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Twenty-Five Questions for Christians who say Abortion is Murder

abortion is murder al shannon

I have some questions for those who believe that abortion is murder.

  1. Does life begin at conception?  How do you know it does? Is your view based on science or is it based on a religious belief?
  2. If life begins at conception, why are you supporting an Ohio bill that makes it illegal to have an abortion once a heartbeat is detected? Does life begin at conception or at first heartbeat?
  3. Do you support the use of emergency contraception (morning after) drugs? Why or why not?
  4. Should a pro-life pharmacist have the right to not dispense emergency contraception drugs? Should I be allowed to opt out of anything that goes against my moral or ethical beliefs, regardless of their foundation?
  5. Is abortion murder?
  6. Do you believe murderers should be prosecuted?
  7. Do you believe that driving the get-away car makes a person just as guilty as the person who robbed the bank?
  8. Do you believe a woman who has an abortion should be prosecuted for murder? How about the doctor who performs the procedure? How about the nurse that assisted in the procedure? How about the person who drove the woman to the clinic? If you believe in the death penalty, do you support the execution of murderers?
  9. Do you use birth control pills?
  10. Should you be prosecuted for murder since birth control pills can, and do, cause spontaneous abortion?
  11. Should abortion be allowed for reasons of rape, incest, or saving the life of the mother?
  12. If you answered yes to question eleven, do you support murdering the fetus if it is the product of rape or incest?
  13. Should a fetus be aborted if the mother’s life is at risk?
  14. Do you support murdering the unborn if it saves the life of the mother?
  15. Is your viewpoint on abortion a religious belief?
  16. What passage in the Bible prohibits abortion? Does this passage define life beginning at conception?
  17. Has God ever killed the unborn?
  18. In Genesis, God destroyed every human save eight by drowning them in a flood. Were any of the women who drowned pregnant? Did God kill the fetuses they were carrying? (Kill the mother, kill the fetus.)
  19. Do you support the death penalty? Do you support war? Should women who survive self-induced abortions be charged with attempted murder?
  20. If you answered yes to question nineteen, why do you oppose the killing of the unborn but support the killing of those already born?
  21. Why do you believe that killing the unborn is murder but consider an American bomb killing a baby 3 hours old a tragic result of war, collateral damage, but not murder?
  22. Do you support birth control being readily available in every school? If your objective is to reduce or eliminate the need for an abortion, wouldn’t easily available, free access to birth control reduce the abortion rate?
  23. Do you believe it is better for a severely deformed child to live for a day and die than for the fetus to be aborted? If so, explain why it is better for the child to suffer needlessly?
  24. Do you believe that God is in control of everything? Does everything include children being born deformed or with serious defects that will result in a life of extreme suffering and pain?
  25. Is someone a Christian if he or she supports abortion?

My view on abortion

3 day old human embyro
Three Day Old Human Embryo.

I do not think that life begins at conception, nor do I think it begins at first heartbeat. That said, I do not support abortion on demand. Approximately 65% of abortions occur in the first eight weeks, and 88% of abortions occur in the first trimester. I do not support any law that restricts access to an abortion in the first trimester. Once fetus viability (the ability to live outside the womb) is established, I do not support the right to an abortion except when the life of the mother is at stake or there’s a severe fetal abnormality.

I support women having full access to reproductive services (including access to birth control), as well as school-aged girls and young women. For women who have at-risk pregnancies, I support government-sponsored access to genetic testing and amniocentesis that will reveal severe birth defects. Better to have an abortion earlier in a pregnancy than to have a child born without a brain who will die a few moments or days after birth.

I support comprehensive sex education for junior high and high school students, and health education for fourth, fifth, and sixth graders. Since girls often reach menses at ages as young as ten, waiting until they are sixteen to educate them about reproduction is irresponsible and leads to unintended pregnancies. I do not support “Just say No” programs that take the “aspirin between the knees” approach and ignore the reality that most teenagers will, at some point, be sexually active. Yes, teens should perhaps wait, but they don’t, and everyone should agree that teenagers having babies is not a good idea. If we agree that this is not a good idea, then making sure they can’t get pregnant should be a top priority.

I support radical changes to adoption laws in this country. The government should make it easy and affordable for people to adopt children (after being thoroughly vetted). By changing the law, it is more likely that women with unplanned pregnancies will carry their fetuses to term. This would also put out of business adoption agencies — many of them Christian — that charge extortion-level fees for adoptions.

abortions when

Neither God, the Bible, papal decrees, nor religious rhetoric have sway over me. Showing me bloody pictures of dismembered late-term aborted fetuses also has no effect on me. I know that only 1.3% of abortions occur after the twenty-first week. In 2017, 862,000 abortions were performed in the United States. That means, roughly 11,000 abortions were performed from the 21st week to term. Why don’t pro-lifers wave around pictures of zygotes or other pictures from the chronological time period when most abortions take place? Simple: such pictures wouldn’t excite, inflame, and manipulate the passions of zygote worshipers like a bloody, gory picture of a dismembered fetus does.

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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Updated: Black Collar Crime: Sharon and Donald Windey Sentenced to Years in Prison for Abusing Adopted Children

sharon, donald, and steven windey

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

In 2018, Sharon Windey was accused of abusing and neglecting her adopted children. Her husband, Donald, and their biological son Steven, were also charged for their part in the abuse.

ABC-2 reported:

A De Pere woman and former Wisconsin State Trooper has been charged with several counts of child abuse and neglect of her adopted children. The abuse allegedly went on for over a decade despite reports to police and officials.

Sharon Windey, 54, appeared in Brown County court Thursday on charges of physical abuse of a child; strangulation and suffocation; battery; child neglect; and mental harm to a child.

A 42-page criminal complaint obtained by Action 2 News details years of emotional, physical, and mental abuse inside the Windey home.

The complaint states the investigation found “overwhelming” confirmation that since 2006, there have been Child Protective Services referrals, police contacts and reports from school officials about the three children being victims of physical abuse, mental abuse, child neglect and inappropriate sexual contact in the home on Sullivan Street.

On Feb. 12, 2018, De Pere Police assigned a sergeant to investigate reports of possible abuse at the home where the children lived with Sharon Windey, her husband Donald Windey, and the couple’s 25-year-old son Steven Windey. One of the kids described Steven as a “third parent.”

Investigators started interviewing the three adopted children–a girl aged 15; a girl aged 14; and a boy aged 15.

The kids described being punched, choked, spanked, thrown against a wall, hair pulling, food punishment and exercise punishment.

