Recently, a Fundamentalist man by the name of Ben left a comment on a post about the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement: An Independent Baptist Hate List. Ben violated the comment rules by using a fake email address — email@example.com — so I didn’t approve his comment. I did decide, however, to use his comment as fodder for this post.
Let me say, before I get to Ben’s comment — that I don’t believe for one moment that he “loves” me. “I love you” is a tired, worthless trope uttered by Christians to give the appearance to unbelievers that they really care about them. Ben neither loves or care for me, and the reason is quite simple: He doesn’t know me. Ben read ONE post. He couldn’t be bothered to read the ABOUT page or the WHY page or any other 3,000+ posts on this site. If he really loved me, he would have taken the time to read my writing and then make a fair, charitable, honest assessment of my life. Instead, Ben did what Fundamentalists typically do: he answered a matter before hearing it (Proverbs 18:13). The Bible calls such a man foolish and shameful.
Now, let me address Ben’s comment. My response is emboldened and italicized.
This post really resonated with me, Bruce.
My wife and I left an Independent Baptist church a few months ago. Several of your points stand out to me. We were expected to attend every service, and the pastor’s favorite phrase was “it takes three to thrive.” If you wanted to teach a class, you had to meet a list of requirements, including that you don’t smoke tobacco and that your hair can’t cover your ears or collar.
We were asked to serve in ways that resembled a part-time or full-time job, which quickly began to take a toll on our quality of life. The pastor seemed to take pride in making the congregation members feel as if they can never serve God enough.
The preaching lacked any real substance, and every sermon turned into “you need to serve more and you need to be in church every service.” Oh, and they expected you to not only tithe religiously, but to also give above your tithe to support missions, guest speakers, and every foolish project they could conjure up.
It was one of the most traumatizing and exhausting experiences that my wife and I have ever endured in a so-called “church.” The last thing that I wanted to do after attending this church was to pray, read the Bible, or even think about God. And while not all Independent Baptist churches are as bad as that one was, I’m sure that there are also some that are far worse. I can never see myself joining an Independent Baptist church again, and I truly feel for anyone who has had to experience such things (or worse).
I am sorry Ben had to experience what he did at the church he and his wife attended. What Ben fails to understand is that his experience is not rare. In fact, it is quite common among IFB and other Evangelical churches. I make no apologies for believing that IFB churches in particular and Evangelical churches in general are cultic and psychologically harmful. Mainline/liberal/progressive Christian churches, along with a plethora of non-Christian groups, offer kinder, gentler, human-affirming experiences. While I personally have no desire or need for religion, I know many people do. My advice, then, is for them to flee Evangelicalism and find expressions of faith that are affirming; expressions of faith which embrace science and history; expressions of faith that see the Bible for what it is: an ancient religious text written by fallible men.
Having said that, I still consider myself a Bible-believing Christian. Why? Years ago I became a secular humanist/atheist after attending a secular college that completely challenged my entire worldview. I rejected the Bible and began believing (and promoting) the secular humanist worldview, including evolution. I loved to read Nietzsche, Darwin, Dawkins, and Harris.
Based on what Ben says here, he was a Christian before he went off to college. Once there, Ben lost his faith and became an atheist and a secular humanist. After a couple of years, Ben realized the error of his way and returned to Christianity. Did I miss anything?
I don’t like to ever question someone’s personal story and experiences, but when someone goes from Christian to atheism to Evangelicalism, I truly wonder if they grasped what it meant to be an atheist; what it meant to be a humanist. I don’t want to be accused of using the No True Scotsman argument, so I won’t flat out say Ben was never an atheist, but I do have my doubts. Rare is the educated atheist who leaves godlessness for Evangelical Christianity. Universalism? Perhaps. Deism? Perhaps. But Evangelicalism? Not likely.
This persisted for a couple of years until I finally began to realize that those positions required just as much (if not more) faith than religion did. I found myself correcting other atheists who would use bad arguments against religion or the Bible, which I had investigated myself and found to be untrue. Furthermore, there were so many things that science couldn’t explain about evolution, abiogenesis, and so forth.
Certainly, there are atheists who use bad arguments or don’t know much about Christianity and the Protestant Bible. However, I am not such a person, and neither are many of the atheist/humanist/non-Christian readers who frequent this site. Many of us spent years reading and studying the Bible. We read countless theological books and Christian biographies. Our faith was well informed, unlike Ben’s faith that was easily destroyed by attending a secular college. Had Ben read the ABOUT page he would have learned that I was in the Christian church for fifty years; that I was an Evangelical pastor for twenty-five of those years. I am not ignorant of what Evangelicals believe and practice, and even now, ten-plus years removed from my divorce from Jesus, I continue to immerse myself in the Evangelical sewer; not because I want to, but I must if I intend to remain an informed writer.
