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Dear Evangelical, Here’s The Number One Reason We Can’t be Friends

cant we be friends
Cartoon by Paco

It is not uncommon for me to receive emails from Evangelicals who really, really, really want to be my friend. These What a Friend We Have in Jesus Christians think that the reason I am no longer a follower of Jesus is that I never had good Christian friends. In fact, during my fifty years as an Evangelical church member and pastor, I had countless friends, including several men I would have considered my BFFs — best friends forever. (These best friends of mine had a different definition of forever, abandoning me once I started having doubts about Christianity and my faith.)

In November 2008, my divorce from Jesus was final, and those who once called me friend turned to praying for me, preaching sermons about me, gossiping about me, and sending me caustic, judgmental emails. Into this friendless void jump Evangelicals eager to be “real” friends with Bruce Gerencser, the Evangelical pastor-turned-atheist. Why do these friendship seekers want to be friends with me?

Some of them naïvely think that if I am just willing to be exposed to their kind, compassionate, loving version of Christianity, I will somehow, some way, be drawn back into the Evangelical fold. Their goal is the restoration of Bruce Gerencser. In other words, their offer of friendship has an ulterior motive — to win me back to Jesus.

Such attempts to be friends with me irritate the hell out me. I hate it when people, regardless of the reason, have ulterior motives when contacting me. Generally, I can spot ulterior motives a mile away. Depending on my mood, I might respond to these secret agents for Jesus by asking, what is it that you REALLY want? Cut the bullshit and tell me what it is you really want from me.

I have zero interest in having meaningful friendships with Evangelicals. I am fine with being acquainted with or doing business with Evangelicals, but I have no desire to have them over for dinner or to get our families together on the Fourth of July. And the reasons for this are not what Evangelicals might think. No, I don’t hate God, Christianity, or the Bible. None of the reasons Evangelicals think atheists are “unfriendly” apply here. Not that I am unfriendly. People who know me — saved or lost — know that I am a kind, compassionate, loving man with, when provoked, a bit of a quick-to-rise-and-recede redheaded temper. I am kind to animals, don’t step on ants, and don’t kill spiders. I lovingly endure my grandchildren jumping on me as if they are fighting in an MMA match, even though my body screams in pain. I love my friends, neighbors, and family. I get along well with others, even when put in circumstances made difficult by the airing of political and religious viewpoints I oppose. Simply put, on most days, I am a good man, brother, husband, father, and grandfather. Like everyone, I fall short in my relationships with others. When I hurt those who matter to me, I do my best to make things right. So whatever stereotype these friendship seekers might have of atheists, I don’t fit the bill.

The one and only reason I don’t befriend Evangelicals is their belief about Hell. Evangelicals believe that all humans are sinners, and without putting their faith and trust in Jesus Christ they will go to Hell — a place where all non-Christians spend eternity suffering eternal damnation in utter darkness and searing flames. Knowing that the high temperatures in Hell (and later, the Lake of Fire) would turn unsaved humans into sizzling grease spots, the Evangelical God of “love” gives them bodies capable of enduring never-ending pain and suffering. What a wonderful God, right?

lets be friends

I will soon be sixty-five years old. Sometime beyond this moment, I will draw my last breath. According to Evangelicals, the very next moment after I close my eyes in death, I will awake in Hell, ready to begin my eternal sentence of unimaginable pain and suffering. (A theological point in passing: most Evangelicals believe what I just wrote; however, according to orthodox Christian theology, God doesn’t give the saved and lost new bodies until Resurrection Day. So, I am not sure what it is that suffers when I land in Hell, but it won’t be my body. Maybe my suffering will come from my mind being subjected to a never-ending loop of Evangelical sermons and praise and worship ditties.)

Why, you ask, will I be tortured by God in Hell for eternity? One reason, and one reason alone — I do not believe Jesus is anything Christians say he is. And since Jesus is not God, not a Savior, and not divine in any way, and I see no evidence of his eternal existence in the present world, I have no reason to worship him. No matter how good a man I might be, all that matters when it comes to an eternity spent in Heaven or Hell is if I have checked the box on the Evangelical decision card that says: Yes, I prayed the sinner’s prayer and asked Jesus to forgive me and save me from my sins.

So, I ask you, WHY in the names of all humanity’s gods would I want to be friends with anyone who thinks I deserve to be put on the Evangelical God’s rack and stretched for years without end? You see, dear friendship seeker, it is your belief about Hell and my eternal destiny that makes it impossible for me to be your friend. No, Hell isn’t real, and I don’t fear what may come of me after death, but you believe these things to be true and they stand in the way of us having a meaningful friendship. I am thoroughly convinced that in this life and this life alone I have immortality. Once death claims me for its own, I will cease to be. Those who were friends with me will hopefully toast my life, telling their favorite Bruce stories. In time, as is the case for all of us, I will be but a fading memory, a mere blip on the screen of human life.

Bruce, surely you can ignore their beliefs about Hell and accept their offer of friendship. Sure, I could, but why should I? Why would I want to be friends with someone who thinks I deserve eternal punishment, who thinks I have done anything to deserve being endlessly tortured by God. Life is too short for me to give my friendship to people who believe their God plans to eternally roast me in the Lake of Fire if I don’t believe as they do.

Well, fine, Bruce, I WON’T be friends with you!!!  Okey dokey, smoky, don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out. I am too old to care whether someone is my friend or likes me. These days, my friend list is short, but those who are on it love and support me “just as I am,” and I am grateful for them being in my life. To Evangelicals who are butt-hurt because I won’t play in the sandbox with them, I say this: pick a new God who is not a violent, murderous psychopath and worship her. Then maybe, just maybe, we can be friends. As long as you hold the company line concerning sin, death, judgment, and Hell, I will not be your friend.

