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What Possible Motive Would I Have for Falsely Claiming to be an Atheist?

easy believism

On occasion, an Evangelical commenter will suggest that deep down in my heart of hearts I KNOW that I am still a Christian; that my claiming to be an agnostic/atheist is a ruse or some sort of misdirection meant to lead people away from finding out the truth about what and who I really am. Such a conclusion is derived from reading my writing through blood-of-Jesus-colored glasses, seeing faith where there is none. Several years ago, one commenter even went so far as to suggest that my capitalization of words such as Bible, Heaven, and Hell, was proof that I am, despite my protestations, still a Christian. Taking this approach, of course, allows once-saved-always-saved Baptists to square my past with the present. Once saved by the miracle-working power of Jesus, no matter what I say or do, I cannot be separated from the love of God. No matter how hard I try to divorce myself from God or run from his presence, I remain eternally married to Jesus. Jesus is the epitome of the abusive husband in a no-divorce state. The only way to be free of Jesus is to kill him. I wonder . . . is it possible to kill Jesus twice? 🙂

Most thinking people will recognize that the aforementioned argument is absurd and makes a mockery of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Salvation is reduced to intellectual assent to a set of propositional facts about the nature of God, the human condition, the need of redemption, the threat of judgment, and the promise of eternal life. If someone, as I did when a fifteen-year-old boy, sincerely believes these facts, then he or she is instantly and eternally saved. After being instantaneously saved, it matters not how the saved sinner lives. He SHOULD desire to live right. Indwelt by the Holy Spirit, those born from above SHOULD desire to attend church, pray, read the Bible, and follow the commands and precepts of God. But if they don’t, they are still saved, no matter what! In other words, a Christian could renounce Jesus, reject the teachings of the Bible, embrace atheism, and live a life of debauchery; it matters not, he is still saved. Supposedly, such a life would bring God’s judgment and chastisement, but if it doesn’t, the Christian is still saved. Several Christians have suggested my health problems are God’s chastisement of me for my rebellion against him. The problem with this line of argument is that my health problems started years and decades before I divorced myself my Jesus. What was God up to then?

If I am still, way down in the depths of my imaginary soul, a Christian, why would I claim to be an agnostic/atheist now? Point to one good thing that comes from me professing to be an atheist. I live in rural Northwest Ohio. The Evangelical Jesus is on public display everywhere I look. In the Williams/Defiance/Fulton/Henry County area, three hundred churches dot the landscape. Almost all of them skew to the right theologically and politically. I am not only an atheist, I am also a pacifist and a Democratic Socialist. I am everything most people in the quad-county area are not. Being an outspoken atheist has resulted in social ostracization. While I have in recent years tried to pick my battles more carefully, I am still labeled by Christian zealots as an immoral tool of Satan. I continue to despise the preferential treatment given to Christianity and I deplore attempts to promote theocratic thinking and scientific ignorance. I have concluded that locals can live with my godlessness as long as I don’t shove it in their faces. Of course, there is this little problem called The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser. Anyone who bothers to do a search on my name — I am the only Bruce Gerencser in the world — will quickly find out my views about God, Christianity, the Bible, Evangelicalism, Trump, right-wing politics, asphalt auto racing, and the designated hitter. I am not hiding my lack of belief as much as I am being more careful in choosing when, where, and how I want to take a stand against God and his anointed ones.

eternal security

It seems to me that it would an easier path for me if I said I was a Christian and lived as most local Christians do — as practical atheists, espousing a cultural Christianity that is trotted out for holidays, weddings, funerals, and periodic outbursts of self-righteousness over perceived secular attacks on the baby Jesus. I would, in effect, live as if God doesn’t exist. Such living is hypocrisy at its best — saying one is a Christian, yet living as if God is a myth. Surely, if people say they are Christians, shouldn’t they make a good faith effort to live according to teachings of the Bible? Shouldn’t their lives reflect their beliefs?

I can’t think of one rational reason for me to still be a Christian, yet claim to be an atheist. Being a Christian, even in name only, is a path of ease, one that requires nothing from me. Atheism, on the other hand, brings social and cultural criticism, ostracism, and attack. I do my best to be an example of a good atheist, someone who lives according to the humanistic ideal. I try to let my good works show the kind of man, husband, father, and grandfather I am. I want local Christians to know that people can be unbelievers and still live moral and ethical lives. Most of all, I want my life to be a glaring contradiction when how I live is compared to presuppositions and stereotypes about atheists. A Christianity worth having is evidenced not by beliefs, but by how a follower of Jesus lives. So it is with atheists. How we live our day-to-day lives is vitally important. People are watching us, trying to figure out what kind of people we really are. I want to be the best atheist in town, one who loves his fellow man and, when needed, lends his care and support to those in need. Surely, atheists and Christians alike should desire what is best not only for their progeny, but also for their friends and neighbors.

If you can come up with a reason for someone to still be a Christian, yet claim to be an atheist, please share it in the comment section below.

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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23 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Jason

    You are not an atheist.

    You’re an anti/theistic Anti-Christian.

    If you are an atheist you spend a huge amount of time talking about something that doesn’t exist!

    If you were an atheist this blog would not even exist.

    • Avatar
      Astreja

      Jason, unless you can empirically prove that Bruce believes in gods, you are bearing false witness. You might want to consider repenting of that. 😀

    • Avatar
      clubschadenfreude

      poor Jason, repeating the usual nonsense invented by Christians. I’m an atheist and I talk about your rather sad religion since it causes real harm with its lies and ignorance.

      So many poor Christians must try to claim that there are no atheists since you poor dears can’t imagine anyone daring to disagree with you and the god you made up in your image. Happily, we do and can.

