Evangelical Man Thinks He has a Fish on the Line, Finds Out It’s a Log

peanut gallery

Email From the Peanut Gallery

Several months ago, an Evangelical man named Will contacted me on Facebook, saying he wanted to “understand” my story. I told Will to email me, and I would respond when I had time to do so. (I’m currently weeks behind in answering email.)

Will became impatient and contacted me again on Facebook. I told him I would get to his email soon. Evidently, he was clueless to the fact that my wife was off work for two months, in the hospital for almost three weeks, and had major abdominal surgery. Either that — as you shall read in a moment — or he didn’t care. My eternal destiny was at stake, fuck Polly’s temporary physical problems. The risk of me burning in Hell is of far greater importance to the Wills of the world than anything that might happen to me or my loved ones in this life.

Tonight, Will had enough of me ignoring him. So, he contacted me AGAIN on Facebook. What follows is our discussion. Enjoy!

Will: Bruce, your salvation is what’s important the most.

Bruce: I don’t need to be saved from anything except Christians who think they need to evangelize me! I am a kind, decent human being, with a wonderful wife, children, and grandchildren! I have everything I need!

What did you hope to accomplish by sending me this?

P.S. Now I know why you wanted me to email you! No thanks!

Will: I want you to re-examine your reasons for leaving the faith. I want you to return to the love that you abandoned, Christ.

Bruce: Dude, I did that — 2006-2008. End of story. I have zero interest in your God or religion. If you have read my writing, you KNOW this.

So, unless you want to talk football, we’re done here.

Will: I’ve read your writing, and I understand that you have left the faith. What I didn’t know is that leaving it has caused you to do a 180 in the area of kindness and reason, which are traits that can be consistent with both Christians and non-Christians. I will end this, I hope and pray that you will see the truth in your lifetime. Blessings.

Bruce: Let me see if I understand you: if I refuse your underhanded attempt to evangelize me, I’m unkind and lacking reason. Since I rebuffed your attempts to engage in a fruitless conversation about Jesus, salvation, etc., I’m the problem, right?

Or maybe, just maybe, you don’t respect me as a person, nor do you respect personal boundaries. If you have really read my writing, you know my story and where I am in life. You think that evangelizing me is the most important thing you can do for me; as if you can possibly tell me something I don’t know, haven’t preached, or heard countless times from Christian zealots.

If me telling you “no thanks” is being unkind, so be it. If me refusing to let you attempt to evangelize me is unreasonable, so be it.

Will, I have seen the “truth” in my lifetime, and that’s why I left Christianity and became an atheist.

Will: Bruce, any rational being should be open to a discussion of this magnitude, where their eternal residence hangs in the balance. If I can’t help you, maybe you can help me. What is truth?

Bruce: You didn’t “listen” to a word I said, Will. There’s no magnitude of anything. Unless you have evidence for the existence of heaven, hell, or life after death, there’s nothing of “eternal” nature to discuss.

Will: Bruce, we are past that. I only asked you one simple question. What is truth?

Bruce: Dude, we aren’t past anything. You think you have a fish on the hook, when in fact all you’ve snagged is a log.

And with that, I say “enough.” My steak has arrived [We were eating at Texas Roadhouse].

Will: You read like the people who you talked about in your article, rather than convert them, they converted you. 🤔

Bruce: Believe what you will.

Will: Now that’s truth and you know it!! Instead of the Preacher helping to convert the atheists, the table gets turned and the atheists convert the Preacher. Had to be a false preacher.

Bruce: Believe what you will.

Will: The facts are what I believe and you have demonstrated the facts by your actions.

Bruce: Believe what you will.

Will: You are running away from the truth.

Bruce: Believe what you will.

Will: I believe that there is still hope for you.

Bruce: Believe what you will.

Here’s the money quote: “The facts are what I believe.” Classic Evangelical arrogance. Will has the truth, and the sooner I accept that and prostrate myself before his peculiar version of Christianity, the better.

