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Category: Atheism

Bruce’s Top Ten List of Crazy Evangelical Beliefs

daniel dennett quote

One of the hardest things for me to admit is that I, at one time, believed things that I now know to be untrue. These fallacious beliefs had a deleterious effect on not only my life, but the lives of my wife, and the people who called me pastor. While everyone concerned would agree that we have escaped the consequences of my beliefs relatively unharmed, I can’t help but think how life might have been different had I not fallen for the greatest con game of all time: Evangelical Christianity.

On one hand, if I had not been raised in the Evangelical church nor attended an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) college, I never would have met my wife. Perhaps, in an alternate timeline, I might have met a woman with the same beauty, charm, and kindness as Polly. Perhaps, I say. I remember another woman I dated before Polly. I was madly in love with her, yet, as I look back on our torrid, tumultuous relationship, I know that had we married, we likely would have killed each other — literally. Choosing a different path doesn’t necessarily bring a better outcome. The old adage isn’t always true: the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

This I know for sure: I spent most of my life believing things that are not true. And not just believing these things, but putting them into practice. It’s one thing to believe the Christian God exists, but it is a far different thing, based on that belief, to devote one’s life to serving and worshiping this God. And not just serving him on Sunday, the day when he demands fealty from his followers, but as a devoted slave, I served this God day and night; day after day, year after year, for almost 50 years. This God, found only within the pages of an ancient religious text, promised that he would care for me in this life, and after death, he would grant me eternal life in a glorious pain-free Heaven.

Daniel Dennett is right: There’s no polite way to suggest to someone that they have devoted their life to folly. Indeed, a life of folly. While I can, if given sufficient libations, cry over the spilled milk of my life, I choose, instead, to use my past life as a soldier for Jesus as a cautionary warning to all who dare to follow in my steps. I stand along the road of life waving my arms, hoping to turn sincere followers of this God away from the bridge-less chasm that awaits on the road ahead. Take another path, I passionately warn. Sadly, most of this God’s slaves will ignore my warnings, thinking that I am the one who is deceived and in need of saving.

There are other people similar to myself, who, due to their blind devotion to religious belief, squandered the best years of their lives. How can we not regret giving the years when we were strong, healthy, and full of life, to a mythical deity? And worse yet, how can we not regret giving our time, talent, and (lots of) money to the human-built religious machine that drives over all who dare to get in its way?

Like other survivors of the Evangelical con, I have made an uneasy peace with my past. I have many regrets over how I spent most of my adult life. I know there’s nothing I can do about the past. I choose to learn from my past experiences, using them to fuel my writing, in the hope that I can, in some small way, play a part in bringing Evangelicalism to an ignominious end. While I will not live long enough to see its demise, I hope that one day one of my descendants will be the person who holds a pillow over the Evangelical God’s face and finally smothers him to death.

What follows is Bruce’s Top Ten List of Crazy Beliefs. Most former Evangelicals will certainly find this list to be quite similar to theirs.

  1. The Bible is a God-inspired text, inerrant and infallible
  2. The universe was created in six twenty four hour days and is 6,024 years
  3. God talks to me
  4. The story of the supernatural Jesus — all of it
  5. There is an unseen Frank Peretti-like spiritual dimension inhabited by angels and demons
  6. There is a shadow government, a Satan influenced cabal that runs the world
  7. Demons possess people and inanimate objects such as toys
  8. Satan uses certain styles of music to control the masses
  9. Mental illness is caused by sin
  10. Government schools destroy the minds of students

My Evangelical journey began and ended with the Bible. My devotion to God was fueled by the belief that the Bible was a God-inspired text. This text was inerrant and infallible, and the God who wrote it meant for me to obey its commands and teachings.  Not only did this God expect me to obey, he also commanded me to teach others to do the same. And so I did. Thousands of people sat under the sound of my voice, hearing me declare that loving, serving, and worshiping the Evangelical God was the way to peace, blessing, the forgiveness of sins, and life everlasting.

