Christian Man Thinks I Turned From the Faith So I Could Commit Immorality

peanut gallery

Email From the Peanut Gallery

Several days ago, I received an email from a Christian man by the name of Tim Clark. Here’s a screen shot of Tim’s email:

email from tim clark

Tim could have found the answers to his “thoughtful” questions by exercising a bit of curiosity and reading the posts found on the WHY page. Unfortunately, Tim evidently is not the curious sort, so after reading a couple of posts he decided to email me. Tim came to this site via an internet search. He landed on my post about a California pastor accused of sexual misconduct. I suspect Tim was looking for the latest dirt on this preacher, and, while reading my post, decided to email me about what he suspects is my own “immorality.”

Tim’s email subject line says, “Are you “free” now? He put the word free is scare quotes. I assume he did so because he believes that no one is truly free unless they have been saved; that non-Christians such as myself are in bondage to sin and Satan. Telling Tim, YES, I AM FREE, THANK REASON, I AM FREE, will surely fall on deaf ears. For Tim and other zealots like him, the dictates of the Bible determine who is free and who is not. Christians are free, everyone else is not. No amount of discussion will change Tim’s view of me. I walked away from Jesus, and nobody does that without having some sort of secret desire to live sinfully, especially sexual sin. (It’s always sexual sin, right? Evangelicals are voyeurs, obsessed with sex — who is doing it, when, where, how, and with whom.)

My first thought after reading Tim’s email was to tell him to go fornicate with himself. I am more than a little tired of self-righteous Evangelicals who refuse to accept my story at face value. I am beyond tired when it comes to receiving emails and Facebook comments from Christians who are certain that there is some other reason than what I have stated for my loss of faith. But, tired as I may be, I will muster up a bit of strength so I can answer Tim’s questions. Or are they accusations? Either way, here are my answers.

Did I “turn from the faith” to “justify some sin in [my] life”?  No, I did not. As the posts on the WHY page make clear, the primary reason I deconverted was that I no longer believed the central claims of Christianity; I no longer believed the Bible was what Christians claimed it was; I no longer believed the Christians narrative could be intellectually and rationally sustained. Simply put, Christianity no longer made any sense to me. (Please read The Michael Mock Rule: It Just Doesn’t Make Sense.)

What Tim really wants to know is whether I turned from the faith to justify “immorality” in my life? Why would I have left Evangelicalism to live an immoral life? As The Black Collar Crime series makes clear, Evangelical preachers can commit adultery, fornication, and even be sexual predators, all while preaching the gospel and condemning sinful behaviors. If I desired to have sexual affairs, chase after prostitutes, frequent gay bars, or get massages at the local massage parlor, I could have done so and still remained an Evangelical pastor. When feeling guilt or conviction over my immorality, all I would have had to do was confess my sins (I John 1:9) and Jesus would cleanse me of my sin.

I can tell Tim this much, I have never had an affair. Thirty-nine years ago, I stood at the altar of the Newark Baptist Temple and told my bride that I would be faithful to her unto death. I can humbly say that I have kept that vow. I am far from perfect, having done things that are sure to be on Tim’s sin list, but not adultery. Have I ever looked at porn, been to a strip club, walked through the door of an adult book store, or “lusted” after a woman who is not my wife? Yes. And a survey of Christian men would show that most of them have too. In fact, I am quite sure that Tim, if he is a normal, healthy, heterosexual male, has lusted after women too. Jesus said in Matthew 5:28:

But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.

I have no doubt that most men, at one time or the other, have “looked on a woman to lust after her” and have “committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

Evangelical zealots looking to root out the real reasons for my loss of faith will continue to poke and prod, hoping that I will someday reveal the secret sins that lie buried in the depths of my sin-darkened heart. These Geraldo Riveras of Christianity will surely be disappointed. I have been quite transparent, open, and honest about my past and the reasons I am no longer a Christian. If the Tims of the world can’t accept what I say at face value, that’s their problem, not mine. Have I aired out every corner of my life for all to see? Of course not. As all writers do, I choose what I want to tell readers, leaving buried things that are too painful to talk about. Perhaps someday I will write about the secrets that remain, but for now I have told all I need to tell to adequately relate my story. Readers can rest assured that there will be no women coming forward to tell about having adulterous liaisons with Bruce Gerencser.

