Atheism

Is it Okay for an Evangelical Christian to Marry an Unbeliever?

unequally yoked together

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

The Bible is clear on this subject. The inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God that millions of Evangelicals SAY they believe says:

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. (2 Corinthians 6:14-17)

2 Corinthians 6:14-17 is not an ambiguous or hard-to-interpret passage of Scripture. It means exactly what it says. Believers (Christians, followers of Jesus) should not be unequally yoked (joined) together with unbelievers. The Bible describes marriage this way: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24)

One would think that bought-by-the-blood, Bible-believing Evangelicals would, because of their love for Jesus, obey what God has commanded. God calls on every single Christian to be just like Tim Tebow: a virgin until the day they marry a fellow believer of the OPPOSITE sex.

But, in another, all-too-typical, example of the fact that Evangelicals only believe the Bible when it fits their lifestyle and ignore it or explain it away when it doesn’t, the Christian Partner for Life website (website is no longer active) gives this advice:

Finding your husband or wife can be quite a process.  Often, whether through school or elsewhere, we meet people in our lives who are not committed Christians.  A common question that we receive is: “Is it OK to date someone who is not committed to Christianity?”  While many advisors and ministers that we encounter have said definitively “NO,” we think it is important to have a more secular view of the situation.  If you have a great connection with someone, and they would potentially want to explore raising your future family with predetermined beliefs, we see no reason to object . . .

We believe that marrying a non-Christian or a non-practicing Christian is not a definitive “no” answer, as is commonly taught.  Would you rather stay single or marry a loving and wonderful person who is agnostic of Christian beliefs?  If this future partner is devoted to you and has a great moral compass, we think the possibility of marriage should very much exist.  If a relationship is based upon love, trust and mutual respect, there is a good chance that a marriage will succeed, regardless of religion.

The caveat to this question becomes whether your future spouse is willing to raise a family the way that you would like to.  Would your future spouse be open to raising your children as committed Christians?  If so, we think that a relationship could work . . .

In other words, ignore the Bible.

The Bible says that nonbelievers are dead in trespasses and sin. Unbelievers are at variance with God, vain in their imaginations, and haters of God. Unbelievers are really bad people, After all, their father is the devil himself.

Yet, John at Christian Partner for Life says: “If this future partner is devoted to you and has a great moral compass” then perhaps it would be okay to marry them. How can unbelievers have a great moral compass? According to the Bible, they can’t.

Here’s what I think . . . unbelievers are hotter . . . and baby, when it comes to chasing after hotness, let the Bible be damned darned.

All silliness aside, John’s post at Christian Partner for Life is just another reminder that Evangelicals, for all their bluster about the Bible being truth, really don’t believe it.

Now for MY marriage advice for unbelievers.

Actually, the Bible gives some pretty good advice here. In most circumstances, it would be unwise for an unbeliever to marry an Evangelical. Unless the believer is willing to live as an unbeliever, then it is probably not a good idea to marry someone who doesn’t believe in or worship God. I can hear the howling now Evangelicals everywhere are screaming, HOW DARE YOU EXPECT A BELIEVER TO DENY THEIR FAITH AND LIVE AS AN UNBELIEVER!! I bet it seemed okay to most Evangelicals when John proposed the very same thing when he suggested making sure the unbeliever would be willing to raise future children as believers. Evangelicals seem to always expect OTHERS to compromise so they can be true to their beliefs, but they rarely seem to be able to compromise their beliefs for the sake of others. The message is clear: my beliefs matter, yours don’t.

Generally, it is a bad idea for an unbeliever to marry an Evangelical, especially if their prospective marriage partner’s family is Evangelical too. If you marry anyway, you are sure to have conflict over issues such as:

  • Baptizing or dedicating your children
  • Attending church
  • Tithing
  • Praying over meals
  • Having family devotions
  • Cursing
  • What entertainments to participate in
  • What movies to watch
  • Sex

You will also likely subject yourself to a life of “I am praying for you” and subtle attempts to win you to Jesus.

It is almost impossible for Evangelicals to NOT talk about their faith — nor should they be expected to. This is why the Bible actually gives sound advice about an unequal yoke.

Contrary to the aphorism opposites attract, successful marriages are usually built on the things that the husband and wife have in common. While my wife and I are very different people, we do have many things in common. We cultivate our common values and beliefs, and with things we differ on, we leave each other free to pursue those things.

Over time, the things a couple differs on can become something both like or agree upon. When Polly and I married she was a sports atheist. I was a jock. I mean, I was one of THOSE kinds of guys. I played sports year-round for the first ten years of our marriage. Age, knee problems, and a busy ministerial life ended my sports playing career. Polly made a good faith effort to enter into my world. For a long time, her ignorance of sports was quite amusing, but bit by bit she became conversant in sports-talk. I did not reciprocate. I still do not know how to sew or put the toilet seat down.

We still have a lot of things that we do not hold in common, and that’s okay. But, the bedrock of our marriage of almost forty-two years is the values, beliefs, and likes we share. I believe it would be very hard for an Evangelical and an unbeliever to find common ground to build a successful marriage. It’s not impossible, but it is hard.

On this issue, I am much more of a Bible believer than John at Christian Partner for Life. Granted, I see the principle taught in Scripture from an atheist perspective these days, but it still is good advice. When it comes to the foundational issues of life and the philosophies we live by, having a common mind is always best. Certainly, compromise is possible, but willingly chucking your beliefs (whatever they might be) for love will usually leave you disappointed, and it may land you in divorce court.

If you are in an unequally yoked marriage or relationship, how do you make it work? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section.

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 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.

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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.

The Voices of Atheism: Bart Ehrman Interview: Heaven and Hell

bart ehrman

This is the latest installment in The Voices of Atheism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. Know of a good video that espouses atheism/agnosticism or challenges the claims of the Abrahamic religions? Please email me the name of the video or a link to it. I believe this series will be an excellent addition to The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser.

Thank you in advance for your help.

Today’s video features a Freethought Matters interview of agnostic Dr. Bart Ehrman about his latest book Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife. Enjoy!

Video

The Voices of Atheism: Ron Reagan: Not Afraid of Burning in Hell

ron reagan

This is the latest installment in The Voices of Atheism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. Know of a good video that espouses atheism/agnosticism or challenges the claims of the Abrahamic religions? Please email me the name of the video or a link to it. I believe this series will be an excellent addition to The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser.

Thank you in advance for your help.

Today’s video features a Freethought Matters interview of Ron Reagan, the atheist son of former President Ronald Reagan. Enjoy!

