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Category: Atheism

Finding Common Ground With People Who Hold Views Different From Ours

common ground

Lifewise Academy is an Evangelical parachurch organization currently operating release-time Bible education classes in 170 Ohio school districts, including most rural northwest Ohio districts. Our grandchildren all attend local schools that offer Lifewise classes, though most of them decline to attend for various reasons.

I oppose all release-time programs — religious or not. I have been vocal about my opposition, although I am cognizant of the fact that many, if not most, of my neighbors disagree with me. This is not surprising since my neighbors are overwhelmingly Christian, and a sizeable percentage of them are Evangelicals. Seventy percent of locals voted for Donald Trump in 2016 and 2020. Their moral and ethical beliefs are standard fare for rural Midwestern communities. These are my people even though my political, religious, and social beliefs differ from theirs. I’m a country hick, and this is “home” for Polly and me and our children and their families. As a liberal/progressive/socialist/atheist/pacifist, I’ve diligently worked to live true to my beliefs while at the same time interacting with people whose beliefs are different from mine. I want to be known by my neighbors as a kind, thoughtful, respectful person; a conundrum for them to wrestle with as they try to understand what they see and know about me in light of what their pastors say about atheists; that we are immoral haters of God who lack purpose and meaning in their lives. The only way I know to change their opinions about atheists is to model decency, kindness, and compassion. If I have learned anything in my sixty-seven years of life it is this: we will be judged by how we live, not by what we believe.

I am a member of several private anti-Lifewise Facebook groups. Most participants are either non-believers, atheists, or liberal Christians. I find their hostility towards local people involved in the Lifewise program troubling. One woman, an atheist, asked if it would be okay to flip off the driver of the Lifewise bus while he was hauling children from the school to the program meeting place? I thought, are you fucking kidding me? What do hope to accomplish by telling the bus driver to fuck off? And what will the kids think of you as a person as they see you flip off the driver? Passive-aggressive, childish behaviors accomplish what, exactly? Oh, doing so feels good at the moment — I know, I have done it myself — but if the goal is to challenge Lifewise, what is gained by waving your middle finger outside the passenger window of your automobile? That’s a rhetorical question. Nothing is gained by such actions, and they often either fuel persecution complexes in believers or paint unbelievers in a negative light. If our goal is to make a difference, we must carefully consider how our words and behavior are viewed by those we disagree with.

Many non-Christians, especially those who read sites such as this one, think the apologists and zealots who email me and comment on my writing are normative; that their words and behavior are normal for Evangelical Christians. They are not. Such behavior is actually atypical, even when it comes to preachers. I have one Facebook friend who spends his waking hours railing against and condemning Evangelical preachers. In his uninformed mind, all preachers are evil, lazy money grubbers. He wrongly thinks televangelists and megachurch pastors are representative of all Evangelical preachers. This is patently untrue. Evangelicals can have bad beliefs, irrational beliefs, and still be good people. When my friend rails against Evangelical preachers, portraying them as evil monsters, I want to say to him: you do know I was an Evangelical pastor for twenty-five years. Do you think I am an evil monster; a bad person; an indolent person who takes advantage of others? I hope not. I may have had ignorant beliefs, but I genuinely loved and cared for others. And so do most preachers.

Earlier today, Polly and I were working in the yard. One of our neighbors pulled up in his truck to say hi. Jake is a local school teacher and the coach of the high school basketball team. He’s involved with both Lifewise Academy and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He is a committed Christian. Should I treat him as my enemy? Should I flip Jake off as he drives by? Jake and I have a lot of things in common. Yes, we differ when it comes to religion and politics, yet we have had numerous discussions about education, sports, and family. Both of us choose to focus on our common experiences instead of the things that divide us. I have never felt Jake was trying to evangelize me. He’s a decent man I genuinely enjoy talking to, even though we disagree on numerous political, religious, and social issues.

