Why Evangelical Christianity has the Power to Harm and Destroy

how beliefs affect us

It concerns me that more than a few atheists dismiss religious beliefs as quaint, silly relics that pose no threat or concern to them. Unfortunately, ignorance and indifference about religious beliefs can and does have catastrophic consequences. One need only to look to the election of Donald Trump to see what happens when religious beliefs are ignored. More than eighty percent of voting white Evangelicals voted for our pussy-grabber-in-chief. Trump, ever the con-man, used Evangelical beliefs about social hot-button issues to his advantage. Trump is no more a Christian than I am, yet he and his handlers knew that exploiting Evangelicals religious beliefs would help them gain the White House. While some Evangelical voters have buyers regret, many of them continue to support Trump, regardless of how many prostitutes and porn stars come out of his closet. All that matters to them is that Trump supports their values and ideals. You see, beliefs matter.

As an atheist, I believe that Evangelical Christianity is built upon numerous lies; namely that the Christian God exists, Jesus is God, Jesus was resurrected from the dead, and that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. These four lies in particular fundamentally and ruinously affect the lives of those who believe them, especially those who spend decades as Evangelical believers. These lies affect how Evangelicals think about the world and their place in it. These lies affect how Evangelicals view others, especially those who don’t believe as they do. And most importantly, these lies affect how Evangelicals vote and engage the political process.

I am well aware that Evangelicals are somewhat diverse in belief and practice. I also realize that a smattering of Evangelicals hold progressive/liberal values. However, in the main, Evangelicals are united when it comes to the four lies mentioned above. These lies, along with others, are what make them Evangelical. If a person professes to be an Evangelical, yet rejects one or more of the aforementioned lies, then it is fair to say that he or she is Evangelical in name only.

Of these four lies, two of them have the potential to cause the greatest harm. I want to conclude this post by briefly examining these two lies.

First, the lie that Jesus resurrected from the dead fundamentally affects how Evangelicals view life and death. Why aren’t most Evangelicals concerned with global climate change? Why do they show little interest in ending war, famine, and violence? In the resurrection of Jesus, Evangelicals see the power of the Almighty on display. Their God has power over life and death. Their God controls everything, and if Jesus is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end, and he holds the world in the palm of his hand, why worry about the future? In their minds, God has an unalterable, unassailable plan for everyone. We live and die when God says we do. What happens between life and death is up to God. When you believe your God can do anything, well, anything and everything is possible. No need to worry, the one true God is always on the job.

Jesus, of course, did not rise from the dead. Jesus was human, just like the rest of us. When he died on a Roman cross, he stayed dead, never to rise again. Understanding this fact causes people to behave differently. If Jesus was a mere mortal who lived and died, then there is no hell to shun and heaven to gain. All we have is the here and now. What matters, then, is how we live in the present, knowing that what we do affects future generations, for good or ill. There’s no God coming to our rescue. There’s no God who is going to make our lives brand new. It doesn’t take much imagination to understand how different the thinking is between someone who believes the resurrection lie and someone who doesn’t.

Second, the lie that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God materially affects how Evangelicals live their day-to-day lives. People’s beliefs that the Bible is some sort of divine roadmap or blueprint for life affects the choices and decisions they make. The Sounds of Fundamentalism and Christians Say the Darnedest Things series aptly reflect what happens when people really, really, really believe that the Bible is a direct message to them from God. Why are Evangelicals endlessly up-in-arms over hot-button social issues? The Bible. Why do Evangelicals believe that the United States is a Christian nation and that the separation of church and state is harmful to their faith? The Bible. Why are Evangelicals anti-woman, anti-abortion, anti-birth control, anti-LGBT, anti-gun control, anti-same-sex marriage, and anti, anti, anti? The Bible. From invectives against how women dress to calls for Muslims/illegal immigrants to be sent back where they came from, the justification for such violence against people is found in the Bible.

If we want a better tomorrow, secularists and progressive people of faith must attack and destroy the lie that the Bible is in any way some sort of supernatural message sent to humans by a supernatural God. While the Bible certainly has teachings that have cultural and social value, in the main the Bible remains a Bronze Age religious text that has little relevance for today. In fact, the Bible is one of the most dangerous books ever written. When literally believed, it becomes a weapon with the power to kill and destroy. Religious Fundamentalism (and Evangelicalism is inherently Fundamentalist) harms everything it touches. We must not allow the lie about the nature of the Bible to go unchallenged. Ignoring the power the Bible holds over Evangelicals will only further our democracy’s demise. When people who believe the Bible is divine gain the power of the state, we shouldn’t be surprised when the United States becomes a theocracy. If we don’t want the Christian flag flying over the White House, we must muster every available tool in the secularist, rationalist toolbox to expose the lie that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God.

