Please Help Me Understand Why You Stopped Believing

why

A former parishioner asks:

I just don’t understand how you could just decide you don’t believe any longer. I as you know am a Christian and I could never or would never lose my faith in God, but if I did I would like to think that it would be some type of horrible thing that happened to me to cause me to lose my faith in God. I am not judging you  I am just curious as to what happened to cause you to question and then lose your faith. You were such a good preacher, I learned so much from you I just don’t understand what happened. Please help me to understand.

I am quite sympathetic to those who once called me pastor/preacher. I know my deconversion causes them great pain as they attempt to reconcile the man of God they once knew with the atheist I am today. In some cases, the pain and cognitive dissonance is so great that they can’t bear to write or talk to me. One former pastor friend, Bill Beard, told me that I should keep my deconversion story to myself lest I cause others to lose their faith. (Please read Dear Friend.)

I try to put myself in the former parishioners’ shoes. They listened to me preach, interacted with me on a personal level, and considered me a godly man. Perhaps I won them to Christ or baptized them or helped them through some crisis in their life. Maybe I performed their wedding or preached the funeral of their spouse or child. My life is intertwined with theirs, yet here I stand today, publicly renouncing all I once believed to be true; an atheist, an enemy of God. How is this possible, the former parishioner asks?

The email writer asks if some horrible thing happened to cause me to lose my faith. The short answer is no. Seven years removed from deconverting and eleven years since I preached my last sermon, I can now see that there were many factors that led me to where I am today. As with all life-changing decisions, the reasons are many. I could point to my disenchantment over the deadness, shallowness, and the emptiness of Evangelicalism,  I could point to my loss of health and the poverty wages I earned pastoring churches. I could point to how fellow pastors and parishioners treated me when I left the ministry and later began to question my faith. (Please read Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners.) I could point to my knowledge of lying, cheating, adulterous pastors. I could point to my anger towards those who readily abandoned me when I had doubts about the veracity of Christianity. I could point to the 100+ churches we visited as we desperately tried to find a church that took seriously the teaching of Jesus. (Please read But Our Church is Different.) I could point to the viciousness of professing Christians, people like my grandparents who put on a good front but were judgmental and hateful towards my family and me. (Please read Dear Ann.) I could point to my bitter experience with Pat Horner and Community Baptist Church, Elmendorf, Texas. (Please read I Am a Publican and a Heathen.) All of these things played a part in my deconversion, but the sum of them would not have been enough to cause me to walk away from Christianity.

Last year, I wrote a post titled Why I Stopped Believing. I think an excerpt from this post will prove helpful in answering the question of why I no longer believe:

Since I never made much money in the ministry, there was no economic reason for me to stay in the ministry. I always made more money working outside of the church, so when I decided to leave the ministry, which I did five years before I deconverted, I suffered no economic consequences.

Freed from the ministry, my wife and I spent five years visiting over a hundred Christian churches. We were desperately looking for a Christianity that mattered, a Christianity that took seriously the teachings of Jesus. During this five year period, I read countless books written by authors from a broad spectrum of Christendom. I read books by authors such as Thomas MertonRobert Farrar CaponHenri Nouwen, Wendell BerryBrian McLarenRob BellJohn Shelby SpongSoren Kierkegaard, and NT Wright.  These authors challenged my Evangelical understanding of Christianity and its teachings.

I decided I would go back to the Bible, study it again, and determine what it was I REALLY believed. During this time, I began reading books by authors such as Robert Wright Elaine Pagels and Bart Ehrman, These three authors, along with several others, attacked the foundation of my Evangelical belief in the inerrant, inspired word of God. Their assault on this foundation brought my Evangelical house tumbling down. I desperately tried to find some semblance of the Christianity I once believed, but I came to realize that my faith was gone.

I tried for a time to convince myself that I could find some sort of Christianity that would work for me. Polly and I visited numerous liberal or progressive Christian churches, but I found that these expressions of faith would not do for me. My faith was gone. Later, Polly would come to the same conclusion.

I turned to the internet to find help. I came upon sites like exchristian.net and Debunking Christianity. I found these sites to be quite helpful as I tried to make sense of what was going on in my life. I began reading the books of authors like John LoftusHector AvalosRobert M. PriceDaniel DennettChristopher HitchensSam HarrisJerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins.

The five books that made the biggest impression on me were:

(I make a few shekels if you click on the above links and buy the books)

I read many authors and books besides the ones listed here. I say this to keep someone  from saying, but you didn’t read so and so or you didn’t read _______,  So, if I had to give one reason WHY I am no longer a Christian today it would be BOOKS.  My thirst for knowledge – a thirst I still have today, even though it is greatly hindered by chronic illness and pain – is what drove me to reinvestigate the claims of Christianity and the teachings of the Bible.  This investigation led me to conclude that the claims of Christianity and the teachings of the Bible could not rationally and intellectually be sustained. Try as I might to hang on to some sort of Christian faith, the slippery slope I found myself on would not let me stand still. Eventually, I found myself saying, I no longer believe in the Christian God. For a time I was an agnostic, but I got tired of explaining myself, so I took on the atheist moniker, and now no one misunderstands what I believe. (See Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners and Dear Friend.)

