Menu Close

Bruce, I Don’t Believe You Are an Atheist

there is no such thing as an atheist

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-headshot

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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

8 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Karuna Gal

    Mennonites are like the Amish in that they have common roots with them but they tend to be more open to the world. Some of their groups live like the Amish but others are more modern. They are a “peace church”: they don’t believe in violence or warfare.
    When I was a little girl my parents took me and my sister on a tour of Lancaster County in Pennsylvania, which is famous for the Amish and Mennonites that live there. When we were at dinner one night a Mennonite couple in their 50s spotted us and chatted with my parents. They just loved and fussed over my sister and I! They were sweet people, plainly dressed and I think the wife wore a little Mennonite cap. The man gave us miniature iron horseshoes, which I treasured, being a “horse girl” and all. Amish people would NEVER go to a restaurant, too worldly. I also remember the delicious shoo-fly pie we had for dessert that night. 🙂
    I’m not totally surprised that it was a Mennonite class that invited Bruce to speak, due to their relative open-mindedness with the world.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      This church would be considered New Order Amish. Very conservative/strict, yet quite Evangelical doctrinally. The pastor told me the church is Arminian.

      Unfortunately, not all Mennonite churches are pacifistic or practice non-violent resistance. We attended three Mennonite churches that were pro-war. Two of the churches were indistinguishable from garden variety Evangelical churches. Being pacifists, we were sorely disappointed by their support of state sponsored violence.

  2. Avatar
    clubschadenfreude

    many theists must lie to themselves, and others, that there are no “real” atheists. they cannot conceive of someone daring to not agree with them. They are so desperate for external validation, they must see some where there is none.

  3. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    It’s a shame that this pastor is more the exception than the rule. In order for people to understand each other, and not to be so tribalistic, is to converse with them and learn about them.

  4. Avatar
    Sage

    Far to many people try to tell us what we are, ignoring all evidence that they see before them. We are just confused, or tricked by Satan, or giving in to carnal desires, or lying to ourselves, or trying to be trendy, or…or…

    It gets tiring.

Want to Respond to Bruce? Fire Away!

Bruce Gerencser