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

 

jesus loves atheists

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

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

I’ll Pray for You

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

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

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

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

Have You Ever Heard the Gospel?

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

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

God Laid You on My Heart

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

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

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

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

God is Trying to Get Your Attention

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Know the Holy Spirit is Speaking to You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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21 Comments

  1. Patrick Bowers

    Hey Bruce,

    Not an argument or in any way intending to combat anything in this post, but I’ve read of several Christians turned atheist turned Christian again as well as many atheists turned Christian turned atheist again. They may not get the attention and they may be far and few between on both sides, but they’re out there. Personally, I’m clueless as to what I am, currently.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Do you know of any Evangelicals-turned-atheists who returned to Evangelicalism? I can understand someone perhaps returning to some form of liberal Christianity or universalism, but not to Evangelicalism. The one guy I know who did ended up in a psychiatric hospital.

      I generally disregard the stories of people who say they were an atheist and then became an Evangelical. Why? Because atheism=unbelief in the Evangelical church. I can’t imagine someone fully educated is skepticism, rational thought, and religion ever choosing Evangelicalism over atheism (without some ulterior motive for doing so). I’m sure there are some people who have, but I would want to have a long discussion with them before I bought their story.

      Reply
      1. DJ

        Teresa MacBain?

        Reply
        1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

          I don’t think Teresa was ever an Evangelical. If I remember right, she came from and went back to mainline denomination.

          Reply
          1. DJ

            Ok…
            I only remember being disappointed after she went back to religion after being part of the Clergy Project.

  2. Patrick Bowers

    Not 100% sure if and/or which ones were what you’d consider Evangelical. Good points though and agreed. Would be extremely interesting to read a transcript of your long talk with one. I’ll keep searching. Thanks!

    Pat

    Reply
  3. Melody

    “God is Trying to Get Your Attention : Evangelicals believe that their God, as owner of everything, is personally and intimately involved in his creation. Despite evidence to the contrary, Evangelicals believe that God is an everyday, real presence, not only in their lives, but the lives of every person, saved or lost.”

    I don’t remember where I read it but I read somewhere: “A intervening God cannot exist in a predictable universe.” It helps me when I do doubt a little or fear of hell creeps up on me. We can predict all sorts of things precisely because things are (by and large) predictable. We know that if we throw something or it slips out of our hands that it will fall and not stay airborne etc. etc. We predict loads of things each and every day, because we know how they generally work. We ‘predict’ the store will be open, the road will still be there, the car will usually work and so on.

    The intervening God of the Bible who turns rivers into blood and stafs into snakes and back, isn’t doing those things now or we would have heard of it. If all the religious claims would really be true and dead people would actually rise today, it would be all over the news. If the Nile would turn into blood, we would sure hear about it.

    It’s a helpful reminder and when I think about it, I sometimes image fun (or scary) things, an intervening God could do at any giving time. Let dinosaurs walk around, for instance, or turn landmarks into miniture versions or fill in the blank. We wouldn’t be able to predict what will happen the next second, let alone day or week.

    Reply
  4. TLC

    In my experience, “I’ll pray for you” meant “I am willing to spare a couple of sentences for you in my thoughts, but there’s no way I’m going to spend any time, money and/or energy of my own to do anything concrete that would actually help you with this issue. Because prayer!”

    “God laid you on my heart” is one step better. “I will do exactly ONE small thing to show that I ‘responded to the Lord’ and fellowshipped with you. But after that, you’re on your own again!”

    These shallow attempts at relationship are a main reason I left these churches and will never go back.

    Reply
  5. Melody

    “What kind of God hurts people so they will love and worship him? In the real world, such abusers are considered criminals, the scum of the earth. Yet, when God abuses people it is because he loves them and he has a wonderful plan for their lives.”

    Second comment, lol. I’m on a bit of a roll, I guess 🙂 I’ve started reading Answers to Job by Jung, which I wanted to for a while, which is all about psychoanalyzing God. A good year or so before I deconverted, I read his (Jung’s, not God’s) authobiography, a little apprehensively because he was supposedly a very occult man, and he made me chuckle when talking about God, (which made me feel guilty, of course) saying things like, paraphrasing here: God needs people as much as people need him, because he longs to be worshipped. Who is God without his subjects since he is a jealous God? Or: God realized he was wrong to kill so many of his own people and Jesus was sent as a sacraficial being to redeem God’s sins (rather than mankind’s.) I’d never encountered blasphemous ideas like that before, but they made me think and I rather liked them. I was angry at the time because I felt God didn’t help me with various problems in my life and it wasn’t the first time that had happened either….

