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The Differences Between Evangelical and Atheist Reality

reality christian magazine
This is not a fake magazine cover. The magazine is now defunct.

Each of us has a worldview. For Evangelicals, the Bible establishes the parameters of their worldview. God said it, I believe it, and that settles it, the Christian says. Anything that does not fit within the pages of their leather-bound Bible is rejected out-of-hand. Secularists and atheists, while prone to their own delusions, tend to view the world from a rational, materialistic point of view.

Evangelicals Christians view reality this way:

  • God has a wonderful plan for their lives and nothing happens that is not part of God’s purpose or plan for their life.
  • God uses pain, suffering, financial reversal, sickness, loss, and death to teach them a lesson, get their attention, make them stronger, or punish them for sin.
  • For those who love God and are the called according to his purpose, everything in life works out for good.
  • God loves them and would never do anything to hurt or harm them.
  • It only seems that God is not involved in the day-to-day machinations of his creation. Behind the scenes, in ways that no human can see or comprehend, God is working, moving, changing, correcting, tearing down, and building up.
  • God hears every Evangelical’s prayer and answers it according to his will.

Of course, the Evangelical view of reality is for Christians-only. Non-Christians are under the wrath and judgment of God and deserve to be cast into Hell this very moment. Non-Christians may at times enjoy the blessing of God (it rains on the just and unjust), but God reserves his blessings for those who are his children. Non-Christians are the children of the devil.

I have come to see that the Evangelical worldview is delusional. It requires a suspension of reason, a shutting-off of oneself to what can be seen, experienced, and known. It requires the rose-colored glasses of faith, glasses that allow Christians to see a reality that is not visible with human eyes.

What does a secular, atheist view of reality tell us about our world?

  • There is no purpose or plan.
  • Shit happens.
  • Life is a crap shoot and there are no guarantees that it will turn out one way or the other.
  • Genetics play a factor in our lives, and far too often condemn us to suffer horrible diseases.
  • Being at the wrong place at the wrong time can have catastrophic consequences.
  • Human powers outside our lives make decisions over which we have no control.  Their decisions can, and do, materially affect our lives, both for good and for bad.
  • Talking to ourselves might be helpful psychologically and make us feel better, but we are cognizant of the fact that we are talking to ourselves and not some sort of mythical being.
  • Inanimate objects have no power of their own. Kicking the car and swearing at it when it breaks down may make us feel better, but it is just a car.
  • We understand, despite what the promoters of the American dream might tell us, that we can’t be anything we want to be. It is not true that anyone can be President and it is not true that we are destined to win American Idol/The Voice/The Sing Off/America’s Got Talent.
  • There are things that happen that we can not explain. Secularists and atheists know that there are likely to always be unanswered questions or inexplicable events. They know that luck or being at the right place at the right time is often the sole reason for something happening.

Atheists and secularists know that the world is fraught with danger, and it is amazing that any newborn lives to old age. Christians, on the other hand, know that the world is fraught with danger, but newborns live to old age because God is merciful.  God controls the keys to life and death, and it is he alone who kills us at the appointed hour. I wonder, does God pencil in a time next to our name when we are born? How does God determine this? Is there an annual birth lottery where, like the military draft, God pulls death dates for each newborn?

What comfort is there in having a God who controls your life from birth to death? I much prefer a life where I at least have some say in the matter; a life where my choices and decisions materially affect my future; a life where disaster and death lurk in the shadows; a life that is a game, a chance to outrun, for a time, the Grim Reaper.

I have no place in my worldview for letting go and letting God. I have no need of putting my hand in the hand of the man (Jesus) who stilled the waters and calmed the seas. With irreverent, even violent gusto, I refuse to surrender to the will of a mythical deity. I shan’t embrace death because a comic book-bound deity promises me a room in his Trump Hotel in Heaven.

Life is harsh. If we live long enough, it will bruise and bloody us, and ultimately it will kill us. I don’t intend to resign myself to anything. As much as lies within me, I plan on running hard, fighting long, and when I check out of this grand experiment called life, I hope to leave behind a testimony of one who lived life to its fullest.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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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7 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Brian

    “Inanimate objects have no power of their own. Kicking the car and swearing at it when it breaks down may make us feel better, but it is just a car.”

