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Questions: Bruce, What Are the Positives and Negatives of Being an Atheist?


Every year or two, I ask readers to submit questions they want me to answer. That time has arrived once again. Any question. Any subject. Please leave your questions in the comment section or send them to me via email. I will try to answer them in the order received.

I look forward to reading and answering your questions.

Merle asked:

What are the benefits and downsides to being an atheist?

Atheism is the lack of belief in the existence of God. An atheist is someone who doesn’t believe in God. Technically, I am an agnostic atheist. I cannot know for certain whether a deity of some sort exists, so I am agnostic on the God question. However, when it comes to the extant Gods — especially the Abrahamic Gods — I am convinced that these deities do not exist, thus I am an atheist. It is possible someday a God might make itself known to me, but until then, I remain an atheist.

We live in a society dominated by religion in general and Christianity in particular. I can’t think of one benefit I gained when declaring my atheism. Benefits accrued when I left Evangelicalism, regardless of whether I embraced atheism. I was no longer bound by the authority of the Bible and the church. I no longer had to play by the rules or believe certain things. I was free to believe and do what I wanted. So the most important thing gained by deconverting was FREEDOM! I can now “sin” to my heart’s content. I can cavort with prostitutes, smoke crack, get drunk, rob banks, and commit murder — if I want to. I choose not to. I am no longer bound by religious creeds, rules, and standards. I no longer need them to guide my life. No need for religious texts or religious authorities determining for me what these texts mean. I am a rational human being, capable of deciding for myself how I want to live. I have never felt freer than I do today, and my partner, Polly, can say the same. We do what we want, when we want, with nary a thought about what God thinks or the Bible says. It is a great way to live. Of course, I will burn in Hell if I am wrong about the God question. 🙂

Now to the negatives of being an atheist. If you are a private or secret atheist, you will likely face few, if any, problems. It is when you publicly declare your lack of belief that problems can and do arise. Atheists are roundly considered in an unflattering light as people who lack moral and ethical values; people who have secret desires to commit sexual sin; and people who are child molesters or pedophiles. Stupidly, many Christians believe that moral and ethical values require religion. This is absurd. I can’t think of one value that can’t be formulated without religion — not one. I don’t need the Christian God, the Christian Bible, or the Christian church to know how to live morally and ethically.

As an atheist, I have faced discrimination. I am an outspoken atheist, the village atheist who regularly writes letters to the editor of the local newspaper about Evangelicalism, Trump, MAGA, liberal/progressive politics, abortion, LGBTQ issues, handicapped parking, and degenerates who kill cats for sports. I am a well-rounded letter writer. These letters have resulted in personal attacks from locals on social media or in response letters to the paper. Polly and our children have been accosted at work and the local community college by people demanding they defend something I wrote. Too cowardly to confront me directly — I’m easy to find and contact — they go after my family instead. Last year, a local high school teacher gave one of my granddaughters a hard time over one of my letters. I told her to tell this bully that I would gladly publicly debate him or address his class, answering any questions students might have. There have been several times when business owners made it clear they weren’t interested in doing business with me. I have also lost out on job opportunities; more than qualified — I mean, really, really qualified — yet not receiving an interview.

I consider the aforementioned things to be the price of admission. If I am going to be an out and proud atheist and humanist, there are costs involved I must be willing to pay. (Please see Count the Cost Before You Say “I am an Atheist.”)

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
    Missi Montana

    As you mentioned, it depends a lot on where you live and your family situation. I was fortunate that most of my family became disinterested in religion too, and the others are not fanatics about it. My community is pretty tolerant towards anyone who is different, and MAGA is rejected by all but a few people, mostly elderly. It’s a predominantly loyal Democrat Party county that seems to want to stay that way.
    My advice would be to take a hard look at where one chooses to live, as well as one’s family and their beliefs. It makes a big difference in how to proceed.

  2. Avatar
    Yulya Sevelova

    I’m sorry that those people treated you that way ! Lots of people in churches DO kind of have that Taliban mindset, though. And there’s the latest trend with hardcore American Christianity, which is to embrace and promote cruelty and general meanness, like that Kristi Noem does. I suspect that a lot of these people are psychopaths, actually. But since they can talk a good game, they’ll get away with it. A few weeks ago, this kid was planning to shoot up his Christian school. It made me wonder what his parents are like. This was in a desert town East of Los Angeles. I kind of think that when you were moving away from the IFB, that’s when the psychos will surface. American society is actually full of these sorts of people, and until Trump in 2016, I believed it was rare. I don’t feel that way anymore. What a shame !

  3. Avatar

    I actually don’t tell too many people I am an atheist – mostly because I have seen the recoil and disgust from people who have a negative view of atheists. I use words like nonreligious, or into science, or skeptic which seem to be less divisive than the A word.

  4. Avatar
    John S.

    My late father seemed to jump between agnosticism, Deism and borderline atheism when I was growing up. His younger brother was Pentecostal and introduced me to the Assembly of God. My dad and his older brother were also Freemasons, although my dad did not actively participate nearly to the extent my oldest uncle did. That uncle was very secular when I was a young kid but then became religious again after he had a heart attack and almost died at work.
    All three grew up in the same fundamentalist denomination, the Mountain Assembly Church of God, with a very old school strict Appalachian father who reportedly never spared the rod.
    Interacting with the three of them made for some very interesting childhood memories. They all three were hard workers and did everything to provide for their family, and they all got along well despite their differences. My father in particular proves Bruce’s principle that you don’t have to have religious belief/practice to be a good upstanding person.

  5. Avatar

    Freedom– that is the common theme I hear when discussing deconversion. And that was big for me also. Suddenly the restrictions were lifted, and I was free.

    And yes, many are scared of that freedom, scared that if they were really free they would do all kinds of horrible things. It is ingrained in many people. They are told that they are born with sinful desires, and the only thing that can keep them from expressing that evil is a God who watches their every movements with a big stick.

    Except, of course, if they are Evangelicals, in which case they then report being free from the fear they imposed upon themselves to control themselves. So apparently, everybody needs someone with a big stick watching them, except for Evangelicals, who get to play their “Get out of Hell Free” card when they land on the “go to jail” monopoly square. But then, when you read the small print, Evangelical freedom really doesn’t mean “free”.

    But you and I know real freedom, and know that it produces good, not evil.

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