Atheism

Does Loss of Faith Lead to Divorce?

grieving-the-loss-of-faith

Cartoon by David Hayward

Over the past twelve years, I have corresponded with numerous Evangelicals who find themselves in “mixed” marriages after their loss of faith. Having entered marriage according to the Biblical principle found in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18:

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

these unbelievers find themselves at odds with still-believing spouses. “What will become of their marriages?” these former Evangelicals ask. Having grown up in a religion that condemns mixed marriages AND divorce, they fear the consequences of losing their faith. Many of the Evangelicals who contact me suffer in secret, keeping their deconversions to themselves out of fear of hurting their spouses, children, parents, and close friends. I know a number of atheists/agnostics who attend Evangelical churches every Sunday because they fear what might happen if they dared to testify publicly that there is no God.

In April 2015, I wrote a widely read post titled, Consider the Cost Before You Say “I am an Atheist.” Here’s some of what I said:

If I had to do it all over again would I do it the same way? Would I write THE letter? Probably. My experiences have given me knowledge that is helpful to people who contact me about their own doubts about Christianity. I am often asked, what should I do? Should I tell my spouse? Should I tell my family, friends, or coworkers?

My standard advice is this: Count the cost. Weigh carefully the consequences. Once you utter or write the words I AM AN ATHEIST you are no longer in control of what happens next. Are you willing to lose your friends, destroy your marriage, or lose your job? Only you can decide what cost you are willing to pay.

I know there is this notion “Dammit I should be able to freely declare what I am” and I agree with the sentiment. We should be able to freely be who and what we are. If we lived on a deserted island, I suppose we could do so. However, we are surrounded by people. People we love. People we want and need in our life. Because of this, it behooves (shout out to the KJV) us to tread carefully.

This advice holds true today. Saying to believing spouses, children, and friends, I AM AN ATHEIST, can and will bring immediate negative responses. I always caution people to carefully and thoroughly weigh the costs and consequences of coming out of the proverbial closet. The Bible in Luke 14:28-30 gives some pretty good advice when it says:

For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.

Many unbelievers conclude that it is better for them to be closeted atheists than risk blowing up their marriages. But even then, these atheists/agnostics run the risk of being exposed; they run the risk of their spouses finding out the truth about who and what they really are. One man I know attended an IFB church with his wife and children every Sunday. To his spouse, family, pastor, and fellow church members, he was still a Jesus-loving, sin-hating, Bible-believing Christian. Outwardly, he was a good example of someone who loved Jesus. (Despite what Evangelicals say, it is possible and easy to fake being a Christian.) His deception could have gone on forever had his wife not found his secret stash of books by authors such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. Needless to say, the shit hit the fan. This man remains married, but it is doubtful his marriage will survive once his children graduate from high school. The chasm between him and his wife is so large that it is unlikely they can find a way to bridge the two sides.

I know several couples who have been in mixed marriages for decades. They found ways to make their marriages work, choosing to compartmentalize their lives for the sake of their significant others. Several years ago, I ran into the spouse of one these couples at Walmart. I had been her pastor for a number of years, and her atheist husband — a delightful man — would attend church with her from time to time. I asked her about her marriage, “if you had it to do all over again, would you have married Bob?” She quickly said, “NO!” I asked her, “Why?”  She replied, “My faith is very important to me and there’s a whole side of my life I can never share with Bob.” Viewing their marriage from afar, I see a couple who stills love one another, but I also see a relationship where each of them has a life separate from the other.

I also have corresponded with atheists/agnostics in mixed marriages who quickly found out that their spouses loved God/Jesus/Church more than they loved them. One close family member went through a divorce several years ago. At the time of their wedding, he was a faithful, Jesus-loving Evangelical. His wife, on the other hand, was a nominal Christian. Over time, he moved away from his Evangelical roots, eventually embracing unbelief — at least when it comes to organized religion. His wife, however, ran headlong into the arms of what is best described as emotional, touchy-feely, syrupy, gagme-with-a-spoon Evangelicalism. While he would admit that the reasons for their divorce are many, one man, Jesus, played a central part in their breakup. Given a choice, his wife chose Jesus over him.