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25 Comments

  1. Geoff

    I’m reminded of one of my favourite sayings

    “Morality is doing what is right regardless of what you are told
    Religion is doing as you are told regardless of what is right”

    I’ve been told by Christians that this is a meaningless, glib comment, intended only to demean their beliefs. It isn’t. I consider it fundamentally incredibly accurate, because morality is behaviour that comes from within. I like to think that, on the whole, I’ve behaved reasonably well through life, but that’s because I have a level of empathy that makes me this way. Christians believe they behave well because they have someone watching their every move, waiting to pounce at the least breach of the rules. Well firstly, most Christians behave the way they do for precisely the same reason that I, and most do, because they are actually decent people. Secondly, it’s a type of thinking that turns your mind, makes you behave in ways that are patently wrong; just look at people like Fred Phelps or Steven Anderson, and think of so-called Christian approaches to homosexuality, abortion, and transgender.

    Reply
    1. anotherami

      Geoff, I think most Christians world-wide are decent people, but I’m slowly coming to the conclusion that at least some, if not many, of the most rigid and controlling fundamentalists here in America actually aren’t very decent and therefore need an authoritarian, all-consuming framework of morality imposed on them.

      In their tirades against sin, they describe some of the most heinous and brutal acts one can imagine in great detail and with a zealousness that I find disturbing. And of course it’s only the saving grace of JEE-zus that will keep the devil from making YOU do those horrible things too! Because of total depravity you see….

      Calvinism is a curse on mankind and if the fundies are actually correct and Satan has perverted Christ’s church, I’m more and more convinced that he did it through Calvinism and they are the ones who were deceived. “…by their fruits you shall know them…”

      Reply
  2. DJ

    Bruce, this kind of action from some people really bugs me. It is hard to dismiss and hard to explain what they are really doing. It seems that this Tim person won’t accept the simple denial of…”No, I did not”. He has already accepted and ingrained his own reaction and reasoning of your life. He misrepresented, distorted and fabricated your position then presented his position as reasonable. In my opinion, that’s the Strawman Fallacy.

    Reply
  3. Melody

    There is no difference between actions and thoughts in Christianity: that’s why they think prayer works 😉

    I remember on an other blog that this subject came up and one man said that he lived precisely the same as he had all those years as a Christian. The biggest sin he could think of was buying one really good bottle of whiskey every year! (And maybe not sharing it, lol) He lived a very quiet life and nearly all the sins that are generally listed are about outgoing activities: visiting ‘evil’ places and so on.

    Personally, my life hasn’t changed all that much either. I still go to church on Christmas and so on and a few times during the year. My life, my hobbies, nothing all that much has changed, nothing but my mind and the way I think and how I view the world, myself and other people. Which is, of course!, a whole lot, but it has nothing to do with wanting to sin….

    They really do not get it, do they? They really don’t.

    And, many things that I already did as as Christian I no longer see as sin. I used to, and now I don’t. Like watching movies, or reading non-Christian books with some erotic scenes in them, or even worse, writing them 😉 I already did that; the only difference being: I no longer feel guilty or bad about it.

    It is precisely that which makes the biggest difference in the world. Not the ‘sins’ themselves, as you so accurately pointed out, it is not as if Christians don’t ‘sin’ themselves the entire time!

    Reply
  4. Carmen

    Bruce, these types of comments are meant to do one thing and one thing only, in my opinion. A means to virtue signal. The underlying message is, “I am so pure and dedicated I’d never turn my back on my invisible ‘father/friend/mentor’ like Bruce did . . I’m SO worthy!”.

    Nothing but an “I’m special because I’m a Christian” flag.

