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Bruce, Has Your Story Won Any Converts to Atheism?

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Several years ago, a Seventh-Day Adventist pastor emailed me and asked:

You certainly are preaching your good news still, eh? Once a preacher, always a preacher I guess. I read some of your site and I find it intriguing, if a bit … missionary … in its atheistic zeal. I’m curious if your message about your personal journey has won any converts to the atheism cause. Or did most former Christians just come to your site because they already had one foot on the way out and saw you out here? Like you, I’m sick of the lies inside the churches. But its clear I don’t hate the same set of “lies” you do. Unlike many Christian pastors, I have no interest in converting anyone and never have. I write only because I went through this same journey (and its subsequent fallout) with a fellow pastor in the Seventh-day Adventist church, Ryan Bell, and I am gathering information as to why these journeys take place at all. So thanks for taking the time to write down why you left. It actually strengthens me in staying.

I have always been passionate about whatever I do in my life. So, what might be perceived as “missionary zeal” is actually just Bruce being Bruce. As a writer, I believe I have something to say that matters, so I put my whole being into my work. That said, my goal has never been to be an evangelist for atheism. My target audience remains the same today as it was seventeen years ago: those who have questions/doubts about Christianity and those who have left Christianity. I see myself as a facilitator. My goal is to help people distance themselves from Fundamentalist Christianity. (Please see Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?)

The letter writer asks if my story has won any converts to atheism. The short answer is yes. Numerous ex-Evangelical pastors, evangelists, missionaries, and laypeople say that my writing was instrumental in their deconversion. While this is not my goal, I am humbled by the fact that many people find my writing helpful. That thousands of people read this blog still blows my mind.

The readers of this blog are quite eclectic. While I am an agnostic atheist, many readers are not. Evangelicals and liberal Christians, along with atheists, agnostics, pagans, and other non-Christians read my writing. Many of them have both feet firmly planted in their religious traditions. Others do not. Questioners and doubters, along with people seriously considering leaving the fold, often find that my writing resonates with them. My words ring true.

Of course, I also attract Evangelical apologists and critics, along with Muslim and Catholic zealots. Countless Christians have sent me emails or left comments on a particular post, hoping to bring me back into the fold, deconstruct my life, or discredit my story. In my early blogging days, I thought that if I just openly and honestly shared my story, apologists, zealots, and critics would, at the very least, understand where I am coming from. Those days are long gone. Instead of engaging in endless debates, I give such people one opportunity to “share” whatever it is God has laid upon their hearts. If they play well with others, I might approve further comments from them. Unfortunately, most Evangelical commenters are terrible representatives of Christ on earth. (Please see Dear Evangelical.) Even if they could mount an effective defense of Christianity, why would I ever want to be around such nasty, arrogant, mean-spirited people?

As far as the “why” of my deconversion, here’s my stock answer:

I no longer believe that the central claims of Christianity are true. I came to a place in my life where these beliefs no longer made sense to me. (Please see The Michael Mock Rule: It Just Doesn’t Make Sense.) I reject all the miraculous claims made for Jesus, from his virgin birth to his resurrection from the dead. I do believe Jesus is was a real flesh and blood human being who lived on Palestine 2,000 years ago, However, as with all humans, he lived and died, end of story.

Over the years, I have corresponded with hundreds of clergy who are either no longer believers or have serious doubts about Christianity. Their numbers are increasing daily. Why is that?

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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    I doubt you’ll ever succeed in converting a diehard Evangelical fundamentalist, but that’s almost inevitable. Fundies are fundies because there’s a cloud that blanks out their reasoning ability, or even their desire to exercise reason. Moving up the pack you will begin to encounter those of a more accommodating disposition, ready to at least listen to the arguments, if not actually to engage. As you move still further up you’ll begin encountering those who realise that the atheist position is actually pretty reasonable, even though they’re not yet ready to give up their beliefs (I’d guess that’s a description of a lot of your readers). After that you’re into the groups who are really unsure about their beliefs and are looking for the safe haven of like minded people who’ve made the transition. That I think is where this blog is directed: people who can explore their doubts without being verbally assaulted by fundamentalist bullies, or even well intentioned fervent believers.

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      Geofft, I suspect we lurk around this and similar blogs because we can be candid here. Our views are OK in this forum.. You write about Fundy’s religious devotion as if it’s an aberration. Considering all the almost uncountable religions humankind has created and the fact so many gravitate to one religion or another, I’d suggest religion is not an aberration but normal, a vulnerability or weakness afflicting substantial numbers, perhaps the majority, of humans. We are the mavericks. They are the herd.

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    I’ve been reading your blog for several years, and I haven’t encountered any instances of you trying to convert people to atheism. Some of your posts expose IFB specifically or fundamentalist evangelicalism in general, some posts discuss political situations shaped by or counter to the beliefs of fundamentalist evangelicalism, some posts are about your life both inside and outside evangelicalism, some are your opinions about various topics, and some are about your interactionswith religious people. But I don’t recall ever seeing anything in which you say, “You need to become an atheist”.

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    John S.

    Bruce I think your site is a great forum for everyone regardless of belief in religion to read and post. No pressure, just dialogue. “Pressure” is what I experience growing up in the Assembly of God church.

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      Yulya Sevelova

      Exactly right, and yes,there was ,still is lots of pressure on members of Assembly of Godders! I once attended that church and others like it years ago- and found mostly very mean- spirited people there. It felt great to finally quit bothering anymore! Fear is the basis for a lot of religious Fundamentalism, and it fuel religious riots in India all the time, and fuel unspeakable acts like what happened in Moscow yesterday. IS- Khorasan, based in Afghanistan , supposedly is claiming they did it. Funny thing is, the US knew, warned Americans there to avoid public outings, and told that damned Putin, who SHOULD have given a public service announcement as soon as he was informed ( cameras all over Moscow, so IS was seen arriving at the concert hall !)though there seems more to this event than we are being told. Fear is also what causes Fundamentalists here in America,to treat children like villagers in Medieval Europe did ! Jesus never told his followers to do this stuff. So Fundies are acting like European barbarians, actually.

