I received an email several years from an eighty-year-old Evangelical man named Richard. I thought his email would make for a good post. My response is italicized and indented.
I just read your bio and find it a very sad story. (Please see the About page for context.)
Why is the course of my life a “sad story”? It is what it is. I’ve had all sorts of experiences — good, bad, and indifferent — over my sixty-six years of life on earth. On balance, I have lived a good life. I am happily married to Polly, father to six wonderful children, and grandfather to ten granddaughters and three grandsons. My body is wracked with pain, yet I find enough meaning and purpose in life to keep plugging away. devoted most of my life to Jesus/church/ministry/other people. Now that I am no longer a pastor or a Christian, I choose to spend my time with the people I love. Throw writing, the Cincinnati Bengals, the Cincinnati Reds, and other meaningful things into the mix, I have a life that gives me great happiness. Like all of us, I have shitty days, awful days, days where I want to die. Today, is a top five pain day, one where my pain meds aren’t tamping down pain spikes. I have had to supress thoughts of suicide. But, on balance I’m satisfied with how my life has turned out.
Richard is a born-again, baptized-with-the-Holy-Spirit Christian, and I am not. From his perspective, a good life is one lived according to the teachings of Christianity. I’m not a Christian, so that means I am headed for Hell, or so Evangelicals think, anyway. I, however, reject the teaching of the Bible and have no need of a “relationship” with a dead man named Jesus. I choose to live and enjoy life among the living. Life is short, so I have no intention of wasting my time chasing a myth.
Your physical problems including depression, your obesity, and high blood pressure do not reflect someone who is doing well.
My health problems started long before I left Christianity. God never answered one prayer about my health. Either God doesn’t give a shit, or he doesn’t exist. My money is on the latter.
I have battled health problems since the age of fourteen. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia twenty-five years ago. I do what I can to stay healthy. Yes, I am fat (I have lost 100 pounds over the past three years) but there’s little I can do about it. I ma comforable in my Bear/Daddy/ Sexy Santa body. 🙂 In 2019, I was diagnosed with gastroparesis. Imagine being nauseous every moment of every day. Imagine frequent stomach and abdomen pain.Imagine having to daily take medication to keep from vomiting. Walk/stand/live in my body for a bit before you hurl criticism my way. Every day is a painful, debilitating struggle, but I do my best to live each day to its fullest. My diabetes and high blood pressure are managed with medication. Depression? It’s primarily driven by my health problems. Less pain, less depression. I’ve been seeing a secular psychologist for twelve years. She has helped me immensely, reminding me that it is normal for someone with the health problems I have to be depressed.
Am I doing well? It depends on your perspective. From my perspective, I am doing the best I can. I have a lot on my plate health-wise, but I don’t let these things keep me from enjoying life.
What were the causes of your turning away from believing the bible is the word of God and that Jesus is the Son of God who died on a cross to purchase our redemption?
I wish Christians such as Richard would spend time reading my story instead of just reading a few posts and then rendering judgment. My blog is well organized and information about my past is readily available to those who bother to look. The reasons for my deconversion can be found everywhere on this site, including the WHY page. Some dead guy in an ancient religious text said, seek and ye shall find. Good advice. I’m pretty open about my life, past and present. I have a few secrets, but for the most part I am honest and transparent in my writing and interactions with others. So, to Richard I say, the answers you seek are available if you are willing to do a bit of reading. If, after doing your homework you still have questions, I will be glad to answer them.
So you can know who I am: I am 80, married to Karen for 57 years, six children, 17 grandchildren, and 7 great grandchildren. I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ in 1964, was baptized with the Holy Spirit in 1967, and like you, I pastored and planted churches as well as traveled and taught in many countries. By the grace of God, all of our family are followers of Jesus Christ. I have the joy of mentoring a group of 7 men teaching them how to live their lives in the life and power of the Holy Spirit. Since we have similar backgrounds, I would count it a privilege to connect with you.
I suspect Richard means well. He likely thinks that if he befriends me, he can bring me back into the fold. As I said numerous times before, I am a confirmed atheist. I am not, in any way, a good prospect for recruitment.
Richard wants to “connect” with me, but we really have nothing in common save being old, married a long time, and having a large family. I am at a place in life where I choose to spend my time with family and likeminded friends. That’s enough for me. If I am looking make new friends, I am going to look in liberal/progressive/atheist/humanist circles.
Saved by Reason,
Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.
