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What Possible Motive Would I Have For Falsely Claiming to be an Atheist?

easy believismOn occasion, an Evangelical commenter will suggest that deep down in my heart of hearts I KNOW that I am still a Christian; that my claiming to be an agnostic/atheist is a ruse or some sort of misdirection meant to lead people away from finding out the truth about what and who I really am. Such a conclusion is derived from reading my writing through blood-of-Jesus-colored glasses, seeing faith where there is none. Several years ago, one commenter even went so far as to suggest that my capitalization of words such as Bible, Heaven, and Hell was proof that I am, despite my protestations, still a Christian. Taking this approach, of course, allows once-saved-always-saved Baptists to square my past with the present. Once saved by the miracle-working power of Jesus, no matter what I say or do, I cannot be separated from the love of God. No matter how hard I try to divorce myself from God or run from his presence, I remain eternally married to Jesus. Jesus is the epitome of the abusive husband in a no-divorce state. The only way to be free of Jesus is to kill him. I wonder…is it possible to kill Jesus twice?

Most thinking people will recognize that the aforementioned argument is absurd and makes a mockery of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Salvation is reduced to intellectual assent, to a set of propositional facts about the nature of God, the human condition, the need of redemption, the threat of judgment, and the promise of eternal life. If someone, as I did when a fifteen-year-old boy, sincerely believes these facts, then he or she is instantly and eternally saved. After being instantaneously saved, it matters not how the saved sinners live. They SHOULD desire to live right. Indwelt by the Holy Spirit, those born from above SHOULD desire to attend church, pray, read the Bible, and follow the commands and precepts of God. But if they don’t, they are still saved, no matter what! In other words, a Christian could renounce Jesus, reject the teachings of the Bible, embrace atheism, and live a life of debauchery; it matters not, he is still saved. Supposedly, such a life would bring God’s judgment and chastisement, but if it doesn’t, the Christian is still saved. Several Christians have suggested my health problems are God’s chastisement of me for my rebellion against him. The problem with this line of argumentation is that my health problems started years and decades before I divorced myself my Jesus. What was God up to then?

If I am still, way down in depths of my imaginary soul, a Christian, why would I claim to be an agnostic/atheist? Point to one good thing that comes from me professing to be an atheist. I live in rural Northwest Ohio. The Evangelical Jesus is on public display everywhere I look. In the Williams/Defiance/Fulton/Henry county area, three hundred churches dot the landscape. Almost all of them skew to the right theologically and politically. I am not only an atheist, I am also a pacifist and a Democratic Socialist. I am everything most people in the quad-county area are not. Being an outspoken atheist has resulted in social ostracization. While I have in recent years tried to pick my battles more carefully, I am still labeled by Christian zealots an immoral tool of Satan. I continue to despise the preferential treatment given to Christianity and I deplore attempts to promote theocratic thinking and scientific ignorance. However, I am trying to get a business up and running, so I am not as vocal as once was. I have concluded that locals can live with my godlessness as long as I don’t shove it in their face. Of course, there is this little problem called my blog. Anyone who bothers to do a search on my name — I am the only Bruce Gerencser in the world — will quickly find out my views about God, Christianity, the Bible, Evangelicalism and right-wing politics. I am not hiding my lack of belief as much as I am being more careful in choosing when, where, and how I want to take a stand against God and his anointed ones. That said, I am sure some locals would never hire me to do photography work for them, even if I was an Ansel Adams who charged Walmart photo studio prices. This is the price I pay for being who I am.

eternal securityIt seems to me that it would an easier path for me if I said I was a Christian and lived as most local Christians do — as practical atheists, espousing a cultural Christianity that is trotted out for holidays, weddings, funerals, and periodic outbursts of self-righteousness over perceived secular attacks on the baby Jesus. I would, in effect, live as if God doesn’t exist. Such living is hypocrisy at its best — saying one is a Christian, yet living as if God is a myth. Surely, if people say they are Christians, shouldn’t they make a good faith effort to live according to teachings of the Bible? Shouldn’t their lives reflect their beliefs?

