know the absolute “truth” are arrogant fools. What any of us actually “knows” is quite small when compared to the vast expanse of inquiry and knowledge that lies before us. I know more today than I did yesterday, but that only means I learned that McDonald’s has added new menu items and the Cincinnati Bengals aren’t as good as I thought they were. Life is winding down for me, so my focus on family and friends. Well, that and photography and writing. One day, death will come for us, one and all, and what we will find out on that day is that most of what we thought mattered, didn’t. Perhaps, we should ponder this truth while we are among the living, allowing us to then focus on the few things that really matter. For me personally, God and the afterlife doesn’t make the list.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Karen the Rock Whisperer

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Karen’s current Facebook profile picture

One of the regular commenters on this blog, Karen the Rock Whisperer, is currently hospitalized in California. Over the past month or so, she has had a plethora of health problems that have repeatedly landed her in the hospital. Sometimes, in the digital world, we forget that real flesh-and-blood people are attached to an online username. Even though I have never met Karen face to face, I consider her a friend. I wish her well as she battles the various afflictions that have laid her low. I can’t offer up prayers or even karmic good thoughts, but I can say, Karen, I hope you get better soon!

Let me leave you with several comments Karen made in 2015:

Comment #1

I was at least moderately depressed all my life, and finally getting treatment for that illness was my start on the road away from religion. The story: I was raised Catholic in the liberal West Coast church of the 1960s and 1970s. I attended Catholic schools through 12th grade, and was taught my religion by a bunch of wonderful nuns who were determined to raise up a student body of social justice warriors. They tended to slide over the parts of the theology that were disconcerting; the important things in life were to take joy in the gifts of God, be properly grateful for them, and put them to the uses he intended. In college I made friends with Evangelical Christians, and discovered there was a whole other Christian religion out there. They seemed to have a more evidence-based faith, one based on the bible and not the pronouncements of the church hierarchy. I explored that for a few years. Meanwhile I met and married a man who was raised in an Evangelical tradition but was not religious.

I got into serious trouble with the Evangelical message. I couldn’t get my mind around the notion that one could take the entire bible literally. And the constant emphasis on sin, and my worthlessness, fed my depression fiercely. We were attending church regularly, but my husband finally insisted we quit, because the sermon would leave me in tears of despair; not even God could love someone as worthless as I. So I stopped going to church, but the damage was done, and it ate and ate at me for several years. Finally, in my mid-thirties, I reached a point of not being able to function beyond doing simple household tasks (I had been a very successful engineer). The doctor put me on Prozac. The effect was amazing. I discovered I was not worthless. I discovered that my every action was not somehow based in sin. I was thinking somewhat clearly about myself for the first time!

The process of healing was very long, and to some extent continues to this day. But very early on, I started questioning everything I knew about what was really right and wrong, true and false, including religious beliefs. That led me on a long and winding path, but eventually I was able to chuck it all as lacking in evidence. And also, along the way, I had to re-learn that the purpose of life is to take joy in what I’m given, be grateful for it, and put it to good use in a way consistent with secular humanism and social justice.

So while my life doesn’t involve any deities, in the end the nuns got the last word.

Comment #2

I appreciate your writing. Though I gave up on Christianity many years ago, it is learning about experiences like yours that have really made me comfortable in my atheist/humanist skin. While I don’t rage against the faith, I also no longer tiptoe around family and friends who are Christians. I’m no longer shy about objecting when they advocate bad ideas under cover of faith. This has made me much happier, but also enabled me to spread what I think are important messages about how we humans treat one another — and occasionally, I can make the faith-bound think.

Comment #3

As a geologist, I don’t have much knowledge of biology. I have played a bit with invertebrate fossils, and the changes we see through time in those fossils have made evolution real to me in a way that no amount of reading and lectures and presentations possibly could. But I have to leave in-depth understanding of all the different lines of evidence to my colleagues in the biological sciences. And I’m quite happy with that, because I trust that they do science the same way I do and have properly put together the story that these lines of evidence tell.

