Religion

Baptists, the Holy Spirit, and Being Endued with Power From on High

pentecost

Cartoon by Kevin Frank

In Luke 24, we find the risen Jesus appearing to his eleven disciples and several other people, saying to them: “Behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.” After Jesus uttered these words, He ascended to Heaven and hasn’t been seen since. From that moment forward, Christians have wondered what Jesus meant when he said his followers would be “endued with power from on high.”

I was taught growing up in Baptist churches that the power spoken of by Jesus was the Holy Spirit (Holy Ghost); that prior to the resurrection of Jesus from the dead and his ascension to Heaven, the Holy Spirit came UPON God’s chosen ones but did not permanently live inside of them. Once Jesus was gone from the scene, he sent the Holy Spirit (comforter) to earth to live inside every believer. I was taught similar pneumatology (doctrine of the Holy Spirit) in Bible college.

In Acts 2, we find the followers of Jesus gathered together on the day of Pentecost. Suddenly, the Holy Spirit came upon them and “they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” Most Evangelicals believe that this was the moment that Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in every believer and endue them with Heavenly power. I am just kidding: most Evangelicals don’t agree on anything — Holy Spirit included. You would think receiving the Holy Spirit would be quite simple, but thanks to endless arguments and debates amongst those who claim to have ONE LORD, ONE, FAITH, ONE BAPTISM, Christian sects have all sorts of pneumatological beliefs. Let me share a few of them with you.

Many Baptists believe that the moment a person is saved, the Holy Spirit takes up permanent residence inside of them. Now, that’s only for people who are saved after the resurrection of Jesus. Those saved before the resurrection of Jesus — say people in the gospels and the Old Testament — the Holy Spirit came upon them when he needed to use them in some sort of powerful, supernatural way. Once this was accomplished, the Holy Spirit departed.

Other Baptists believe that the Holy Spirit has always lived in saved people — both before and after the resurrection of Jesus. These Baptists see a continuity between the Old and New Testaments. This belief is popular among worshippers of John Calvin.

And yet other Baptists believe that all saved people are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but “special,” on-fire, sold-out Christians can receive a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit if they really, really, really beg God to give it to them. Some preachers I heard growing up called this being baptized with the Spirit.

Wander off into the Evangelical weeds and you will find all sorts of additional — and contradictory — beliefs about the Holy Spirit. Some sects believe that you receive the Holy Spirit the moment you are baptized by immersion. Other sects believe similarly, except the evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues. What is speaking in tongues, you ask? Ah yes, another belief Christians are hopelessly divided over.

Most Baptists believe that speaking in tongues is Demonic. Some Baptists believe that speaking in tongues is the ability to speak foreign languages you haven’t learned. Pentecostals, Charismatics, Apostolics, and some garden-variety Evangelical churches believe that speaking in tongues is some sort of babbling prophetic or prayer language; one that must be interpreted so hearers can understand; but then, maybe not — maybe it’s just a Heavenly prayer language that no one, including the speaker, understands. Turn on the TV and watch Christian programming and you will see plenty of speaking in tongues — interpreted and uninterpreted.

Back to the Holy Spirit. Some sects believe that you receive the Holy Spirit when you are saved, but if you want to want to have a close relationship with God, you need to beg him to fill you will his Spirit. Again, speaking in tongues or some other supernatural demonstration will be the requisite evidence for such fillings of the Holy Spirit.

In the 1980s and 1990s, I attended a number of southern-style camp meetings. It was not uncommon to “see” the Holy Spirit come upon people. They would start shouting, waving towels/hankies, running the aisles, walking on top of pews, and just about any other bit of religious craziness you can think of. I heard countless preachers say that the Holy Spirit gave them their sermons; that their preached words were straight from the Spirit himself. I had similar experiences while preaching. There were a few times when my sermons seemed to have some sort of special “zip” or anointing, and people responded to them in overtly emotional ways. One evening, in particular, I remember the service was overflowing with the Spirit. Sinners were saved and backsliders were reclaimed. Afterward, I was exhausted. God really used me for his purpose and glory, I thought at the time.

As you can see from this post, Christians have varied beliefs about the Holy Spirit and the outworkings of receiving said Spirit. It is these varied beliefs that make me wonder about the existence of God. If, as Christians believe, the Holy Spirit is essential to the salvation and the day-to-day lives of believers, why all the diverse and contradictory beliefs? Surely, God would want to make sure every Christian was on the same page when it came to the Holy Spirit, right? Yet, they are not, and the same could be said concerning virtually every other article of faith.

If, over the course of 2,000 years, we saw that Christians generally believed the same things, it might cause us to pause a moment and consider whether those beliefs are true. Instead, what we have is countless sects, each believing that their beliefs are true and all others false. This leads me to conclude that Christian religions are manmade, filled with internal and external contradictions. Either that or God loves confusion. Oh, wait, 1 Corinthians 14:33 says, God is NOT the author of confusion. If he’s not the author, who is? That’s right, humans are. And from this conclusion, it is clear: that religions — all of them — are human constructs; that the plethora of beliefs about the Holy Spirit reveals human engineering, not divine.