Yes, science doesn’t have ALL the answers. And the Bible does? A 2,000- 4,000- year-old religious text carries more authority than modern science? To quote the great philosopher Chad Ochocinco, Child Please. Science has not yet explained everything, and will likely never do so. However, from the Big Bang forward, we have a good idea about how the universe came into existence; how our planet came into existence; and how homo sapiens and kittens came to populate the earth. When left to choose between creationism and science, the choice is simple: science wins hands down. Creationism either demands we believe the universe is 6,024 years old or that there were millions and millions of years between the six days of creation. Both unscientific religious beliefs are absurd — as science clearly reveals.
The same goes for the so-called history recorded in the Bible. Certainly, there are historical events/places/people found within the pages of Holy Writ. However, most of the major Old Testament stories, from Noah’s Flood to Abraham to Moses and the Wandering Jews, have no historical foundation. The same could be said for the miracles recorded in the New Testament.
To believe everything found in the Bible is accurate, true, and without error is a faith claim, not one based on historical and scientific evidence. Evangelicals are free to believe what they want, but the moment they say that their Biblical beliefs are supported by science and history, I am going to say: SHOW ME. And not with apologetics books, creation “science” textbooks, or books written not to advance truth, but to protect Evangelical faith. What do most experts say on a matter; men and women who are seekers of truth rather than promoters of dogma?
If you are 100% honest with yourself, you’ll realize that any particular group has their own little “hate” list.
Ah yes, if I was “honest” with myself . . . What in my writing suggests that I am anything but open, transparent, and honest? I often find myself at odds with my fellow unbelievers, and have shared my disagreements on more than a few occasions. Sure, some atheists are shit-throwing idiots who revel in trashing Christianity and people of faith. I have seen more than a few atheists on social media act in ways that I find personally embarrassing. When such atheists show up on this site, I cut them off. I want the Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser to be a place where people with doubts about their faith or who have left Christianity can find encouragement, help, and support. I have banned a number of atheists over the years for bad behavior. That said, their numbers pale in comparison to feces-throwing Evangelicals. In fact, most of the Evangelicals who comment on this site are rude, inconsiderate, and argumentative. That’s why I only give such commenters one opportunity to say whatever it is they think a dead man named Jesus has laid upon their “hearts.” Once they have vented their spleens, I cut them off. I have done this for years now, and it has made the comment section much more enjoyable to read.
Here’s one that would suit most atheists/secular humanists/liberals:
1. The Bible
2. Fox News
3. Alex Jones/Rush Limbaugh/Hannity
4. Answers in Genesis.org
5. Donald Trump
6. Trump supporters
8. Gospel tracts
9. Religious documents or statues on government property
13. Monotheistic religions
14. and so on….
Ben believes that atheists/secular humanists/liberals have hate lists too, much like IFB churches and pastors. Again, I wonder about his exposure to atheism/humanism. If he had taken to reading books/blogs written by atheists/agnostics/humanists, he would have found that we are not, generally, a hateful group. One only needs to read the Humanist Manifesto to learn than humanists are known by what they are for, not what they are against. IFB churches and pastors, on the other hand — along with many Evangelicals, Mormons, and conservative Catholics — are known for what they hate. God hates, so they hate. The aforementioned post, An Independent Baptist Hate List, is a catalog of things, beliefs, practices, and behaviors Fundamentalist Baptists hate with a passion.
I know Ben won’t “hear” what I say next, but the fact of the matter is this: I don’t hate people, nor do I hate inanimate objects. My focus is on harmful beliefs and practices, thus it can be said that I do hate certain IFB/Evangelical notions and praxes. Some beliefs don’t matter, but others cause great psychological and cultural harm. Scores of Americans have sought out counseling thanks to the damage done to them by religion — especially Fundamentalist Christianity. Children are physically abused because their parents believe they have been commanded by God to beat them into submission. Patriarchalism and complementarianism both find their roots in Fundamentalist Christianity. A careful look at climate change denialists reveals a common denominator: Christian Fundamentalism. The same could be said for those who believe the earth is flat. And the same could also be said about those who are white supremacists. Dig deep, and what is often found is religious Fundamentalism (and the same could be said about Muslim extremism).