My primary care doctor is an Evangelical Christian, as both of us were when we met twenty-eight years ago. He knows my religious and political beliefs have changed over the years, yet we have been able to maintain a healthy relationship. At my last visit, my doctor told me, “I know your beliefs have changed, but I want you to know that I still consider you a friend.” His words meant the world to me.

I am at a strange place in life. I deconverted sixteen years ago. I went through the angry atheist phase, but these days I don’t have it in me to constantly fight with people about religion and politics. Certainly, I am more than willing to excoriate people such as Revival Fires, Charles, James, Dr. David Tee, and others. I have no tolerance for such people: bullies for Jesus who only want to harm others. That said, I know that these miscreants are not representative of Christianity. As much as lies within me, I want to live in peace with my neighbors. I want to enjoy their company at ballgames and local social events. I don’t want to be known as an angry, argumentative atheist. I want to take the higher ground, even when others don’t.

How do you interact with your Evangelical neighbors and fellow workmates? Please share your experiences in the comment section.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Are You Interested in Writing a Guest Post?

guest post

I am always interested in having people write guest posts for this site. If you are interested in writing a guest post, please use the contact form to email me. You can choose any subject. If you are a Christian, you can even write a post about how wrong I am about God, Christianity, and the Bible.

Have a story to tell about your life as a Christian and subsequent deconversion? Testimonies are always welcome. I have found that readers really appreciate and enjoy reading posts about the journey of others away from Evangelicalism. Perhaps you are someone who has left Evangelicalism, but still believes in the existence of a deity/energy/higher power. Your story is welcome too.

If you worried about grammar or spelling, don’t be. Carolyn, my ever-watchful friend and editor, edits every guest post before it is published. If she can turn my writing into coherent prose, trust me, she can do the same for yours.

Anonymous posts are okay, as are articles previously posted elsewhere. If you have written something for your own blog and would like to post it here, please send it to me.

If you have previously written a guest post, I am more than happy to publish another one from you. Some readers have become regular contributors. It’s important for readers to hear from other writers from time to time.

Several readers have emailed me in the past about writing guest posts. I am w-a-i-t-i-n-g. 🙂 Seriously, if you have something you would like to say, I am more than happy to post it here. The ball is in your court.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

How to Witness to an Atheist

good news

Many Evangelical Christians take seriously Jesus’ command to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. Every creature includes atheists.

Here is what Christians need to understand:

  • Many atheists were Christians before they deconverted. In my case, I was a Christian for fifty years and I was an Evangelical pastor for twenty-five of those years. Granted, most atheists’ stories are not like mine, but many of them were raised in the Christian church and know what the Christian gospel is and what the Bible teaches.
  • Many atheists have read the Bible numerous times. In fact, many atheists have likely read the Bible more than the average American Christian.
  • Many atheists attended church before they deconverted. They know a good bit about Catholic and Protestant Christianity. They know what it is to worship God, pray, and live according to the teachings of the Bible. They are not ignorant of what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
  • People become atheists for a variety of reasons. Often there are psychological and cultural reasons why people become atheists, but most people become atheists for intellectual reasons.
  • Most atheists are not atheists because they are angry with God, mad at the church, or hurt.

Here are some evangelistic methods that will likely not work with atheists:

  • Preaching at the person
  • Quoting Bible verses (the atheist has likely heard the verses before)
  • Giving a testimony of how Jesus saved you and changed your life (atheists place little value on subjective stories such as testimonies)
  • Giving the atheist a Christian book, tract, sermon tape/CD/DVD
  • The Romans Road, John Road, Four Spiritual Laws, The Way of the Master, or any other evangelistic program you have been taught
  • Inviting them to church
  • Friending them on Facebook
  • Trying to become friends with them using friendship evangelism methods
  • Threatening them with Hell

Personally, I suggest you not witness to atheists. You are likely going to be disappointed with the result. There are a lot of “other” prospects for Heaven — low-hanging fruit — who are much easier to evangelize than atheists. However, if you are certain God is directing you and the Holy Spirit is leading you to witness to atheists, I would encourage you to be all prayed up and ready to have an intellectual discussion about God, Jesus, and the Bible. Be prepared to talk about theology, philosophy, history, science, and archeology. Be prepared to give evidence for the assertions and claims you make. Saying the Bible says won’t work since atheists do not accept the authority of the Bible.

atheists read the bible

You might as well face it, if atheists refuse to accept the Bible as a God-inspired authoritative text, there is no hope of you successfully witnessing to them. You should kick the dust off your shoes and evangelize those who accept your presuppositions about God and the Bible.