    Trees, on the other hand, especially Christmas trees, DO have special powers and can indwell. In fact, I know of a guy who became quite quickly enraged with one some years ago and threw it from a second floor window while smoke shot from his ears!
    (shucks, still giggling from that post, Bruce…;-)

  2. Avatar
    Kenneth

    I can’t help but recall the many times my wife cries over thinking I’m going to hell and how I “don’t care about seeing our kids in heaven” or any other loved ones. I tell her, yes I don’t care because it isn’t true anyway. They are so set in their belief that it saddens them, and I’m sure that mindset is depressing to them at times. Not to mention her belief that the end is any day now. How can they live like that? That mindset makes it too easy to give up on this precious life we have. I now thankfully accept reality the way it is and feel that is actually easier to deal with than belief in god. Funny how I used to think I’d be completely lost without god, but now I feel more like myself than I ever remember….

  3. Avatar
    Karen the rock whisperer

    I’m with you except for the part about inanimate objects having no power of their own. Evidence: computers that run some version of Windows (though I’ve fought the good fight with Linux machines, too). I can’t say one way or the other about Apple computers, I’ve rarely used them and then only under constrained circumstances.

    Um, also, socks. Socks go on long journeys of their own, generally without their mates, struggle to find their way home, and end up in some strange place like the inside of a pant leg.

    🙂

    Joking aside, the most terrifying truths for humans are that
    1) all knowledge is provisional, and
    2) our brains don’t actually work nearly as well as we think they do.

    Most people will flat-out deny number 1, because that’s scary enough. Of course I know many things that are absolutely true, they say. How could I function if things were only provisionally true? The answer is to rely on what you know while being open to having that knowledge corrected, and being continuously in that state. That isn’t how we want to operate. That isn’t comfortable. That requires a level of nuance in how we live our lives, that most of us don’t want to put forth the effort of sustaining. And so changing people’s minds about important issues using well-established evidence doesn’t work well, because for it to work well, they’d have to live with the notion that their current understanding is provisional.

    Unless they’ve had diagnosed mental health issues, most people will flat-out deny number 2, and that fact that others have benefited from therapy just means that THEY are broken, but everyone else is just fine, brains are computers, we’re all rational beings, and so forth. All of which is absolute baloney. Being rational, understanding how logic works, and applying it consistently in our thinking is bitchin’ hard to do, even for people who practice, practice, practice. We are an intensely social species, and have evolved many thinking patterns that don’t make rational sense, but contribute to establishing relationships and communities that let us all avoid being eaten by the sabertooth tigers, acquiring enough food and other resources that we all survive, and so forth. We ridicule irrational thinking when we believe we see it in others, not realizing that we’re ALL prone to irrational biases of one sort or another.

    But I’ve found when I grapple with terrifying truths 1 and 2, they become merely uncomfortable, like the constant, low-level tingle of peripheral neuropathy in my left foot. I’m good at living with mere discomfort, and accepting those truths makes so much of the rest of my life better. I’m happier. The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune don’t need to make sense, I just need to cope with them, and accepting that I can continually learn to think better and understand more about everything is really encouraging. Some days it’s what I need to keep me going.

    • Avatar
      thatotherjean

      Yes, life is scary and uncertain–but I’d rather face it that way than with the certain knowledge that an immortal being is watching my every move and rewarding or punishing me according to how well it thinks I am obeying its commands. As for all knowledge being provisional, I think I’m lucky to have gone into archaeology, where “facts” can fall by the results of the next dig, or the discoveries made by someone examining a museum collection one more time. As for my brain not working as well as I think it does, the older I get, the harder it is to come up with the exact words I want to explain something to someone–I am reminded every day. Oh, and inanimate objects having no power of their own? Bruce hasn’t met my floor. It steals things, then randomly gives them back whenever it’s done with them–generally in places that I have looked multiple times.

      I wish we had up-votes, so I could up-vote your post at least half a dozen times.

  4. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    I love the fact that there’s no preset plan for my life that I have to try to figure out because the deity can’t just tell me itself. I like being the author of my own story, even if my writing needs improvement.

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Bruce Gerencser