Video

Dear Pastor Eric Strachan: What’s the REAL Reason You Are a Christian?

eric strachan
Pastor Eric Strachan

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Several years ago, Eric Strachan, retired pastor of  New Life Community Church, Petawawa, Ontario, Canada, wrote an article for The Pembroke Daily Observer titled How Come Some Don’t Believe There is a God?  Strachan decided to answer the question of why some of us don’t believe in the Christian God. And, like most Evangelical pastors who take up this question, Strachan gave the wrong answer. Here’s what he had to say:

Tell me, what do the following have in common – renowned feminist Gloria Steinem, film maker Woody Allen, billionaire Warren Buffet, Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki, martial arts expert Bruce Lee, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg and last but not least Rolling Stones front man Mick Jagger?

Scratching your head? Stumped? Let me give you a hint by adding to that list Jim Gibson, the mayor of Head, Clara and Maria who sits on the Renfrew County council. If it didn’t click before, now it has. All of the foregoing lay claim to being atheists. That means they’re not theists. A ‘theist’ is one who believes in God, but put an ‘a’ in front of that six-lettered word and you come up with what the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines as ‘one who denies the existence of God’. That’s an atheist! And let’s face it, whereby in another era many atheists kept their personal denial of God’s existence somewhat private, today, in this post-Christian age they’re out of the closet and not just out of the closet, but preaching their unbelief with unashamed evangelical fervour.

Take for instance Ronald Reagan Jr., the son of the one-time Christian president of the United States of America, Ronald Reagan. Junior is now part of the ‘Freedom from Religion Foundation’ that bemoans the intrusion of religion into the political sphere. In a series of television ads Reagan advocates for the complete separation of church and state, finishing the brief ad looking straight into the viewer’s eyes with the bold pronouncement, “Ron Reagan, lifelong atheist, not afraid of burning in Hell.” That’s bold isn’t it? I mean, really bold! But there is a brash radical boldness about today’s atheism, just listen to some of the front runners of the movement, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, they are preaching their ideology brother, and there’s an enthusiastic chorus of atheistic ‘Amens’ coming from all corners of the globe!

I don’t know about you, but a few weeks ago I stood in the Maternity Ward of our local hospital and looked at a pair of newborn twins, and then the other day I held them. It was an awesome moment for me, I was in absolute awe, strangely and mutely silenced as I touched tiny fingers, beheld tiny eyes, felt skin as soft as velvet and pondered to think that what I now held in my arms, these beautiful babies, had their mysterious beginnings in a microscopic cell. Who, I ask you, but a Supreme Omnipotent Creator could engineer such a marvel? You simply cannot look into the face of a newborn and declare “There is no God!”

But all that asides, I’ve discovered throughout the years that there are many reasons why many men and women today align themselves with people like Mark Zuckerburg and Ron Reagan Jr. I think there are many people who are atheists today because they’ve experienced human tragedy, painful traumatic events in their lives, wars, rapes, a dysfunctional childhood, abuse, the tragic loss of a loved one and they’ve simply not been able to come to a satisfactory answer to the perennial perplexing question, “If there is a loving, all-powerful God, then why would He allow this to happen to me?”

Outside of their own personal traumas, many embrace atheism today because they read of the Jewish Holocaust, see and witness human tragedies on a widespread scale, famines, genocides, ethnic cleansings and they ask themselves despairingly, “If there is a God, why would He allow such atrocities?” Together with that, there are many who fly under the banner of atheism today because at some memorable junction in their lives they have been desperately hurt, wounded and scarred by someone who professed to be a believer. Tragically the messenger has discredited the message by his/her inappropriate behaviour and the wounded one has committed the classic error that all of us are inclined to do, of throwing out the baby with the bathwater!

Personally, I would love to sit down with guys like Woody Allen or Mark Zuckerburg and Mayor Jim Gibson. I would love to ask them “Why are you an atheist?” And then I would love to sit and listen, without interruption or defence on my part, them tell me why. I would venture to say that some of them would come up with some very strong intellectual arguments as to why they reject God, but I’m also absolutely convinced that many of them would tell me that they have embraced the belief system of atheism because they’ve been wounded by professed believers, or they’ve seen too much hypocrisy in the ranks of those who believe.

As a theist and a Christian, I’d love to ask any of them what they think of Jesus Christ. I’d furthermore like to invite their responses to the question, “What do you think of the comments made by historian after historian down through the generations that this man Jesus Christ is the most important man who ever lived?”

I wonder what they’d say. I wonder what Gloria would say, and I wonder what Woody, Warren and Bruce would say. And I guess for that matter, I wonder, I really wonder, what Jim Gibson, the mayor who sits on the Renfrew County Council would say. It would be interesting to know, wouldn’t it? For let’s face it, if you forthrightly profess to be an atheist, deep down, at least according to you . . . there’s a substantial reason why!

Strachan did wonder what Bruce would say – not me, of course – so I thought I would tell him.

Strachan, like many Evangelical pastors and apologists, refuses to accept at face value the stories atheists tell about their deconversion. While he paints himself as a man willing to listen, he knows what their real problem is; they were hurt and they need Jesus; or they couldn’t reconcile the evil in the world with there being any God, let alone the Christian God. In one short post, Strachan gives all the reasons Christians say people such as myself and many of the readers of this blog are atheists. All the reasons except one, that is. While many atheists certainly struggled with some or all of the issues mentioned by Strachan, the primary reason for their deconversion was an intellectual one.

Video Link

Strachan seems to not know that many atheists were at one time devout Christians. It’s not that we don’t understand the teachings of Christianity. We do, and we find them wanting.

Here’s what’s offensive about Strachan’s line of reasoning. He refuses to allow atheists to tell their own stories.  He wants to rewrite their storylines, making them fit his understanding of faith and unbelief. Imagine if atheists treated Christians the same way. Imagine if atheists refused to accept at face value Christian conversion stories. Why, Christians would be incensed over our refusal to accept their narratives at face value.

Imagine a discussion between Pastor Eric Strachan and Bruce Almighty, the Atheist:

Strachan: I am a Christian.

Atheist: Why are you a Christian?

Strachan: I realized I was a sinner and I needed my sins forgiven. I realized Jesus died on the cross for my sin. Jesus offered me salvation and deliverance from sin if I would put my faith in him. I did, and I have been a Christian for over sixty years.

Atheist: Yeah, but why are you REALLY a Christian?

Strachan: I told you.

Atheist: No, I want to know the REAL reason you are a Christian.

Strachan: I told you, don’t you believe me?

Atheist: Well, I just know there must be some other reason you are a Christian.

Strachan: Uh . . .

Atheist: What aren’t you telling me?

Strachan: Well . . .

Atheist: Did you become a Christian so you could be a pastor?

Strachan: I told you the reason I became a Christian. Why don’t you believe me?

Bruce, the atheist, and Strachan go back and forth until Strachan realizes the atheist refuses to accept his story at face value, and nothing is going to change his mind. Strachan hands the atheist a tract, promises to pray for him, and sadly walks away.

