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Stuart the Evangelical Asks Bruce the Atheist a Theological Question

naked adam and eve
Comic by Hilary Price

The most-read post on The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser is the post titled, Why I Hate Jesus. Written four years ago, this post is also the most misunderstood post. Many Evangelicals wrongly believe I hate the man, myth, and legend named Jesus Christ. Bound by a literalistic approach to life, they fail to see that the post is really about their religion and not a flesh and blood dead man named Jesus. As I shall make abundantly clear in an upcoming post, there are many, many, many Jesuses; that every generation of Christians shapes and molds Jesus into their own image, according to their peculiar theological, political, and social beliefs. To deny this is to deny reality. To suggest that you worship the first century Jesus and practice Christianity (Judaism) just as the Apostles did in 35 CE is ludicrous and a denial of 2,000 years of Church history. Christianity started evolving the moment Jesus called twelve illiterate men to be his disciples. These men and other followers interpreted and reinterpreted the life and words of Jesus, fashioning their own versions of Christ and what it meant to be a follower of him. This evolutionary process continues even to this very day.

An Evangelical man by the name of Stuart left several comments on the Why I Hate Jesus post. Standard Evangelical stuff. I tried to blow off his first comment with a bit of snark — suggesting I was a porn star — but Stuart was bound and determined to put in a good word for Jesus. In his second comment, Stuart wrote (in response to Zoe, a fellow Evangelical turned atheist):

I no longer believe in the existence of Santa, therefore i wouldn’t go to the trouble of creating a website explaining how i came to no longer believe in Santa, simply because it would attract attention from people who do believe in Santa. And frankly i have no appetite for engaging with such people.

Bruce, by creating this space has invited interest from the vast internet audience on the matters he discusses on this site. It would be naive to think compassionate Christians would not do their duty and offer support in the only way they know how in trying to heal the wounded or help pick up the fallen. Bruce knows that, you likely know that, so really, what else do you expect?

If i didn’t believe in something i wouldn’t waste a single moment on it. Atheists are a different breed though. They are evangelical in their denial and latent hatred of God. Personally i love engaging with intelligent people regardless of their ideology or belief. I have yet to meet ANY atheist with any meaningful grasp on theology.

But I guess when even atheism’s poster boy Dawkins is a theological illiterate there is little hope for anyone following in his footsteps.

There was only ever one Jesus, there is currently only one Jesus and there will always forever be only one Jesus. Anyone who tells you different is like an atheist – they simply fail to understand Scripture

And Bruce’s story isn’t wrong, but it is clear he has been deceived. And knowing that there are many many more like Bruce is honestly heart breaking to me.

I responded thusly:

I grew up in the Evangelical church, attended an Evangelical Bible College, and pastored Evangelical churches for 25 years. Yet, according to you, I have no meaningful grasp of Christian theology. I spent thousands and thousands of hours studying and reading the Bible, yet, according to you, I don’t have a fundamental understanding of Christian belief. Surely, you see how irrational and stupid such a statement sounds.

The real issue here is that you don’t like my interpretations and conclusions. Thus, instead of meaningfully interacting with them, you rage against Bruce, the man.

The purpose of this blog is to help people who have doubts about Christianity or who have left Christianity and are looking for support. You, my friend, are not my target audience. I let people such as yourself comment because you provide reminders to ex-Evangelicals of the arrogant, self-righteous beliefs we left behind.

Please keep preaching your gospel, Stuart. People such as yourself win more people to atheism than I ever could.

Earlier today, Stuart sent me a question: Why were the fig leaves not acceptable? I assume his question is some sort of test to see if I really know anything about Evangelical theology. What follows is my answer.

The Bible says in Genesis 3:1-7:

Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

In Genesis 2, the Bible tells us that Adam and Eve were originally created naked, without sin, and unashamed before God. In Genesis 3, a walking, talking snake came to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and questioned the command God had given them to not eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The snake — whom Evangelicals believe was Satan — said, “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” Eve replied, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.” The snake replied, “Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” Eve looked at the Tree’s beauty and saw that it was good for food and would make her wise — the Ginkgo Biloba of the Garden. She picked a fruit from the Tree, took a bite, and gave it to Adam to eat too. And just like that, Adam and Eve plunged the entire human race into sin. Since that fateful moment, every human is born a sinner, alienated from God. Humans have no choice in the matter. We are forever doomed by a man and woman we don’t even know taking a bite from a piece of fruit. Or so the story goes anyway.