Both girls said the parents used “excessive feedings of oatmeal” as a punishment. The boy once threw up the oatmeal and the father “made him eat his own vomit and the oatmeal,” reads the complaint. The father told the boy “people were dying in Africa and he needed to eat the puke and oatmeal.”

One of the girls described locks on the freezer, cabinet and pantry.

One girl told investigators that her dad would make her sit on his lap and he would kiss her on the lips. She said he would also touch or grab the girls in other places on their bodies.

She also talked about a punishment in which the kids were forced to strip down to their underwear and kneel in front of a fireplace.

The kids described a shower punishment. If they took a shower longer than seven minutes, they would have to pay money for every minute they go over.

One of the girls said the parents are “very careful” to try not to leave visible marks on them.

The boy described the parents as “delusional … religious freaks.” The boy said his dad hears his guardian angel who tells him what to do.

“They are outgoing and they try to put up the facade of being the perfect family outside of our house,” the boy told investigators. “They will scare us with punishments. They will take things out of our room. For being disrespectful, they will hit them; slap them across the face and stuff. The hitting has happened multiple times.”

The boy described the day of Feb. 11, 2018. He said Donald wanted the kids to go to church but they refused. The father told them to clean everything out of their rooms. One of the girls was denied medicine for not going to church. He said the mom started struggling with one of the girls. During the struggle, the mother was pushed down the stairs. The boy said Steven heard the commotion and charged at him and started to punch him in the head.

The police arrived at the home. The boy said the officers told Sharon and Steven to call the police earlier so it doesn’t escalate to this point. The officers left.

Later there was another fight when when of the girls wanted medicine. After the fight, the kids went to a friend’s home. The man at the home called police to report the abuse.

….

Neither Donald Windey or Steven Windey have been charged. They are identified by name in Sharon Windey’s criminal complaint.

In 2020, Sharon Windey was sentenced to four years in prison for abusing four children over twelve years.

The Green Bay Gazette reported:

A De Pere woman was sentenced to four years in prison Wednesday for abusing her adopted children.

A jury found Sharon M. Windey, 56, guilty on eight counts of abusing four children over a span of 12 years. 

Her sentencing came a day after Brown County Circuit Court Judge John Zakowski found her husband, Donald A. Windey, 53, guilty of multiple counts of physical, mental, and sexual abuse of the children.

Their biological son, Steven D. Windey, is scheduled for a plea hearing on Feb. 7 in connection to charges related to his role in the abuse.

One of the three children told investigators that police officers who visited the home on Feb. 11, 2018, did not seem to believe the children’s statements that they’d been hit and choked because their home didn’t appear to be a “typical house for abuse,” according to court documents, because the children appeared to be well-fed and went to a good school. 

According to the criminal complaints and prosecution statements: 

The children were required to do a prayer ritual while standing on one foot wearing nothing but underwear, and were beaten with a belt if they lost their balance and put their foot down.

The girls were forced to strip to their underwear and sit on Donald Windey’s lap and kiss him. They were forced to sleep with Donald Windey in bed when Sharon Windey was away, and he would touch and kiss their intimate parts.

Steven Windey was often the designated enforcer of the physical abuse and put his hands around one of the children’s throat during a Feb. 11 incident.

Donald Windey forced a sick child to eat vomit-covered food after they became ill during a meal.

Sharon Windey used food as a form of punishment — often serving oatmeal for all three meals because the children didn’t like it. 

Sharon and Donald Windey locked kitchen cupboards so the children didn’t have easy access to food.

Donald Windey told the children he was “seeing demons” and “hearing voices” who were telling him to treat the children in this manner and that by doing so he was doing right by God.

Sharon and Donald Windey told the children they didn’t like them anymore and that they could no longer call them mom and dad.

Sharon and Donald Windey donated all of the children’s belongings to Goodwill in February, leaving each child with a bed and five days’ worth of clothes.

Donald WIndey was sentenced to seventeen years in prison on more than a dozen convictions of physically, mentally, and sexually abusing his adopted children.

Channel 2 reported:

A De Pere man convicted of more than a dozen charges of physically, mentally, and sexually abusing his adopted children is now facing 17 years in prison followed by supervision.

Donald Windey was found guilty on felony counts of repeated sexual assault of a child, being party to the crime of physical abuse, strangulation, or suffocation, and four felony counts of causing mental harm to a child.

As Action 2 News has reported, the criminal complaint said children living with Donald and Shirley Windey were inappropriately touched and kissed, as well as physically hurt and given food punishments.

At his sentencing Wednesday, Windey said he was “very sorry for the ways in which I failed as a father.” He said he was sorry for the times he made the children scared, made jokes at their expense, didn’t provide or know the help they needed, and that they didn’t feel the love for him that he felt for them. He said he had to be strict based on their behaviors.

He pointed out he didn’t have a prior criminal record and was involved in his church for years. He said he and his wife have lost everything, including their home, jobs and reputations.

Sharon Windey was sentenced in January to 4 years in prison.

Brown County Judge John Zakowski said at sentencing, “Don, you are a wonderful person, but you can be mean, too. I have seen it.”

He rejected Windey’s claim that the children conspired to tell a story so they could get out of the Windeys’ home, pointing out the kids’ claims went back years.

Zakowski also said he was irritated that the kids were put in this place. He said the Windeys, who believe in corporal punishment, should not have been allowed to foster or adopt these children.

“This should have been red flagged, and then the Windeys wouldn’t have been put in that situation, the kids would have been spared. The system failed. It’s a tragedy of immense proportions,” Judge Zakowski said.

Steven Windey was sentenced to eighteen months probation.

The Green Bay Gazette reported:

A De Pere man will spend 18 months on probation for his role in the abuse of his parents’ adopted children.

Steven D. Windey, 28, was often the designated enforcer during the physical abuse, according to court documents.

In interviews with investigators, the children described a February 2018 incident in which one of the children started arguing with their adoptive mother, former Wisconsin State Trooper Sharon Windey, who tried to push the 15-year-old but the child pushed her away instead.

She called for Steven Windey, who lived at the home, and told him the teen had pushed her down the stairs, according to court documents.

According to the children, Windey chased the child, pushed the child down on the couch, and put his hands around the child’s throat.

One of the children said that although Windey took responsibility for what he did by pleading guilty to battery and disorderly conduct, he should be held to the same standard as his parents, Sharon and Donald Windey.

“I’m sorry you couldn’t be strong enough to resist. I know everyone did what they had to do and your way was to become a puppet,” the child said.