What were you taught about the Holy Spirit? Were you ever “filled” with the Holy Spirit? Did you ever speak in tongues? Please share your human utterances in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

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Stop with the “Few Bad Apples” Rationalization When Excusing Clergy Misconduct

a few bad apples

Sixteen months ago, I posted the first story in the Black Collar Crime Series. Yesterday, I posted the six-hundredth post in the series. Focused primarily on clergy sexual misconduct, the sheer level of reports puts to rest the notion that such crimes are committed by a “few bad apples.” Numerous times a day, I receive notices from Google Alerts, notifying me that a new report of alleged clergy crime has been posted to the Internet. I look at every notification, choosing to only publish the stories that are publicly reported by reputable news sites. I am often contacted by victims who are looking to expose their abusers. I do what I can to help them, but if there’s no public news reports or other information that can corroborate their stories, I am unable to do anything for them. Believe me, I WANT to help them, but it would be legally reckless of me to post a story without sufficient evidence. I generally also only publish reports about clerics from the United States — mostly Protestant, Evangelical, Southern Baptist, and Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB). While I post stories featuring Catholic priests from time to time, I usually leave such reporting to others. The same could be said of widespread clergy sexual misconduct in Africa. The point I am trying to make here is this: 600 published reports is just the tip of the iceberg.  As of today, I am also sitting on over 300 clergy sexual misconduct stories I have not published due to a lack of sufficient evidence or a shortage of time to do so.

Not only are there more than just a “few bad apples” preying on church members, when you add to the total the number of pastors and other religious leaders who have consensual sexual relations with congregants, it is clear for all to see that so-called “men of God” are hardly the pillars of moral virtue they claim to be. In 2015, I wrote a post titled, Is Clergy Infidelity Rare? Here’s an excerpt from the post:

In October 2013, Doug Phillips, president of the now-defunct Vision Forum Ministries confessed to church leaders that he had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a woman who is not his wife. Defenders of Phillips took to their blogs, websites, Twitter, and Facebook to do damage control on the behalf of Phillips and the patriarchal movement. One such defender is Independent Baptist pastor Voddie Baucham, a man who is widely viewed as the African-American version of Doug Phillips.

A Christian woman by the name of Julie Anne posted an article on the Spiritual Sounding Board blog about the Doug Phillips scandal. Her post mentioned the following quote by Voddie Baucham:

Dennis, You ask, “How many times do we see this in Christian leadership?” The answer may surprise you, but it is actually quite rare. There are hundreds of thousands of churches in America. We hear of these types of things on a national basis when they happen to high profile people. However, considering the number of people in Christian leadership, the numbers are quite small. As to your other point, most men who go through something like this never recover. Of course, there are exceptions. Moreover, there are some circles wherein things like this, and much worse, are merely swept under the rug. However, in circles where leadership is taken seriously, it is very difficult for a man to come back from things like this. People have long memories, and tend to be rather unforgiving. (emphasis mine)

Baucham repeats the oft-told lie that clergy sexual misconduct is quite rare. I have heard this line more times than I can count. It is an attempt to prop up the notion that clergy are more moral and ethical than most people; that they are pillars of virtue and morality.  Such claims are patently false.

In 2007, Dr. R.J. Krejcir of  the Francis A. Schaeffer Institute, wrote a post detailing his recent study of clergy infidelity. Krejcir stated:

  • Of the one thousand fifty (1,050 or 100%) pastors we surveyed, every one of them had a close associate or seminary buddy who had left the ministry because of burnout, conflict in their church, or from a moral failure.
  • Three hundred ninety-nine (399 or 38%) of pastors said they were divorced or currently in a divorce process.
  • Three hundred fifteen (315 or 30%) said they had either been in an ongoing affair or a one-time sexual encounter with a parishioner.

So much for clergy sexual infidelity being rare.

Numerous studies have been conducted concerning sexual infidelity among married people. The percentage varies widely, but it is safe to say that between ten and twenty percent of married people have been sexually unfaithful to their spouse. The percentage is higher for men than it is women.

We know that men of the cloth are not morally or ethically superior. In the United States and Canada, there are approximately 600,000 clergy. According to the Hartford Institute for Religion and Research, this total includes active clergy and “retired clergy, chaplains in hospitals, prisons and the military, denominational executives, and ordained faculty at divinity schools and seminaries.” This number does not include clergy who are affiliated with independent churches. If between ten and twenty percent of married people commit adultery, and clergy are no different morally from non-clergy, then this means that between 60,000 and 120,000 clergy have committed adultery.  Again, so much for clergy sexual infidelity being rare.

Keep in mind, this is only the number of CONSENSUAL sexual relationships.

….

Most people in the United States profess to be Christians. Taught to think that their churches are safe havens and their pastors have only their best interests at heart, many of them have a hard time believing and accepting that bad things happen, and far too often the perpetrators are pastors, deacons, elders, youth leaders, worship leaders, Sunday school teachers, church janitors, evangelists, missionaries, bus drivers, Christian school teachers, and principals. Wherever Christians have authority over others, you will find sexual misconduct — both legal and criminal.

What makes churches and clergy so dangerous is that congregants are trusting. It’s the world they need to worry about, or so church leaders tell them anyway. Led to believe that Christians — thanks to salvation and the Holy Ghost — are above the fray and oh-so-humbly morally superior, church members naively trust those who have “God-given” authority over them. Even after their pastors and other church leaders have been exposed as the predators, many congregants refuse to believe that the men and women they looked up to abused others. You who read the Black Collar Crime Series regularly know that it is not uncommon to have congregants comment, defending their pastor or suggesting that the police or district attorney are out to get their preacher.

Sadly, it is not uncommon for church members to blame victims instead of putting the blame where it belongs: on their ministers, youth pastors, and other church leaders. Even after church leaders are found guilty in criminal court, congregants will often line up to testify at sentencing hearings; letting courts know that their pastors are good men who made a momentary mistake (never mind the fact that most pastors convicted of sex crimes are repeat or habitual offenders). Worse yet, on way too many occasions, once incarcerated clerics are released from prison, they find their way back to churches looking for pastorates or they start new churches — hiding from their new congregations their decadent past. One of the reasons I continue to publish Black Collar Crime stories is that this blog becomes a database of sorts for people doing their due diligence before accepting as fact the “testimony” of prospective pastors.