The hardest decision I ever made in my life was that day in late November of 2008  when I finally admitted to myself, I am no longer a Christian, I no longer believe in the Christian God, I no longer believe the Bible is the Word of God. At that moment, everything I had spent my life believing and doing was gone. In a sense, I had an atheist version of a born-again experience. For the past six years, I have continued to read, study, and write. I am still very much a work in progress. My understanding of religion and its cultural and sociological implications continues to grow. Now that I am unshackled from the constraints of religion, I am free to wander the path of life wherever it may lead. Now that I am free to read what I want, I have focused my attention on history and science. While I continue to read books that are of a religious or atheist nature, I spend less and less time reading these. I still read every new book Bart Ehrman publishes, along with various Christian/atheist/humanist blogs and publications, and this is enough to keep me up to date with American Christianity and American atheism/humanism.

For a longer treatment of my path from Evangelicalism to atheism, please read the series From Evangelicalism to Atheism.

If I had to sum up in two sentences why I no longer believe I would say this:

I no longer believe the Bible is an inspired, infallible, inerrant, God-given text. I no longer believe as true the central claims of Christianity; that Jesus is the son of God, who came to earth to die for our sin, resurrected from the dead three days later, and will some day return to earth to judge the living and the dead.

The email writer comes from a Baptist background. A conundrum for her is to theologically square my past with the present. There is no doubt that I was a Christian for 50 years. I was a devoted, sincere, committed follower of Jesus. I preached to thousands of people during the 25 years I spent in the ministry. Not one parishioner or colleague in the ministry ever doubted that I was a Christian. I was far from perfect, but I was, in every way, a believer.

bruce gerencser 1987

Bruce Gerencser, Somerset Baptist Church, 1987

Those who say I never was a Christian make a judgment based on their theology and not by how I lived my life for 50 years. Baptists must do this because they believe that a person, once saved, cannot fall from grace. The doctrine of eternal security/once – saved- always – saved/perseverance of the saints requires them to conclude I am still a Christian or I never was. The few former parishioners and colleagues in the ministry who are Arminian in belief have no problem explaining my trajectory from Evangelicalism to atheism.  I once was saved and I fell from grace.

Here’s what I know: I once was a Christian and now I am not. For those who once called me pastor/preacher, they should know that when I was their shepherd I was a Christian. What good I did and what benefits my ministry brought them came from the heart of a man who was a devoted follower of Jesus. Those experiences, at the time, were real. While I have written extensively on how I explain my past and the experiences I had, former parishioners should content themselves with knowing that I loved and cared for them. While I had many shortcomings, my desire was always to help others. This desire still motivates me today.

Like the Israelites leaving Egypt and heading for the Promised Land, so it is, for me. My Promised Land is atheism, agnosticism, and humanism. While I will always have great fondness for many of the people I once pastored, I am not returning to Egypt, the house of bondage. Christianity and the ministry are a distant sight in my rear view mirror. While I will always appreciate the love and approbation of the people I once pastored, I am not willing to “repent” of atheistic beliefs. My mind is settled on the nature of the Bible and the claims of Christianity. I fully recognize that billions of people find value, meaning, and purpose in religion, but I do not.

I have no desire to cause believers to lose their faith. I am just one man with a story to tell. Over the past seven years, I have not  even once tried to “evangelize” believers in the hope that they will lose their faith and embrace atheism. Yes, I do write about Evangelicalism and atheism, but people are free to read or not read what I write. If they have doubts about Christianity or have recently left Christianity, then my writing is likely to be of some help to them. If they write me asking questions or asking for help, I do my best to answer their questions and help them in any way I can. Over the years, hundreds of such people have written me. Have some of them deconverted? Yes. But, deconversion has never been my goal. Instead, I view myself as a facilitator, one who helps people on their journey. It’s their life, their journey, and I am just a sign post along the crooked road of life.

Former parishioners need to understand that Bruce and Polly Gerencser are the same people they have always been, except for the Christian part. We are kind, decent, loving people. We love our children and our grandchildren. We strive to get along with our neighbors and be a good influence in the community. We are now what we were then: good people.

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50 Comments

  1. mikespeir

    I hate that question. Almost never are they really looking for your answer. And never will your reasons be good enough.

    Kudos for spelling “Arminian” without an “e,” BTW. 😉

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      I always spell Arminian correctly. Anyone who spells it with an E never was an Arminian or a Calvinist. 🙂 Same goes for those who spell Calvinism as Calvanism.

      I think this person genuinely wants to know. I agree that most questions like this have an ulterior motive, but when it is a former parishioner asking, I try to answer their questions. I owe them at least that.

      Reply
  2. Ami

    You’ve once again inspired a post. Which will show up on my blog eventually. 🙂

    When I was a Christian, I did everything I was supposed to do. I witnessed to all my friends at school. And more than one of my teachers. I prayed. I sat with church friends and sang Jesus songs (loudly) during our lunch breaks on the lawn in high school. I wore a necklace that said, “Jesus Never Fails” everywhere I went. I attended all the church services. I sang solos in all the churches my parents dragged me to. My vocal talent wasn’t mine, after all, it was HIS. I reached out to God at all times.

