Dear Evangelical, Here’s The Number One Reason We Can’t be Friends

lets be friendsIt is not uncommon for me to receive emails and Facebook friend requests from Evangelicals who really, really, really want to be my friend. These What a Friend We Have in Jesus Christians think that the reason I am no longer a follower of Jesus is because I never had good Christian friends. In fact, during my years as an Evangelical church member and pastor, I had countless friends, including several men I would have considered my BFFs — best friends forever. (These best friends of mine had a different definition of forever, abandoning me once I started having doubts about Christianity and my faith.)

In November 2008, my divorce from Jesus was final, and those who once called me friend turned to praying for me, preaching sermons about me, gossiping about me, and sending me caustic, judgmental emails. Into this friendless void jump Evangelicals eager to be “real” friends with Bruce Gerencser, the Evangelical pastor-turned-atheist. Why do these friendship seekers want to be friends with me?

Some of them naïvely think that if I am just willing to be exposed to their kind, compassionate, loving version of Christianity that I will somehow, some way, be drawn back into the Evangelical fold. Their goal is the restoration of Bruce Gerencser. In other words, their offer of friendship has an ulterior motive — to win me back to Jesus.

Such attempts to be friends with me irritate the hell out me. I hate it when people, regardless of the reason, have ulterior motives when contacting me. Generally, I can spot ulterior motives a mile away. Depending of my mood, I might respond to these secret agents for Jesus by asking, what is it that you REALLY want?  Cut the bullshit and tell me what it is you really want from me.

I have zero interest in having meaningful friendships with Evangelicals. I am fine with being acquainted with or doing business with Evangelicals, but I have no desire to have them over for dinner or to get our families together on the Fourth of July. And the reasons for this are not what Evangelicals might think. No, I don’t hate God, Christianity, or the Bible. None of the reasons Evangelicals think atheists are “unfriendly” apply here. Not that I am unfriendly. People who know me — saved or lost — know that I am a kind, compassionate, loving man with, when provoked, a bit of a quick-to-rise-and-recede redheaded temper. I am kind to animals, don’t step on ants, and don’t kill spiders. I lovingly endure my grandchildren jumping on me as if they are fighting in a MMA match, even though my body screams in pain.  I love my friends, neighbors, and family. I get along well with others, even when put in circumstances made difficult by the airing political and religious viewpoints I oppose. Simply put, on most days, I am a good man, brother, husband, father, and grandfather. Like everyone, I fall short in my relationships with others. When I hurt those who matter to me, I do my best to make things right. So whatever stereotype these friendship seekers might have of atheists, I don’t fit the bill.

The one and only reason I don’t befriend Evangelicals is their belief about hell.  Evangelicals believe that all humans are sinners, and without putting their faith and trust in Jesus Christ they will go to hell — a place where all non-Christians spend eternity suffering eternal damnation in utter darkness and searing flames. Knowing that the high temperatures in hell (and later, the Lake of Fire) would turn unsaved humans into sizzling grease spots, the Evangelical God of love gives them bodies capable of enduring never-ending pain and suffering. What a wonderful God, right?

I will soon be sixty years old. Sometime beyond this moment, I will draw my last breath. According to Evangelicals, the very next moment after I close my eyes in death, I will awake in hell, ready to begin my eternal sentence of unimaginable pain and suffering. (A theological point in passing. Most Evangelicals believe what I just wrote; however, according to orthodox Christian theology, God doesn’t give the saved and lost new bodies until Resurrection Day. So, I am not sure what it is that suffers when I land in hell, but it won’t be my body. Maybe my suffering will come from my mind be subjected to a never-ending loop of Evangelical sermons and praise and worship ditties.)

Why, you ask, will I be tortured by God in hell for eternity? One reason, and one reason alone — I do not believe Jesus is anything Christians say he is. And since Jesus is not God, not a Savior, and not divine in any way, and I see no evidence of his eternal existence in the present world, I have no reason to worship him. No matter how good a man I might be, all that matters when it comes to an eternity spent in heaven or hell is if I have checked the box on the Evangelical decision card that says: Yes, I prayed the sinner’s prayer and asked Jesus to forgive me and save me from my sins.

So, I ask you, WHY in the names of all humanity’s gods would I want to be friends with anyone who thinks I deserve to be put on the Evangelical God’s rack and stretched for years without end? You see, dear friendship seeker, it is your belief about hell and my eternal destiny that makes it impossible for me to be your friend. No, hell isn’t real, and I don’t fear what may come of me after death, but you believe these things to be true and they stand in the way of us having a meaningful friendship. I am thoroughly convinced that in this life and this life alone do I have immortality. Once death claims me for its own, I will cease to be. Those who were friends with me, will hopefully toast my life, telling their favorite Bruce stories. In time, as is the case for all of us, I will be but a fading memory, a mere blip on the screen of human life.

Bruce, surely you can ignore their beliefs about hell and accept their offer of friendship. Sure, I could, but why should I? Why would I want to be friends with someone who thinks I deserve eternal punishment, who thinks I have done anything to deserve being endlessly tortured by God. Life is too short for me to give my friendship to people who believe their God plans to eternally roast me in the Lake of Fire if I don’t believe as they do.

These days, I have two Evangelical friends, whom I have known for fifty years and thirty years, respectfully. Our friendship works because we do not discuss religion or politics (unless asked). We have many things in common — children, grandchildren, love of good food, Cincinnati Reds — so we have no need to talk about the things not spoken of in polite company. I remain their friends, first, because I love them, and second, because I have a lot of years invested in our friendship. If these dear friends of mine were new acquaintances today, I highly doubt we would be friends.

