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The Midwestern Baptist College Preacher Who Became an Atheist

polly shope bruce gerencser 1977
Polly Shope and Bruce Gerencser, February 1977, Midwestern Baptist College Sweetheart Banquet, the only time we were allowed to be closer than six inches apart.

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

From 1976-1979, I attended Midwestern Baptist College — an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) institution in Pontiac, Michigan. Polly also attended the college, as did her father and uncle before her. While not as large or as prestigious as institutions such as Bob Jones University, Hyles-Anderson College, Tennessee Temple, or Pensacola Christian College, Midwestern is known for turning out men who are church planters and fierce defenders of the Word of God. Started in 1953 by Dr. Tom Malone, Midwestern once had an enrollment of over 400 students. These days, the enrollment is less than a hundred, and in 2010 the college moved its location to Shalom Baptist Church in Orion, Michigan.

At one time, Midwestern advertised itself as a character building factory. Over the past 67 years, this factory has graduated hundreds of men and women, each devoted to the IFB faith. While some of the students who attended Midwestern no longer wear the Fundamentalists label, I do not know of one Midwestern attendee who is a liberal. As best I can tell, there is only one man who became a liberal, and that is yours truly. Certainly, many churches pastored by Midwestern-trained men are Evangelical and to the left of the Fundamentalism taught by the college, but none of them, as far as I know, are liberals theologically. Even more amazing, as far as atheism is concerned, I am the only person who attended Midwestern and entered the ministry as a Midwestern-trained preacher who is now an atheist.

i am special

I am soooo special.  From time to time, I see in the logs search strings such as “the Midwestern Baptist College preacher who became an atheist.” Google? This site is number one, top of the page. Same with Bing.  Even when generically searching for “Midwestern Baptist College Pontiac” this site is listed twice on the first page, fifth and sixth, respectively. I am quite sure that the prominence of my writing in search engine results for Midwestern irritates the hell out those who still profess fealty to the IFB religion and who still view the late Tom Malone as a demigod.

I am as rare as a real science exhibit at Ken “Hambo” Ham’s Creationist Museum. I am sure there are others who attended Midwestern who no longer believe, but I am the only person who has dared to poke his head above the proverbial ground and say so.

Are you a former Midwestern attendee or graduate who is no longer a Christian? I would love to hear from you. Please use the Contact Form to send me an email. Much like the search for extraterrestrial life, surely, somewhere there’s another former Midwestern student who no longer believes. I’m listening. . .

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Count the Cost Before You Say “I am an Atheist”

god made me an atheist

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

The Bible gives some pretty good advice about counting the cost in Luke 14:28-30:

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.

Who starts a building project without first counting the cost? The key phrase here is counting the cost. Every choice we make has a consequence. I think a loose definition of Newton’s Third Law of Motion applies here: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Foolish is the person who does not consider the consequences of saying for the first time to family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances, I AM AN ATHEIST.

When I left Christianity and the ministry in 2008, my wife came along with me. Polly was a few steps behind, but close enough that we could hold hands. We spent many hours reading books and having long discussions about the past, the Bible, and Christianity in general. Bart Ehrman was nightly pillow talk for many months. When we finally came to the place where we said to one another “we are no longer Christians,” we knew that telling our family, friends, and acquaintances would cause a huge uproar. What should we do?

Polly decided to take the quiet approach, keeping her thoughts to herself. When asked, she would answer and try to explain, but if people didn’t ask, she felt no obligation to out herself. She still operates by that principle. There are people she works with who likely think she still goes to church on Sunday and is a fine Christian woman. Several years ago, a woman Polly had worked with for 20 years asked her if she was going to church on Easter. Polly replied, no. Her co-worker then asked, so do you go to church? Polly replied, no. And that was that. I am sure the gossip grapevine was buzzing. Did you know Polly doesn’t go to church? Why her husband was a pastor! And they don’t go to church? Never mind that the woman asking the questions hadn’t been to church in over a decade. She stays home, watches “Christian” TV, and sends money to the TV preachers she likes.

I took the nuclear approach. I wrote an open letter to my friends, family, and former parishioners. This was totally in character for me. I am an all-in kind of guy. In Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners, I wrote:

I have come to a place in life where I can no longer put off writing this letter. I have dreaded this day because I know what is likely to follow after certain people receive it. I have decided I can’t control how others will react to this letter, so it is far more important to clear the air and make sure everyone knows the facts about Bruce Gerencser.