    And I never heard from him. Ever. Not once. NEVER felt anything.

    For me, that’s the reason I don’t believe. After all I did for about 25 years to find him, he wasn’t there. Still isn’t, of course.

    Reply
  3. Justin Vollmar

    You look scary in your 1987 picture. A true IFB preacher!

    Reply
  4. khughes1963

    Bart Ehrman is excellent, and I would recommend his work to anyone.

    Reply
  5. Daniel Wilcox

    Bruce you concluded by saying, “We are kind, decent, loving people…and be a good influence in the community.”

    I have no doubt that you are still the encourager and kind person you were back when you were a Christian. Maybe you can now be even a better person because you aren’t confined in the straitjacket of doctrine.

    I do struggle sometimes with a few of your ‘rough edges.’

    A few days ago, I had decided not to write a comment about one of your troubling past posts, but it’s sticking in my ethical teeth like a piece of Nebraska beef, so here goes:

    How do you square your statement above “kind, decent…good influence”
    when you publish stuff
    like this:
    “So take your cock out
    Shove it in my ass
    Fuck me until you come…
    Fuck me in the ass…
    “Let’s cherry-pick the part about losing my cherry…”
    etc.

    What troubles me is that song leers and dehumanizes while it is teaching it’s anti-religious message.

    As a retired literature teacher, I’m a big fan of satire, even biting satire (one of my favorite satirists is Kurt Vonnegut).
    Plus, I do see how this drastic song shows so vividly the hypocrisy and delusion of religion.

    It is my opinion that the lyrics are very anti-humanistic and
    demeaning. They remind me of all the obscenities I had to endure in world literature and on the job, especially when I was a trucker.

    Furthermore, I’ve never seen the worth of our generation’s obsession with the ‘f’-word. Keep in mind
    that besides growing up fundamentalist Baptist, I’ve lived in Haight-Asbury, met
    Allen Ginsberg and written a school essay on his poem, “Howl,” went “on the road,” etc.

    And I no longer a Christian, haven’t been for several years. So I’m not questioning this from a religious point of view, or from a conservative outlook.

    My question: Isn’t there dissonance between humanism and such a lyric?

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      The Songs of Sacrilege series is reader driven. As long as the song meets the criteria ” If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please leave the name the song in the comment section or send me an email” I will post it.

      Personally, most of the songs I have posted so far are not the type of music I listen to.

      I have a different view of language than you do. I think curse words can and do have a place, if one is so inclined to use them. Take the F word. In my day, the word fuck was slang for sexual intercourse. While it is still used that way today, most usage has no sexual connotation. I read an article last night in Rolling Stone that talked about the use of the word cunt. Cunt has a different meaning in Australia, according to the person being interviewed, than it does in the U.S.

      I use curse words from time to time in my writing. I use them judiciously, and make no apology for using them. Same goes for my speech. While I don’t swear like a sailor, it is not beyond me to be watching a ballgame and holler at the ump, complete with expletives. For some reason, they never hear me. 🙂

      Bruce

      Reply
  6. dale mcinnes

    I was pretty deeply into Christianity more because of the culture and ignorance that surrounded it. I became a “disbeliever” by my 14th birthday. The only term available was “atheism”. Did not go over very well with my parents/ grandparents. That aside, I had to ask myself why religion survived so long in human history and why it is so prevalent today. Also, I have a bone to pick with the concept of “atheism”. I do not feel comfortable with religion or atheism. I believe atheism is the all purpose cleanser to wipe the infection of religion off one’s “soul”. But I find that this wonderful “bleach” has its own toxicity. I believe it does quite an injustice to science and reason. It has its short commings the least of which it denies secular science its ultimate future. I was once asked if I don’t believe in God or an afterlife, how can I believe in continuing on in such an empty vaccuum without justice or salvation ? Where do you find meaning ? My response shocked them. It was worse than being an atheist. Atheism, I told them was only the half way mark. If there is no God, we will continue to pass the torch of reason and knowledge to future generations as they ultimately become gods. If there is no afterlife, they will create one through the manipulation of space-time. In short. I am a “Q”. Neither atheist nor religious. I believe if you desire something bad enough, all true believers will work to make it happen. Free enterprise ALWAYS beats the socialistic concept of being handed everything from above. Religion is “unamerican”. A belief in secular science is about as “american” as you will ever get. I believe in a God, an afterlife, the supernatural “manipulation of cosmic laws to create new laws of Nature” as well as I.D. “advanced organisms capable of changing both their “internal and external environments” solely through the power of science and technological engineering. None of these concepts belong to religion. Only science works to make these things a reality. This is how we make religion irrelevant. Not through atheism. My 2 cents.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Dale,

      Thanks for commenting.

