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I KNOW What Jesus has Done for Me

struggling with faith
Cartoon by David Hayward

Subjectivity: The quality of being based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions. An explanation for that which influences, informs, and biases people’s judgments about truth or reality; it is the collection of the perceptions, experiences, expectations, personal or cultural understanding, and beliefs specific to a person.

Objectivity: The state or quality of being true even outside a subject’s individual biases, interpretations, feelings, and imaginings. A proposition is generally considered objectively true (to have objective truth) when its truth conditions are met without biases caused by feelings, ideas, opinions, etc., of a sentient subject. A second, broader meaning of the term refers to the ability in any context to judge fairly, without partiality or external influence.

Faith, by design, is inherently subjective. Even the writer of the book of Hebrews understood this, as evidenced by the words found in chapter eleven and verses one and three:

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

Hebrews 11 details the faith of Biblical luminaries such as Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sara, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, David, the prophets, and even the wandering children of Israel. Believing these people had great faith requires even more faith because none of them exist outside of the pages of the Christian Bible. Hebrews 11 goes on to detail what these people of faith supposedly faced as earthly voices of the one true God:

Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions. Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

I say “supposedly” because there’s no evidence outside of the Bible for these things actually happening. Believing them to be true requires faith. And that’s the essence of faith: believing without evidence. Now intellectuals among the faithful love to argue that their faith is reasonable, but I find their arguments unpersuasive. Is it reasonable to believe a man who was cruelly executed on a Roman cross resurrected himself from the dead three days later? Is it reasonable to believe that this same man was born of a virgin, turned water into wine, walked on water, walked through walls, teleported out of the midst of a crowd, healed blindness with spit and dirt, and fed thousands of people with a few loaves of bread and even fewer fish? Of course not. Believing these things to be true requires faith, a faith that rejects what we know objectively to be true. We know that virgins don’t have babies, water can’t be turned into wine (though my wife wishes this were true), people can’t walk on water or walk through walls, blindness can’t be healed through spit and dirt, and it’s impossible to feed five thousand men, and an unspecified number of women and children with five loaves of Wonder Bread and two perch filets. (Now, Jesus teleporting out of a crowd without being seen; that’s possible. SYFY channel, people. It’s all real.)

Imagine me telling you that, over a twenty- or so-year period, I was beaten almost to death five times by Buddhists, beaten with wood rods by jihadists, stoned by ISIS, and spent thirty-six hours treading water in the Pacific. Not only that, the Chinese attempted to arrest me in Hong Kong, but I escaped by climbing over a wall. Would you believe my story? Of course not. A reasonable person would ask for some sort of corroborating evidence. Live long enough and you learn that when a story sounds too good/bad to be true, it is likely a lie.

Yet, when a similar tale is told by the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 11, countless Christians believe it to be true:

Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. … In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me: And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.

The Apostle Paul knew that readers would doubt his story, so he offered up proof for its truthfulness. Are you ready for some mind-blowing truth? Here it is: The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not.

God knows I am not lying.  Paul’s Sunday night testimony is absurd, and most reasonable people would reject it as the rantings of a man who has spent too much time in the third heaven. You know you are in trouble when you have to call a mythical God as your witness. Yet, is this not what countless Evangelicals do when they argue that they know God/Jesus/Christianity is true because of what they have experienced in their lives? God did it, they say. Just ask him! Pray tell, how is this any different from Elwood P. Dowd’s six-foot three-and-half-inch tall pooka friend, Harvey the rabbit?

Dowd believed Harvey was real, taking him to the bar for drinks and even introducing him to his friends. Dowd even believed that Harvey had the power to stop time:

Did I tell you he could stop clocks? Well, you’ve heard the expression ‘His face would stop a clock’? Well, Harvey can look at your clock and stop it. And you can go anywhere you like, with anyone you like, and stay as long as you like. And when you get back, not one minute will have ticked by. You see, science has overcome time and space. Well, Harvey has overcome not only time and space, but any objections.

What an awesome, science/reason-defying rabbit, right? Maybe we should start a religion.