Ben lists thirteen things he thinks I hate. He is wrong on all thirteen counts. Even Donald Trump, as much as I despise him as a man and revile his politics, I don’t hate him. That doesn’t mean I have never hated anyone, I have. But hate can consume people. One need only see the hatred many Evangelicals have for LGBTQ people, immigrants, and liberals to see what hate does to people. No thanks. I choose, instead, to turn my hatred into action. Yes, I want to chop at the root of Evangelical Christianity until the tree topples over, but it’s the beliefs I despise and hate, not the people.
I live in an area dominated by conservative Christianity and Republican politics. Even many of my fellow Democrats skew way too far to the right for my liking. I don’t hate my family, friends, and neighbors. Who wants to spend their life wallowing in a pit of anger and hatred? Not me. So, I do what I can to change hearts and minds. I try my best to be a good example of an atheist and a humanist. I am sure I fail more often than not, but with great resolve I pick myself up and try to do better.
As I investigated criticisms of the Bible and Christianity, I realized that there was a logical, reasonable explanation for any alleged problem. Lo and behold, I came full circle, abandoned my secular humanist position, and became a serious, born-again Christian.
This statement makes it clear, at least to me, that Ben truly hasn’t done his homework. No one can honestly study the nature of the Biblical text and conclude that it is inerrant. Saying the Bible is inspired, inerrant, and infallible requires faith. How can Ben KNOW that the Bible is what Evangelicals claim it is? The extant evidence is clear: the Bible is NOT what Evangelicals say it is. And anyone who had studied the matter knows this. Sure, it is “possible” to explain away the contradictions, but for most rational, skeptical people, these explanations seem hollow.
Ben believes the Bible is true because his chosen religion demands he do so. Thus, against reason and facts, Ben offers faith. And that’s fine. Want to believe the Bible is written by men as they were moved by the Holy Ghost and is without error, that’s fine. But, admit that this belief rests on faith, not facts.
If Ben happens to visit this site again, I hope he will hear me when I say that he needs to spend some serious time reading the works of Dr. Bart Ehrman. Doing so will cure Ben of what ails him. I have listed the books I recommend at the end of this post.
Although my experience at the “fundy” church was horrible, I know that it was the pastor’s issue, and it hasn’t dazed my view of God. I’m able to separate the infallible nature of men and churches from the truth revealed in Christ.
I’m not going to try to convince you to become a Christian, but I do want to say this: I feel your pain with the absurdity that takes place in some churches, and I’m sorry for any trauma you experienced. I also see that you suffer from a lot of physical pain, and I sincerely hope your medical issues improve.
Ben waits until the end of his comment to subtly suggest that I deconverted because of some sort of negative experience or trauma. (Please see Simple Contact Form for Evangelicals) While I have long admitted that there is an emotional component to my loss of faith, the primary reasons I am no longer a Christians are intellectual in nature. I made this clear in the post titled, The Michael Mock Rule: It Just Doesn’t Make Sense. The bottom line is this: Christianity doesn’t make sense to me. The reasons it doesn’t can be found in the posts listed on the WHY page.
Anyone who suggests as Ben does that my loss of faith rests on anything other than an intellectual foundation is deliberately choosing to ignore what I have to say; they are deliberately reading an alternative storyline into my story. As long-time readers know, do this and I will surely get pissed off. I expect people, atheists and Christians alike, to accept my story at face value. It’s my life, my story, so who knows it better than me?
I just hope that you keep an open mind and that you can see that atheism/secular humanism suffers from the same inherent problems that many churches /worldviews do. And who knows, maybe one day you can re-evaluate your position on God and separate the wheat from the chaff.
Ben offers me no evidence that challenges my atheistic/humanistic beliefs, so there is nothing I need to ponder or consider. I am not sure what Ben hoped to gain by leaving this comment? Countless Evangelical zealots have commented on the blog, emailed me, or left comments on social media over the past twelve years. Many more have prayed to the ceiling God on my behalf. And a few Evangelicals have even asked God to kill me. Yet, here I am, still unrepentant; still an apostate; still a heretic; still a God-hater. The omniscient, omnipresent Christian God supposedly knows exactly where I am, yet he does nothing. Why is that? Maybe he is on vacation, on the toilet, or sleeping (I Kings 18). Or maybe, just maybe, he doesn’t exist. My money is on the latter. When new evidence arises, I’ll be sure to consider it. Until then, I remain an atheist. All praise be to Loki!
Saved by Reason,
Books by Bart Ehrman
About Bruce Gerencser
Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 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.
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.