      Bruce

      Reply
  7. Mark

    I tell people that Christianity and Evangelical thinking ruined/stole a good 18 years of my life. It caused me to stay in an abusive marriage and I didn’t learn to make good decisions on my own. I would rather go to hell than serve a god that led me to that. Not that that will happen…

    Reply
  8. Ken

    I am also an atheist and former Catholic Deacon. Many of us look for cause and effect, like one thing caused one effect. I think, that instead of cause and effect there are many preconditions that lead us to where we are at any given moment. Life is movement, it is change, it is an evolution a Hegelian and Marxian type of change. Most people won’t understand this as they are cause and effect people. when one changes one becomes what one was not before yet at teh same time one brings part of what one was with them. i loved officiating at weddings while I was a Catholic clergy. I miss that part. My change of no longer being clergy has now prevented me from performing weddings. I have changed, evolved, so now i am working on becoming a humanist, or non-religious officiant at weddings for those not wanting a religious service but want more than a wedding by a magistrate. No change is an evolution not a magic wand “poof your an atheist”.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Ken,

      Thanks for commenting.

      I know, for me personally,I carried many things from my years in the ministry into my relationship with atheism. I still have a pastor’s heart, desiring to help others. It’s impossible for anyone who has spent a significant time in a belief system to just push all that aside and start afresh. These brains of ours…they don’t let go of things easily. 🙂

      I’ve had atheists, especially those who were never religious, take me to task for being too friendly and accommodating to religion. They want me to be a flaming atheist zealot, but it’s just not who I am. I prefer to provide a safe place where discussions can take place without someone getting attacked for saying the wrong thing. When I started to deconvert, my story was posted on ex-Christian. Great site, BTW. Well, there were some hardcore atheists that didn’t like where I was in my life, my waffling agnosticism and my unwillingness to condemn all religion. They were quite brutal. I learned from this experience that religion has not cornered the asshole market.

      Bruce

      Reply
  9. Chad

    Thank you, so much.

    I graduated with an MA from a conservative evangelical seminary (I would have gotten the MDiv, but couldn’t stand the Hebrew professor). I served for a decade in various lay leadership positions at a semi-megachurch in west michigan. I loved the staff and the people dearly (still do, with some at least). No major event happened. I started questioning, and I committed myself to intellectual integrity. I stopped singing during worship services, but sat and listened. Finally, one Saturday, I realized that I could no longer attend services, as it was a tacit implication that I was “one of them,” a believer. Maybe if I was an outsider at that church it would have been different, but…

    Anyways, I wanted to thank you for your words. Helpful to me this Saturday morning.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Chad,

      Thank you for the kind words. If I can do anything to help, please let me know.

      I have many fond memories of the 25 years I spent in the ministry, but, like you fond memories are not enough to keep me in the pew. It was hard to let go of a lifetime of work, achievement, and friends. There are times I miss certain aspects of church and the ministry, but I like where I am now.

      Bruce

      Reply
  10. Jaisen

    Bruce,

    From a quick read of your article it sounds as if you were in it for all the wrong reasons to begin with. I say that not to belittle your story, it’s just the impression I got. I don’t wish to argue, just recommend a few things. If you ever again have a yearning to know Jesus again, start at the beginning, not the 1500’s. Read the writings of first, second, third, etc., century Christians, e.g., St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Polycarp, St. Justin, St. Irenaeus and others. True orthodoxy and orthopraxy resides in their writings. One of my favorite current authors is Scott Hahn; I highly recommend him. Peter Kreeft comes highly recommended as well. And if you ever again go in search of a church that takes seriously the teachings of Jesus, you’ll find a spiritual home like none other in the Catholic Church. Her doors are always open to you and yours. May God bless you on your journey!

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      When priests stop molesting boys and diddling teenagers let me know.

      Reply
      1. Zoe

        Oh great! Another speed reader eh Bruce? *sigh*

        Reply
        1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

          Yes, such a Speed reader that this is the only post he could be bothered with reading. Four visits, same post every time. As you say *sigh*

          Reply
      2. Jaisen

        Bruce,

        Thank you for your kind, intelligent, well thought out reply. If I may reply (somewhat in jest), which of the 45,000+ divided Protestant denominations who are incapable of doing anything in one accord, let alone praying, should I credit for churning out money hungry, calumnious atheists? Please keep the bloviating to a minimum—I’d hate to miss anything relevant due to speed reading.

        Reply
        1. Becky Wiren

          You keep pointing to Protestentism as if it is solely flawed among Christendom. Don’t get me wrong, if you are Catholic and content, that’s your concern. But pretending that Catholicism doesn’t have huge problems, is putting a blindfold on your face. By the way, plenty of sites pop up on Google when searching for atheist former Catholics.

          Reply
          1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

            My reply to Jansen was meant to be snarky and dismissive. Anyone who starts his comment with an attack of my character deserves no respect from me. His comment reflects he is a part of the fundamentalist wing of the Catholic Church with views that are similar to those found in fundamentalist Protestantism.

            If I was still a Christian, I would never, ever become a Catholic. The reasons are many, but my snarky answer to Jaisen is one of them.

            Maybe I’ll go read the Church Fathers as Jaisen suggested. Oh wait, you mean like when I read them when I was a Pastor? 🙂

            His comment is a reminder that fundamentalism is found, to some degree, in EVERY religion.