I can’t think of one rational reason for me to still be a Christian, yet claim to be an atheist. Being a Christian, even in name only, is a path of ease, one that requires nothing from me. Atheism, on the other hand, brings social and cultural criticism and attack. I do my best to be an example of a good atheist, someone who lives according to the humanistic ideal. I try to let my good works show the kind of person I am. I want local Christians to know that people can be unbelievers and still live moral and ethical lives. Most of all, I want my life to be glaring contradiction, when how I live is compared to presuppositions about atheists. A Christianity worth having is evidenced not by beliefs, but by how a Christian lives. So it is with atheists. How we live our day-to-day lives is vitally important. People are watching us, trying to figure out what kind of people we really are. I want to be the best atheist in town, one who loves his fellow man and, when needed, lends his care and support to those in need. Surely, atheist and Christian alike should desire what is best not only for his progeny, but also his friends and neighbors.

If you can come up with a reason for someone to still be a Christian, yet claim to be an atheist, please share it in the comment section below.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

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  1. Avatar
    Stuart Armstrong

    >If you can come up with a reason for someone to still be a Christian, yet claim to be an atheist, please share it in the comment section below.

    A bar bet gone hideously wrong? ^_^

    But more seriously, living somewhere where atheism is the norm, I really admire someone who can be an open and virtuous atheist/humanist in the middle of such a religious area. Kudos for fighting the good fight, for living the good fight.

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    Last night I brainstormed for any reason a Christian would hide under the label of Atheist.

    • I’ve known Christians who never flat out said they were Christian but they didn’t claim Atheism either.

    • Based on the fact the term Atheist is the most mistrusted, even when compared to Congresscritters, I can’t think of one reason a Christian would hide out as an Atheist. Plus – aren’t Atheists beheaded in certain religious controlled countries?

    I liken your struggles, Bruce, to those experienced by people under the LGBTQA umbrella. Why would anyone ‘choose’ to sign up for the unending barrage of hate and discrimination aimed at a person just for being who they are?

    Re: twice dead Jesus…
    My late husband wanted a Viking funeral, him being a Viking and all. As he possesed a rare and horrible form of cancer he donated his body to science. Once the agency was done cutting off bits I’d receive his cremated remains so a traditional Viking funeral would not be possible. That’s where we came up with ‘twice baked’ hubby. The agency would cremate him and then I would burn his ashes in a ceremony later. Not sure that counts as twice dead though.

    Hope the changing season is kind to you and yours.

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      Great minds think alike. This post reminded me of a conversation I once had with a friend who is gay. For years, his mother insisted that he knew, deep down, that he wasn’t really gay; he was just “engaging in the homosexual lifestyle” as a form of “rebellion,” because his parents insisted he get a business degree instead of allowing him to study photography like he wanted. (smh…) She went to her death convinced that when he met the right girl, he would get married and settle down and stop being gay. His response to her, basically, was that given how much gay people were shunned, hated, feared, condemned and attacked (especially at the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 80s, when he came out), why would anyone willingly choose to be gay? These days, especially in the U.S., I almost think it’s more dangerous to come out as an atheist, than it is to come out as LGBTQA.

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    I can only think of one reason a Christian would pretend to be an atheist in the USA; they are an extreme masochist.

    You “flip the script” of Christian persecution. You (and all the ‘others’ outside of fundie circles) are the one marginalized and shunned. They do unto others as they imagine they are done unto. Frankly, I think it is precisely the lack of being persecuted that makes so many Christians so nasty to others. The Bible says they WILL be persecuted, so where is it? Christianity lends itself to a martyr complex very well, but since they are NOT persecuted, they persecute others the way they desire to persecuted in some giant exercise of projection.

