Menu Close

Bruce, Has Your Story Won Any Converts to Atheism?

peanut gallery

Recently, a Seventh-Day Adventist pastor emailed me and asked:

You certainly are preaching your good news still, eh? Once a preacher, always a preacher I guess. I read some of your site and I find it intriguing, if a bit … missionary … in its atheistic zeal. I’m curious if your message about your personal journey has won any converts to the atheism cause. Or did most former Christians just come to your site because they already had one foot on the way out and saw you out here? Like you, I’m sick of the lies inside the churches. But its clear I don’t hate the same set of “lies” you do. Unlike many Christian pastors, I have no interest in converting anyone and never have. I write only because I went through this same journey (and its subsequent fallout) with a fellow pastor in the Seventh-day Adventist church, Ryan Bell, and I am gathering information as to why these journeys take place at all. So thanks for taking the time to write down why you left. It actually strengthens me in staying.

I have always been passionate about whatever I do in my life. So, what might be perceived as “missionary zeal” is actually just me being me. As a writer, I believe I have something to say that matters, so I put my whole being into my work. That said, my goal has never been to be an evangelist for atheism. My target audience remains the same today as it was a decade ago: those who have questions/doubts about Christianity and those who have left Christianity. I see myself as a facilitator. My goal is to help people distance themselves from Fundamentalist Christianity. (Please see Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?)

The letter writer asks if my story has won any converts to atheism. The short answer is yes. Numerous ex-Evangelical pastors, evangelists, missionaries, and laypeople say that my writing was instrumental in their deconversion. While this is not my goal, I am humbled by the fact that many people find my writing helpful. That thousands of people read this blog still blows my mind.

The readers of this blog are quite eclectic. While I am an atheist and an agnostic, many readers are not. Evangelicals and liberal Christians, along with atheists, agnostics, pagans, and other non-Christians read my writing. Many of them have both feet firmly planted in their religious traditions. Others do not. Questioners and doubters, along with people seriously considering leaving the fold, often find that my writing resonates with them. My words ring true.

Of course, I also attract Evangelical apologists and critics, along with Muslim and Catholic zealots. Countless Christians have sent me emails or left comments on a particular post, hoping to bring me back into the fold, deconstruct my life, or discredit my story. In my early blogging days, I thought that if I just openly and honestly shared my story apologists, zealots, and critics would, at the very least, understand where I am coming from. Those days are long gone. Instead of engaging in endless debates, I give such people one opportunity to “share” whatever it is God as laid upon their hearts. If they play well with others, I might approve further comments from them. Unfortunately, most Evangelical commenters are terrible representatives of Christ on earth. (Please see Dear Evangelical.) Even if they could mount an effective defense of Christianity, why would I ever want to be around such nasty, arrogant, mean-spirited people?

As far as the “why” of my deconversion, here’s my stock answer:

I no longer believe that the central claims of Christianity are true. I came to a place in my life where these beliefs no longer made sense to me. (Please see The Michael Mock Rule: It Just Doesn’t Make Sense.) I reject all the miraculous claims made for Jesus, from his virgin birth to his resurrection from the dead. I do believe Jesus is was a real flesh and blood human being who lived on Palestine 2,000 years ago, However, as with all humans, he lived and died, end of story.

Over the years, I have corresponded with hundreds of clergy who are either no longer believers or have serious doubts about Christianity. Our numbers are increasing daily. Why is that?

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

15 Comments

  1. Avatar
    BJW

    I feel very dubious over the Adventist pastor’s non-desire to convert anyone. As a former member of that church, with a husband who was once a pastor for them, I’m going to say he’s just using that terminology. If he keeps contacting you he WILL try to win you over, but say no, that’s not what he’s doing, he’s just showing God’s love. Bet on it.

    • Avatar
      Matilda

      That’s exactly what I thought, underneath it all…however much human kindness and ‘we just have a homeless ministry, cos we want to show we’re nice human beings…’, underlying it all is the hope, prayer and belief they will get the ‘rich harvest of souls’ god promises them. Churches near me, in a UK tourist resort, in normal times, all have midweek coffee mornings, drop in centres etc which attract the lonely, the poor element of locals who struggle financially. So that’s great, cheaper food than the tourist restaurants and nice church folk to chat to….but I know – cos I was once a fundy like that – they’re desperately hoping this will lead to bums on their pews on Sundays…which never happens of course. Fundies always have an ulterior motive.