Evangelical apologists have all sorts of explanations for why people deconvert. Few of their reasons, however, match what really goes on when a devoted follower of Jesus begins the process of deconversion. Most atheists/agnostics will tell you that their losses of faith were long, arduous, painful processes. I know mine was. The moment I wrote my coming-out letter, Dear Family, Friends and Former Parishioners, my entire life came tumbling down. Emotionally, I was a wreck. I knew walking away from Christianity was the right thing to do, but I grossly underestimated the carnage that would lie in its wake. I had followed the evidence wherever it led, and despite attempts to stop my downward slide on the proverbial slippery slope, I had concluded that the central tenets of Christianity were untrue. My unbelief forced me to rethink and rebuild my life from the ground up. What did I really believe? What were my moral and ethical values? What kind of husband and father did I want to be? The questions were many, some of which linger to this day. So, to Evangelicals who believe former Christians, without suffering, pain, and agony , just woke up one morning and said, “I am an atheist,” I say this: “you don’t know what the fuck you are talking about.”

This rebuilding process, of course, does not take place in a vacuüm. People who are married when they deconvert wrestle with questions about the future. They ponder what kind of marriages they will have if their spouses are still Christians. They wonder how being in a mixed marriage will affect their children. No longer believing that there is life after death can and does alter how one views the world. If a former Christian’s marriage was already troubled before his deconversion — yet he stayed married because of what the Bible teaches about divorce — he often questions whether he wants to remain married to his Evangelical spouse. Since there is only one life to live and then you are d-e-a-d, it’s fair and honest to ask yourself as an unbeliever: “If my Evangelical wife remains a devoted follower of Jesus, do I really want to spend the rest of my life married to her?” Many times, the answer is no and divorce soon follows.

I know a handful of Evangelicals-turned-atheists who took a wait-and-see approach to their spouses and marriages. These former Christians believed their spouses were, at the very least, open to discussing the reasons for why they deconverted. Taking a low-key approach allowed them to have non-threatening, honest discussions about God, Christianity, and the Bible. More often than not, these discussions bore fruit, leading to their spouses’ later deconversion. Sometimes, it took years of discussions (and book recommendations) before their spouses came to see the light, so to speak. These former Evangelicals believed that their marriages were worth saving if at all possible. This is more likely the case for couples who have been married a long time. It is a lot easier to walk away from a marriage of two or five years than it is to walk away from a marriage of twenty or thirty years.

People often look my forty-year marriage to Polly and think that we are some sort of shining example of what is possible post-Jesus. I warn them, however, that our journey from Evangelicalism to unbelief is ours alone; that far too often believing spouses remain so despite the deconversion of their husband or wife. Quite frankly, Polly and I were lucky. Just the other day we were talking about what might have happened had either of us stayed true to Jesus. We both concluded that our marriage might not have survived such upheaval and disunity had one of us still believed. Fortunately, as has been the case for most of our marriage, we walked hand in hand as our former lives as followers of Jesus went up in smoke. While there was a time when I was the out-and-proud atheist and Polly was the secret agnostic, we are closer now when it comes to the extent of our unbelief. Our personalities are different, so it stands to reason that how we live out our godlessness in public and around family is dissimilar too.

Are you in a mixed marriage? Did you go through a divorce after you deconverted? Are you a closeted atheist who still attends church with their spouse/family? Please share your experiences in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

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Songs of Sacrilege: Catholic School Girls Rule by Red Hot Chili Peppers

red hot chili peppers

This is the two hundredth and eighth installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Catholic School Girls Rule by Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Video Link

Lyrics

[Chorus]
Catholic school girls rule
Catholic school girls rule
Catholic school girls rule
Catholic school girls rule

[Verse 1]
In the class she’s taking notes
Just how deep deep is my throat
Mother Mary don’t you know
She’s got eyes like Marilyn Monroe

[Chorus]
Catholic school girls rule
Catholic school girls rule
Catholic school girls rule
Catholic school girls rule
Catholic school girls rule
Catholic school girls rule
Catholic school girls rule
Catholic school girls rule

[Verse 2]
From the cross she’s raised her head
This is what the sister said
Give no love until you’re wed
Live no life until you’re dead
The good books says we must suppress
The good books says we must confess
But who cares what the good books says
Cause now she’s taking off her dress

[Chorus]
Catholic school girls rule
Catholic school girls rule
Catholic school girls rule
Catholic school girls rule
Catholic school girls rule
Catholic school girls rule
Catholic school girls rule
Catholic school girls rule

[Outro]
Lead us into temptation
We are pure divine creation
Talking about my generation
Injected with the seed of emasculation
Catholic!