I won’t bore you with a long, drawn-out history of my life. I am sure each of you has an opinion about how I have lived my life and the decisions I have made. I also have an opinion about how I have lived my life and the decisions I made. I am my own worst critic.

Religion, in particular Baptist Evangelical and Fundamentalist religion, has been the essence of my life from my youth up. My being is so intertwined with religion that the two are quite inseparable. My life has been shaped and molded by religion and religion touches virtually every fiber of my being.

I spent most of my adult life pastoring churches, preaching, and being involved in religious work to some degree or another. I pastored thousands of people over the years, preached thousands of sermons, and participated in, and led, thousands of worship services.

To say that the church was my life would be an understatement. As I have come to see, the Church was actually my mistress, and my adulterous affair with her was at the expense of my wife, children, and my own self-worth.

Today, I am publicly announcing that the affair is over. My wife and children have known this for a long time, but now everyone will know.

The church robbed me of so much of my life and I have no intention of allowing her to have one more moment of my time. Life is too short. I am dying. We all are. I don’t want to waste what is left of my life chasing after things I now see to be vain and empty.

I have always been known as a reader, a student of the Bible. I have read thousands of books in my lifetime and the knowledge gained from my reading and studies has led me to some conclusions about religion, particularly the Fundamentalist, Evangelical religion that played such a prominent part in my life.

I can no longer wholeheartedly embrace the doctrines of the Evangelical, Fundamentalist faith. Particularly, I do not believe in the inerrancy of Scripture nor do I accept as fact the common Evangelical belief of the inspiration of Scripture.

Coming to this conclusion has forced me to reevaluate many of the doctrines I have held as true over these many years. I have concluded that I have been misinformed, poorly taught, and sometimes lied to. I can no longer accept as true many of the doctrines I once believed.

I point the finger of blame at no one. I sincerely believed and taught the things that I did and many of the men who taught me were honorable teachers. I don’t blame those who have influenced me over the years, nor do I blame the authors of the many books I have read. Simply, it is what it is…

The backlash from my letter was immediate and severe. Keep in mind I was not yet an atheist. All I said was that I could no longer embrace the teachings of Christianity. I was agnostic when it came to the God question. I still had lots of doubts and questions.

The reaction of my family and Polly’s family was the hardest to bear. For the most part, they said nothing. To this day, some family members, including Polly’s parents, have not said one word to us about our defection from Christianity. It’s like there’s a huge elephant in the room that no one can see but us. Twelve years of silence.

My friends and fellow pastors took to writing me letters, sending me emails, visiting me, preaching about me, and having prayer meetings focused on praying me back into the fold. The level of nastiness and judgmentalism was overwhelming. During this time, a long-time friend and parishioner turned pastor came to see me. I wrote about his visit in A Letter to a Friend. In the letter I wrote:

You got my letter.

I am certain that my letter troubled you and caused you to wonder what in the world was going on with Bruce.

You have been my friend since 1983. When I met you for the first time, I was a young man pastoring a new Church in Somerset, Ohio. I remember you and your dear wife vividly because you put a $100 bill in the offering plate. Up to that point we had never seen a $100 bill in the offering plate.

And so our friendship began. You helped us buy our first Church bus. . .You helped us buy our Church building. . . In later years you gave my wife and me a generous gift to buy a mobile home. It was old, but we were grateful to have our own place to live in. You were a good friend.

Yet, our common bond was the Christianity we both held dear. I doubt you would have done any of the above for the local Methodist minister, whom we both thought was an apostate.

I baptized you and was privileged to be your pastor on and off over my 11 years in Somerset. You left several times because our doctrinal beliefs conflicted, you being an Arminian and I being a Calvinist.

One day you came to place where you believed God was leading you to abandon your life work, farming, and enter the ministry. I was thrilled for you. I also said to myself, “now Bill can really see what the ministry is all about!”

So you entered the ministry and you are now a pastor of a thriving fundamentalist Church. I am quite glad you found your place in life and are endeavoring to do what you believe is right. Of course, I would think the same of you if you were still farming.

You have often told me that much of what you know about the ministry I taught you. I suppose, to some degree or another, I must take credit for what you have become. (whether I view it as good or bad)

Yesterday, you got into your Lincoln and drove three plus hours to see me. I wish you had called first. I had made up my mind to make up some excuse why I couldn’t see you, but since you came unannounced, I had no other option but to open and the door and warmly welcome you. Just like always . . .

I have never wanted to hurt you or cause you to lose your faith. I would rather you not know the truth about me than be hurt in any way.