And that’s the fundamental problem in debating with creationists: they don’t trust the process of science. They don’t participate in it (for the most part), at best pretending to play at it. They can’t honestly do it, because their faith requires fitting the evidence to the conclusion. Dealing with them is just tiresome. But the ones who annoy me the most are big on arguing “XYZ disproves [evolution/age of the universe/big bang/etc.], therefore Christ!” Um, no. even if they’re right about XYZ (and they never are), that doesn’t say a damn thing about what really is true. Disproving evolution would definitely win you the Nobel prize, but implies nothing about the truth of Christianity or any other faith.

Independent Baptist Songs: Jesus is Coming Soon by R.E. Winsett

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From time to time, I plan to post lyrics from the songs we sang in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches I grew up in and pastored. Unbelievers and non-Fundamentalists might find some of these lyrics quite interesting, and, at times, funny or disturbing. Enjoy!

Today’s Independent Baptist Song is Jesus is Coming Soon by R.E. Winsett. I was able to find a video of this song being sung by The Oak Ridge Boys.

Jesus is Coming Soon by R.E. Winsett

Troublesome times are here, filling men’s hearts with fear
Freedom we all hold dear now is at stake
Humbling your hearts to God saves from the chastening rod
Seek the way pilgrims trod, Christians awake

Jesus is coming soon, morning or night or noon
Many will meet their doom, trumpets will sound
All of the dead shall rise, righteous meet in the skies
Going where no one dies, heavenward bound

Love of so many cold; losing their home of gold;
This in God’s Word is told; evils abound.
When these signs come to pass, nearing the end at last,
It will come very fast; trumpets will sound.

Jesus is coming soon, morning or night or noon
Many will meet their doom, trumpets will sound
All of the dead shall rise, righteous meet in the skies
Going where no one dies, heavenward bound

Troubles will soon be o’er, happy forevermore
When we meet on that shore, free from all care
Rising up in the sky, telling this world goodbye
Homeward we then shall fly, glory to share

Oh, Jesus is coming soon, morning or night or noon
Many will meet their doom, trumpets will sound
All of the dead shall rise, righteous meet in the skies
Going where no one dies, heavenward bound

Video Link

About R.E. Winsett:

Robert Emmett Winsett (January 15, 1876 — June 26, 1952 (aged 76) was an American composer and publisher of Gospel music.

Winsett was born in Bledsoe County, Tennessee, and graduated from the Bowman Normal School of Music in 1899.

He founded his own publishing company in 1903, and his first publication, Winsett’s Favorite Songs, quickly became popular among the Baptist and Pentecostal churches of the American South. Pentecostal Power followed in 1907; that year Winsett completed postgraduate work at a conservatory.

He married Birdie Harris in 1908, and had three sons and two daughters with her. He settled in Fort Smith, Arkansas, continuing to compose gospel songs, of which he would write over 1,000 in total. He became a minister in 1923, and was affiliated with the Church of God (Seventh Day).

Birdie Harris died late in the 1920s, and shortly thereafter Winsett moved back to Tennessee. He founded a new company in Chattanooga, and published more shape note music books. He remarried, to Mary Ruth Edmonton, in 1930, and had three further children.

Winsett’s final publication, Best of All (1951), sold over 1 million copies, and in total his books sold over ten million copies. His song “Jesus Is Coming Soon” won a Dove Award for Gospel Song of the Year at the 1969 awards. He has been inducted into the Southern Gospel Museum and Hall of Fame.

His Hunger for the Church

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Guest post by MJ Lisbeth

More years ago than I care to admit, I read Richard Rodriguez’s Hunger of Memory. Not long afterward, I went through a period when I hated the book because people (or, more precisely, people whose opinions I detested) embraced it. I was young enough, chronologically and emotionally, to get away with things like that.

I’ll confess that, today, at least one of his notions resonates with me, an unrepentant liberal. He exposed the contradictions of Affirmative Action, at least as it was practiced in the late 1970s and early 1980s — and, to a large extent, as it’s still practiced today. He described the ways in which he benefited because, as he says, of his surname. But by the dint of having earned a bachelor’s degree from Stanford and continued his studies at Columbia and Berkeley, he had more in common with his fellow scholars — most of whom were white and at least upper middle-class — than with the poor Mexican-Americans among whom he grew up.