    While I still hold a belief in a Cosmic Something, what that something is, I can’t begin to explain. But to deny it would be to deny my own experience. which I cannot do. It is precisely for that reason that I will deny your experience either, Bruce. The Humanist Manifesto that you have adopted as your moral/ethical framework is as good or better than religious ones. In fact, I find what I see on this blog more “Christ-like” than most. Calvinism, however, is inherently abusive and Dominionism (all 7 mountains/pillars/spheres theology) is a threat to the very foundations of democracy. Your blog helps me understand their methods and, surprisingly, has become a sign post on my own journey these days. I thank you deeply for both.

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    Becky Wiren

    Anotherami: when I first started reading Bruce’s blog I still considered myself a Christian. The reality is, my beliefs haven’t changed deeply, but the structure has. Basing my beliefs on a pre-existing Christian faith made it easier, even if I really was almost already a universalist. It made me feel more like the people around me, even though they are largely conservative Christian (and Republican).

    Well, I finally said to myself around 3 years ago that I wasn’t a Christian. I could call myself a liberal Christian and that would probably fly. I usually just don’t label myself. And I told my then closest friend (I thought!), and she ended our friendship in a passive-aggressive way. Certainly not by forthrightly telling me that she couldn’t be friends with a non-Christian. Just the usual bs of “Oh I’m too busy for you.”

    I also decided to try to make my decisions based on reality that I can see and depend on. Even so, I tend to make intuitive, gut decisions. But I don’t say they are “Christian” any more.

    Still, I feel a sense of connection to something bigger than myself. And as a hopeful person I hope for something after death, and I pray for guidance and wisdom. But I no longer concern myself with a person’s exact beliefs as long as they are good, decent and kind. I figure we will all be together in the end in peace and love, or we will die. Either way I’m good. 😉

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      It’s taken me a bit longer to drop the label completely, but it’s been a long time coming. Twenty-five years ago I said I was too pagan for my Christian friends and too Christian for my pagan friends. But it is that sense of connection that we share. I call that Something “God” because I don’t have a better name for it, but I’m not certain it even has a form, let alone just a super-duper extra special version of a human. But I still experience a Something that is as vast as the universe and as close as my heartbeat that fills me with awe, love and peace… well, peace sometimes. Sometimes, it is a challenge to pick myself and do better. lol

      I share your views about an afterlife. While I do hope for a heaven-like place/state, I abandoned any fear of literal hell a long time ago. After all, “perfect love casts out all fear”. And if death is just the big sleep, the older I get, the more that sounds like an ok deal too. As for the religious beliefs of others, that’s their business. How they treat others is what matters and most fundies fail badly there. Bruce’s blog has taught me *why*! And how to fight back.

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    Bruce and I both fake Atheism because we are cheap creeps who resent paying the tithe. We save the tithe for ourselves and buy booze and cigarettes. Bruce waits till dark each and every night and then swaggers around town with a single malt in hand and a cigarette hangin’ out of his craw. It’s a well-known fact. Atheism pays! By the way, Bruce smokes Marlboros. He also wears women’s underthings.

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    I always wonder why it has to be believed to work. Is it like Wiley Coyote who won’t fall off a cliff until he looks down? If salvation is as natural a force in the world as gravity belief shouldn’t be relevant. It is also a bit absurd that salvation depends on Paul telling two friends, and they tell two friends, and so on…

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      Appalachian Agnostic

      Back when I was trying really hard to hold on to belief, I convinced myself that faith was like learning to float in the water. You had to believe you could float in order to relax enough to actually float.

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    Michael Mock

    Ah, but claiming to be an atheist allows you avoid God’s judgement! Because He is all-powerful, except He can’t see you if you say you don’t believe in Him. Or something? Well, that’s what I was told…

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    Can’t think of one unless they have sociopathic tendancies and like to piss off everyone around them ?. Of course rocking the boat might give people the budge they need to reexamine their beliefs or they just stick their heads in the sand and pretend not to listen. Right now no one gains anything by claiming it except for personal reasons(being honest with yourself etc.)

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    The only reason I can think of is if one is in a scientific or academic field where atheism is the expected paradigm and religious beliefs are derided.

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