The next week, the atheist writes an article for The Pembroke Daily Observer about the REAL reason Eric Strachan became a Christian.

I wonder how Strachan would feel?

Strachan makes a plea for civility, discussion, and understanding. However, such understanding only comes when we treat others with respect and allow them to tell their own stories. Both Christians and atheists should have the freedom to control their storylines, to explain how they came to where they are today. When Christians tell me why they became followers of Jesus, I believe them. I’ve been there, and I understand what it means to commit one’s life to Jesus. I also understand what it means to lose one’s faith, to wake up one day and realize you no longer believe in God. Since these experiences are mine, who better to understand them than me?

If Christians such as Eric Strachan really want to understand WHY atheism, agnosticism, secularism, and religious indifference are growing in North America, they are going to have to listen to what defectors have to say. Throw away the apologetics books that purport to give the REAL reasons people turn to atheism. These books are filled with distortions and lies. Who better to answer the WHY question than atheists?

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 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.

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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.

Quote of the Day: “Sophisticated” Theology

sophisticated theology john loftus

My far-flung family is quite diverse.

John F. Haught is a renowned Catholic theologian who has produced a flood of erudite books.

….

He has attempted, for instance, to prove that survival-of-the-fittest evolution presents a “grand drama” orchestrated by God. All the ruthless slaughter of prey by predators, all the mass starvation of desperate victims who lose their food supply, even the extinction of 99 percent of all species that ever lived — are part of “an evolutionary drama that has been aroused, though not coercively driven, by a God of infinite love,” he wrote in the Washington Post. He added: “Darwin’s ragged portrait of life is not so distressing after all. Theologically understood, biological evolution is part of an immense cosmic journey into the incomprehensible mystery of God.”

Got that? God is incomprehensible — yet theology is sure his “infinite love” spawned nature’s slaughterhouse of foxes ripping rabbits apart, sharks gashing seals, pythons suffocating pigs and the rest of the “grand drama of life.”

What evidence supports this peculiar conclusion? None — just trust theology.

That’s why I’ve decided that there is no such thing as sophisticated theology. At bottom, the issue is simple: Either supernatural spirits exist, or they don’t. Either heavens, hells, gods, devils, saviors, miracles and the rest are real, or they’re concoctions of the human imagination.

It boils down to honesty. A truthful person shouldn’t claim to know things he or she doesn’t know. Theologians are in the business of declaring “truths” that nobody possibly can prove. They do so without evidence. In contrast, an honest individual admits: I don’t know.

….

Thomas Jefferson refused to let theology be taught at his new University of Virginia. He considered theological assertions to be “unintelligible abstractions . . . absolutely beyond the comprehension of the human mind.” He ridiculed the Trinity concept “that three are one, and one is three; and yet that the one is not three, and the three are not one.”

Ambrose Bierce wrote: “Theology is a thing of unreason altogether, an edifice of assumption and dreams, a superstructure without a substructure.” And legendary newspaperman H.L. Mencken opined: “There is no possibility whatsoever of reconciling science and theology, at least in Christendom. Either Jesus rose from the dead or he didn’t. If he did, then Christianity becomes plausible; if he did not, then it is sheer nonsense.”

Of course, like every human phenomenon, religion should be studied by sociologists and psychologists. But theology itself consists of assertions about spirits. I can’t imagine why universities consider it a worthy field of scholarship.

– James Haught, Freethought Now, There’s little honesty in theology, May 13, 2020

Bruce, You’re Not an Atheist

no such thing as an atheist

I recognize that telling my story publicly invites critique, criticism, and attack. I started blogging in 2007, and no matter where I am in my journey, there are people who think they “know” the real Bruce Gerencser; that they have pulled back the curtain of my life and exposed the real me. Never mind the fact that my critics rarely read my writing or make good faith efforts to truly understand my story. In their minds, they know everything they need to know about the man, myth, and legend, and they are ready to render judgment.

Evangelical zealots love to tell me that I never was a Christian; that my faith and devoted life as a follower of Jesus was a lie. Long-time readers know this claim irritates the hell out of me. By making this bald assertion, my Evangelical critics refuse to accept my story as told. Years ago, one Evangelical preacher told me, “Bruce, I know you better than you know yourself.” Sadly, more than a few Christians think they have the gift of divination; that they have some sort of innate ability to see the “real” me.

Occasionally — as was the case recently on the post Guilt: the Essence of Christianity — critics will take a different tack, suggesting that I am not an atheist; that I still believe in God, albeit a “different” God from the one from my Evangelical past.

Take a comment left by a woman by the name of Diane Villafane:

Thank you for being honest, and congratulations on taking a step ahead in your spiritual journey. I’ve been there and done that.

I wanted to add, I don’t think you are an atheist. You just came to a realization that God is not the anthropomorphic being described in the Bible.

Villafane read all of one post — which took her four minutes — and rendered judgment. She made no attempt to understand my story. Nope, she read a few hundred words and then concluded that despite what I say, I am NOT an atheist; that I have just changed concepts of God.

Why do some of my critics deny me the right to disbelieve?

Some people believe that there’s no such thing as atheists; that atheists deliberately suppress their knowledge of the existence of God. Evangelical presuppositionalists, in particular, say that the Christian God of the Bible has revealed himself to everyone through conscience, creation, and divine revelation (the Bible).

Others “sense” that I, deep down in my little ‘ole heart of hearts, still believe in God. These critics pick things out of my writing, seeing these nuggets as evidence of my continued belief in God. No matter what I say, they are convinced that I am still a Christian; or at the very least a believer in some sort a divine creator.

Some Evangelicals will argue that I can’t be an atheist because I profess to having been saved; that once a person is born again, he can never, ever, for any reason, lose his salvation. In their minds, I am a backslidden Christian, and, in time, God will chastise me and bring me back into the fold.

Here’s what I find interesting: everyone is entitled to their opinion and judgment about my past and present life — that is, except me. What I say doesn’t matter. “You SAY you are an atheist, Bruce, but I don’t believe you!” It is in moments such as this that I sigh. Is there no end to such stupidity? I know, I know, rhetorical question. As long as I put my story out there for the public to read, I am going to have people shape my storyline to fit their peculiar beliefs. All I know to do is to continue telling my story. If people refuse to accept my story at face value, there’s nothing I can do about it, other than utter a few choice swear words.

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 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.

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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.

Does God Hate?

god hates me

Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected.

Warning! Snark ahead!