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It always comes across so strongly that christians would love to be able to ‘sin’ and are simply envious that they can’t without crushing guilt.
It’s been said here before, the bare-faced cheek of diagnosing all that these fundy-trolls just KNOW is wrong with your life when they obviously haven’t read hardly any of your blog…and then thinking that rudeness about physical appearance will bring you straight back to their god…just amazes me. I was thinking recently that when these fundies recount tales of their ‘walk with god’, their faith, their wonderful godly families etc….well, that’s fine in one sense. It works for them. But it also means that whilst describing their experiences, they are negating yours. Yours – and mine – are every bit as real and valid as theirs, but of course, they think theirs and only theirs are vastly superior….!
The intense focus on how many children, how many grandchildren, etc sits badly with me, esp coming from a man. It is hardly biologically difficult for most men to have numerous children if they so wish; the same cannot be said of women.
I do know that many religious WOMEN place huge emphasis on this as well and I find that distasteful too. Both the men and the women seem to be defining themselves (and, by extension, other people) in terms of reproductive “abilities”. Being the father or mother to twenty children, thirty even, does not necessarily make you a good parent.
Both my wife and I are grateful that we have six children and twelve grandchildren. It is not about biology, it’s about love and family. It’s not about how many children we biologically produced as much as it is the kind of people our children have become.
Was Richatd implying that if you turned back to his brand of religion that *poof* suddenly all your health problems would vanish???? Do you know how many evangelicals I knew and know have suffered from a plethora of health issues that weren’t healed? Were they all just not Jesusing correctly?
Richard asked: “What were the causes of your turning away from believing the bible is the word of God and that Jesus is the Son of God who died on a cross to purchase our redemption?”
Well, Richard, here’s the thing. For most of who used to be Christians and no longer are, there came a point where the whole thing – the entire structure of Christian belief – just stopped making sense. Exactly what set that off varies wildly, but regardless of what caused us to start asking uncomfortable questions, we didn’t find satisfactory answers. After a while (and for many people, a long painful struggle to find some way to continue believing) we were forced to conclude that what Christianity taught just… doesn’t match the world we live in. It doesn’t fit our experiences, neither sacred nor profane. It doesn’t resonate.
I don’t know if that will make sense to you. But even what Christianity itself says about why people don’t believe? It doesn’t match the experience of any unbeliever I know.
“(and for many people, a long painful struggle to find some way to continue believing)”. Boy Mike you said it!! I wish that people who are still believers could somehow understand that for SO many of us who are no longer… we didn’t just wake up one morning and say “fuck it! I’m no longer a Christian”. When I first contacted Bruce a good number of years ago now, I was still a believer at that time… but like so many before me, the more I kept looking, the more I kept reading and researching about what I was believing, and the more questions I asked, I eventually got to the same place, that it just didn’t make sense. And I tried… I tried SO hard to hang on to some part of faith, because I think for many of us, despite what we were coming to see, we STILL WANTED to believe! And many of these people just don’t get that! Because for them, it’s just easier to conclude that we were never believers to begin with. And after I met Bruce through his blog, and he would post some of the things that “believers” would write him, especially the ones who wrote that they were SO CERTAIN that he could NEVER have been a believer, it wasn’t long after that where I started to see that believers were really no different from anyone else… and I began to question what it was that REALLY makes a believer a so-called “true” believer and how does one REALLY know?! I eventually concluded that this wasn’t possible! Because everyone’s “standards” for measuring this were different! That was the start of my own journey out, because at that time, for me, I identified greatly with Bruce (like him, I was in ministry and I was always bi-vocational), and how hard he worked while in ministry and such. So it bothered me a lot, that others, who were supposed to be bastions of faith, would question his story and his commitment to “Jeebus”. If there is a “god” out there somewhere, and if he happens to somehow be related to or a shadow of the “god” from the Bible, I’d like to think that perhaps he might applaud those who found the courage to question and challenge their sincerely long-held beliefs. Because that’s what it took, and it wasn’t simple or easy… and believers who think otherwise, they really don’t have a clue.
People like Richard probably have the attitude of “My life is better than yours” about everything. Having traveled a lot, lived in other countries, and learned other languages I recognize the arrogant “America is the BEST” point of view, just transferred to “Christianity is the BEST”.
Sad and boring way to live, but there’s no changing their minds because they’re unwilling to consider that sometimes others do things better and just might be happier and more satisfied. We seem to have so much of this ignorance in the US at the moment.