Songs of Sacrilege: Shallow Be Thy Name by Red Hot Chili Peppers

red hot chili peppers

This is the two hundredth and seventh installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Shallow Be Thy Name by Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Video Link

Lyrics

[Verse 1]
I was not created in the likeness of a fraud
Your hell is something scary, I prefer a loving God
We are not the center of this funny universe
And what is worse, I do not serve in fear of such a curse

[Verse 2]
Shallow be thy game, 2000 years, look in the mirror
You play the game of shame and tell your people live in fear
A rival to the way you see, the Bible let him be
I’m a threat to your survival and your control company

[Chorus]
You’ll never burn me [x2]
I will be your heretic
You can’t contain me
I am the power free
Truth belongs to everybody

[Verse 3]
To anyone who’s listening, you’re not born into sin
The guilt they try and give you, puke it in the nearest bin
Missionary madness sweep up culture with a broom
Trashing ancient ways is part for the course it’s fucking rude

[Verse 4]
To think that you’re above, the laws of nature is a joke
Purple sashes, feeding masses, smoke on which to choke
I might be a monkey when it comes to being holy
Fundamental hatred get down on your knees and…

[Chorus]
You’ll never burn me [x2]
I will be your heretic
You can’t contain me
I am the power free
Truth belongs to everybody

[Verse 1]
I was not created in the likeness of a fraud
Your hell is something scary, I prefer a loving God
We are not the center of this funny universe
And what is worse, I do not serve in fear of such a…

[Chorus]
You’ll never burn me [x2]
I will be your heretic
You can’t contain me
I am the power free
Truth belongs to everybody

 

Songs of Sacrilege: The God That Failed by Metallica

metallica

This is the two hundredth and sixth installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is The God That Failed by Metallica.

Video Link

Lyrics

Pride you took, pride you feel
Pride that you felt when you’d kneel
Not the word, not the love
Not what you thought from above

It feeds, it grows
It clouds all that you will know
Deceit, deceive
Decide just what you believe

I see faith in your eyes
Never you hear the discouraging lies
I hear faith in your cries
Broken is the promise, betrayal
The healing hand held back by the deepened nail
Follow the god that failed

Find your peace, find your say
Find the smooth road in your way
Trust you gave, a child to save
Left you cold and him in grave

It feeds, it grows
It clouds all that you will know
Deceit, deceive
Decide just what you believe

I see faith in your eyes
Never you hear the discouraging lies
I hear faith in your cries
Broken is the promise, betrayal
The healing hand held back by the deepened nail
Follow the god that failed

Don’t Cry For Me, I Know the Love of My Life is Waiting for Me on The Other Side

atheist-hell

Cyanide & Happiness hits the mark with their latest comic. Many Evangelicals believe atheists worship or follow Satan/Devil/Lucifer/Beelzebub. Never mind that fact that atheists believe Satan is every bit as fictional as the Christian God. I have given up trying to explain this to Evangelicals. They just know that atheists and Satan are in league together; that atheists are to blame for much of what is wrong in the world; that atheists will spend eternity in the Lake of Fire with Satan. All I can do is *sigh* and ridicule Evangelicals who refuse to speak intelligently about what atheists believe. Can’t fix stupid, I suppose.

atheists in hell

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Atheists Will Cry Out “God Help Me” When They Die

geri-ungurean

But I will say this:  Find a person who not only claims to be an Atheist, but obsesses on pushing their atheistic views on others so as to recruit them; and I guarantee that if truth be told, and this person opened up about their life, you would find an ANGRY person.  You would find a person who blames the God whom they say does not exist, for something that happened in their life.

It’s truly sad. 

There is a saying that goes like this:   “There are no atheists in foxholes.”  I believe this is true. A lifelong “atheist”  will cry out  “God help me” when faced with death.

VERY TELLING.

Do you have a person in your life who claims to be an atheist?  I have many. But I came to the point when I realized that God must be the One who gets through to the “haters.”  The more you push against them, the nastier they become. The more Scripture you give to them, the more they laugh.

— Geri Ungurean, Absolute Truth From the Word of God, GOD HATERS Masquerading as ATHEISTS: We Know the Truth, April 16, 2019

What I Lost and Gained When I Divorced Jesus

freedomI grew up in the Evangelical church. Saved at age 15 and called to preach a few weeks later, every aspect of my life was dominated by the teachings of God’s inspired, inerrant, infallible Word — the Bible. In the fall of 1976, at the age of 19, I packed up my worldly belongings and drove north to enroll in classes at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. I soon meet a beautiful dark-haired girl who would become my wife. This coming July we will celebrate forty-one years of wedded bliss.

In the spring of 1979, we packed up our meager household goods and moved to Bryan, Ohio — the city of my birth. Thus began my ministerial career, a career that would take me to seven churches in three states. In 2005, I left the ministry, and three years later I filed for divorced from Jesus. Our divorce was final in November 2008. Since that time, I have not darkened the doors of a Christian church, save for funerals and weddings.