Windey was initially charged with intentionally causing bodily harm to a child but that was reduced to the battery charge.  A felony charge of attempted strangulation and suffocation was dismissed but read in during his sentencing. 

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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Who Determines What the Bible Says?

the bible says

Repost from 2015. Extensively edited, rewritten, and corrected.

Two thousand years.

Two thousand years of Jesus.

Almost from the beginning, Christians put their oral traditions, teachings, and beliefs into writing. The Bibles used by twenty-first-century Christians all trace their authority back through history to Christian writings dating from around 50 CE forward. The original writings, the first edition writings do not exist and any claim of inspiration for the “original” writings is nothing more than wishful, fanciful thinking. Every claim ever made by the Christian church rests on the text of the Bible and how the church has interpreted that text. I am aware of the fact that the Christian church has been influenced by Gnosticism for most of its 2,000-year history, but for the most part, Christianity is a text-based religion that places the text of the Bible above personal experiences and revelations. Even when personal experiences and revelations are given greater weight and authority — as in Pentecostal and Charismatic churches — they are almost always expected to conform to what is found in the text of the Bible.

Most Christians believe the Bible is inspired by God. They believe the words of the Bible came from God or at least represent, in fallible human form, what God wants humankind to know about God, life, salvation, death, judgment, and the afterlife. Many Christians believe every word of the Bible is inspired by God, and some Christians even go so far as to say that a particular translation, the King James Version, is inspired by God. Christians who hold this extreme view believe that God has preserved his Word through time and that every word of the King James Bible is from the lips of God himself. And countless other Christians believe the text of the Bible is inerrant and infallible. Ponder that thought for a moment. Every word in a book thousands of years old is true, without error, and perfect in every way. To quote the Evangelical bumper sticker, “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it for me.” Some Evangelicals say, “God said it, and that settles it for me. It doesn’t matter whether I believe it or not!”

Most Christians believe the Bible is truth. While they may not believe ALL the Bible is truth, every Christian, at some point or the other, says THIS is truth. A person who does not believe the Bible is truth is not a Christian in any meaningful sense of the word. There is a form of Christianity floating about these days that suggests a person can be a Christian and not believe the Bible. This kind of Christian says “I’m spiritual, but not religious.” He embraces Jesus as his Savior and guide, but often has no connection with organized Christianity. However, even the “spiritual but not religious” Christians must, sooner or later, appeal to the Bible. Without the Bible, they would have no knowledge of Jesus, the locus of their faith.

Other Christians are what I call cafeteria Christians. They pick and choose what they want to believe. Most cafeteria Christians believe in Jesus since they DO want their sins forgiven and they DO want to go to Heaven when they die, but when it comes to the hard sayings of the Bible, the teachings that get in the way of the American dream and living the way they want to live, cafeteria Christians dismiss such sayings and teachings as old, outdated relics of the past that have no value or application today. Simply put, they want a Jesus divorced from anything else the Bible says. Cafeteria Christians become quite adept at explaining away anything in the Bible with which they disagree.

This brings me to the point of this post. Who determines what the Bible says? Who decides what this verse or that verse says? Who is the arbiter of truth? Who is the final authority?

Some Christians say GOD is the final authority. The Bible is God’s Word . . . THUS SAITH THE LORD! These well-meaning Christians think that the teachings of the Bible are clear and understandable, needing no explanation or interpretation. Why, then, do they go to church on Sundays and listen to men tell them what they think the Bible says? Why do they read books and commentaries written by people telling them what they think the Bible says? If the Bible is a self-attesting, self-explanatory text, why all the middlemen?

Some Christians say the HOLY SPIRIT is the final authority. God gave New Testament Christians (Old Testament believers only got a part-time Holy Ghost who came and went at will) the Holy Spirit to be their teacher and guide. Supposedly, the Holy Spirit teaches them everything necessary for life and godliness. It is not hard to see the Gnostic influence in this kind of thinking. If there is ONE Holy Spirit who teaches and guides every Christian, why is there no consensus among believers on what Christians believe or how they are supposed to live? Why does the Holy Spirit give contradictory instructions or lessons? Why are there so many Christian sects? Surely, if the Holy Spirit is on his game, every sect would believe the same thing, and they would become ONE body with ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE baptism.

Some Christians are what I call red-letter Christians. They give weight and authority to the “words” of Jesus in the gospels, the words that are in red in many modern translations. With great passion and commitment, they attempt to walk in the steps of Jesus (WWJD). Unfortunately, they rarely consider whether the words attributed to Jesus in the gospels are actually his words. Jesus didn’t write any of the books found in the Bible, which, in my opinion, is quite odd. Most Biblical scholars question who actually wrote the gospels, and mainstream scholars have serious reservations over Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John being the authors of the gospels that bear their names. Since the gospels are, at best, stories passed down by those alive at the time of Christ and not put in written form until decades after the death of Jesus, the best a modern-day Christian can say about the gospels is that they are words written by an unknown people who recorded what a third, fourth, fifth or twentieth party told the writer Jesus said.

bible made me an atheist

Claims that the Bible is some sort of inspired text require faith. There’s no evidence for the claim that the Bible is inspired outside of the text itself.  Either you believe the Bible is, to some degree or the other, supernatural truth or you don’t. I am an atheist today primarily because I no longer believe the Bible is truth. While it is certainly a book filled with entertaining and thought-provoking stories, it is not, in any way, a supernatural text. While it certainly contains maxims worthy of emulation, it also contains God-approved behaviors that we moderns now consider at odds with human and scientific progress.

Every Christian belief rests not on God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, but on the authority of a human being or a group of human beings. It is humans who decide what the Bible says. It is humans who decide what this or that verse means. Whether it is a denomination, the Pope, theologians, a pastor, or an individual Christian, it is a human who is the final authority. At best, the only thing a Christian can claim is THUS SAITH THE POPE, MY DENOMINATION, MY PASTOR, MY COLLEGE PROFESSORS, OR MYSELF! Any claim that it is God speaking or leading is a matter of faith, a matter that cannot be proved empirically. In other words, you are just going to have to take their word for it — or not.

Christians need to get off their Bible High-Horse and admit who the real final authority is. The fact that there are thousands of Christian sects shows very clearly that humans are the ones with the final say on what the Bible does and doesn’t say. It is humans who preach, write books, teach theology classes, blog, and debate. God may have said a particular something — and there is no way for us to know if he did — but it is humans who get the final say about what God actually said or what he meant to say. Every Christian statement of belief is an interpretation of the Bible. It is that person or group saying, this is what the Bible says. In other words, the person is saying I know what God said. (One of the purposes of this blog is to demonstrate that the Bible can be made to say almost anything.)

