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Dear Evangelical Christian: I May Respect You as a Person, But I do Not Respect Your Beliefs

respect beliefs

I am a member of a Facebook group that features pictures of classic paintings and other works of art turned into user-generated memes. Many of the memes are hilarious. No subject is out of bounds, including Christianity. Recently, a group member posted a meme that made fun of Jesus. One woman, a Christian, got her panties in a twist and decided to respond with a preachy comment. She, of course, quickly received pushback, and then said that people should respect her beliefs; implying that her sincerely held beliefs were exempt from criticism and mockery; that not only should people respect her, but they should also respect her beliefs.

Evangelicals, in particular, used to receiving reverential and preferential treatment in public spaces — i.e. don’t say Jesus Fucking Christ if a preacher is nearby — are often easily offended with they receive pushback or mockery from unbelievers or non-Evangelical Christians. How dare people mock the one true religion! How dare people laugh about Jesus! How dare people ridicule an eternal God-man who was born of a virgin, walked on water, turned water into wine, healed blindness with dirt and spit, brought dead people back to life, teleported out of a room, resurrected from the dead, and ascended into the sky, never to be seen again! How dare people make jokes about a three-headed deity creating the universe in six twenty-four-hour days, 6,026 years ago! How dare people laugh at crackers and wine turned into blood and human flesh! How dare people make ribald comments about Adam & Eve being the first human beings! How dare people ROTFL about a walking, talking snake, a talking donkey, the sun standing still, a worldwide flood, and bears eating children who made fun of a preacher!

The Bible, as read and interpreted by Evangelicals, is a joke book that just keeps on giving. When Evangelicals make triumphant entries into public spaces, demanding that non-Christians respect their beliefs and not criticize or make fun of said beliefs, they shouldn’t be surprised when people ridicule their beliefs. If Evangelicals want safe spaces, I suggest they retreat to the safety of their clubhouses, places where most members believe the same nonsensical beliefs.

Blogs, of course, are not public spaces. They are as public as their owners allow them to be. Most blogs have comment policies. (You can read this site’s comment policy here.) Personally, I have no interest in the comment section being a free-for-all; a place where anyone can say whatever they want, without accountability. I want to see friendly conversations, even among people who disagree with each other. Unfortunately, the nature of my writing and my leftist, socialist, and pacifistic political views make it almost impossible to have friendly discussions with people who vehemently disagree with me. So, I don’t try. I say to prospective Evangelical, Independent Fundamentalist Baptist, right-wing Republicans, forced birthers, anti-LGBTQ people, creationists, and the like, “Here are the rules. You are free to comment if you show you can play by the rules. I will even give you one comment to say whatever you want, even if it violates the rules.” Sadly, many Evangelicals either cannot or will not play by the rules. Why? They think they should have the freedom to say whatever they want, wherever they want. When I push back on this faulty notion of theirs, I typically say to them, “Fine. I will let you say whatever ever you want IF I can come to your church on Sunday and talk about atheism.” Evangelicals squawk and moan, saying I am comparing apples and oranges. Really? Their churches and this blog are private spaces open to the public. Both have rules that govern participation. Of course, Evangelical objections reveal the real issue: they expect preferential treatment; they demand freedom for me but not thee.

When it comes to respecting people, in general, I respect everyone, regardless of their beliefs. I respect their right to believe whatever they want. I once was an Evangelical, so I understand why Evangelicals believe the things they do. Disrespecting them, as people, is not helpful if my goal is to challenge their beliefs and change their minds. That said, there are some people I don’t respect. I don’t care how nice they are to kitties and puppies. When certain Evangelicals lie about me, besmirch my character, and attack my family, I don’t respect them. The same goes for some political leaders, especially those who are part of MAGA wing of the Republican Party and the Freedom Caucus. Some people, I loathe and despise. Such people don’t deserve my respect.

I generally respect people, seeing them as fellow travelers on this journey called life. However, when it comes to their beliefs, they shouldn’t expect me to necessarily respect those beliefs if they drag them into public spaces (and this goes for my peculiar beliefs too).


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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  1. Avatar

    I am usually pretty nice to everyone IRL. But if they bring up Trump et al in any type of approving way, I’m not going to be their best friend. I’m glad you moderate your blog so well, Bruce, but damn I’ve been reading comments from fundies for over a decade and it never changes. They think they deserve deference while refusing to give anyone else the equivalent.

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    Ideas SHOULD be questioned, examined, and when necessary debunked. Ideas are not people with feelings and rights. Humans should treat each other with respect. Ideas, on the other hand, aren’t deserving of respect – they are simply concepts. There is a big difference. We should all understand that if we espouse ideas, others have a right to examine and question those ideas.

    As for a blog, you’re correct, the blog belongs to you, and you have every right to establish rules regarding interactions.

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Bruce Gerencser