He thus became the darling of William F. Buckley and characters even more odious because there’s nothing they love more than someone who shares their attitudes and whose skin is darker than theirs. It allows them to say, “See, I told you so!” But another part of Rodriguez’s biography has endeared him to me at least as much. And it resonated with me at least as much.

That part of his story is his, and his family’s, relationship with the Roman Catholic faith in which he was raised. At the time the book was published, he still considered himself a member of the church, although, as he says, the modern adaptations of it — prayers in English instead of Latin and folksy guitar music instead of Bach compositions — were at least somewhat alien to him.

Still, he said, he continued his affiliation with the church — in the face of friends and colleagues who chided him for showing up late to Sunday brunch because he’d been to mass — because, in spite of all of its changes, it provided a “liturgy” (which I take as a churchy way of saying “narrative”) to his life. That, and what he feels the church gave his Mexican parents.

Of all the institutions in their lives, only the Catholic Church has seemed aware of the fact that my mother and father are thinkers — persons aware of the experience of their lives. Other institutions — the nation’s political parties, the industries of mass entertainment and communication, the companies that employed them—have all treated them with condescension. In ceremonies of public worship, they have been moved, assured that their lives, from waking to eating, from birth until death, all moments — possess great significance. (pp.90-91)

That, to me, sounds like another “Mother Teresa” argument: Whatever abuses she, or any other representative of the church, or the Church itself — committed on the poor, the sick, the weak — or others in any way vulnerable — is justified by the “good” they or the Church did. That the church itself has been so complicit in conscripting young men (like his father’s forebears) to conquer lands (like the ones in which his parents and he grew up), slaughter the natives of said lands, and to enslave captives brought to those lands — all the while providing said conscripts a standard of living not much better than the natives who were sent to slaughter — seems to have escaped the notice of a supposedly educated man like Rodriguez.

Even if, as he wrote, the Church was aware of people like his parents as thinkers — which I don’t doubt they were—he still gives the institution far too much credit. If you are starving, the person who gives you anything to eat, even if it’s stale or tainted, can seem like a savior or hero. Really, it’s no different from the appeal of any number of despots from Julius Caesar to Mao had for proles and peasants — or that drug dealers have for young people who see no way out of the ghetto or, more important, the moment in which they are living.

One can be forgiven for idolizing a person or institution that seemed to offer charity and solace to one’s poor parents and family. One can even be forgiven for venerating such a person or institution when he, she or it offered a place, however servile, within a world that isolates, rejects and alienates people who are poor, weak or foreign. But if such a person acquires an education, formally or otherwise, that person will see, in time, that the person or institution who took him or her “seriously” or “protected” him or her from bullies or other dangers — or simply provided a meal, room or job—may have had other purposes for such seeming acts of charity. Those acts may have been attempts to recruit the recipient for something, or simply to buy his or her silence.

The latter seems to have had an effect on Rodriguez. While he says he dislikes the “modern” church, he doesn’t dislike it enough to leave it — even after coming out as gay, as he did a decade after Hunger of Memory was published. That, as a gay man, he can still cling to a religion that so blatantly opposes non-heterosexual love — no matter that the Pope says, “Who am I to judge?”— is, at least to me, a mystery even beyond that of the faith itself.

It might just be that he’s been so rewarded within the community of the Church, and by secular as well as religious conservatives, for his apologetics. The conservatives have rewarded him with grants to write, speaking engagements and other things that have allowed him to sustain his life since he left his PhD studies — because he realized he was benefiting from his surname. As for the church — well, I guess it’s what’s made him the commodity he’s become: a gay Hispanic Catholic conservative. Where would he, his talents notwithstanding, be without it?

Perhaps he would have hunger — and his memory would be different.

Questions: Bruce, Did You Believe in the Existence of Alien Life Forms?

questions

I recently asked readers to submit questions to me they would like me to answer. If you would like to submit a question, please follow the instructions listed here.

ObstacleChick asked: When you were an Evangelical Christian, did you believe in the existence of alien life forms? That is, did you believe that there was potentially life on other planets? Did you believe that it was possible that God created other planets on which there were creatures made in his image? Or did you believe that “aliens” were demons? And did you believe the universe was large enough that there could be life on other planets but that the technology does not yet exist for us to detect them (or that they could detect us)?