Everything in my life flowed from my commitment to the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible. As Baptists are fond of saying: God said it, I believe it, and that settles it for me!  My journey out of Evangelicalism was complete when I came to realize that what I once believed about the Bible was not true; that my worldview was built upon an irrational, intellectually lacking foundation. Once the Bible lost its magical power over me, other beliefs, like the ones mentioned above, quickly unraveled. When my mind was finally unfettered by the Evangelical delusion, I was then free to seek truth wherever it may be found. No longer was I walled in by a set of beliefs that forced me to embrace irrationality. (Please see The Danger of Being in a Box and Why It Makes Sense When you Are in It and What I Found When I Left the Box) And much like most Evangelicals-turned-atheists/agnostics, I am grateful that skepticism, reason, and knowledge have set me free.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Evangelical Christians Often Ask Me What Happens When We Die?

life after death
Cartoon by Heyokyay

Evangelical Christians often ask me, what happens when we die?  Here’s my answer.

The power of religion rests in the hope it gives people concerning life after death. Remove this from religion, and churches would be shuttered overnight. Hope, along with fear, is the glue that holds most religions together. What would religion be without the fear of Hell and the hope of Heaven?

The problem though is that there is no evidence for the existence of Heaven, Hell, or life beyond the grave.  All we have to go on are the various religious texts that sects, churches, and clerics use to “prove” that there is a Hell and Heaven. No one has ever gone to Heaven or Hell and returned to tell us about it — and that includes the Christian liars who say they went to Heaven or Hell and came back with a message from God. The same goes for any life after death, whether it be reincarnation or Christian resurrection. There is no evidence for life after death. Any belief to the contrary requires faith.

As a skeptic, I rarely appeal to faith. I try to judge matters according to what I can see and know. What does reason tell me about life after death? What do my observations tell me about reality? What do my experiences tell me about the prospects of eternal life beyond my last breath?

When we die, we are dead. That’s it. End of story.  When my heart stops pumping, my lungs stop breathing, and my brain stops functioning, I am dead. Every one of us will come to this end. No one escapes death — not even Jesus. I know of no one who has come back from the dead. I know of no one who is not right where they were planted or scattered after they died. As with God, there is no empirical evidence for Hell, Heaven, or life after death. Since there is no evidence, I must conclude that these things do not exist.

Now, this does not mean I don’t wish it could be otherwise. Heaven, eternal life, a pain-free body, being reunited with my father and mother; all these things appeal to me. But then, so does having magical Harry Potter-like powers. Both are fantasies that have no foundation in fact.

Some day, sooner rather than later, I am going to die. It is unlikely that I will be alive 10 years from now. I hope I am, but my body and its slow, gradual, painful decline tells me that the ugly specter of death is lurking in the shadows, and someday it will come to claim me. Believe me, I want to live. I have no death wish as many Christians do. Take me Jesus, I am ready to go, many a Christian says. Not I. I have no desire to leave on the next boat or any other boat, for that matter. I hope the long black train that’s a-comin’ gets derailed in Hell, Michigan.  I want to live as long as I can. I want to be married for 50 years, see my grandchildren get married, and hold my great-grandchildren. I want to see the Bengals win a Super Bowl, the Reds win another World Series, and a host of other things on my bucket list — and yes, I have one.

You see, we skeptics, atheists, and humanists value life because this is all we have. We know, based on what the evidence tells us, that there is no Hell, Heaven, or life after death. This is it, and because it is, we want to wring as much as we can out of life. We are not content to off-load life to a mythical Sweet-By-and-By. Every day matters because every day lived is one less day we are above ground.

I have lived about 23,546 days/565,104 hours/33,906,204 minutes/2,034,374,400 seconds. What is most important to me is a well-lived life. Have I lived life to its fullest? Have I made a difference? Am I a better person today than I was yesterday? Do the people that matter to me know that I love them? This is enough for me. What more can anyone ask?

Sadly, many Evangelicals view life as something to be endured so that they can get a divine payoff after death. I know this description sounds crude, but it is the essence of Christian belief concerning life after death. Endure! Suffer! Be Patient! As countless Christian songs say, someday it will be worth it all. Someday you will cross the finish line and receive the prize that awaits you, the Apostle Paul says.

I don’t fault Evangelicals for believing in Hell, Heaven, and the afterlife. The Christian Bible certainly says these things are real. The Bible clearly says who will be going to Hell and Heaven. However, as a skeptic, I see no evidence that these beliefs are true. I do not have the requisite faith necessary to suspend reason on these matters. I am unwilling to waste my life in the pursuit of that which, as best I can tell, does not exist.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: “Dr.” David Tee Says Rape and Sexual Abuse Are Mistakes and Errors in Judgment

dr david tee

We are writing this as BG continues [and I shall continue to do so as long as clerics commit crimes] his Black collar series. He likes [Actually, I don’t like it. Doing so is a necessary burden, one which often makes me feel like I have been wading in a septic tank.] to point out the ‘sins’ of Christians even though he declares there is no such thing as sin. [Yes, and that’s why the series is about “crimes,” not “sins.” Tee knows this because I have explained it to him several times, yet he continues to lie about and misrepresent my views — which, of course, he will deny doing so.]