          2. Becky Wiren

            😉

          3. Jaisen

            Actually, I only said one thing regarding Protestantism, Bruce being the case-in-point. Not sure to what else you’re referring.

            “But pretending that Catholicism doesn’t have huge problems, is putting a blindfold on your face.”

            I never said it didn’t. But one thing I can say is that the Church doesn’t promote things that are anathema to biblical teaching as various denominations so proudly do.

            And Bruce, your snarky and dismissive attitude is a clear indicator of the type of man you are, not my interpretation of your original article. Which, by the way, wasn’t a judgement but just the impression I got from YOUR own words. And I can’t help it if you read the Church Fathers and didn’t understand that they were Catholic. Perhaps you should re-read them? Clearly you weren’t doing something right if snarky, dismissive atheist is the conclusion you’ve landed on.

          4. sgl

            from your original post:
            “you were in it for all the wrong reasons to begin with”

            a shoot from the hip character assassination of bruce, despite your protestations to the contrary

            “True orthodoxy and orthopraxy resides in their writings.”
            “a church that takes seriously the teachings of Jesus, you’ll find a spiritual home like none other in the Catholic Church”

            demonstrating that you think you and your church have the one true religion, and everyone else got it wrong. almost every sect makes the same claim. while this is “suggestions in a non-aggressive manner”, it’s also rather haughty. anyone who’s read church history, or read about the inconsistencies in the bible, or the scholarship of how the bible came to be, would label those statements as rather bold to say the least.

            “Apparently Bruce thinks pedophilia is limited to one religious or even non-religious affiliation. ”

            “blaming the church for the flaws of men is an appropriate response to my inviting you to read something you may not have read before? Aside from the obvious calumny and bigotry … ”

            ahh, yes, the “get out of jail free” card; all flaws are due to fallen men, but somehow it’s still the true church. while pedophilia is certainly not limited to one religion or institution, it’s the catholic church that has covered this up for *decades*, and continues to stonewall any reform. hardly an institution that “takes seriously the teachings of jesus.” sorry, but pointing this out is not bigotry, it’s speaking truth to power. the fact that you continue to believe in the church, and probably continue to tithe, and not hold your leaders accountable, is why the problem persists. and why bruce and many others will take them or their adherents seriously when they claim moral superiority.

            so, at every turn, all you’ve done is blame bruce (or me, or atheists), and have not once accepted any criticism of your church or yourself. and you’ve made excuse after excuse for your behavior and the church’s behavior. a more appropriate, (perhaps christian) response, would have been to apologize for jumping to conclusions, admit that the church has some serious moral failings that bother you also. hence, i’m done talking with you. if bruce wants to let you continue to comment, that’s his choice.

        2. sgl

          Jaisen, you may think your comments are original and insightful, but every few weeks, someone exactly like you comes by, and drops nearly identical comments. imagine a school teacher, and the number of times they’ve heard the same excuses for why the homework wasn’t done. imagine a lawyer or judge hearing the same excuses for how the check was lost in the mail. well, that’s bruce’s blog when people like you drop by, make a shoot-from-the-hip observation based on no reading of his story and rigid stereotypes about atheists.

          as i understand it, in peace negotiations and marriage counselling, one of techniques is to require each side to state the position of the other side (not agree with it, just state it) in a fashion that the counter party says “yes, that is an accurate statement of my position.” because too often, the different sides don’t actually understand the other side, and are too busy arguing to actually listen. this technique forces them to listen.

          the fact is that bruce and many of the readers here understand your position very well, since many/most were strongly religious, often for decades. yet you do not understand bruce’s or anyone else here’s position at all. and from your tone, it’s very clear you have no interest in learning about anyone else’s position and how they arrived at it.

          hence, despite the fact that you think you’re a special little snow flake with just the exact pearls of wisdom that bruce needs, in fact you’re merely a dot in a blizzard of wanna-be apologists that drop by, spout predictable platitudes from an extremely small bingo-card of religious propaganda, and then expect ooohs and ahhhs of adoration for you enlightening us. sorry, but you’re boring and predictable and frankly obnoxious. the fact that you can’t see this only makes it even more a waste of time for all of us.

          Reply
          1. Jaisen

            SGL,

            Here’s Bruce’s first reply to me, a first time reader:

            “When priests stop molesting boys and diddling teenagers let me know.”

            Bruce’s second, passive aggressive sub-comment to me:

            “My reply to Jansen was meant to be snarky and dismissive.”

            Apparently Bruce thinks pedophilia is limited to one religious or even non-religious affiliation.

            I admitted that I quickly read his long, fluffy blog and that what I said was just the impression I got from quickly reading his own words (such as there not being enough money for him in ministry). I kindly made some suggestions in a non-aggressive manner and wished him well, yet the above comments were the bigoted responses I received. No invite to read more of his articles to broaden my brief view of his position, no equivalent suggestions to purvey to understand what led him where he is now, no olive branch to lure me along his own “enlightened” path. Just the same old tired, worn out, divisive atheist hyperbole. With such a brief and hateful introduction, now I can affirmatively say thank goodness this man is no longer a pastor with such a horrible attitude towards those with different views. That’s the kind of Christian who gives us all a bad name and drives people away from faith, including themselves (obviously). But at least you all have each other to wallow in your bigotry and hate-filled vitriol together.