But your visit forced the issue. I had no choice.

Why did you come to my home? I know you came as my friend, but it seemed by the time our three-hour discussion ended, our friendship had died and I was someone you needed to pray for, that I might be saved. After all, in your Arminian theology there can be no question that a person with beliefs such as mine has fallen from grace. . .

During the first few months after my initial letter, I heard from Laura Hardman, the wife of Evangelist Don Hardman. She bared her fangs and let me know that it was quite evident to her that I NEVER was a Christian.

About two years after the Dear  Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners letter I wrote:

Almost two years ago I sent my friends, family and former parishioners a letter concerning my decision to deconvert from Christianity. I wish I could say my letter was well received.  I wish I could say that people told me they supported my decision. I wish I could say I have been treated in a kind and respectful manner.

But I can’t.

A longtime friend of mine, Bill Beard, pastor of Lighthouse Memorial Church, drove over three hours to my home to talk (argue) with me about my deconversion. He and I had been friends for over 25 years.

Laura Hardman, wife of Evangelist Don Hardman, wrote me a scathing letter telling me that I never was a real Christian, I had been friends with the Hardmans for over 20 years. I wrote them back and I have not heard from them since.

Friends of mine for over 40 years, missionaries with Child Evangelism Fellowship, wrote to me and told me I was under the influence of Satan. They sent me literature to read. I returned it with a letter of my own. They never wrote back.

I stumbled upon a forum discussion about me. They were discussing what to do about Bruce.

I have received numerous emails from former parishioners telling me of the error of my ways.  Some of them are deeply troubled about how this could happen. How could their pastor now be an agnostic who doesn’t believe in the Bible or God?

A few former parishioners took it upon themselves to tell me their conclusions about me. Many of them mentioned my reading habits. They told me I read too many books and they suggested I just read the Bible.

Two former parishioners wrote to tell me that though they disagreed with me, they loved me and were my friend. I really appreciated their love and friendship.

I hear bits and pieces of the gossip about me that is floating around Bryan and Defiance — people questioning whether or not I was ever a Christian. Some raise issues about my mental stability. One thing they never do? Talk to me personally.

My adult children have to field questions at work and college about their apostate father. Once again, the questioners never talk to me personally.

It is not much better on the family front.

Silence is how family has decided to deal with me. It’s like I never wrote the letter about deconverting from Christianity. Behind the scenes there is a lot of gossip about me and what to do about the Bruce matter. Last Christmas, the patriarch of the family, a pastor of 40 plus years, was intent on confronting me about my apostasy. I am grateful my mother-in-law quashed his plan to confront me. It would have been ugly. I mean ugly.

Polly decided that we could no longer do Christmas at her parent’s home. The stress and undercurrent are such that it is impossible to “enjoy” time with the family during the Christmas holiday (we do go to visit when the extended family is not there).

I wish I could tell you that I came through all of this unscathed, but I can’t. I decided to seek out a counselor two years ago. I knew I needed to talk to someone about the pain and deep wound I was carrying as a result of my defection from Christianity. I still see a counselor every few weeks. His work with me has been extremely helpful and has enabled me to move forward and away from the past. The scars remain. The viciousness of people who say they are followers of the man who said turn the other cheek and love your enemy has scarred me. Every time a Fundamentalist spews his bile on this blog, I am reminded of the deep wound I carry. I am also reminded that I am glad to be free from such an ugly, vile, and vicious belief system and way of life.

So how are things now?

Some family members are still silent. Perhaps they will never ask, inquire, or attempt to engage me in a discussion. I think some people are intimidated by me, so they avoid the elephant in the room. Others fear I might cause them to doubt or lose their faith, so they avoid all contact with me. I have come to accept this. I wish they would talk to me, but I know I can’t force the issue.

All but two Christian friends have abandoned me. I don’t blame them. I have come to see that our friendship was held together by fidelity to certain beliefs. Remove the beliefs and the friendship dissolves. If I came back to the Christian faith, I would instantly have dozens of friends. I would be lauded as the Preacher reclaimed From the Devil’s Clutches. Hmm . . . there is money to be made . . .

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 that “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.

I hope some of you will find this post helpful. My deepest desire is to help you on your journey. I am hoping that my walking before you can be of help to you as you decide how best to deal with and embrace your loss of faith.