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    Rand Valentine

    I’m intrigued by the inordinate rise of zero-sum thinking in much of American life, especially politics. This creates absurd, unworkable government, since one side views any compromise as aiding and abetting the “enemy,” resulting in paralysis. I have come to see populism as projecting the loyalty and mechanics of sports teams onto every other aspect of social life–a game has only one winner, and someone has to lose. This is the “sidedness” most Americans are most familiar with, sports and sports teams. If you are unthinking about how life actually works, it’s easy to be gamed (irony alert) into seeing the political landscape as likewise zero-sum, and similarly far more about team loyalty than any other kind of merit, such as a fair competition. If your team loses but the coach says the refs stole it, it’s your duty to support your team, not question the motives of the coach, who might otherwise run the risk of losing his job.

    Fundamentalist Christians treat religion too as zero-sum, encouraged to do so by people who want to manipulate them for various reasons, such as politicians, pastors, and certain media. Religion becomes a team sport, played in the crudest fashion, with red hats and chants for your team. But maybe Christianity and Islam are especially disposed to this sort of thinking. I think it’s also implicit in the letter writer to Bruce, asking if he has converts to atheism. Atheism is not a conversion experience, and I don’t see it as zero-sum. It’s just the application of Occam’s razor to our experience of the universe.

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      Rand, I think the almost universal attraction to sports demonstrates the same human predilection as religion, and perhaps driven by the same emotions. Team sports tend to be win or lose, with or against, simplistic and zero sum, as are religions. and as our current political climate seems to be. Simplicity seems to be an attraction. Mindless following is less burdensome on the mind than critical thinking.

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    as a “believer” who is also a “non-believer”, i don’t attempt to “convert” people. i say what i have to say, and, if someone agrees with me, that’s fine, but it’s also fine if they don’t agree. the only time it is NOT “fine” is when the people hear what i have to say, and proceed to tell me i’m wrong, and try to convert me.

    if you don’t want to hear what i have to say, then i invite you to go somewhere where you don’t have to listen to me. i assure you that, if i don’t want to hear what you have to say, i will do exactly the same thing, as long as you’re not on my front door step, trying to convince me. then we’re going to have problems. 😉

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      Bruce Gerencser

      Really? Jesus is dead. God is a myth, as is Satan. So who, exactly, is going to punish me? Besides, I’m into BDSM, so maybe I’d love for Jesus to “punish” me. Would you like to join us, John?

      I fear one person — my partner. 🤣🤣❤️❤️ Especially if she has a Lodge cast iron skillet in her hand. 🤣🤣❤️❤️ Threatening me with punishment from a mythical being has no power over me, John. Besides, I’m not leading people away from Christ. How could I possibly do so? Are you saying I’m more powerful than Jesus; that my words are more powerful than the Holy Ghost? If so, what a pathetic deity you worship. I know I’m Bruce Almighty, but surely the creator of the universe is more powerful than me, right? If I am such a threat to the salvation of sinners, it seems to me that the easiest fix would be for God to strike me dead. Yet, here I am. It’s almost as if God is either powerless or doesn’t exist. 🤣🤣

      What say ye, John? Pretend you are Elijah and pray fire down upon my head. This will prove your God is real.

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        Revival “I Lie for Jesus” Fires

        To really expand on the truth that John has shared with you.

        [Really, you can’t even admit you are John? What a fraud.]

        Rest of violent torture porn deleted.

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      John S.

      John- I am a practicing and devout Catholic, as I was before I found Bruce’s page. I have in no way been “led” from Jesus Christ by Bruce or anyone else on this page. What has happened is that I have been made more knowledgeable about how religious fanaticism and abuse (yes including that perpetrated by my own church) has impacted the lives of many people. How the traditional talking points of most evangelicals come across to people who just want the freedom to live their authentic lives in America and not a Christian version of Iran.
      If there is anyone “leading” folks away from Christ it is another person who posts on this page that you might be familiar with- he goes by the moniker “Revival Liars” (sorry I meant “Fires”).

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      So just pray to your god to lead them back, John! If it doesn’t have the power to do that, it’s not much of a god.

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      Leading people away from Jesus Christ will come with a severe punishment.

      The Almighty can separate sheep from goats. The ones who threaten hell are the goats. Those who live and let live are the sheep. You lose.

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    Evangelicals criticize the world because they want to change it to fit their views. So, if atheists/agnostics/anyone else criticize Christianity, then they must want to change the world to fit their views. That’s how they see it.

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    MJ Lisbeth

    I know atheists, agnostics and non-religious people in the flesh and online. I have yet to encounter one who is trying to “convert “ anyone to their positions on deism or religious belief. For me, at least., agnosticism and atheism are conclusions one comes to based on weighing evidence. You can’t “convert “ someone to whatever conclusion comes from it, any more than you can support a belief.

    The comments about the “zero sum” mentality of sports and politics are spot-on and are very helpful in explaining why Fundamentalist and Evangelical Christianity (and their parallels in conservative Catholicism, ultra-Orthodox Judaism and fundamentalist Islam) have flourished in the US. It isn’t just about our “freedom of religion;” it’s a mixture of a particularly American mentality—which is part of the detritus of our Puritan (a.k.a. Calvinism on crack) heritage.

    (The sports analogy is especially interesting to me, as a longtime hockey fan. Until two decades ago, an NHL game—like soccer matches everywhere in the world—could end in a draw But executives from the US took over the league and eliminated ties.)

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