And to churches who hire registered sex offenders, knowing what they did at their last churches, don’t be surprised when your new God-fearing pastor treats your church as a hunting ground. Get your head out of your ass and protect the children, teens, and vulnerable adults in your churches. “But, Bruce, as Christians, we are supposed to “forgive and forget.” It’s forgetting I have a problem with. Forgetting what clergy have done in the past invites and encourages new abuse and harm. Just yesterday, a family member who is a Fundamentalist pastor, mentioned in a positive light the “ministry” David Hyles has devoted to “fallen” preachers. (Please see Disgraced IFB Preacher David Hyles Helping Fallen Pastors Get Back on Their Horses and Is All Forgiven for David Hyles? and David Hyles Says My Bad, Jesus and UPDATED: Serial Adulterer David Hyles Has Been Restored) I thought, ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME!  But, when you believe in 1 John 1:9 Christianity (If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness), it is easy to dismiss past bad behavior as being “under the blood” and “buried in the depths of the sea of God’s forgetfulness.” No matter what Christians do — including rape, murder, and fraud — wiping their slates clean is but a prayer away. (Note: I later talked to the family member. He genuinely didn’t know about David Hyles’ past. He was a child in the 1980s when the Biblical Evangelist published its expose on Jack and David Hyles. I guess I am officially an old man.)

Years ago, a former colleague of mine in the ministry, told me that at his church they believed in forgiveness, and that’s why they didn’t run criminal background checks on church workers. “Bruce,” this pastor said, “when a person gets saved, their past ‘sins’ are forgiven and remembered no more. If God doesn’t remember their sins, neither should we.” In his naive, Bible-sotted mind, once a person is really, really, really “saved,” — one really each for the Father, Son and Holy Ghost — there’s no reason to not “trust” them, even if, in the past, he or she was a murderer, rapist, serial adulterer, or child molester. “Either our sins are under the blood, or they are not, Brother,” this preacher told me. Many years ago, I warned him that one of his daughters was in a sexual relationship with a teen boy in my church. He told me, “oh, they would never do that!” Right, two horny kids, all alone on a back-country road? What are they doing, studying the Bible and praying? A month or so later, he came home early from his church’s midweek prayer meeting, only to find his daughter and her boyfriend naked and having sex on the living room floor. Sadly, in far too many churches, trusted church leaders are assaulting and abusing congregants, and everyone around them is saying, “oh, they would never do that.” As the Black Collar Crime series makes clear, such thinking is not only naive, it’s dangerous. Throw in pastors who psychologically manipulate congregants and use those who trust them as a means to an end, and I can safely say that churches are some of the most dangerous places in the United States; that parents who “trust” church leaders with their children and teenagers risk their charges being misused, abused, and assaulted.

No, I am not saying all church leaders are bad people, but I am saying a large enough percentage of them are — more than a few bad apples, to be sure — that wisdom and prudence demands keeping children right by your side when attending houses of worship. Better safe than sorry, I say. (Dear Evangelical Church Leaders: It’s Time to Get Rid of Your Youth Pastors and Youth Departments) Suppose you went to the local grocery with your children to buy some groceries. Suppose there were 200 shoppers in the store, and ten of them were child molesters or registered sex offenders. Knowing this, would you let your children wander through the store unattended? Of course not. Why, then, should churches and preachers be treated any differently?

Let me leave you with one poignant thought: countless Christians have prayed for God to deliver them from the hands of their abusers, and without exception, God ignored their prayers. If left up to “God,” predator church leaders will, with impunity, cause untold harm. It is up to us to put a stop to clergy sexual misconduct. All I can do is write about the subject. But if you are a church-going Christian, you have the responsibility and duty to make sure the children, teens, and vulnerable adults are safe when attending church, school, or church events. Doing nothing is no longer an option.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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

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

Quote of the Day: Dana Nessel Calls for Law Outlawing Clergy Having Sexual Relations with Parishioners

dana nessel

We are seeing countless episodes of clergy members who are having sexual relations with their (church members) in a spiritual setting; I mean, right in the church, right in the confessional. And we think that there are a lot of these clergy members who have quite honestly taken advantage of people and taken advantage of their authority or power.

It’s a very powerful thing if you are an individual who has represented yourself as sort of the conduit to heaven, you know for salvation…well then you have a lot of influence over another person’s life. You know, we see cases all the time of a clergy member saying, you know, ‘Do what I say or else you’re not going to go to heaven.’ And that’s a type of power, a type of authority that we just don’t think that anybody should have to be able to exploit for a sexual purpose.

If attorneys have a sexual relationship with a client that they represent, they lose their law license for that, you know? Same thing with a doctor. So why should it be any different for members of the clergy?

We don’t think that it is a First Amendment issue, and we’d be willing to go to court on that if we had to. But I think that there are just certain positions of authority that should not be exploited for sexual purposes, and this is one of them.

I’m not afraid and I won’t apologize for wanting to ensure that any institution around the state understands that if they have been engaged or aiding and abetting in the coverup child sexual abuse, absolutely if there are charges that can be brought, we are happy to entertain those charges and to file them. But we’re hopeful that through the process of this investigation, when we find out more about what has happened in the past, we’ll be able to prevent that from happening in the future.

— Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, WWJ Newsradio 950 Interview, July 9, 2019

Black Collar Crime: Catholic Priest Joseph “Jack” Baker Accused of Sexual Assault

joseph jack baker

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.

Joseph “Jack” Baker, pastor of St. Perpetua Parish in Waterford, Michigan, stands accused sexually assaulting a child.

