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My Response to Keith Myers’ Letter to the Editor of the Defiance Crescent-News

letter to the editor

In June, I wrote a letter to the editor of the Defiance Crescent-News about a letter the paper published from Patrick Holt, the pastor of Bible Baptist Church in Grover Hill, Ohio. You can read my letter here. Holt quickly responded, and I rebutted his letter. Several local Fundamentalist Christians (members in Holt’s church?) responded to my rebuttal, including Keith Myers. (See other posts about Patrick Holt.)

Before I get to Myers’ “response” to me, let me first post the letter he is responding to:

Dear Editor,

What follows is my rebuttal of Patrick Holt’s recent letter to the editor.

I never mentioned Pastor Holt’s school shootings “argument” because it is absurd. Holt sees a connection between banning school prayer, Bible reading, and the Ten Commandments in public schools, and school shootings. When he and I were in school, cell phones had not been invented. There were few school shootings. Now virtually every public school student has a cell phone and we have frequent school shootings. Using Holt’s logic, I could easily conclude that cellphones caused the increase in school shootings. I can make the same argument with birth control. Absurd, right? Holt should stop reading the Bible, and read up on the “correlation implies causation” fallacy. Holt wrongly thinks that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between prayer/Bible reading/Ten commandments and school shootings. He provides no evidence for this claim other than he thinks it’s true.

Holt forgets the discussion we had on my blog. He is not a stranger to me. Further, Holt is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher. I am generally considered an expert on the IFB church movement. I was raised in the IFB church, attended an IFB college, married an IFB pastor’s daughter, pastored IFB churches, and I continue to closely follow the machinations of the IFB church movement. I know Holt’s beliefs quite well. Holt made no attempt to rebut my claims. I assume, then, that my assessment was spot on.

Holt’s soteriological and eschatological beliefs force him to see the world as fallen, in a continued state of decline. I reject his beliefs out of hand. The current attack by the religious right on women, LGBTQ people, religious minorities, and the separation of church and state rests squarely on the shoulders of Holt and his ilk. The “godless” have no power. While we “godless” are rapidly increasing in number, seven out of ten Americans identify as Christian. If Holt is looking for someone to blame, I suggest he look in the mirror. As a humanist, my goal is to make the world a safer place to live. Instead of blaming atheists for school shootings, put the blame where it belongs: non-existent gun laws, easy access to weapons of mass carnage, and our nation’s continued worship of the AR-15. The solution to school shootings is right in front of us. Or we could just keep praying . . .

Bruce Gerencser
Ney, Ohio

Now to Paul Myers’ letter. My response is indented and italicized.

The letter to the editor in the July 5 Crescent-News by Bruce Gerencser puzzled me. The author blames Pastor Holt and the religious right for society’s problems and makes fun of Pastor Holt’s theory of cause and effect. The author then uses the cause and effect theory to suggest a solution to mass shootings.

Please read my letter above and see if you can find any place where I “blamed Pastor Holt and the religious right for society’s problems.” All I did was point out the absurdity of his arguments and suggested that he look in the mirror if he is looking for someone to blame. Holt sees a cause and effect where there is none. As I clearly showed, there’s no connection between school shootings and school prayer/Bible reading. None, nada, zip. I tried to show how absurd Holt’s claims were, but my attempt to do so was lost on Holt and Myers. Logic meets cement.

Where is his evidence that his theory is correct other than his beliefs that it is true? By his own standard if Pastor Holt’s belief is absurd, then Mr. Gerencser’s belief is equally absurd.

Sigh. (Please see Why I Use the Word “Sigh.”) Myers totally missed my point. I offered up no comprehensive solution for school shootings. I have one, but that wasn’t the point of my letter. My goal was to challenge Holt’s religious Fundamentalism and his faulty moral foundation.

What is the answer to these mass shootings? Maybe we should start with one of God’s commandments “thou shalt not kill.” That commandment has been so popular that most societies have made it a law, but Mr. Gerencser doesn’t want that taught in schools.

Myers and Holt would have us believe that if public school students were just forced to read and recite and memorize the Ten Commandments, school shootings would be a thing of the past. These men provide no evidence for their claim outside of “the Bible says _________,” and “it seems right to me.” I can’t think of any possible way that reciting “thou shalt not kill” in public schools will in any way make a difference when it comes to school shootings. Offer real solutions such as gun control, strict licensure, universal background checks, and banning assault rifles/high-capacity magazines, and Myers and Holt will be screaming about their Second Amendment Rights. In their minds, the Bible is some sort of supernatural book with magical powers, including stopping mass shooters and high-velocity bullets. Talk about absurd.

According to Mr. Gerencser, we must keep a “separation of church and state,” even though that phrase is not found in our constitution or its amendments.

Lots of things aren’t mentioned in the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights: God, church, church tax exemption, clergy housing allowance, homeschooling, and a plethora of other things Myers cherishes. There was a day when Baptists without exception believed in the strict separation of church and statement. Today, such believers are hard to find. Christian nationalism has infected countless Evangelical churches. Theocrats know that the separation of church and state stands in the way of their overthrow of our secular society. So, they rewrite history, quote disgraced author David Barton, and pretend that the original framers of our Constitution wanted a theocracy all along. Such people are an existential threat to our democracy.