            As for your own reply to me, change my name to yours at the top and ditto, pal. You guys can pretend to be all intellectually superior and further isolate yourselves all you like, but don’t expect any respectful crosstalk when that’s all we ever get from you. My apologies for wasting your time; a four paragraph response to someone you know nothing about filled with such judgmental presumptions kind of speaks otherwise, but hey, whatever floats your boat. And FYI, the Church and all of Christendom have been dealing with your type and your shallow arrogance for over 2,000 years now, but do feel free to let us know when YOU come up with something original.

          2. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

            I gave your comment the respect it deserved. As Sgl pointed out, you are just the latest in a long line of Christians that have left a comment like yours. Forgive me for not wanting to waste my time responding to someone who has no interest in what I have to say. The only thing unique about you is that you are Catholic. Most Christian commenters are Evangelical.

            So, you focused on the one statement about there being no money in the ministry, yet ignore the fact I was in the ministry for 25 years. Seems to the unbiased reader that the poverty didn’t keep me from doing what I thought God called me to do.

            As far as sexual child abuse: yes, other sects have a problem too, but none to the degree of the Catholic Church. If I were a Catholic I wouldn’t let my male children out of my site while celebrating the mass.

            I assumed you know how to read and navigate a website, so I didn’t offer any other posts to you. Besides, you made no effort to read any of the links referenced in this post. Perhaps there are no fingers on your hands.

            As to your comment being a desire to engage in thoughtful discussion…you are kidding, right? You insult me, don’t read anything else I’ve written, and tell me the Catholic Church is waiting for me to come home. You have no interest in thoughtful discussion and I have no interest in reading any more of your comments.

            Good news. You comments have provoked me to add to my writing schedule a post about why I could never be a Roman Catholic. I am sure my Catholic sons and daughter in laws will appreciate you stirring me up.

          3. Jaisen

            Bruce,

            Apparently you’re not familiar with the concept of speed reading. Typically, it results from being in a hurry and having little time, hence my not reading any of your other linked articles. As they say, “common sense isn’t so common.”

            So, blaming the church for the flaws of men is an appropriate response to my inviting you to read something you may not have read before? Aside from the obvious calumny and bigotry (which continued in your recent reply), that’s some serious rash judgement on your behalf and even more revealing of your character. So I suppose you could say I unknowingly gave your poverty comment the respect it deserved now that such things have been revealed.

            However, my original post wasn’t intended to be an attack on your character, but wow, I’m not sure how you pastored anything that long with such thin skin! And seriously, how could your comment about poverty not stick out to me like a sore thumb? As believers we’re called to poverty of spirit and worldly possessions, two things you clearly have no desire for. That’s a rather obvious advantage of the priesthood–being more concerned with God rather than the things of this world and the flesh. But that’s neither here nor there; that deeper theological virtue/significance didn’t even occur to me until you got so butthurt about it.

            It’s truly odd seeing such an entitlement mentality from a man of the previous generation. I suppose that’s a manifestation of such self-interest, among the other obvious things. I read your rather lengthy post out of curiosity, not fealty. So I’m sorry, I don’t owe it to you to read anymore. I’m honestly not all that interested anymore after your passive-aggressive rants against my imaginary assault on your character and your continued antagonizing sarcasm.

            Again, it wasn’t my intent to ridicule your past, and my invite to explore the Church and the writings of her fathers was sincere. I offer you my deepest apologies for causing you such a spike in your blood pressure, inadvertently “stirring you up.” Be sure to have your Catholic sons and daughter-in-laws come on here and read the uninformed, bigoted, vitriolic, anti-Catholic, hyperbolic comments about their faith that you spill so freely on unsuspecting passersby. While it’ll be unwise coming from someone who has gone their entire life without fully comprehending it, I’ll wait with bated breath for your post about Roman Catholicism, as I’m sure they will as well. Do remember though, you are just the latest in a long line of atheists that have made comments like yours. But I have the utmost confidence that it’ll be a real call to interfaith communication.

            Peace be with you.

          4. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

            Here’s your original comment:


            From a quick read of your article it sounds as if you were in it for all the wrong reasons to begin with. I say that not to belittle your story, it’s just the impression I got. I don’t wish to argue, just recommend a few things. If you ever again have a yearning to know Jesus again, start at the beginning, not the 1500’s. Read the writings of first, second, third, etc., century Christians, e.g., St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Polycarp, St. Justin, St. Irenaeus and others. True orthodoxy and orthopraxy resides in their writings. One of my favorite current authors is Scott Hahn; I highly recommend him. Peter Kreeft comes highly recommended as well. And if you ever again go in search of a church that takes seriously the teachings of Jesus, you’ll find a spiritual home like none other in the Catholic Church. Her doors are always open to you and yours. May God bless you on your journey!