The Oakland Press reports:

Father Joseph “Jack” Baker, 57, is on an electronic tether following his arraignment July 8 in 29th District Court, according to the Wayne County Jail website. Judge Laura Redmond Mack assigned a $500,000 personal bond at arraignment, which doesn’t require bail to be posted.

Baker, pastor of St. Perpetua Parish in Waterford since 2008, is one of six metro Detroit priests facing sexual abuse charges as part of an ongoing investigation by the state’s attorney general’s office. He was arrested July 8 in Wayne County and is charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct – sexual penetration with a person under 13 years old, multiple variables. Court records list the offense date as Feb. 1, 2004.

Baker is also a former associate pastor at St. Hugo of the Hills Parish in Bloomfield Hills and Sacred Heart Parish in Dearborn, and former pastor at St. Mary Parish in Wayne. He also was administrator at St. Benedict in Waterford in 2011, campus minister at Wayne State Medical School Campus Ministry and administrator at three churches in Inkster. He was ordained in 1993.

Attorney General Dana Nessel is calling the case “just the tip of the iceberg,” and said her office is reviewing “hundreds of thousands of pages of documents and files” seized last fall from Michigan’s seven diocese.

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Pastor Jack Graham Lies About Modern Socialism

pastor-jack-graham

What follows is an excerpt from a sermon by Trump-supporting Fundamentalist Southern Baptist megachurch pastor Jack Graham. Graham deliberately lies about the history and nature of socialism. In particular, he attempts to paint modern Democratic Socialism with the brush of Soviet-style socialism/communism. Evidently, Graham views getting Trump re-elected more important than accurately representing beliefs and systems he opposes. Democrats should expect this tactic to be repeated time and again as we head toward the November 2020 general election. 

Socialism is fundamentally at odds with the Christian worldview and seeks to suppress all peoples in support of the state. No one serious about their Christian faith can be serious about supporting socialism.

Some young people see capitalism, corporate America, as being greedy, without compassion, without concern, and we have to admit that there is a lot of greed in people’s lives. But here’s the thing, young people under 30 have not seen in their lifetime the devastating effects of Soviet-style repression and oppression through socialism and its big bad brother communism.

Socialism is totally secular and is predicated on atheism. Our faith in Jesus Christ is built on the word of God, the revelation of God, that God exists, that we believe in the resurrection of Christ, and with that faith comes freedom to live an abundant life with liberty, but Karl Marx, the father of scientific socialism, considered religion of all kinds, and specifically Christianity, as the opiate of the masses. You’re on drugs if you believe in God.

It would be a catastrophic miscalculation to think that socialist hostility towards religion, and Christianity specifically, has changed in any way since the days of Karl Marx. Socialist countries today are secular in nature, often repressing and oppressing people of faith, all faiths, and particularly are determined to root out Christianity.

Name me one socialist-style country, communist or otherwise, that is open to faith without oppression and suppression of that faith. It is at the very root of this thing called socialism.

In America, socialism has produced a welfare state of sorts, and that will not work for the future of America. It’s not working now.

Every healthy person should work, and that includes senior adults in so-called retirement. The goal of your life is not to get to the beach and better your tan or lower your golf score when you quit working. The goal of your life is to honor God, glorify God, by working hard your entire life and serving with him with what he has given you to use for his glory. That’s the goal of your work life, and it never stops.

Jack Graham, sermon at Prestonwood Baptist Church, Plano, Texas, July 7, 2019

Quote of the Day: Jewish Woman Wants Sixty-Seventh Book Added to the Bible — Book of Trump

evangelical support for donald trump

In nuptial terms, our countries [Israel and the United States] celebrated their “golden anniversary” more than 20 years ago. We are now at platinum – a miracle of preciousness, radiance, and endurance. And the man who most deserves credit for this is President Donald Trump.

Under his watch, America has finally made good on its decades-old pledge to formally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US Embassy there. In another service to historical justice, Trump declared the Golan Heights to be Israeli territory, and in service to the security of Israel and the whole world, he withdrew the United States from a nuclear deal with Iran that was a contemporary echo of the Munich Agreement.

Trump and his senior staff have also dispensed with the useless mold of the so-called peace process, which had been bunged up by dishonesty and hypocrisy. Their administration has made clear that the Middle East must come to terms with an Israel that is proudly permanent in the land of Zion – an Israel whose Jewish roots run deepest and whose ancestral, sovereign claims are without equal.

Trump is a man of his word. On the campaign trail, he promised to protect Israel, to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem, to quit the Iran nuclear deal. And he has kept each and every one of those promises – unlike previous presidents who traded principle for political expediency.

Trump is a businessman and a statesman with an instinct for justice. He sees an Israel that does whatever is necessary for its security and defense, against the odds and sweeping international consensus. These are the kind of nations and people that he likes to deal with.

Trump is also a patriot who wants to make America great again. He is constantly aware of that cost that the United States risks paying should it lose credibility. An America the projects strength and credibility rallies most world powers to it; these, in turn, respect and value its steadfast loyalty to its allies, chief among them Israel.

By rights, Trump should enjoy sweeping support among US Jews, just as he does among Israelis. That this has not been the case (so far; the 2020 election still beckons) is an oddity that will long be pondered by historians. Scholars of the Bible will no doubt note the heroes, sages, and prophets of antiquity who were similarly spurned by the very people they came to raise up.

Would it be too much to pray for a day when the Bible gets a “Book of Trump,” much like it has a “Book of Esther” celebrating the deliverance of the Jews from ancient Persia?

— Dr. Miriam Adelson, Israel Hayom, A Time of Miracles, June 27, 2019

The Many Faces of Racism in the U.S.