I was fifty years old when I walked away from Christianity. Few men with as much time invested in their ministerial careers as I had walk away from the church/Jesus. I know several pastors who no longer believe in the Christian God, yet are still actively serving churches. They have too much invested in their careers to quit now. They hope to quietly make it to retirement age without anyone discovering their unbelief. In my case, I was never good at playing the game, so when I reached the place where I no longer believed the central tenets of Christianity, I walked away. (Please see Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners.)

Choosing to walk away from Christianity cost me greatly. I lost most of my friends, and all of my colleagues in the ministry. I was brutally savaged by men I once considered friends. I received nasty emails from former congregants, and several pastors took to their pulpits to preach against Bruce, the Evangelical pastor-turned-atheist. (Please see Jose Maldonado Says I Never Was a Christian and Gone but Not Forgotten: 22 Years Later San Antonio Calvinists Still Preaching Against Bruce Gerencser.) Everything I accomplished in the ministry was called into question. A man whom I considered my closest friend accused me of destroying my family. One colleague even came to my home, hoping that he could get me to reconsider my loss of faith. (Please see Dear Friend.)

I had always known that Evangelicals tended to shoot their wounded and eat their own, so it should have come as no surprise to me when I was brutally attacked, labeled an apostate, and branded a Bible-denying hater of God. The wounds of those who once called me friend caused great pain and heartache. I have not, a decade later, recovered from the loss of these friendships. I know, of course, that fidelity to certain beliefs was the glue that held our relationships together, but I am still, to this day, surprised at how quickly my friends turned against me. While I have certainly made a few new friends, none of these relationships measures up to the ones I once had with fellow pastors. I currently live in the land of God, Guns, and Republicans. Atheists, agnostics, and humanists are far and few between, and many of them, out of economic and social necessity, hide in the shadows of their communities. Most of my friends are of the digital kind. I am grateful for having such friends, but I yearn for the kind of friendships I had as a pastor.

Imagine rebooting your life at age 50. Not an easy task, to be sure. Leaving Christianity forced me to rethink every aspect of my life; from my relationship with Polly and our children to my moral and ethical standards. This, of course, wasn’t easy. I had been religiously indoctrinated for most of my adult life. You don’t just flip a switch and think differently after deconverting. It is a long, arduous process, one filled with emotional pain and contradiction. It’s nigh impossible to completely wash from your mind decades and decades of Evangelical indoctrination. Even today, I still have moments when I have what I call “Evangelical hangovers”; moments when my thoughts do not align with my humanistic beliefs. The journey is never complete or without challenge.

While it would be easy for me to focus totally on my losses post-Jesus, that would paint an inaccurate portrait of my life. Yes, I wish I had more friends, but I am willing to go it alone, if necessary, to maintain intellectual integrity. You see, Christianity demanded that I bow and worship its God; that I follow its holy book; that I obey its teachings and standards. Once I was freed from the authoritarian rule of the Bible, I was free to chart my own course. And this is the one thing atheism gave to me: FREEDOM. I no longer fear God’s judgment or Hell. I am free to follow my path wherever it leads. For Evangelicals, life is all about the destination, whereas for atheists, life is all about the journey. Evangelicals focus on eternity, viewing this present life as preparation for life to come. Atheists, however, believe this life is the only one we will ever have. There’s no afterlife, no second chances; this is it! (Please see the series From Evangelicalism to Atheism.)

For Evangelicals, life is scripted by God. The Bible is a roadmap of sorts, a blueprint for how people are to live. As a humanist, I see a wild, woolly world before me. Who knows where I’ll end up! Who knows what tomorrow might bring. Each morning, I get up and do what I can to make the most of the day. No worries about parsing my life through the strictures of the Bible. No worries about God judging or chastising me. Thanks to Loki, I am free!

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

If God is There, Let Him Stop Me

elijah and the prophets of baal

A recent episode of Hard Sun — a pre-apocalyptic British-American television crime drama series — featured a man who traveled overseas to do aid work. While there, he saw horrific atrocities. He rightly observed that in the midst of these atrocities, the Christian God was nowhere to be found. The man returned home and sought out a Catholic priest, hoping that this man of God could help him sort out his conflicted feelings. During the course of confession, the man admitted murdering a woman he didn’t know in cold blood. His motive? To see if God would stop him. God, of course, didn’t. The man went on a serial killing spree, telling the priest, “If God is there, let him stop me.”