adam and eve wearing fig leaves

Immediately afterward, Adam and Eve realized for the first time that God had created them with genitals. Ashamed that they were naked, Adam and Eve gathered some fig leaves, sewed them together, and made themselves aprons to hide their genitals. Later, God came to the Garden of Eden and took a stroll in the cool of the day. Fearing God, Adam and Eve hid among the trees, hoping that God would see not see them. Alas, God, after playing a quick game of Where’s Waldo (Wally), found them. Adam said to God, “I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” Wait a minute, I thought Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves together for aprons. Why weren’t they wearing them when God made his appearance in the Garden? Maybe the leaves caused chafing, and Adam and Eve decided to return to their natural state. Whatever their reason, God was none too happy. To the first man and woman he said, “Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?” A rhetorical question? Or did God not know? Regardless, Adam replied to God, “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” Ladies, want to know where Evangelical men blaming you for everything comes from? You need look no further than Genesis 3 and Adam blaming Eve for his errant fruit-eating.

talking snakes

God then turned to Eve and asked, “What is this that thou hast done?” A rhetorical question? Didn’t God know what Eve had done? Regardless, in classic Flip Wilson style, Eve responded, “The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.” In other words, the DEVIL made me do it! God, pissed off at Adam and Eve’s bad behavior, cursed all humans and cursed the earth. Ever had to pull weeds from a flower bed or garden? God’s doing. Worse, God condemned all humans to death; instead of unending life, we would now have a fixed time to live and die. And then, to put an explanation point on his anger, God killed a bunch of puppies, skinned them, and made fur loincloths for Adam and Eve. The first person to shed blood of earth was God, not man. In fact, it can be argued that God has shed more blood than all of humanity combined. Either by direct action or commanding his followers to do so, God had slaughtered millions and millions of people. Yet, Evangelicals say he is a God of love, peace, and guacamole.

Genesis 3 ends with God throwing Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden, leaving them and their progeny to fend for themselves. That is, until God got tired of having no one to play with and decided to make Abraham and some of his descendants his playthings. Or so goes the story anyway.

Stuart wants to know, “Why were the fig leaves not acceptable?” The correct answer from an Evangelical perspective is that Adam and Eve sewing fig leaves together to cover their genitals was a picture of human self-righteousness; an attempt by Adam and Eve to cover up their “sin” on their own terms. The thrice holy God would have none of that. According to a plan cooked up by him from before the foundation of the world, sin had to be atoned for with blood; that Adam and Eve’s sin could only be covered through God killing and skinning some puppies and making fur loincloths to cover their sins. The Bible says in Hebrews 9:22, 27-28:

And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission . . . And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

The Abrahamic religions — Christianity, Islam, and Judaism — are, according to the Bible, blood cults. You can come to no other rational conclusion IF you read the Bible as most Evangelicals do — literally. Now, if you see Genesis 3 as a fictional story meant to impart a greater meaning, well anything is possible. It’s 2019, and thanks to five centuries of literalistic interpretations of a book they believe is an inspired, inerrant, infallible text written by God, Evangelicals are forced to defend all sorts of absurdities. And I get it. People such as Stuart have to preach the party line. Otherwise, they are admitting that Evangelicalism is built on a foundation of lies and misinterpretations. Without a real Adam and Eve created by God in October 4004 BCE, the Evangelical house of cards comes tumbling down. A real New Testament God-man requires a real Adam and Eve. The Last Adam needed a First Adam for the Evangelical gospel to make sense. Without original sin, there was no need for Jesus to take a thirty-three-year vacation on earth. If Adam and Eve were metaphors as liberal and progressive Christians allege, then it can be argued that Jesus was a metaphor too. Upholding what Christians will celebrate come Easter Sunday requires a literal reading of the Bible. Without it, the Christian gospel of atonement for sin and redemption makes no sense — at least to me, anyway.

Now, this hardly means that Evangelicals are off the hook. Literalism can be a real bitch. In fact, I don’t know of one Evangelical who is truly a literalist from Table of Contents to Concordance. All Evangelicals — when it suits them — spiritualize scriptures that don’t “fit” their literal reading and interpretation of the text. Evangelicals have what I call theological schizophrenia. Granted, Evangelicals try to make their peculiar interpretations mesh with one another. Countless Christian books have been written about Bible hermeneutics, systematic theology, and harmonizing the Biblical text. Try as they might, however, Evangelicals fail at this task. The Bible is an incoherent mess of contradictory texts, and if taken and believed literally, they lead to all sorts of nonsensical and harmful beliefs.