Atheists are the swine in the don’t cast your pearls before swine Bible verse. Atheists are reprobates whom God has turned over to their evil desires. Atheists are followers of Satan, deaf and blind to your God and the Bible. With so many billions of other people to witness to, why bother witnessing to people who have no interest in your message, are likely to make great intellectual demands of you, and are probably not God’s elect? Be a smart fisher-of-men — go where the fish are.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Doing Good Because it is the Right Thing to Do, Not Because Jesus is Watching

Imagine for a moment that you find a wallet someone has accidentally dropped on the ground. In the wallet are the person’s ID, credit cards, and $300. What would you do?

I suspect most of us would attempt to track the person down and return the wallet. Why? Because it is the right thing to do.

The Christian Post reported a story about an anonymous Christian finding a wallet and returning it to its rightful owner. The Christian did the right thing and he should be commended for doing so. If you have ever lost your wallet or ID, you know how stressful and gut-wrenching the experience is, especially in this day of identity theft.

The problem I have with the Christian Post story is the motivation the Christian had for returning the wallet. Instead of it being a good, decent, honorable thing to do, the Christian had a “Biblical” reason for returning the wallet.

The Christian attached a Post-it note to the wallet:

returned wallet

The Christian who returned the wallet stated that the following verses were his reason/motivation for returning the wallet:

And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. Luke 10:27

He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. Luke 16:10

That men may know that thou, whose name alone is Jehovah, art the most high over all the earth. Psalm 83:18

In other words, the Christian’s act of decency and kindness was all about God.

From my seat in the atheist pew, it seems to me that religion and the Bible complicate the issue. Would the Christian have returned the wallet if these verses weren’t in the Bible? Would he have returned the wallet if he weren’t a Christian? While these questions might be viewed as trying to turn a good deed into an argument, I think motivations are important.

This story is connected closely to arguments over morality and ethics. Most Christians think morality and ethics require religion — theirs — and a supernaturally written book, the Bible. They think they do good because of their religion and its teachings. It is God that keeps them from being bad people. If it weren’t for Jesus, the world would be overrun with thieves, rapists, and child molesters.

It is not enough, then, for an act of goodness to be performed just because it is the right thing to do. Instead, it is God who gets all the praise and glory because, without him, humans would do bad things. In other words, without God, the Christian would have kept the wallet.

If the Christian had left a Post-it note with these two verses:

And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. Luke 6:31

Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Matthew 22:39

. . . perhaps I would see this story differently.

All of us should treat others as we would want to be treated. Isn’t that a universal moral value?

I commend the Christian for returning the man’s wallet. It was the right thing to do, whether the man was a Fundamentalist Baptist, an Episcopalian, or an atheist. Would an atheist have returned the wallet? I’d like to think so. But I know among atheists and Christians alike, some would have viewed the lost wallet as an opportunity to steal. Finders keepers, losers weepers, right? As we all know, religious belief does not inoculate someone from being a bad person. (Please see the Black Collar Crime Series.) The religious and godless alike have the capability and power to do bad things. Why? Because bad people do bad things. A narcissistic view of the world often motivates people to only think of self. When presented with an opportunity to return the lost wallet, the narcissist is only concerned with what he can gain. In this case, he gains the money that is in the wallet.

We should all strive for a higher ideal regardless of our religious beliefs. As a humanist, I try to treat others as I would want to be treated. If I lost my wallet, I hope someone would return it and I would gladly offer the finder a reward. Far more important than lost cash is lost ID. And I know if I found a person’s wallet, I would return it to the owner. How do I know I would do this? Because that is what I have done in the past. It is the moral/ethical code I live by. I know how panicked I get when I can’t find my wallet in the house, and I can only imagine how stressed out I would be if I knew I had lost it at a store or parking lot somewhere.