Harvey existed only in Dowd’s mind. He believed Harvey was real, so that means Harvey existed — even though no one actually saw him. Dowd rightly ended up in an insane asylum, yet when Evangelicals make similar claims about their God and religion, they are considered fine, upstanding citizens, every bit as rational as hardcore skeptics and rationalists.

The world has a collective cognitive dissonance when it comes to deities and religion. Instead of objectively examining and testing religious claims, billions of people accept them at face value. By faith, they just believe these things to be true. The United States is one of the most religious countries on Earth. While the U.S. is religiously diverse, Christianity is the primary belief system of most Americans. Approximately one out of four Americans claim he or she is Evangelical. Ponder that for a moment — one out of four. In some places, such as where I live in rural northwest Ohio, the percentage of Evangelicals is even higher yet. This is why a century of scientific knowledge has done little to change the minds of Americans about evolution. Three-fourths of Americans either believe God created the universe pretty much as it is described in Genesis 1-3 (creationism), or God used evolution to bring our biological world to life (theistic evolution). For hundreds of millions of Americans, when it comes to understanding the world they live in, they are content to say, God did it!

Several years ago, I had a brief discussion with an Evangelical man who wanted to know how and why I no longer believe in God. This man wanted me to know that his relationship and experiences with Jesus were real. Here’s some of what he wrote (all spelling and grammar in the original):

I am not being critical. I am talking from a heart of simple faith in my life. I became a Christian in 1979 as a young boy running away from home. I had never been to church, my parents had never been to church. I sat in class during a bible lesson and had the most incredible encounter, which at that stage I had no clue what it was. Today, I know it had to have been the Holy Spirit. I went home that day, sat on my bed, Gave my life to Christ and have never looked back.

Since then I have had the most incredible experience of Christ’s love, forgiveness, prophecies and jobs through prophecy and leading in Christ. I have seen live [sic] transformed in him.

I am now 55, serving in a Christian school and seeing lives touched. Kids from broken homes, destitute families, youngster in very difficult situations being healed. This is not a hyped experience. Our school has seen raped young girls have coming to incredible healing under Christ, girls wanting to abort their babies, deciding not to and producing awesome children and loving them, boys abused and abusers who have turned their lives around because of the love they have found in Christ and testimonies of students from our school who are making a difference in their work place because of their faith. We do not have extensive bible programs, bible lessons, etc…but simple faith in Christ.


For whatever has happened in your life, I know what I have received in Christ. Maybe for me it has to do with the fact that I truly met Christ, not in a Church, that I have a personal experience of His touch.

I politely responded to the man, and a short time later he sent me this:

Thanks for the honest reply. I have read some of the articles already [I sent him links to several posts, along with a link to the WHY page] . Every single article I have already read still does not disprove or prove the existence of God to me. The only proof of God to me is what I have experienced in Him.

The bible of course makes no sense in many areas! That’s what makes it so tangible for me. Only an idiot would write such rubbish trying to lead someone to believe in him regarding faith, what’s in the bible, the “stories” etc…… , unless that idiot happened to be God who knows infinitely more than I could ever understand. I cannot presume to know God’s thoughts behind what was written in the sometimes seemingly ridiculous writing’s. That’s okay for me.

Once again all I can answer to is my own experience. I have experienced Him personally.

If I am wrong in my belief then I have lived an incredible life of serving others, in my opinion, to a better life where they can live in peace (referring back to the lives I have seen transform from despair to hope). If I am right in my belief in God’s word and plan then I spend eternity with him. What you call life “anecdotes” based on scientific principles I call awesome God events. It is a matter of choice. One of us is going to be wrong at the end of the day. I think I would rather be in my shoes. That however is a matter of personal opinion.

This Evangelical man knows that what he believes is true through emotional, subjective experiences. Essentially, he is saying, I know I am right because I know I am right, no proof needed. I assume he believes that there is only one true God — the Evangelical Christian God — and that all other Gods are false. But people of other faiths have similar experiences. Shouldn’t their beliefs be accepted at face value? If this man expects me to accept his claims without evidence, shouldn’t he do the same for people who worship deities other than his?

