Originally posted June 2, 2015. Corrected, updated, and expanded.
On one level, this is a silly question. Since I do not think there is a God, if I hated God, I would be hating a nonexistent entity. This would be akin to hating Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy. However, I understand why religious people might think someone like me hates “their” God. I spend a lot of time writing things that are negative about God and religion, so surely I must HATE God. Maybe some atheists do hate God, but I don’t. It is a non-issue for me.
As a writer, my focus is on religion. Religion is the human attempt to answer what I call the “hard” questions of life. Where did we come from? What is the essence, the substance of life? Is there life after death? What gives life meaning and purpose? These are not easy to answer. I realize many atheists will say “no evidence”. . . end of discussion, but I think these kinds of questions are worthy of friendly, thoughtful, pointed discussion. The problem is many religious people can’t discuss these questions in a friendly manner. Thinking their God and belief system is truth, they condemn and marginalize anyone who thinks differently.
While I think evolution is the best answer to the “where did we come from” question, I am not at all satisfied with the answers science gives when dealing with the something rather than nothing question. Even Bill Nye, in his debate with creationist Ken Ham, admitted that, so far, science hasn’t answered the question of where the first particle came from. Of course, Ham, a man with cement in the place where his brain once sat, jumped up and down and said, TEACHER, TEACHER, I KNOW THE ANSWER! IT’S FOUND IN THE B-I-B-L-E. Ham thinks the question is answered whereas Nye is willing to say, We don’t know, but we continue to try and find the answer this important question.
I am an atheist because the evidence tells me, at this present moment, that there is no God. As a man who spent fifty years in the Christian church and twenty-five years in the pastorate, I am well versed in the teachings of the Bible and the one, true, and holy Evangelical faith. There’s no possible argument an Evangelical could make that I have not heard. It is not evidence that I am lacking. I have weighed all the available evidence in the balance and found it wanting. I am convinced, based on the available evidence, that the Evangelical God is a work of fiction and that Christianity is an admixture of myths, legends, oral traditions, and religious teachings. Maybe someday a deity of some sort will reveal itself to us. If so, I will consider this new evidence just like I have the evidence for the plethora of human religions. I doubt this will happen, so I am not going to spend any time worrying about it. In the meantime, I remain agnostic on the God question and live my day-to-day life as an atheist. Reason, humanism, family, friends, baseball, photography, and writing are enough for me; no God needed.
My hatred is reserved for certain aspects of some religions. Since I live in the United States, my experience has primarily been with the Christian religion, especially the Evangelical form of Christianity. While I think the essence of Christianity can provide value and substance for some people — even in our modern, scientific world — I am convinced that twenty-first-century Christianity is so far afield from its original intent that it has ceased to be Christianity at all. How does the Christianity of today, in any of its various forms, remotely resemble the teachings and faith of Jesus, the poor, itinerant do-gooder of first-century Palestine.
Part of the problem is that early in the history of the Christian church, the Christianity of Jesus was subjugated by the Christianity of Paul. The modern version of Christianity we see today is Paul’s version of it and not that of Jesus. It is doubtful, at least in my mind, that we can ever recover what Jesus wanted Christianity to be. We can’t know if he even wanted to start a new religion. Perhaps all he wanted was to reform Judaism. We can’t appeal to the Bible because it has been corrupted by errors, corrections, additions, and outright fraudulent changes. At best, we might be able to peer within the pages of the Bible and get a general idea of who Jesus was and what he was all about. And we can do this regardless of whether we consider Jesus divine or not.
When I look at American Christianity, what do I see? I see power and wealth. I see arrogance. I see machinery. I see everything but what I should see. Where is Jesus? Where are the good works? Look at the 2016 Republican slate of presidential candidates. Jesus lovers, the lot of them, all trying to see who has the biggest Evangelical dick. Their beliefs and policies would likely be condemned by Jesus of Nazareth they purportedly worship. Millions of Christians considered voting for these men, thinking they were voting for God’s man. (Please see Why I Hate Jesus.) And that’s precisely what Evangelical voters did in November 2015, electing “baby Christian” Donald Trump as president. Eighty-two percent of voting white Evangelicals voted for Trump. By doing so, Evangelical Christians traded their souls for a bowl of pottage, choosing power over morality, ethics, and decency.
It seems that most churches and pastors are focused on building a kingdom, not in heaven, but here on earth. Why all the fancy, expensive buildings? Why all the programs designed to keep fat, lazy sheep happy? Why does most of the income go to maintain buildings, pay staff, and provide programs for people who are already Christians? What happened to outreach to the “least of these?” Where can I find a church where the poor, sick, homeless, and dying are given preferential treatment? If Jesus were alive today, do we really think he would go to an American church? I don’t.