But, pointing out other people’s mistakes, errors in judgment, and other problems [crimes, David, crimes] doesn’t help anyone [actually it validates the experiences of victims and lets them know others care about what they have gone through]. It only makes the person doing look bad, hate-filled, and antagonistic.

It doesn’t help their reputation either and only inflames the problems between believer and unbeliever. [No, Tee is the only one with enflamed hemorrhoids over the Black Collar Crime Series. Most people appreciate me calling attention to crimes committed by so-called men of God.] We suggest that atheists and BG start removing the beams from their eyes. [ David, by all means, start a blog that reports on criminal behavior by atheists. Show me the “beams.” I have never raped or sexually assaulted anyone. I have never sexually molested children. Have I ever committed a crime? Sure. Who hasn’t — in the strictest sense of the word. I’ve committed a few misdemeanors over the years, but no felonies.] maybe then they would see Christians in a better light. [We see Christianity as it is. And trust me, David, when you are in the picture, all we see is violence and ugliness. Defending rapists, perverts, and child molesters! Dude, you need to get saved!]

They may not want to as they may find out the truth that they are wrong and that may scare them to an early grave. [sigh]

….

Finally, make sure to obey Jesus and get the beams out of your eyes so you do not end up like BG, atheists, and bad Christians [like David Tee]. You need to see clearly [believe as David Tee does] before you can help others do the same [defend rapists, perverts, and child molesters].

— “Dr. David Tee (David Thiessen, TheologyArcheology/TEWSNBM), Theologyarcheology: A Site for the Glory of God, Misc. Topics, December 20, 2021

I have previously addressed Tee’s defense of criminal behavior in a post titled David Tee Defends Christian Rapists and Sexual Predators.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Ms. Susan-Anne White Thinks I’m a Despicable, Obnoxious, Militant, Hateful Atheist

Susan-Anne White, a True Christian, So True She Can't Find Any Church Pure Enough For Her
Susan-Anne White, a True Christian, So True She Can’t Find Any Church Pure Enough For Her

Susan-Anne White, a resident of Northern Ireland and a Fundamentalist Christian who believes homosexuality, adultery, divorce, abortion, and rock music should be outlawed, thinks I am a despicable, obnoxious, militant, hateful atheist. She’s taken to her blog to denounce me. Here’s what she had to say:

I have already mentioned the Ex-Pastor Bruce Gerencser in a previous post, and since then, I have continued to read some of the posts on his blog and posted comments when I felt it was necessary and, indeed, my duty to do so.

This man Gerencser, is one of the most despicable, obnoxious individuals I have ever encountered. He is militant, hateful atheism writ large.

He refers to himself at times as Bruce Almighty and when he does so, he adds blasphemy to his many sins. He has now made it impossible for me to post comments on his blog, so obviously, he could not handle the truth contained in my many comments. I also think it likely that I was influencing (for good) some of his regular readers and commenters so he had to silence me. He cannot silence me on our own blog however.

Before he banned me from commenting, I confronted him about his use of the designation “Ms” in reference to me, a designation I abhor. He admitted that he did this to annoy me! I asked him about his wife’s designation i.e is she referred to as “Mrs.” Gerencser or “Ms.” Gerencser. I had to force the issue to get an answer from him and what do you think he said?  “Her name is Polly.”

So there we have it. That being the case, we must assume that on their wedding day, they were pronounced “Mr. and Polly Gerencser” and that, ever since, when they receive any official letters etc, they are addressed to “Mr. and Polly Gerencser.” I think not.

Methinks the EX-Pastor is telling a fib.

Please read all the comments I posted on his blog post (link below) because some of the things he says to me and about me are violent, shocking and slanderous.

By the way, White is not banned. Her comments are moderated. She is free to pontificate and excoriate, but I must approve each comment.  As far as her blog post is concerned, I think it speaks for itself.