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Guest post by Grammar Gramma

Recently, a woman who styled herself Terra Blanche left a comment on Bruce’s post entitled “The Curse of Cain: Why Blacks Have Dark Skin.” She stated:

And what if these so-called ‘racists’ had a point? You were right in objecting to their conditioned views but what if they were right about Negroes ‘not having souls’? Anyone can put on a do-gooder act.

Most crime in the US is within Colored communities. Are they the sons of Cain; cursed this way?

A long-time reader of Bruce’s blog posts, I was incensed by the implications of her comment, and thought I would write a reply.

Terra, let’s suppose just for a moment that you are right, that most crime in the U.S. is within black communities. I’m not granting that you are correct, but I’m supposing it for the purpose of this response.

Do you suppose it might be because of their childhood exposure to violence? That they saw their fathers hanged and their mothers raped? That they saw police violence used against their parents and brothers and sisters and thought there was no other way?

Do you suppose that it might be because they suffered (and continue to suffer) discrimination by law enforcement and the judicial system? You are naïve indeed if you believe that police haven’t targeted blacks for centuries for casual stop-and-frisk when they were doing nothing wrong, for the planting of drugs, guns and other “evidence” on blacks to cover up white crime, and for a plethora of other misdeeds against blacks. You are equally naïve if you believe that the killing of unarmed black men by police hasn’t taken place since forever. It is only now, when the citizenry has easy access to video cameras, that we are beginning to see this insidious, outright legalized murder of some of our citizenry. If you believe that discrimination in the judicial system is a thing of the past, then please consider the Supreme Court decision decided on June 21, 2019, that found that the prosecutor over the course of four trials used numerous dishonest methods to keep African-Americans off the jury at the trial of a black man. Flowers v. Mississippi, No. 17–9572.

Do you suppose that systematic discrimination in employment might be a factor in a higher crime rate among blacks? Do you suppose that government-sanctioned discrimination in housing and other economic deprivation might be a factor in a higher crime rate among blacks? Have you ever heard of redlining, whereby blacks were prevented from buying houses in certain neighborhoods? A great many U.S. citizens accumulate wealth in the form of real estate, making monthly mortgage payments that build up personal wealth. They then pass this wealth on to their children, making the lives of said children just a little bit easier. Redlining prevented blacks from buying real estate in wealthier communities, where the real estate values rose the quickest, thereby enriching the owners – but not black ones!

Do you suppose that family disorganization might be a factor in a higher crime rate among blacks? Perhaps black people are discriminated against in employment – not a far stretch of the imagination. Perhaps the scarcity of employed black men increases the prevalence of families headed by females in black communities, and this, in turn, results in family disruption that significantly increases black murder and robbery rates.

Do you suppose that the inability to post bail by many blacks might lead to a higher crime rate among blacks? When a black man is in jail, his family loses a source of income. Do you not suppose that the children of these black men might see crime as the only way to bring some source of income into the household?

You stated that Anyone can put on a do-gooder act, suggesting that Blacks might not have souls, but that they are acting as if they do. Tell me, Terra Blanche, how does one with no soul put on an act that might lead others to believe he has a soul? How do people with souls act? And how do people without souls act? And how do you tell the difference?

I am aghast that anyone today does not understand that, if any human has a “soul,” then all humans do, whether they are black or white or pink or purple or some other color. There is nothing inherent in one color of people which would grant them anything greater or lesser than any other color. To believe otherwise is truly racist. Let’s suppose for just a moment that you are right, and that blacks have no soul. Suppose an interracial couple gets married and produces children. Do these children have souls? Now suppose these children marry whites, and produce children of their own. Do these children have souls? Now, carry it on. When do these children attain souls? Or do they never? Do you subscribe to the “one drop of blood” theory? If so, SHAME ON YOU! There is no difference between black blood and white blood and any other type of blood. If you are injured and need a blood transfusion, would you demand that you only receive white blood? And if you receive black blood, are you tainted forever? Suppose for a moment that you have your DNA analyzed, and you learn that there is African-American blood in your genetic makeup. Does this mean you don’t have a soul, even though you thought you did? Terra, this line of thinking will destroy you! We are all the sons of Cain, or no one is. Bruce is right, you know. None of us has a soul. Whatever life force we have dies when we do, and we stop being. Our souls don’t go to heaven or hell. You have been lied to, Terra Blanche. There is no heaven or hell. There is only death at the end of life.

You seem to value white skin. I do hope you realize that the Jesus you worship and adore was not white-skinned. He was a brown-skinned Jew of Middle-Eastern descent. How do we know he was brown-skinned? Because all Middle-Eastern Jews were brown-skinned. I realize that this likely creates a cognitive disconnect, because you probably feel deep affection for Jesus but little empathy for a Middle Eastern person. But it is the truth.

Your vision of a white earth will never happen. Millennials are accepting of people of all colors, races and gender stripes, and find discrimination against their friends and neighbors on the basis of gender or race appalling. They will be the salvation of our nation, and of the world. One day we will live in a world where people are accepted for who they are, not the color of their skin. And you and your kind will be a few tiny voices, crying in the wilderness because you have been cast out for your racist views.

Why Do Atheists Refuse to Believe in God?

there is no god

People frequently search for: Why do Atheists Refuse to Believe in God? and Google and Bing return this site as a possible answer to their question. I have never written a post with that exact title, so I thought I would do so today. Hopefully, this post will adequately answer those who want to know why atheists refuse to believe in God.

Before I can answer this question, I must first ask one of my own: which God? Which God, exactly, are atheists accused of not believing in? You see, when people ask such questions, they have a specific deity in mind. Most often, in the United States, the God of the question is the God of Christianity. But, even here, I have to ask, which God? Christians are hardly unified when it comes to God. Some Christians believe God is a triune being, others don’t. Ask Christians what’s required for salvation, and the answers are endless. The Bible may say, one Lord, one faith, and one baptism, but as casual observers can attest, Christians believe in and worship a variety of deities.