We wouldn’t want good wisdom like that to guide our children to care about others. We must totally remove God and those who believe in Him from society. We must stop reading our Bibles so that man can live in peace and harmony. That is according to the self-proclaimed humanist.

Myers evidently is unfamiliar with my writing and my letters to local newspapers over the years. Had he bothered to educate himself, he would have learned that I support teaching the Bible to middle school and high school students. Damn, Bruce, didn’t see that coming. Every public school student should be required to take a comparative religion class and a religious literature class. Of course, Myers and Holt don’t want this. They know that teaching children about the various world regions and holy texts would put a real dent in the supremacy of Christianity. Myers and Holy only want one religion taught in public schools: theirs.

For the record, I think students should be required to take logic and philosophy classes too. I even think they should be taught creationism, not in a science class, but in a literature class, right next to other creation and flood myths.

Knowledge is power. The sooner students are exposed to Christianity, the better. The same goes for Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Paganism, Satanism, atheism, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster, to name a few.

It’s obvious the letter has only one purpose like all of Mr. Gerencser’s letters: to try to persuade Christians to give up their faith in God and join his “humanism” as they skip and dance on their merry way to their reward.

I am just one man with a story to tell, yet Myers sees me as an existential threat to Christianity; that my goal is to persuade Christians to deconvert. Nothing could be further from the truth. Would the world be better off if it embraced humanism (both secular and religious)? Absolutely. But that’s not going to happen anytime soon. When I write letters to the newspaper, I do so because someone has to be a voice of reason, science, and common sense. Letters from Trumpists and Christian Fundamentalists fill the editorial page of the Crescent-News. I want readers to know that these neanderthals don’t speak for everyone; that there are people out there who are moral and ethical without God; that not everyone voted for Trump; that not everyone is trying to burn down sixty years of social progress.

I love how Myers subtly suggested that I am headed for Hell. Oh, he didn’t say this directly, but he meant it with his line “skip and dance on their merry way to their [humanist] reward.” I can’t skip or dance these days, and the only reward coming my way is death. Sorry, but I’m immune to threats of Hell and eternal torture.

I’m curious when Mr. Gerencser was a pastor did God exist because he believed in Him or was he just lying to his congregations?

Ah, yes, Myers shows that he is a card-carrying member of the Christian Asshole Club. Of course, I believed in the existence of God. I believed in the existence of the Christian deity for fifty years. To suggest that I was lying to the churches I pastored is just Myers’ way of smearing my character. He’s one of these Christians who can’t or won’t understand (or accept) that beliefs can and do change. That’s his problem, not mine.

Saved by Reason,

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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
    BJW

    Bruce, I’ve noticed a lot of folks, generally conservatives (especially pro-Trump) don’t seem to understand anything implied, any metaphors, any similes etc etc. So those of us who understand nuance are fighting a losing battle. I don’t know if it’s education or intelligence, but it seems pretty consistent up through the highest level of MAGA supporters. And these Christian fundies are 100% dedicated MAGAts.

  2. Avatar
    BJW

    Oh. I also meant to mention another statement. This man’s comment about you wanting to stop people from being Christian, forcing them to live without God. It’s amazing, as that is what they are doing in reverse: trying to force everyone else to worship their god.

  3. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    Nobody said that people who want religion and state to be separate are trying to erase religious people. On the contrary, I know a good number of religious people who also want religion and state to remain separate. They’re smart enough to understand that when one religious group becomes dominant that’s generally detrimental to other religious groups.

    • Avatar
      Kel

      I remember having a similar conversation with a Catholic friend. He asked me why wouldn’t I want to live in a Christian democracy (I was still quite a devout Evangelical back then).
      I said to him that I believe in the separation of church and state and that was all.

      Deep down, though, I would have loved to be able to say, “For a Catholic like you, execution in the hands of an authoritarian Protestant government would produce more martyrs and more opportunities for indulgence, while for a Protestant like me, execution in the hands of an authoritarian Catholic government would only produce more dead Protestants. I’ll be the loser.”

  4. Avatar
    Gordon

    The US has always had an armed society without a universal draft but mass shootings are a very recent phenomenon. A well-stocked gun shop in the 30s could sell me a tommy gun with 100-round drums and a BAR in .30-’06 without needing my name. How bad were the school shootings then?
    It’s not the guns that are the problem, but an element of US culture that has allowed people to become such as they becoming a thinkable option here.
    It isn’t Christianity itself, but there is an element of the ’50 that must return to the nation.
    Correlation isn’t causation, but one of the correlative factors must be the cause, and gun access is not one of them.

    • Avatar
      GeoffT

      Access to guns may not be the only reason for school shootings, but absent a gun they cannot, by definition, happen. Countries that ban or heavily regulate private gun ownership experience few such incidents. The US should be ashamed of its obsession with gun ownership and the denialism that goes with it.

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Bruce Gerencser