THUS SAITH THE LORD:

Thou shalt not plant thee a grove of any trees near unto the altar of the LORD thy God, which thou shalt make thee. Neither shalt thou set thee up any image; which the LORD thy God hateth. Deuteronomy 16:21,22

For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee. The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity. Thou shalt destroy them that speak leasing: the LORD will abhor the bloody and deceitful man. Psalm 5:4-6

Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre. Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. Psalm 45:6.7

Therefore shall his calamity come suddenly; suddenly shall he be broken without remedy. These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren. Proverbs 6:16-19

Shall not the day of the LORD be darkness, and not light? even very dark, and no brightness in it? I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not smell in your solemn assemblies. Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. Amos 5:20-22

The Lord GOD hath sworn by himself, saith the LORD the God of hosts, I abhor the excellency of Jacob, and hate his palaces: therefore will I deliver up the city with all that is therein. Amos 6:8

I have loved you, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, Wherein hast thou loved us? Was not Esau Jacob’s brother? saith the LORD: yet I loved Jacob, And I hated Esau, and laid his mountains and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness.  Malachi 1:2,3

And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously. Malachi 2:15,16

Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitanes, which I also hate. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. Revelation 2:5-7

God judgeth the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day. Psalm 7:11

When God heard this, he was wroth, and greatly abhorred Israel: Psalm 78:59

Does God hate? The Bible is clear: God hates.

But, but, but, the Bible says God is a God of love! Yep, and it also says he is a God of hate. Deal with it, or as many Christians do, explain it away.

But, but, but, these verses are in the Old Testament! Is the Old Testament no longer a part of the canon of Scripture? Christian could only hope. Either the Old Testament accurately describes God as a hater or it doesn’t. Your choice. Besides, isn’t God the same yesterday, today, and forever? Didn’t God say, I am the Lord, I change not? 

But, but, but, God hates the sin, but loves the sinner!  Still trying to use that lame, worn out, unsupportable cliché?  Sin is what sinners do, right? When Jesus died on the cross, did he die for sin or sinners? Cue “When He was on the Cross I was on His Mind.” (YouTube video of song)  Sinners sin, and God is angry with all the workers of iniquity. According to Psalm 7:11: God is angry with the wicked every day.

Christians have several choices:

  • Own what the Bible says.
  • Explain it away using big important-sounding theological terms.
  • Make some Old Covenant/New Covenant defense for God.
  • Argue that God went to rehab, took an anger management class, and he is much nicer now.
  • Ignore what the Bible says and just keep living for Jesus.
  • Use Hebrew, Greek and Latin, along with West Virginian and Calvinese, to explain that the word hate doesn’t meant hate.
  • Use the same scissors that Thomas Jefferson used to cut up the Bible and make it palatable. Just get rid of all those pesky hate verses.
every word of god is pure

I am a Bible believer. When the Bible says God hates, who am I to suggest otherwise?The God hates verses make me wonder if the Christian God exists at all. If God really exists, he would have blown up this whole planet by now. We ARE a vile, nasty, wicked, sinful, depraved, dead in trespasses and sin, Barack Obama-supporting, gay-loving people. We deserve God’s hate. Ex-preachers like me really deserve God’s hate. We know better, yet with great impunity, we trample under the blood of Jesus anyway. Here we are, untouched by the hand of the Almighty. Perhaps when NASCAR is over God will have more time to take care of us sinners. That is unless Tim Tebow miraculously makes a comeback and becomes a starting NFL quarterback. Then God will be tied up all winter guiding Tebow’s errant passes into the hands of speedy receivers. God’s going to get you, Bruce. You just wait and see. I am waiting . . .

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 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.

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The Battler

the battler

Originally written in 2010

The Battler

When he battled liberal churches and preachers, they loved him.

When he battled Democrats, they loved him.

And then he became too liberal for them.

When he battled Fundamentalists, they loved him.

When he battled those who preached cheap grace, they loved him.

And then he became too liberal for them.

When he battled the institutional church, they loved him.

When he battled mega-churches and TV preachers, they loved him.

And then he became too liberal for them.

One day he realized that he had spent his entire life battling, and to what end?

No one stood by him.

The great battler stood alone.

Along the way, he had changed.

And when he changed, they walked away.

He learned a hard lesson.

They never really did love him.

They loved his smart writing.

They loved his stand for truth.

They loved his personality.

They loved everything about him except what mattered.

When he needed them the most, they were nowhere to be found.

He made them “uncomfortable,” they said,

He had changed.

He wasn’t what or who he used to be.

What happened to him, they asked?

Perhaps the real question is this: what happened to them?

He often feels like a one-night stand.

Used.

He still fights the battle.

But now the battle is within.

He battles the demons of the past,

He battles the reality of the present.

And he battles fear of tomorrow.

He is forced to forge new relationships.

Why does he feel closest to people whom he has never met?

He used to laugh at the very notion of internet friends, yet where would he be today without them?

They read what he writes and offer their opinion.

They agree, they disagree, but they let him be who he is.

They require no fidelity or obedience.

What’s a battling old preacher to do?

The fires still burns.

Passion still stirs in his being.

But the old battles provide no fight.

So he looks for new battles to fight.

Maybe he will fight for those scarred and damaged by the gods.

Maybe he will fight for those who cannot or fearfully will not fight for themselves.

Maybe he will fight for those whose lives have been ruined by People of the Way.

Maybe he will fight for a better world for his children and grandchildren.

There are still battles to fight.

Choose who and what you will fight for.

And forget those who only loved you for the battles you fought.

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 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.

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Life: It All Depends on Where You Are Standing

creamery road zanesville ohio
Creamery Road, Zanesville, Ohio

Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected.

As long-time readers know, I spend a lot of time writing about my past: people, places, and events that are very much a part of the fabric of my life. I try to be as truthful and accurate as possible when I recount the past, but I am ever aware of the fact that I am giving an account of things as I remember them. Having read a good bit about the brain and memories, I know my retelling of my past may or may not be accurate. As best I can remember, I try to give an honest accounting of my life.

I have a younger brother and sister, and it is amazing how differently we each view events that happened in our childhood. Who is right? I’ve come to understand, we all are. The story we tell depends on where we were standing at the time.  As a fifteen-year-old boy and the oldest son, my view of our parent’s divorce is much different from that of my then eleven-year-old sister. The same can be said about many of our shared seminal experiences.

I live with a lot of guilt. I am prone to depression, and I can be quite pessimistic. I have faced long, deep bouts of depression, times where I have felt that death would be too good for me. With my words, theology, and religious practice, I hurt people. I’ve come to have these feelings because I am looking back at my past with the eyes of a sixty-two-year-old man. How could I have been Bruce Gerencser, the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher? Who was that man, I ask myself. Thanks be to Loki, he no longer exists, having been slain by reason and maturity, but I still live with the memories of the past.

I am Facebook friends with several of the kids who were members of Somerset Baptist Church — an IFB congregation I pastored from 1983-1994. I was their pastor through the formative years of their lives. Not only did they sit under my preaching at least three times a week, but they also attended Somerset Baptist Academy, a private Christian school I started in 1989. I often feel I hurt them and let them down. I think back to how narrow I was over things like certain kinds of clothing, music, physical contact between the sexes, movies, and TV. If these children hated me, I wouldn’t blame them. Thankfully, they don’t.