  2. Avatar
    dale m

    So. This evangelist is more convinced to stay in the Christian box after reading Bruce’s blogs ? But this is on a personal level. Different people. Different experiences. I get it. What this evangelist should really do is read WHY Bruce and Polly disengaged. An intellectual trip rather than an experiential one is needed here. Bart Erhman ?(sic) can better guide this individual IF and only IF he is really, really brave enough to peer into the heart of the truth. Such courage is unfortunately lacking in such evangelicals. What evangelical would really, after all, put his entire FAITH on the line ??? Opening the cover of one of Erhman’s books is for an evangelical, the 1st glimpse into the bowels of Hell, and seeing the devil staring back, because the devil is in the details. When the details R finally exposed, the devil, Hell, Heaven, Jesus and all simply …… evaporate.

  3. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    It’s interesting how that proselytizing mindset remains. Just as fundies can’t fathom someone now, at their core, believing in God, they can’t fathom that someone doesn’t have the urge to proselytize. Fundies gotta fundy.

  4. Avatar
    ... Zoe ~

    7th day: “You certainly are preaching your good news still, eh? Once a preacher, always a preacher I guess. I read some of your site and I find it intriguing, if a bit … missionary … in its atheistic zeal. I’m curious if your message about your personal journey has won any converts to the atheism cause. Or did most former Christians just come to your site because they already had one foot on the way out and saw you out here? Like you, I’m sick of the lies inside the churches. But its clear I don’t hate the same set of “lies” you do. Unlike many Christian pastors, I have no interest in converting anyone and never have. I write only because I went through this same journey (and its subsequent fallout) with a fellow pastor in the Seventh-day Adventist church, Ryan Bell, and I am gathering information as to why these journeys take place at all. So thanks for taking the time to write down why you left. It actually strengthens me in staying.”

    Zoe: Is it just me or is this dripping with condescension? 🙄

  5. Avatar
    clubschadenfreude

    “Unlike many Christian pastors, I have no interest in converting anyone and never have. I write only because I went through this same journey (and its subsequent fallout) with a fellow pastor in the Seventh-day Adventist church, Ryan Bell, and I am gathering information as to why these journeys take place at all. So thanks for taking the time to write down why you left. It actually strengthens me in staying.”

    so, this pastor is claiming that he is has no desire to do what JC said about the “great commission”. Yeah, sure, I don’t believe that for a moment. This is a common claim by some Christians when they don’t want to be held accountable for their actions.

    The claim that he is “gathering information” on why people are atheists also rings completely false. if this were the case, then he would know that his claims are false. But yet he continues with the usual nonsense this type of Christian invents when they are terrified of atheists and the real reasons we leave Christianity.

    as for your question, Bruce, “Our numbers are increasing daily. Why is that?”

    IMO, it is because Christianity has shown its failure, especially now when the bible’s claims of healing and the “chosen people” bullshit are being shown to be lies. The promises have failed for thousands of years. Chrisitanity is being changed to try to make excuses for that failure to try to keep people in the fold. People have realized that they don’t need to believe in fairy tales to be humane people.

  6. Avatar
    MAURA HART

    i am a non believer, but before i join the non church i need to know if there are any non dues or non tithing? member ship fee?

  7. Avatar
    Trenton

    I never got the impression that your writing was out there to evangelize anyone to atheism, there is more important stuff in the world than arguing with people who absolutely refuse to take their god colored glasses off and see everything they are missing. If your writing strikes a chord and causes fundies to de-convert and join us in reality than that is what happens. When i first started reading your writing I was well on my way out of christianity in general but it did help me accept what was happening and help me reframe my worldview to a much more compassionate and humanistic perspective. Fundamentalism in its many forms is a bane to critical thinking and progress so keep writing and cheers to exposing bullshit.

    On that note, if you did become an evangelist for atheism, would there really be a problem with that. They obviously don’t see an issue with writing their own bullshit testimonies to convince people to join their religion. Why cant others do the same? That would mean sharing, something fundies would never do, they would probably like the good old days where we would only have the options of burning at the stake or beheading.