Can you name one Christian teaching that ALL Christians agree upon? Outside of the fact that Jesus was a real person, every other teaching of the so-called “faith once delivered to the saints” is disputed by some Christian sect or the other. If the Christian church were a married couple, they would have long since been divorced for irreconcilable differences. Oh wait, that is exactly what has happened. The Christian church is hopelessly splintered into thousands of sects, each competing with the other for the title of God’s Truth Holder. Children in Evangelical Sunday schools learn to sing the B-I-B-L-E song. In light of what I have written above, the lyrics of the song should be changed:

The B-I-B-L-E, yes that MIGHT be the Book for me, I SOMETIMES stand alone on the WORDS OF MEN, the B-I-B-L-E. B-I-B-L-E!!

Until God shows up in person and says yes, I wrote this convoluted, contradictory book that makes me out to be a hateful, vindictive sadist, I am not going to believe the Bible is God’s Word. If a benevolent, loving God really wrote the Bible, do you think he would have written what Christians say he did? If God had control of the writing process, do you think he would have included his unsavory, immoral side? If God was involved in putting the Bible together, don’t you think he would have proofread it to make sure there were no mistakes and that the text was internally consistent?

Instead, Christians spend countless hours trying to harmonize (make it all fit) the text of the Bible. They put forth laughable explanations for the glaring errors found in the Bible. Well, you know Bruce, Jesus cleansed the Temple at the start of his ministry AND the end of his ministry! Sure he did. I wonder if Christians know how foolish some of their harmonizing attempts sound to those on the outside of the church or to someone like myself, who has been on both sides of the fence? Of course, according to the Bible, the various harmonization schemes sound foolish because non-Christians don’t have the Holy Spirit inside of them teaching them how to make square pegs fit in round holes. And round and round the merry-go-round goes.

If Christians want to believe the Bible is some sort of truth, and worship God/Jesus/Holy Spirit based on what is written within its pages, I have no beef with them. If they want to believe the Bible and its teachings, who am I to say they can’t?  However, when they insist everyone acquiesce to their beliefs about the Bible and God, and that their peculiar belief system is the one true religion, then I have a problem. When Christians insist that the Bible and its teachings be taught to public school children or demand that their interpretations of the moral and ethical code taught in the Bible applies to everyone, they should expect pushback from people such as myself. Since history gives us ample warning about what happens when any religion gains the power of the state, secularists like myself will continue to fight any attempt to enshrine Christianity as the official state religion.

Here’s what I am saying to Christians. Take the Bible, go to your houses of worship, and believe and worship as you will. However, I expect you to keep your beliefs to yourself. If I don’t ask, you don’t tell. Stop all the theocratic, God-rule talk. Stop trying to turn the United States into a Christian nation. Stop demonizing everyone who disagrees with your beliefs. In other words, treat others with decency, love, and respect. Stop being a religious fanatic who thinks everyone should hear about your version of the Christian God and embrace your peculiar beliefs.

Do you think American Christians, especially conservative Catholics and Protestants, Mormons, and Evangelical Christians, can do what I mentioned above? Not a chance! They will continue to push, fight, and infiltrate until they have no more soldiers to fight with. They are like a disease that is only curable by death. The good news is that this brand of Christianity is slowly dying and, in time, long after you and I are dead, the American Jesus will have drawn its last breath. (Please see Why I Hate Jesus.)

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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The Ministry Addiction: Why Preachers Can’t Give it Up

fat preacher

Have you noticed that when many big-name, megachurch pastors and not-so-big name pastors get themselves in trouble, they often resign, disappear for a while, and then show up in a new town, claiming that “God” is leading them to start a new church? Or sometimes, they squirrel themselves away for a year or so, and then the next thing you read they are the new pastor of such-and-such church. No matter what the crime or misbehavior, “fallen” pastors almost always find a path back to the ministry.

The main reason, of course, is that these men tend to be charismatic, winsome leaders who easily attract followers, followers who are willing to let the past be the past; followers who are willing to grant them redemption and forgiveness; followers who are far more interested in the “man” than they are his behavior. (Please see The Evangelical Cult of Personality.) Big-name preachers, in particular, become demigods. People flock to them, hanging on every word, regardless of who they might have had an affair with or sexually molested in the past. Sadly, way too many Evangelicals are stupid and gullible, willing to sacrifice reason and moral decency for the attention of a soiled big-name preacher.

In virtually every other setting, if you commit a crime or have an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate, your career is over. Not so for “fallen” Evangelical preachers. No matter what a preacher does, there is nothing that stands in his way if he wants to go to a new city and start a church. The Internet has changed this dynamic somewhat, but before the Internet, it wasn’t uncommon to hear of preachers who “fell” (or ran) into sin, resigned, and then moved a few thousand miles away to start a new church. (Please see How to Start an Independent Baptist Church.) Anyone can start a new church. If I were so inclined, I could start a new church by Sunday. Why, if all my children and their spouses and my grandchildren showed up, I would have more than twenty-five people in attendance for the first service at First Church of Bruce Almighty. By default, First Church would be tax-exempt, and attendance-wise would be larger than several “real” churches nearby. There’s no secular or religious authority that could stop me from doing so. That’s the beauty (and the danger) of the separation of church and state. Pastor so-and-so can fuck his way through the congregation, get caught, resign, and then pack up, move five states away, and start a new church. Felon Jack Schaap, the disgraced IFB pastor of First Baptist Church in Hammond, Indiana — now out of federal prison — is free to pastor a church again. Remember all the bad shit Jim Bakker did? After he got out of prison, he wrote a book titled, I Was Wrong. Not too wrong, however. Bakker is back on TV, preaching the “gospel” and fleecing anyone and everyone who comes his way. Ted Haggard? David Hyles? Jimmy Swaggart? Perry Noble? Mark Driscoll? The list goes on and on. All of these men made a mockery of their calling, and in some instances committed crimes. Yet, today all of them are still in the ministry. Granted, they haven’t reached the levels of notoriety they once had, but thousands of people have flocked to their new churches, seemingly oblivious to their past sins, indiscretions, failures, and crimes.