When I talk to these former students, I hear their perspective on our shared experiences. All of them are in their late 30s and 40s now, and many of them are married and have children. Several of them are gay. Their religious persuasions run from atheism to liberal Christianity. None of them retained the IFB Christianity of their youth. From their vantage point, they recall things quite differently from the way I do. Several of them recall my wife teaching them to read. One man mentioned going back to the old church grounds and playing another game of kickball for old time’s sake. Again, what we remember depends on where we were standing at the time.

I recently re-read several posts I wrote about IFB evangelist Don Hardman and his wife Laura. (Please see Book Review: Laura’s Light by Laura Hardman and Book Review: The Preacher: The Life and Times of Donald A. Hardman.) As I read these posts, I felt twinges of guilt and sadness. When I was a pastor, I had no closer friends than Don and Laura Hardman. I loved them like they were family. When they came to our church it was the highlight of the year. For fifteen days and seventeen services, we would focus on God and his Word. Every day, Don and I would go out evangelizing and street preaching. The church loved the Hardmans and graciously gave of their money and food to help them.

From my vantage point as pastor of Somerset Baptist Church, I have nothing but good memories and feelings when I think of Don and Laura Hardman. I never saw them fight, and I never had a cross word with them. Even when we parted company for a few years over my Calvinistic beliefs, we remained friends. In the early 2000s, the Hardmans came to Grace Baptist Church (later named Our Father’s House) in West Unity, Ohio, a church I was pastoring at the time, and conducted a week-long meeting. We had a great time, but I knew that I could not have them back. While they remained right where I met them in 1987, I had changed. My view of God, the Bible, politics, culture, and other Christian sects was evolving. Yet, we remained friends until 2008, when my deconversion permanently fractured the relationship. Laura wrote me a scathing letter after hearing of my deconversion, letting me know that I never was a real Christian.

Here I stand in 2020, no longer a Christian, and now an atheist. My view of the past is clouded with the tincture of time. While I still have fond memories of evangelist Don Hardman’s protracted revival meetings, I have come to see that the preaching and the theology behind it was psychologically controlling and damaging. This is how I view much of my preaching as well, especially the first 15 years or so. Over time I matured. I began preaching expositionally, and I turned from a Bible-quoting, hellfire-and-brimstone-preacher to more of a teacher of the Bible. Oh, I was still quite passionate about God, the Bible, and how we ought to apply it to our lives, but I was much more careful about using the Bible in context and letting the text speak for itself. While the Hardmans remained steadfast and unmovable throughout our friendship, my understanding of them changed. Again, my vantage point changed, resulting in me viewing the Hardmans differently.

My wife and I have known each other for almost forty-four years. This coming July we will celebrate our forty-second wedding anniversary. Several years ago, I uploaded a bunch of old pictures to Facebook: family pictures; pictures from Somerset Baptist Church, and pictures from Our Father’s House. As I uploaded these photos I began to weep. The memories of years gone by flooded my mind; memories of the people I pastored and the children I taught at Somerset Baptist Academy; memories of my wonderful wife and our little babies. Good memories. Wonderful memories.

Now that I have a different perspective, I view the events recorded in these pictures differently. Is this maturity? I don’t know. Time changes how we view the past.  What were once wonderful memories are now clouded by what I now know about the emotional and mental manipulation I perpetrated on those who called me Pastor. As I have shared before, I am in a unique position. I am both a victim and a victimizer. I followed in the footsteps of the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preachers who emotionally and mentally scarred my life. Victimized by their manipulation, I in turn victimized those who were members of the IFB and Evangelical churches I pastored. It’s an ugly cycle of abuse, one that I was fortunately able to put an end to during my latter years in the ministry and subsequent post-Jesus life.

So it is with Polly. While she and I walked side by side through the years we spent in the ministry, Polly’s viewpoint is very different from mine. I was the leader of the churches I pastored, the center of attention. People, for the most part, respected me, loved me, and supported my work as a pastor. For Polly it was different. Like many pastor’s wives, she was my gofer. She did what others didn’t or wouldn’t do.  No one in the nursery? Polly filled in. Entertain people every Sunday for twenty years? Polly did it without a complaint, even when her pastor husband forgot to tell her so and so was coming over for dinner. She quietly submitted to a life as the helpmeet of a poorly paid, Type A, constantly-working, never-home, Baptist preacher.

Polly did without. Our entire family did without, but Polly more so than the children and I. She never said a word. She quietly lived in ramshackle houses and drove cars that were better suited for demolition derbies. She made do with what she had. This much I know, I do WISH there were a Heaven, because Polly deserves a huge mansion right next door to Dottie Rambo’s Log Cabin.

Video Link

However, since there is no Heaven, all I can do is make sure that Polly has the best life possible for the rest of this life. She deserves it! 

It should come as no surprise then that Polly remembers the past much differently from what I recall. One time I said, wouldn’t you like to go back to __________church? Immediately she replied, No I wouldn’t. I was surprised by her quick and negative response. I asked, why not? I then quickly learned, from where Polly was standing, that her view of this church was very different from mine. Who is right? We both are.

I have written a good bit about the abuse that went on and continues to go on in IFB group homes. (Please see Sexual Abuse in the Name of God: New Bethany Home for Girls, Teen Group Homes: Dear IFB Pastor, It’s Time for You to Atone for Your Sin and The Dogma that Followed Me Home.) The stories that some people share from their time in these facilities break my heart. I want to personally find these abusive miscreants and beat the shit out of them. They deserve to have punishment heaped upon them. They hurt people that I love and respect, and the fact that these dear friends of mine still suffer from the abuse received from men like Mack Ford angers me to this day. Every once in a while, someone will come along and leave a glowing testimony from their time in the same facilities. They loved their time there. They were helped and their life is the better for it. How can this be? Surely, someone is lying, right? Not at all. While it is possible that someone is lying or they are living in denial, more often than not, the difference is simply a matter of where the person was standing in relation to the person, place, or event.

Time shapes how we view the past. For me, I am finding that the further a person, place, or event is in the past, the fonder my memories are. I suspect that’s how we as humans cope with life. The tincture of time often brings healing, and it also allows us to gain enough distance from the negative things in our past that they no longer feel harmful or threatening. While time rarely heals all wounds, it does allow us the space and distance necessary to be at peace with those things that cut us to the quick. Perhaps that’s the best we can hope for.

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 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.

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Evangelical Pastor Levi Skipper Tries to Explain Why God Allows Suffering

pastor levi skipper

Recently, Pastor Levi Skipper, the evangelism catalyst (oh the ministry titles Evangelicals come up with these days) for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board (GBMB), wrote an article for the GBMB website. Titled, Why Doesn’t God Stop the Coronavirus: 4 Steps to Responding Well, the article attempts to answer the age-old question of why the Christian God allows suffering. I say attempts because as I shall show in this post, Skipper fails spectacularly in his defense of God’s honor, reputation, and name.

Skipper identifies the problem many people have with the notion of an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving God not only allowing the existence of the Coronavirus, but doing nothing about its spread and mortality.

Skipper writes:

Why doesn’t God stop the coronavirus? It’s a simple and yet profound question. As the body of Christ, we must be prepared to answer.

There is a perceived logical argument against God when looking at a crisis. You’ll see these argument arise especially during and in the wake of a crisis.

British comedian Stephen Fry delivered a vicious, scathing attack on the Judeo-Christian God when asked what he would say if it turned out, after he died, that God did in fact exist. He called this God a “maniac,” pointing to the large amount of unnecessary suffering in the world which he, by definition, created and allows (See More).

Don’t just gasp at that statement. This is the sentiment of millions of people today who choose either to reject God or deny His existence.

So how do they get to this mental state concerning God? The argument doesn’t take a lot of mental gymnastics. In fact, it is a very simple and even quite compelling argument.

God is all-powerful: He can do anything He wills.

God is all-loving: He cares with an intense love for His creation.

Suffering is a reality: We see suffering in the world now due to the Coronavirus Crisis.

Enter the problem: If there is a God who is all-powerful and all-loving, why doesn’t he stop this coronavirus?

….

This leads to an inevitable conclusion: A God who is all-powerful and all-loving, as we see the God of Scripture, would never have created the world in which we live. Choosing to believe in Him requires closing one’s eyes to the suffering that surrounds us. Therefore, as some would hold, He must not exist. Or, if He does exist, there no way that He is both all-powerful and all-loving.

Skipper does a good job of framing the objection many people have with the idea of an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving God and the existence of suffering. We know that if we had the same power and love as God, we would behave differently. Why does God silently sit by while people, along with animals, suffer?

Skipper rightly recognizes that this is a powerful argument used by atheists, agnostics, humanists, and other non-believers against Christianity. Personally, I consider it an unanswerable, unassailable argument against claims Christians make for their God.

Skipper states:

First, this will be an argument used against followers of Jesus. In fact, this will be an argument that will quickly silence many Christians.

Secondly, this argument will be used by the evil one to shake the faith of believers today.

Skipper worries that unbelievers will use this argument to quickly silence Christians. And he’s right. Countless Evangelical apologists have come to this blog to defend their deity’s honor. Their arguments are endless (and tiresome). However, when it comes to suffering (and the existence of evil) their defenses quickly flame out. As long as Evangelicals are tethered to the Bible — a book they believe is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God — it is impossible for them to successfully defend God’s honor on this front. In particular, Bible literalism proves to a big problem in arguments about God and his culpability in human suffering. A cursory reading of the Bible reveals a God who is anything but kind, compassionate, and all-loving. If the Bible is one way we understand the nature of God, then it’s fair for non-believers to conclude that God is, to put it bluntly, a violent, judgmental prick.

Skipper begins his defense of the indefensible by saying:

God created a world in which love could exist. We read about this in Genesis 1.

….

We were created to love Him and one another. However, given the capacity to love means there is a capacity to choose. Had there been no choice to love it wouldn’t be genuine. Relationships would hold no meaning.

Terry Firma, writing for The Friendly Atheist website, responded to Skipper’s claim this way:

This has literally nothing to do with why God would allow or inflict pain, suffering, and death, but maybe Skipper is working up to it. I have to ask though: If love means having a choice, where does that leave a god who says he loves you, and if you don’t love him back, he’ll torture you forever?

It’s the same with Christians’ trite apologetics about free will.

Love me, insists the abusive husband or the sex-fiend kidnapper; and if the object of his warped affection can’t, or won’t, violence is sure to follow.

According to Skipper, the all-loving Christian God created humans to love him and love one another. This statement is, in and of itself, fraught with all sorts of problems. God didn’t create any of us with the capacity to love him. Surely, Skipper understands Evangelical Theology 101. The only two humans created to love the Christian God were Adam and Eve. Thanks to their fall into sin, none of us has an innate ability to love God. We are born into this world alienated from God. In fact, we naturally hate and despise God. That’s why we need to be born again. But, even here, can it really be said that God is an equal opportunity Savior? Of course not. Both Calvinism and Arminianism teach that human salvation is predetermined; that it is God alone who chooses who may enter into a restored love relationship with him. And for those who won’t or can’t love God? The bloodthirsty God of the Bible reserves for us a room in Hell for all eternity. As Terry Firma rightly notes, God is akin to an abusive husband who says to his wife: love me or else.

Later in his defense of God, Skipper states:

The consequence of sin include suffering, pain, toil, and death. This is the reason suffering exists in the world today. An all-powerful and all-loving God created a world in which love could exist. Man chose not to love, and, therefore, sin corrupted the whole of creation ushering in evil, pain, and suffering. One author writes, “Ever since Adam and Eve fell, members of the human community have been thoroughly committed to their own well-being regardless of the cost to others.”

The sum of Skipper’s defense of God is that humans are sinners and that’s why they suffer. Again, none of us had a choice in this matter. God is playing a rigged game. He created Adam and Eve, knowing that Satan — whom he also created — would tempt them, causing them to break his law. God decided that everyone born after Adam and Eve would not have an opportunity to choose whether to eat fruit off the proverbial tree of good and evil. Everyone born after Adam and Eve comes into this world with a sin nature. This too is God’s handiwork. Remember, God is all-powerful. He could have acted differently, but he didn’t. Why is that? What kind of God allows suffering, pain, and death just so he can “save” a few people he determined to deliver from before the foundation of the world? (Ephesians 1:4) It’s all a game, is it not?

Skipper concludes his “defense” of the thrice holy God by saying:

God promises that those who know Him will be set free from the penalty, power and presence of sin. So, while the coronavirus is racing through the world, God has not forgotten us and is still in the business of bringing others into a relationship with Himself.

In other words, don’t count on God doing anything about human suffering. Much like Baal in 1 Kings 18, God is an absentee deity. Perhaps he’s sleeping, on vacation, or using the toilet. Skipper’s all-loving God may seem to not care one whit about human suffering — hey it’s humans’ fault, not mine, says God — but he does really, really, really want to save us.

Skipper tells his fellow Baptists to focus on evangelizing unbelievers. God’s in the soul-saving business! Amen? Amen! Of course, the big question Skipper leaves unanswered is this: why do Christians suffer and die just like the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world? If God is focused on saving people, what, exactly, is he saving them from? It’s evident that God is NOT saving Christians from suffering, pain, and death, so I ask again, what, exactly, is he saving them from?

