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I Hope You (Fill in the Blank)

meaning of life

Well-meaning people have all kinds of expectations and desires for me, revealing how they view my life and me as a person. Often, they view me as hurt, broken, damaged, angry, bitter, disillusioned, unhappy, pessimistic, or jaded. Instead of allowing me to define who and what I am, they use their own version of who and what I am and then come to certain conclusions about me. It’s like me saying I am a cat and someone saying no you are a dog, and then all their subsequent judgments about me are based on their belief that I am a dog. No matter how loud I meow, they still think I am a dog.

These kinds of people think there is something wrong with me. Take my friend Bill. Here is what he said in a blog comment:

But in my not very humble opinion as a person who has known your thinking for more than 25 years (?), the topic of “god” is disturbing your mind to no good end.

Now, on one hand, Bill has known me for a long time. He lives thousands of miles away from me and we met face-to-face one time in the late 1990s. Years ago, I sponsored the CHARIS discussion list, and Bill was a regular participant. He has, on and off, read my writing for almost 25 years. He has followed my evolution from a Calvinistic pastor to an atheist. Surely, he should “know” me, right?

While I consider Bill a friend, I would never say that Bill “knows” me. In fact, the number of people who really know me can be counted on one hand. And even then, can someone ever really completely “know” me? During the course of our friendship, Bill has mentally developed his own version of Bruce Gerencser. While this Bruce bears some resemblance to the real Bruce, it is not the real Bruce and if Bill doesn’t understand this, he will likely, as in his comment above, come to a wrong conclusion about me.

I think Dale summed up things quite well when he said to Bill:

What Bruce is doing is therapeutic for him and for many of us.

Dale precisely summed up why I write. I am not sitting here raging at God. I am not, on most days, hurt, broken, damaged, angry, bitter, disillusioned, unhappy, pessimistic, or jaded. Outside of the constant pain I live with, I am quite happy. I have a wonderful marriage and family, and I love interacting with my internet friends through this blog. Yes, I can go through bouts of deep depression, but people like Bill wrongly assume that my depression is driven by my questions about God and religion. It’s not. My health problems are what drive my depression. Feel better=less depression. Lots of pain=more depression.

These days, the only time I think about God and religion is when I am writing. There are no unanswered questions for me when it comes to the Big Kahuna. I don’t think there is a God, so this pretty well answers all the “God” questions for me. My interest in religion has more to do with sociology, philosophy, and politics than it does anything else.

I frequently get emails, blog comments, and comments on other blogs that start with, I hope you _____________________. These people have read something I have written and have made judgments about me. They think I am lacking in some way, and if I would just have what they are hoping I will have, then all would be well for me.  They hope I find peace, deliverance, salvation, or faith. They are Internet psychiatrists who think they can discern who I really am and what my life consists of by reading a few blog posts.

I know that this is the nature of the Internet. People make snap judgments about a person based on scant information. (Just today, a Christian commenter told me I was a fascist. OMG! A fascist?) They think they “know” me after they have read 1,500 words, and they are then ready to pass judgment on what I am lacking.  Everyone who writes in the public space faces this problem, but it doesn’t mean we have to like it.

This is me saying, I don’t like it. I am not a problem in need of solving. I am not a broken toy that needs fixing. I don’t need what my critics are hoping for me. I am quite happy with who and what I am. It is atheism that has allowed me the freedom to be who I am. I realize this presents a real problem for Evangelicals because they believe that a person cannot be happy, satisfied, or at peace without Jesus. But, here I am.

One commenter stated:

Dear Bruce, I hope you are delivered from your delusions of a happy, satisfied, peaceful life. You are living in denial of how things REALLY are for you.

All I can say to this is that I am enjoying every delusional moment of this life, and I suspect many of my fellow atheists are doing the same.

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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17 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Michael Mock

    Yep. Your experience and your perspective cannot possibly be what you say they are, because that would contradict the way we think things work — and that, as everyone knows, is simply not possible, since we know exactly how things work. Things that don’t fit our understanding are not wonderful and wondrous opportunities to explore new territories of thought and experience; they are terrible and terrifying dangers, since if we allowed them to be true the world itself might change.

  2. Avatar
    St Louis Mom

    I hope you…
    Live the life you want to live and find joy, happiness and contentment along the way.
    Have more better days than worse days in terms of your pain.

  3. Avatar
    Karen the rock whisperer

    Paraphrasing a meme I saw on Facebook the other day… (did you post it?) I hope you end up sliding sideways into your grave shouting “Holy Shit, what a ride!” and mean that, when all is said and done, in the most positive sense. THAT is a successful life.

  4. Avatar
    John Arthur

    Hi Bruce,

    Who is delusional? Is it the Fundamentalist who thinks the universe was created about 6000 years ago or the physicist who looks at the evidence and comes to the conclusion that the universe is about 14 billion years old? Who is delusional? Is it the Fundamentalist who believes that God commanded the mass slaughter of little children and babies based on a so-called inerrant book or the compassionate humanist who believes that it is always wrong to slaughter babies and little children?