  8. Avatar
    lydiaschoch

    I didn’t realize that some people have deconverted because of your blog and story. That’s pretty cool.

  9. Avatar
    Brian Vanderlip

    I have found Bruce’s words thoughtfully informed over these last years reading his blog. As for deconversion, well that was a long peeling of the onion, layer by layer; more a recovery than strictly a deconversion. When I knew, finally, that my heart lived comfortably, more comfortably with non-belief, I think I began to see the light coming through the cracks so to speak and began to want to live a healthier life as me, not a worshipper, not a son of fairty tale Adam. Those of the garden really had no choice because the fairy tale offered them none. That was the real purpose of the story, not to offer true choice but to bind them in darkness and subservience. It has been wonderful over time to say “No” to all that and to be, to simply be.
    I know that is not expressed well enough for some of you who have never been lost in the labyrinth of faith. But I know many of you can easily relate to my journey. Bruce was a preacher of the viral Truth and then was able to say no…
    I would not use the word preacher for this man nowadays. Maybe unpreacher fits better for my label, if there must be one. The same way education has developed over time to allow for more individual learning styles and not simply herding and lineups, Bruce has moved out of the system into a sort of unschooling in matters of belief/unbelief. Fundagelicals who read Bruce’s life here cannot see the freedom path he has walked because they have given up and adopted the doublespeak of belief. Love is slavery to the Master, less me and more Him. Depending on the crossroads of their faith at a time, some read Bruce’s story and find it armors them further in the faith. This does not surprise those of us who have lived there: Once completely invested, all choice is that choice alone. The children of God are ‘abused’ folk with smiles on their faces. But like abused children, the smiles are false. They must act out their pain in evangelical forays, from street preaching to ‘curious queries’ on atheist blogs. They have to chase us down in every way to express their pain. They call it joy. They call it real love. The definitions are now given to them from the local preacher and his book. They feel sad for us outside the one door and only one. They tell us what will happen if we don’t fall in line. They memorize verses to forget themselves.
    When my wife and I decided to allow our children to give us direction in their ‘schooling’, their learning journey, it had unforseen results for me. I began to walk with my children in wonder and curiosity and to learn how they learn. It freed me to be more myself with them and it let them just be. The writer of this blog is an unpreacher not an evangelist for non-believers. When a fundagelical suggests that what Bruce does here is anything like a down-home Bible-believing church, they are far gone, way off the mark.
    Bruce Almighty sacrifices babies and BBQ’s them on Saturday evenings…. You’d never know it by listening to him, would you… a real wolf in sheep-garb.

  10. Avatar
    John Arthur

    Hi Seventh Day Adventist Pastor,

    As a pastor of your denomination, you are probably an Evangelical of some kind, and most probably a Conservative Evangelical. Don’t most Evangelical Pastors believe in the great commission (The end of Mat.ch.28) ? Therefore, I doubt the truthfulness of your statement that you are not interested in converting anyone, although it could possible be true (but that is very unlikely).

    Isn’t Jesus supposed to have said “Go, make disciples of all nations,…, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you”. Unless you are an extreme Liberal Christian who doesn’t believe that the bible is any Word of God and that the so-called Gospels are largely mythological, then you probably do have some sort of interest in evangelism and trying to convert atheists..

  11. Avatar
    Michael Mock

    I don’t have a lot to add what everybody said already, but I have to admit that the question itself — “Has your testimony led to any converts?” — seems be largely missing the point of all this writing. I mean, it’s not a bad question and it’s not insulting or anything like that; it’s just that it carries the implication that naturally, of course Bruce would be focused on converting people, because isn’t everybody? And (as happens in a lot of cases when one is generalizing from one’s own experience) it turns out that no, that isn’t nearly as universal as you might think, and yes, you’re probably telling on yourself more than you realize.

  12. Avatar
    Burr Deming

    “While I am an atheist and an agnostic, many readers are not. Evangelicals and liberal Christians, along with atheists, agnostics, pagans, and other non-Christians read my writing. Many of them have both feet firmly planted in their religious traditions.”

    Thank you.

Please Leave a Pithy Reply

%d bloggers like this: