Religion

My First Steps Towards Believing the Bible Was Not Inerrant

bible inspired word of god

I grew up in a religious faith that taught me the Bible was the inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word of God. The word “inspired” meant that that the Bible was the word of God; that holy men of old who wrote the Bible were told by the Holy Spirit exactly what to write. Some of my pastors believed in the dictation theory. The authors of the Bible were mere automatons who wrote what God dictated to them. Other pastors believed that men wrote the Bible, thus their writing reflects their personality and culture. God, through some sort of supernatural means, made sure that human influence on the Bible was in every way perfect and aligned with what he wanted to be said.

The inspiration got complicated when dealing with the question of WHAT, exactly, was inspired. Were the original manuscripts alone inspired? If so, there’s no such thing as the inspired Word of God because the original manuscripts do not exist. Were the extant manuscripts inspired? Some pastors believed that the totality of existing manuscripts made up the inspired Word of God, and some pastors believed that certain translations — namely the King James Version — were the inspired Word of God. Regardless of how they answered the WHAT question, all of them believed that God supernaturally preserved his Word down through the ages, and the Bibles we held in our hands were the Word of God.

The word “inerrant” meant “without mistake, contradiction, or error.” Some pastors, knowing that every Bible translation had errors and mistakes, said they believed the original manuscripts were inerrant, and modern translations were faithful, reliable, and could be depended on in matters of faith, practice, morality, and anything else the Bible addressed. Of course, these men were arguing for the inerrancy of a text they had never seen, and there is no evidence for its existence. Whatever the “original” manuscripts might have been, their exact wording and content are lost, never to be found.

The word “infallible” meant incapable of error in every matter it addressed. Thus, when the Bible spoke about matters of science and history, it was always true, and without error. No matter what scientists and historians say about a particular matter, what the Bible says is the final authority. That’s why almost half of Americans believe the Christian God created the universe sometime in the past 10,000 years.

At the age of nineteen, I enrolled for classes at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. Midwestern was an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) institution that prided itself in turning out preacher boys. My three years at Midwestern reinforced everything I had been taught as a youth. Every professor and chapel speaker believed the King James Bible was the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. I was a seedling and Midwestern was a controlled-environment hothouse. Is it any wonder that I grew up to be a Bible thumper; believing that EVERY word in the Bible was straight from the mouth of God? If ever someone was a product of his environment, it was Bruce Gerencser.

I left Midwestern in 1979 and embarked on a ministerial career that took me to churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan.  I stood before thousands of people with Bible held high and declared, THUS SAITH THE LORD! For many years, I preached only from the King James Bible. I believed it was the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God for English speaking people. Towards the end of my ministerial career, I started using the New American Standard Bible (NASB), and after that I began using the English Standard Version (ESV).

Many of my former Fundamentalist colleagues in the ministry and congregants trace the beginning of my unbelief back to my voracious reading habit and my abandonment of the King James Bible. One woman, after hearing of my loss of faith. wrote to me and said that I should stop reading books and only read the B-I-B-L-E. She just knew that I if I would stop reading non-Biblical books, my doubts would magically disappear. In other words, ignorance is bliss.

As I pondered my past and what  things ultimately led to my loss of faith, two things stood out: a book on alleged Bible contradictions and the differences between the 1611 and 1769 editions of the King James Bible.

As I studied for my sermons, I would often come across verses or passages of Scripture that didn’t make sense to me. I would consult various commentaries and grammatical aids, and usually I was able to reconcile whatever it was that was giving me difficulty.  Sometimes, however, I ran into what could only be described as contradictions – competing passages of Scripture. In these times, I consulted the book on alleged contradictions in the Bible. Often, my confusion would dissipate, but over time I began to think that the explanations and resolutions the book gave were shallow, not on point, or down-right nonsensical. Finally, I quit reading this book and decided to just trust God, believing that he would never give us a Bible with errors, mistakes, and contradictions. I decided, as many Evangelical do, to “faith” it.

For many years, the only Bible translation I used was the 1769 edition of the King James Bible. I had been taught as a child and in college that the original version — 1611 — of the King James Version and the 1769 version were identical. I later found out they were not; that there were numerous differences between the two editions. (Please read the Wikipedia article on the 1769 King James Bible for more information on this subject.)

I remember finding a list of the differences between the two editions and sharing it with my best friend — who was also an IFB pastor. He dismissed the differences out of hand, telling me that even if I could show him an error in the King James Bible, he would still, by faith, believe the Bible is inerrant! Over the next few months, he would repeat this mantra to me again and again. He, to this day, believes the King James Bible is inerrant. I, on the other hand, couldn’t do so. Learning that there were differences between the editions forced me to alter my beliefs, at least inwardly. It would be another decade before I could admit that the Bible was not inerrant. But even then, I downplayed the errors, mistakes, and contradictions. I continued to read about the nature of the Biblical text, but I kept that knowledge to myself. It was not until I left the ministry that I finally could see that the Bible was NOT what my pastors and professors said it was; that it was not what I told countless congregants it was. Once the Bible lost its authority, I was then free to question other aspects of my faith, leading, ultimately, to where I am today. My journey away from Evangelicalism to atheism began and ended with the Bible.

Books by Bart Ehrman

The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why

How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee

Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior

Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them)

Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth

Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are

God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question — Why We Suffer

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.

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

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

The Existence of God

one true god

Guest post by Neil. You can read more of Neil’s writing at Rejecting Jesus.

Amateur apologist and C. S. Lewis wannabee, Don Camp, makes the argument that as human beings have always believed in gods (have they?), it must mean that gods exist. They – or at least one of them – must have planted an instinct for worship within us from the outset. Don, of course, feels it is ‘self-evident’ that the god he believes in (the Christianised version of the Jewish tribal god, YHWH) is the One True God and consequently the deity who imbued us with the god instinct. Eventually, after millennia, during which humans misdirected their god-instinct to create thousands of false gods and imaginary supernatural beings, this One True God revealed himself and made known his expectation that he be acknowledged as the only God.

Where to begin?

It is not ‘self-evident’ that the tribal god of ancient Jews is the One True God. It is not ‘self-evident’ that this god exists while all the other gods humans have created (current estimate: 28,000,000) do not. The people who created these other deities were equally convinced they existed. Some had texts setting out the expectations the gods had of their human acolytes; most had rituals and forms of worship that had to be adhered to; they had experts – priesthoods – who knew exactly what the gods required; many encouraged adherents to serve the gods in their daily lives.

These other deities were every bit as ‘real’ as YHWH. There is nothing that singles ‘him’ out from them; nothing that makes him any more real than they were. He is indistinguishable from them in every way. It cannot be argued that they don’t exist, while, ‘self-evidently’, the Christian god – a very late arrival on the scene – is real.

What of the god instinct then? Where does it come from if not from the gods themselves? As others have argued (Dawkins and Harris, for example) it appears to be a misfiring of our need to know. The ancient peoples who devised gods to explain their world were doing their best with what little knowledge they had. Attributing agency to the activities of nature is an understandable mistake to make. Early people had first-hand experience of human agency and it was not an unreasonable assumption that agency must therefore lie behind other phenomena. We know that very early religions did precisely this in respect of animals, weather, and the stars (animism; while astrology, in which celestial bodies control human behaviour, survives to this day).

We now know, however, that such attribution was wrong. Inanimate phenomena do not possess agency. They do not possess it because they are not cognitive beings; any cognition we think we detect is our own, reflected back at us. The entities earlier humans created to explain what they took to be the purposeful activities of nature had no independent existence.

Our imaginary creations have no counterparts in reality; none of the 28,000,000 gods that humans have conjured up have actually existed. Is it reasonable to assume, then, that one of these otherwise imaginary beings really does? That YHWH is the exception; the one god, who, just because we’re more familiar with him than any of the other 27,9999,999 deities, is one hundred percent real?

What do you think?

Is Rachel Evans in Hell? Pulpit & Pen and The Transformed Wife Say YES!

rachel evans

Recently, Christian author and conference speaker Rachel Evans suddenly died at the age of 37. The Religion News Service reported:

Rachel Held Evans, a popular progressive Christian writer and speaker, died Saturday morning (May 4) at age 37 after a brief illness.

Evans had been in a medically induced coma for several weeks and never returned to an alert state.

Writer and collaborator Sarah Bessey tweeted that Evans was surrounded by close friends and family at the end, and the Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber shared that friends were at Evans’ bedside Friday night, offering “our touch and tears and song. I anointed her with oil.”

Her husband, Dan Evans, informed followers and supporters of his wife’s death on her website.

“This entire experience is surreal. I keep hoping it’s a nightmare from which I’ll awake. I feel like I’m telling someone else’s story,” he wrote in an update on Evans’ blog.

“I cannot express how much the support means to me and our kids. To everyone who has prayed, called, texted, driven, flown, given of themselves physically and financially to help ease this burden: Thank you. We are privileged. Rachel’s presence in this world was a gift to us all and her work will long survive her.”

On April 14, Evans, who was particularly gifted at using social media to connect with her readers, tweeted that she had been admitted to the hospital with a “flu + UTI combo and a severe allergic reaction” to antibiotics, asking for prayer and — with the characteristic humor she often used to defuse difficult conversations — lamenting she would miss “Game of Thrones.”

Later, in an update on her website, Dan Evans said that she began having “unexpected symptoms” while receiving treatment for an infection and that doctors found her brain was experiencing constant seizures. Doctors had placed her in a medically induced coma while working to determine the cause and treatment, he said.

Evans is best known for her popular blog and best-selling books, including New York Times best-seller “A Year of Biblical Womanhood,” ”Searching for Sunday” and, most recently, “Inspired.” She also served on President Obama’s Advisory Council on Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

In her books and blog posts, she wrote openly about her faith journey, which led her from Bryan College — a conservative evangelical school known for promoting belief in a literal, six-day creation — to the mainline Episcopal Church. Along the way, she chronicled her faith, doubt, honest questions and evolving beliefs with a sense of humor.

That didn’t come without controversy, including pushback from more conservative Christians over “A Year of Biblical Womanhood,” which celebrated an egalitarian view of women’s roles in both marriage and the church.

But in her writing she rarely lapsed into us-versus-them arguments, instead presenting a vision of the church as a place with room for everyone.

“This is what God’s kingdom is like: a bunch of outcasts and oddballs gathered at a table, not because they are rich or worthy or good, but because they are hungry, because they said yes,” she wrote in “Searching for Sunday.”

“And there’s always room for more.”

Evans, a one-time Evangelical, was loved and hated by Evangelicals. Several self-righteous Christians took took to their blogs and social media to let it be known that Evans is now in Hell.

First up, are the miscreants at Pulpit & Pen. Greg Smith writes:

Rachel Held Evans was on the wrong side of every controversial issue and point of doctrine plaguing the western church today. With full knowledge she loudly and publicly chronicled her departure from anything that could be considered the historical Christian faith. No need to establish and or document that here and now. It is beyond dispute for anyone with a modicum of commitment to the biblical gospel.

In that light, how do we respond when a person like this passes into eternity, by all biblically reasonable accounts, apart from the saving blood and knowledge of the true and holy only begotten Son of the living God?

We should certainly not shrink from the realities that such a situation confronts us with. Only God Himself can pass final judgement on a human soul, however He has given us His word whereby we are to declare His revealed mind on all things, including the standards by which yes, we ARE to judge the state of others when it is this clear according to the evidence their life has shown us.

If we do not warn that the denial of the saving truth as it in Christ Jesus IS eternal death, then we are presuming ourselves to be wiser and holier than God who commands exactly that. The blood of those who hear us would then be on our hands as the Lord proclaimed through the prophet Ezekiel.

With that in mind, we also should never rejoice or sneer at the loss of another, no matter who or what they are. To do so is to demonstrate a profound lack of the knowledge of our own sin and the grace and power of God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit required to save us from it.

It is in the spirit of both of these biblical principles that Pulpit and Pen expresses it’s [sic] sorrow and regret at the passing of Rachel Held Evans. Both for the loss of her soul and for the unbiblical and further soul damning treatment that her already tragic death will inevitably give occasion to

….

Jordan Hall, pastor of Fellowship Baptist Church in Sidney, Montana and a writer for Pulpit & Pen, stated he believed Jesus would have likely said the same thing as his Bible buddy Smith:

jordan hall comment rachel evans

Church Watch Central quoted Jordan Hall as saying:

As in her life, Rachel Held Evans was surrounded by heretics and applauded by apostates at her death. She was ‘anointed’ with oil in the hours before her passing by the self-professed “profane bulldyke” and mannish, self-graffitied, vulgar blasphemer, Nadia Bolz-Weber, who better personifies the Grim Reaper than perhaps anyone in a clerical collar. It’s hard to believe that anyone ushered into the world to come by Bolz-Weber would be ushered into the right world.

Perhaps her own tweet conveys this point the best [Evans’ tweet about God not being a dude.]

Evans knows that God is male now. She also knows so much more. The God she expected to see is not the God she now knows.

Evans, who has used her life’s energy to attack the authority and inerrancy of the Scripture, Biblical gender roles and sexual ethics, and commit all kinds of ontological heresies against God, has been eulogized as though a saint after her death by many who criticized her as an enemy of Biblical Christianity during her lifetime.

For many, theological debate is Kabuki theater, where each side has a role to play and even the audience has a part to act out. There are protagonists and antagonists who spar on stage, but go out afterward to celebrate their dramatic endeavors and the show they’ve put on for the masses. This is all basically a more sophisticated version of the showmanship of professional wrestling.

However, some of us religious types view apostasy as a serious matter. Furthermore, some of us think hell is real. Likewise, we think people actually go there. And, we believe that we know what it takes to avoid that place. Ergo, we take theology, you know…seriously and stuff.

Next up is up Lori Alexander and her cadre of followers at The Transformed Wife. My friend, Suzanne Titkemeyer, posted several Facebook screenshots of comments by Alexander and Co:

lori alexander rachel evans

lori alexander followers rachel evans

Many people were outraged by Alexander’s words and demanded she take down her post. She replied:

lori alexander rachel evans

And finally, here’s what Emily Thomes, a former homosexual-turned-Evangelical, had to say:

emily thomes rachel evans

Hateful words from Greg Smith, Jordan Hall, Emily Thomes, and Lori Alexander. However, readers need to understand that their linguistic bile reflects a viewpoint held by millions of American Evangelicals. Evans was viewed by many Evangelicals as a heretic. They despised the larger-than-life presence Evans had among Evangelicals. Her untimely death is viewed by them as God settling the score with one of America’s beloved heretics. That Lutheran pastor  Nadia Bolz-Weber was by Evans’ bedside when she died only confirms their belief that God rained judgment down upon her head. Bolz-Weber’s theology and sexual ethic has been a frequent target of Evangelical writers. That Weber was with Evans at the time of her death only reinforces for them how far she had fallen from grace.

There was a time in my life when I would have agreed with Greg Smith, Jordan Hall, and Lori Alexander about Evans’ unexpected death. I would have viewed her demise as God silencing a heretic. I have long “prayed” that I live to be eighty lest my Evangelical critics turn my death into a sure sign that God has judged me and thrown my ass into Hell. The fact that countless former Evangelicals critique Evangelical doctrine and practices with no recrimination by God should be a sign to zealots that God ain’t paying attention.

Personally, I hope Pulpit & Pen,The Transformed Wife and others of their ilk continue to preach their hatred for people such as Rachel Evans. Their words go far beyond their blogs and social media, leading those with doubts about Evangelical Christianity to conclude that they no longer want to be part of a religion that promotes judgmentalism, bigotry, and hate. Keep preaching the word!

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.

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

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

Does Loss of Faith Lead to Divorce?

grieving-the-loss-of-faith

Cartoon by David Hayward

Over the past twelve years, I have corresponded with numerous Evangelicals who find themselves in “mixed” marriages after their loss of faith. Having entered marriage according to the Biblical principle found in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18:

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

these unbelievers find themselves at odds with still-believing spouses. “What will become of their marriages?” these former Evangelicals ask. Having grown up in a religion that condemns mixed marriages AND divorce, they fear the consequences of losing their faith. Many of the Evangelicals who contact me suffer in secret, keeping their deconversions to themselves out of fear of hurting their spouses, children, parents, and close friends. I know a number of atheists/agnostics who attend Evangelical churches every Sunday because they fear what might happen if they dared to testify publicly that there is no God.

In April 2015, I wrote a widely read post titled, Consider the Cost Before You Say “I am an Atheist.” Here’s some of what I said:

If I had to do it all over again would I do it the same way? Would I write THE letter? Probably. My experiences have given me knowledge that is helpful to people who contact me about their own doubts about Christianity. I am often asked, what should I do? Should I tell my spouse? Should I tell my family, friends, or coworkers?

My standard advice is this: Count the cost. Weigh carefully the consequences. Once you utter or write the words I AM AN ATHEIST you are no longer in control of what happens next. Are you willing to lose your friends, destroy your marriage, or lose your job? Only you can decide what cost you are willing to pay.

I know there is this notion “Dammit I should be able to freely declare what I am” and I agree with the sentiment. We should be able to freely be who and what we are. If we lived on a deserted island, I suppose we could do so. However, we are surrounded by people. People we love. People we want and need in our life. Because of this, it behooves (shout out to the KJV) us to tread carefully.

This advice holds true today. Saying to believing spouses, children, and friends, I AM AN ATHEIST, can and will bring immediate negative responses. I always caution people to carefully and thoroughly weigh the costs and consequences of coming out of the proverbial closet. The Bible in Luke 14:28-30 gives some pretty good advice when it says:

For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.

Many unbelievers conclude that it is better for them to be closeted atheists than risk blowing up their marriages. But even then, these atheists/agnostics run the risk of being exposed; they run the risk of their spouses finding out the truth about who and what they really are. One man I know attended an IFB church with his wife and children every Sunday. To his spouse, family, pastor, and fellow church members, he was still a Jesus-loving, sin-hating, Bible-believing Christian. Outwardly, he was a good example of someone who loved Jesus. (Despite what Evangelicals say, it is possible and easy to fake being a Christian.) His deception could have gone on forever had his wife not found his secret stash of books by authors such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. Needless to say, the shit hit the fan. This man remains married, but it is doubtful his marriage will survive once his children graduate from high school. The chasm between him and his wife is so large that it is unlikely they can find a way to bridge the two sides.

I know several couples who have been in mixed marriages for decades. They found ways to make their marriages work, choosing to compartmentalize their lives for the sake of their significant others. Several years ago, I ran into the spouse of one these couples at Walmart. I had been her pastor for a number of years, and her atheist husband — a delightful man — would attend church with her from time to time. I asked her about her marriage, “if you had it to do all over again, would you have married Bob?” She quickly said, “NO!” I asked her, “Why?”  She replied, “My faith is very important to me and there’s a whole side of my life I can never share with Bob.” Viewing their marriage from afar, I see a couple who stills love one another, but I also see a relationship where each of them has a life separate from the other.

I also have corresponded with atheists/agnostics in mixed marriages who quickly found out that their spouses loved God/Jesus/Church more than they loved them. One close family member went through a divorce several years ago. At the time of their wedding, he was a faithful, Jesus-loving Evangelical. His wife, on the other hand, was a nominal Christian. Over time, he moved away from his Evangelical roots, eventually embracing unbelief — at least when it comes to organized religion. His wife, however, ran headlong into the arms of what is best described as emotional, touchy-feely, syrupy, gagme-with-a-spoon Evangelicalism. While he would admit that the reasons for their divorce are many, one man, Jesus, played a central part in their breakup. Given a choice, his wife chose Jesus over him.

Evangelical apologists have all sorts of explanations for why people deconvert. Few of their reasons, however, match what really goes on when a devoted follower of Jesus begins the process of deconversion. Most atheists/agnostics will tell you that their losses of faith were long, arduous, painful processes. I know mine was. The moment I wrote my coming-out letter, Dear Family, Friends and Former Parishioners, my entire life came tumbling down. Emotionally, I was a wreck. I knew walking away from Christianity was the right thing to do, but I grossly underestimated the carnage that would lie in its wake. I had followed the evidence wherever it led, and despite attempts to stop my downward slide on the proverbial slippery slope, I had concluded that the central tenets of Christianity were untrue. My unbelief forced me to rethink and rebuild my life from the ground up. What did I really believe? What were my moral and ethical values? What kind of husband and father did I want to be? The questions were many, some of which linger to this day. So, to Evangelicals who believe former Christians, without suffering, pain, and agony , just woke up one morning and said, “I am an atheist,” I say this: “you don’t know what the fuck you are talking about.”

This rebuilding process, of course, does not take place in a vacuüm. People who are married when they deconvert wrestle with questions about the future. They ponder what kind of marriages they will have if their spouses are still Christians. They wonder how being in a mixed marriage will affect their children. No longer believing that there is life after death can and does alter how one views the world. If a former Christian’s marriage was already troubled before his deconversion — yet he stayed married because of what the Bible teaches about divorce — he often questions whether he wants to remain married to his Evangelical spouse. Since there is only one life to live and then you are d-e-a-d, it’s fair and honest to ask yourself as an unbeliever: “If my Evangelical wife remains a devoted follower of Jesus, do I really want to spend the rest of my life married to her?” Many times, the answer is no and divorce soon follows.

I know a handful of Evangelicals-turned-atheists who took a wait-and-see approach to their spouses and marriages. These former Christians believed their spouses were, at the very least, open to discussing the reasons for why they deconverted. Taking a low-key approach allowed them to have non-threatening, honest discussions about God, Christianity, and the Bible. More often than not, these discussions bore fruit, leading to their spouses’ later deconversion. Sometimes, it took years of discussions (and book recommendations) before their spouses came to see the light, so to speak. These former Evangelicals believed that their marriages were worth saving if at all possible. This is more likely the case for couples who have been married a long time. It is a lot easier to walk away from a marriage of two or five years than it is to walk away from a marriage of twenty or thirty years.

People often look my forty-year marriage to Polly and think that we are some sort of shining example of what is possible post-Jesus. I warn them, however, that our journey from Evangelicalism to unbelief is ours alone; that far too often believing spouses remain so despite the deconversion of their husband or wife. Quite frankly, Polly and I were lucky. Just the other day we were talking about what might have happened had either of us stayed true to Jesus. We both concluded that our marriage might not have survived such upheaval and disunity had one of us still believed. Fortunately, as has been the case for most of our marriage, we walked hand in hand as our former lives as followers of Jesus went up in smoke. While there was a time when I was the out-and-proud atheist and Polly was the secret agnostic, we are closer now when it comes to the extent of our unbelief. Our personalities are different, so it stands to reason that how we live out our godlessness in public and around family is dissimilar too.

Are you in a mixed marriage? Did you go through a divorce after you deconverted? Are you a closeted atheist who still attends church with their spouse/family? Please share your experiences in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 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.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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.

Songs of Sacrilege: Catholic School Girls Rule by Red Hot Chili Peppers

red hot chili peppers

This is the two hundredth and eighth 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 Catholic School Girls Rule by Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Video Link

Lyrics

[Chorus]
Catholic school girls rule
Catholic school girls rule
Catholic school girls rule
Catholic school girls rule

[Verse 1]
In the class she’s taking notes
Just how deep deep is my throat
Mother Mary don’t you know
She’s got eyes like Marilyn Monroe

[Chorus]
Catholic school girls rule
Catholic school girls rule
Catholic school girls rule
Catholic school girls rule
Catholic school girls rule
Catholic school girls rule
Catholic school girls rule
Catholic school girls rule

[Verse 2]
From the cross she’s raised her head
This is what the sister said
Give no love until you’re wed
Live no life until you’re dead
The good books says we must suppress
The good books says we must confess
But who cares what the good books says
Cause now she’s taking off her dress

[Chorus]
Catholic school girls rule
Catholic school girls rule
Catholic school girls rule
Catholic school girls rule
Catholic school girls rule
Catholic school girls rule
Catholic school girls rule
Catholic school girls rule

[Outro]
Lead us into temptation
We are pure divine creation
Talking about my generation
Injected with the seed of emasculation
Catholic!

Songs of Sacrilege: Shallow Be Thy Name by Red Hot Chili Peppers

red hot chili peppers

This is the two hundredth and seventh 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 Shallow Be Thy Name by Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Video Link

Lyrics

[Verse 1]
I was not created in the likeness of a fraud
Your hell is something scary, I prefer a loving God
We are not the center of this funny universe
And what is worse, I do not serve in fear of such a curse

[Verse 2]
Shallow be thy game, 2000 years, look in the mirror
You play the game of shame and tell your people live in fear
A rival to the way you see, the Bible let him be
I’m a threat to your survival and your control company

[Chorus]
You’ll never burn me [x2]
I will be your heretic
You can’t contain me
I am the power free
Truth belongs to everybody

[Verse 3]
To anyone who’s listening, you’re not born into sin
The guilt they try and give you, puke it in the nearest bin
Missionary madness sweep up culture with a broom
Trashing ancient ways is part for the course it’s fucking rude

[Verse 4]
To think that you’re above, the laws of nature is a joke
Purple sashes, feeding masses, smoke on which to choke
I might be a monkey when it comes to being holy
Fundamental hatred get down on your knees and…

[Chorus]
You’ll never burn me [x2]
I will be your heretic
You can’t contain me
I am the power free
Truth belongs to everybody

[Verse 1]
I was not created in the likeness of a fraud
Your hell is something scary, I prefer a loving God
We are not the center of this funny universe
And what is worse, I do not serve in fear of such a…

[Chorus]
You’ll never burn me [x2]
I will be your heretic
You can’t contain me
I am the power free
Truth belongs to everybody

 

Songs of Sacrilege: The God That Failed by Metallica

metallica

This is the two hundredth and sixth 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 The God That Failed by Metallica.

Video Link

Lyrics

Pride you took, pride you feel
Pride that you felt when you’d kneel
Not the word, not the love
Not what you thought from above

It feeds, it grows
It clouds all that you will know
Deceit, deceive
Decide just what you believe

I see faith in your eyes
Never you hear the discouraging lies
I hear faith in your cries
Broken is the promise, betrayal
The healing hand held back by the deepened nail
Follow the god that failed

Find your peace, find your say
Find the smooth road in your way
Trust you gave, a child to save
Left you cold and him in grave

It feeds, it grows
It clouds all that you will know
Deceit, deceive
Decide just what you believe

I see faith in your eyes
Never you hear the discouraging lies
I hear faith in your cries
Broken is the promise, betrayal
The healing hand held back by the deepened nail
Follow the god that failed

The Real “Crisis” And “Scandal” In the Church

if you tell anyone

Guest post by MJ Lisbeth

It is difficult to confront the past: victims are made to relive their pain; victimizers are forced to face the truth. That, of course, is the reason why histories, whether writ large or in one’s own life, are too often unresolved: the victim’s suffering may just be too much to bear, and the victimizer’s guilt causes him or her to lie, evade, or flee.

The unfinished business, if you will, doesn’t go away. It is carried across generations, through history, and among families and cultures. As an example, many of the difficulties faced by African-Americans today are direct consequences of their countries’ inability or unwillingness to deal honestly with slavery and its aftermath, as well as other aspects of their nation’s history.

There comes a day, however, when there is no choice but to deal with the crimes committed by individuals and institutions that had, and sometimes still have, power. Those crimes are like bubbles that could have been submerged only for so long: eventually, they must rise from the depths to the light of day.

Just as those bubbles rise, whether they are in oceans or puddles, abuses must find expression by the individuals who experienced them or the societies in which they occur. Such expression might be in works of art, organizing communities, or simply in telling one’s story and someone else listening to it, without an agenda. Otherwise, those bubbles explode, and the people, their communities and cultures do not survive—or, at least, are tainted.

I am one of the people who could have been blown apart, if you will. Less than two years ago, I named the abuse I experience and my abuser—a priest who, half a century earlier, took advantage of my availability and vulnerability. I have, on a number of occasions, come close to destroying myself: whether consciously, through what people readily identify as “suicide attempts,” or unconsciously, through addictive and reckless behavior.

What seems odd to me now is that some might see recounting my abuse and remembering my abuser as the most difficult thing I’ve done, just as some people thought my “coming out” as a transgender woman was a “big step” for me. Yes, it took a lot of emotional and mental work to be able to take the reins away from the abuser and to stop the emotional blackmail he generated. But I realize now that the difficulty, the pain, of “coming out” as an abuse survivor is temporal, if not momentary. At least I know that, whether or not that pain has an end, it is at least something that I can use to forge new paths in my life and, possibly, help someone else do something similar.

As difficult as confronting that part of my past was, and is, having to live through, and with, the abuse and the shame I felt for so many years was far more difficult and caused much greater damage. Whatever is ruptured by breaking my silence—including that shame and the self-loathing that it too often became—didn’t deserve to survive intact.

Some might accuse me of “projecting,” but it’s hard for me not to think that, in some way, so many cases of sex abuse by clerics and others connected with organized religion is a greater, wider example of what I experienced in my own life. The “scandal” or “crisis” in religious institutions isn’t that the stories of abuse and exploitation are coming to light, by the thousands. The “crisis” has been going on for centuries, and the “scandal” is that its perpetrators kept their victims silent for so long.

In short, the “crisis” or “scandal” in the Roman Catholic Church (and other religious organizations and communities) is nothing more than an institution and its leaders being forced to confront its past—and present—because we, the victims, have had to deal with our pain, for ourselves and those who couldn’t. And those of us who are living could not keep silent any longer, or else we would explode like the Langston Hughes’ “dream deferred.”

Ark Encounter Asks Twitter Followers What They Learned While Visiting Ken Ham’s Monument to Ignorance

ken ham ark encounter

Ken “Hambo” Ham is the CEO of  Answers in Genesis, the Creation Museum, and the Ark Encounter — a life-size “replica” of Noah’s Ark.  Last week, whoever handles the Twitter feed for Ark Encounter asked “What is something you learned at Ark Encounter?” Needless to say, many of the responses were hilarious. Enjoy!

  • I’d love to visit the Ark Encounter to see how a gullible fellow Aussie has duped so many gullible Americans with creation myths that are so easily debunked in this enlightened era.
  • That Noah used a lot of new technological gadgets to build it.
  • I’ve learned that as countless religious people leave their faith and while atheism swells in ranks it’s leaving the most gullible and mentally challenged behind. Therefore, the religious are becoming increasingly insane and that explains why they also support grifter Trump.
  • That people who believe this either: 1) haven’t read the right books/attended the right classes 2) aren’t clever enough to have understood them 3) liars. Where Ken Ham is concerned, I’m hesitating between 2 or 3? On balance I’ll go with 3.
  • That someone stole the Epic of Gilgamesh and built it in Kentucky.
  • That Noah must’ve invented the rivet gun.
  • That creationists are very good at not understanding things when their salary depends on them not understanding.
  • The marsupials had one helluva journey home.
  • So I’m supposed to suspend logic and believe that Noah and his family built the ark with only a few days notice but it took you about 4yrs with over 1000 workers something resembling the ark but doesn’t even float? GTFO!
  • That blindly denying observation and reason, and forging ahead with conclusion first, and making up supporting ideas afterwards is a bass-ackwards approach for a world view.
  • That an ark built to the specifications in the bible isn’t seaworthy and can’t house 2 of every creature on Earth.
  • The price of gullibility is $42 per adult plus parking.
  • Yup, the 600 year old floating zoo keeper is at it again. Now he and his 500 year old sons, Mo Larry and Curly, are master ship builders and loggers pulling massive trees out of the DESERT And we wonder why real science gets shelved.
  • Aww… “Noah’s Preformed Laminated Composite Structures,” “Noah’s Tyvek,” and “Noah’s Hydraulic Noah-Lifters” r all pretty cool. But… I was SO hoping to find a pic of Noah’s hard-hat. Sad, now.
  • There is a wealth of tax money that could be going to children’s educations at public schools and also to maintaining national infrastructure, helping people to succeed and be safe, instead of just going into the coffers of groups who don’t actually produce anything.
  • That the Flintstones was a documentary.
  • That instead of hiring a 900-year-old man and his small family, you required cranes, concrete pylons, and at least a 1,000 person workforce, not to mention tax exemptions to build half a boat incapable of carrying a fraction of the world’s species.
  • That willful ignorance is a helluva drug.
  • That what Noah supposedly managed with wood and bronze needed steel rebar, insulation, cranes, and composite to (poorly) replicate.
  • I learned the god you worship is a narcissistic, pathological liar and murderous vindictive thug who committed specicide, and who is responsible for creating Satan, sin, and all other manners of evil but then blames everyone else for it.
  • That koala bears and kangaroos and wallabys had to swim all the way across the Indian Ocean and back.
  • Some ya-hoo spent a bunch of money, including some taxpayer money, to construct a park in an attempt to convince people that dinosaurs and people were on earth during the same time period, and that the planet is less than 10,000 years old. The dumbing down of America in earnest.
  • That the promised economic benefits to the surrounding area were all a sham. That millions of dollars of taxpayer money was stolen to construct a religious idol packed with blatant falsities that are an affront to science passed off as truth. But at least the zoo’s ok, right?
  • That that boat would be super sweet at Burning Man.
  • That god is an idiot who killed every baby, toddler, child on earth in a snit-fit only to have humans repopulate and return to sinning. Couldn’t see that coming, oh omniscient one?!?!
  • That dinosaurs can be domesticated.
  • That religious grifters are the same everywhere. Apply for tax exemption, get local & state taxpayers to help fund the con, privatize profits, socialize debt, max out the credit, file bankruptcy, and fly away with the cash. Typical con, religious version.
  • I learned that the model, which you put together using heavy machinery, modern refined resourced, pneumatic nail guns and screws, and thousands man hours, would have taken 4 primitive men several thousand years to complete using simple stone or bronze tools.
  • That some people still celebrate ignorance and religious delusions. We as humans have moved so much further ahead than this. This entire place is a wasteful, hopeless, and meaningless, struggle against reality.
  • That the only thing more full of shit than a floating zoo after 40 days and nights are the people that bilked the taxpayers out of money for this monstrosity?
  • I learned that some people watched Evan Almighty and took it way too seriously.
  • The irony of the Ark Encounter buses being powered by fossil fuels made from the remains of dead zooplankton and algae millions of yrs older that these dimwits claim the universe is.
  • I learned that we are morally justified by God to make the descendants of Canaan our slaves for all eternity.
  • I learned that the ark couldn’t possibly hold two of every of animal. And had no way to clean, maintain animal health, and maintain a fresh supply of water for the animals. Oh and all the fresh water fish died in salt water.
  • That there were kangaroos in the Middle East.

Southern Gospel Singer Kenny Bishop is Now a Gay United Church of Christ Pastor

kenny bishop

Kenny Bishop grew up in an Evangelical home in Waco, Kentucky. As a teen, Kenny joined with his father and brother Mark to form the southern gospel group The Bishops. For the next eighteen years, The Bishops traveled the country singing at churches, concert venues, and conventions. I had the privilege of hearing The Bishops sing on several occasions, first at the Gospel Barn in Hillsdale, Michigan and then at an outdoor concert near Berea, Kentucky.

Music by The Bishops frequently wafted from our home during the 1980s and 1990s. My wife and I were raised in churches that loved southern gospel music. We’ve attended numerous southern gospel concerts, and while students at Midwestern Baptist College we attended concerts at nearby Emmanuel Baptist Church that featured The Happy Goodman Family and The Cathedral Quartet. In the late 1990s, our music tastes moved away from southern gospel as we began listening to contemporary Christian music, Christian rock, and praise and worship music. Today, I will, on occasion, listen to southern gospel music on Spotify, even though I don’t believe a word of the lyrics. There is something about the music that reaches me at an emotional level. Polly, on the other hand, prefers that the only time Christian music of any kind is played in our home is when she isn’t there. I find it interesting how each of us has a very different response to music from our past. For me, it’s not that the songs “speak” to me. I find many of songs lacking theologically and intellectually. But, there’s something about the harmonies that appeal to me. Polly? She’s definitely a secular rock aficionado. I love rock music too, but I am not willing to throw all the music away from my past. Does this mean that I am still hanging on to God and Christianity? Not at all. Music affects all of us deeply, often in ways we don’t fully understand. Southern gospel music was a part of our Christian life for over forty years. It should not surprise anyone that this music still appeals to me at some level.

Several days ago, I had a hankering for music from The Bishops. As I was listening, I thought, “I wonder where Kenny Bishop is today?” I knew he left the family group in 2001, began working for several politicians, and went through a divorce from his wife of fifteen years, but I had no idea what he was up to today. I suspected that he was still singing southern gospel music. Little did I know that Kenny had strayed far from his Fundamentalist Christian roots and was now a married gay man and a bivocational pastor at Bluegrass United Church of Christ in Lexington, Kentucky!

Talk about finding the unexpected — a liberal, gay Kenny Bishop. I definitely didn’t see that one coming. That said, I am happy for Kenny and his husband Mason. While I am no longer a Christian, I know that Christianity needs more Kenny Bishops. I have no doubt Kenny was eviscerated for his repudiation of Evangelical orthodoxy and their hatred of LGBTQ people. I know first-hand how it feels to be cut a thousand times by people who once loved you, people who were your family, friends, and colleagues in the ministry. Kenny, it seems, has risen above the anger and judgment and made a new life for himself.  I wish him nothing but the best. He will remain my all-time favorite southern gospel tenor singer. And better yet, he is an example for people who still believe in God, but want to free themselves from Evangelical bondage. For people of faith, there are kinder, gentler expressions of Christianity. As Kenny Bishop’s life shows, one can still meaningfully believe in the Christian God without being Evangelical. While I can’t follow such a path, I don’t condemn others who do.

Let me conclude this post with several videos of Kenny Bishop. Enjoy!

Video Link

Video Link

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 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.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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.

Black Collar Crime: Catholic Priest Robert DeLand Jr. Sentenced to Prison for Sex Crimes

robert deland jr

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 March 2018, Robert DeLand Jr. a Catholic priest in the Saginaw, Michigan area and one time pastor of St. Agnes Church in Freeland, Michigan, was accused of sexually assaulting children.

Michael Kransz, a reporter for Michigan Live, wrote at the time:

Investigators say nearly half a dozen people have come forward with stories of alleged sexual abuse, attempted or otherwise, at the hands of a Mid-Michigan priest charged this week with sexual assault.

Some of the new allegations against the Rev. Robert DeLand Jr., 71, date back nearly three decades, and all of them involve people who were minors at the time and accessed through DeLand’s role as a priest, said Tittabawassee Township Detective Brian Berg.

Apart from one female, most of the alleged victims are male, Berg said.

“We want to encourage these victims to know that we’re going to hear them, we’re going to listen and we’re going to leave no stone unturned,” Berg said. “No one is going to stand alone in this anymore.”

In addition to victim statements, Berg said police are receiving “dozens and dozens” of tips about the Freeland pastor since his arrest Sunday night, Feb. 25, at his Saginaw Township condominium on Mallard Cove.

“We’re trying to get our hands around the enormity of it and put it into some kind of logical order,” the detective said.

Saginaw Township Police Chief Donald Pussehl said his office has since received five calls regarding DeLand’s “questionable behavior” in the past.

“Throughout the years, some of the things he would do with young boys, such as inviting them to his home, was somewhat strange,” Pussehl said, relaying the callers’ concerns.

Chris Pham, a spokesperson for the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, said the diocese is unaware of any past accusations against DeLand.

….

DeLand’s arrest, and subsequent charges of sexual assault, came after Tittabawassee and Saginaw townships finished their months-long investigations into allegations of sex crimes involving alcohol, drugs and underage boys.

Separate cases, similar situations

Although the cases were separate, one involving a 21-year-old man and another a 17-year-old male, they were similar in DeLand’s alleged predatory tactics, said Saginaw County Assistant Prosecutor Mark Gaertner.

“There was a number of grooming techniques that were used to befriend the victim, to prey on the victim’s weaknesses and to lure the victim to the residence on Mallard Cove,” Gaertner said Monday. “That was quite similar to the same techniques used in the case where he was arrested last night.”

That incident involved the 17-year-old victim.

The alleged criminal acts involve attempted or actual, unwanted sexual contact.

DeLand, known to some as “Father Bob,” held a variety of positions at numerous parishes and Catholic schools in the Saginaw and Bay City areas since he was ordained in 1973, according to Pham.

DeLand’s tenure at St. Agnes in Freeland began in July 2011. Before that, Pham said, he served as pastor at St. James Parish in Bay City from July 2005 until July 2011. During that time, he was chaplain of All Saints High School.

Following the criminal accusations, DeLand was placed on administrative leave, according to a diocese statement.

….

Saginaw Township’s investigation began after a 21-year-old man reported in August that DeLand made unwanted, sexual advances on him while the pair were together at the pastor’s Mallard Cove condominium.

“Because of alcohol use, it did go further than what the victim had ever thought it would go,” Pussehl said.

Pussehl said the pair became acquainted through secular circumstances.

In November, parents of a 17-year-old male doing court-ordered community service with DeLand voiced concerns about the pastor’s behavior to Tittabawasee Township police.

“His parents were very concerned that he was grooming their son and touching him inappropriately and buying things for him and spending a tremendous amount of time with him,” Berg said.

Some of the alleged instances took place at the condominium, and others in DeLand’s residence in the church rectory, Berg said.

Berg took those concerns to the Saginaw County Prosecutor’s Office, where he learned of the Saginaw Township investigation. The 17-year-old agreed to help investigators by going undercover, ultimately leading to DeLands arrest.

DeLand was charged with attempted second-degree criminal sexual conduct and gross indecency between males in the Saginaw Township case. Both are five-year felonies.

….

On March 12, 2018, The Detroit News reported:

A teen is suing a Saginaw-area priest, accusing him of “grooming” the high school student with gifts and invitations to his condo, leading to inappropriate contact including back rubs, groping and suggestions to view gay porn.

The Rev. Robert DeLand was charged last month with criminal sexual conduct following accusations from two males, ages 17 and 21. Police say they have received other complaints since his arrest.

The 71-year-old priest is on administrative leave from St. Agnes in Freeland, where he has had been pastor since July 2011, the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw reported. The suit also names the diocese and its leader, Bishop Joseph Cistone, claiming steps weren’t taken to stop the cleric or look into allegations about DeLand’s conduct.

DeLand allowed the 17-year-old he met last year to perform community service at the church that the youth was ordered to complete over six months, according to the lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court.

When the youth returned to school that fall, the pastor was a volunteer “greeter” there, participated in school events and “engaged in a systematic pattern of ‘grooming’ behavior …, targeting the minor child, gaining his trust and/or providing him with gifts and favors,” attorney Todd J. Weglarz wrote.

Over time, DeLand took the student out of class to talk; bought him an expensive “vape” machine; invited the teen to his home to smoke; and “made inappropriate physical contact … during the school day, including back rubs, hugs and groping of the buttocks,” the court filing read. The priest also allegedly paid for his therapy to help deal with a friend’s suicide, texted or called him up to 17-20 times a day, then encouraged the student “to view large quantities of gay pornography,” according to the document.

DeLand invited the teen to his Saginaw Township condo last month to “party,” but that day, the cleric touched him “inappropriately, groping and fondling his crotch and buttocks, feet and toes,” the suit asserts.

The priest was charged Feb. 26 with one count each of second-degree criminal sexual conduct and gross indecency between male persons. He also was charged with one count of attempted second-degree criminal sexual conduct/personal injury for an incident involving a 21-year-old, 70th District Court records show.

DeLand, who has been ordered by the court during the Feb. 26 hearing to wear an electronic tether and have no contact with anyone under age 21, could not be reached Monday.

His attorney and diocese representatives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The lawsuit, which seeks at least $75,000 in damages, contends DeLand abused his position while Catholic Diocese of Saginaw leaders failed to properly investigate allegations he abused the teen as well as others, “which created a climate whereby boundary violations and inappropriate sexual misconduct directed towards children and were permitted, condoned and encouraged,” Weglarz said.

….

Earlier today, DeLand entered a no contest plea on charges of criminal sexual conduct in the second degree, gross indecency between males, and imitation of a controlled substance manufacture and distribution. DeLand was sentenced to 2-15 years in prison, and 5 years probation.

It Only Works If You Believe

just believe

Of late, I have been watching the drama The Path on Hulu. Starring Aaron PaulMichelle Monaghan, and Hugh DancyThe Path portrays the lives of people involved with a religion called Meyerism.  While Meyerism is fictional, many of its core tenets and practices mirror those found in Evangelicalism. I found myself thinking, the only difference between Meyerism — a cult — and Evangelicalism is a matter of degree. This is especially true when Meyerism is compared to the extreme Fundamentalist corner of the Evangelical tent. I am not suggesting that Meyerism is the equivalent of Evangelicalism. It’s not. As Wikipedia makes clear,  Meyerism combines aspects of:

New Age philosophy, shamanism, Scientology, Christian mysticism and Utopianism with a few elements from the Shakers, Sufism, Tibetan Buddhism and Freemasonry ritual.

However, Meyeristic practices such as fidelity to a rigid set of commands and beliefs, obedience to leaders, progressive enlightenment, separation from the world, and the shunning of ex-Meyerists find expression in the practices of countless Evangelical churches.

Eddie Lane (Aaron Paul) and Sarah Lane (Michelle Monaghan) are devoted followers of Stephen Meyer, the founder of Meyerism. Born into a Meyerist family, Sarah is what you would call a “true believer.” Eddie, on the other hand, has questions and doubts about the religious aspects of Meyerism. While Eddie embraces Meyerism’s commitment to family, environmentalism, and helping the poor and suffering, he comes to believe the rest of Meyerism is, in his words, bullshit. He has come to see that what he once considered “truth” was a lie. Eventually, Eddie’s crisis of faith leads to conflict with his wife, family, and Cal Roberts (Hugh Dancy), the leader of Meyerist community in New York. Eddie is banished from the Meyerist community. Labeled a “denier,” Eddie tries to help his teenage son Hawk who recently took Meyerist vows. In episode three of season two, Hawk tells Eddie that he can no longer see him. Eddie desperately tries to reason with his son, but to no avail.

During his passionate plea to Hawk, Eddie tells his son, “it [Meyerism] only works if you believe.” Eddie goes on to explain that if you pull on that string, everything unravels crumbles into nothing. I can’t think of a better illustration of what many of us have gone through as we walked away from Christianity. Christianity, and in particular Evangelical Christianity, only works IF you believe. Dare to pull the string, logically, rationally, and skeptically evaluating sincere beliefs and practice, and everything unravels crumbles into nothing.

Evangelicalism requires the suspension of reason. No matter how vociferously apologists and zealots argue otherwise, Evangelical faith requires belief over truth and dogma over fact. Doubt and questioning the teachings of the Bible/church/pastor is viewed as a lack of faith, a sure sign that Satan is influencing someone’s thinking. Congregants are discouraged from reading books/blogs that will cause doubt. Dr. Bart Ehrman is pilloried as an “enemy of the faith,” and pastors routinely warn church members to stay away from his books. Claiming that they are only watching out for their souls, these men of God know that the facts and educated conclusions found in Ehrman’s books are kryptonite to Evangelical faith. These gatekeepers know that the only way to keep asses in the pews and money in the offering plates is to wall congregants off from exposure to the “world.”

Few Evangelical leaders promote unfettered intellectual inquiry. They know that such inquiries always lead away from what Evangelicals believe is the “faith once delivered to the saints.” Pastors know that once devotees question the inerrancy of the Bible, creationism, the virgin birth, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and other cardinal beliefs, it is only a matter of time before they will lose their faith. While this loss of faith may not lead to atheism, it certainly leads to an exodus out the back doors of Evangelical churches. When truth — not religious dogma masquerading as truth —  becomes the object of intellectual inquiry, it’s only a matter of time before the Evangelical house built on myth and supernatural nonsense comes tumbling down. Either science is right, or creationism is. Both can’t be right. Either virgins can have babies or they can’t. Either three-day old dead people can come back to life and eat dinner at Taco Bell or they can’t. Take every supernatural claim in the Bible and measure it by what you know to be empirically and experientially true. Both can’t be true. Knowledge-informed thinking and not cognitive dissonance should always be the goal.

Eddie is right: It only works if you believe. Once you stop believing and demand facts and evidence, it’s game over. Once you stop granting the Bible/churches/pastors authority over your life, you are on your way to true freedom. A recent letter writer asked me what was the biggest change in my life after deconverting. I told her that the biggest change was having freedom to follow the path of life wherever it leads. Evangelicalism, with its teachings on Heaven/Hell, eternal punishment, sin, and judgment, leads to bondage. Pastors go to great lengths to convince congregants that this bondage is actually freedom; that is, if you believe the central tenets of the faith. Evangelicalism becomes a bubble of sorts where everything makes perfect sense as long as you are in the bubble. That’s why many of us were committed followers of Jesus for so many years. It all made sense to us; that is until one day we dared to pull on the string, and then we realized that what we had really been believing was an elaborate construct of myths and lies. And in that moment, everything we believed crumbled away to nothing.

If you happen to be an Evangelical, let me encourage you to pull on the string. Dare to value truth over belief. Dare to question and doubt. Dare, to quote the Bible, to seek. I guarantee that if you will intellectually and passionately “seek,” you most certainly will “find.” Come join countless other freethinkers as they walk the path of life. Evangelicalism taught you that life is all about your destination: Heaven or Hell. I’m here to tell you that life is all about your journey, not where you’ll end up after you die. Embrace every day as if it is your last and humbly walk the path that is before you. If you will do that, I promise that you will end up exactly where you need to be.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 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.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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.