    Who is delusional? Is it the person who is true to himself/herself or the Fundamentalist who tries (hopelessly) to be true to a book riddled with contradictions but is enslaved to their pastor’s interpretation of the so-called holy book?

    Isn’t it the Fundamentalists who are delusional and need to be delivered from their delusions, not those basing their views on science, reason and compassionate humanism?

    Shalom,

    John Arthur

  5. Avatar
    Brian

    Hi John, I would like to respond to your question: I would hazard that delusion, or imposed excess might have to do more with our individual and especially emotional needs (in terms of excess) than belief or unbelief. Does belief encourage delusion? Yes, logically it does but what about a man like my brother, who suggests that had he not become Pentecostal Christian, he would probably be in prison. In his case, his delusions/excesses may have led him into a life a crime and prison; so he believes. In choosing belief, he was able to abreact and feed his feelings in such a way that he no longer wished to harm, or at least felt able to resist acting on his feelings. Still, he practiced harsh corporal punishment on his kids and engaged in black and white thinking over many years. He remained very rigid regarding social issues, rabidly anti-gay, very role-oriented but able to help out certain needy individuals in his community in a generous fashion.
    I think you might be engaged in wishful thinking when you use the term “delivered from their delusions…” because that deliverance would not change the excess need to believe in something: Science will be under that yoke. So will Reason.
    Compassionate humanism is the natural outcome of living a balanced life, one that cares for self and others but does not insist on imposing a ‘light’ or ‘message’. Fundamentalists choose excess because they have the need, a desperate, glorious need. The blood they drink keeps them drunk enough to manage.
    According to popular religio-interpretation, our deep needs are a result of our separation from God and belief is the repair. It is a magical way of thinking based on a book that says everything and anything you please.
    Compassionate humanism seems to me to be a more natural outcome of sincere human love. When that love is experienced from womb through the early years, a person will naturally emulate it. Their good fortune! allows them to be alive without so much excess, so much anxiety, sin, backsliding, repeatedly crawling back to the boss for forgiveness and so forth. I believe that ‘moderation in all things’ is a the result of human wisdom, experience. It is not what I read in my Bible. Certainly the USA version of fundagelical belief is so far from balanced that it is quite tragic and maimed.

  6. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    I hear that, Brian — the American version certainly has created tons of battered children as well as mental patients. What a relief not to waste my lifespan warming the pews.

  7. Avatar
    BJW

    Honestly? The thing that has taken away my inner peace for the last 4 years is Trump. I never heard a single thing about him that made him good. He once in awhile did a good thing but it was rare. I’ve read enough to be convinced that Trump’s admin was fine with letting hundreds of thousands of people die. And yet, 74,000,000 people voted for him! And while I don’t think all of those people were devotees, I bet 1/3 to 1/2 of that number are devoted. To Donald Fucking Trump? He’s extolled as the epitome of masculinity? Huh? All I can say is that is one of the weirdest, most bizarre things I’ve heard. He connected with his base, and they in turn are willing to commit crimes for him. Things are never going to be all right again.

    This relates because white evangelicals/fundamentalist are the ones upholding him. Their Christianity turned out to be the crueler version, the version where those who aren’t with them deserve death. How anyone can look at them and believe in their specific Christian god is simply horrifying. Now, I think that our country can try to recover but it’s going to be uphill. At least I believe there are good people willing to fight that fight. It’s especially hard for those who live with Trump devotees. It sure would be nice for there to be a personal god of love who rescues us, but it looks like it is up to us.

  8. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    Bruce, I am sorry that people think they can read a few articles you have written and book, they know the real Bruce. We know things about you that you have shared, and thank you for sharing. Your writings help a lot of us as we work through the abusive clusterf#$% that is evangelical Christianity.

    BJW, I hear you – these past few years of Trump have been challenging. My 21 year old daughter and almost 19 year old son aren’t religious, and I only started revealing to my kids the details of my upbringing in evangelicalism after the rise of Trump. They are baffled by the Christian worship of Trump. What they know of Jesus is feed the poor, tend to the needy, be nice to people, and they can’t connect the insurrection with those teachings. They both go to college in the South, and both mentioned seeing “Jesus 2020” signs everywhere. They thought that meant people may have decided to write in Jesus on their ballot or that they were divorcing themselves from Trump. I explained, au contraire, this is virtue signaling that they equate favor with Jesus to voting for Trump. They noticed all the Christian imagery at the insurrection and have been discussing it with their friends. Granted, most of their friends are nonreligious or culturally religious, but I don’t see any way that evangelicals are going to win kids like this over. Even the GOP has become so intertwined with bigotry that a lot of younger people are ditching the party.