Here’s the point I want to make — good people do good things. Yes, sometimes good people fail and might, at times, do bad things, but the arc of their lives is toward good. The same can be said of those who lack moral and ethical character. They may sometimes do good things, but the arc of their lives is toward bad. Religion does not determine goodness or badness, though it certainly can, for some people, play a part. What determines the kind of person we are is our character. People with good character do good things like returning a lost wallet. People with bad character, don’t.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

According to This Evangelical Christian, Atheists Live Hopeless, Senseless Lives

empty life

Several years ago, I received an email from an Evangelical named Preacher Dog. Here’s an excerpt from his email:

1. In stating you are an agnostic, although you think it is highly improbable that there is a God/creator, is it logical to think that the creature can possibly exceed its Creator in terms of intelligence, wisdom or virtue? I mean, if you are actually leaving the door open to the potential that God might exist, then it’s fair to say that the clay cannot be superior to the potter, right? Think about it. When people shake their fists and [sic] God, scream at Him, curse Him, or question Him, etc., what they are really claiming is that they are superior to Him. They are charging God with having less love, or less righteousness, or with caring less, etc. Of course, this is a very silly premise, to say the least. So if you are leaving the door open to the possible existence of God, and God does indeed exist, then you must admit and concede to God’s superiority to yourself on all fronts. Do you see my point? You are a personal being, so can God be any less personal? If you are a loving being, is it reasonable to think God is some cold, heartless, unfeeling entity?

2. Okay, let’s assume God doesn’t exist. If such is the case, then where then does this leave you? Well, it leaves you stuck in the hopeless, senseless, futureless bog of mere naturalism. Yup, stuck in the mud, as the old saying goes. All of life is the product of mere time and chance. Everything is therefore “natural” ( including religion), and there’s no sense putting morality to anything, because authoritative morality doesn’t exist under such a naturalistic worldview. Hey, the only difference between man and all other creatures is conscience and a greater dose of  intelligence, right? But as soon as chickens develop self awareness and start talking, then it will be a heinous, murderous act to sit down to a chicken finger dinner with coleslaw and a thick strawberry shake.

Bill, as I see it, abandoning a belief in God has left you greatly wanting. Throw God out of the equation of life and you will not be able to define your origin, meaning, purpose and destiny. Well, you can define it, but not properly, sensibly or logically.

Bill, you are not a glorified frog.

Think about it.

meaning of life

Preacher Dog later emailed me and apologized for calling me Bill. Bill, Bruce, it matters not. Let me attempt to answer his questions.

In admitting that I am agnostic on the God question, I am in no way suggesting that a God of some sort exists. Since I lack absolute knowledge, it is possible that some yet unknown deity created the universe. Unlikely, but within the realm of possibility. In determining whether a God exists, all any of us can do is weigh the available evidence and make a rational decision. Since all of life is based on probabilities, all I can do is look at the evidence and make a decision as to whether some sort of deity exists. Having done so, I have concluded that God does not exist. Let me put it this way. It is possible that if I step outside my back door at a certain time a falling piece of an aircraft engine could hit me in the head and kill me. It’s possible, but not likely. I can, with calm assurance, walk out my back door at a certain time without a glance to the skies to see if something is hurtling my way. So it is with God. I have no thoughts or worries about the existence of God because I see no evidence for his/her/its existence.