    I was interested in this book then, but read a bit of a summary online and backed away from it. It went into all these doubts, because it takes God as portrayed in Job and, well, sort of villifies him. I still believed in God, even though I was angry at him, so I wasn’t ready for it, even though it had sparked my interest.

    Anyway, according to Jung, God is not self-aware at all, Job a lot more so, and humours God in listening to him. God is amoral and throws fits like a toddler, but because he is all-powerful, very dangerous fits they are. Job has to get justice from the very hands that hurt him, which is a huge contradiction. Jung mentions Clement’s idea where God is a monothteistic being with Christ and Satan as his hands: one hand bringing good to the world and the other bad. He also mentions that God has to be and represent everything, but that means also all sorts of contradictions: being everything means being good and bad, both loving and destructive, both jealous and full of mercy, which again shows a complete lack of self-awareness and is only possible when there is no real consiousness.

    It could, of course, also mean that God was whatever his people needed him to be at any given time. It’s an interesting read to say the least and I’m enjoying it quite a bit. As an Evangelical I was ‘guarded’ against so many things including large chuncks of church history and dogma as well, especially Gnostic ideas. Jung did seem to believe in the occult and disagrees with the, in his eyes, too rational scientists as well as the orthodox believers. Both are too interested in physical evidence in his view. He doesn’t believe in dogma nor in physical proof but in psychic truths. Clearly, I have gone from orthodox believer to skeptical and ‘too’ rational 🙂 But an interesting read, regardless, about the nature of God in the book of Job.

    Reply
  6. Troy

    Someone telling you they are praying for you isn’t that bad. Keep in mind they are really praying to themselves so in short prayer is just positive thoughts.
    One way to perceive Christians who use their dogma to justify their notions that you were never really a “real” Christian for example, is to imagine they are a six year old child instructing you that you are sitting on their imaginary friend. While having an imaginary friend is actually considered a sign of intelligence and is considered healthy, it interesting the parallel with religious faith that there is an insistence that others respect the belief and join in the belief to the extent that you must watch where you sit.

    Reply
  7. exrelayman

    Well, most of my experience with “I’ll pray for you.” is as a parting shot when I refuse to buy the BS. A little triumphant exit stage left, as it were.

    A fellow I used to work with used a neat little bit of humor in response to BS. He would say, “My cow died.” The unsuspecting victim would ask why he said that, whence he would reply, “So I don’t need any more of your bull.”

    Reply
  8. Angiep

    Bruce, your last paragraph is just beautiful. I hope that my son’s children, who are not yet born, will grow up as you are seeing your grandkids grow up. I believe they will, because I was able to free myself in time to free my son from the oppression that was inflicted on him as a child in the christian church. I walked away from religion when he was about 11 (he is now 35), and I would say his recovery is even more complete than mine. And what joy he is able to experience every day of his life without it.

    Reply
  9. Mark Goodson

    All Conservapedia links removed.

    Bruce,

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

    In 2005, there were four times as many non-Western World Christians as there were Western World Christians.,Much of the overseas portion of Christendom is due to evangelical Christianity evangelists and laymen. Many of these Christians are in developed countries and slim. On the other hand, a sizable number of atheists are in China and Europe where there are significant problems with obesity.

    Bruce, if you were to weigh evidence more carefully, you would still be a Christian and not an atheist. Please read these articles and the resources they provide:

    Rebuttals to atheist arguments:

    Stagnation of atheist apologetics:

    Reply
    1. Geoff

      Sorry my friend, but if you want to go down the ‘evidence’ route then you are going to lose every time if you think it’s going to lead you to Christianity. That’s why you have to have faith to be Christian; precisely because it’s not what the evidence suggests.

      Which is why, I’d also suggest, strong believers, and especially fundamentalists, have a greater tendency to obesity than less fervent believers and atheists/agnostics. There is a firm body of evidence that links deprivation in this world with strong belief (one may be poor in this world so needs to believe more strongly in the next). With deprivation goes obesity, for reasons that are possible in the modern world, especially access to high sugar, junk foods. Conservapedia may try and tout a different view, but I think you’ll find they have little credibility in the real world.