You can read White’s comments on the following posts Blog News: I Need Your Help, Why Do Fundamentalist Men and Women Dress Differently?, and An Email From a Fundamentalist Christian.

In an October 2015 blog post, White had this to say:

I have been commenting on the blog of a former Pastor turned atheist called Bruce Gerencser for a few days. He also has a Facebook page and he posted my Manifesto on it. You will notice that he made three points about my Manifesto and, taken in order, they are as follows,

1. I am a “fundamentalist crazy”
2. I live in England
3. I’m running for political office

 He is WRONG on all three!

1. I am not crazy
2. I do not live in England (I live in Northern Ireland)
3. I’m not running for political office as the election took place last May.

He also posts a comment from someone calling himself Marc Ewt who states that Northern Ireland is his home country and then proceeds to utter nonsense about NI (some of his assertions are hilarious.)

 Ex-Pastor Bruce Gerencser is gullible enough to believe that every word Marc Ewt utters is the truth and tells him that reading his comment about the state of things in Northern Ireland helps put people like “White” in context. (Note how the former Pastor refers to me as “White” not “Mrs.White” and I don’t like it.) Read the ex-Pastor’s facebook comment below, followed by the comment by Marc Ewt, followed by the ex-Pastor’s response to ignoramus Ewt…

White mentions her Manifesto. Here’s a copy of it:

susan-anne-white-manifesto

According to an April 2015 article in the Belfast Telegraph:

…Susan Anne White, who caused a stir when she stood in last year’s council elections, is now aiming to become MP for West Tyrone.

The devout Christian says her campaign will focus on moral issues including society’s “dangerous” homosexual agenda.

She also wants to outlaw rock music, saying it fuels sexual anarchy and drug use.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mrs White, who is standing as an Independent, denied that her views were extreme.

“I don’t consider myself extreme – not at all,” she said. “It is society that has moved. Not so far in the past, most people would have shared my views.

“My views only seem extreme because society has moved away from God’s principles.”

Mrs White, who is from Trillick in Co Tyrone, is one of nine candidates standing in West Tyrone on May 7.

The outgoing Sinn Fein MP, Pat Doherty, has a comfortable 10,000-plus majority. Last May, Mrs White stood for the new Fermanagh and Omagh Council, receiving just 67 first preference votes.

Mrs White said she opposes feminism “with all her might”, and says it is to blame for the recession.

“Feminism is responsible for many of the social ills we see all around us,” she added.

“They [feminists] are responsible for the economy – they destroyed the whole concept of a family wage with the father as the bread-winner and the stay-at-home mother. They make women feel they have to be out in the workforce.”

Mrs White is also “absolutely opposed to the homosexual agenda” in today’s society. If I had the power, I would certainly re-criminalise homosexuality, along with adultery,” she added.

She said anyone involved in homosexual or adulterous practices should be jailed.

“I would stop the funding of gay pride parades and other depraved art and cultural events,” she added.

Despite her strong views, Mrs White claims she is a “true friend” to the gay community.

“I tell them the truth,” she added. “The person who is not a friend, the person who is the enemy to the homosexual is the person who pats them on the back and says their lifestyle is perfectly normal and acceptable.”

While campaigning last year, Mrs White spoke out about rock music, saying acts like Iron Maiden and Kurt Cobain promoted anarchy in society. She said she remained opposed to these and other “vulgar acts”.

“A lot of rock music is dangerous for the hearing,” she added.

“That is not the only problem with it. There is an ideology which permeates rock music and it is sexual anarchy. It is also linked to drugs.” She said rock music had “a terrible effect” on young people.

Mrs White blames the EU for much of society’s “decadence”, saying she would withdraw from Europe “tomorrow”…

Here’s a video of White making inflammatory comments about homosexuals:

Video Link

Here’s a wickedly wonderful bit of satire someone at the Waterford Whispers News wrote about White:

A MONSTER five-foot long rat has been found swimming in the Irish media for the past fortnight, and it’s looking for a good home.

The vermin, a Caucasian Christian bigot, was reported to be dwelling in West Tyrone, Northern Ireland.

It is believed to be the worst of its kind found in recent years.

Nicknamed ‘Susan’ by its minders, the rat is not believed to be physically dangerous but its spine-tingling screams have begun to upset locals.