It seems to me that the only thing God is saving Christians from is the mess he, himself, created. It’s the Biblical God who created Adam and Eve with the capacity to sin. It’s the Biblical God who created Satan, the tempter of Adam and Eve. God is the first cause of everything, is he not? Yet, Christians buy into the notion that they need “saving,” believing that their God will reward them — not in this life — in the afterlife with eternal love, peace, and bliss in Heaven. Well, that and they will never have to be around non-believers who dare to question God’s love of the human race. Those people will be tortured forever in the Lake of Fire. That’ll teach them to question the all-powerful, all-loving God.

Let me share the good news to Southern Baptists and other Evangelical Christians who may read this post. There is no God. Suffering exists for many different reasons, and no deity is going to show up and make things better. While some causes of suffering are beyond us, much of the suffering we face is of human origin, and it is within our power to ameliorate or eliminate suffering. We are the Gods in this story, and it is up to us to make a difference in the lives of others. While the origin of the Coronavirus remains unknown, we do have opportunities to lessen the suffering of our fellow humans during this pandemic. Praying to a non-existent or absentee deistic God accomplishes nothing, and neither does offloading life to some sort of nonexistent afterlife. The people we really need saved from are politically and religiously motivated zealots who think that pain and suffering are somehow good for us, or that they prepare us for eternity in a mythical Heaven. The idea that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger is not true, as any chronic pain sufferer will tell you. Since we only get one go-round in this thing we call life, wouldn’t it be good for all of us if we reduce suffering as much as possible? Surely, lives relatively free of pain and suffering would be good for all involved. I know it would for me, anyway. How about you?

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 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.

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Are Atheists More Fearful Than Christians?

fearing death
Cartoon by Allan Tracy

What’s with Evangelical apologists and their insistence that atheists, agnostics, and other unbelievers, are more fearful than Christians? Last week, I wrote about Clay Jones’ assertion that everyone fears death except Christians. I conclusively showed that fearing death is common to the human race, and Christians are in no way exempt from fear.

Last week, faux-historian David Barton was on “Stand in the Gap,” a radio program produced by the American Pastors Network. Barton shared his “expertise” on past epidemics. Speaking of the 1633 smallpox epidemic, Barton stated that Christians during that time didn’t panic because of their belief in God:

But the difference was they were much more grounded with God. As you look across Massachusetts, as you look across the New England areas, so many of those guys had come here on the Bible, on religious liberty. And for them death was, that was a step into eternal life. Today, this is the most secular America has ever been. And so, we’re watching governors and mayors respond out of fear and panic, and shutting down stuff that’s never been shut down before because they’re just scared to death somebody’s going to die. And so, the confidence of courage is really what we don’t see right now nationally.

“Stand in the Gap” host Sam Rohrer added:

But a point you made there, I think is worth touching on. And that is the worldview of people at that time caused them not to panic or to fear because of the fear of death. Because they knew, as we know as believers, that if we are to pass away, we’re only going to step from here into eternity with the Lord. And that’s what we want to do. But for those who do not know the Lord, or have rejected a biblical worldview understanding of God and redemption, they frankly have a reason to fear at these days.

Wow. They had reason to fear back there, but they did not because of belief in God.

Barton later added:

So, what we see right now is a fear of death. And we’re seeing people go to excessive extremes because they are scared to death of dying, because this is all they know, is what’s here. They don’t know of an afterlife, they don’t even understand that there will be an afterlife, whether it’s Heaven, Hell, or whatever they choose. It’s their choice through Christ. So that’s one thing that stands out to me is, is the whole culture was built around understanding that you are going to go into eternity. Are you ready to go into eternity? And so, the response is quite different public policy wise. If you’re surrounded with leaders who understand a biblical worldview, what you do is call for days of prayer and fasting, if we can get a hold of God on this and get God to intervene then we can see an end to this.

What evidence do Barton and Rohrer provide for their assertions? None. I see no evidence for the claim that atheists, agnostics, and other non-Christians fear death any more than Christian do. Right-minded people in this time when COVID-19 is infecting and killing people left and right should be fearful that they are next. Feel a cold coming on? Have a fever? Fell achy all over? Have a cough? Is it allergies? Or have you been infected with a deadly virus that has infected more over 1,000,000 Americans, with a death toll that will soon surpass the total deaths in the Vietnam War? Reasonable people would, at the very least, be concerned that they might become infected. And for those of us, Christian or not, with comorbidities, we have every reason to fear that this virus is stalking us, and if it catches us it could kill us.

Barton, Roherer, and Jones would have us believe that certain theological beliefs inoculate Christians from normal human feelings. The promise of life after death and a home in Heaven, according to these apologists, are sufficient to ward off fear. Sure, I can see how such a promise might cause some Christians to deny reality. These very same delusions fuel lifetimes of weekly church attendance. These very same delusions are a catalyst for lifetimes of self-denial. This or that behavior is “sin.” Can’t do that lest I risk losing my home in Heaven. Or so Christians think, anyway.

What do we know about religious people in general? Despite their commitment to God, religious texts, theological constructs, worship, and conforming to exacting standards of conduct, believers are no different from the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. And when it comes time to die, religious people fear the unknown just like the rest of us do. Oh, they may hide their fear because that’s what everyone expects them to do, but psychologically they fear the end of the only life they have ever known.

Barton states non-Christians, “are scared to death of dying, because this is all they know, is what’s here.” Are atheists, agnostics, and unbelievers scared to death of dying? I am sure some are. Others resolutely embrace their end. Yes, knowing that the only life we will ever have is coming to an end brings all sorts of feelings. However, are we really “scared” to any greater degree than those who worship the Christian God or some other deity? I think not.

I will soon be sixty-three years old. I have been battling chronic health problems for twenty-four years. I have had several brushes with death, one of which a doctor told thirty-four year old Bruce and his wife, “if your immune system doesn’t kick in, there’s nothing we can do for you.” I had been battling mononucleosis for several months. My primary care doctor missed that I had mono, thinking that I was battling something else. Following course after course of antibiotics with no cure, the doctor ordered a mono test. It came back positive. Several days later, my temperature spiked to 104 degrees, landing me in the hospital. My liver and spleen were swollen, and my immune system was so trashed that my tonsils and adenoids were pure white. Fortunately, my immune system did win the battle. However, as I lay in my hospital bed, my mind pondered dying so young and whether there really was life after death. This was, for me, the first time, I felt my mortality. As a committed Evangelical Christian, I believed that Heaven awaited me on the other side of chilly Jordan. However, I did fear what I did not know. Isn’t that a normal human response to the unknown; to the prospect of impending death? Was I less than Christian for fearing death? I think not.