    Reply
  5. Tim

    So the story of your life that you most want to be all over the internet is the fact the you left your faith? Seriously? That’s sad.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      We all have a story to tell. There are many layers and complexities to my story. Too bad you haven’t taken the time to read and understand this. I do know that my story has been helpful to many people. The Bible is filled with stories, right? Do you object to these stories being told in church or in your home? It is through the telling of our stories that we pass on important truth that hopefully will help others. Based on eight years of interacting publicly and privately with readers, I can confidently say that telling my story has been encouraging and helpful to thousands of people. I have reached far more people as a ex-Christian writer than I ever did as a pastor,

      Reply
      1. DJ

        Bruce, your story helped me tremendously after I left my faith. THANK YOU! I’m not sad at all anymore! Seriously!
        ~DJ~

        Reply
    2. Sarah

      Why should it matter to you? My poor sweet father in law was the closest person I have ever known to a saint. He took in the troubled and was a second father to everyone he knew. He was not allowed to die in peace because he was an atheist. What is wrong with you? Why can’t people like you just leave the rest of us alone? Bruce helped my marriage. Why assume he is immoral because he chose to be an atheist? Let’s just see who’s done me more good in my life: Buddha or Jesus? Thanks to good Christians my husband had everything stolen from him. Good Christians told me I was possessed because I was raped even though I was a defenseless child. Good Christians made me feel guilty for being bi, even though I am happily married to my husband and have never cheated. Good Christians told my husband that he was responsible for his mother’s death, he was 11 when she died of cancer. Good Christians almost drove me insane. Buddha’s teachings saved me. I an not saying that all Christians are bad people, but I am tired of the purity obsessed, supposedly good Christian who is the true definition of idiot(it originally meant self god) who feel that they have the right to make the rest of us suffer. What is your issue? You all obviously have too much time on your hands, or maybe too much guilt over your own sins, or too little self esteem. I don’t know. But why can’t you just go on with your own business and leave the rest of us alone?

      Reply
      1. Becky Wiren

        Bravo, Sarah! You hit the nail on the head. Super purity obsessed Christians want to make the rest of us miserable. They want to run the country (into the ground if need be) to manipulate our laws in their favor. And yet, too frequently they break their own laws. They commit many sexual sins, including NON-consensual sex. (Such as, rape of adults and rape of children.)

        So in the end, I think it’s about control. They can’t stand the idea of us being happy outside of their tribe, doing evil (only from their POV)…like gay marriages, or people having consensual (between consenting ADULTS) sex outside of heterosexual marriage. It doesn’t matter that the rest of us aren’t stopping THEM from being churlish prudes. Oh no, we are taking away their right to make the rest of us miserable. As my favorite comedian Lewis Black would say, “Fuck ’em!”

        Reply
        1. Sarah

          Thank you for the kind reply. I don’t understand why people want to suffer. Life is a such a joy. I am so thankful that my husband never stops questioning everything. He is a very happy monopantheist and what is strange is that everything I wanted for him, he has but on his terms. I am just so thankful for everyone here because what Tim does not see is that is approach drives out people from the faith. I am a really open minded liberal Christian, and I am not sure if Christian is the right term because I really believe in Love more than anything else. I think that the only hell is the lack of Love and I wonder if people like that are really there.

          Reply
    3. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      I assume you have no problem with Christians sharing their faith, their story. Why should it be any different for me? Just as Christians hope by telling their story that people will be attracted to Jesus and Christianity, so it is for former Evangelicals such as myself. I want people to know that there can be life, good life post-Jesus. Just as churches provide community, this blog provides a place for former Evangelicals to interact and share their stories.

      Reply
      1. Dale

        A unique problem when everyone is allowed to share their faith: https://youtu.be/f4CizzE-zZo

        Reply
    4. J.D. Matthews

      That whooshing sound you hear is the point and this entire discussion flying entirely above your head, Tim.

      Reply
  6. Sarah

    What is really sad is that the worst examples of morality that I know are supposedly “good Christians”. The morals Tim should be worried about are his own.

    Reply
  7. Brian

    Bruce, I believe the IFB phrasing is Fornicate with thyself. Be careful! When you stoop to modern language and ideas, you are a bellows to Hellfire! If you are offended by my censure, then do not respond to me but to the One who directs my voice.