I suspect that Preacher Dog thinks that I am leaving the door open for believing once again in the Christian God. I am even more certain that the Christian God is a fiction conjured up in the minds of humans millennia ago. Since I can read and study the Bible, the odds are even less that the Christian God — in all his various iterations — exists (and is personally involved in our lives). Having spent fifty years in Evangelicalism and twenty-five years as a pastor, I think it is safe to say that I know the Bible inside out. I can’t remember the last time I discovered a new “truth” about Christianity. The Bible is not an inexhaustible book. It can be read and studied to such a degree that one can fully comprehend its construction, message, purpose, and teachings — along with the various sectarian interpretations of Christianity and the Bible. I do not doubt that the supernatural claims of the Bible are false. While I think there was a man named Jesus who lived and died in first-century Palestine, that Jesus bears little resemblance to the Jesus of the Bible. At best, Jesus was a Jewish prophet or teacher who lived and died 2,000 years ago. His miracles, resurrection, and ascension should be rejected by rational thinkers and viewed as no different from countless other mythical stories passed down through history.

People such as Preacher Dog are often clueless as to their own atheistic beliefs. While most Evangelicals reject all other religions but their own without studying them, some Evangelicals do study other religions before concluding that the Christian deity is the one true God. While I do have my doubts about whether someone can study world religions and still think that only one religion is right, I have had Evangelicals tell me that they had done their homework, so I am taking them at their word. Regardless of the path to Evangelicalism, once people embrace Christianity they are, in effect, saying that all other deities are false Gods. This makes them atheistic towards all Gods but their own.

Much of what Preacher Dog says in his first point doesn’t make sense to me. I think he is saying it is ludicrous for humans to say that they are morally superior to their Creator (assuming that their Creator is the Christian God). What reveals to us the existence of the Christian God? Not nature or conscience. Nature can, depending on how one views the universe, testify to the existence of some sort of deity or creating energy. However, there is zero evidence in the natural world that proves that this deity is the Christian God, namely Jesus. The same could be said for human conscience. At best, all we can say is that some sort of God exists. I have written numerous times on the lack of a bridge that connects the God of nature to the God of Christianity. The only way that people come to believe in the Christian God is through the teachings of the Bible.

Since the Bible reveals to us the Christian God, we can then determine the nature and morality of this God. Those who read the Bible without filtering it through the various Evangelicals interpretive filters will conclude that the God of the Bible is an immoral monster. He is a misogynistic, violent, capricious psychopath who uses suffering, pain, loss, and death to teach frail humans so-called life lessons. While this God gets something of a moral makeover in the New Testament, by the time we get to the book of Revelation, the nice New Testament Jesus-God has reverted to the moral monster of the Old Testament. Look at all the things God does to people during the Great Tribulation. Such violent behavior makes the Christian God a perfect candidate for an episode of the TV show Criminal Minds. There is nothing in the behavior of the Christian God that I find appealing —  or moral. Where is this God of mercy, kindness, and love Evangelicals fondly talk about?  When I compare the behaviors of Evangelicals with those of their God, I find that Christians (and atheists) are morally superior to the God of the Bible. And the world should be glad that this is the case. Imagine what would happen if Evangelicals started acting like their God. Why, there would be blood bridle-deep in the streets (Revelation 14).

In his second point, Preacher Dog regurgitates a well-worn Evangelical trope — that without God life would be senseless and meaningless. This notion is easily refuted by pointing to the fact that the overwhelming majority of world citizens are not Christians. And if the only True Christians® are Evangelicals, then 90% of people are living sinful, meaningless lives. Preacher Dog cannot intellectually or psychologically comprehend the idea of the existence of morality apart from the teachings of the Bible. If all Christians everywhere had the same moral beliefs, then Preacher Dog might be on to something. However, even among Evangelicals — people of THE Book — moral beliefs widely vary. Christians can’t even agree on the Ten Commandments. (Please see Letter to the Editor: Is the Bible the Objective Standard of Morality?)

