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“It Must be a Miserable Thing to be an Atheist,” Says an Evangelical Christian

spaniardviii victor

Recently, a Christian Fundamentalist man who hides behind the SpaniardVIII moniker wrote his latest post in a series on atheism. (I responded, writing a post titled Do Atheists Really Love to Wallow in Sin?) One of SpaniardVIII’s readers, Victor, commented:

It must really be a miserable thing to be an atheist. It is true that they have made themselves willing tools in the hands of Satan to antagonise God and His followers. What a pity!

So much wrong in three little sentences. How is it possible that atheists have made themselves “willing tools in the hands of Satan?” Atheists don’t believe in the existence of deities or devils — Satan included. Making ourselves such would be akin to standing in the yard next to a shovel and asking it to make us spades. Silly, right? So is the suggestion that atheists have made themselves tools in the hands of Satan. Have Victor or SpaniardVIII ever seen Satan? Of course not. He is little more than a fairytale character used by Evangelicals in their attempts to scare people. Watch out Christians! Satan-filled atheists wander to and fro seeking whom they may devour. (1 Peter 5:8) Watch out Christians. Satan-filled atheists present themselves as angels of light, but they are, in fact, wicked, vile, evil people. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15) Why, did you know atheists pickle fetuses and eat them once a year on Halloween; that atheists secretly desire to molest children; that atheists are reprobates, and you know what that means, they are p-e-r-v-e-r-t-s. (Romans 1) And so it goes. Shameless Christians, forgetting the Good Book condemns bearing false witness (Romans 13:9), lie about atheists and defame their character.

Why do Evangelicals act this way towards atheists? The short answer is that for Evangelicalism to have value, there must a clear distinction between good and evil; Christian and atheist. Evangelicals present themselves as pillars of moral virtue — that is until they are caught with their pants down, and then they are just like the rest of us, they say — so it necessary for atheists and other non-believers to be portrayed as people lacking morally and ethically. The Christian life is presented as the most awesome experience ever — all praise be to J-E-S-U-S — so it is necessary for atheists and other non-believers to be portrayed as having empty lives lacking meaning, purpose, and direction. Thus, to Victor and his sidekick SpaniardVIII, atheists are miserable people. I assume the focus of the word miserable is on how atheists live their lives; or how Evangelical zealots THINK atheists live their lives, anyway.

I hate to break it to Victor, but I have lived on both sides of the fence. I knew plenty of miserable Christians. I witnessed countless followers of Jesus living miserable lives, either by choice or due to the circumstances of life. I see nothing in Christianity that inculcates people from misery. Perhaps what Victor means is that compared to the life he has with Jesus, atheists have miserable lives. How can he know that? By what standard does he determine someone is miserable or is living a worthless life?

I am sure Victor, as an Evangelical Christian, measures the lives of others — especially atheists — according to his peculiar interpretation of the Protestant Christian Bible. Throw in a large dose of projection, and it is easy to see how Victor comes to the conclusion atheists are miserable. When Jesus is your end-all, it’s no wonder non-Christians are viewed as being lacking in some way or the other. Atheists, in particular, aren’t shy about telling Victor and other zealots like him that their beliefs are rooted in fantasy; that the Jesus they love, adore, and worship, lies dead somewhere on a Judean hillside; that the only thing awaiting Christians after death is darkness, silence, and decay. Is it no wonder, then, that the Victors of the world view atheists the way they do?

atheists sad

Here’s the problem with Victor’s Bible-blurred view of atheists. We are not, in general, miserable or unhappy. We daily strive to live happy, fulfilled lives, knowing that this life is the only one we have. Sure, we have problems, just like Christians do. We have days when we are asses and other days when we are saints (as in Saint Hitchens, Saint Gupton, Saint Hawking). Often, our lives are admixtures of good, bad, and indifferent deeds. We are, above all else, human. What atheists know that Evangelicals seemingly don’t, is that we are not “better” (or worse) than anyone else. We are, in every way, fellow travelers on the road of life, each of us walking the path set before us.

Victor pities atheists, not because of shared humanity, but because they don’t believe as he does. For Victor, life starts and ends with Jesus and the Bible. If anyone deserves pity, it is him. He has chosen a life of paucity, a life reduced to endlessly masturbating before the throne of Jesus; a life reduced to worshipping a mythical deity; a life where only one book matters, the Bible. Why would anyone in his or her right mind what to live this way? Remove threats of judgments and Hell and promises of Heaven and eternal bliss, and I guarantee you Victor’s life would be very different.

As long as fear and judgment are motivators, the Victors of the world will continue to say atheists are miserable. Instead of looking in the mirror and seeing their own misery, Christian zealots jump up and down, holler, and point at atheists, saying LOOK AT HOW MISERABLE THEY ARE! Classic misdirection. I hate to break it to Victor, but with or without Jesus, misery can and does come our way. Live long enough, and Mr. Misery and Ms. Heartache are going to make an appearance in your life. It’s not a matter of if, but when. Should atheists say to the Christian man dying from cancer, “it must be a miserable thing to be a Christian, to have given your whole life to a lie and now you are dying!” The atheists I know would never be so heartless, cruel, and indifferent. Yet, Victor thinks it’s okay — not knowing anything about the people he condemns — to say to atheists, such miserable people you are. 

