Michael Mock is a long-time digital friend of mine. I am not sure how we first connected, but Michael has ridden the Bruce Gerencser Crazy Train® through each of this blog’s iterations: Bruce Droppings, From Eternity to Here, The Way Forward, and now The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser. Michael has told me several times over the years that I am the type of person who knows just one speed — fast. The rhythm of my life is one of run, run, run, crash, burn, and then slowly, like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, I start again. Michael has watched me repeatedly do this over the years, as have others who have been long-time digital friends. Hopefully, they have been paying attention — six years, six months, still going strong. No crash and burn. Have I learned to slow down? Have I learned to balance my life? Or is this the calm before the storm? I don’t know. I take each day as it comes, trying not to let caustic, vindictive, hateful Christian assholes get under my skin. When they do get under my skin, it is nice to know that I can now count on readers to step in and deflect their attacks. I suspect this is why there is a glimmer of hope for the crash-and-burn cycle finally being broken, at least when it comes to blogging.
The aforementioned history lesson was given so that readers would know that Michael and I are, as much as the internet allows, good friends. Michael has a blog: Mock Ramblings. I hope you will check it out.
Having studiously read Michael’s blog posts and his comments on this blog, I have been able to ascertain from Michael’s words what I call The Michael Mock Rule. While Michael is quite capable of chasing Evangelical rabbits until they die from exhaustion, his view of Christianity is straightforward: Christianity doesn’t make sense. When Evangelical Bible thumpers wax eloquent about this or that doctrine, saying that all Michael, and others like him, need to do is just b-e-l-i-e-v-e, Michael responds, just believing might work for you, but these beliefs don’t make any sense to me. For Christians, these beliefs make perfect sense — as they always do for those ensconced safely in the Evangelical bubble. But for Michael, these b-e-l-i-e-v-a-b-l-e beliefs are anything but. Perhaps Michael would become a Christian if the central claims of Christianity made sense, but, at least for Michael, they don’t.
Years ago, I started using The Michael Mock Rule when engaging Evangelicals who have their hearts set on winning me back to Jesus. Instead of endlessly debating and discussing this or that doctrine, I invoke The Michael Mock Rule: It just doesn’t make sense.
Consider the following Evangelical beliefs. Do they make sense to you?
- The Bible is a divine text? Inerrant text? Infallible text?
- God is one person, in three parts: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
- The universe was created in six twenty-four-hour days?
- Adam and Eve are the first humans and the mother and father of the human race?
- Adam and Eve were tempted to sin by a talking snake who walked upright?
- All humans are sinners because Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate fruit from a forbidden tree?
- The story of Noah, the Ark, and universal flood?
- The Tower of Babel?
- Fallen angels having sex with human women, producing hybrid children?
- Jesus is God in the flesh?
- Jesus was born of a virgin? His mother was impregnated by the Holy Spirit?
- Jesus walked on water? Turned water into wine? Healed blindness? Walked through walls?
- Jesus died on a Roman cross and resurrected from the dead three days later?
- Jesus ascended to Heaven, and hasn’t been seen in 2,000 years?
- Jesus will return to earth someday, destroying the earth and making all things new?
- All humans are sinners in need of salvation, broken, in need of fixing?
- Blood atonement for sin?
- Life without Jesus is meaningless and without purpose?
- All that matters in life is Jesus?
- If I believe in Jesus I go to Heaven when I die, if don’t believe I go to Hell?
- Rapture? Dead people coming back to life?
Evangelicals routinely make the above assertions without presenting any evidence for their claims — and quoting the Bible is not evidence. These claims are reinforced Sunday after Sunday through sermons, Sunday school lessons, and songs. Throughout the week, Evangelicals read Christian literature, listen to Christian podcasts and music, and tune in to Christian radio and TV stations. These followers of Jesus are surrounded by people who, minute by minute, hour by hour, and day by day, reinforce these “truth” claims. Having been immersed in Evangelicalism their entire lives, Christians find that these beliefs make perfect sense.
But for those who have never lived in the Evangelical bubble or no longer do so, these beliefs just don’t make sense. Believing them requires a suspension of rational thought. Believing them requires putting faith above facts, knowledge, and evidence. Believing them requires setting skepticism aside. Believing them requires accepting the most outlandish of things as true. The Michael Mock Rule says to all of these beliefs: It Just Doesn’t Make Sense.
An Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher friend of mine left Christianity several years ago. I was stunned by his disavowal of beliefs he once held dear. I don’t know why I am still surprised by such deconversions. Reason, rational thought, and skepticism are strong antidotes to Evangelical infections and disease. Now that my friend is outside of the Evangelical bubble, he finds himself banging his head on the proverbial wall, saying, how could I ever have believed these things!