            You started off with saying I was in the ministry for the wrong reasons. You never bothered to show enough curiosity to read any of my biographical writing. If you had, you might have learned that I know a fair bit about poverty and living a life of poverty. Instead you made an assumption about my character, one that has continued through every one of your comments. Sgl tried to help you out, but you saw his comment as an attack and rejected it.

            Second you assumed I, as a lifelong Protestant, hadn’t read the Church Fathers, when in fact I have read them. Why not ask instead of assume? I’ve even read Scott Hahn. Again, if you had bothered to be the slight bit curious, you would have learned that Thomas Merton and Dorthy Day are two of my favorite authors. At one time, John Michael Talbot was one of my favorite musicians. We used his songs in our worship services.

            Third, you came peddling the same shit that every fundamentalist before you has peddled. The my church is the true church, my church has the true teaching, bullshit. I have heard this spiel hundreds of times over the years. Again, you would have known this if you had bothered to read the ABOUT section or the COMMENT RULES. Like those who have come before you, you have no interest in who or what I am and your only desire is to put in a word for the one true Church.

            Now if you want to engage me in a discussion on whether your church with its opulent buildings and palaces takes seriously the teachings of Jesus, let me know. Let me know if you want to discuss the church’s rampant sex scandal, its opposition to equal civil rights for gays, its opposition to birth control and abortion, its prohibition of women in the priesthood…shall I go on? Plenty to discuss when you trot out the lie that Catholic church takes seriously the teachings of Jesus.

            Now, I’ve indulged you far too long. I will approve no further comments of yours. I am sure you can find other atheists who might be interested in your caterwauling.

            Bruce

          5. Jaisen

            comment deleted

          6. Jaisen

            comment deleted

          7. Jaisen

            Hey, that’s fine if you don’t want to publish my comments there, Dear Leader. If I were in your shoes I’d hate for my readers to see me get owned by a guy who’s only been a Catholic for two weeks, too. Gotta love you socialist liberals with your self-proclaimed, vast open-mindedness, tolerance and hatred of censorship (or is that just libertarians?). You can even smell the hypocrisy through the internet!

          8. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

            Nice try, Jaisen. But by all means tell everyone you “owned” me. That is what Jesus would do, right? If your goal was to be a witness to the love and historicity of the Roman Catholic Church, you have failed miserably. Your comments were deleted because I told you that I would not approve any further comments. You said your piece, exposed your Jesus for all to see, time to move on.

            This blog is not a democracy. I am god and I have rules that I expect commenters to abide by. Unfortunately, you have showed that you can’t play well with others, so you have been banned. I rarely ban people. Currently, out of the thousands of people who read this blog, I have banned two people, you and fundamentalist by the name of Matt. You two should get together since both of you think you are part of the one true church.

            Bruce Gerencser

          9. Jaisen

            Yeah, Bruce. You really got me! Glad I could expose you and your self-glorifying narcissistic need for censorship to prove your tolerance and open-minded enlightenment. Ban me, delete my posts as you said you would. As of right now you can’t even stick to that promise. Seriously, don’t flatter yourself anymore than you have already. It’s really just gross at this point. Enjoy your isolation, but do try to pull your head out to take a breath once in a while. It makes it much easier to “play well” with the grown-ups. ; )

          10. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

            Oh I will still approve comments like this. They are quite instructive.

          11. Jaisen

            comment deleted

  11. dale mcinnes

    Bruce. This is a bit touchy but, I’m going to say it anyway. The secular world needs to stop divesting its time, energies and resources attacking religion. We need to turn the tables on religion by providing more spiritual needs than religion could ever hope to provide. We need to tear a page from early christianity by adopting all the relevant pagan traditions and change their meaning to better align them with secular ideology. It worked for them [in less than 2 centuries], AND,
    we have the internet today. I feel “atheism” is taking the same track as judaism did 2000 years ago. They did not want to adopt the strengths and traditions of their main enemy .. pagan Rome. Today, Jews are a very small religion. The jews that went with the majority view (pagan christians) ultimately were far more adaptable. In order to bring your enemy on side with your beliefs .. one has to build a bridge made of your enemy’s traditions to allow them to cross comfortably to your side. Atheism is not doing this. A new dialogue is neccessary. My 2 cents.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Dale,

      There are atheists whom have adapted the approach you mention here. I do not criticize them, but it is not for me. That said, if there was a Unitarian-universalist church nearby, my wife and I would probably attend. We miss the social aspects of church. That said, losing that social structure has forced us to spend a lot more time with each other one on one. This has greatly improved our marriage. Not that it was bad before, but our lives were spent helping others and this caused us to neglect self and our marriage. Putting God first meant putting those I love second. This was a big mistake, one I warn young pastors about every chance I get.

