Repost from 2015. Extensively edited, rewritten, and corrected.
For those of us who spent a significant part of our lives in the Christian church, our eventual defection from Christianity was an important and traumatic event in our lives. People who are still devoted followers of Jesus grossly underestimate the travail people go through when they finally come to a place where they realize God is Dead.
For years we sang praises to God. We prayed and read God’s sacred Word. We devoted our time, talent, and money to the advancement of God’s kingdom.
We were not nominal believers. When the doors of the church were open, we were there. For those of us who were pastors, everything was secondary to our devotion to the work of the ministry. With great gusto we sang, “Souls for Jesus is our battle cry. Soul for Jesus is our battle cry. We never will give in while souls are lost in sin. Souls for Jesus is our battle cry.”
When we sang songs like All to Jesus I Surrender, we meant it. No part of our lives was untouched by our zeal, love, and devotion to Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
When evangelists called for people to come forward to pray, we were the first people down front on our knees before God.
We counted the cost and Jesus was worth it. We were, in every way, true-blue, on-fire, Holy Ghost-filled, sanctified slaves of Jesus.
The Bible said that we were the Bride and Jesus was the Bridegroom. We were happily married to Jesus. He was our best friend, our confidante, and lover. No one compared to Jesus. He was the sum of our existence.
And then one day, perhaps years of days, we found ourselves separated or divorced from the God we had loved and served. Irreconcilable differences were the official cause of our divorce.
The journey . . . We spent so much time talking about our destination that we spent little time discussing our journey. Now, all we seem to talk about is the journey we are on.
The journey takes us away from all that is familiar. All the trappings of our life with God become more distant as we walk, perhaps run, farther and farther away.
For many of us, we eventually reached a place where, to our utter surprise, we found out that God is dead.
Few ponder this thought without shedding tears and lamenting the loss.
Well-meaning Christians earnestly implore us to trace back our steps to that place where we lost our first love. They tell us God will not chase us, but if we will only return home our marriage can be saved and all will be forgiven.
But it is too late.
For us, the God of Christianity is dead, and like all of the many ideas shaped by human hands, this God can’t be resurrected from the dead.
We lament what we have lost, but we are hopeful about what we have gained.
It took the death of God for us to realize that life, this life, is worth living.
We refuse to surrender one more moment of time to a God made by humans; a deaf, dumb, and blind God who only exists in the imaginations of men who can’t bear the thought of this life being all there is.
But what about the God that is not made by man?
For the atheist, such a God does not exist. All gods are human inventions.
For the agnostic, for the deist, God remains a possibility, but in practice, even this God shows little or no life.
So on we go down an uncertain, but exciting, road.
Who knows what the future may hold. With no holy book, preacher, or God to lead the way, we are left with a wide-open road littered with the potholes of uncertainty. Uncertainty may, at times, cause us to fear, but we are also excited about the possibilities uncertainty brings.
Some day, perhaps today, tomorrow, or twenty years from now, we will face the ugly, unwelcome specter of death. As the COVID-19 virus stalks the human race, death seem all too close and real for us all.
Will we go to the grave with as much certainty as a person who believes that a life of eternal bliss awaits all who love God?
Will we be tempted, as our breath grows labored, to offer a feeble prayer to the God who died?
Will our final moments be those of integrity and commitment to what we said we believed?
Will we prove in death that what we believed was good enough to live by and good enough to die by?
Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.
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You know, it is not the death of God that is painful to me. It is the lash of reality: My family deny me. They laugh at me and tell me to relax. They pray for me and will not allow me my disbelief. It is painful to be denied but it is not an agony to me realize that God is not…. God is not there. This is simply what I know for me. It is the rejection and denial of bipeds that hurts. Look a young Natalie Greenfield at her blog, My Naptime Journal.
Natalie is a brave young person who has decided to go public about abuse she suffered at age 14. In doing this, she has to face the fact that her own mother still attends the church where Pastor Doug Wilson shamed and blamed the family, where he attended Court and sat on the side of the perpetrator, and wrote letters in support of Jamin, the abusive young man. It is quite a story of pain and comes not even through a choice to not believe (most of these folks still have a belief of one sort or another) but through the horrendous lack of healthy human boundaries that are given up to be a part of a cultic belief. A man like Pastor Wilson is always correcting people and telling them they are in danger of straying from the truth. The truth is what Doug Wilson says. He is following Christ. When the Greenfields had trouble, Doug admonished them… Of course, he won’t talk about this because Mrs. Greenfield still attends his church and has asked him not to speak. He says that he dearly wants to but she has muzzled him. It is laughable to me how certain boundaries are sacred when it suits Wilson and other boundaries simply get pushed aside by his bully faith. God is indeed dead but his minions still serve.
Thanks for sharing this.
Brian, I really appreciate that you shared this.
Could it be that priests (and other authority figures) abuse children precisely because their God is dead? If their God hadn’t existed in the first place–because he was created by humans–would those humans have any rationale for using their perceived proximity to him to act as they do?
Whoof ! That was a testament to nihilism and a main reason that atheists like ourselves rarely match the zeal of evangelicalism. They’re stuck in the past. We’re stuck in the present. But nobody mentions the future. Nothing wrong with man-made gods. I envision that we will attain god-like status as we advance technologically. It’s the underlying destiny of our species. But then, I’m more science oriented. I don’t have a problem with Jesus rising from the dead, returning to us and judging us all. He will return to us as “a thief in the night”. Very few of us will B aware of his Coming. Why? Because no one will really care or give a damn … will they? Every species as advanced as us should B able 2 work out the concepts inherent in Time Travel without all the distortions inherent in the paradoxes. It’s just another new scientific frontier. Space is not “the last frontier” …. Time is! For that to happen, it will take a very robust Space Program. We do these things not because they’re easy but because they are hard! Evangelicals don’t do this shit. To accomplish anything, one has to WORK to make it happen. There is no power to that because it takes effort and staggering resources. I will not ever … ever … ever hold hands with or stand on the side of religion and declare that science can’t save us. That’s bullshit for people too lazy to try or who basically don’t care. Space-Time travel should never be seen as an afterlife. It should be seen for what it really is. It’s just an extension of this one and only life via technological and scientific progress. That’s ALL it is.
As an aside Bruce, U may well get to meet the real guy yet and have a rational down to earth pow wow with him. After all, it is WE who will resurrect Him …. not the other way round. And you’ll still B an atheist. All gods are!
Now that is true blasphemy in every sense of the Word.