For the sake of argument, I choose the Evangelical God. Most liberal Christians don’t care whether atheists believe in God. Functional universalists, liberal Christians are more concerned with love, kindness, and good works, than they are checking the box next to the One True God®. Evangelicals, on the other hand, expend mountains of energy making sure that not only they believe in the “right” God, but that the rest of us do too.

Most Evangelicals genuinely believe that atheist unbelief is deliberate; that atheists are a stubborn lot who refuse to believe in the Christian God because of a (secret) desire to live in sin. Many Evangelicals believe that atheists are rebels at heart, people who refuse to submit to God’s rule and authority. Sometimes, Evangelicals say that atheists refuse to believe in God because they either hate him or are followers of Satan. Needless to say, most of what Evangelicals say and know about atheists is false. Atheist writers often go to great lengths to correct Evangelical mischaracterizations, yet they fail, thanks to preachers repeating them Sunday after Sunday in their sermons. Who ya’ going to believe, Pastor John or Bruce, the atheist?  Sadly, far too many Evangelicals believe their pastors speak on God’s behalf, so they blindly accept as fact whatever their pastors say to them. Granted, atheists can do the same. Misrepresenting the claims of Christianity is just as bad as not listening to the explanations atheists give for not believing in God.

There are a plethora of reasons why atheists refuse to believe in God. I can’t speak for all atheists, so all I can do is speak for myself and others like me. I was in the Christian church for fifty years. Twenty-five of those years were spent pastoring Evangelical churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. I have a thorough understanding of Christian theology and church history. I spent thousands and thousands of hours reading and studying the Bible. I read countless theology books. For many years, I focused my reading on Calvinistic authors from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century. That said, my studies were deep, but not wide. I focused my reading on authors who fit in the Evangelical/orthodox box, never straying outside of the four walls of the box until the tail end of my ministerial career. Once I began to read authors outside of my peculiar rut, I started having questions about my beliefs and practices. These questions only increased after I left the ministry in 2005. I began to carefully reexamine the cardinal doctrines of Christianity. Once I concluded that the Bible was NOT the inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God, my house of cards came tumbling down. Once the dust settled, I was no longer a Christian.

I tried to find some sort of stopping-off place as I slid down the proverbial slippery slope, but I found liberal Christianity and Universalism to be intellectually lacking. I so wanted to keep believing in God, but alas I couldn’t do so, and on the last Sunday in November 2008, I walked out of a Christian (Methodist) church for the last time. Several months later, I mailed out a letter titled, Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners. This letter was my coming-out, me saying to the world that I was no longer a Christian. For a time, I called myself an agnostic, but after having to repeatedly explain exactly what I meant by the word, I decided to claim the atheist moniker.

When asked why I am an atheist, I tell people two things. First, I no longer believe the central claims of Christianity. Second, Christianity no longer makes any sense to me. (Please see The Michael Mock Rule: It Just Doesn’t Make Sense.) It’s not that I refuse to believe in the Christian God; as it is, I find Christian beliefs intellectually lacking. If I refuse anything, it’s to have “faith” and just “believe.” One former congregant told me after I deconverted that books were my problem; that I just needed to stop reading books and only read the Bible. If I would do that, all would be well. The problem, of course, with this line of thinking is that Christianity is a text-based religion; that the foundation of Christianity is the Bible. Thus, when I say I no longer believe the central claims of Christianity, what I am really saying is that I no longer believe the teachings of the Bible; I longer believe the Bible is divine truth; I no longer believe the Bible is God’s supernatural word to fallible men. Ultimately, the Bible is the problem, and that’s why I am an outspoken atheist today.

To Christians who ask, Why Do Atheists Refuse to Believe in God? I say this: it’s not that I refuse to believe in your God as much as I don’t see evidence for him/her/it. As an Evangelical Christian, my sight was blinded by faith and dogma. Today, my eyes are wide open. All it takes for me to believe in the Christian God is evidence for his existence and proof that the Bible is what Evangelicals claim it is. Bruce, you must have “faith.” Just believe! And therein lies the problem. If there is one thing I can’t do, it is have faith in a deity I have never seen or heard. But, Bruce, GOD IS REAL! To that, I respond, show me. I refuse to take your word for it. Surely, the evidence for the existence of the Christian God is overwhelming, right? John allegedly said of Jesus in John 21:25:

And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.

Not even the world itself could contain the books that should be written about Jesus’ works, yet all we have is one contradictory compilation of books called the Bible. If Jesus is all the Bible says he is, surely there would be more evidence to support these claims. Instead, there’s a paucity of evidence, and it is this lack of evidence that keeps me an atheist.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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The God Pushers Are Having Their Day in The Developing World — For Now

pusher

Guest post by MJ Lisbeth

I can recall when a yellow haze hung in coffee shops, transportation terminals, and other indoor public spaces. Most adults, it seemed, smoked. It was even socially acceptable to give a carton of cigarettes as a gift for Christmas, a birthday or some other occasion. I know: I gave cartons of Lucky Strikes, Pall Malls and other brands to aunts, uncles, godparents, and godchildren, even though I never smoked.

Most young people simply cannot imagine such a world. For one thing, the price of cigarettes has multiplied. For some people, that cost is a disincentive to start smoking; for nearly everyone else, it’s a reason not to wrap up cartons of Kools and Marlboros and tie them with colorful ribbons. If anything, most young people want to discourage their family and friends from lighting up.