The answer, of course, is quite simple. When people are immersed (indoctrinated) in Evangelical belief and practice — often from birth — they only know what they have been taught. As long as they remain in the Evangelical bubble, everything makes sense, including the irrational beliefs mentioned above. When every peer, preacher, and family member believes the same thing, it is only natural for others to believe likewise. I don’t fault Evangelicals for believing what they believe. They know what they know, and through no fault of their own, their minds are walled off from beliefs that do not align with what Evangelicals traditionally believe and practice. When Satan, in the form of an Evangelical-turned-atheist blogger says, Yea, hath God said? warning horns, bells, and whistles sound, telling Evangelicals to steer clear of this false prophet. Those who ignore these warnings put their souls in harm’s way.
Fortunately, more and more Evangelicals are willing to venture outside of the safety of the Evangelical bubble. Once free of their doctrinal taskmasters, these curious Christians seek answers to their doubts and questions — doubts and questions often left unanswered by their pastors, teachers, and parents. (Memo to preachers: answering questions with just believe, just have faith, the Bible says are not acceptable answers to doubts and questions. You are driving people away from Christianity with these non-answer answers.) And as is often the case, the more questions they find answers for, the more questions they have. And before long, these Doubting Thomases have questioned themselves right out of Christianity and the faith they once held dear.
Once outside of the bubble, former Evangelicals look at the beliefs they once held dear and often say to themselves, how could I ever had believed these things? These beliefs just don’t make sense! And there it is, The Michael Mock Rule: These beliefs just don’t make sense. I now understand that I once believed things that can only be labeled as bat-shit crazy. There is no way for me to openly and honestly judge my past religious beliefs without concluding that I believed things better suited for a sequel to One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
It has been almost thirteen years since my divorce from Jesus was finalized. I haven’t read the Bible in over a decade, nor have I darkened the doors of the church to attend worship. Every day I live, I am one day further removed from religious beliefs, practices, and indoctrination that once dominated my every thought, word, and deed. I am at the place in life where Christian beliefs now sound strange, odd, and fanciful — dusty relics from ancient human history. I find myself saying, this just doesn’t make sense. And in these moments, I tip my hat and say, thank you, Michael Mock.
What do you think of The Michael Mock Rule? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.
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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I like this approach. I think it’s something all ex-Christians can use.
You haven’t read the bible for almost a decade? No wonder you don’t believe. If you would only read your bible every day then it would all make sense to you. Forget that it was the bible that started your doubts in the first place and just READ IT! Another belief that doesn’t make sense.
The Michael Mock rule makes perfect sense to me. I need to start thinking about it more often, to be honest with you.
Sorry, I’m too embarrassed to actually comment on this. Flattered, but embarrassed.
I will note, however, that anybody who goes to my blog looking for atheism-related stuff should probably check the atheism tag. The blog overall is devoted to the topic of “whatever happens to be on my mind at present”, which includes any number of unrelated topics.
Bruce, this is somewhat unrelated, but, at some point, would you please address what you did with all your old study materials? Thank you.
Great points about religion in general. As pre-rational children we are spoon fed these absurdities and then the culture at large gives them sustenance. A great parallel is Santa Claus belief (which I had for a very long time). I have to laugh at myself when I think about debating the girl in front of me in my 5th grade homeroom about the existence of Santa Claus. I could see how flustered she was as she made an airtight case.
I checked out Michael’s blog, not much atheism. But if you think about it why should there be? It is a bit like continuing to debate a spherical Earth. Why continue blogging about it? There is value in establishing a community and to elucidate the excesses of religion as well as to show a light to those who are finding their way.
Mr. Mock comments regularly lend me balance in my very stormy reactions to beliefs expressed here by Christians. The Mock Rule is very much needed in the wild world of evangelical belief. It needs repeating like a mantra when we are under the influence of the Woo Gas.
I like it. It doesn’t make sense.
The funny thing is that even Evangelicals are easily enough in spotting these things in myths or religions other than their own. For me, that was one of the things that caused some of my doubts. Because I could see sincere believers of other faiths think about our faith in a similar way as we did in regards to theirs: I just doesn’t make sense, we’d say, how can they believe that?
It does need constant reinforcement too. Either by the larger culture, family and friends, or by yourself and your own Bible reading and so on. When you stop doing that so much, and retreat from church, it become easier to follow your own train of thought and to listen to doubts and to respect them instead of shoving them away.
Exactly. We were supposed to constantly reinforce our religion, otherwise the devil could cause us to have doubts. And it’s a reason why more liberal church members are considered shaky, because they have allowed themselves to see some part of reality.