Yet, when I challenge Evangelicals to take EVERY word of Genesis 1-3 literally, they either say they do or start making excuses for while they don’t. I have challenged countless Evangelicals to let the words of the unknown author of Genesis stand on their own, and in doing so see that it is impossible to square Trinitarian Christianity with the text. In fact, honesty demands admitting that there were actually at least THREE Gods mentioned in Genesis 1-3, and that Christianity does not, in fact, rest on a monotheist foundation.

I double-dog dare Evangelical readers of this post to read the Bible as it is written, and not let theological presuppositions get in the way of what the text says. Read each book by itself and ask, “what is the author is trying to say?” Dare to ask yourself, as the talking snake asked Eve, “yea hath God said?” Just asking this question is the first step towards intellectual freedom; the first step towards freeing oneself of Evangelical bondage.

If you are an Evangelical who has stumbled upon this post, I am so glad you stopped by. Let me recommend several books you might find helpful as you weigh some of the claims I make in this post. If the Bible is “truth,” surely it will withstand intellectual investigation. Don’t take your preacher’s word for it. To quote the Good Book, seek and ye shall find . . .

Books by Robert Wright

The Evolution of God

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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  1. Avatar
    Bob Felton

    “I have yet to meet ANY atheist with any meaningful grasp on theology.”

    Theology is not a branch of knowledge at all, making this remark a good example of the low intellectual standards of believers.

    First, you have to prove the existence of a supernatural being, and then, second, you have to prove that the supernatural being is the one that Abraham was so proud of. Then you have to prove this supernatural being somehow superintended the production of the Bible.

    Parsing verses and ordering people around — you may do this, you must not do that, you have to do this other thing — before you have established your premises is cheating.

    When an engineer sits down to analyze a problem, there may be dozens of pages of calculations when he or she is done — and every single line of it, on every single page, has a pedigree. Every single line of it can be traced to the first geometers, Pythagoras and Euclid, then to people with names who made particular observations at particular places and times, and other people with names who tested those observations, and other people with names who explained it. This is why, in the 300-years since Isaac Newton’s death, men have walked on the moon, and religion has nothing to show for itself after thousands of years but Niagaras of bloodshed.

    So far as I can tell, theology has no more intellectual dignity than astrology; I’ll take it seriously when it does the hard work of establishing its premises, and not before then.

    • Avatar

      This. 100 times this.

      All of these Sophisticated Theologians™ running around. They are all right and everyone is wrong. Conveniently, nothing they say makes predictions, is falsifiable, or is testable.

      God is so lucky to have Stuart, who has a full grasp on theology.

      • Avatar
        Bruce Gerencser

        It always amuses me when an Evangelical suggests I never truly understood the Bible; never understood orthodox Christian doctrine. Funny how no one EVER said that about me back in the day. It only now that Evangelical soothsayers divine my lack of theological understanding. Quite convenient, making it easy for zealots to dismiss my story out of hand.

  2. Avatar

    Stuart must not have read many of your posts if he missed the fact that you were a pastor for 25 years. I could be wrong, but I think you may have learned about theology in your decades in the profession.

    I would contend that there are theologies, not just one theology. I know, evangelicals say there is One True Theology, but they can’t agree amongst themselves which is why there are so many sects. Add to that the theologies of all the religions, and now we are talking about thousands of theologies. Is anyone an expert in all of them? I doubt it. When Stuart refers to theology, he is considering the theory of his particular sect, possibly even his individual church. Most likely his theology hinges upon a literalist interpretation of the Bible complete with original sin, hell, blood sacrifice and atonement, all those horrific teachings that are repulsive to those of us who have studied and analyzed and emerged from the evangelical bubble.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Yes, I learned a good bit of theology over the years. ? I loved hanging out with my preacher friends, discussing doctrine and church practice. I was generally considered well read. But, for Stuart the Bruce I described cannot exist. His straw man characterization of me requires me being a poorly educated idiot.

  3. Avatar
    John Arthur

    Hi Stuart,

    You do realize that parts of your so-called holy book were written by very violent, bloodthirsty and ignorant savages who created god in their own likeness (Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles). That false prophet, Samuel, told Saul that God wanted the Israelites to exterminate the Amalekites for something they had done to the Israelis about 400 years beforehand. Hid God, Yahweh, is said to have commanded Saul to kill all of them, not only their soldiers but defenceless women, little children and babies for things for which not they (but their ancestors) were responsible. They were to till all the animals as well (1 Samuel ch. 15).

    This bloody command to murder little children and babies is simply barbaric. Saul’s army killed all the defenceless ones but left King Agag alive and some of the livestock. For that he is supposed to have disobeyed that barbaric butcher. Samuel took the captive and defenceless King Agag and hacked him to pieces.

