Yesterday, I received the following comment:
I’m a ex-IFBer from bygone years. You’re right there was too much control by pastors but that doesn’t justify slamming Christianity and the Scriptures. Bruce, don’t throw out the “baby with the bath water”. Thousands upon thousands of pastors are faithful and earnest.
Also, an atheist believes nothing created everything; stars, sun, trees, horses, cats, puppies, etc. That’s a scientific impossibility. A painting is proof there was a painter; paintings don’t paint themselves. Neither can creation create itself, therefore creation proves there’s a Creator. You may not believe in the God of the Bible but if you’re intellectually honest you’d have to admit there’s a creator before creation.
This man agrees with my assessment of the authoritarianism found in many in Evangelical churches, but he thinks I am throwing out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. I would never throw a baby out with the bathwater. Who does shit like that? All I do is pull the plug out of the tub and drain the water. None of my children or grandchildren has ever been small enough to go down the drain. Just saying . . .
I understand the point people who use this analogy are trying to make. They ignorantly assert that I reject God/Jesus/Christianity all because of certain negative experiences I have had with the church and its clerics. However, as I have stated more times than I can count, most of my experiences as a Christian and as an Evangelical pastor were positive. On balance, I had a happy, productive, satisfying life as a pastor. The reason I am an atheist today is not due to negative experiences, but because I reject the central claims of Christianity. (Please see The Michael Mock Rule: It Just Doesn’t Make Sense.)
This man conflates me telling my story and my critiques of Evangelical Christianity with “slamming Christianity and the Scriptures.” While my writing is typically pointed and direct, I don’t think it slams Christianity and the Bible. Scores of Evangelicals and mainline Christians regularly read this blog. They frequent this site because some aspect of my writing resonates with them. Can I go overboard sometimes? Sure. But I do my best to be open, honest, and forthright with my words. That some Evangelicals get butthurt is not my problem.
I suspect that this man fled the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church movement and joined up with what he perceives is a better flavor of Evangelical Christianity. Countless Evangelicals have used this argument with me. What I have noticed is that all they have done is exchange harsh, in-your-face Fundamentalism for a Fundamentalism that is more subtle and nuanced in its extremism. (Please see Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?)
This man’s comment reveals that he does not have a clear understanding of atheism. He confuses certain scientific beliefs with atheism. Let me educate him about atheism:
Atheism is in the broadest sense an absence of belief in the existence of deities. Less broadly, atheism is a rejection of the belief that any deities exist. In an even narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Atheism is contrasted with theism, which in its most general form is the belief that at least one deity exists.
What atheists believe about science in general, and biology, cosmology, and the other scientific disciplines has little to do with their beliefs about the existence of deities. One can be an atheist and believe all sorts of things, including woo and nonsense. My Gawd, some atheists are Republicans and plan to vote for Donald Trump. Atheism is no cure for ignorance.
This man says that if I am “intellectually honest,” then I have to admit that there was a “creator” before “creation.” In other words, if I don’t believe this, I am intellectually dishonest — Greek for I am a liar. Of course, this man doesn’t just believe in a “creator” of some sort. His email betrays the fact that he is an Evangelical Christian; that he believes that the God (Jesus) of the Protestant Christian Bible is that “creator.” Whether he is a young-earth creationist, an old-earth creationist, or a proponent of unintelligent design, the creation story traces its genesis back to the Bible God. As an atheist, I reject such assertions, choosing, instead, to cast my lot with science — real science, not Evangelical theology dressed up as science.
I have long said that I understand someone looking at the universe and concluding that a creator of some sort created it. Snap! I bet this man didn’t see that coming! It pays to actually read what I write instead of reading a few posts about Jack Hyles and Jack Schaap and then commenting. Let me be clear: I intellectually understand how someone can look at the universe and conclude that a deistic God of some sort set everything in motion; that a deistic God of some sort said, “there ya go boys and girls, do with it what you will.” What I reject out of hand is the notion that this creator is the Bible God; the God this man evidently believes in and worships.