Evangelicals believe that the only things keeping them from being murderers, rapists, and thieves, is God and the so-called objective Bible morality. For the uninitiated, this argument makes sense. However, for those of us well-schooled in all things Evangelical, we know that Evangelicals incessantly fight about what the Bible does or doesn’t say. Just stop by an Evangelical preacher’s forum and watch them go after each other about what is the “law” of God. God may have written his laws down on stone tablets, but modern Evangelicals, just as their Pharisaical forefathers, have developed lengthy codes of morality and conduct. It is laughable, then, to think that there is universal Christian morality. Christians can’t even agree on whether there are TEN commandments in the Decalogue. Some New Covenant Christians think the Ten Commandments are no longer binding. A careful examination of the internecine wars Christians fight over what the Bible says reveals that Evangelical beliefs are the works of men, not God. There is no such thing as objective or absolute morality. Morality has always changed with the times (or with new Biblical interpretations). Behaviors once considered moral are now considered immoral. As humans adapt and change, morality evolves. There was a time when it was moral for men to have child brides. Most countries now have laws prohibiting such marriages. We wisely recognize that it is not a good idea to allow grown men to marry 12-year-old girls.

It should be obvious to everyone that morality flows not from the Bible but from the minds of humans. We the people decide what is moral and lawful. Our objective should be to build a moral framework on the foundation of “do no harm to others.” Of course, this maxim is not absolute. When a nation-state attempts to assert its will over another, war often breaks out. Settling things often requires violence. People are injured or die as these nations settle their differences. This is regrettable, but it serves as a reminder that the maxim of “do no harm to others” can never be absolute. Let me explain this another way. Suppose a man is driving down the road with his eight-month pregnant wife. A car hits them head-on, severely injuring the wife. Her injuries are so severe that doctors tell the father that he must choose between the life of his wife or the fetus. No matter who he chooses to save, the other will die. The father can choose to “do no harm” to one of them, but not both.

Preacher Dog thinks that atheists are incapable of defining their “origin, meaning, purpose and destiny.” Again, another worn-out, shallow understanding of how atheists and other non-believers understand the world. While Preacher Dog will appeal to the Bible as “proof” of his origin, he is making a faith claim. Atheists do the same. We do not know what took place before the Big Bang. How life began is beyond our understanding — for now. Unlike those whose minds are chained to the pages of an ancient religious text, most atheists put their “faith” (confidence, trust) in the scientific method. It is the best vehicle, so far, for explaining the universe. We may never have all the answers, but we will continue to seek out as much knowledge as we can. Evangelicalism, on the other hand, leads to lazy thinking. Genesis 1-3 is given as proof of how the world came into existence. Science easily shows such claims are false, yet Evangelicals are content to say, God or the Bible says ___________ (fill in blank with statement of fact not in evidence).

atheist life has meaning

As far as meaning or purpose is concerned, Evangelicals such as Preacher Dog have been duped into thinking that the Evangelical God alone gives their lives meaning and purpose. Again, billions of people live meaningful, purposeful lives without believing in the Christian God, so what does that say about Preacher Dog’s baseless assertion? I know P Dog can’t wrap his mind around what I am going to say next, but it is true nonetheless. I am a contented, happy person. Atheism and humanism have, in every way, improved my outlook on life. No longer facing the moral demands of a deity is a big relief. Not having to devote my waking hours to slavish worship of God allows me to have the time necessary to enjoy life. Being human and alive is enough for me. Having a wonderful wife, six children, and sixteen grandchildren is enough to give my life meaning and purpose. I challenge the Preacher Dogs of the world to examine my life and conclude otherwise. I suspect most atheists, agnostics, humanists, pagans, and non-Christians would say the same. Life is what you make it.

What lies behind Preacher Dog’s statement is the need for some sort of divine payoff. Evangelicals are told that suffering and loss are the price they pay for admission into God’s gated community. Life is, in effect, offloaded to the afterlife — an afterlife, by the way, that no Evangelical knows for sure exists. Yes, the Bible says there is life beyond the grave, but based on evidence found in cemeteries and obituary pages, such a belief is little more than fanciful thinking. One thing is certain, dead people stay dead. To use a bit of reverse Pascal’s Wagers…are Evangelicals really willing to risk (and forego) the pleasures and joys of this life in the hope that there is life beyond the grave? What a waste if this life is all there is. Think of what could have been done with all the money donated to the church or the hours spent in church services. And please, don’t tell me that living life according to the Bible is a better way to live. It is not, and if it wasn’t for the promise of eternal bliss and happiness, most Christians would abandon their houses of worship for the prospect of sleeping in on Sunday, followed by a relaxing afternoon spent with family, friends, and NFL football.