Well, fine, Bruce, I WON’T be friends with you!!!  Okey dokey, smoky, don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out. I am too old to care whether someone is my friend or likes me. These days, my friend list is short, but those who are on it love and support me, and I am grateful for them being in my life. To Evangelicals who are butt-hurt because I won’t play in the sandbox with them, I say this: pick a new God who is not a violent, murderous psychopath and worship her. Then maybe, just maybe, we can be friends. As long as you hold the company line concerning sin, death, judgment, and hell, I will not be your friend.

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11 Comments

  1. Geoff

    I’m lucky, in the sense that I had little exposure to religion as a child, and even fervent believers quite clearly conveyed the idea that ‘hell’ is just a myth, useful in allegory.

    Most of our childish beliefs we grow out of. Certainly the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny, Santa Claus, and (to the more enlightened) Jesus. None are what I would describe as overly harmful (well maybe Jesus?) and we can enjoy watching our own kids and grandkids going through the same process. Yet hell is on a different level. If I were in power I’d seriously consider criminalising the teaching of the concept to children on the basis it amounts to psychological abuse.

    Reply
  2. Brian

    Christians use you to harm themselves by forcing their manipulations in your direction. It is not really about Bruce Almighty at all: You are a pawn, sir, in the great Christian chess game where we learned to hurt ourselves from the inside out and finally lose the Queen and King of our own being. When you are contacted to be a friend on F-book or somewhere, it is a kinky request. People who do it want you to hurt them. Whether or not you respond, they with continue to harm themselves, fer Chrise sake.
    A long time ago, I had to finally admit to myself that I am the author of my life. This helped me in some measure to get help that I needed to see the extent to which I had given up myself and was trying to accomplish more of HIM and less of me. It is an insidious game best taught to wee children and reinforced throughout their childhood. Few will escape if you get them young. It is all legal and saves on taxes too.

    Reply
  3. Michael Mock

    No, see, it’s okay. I didn’t become friends with you in order to win you back to Christianity.

    You see, I’m an independent business owner, and I think you’d be interested in learning how to make money as an independent business owner as well — and maybe even recruiting some downstream IBOs of your own eventually. There’s a meeting tonight if you’d like to know more…

    Reply
  4. Becky Wiren

    Well, I lost a Catholic friend 3 years ago when I decided to tell her I wasn’t a Christian any longer. I’m pretty sure she’s convinced herself it was some other reason. But I was already anomalous in her world and that was a bridge too far. At least Catholics that I know don’t preach the way fundies do.

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  5. Justine Valinotti

    Bruce,

    I would be willing to bet that those people who un-friended (sorry to use Facebook parlance!) didn’t do so because you became an atheist. Rather, I suspect that it’s because you are a kind and compassionate man who loves his animals and hi wife, kids and grandkids. That you could be such a person, without their faith, is probably an affront to their worldview.

    That, I imagine, is also the reason why they want to bring you back into the fold, if you will. For whatever reasons, they need to believe that a person who is loving and kind simply must have the grace of God (or, at least, their version of God) flowing through him.

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  6. Becky Wiren

    I find myself disbelieving that Fundamentalists care about morality. Oh, I used to think they did, but the fact is, they’ve given all their morality for power, as of November 9, 2016. 80% of Evangelicals voted for Trump. Think about it.

    Reply
    1. oldbroad1

      sigh………….coming from NJ and knowing a contractor in Atlantic City that got screwed over by the orange twatwaffle for the work he did at at the Taj Mahal, I was never fooled by this asshole. Sigh – thank you Michigan and Wisconsin for this plague on our country,

      Reply
  7. Sarah

    YupI believe in hell,hell is to have totally sacrificed oneself on the altar of blind obedience and never fully be the person who you were meant to be. Hell is I will love you, but…. I think most evangelicals are miserable because every relationship they have is conditional, and I think the real reason they are so desperate to convert the rest of us is that misery loves company, and the rest of us don’t suffer enough according to them.

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  8. Jeff

    Lol..You mean President Trump who has created the best economy in 50 years?You mean the only president to take on China ripping us off for decades? You may want to re think your negative comments about him from 2017. I guess you like America last instead of first?

    Not sure why Bruce has turned so virulent against GOD/JESUS. Ok so you had a bad experience in Evangelical circles. Life goes on. Of course JESUS exists. So you are saying every single interaction with CHRIST is false that people have had? All of them? Including the pastor who died and wrote the book “90 minutes in Heaven? among many others by various people. Why would the guy who wrote ” 23 minutes in hell” make it up? People who claimed to have met JESUS only have to be right once.

    Atheists are hopeless. And bitter. No hope in this life. Bruce, repent for your anger against GOD and go back to church. Life is a vapor. Eternity is not. CHRIST is not burdensome but easy. Being an atheist is far harder than being a Believer. Choose Heaven and not hell. Atheism is a meaningless spin cycle.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      *sigh*

      My viewpoint of Trump hasn’t changed, and neither has my view of Evangelical blowhards such as you.

      I’m fixing to watch the Game of Thrones finale. It’s a true story because George R. Martin wrote in a book. Snap, there goes that argument. . .

      Reply
    2. GeoffT

      Jeff, you are very deluded indeed. Trump is building on an economy that was boosted by Obama. The tariff wars against China are stupid, a lesson that history taught us 200 years ago. Then again, education and reason have never been Trump’s strengths!

      As for needing faith to be an atheist, I have no idea from which religious farmyard you derived this ridiculous quote, though I do see it from time to time. I am an atheist because I don’t buy the god hypothesis, just as you, presumably, don’t believe in leprechauns or pixies. No faith needed there, now is there! Indeed I’ll bet you are nearly as much an atheist as I am, in that you don’t believe in any of the other gods of the world, just the one. So we’re just one god apart in our beliefs.

      Reply

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