What think ye, dear readers? Did I show myself to be unkind and unreasonable?

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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36 Comments

  1. przxqgl

    “What think ye, dear readers? Did I show myself to be unkind and unreasonable?”

    i think you were a lot more kind and reasonable than i would have been.

    i used to love to play around with these people. i had a huge amount of study of not only the bible, but many hindu and muslim scriptures committed to memory, and could out-scripture any self-proclaimed “christian” 20 ways from sunday.

    then i had a brain injury, and lost all of my patience and self-control… and impulse control…

    now i turn into (as tom waits puts it) a “raving lunatic with stains on his pants” the moment someone goes beyond the boundaries that i have set for them, and i don’t let up until several days later. literally.

    you were kind beyond measure, and far more reasonable than he was. good on you, bruce. 😉👍

    Reply
  2. Astreja

    Bruce, I think the treatment you accorded Will was about 99% nicer than he deserved. If he had tried that stunt on me, he’d be lucky to escape with anything less than a diagnosis of craniorectal impaction and a hearty “STFU and GTFO.”

    Reply
    1. Matilda

      I agree with everyone else, you were patient, clear and pleasant. I’ve noticed since deconverting how some of the most evangelising fundies ride rough shod over the common courtesies of life – like not waiting politely for a response from you. They have to pester, try again and again. A fundy I know who ‘witnesses’ everywhere told me last week he’d met a woman in a coffee shop whose partner had cancer. The fundy is sure their encounter was ordained from on high. She gave him her phone number, not sure why, so he’s called her several times and said he was worried she’s not picking up, her man must be more ill. I guess she’s blocking him because she’s realised he’s out to convert her. As is often said here, it’s all about Will, not you, he wants the brownie points within his cult of bringing you back to the fold – by the strength of his mighty incontrovertible evidence for the existence of hell etc. He’s certainly not doing it by his courtesy and charm!

      Reply
  3. Melissa A Montana

    You were way nicer than I would have been. : )

    Reply
  4. Becky Wiren

    Bruce, you were very nice. I would’ve completely ended the conversation much earlier, because I just can’t even with bullshit. Willy boy is a tool.

    Reply
  5. StillSearching

    Will said that “any rational being should be up for a discussion of this magnitude”. But in Will’s arrogance, he made it clear that HE got to decide when this discussion took place, whether it was convenient for you or not.

    Apparently, Will finds it irrational that you are not up for this type of discussion at anytime and from anyone and at anyplace. At dinner? Out at the movies? At the hospital with your wife? In the checkout line at the grocery store? At your front door? How uncooperative of you not to stop whatever you are doing immediately so that you can engage in this Very Important Discussion!

    No, Bruce – you were not unkind or unreasonable. You allowed Will to engage you at HIS convenience, in the manner that HE chose. You have made it abundantly clear in your writings where you stand. Anyone who is rude enough to not actually read what you’ve written or who refuses to take into account that you have a private, personal life and cannot be immediately available to every Tom, Dick & Harry who emails you, does not deserve your time. Will would do well to learn that people want to be seen as fellow human beings and not as ministry opportunities.

    Reply
  6. GeoffT

    Whilst Will is undoubtedly a fool, he did (I’m sure inadvertently) hit on one very good point, namely the subject of ‘truth’. I think this is an immensely hard word to define, and I’m not going to try, but he did throw it open as a direct question. It is distinguishable from fact, in that a fact can’t be challenged (the world is spherical, by and large, or zebras have stripes), but truth is much harder to define, as even a basic knowledge of philosophy shows. Truth is both objective and subjective, involves how we approach ‘belief’, and requires that belief is grounded in internal consistency, coherence, and is useful. So in one sense Will is right in that Jesus is true for him, but as he cannot demonstrate that Jesus really existed, or provide a good reason as to why a belief in Jesus is beneficial (it survives none of the tests and is especially of no ‘use’) then it can never be regarded as objectively’true’.