Why don’t these “fallen” preachers move on to other jobs or careers? Why do they return to the ministry, drawn to it like a moth to the light? With few exceptions, every disgraced preacher I know later reentered the ministry. Sure, some of them labor in obscurity, often doing little more than preaching at nursing homes or jails. However, most of them find a path back to the ministry, often in the same capacity as before. Several years ago, I posted a story about Pastor Donald Foose. Foose confessed to and was convicted of sexually molesting a teenage girl. After serving nine months of a two-year prison sentence, Foose moved down the road to a new church. After several years at this church, he became its pastor. The former pastor and other church leaders knew about Foose’s criminal past, yet they uncritically believed him when he said, “I didn’t do it.” Worse yet, several men who should have been some sort of check and balance, chose, instead, to give Foose a pass, believing that everyone deserves redemption and a new start. I wonder if these men would be as understanding if it were their daughters whom Foose sexually assaulted? I doubt it.

Why can’t these preachers move on to new employment that’s not connected to their religious past? One pastor I know quite well had an affair with his secretary. While there were extenuating circumstances — his wife was a lesbian who hadn’t had sex with him in 20 years — he left the ministry and started working a secular job. He never pastored a church again. Why is it so many disgraced pastors don’t do the same? Oh, they will get a secular job for a year or two until the heat dies down and people move on, but more often than not, back to the ministry they go.

I am convinced that many of these men are addicted to the ministry. They spent years being the center of attention. People looked up to them, fawned over them, and treated them as if they were gods. I left the ministry in 2005. I miss the constant adulation and praise of others. I miss being the hub around which everything turned. I miss having the respect of others. I miss, to put it bluntly, being DA MAN! Pastors who read this blog know what I am talking about. The close connection preachers have with congregants is fulfilling and satisfying. It is almost impossible to find similar feelings in the “world.” Much like drug addicts craving hits of methamphetamine, preachers crave the attention, flattery, and admiration they receive from congregants. Live off this high long enough, and you can’t imagine not having it. That’s why many pastors with crimes/indiscretions in their pasts end up rebooting their ministries somewhere else. These “men of God” are much like King David as he looked over the rooftops and saw Bathsheba naked, taking a bath. “I have got to have her,” David thought. And have her, he did. So it is with the preachers I have talked about in this post. Their Bathsheba is the ministry.

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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Democrats Ignore the Separation of Church and State When Convenient

biden speech at church

Recently, Democratic President Joe Biden gave a political speech before a historically black congregation at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. You may remember, that in 2015 White supremacist and neo-Nazi Dylann Roof murdered nine Mother Emanuel members while they were gathered for prayer. Democrats have often used Black churches to give political speeches — contravening the separation of church and state and the Johnson Amendment.

Democrats have long objected to Republican political candidates giving speeches at Evangelical churches. Republicans show no regard for the rule of law. How dare the government tell them who can or can’t give speeches in churches? However, religious sects, parachurch organizations (who increasingly claim they are churches), and churches are tax-supported institutions — exempt from most taxes. U.S. law requires tax-exempt religious institutions to refrain from endorsing political candidates (though they can endorse/support issues). Choosing to do so anyway can lead to religious institutions losing their tax-exempt status. Though to be honest with you, I can’t remember a time when the IRS revoked a church’s tax exemption. A cursory Google search showed that IRS tax revocations since the inception of the Johnson Amendment can be counted on one hand. The IRS has stopped enforcing the law, allowing Democrats and Republicans alike to use churches for political campaigning. Pastors freely endorse candidates, knowing that nothing will happen if they do. (Personally, I support revoking tax exemption for all religious institutions; that churches who claim to be tax-exempt charitable institutions must prove it.)

Liberals love to scream about Republicans giving political speeches at Evangelical churches, yet are silent when Democrats do the same at liberal, mainline Black churches. Democrats are hypocrites if they refuse to call out liberal Black churches for doing the very same things as Evangelical churches do. One liberal writer said “Yes, Biden shouldn’t have given a political speech at Mother Emanuel, but, hey, the Republicans are doing it, so, so should we.”

As long as churches are tax-supported to the tune of billions of dollars a year, the IRS MUST enforce the Johnson Amendment and laws governing the separation of church and state. If the government is no longer willing to enforce the law, then it is time for Congress to put an end to the tax-exemption scam, taxing churches as the businesses they most certainly are. If congregations want to be tax-exempt, they must justify and prove their exempt charitable status. If churches cannot show that the majority of their income is spent on genuine charitable activities — and not just on programs and ministries that primarily exist to make fat sheep fatter — then they must pay taxes just like other businesses do. This means they must file annual income tax returns. (Churches are not required to file tax returns, including informational forms.)

If President Biden wants to speak to the members of Mother Emanuel, he should stand on the public sidewalk in front of the church and do so. On the sidewalk, Biden is free to say whatever he wants. However, once the President walks in the church’s doors, he and the church must abide by the law. That they don’t is disheartening and discredits attempts to hold Republicans accountable for their own violations of the separation of church and state and the Johnson Amendment.

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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Bruce’s Hot Takes for January 17, 2024

hot takes

Dear Republicans, learn the difference between free speech and free market. Twitter owner Elon Musk told some advertisers to go fuck themselves. That’s free speech. After hearing Musk loud and clear, scores of companies stopped advertising on Twitter. That’s the free market.

The late Henry Kissinger was a war criminal.

We the American people are culpable for the war crimes being perpetrated in Palestine. Our weapons, our money, our blind and deaf politicians. We can excuse and justify our behavior, but the world at large sees the United States as the money and power behind the Netanyahu government’s murderous war against the Palestinian people.

Dad’s Place, a small Evangelical church in Bryan, Ohio, pastored by Chris Avell, is in the midst of a legal fight with the City over feeding and caring for homeless people. The City filed CRIMINAL charges against Avell for violating zoning laws. The church is right next to the homeless shelter, caring for the overflow crowds the shelter cannot care for. Yes, the church is technically breaking the law, as is EVERY business and church in town. Why was Dad’s Place singled out by Bryan law enforcement? Avell is a friend of mine. I recently told him I have no use for his theology, but I appreciate his concern and care for the “least of these.” Avell has a top-flight church and state law firm representing him. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

I will be on the primary ballot this spring. I’m running unopposed for Ney’s Democratic central committee seat. This will allow me to play an active part in the reorganization of the local party. The local Democratic Party is on life support. I hope new life can be breathed into the group.

