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My Responses to Dr. Michael Brown’s Seven Questions for Atheists

i have a question

Recently, Dr. Michael Brown, an Evangelical Christian apologist, asked atheists seven questions. Brown explains his reason for doing so this way:

If you consider yourself an atheist today, or if you considered yourself an atheist in the past, I’d love to ask you some honest questions.

But I do not ask these questions to win a debate. Or to be antagonistic. Or to buttress my own beliefs by exposing alleged weaknesses in your position. To the contrary, I ask these questions so I can better understand your mindset as an atheist.

What follows are my answers to Brown’s seven questions. I will send my responses to Brown after this post goes live.

Before I answer Brown’s questions, I want to share with him my background.

I was part of the Evangelical church for almost fifty years. My parents started attending Tim LaHaye’s church, Scott Memorial Baptist Church in El Cajon, California, in the 1960s. Both made public professions of faith and were devout Christians until they divorced in 1972. Our family attended church every time the doors were open. At the age of fifteen, I went forward during a revival meeting and one of the church’s deacons led me to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Two weeks later, I stood before the church and confessed that I believed God was calling me to preach. Several weeks later, I preached my first sermon.

At the age of nineteen, I enrolled in classes at Midwestern Baptist College, a small Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) college in Pontiac, Michigan. While at Midwestern, I met a beautiful dark-haired girl named Polly. She was the daughter of an IFB pastor and the granddaughter of a United Baptist preacher. Two your later we married, and on July 15, we will celebrate forty-four years of marriage. We are blessed to have six grown children, thirteen grandchildren, and an old cat named Joe Meower.

After leaving Midwestern in 1979, I started working for a GARBC (General Association of Regular Baptist Churches) church. Over the course of the next twenty-five years, I also pastored two IFB churches, a Sovereign Grace Baptist church, a Christian Union church, a non-denominational church, and a Southern Baptist church, all in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan.

In 2005, I left the ministry, and in 2008 I left Christianity altogether. In early 2009, I publicly professed that I was an atheist. My wife would also later confess that she no longer believed in the Christian God.

Now that I have given a brief summary of my past, let me take a stab at Brown’s questions.

Question One: Would you say that you are (or, were) an atheist based primarily on intellectual study or based on experience? Or did you never believe in God at all?

While my personal experiences as an Evangelical Christian and a pastor certainly played a part in my deconversion, I primarily deconverted for intellectual reasons. My journey away from Christianity began when I concluded that the Bible was not inerrant or infallible. From there, I took a careful look at my beliefs, particularly the central claims of Christianity. I concluded that these beliefs could not be intellectually and rationally sustained. Once I came to this conclusion, I recognized I could no longer call myself a Christian.

Question Two: Would you say that even as an atheist you still have a sense of purpose and destiny in your life, a feeling that you were put here for a reason and that you have a mission to accomplish?

We give ourselves meaning and purpose. There’s no external force — God, the Universe, the Holy Spirit — that gives us meaning and purpose. While I recognized external human forces affect my life and the decisions I make, I am the captain of my ship. I see no evidence of an otherworldly being or force affecting my life.

Do I have a reason for living? Sure. This is the only life I will ever have, so I am in no hurry (most days) to die. I want a better tomorrow for my children and grandchildren, so I work to that end to affect social and political change.

Do I have a mission? Sure. I think Evangelicalism, especially in its Fundamentalist forms, is harmful, causing untold heartache and damage. As a writer, my goal is to tell my story and expose the abusive, harmful underbelly of Evangelical Christianity.

Third Question: Would you say that you are 100% sure there is no such being as God—meaning, an eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing being? Or would you say that, for all practical purposes, you have concluded that this God does not exist, although it is impossible to prove such a negative with absolute certainty?

I am an agnostic atheist. I am agnostic on the God question. I cannot know for certain if a god of some sort exists. The evidence suggests such a being does not exist, but it is within the realm of possibilities that a deity may one day reveal itself to us.

When it comes to specific religions, say the Abrahamic faiths, I am confident these religions are myths.

Because I see no evidence for the existence of a deity, I live my day-to-day life as an atheist.