    Perhaps I lied somewhat! I have tried to define ‘truth’ but I’m still no nearer reality understanding what I mean.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      I’ve been down the “truth” and/or “morality” path many times with the Wills of the world. Such questions are apologetical bait meant to trap and ensnare a person with endless circular, contradictory, irrational arguments. Such people are always presuppositionalists — demanding everyone play by their “self-evident” laws/rules/beliefs (i.e. the Bible is an inspired, inerrant, infallible text, the Christian God created the universe, humans have the law of the Christian God written on their “hearts,” everyone believes in the existence of the Christian God, atheists just suppress what they know to be true.)

      After playing the same boring game over and over, I’ve concluded that the best thing for me to do is stop playing. Now that’s satisfying. 😀

      Reply
      1. GeoffT

        “ After playing the same boring game over and over, I’ve concluded that the best thing for me to do is stop playing. Now that’s satisfying. “

        Now that’s the best explanation of truth I’ve yet seen!

        Reply
  7. Dale

    “The facts are what I believe.” Ya, just slightly arrogant. No, you showed no unkindness other than telling him he’s wrong. Ok, you may have persecuted him; persecution in the US toward evangelicals means something much more different than it does in, oh, how about a Marxist African nation.

    So, how ‘bout them yeast rolls?

    Reply
  8. Ami

    Yeah, obviously you’re a terrible person. Headed for hell ’cause you didn’t drop everything and engage with Will. I’m sure his bible says, ‘blessed are the twatwaffles, for they shall save the lost’. Or something like that.

    Reply
  9. ObstacleChick

    I don’t know how many of your blog posts Will read, but it seems to me that he certainly didn’t spend enough time to understand your story. He instead focused on the fact that you claim to have been a Christian and now claim to be an atheist, and he cannot make sense of that in his world view. He probably picked up on a snarky post and combined that with the Christian-taught trope of the Angry Atheist Who Hates God. Will already made up his mind about who Bruce is and what he believes based on what evangelical Christianity teaches about atheists. There was no real attempt to get to know Bruce the person.

    I don’t have enough background in philosophy to get into a discussion about Truth. My background in psychology has taught me that functions in the brain can cause us to misinterpret reality; therefore, what someone may perceive as truth or reality may not be truth or reality at all. I tend to rely on what we have discovered through the scientific method, and as we learn more those findings can change. Is there Absolute Truth? Maybe, and maybe we cannot detect or understand it yet. Is there or are there gods? I haven’t seen evidence that there is or are.

    Bruce, you were a lit more patient than a lot of people might have been when dealing with King Will the Evangelical trying to interrupt your steak dinner.

    Reply
    1. Karen the rock whisperer

      I, too, rely on the scientific method, which means truth is always provisional. And I’m actually quite okay with that. We creatures with the big brains are perhaps totally unsuited to find some Absolute Truth, given the evolution-inspired biases we have in us. Maybe the cetaceans are better at it, but we don’t have a common language so we can’t know.

      Bruce, you didn’t do anything wrong. There is nothing wrong with telling a salesperson you’re not interested in what they’re selling, and your background actually doesn’t matter. What matters is that you’re not interested.

      Reply
  10. Zoe

    I hear recovery and healing in your response Bruce. I note healthy boundaries on your part with someone who doesn’t understand boundaries at all.

    Reply
  11. Darcy

    “…Best thing for me to do is stop playing.” Sounds like you spent too much precious family time playing with one more game-rigger. As Matilda said, this is all about that latest fundie and his ego, who demands that you play his game by his rules. “One simple question… what is truth?” Not simple, and designed to hook you into his fundie universe. You wasted politeness and reason on him.

    Reply
    1. Matilda

      An ex-JW said on another blog that he realised that it was enough to go back to his cult and recount tales of how many folk he’d witnessed to, that was sufficient to gain respect and kudos with them, just saying he did it. They could shake their heads and tut-tut about the hardness of hearts he’d encountered and shower praise on him for his laudable efforts.