Zealots such as Barton, Roherer, and Jones need people to believe what they are peddling. Their incomes and lifestyles depend on convincing people that there’s an afterlife, and, as Jesus promised, eternity in Heaven awaits all those who worship the right God. They dare not admit their own fears or doubts lest they are forced to get real jobs. Imagine what would happen to Christian sects and churches if their teachers and leaders admitted their doubts as to life after death. Why, churches would empty out overnight. Without the carrot, there is no reason to endure the stick.

As with most people, I am in no hurry to die. Some days, I am weary from daily battling chronic pain. I have thoughts of eternal darkness without pain; of the peace, comfort, and deliverance the grave brings. But then I think of Polly, our children, and our grandchildren. And in that moment, I am reminded that I have much to live for; that the only life I will ever have is this one. And so I arise and face the day. Death will certainly come for me, sooner than later. But until then, I plan on enjoying life and doing what I can to make this world a better place for others.

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 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.

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Bruce, What’s the REAL Reason You Left the Ministry?

liar liar pants on fire

In the fall of my tenth grade year, I made a public profession of faith at Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio. I was fifteen. I vividly remember sitting with my church friends several rows back on the left side of the auditorium as Evangelist Al Lacey preached the gospel. I had heard over a thousand sermons by that time, yet on this night the preacher’s words struck pay dirt in my wicked, sinful heart. When it came time for the invitation — a time at the end of the service when the congregation stands, sings an invitation hymn such as Just as I Am, and the preacher pleads with people to come forward to get saved, rededicate their lives to Christ, join the church, or any other decision God may be laying on their hearts — I wasted no time stepping out of my pew and coming to the front. I was met there by an altar worker and deacon named Ray Salisbury. Ray knelt with me at the altar, took me through the plan of salvation, and had me pray to ask Jesus to save me. When I got up from the altar, it was if a heavy burden had been lifted from life.

Two weeks later, I went forward again, this time to let the church know that God was calling me to preach. Outside of people getting saved, there was no greater shared experience than a young man saying God was calling him into the ministry. Youth pastor Bruce Turner quickly took me under his wing. (Please see Dear Bruce Turner.) Two weeks later, I preached my first sermon from 2 Corinthians 5:20:

Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.

By the time I left the ministry in 2005, at age of forty-eight, I had preached over four thousand sermons, and pastored Evangelical churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan.

One of the questions my Evangelical interlocutors often ask is this: Bruce, what is the REAL reason you left the ministry? To these people, the reasons I give for leaving the ministry and later leaving Christianity are suspect. Several days ago, I re-read a post of mine John Loftus posted ten years ago on the Debunking Christianity website. I had forgotten the accusations Evangelical commenters had thrown my way (any grammar and spelling errors in the original comments):

Cathy: So the wolf has finally taken off his sheep’s clothes. Took a while. (Cathy is a member of Community Baptist Church in Elmendorf, Texas, a church I co-pastored in 1994. Please see the series I am a Publican and a Heathen.)

Dimitrios: Are you still married? There is more to this story than what you are leading us to………I recognize this is your story, but I can’t help but sense there is more to this than simply “losing” your faith. Are you a homosexual?

Dimitrios: Please disregard my last post…and, I apologize…I see from earlier posts that your wife is still with you. I’ve experienced people “leaving” their faith, due to a lifestyle attraction that was not supported by the church. In any event, I still feel there is more, but perhaps it is best unsaid.

Rusty: what a crock of horse manure if I ever read any.

Guest: I have doubts as to whether your testimony is truthful. but one thing I do know… It is incomplete. of all the journey and hardship you testify of — I don’t recall you mentioning the lord Jesus. It would appear that you became a baptist … not a born again Christian — you burnt yourself out serving a man made establishment. it is not possible to burn yourself out serving God as firstly it is a matter of loving him — to do so you must fall in love with God — after this, all things have joy, good and bad situations, have joy just as it is a joy to endure any amount of hardship for a child you love with all your heart, so it is a joy to endure anything for God, when you love him.

YoBro1: To Bruce G. So…..what really IS your problem? I’m not gonna quote scriptures and tell everyone off. We be praying for you here in Az man. Your brutal truth about what has happend to you, has happend to many as well. Just like Job, he wanted to discredit God and make his wrong justified to make himself feel better. Your you, and you know when the time is right. But, remember He keeps knocking at everyones heart. Be blessed.

Steven Shull: It does sound as if you have an injury that never healed and you blame God or the church for it. Maybe I am wrong. But you kind of come across that way. The Bible says in Ephesians 6:10 that we wrestle not against Flesh & Blood but against principalities and spiritual forces of evil (demons). If you don’t believe your enemy exists or is at war with you. Then that line of thought just gives that enemy even more power to mess with you as he sees fit. As I have said earlier I have been through similar situations in the Church. But rather then trying to find fault with the people in the church or learning Hebrew and Greek so I can study a more perfected Bible translation. I made the extra effort to see who was pulling the levers behind the scenes. Like the wizard of OZ. You find someone hiding behind the curtain. Someone desperately hoping to be dismissed (he needs that to happen) so he can help people discredit God and His word by causing Christians to not see who really is at fault. Then people will fight among themselves and blame God for the outcome.

Straightforward: that’s what happens when man turn to the other side. or they have been there, just that they hid it for sometime.

Over the past thirteen years, countless Evangelical zealots have left similar comments on this blog or sent them to me in emails. Unable or willing to accept my story at face value, they look for the “real” reason I left the ministry and later deconverted. Most often, my critics think I had some sort of secret sin in my life? Did I have an affair? Was I child molester? Did I steal from one or more of the churches I pastored? Was I a deceiver, a false prophet, a wolf in sheep’s clothing? The list of sins I allegedly committed is endless. No evidence is given for these allegations. My critics just KNOW in their heart of hearts that there must be some secret reason for such radical changes in my life. What God called preacher would ever leave the ministry or abandon Christian altogether. No, no, no, there must be some reason for me leaving the ministry and leaving Christianity other than what I have said.

These kind of people used to irritate the hell out of me. I thought, “why can’t they just accept what I have to say? Why try to trash my character and reputation? Why make me out to be a liar? Over the years, I have learned that when some Evangelicals read my story, it causes them to doubt their own salvation, leading to cognitive dissonance. Instead of examining their own lives, they dig for ways to dismiss mine. They comb through my life with a lice comb, hoping to find nits that prove that I was never a True Christian®; that I was a tool of Satan; that I was a false prophet.

When Evangelical zealots take this approach with me, I no longer try to help them see the light. Instead, I tell them, believe what you will. My critics would love to see COVID-19 take me out, but until it or some other disease claims my life, I plan to continue telling my story. I am one man with a story to tell, and I still have a few more chapters to write.

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 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.

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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.

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