Fourth Question: Do you believe that science can provide answers for many of the remaining mysteries of the universe, including how the universe began (including where matter came from and where the Big Bang derived its energy), the origin of life, and DNA coding?

I don’t know. Science continues to give us answers to previously unanswerable questions. Whether science ever explains to us what happened before the Big Bang is unknown. Science does adequately explain our world from the Big Bang forward, and that’s enough for me. Unlike many Christians and atheists, I have little interest in philosophical debates about the existence of God and the beginning of the universe. I’m dying — literally — so I choose to live in the present. I am far more interested in balancing our checkbook than I am the Kalam Cosmological Argument.

Fifth Question: Have you had any experiences in life that caused you to question your atheism? Has something happened to you that seemed genuinely supernatural or otherworldly? Or have you been confronted with some information that shook your atheistic foundations, such as a scientific argument for intelligent design? If so, how have you dealt with such doubts to your atheism?

No. One step in my deconversion was giving an honest accounting of the “miracles” and “answered prayers” in my life. My wife did the same. We concluded that we could rationally explain all but a handful of experiences. This was not enough evidence for us to conclude that the Christian God of the Bible did it. Unexplainable? Sure, but I reject the God of the gaps argument Evangelicals often use to explain the unexplainable. I am content with saying, “I don’t know.”

Sixth Question: Are you completely materialistic in your mindset, meaning human beings are entirely physical, human consciousness is an illusion, and there is no spiritual realm of any kind? Or are you superstitious, reading horoscopes or engaging in new age practices or the like?

Yes, I am a materialist.

I see no evidence of a spiritual realm or souls. I believe that new age practices, horoscopes, Tarot card readings, and homeopathy, to name a few, are in the same category as prayers and miracles: unsupported by evidence.

Seventh Question: If you were convinced that God truly existed—meaning the God of the Bible, who is perfect in every way, full of justice and mercy, our Creator and our Redeemer—would that be good news or bad news? And would you be willing to follow Him and honor Him if He were truly God?

I am already convinced that the God of the Bible does not exist, and I can’t imagine any evidence will be forthcoming to change my mind. Thousands of Evangelical zealots and apologists have tried to evangelize me, without success. It has been years since I heard a new argument for the truthfulness of Christianity. As Solomon said, there’s nothing new under the sun. Every few days, I will get an email, message, or social media comment from an Evangelical who is certain they have the remedy for my atheism Alas, they fail every time.

Even if I could be convinced that the God of the Bible is real, I still wouldn’t worship him. Richard Dawkins was right when he said:

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

Such a deity is unworthy of my worship. The only god I worship is my wife. 🙂

If you would like to answer these questions, please send your responses to info@askdrbrown.org.

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
    clubschadenfreude

    I have to wonder about this part of Brown’s claims “When my wife, Nancy, and I met in 1974, I was a committed believer in Jesus, my life having been dramatically transformed in 1971. She was a staunch atheist, looking down on religious believers as weak. And her atheism was firmly entrenched in her life, having concluded when she was no more than 8 years old that there was no such thing as God. Yes, it would have been great if He was real. But clearly, she concluded, He was not. (For the record, Nancy and I are both Jewish.)”

    they are both Jewish now?

  2. Avatar
    Jaqen H'ghar

    Bruce Almighty,

    You’re so generous. A man would charge Michael $1M per answer and accept bitcoins. His God can pay for the answers since he’s all powerful. No pay, no answer.

  3. Avatar
    BJW

    A few years ago, I decided I wanted to understand atheists better. Now, I realize that atheists come in every type of person and political/social beliefs. But my husband had become atheist so I wanted to understand him better. And while I’m not quite sure I understand my husband in that regard any better, I did see a lot of atheists who were completely convinced of the non-existence of god. A lot of them were former Christians who just couldn’t reconcile all of the Bible; some couldn’t reconcile a supposed god of mercy who countenanced great evil.

    In the end, Dr Brown’s questions show a clear lack of comprehension of what atheists believe. Maybe atheists answering his questions will give him some understanding.

  4. Avatar
    Jaqen H'ghar

    BJW,

    Let Michael’s imaginary God, who is all knowing, give him the knowledge he’s so lacking. Otherwise, a man’s fees stand. $1M per answer.

