I recently asked readers to submit questions to me they would like me to answer. If you would like to submit a question, please follow the instructions listed here.
Neal asked, Bruce, are you certain Christianity is false?
Neal shared with me his own thoughts about the validity of religion in general, saying that while he believes Christianity is false, he has been unable to “completely dismiss Christianity wholesale.” Neal goes on to say, “I want to be able to do so, but I am not sure what to with this lingering doubt it is remotely possible.”
Evangelicals will seize of Neal’s doubts as a sure sign that the Holy Spirit is still working on him, and that his doubts are God saying, “Neal, trust me. By faith, believe what the Bible says is true.” Some Evangelicals, hoping to capitalize on Neal’s lingering doubts, might try to use Pascal’s Wager to draw him into the fold. What if you are wrong, Neal? Wouldn’t it be better to believe (get saved) and be wrong than to not believe and find out after death that Christianity was indeed true? Evangelicals, via Pascal’s Wager, attempt to use fear of being wrong to motivate someone such as Neal to choose Jesus as his Lord and Savior. Of course, Pascal’s Wager doesn’t work, because if Neal really wants to be certain, he would have to embrace every religion’s gods. If the goal is cover all your bases, then Pascal’s Wager requires seekers to be promiscuous in their belief, worship, and devotion. Christians, of course, want people such as Neal to only consider their God. Perhaps, the real question is why the Christian God, and not any other God?
There is, perhaps, a far different reason for Neal’s niggling doubts, and that would be what I call an Evangelical/Christian/Fundamentalist hangover. Vestiges of past beliefs lie buried in our memories, and it is these memories that cause fear and doubt. Every Evangelical-turned-atheist has had, at one time or the other, the thought, what if I am wrong? What if the Christian God really is the one true God and the Bible is his Word? What if there is a Heaven and a Hell, and where we spend eternity depends of whether we are saved/born-again?
As long as these memories remain in our minds, it is possible for them to make an appearance. These memories are the same as having thoughts about a girl we dated forty years ago or thoughts about traumatic experiences in our past. I find such thoughts amusing. Here I am married, for forty years, yet out of the blue comes thoughts of a girl I dated for five months in 1975. Such is the nature of our minds and memories.
Personally, I have concluded, with great certainty, that the claims of Christianity are false. Three years ago, I wrote a post detailing sixteen reasons why I am not a Christian:
- I no longer think the Bible is a God inspired text
- I no longer think the Bible is an inerrant text
- I no longer think Jesus is God
- I no longer think Jesus was virgin-born
- I no longer think Jesus turned water into wine, walked on water, healed the sick, or raised the dead
- I no longer think Jesus resurrected from the dead
- I no longer think there is a heaven or a hell
- I think the belief that God will torture all non-Christians in hell for all eternity is repugnant, abhorrent, revolting, repulsive, repellent, disgusting, offensive, objectionable, cringeworthy, vile, foul, nasty, loathsome, sickening, nauseating, hateful, detestable, execrable, abominable, monstrous, appalling, insufferable, intolerable, unacceptable, contemptible, unsavory, and unpalatable
- I think the Bible shows a progression of belief from polytheism to monotheism
- I think the Bible teaches multiple plans of salvation
- I think much of the history found in the Bible is fictional
- I think the Bible God is an abhorrent, vile deity, one I would not worship even if I believed it existed
- I think science best explains the natural world
- I no longer think humans are sinners
- I think humanism provides a moral and ethical basis for life
- I see no evidence for the existence of the Christian God; thus I am an atheist
Today, I would add several more reasons to this list Christian:
- There are no non-Biblical contemporary reports of Jesus’ miracles, his resurrection, and the events surrounding his death: the temple veil being rent in twain, dead people coming alive and walking the streets of Jerusalem.
- Christianity no longer makes sense. (See The Michael Mock Rule: It Just Doesn’t Make Sense)
- Suffering, pain, and death experienced by humans and animals alike, are ever-present reminders that either the Christian God doesn’t exist or he is totally indifferent towards his creation.
Years ago, I wrote a post titled The Danger of Being in a Box and Why It Makes Sense When you Are in It. I wrote a sequel to this post titled What I Found When I Left the Box. In these widely-read posts, I talk about Christianity being a box, and as long as someone is in the box everything makes sense. Once outside of the box, however, things look different. Free to roam the wild, wonderful, dangerous streets of intellectual inquiry, I found evidence that suggested to me that Christianity was not what I thought it was; that the Bible was not what Christians claimed it was. Over time, I began to see that I had bought a false bill of goods; that Christianity really was an ancient blood cult. Using critical thinking skills allowed me to dig through the “facts” of Christianity and conclude that Christianity, in totality, was built upon an irrational foundation of faith.