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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16 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Astreja

    Standing ovation!

    Yes, that always struck me as a bit… off. “I think you deserve to be tortured forever and ever ay-men, but please come to my BBQ this Saturday.”

  2. Avatar
    BJW

    There is literally no way to reconcile being friends with someone who expects you to suffer. And it seems evangelicals get gleeful about it when we don’t accept their beliefs. No, I prefer being with people who base life on reality. Any religion of a friend of mine should be of the helping their fellow man kind, not pushing noxious beliefs.

  3. Avatar
    clubschadenfreude

    perfect, Bruce. This is why I’m not interested in being friends with or pulling my punches on Christians.

    I’ve found that another reason that Christians so desperately want to be my friend is that they have no others, especially other Christians since they do not agree amongst themselves. they want the validation of the atheist.

  4. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    I think the hell belief and what it really entails when closely examined is something that most evangelicals don’t want to examine. Their thinking of hell justification is that it’s for Hitler, Stalin, Charles Manson, pedophiles, murderers, and the like; some expand hell to include Democrats and Hollywood elites. But I think most evangelicals wouldn’t want to think about their nice old lady Jewish neighbor as desering of eternal torture in hell for not believing that Jesus was the actual Messiah. They just don’t want to go there. Sure, some of the devout ones will go there, and they’ll try to convince the neighbor that she should express belief in Jesus and have some bacon.

  5. Avatar
    aylogogo77

    By definition, evangelicals want to be friends with us so they can convert us. They have an agenda. I am so done with people who have hidden agendas for me. I want no so-called friends who want to change, fix, advise, or convert me to anything. And I will do my level best not to do those things to anyone else. As my (true) friend once said, “Just for today I will not be the CIA: Critic, Interpreter, or Adviser.”

  6. Avatar
    Troy

    What is the basis of most friendship? First and foremost it is a person who doesn’t threaten you, you can be yourself without posturing. So I suppose when you are no longer non-threatening you are also a non-friend.
    This reminds me of a guy I knew from high school, we had a lot of classes together, and after school seemed to bump into him rather often. Though not a quote-unquote friend, still someone who reminded me of high school dayz and as such we were Facebook friends and quite cordial.
    He is like most of my high school cohorts, they are typically religious and conservative. So during the elections my old chum made a public affirmation about what a great guy Trump was…almost like he was talking himself into it.
    So I made a joking comment, “well except when he grabs women by the pussy”. BOOM! he not only unfriended me, he blocked me straight away. I guess he found the truth threatening and as a corollary found me threatening.

  7. Avatar
    Bruce Gerencser

    Pascal’s Wager? Really? This is a terrible argument for the existence of God.

    I assume you are not a Jew, Muslim, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, and a plethora of other sects that say they are the one true faith; that Hell awaits anyone who refuses to worship their peculiar deity. Using your logic, you should embrace all of these deities. That way all your bases are covered. But, you don’t do that. You are an atheist too, rejecting all other religions too.

    Further, what if God is actually an atheist? Man, you are going to be in deep shit, if she is.

    I’m challenging your presumptions/presuppositions. I reject them out of hand. You provided no evidence for your claims, just quotes from an ancient religious text. Surely you know that such an approach will not work with me. I will, however, listen when you provide persuasive evidence for your claims. Not proof texts. Not anecdotal testimonies. Actual empirical data I can investigate. So far, no zealot has provided these things. Maybe you will be the first. 😂

    • Avatar
      GeoffT

      Yes Bruce, there’s no possible response to the question ‘what if God only admits atheists to heaven’?, because religious beliefs aren’t founded on anything that amounts to evidence.

  8. Avatar
    aylogogo77

    Those who come here to preach at Bruce usually offer assumptions without evidence and seem to believe that the Bible can be evidence for their truth-claims. It can’t. The Bible is the content of the claim, so it cannot also be the evidence for the claim. Repeated failure to understand this basic logic is why many people perceive conservative Christians to be people who do not have, or do not wish to use, critical thinking skills.

  9. Avatar
    Astreja

    Rather Cross Soldier, let me make one thing clear:

    No one, absolutely no one in the entirety of time-space in all possible universes, “deserves” hell. No exceptions. Ever.

    If you think for one instant that your imaginary fiend has the right to torture even one sentient being for eternity, your moral compass isn’t merely broken; you’ve crushed it under a steamroller of really, really bad ideas and then set fire to it.

    I reject salvation unconditionally. Stick it up the Holy Spook’s ass – if you can actually get it in there with Satan’s dick in the way.

    And, as the actual “owner” of Easter (it -was- named after Me, after all), no chocolate bunnies for you!

  10. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    Thank you, Astreja. As a transgender woman, how can I be friends with someone who believes I deserve eternal damnation for being who I am? That would be like a chicken befriending a salesperson for Tyson or Purdue.

  11. Avatar
    Dave

    Like any compassionate human I hear the accounts of the atrocities occurring in Ukraine and feel nothing but sadness and sympathy for the victims. I assume most Christians have the same reaction but then they are able to turn around and justify the eternal torture of the same people if they didn’t “ believe the right things” before they died. And Christianity makes you a better person?

  12. Avatar
    John Arthur

    Would any compassionate person ever burn anyone? Your God is a moral monster. Why rely on an ancient, bloodthirsty, ignorant and very violent God portrayed by the bully bull?

  13. Avatar
    clubschadenfreude

    There’s nothing “respectful” about you or your sadistic lil’ fantasies. I also love how these TrueChristians(tm) can’t agree on their heaven and hell. They just make up nonsense. They are all frauds and liars.

  14. Avatar
    BJW

    Don’t be ridiculous. Your god is willing to torture finite humans, who live a short time, with an eternity of suffering? Where is the god of love in that?

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Bruce Gerencser