I choose to embrace THIS life as it is. Yes, life brings pain, suffering, and loss. In June I will be sixty-seven, just a hop, skip, and a fall to seventy. I know a good bit about life, and here’s a nugget of wisdom I would like pass on to Preacher Dog and his fellow zealots:

You have one life. There is no heaven or hell. There is no afterlife. You have one life, it’s yours, and what you do with it is what matters most. Love and forgive those who matter to you and ignore those who add nothing to your life. Life is too short to spend time trying to make nice with those who will never make nice with you. Determine who are the people in your life that matter and give your time and devotion to them. Live each and every day to its fullest. You never know when death might come calling. Don’t waste time trying to be a jack of all trades, master of none. Find one or two things you like to do and do them well. Too many people spend way too much time doing things they will never be good at.

Here’s the conclusion of the matter. It’s your life and you’d best get to living it. Some day, sooner than you think, it will be over. Don’t let your dying days be ones of regret over what might have been (from the ABOUT page).

If I died today, I would die knowing that I had lived a good life — one filled with meaning, purpose, joy, and happiness. Preacher Dog’s religion has nothing to offer me. Like the Israelites of Moses’ day, I have shaken off the bondage of Egypt. Why would I ever want to leave the Promised Land for the squalor of Egypt? As the old gospel song goes, I have come too far to look back now. I may not know what lies ahead, but I do know what’s in my rearview mirror and I have no desire to turn around.

Let me finish this post with a story from my teenage years. When I was fifteen, my parents divorced and my Dad packed everything up and moved us to Arizona. I wept many a tear as we drove farther away from all that I had ever known. Somewhere in the Plains states, we drove on a straight road that seemed to go on forever. As I looked into the distance, I could see how the road went on for tens of miles. And then there was a slight grade and the road disappeared. This is how view my life. There’s a lot of history behind me. Plenty of good and bad experiences lie in the rubble of my past. However, in front of me all I see is a long road. Where will this road take me? What lies beyond the horizon? There are experiences to be had, joys to be experienced, and questions to be answered. It is these things that still, even at my age, excite me. Possibilities, to be sure, but I will never know unless I put the car in drive and move forward.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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

questions

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

I look forward to reading and answering your questions.

Merle asked:

What are the benefits and downsides to being an atheist?

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

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

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

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

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

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Bruce’s Ten Hot Takes for May 2, 2024

hot takes

President Joe Biden thinks giving Ukraine, Taiwan, and Israel billions of dollars in direct military aid is a “good day for peace.” His statement is irrational. U.S. military aid is directly responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths in the past year, and millions of deaths since the inception of our nation. Many of these deaths were children and civilians.

Colorado coach Deion “Prime Time” Sanders is a bully. His treatment of Colorado’s football players shows he has no regard or respect for them as men.

Social Security is not broken, contrary to what Congress tells us. Congress owes the Social Security Administration the 2.7 trillion dollars it “borrowed” from the fund. Repay this first before saying the fund is insolvent.

According to Evangelical megachurch pastor and grizzled culture war general John MacArthur, there’s no such thing as mental illness, especially PTSD. Someone should sue MacArthur for not only being an asshole, but practicing medicine without a license.

President Joe Biden supports “peaceful protest.” Evidently, “peaceful” means doing what you are told or we will send in the police to arrest you. Biden is clueless when it comes to war, peace, civil disobedience, and nonviolent resistance.

Atheists, agnostics, and nones overwhelmingly support Joe Biden. Why, then, does the president and the Democratic Party pretend we don’t exist?

Kristi Noem shot and killed her fourteen-month-old puppy. She also killed a goat that she deemed unworthy of continued life. Noem is a bad person, yet she is being considered for vice president on the Republican ticket. The Republican Party lacks a moral and ethical foundation. Trump is their God, and whatever he says is law.