“It just slithered out from underneath a rock somewhere,” constituent Gerry Kennedy told WWN today. “The vile yoke just sits there screaming nonsense all the time. I’ve called the local animal welfare group to see if we can get rid of it.

“Hopefully they can put it out of its misery.”

The animal is presumed to have escaped or been released by a a local Christian breeder.

Witnesses say the rodent is about the size of a dog, weighs in at 60kg, has a tartan coat and white mane and is thought to feed on those it doesn’t agree with.

Locals have called on anyone that comes in contact with the creature to just ignore it.

According to Wikipedia, Susan-Anne White is in her sixties. While it would be easy to dismiss White’s vitriol towards the human race as dementia, the fact is she is a perfect example of someone who has taken her Christian Fundamentalist beliefs to their logical conclusion. White, like the late Fred Phelps and his demented family, says in public what countless Evangelical and Independent Fundamentalist Baptist preachers and church members say in private. I’ll give her credit for being willing to display her homophobia and bigotry for all to see. I wish more of her ilk would do the same.

White’s two posts about me generated no traffic to this site. In another post, White stated her blog readership numbers were decreasing. I wonder why? Like Steven Anderson, the infamous pastor of Faithful Word Baptist Church, Tempe, Arizona, Susan-Anne White has followers who think she is spot on. Not many, but a few. I hope she will continue to write and speak out about the evils of this fallen and depraved world. The more people such as her talk, the easier it is for atheists like me to make a case for the bankruptcy of Evangelical Christianity.

Note

Wikipedia article about White

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

As Long as You Believe in God, That’s All That Matters

i am an atheist

I have heard this line many times over the past fourteen years: “as long as you believe in God, that’s all that matters.” Implicit in this statement is the notion that belief in the CHRISTIAN God is all that matters. No matter what denominational flavor a person might be, as long as he or she believes in the Christian God then everything is okay. What are we to make of this generic statement of belief in God? Isn’t there more to Christianity than just saying, “I believe in God”? What about specific beliefs. Do they matter? Does it matter if I believe anything specific about the Christian diety? Or is it okay if I just have warm, fuzzy feelings about the Christian God?

Every organized religion has a formulated belief system. To be a ____________ you must believe ___________. Can one be a Christian and not believe in Jesus?  Of course not.

It seems that many Christians are uncomfortable with what they believe, especially when it comes to judgment and Hell. Christians hem and haw about the future state of those who do not believe in Jesus. That’s why they like the “as long as you believe in God that’s all that matters” line of thinking. It lets them and their God off the hook.

What if I said I believe in Allah or Zeus?  Would that satisfy the “as long as you believe in God that’s all that matters” crowd? Is there any God that is not an acceptable God?

Inherent in this line of thinking is the notion that humans MUST believe in a divine being larger than themselves. Why? Why must I have any God at all? Is it not enough for me to live, embrace life, and die? Is it not enough for me to eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow I die? Is it not enough for me to love the wife of my youth, my children, and my grandchildren? Is it not enough for me to love my neighbor as myself?

I find no need for a God. Perhaps on my deathbed I will think differently — I doubt it — but, for now, God seems of little importance in the day-to-day machinations of my life.

Most Americans have a difficult time understanding atheists and agnostics, or for that matter anyone different from themselves. They are quite certain that godlessness means that a person is a Satanist, child molester, or a deviant of some kind. Never mind the fact that most child molesters and deviants have a religious background and atheists don’t believe in Satan. How can one live without God?, they ask themselves.

I find little difference between myself and most Christians I know. I say there is no God and live accordingly, and they say there is a God and live, for the most part, as if God doesn’t exist. It seems the only difference is what we “say” we are and where we spend Sunday mornings. Such a religion does not interest me. I much prefer the Church of the NFL (and it seems a lot of my Christian acquaintances and neighbors do too).

So, my Christian friend, let’s play a game. Let’s compare lives. After all, the only way we can know what people believe is to watch how they live their lives. We LIVE what we think is important. How is my life any different from yours?

Surely, since I don’t believe in God, don’t have the Holy Spirit in me, and don’t follow the Bible, my life should be a blazing example of what most Christians think nontheists are. Shall we compare morals? Ethics? Shall we compare our love for our respective families? Or does it really all come down to whether I “believe”, lifestyle be damned?