My answer to this question will be short and sweet. As an Evangelical pastor, I had an anthropocentric view of the universe; that God created one inhabited planet: earth; that alien-populated planets were found only in science fiction. I believed humans were God’s “special” creation — much like the AIs in Westworld. God gave us dominion over everything.

As you can see, I had no place in my worldview for space aliens. I was a young-earth creationist who believed God created the world six twenty-four-hour days, six thousand years ago. When science conflicted with Genesis 1-3, I always sided with God’s inspired, inerrant, infallible Words. Sadly, I passed this ignorance on to three generations of congregants.

Today, I believe that it is likely that there are other inhabited solar systems/planets; that it is unlikely that we are alone in the universe. I have often pondered what would happen to Evangelicalism if aliens landed on Earth in Mars Attacks! fashion. I suspect that loss of faith would be widespread, but many Evangelical preachers, teachers, and professors would find some way to “explain” the appearance of alien life. Christianity, if it is anything, is an adaptable system of belief. One need only study church history to see how Christian beliefs, practices, and social prohibitions have evolved over the years. If I asked you in the 1960s whether Evangelical churches would one day use rock music in their worship, we both would have had a hearty laugh. Yet, today most Evangelical churches use music forms that were once considered sin.

Evangelicalism is going through tremendous upheaval, shedding millions of congregants. Some Evangelicals, desperate to hang on to tribal faith, now embrace beliefs — pro-LGBTQ, pro-same-sex marriage, pro-evolution, to name three — which were, not that many years ago, the provenance of liberal Christianity. I predict Evangelicalism is headed for schism, with progressives and Fundamentalists forming their own sects. As Southern Baptists are learning, give Fundamentalists an inch they will take a mile. Liberal Southern Baptists left years ago, with progressives believing they could get along with their Fundamentalist brethren. As they are finding out, Fundamentalists see them tools of Satan, compromisers of truth. Fundamentalists, for the most part, are young-earth creationists, whereas progressives tend to be theistic evolutionists (a bastardized version of biological evolution). As with the bloody war between factions over abortion, Fundamentalists have no interest in compromise or finding common ground. Fundamentalists, much like the German and Russian armies in WWII, have a scorched-earth approach to defeating their enemies. No matter what science, common sense, or reason tells us, Fundamentalists are resolved to stand firm upon their literal interpretations of the Bible. Even if aliens from Planet Zot transport them to a labor camp light-years away, Fundamentalists will still be saying, THE BIBLE SAYS!

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Questions: Bruce, Do You Miss Being A Preacher?

questions

I recently asked readers to submit questions to me they would like me to answer. If you would like to submit a question, please follow the instructions listed here.

Victor asked: Do you miss being a preacher?

I preached my first sermon at age fifteen. While attending Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan, I preached on Sunday afternoons at the SHAR House in Detroit — a drug rehab center. I pastored Evangelicals churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan for twenty-five years. All told, I preached thousands of sermons to tens of thousands of people. If the ministry were just about preaching and teaching, I would say, without reservation, that I miss being a preacher. I thoroughly enjoyed preaching and teaching congregants the Word of God. I enjoyed the intellectual work that went into crafting a good sermon. I suspect, if I could choose a career in the secular world, that I would want to be a college professor.

Of course, the ministry entails a lot more than just preaching. I spent countless hours counseling people, performing weddings, conducting funerals, attending congregational/board meetings, and ministering to the social needs of congregants and the community at large. Over the years, I developed a real distaste for internecine warfare and conflict. Behind the scenes, I had to deal with squabbles and fights. I so wanted to scream, WILL EVERYONE PLEASE GROW UP! Evangelicals can be loving and kind one moment and nasty, vicious, and judgmental the next. I was so tired of conflict that I warned the last church I pastored — Victory Baptist Church in Clare, Michigan — that I had no heart for conflict. Evidently, they didn’t believe me, so imagine their surprise when a church business meeting turned into open warfare that I said, I quit! I told you that I had no stomach for church squabbles. And with that, I packed up my family and we moved back to Northwest Ohio.