Michael Mock plays with dolls. He even travels with them. (Excuse me, I mean “action figures.”) Which is not a bad thing. I do enjoy his unique pearls of wisdom on FB.
I try and now live life by that Rule. I look at all claims, especially political ones…..
#WMDS?….there was none! The reason for Iraq War?…….”It doesnt make sense”
# 9/11. 2 planes bring down 3 skyscrapers? kerosene fires melt steel?…….”It doesnt make sense”
# MH370 totally dissappeared?…….”It doesnt make sense” ……..+ many others
What a pity that anyone coming up with a possible reason that does make sense……is labelled a “Consp Theorist”.
Watergate people! It does, it can, and will happen again.
I hope all those that deconvert, analyse everything with a skeptical mindframe. Science & Evolution included, and of course these political crys for wars. Jerusalem and your Christian Bretheren “Anxious for Armageddon” especially.
Welcome to the “unreal” world , very similar to the “Bible Based” world…….it just doesnt make sense. If you take it on blind faith what they are telling you………Facebook a recent example.
“# 9/11. 2 planes bring down 3 skyscrapers? kerosene fires melt steel?…….”It doesnt make sense””
Yes it does make sense and yes that’s what happened.
Note the steel didn’t have actually to melt, it had only to soften sufficiently to weaken the structures.
The biggest whopper I see is the combination of “Jesus is God” and “Jesus died for our sins.” If Jesus is God, He cannot die, therefore the death and resurrection were just play acting, you know, for the rubes.
“Your god died? Then who are you praying to, then?”
“Nonono. Jesus died as a sacrifice for our sins, and then He came back from the dead.”
“Oh, really? Then what was the ‘sacrifice’? And who brought him back to life? If he brought himself back to life, he couldn’t have been all that dead, could he?”
Stop with all the logic, Astreja. 🙂
Wow, Bruce! I just found your blog and am glad I did! I found it from reading an IFB survivors page on fb and someone mentioned Tony Hutson, who I wasn’t familiar with. Once I did some googling and found out who he was (I am familiar with his dad and the SOTL), you popped up! I graduated from a Christian school and am an ’81 BJU grad from their School of Religion. Due to church conflicts over the years after graduation, I began questioning the “way we do church.” My journey (in my MIND at least because for half of this journey I was still in evangelical churches) through the house church movement, patriarchal Christian homeschool movement, the Messianic movement, Tanakh only (which basically meant no longer a Christian), to an unbeliever in the Bible and its god was a loooong one. I so relate to something you said in another post basically saying you studied your way out of Christianity. And as you said, you took your faith and the Bible seriously! You WANTED to DO IT RIGHT, TO BELIEVE RIGHT, TO LIVE RIGHT. And how many times have I said the same thing since I came out? “I can’t believe I used to believe all that!” Thank you for sharing!
Welcome, and thank you for commenting.
Do you remember Bob Jones, Sr. famous line? Do Right! Until the stars fall, Do Right! I heard that line quoted in countless sermons.
I would love to read more of your story. If you are interested in putting it into a guest post, please let me know.
Thank you, Bruce. I’ve been pondering your offer for the last couple of days. Still am, lol. Will let you know. Keep on writing!
Not sure if my previous reply went through, so posting again. I have been pondering your offer over the past couple of days and am continuing to. I’ll let you know. Thank you for your interest. I just read your post entitled Allen Domelle Whines About How IFB Preachers are Treated Today. Wow…just wow. Brings back so many memories! I may share part of my story under that so I can go into detail about what happened at a well known church among some IFB circles which now no longer exists. My religious story is a long one (as is yours), so I wouldn’t want to put it all in one post.
And yes, I remember Dr. Bob’s famous line! In every classroom in the Alumni Building there was a wooden plaque with one of his sayings painted on it hanging above the chalkboard at the front of the room!
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Are you familiar with Pascal’s wager?
If so does how does it stack up taking the Michael Mock rule into account?
Michael Mock rule can just as easily be applied to backward Time Travel, Quantum Theory, Multiverse, Wormholes. Problem is …. that doesn’t necessarily make them untrue. Michael Mock’s Rule is just too generalized.
Religion ain’t that complicated.
Oh this made me actually have a little laugh this morning. So true. But “salvation” . . . now that is complicated. 😉
Religion is about more than belief or beliefs. It’s about identity and community, and a,lot of people ate able to stand there singing about being washed in the blood of the lamb without giving a thought to how utterly ridiculous they sound. I mean, gross, think about standing there Carrie-style covered in blood. Why would anyone think that’s a good thing?