I appreciate this man being honest about the Bible:

The bible of course makes no sense in many areas! That’s what makes it so tangible for me. Only an idiot would write such rubbish trying to lead someone to believe in him regarding faith, what’s in the bible, the “stories” etc…… , unless that idiot happened to be God who knows infinitely more than I could ever understand. I cannot presume to know God’s thoughts behind what was written in the sometimes seemingly ridiculous writing’s.

you might be wrong

Only an idiot would write such rubbish, he said. Now, that’s an objective statement if there ever was one. Believing the fantastical claims in the Bible requires the suspension of rationality and critical thinking skills. The only way to believe the Bible is true is to faith-it. Remember what I said earlier? That when a story sounds too good/bad to be true, it is likely a lie. The Bible, from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21 is the greatest lie ever told. At best, it is a historical novel; a work of fiction interspersed with enough historical facts to give it a sense of believability. Until Evangelicals understand this, there is little that can be done to reach them. No matter what I told the aforementioned man, he was going to continue to believe; he’s going to continue to believe that he has had and continues to have a supernatural encounter with a supernatural God (much like being probed by aliens while you sleep); he’s going to continue to believe that God speaks to him; he’s going to continue to believe that his life’s story was written by God from time immemorial; he’s going to continue to believe that the Bible is a supernatural inerrant text written by a supernatural God, and given to fallible humans so they can know how to live their lives (without any updates or corrections for two thousand years).

But, Bruce, you were once an Evangelical. My God, man, you were even a pastor for twenty-five years! You changed your mind and now you are an atheist. See, people can and do change! Sure, I changed my beliefs concerning God, Jesus, Christianity, and religion in general. Many of the thousands of people who read this blog have done the same. But, change is hard, and the first step towards change is admitting that you possibly could be wrong. It wasn’t until I considered that maybe, just maybe Rev. Bruce Gerencser was wrong, that my mind was ready to know the truth (not in an absolute sense, but the truth about Christianity in particular). Once my mind was open to the possibility of errancy, both on God’s part and mine, I was then able to begin the journey I am still on to this day.

For a time, faith kept me from openly and honestly considering my fallibility. What if you are wrong? my inner Bruce said. Most ex-believers went through times when their lives were like a game of Pong. Conditioned by church/pastor-induced fear, it’s hard for Evangelicals to even ponder not being who and what they are. After all, thoughts of eternal torture in a pit of brimstone and fire will do that to you. I frequently receive emails from people who recently deconverted, yet are having what I call a God hangover. They objectively know that they are right about God and Christianity, but a lifetime of religious indoctrination and conditioning causes them to fear. This fear is palatable and can cause great emotional unrest. Evangelicals, of course, say that such feelings are God trying to woo us back to himself. The Holy Spirit is saying, don’t doubt. I am real. God is real. Jesus is real. Everything the Bible says is true! Of course, these thoughts and feelings are not God at all. They are vestiges of a former life, and over time they will go away, never to be remembered again. Once our minds are open to objective, rational thought, there is no going back. The proverbial horse has left the barn, never to return.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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  1. Avatar

    That Snoopy cartoon reminds me of sitting on a park bench and overhearing an earnest young fundy bible-bashing an older woman…she was being very sweet and polite and kept saying ‘Yes, dear, I’m glad it works for you, but that doesn’t mean it works for everyone’. I was fundy but couldn’t help admiring her logic and patience (and courtesy, I’d have hit him over the head with his bible if he’d been as intrusive and arrogant as that with me.)

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    “Evangelicals, of course, say that such feelings are God trying to woo us back to himself.” ~ Speaking FOR a “God” who NEVER speaks for him/her/itself.

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    Danny Campbell

    Now I’m going to have to watch “Harvey!” Literature was one of my favorite subjects in high school, which seems at odds with my interest in science. Picking apart the classics, looking for symbolism and hidden meaning, just piqued my interest. One could argue that evangelicals like to do the same thing except they only have the bible and they only find the symbolism and hidden meaning that suits their world-view. These days I continue to expand my understanding of what people believe and why by participating in a small interfaith book club. We read and discuss books on all sorts of subjects – some are on history, some are personal essays, and some even touch on theology (The Upanishads). When it was my turn to suggest a title we read Bart Ehrman’s “Forged.” Most people in the club enjoyed the book but one man, a former Quaker, hated it. His world-view was set and Ehrman’s thesis ran counter to his own. What I find interesting about this particular fellow is that he is generally oblivious to the symbolism in many movies. At one of our meetings he was surprised when I told him that “A Few Good Men” was all about putting God on trial, holding him accountable for not just being complicit in the suffering of humankind but for being responsible for it. My friend said, “oh, c’mon… where do you get that?” I told him, “sometimes it’s very subtle but in that movie, the main character was Colonel Jessup. Jessup… Jesus…” I guess my friend couldn’t handle the truth!