    And regarding lust, the sad biped who feels no desire, no lust for some other excepting of course in the midst of serious physical illness, is altogether lost and probably irreparably damaged by Religion and other foundational human abuse. It is natural and very simply human Glory in the sensual life of humanity, of the natural world, of the ability to love and be loved. Work in your garden and feast on it. If you cannot occupy and fill your own life with being human and must take me aside to call me fallen and doomed, then fuck you! Kindly fuck thyself and begone. Every church badly stains so much more than its pretty windows. It stains humanity. It takes pure light and hides it in false love, in fearful hatreds, in delusion.

    Reply
  8. Scott

    Generally Christians making the “you want to sin” comment are engaged in weapons grade projection about their own lives. They know what it is that they like and or whatever and are chomping at the bit to get a bit freer.

    Besides it seems that the only “sin” they worry about is what others are doing in bed. It might behoove them to pay attention to the needs of their community rather than worrying that someone else’s orgasm count is way above theirs.

    Reply
    1. Angiep

      I love this blog because I always learn something new by hearing other viewpoints. I never thought about Christians projecting their own desire to do things that are forbidden to them just by the stupid superimposed religious rules they live by. Maybe they do, consciously or subconsciously, envy the freedom we enjoy. Your succinct second paragraph was loaded, too, and needs no comment!

      Reply
  9. That Other Jean

    I am, at best, agnostic. I don’t believe in sin* but I do believe in making wrong choices. And in responsibility to yourself and your partner. I cannot for the life of me understand why admiring a person of the opposite (or the same) sex is a wrong choice. It’s a passing feeling, not an uncontrollable lust.

    I married my husband fifty years ago this month, and have never had an affair. Neither has he. But we can both see a beautiful person and acknowledge their beauty. We are, after all, married, not dead. The rules in our household are simple: Don’t drool; don’t cat-call; don’t touch. Be responsible.

    *Except as described by Terry Pratchett’s Granny Weatherwax:

    “And sin, young man, is when you treat people as things. Including yourself.”

    Reply
  10. John Arthur

    Hi Bruce,

    Some Fundamentalists (I assume this guy is one) don’t seem to live in the real world and observe how humans behave.
    He thinks that atheists have no morality and this guy is obsessed with sexual immorality.

    Apparently he can’t see that many atheists are kind, considerate and thoughtful persons and have a decent ethics. His mind is so closed to empirical reality that he just has to make up a reason why you departed from the faith. His holy book tells us that we are desperately wicked, so he goes by this and then says to himself (due to his obsession) that it must be the desire for illicit sex that caused your departure. He doesn’t bother to read enough of your blog to find out the real reason,

    Shalom,

    John Arthur

    Reply
  11. Michael Mock

    Tim: “Just curious. you turned from the fiath to justify some sin in your life, right? immorality?”

    Me:
    No, Tim. That’s almost never how it works. See, when a Christian decides to sin, they never bother to leave the faith first. They just sin. Most of them then feel guilty and pray for forgiveness. Sometimes they instead insist that the people they’ve hurt have an obligation (y’know, as Christians) to forgive them.

    But as a general thing, nobody leaves Christianity in order to justify some sin or immorality. They stay right there inside the faith, sinning and being immoral.

    Those of us who actually leave the faith do it for other reasons entirely.

    Reply
  12. Trenton

    The main difference between the sins I committed while a christian and those I commit now is that I am now much more cognizant of the consequences of my actions on others and also the total lack of a purity culture/vengeful deity throwing you into hell guilt complex. Those things aside Mr. Mock’s comment perfectly describes what happened to me.

    Reply
  13. Dale

    Oh hey! I know which sins those are! Being a fan of the Bengals and the Buckeyes. Well I hope you’re happy, Bruce!

    Reply
  14. Chris

    Behold the monthly sacrifice of a Christian twit. Let’s do the world a favor and break their faith.

    Reply
  15. Dale

    Transparent, open, and honest. Bruce, you have been all that and more and you didn’t even have to believe in a God who would slay you for stepping in the wrong direction.

    Transparent, open, and honest: Tim, let’s get real. How many preachers, evangelists, bobble-thumping pew sitters do you know who are like that?

    Reply

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