Two years later, I tried one last time to pastor a church, candidating at several Southern Baptist churches in West Virginia. I found that I no longer had the emotional strength necessary to pastor a church. And with that, my career as a pastor came to an end — three years before I left Christianity. I have many fond memories from my days as a pastor. I also carry deep psychological scars too. The ministry is an admixture of peace, grace, and happiness and disunity, conflict, and loss. Thankfully, the former outweighed the latter for me. I know more than a few men who were savaged by their first congregation, never to pastor again.

I miss, of course, the love and respect I received from congregants. Who doesn’t want to be told week after week how wonderful you are? Pastors stand at the back of the church and shake hands with people as they leave. Church members and visitors alike praise them for their sermons and tell how much what they said helped them. I miss that feeling of connection with my fellow Christians. Of course, many of those same believers turned on me upon finding out that I was no longer a Christian. In some ways, I don’t blame them for their anger and hatred. I broke the bond we had with each other. In their minds, I was Pastor Bruce or Preacher; the man who helped their families, both spiritually and temporally. Now I am, in their eyes, a hater of God, living in denial of everything I once said was true.

If you know of a church looking for an unbeliever just to preach on Sundays, please let me know. I’m your man! I would love to whip up a few post-Jesus sermons.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Marie Osmond Fears Losing Freedom to Worship God

marie osmond

There’s strength in numbers, and… really, why are we here? You know, several years ago… I realize that some people say, it is like a wave that’s coming. And that’s what made me think of Hawaii, too. There’s this wave that Christianity… has had its day. That the world has changed and Christians are out of touch. That we need to move on to modern times in this world that we live in, and we need to let the past be the past. And we have a lot of pressure to accept worldly values and things that… where people feel that the world has changed. But we know that God never changes.

And I look at our Christian families and the values that we hold dear and there’s, like I said, this great storm and this struggle where we could lose our freedoms, and we could lose our values, and the things that we hold so dearly, as Christians, to worship our God freely.

And we are one nation that was created under God, and the world that we are living in right now is trying to remove those freedoms from us. And I tell you: I know that it is time for us to be ‘ohana. To be united as a family. Because we are weak individually, but we are strong as we are united. We are. We are powerful.

I believe that standing together strong and showing the world that the teachings and the example of Jesus Christ are not only timely more than ever, but are timeless… tonight. I love that we are uniting together in a celebration of song and love and passion for our beloved God and our Savior Jesus Christ to worship through music today. And I pray that the Holy Spirit will be here, that we will, in our efforts to be ‘ohana this evening, that we will all have faith in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And I say this and that in His beautiful name, amen.

— Marie Osmond, Interfatih Event in Hawaii, October 12, 2018

Video Link

HT: The Friendly Atheist

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Democrats are Just Plain Evil

rush limbaugh democrats evil

For years Republicans have not got it about the Democrat Party: They are just plain evil, along with a reprobate mind. The violent protests are perpetrated by the Democrat Party, and until these people start going to jail, it will only get worse.

The Democrat Party has a history of lawlessness – they own the KKK and started this organization to hinder the advancement of black Americans. The Democrat Party promoted the idea of single moms raising children without a dad.

Here are some people that should be in jail – Barack Hussein Obama, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Eric Holder. Maxine Waters, Nancy Pelosi, George Soros.

President Trump and the First Lady are the most transparent people I’ve seen in my lifetime. President Obama claimed the same thing, yet told the press what they could and could not ask.

I believe Americans are waking up, and I hope the Democrat Party becomes extinct. If not, the United States of America as we know it will be destroyed internally. Without America in the picture, other nations will fall like dominos into the Social-Communist hellhole. Ultimately, what started in the Middle East will end in the Middle East. God and His people will be victorious.

— Ken Langdon, World News Daily, Democrat Party: Just Plain Evil, October 14, 2018

Questions: Bruce, What Was Your View on the King James Bible?

questions

I recently asked readers to submit questions to me they would like me to answer. If you would like to submit a question, please follow the instructions listed here.

Richard asked: During your time in in the IFB what was your particular view on the KJV? Did you change this view prior to leaving Christianity?