Evangelicals speak of a personal God; a deity who is so concerned with the welfare of people that he knows the very number of hairs on their heads. This version of God is supposedly kind, compassionate and loving. This God is but a murmured prayer away, a friend who sticks closer than a brother or sister. Yet, when careful attention is paid to the plight of the human race, it seems that the Christian God is AWOL. While an argument could be made that all the suffering we see arises unbelievers getting their just deserts, many of those who face great travail and tragedy are followers of Jesus. Poverty, hunger, and homeless is rife among the children of God. Why is it that God is an absentee father, one who sits idly by while his children bleed, suffer, and die? This God is all-knowing and all-powerful, yet he turns a blind eye and a deaf ear to the groans of his creation. I could understand this if Evangelicals worshiped a deistic God; a deity who created the universe and then said to us, “there ya go boys and girls, do with it what you will.” If God is passive and non-involved, then I understand, but Evangelicals say God is very much hands-on; a deity who knows our thoughts, tears, and heartaches; a God who sees our pain and suffering. This God is a myth.

In 1 Kings 18:17-39, we find an interesting story about Elijah attempting to prove to the Israelites which deity was the true and living God:

And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel?  And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim. Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel’s table. So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel. And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word. Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men. Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken. And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under. And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made. And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked. And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them. And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded. And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down. And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the Lord came, saying, Israel shall be thy name: And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed. And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood. And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time. And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water. And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again. Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The Lord, he is the God; the Lord, he is the God.

Elijah, a prophet of Jehovah, challenged the prophets of Baal to a God-duel. Elijah and the prophets of Baal would each build an altar, stack it with wood, and put a slaughtered bullock on top. Then each of them would call on their God to send fire down from Heaven and consume their bullock. Elijah, ever the cocky Evangelical preacher, had his bullock repeatedly doused with water. Game on, Elijah said to the prophets of Baal.

First up were the prophets of Baal. From early morning until noon the prophet prayed, saying “O Baal, hear us,” but their God was silent. Elijah mocked them, saying: “Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.” This only caused the prophets of Baal to cry out that much louder. They even went so far as to cut themselves with knives and lancets. No matter what they did, their God remained silent, making no attempt to prove her existence.

Then it was Elijah’s turn. Not content to make a simple four word request as the prophets of Baal did, Elijah prayed a sermon as Baptist preachers often do: “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again.”

And sure enough, God sent fire down from Heaven and consumed Elijah’s sacrifice. The Israelites oohed and aahed, admitting that Jehovah was the one true God. Wanting to put an explanation point on the day’s events, Elijah had the 450 prophets of Baal rounded up and murdered. Ah, the God of peace, right?

Every time I think about this story, I am drawn to Elijah’s mockery of Baal. There were 450 prophets of Baal and only one prophet of Jehovah. Not good odds, yet the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob won the day. (Just remember, Jesus only wants winners!) Why is the modern God of Christianity so different from Elijah’s God? As I listen to what Evangelicals SAY about their God, I see a huge disconnect between that and what their God actually does. Perhaps it is fair and right for us to mock this God as Elijah mocked Baal thousands of years ago. It seems to me that the Evangelical God is talking, pursuing (taking a shit), on a journey (vacation), or sleeping. Earth is a Find Waldo book without Waldo.

Evangelicals believe that Satan walks to and fro on earth seeking whom he may devour. He is the prince of earth, and by the look of things he is definitely kicking ass and taking names. Atheists such as myself mock the Bible and profane God’s name, yet the Christian God does nothing. Zealots tell me that someday God is going to get me; that when I die, I will find out how real God is; that when the flames of Hell bring me untold suffering and pain, I’ll finally know that the God of the Bible is the one true God. Idle threats, I say, idle threats.

There’s always a chance that I am wrong about the Christian God, but I’m persuaded that no such deity exists. Much like the man in Hard Sun, the extant evidence before me suggests that there is no God. If there really is a God, he knows where I am and he can, in his own good time, make himself known to me. Until then, I intend to keep pecking away on my keyboard, defending secular and humanistic values.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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Quote of the Day: Why I’m an Atheist by Ira Glass

ira glass

It’s not like I don’t feel like I’m a Jew. I feel like I don’t have a choice about being a Jew. Your cultural heritage isn’t like a suitcase you can lose at the airport. I have no choice about it. It is who I am. I can’t choose that. It’s a fact of me. But even when I was 14 or 15, it didn’t make that much sense to me that there was this Big Daddy who created the world and would act so crazy in the Old Testament. That we made up these stories to make ourselves feel good and explain the world seems like a much more reasonable explanation. I’ve tried to believe in God but I simply don’t.

— Ira Glass, This American Life, November 6, 2009