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How Can I Be Certain the Evangelical God is a Myth?

certainty erich fromm

A regular reader of this blog sent me an email and asked the following:

I am unsettled by the notion that there is a possibility that the bizarre God of fundamentalism might exist. The idea that YHWH exists as described by Dan Corner, Jack Chick and their ilk terrifies me. Because that means we are dealing with a being that is irrational, uncaring, inconsistent, and quite frankly confusing in every aspect. It is that particular aspect of Christianity that I fear being true.

This person is “almost” sure that there is no God, but his need for certainty continues to plague him. I am sure that many readers can attest to having similar feelings at one point in time in their journey out of Evangelical Christianity. What this person continues to struggle with is doubt and fear. What if the fiery God of Jonathan Edwards really is as advertised? What if countless bellowing Evangelical preachers are right about God, sin, judgment, and the afterlife? Surely, there’s some test that we use to prove once and for all whether this God is the one true God. Surely, in this day of modern science, we have some sort of test we can use to finally and authoritatively rule out the existence of the Evangelical God. Unfortunately, the best that science can do is tell us that Evangelical interpretations of Genesis 1-3 are false; that the universe was not created in six literal twenty-four hour days; that the earth is not 6,022 years old (as of October 22, 2018). These facts do, however warn us about how Evangelicals interpret the Bible; that their Fundamentalist literalism, hermeneutics, and presuppositions don’t stand the smell test. And if Evangelical interpretations are false on these fundamental issues, what’s to say that their concept of God is not also without merit? The question we must ask here, then, in the one asked by Satan, the walking snake: yea hath God said? Is the Bible a supernatural text? Is it divinely inspired and inerrant? Settling these issues — read Bart Ehrman — will go a long way in burying Jesus in the sands of Palestine. That said, concluding that the Bible is NOT what Evangelicals claim it is, and that its words were written by humans, will not erase all doubt one might have about the existence of God. Answering these questions will get a person almost to home, but there could still be, as in the case of the person who emailed me, niggling doubts.

These doubts are the vestiges of Evangelical indoctrination. Sunday after Sunday, these “truths” were preached from the pulpits of the churches we attended. Spend enough years hearing such sermons, and you are going to think these beliefs are true. The essence of faith is believing without seeing. Evangelicals believe in God, Heaven, Hell, and the afterlife, not because they have ever seen them, but because their churches, pastors, families believe them to be true. Surely, all these people can’t be wrong, right? Actually, they can be (and are) wrong. Faith, for the most part, bypasses reason and intellectual inquiry. Evangelicals believe what they do because everyone they know believes the same. It is only when Evangelicals step outside of the Evangelical box that they see their resolute beliefs are not as solid as they think they are. (Please see The Danger of Being in a Box and Why it Makes Sense When You are in it and What I Found When I Left the Box.)

I cannot, for the letter writer, tell him what to believe. He must walk his own path and come to his own conclusions. The doubts he still battles are emotional in nature. Telling him to read yet another book will not drive away the fear and doubt that afflict him. His immersion in Evangelicalism has left deep scars that might take a long time to overcome. All any of us can do when it comes to religion is ask ourselves, how probable is it that Evangelical beliefs are true? What evidence is there for their truthfulness? It is “possible” that a commercial jet flying over my house could lose one of its engines, and that engine would fall on my house and kill me. Possible? Sure. Probable? No! I don’t go around worrying about a jet engine falling on my head. That would be stupid. I am confident — 99.99999999 percent that I will live out my entire life without a jet engine falling from the sky and killing me. With all the things that could kill me, it is irrational and a waste of time to worry about falling engines.

So it is with the Evangelical concept of God. I am confident that the Evangelical God is not who and what Christians claim he is. Reason, skepticism, and intellectual inquiry has led me to conclude that the Evangelical God is a fictional being, not one I need worry about lest he rain fire and brimstone down on my head. The odds are such that I don’t worry one whit about this God’s existence. If I was going to “worry” about the existence of a Creator God, I would mentally afflict myself wondering whether the deistic God exists. But why worry? This God is unapproachable and unknowable. All any of us can do is LIVE! It is primarily the Abrahamic God that keeps some people up at night with his threats of judgment and Hell.

Surely, if the Evangelical God is real he would help the letter writer with his doubts. He is slipping away, Lord. Do something! Of course, God is silent. Why? He is a fiction of the human mind. Once this fact becomes rooted in your mind — and it might take years — gone are doubts about this God’s existence.

Well, Bruce, what if you are wrong and you die, only to find out God is real? All I know to do is to say to God: My bad, Jesus!  I am 99.99999999 percent sure that is one apology I will never have to deliver. Could I be wrong? It’s possible — as in .00000001 percent possible, but I don’t plan on wasting my time on things for which there is no evidence.

Books by Bart Ehrman

The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why

How Jesus Became God : the Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee

Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior

Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them)

Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth

Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are

God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question — Why We Suffer

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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    Well said, Bruce. Like your reader, I struggled with those last fears for many years, so much that I was paralyzed with terror of hell for 7-8 years. I had read several books giving a variety of reasons why God probably doesn’t exist, how archaeology, science and history do not support the inerrancy claims of the bible, and how scholarship doesn’t support the inerrancy claims of the bible. I had a “sit down” with myself and asked myself, do you LOVE the God of the Bible or do you FEAR him? When the honest answer was FEAR, I was able to accept the honest answers that the evidence showed- that I had been indoctrinated during the formative years of childhood using fear of hell and being taught not to trust my own senses or intellect in order to deter pursuit of doubts and knowledge. Once I understood I had been skillfully and thoroughly manipulated (albeit by some well-intentioned folks), I was able to rationally recognize the fear and teachings for what they were and walk away. While I concede there may be a small chance a God or gods of some sort exist, I believe the probability doesn’t support their existence and even less does probability support the existence of the specific God that fundamentalist evangelicals describe.