      Reply
  10. Mark Goodson

    Geof,

    The evidence is firmly on my side in this matter.

    The World Christian Database estimates the number of Evangelicals at 300 million, Pentecostals and Charismatics at 600 million and “Great Commission” Christians at 700 million. About 94 million of the evangelicals live in the USA. In the United States, the more irreligious a generation is, the bigger the problem they have with obesity.

    Again, most Bible believing Christians live outside the developed world and are slim.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) recently reported about secular Europe:

    “Based on the latest estimates in European Union countries, overweight affects 30-70% and obesity affects 10-30% of adults.

    Estimates of the number of overweight infants and children in the WHO European Region rose steadily from 1990 to 2008. Over 60% of children who are overweight before puberty will be overweight in early adulthood.”

    Furthermore, go to Google image search. Do a search on “Orthodox Jews”. What you will find is slim people. See: https://www.google.com/search?q=orthodox+jews&safe=strict&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi8xJy19YrNAhUQOFIKHe_dCLIQ_AUICCgC&biw=800&bih=443&safe=high

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      I am not sure what point you are trying to make. My point was that Evangelicals are every bit as afflicted and overweight as non-believers. Go stand outside a few Evangelical churches and observe people as they leave the church building. You will see plenty of overweight, obese, and morbidly obese people. Same goes for sickness. Since Evangelicals are more likely to trust “prayer” to heal them, they don’t see doctors as soon as unbelievers would.

      Spending some time reading some of my other posts would have reveled to you that I write about AMERICAN Evangelicalism. Thus when I say “However, when I take a careful look at the “health” of Evangelicals, I see that they are every bit as “afflicted” as the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. Well, the Evangelical says, God uses sickness to test, try, or punish Christians. Far more important than bodily health is spiritual health,” I am referring to American Evangelicals. Neither of us have sufficient data to make any claim concerning the body size or health of Evangelicals in other countries. You have provided no evidence for your claims outside of your personal opinion and the fact that you saw some photos of skinny Evangelicals. You also wrongly assume that there is correlation between body size and health. Far more important than body size is diet and exercise. I know plenty of healthy fat people (obese according to the BMI chart) According to the BMI chart, Cleveland Cavalier star Lebron James is overweight, as are many of the men who play professional sports.

      Mark, again I am not sure what you hope to accomplish here. You are out of your depth when it comes to the arguments for/against Christianity and why I became an atheist. Providing links to Conservapedia is not considered good argumentation. As with all Evangelicals who wander into my den, I will give you one opportunity to present an argument for becoming a Christian (or rejecting atheism) that I have not heard before. Choose wisely. And please, no more links. If you want to win me back to Jesus, the ball is in your court.

      Reply
  11. Mark Goodson

    Geof,

    An addendum:

    I showed in the two previous posts that most Christians live in the developing world (non-Western World).

    Here is a Google search for the term “Christians in the developing world”: https://www.google.com/search?q=orthodox+jews&safe=strict&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi8xJy19YrNAhUQOFIKHe_dCLIQ_AUICCgC&biw=800&bih=443&safe=high#safe=strict&tbm=isch&q=+christians+in+the+developing+world

    What do you see in the pictures that Google shows as far as these Christians? By in large, the vast majority of them are slim.

    Reply
  12. Brian

    Mark Goodson, you are a fathead and your effort to relate slimness to Christianity makes me chortle and fart. You are a dullard, a dimwit.
    America is overweight and you are a bore. Are you a slim or larger bore… makes no difference to me. Go fuck yourself.

    Reply
  13. Geoff

    To be fair I think that there are individual cults that succeed in being both healthy and long lived. I’m not even going to google it but I think seventh day adventists were at the fore.

    In any event, it’s not a major issue. As Bruce points out many big people exercise and are healthy; conversely smoking is often associated with being ultra thin, and smoking’s hardly healthy.

    Reply
  14. Cob

    Bahaha. Seriously Mark Goodson, go to Europe and China. Anyone who has been there would laugh at how ridiculous your assumptions are. I’ve been to both, there’s no comparison, Americans are FAT! You remind me of people on Reddit who try to tell my brother about what it’s like in China, from what they learned on FOX “news” After all what would my brother know about China? He’s only lived there six years and traveled most of it

    Reply

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