It is not surprising, then, that in 2018, a lower percentage (15) of the US adult population smoked than at any time since such statistics were kept. Although more than 38 million Americans still smoke, the habit is less likely to be passed along inter-generationally: more than a few people decided not to pick up cigarettes after watching family members and friends struggle with, and die from, nicotine addiction.

Now anti-smoking campaigns like the ones initiated by the US Surgeon General in the 1960s have taken hold in Australia, Japan, and Canada, and even in countries like France, where lighting up a Gitane or Gauloise was part of the image of a soigne sophisticate. Throughout the developed world, rates of smoking are falling faster than a pack of Viceroys dropped off Big Ben.

So what have tobacco companies done? They’ve gone to China, Russia, Somalia and other low- and middle-income countries. Worse yet, though not surprisingly, they’ve targeted the young — I mean, the really young. In my travels, I recall seeing boys who hadn’t reached puberty lighting up and puffing in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. In those parts of the world, it’s even more common than it is in the US or Europe to see stores selling individual cigarettes, which is how most teens and pre-teens buy them. If anything, the tobacco companies are encouraging such practices: the teenager who buys a cigarette a day could easily become the adult who smokes a pack, or even more, a day.

Now, it seems, pharmaceutical companies are following at least part of the tobacco companies’ playbook. Although the opioid epidemic still devastates families and communities, prescriptions for OxyContin — the most commonly-used opioid painkiller — in the US have fallen by 40 percent since 2010. The overall volume of opioid prescriptions, which include hydrocodone (Vicodin), oxycodone (Percocet) and other drugs, as well as OxyContin, has fallen by about a third since 2011. So the makers of those drugs have begun campaigns to encourage doctors to prescribe those drugs, and are even encouraging over-the-counter sales in countries where pharmaceuticals are less regulated.

In a sad, cruel irony, Mexico is experiencing its own opioid crisis, as its citizens are using the drugs to cope with the traumas of forced migration, gang violence, political corruption, and economic stagnation: problems brought on, at least in part, by the demand for those, and illegal, drugs in the United States!

Of course, tobacco and opioids aren’t the only means people in poor and developing countries use in their attempts to cope with the disruptions caused by the whims, decadence, and cruelty of richer countries — which, in some instances, were their actual or de facto colonizers. What I am about to mention has, in essence, the same effect on people who are poor, dispossessed and otherwise victimized through no fault of their own.

Not for nothing did Karl Marx call religion the “opium of the people.” Opioids are so named because they mimic opium’s ability to numb or kill pain. For many people, faith, prayer, and participation in religious rituals allow them to forget, if only for a moment, the terrible conditions in which they live, and to believe (or at least hope) that there will be something better after this life. This effect can be powerful enough to prevent the poor and powerless from seeing, let alone understanding or fighting, the people and institutions that keep them oppressed. For that matter, the narcotic of faith can actually keep people from knowing that that the people and institutions responsible for their misery have, as often as not, some role in the creation or propagation of the very religion that they’re being encouraged or forced to adopt.

I can’t help but think that the leaders of the Roman Catholic, Mormon, and Evangelical churches, as well as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and other powerful hierarchical religious institutions, understand what I have just described. They also know that, to put it crudely (some would say crassly), folks, especially the young, in the developed world are no longer buying what they’re selling. While it’s true that the more extreme and depraved forms of Evangelicalism are having a heyday in the US (where they have the ear of their President and other powerful leaders), their hold on the U.S. can’t last. Their kids eat lunch with gay and gender-fluid peers as well as Muslims, Buddhists, and kids with no religion at all — and cultures very different from their own. Some young Catholics, Evangelicals, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses will cling to their beliefs for as long as they can, but even for them, it’s not a sure bet that their faith will withstand exposure to the facts.

A few religious leaders have admitted as much, whether tacitly or explicitly. They know that the U.S. is not a “growth market.” Latin America won’t be one for long, and Europe, at least in the north and west, is declining or even dying as a “market” for their faith. As people in those places are exposed to more ideas, practices, and cultures different from their own — which is to say, as they become more educated — they simply see less reason, and thus have less need, to live their lives according to half-baked, warmed-over Bronze Age myths. If anything, those people, especially the young, see the harm that clinging to those ideas has caused the generations before them, in much the same way I and other people of my generation saw the harm tobacco and painkillers caused older members of our families and communities.

But the young, let alone their elders, in much of the poor and developing world have not yet seen the destruction caused by addictive substances, nor do they understand the corrosive effects irrational beliefs will cause them and their societies. And they are experiencing enough pain, whether physical or emotional, to try anything that might help them forget, even for a moment, that the one offering the opium or the opioid is, in fact, causing the pain. It is among these that the pushers of religion have their only hope of expanding their capital.

At least the third-world “market expansion” of western religions will have an expiration date. When that will come, I don’t know, but come it will: inevitably, someone will understand that addiction — whether to toxic substances or ideas — leaves the addict in a worse state than he or she was in with his or her pain. Oh, and they will also realize that those offering relief or salvation are the ones who caused their malaise and oppression in the first place. Then they will remember when the pall of that malaise and oppression hung in the air, and be happy their children won’t have to inhale it.

Quote of the Day: Should Taxpayers be Forced to Pay for Religious Monuments?

bladensburg-cross

Although the result in The American Legion v. American Humanist Association case was entirely predictable, reading it still left me stunned. The case involves a dispute over whether a local government in the state of Maryland can tax its citizenry in order to maintain an overtly Christian World War I memorial.