    Good luck and good journey to you, reader. I hope you are able to work through the fears you have. Many of us understand the crippling fear you are experiencing now. Know that it is by design in order to keep you within the fold of a manipulative religion designed to force acquiescence. There’s nothing wrong with you or your reasoning capabilities – you have been indoctrinated.

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    Melissa Montana

    What would I say if I died and really met Jesus? “Where the hell were you when I was being abused as a child?!”

    Seriously, although I believe there is much in the universe to be discovered, I don’t think there is any kind of Cosmic Consciousness that worries about torturing us for eternity. It’s all a ploy so some people can control other people through fear. My day of reckoning came when I wondered why a loving god would allow me to suffer so much in this life, and then torture me forever in the next. The answer, of course, is simple: there is no god.

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    Richard Dawkins gave a great answer to a girl who, after a debate, asked him ‘what if you’re wrong’?

    Girl Audience Question] Source:
    This is probably going to be the simplest one for you to answer, but “What if you’re wrong?”.

    [Clinton Richard Dawkins, (born 1941 March 26)
    ‘what if i’m wrong? I mean, anybody can be wrong. We could all be wrong about the flying spaghetti monster and the pink unicorn and the flying teapot.

    You happen to have been brought up, I would presume, in the christian faith. you know what it’s like not to believe in a particular faith because you’re not a Muslim you’re not a Hindu.

    Why aren’t you a Hindu? Because you happen to have been brought up in in America, not in India. if you had been brought up in India, you’d be a Hindu. If you’d been brought up in Denmark at the time of the vikings, you’d be believing in Wotan and Thor. if you had been brought up in classical Greece you’d be believing in Zeus. if you had been brought up in central Africa, you’d be believing in the great Juju up the mountain.

    There’s no particular reason to pick on the Judeo christian god in which, by the sheerest accident, you happen to have been brought up, and ask me the question, what if I’m wrong? What if you’re wrong about the great Juju in the bottom of the sea?

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    I suppose any of us brought up with this indoctrination will always have these thoughts. The way I address this is to ask what makes you think that you could trust a supreme being who would be so capricious and arbitrary as to create a place of eternal torture for his created beings. How could I trust that even if I believed all the ”right” things that this cruel being wouldn’t cast me into hell just for shits and giggles. When I look at it this way any vestige of faith and fear goes away

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    John Arthur

    The god of the bible is a creation of the ancient, ignorant, very violent barbaric savages who wrote the bible. The made god in their image or likeness. This barbaric book is no word of any god. He is a figment of their imagination. If this buggar exists, then I’m in deep trouble. He’ll burn me alive in hell forever. What bastard would burn anyone alive?

    Christian Fundamentalism is one of the most dangerous religions ever created. If they ever gain political power, then we can forget our freedoms. We’ll be burnt at the stake. Biblical law (the laws of ancient savages) will rule our lands. We can then forget about democracy and free speech. All we will have is tyranny. All religious Fundamentalisms are dangerous to the welfare of humanity.

    Bruce, you are doing a great job in exposing Christian Fundamentalism. Keep up the good work! These dangerous fanatics need to be kept at bay.

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    John you are so correct about the dangers of Christian Fundamentalism. And it seems to be creeping our way with the help of trump’s pretend Christianity. Very dangerous times indeed.

    Also if god was like their god in vengeance, hate, cruelty and narcissism, he would be one I could never respect, follow, support, love or admire. Yes I could fear and dread him, but then wouldn’t this really be evil personified?

    What I want to know is what drives these people to so easily hate and judge? Or could it actually be some gene in their dna or neural transmission flaw that allows for this demonization of others?

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    I’ve dealt with the problem of “what if” many many times. I think this is what keeps a lot of people within religious systems they at least partially see as abusive; they want to play it safe. What has worked for me? I repeatedly kept choosing to be something like a “rebellious hero.” Do I want to be a servile slave to a totalitarian dictator who destroys all that dare to have different opinion than him just to have a safe “afterlife?” No way! I’d rather live 60-70+ years as a free human being here and now than be a puppet of a slave-master (may it be forever). What if God is a dick? What if I find that out after I die? Well, it takes courage to keep the faith I had all my life – not to bend my knee to a dictator – in that M moment. I’d find Bruce and all other like-minded people after death and we’d start a revolution over there and overcome the tyrant and make a hell of a mess out of his totalitarian heaven. Like in all the movies and books! It takes courage to be a hero!
    But, seriously, this mental practice has helped me a lot, but it takes time and a lot of repetition. I also recommend reading Bart Ehrman’s books as Bruce often recommends. Like Bruce, I am a member of his blog (all the money goes to charity!), and he is now working on a book on the afterlife in early Christianity. According to Bart’s research the historical Jesus never preached hell as we know it now. This can certainly be helpful in emotional recovery from all the threatening religious concepts we know. It is also interesting to know that Bart himself is a former zealous fundamentalist and I’ve seen him personally say in a video that he has dealt with fear of hell when he was leaving Christianity for good. The indoctrination and resulting emotional pain does affect even world-class scholars.

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Bruce Gerencser