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    Because Christianity (in fact all world faiths) depend on individual feelings for foundational support, they all fall to pieces when objectivity is applied. But that does not matter one whit, one bit, because the believer has already jumped into the Kool-aid queue and any example of objective reason has been given over to faith, to God or Harvey or Hyles… When self-harm is so driven by desperate need (the youngster running away from family and home into a scary world, for instance) the light of the dear Lord Jesus is quite a lovely embrace in the dark. We do not easily stand alone to face our fate and religion offers the primary drug of choice. It is so pervasive that even clownish non-believers use it to their own ends, standing up a political rallies and holding the ‘family’ Bible for all to see. The sight of them there holding that book triggers further self-harm among the believers, allowing the ‘pussy-grabber’ into the club with delight, with glee. This is not because he is by any means Christian but because he has identified the drug of choice and is holding it up before the addicted hoardes. Why, he could walk down a New York City street and shoot somebody and get away with it.
    Religion harms, at its very foundation and in the mansion of fantasy built on that foundation.

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    Karen the rock whisperer

    A nitpicky comment on an otherwise wonderful post: the U.S. is not the most religious country in the world, though it certainly is the most religious one in the West. The Islamic countries are very religious, and atheism is extremely dangerous there.

    Also, it is certainly possible to turn water into wine. You just need an irrigation source, a vineyard, a lot of work, and time. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

    But back to the subject at hand. I wonder how prevalent a personal experience of God/Jesus/Holy Spirit is among Christians in general versus former Christians who have deconverted. I’ve read comments from many people raised Christian who at one point felt there was something wrong with them because they never felt the presence of the Spirit. Does that make it easier to deconvert? I suspect it might, but…no data.

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        Brian Vanderlip

        Okay but a caveat: The most religion-threat in the western world is not from foreign lands but from within… America’s delusion is directly the result of America, not any other land of faith or lack of it.

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    I found that I can’t argue with people’s feelings. When they are so set on “I know it because I feel so it has to be true” where is there to go? They don’t want to face reason.

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    The issue of subjectivity versus objectivity is one that infects discussions with apologists constantly. They try and argue that morality is objectively true, and that if you think otherwise then it’s just ‘your opinion’. I point out that actually morality isn’t just my opinion but that, yes, ultimately it’s a consensus of opinions. Some morality is easy. If somebody is murdered then that’s wrong, but is it objectively wrong? The only ‘objective’ part to my mind is that the person is dead. Suppose the victim had a nice watch that the murderer craved, does that make the action ‘objectively’ wrong? No. We all cringe in horror at the idea of killing someone for their watch, but actually from an objective point of view it can make sense. It’s only when we think about it subjectively that it really becomes apparent that this type of behaviour is not acceptable in civilised society.

    Other areas of morality are more complex. I regularly discuss abortion (yes, really!) with anti-choicers who claim that abortion is objectively wrong because it’s murdering a human being, and that this is objectively true. Well first, we have the hurdle that even murder isn’t objectively wrong, if my argument holds but, putting this aside, we do all agree that murder is wrong. So why is abortion murder? I’m told it’s because of the ‘science of embryology’, which states that a human being is created at conception. Personally, I don’t need the ‘science of embryology’ to tell me that humans reproduce by creating human cells (sometimes I sarcastically ask what types of cell they expected, porcupine?), but nowhere does science make any value judgement as to the nature of cells at any given time, it serves only to describe. When we assign rights to people is a matter of subjective opinion by consensus, and that is why there is so much argument round the issue. I hold to the view that rights accrue only at birth, something that almost all cultures, including the US, clearly believe. Trying to use the word ‘objective’ to support your case is both lazy and factually flawed.