I realize my words might seem harsh to some of my Evangelical readers. But, recent battles over gun control, abortion, LGBT rights, same-sex marriage, and immigration have taught me that this is not the time to live and let live. If truth is to prevail, then lies must be exposed. If truth really matters to Americans, then exposing Evangelical Christianity for what it is — a religious political party — is essential. All one needs to do is look at the Ohio legislature, Congress, and the Trump presidency to see what believing lies can do. Sitting idly on the sidelines watching Bart Ehrman debates on YouTube or reading the latest, greatest book on atheism is not the answer. Like it or not, non-Evangelicals must educate themselves about Evangelical beliefs and practices. In doing so, we are better equipped to wage war against the cultural genocide being waged in the name of God. One of the reasons I continue to slog through Evangelical blogs, websites, and social media is because I know it is important to do so; not so much for myself, but for my children and grandchildren. By exposing what it is Evangelicals say and do, I shine a light on their absurdities and lies. Just remember, Evangelicals really do believe the words they write and speak. That alone should scare all of us into action.

Remember, beliefs matter.

Note

Takeshi Kovacs is a character in books written by Richard K/ Morgan — Altered Carbon, Broken Angels, and Woken Furies. Altered Carbon was recently turned into a Netflix series starring Joel Kinnaman as Takeshi Kovacs. I watched the first season of Altered Carbon and found it to a delightful, yet complex futuristic drama. I heartily recommend it for your viewing.

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.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

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9 Comments

  1. Cheezit99

    You know…I deconverted realizing the religion was harmful. My deconversion was about 6 months ago. I stared at myself in the mirror and had a crisis of conscience, thinking who am I allied with here, being with these Christians that support everything evil? As a Christian I wrote on Christian websites against Dominionism, war mongering, and hated the religious right, but I found myself very alone until I figured out something was very wrong with the entire “operating system”. I was a fundie on the outs, and well I never really belonged.

    I believe now that Christianity especially in it’s evangelical and fundamentalist forms is now a very destructive force in America. I believe many on the left, don’t even realize it’s dangers. They want to be accepting and tolerant of other people’s beliefs, I get that piece, since I crawled out of the fundie hell pit where there was no toleration for other beliefs, but there is true damage being done and being planned in this country.

    I am horrified that so many years of my adult life was based on false beliefs and it troubles me. These false beliefs are harmful. Christianity sadly in it’s extreme forms and it is the extreme form seeking to rule America, is a death cult that is against many aspects of progress, a civil society, and compassion for other human beings. I think I woke up and got out, realizing that inside my cognitive dissonance was growing and I couldn’t take it anymore, I realized the religion that claimed to be loving, and caring about human beings wasn’t. This was tied to Yahweh and his sociopathic hell.

    I deconverted almost to the day I said in my mind, “A Brutal god makes for a brutal people’ and the authoritarianism in politics was related to core foundational doctrines in Christianity like the horror of hell. I am in the Unitarian Universalist church and have become more politically involved. Some people need to make a stand for reason and sanity again.

    Reply
    1. Angiep

      Congratulations, and thanks for sharing.

      Reply
  2. ObstacleChick

    Cheezit99, welcome to rationalism. It can be a tough road, and as the quote Bruce posted attests, coming to the truth can tear one apart. But there is healing. (Just finished watching Altered Carbon, great concept).

    I think my non-fundie-raised friends don’t understand how dangerous fundamentalism can be. It is certainly personally destructive to one’s psyche, but on a national scale it can be absolutely devastating to freedom.

    Reply
  3. Connie

    I’m a big picture kind of gal and this is how I see our here/now:

    When the “Moral Majority” (in quotes because they are neither) was allowed access to the White House back in the day I paid attention. My relatives are Dominionists and they have not been coy about their desire to turn the USA into a theocracy. Step by step, school board by school board Dominionists placed their operatives. Thirty plus years later (aka Now) they have control of government in many States. It will not be easy to get rid of them because as Bruce writes they Believe.