This blog is here to remind those struggling with leaving Christianity or who have already left Christianity, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

Luck, Fate, or Providence?

god is in control

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

As an Evangelical Christian, I believed that God was the sovereign ruler of the universe. I believed God held my life in the palms of his hands. I believed God controlled every aspect of my life, and that life and death were determined by God alone. I believed I wouldn’t die one moment before it was my time to go; that God penciled a death date next to the name of every person ever born. I believed that God had a purpose and plan for my life. I thought this way for almost 50 years.

I have faced numerous circumstances where I could have easily been killed. Accidents, stupid mistakes, exposure to environmental toxins and chemicals, bad decisions by myself or others, serious sickness, and being at the wrong place at the wrong time . . . I could have and should have died long before today.

But here I am, and until 2008, I gave the Christian God all the credit for my continued existence. God wasn’t finished with me, I told myself, wiping my brow after surviving yet another near brush with death. As disease and pain continued to ravage my body, I lived with the calm assurance that God still had plans for me. In some ways, this is a great way to live. No worries . . . God’s on the job and nothing will happen unless God wills it.  The Apostle Paul had the same view:

What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:31-39

I willingly subjected myself to a life of poverty because I thought if God wanted me to have more money or a better house and car, he would give them to me. When I began to have health problems in the early 1990s, I saw them as a test from God. God wanted to make me more holy or stronger. God wanted to root out the deep and secret sins that no one but him could see. And no matter how painful the process was, I knew that God loved me and was in charge of everything.

God’s providence: the belief that God knows what’s best for us and doesn’t give us more than we can bear, is actually fatalism. While Christians convince themselves that they are free moral agents, their belief system says differently. Proverbs 16:9 states:

A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.

Proverbs 20:24 states:

Man’s goings are of the Lord; how can a man then understand his own way?

Consider these verses:

Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases. Psalm 115:3

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. Genesis 50:20

That bringeth the princes to nothing; he maketh the judges of the earth as vanity. Isaiah 40:23

This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. Zechariah 4:6

O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you. II Chronicles 20:6

Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. I Chronicles 29:11-12

I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee. Job 42:2

Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure: Isaiah 46:9-10

Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?  Romans 9:21

Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not? Lamentations 3:37

Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places. Psalm 135:6

But he is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth. Job 23:13

See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand. Deuteronomy 32:39

For the Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back? Isaiah 14:27

The Lord of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand: Isaiah 14:24

And these verses are but a small sampling of the Bible verses that declare that God is the boss. He is in control of everything. Of course, this opens up a huge problem for Christians. If God is in control of everything, if nothing happens that God does not decree, purpose, and plan, what about sin and evil? At this point, most Christians run from their beliefs, denying that God has anything to do with evil and sin. However, the Bible says:

I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things. Isaiah 45:7

That’s right, the Bible says God creates evil. No matter how Christians might object, if they believe in a God who is in control, then they must also believe that he is culpable for evil and sin. Dance any theological or philosophical jig one might, there is no escaping God being the creator of evil. But, but, but . . . no buts. Either God is the CEO of the universe or he’s not. Either he is the first cause, the beginning and the end, or he is not. Either he is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, or he is not.

Believing this way had a profound effect on my life. Instead of realizing that much of what happens in a person’s life is due to good or bad luck, I saw God behind every action, event, and circumstance. Like King David, I said:

Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee. Psalm 139:11-12

God was omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. For those not schooled in the omnis, God was all-powerful, all-knowing, and present everywhere.

In 2008, God lost control of my life as I began to reclaim it along with the personal responsibility that came with it. No more trusting God’s providence or letting go and letting God. No more puppet strings or “trusting” God to work out everything in my life according to his purpose and plan. As I began to reorient my life according to fact and reason, I was forced to reinvestigate past claims of miracles, moments when God reached down and supernaturally kept me from harm or death. I concluded that every God sighting in my life but one could be explained through natural means. All the supposed answered prayers were really Bruce or some other Christian answering the prayer.

None of us knows how our life will be beyond the next breath. For all I know, this could be the last blog post I write. The Bible is right when it says:

Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth. Proverbs 27:1

No one knows what tomorrow will be like. We can plan for the future, but we have no promise that things will work out for us. Life is crapshoot. Live to your 60s and you will realize you are lucky to have made it old age. The best any of us can do is make responsible decisions based on reason and probabilities and hope things work out for us.

Several years ago, Polly and I took a road trip to Ottoville, Fort Jennings, and Delphos. Like most of our trips, I took my camera equipment with me. As we were wandering around Delphos, we stumbled upon a lock from the era of the Miami and Erie canal. Getting down to the lock was a bit treacherous for me. I wanted to get as close as possible, so I gingerly walked down the concrete abutment to the lock. I didn’t fall, slip, or trip. Lucky me, I thought.