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    Christian apologists try to argue that their faith is based on evidence. But this is so different from the way Christian faith was promoted in the Bible. There, people were told simply to have faith. Hebrews 11 is a long list of people who believed without evidence. That is the New Testament way–just believe.

    It is interesting to look at the persuasions used in the book of Acts. The disciples appeal to Old Testament scriptures, reports of miracles, and their zeal for Christ. Nowhere do they mention an empty tomb. Nowhere do they bring forth a list of witnesses to the risen Christ. We are just told of supposed personal experiences of the risen Jesus, which could well have been hallucinations or fabrications. There are no mentions of facts that could be verified before believing. We find nothing like the arguments made in Evangelical apologetic works.

    See Not the Impossible Faith by Richard Carrier.

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    On my journey of deconstruction (still going on, still waiting for God to step in and respond to prayer, rebuke me for commenting on this site, whatever…..he’s still silent) it occurred to me that God demands more faith from me (and contemporary Christians) than he did from those members of the Hebrews Faith Hall of Fame . Let’s evaluate:

    Abel: in God’s direct presence.
    Noah: spoken to directly by God, miracles such as the ark, flood
    Abraham: spoken to directly by God, visited physically by God (and rather unfaithful in spite of it).
    Sarah: actually, how was she faithful? Remember the whole Hagar debacle?
    Issac: the Bible doesn’t really have much to say about Issac.
    Jacob: visions and physical manifestation from/with God (and also not particularly faithful)
    Joseph: dreams/visions from God, miracles (power to interpret dreams)
    Moses: spoken to directly by God, burning bush, did lots of visible miracles,
    prophets: direct communication from God, some visible miracles
    David: maybe the first actually faithful one on the list. No evidence in scripture that God communicated directly with him personally, just through prophets.
    Skipping forward, Christ’s apostles: Miracles, physical presence of Jesus
    Paul: Supposedly a miraculous encounter with Christ and the power to perform miracles

    Me/modern Christians: Nothing. Believe an ancient book that doesn’t get it’s own story straight and describes a world/universe that has been frequently refuted by observation. Warm feelings that God/Jesus/Holy Spirit is with us/in us

    So, if the heroes of faith weren’t very faithful without God personally revealing himself to them and intervening in their lives, why am I held to a higher standard of faith? Is it because the Holy Spirit is supposed to dwell within me. If that’s true then why do/did I struggle with faith and why didn’t the HS help me when I cried out. The Bible says God will provide a way out if the temptation is going to be too strong to bear (or does temptation to disbelief not count). Why do Christians still sin? Is the very Spirit of God not strong enough to help a dedicated follower of Christ resist the temptation to sin? If a Christian can resist the prompting of the Holy Spirit and still sin, does that mean the human will is more powerful than God? That’s a topic for another time.

    Back to the whole objective/subjective thing, I too was exhorted to use my personal experience (subjective stuff like feeling at peace, not feeling controlled by worldly pleasures) to witness about what Christ did for me after salvation (a little odd since having been saved as a child I didn’t have many showy or impressive sins to be saved from). It’s hard to argue with personal experience. At the same time, my evangelism training told me to ignore the feeling based testimonies of false religions, like the “burning in the bosom” of the Mormons. I guess my feelings were more true than their feelings.

    • Avatar
      Yulya Sevelova

      Bruce, this guy may not be aware of how he sounds, but seems not to be the usual rabid, bloodthirsty ilk that usually ie exiled to the Peanut Gallery. His church, if it’s exactly as he describes it, is the exception to the rule,as most churches are destructive,controlling, and create neurotics continuously. In decades of church going,having to move around a lot- much like in your youth-I never ,at any time saw a church in action do these great things,as he claimed. All I can say is ,” Oh that it was true, ” and once again, miracles are so arbitrary, because the majority of churches are nightmares. America leads the pack, for sure ! Why aren’t ALL churches as good as this guy’s? A decent church itself is a miracle. ” Miracles are called miracles, because they rarely happen.”

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Bruce Gerencser