      Bruce

      Reply
    2. Troy

      This is an interesting idea, but a bit misguided. As for attacking religion, you’re right it is a mixed bag, and education rather than attacking (with the implied belittling that goes with it.) after all we hope to have them on our side eventually. Also ignore anyone over 30. Sure some in this age group will find their way, but the young are actually already at least becoming indifferent already. As for spiritual needs, that’s tough but in reality there is a diverse pool of services available, since there are so many religions and holidays themselves aren’t going away. In reality there will always be religion. The goal should be enough plurality to demand and recieve political clout. An analogy would be how quickly the policital class got in line for gay marriage the minute approval hit 50%. With polictical clout the United States should be able to return to its secular roots

      Reply
  12. dale

    Jaisen.

    The church IS the flaw of men. Men who write the stories contained in the bible then, say it is the actual word of some god. Now THAT’S ARROGANT !! And to think that Bruce somehow, in leaving the ministry, lost all recollection of what he preached or taught is astounding !! No one could possibly be a minister that long and still be admired and/ or shocked by his congrgation. Trying to convince Bruce to re-believe is absurd. Let me put it to you this way .. When you finally realised that Santa Claus was based on mythology, did you ever attempt, just once, to re-believe in that magic god-like being ?? Because this is what you’re asking Bruce to do. Do you not understand this ?? Bruce .. has .. matured. He’s .. an .. adult .. now. He has given up his child-like beliefs. I don’t possess the anger that Bruce has pent up inside him because I personally didn’t go through as much shit as he has. Dealing with grown adults possessing child-like beliefs from the stone-age must be supremely irritating.

    Look at me. I find no problem with the scientific “concept” of god-like beings or even an afterlife [time-travel]. It is religion that has politicised and denigrated these concepts and brought upon itself such well deserved derision. Jaisen. After thousands of years, you need to let science and technology take over and explore these possibilities. Remember. Science is NOT a philosophy. It is simply the best damn tool we know of to probe Nature [creation]. Kick off the shakles of religion and set yourself free. Come and explore creation with us. Leave the stone-age.

    My 2 cents.

    Reply
  13. Jaisen

    Comment deleted

    Reply
  14. Becky Wiren

    It never fails, does it, Bruce? A person comes onto your blog, claiming to know the TRUE church, and expressing himself oh so nicey nice. But when you rebuff him, he (or she) gets all mean, upset, and nasty. Not ONE of these people has turned the other cheek to try to convince you of your error. And this guy got snotty and then mean pretty quick. And he is also obviously totally self oblivious. But then, he probably considers all of us doomed. Never mind that you have Christians and other theists here along with the “doomed” agnostics and atheists. But he didn’t read enough to know that. Instead, he’s put me WAY off the Catholic Church, even though I know good people in that church. What a horrible witness!

    Reply
    1. Jaisen

      comment deleted

      Reply
  15. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

    Poor Jaisen, I blocked him at the IP level and he can’t even read this site. 🙂 ten tries…same result.

    Reply
    1. sgl

      well, maybe he’ll try logging in from work. an employer worried about potential lawsuits from the actions of homophobic employees, particularly ones using work-time to propagate their screeds, might find this of interest.

      Reply
      1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

        I think he either owns a trucking business or works at one. He’s from Florida,

        If he is tech savvy, he can easily get around the block, but I don’t mind blocking more IP addresses. 🙂

        Reply
  16. Jaisen

    Comment deleted

    Reply
  17. dale

    Bruce.

    One can go on fighting philosophy with people on a 1 to 1 basis in religion but, a fellow comrade and I have a better idea. Challenge the Vatican directly. We have both spent years studying the “miracles” portrayed in the old and new testaments. We are becoming firm believers in these “miracles” already. We can actually show that many of these happened while some were politically inspired. I’m thinking that it would be a great idea to go to the Middle East to the
    original locations where these “miracles” presumably took place while using stone-age and copper-age technology to pull them off in front of arabs living there today just to see what they personally think of these “miraculous” feats. Contained in that DVD would be how the ancients pulled off these breathtaking “miracles” with such precision using prehistoric technologies. I know how to do a great many of these flawlessly. But I have also learned to do even more spectacular ones never recorded in the bible. It would be like showing little kids how Santa [Mom and Dad] with his reindeer actually came to their house, ate the cookies and milk while leaving the gifts that they prayed for under the tree. The Vatican’s power lay not in its $ 95 billion/yr tithes, its properties and cathedrals but in the belief and sponsorship of its 1.1 billion adherents. I’m not advicating pulling the church down but rather I’m advocating an internal revolution to replace Jesus the Christ with Charles Darwin the Emancipator as head of that organization. Think about it. It goes something like this ;

    If you believe in the biblical miracles because you can’t perform them yourself then, most likely you are a follower .. a religious person.
    If you don’t believe in the biblical miracles because you think of them as completely absurd and by such have no intentions of attempting to duplicate them then, you’re most likely an atheist.
    However. If you really believe in biblical miracles because you can actually perform them yourself then, you are most likely an ancient “prophet” that has mastered a gimmick flawlessly to bring attention to yourself since your livelihood depends upon it. The modern term for prophet ?? Try “magician” in an evangelical church whose “gimmicks/ miracles” are required for their profession.

    I’m running out of pennies but will throw in another 2 cents.

    My 2 cents

    Reply
  18. Mark B.

    Did you ever believe the way the Bible says you are to believe?

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

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