      Reply
      1. Darcy

        Mathilde, that sounds like stories of guys who boast about how many blonde twin “girls” they had sex with over a three day weekend. Just social signaling in their peer groups. No one is supposed to challenge the “notches” on the evangelical bedpost.

        Reply
        1. Matilda

          Exactly, that’s so true!

          Reply
  12. Infidel753

    What think ye, dear readers? Did I show myself to be unkind and unreasonable?

    Far kinder and more tolerant than you had any obligation to be. In situations like that, once I realize what’s going on, I just quit responding and ignore them until they go away. You’re not under any obligation to engage in interminable inane bickering with anybody on the planet who comes here and chooses to try to impose it on you.

    Any argument he might have made, someone with your background must have already heard hundreds of times. He should have realized that.

    Reply
  13. Brunetto Latini

    I think I’m glad I’m not on Facebook. Zuckerberg is bad enough. I’m not a big fan of private communication with folks I don’t know personally. This guy thought he was the hottest thing since the Apostle Paul, no doubt. I’ll bet he was under 30.

    Reply
  14. amy b

    Will is a snowflake who thinks if you don’t entertain him as he babbles on about his delusions, all the while dismissing everything you’ve written and making erroneous assumptions about you, you’re being “unkind”. What he actually deserved is something akin to how this guy used to answer hate mail: http://maddox.xmission.com/hatemail.cgi?p=1

    Reply
  15. Caroline

    We are routinely visited by a JW couple who show up to do what JW’s do. The last two times they came my 22 year old daughter answered the door and didn’t know how to get rid of them. My husband and I weren’t home. My husband tends to hide from them when they come which is probably why they keep returning.

    I’ve been trying to think of a kind but firm way to get rid of them if I should be home the next time they show up on my doorstep. I daydream about asking them how they’d feel if I showed up with literature about my beliefs about how to live life and tried to pry my way into their private sanctuary. They’ve probably heard that one before too. You’re in a better position than most of us because you know what they’re going to say before they say it. Any suggestions for someone who’s not that well-informed about religiosity? Also, I don’t imagine you as a rude person (unless provoked, of course 🙂

    Reply
    1. Matilda

      Had to reply. JWs don’t do too much doorstepping in the UK, but two did so I tried out the response I read on Patheos Non-Religious. I said ‘Sorry, wrong house, there are no children here.’ They looked puzzled and said ‘Oh the bible’s not just for children’. My P/NR reply was ‘But your leaders like to abuse children and cover up their disgusting abuse. I could never join any organisation that thinks it’s OK to sexually abuse children. ‘ Flummoxed and, I swear, looking a little shocked…she said ‘Oh we’d never do anything like that..’ I offered to show her online documents proving otherwise..but she just opened and shut her mouth…and they left. Funnily enough, the last time they’d come, over a year before, was on Dec 21st. My cul-de-sac had wonderful christmas displays and lots of festive lights on every front lawn, it looked so nice…I just missed them, but seriously, what a time to pick…if we all converted, our lovely festive displays, brightening up the dark winter..would not be allowed. So no thanks…for that reason for a start!

      Reply
  16. ObstacleChick

    Caroline, my husband who was raised nominally Catholic but eventually became enamored of science and determined that he didn’t believe Gorsuch exist really enjoyed engaging with the JWs who visited. This one guy visited every month with a new protege until they ran out of fresh meat to throw at the resident atheist. My husband just wore them down with skepticism.

    Reply
  17. Dale

    “ Any argument he might have made, someone with your background must have already heard hundreds of times. He should have realized that.” – Infidel 7 5 3

    And yet every last one of them thinks they have an angle nobody else does because God showed them the truth.

    Reply
  18. Dale

    Caroline, I have heard that telling them you are an apostate will get rid of them fast. Some of you may know better than I… so feel free to chime in…but I think a JW apostate has been kicked out of the church and Witnesses have already kicked the dust off their sandals and are to have no further relationship or interaction with said apostate (even if it’s your own child).