After ten minutes or so, I was ready to return to the car. I had two paths I could take. I could retrace my steps or make a big step and little jump to ground level, Polly said she would give me a hand, so I chose the latter. Polly reached down, took my hand, and began to help me up. And then, our world went crazy. Polly couldn’t pull me up completely, and I violently fell forward, knocking both of us to the ground. If my weight had been balanced slightly the other way, I would have no doubt gone careening down the concrete abutment into the canal. The fall would have likely killed me.

The good news? My cameras escaped damage, though one body does have a slight scrape. The hood on the lens kept it from being smashed. Polly ended up with bruised knees and I suffered a twisted ankle and hip and a nasty, bloody contusion on my left leg. 

I know I was lucky. I should have retraced my steps. This was the safe and prudent choice. However, Polly was standing right there and she said she would help. Why not, right? She helps me out of the recliner and car all the time. What neither of us counted on was how difficult it is to pull up a 350-pound man. When Polly pulls me out of the car or the recliner, I help her. This time? I was a dead weight and I almost literally became so.

Lesson learned.

Several years ago, as we were eating lunch, our daughter with Down Syndrome began choking. Due to her disability, she has a thick tongue and can easily choke. This day was different. For the first time, she couldn’t clear her throat. Polly administered the Heimlich maneuver three times before the food was dislodged. I was one second away from calling 911.

This scary circumstance reminded us that we need to pay careful attention to how our daughter eats her food. I talked to her about chewing her food, taking small bites, and not eating hurriedly. She was scared, we were scared, but we all lived to face another day. Our daughter could just as easily have died on our living room floor. Living in the rural area we do, we know that sometimes it is impossible to get quick emergency help. We were lucky, and we know it.

Every brush with death should cause us to reflect on why it happened. Were we culpable? Could we have made a better or different decision? Sometimes, shit happens.

Living is a dangerous proposition. Smart is the person who understands this and acts accordingly. Thinking that God has the whole world in his hands only leads to delusion and discouragement. God isn’t coming to save the day. In 2015, a German airline pilot flew a plane into the ground, killing everyone on board. I am sure, mixed in with the screams, were pleas to God to stop the plane from hitting the ground. Prayer lost out to physics and everyone died.

How about you? How do you live your life? How do you determine risk? Have you ever escaped death after making a decision that should have ended your life? If you once believed in the sovereignty of God, how does a world without a God affect your decision-making process? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

Martyrdom: Is Any Religion Worth Dying For?

christian martyrdom

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Christians in the Middle East are being persecuted for their faith. ISIS has slaughtered thousands of Christians and Muslims, all because they had the wrong religious belief. Shameless Evangelical preachers and right-wing politicians have used these killings as an opportunity to provoke fear in their followers. These preachers of fear live in a delusional world where being required to bake a cake for a gay couple or giving the same civil rights to LGBTQ people as to heterosexuals is the equivalent of having your head lopped off by ISIS. American Evangelical Christians have a persecution complex, stoked by horror stories about the atheist, secularist, humanistic, socialist horde taking over THEIR country. (Please see The Paranoia and Persecution Complex of the Religious Right.) With great mockery and ridicule, I laugh at American Christians who think they are being persecuted. Those who promote such things deserve the disdain dished out to them by both the religious and non-religious.

That said, the beheading of Christians in the Middle East has American Christians asking if they would be willing to suffer and die for the cause of Christ. Billy Watkins, a Christian and a writer for The Clarion-Ledger had this to say:

I can’t explain why.

Perhaps it doesn’t require an explanation.

But as the calendar quickly moved toward today — Easter Sunday — the more an image flashed in my mind: 20 Egyptian Christians and one other man, forced to their knees on a Mediterranean beach by members of ISIS on Feb. 15 and asked one by one if they believed in Jesus Christ.

Each answered yes, knowing the consequences.

All 21 were beheaded….

…It made me look inside myself, perhaps deeper than I’ve ever looked before.

It made me face the question: If I were in a similar situation, would I have the faith and the courage to look the ISIS cowards in the eye and say, “I believe in Jesus Christ.”

Knowing those would be the last words I ever said. Knowing the torture I was about to experience. Knowing my family and friends would grieve over my death. Knowing this life, which I can only comprehend as a struggling human, would end.

I would like to say yes, I would have the strength.

But do any of us really know until we are put in that situation?