In the twelve years that I have been blogging, no Evangelical has, to my satisfaction, connected the dots between A GOD and THE GOD. Believing the Bible God is the creator is a FAITH claim, not a matter of scientific fact. Either one believes the God of the Bible created everything, or not. I don’t. I do not have the requisite faith necessary to believe that the creation account recorded in the Bible is true. Science tells me Genesis 1-3 is a fictional story, a fable, not scientific fact. How could it be, right? Genesis was written thousands of years before humankind had anything but a rudimentary understanding of the world. Even today, with everything we know, our knowledge has but scratched the surface of understanding.
Evolutionary biology and other branches of scientific inquiry do a good job of explaining the natural world. While scientists have not yet determined who or what was behind “creation,” they continue to seek answers to this question. Pointing to some verses in an ancient religious text or positing intelligent design arguments, which are nothing more than gussied-up creationism, tell us nothing of value. I am content to say, “I don’t know.” In fact, I am content to say, “I don’t care.” Arguments about the beginning of time and the creation of the universe don’t interest me. I am a slowly dying sixty-three-year-old man. I have a wonderful wife, six mostly wonderful children, thirteen awesome grandchildren, one lazy, fat cat, and one annoying, narcissistic, hyper cocker spaniel. I choose to focus on the here and now. I am confident that the Bible God is no God at all, that there is no Heaven or Hell, and death is the end of everything. I am confident that the claims of Christianity are false; that original sin and the need for forgiveness and salvation are a con perpetrated by the purveyors of religion. I have all I need in this life, save a world series championship for the Cincinnati Reds, a super bowl win for the Bengals, and more photography equipment. If “God” can come through on these things, I just might consider returning to the fold. Until then, I remain a committed, unrepentant agnostic atheist, humanist, and a liberal.
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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Well, I appreciate your forthrightness. And where we disagree, I still get plenty out of what you say. In fact, reading your blog helped me to put facts and reason as a basis for living.
“You may not believe in the God of the Bible but if you’re intellectually honest you’d have to admit there’s a creator before creation.”
Yeah… no, not so much. You’re right that if you look at the world as a Creation, there must naturally be some sort of Creator. But if you look at the world as… well, the world… then the argument doesn’t apply. Most atheists see the world as something that happened (if you have some sort of psychological need to apply a particular verb to Existence) but more or less on its own, as a result of natural processes rather than some governing intelligence. Frankly, as far as I can see, the world makes more sense if it’s the result of impersonal, automatic natural processes than if you try to interpret it as the creation of some of intelligent deliberation.
And for the sake of whatever gods there are or might be, please drop the phrase “if you’re intellectually honest”. It’s clickbait. It’s meaningless. Forgot about that Sophmore philosophy class and let it go. Just assume that we all think that what we believe make sense, and that we’re trying to share it in good faith. Otherwise we might as well not be talking.
Yes indeed, Michael, I agree entirely. ‘Intellectually honest’ in the way meant here is nothing more than saying ‘this is the conclusion I’ve come to and you’d better agree’.
He’s actually wrong anyway. We do not see things being created, not ever (with the possible exception of the weird world of quantum physics); what we see are things and material being re-shaped. Wherever we look, even into the farthest reaches of the universe, this is what we see. Stars being formed from dust, black holes from collapsing stars, all changing from one form into another. Is it too much to consider the possibility that this is the way it always has been, with no initial act of creation? It challenges all of our senses, our intuitions, yet it seems to me that it’s the only reasonable conclusion to reach, pending somebody producing something better. Postulating some sort of god actually creates more problems than it naively purports to solve, not least the inevitable question, despite the best attempts of apologists to evade it, as to where did god originate.
When I was in the process of changing my mind about my former IFB beliefs and becoming open to Christianity void of literalism, I was cursed by the literalists and embraced by the non-literalist Christians. Then as I slipped off into changing my mind about all of my former Christian scenery, and realized I simply didn’t believe any of it anymore, the non-literalists started to shout: No! Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
They could not grasp that I had changed my mind about “the” baby. Great attempts were made to resuscitate me and their attempts were gradually withdrawn when I found myself simply saying to them: There is no baby.