This post leaves me wondering what is it in Evangelical Christianity that causes followers of Jesus to lose all connection with their fellow humans? There will come a day when I will draw my last breath. I can only imagine how Evangelical pastors and bloggers will respond upon hearing of the Evangelical-pastor-turned-atheist Bruce Gerencser’s death. Look at how Christopher Hitchens and Steven Hawking were savaged after their deaths. Not long ago, Rachel Held Evans, a devout Christian, suddenly died at age 37. Her death was viewed by some within the Evangelical community as being some sort of divine retribution from the Evangelical God for Evans’ supposed heresy: Evans decapitated, her head placed on a pike for all to see, a reminder of what happens to those who stray from the narrow confines of the Evangelical box. Why can’t Evangelicals just act like decent, thoughtful human beings, even towards those who believe differently from them? See misery in the lives of others? Embrace their pain and lift them up, even if they worship your God, a different God, or no God at all. Surely, the fleshly, frail bond we have with one another transcends our tribes and teams, no? It should, but unfortunately, the Victors of the world refuse to remove their Bible-glasses long enough to see themselves and their fellow primates as they are.

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.

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  1. Avatar

    Evangelical Christians are taught to demonized the “unsaved”. They are taught that without Jesus, him and are reprobates, filthy, evil, vile. Therefore, it’s easy for them to treat those they consider “unsaved” in an inhumane manner. One might say it’s a God-given right for evangelicals to treat everyone else as foul, diseased vermin.

    I have been following an evangelical friend from high school on Facebook whose husband just died. Within a 10 week span he was diagnosed with a brain tumor, had surgery, had a recurrence, started and stopped chemotherapy, and passed away. Through this journey, lots of Christians prayed and prayed, one even going to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. My friend posted a series of verses on FB about heaven, and several commenters said they couldn’t imagine losing someone without hope of heaven. I wanted to tell them it’s not so bad because you appreciate amd focus during life on living in the moment and making and cherishing memories.

    It is hard to reason with people who believe in literal good and evil spirits affecting human existence. When someone thinks I am a tool of Satan just because I don’t believe in their deity or his enemy Satan, how can i explain to them that I don’t believe in their spirits? How do I explain that I look for answers in science rather than in ancient texts or in my own feelings? And how much do I trust my feelings, especially when I am hangry or have PMS? Thinking that atheists are miserable is a way to keep evangelicals in their place.

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    When I became an atheist, I got a 10% raise, and an extra day off…I’m not miserable… I remember getting everyone up on Sunday mornings, arguing about where everybody’s good clothes were, rushing some quicky breakfast, if any, arguing in the car about various complaints, arriving at church after a horrible morning, then putting on my christian face while greeting everyone, telling everyone how good god is…everyone played the same game…we were mad, upset, and ready to meet Jesus!
    A tool for satan…that’s rich!
    I remember coming to the realization how silly it was for me to believe in spirits…that there’s a spiritual world all around us, and that this world is not real.
    It’s all bullshit!

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    Karen the rock whisperer

    Yes, there are days when I’m miserable, but that often has to do with knees not working and the difficulty of losing enough weight to get knee replacement surgery. Other times it has to do with seeing my country self-destructing under the “leadership” of 45 and his goons. I will leave no legacy. After my death, I will live on briefly in the memories of those who knew me, and then I will be gone forever. It doesn’t matter. My chemicals will be recycled into the earth, and eventually into the greater universe when the earth is gone.

    I have issues with Richard Dawkins, who seems blissfully unaware of his own misogyny, but I do like this quote from him:

    “We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state from which the vast majority have never stirred?”

    I think about that, and I feel very lucky and far less miserable.

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    Melissa A Montana

    As a Christian, I was miserable, angry, and hateful. I was sick in the true sense of the word. Now, I am happy and in control. Yes, I still have problems, but they don’t seem as overwhelming now that I am not waiting for a miracle to solve them.

    It’s funny how they use a grumpy old goat for an atheist. He is more like the cranky old men I used to see in church. The difference being, at least Mr. Goat is kind enough to stay at home and pout in his coffee, rather than go out and attempt to spread “happiness and love” to people who don’t want to hear it. I’m with Mr. Goat. Sunday should be about sleeping late, wandering around in your ratty robe, drinking coffee, and, if you like, being grouchy.

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    John Arthur

    Hi Bruce,

    Spaniard is a religious crackpots of the worst kind. I am not labelling all Christians, or even all Evangelicals, as crackpots but character is among the most intolerant you could ever encounter. Thanks for the exposure of these ‘nuts’!

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    Yulya Sevelova

    I was scrolling today through the postings, and wound up here. That got me to thinking about the fact that over the years, most Christians I encountered were not happy people at all, and tried to ease their misery through materialism and power over others. The neuroticism simply couldn’t be hidden well enough, it came out here and there. Fear of God’s wrath kept me in church and tolerating those looks for too many wasted years. I don’t have enough years left to make up for it, so my remaining years will be spent same the above. Better late than never. Give me coffee and the Sunday paper any day, lol.

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    Yulya Sevelova

    Oops,autotext again. I mean, I’ll take that coffee and the paper over church, given what I know today. In times of distress before, the church types couldn’t care less, and the church was beyond useless. I’d trust my neighbors over them, a sad fact for anyone who’s been there.

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Bruce Gerencser