Last night, I had the privilege of sharing why I am an atheist with a Mennonite discipleship class. In attendance were the pastor, an older church member, and a group of young men. I shared the primary reasons I left Christianity:
- The Bible is not inerrant or infallible
- The problem of suffering and evil
- The hiddenness of God
I also shared some of my experiences with Evangelicals since my deconversion, especially through this blog.
I thoroughly enjoyed my interaction with this group. I appreciated the fact that the pastor wanted to expose this class to someone outside of their religion. What better way to find out what an atheist believes than ask him. Countless pastors have preached sermons, written blog posts, or produced YouTube videos about what it is that atheists believe. But, instead of letting atheists speak for themselves, these preachers, to put it bluntly, lie about why people are atheists.
At the end of my speech, I fielded a few questions — good questions, except one. The older man (about my age?) in the group said to me: I don’t believe you are an atheist. He recounted all the things I had done for Jesus as a Christian, concluding that it just wasn’t possible for me to be an atheist. Yet, I am. 🙂
I replied, “so, you are saying I am a liar.” Smack. 🙂 I went on to say I understood why he was confounded: he couldn’t square my story with his theology. I then said, “that’s not my problem.” And it’s not. All I know to do is to tell my story as openly and honestly as I can. Then, people are free to accept or reject my story.
I told the class that I accept what people say about themselves at face value. If a person says she is a Christian, I believe her (this is a general rule, not absolute). I turned what the man said to me around and asked how they would feel if they told someone they were a Christian and shared their conversion experience, and the person replied, “I don’t believe you are a Christian.” None of us likes having our stories dismissed out of hand. We will never understand each other if we don’t listen; if we don’t make a good faith effort to actually hear what others are saying.
The older gentleman tried to have “prayer” while I was still online. I appreciate the pastor cutting the feed before that could happen.
Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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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