I explain my life this way: When it comes to the God question, I am an agnostic. I am confident that the extant Gods of human creation are false, but it possible that someday a creator God of some sort might make itself known to us. I can confidently reject Christianity, having fully, completely, and thoroughly investigated its claims. While I am relatively certain that there is no God, I can’t say for certain, there is no God. As with all such questions, it’s all about probabilities. Is it possible a God exists who hasn’t made itself known to us? Sure, that’s within the realm of possibility; as is the belief that human existence is some sort of Westwood-like game simulation. However, the probability of the existence of such a God is so low that I do not waste time thinking about such things (outside of writing for this blog). I live my day-to-day life as an atheist. Thoughts of God never enter my mind, and I attempt to daily live my life according to the humanist ideal.
About Bruce Gerencser
Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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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I have not only an irrational fear of Hell but also an irrational anger towards the Calvinist Christian concept of deity for not electing me, because I figure that if my Calvinist hangup is actually right, and I am not predestined for salvation, why even bother trying to love God? Of course, you cannot know your own election status infallibly, but if a reasonably good guess causes you to doubt your own status as elect, why bother trying to love a deity which might have condemned you to hell before you were even born, unless you are more than reasonably certain that such a deity did not in fact do so? Then again, I am not sure I could worship the God of Calvinism even if I had reasonable faith (a contradiction in terms) that one actually existed. To me, thanks to years of self-reinforced brainwashing, Calvinism is Christianity and Christianity is Calvinism. Everything else is at best either insincere imitation or sincere denial. I do love reading this blog. Your posts help me process my old religious feeling and thought processes in a rational and self-reaffirming way. For far too long Christianity seemed to teach me fear and self-loathing, reinforced by God’s supposedly inerrant, revealed supernatural opinions of humanity in general and me in particular, and to actually place more value and esteem on the metaphorical crosses of spiritual crucifixion in daily religious life than you do on your own personal identity and purpose for life. And to me, that is what takes the longest time getting over.
I’m with you Byron. Calvinism is THE only true xianity…. wow, it took me until I was 55yo, to work out it is all bumpf.
Scott, thank you. Calvinism can be like a mind-cult in some ways for sure. I always like the quote, though I am not certain it actually came from Woody Allen, which goes, “God made me an atheist. Who are you to question his wisdom?”. I’m not necessarily atheist, except perhaps pragmatically. But I do love this blog. Even for the short time I re-entered Christian belief, it always gave me food for thought. Plus, I cannot deny that it is fun to look at forbidden things like this, which would probably be verboten to any Calvinist in good standing.
The one church I co-pastored had members who believed Calvinism was synonymous with Christianity; that Arminian preachers such was John Wesley, Charles Finney, and DL Moody were not Christians. I was accused by several of them of not being a “true” Calvinist; that my acceptance of Arminian Christians was heretical. I ignored them. ?
That is Calvinism which is too extreme! Back when I was Calvinist, I would have agreed with you. But I would think that there is something desperately deficient in someone’s spiritual life to doubt or question God’s sovereignty like that. How kind of me to question their progress towards spiritual maturity and understanding, eh?
It took awhile for me to admit to myself that I no longer believed in the god (I might even say gods which include Jesus, the Holy Spirit and Satan) because of lingering, irrational fear of hell. I literally had to tell myself that fearing hell when I no longer believed in the gods and tenets of Christianity was ridiculous – and then I could let go. Now, having done a fair bit of reading and pondering, it is as clear to me as the nose on my face that Christianity is a man-made religion and that its supernatural claims are baloney. I wish more people thought so too!
‘..the holy spirit is still working on him…’ Yesterday I discussed the Welsh Revival of 1904 with a believer here in Wales. Secular historians say accurately that it had fizzled out 18m later. Its ‘success’ can be explained as so many welshmen worked in unbelievably harsh conditions down slate or coal mines. They got silicosis in their 30s and died a slow death in their 40s. Alcohol was the only release and then many were ashamed that their addiction left their families in poverty. There was no medical help, so when a preacher gave them a way out, they latched onto it in the mass hysteria of song (the welsh love to sing) and ‘got saved.’ But, said my friend, the holy spirit must have instigated the revival, over 100,000 were saved. He could not take my point that it seemed very odd to me that this all-powerful spirit could cause conversions but couldn’t maintain them for 18m. I was expecting him to trot out the ‘god moves in mysterious ways..’ but I gave up before that happened!