I grew up in Baptist churches that only used the King James Bible. These churches weren’t King James-only per se. It just that the King James was the only Bible version these churches used. I don’t remember ever hearing a sermon on why church members should only use the KJV. This all changed with the publishing of the New International Version (NIV) in 1978 and the New King James Version (NKJV) in 1982. This forced Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches and pastors, along with IFB college and seminaries, to stake out positions on English Bible translations. The college I attended in the 1970s, Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan, was decidedly King James-only. Professors and students were required to use only the KJV, and chapel speakers were required to do the same. Using a different translation was grounds for immediate expulsion. At the same time, however, the KJV extremism of Peter Ruckman was also banned, I suspect out of trying to avoid the infighting that Ruckmanism tended to foment. (Please read Questions: Bruce, In Your IFB Days Did You Encounter Peter Ruckman?) That said, Ruckman’s teachings found fertile ground in which to grow, and more than a few Midwestern graduates are Ruckmanites. They proudly advertise their beliefs about Bible translations by displaying on their church signs and literature KJV 1611. (Back in the day when Polly and I were looking for a church to attend, we took KJV 1611 on a church sign to mean: Danger! Infected with incurable disease. Do not enter!)

I entered the ministry a defender of the inspiration and inerrancy of the Word of God; “Word of God” being the King James Bible. While I was never a follower of Peter Ruckman — I despised his nasty, vulgar disposition and that of his disciples — I generally believed as he did: that the King James Bible was God’s perfect word for English-speaking people. I wasn’t one to spend much time preaching about Bible translations. Everyone knew that at the churches I pastored we ONLY used the King James Bible.

In the late 1980s, I read several books that called into question my belief that the King James Bible was inerrant. I concluded that no translation was without error, and that inerrancy only applied to the original manuscripts. I took the approach that the KJV was the best and most reliable translation for English-speaking people. I held this position until the late 1990s.

In 1995, I started a non-denominational church, Our Father’s House, in West Unity, Ohio. I would pastor Our Father’s House for seven years. It was here that my theology, politics, and social values began to change. In 2000, I decided to change which Bible translation I used when preaching. I had already been reading other translations in my studies, but using anything but a KJV for preaching was a big deal, at least for me. Congregants? They couldn’t care less. I used the New American Standard Version (NASB) for a year or so, eventually moving to the English Standard Version (ESV). I was still preaching from the ESV when I left Christianity in November 2008. Devotionally, I read Eugene Peterson’s masterful translation, The Message. I found great joy and satisfaction when reading The Message translation. It was a Bible that truly spoke the language of the common man.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Questions: Bruce, How Did You Make Your Final Break From Religious Belief?

questions

I recently asked readers to submit questions to me they would like me to answer. If you would like to submit a question, please follow the instructions listed here.

Mary asked: Bruce, how did you make the final break from [religious] belief? I still vacillate quite often and struggle w/the emotional turmoil that follows. thanks for taking time to answer the questions we are posting.

As an Evangelical, I could point to the date, time, and place Jesus saved me. I know when and how I was saved because I was there when it happened. For most of my life, I had what Evangelicals call a know-so salvation. The Apostle Paul had a know-so salvation too. In his letter to a young preacher by the name of Timothy, Paul wrote:

For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. (2 Timothy 1:12)

Being a Christian, then, was all about “knowing”; about certainty of belief. The same cannot be said for my current state of unbelief. I have written tens of thousands of words about my deconversion and how I went from a preacher of the gospel to no longer believing the “truths” I once preached. I can point to the date when I attended church for the last time, and I remember the day when I said to myself (and to my wife), “I am no longer a Christian.” I can point to the 2009 letter I wrote to Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners as my equivalent of Martin Luther’s Ninety-five Theses. Yet, I haven’t had what I call a born-again atheist experience, and I don’t know many unbelievers who have.

The path from belief to unbelief is often long, arduous, and littered with stops, reversals, collisions, and a host of other things that complicate deconversion. In my case, I was part of the Christian church for fifty years. I spent twenty-five of those years pastoring Evangelical churches. Days, months, and years were spent devotedly worshiping and serving Jesus Christ. Tens of thousands of hours were given to reading and studying the Bible, reading theological tomes, praying, preaching, teaching, evangelizing the lost, and ministering to the needs of congregants. I was as deeply immersed in Evangelical church life as anyone could be. I was a sot in a religious sense, drinking in all that Christianity had to offer. Becoming an unbeliever, then, required detoxification. My mind was, and still is, filled with knowledge about Christianity, the Bible, and the experiential aspects of faith.