Like the Michael Mock rule, it all came crashing down for me too that so much didn’t make sense. When I was a kid, I went through several phases of questioning and was never given straight answers about what didn’t make sense. It’s really a shame that adults didn’t admit that I was right, it doesn’t make sense, but they believe anyway. Instead I was given the whole “God is smarter than us, we cant understand his ways, ask him when you get to heaven” runaround.
“I mean, gross, think about standing there Carrie-style covered in blood. Why would anyone think that’s a good thing?” This made me laugh out loud.
Quantum physics has been around for over 100 years. If you are using a cell phone or laptop the basic engineering of it comes from quantum physics. There are some phenomena not completely understood like quantum entanglement. However these things are being studied. Science does not require BELIEF of any sort. The physical universe exist whether we understand it or not.
This does all make sense to me or did .. the problem is that we know for 100% fact that certain parts of the Bible aren’t true. So it can’t be innerant, do we take all the parts we know aren’t true as allegorical? Then do we take all of the Bible as allegorical? If not how much? So the problem becomes that it does not stack up to external claims and claims it appears to make about itself. So really all of the above points in the article have to collapse if even just one or two of the ‘pillars’ fall.
“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”. Yep, that’s how it happened – actually read the Bible. “If therefore the [Reason and Logic] shall make you free, you will be free indeed”.
Sums up my experience.
When it comes to what doesn’t make sense, it’s the daily crazymaking I experienced in the Christian world. You’d see normal looking people, who behave an abusive and abnormal ways. Or, in the case of legalistic sects like Pentacostal Church of God types, you’ll see abnormal- looking people behaving abnormally. It was that meanness of theirs that woke me up, finally, to the possibility and motivation to leave them behind. I haven’t looked back since, no regrets except I wish I’d left at a younger age.
O/T: Mack Charles Andrews is out of jail after serving just 5-1/2 years of a15 year sentence for child rape.
“…Andrews was credited for good behavior. Andrews reportedly said that he plans to move to Texas and start another church.”
Bruce reported on him here: https://brucegerencser.net/2017/09/black-collar-crime-pentecostal-pastor-mack-andrews-jr-pleads-guilty-sex-crimes/
Hi, DOCTOR DJ. This Andrews is getting out with no supervision by the authorities ?!! That won’t do. I’m going to call Texas and let them know he’s on the prowl again. Sex offenders should NEVER be around children, and there’s always kids in churches. Thank you, Bruce for that Black Collar series you created. Without that, no one would know about Andrews and he’d have more opportunities to prey again. This is why I quit on churches– few safe people !
Warning, this is a sick joke.
This Andrews scum could start an 18+ church, x rated church for the win!
Just how has he escaped the sex offender registry? Inquiring minds want to know!
Well, this morning I made good on my promise. I phoned the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Dept. And asked for Lt.Mike Landrum, who handles crimes against children/ sex trafficking. If you want to help with urging the cops to put eyes on this nefarious character, please call : ( 936)760-5800. I pressed #8 for this category, but you get a live person at property crimes at #4.. I had to be transferred to his extension, left a message with details from the links above. To those who would squawk about persecuting a Christian ” pastor” just remember that Andrews violated the conduct requirements for elders and deacons. He’s not a victim. He can live a quiet life as a retired person, but starting another church, ? No.Just NO ! Sex offenders can’t be around children ! That lifestyle restructures the brain, literally twisting it. His mind is twisted.
I thought my mind was a steel trap (ok not really…), and was a bit surprised I left a comment on this one about 4 years ago. At any rate, my mind was working a bit different this morning and it made me think along a different track.
I was thinking of the (disappointing) movie “Life of Pi”, famous for the protagonist Piscine being trapped aboard a life boat and surviving for months with a Bengal tiger.
(spoiler alert) the movie is actually an allegory about how religious stories are exaggerated to keep your attention long enough for the meaning to rub off on you and impart their wisdom. Religious stories work on different levels, to children and the unsophisticated the colorful characters and events work to delight and interest, to the more experienced and jaded, the stories are metaphorical flourishes.
Stories don’t really need to mesh with reality, I think that’s part of their charm really. We can explore far and wide, press all the buttons kick the tires and come out the end with a more nuanced perspective. Perhaps the most pernicious aspect of fundamentalism is it robs stories of their flexibility and grunts, “believe or die!”
Congratulations on your journey from fantasy to reality. I was never able to swallow and digest religion as a child, so every time I read about a ‘conversion’ I am slightly amazed. I have great admiration for you and others who have made the trip. I used to frustrate clergy every Sunday School session until I was old enough to quit, which was after my religious grandmother died.