As a Calvinist, I loved reading about the Welsh Revival, the revival in New Hebrides, the Great Awakenings, and countless fantastical missionary biographies. I found the stories inspirational, but these days I understand that these events were complex in nature; and as you mention, they had sociological, cultural , and economic components.
Excellent summary of reasons not to believe. You follow with even more Black Collar Crime posts. You could also add that there is no indication that Christians are better people. If there really was a Holy Spirit that supernaturally changed people these incidents would not occur.
Correct. Instead, Christians are no different from the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. Spending twenty-five years in the ministry allowed me to see the ugly, dark underbelly of Evangelical Christianity. The Bible lists specific qualifications for a men to be pastors. I never met a pastor who met those qualifications, myself included.
I wrote in the question and I believe you are right about this is probably a hangover from my fundamentalist days. I was so afraid of hell, not only for myself, but for others as well, that I studied and read, and evaluated, and pondered and everything else under the sun until I realized I was not finding any real answers, just emotional turmoil to the point of a mental breakdown. It all came unraveled and I started finding real, objective answers from the likes of Bart Ehrman, Robert M Price, David Fitzgerald, and Richard Carrier. As I said in the email, I do not believe I was wrong from walking away from the faith, it is more a fear of being entirely wrong and paying some serious consequences. But even if one wills themself to believe, how do you find peace never knowing what to actually believe or do.
The cosmic guessing game with eternal consequences was a factor in driving me away from Christianity. I just could not reconcile this notion that all you need is the Bible and the Holy Spirit to be led to truth. As committed believers show, that method does not work.
I have often said, if Christian sects were unified in doctrine and actually followed the teachings of Jesus, that might cause me to pause. Instead, we have a billion Christians — all with the same Holy Spirit and same Bible — each with their own beliefs. Christian sects can’t even agree on the basics: salvation, baptism, and communion. If the Holy Spirit (God) is their teacher and guide, why the diversity of beliefs?
Good read, Bruce. I’ve long wondered specifically if you were agnostic or atheist. Not that it is any of my business. Anyhow, I enjoy reading about your perspectives.
Some atheists don’t like my approach to the God question. I remind them that even the great atheist Richard Dawkins is agnostic on the god question. It’s all about possibility and probabilities. Sure, it’s possible there’s a God, but not probable.
I’m quite open about my beliefs. You ask, I’ll answer. ?
I think most considered atheists would class themselves also as agnostic. I don’t believe that leprechauns exist, which I think is a reasonable position, but I’m perfectly open to having my mind changed by the evidence, if such were ever adduced.
I never heard of the Welsh revival, or the other ones mentioned here. I do know that because class distinctions in the U.K.and Europe were rigidly enforced in those times, the miners were indeed trapped, with no way out. Social democracy would have rescued them, as it did Scandinavia. That wager thing is so depressing. I didn’t know one thing about the Bible God until I started to read the Bible as a project, and that took several months, because it meant translating Old English into Cali English, for one. As I was doing that,it was fascinating to me, but disheartening also. I found that God’s personality in those chapters was upsetting to find out about. I wasn’t expecting this feeling of deep disappointment to kick in. I wanted to go deep with God at one point,and I had an open mind, being a new convert. I sure expected better, I know that much. At that time memorizing the verses along with chapter/ verse number, was easy to do. But once I realized I wanted out, I had trouble with remembering everything. I still remember bits and pieces, but I need to type in the concept for exact phrases. I totally get where Neal is at. Hence my perch on the spokes of that chain-link fence,which is getting more rusty each year. Just last night I came upon Jack Hibbs,of Calvary Chapel fame, touting the virtues of ” phobos”, the Greek word for fear. I missed most of his talk, but he says one should want to please God so much that they ought to love God more than anyone they have in their lives. And it’s easy to live a holy life if God’s feelings are the only ones that count. I’m using last night’s memory here. I don’t respect Hibbs or take him at face value, because of those he admires, like Complementaarian Wayne Grudem is the Sovereign Grace scandal fame, or Al Mohler, Piper, David Lane the Fascist-Nationalist. Could go on, but on Salem Communications, you’ll find all these hard-asses there. They will mess with your head. And they have burrowed like ticks into the White Wash, um house. When I think of the damage to my life in all respects that these people once caused, there are NO words decent, to describe what I’d love to do to them all.