When I was a kid, I went down the never-ending rabbit hole of “who created the creator” because it made sense that if everything had a creator, so did that creator, and so on, and so on…..did I mention that I was an odd kid? I asked my mom, of course, and it was another question for which the response was, “You’ll just have to ask God when you get to heaven.” That answer was not satisfactory in the least.
Re “Also, an atheist believes nothing created everything; stars, sun, trees, horses, cats, puppies, etc. That’s a scientific impossibility.”
This woman has just shot holes in her case. This is, it seems, a scientific impossibility. Except the only people claiming that the world was created from nothing are the Abrahamic religions (and assorted others) with the Evangelicals believing the story to be absolute truth. (They even gave it a name: “creatio ex nihilo.”)
Current theory is not that the universe came from nothing. The “Big Bang” is a misnomer (actually invented by a critic of the theory). It was actually a Big Expansion. Expansion or Explosion, something had to be there to explode or expand. What was this thing? It was the universe itself. Everything that existed was in the form of a tiny dot of mass-energy. This “universe thing,” whatever it was, then expanded (for reasons not yet known) and cooled. It has continued to expand and cool for almost 15 billion years. This process was not “from nothing” as only magic can do something like that and, as we all know, magic isn’t real … except in the minds of some theists.
It always amuses me at the sheer idiocy of creationists who simply don’t understand the science of the BBT. It is more apt to say that the universe expanded from a very tightly-packed “everything,” but they insist on saying “nothing” so that they can insert their undetectable imaginary friend as the only possible alternative. Not only are they scientifically clueless; they’re committing a false dichotomy fallacy.
I believe that creation ex nihilo is an impossibility, a contradiction in terms, because any action a god could undertake would require that energy already be in existence. Otherwise the powerless god-thing would just float inert in all the nothingness, unable even to think.
Furthermore, because of the equivalence of matter and energy, matter would also exist before a god could have the opportunity to create it. Therefore, my perspective is that some form of matter and/or energy has always existed, and that at best a god could only manipulate what was already there.
I always believed in a creator long before I became a Christian. I’m not uncomfortable with the idea even now. But,once again American Christianity takes something good and makes it ugly. I’d love to be able to ask God that if he is truly omnipresent and omnipotent, why hasn’t he reined in these horrible individuals who make him look bad, with their insane actions ? The craziness drives people away,and looking for a way out. Which is one reason atheism appeals so much. If it can be proven beyond doubt that they are right, untold millions will jump for joy at the fact that God,of Bible fame, doesn’t exist. So, I wait to see how this plays out.
“Neither can creation create itself, therefore creation proves there’s a Creator. You may not believe in the God of the Bible but if you’re intellectually honest you’d have to admit there’s a creator before creation.”
one more stupid Christian who needs to pretend that there is a creator when there is no evidence one.
and Yulya, you have no evidence for your claims either. there is no “he”, there is no reining in because imaginary beings do nothing at all.
I am a believer. Been a Christian for about a decade and a half.
I do read your posts every chance I get.
I seldom write in, but this time I have to:
“I would never throw a baby out with the bathwater. Who does shit like that? All I do is pull the plug out of the tub and drain the water.”
I’m still chuckling.
These dingbats never bother to keep up with the science they pontificate about. Creation of something from nothing happens all the time. It’s a routine process at the subatomic level. It may seem counter-intuitive, but that’s what the observational data show. As to how the universe came into existence from nothing, Hawking wrote a book explaining this a few years ago. The fact that something was unknown twenty years ago doesn’t mean it’s unknown now.
Explaining everything mysterious by saying “God did it” isn’t an explanation, it’s just pushing the question one step back since the existence of God would also demand an explanation.
And as Bruce has pointed out ad nauseam, the issue is the supernatural claims of Christianity, not the obnoxiousness of fundamentalist leaders. If those claims are false, Christianity is a false religion, even if its leaders were paragons of virtue. Nobody threw out the baby with the bathwater. This bathwater never contained a baby in the first place.