I see no compelling reason for embracing Christianity or any other form of theism. It seems all quite meaningless to me, though I recognize it isn’t meaningless for millions of people. I have Christian friends, most of whom are liberals or universalists. They quietly live according to the teachings of Jesus. I admire them. That they are still friends with me means a lot to me. But, even their devotion to God is not enough to persuade me of the existence of the Christian God.

Anne Rice had this to say about “leaving” Christianity:

For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten …years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else…

…As I said below, I quit being a Christian. I’m out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of …Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.

I doubt the cohesiveness of Rice’s beliefs, but I do understand and appreciate her sentiments.

I have often been told that I am looking for God in all the wrong places. Perhaps, but at this point in life, I am going to leave it to God to find me. I am no longer interested in looking for him/her/it. There is too much life to be lived to spend it looking for a deity. Most days, I can’t even find the TV remote.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

IFB Church Sign Says, Pity the Atheist Who is Grateful

Blessed, Thankful, Grateful

Several years ago, Polly and I drove 50 or so miles northeast to Toledo to celebrate her birthday.  We had a delightful evening and enjoyed a scrumptious meal at Mancy’s Steakhouse.  On our way to the restaurant, we traveled on I-475 North and passed by Hope Baptist Church, one of the largest Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches in the area. (The church is pastored by Richard “Rick” Sowell, a graduate of Peter Ruckman’s school, Pensacola Bible Institute.)  Hope Baptist has a snazzy and expensive church building as far as IFB church buildings go. Hoping to maximize their message, the church has a digital sign that can be read easily from the interstate. I wish we could have stopped along the road so I could photograph the sign, but traffic was heavy and we were pressed for time. I did, however, write down the message and text it to myself. Here’s what it said:

PITY THE ATHEIST WHO IS GRATEFUL

Over the years, I’ve had a few Evangelicals question my use of words like “blessing” and “grateful.” Some of them suggested that my use of these words proves I am still a Christian, as does the fact that I capitalize words such as  Bible, God, etc. Evidently, no matter how much I try to suppress God, he oozes out of my life. Can’t argue with brilliance like this, right?

The argument goes something like this; the words “blessing” and “grateful” are words that can only be used by someone who has God as the focus of their worship. The Christian says, WHO is blessing you, Bruce? WHO are you thanking? They got me. I’m caught in an insurmountable problem. What should I do? Is it time for me to admit that it is the Christian God that blesses me?  Is it time for the preacher-turned-atheist to admit that he is grateful for what blessings come into his life from the God from whom all blessings flow?

doxology hymn

This line of argument reveals that many Evangelicals have no curiosity (please see Curiosity, A Missing Evangelical Trait) and are unable to think of any explanation but that which flows from and fits the narrow confines of their Fundamentalist theology. For Rick Sowell and the people of Hope Baptist Church, the locus of blessing, gratefulness, and thanksgiving can only be their peculiar version of the Christian God.

Well, let me disabuse Evangelicals of the notion that an atheist can’t use words like “blessing” and “grateful.” As an atheist and a humanist, I reject the notion that there is a God. As I have humorously said before, when the words Oh God are screamed out in our bedroom, we know exactly who God is. Too risqué? Consider this. Who is it that blesses your life? A fictitious God, a deity no one has ever seen? The Christian says yes, believing that ALL blessings flow from the hand of God Almighty, and any humans taking credit for these blessings are blaspheming God. However, as a man rooted in the here and now, in the earthy present, I choose to recognize that what blessings come my way come from one or more of my fellow human beings, nature, and the animals I share this world with.

When someone does something that is a blessing, I express to the person blessing me that I am grateful for what he or she has done. When I tell the doctor THANK YOU, I am directing my gratefulness to the person responsible for my medical care. When we stopped to pick up Bethany from my son and daughter-in-law’s home after our trip to Toledo, I thanked them for babysitting. Polly and I were grateful that they were willing to watch Bethany so we could have a nice time on the town. Should I shoot up a prayer to the ceiling, thanking the Big Man Upstairs for them being willing and able to babysit? Of course not. God didn’t do the babysitting, they did.

Video Link

One of my all-time favorite movie prayers is Jimmy Stewart’s dinner prayer in the movie Shenandoah:

Lord, we cleared this land. We plowed it, sowed it, and harvested. We cooked the harvest. It wouldn’t be here, we wouldn’t be eatin’ it, if we hadn’t done it all ourselves. We worked Dog-bone hard for every crumb and morsel. But we thank you just the same anyway, Lord, for this food were about to eat. Amen.