  9. Avatar
    dale m.

    You’re getting to be a world shaking atheist here! Evangelicals are spreading your name far and wide. You’re reaching a very large audience. You’ve been to Hell and back. Now you’re writing about it. Evangelicals continue to unleash their demon hordes at you. You simply smack them away. Try reverse psychology. Evangelicals trying to convince you that you’re atheist because of some past trauma, is like a humanist telling Catholics that the Pope really isn’t Catholic and never truly was. It’s all due to some unnamable past trauma he suffered. Sure. We all have our individual reasons and some may have been based on some particular trauma. But that’s life! We’re not all evangelical robots.

    So. It would help if you would appear on the front cover of Time magazine as [ATHEIST of the YEAR]. Perhaps even being described in glowing terms as the new “POPE of WORLD ATHEISM”. Anything happens to you after that, you become an untouchable MARTYR.

    Okay. Okay. I’m back on my meds ….

  10. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    I hope there’s a peaceful ☮️ transition on 20th. I hope research will create better meds for all of us who must deal with chronic pain all the time. I hope that jobs and manufacturing will return to America, and enough housing built to end homelessness for good. I hope the Fascists and agents provocateurs among them, and the cops and three- letter agencies that sat on the warnings weeks ago( no surprise)all get caught.

  11. Avatar
    thatotherjean

    “delusions of a happy, satisfied, peaceful life”

    How sad, for someone to think that such a life must be a delusion to a person who doesn’t believe in exactly the same way the writer believes. On the other hand, if a happy, satisfied, peaceful life is a delusion–bring it on. A few may have it, but there are many more who would enjoy it.

  12. Avatar
    Sage

    I love how people throw around terms like facist without truly understanding what it means. So many people are quick to accept things without taking time to research.

    The other day I was called a “know nothing trans” – apparently an attempt belittle the views I express. If you can’t argue the views attack the person. I told them they were wrong, I am not trans and I do know things. I guess they didn’t like my statement that trump supporting bigots have no place in my life.

    Christians today are very good spreading delusion and hate, supporting bigotry, and telling people what their role in life should be. Christians expect all of us to know our place and stay there. If not, we are sinners, in need education and correction.

    I have people who go out of their way to tell me I am just confused because I am non binary, and it is obvious. They want to help me accept my true nature and stop living this bad lifestyle. Surely I. Just feel god calling me and telling me this is not how I should be!

    They can’t understand that I feel no guilt, I am happy being who I am, and that what they are seeing is their own bias. Christians are especially adept at being able to see your “real” needs. They cannot comprehend that people can function perfectly well outside of Christian belief and never give it a thought.

  13. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    Watching TV since the 6th, and most of the rabble storming the Capitol building ARE Fascist ! Not the homeless,hell no. Hard to use this site with a phone, but one does what one can with a cell. The scenes on the screen feel surreal, because it has such a foreign aura to it. Kind of Deja’ Vu just the same, if you are from a country that has no freedom traditions, like Russia. I don’t want America to go that route ever.

  14. Avatar
    clubschadenfreude

    “Still, he practiced harsh corporal punishment on his kids and engaged in black and white thinking over many years. He remained very rigid regarding social issues, rabidly anti-gay, very role-oriented but able to help out certain needy individuals in his community in a generous fashion.”

    So religion failed to make him a humane human being.

    “because that deliverance would not change the excess need to believe in something: Science will be under that yoke. So will Reason.”

    Reality doesn’t give a fuck if you believe in it or not. You believe wrong, you fail.

    I note the a couple of folks here only cite “fundamentalists”. All theists have these magical thoughts, not just some, and your tacit approval of genocide, etc just feed the lie. Christianity is not about “sincere human love”. It is about obedience and desiring the death of everyone who disagrees with you e.g. Revelation

  15. Avatar
    Brian Vanderlip

    CLUBSCHADENFREUDE, not sure I follow you but agree that all theists entertain magical thinking. I don’t condemn magical thinking but oppose extremism in most things, certainly including religious belief. Your use of the words “tacit approval of genocide” loses me but I think you’re referring to the murderous Old Testament God?
    Your idea that theistic belief necessarily means desiring the death of everyone in disagreement is excessive, don’t you think? Are there not many many theists who don’t even go to church/practice a public faith? The belief in something, let’s call it a ‘supreme being’ is just what it says, not your connection of it to some deviation like the black book.
    My beef is with extremism and fundatmentalist evangelicals fit the bill for me in my experience. I am content to include Islamic jihadists and any other Muslim fundies. I also include the evangelistic forays of the Roman Catholic Church in recent history and so forth. I have no opposition to theism itself, none whatsoever. I don’t share a belief but remain aware that some power/force/thingy could be in existence but entirely absent to me.
    I am very much interested in your statement, “Christianity is not about “sincere human love.”” Perhaps you could write some more about that? For me, it is in some crooked fashion about human love, particularly the lack of it. I hope it is okay to ask questions like this and if not, then please feel free to ignore…

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