  5. Avatar
    Trenton

    Anyone who regularly makes appearances on charisma news should not be trusted to have a worldview that remotely tethers to reality and Michael Brown is no exception. Of the articles he posts, most are chock full of half truths, lies, stereotypes, straw-man arguments, special pleading, or presuppositions. That is of course on a good day. He also seems to have a supernatural ability to be on the wrong side of every culture war issue and to me at least comes across as a fear mongering arrogant asshole. Clearly he needs to go to a private antarctic island and cool off but I may be projecting on that last one a little🤣. Good job answering the questions but most likely, Brown will misinterpret or misrepresent the answers to his audience to make some theological point.

    • Avatar
      Karen the rock whisperer

      I wouldn’t send him to Antarctica, things are fragile enough there with giant chunks of ice threatening to break off into the ocean. He might accelerate the process, and we don’t need any more contributors to sea level rise. He needs to go to the tropics and sit in umbrella shade next to a pool, while someone brings him glass after glass of iced tea and he can be distracted by the, ah, immediate scenery. 🙂

  6. Avatar
    Brian Vanderlip

    Another blog entry offering the great unwashed, the partially cleansed and the freakin’ obsessively scrubbed, a balanced, sensible viewpoint. I note that the ‘evangelical question’ proffered is always created by fly-tying fishers-of-men. They are not interested in your response (as noted in the pointed comments by others here) but only in their hook sinking into your flesh so they can rejoice with the holy Lord of Fishermen as you flip and flop and realize you are caught, suffering and will be reeled in, ‘reborn’.
    I very much appreciate and applaud your work, Almighty! May the saved be blessed with a natural, fuller humanity they have lost, with a hint of skepticism as they watch the preacher prance to and fro and as they sing about how ugly and horrible they were before being hauled out of their lives and filleted for Jesus.
    (By the way, as an aside for the fishers, the three-prong hook is ever so effective in simply snagging the fish, blinding hauling it through the deep until it jabs some sucker! When it does, mumble a father-son-and-holy-spirit as you rip away! Praise the Lord! He’s a big big one!)
    By the by, I was just wondering why on earth the God-thing is interested in getting me to serve it…. After all I’m a pile of stinking dung, right? As far as I am aware only an organic farmer or a narcissist would chase after shit for supply.
    Oh sure-as-shit-believer, something’s not right in Oz, you think?

  7. Avatar
    Karen the rock whisperer

    Good answers to the questions, Bruce. Somehow I doubt that he’ll accept them at face value.

    I was raised Catholic and attended Catholic schools through high school. I remember in, ah, maybe 10th grade or so, doing an assignment for religion class where we were writing poems praising God for the blessings of the natural world, something like that. The details are fuzzy, since that would have been in 1974. But I remember, working on that assignment, that I realized there was no evidence for God in the natural world. Not that I had much science under my belt then, but it struck me that I couldn’t tell that it was God who actually created our universe, planet, etc. There were no obvious tells. It was just an assumption. Shocked me, and might have been the first step on my road to atheism, though I managed to tamp that bit of unbelief down for several years.

    Having since read the Bible (something not discouraged in the Catholic world, but not particularly encouraged either, at least back then) I tend to agree with Dawkins in his assessment of the deity presented there. If that is Brown’s idea of a “perfect” deity, he and I are not working with the same dictionary.

  8. Avatar
    Ficino

    Bruce, this is my first comment. I tried to answer Brown’s questions but couldn’t figure out access to the commenting section of his (two?) blog/s. Anyway, I would have answered largely what you answered.

    I’m glad for your blog! Rock on.

  9. Avatar
    Michael Mock

    Looking more closely, I don’t think these questions were published anywhere that accepts comments, which seems awfully sloppy (at best). I went through and answered them on my own blog, but that’s mainly for myself and anyone else who happens along to read them. I’ll email the link to Dr. Brown, but having looked a bit at his site I’m increasingly suspicious of his credentials and his intellectual integrity. (The part where he has a link on his platform for his followers to go buy special vitamins just sort of screams “health-care scammer” to me, though as with anything I suppose I could be wrong.)

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Bruce Gerencser