This prayer reveals the essence of the atheist and humanist view on expressing gratefulness. Who deserves our praise and expression of gratefulness? The person doing the work. When someone makes a financial donation supporting this site, I don’t send them an email letting them know that I thanked someone other than them for their donation. Simply put, we should give credit to whom credit is due. If religious people want to give their deity an honorable mention, that’s fine, but the praise and gratefulness should be directed to the person responsible for the blessing.

So, to Rick Sowell and Hope Baptist Church, I am GRATEFUL that you continue to provide me with blog fodder. Keep up the good work. As long as you and your fellow Evangelicals continue to deliberately distort how atheists and humanists view the world, I plan to send a bit of Bruce Gerencser Blessing® your way.

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Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Quote of the Day: Atheism and Agnosticism, The Last Closet

atheist closet

Some equate atheism with being immoral and even amoral. Some of the criticism leveled at nonbelievers comes from the suspicion that those who do not believe in God could not possibly believe in anything else, moral or otherwise. Several years ago, a coworker, upon learning of my agnosticism, said, “So you just believe and do anything you want?” That he had engaged in several extramarital affairs was lost on my hypocritical colleague but not on me.

The notion that atheists and agnostics “do anything they want to do” is not uncommon; however, it is woefully and recklessly ignorant.

Comedian and atheist Penn Jillette says he’s often asked, “Without God, what’s stopping you from raping all you want?” Jillette’s response? “I do rape all I want, and the amount I want is zero.”

The late Christopher Hitchens had a standing offer to name a moral thing that was done in the name of religion that hadn’t been done by an atheist. Morality isn’t the sole provenance of religion, and immoral persons can be found in pews and prisons alike.

….

It is precisely because of these religious prejudices and stereotypes that many agnostics and atheists do not discuss their worldviews in public or even private settings, and if they do, they don’t necessarily tell the truth.

Timur Kuran, in Private Truths, Public Lies: The Social Consequences of Preference Falsification, argues that social pressures can make people say that they want and believe something they really don’t want or believe. Kuran calls this “preference falsification,” a phenomenon that occurs when you make an inaccurate public statement about your actual preferences or beliefs.

“Some of the criticism leveled at nonbelievers comes from the suspicion that those who do not believe in God could not possibly believe in anything else, moral or otherwise.”

….

The same can’t be said for our nation’s and society’s view of atheists and agnostics. In spite of the Obama administration’s passing of the International Religious Freedom Act in 2016, many Americans still do not want atheists teaching their children or marrying them. They would, according to surveys, prefer a female, gay, Mormon or Muslim President to having an atheist in the White House.

To be sure, no closet, neither LGBTQ nor atheist, has ever been padlocked. The choice to come of out of either closet is free and deeply personal. But if the LGBTQ closet is largely empty, the agnostic closet remains, with stigma and stain awaiting anyone who decides to leave it.

Last year, I wrote a book in which I discuss my journey from minister to agnostic and critique popular religious notions like “everything happens for a reason.” I have friends who reviewed my book online, some of whom masked their names to avoid being outed by their association with a controversial topic and agnostic author.

I dream of a day when the atheist closet is empty. When epistemic humility is the intellectual norm and credal dogmatism is the outlier. I envision a world where the burden of proof for an invisible supreme being falls on the believer, not the skeptic. Until then, I hope that the flickering flame of my own religious journey will be a beacon of courage and hope for those cloistered in the last closet.

— David Ramsey, Baptist News Global, Atheism and agnosticism: The last closet, December 15, 2021

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Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Bruce, What if You Are Wrong?

what if you are wrong

Every Evangelical-turned-atheist has had a Christian zealot pose to them the question, what if you are wrong? Over the past thirteen years, I’ve been asked this question numerous times. Devoted followers of Jesus genuinely fear for my soul and don’t want me to be tortured by their God in Hell for eternity, so they hope by asking this question they can get me to reconsider my decision to divorce Jesus.