    If you believe bloodthirsty and very violent passages like this as coming from your god, you will believe anything. Jesus said “let the little children come unto me for of such is the kingdom of heaven” yet the OT says “kill them”. This holy book of yours is very immoral and its only good use is as toilet paper. It’s god is very violent, very barbaric and a bloodthirsty savage. The book of Revelation in the NT is just as bad with rivers of blood right up to the bridle of the horses.

    You need to recover your sanity and reason and put your holy book where it belongs: in the dustbin.

  4. Avatar

    Stuart the Evangelical: “If i didn’t believe in something i wouldn’t waste a single moment on it. Atheists are a different breed though. They are evangelical in their denial and latent hatred of God. Personally i love engaging with intelligent people regardless of their ideology or belief. ”

    There is some truth to this. When one is indoctrinated as a child into a belief system that is endorsed by the local culture, it is unlikely for such a person to ever shake off the belief system completely. Psychologist/atheist Valerie Tarico compares this to the way you still can hear your parent’s voice and warning as an adult before you cross the street.

    • Avatar

      I always love this: “evangelical in their denial and latent hatred of God” – even though he’s never defined his personal God Flavor™. Maybe he actually hates the real God and doesn’t even know it? How is he so certain he has the One True God™ and One True Intepretation™? Everyone else has been getting it wrong for years, but not Stuart? All these denominations and sects continue to evolve, yet Stuart has the right answer. If only everyone knew!

      It’s also interesting that Stuart could have just left Bruce alone. If he doesn’t believe Bruce is correct, why waste any time with Bruce? As mentioned – because he has to inject to save others because it’s “heart breaking.” And therein lies the issue. If people like Stuart could just keep it to himself, then we Atheists could live peacefully. But they don’t…they have to spread their delusions and inject it into schools, governments, and bedrooms all over the globe. I genuinely wouldn’t care about religion if people kept to themselves.

      Don’t be a Stuart, people

      • Avatar

        Nate, yes you successfully flipped the script! The revulsion for atheists is very similar to what Stuart is saying about Bruce. No one, not even Mother Teresa couldn’t swallow the extraordinary claims religion makes. When I see someone advocating Pascal’s wager, you know that person doesn’t believe completely, otherwise the wager wouldn’t be necessary.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Even now, I have occasional religious hangovers — vestiges from my past. I laugh them off, but I suspect Evangelicals such as Stuart believe these hangovers are the “Holy Spirit” trying to get my attention., ?

  5. Avatar
    Michael Mock

    Despite everything, I actually really love the Genesis story. Yeah, it doesn’t make a lot of sense; yeah, it’s got a lot of problematic elements; and yeah, the snake really gets a bit of a bad rap for his part in the story. But there’s something fundamentally hilarious to me about the account: its insistence that if you put two human beings in an absolutely perfect environment with every reason to be content and even happy, they’ll still find a way to screw the whole thing up before the week is out.

    Sure, if you really want to, you can read it as a serious origin story that’s supposed to recount true events. But you can also read it as some bronze-age grandfather trying to answer his six-year-old grandson’s questions.

    GS: “Grandfather, why is life so horrible?”

    GF: “It just is, Grandson.”

    GS: “But why?”

    GF: “Well, Grandson, it’s because of people.”

    GS: “But why would it be because of people?”

    GF: “Because of how people are, Grandson.”

    GS: “What do you mean? What is it about people?”

    GF: “Well, Grandson, let me tell you a story…” (He then launches into an off-the-cuff spiel about how the world began, gets distracted by sheep, starts over on the creation sequence, and eventually builds up to a story about these two people who wound wandering the world in misery because they couldn’t be satisfied in a perfect home.)

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Just think how much better the world would be if Christians read the Bible as you suggest in your comment. Literalism is the problem. When fiction is treated as non-fiction, all sorts of problems follow. Imagine if we believed the Harry Potter books were non-fiction. ?

  6. Avatar

    I know why as a skeptic I go after fundamentalist Christianity so much. Basically is destructive and it threatens everyone in the US. For that matter it threatens many people abroad.

    On the other hand I think Wicca is silly but not dangerous so I don’t waste time on going after it.

    That is the difference for me and I suspect many of us in a nutshell.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Spot on, Kris. Christian Fundamentalism is the problem, not Christianity in general. If Evangelicals were like the Episcopalians I wouldn’t have much to write about. ?

  7. Avatar

    Stuart the Evangelical: “If i didn’t believe in something i wouldn’t waste a single moment on it

    I am going to assume you don’t believe in abortion, so do you not waste a single moment on it? Of course you do, because we don’t have to believe in something for it to be important.

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