    With the force of a thousand suns they believe the USA is their shining city upon the hill. They believe their deity gave this nation to them and to hell (literally) with anyone that stands in their way. They believe anyone not swallowing their flavor of kool aid is not equal and doesn’t deserve any rights guaranteed by our laws.

    In my opinion, the only reason we are not a theocracy today is the fight over the details. So many branches and churches of evangelicals and fundamentalists. So many interpretations of their holy book. So many opportunities to get in their own way. If they ever came together and forgave differences the rest of us citizens would be toast.

    I believe Dominionists had their dominos lined up for the 2016 election. Ted Cruz was supposed to be the winner. Ah, the best laid plans and all that… I’m not a fan of Trump but what he did to the elaborate machinations of the Dominonists almost gives him a pass in my book. Almost.

    It doesn’t matter if We The People believe in the same deity or believe in deity at all. It does matter that we believe in ourselves and in our Constitution and Bill of Rights. It is the only way to ensure our nation of One Out of Many endures.

    Reply
  4. Joel

    Looks like not much has changed since way back on the savannah, everyone fighting for survival and preeminence. In this case the survival and preeminence of ideas/beliefs. The question is, at what point would you intentionally harm others in defense of your convictions? For good or ill, that is the mark of extremism.

    Reply
  5. Troy

    An instructive scenario is Turkey (the country) where Erdoğan has pretty much installed himself as theocratic dictator. Turkey was one of the few Muslim countries that were actually established as a secular republic. The theocratic forces are strong there and the military would periodically have to overthrow the resident theocrat to continue the secular tradition. The recent coup attempt against Erdoğan was likely planned and implemented by Erdoğan himself. Then he could stifle the attack before a real attack occurred.
    They only hope for the United States is the rise in the percentage of atheists as a proportion of the population. Evangelicals and conservative Catholics have already joined forces because of the rise of the secular tide. But your astute observation that this is actually the rise of a theocratic party is spot on.
    While Trump rallied the theocrats, he isn’t one of them. It would be sad (but interesting as an observer) if Pence were to take over. He is the real McCoy.

    Reply
  6. Becky Wiren

    I’m afraid I agree with Bruce, but most of his readers would agree that Fundamentalist/Evangelical Christianity is dangerous. Those of us opposed will have to continue to oppose their desire to take over our country. Some of us fight with time and marches, some of us fight with money. But it is important to oppose these Dominionists everywhere we can.

    One note: I enjoyed watching the first few episodes Altered Carbon. However, it is an imaginative show for mature adults.

    Reply
  7. Michael Alioto

    Luckily, I deconverted in my early 20’s. I was “spiritual” in my 20’s-mid 40’s. I didn’t proclaim to be an atheist til I was in my late 40’s. I am 54 now.

    And although, I know what Bruce said IS RIGHT (about how the lies affect their thinking), I have my whole immediate family (my parents, siblings, their spouses and kids) that still drink the Pentecostal Kool-Aid. And mind you, I’m still VERY close to my family and they are the most “Christ-Like” humans on the planet! They know I’m an atheist, and when I left Christianity and the church in my 20’s (their church that they still go to), there was a definite rift that went through my relationship with them. That rift is now non-existent.

    Every now and then my mom will get in a comment that I will say “Well Mom, if you don’t want to have this conversation with me, don’t say that!” or “Well Mom, first you have to see how insane it is to believe that (insert lie here…like creation, world procreation, the flood, the exodus…etc)”. To which she will reply “Well, I don’t want to talk about it. I’ll just get upset.”

    I don’t mind having a negative outlook on all religion and people who believe this crap…but when it comes to my family, I feel saddened that I can’t get them to see how brainwashed they really are. To them, they have happy, healthy lives with great families (and they do). Their beliefs do not impact them in any negative way that I can see. And even though they believe a lie (and I’ve told them so…very nicely…many times), they’re reactions to subjects like global warming, Trump, gay people…aren’t the usual. They accept gay people into their homes, we have them during holiday events (no preaching is done). My family are truly amazing people….kind and giving.

    This is sometimes a struggle for me…because just as much as they wanna shake me and say “Can’t you see…?”, I wanna do the same!

    But in the end…we love each other!

    Reply
    1. Joel

      Well said Michael!

      “But in the end…we love each other!”

      And therein lies the answer.

      Reply

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