    Probably works best on the first visit, though.

    Reply
  19. Darcy

    Mathilde, that sounds like stories of guys who boast about how many blonde twin “girls” they had sex with over a three day weekend. Just social signaling in their peer groups. No one is supposed to challenge the “notches” on the evangelical bedpost.

    Reply
  20. Michael Mock

    What an ass — and I’m referring, of course, to Will. Anyone who thinks “What is Truth?” is “one simple question” has evidently missed out on four thousand years of written discussion of the topic (and no doubt a considerable oral tradition from millennia before that) and clearly has nothing to contribute to your understanding.

    Or, of course, they’re being deliberately disingenuous, and therefore have nothing to contribute to your understanding. (I know where I’d put my money, were I a gambling man.)

    Then there’s the complete lack of respect for personal boundaries; the expectation that he’s entitled to your time, energy, and attention; the manipulative attempt to set the terms of the discussion in advance (if you don’t respond you are unkind or irrational or both, per Will’s definition of the terms); and the rampant assertions about your life and your experience, when he clearly understands nothing of either of them.

    Basically, Will was being a whiny little brat. A reasonably well-spoken whiny little brat, to be sure, but his “politeness” was superficial at best and his behavior remains that of a whiny little brat. My children learned long ago how to take “No” for an answer; perhaps in time, Will can too.

    Reply
  21. Will

    All of you shall see the Son of Man, coming in His Glory. All of you will be weeping and gnashing your teeth.

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      Scary. Dear Jesus, save me right now . . . from Will.

      Reply
    2. Michael Mock

      ::YAWN::

      Yeah, no, you’re um… you’re not making yourself look any better here. Assuming, of course, that you’re the same Will and not a random judgemental drive-by commenter who happens to have the same name.

      I stand by everything I said. Your behavior is intrusive and inappropriate. This is not the way to win back ex-Christians. (Though to be honest, I don’t think there really is a good way to do so.) But, I mean, if you’re the sort of person who enjoys trying to ice skate uphill, I guess you can keep at it…

      Reply
    3. Astreja

      Is that before or after the ginormous dragon knocks 300 million trillion stars out of the sky with its tail?

      Don’t wait up, Will — Hubble hasn’t spotted the dragon yet, which means it’s at least 13 billion light years away. 😀

      Reply
  22. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

    Will sent me this:

    I just got a moment to read your link and some of the responses from your audience. Do their responses not evoke mercy? Can’t you read what they write without your conscience alerting you to their need for salvation? If your mind and heart isn’t resurrected back to your love for God after reading their lost-ness, then Bruce my friend you were never saved, nor called to be a minister of truth.

    Had enough from Will. Blocked him on Facebook. If he wants to spread “truth” to hapless, deceived atheists, he will have to do it here.

    Reply
  23. John

    No, I do not believe you were rude or unkind at all. If he had payed attention to your writings that he claims to have read, he would know that trying to evangelize you would be a waste of his time. I wonder how many atheists Will has converted to, or back to, Christianity? I have a feeling it’s zero.
    Keep on keepin’ on, Bruce.

    Reply
  24. ObstacleChick

    Will, you fall back on threats of hell, as does every single evangelical I have ever known. I don’t know why evangelicals insist on serving a malevolent, vindictive god, but they do. But those of us who don’t believe in your god are not afraid of it.

    Reply
  25. MJ Lisbeth

    Bruce, you are far more patient than I would have been. Then again, I’m one of those “rude” New Yorkers!

    Uncertainty is a difficult thing to deal with. So is an idea opposed to one we hold as foundational. In my experience, folks like Will are the way they are because they can’t deal with uncertainty or truly examine points of view different from their own. That’s why they have to believe that someone like Bruce a.) Is a Christian who’s simply “fallen away” momentarily, or b.) “never really was” a Christian. If Will could even consider that neither of those things is true, he would have no motive to “convert” Bruce and, thus, no basis for his arguments.

    Reply

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