Unbelief is a frontal assault and challenge to a life of religious belief. For decades, I said I believed this or that. I was sure of my beliefs, having no doubt whatsoever that what the Bible said was absolute truth. It was only when I allowed agents of unbelief a seat at the table of my life that I began to have questions and doubts. These honorable, thoughtful voices of doubt and unbelief asked of me what the Devil asked of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, Yea hath God said? Answering (and continuing to answer) this question caused doubt and further questions. Questions begat questions, to use King James vernacular. This steady stream of questions ultimately led me to conclude that what Christians believed about the Bible was not true, and that the Christian narrative could not be rationally or intellectually sustained (at least to my satisfaction). I came to see that believing the Biblical story about God and Jesus required faith, a faith I did not have.

So, I can point to the last Sunday in November 2008 as the last time I attended church, but I can’t, even today, say that all vestiges of Christianity are gone from my mind and life. I suspect, thanks to my deep immersion in Christianity, that my life will never be totally and completely free of Christianity. What’s gone, though, is the hold religious belief had on my intellect; on critical thinking skills; on my thought processes. Belief and unbelief are more like two ships passing in the night. The farther I journey away from belief, the more comfortable I am with unbelief. Of course, Evangelicals will tell me that what is really happening is that my heart is growing cold and dark and that I am becoming a reprobate — one who passes a line of no return when it comes to the Christian God. I am far enough along in my journey that I can dismiss out of hand all such denunciations as the masturbatory verbalizing of people who can’t figure out my story and fear that they too could lose their faith. Feeling cornered, zealots lash out at Evangelicals-turned-atheists with cheap, shallow, worn-out apologetical arguments or turn to lambasting them in blog posts, forum comments, social media posts, and sermons. None of these things bothers me in the least now. I see such reactions from believers as their attempts to square with their theology how it is possible for such a devoted follower of Christ as myself to totally abandon the beliefs he once held dear. Baptists, in particular, have a big problem with trying to square their soteriological beliefs with my storyline. Finding themselves unable to square things theologically, they conclude, absurdly, that I am either still a Christian or I never was one.

I remember the near-constant emotional turmoil I experienced during the early days of deconversion. Long-held beliefs were demanding attention. Bible verses flooded my mind, reminding me of what happens to those who reject Christ. Christian friends and family members and colleagues in the ministry piled on in their attempts to stop me from sliding further down the proverbial slippery slope. All of these things, along with more late-night wrestlings with doubt than I care to remember, caused quite a bit of emotional upheaval.  But, over time, these things began to fade into landscape in my rear-view mirror. All I can say to Mary is this: be patient. Deconversion takes time. To quote a well-worn cliché, life is a journeynot a destination. The destination for one and all is the same: death. What matters, then, is the path we walk among the living. Here’s the advice I give on my About page:

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

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

I have found that the more I focus on the things mentioned above the less I find myself bothered by doubts and questions about the rightness of my decision to walk away from Christianity. I suspect that I will always have niggling doubts about the matter, but I no longer fear being wrong or worry about eternal damnation. As the old gospel song goes, I have gone too far to turn back now. I have weighed Christianity in the balance and found it lacking in every way. While another deity of some sort may yet appear on the horizon — and when it does I will weigh its claims as I did the claims of Christianity — I am confident that the God I once served is no God at all. Coming to this place took time, so to Mary I say, relax and enjoy the journey. You likely intellectually already know that Christianity (along with other religions) is false. All that remains is for your emotions and psyche to sync with what you know to be true.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

“But He’s a Good Person”

brett kavanaugh

Guest post by MJ Lisbeth

During his Senate confirmation hearings, Brett Kavanaugh testified about the good and great things he’s done throughout his life: He has “mentored” many female students; 21 of the 25 clerks he hired while a US attorney were women. Why, he even coaches his daughters’ basketball team!

I have no reason to doubt that he has done whatever he can to offer women opportunities in the law, politics, academia and other areas. I also am willing to believe him when he says he is committed to equality or even when he says he’s tried to live an “exemplary” life.