In 1998, Evangelical preachers railed against President Bill Clinton over his inappropriate sexual behavior with an intern. I remember preaching a whole sermon about Clinton’s debauched behavior. Today, most Evangelical preachers have lost all sense of morals and ethics, resolutely supporting Donald Trump, even calling him a Christian. As long as you support Trump, Evangelicals, spare me your moralizing. You are hypocrites, the lot of you.

It was shameful for the New York Times to run an article questioning Taylor Swift’s sexuality. Who she loves or fucks is NOT news.

According to many Evangelicals, God created Donald Trump for such a time as this. Gag me with a spoon.

I saw a specialist at the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor yesterday. I am hoping to have a G-Poem (gastric peroral endoscopic myotomy) procedure done soon. This procedure is relatively new and only one regional surgeon is qualified to perform it. G-Poem cuts the sphincter muscle in the stomach, relaxing it. Hopefully, this will improve my stomach/bowel motility, and reduce my nausea and vomiting. Unfortunately, many insurance companies consider this an experimental procedure and refuse to pay. My surgeon will seek pre-approval, hoping Aetna Blue Cross Blue Shield approves the procedure. We shall see . . .

Granddaughters #2 and #3 graduate from high school this spring. Victoria was accepted for enrollment at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and Karah was accepted at Richmond University in Richmond, Virginia. Forty-eight years ago, I was the first person in our family to go to college. Since then, Polly, and three of my sons, and my youngest daughter have graduated from accredited colleges. Our granddaughters are straight-A students. It does an old man’s heart good to see them do well in life.

Bonus: The Cincinnati Reds have signed a number of new players — especially pitchers. Hope springs eternal. Catchers and pitchers report to training camp in a month. Will this be the year the Reds make some noise in the playoffs? Fingers crossed, prayers uttered to Loki. May a dying old man’s wish be granted.

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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Real Christian Pastors Don’t Lust After Women

pastor godfrey migwi

Several years ago, Godfrey Migwi, pastor of House of Hope Church in Nairobi, Kenya, and a clinical psychologist, addressed the temptations pastors face from “skimpily dressed” women. Migwi stated:

At times we’re tempted by skimpily dressed women who come to church to make advances on us in the name of counselling. We are human beings and have feelings.

Migwi is admitting that pastors are human; that they can be “tempted” just like anyone else. Pastors aren’t immune from sexual want and desire. As if we needed him to tell us this, right? Those of us who spent years in Christian/Evangelical churches know that pastors, deacons, evangelists, missionaries, worship leaders, youth directors, and Sunday school teachers can, and do, not only commit sex crimes, but also engage in consensual sexual relations with congregants. It is also true, that there are women (and men) who develop sexual feelings for their pastors, and, at times, act on those feelings. I had several occasions over the course of twenty-five years in the ministry where it became crystal clear to me that a female congregant had an interest in me beyond my Bible knowledge. Counselors, doctors, and others who have close intimate relationships with people face similar problems.

It is also true that pastors can develop sexual feelings for one or more congregants. (Please see Is Clergy Sexual Infidelity Rare? and Stop with the “Few Bad Apples” Rationalization When Excusing Clergy Misconduct.) To admit this is stating the obvious: pastors and other church leaders are normal human beings, subject to the same wants, needs, and desires as their congregants. The difference, however, is that pastors have a moral and ethical obligation — let alone a commitment to their spouses — to refrain from acting on their desire to be sexually intimate with congregants. Migwi, as is common for Evangelicals to do, blames women for pastors being sexually tempted. If women would only dress “properly,” men of God wouldn’t be tempted to fuck congregants. We have heard this before, right? This is nothing more than an attempt on the part of clergy to evade personal responsibility for their sexuality. Pastors preach personal responsibility and accountability, yet when it comes to their own moral weaknesses and failures, they blame others.

Jeff Maples, of DISNTR fame, has a completely different take on this issue. Here’s what Maples had to say about Pastor Migwi’s statement about “skimpily dressed” women:

Of course, sexual immorality is rampant in Pentecostalism and the denomination is where the majority of clergy who fall to sexual immorality end up when they are “restored” to ministry.

It’s difficult to discern whether what this pastor says is actually true or not — in Africa, the climate is different. Perhaps, in Africa, pastors who preach the Word of God, stand on the authority of Scripture, and are devoted to making converts and baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are typically sought out to be fawned over by underdressed women and seduced into one night stands.

Perhaps.

But, perhaps, these pastors — particularly the ones who preach the false Pentecostal Word of Faith gospel and lead people into the idolatry of money — are actually tempted because they are, well, largely false converts.

First, Maples states, “sexual immorality is rampant in Pentecostalism and the denomination is where the majority of clergy who fall to sexual immorality end up when they are “restored to ministry.” Maples would have readers believe that clergy sexual misconduct is a big problem in Pentecostal/Charismatic churches, and exposed sinning pastors usually are later “restored” to the ministry. Maples is largely right. However, he seems to be oblivious to the fact that his own corner of the Evangelical tent has the same problem; that clergy sexual misconduct is common wherever people gather to worship the Christian God. As the Black Collar Crimes series makes clear, Evangelical pastors can be and are sexual predators. Imagine if I started a series that focused on Evangelical pastors and their consensual affairs and sexual dalliances. Why, I wouldn’t have time to write about anything else. (Is Clergy Sexual Infidelity Rare?)

Second, Maples does what Christian Fundamentalists do when trying to distance themselves from “sinning” brethren: he says they aren’t True Christians®. Maples says, “perhaps, these pastors . . . are actually tempted because they are, well, largely false converts.” Migwi and his fellow Pentecostals/Charismatics are Evangelical theologically. Yes, lots of crazy shit goes on in Pentecostal/Charismatic churches. But the same can be said for Evangelical churches in general. What’s “crazy” is in the eye of the beholder.

If the sexual temptation Migwi speaks of is, as Maples says, due to the tempted pastors not being True Christians®, can we not then conclude that Maples is saying, that True Christian® pastors are not sexually tempted, nor do they commit sexual “sins”? Maples, and others of his ilk, believe Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Bible are talismans of sorts that ward off Jezebels who want to bed “godly” pastors. Jesus is a chastity belt for pastors, or so Maples would have us believe anyway. However, as anyone who is paying attention to what goes on in Evangelical circles knows, sexual scandal is not uncommon among God’s chosen ones. Evangelical salvation does not inoculate pastors from sexual desire and temptation. I just wish that Evangelicals would admit that they have the same wants, needs, and desires as the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world; that pastors can and do have sexual affairs. Wouldn’t it be refreshing for a “sinning” pastor to admit that he desired a woman who was not his wife, pursued her, and bedded her for no other reason than because he wanted to? Stop with all the excuses and misdirections, and just admit your humanity, fallibility, and frailty, oh “men of God.” Time to climb off your high horse and own your sexuality.