    • Avatar
      Brian Vanderlip

      Jason, just a wee bit of counsel: When these shallow impressions come to you, they might appear quite profound in your own living room…. but hesitate and allow a bit of time to pass before you publish what is simple stupidity. One of the most prevalent aspects of fundamentalist Christianity is its narcissism, its insistence that all and everything begins and ends with the triune God. This klind of narcissism is a character fault that feeds on religion as a justification for its built-in mediocrity.

    • Avatar
      Kadeph

      Jason, please read more carefully. The vast majority of Bruce’s writing is about the behaviors of people who believe(d) (or claim to believe) this thing exists, rather than the thing itself.

    • Avatar
      Aylogogo77

      Huh? Bruce is an atheist and this blog exists. Here we are, commenting on a blog that gets lots of attention due to its existence. Your comment is odd to say the least.

  2. Avatar
    BJW

    I pretty much keep on the down-low about being non-Christian around here. But I’m not an evil atheist (heheh) so people could probably overlook it, and think I’m just super lax.

  3. Avatar
    Kadeph

    I wish I could remember the name of the article or the author, the gist of it was “I’m an atheist but MAN those Christians make some darn good points”. I can’t say for sure that the author was being insincere, but the article sure smelled like something a Christian-in-atheist’s-clothing would wear.

    So yes, a reason: false flag operations.
    (1) Lending weight to apologetics. “See, even this atheist thinks we make sense!”
    (2) Setting a “bad example”: doing horrible things while loudly proclaiming to be an atheist. Thing is, though, I can’t think of an instance of this one.

    Hey, ya didn’t say it had ta be a GOOD reason! 😀

  4. Avatar
    Ibn Bob

    It’s obvious that you’re in it for the International Atheist Conspiracy restaurant fund and travel allowance. It’s no use trying to hide it any more.

      • Avatar
        Karuna Gal

        What? An International Atheist Conspiracy Club? Dammit, why haven’t I heard of this before? And they have travel and restaurant benefits and everything! Bruce, tell me right NOW where to sign up or I’ll start pouting and stamping my feet and yelling loudly until you do! 😄

  5. Avatar
    Troy

    I think the fact that evangelicals warn their flock not to read Bart Ehrman is all the proof anyone would need. Of course the casual reader of the blog wouldn’t know Bruce the seeker. (And if you don’t know the song “The “Seeker” by the Who, I pity you.)

  6. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    Oh, those people who use that statement, ” have a blessed day” always mean the opposite. Armageddon is a real tragedy that some ARE trying to bring to pass.

  7. Avatar
    Michael Mock

    Yeah. Here’s the thing: if you always know (deep in your heart or in the back of your mind or wherever) that God really exists, and is omniscient and omnipotent, then declaring yourself an atheist — or even being a non-Christian — makes no sense. You’re not fooling anyone, because according to this doctrine we all know that God exists. We’re not exempting ourselves from His judgement, because he’s omniscient and will see right through that — and we all know it. There’s no weird loophole here that would exempt us, because He’s all-powerful — and we all know it.

    The (semi-Biblical) idea that all atheists secretly believe in God and are just denying it contradicts itself in the moment that it’s spoken.

    The idea that the existence of God is obvious and inescapable from the mere existence and shape of His creation should make it effectively impossible to have unbelievers, false believers, and other religions. But it doesn’t; those thing things exist. If God’s presence were as glaringly obvious as Christians make it out to be, our world would look very different from the way it does.

    Instead, we have a multiplicity of religions, major and minor, deistic and atheistic; we have people with no religion at all. The premise that atheists secretly believe is self-contradictory and ridiculous.

    There is no cost/benefit analysis that makes it reasonable for someone to claim to be an atheist when they are not. The only sensible reason to make the claim is if someone actually believes it. That being the case, many of the Christian claims about the unmistakability of the existence of God simply cannot be true.

    Or, to put that another way, “‘Suppressing the truth in unrighteousness’, my delightfully sculpted ass“.

    • Avatar
      Troy

      “…Then declaring yourself an atheist — or even being a non-Christian — makes no sense”. How did people “know” this before Christianity was invented? If God is revealed through His creation, why is every religion that began culturally isolated so distinctly different?

      I suspect the direct opposite, everyone knows the afterlife and God don’t really exist, otherwise why the impetus to have faith? Why did Pascal need to make a wager? You don’t wager on things that are certainties.

    • Avatar
      MJ Lisbeth

      Michael—If I’m not mistaken, a tenet of every theism is that the existence s deity)ies) is self-evident. If that were true, there wouldn’t be so many flavors of faith—or any reason not to believe.

  8. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    I can think of one situation in which it would benefit a Christian to say, “I am an atheist”: in a theater class in a Christian college.

    Then again, there are Christians who wouldn’t do such a thing or even have anything to do with theater. (I met some when I was an Evangelical.)

  9. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    My daughter just graduated from a top-20 ranked US university. I graduated from the sane University 30 years ago. I was told that being a Christian there was going to be extremely difficult, that liberal atheist professors would Tru to deconvert me, that I would be ridiculed for just being Christian. Do you know how many times any of those things happened? Zero. I was exposed to information that led me to start questioning some things I had been taught as absolute fact in fundamentalism, but I graduated with a BA and remained Christian (though I moved over to progressive Christianity). My daughter, however, found it to be expedient NOT to mention she was an atheist in certain classes with vocal conservative Christian students. She reasoned that in order to have discussions with these students and for her ideas to be heard and considered, it would be best not to announce any sort of label but rather to present her ideas in a nonpartisan way with carefully curated language. She saw that students who identified themselves as staunchly left or right tended nit to listen to students with the opposite label, and she wanted to have earnest discussions without immediate bias, or worse, to be shut down.

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Bruce Gerencser