With an objective Court, a decision recognizing that the state had no such coercive taxation power under the First Amendment would have been readily assured. After all, I am old enough to remember when the United States Supreme Court believed that government financially compelling free and independent individuals to endorse beliefs they find objectionable was always demeaning. When an individual’s objection to such forced extractions was not trivialized as the taking of mere offense, but a sacred objection against tyrannical government power. But, alas, that was the long-forgotten time of ….*checks notes*…. holy shit, just a year ago?

It is undeniably telling about the state of free conscience liberty that when faced with extending the same principles against forced extraction to non-religious or non-Christian citizens, the Court’s views on the issue abruptly changed. Nothing can excuse such blatantly different outcomes to the same objection, and no explanation other than outright religious bigotry against non-believers can explain the outcome in the Bladensburg cross case.

From the beginning of the Court’s plurality opinion, it becomes rather transparent that Justice Samuel Alito is seeking to diminish the objection of the non-believer against being forced to pay for a religious monument. According to Alito, the objection boils down to being merely offended at the sight of the monument. Moreover, in contrast, Justice Alito takes a great deal of time to elevate Christian moral objections regarding the views of the same monument. For example, Alito states that “[a] government that roams the land, tearing down monuments with religious symbolism and scrubbing away any reference to the divine will strike many as aggressively hostile to religion.”

Using Alito’s own logic here however begs the question: Why is a country that roams the land forcing people to pay for the erection and maintenance of religious monuments not seen as being aggressively hostile to non-religious people? More importantly, as noted by the dissent, tearing down these monuments is not the only solution. All the state of Maryland had to do to conform with First Amendment principles was stop forcing people to pay for the Christian monument and instead let the upkeep be maintained by willing donators. I will never understand why an insistence on willing participants was not enough to settle this case and that the only satisfactory outcome for the cross’s radical theocratic proponents was having the authority to force unwilling others to pay.

….

In other words, according to the Court, the Latin Cross has transcended religion and become a secular symbol. This is literally the equivalent of saying that Jesus Christ is not a Christian figure, an idea so absurd that it becomes somewhat offensive that the Court would expect people paying attention to take this conclusion seriously.

Unfortunately, such a transparently biased outcome that favors Christianity at the expense of every other belief is becoming an all too familiar outcome, in a particularly dangerous time.  As I have repeatedly stressed, we are in a unique moment in our history when a sizable portion of the population with whom religion plays no role lives alongside an equally sizable portion for whom religion plays a vital role. Disturbingly, the growth of a non-religious population that demands the same free conscience protections has come to be seen as a menacing threat to many religious people. It is now to the point that a religious zealot and bigot who just so happens to be the country’s former Attorney General can openly describe irreligious citizens as a dire threat to our country that must be stopped.

— Tyler Broker, Above the Law, The Bladensburg Cross Case Is A National Disgrace, June 25, 2019

Songs of Sacrilege: Christ Jesus by Deer Tick

deer tick

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

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Christ Jesus by Deer Tick.

Video Link

Lyrics

[Verse 1]
I woke up next to the king
He got up, gonna fix me something
And it made me sick
How I can’t trust him, no I can’t trust him

[Pre-Chorus]
Said the bottom of his belly
That’s where he would keep me

[Chorus 1]
Christ Jesus
As I’m floating
And you get a brick
And you drop it down on me
Christ Jesus
Have you seen us
We’re down on our hands and our knees
And tell us what’s the reason

[Verse 2]
Like a heart that’s hung in the sky
A hard-on when I die
And you passed away
And that horizon never came, no it never came

[Pre-Chorus]
It’s the time of the week
No one sees but me

[Chorus 2]
Christ Jesus
As I’m drowning
And I struggle to breathe
It’s your face I don’t see
Christ Jesus
Please don’t leave us
If in peace you’ll keep us
Well then you should have believed us

[Bridge]
Please let me inside
And hear out my desire
‘Cause soon I may die
Yes one day I will die
I’ll get eaten by the rust
You cremate and breathe the dust
And I’ll weaken your lungs
And I’ll bite off your tongue

[Chorus 3]
Christ Jesus
Please don’t leave us
Down on our hands and our knees
Or I’ll never believe, no
Christ Jesus
As I’m drowning
And I struggle to breathe
It’s your face I don’t see

[Outro]
Christ Jesus

Songs of Sacrilege: Origin of Species by Chris Smither

chris smither

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

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Origin of Species by Chris Smither.

Video Link

Lyrics

Well, Eve told Adam
Snakes? I’ve had ’em!
Let’s get outta here!
Go raise this family someplace outta town

They left the garden just in time
With the landlord cussin’ right behind
They headed East
And they finally settled down

One thing led to another:
A bunch of sons
One killed his brother
And they kicked him out with nothin’ but his clothes

And the human race survived
‘Cause all those brothers found wives
But where they came from
Ain’t nobody knows

(guitar riff)

Then came the flood
Go figure…
Just like New Orleans only bigger
No one who couldn’t swim would make it through

The lucky ones were on a boat
Think “circus”
And then make it float
I hope nobody pulls the plug on you!

How they fed that crowd is a mystery
It ain’t down in the history
But it’s a cinch they didn’t
Live on cakes and jam

Lions don’t eat cabbage
And in spite of that old adage
I ain’t never seen one
Lie down with a lamb

(long guitar riff)

Well, Charlie Darwin looked so far
Into the way things are
He caught a glimpse of God’s
Unfolding plan

God said: “I’ll make some DNA”
They can use it any way they want
From paramecium
Right up to man.”

“They’ll have sex
And mixed up sections of their code
They’ll have mutations…
The whole thing works like clockwork over time.”

“I’ll just sit back in the shade
While everyone gets laid
That’s what I call
Intelligent design.”

Yeah, you and your cat named Felix
Both wrapped up in that double helix
Is what we call
Intelligent design