Evangelicals think Taylor Swift’s latest album is Satanic and anti-Christian. Good job, Taylor! Anyone that pisses off Evangelicals is good by me.

Childhood immunization should be required before students enter school. No religious exemptions, and that includes students in private religious schools.

God did not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah due to homosexuality. It’s in the Bible. Look it up.

Bonus: Churches should be required to run annual state and federal background checks on all clerics. staff, and volunteers. Churches that refuse to do so should lose their liability insurance coverage.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Is Jesus Hope for the Hopeless and Rest for the Weary?

hopeless and helpless

I used to enthusiastically preach that Jesus was hope for the hopeless and rest for weary. Unfortunately, for many people, Jesus, or I should say Evangelical Christianity, made them weary and hopeless.

What should have been a source of hope and rest turned into something destructive — so destructive that some people have thoughts of committing suicide.

It shouldn’t be this way. I am convinced that Jesus — real or not — is not the problem. I find nothing in the words of Jesus that would cause me to lose hope or have thoughts of suicide.

No, it is what the church has done with Jesus over the past 2,000 years that is the problem. God, Jesus, and the Bible have become tools of manipulation, control, and destruction.

I wish I could share with you the emails I get from people who are former, or trying to be former, Evangelicals. I can’t share them because I respect the privacy of those who email me. For some, my email inbox has become their confessional. I can tell you this: there are a lot of people who are hopeless and weary as a result of their immersion in the Evangelical Christian religion.

They often have no place to turn. In many instances, their families or spouses are still in the church. They desperately need someone to talk to, but they have no place to turn. They can’t go to their pastor — he wouldn’t understand. If they live in a small town, they can’t even seek out a local counselor because everyone will know (you would have to live in a small town to understand this).

So they suffer in silence. In the night they toss and turn and wonder what has gone wrong. Where is God? There is no God. Where is the God of hope? There is no hope. Where is the God who gives rest? There seems to be no rest.

Their thoughts turn to suicide. No, I can’t do that, I’ll go to Hell. Wait, there is no God, who gives a shit?

I want you to know that I give a shit. I have been where you are and some days I am still where you are. There are a lot of readers of this blog who know your story. They have lived it. They are still living it. They know the struggle you are going through — the struggle of a life of faith that has turned into faithlessness, a life of believing that has turned into unbelief. Maybe you are like the man in the Bible who cried “Lord I believe. Help my unbelief.”

I am not out to convert you to my cause or change you. It does not matter whom you worship, where you worship, what you believe, or what label you give yourself.

My desire for you is hope and rest.

For many of us, the Evangelical Christian faith has caused psychological harm. The wounds and scars run deep. All the attempts in the world to marginalize our feelings will come to naught. We know what we know.

It’s late . . .

I can hear the clock ticking.

Another night with no sleep.

I hear my lover snoring.

I think of our life together.

So much time wasted.

So much work invested in things that do not matter.

Years have passed us by.

God, we served you.

God, we loved you.

God, we worshiped you.

God, we left all to follow you.

Careers, ambitions, wealth, family . . .

All forsaken to follow you.

Only to find out it was all a dream, and a bad dream at that.

And so, in the still of the night, I reflect on the heap of my life.

What am I to make of all this?

Can I go on?

Will I go on?

I must go on.

God or not, there is a life to be lived.

God or not, I still must live as if I am dying.

Because I AM dying.

So much life yet to live.

So much life yet to experience and enjoy.

God is back on the shelf where he belongs.

Maybe I’ll dust him off again on my final day.

Probably not.

Until then, I will live morally and ethically.

Until then, I will love and hate.

Until then, I will walk the path called life the best way I know.

Without God, without the Bible, and most certainly without the church.

I still have hope.

My hope is no longer built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

My hope is built on the love and goodness of humankind.

These days, the only gods I see are my family, friends, and fellow humans.

I devote myself to these gods.

I worship them.

That’s enough for me.

I will leave eternity to another day.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Bruce Gerencser