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 All Religions Right?

world religions

There are over 4,000 religions in the world. These sects can be categorized under six headings: Christianity (31%), Islam (24%), Hinduism (15%), Buddhism (7%), Folk Religion (6%) and Other (17%). According to Wikipedia, 63% of the world self-identify as religious; 22% as non-religious, and 11% as convinced atheists. While the number of atheists, agnostics, and other non-believers, especially those who identify as “nones” continues to increase, their overall percentage of the world population is static or in decline. The best explanation is that religious people tend to have larger families and more children.

According to the Pew Research Center, 71% of Americans self-identify as Christian, 6% as non-Christian, and 23% as “nones” — those who are atheists, agnostics, or indifferent towards religion. Christianity breaks down thusly:

  • Evangelical — 25%
  • Catholic — 21%
  • Mainline Protestant — 15%
  • Black Protestant — 7%
  • Mormon — 2%
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses — 1%
  • Orthodox — 1%

Non-Christian religions:

  • Judaism — 2%
  • Islam — 1%
  • Buddhism — 1%
  • Hinduism — 1%

According to the Pew Research Center, non-believers (unaffiliated/”nones”):

  • Atheism — 3% (this number is misleading since some religions, such as Buddhism, as atheistic)
  • Agnostic — 4%
  • Nothing in particular — 16%

In the United States, non-Christians are a larger demographic than Evangelicals. You wouldn’t know this based on their underrepresentation in the media and civil discourse. Worldwide, two-thirds of people self-identify as something other than Christian. Again, thanks to misrepresentation in the media, most people, especially Americans, think Christianity is statistically the largest religion in the world. It’s not, and in Western countries, Christianity continues to decline. Any numeric growth for Christianity is primarily driven by Pentecostal/Charismatic churches in South America and Africa.

Regardless of atheist hopes for a post-religion world, most people hold to some degree or other of religious belief. Granted most people are cultural believers, but when asked to name their team they will gladly do so. Whether they are willing to die or sacrifice their financial well-being for their faith is a whole other question.

Christian apologists point to the pervasive belief in God as evidence for his existence, even though they believe all other deities except theirs are false — no gods, at all. However, isn’t THE issue WHICH God is the one true God; which religion is true? Most religions make truth claims. Few religions believe all deities are the same and all roads lead to Heaven. How can we possibly determine which religion is right? You would think that if Jesus, Allah, or Jehovah are the one true God they would make that clear to everyone. Instead, we have mass confusion.

According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, there are over 200 Christian denominations in the United States and 45,000 worldwide. Each sect has its own beliefs and practices, including what is required to be a Christian. No two Christian sects/churches/pastors/congregants believe the same things, despite the Bible saying that there is one Lord, one Faith, and one Baptism. Christians can’t even agree on the basics: salvation, baptism, and communion. If Christians, who have a vested interest in being right, can’t figure out the “truth,” what hope do non-believers have of doing so?

I have concluded that all religions are right; that it is impossible for me to determine who holds the keys to the kingdom, so I have decided they all do. I have also concluded that religion is a human construct; that the Bible that Christians call the “Word of God,” is a human book written by fallible men trying to explain their view of the world, God didn’t create humans, humans created God.

But Bruce, what if after you die you find out that you were wrong about God and Christianity; that the God of the Bible is the one true God? While I have no worries about this being true, if I did find out that I was wrong, I would put the blame squarely on God. He should have made things clearer. He should have clearly stipulated “What a man must do to be saved?” Acts 16: 29-34 states:

Then he [the prison keeper] called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, and brought them [Paul and Silas] out, and [the prison keeper] said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?  And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.

Acts 2:38 says:

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Romans 10:9-13 adds:

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Ephesians 2:8-9 says:

 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

And finally, James 2:17-20, 24, 26 says:

 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? . . . Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only . . . For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

As you can see, none of these verses says the same thing about what is required to be saved. Faith alone? Faith plus baptism? Repentance plus baptism? Faith plus works? Household salvation? Paul, Peter, James, and Paul all preached different gospels. Which one is right? How could we possibly know which is right? All we have is an ancient religious text and religious leaders telling us what that text means. How can we possibly know if the Bible and its interpreters are right? God could — after all he is GOD, right? — clear this matter up, but no clarification or correction is forthcoming. For 2,000 years now, God has not uttered one word to the human race. He has not attempted to clear up the confusion. If our eternal destiny hangs in the balance, you would think God would make sure we know exactly what we must do to be saved. Instead, all we have is silence. Why is that?

In Luke 16, we find the story of the rich man and Lazarus. The rich man begged Abraham to send Lazarus to his five brothers and tell them the truth. Surely, if someone came back from the dead and preached the gospel to them, they would believe, the rich man thought. Abraham told him: They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. The rich man replied: Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. Abraham said: If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

According to Abraham, God will not provide any other evidence except what is written in the Bible (particularly the Old Testament). Never mind the fact that the Bible is hopelessly convoluted and contradictory, your eternal destiny depends on you “rightly” reading and interpreting the Bible. However, the Bible also says 1 Corinthians 2:14: But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. The natural [unsaved] person CANNOT receive the things of the Spirit of God. The Bible tells us the unsaved are deaf, blind, dead, and unable to hear, see, or believe the gospel. It is God alone who gives unbelievers the ability to believe. Yet, despite being powerless to believe on their own or save themselves, God will hold them accountable and send them to Hell if they don’t.

Until God shows up or releases a memo straightening this mess out, we have no hope of knowing which sect, if any, is right. We do not have sufficient evidence to make such a decision. Thus, most people will choose and practice the dominant religion of their country or tribe. Choosing a religion is akin to the choice of a favorite football or baseball team. Is it any surprise that my children and most of my grandchildren are Cincinnati Reds and Bengals fans? Of course not — Dad and Grandpa avidly roots for the Reds and Bengals. My children and grandchildren have embraced our tribe’s teams. So it is with religion.

All of this suggests to me that all religions — including Christianity — are human constructs. Once I understood this, I no longer feared being a member of the wrong sect or worshipping the wrong God. And if I am wrong? That’s on God — whomever he/she/they/it may be — not me. I have been diligent in my search for God and the “truthfulness” of the various claims made by religion. While I haven’t studied some religions as I have Christianity, I am confident that all of them are of human origin. And when it comes to Christianity itself, I am convinced that the central claims of Christianity are false and can’t be rationally sustained.