I would also believe such statements from any number of other men. Moreover, I have known many other men who, throughout their lives, gave of their time and resources to help women, as well as men and children, in any number of ways. In fact, I know of one in particular who gave over his life to helping and guiding other people.

He was a priest in the parish where I grew up. Nearly everyone sang his praises: He was a fixture, not only in the parish, but in the community as a whole.

It seems that at that time, a priest stayed in a parish longer than he stays now: Some priests spent most or all of their careers in the same place, hearing the first confessions, offering the First Holy Communion and confirming young parishioners — and their children — and grandchildren. You would also see them on playgrounds, in nursing homes or walking the streets of the neighborhood. They visited the old and sick, sometimes giving of their meager means to help.

Also, in neighborhoods like the one in which I spent my childhood, priests were the de facto therapists and social workers. Most of the men were blue-collar workers and the women homemakers; many were immigrants and few had more than a high-school education. That meant they couldn’t afford, or didn’t know how to access, therapists, and even if they could or did, they never would trust them, or for that matter, social workers, in the same way they would confide in a priest.

The particular priest I’m thinking of right now did such things, and more.

And he sexually molested me.

Now, anyone who doesn’t know that probably knows only what a “good and Godly” man he was to them. Were I to tell them, then or now, what Father did to me, it probably wouldn’t change their perceptions of him. In fact, some would turn on me — or, for that matter, anyone else who might say that he did to them what he did to me.

(I, of course, have no way of knowing whether he abused any other kids — or assaulted any adults. But, given what we’ve seen, it isn’t hard to imagine, for me anyway, that he did: Sexual predators rarely, if ever, prey on only one person.)

So, even though I thoroughly sympathize with — and believe — Christine Blasey Ford, I understand why other women signed a letter of support for Judge Kavanaugh. Most were his high school friends or classmates and said, in essence, that the young man they knew “would never do anything like that.”

That is how most sexual predators are able to go undetected for decades.  If someone treats you well, you are less likely to think he or she is capable of harming another human being. That is especially true if that someone has some sort of standing in the community — whether through family or professional connections, academic or professional accomplishments or as a spiritual leader.

Brett Kavanaugh may well have been someone who “has always treated women with decency and respect,” as the letter relates. He may also be the rigorous scholar, conscientious teacher, caring mentor, impartial jurist, loving father — and champion of women’s equality – that he proclaimed himself to be.

That is, he might be all of those things — to people not named Christine Blasey Ford. Or Deborah Ramirez. Just as the priest in my parish was a godly, saintly man to many people in my community — but not to me. Or, perhaps to some other kids or, for that matter, adults who have not yet spoken up.

It’s difficult to understand the complexities of the human mind – what makes people “tick,” what goes on inside them. As a result, none of us ever knows what evil lurks in the depths of those we think we know – even those who are “good people.”

Black Collar Crime: Evangelical Youth Pastor Nick Arnold Charged With Online Solicitation of a Minor

nick arnold

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.

Nick Arnold, a former youth pastor at Shepherd of The Hills Lutheran Church in San Antonio, Texas, is accused of engaging in sexual conversations with underage girls and and asking them for nude photographs. Shepherd of the Hills is affiliated with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod — a Fundamentalist sect.  Arnold was working for ACTS Church Lakeway in Austin, Texas at the time of his arrest. ACTS Church is also affiliated with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

News-4 reports:

The arrest affidavit says the inappropriate conversations started more than a year ago.

The victim’s mother discovered the conversations and told police.

An arrest affidavit says Arnold coached at the girl’s school and investigators believe one or both girls attended Arnold’s religion class.

The pastor could not comment on the allegations other than to say he believes they’re an isolated incident. [ your beliefs don’t count for much here]

The letter also states Arnold left the church in June after accepting a job at ACTS Church Lakeway in Austin.

In a statement, the pastor of the church in Austin confirms an employee was arrested by Austin police for charges filed in San Antonio.

The pastor went on to say, “…as soon as we learned of his arrest, his employment was immediately terminated.”

Arnold lives in Austin and is out of jail on a $20,000 bond.