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, 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?
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.