This question is often followed by some form of Pascal’s Wager. Of course, those asking the question don’t realize the hypocrisy of their query. As practicing Christians, shouldn’t they be joining the Muslims, Buddhists, Mormons, and every other religion that says there is some sort of life after death? Shouldn’t they make sure all their bases are covered?  Christians want to hold me to a different standard from the one to which they hold themselves. They are certain the Christian God is the one and only true God, so they see no reason to ask of themselves, what if I am wrong? Even among Christians, there are countless Christianities, with widely differing beliefs and practices. Which Christianity is True Christianity®? The Baptists think their version of Christianity is True Christianity®, and the Church of Christ, Roman Catholicism, and Greek Orthodoxy do too. Two thousand years in the making and Christians can’t even agree on basic beliefs such as salvation, baptism, and communion. Yet, rarely does any of them contemplate that they could be w-r-o-n-g.

pascals wager

Could I be wrong about God, Jesus, Christianity, the Bible, and the plethora of other gods humans have created since they were able to walk upright and reason? Sure, and I could say the same about many of the things I consider factual or true.  As one who values science and the scientific method, my belief in God or lack thereof is based on evidence and probabilities. While I self-identify as an atheist, I am agnostic on the God question. It is possible that a God of some sort could reveal itself to one or more humans at some future point in history. Possible, but not likely. As things now stand, I see no evidence that would lead me to conclude that a God of some sort exists. While science has not answered the first-cause question and may never do so, it has built an intellectually satisfying explanation of the world we live in. While this explanation frequently changes thanks to new evidence, I see no reason to retreat into the pages of an outdated, contradictory book written by unknown authors thousands of years ago. Just because science doesn’t have the answer to every question doesn’t mean that God is the answer. Scientists are willing to say, I don’t know, and then they go about trying to find out what they don’t know. When is the last time a Christian theologian, Catholic Pope, Muslim cleric, or Evangelical preacher has done the same? Certainty breeds arrogance and ignorance, both of which lead to people accepting as fact the most outlandish of ideas (i.e. virgin birth, resurrection from the dead, Hell in the center of the earth, Heaven in the sky, creationism, miracles, perfect religious texts).

When it comes to the Christian God, the Muslim God, the Jewish God, or any of the other extant Gods humans currently worship, I am quite confident that these gods are no gods at all. Is it possible that these gods exist? I suppose there is a minuscule chance, but the odds are so infinitesimal that it would be a waste of my time to even consider it. Life is too short to spend one moment of time considering the existence of Odin, Zeus, Lugh, Dagda, Haniyasu-hiko, Jesus, Kane, Pundjel, El Elyon, Shamayim, Guamansuri, Wakan-Tanka, Bochica, Lao-Tien-Yeh, Altjira, Loki, Atlas, Coyote, or any of the thousands of other gods humans have at one time or another conjured up (see God Checker: Your Guide to the Gods).

I live without fear of Hell or fear of being judged by a God. (I do, however, at times, fear God’s followers.) The hell and judgment that I see on this earth come from the hands of humans, not a deity. If there is a God, he is definitely AWOL. Someday, I will die and I think that will be the end of it for me. What if I am wrong? What if there is a God waiting to settle the score with me after I draw my last breath?  I guess I will say, oops, my bad, and I hope she will look at my life and judge me accordingly. I hope she will judge me not by the things that I did or did not believe, but by how I lived my life.

Many Christians, especially those of the Evangelical persuasion, believe that salvation is secured by believing the right things. While they love to talk about love and grace, the true foundation of their faith is a commitment to certain beliefs and propositions derived from their understanding of the “infallible” Bible. Believe the wrong things and Hell will be your eternal resting place. Virtually every Evangelical who stops by my blog to spar with me tries to get me to believe the “right” beliefs. Rarely does any one of them say anything about how I live my life. BELIEVE THIS AND THOU SHALT LIVE, is their gospel.

If not believing Jesus is the virgin born, second person in the Trinity, who came to earth, lived a perfect life, worked miracles, died on the cross and resurrected from the dead, and ascended back to heaven, ends with my rendition to the Lake of Fire to be tortured day and night by the God who created me, so be it. I have no interest in such a religion, and I have no interest in such a God who is only interested in what I believed and not how I lived.

If, somewhere beyond my next breath, I keel over and die and I find myself in the presence of the Big Man of Upstairs, I hope he will judge my life by how I lived, and if he does, I am confident that everything will be just fine. If not, if what I believed is what really mattered, then I guess I will burn in Hell with a lot of other good people. Coming soon to a corner of Hell near you, The Hitch and Bruce Almighty Podcast.

Two of my favorite cartoons:

calvin eternal consequences
judgement-hall-of-osiris
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Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Bruce Gerencser