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Bruce, You’re Not an Atheist

no such thing as an atheist

I recognize that telling my story publicly invites critique, criticism, and attack. I started blogging in 2007, and no matter where I am in my journey, there are people who think they “know” the real Bruce Gerencser; that they have pulled back the curtain of my life and exposed the real me. Never mind the fact that my critics rarely read my writing or make good faith efforts to truly understand my story. In their minds, they know everything they need to know about the man, myth, and legend, and they are ready to render judgment.

Evangelical zealots love to tell me that I never was a Christian; that my faith and devoted life as a follower of Jesus was a lie. Long-time readers know this claim irritates the hell out of me. By making this bald assertion, my Evangelical critics refuse to accept my story as told. Years ago, one Evangelical preacher told me, “Bruce, I know you better than you know yourself.” Sadly, more than a few Christians think they have the gift of divination; that they have some sort of innate ability to see the “real” me.

Occasionally — as was the case recently on the post Guilt: the Essence of Christianity — critics will take a different tack, suggesting that I am not an atheist; that I still believe in God, albeit a “different” God from the one from my Evangelical past.

Take a comment left by a woman by the name of Diane Villafane:

Thank you for being honest, and congratulations on taking a step ahead in your spiritual journey. I’ve been there and done that.

I wanted to add, I don’t think you are an atheist. You just came to a realization that God is not the anthropomorphic being described in the Bible.

Villafane read all of one post — which took her four minutes — and rendered judgment. She made no attempt to understand my story. Nope, she read a few hundred words and then concluded that despite what I say, I am NOT an atheist; that I have just changed concepts of God.

Why do some of my critics deny me the right to disbelieve?

Some people believe that there’s no such thing as atheists; that atheists deliberately suppress their knowledge of the existence of God. Evangelical presuppositionalists, in particular, say that the Christian God of the Bible has revealed himself to everyone through conscience, creation, and divine revelation (the Bible).

Others “sense” that I, deep down in my little ‘ole heart of hearts, still believe in God. These critics pick things out of my writing, seeing these nuggets as evidence of my continued belief in God. No matter what I say, they are convinced that I am still a Christian; or at the very least a believer in some sort a divine creator.

Some Evangelicals will argue that I can’t be an atheist because I profess to having been saved; that once a person is born again, he can never, ever, for any reason, lose his salvation. In their minds, I am a backslidden Christian, and, in time, God will chastise me and bring me back into the fold.

Here’s what I find interesting: everyone is entitled to their opinion and judgment about my past and present life — that is, except me. What I say doesn’t matter. “You SAY you are an atheist, Bruce, but I don’t believe you!” It is in moments such as this that I sigh. Is there no end to such stupidity? I know, I know, rhetorical question. As long as I put my story out there for the public to read, I am going to have people shape my storyline to fit their peculiar beliefs. All I know to do is to continue telling my story. If people refuse to accept my story at face value, there’s nothing I can do about it, other than utter a few choice swear words.

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.

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    It’s hard because so many people know who you are in this area. Almost nobody knows me and my family, so any religious belief or lack thereof is non-important. My husband has a friend whose wife speaks in tongues. She prayed for me spontaneously before my right knee surgery. I didn’t expect anything, so I don’t attribute a better result from her prayer. However, I did take it that it was nice someone cared. C’est la vie!

    So back to you: you’re known, and having publicly left Christianity affected many people’s opinions of you. Too bad people can’t just accept you. When I told my Catholic friend I was no longer Christian, that ended our relationship. It hurt but it still isn’t really a public matter for me. I can hurt over my friend’s lack of acceptance, but no one is going to come after me and pick me apart. (Unless it was social media, and I don’t really get into specific religious beliefs.

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    My brother is the type of evangelical who does not believe that atheists exist. He believes we actually do believe in his version of God but that we are choosing to turn away from him.

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