Even though I don’t believe in the Christian God — nor do I think the Bible is divine truth — I could see myself going to a church that took seriously the teachings of the man named Jesus. (And yes, I am aware that some of his teachings are contemptible.) I still have a heart filled with compassion for the poor, sick, and marginalized, and I suspect many of the readers of this blog do too. As atheists and agnostics, we don’t have many meaningful opportunities or outreaches to help others. Imagine the help we could lend to churches focused on helping others instead of building kingdoms in this life.
I wonder if there is any room in the world for itinerant atheist preachers? While I couldn’t preach the Christian gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ, I could preach a humanist gospel, a gospel that says salvation is found in the goodwill, mercy, and compassion we have for others. I could point to the teachings of Jesus, Buddha, and Bruce Almighty and show how the relevant parts of their teachings can help make us better human beings.
My hatred is reserved for any religion that is focused on power and wealth, and not people. For the most part, I despise Evangelical Christianity. To Evangelicals, words in a book are more important than loving their neighbors and helping the poor, hungry, and homeless. They prefer the narrowness of their religion to the wideness of human love, mercy, and compassion. They would rather concern themselves with abortion, same-sex marriage, immigration, gun rights, combatting socialism, refuting global warming, evolution, and getting Republicans elected, than trying to make a real difference in the lives of the “least of these.” Thinking evangelizing someone is more important than feeding and clothing them (better to go to Heaven with an empty belly, than Hell with a full one, the thinking goes), Evangelicals are viewed by non-Christians in the same light as door-knocking Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and siding salesmen.
My beef is not with God because I don’t think there is a God. My beef is not with Christians who are serious about loving and helping others. My disdain, and at times my anger, is reserved for those who have no regard for the plight of the poor and the sick, who only care about building a kingdom here on earth. No matter how much they talk about the future kingdom of God, their actions betray their true ambitions.
If churches took the teachings of Jesus seriously, they would merge, sell off the excess real estate, and use the money to help the poor, sick, and disadvantaged. If churches took the teachings of Jesus seriously, they’d fire all the professional Christians, forcing them to get real jobs. In doing so, these professional Christians would be forced to reengage with a world they lost connection with once they became gatekeepers and waitstaff at the local Evangelical churches.
If churches took the teachings of Jesus seriously, they’d stop programs that are little more than crack for religious junkies. These addicts bounce from church to church, program to program, service to service, hoping to get a Jesus Fix®. They are narcissists who have forgotten that what really matters is loving their spouses, children, family, and neighbors. They’ve traded the church for their common, dirty connection with the world. Sheltered from sinners, they listen to sermons that remind them of how wonderful it is in the church and how bad it is out there.
I don’t hate God. My hatred is reserved for evil done in the name of God. (Please see the Black Collar Crime series.) My hatred is reserved for those who value theological fealty, fidelity, and conformity more than they do people. Such thinking caused the burning of people at the stake and the slaughter of countless heretics. Given a chance here in America, Evangelicals with theocratic impulses would enact and enforce a Christian version of Sharia law. I hate all who dare attempt the subjugation and control others in the name of their God. Thinking they are oracles who have THE truth, they demand everyone else bow to their truth. Willing to use violence and the power of the state to force others to embrace their God and Holy Book, they cause deep hatred and resentment. Thinking they are being hated for their beliefs, what they are really being hated for is their unwillingness to allow others to have the same freedoms they demand for themselves.
As I look at American Christianity, I search in vain for one good reason that I would/should become a Christian. Maybe there is a group somewhere that takes the teaching of the socialist Jesus seriously, but so far all I see is ice cream. Various flavors, but all ice cream. (Please see But, Our church is DIFFERENT!)
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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Have you heard of John Shuck?
I have not. Looks interesting!
Yep. And I want to specifically mention the children who are exposed to evangelical zeal. I for one am forever angry that innocence must be exposed to destruction on every level in a faith that uses the word LOVE as if it is exclusively theirs. I don’t want to hear about your version of Jesus as long as you accept the suffering of innocent children under the hands/fists/belts/sticks of Bible-wild believers. What a crock of toxic verse…
Well said, Bruce…. but MY faith isn’t like that! MY church is different. Yep.
Good comment, Brian. It makes me think of that pastor Scott Carpenter in North Carolina who told the baccalaureate class that any gay ones among them are going to hell, then claimed that he was just acting in Christian love. There was no love in his comments; to use Bruce’s metaphor, pastor Carpenter was just trying to grow a bigger Evangelical dick. With these evangelical preachers, it’s all about asserting your power and manhood.
Ha, you are a funny man. But let me say that your use of the word ‘manhood’ really gets me. A preacher like SC is not fully a man. His embrace of Jesus has reduced him to a blathering idiot who is proud of his interpretations of scripture. If there was a God he would hate us all equally for being so biped and retro! And I am especially impressed that you have attended enough church to realize the reason why a pulpit is there, often surrounded by flowers and their pulpits. It was discovered that the Devil was misleading at least half the congregation during sermons, when the pastor’s member would stand to witness! It became necessary to hide the lower portions of the preacher…. voila, the pulpit was born! Unfortunately, like many brilliant plans this one ultimately failed because the lower portions just up and came out of the pastor’s mouth instead of staying behind the pulpit. (I apologize for various visual images possibly engendered by these words.)
Bruce: This is one of your best posts ever! I especially like your comment about Republicans seeing who has the biggest Evangelical dick. I would add that part of the Evangelical Extenze that adds to your dick size is to hate and slander Barack Obama, all the while ignoring that their is a commandment against bearing false witness. Once again, so foreign to what Jesus would have done.
“Where can I find a church where the poor, sick,homeless, and ignorant are given preferential treatment?”
Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco. I am not a Christian, but if I lived closer to SF I might well attend services occasionally. You have to dig really, really deep on their website (glide.org) to find any mention of a denominational association; their pastors are United Methodist. Their whole mission is to serve the “least of these”, and they do so spectacularly. We need more of them.
(For someone unfamiliar with SF, the Tenderloin is a really, really rough, poor part of town. There are poorer parts, but those are ghetto housing developed after Glide was founded, in the misguided notion that if you piled poor people on top of each other in tiny, cheap apartments they’d be so grateful, they’d be quiet little mice and you could forget about them.)
I know there are churches doing a phenomenal job helping the poor, homeless, sick, etal. Unfortunately, they rarely get any press. It’s the whiners and screamers, mostly Evangelicals, Mormons, and conservative Catholics, that get all the press. 🙁
There are also far too few of such churches, given Jesus’ message. But most people who claim to be Christian seem to be followers of Paul, not Jesus. Not really my business; I’m not Christian (and it amuses me when Christians going around throwing “Not a True Christian (TM)!” accusations at each other. I do wish that people would find it in their hearts to worry more about “the least of these”, regardless of religious label.
You are right about Paul and most Christians don’t know this. As I listen to the Evangelical blathering of the current slate of Republican presidential candidates, I hear a lot of Paul and very little Jesus. The best Jesus candidate is socialist Bernie Sanders. 🙂
I have to second the vote for Glide here. I’ve never been to the church; I live just a bit too far away, and anyhow navigating around San Francisco unnerves me and I get baffled and lost frequently. So I avoid the city.
However, Glide makes it into the local news frequently for some new or special repeating program that helps far more people in real. very locally appropriate ways, that I imagine any church doing. We need to convince oodles more churches to be like Glide.
Bruce: I’m not an atheist, but like you, I REALLY hate the way organized religion — for me, primarily conservative evangelical groups and conservative Catholics — now dominate any rational discussion of faith.
Your latest blog article struck a nerve in me because of its headline. The last conversation I had on Facebook with my evangelical Pentecostal sister (before I blocked her for good), she asked me, “Wayne, why are you so mad that you hate god so much?”
My answer: I don’t hate God. I just don’t believe in yours…
There’s no room in the minds of religious conservatives for anything else that doesn’t involve rules that all of us must follow just to be considered part of their exclusive club.
Off the soapbox. Thanks for allowing me to vent.
Climb on up any time, my friend. 🙂
Cracking read Bruce.
Bruce, this is excellent! The insular, navel-gazing atmosphere that’s rampant in Christianity, coupled with all the lashing out at anyone who doesn’t conform, shows the true values of many Christians. You have packed a lot of great observations into this post.
“Why do you hate God?”
I have often heard that on my FB page when I get on my sopabox about religion. You explained it pretty well Bruce. Other comments that usually frosts my nuts are…
1. “You choose not to believe in God because you love your sin too much.”
NO…I don’t believe in God because of the lack of evidence.
NO…I don’t believe in sin because I don’t believe in God.
Only God calls that shit in the bible a “sin”. I really don’t do anything “morally” that is against the Bible. I don’t get drunk, I don’t use God’s name in vain (that was engrained in me at a very young age), I don’t lie, cheat, steal, murder. I do, however, fornicate…as often as I can! I’m a single 51 year old male. I’m in the last 1/3 of my life. I’m getting it in as much as possible…while I still can!
2. “If you just read the bible and pray to God and really seek him out, he will show himself to you.”
(My mother tells me this ALL THE TIME)
Well, being that I was saved at the wise old age of 7 (at a Billy Graham crusade…let’s all sing…”Just as I am without one plea”…keep singing…I’ll keep typing), and went to Bible college at 17 years old, I would say I know the Bible pretty well (not as well as Bruce probably…but damn close to it!). I became agnostic at 20, and then a full blown atheist in my 40s (I quit saying “I’m spiritual”). I have “sought the face of God” as a Christian and as an agnostic. As an agnostic, I sought god with a pure heart. I told him…”You know what I need to make me believe. If you can do that…I’ll be your biggest fan.” That was over two decades ago. I’m still waiting for a reply. Am I suppose to wait for a voice in my head? All those voices tell me that the god theory in the bible is holier than swiss cheese.
(A continuing line of thought after I say…”I told him…”You know what I need to make me believe. If you can do that…I’ll be your biggest fan.”)
3. ” Who are you to tell God how to meet you. You can’t come to God on your terms.”
Well, it isn’t like I’m asking him to let me win the lottery or anything of financial or professional gain. I don’t want him to come to me in a dream or anything like that. But IF he IS GOD and KNOWS EVERYTHING…he would know exactly how to approach me. I have often heard it said that god answers prayers in 3 ways…Yes, No, and Wait. 25+ years of waiting??? I’ve hung up the phone!
Oh and one other one…
Christianity isn’t a religion…it’s a relationship.
In order to have a relationship, both parties must be approachable and be able to communicate in audiable or visual ways (for deaf people). A relationship with God does not fall into this category!
Bruce, just cruising around and reading some of your older posts. You know, I think this is the very best post. Maybe it’s worth a rerun or something like that, huh?
Looks like Bruce took your suggestion!
I have three pastor friends of different churches. None of them are for Trump or power. But then, they aren’t part of fundamentalism, although two are from a conservative church. One is from the United Methodist, and she is welcoming and affirming to LGBTQ people. She went to their conference and experienced severe disappointment over their denomination refusing to affirm the gay community. So I know there are good and loving Christians, who want to help their fellow man.
There are Christians that are about helping the poor and needy and engaging in the community rather that pursuing political power in order to force their rules onto everyone else. I was a part of a church like that for awhile before I realized I didn’t believe in gods anymore. Frankly, I miss that community, and while I have found secular organizations that help people, there isn’t a community who will come to another’s aid at the drop of a hat. I have a friend I can call at 3 am in an emergency, but not a community I can call at 3 am.
Unfortunately the churches that do these kinds of commu ot support are overshadowed by the power hungry legalistic evangelicals. I have liberal Christian friends who hate what the evangelicals are doing as much as we hate what they’re doing. They have the added stress that evangelicals make the other Christians look BAD by association.
I don’t know how to explain to evangelicals that I don’t hate deities, I just don’t believe in them. And no, I am not worshipping Satan – I don’t believe in him either. And no, I am not worshipping humans or sports or whatever else you think I am worshipping, because I don’t worship. And no, I don’t think we humans have an innate need to worship, I think it’s something we are taught to do. Some of us just realized, what in the hell am I doing? And we don’t do it anymore.
Bruce, great post.
Re “Religion is the human attempt to answer what I call the “hard” questions of life. Where did we come from? What is the essence, the substance of life? Is there life after death? What gives life meaning and purpose?” I suggest that religion is the human attempt to make up answers to those questions, not to address them, discuss them, or study them. To “attempt” to answer those questions we have … philosophy. The Judaic religion actively dissuaded people from studying philosophy (a battle they were to lose to some significant extent as Greek philosophy penetrated both Judaism and Christianity). Philosophers actively examine what they know and how they know it. This is anathema by faith driven organizations. Thinking is not something to be encouraged.
I, like you, do not hate supernatural entities, but I do hate what people have done with the concept of “god.”
Excellent post Bruce. Out of the park. Three darts in the bullseye.
Glide church may be more moral than the evangelical churches but when you dig into its theology you find it’s just as bat-shit crazy as any other bunch of religious cranks.
The same goes for John Shuck.
Atheism is hard. It is hard to escape the conditioning that comes from a lifetime of being preached to that it is essential to have faith in a set of really really irrational beliefs. It’s a real challenge to resist replacing your lost evangelical christian or liberal christian or mormon or muslim or hindu or buddhist or spiritualist or pantheist or whatever beliefs with other equally irrational beliefs. Bat-shit is bat-shit, no matter how much whipped cream and chocolate sauce you pour on it.
It’s as if the far right religions are so full of angry unhappy people that they somehow have this need to feel superior. Since religion is based in fiction, they’d have nowhere else to go if religion were to fade away into the non fiction world of reason and science. They live for the afterlife and ruin their “now” and so end up with a life full of angst.