If “God” wants us to “believe,” it is on him/her/them/it to accurately and completely convey to humanity the truth. That this hasn’t happened suggests that God is either busy, on vacation, taking a shit, or, just maybe, he doesn’t exist. My money is on the latter.

My partner of forty-five years, our six children, and sixteen grandchildren have heard me say countless times “I work on information.” Sometimes, Polly or another family member will tell me something without giving me enough information to understand what they are saying. Polly will assume I know who “John” is at work. I typically smile and say, “I work on information. Who is John?” That’s how I view stories about God, Jesus, and salvation. I work on information, and so far that information has not been provided. The best I seem to get are people who say they speak for God, preachers such as Dr. David Tee, Don Camp, Revival Fires, John, and a host of other zealots. Is this the best God can provide?

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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Imagine if You Were Stranded on a Remote Island With Only a Bible to Read

book on island

Suppose you were stranded on a small, uninhabited island in the Pacific Ocean. Suppose you had no exposure to any of the world’s religions; that you know absolutely nothing about God, Jesus, and Christianity. Suppose you only had one book to read: the Protestant Christian Bible. Not a study Bible or a Bible with explanatory notes. Just the sixty-six books with verse and chapter numbering.

Suppose you sat underneath a palm tree and started reading the Bible. You have no understanding of Christianity or Trinitarian theology. You have never heard of Jesus, Jehovah, the Holy Ghost, Moses, Abraham, John, the Baptist, Mary, Joseph, Paul, or the apostles. What conclusions would you come to about what you read? Would you naturally come to the same conclusions as Christians do today?

Try to divorce yourself from past indoctrination and conditioning. What conclusions would you come to after reading the Bible? Would your conclusions remotely resemble what Christians commonly believe or what Evangelicals believe, in particular?

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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Fraternal Organizations Don’t Want Unbelievers as Members

god

The United States is becoming increasingly non-Christian. Countless stories have been written about the rise of the NONES — people who have no religious affiliation. Add to this number atheists, agnostics, humanists, practitioners of earth-based religions, and people generally indifferent towards religion, and it seems, at least numerically, that the United States is well on its way to a secular or non-Christian majority. Worse yet for religionists is the fact that many people who claim to “believe” rarely attend church. Take the Southern Baptist Convention — the largest Protestant denomination in the United States. On any given Sunday, two-thirds of Southern Baptists are somewhere other than the churches they call home. And Roman Catholics? Most American Catholics attend mass occasionally, often only on major religious holidays. It seems, at least to me, that there is little difference between Christians and atheists these days. Both are sitting home on Sundays, and both pay little attention to matters of faith.

I have had some thoughts about joining a local fraternal organization. There are three main fraternal organizations in rural northwest Ohio: the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (Defiance Lodge #147), Loyal Order of Moose (Bryan Lodge 1064 and Defiance Lodge 2094), and the Fraternal Order of Eagles (Defiance FOE Aerie 372, Bryan FOE 2233). I know people who belong to each of these groups. My grandmother, the late Jeanette Rausch, was a member of the Bryan Moose for decades. As a child, she would take me and my siblings to holiday events at the Moose. All I remember about these events is that I came away with lots of candy. Well, that and Grandma spending a lot of time at the bar.

Not knowing how one becomes a member of one of these fraternal organizations, I consulted God — also known as Google — to see what was required to become a member. I quickly learned that atheists, agnostics, and humanists are not eligible to become members. That’s right, in a day of increasing religious indifference and secularism, the Moose, Elks, and Eagles require members to believe in God.

elks lodge

The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks website states the following requirements for prospective new members:

The Order is a non-political, non-sectarian and strictly American fraternity. Proposal for membership in the Order is only by invitation of a member in good standing. To be accepted as a member, one must be an American citizen, believe in God, be of good moral character and be at least 21 years old.

moose lodge

According to reference.com, to become a member of The Loyal Order of Moose you must meet the following requirements:

To qualify for membership in the Moose Lodge, a registered member must sponsor you. In addition, you must meet the basic requirements and some background qualifications provided in the membership charter.

To qualify for membership, you must be at least 21 years old and be of unquestionable moral conduct. Regardless of religious denomination, you must profess belief in a supreme being. After expulsion from one lodge, you must be granted a special dispensation to join another; otherwise, you do not qualify.

The Moose Lodge denies membership for individuals who are members of subversive groups or terrorist organizations. In addition, you do not qualify if you are a sex offender or a felon.

fraternal order of eagles

Finally, to become a member of the Fraternal Order of Eagles, a prospect must meet the following membership requirements:

To be eligible for membership in the Fraternal Order of Eagles, you must be a citizen of the United States or Canada over the age of 18 who believes in God.

You must be sponsored by two members of a Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie or Auxiliary. The Eagle member who proposes you for membership must obtain a membership application from the Aerie or Auxiliary secretary. Fill out the application for membership and submit the completed application to the Aerie or Auxiliary secretary.

Your application will be read at a regular Aerie/Auxiliary meeting and you will be interviewed by the local membership committee. After the interview is concluded, the committee will report to the Aerie/Auxiliary concerning their recommendation of your membership.

When the vote is concluded, you will be notified and asked to present yourself for the Fraternal Order of Eagles Initiation Ritual. The Ritual is a set of rules by which Eagles are to conduct themselves not only in the confines of the Aerie, but in life in general. It’s one of the most outstanding models for living a good and useful life. It was designed to teach candidates for membership the highest standards of human conduct expected of us. (From the Medina, Ohio FOE website)

I suspect these fraternal organizations need new members, especially younger members. I also suspect waiving the “belief in God’ requirement would offend older Christian members, but doing so might be the only way to attract younger prospective members. Paying attention to changing demographics is crucial if membership groups — be they fraternal organizations, service clubs, or churches — expect to thrive in the twenty-first century. An unwillingness to adapt to societal change is a sure path to decline and death. The answer is not for atheists/agnostics/humanists to start their own fraternal groups. We need less fragmentation, not more. The Moose, Elks, and Eagles need to rethink who it is they want for members. While I can’t confess belief in God, I can say that I am a moral, ethical man. Surely, that should be enough for any of us to share a beer or join together to help our local communities.

Are you a member of a fraternal organization? Are you an atheist or a non-Christian? Were you aware that fraternal groups require members to believe in God? Please share your thoughts and 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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Bruce Gerencser