To help me have some comparison for my struggle with this, I reached out to eight friends.

I asked them how they pictured themselves answering that question with a knife to their throats.

Some answered by email, others by Facebook message. Each provided food for thought. And I must commend them for digging deep inside their souls to help provide their answers.

One of the first I received: “This is very hard. I have tears. No, I am crying … I want to scream yes to those butchers. I believe in Jesus Christ!!!! But when I think of never seeing my husband, my family, my grandchildren, my grandchildren to come, I have to pause. More tears … ”

Friend No. 2 wrote, “I believe each Christian would always be ready to say, ‘Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.’ However, after watching two beheadings on YouTube, it gave me pause for thought. How could I possibly endure torture and a painful, slow death for my beliefs? My next thought was, ‘But that’s what Jesus did for me. Would he expect any less of me?’ ”

Friend No. 3: “There is a peace I believe God gives you in that situation. Just as Jesus prayed in the garden, twice, to let this cup pass from his wrath … I might say the same prayer, but in the end I would submit to God’s plan.”

Friend No. 4: “This is, of course, an impossible question to answer. Under the circumstances, I cannot imagine what I would do … it is always easier to sit in your living room and be convinced of your own virtues under the proposed circumstance. I also know I can rationalize decisions and I can waffle between what I want I know to be true … I could see this part of me rationalizing that it’s more important for me to live for any or all of the following …” My friend named his wife, children, extended family and church.

“I have so much to live for that lying to people who want to kill me is easily excused … (But) the scenario you describe is no time for rationalizing. It is a test … I hope I would get it … I want to be counted among those who would forgo this life for the better eternity to come.”

“Last point,” he wrote. “Hearing about the death of these 21 men has mattered to me — and not for the reason the killers wanted. It encourages me to live a life worthy of my calling. They died for Christ. May I at least live for him?”

Friend No. 5 wrote, “In facing a gruesome, wicked, evil death, my faith would still be in God. I hope and trust that such a painful ordeal would be ultimately redeemed and used by God for his purposes. Therefore, such a death is not in vain.”

Friend No. 6 was equally sure of his answer: “Faith is all you have left in that situation. To reject your faith would leave you with nothing — even if you lived. I can say unequivocally I would not reject my belief in Christ. If I did, I would be dead even though I lived. The other thing I know is that I would not die passively. I would fight with all my being. I would not let them dictate the terms of my death.”

Friend No. 7: “When you reach the most terrifyingly vulnerable moment of your life, you’re stripped to nothing but the things no can take away … the core beliefs that have driven every decision you’ve ever made. Ultimately, I would rather die outwardly professing my faith, with my death serving as a testament to those beliefs …

“But then I think of my child, of helping teach him those beliefs … If being a coward and lying to save my life means I’ll have the opportunity to raise a Godly man, so be it … Maybe this isn’t the right answer. But doing the right thing often means forgoing interests of the present so you can protect interests of the future.”

Friend No. 8: “Thomas Babington Macaulay wrote, ‘And how can a man die better than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his Gods?’

“This world doesn’t afford many civilians the chance to die well for something that matters … it sounds cavalier, but I would be humbled and honored to be put in a situation where I had to choose between my life and the one thing that means most to me — my faith in Jesus Christ … I have a passion for this world, and ultimately the honestly amazing and blessed life that I’ve been given.

“I believe if he brings us to that place of choice, he gives us the grace to handle it if we remember that he is the ultimate source of everything … it’s not the end, it’s the beginning … let me go how he would take me, and let his will be done.”

This is what I believe: If I were put in that situation, I believe Jesus Christ would bathe me with a peace beyond human comprehension…

Those of us who were once Christians have asked the questions that Billy Watkins asks in his article. If it came to it, would we have been willing to die for Christ? Having grown up in a religious culture where persecution was touted as a sure sign of one’s faith, I had moments when I questioned whether I would stand up for Christ no matter what happened. Preaching on the street brought me into contact with people who wanted to do me bodily harm. One man deliberately aimed his truck at me, hoping to run me over. Over the corner curb he came, hoping to silence the Baptist street preacher. Fortunately, he missed.

christian martyrdom 2

In the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs is required reading. Written in 1563 by John Foxe, the book is “a polemical account of the sufferings of Protestants under the Catholic Church, with particular emphasis on England and Scotland.” The first edition of the book was titled “Actes and Monuments of these Latter and Perillous Days, Touching Matters of the Church.”

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs is often used to prove that true Christians have always been persecuted for their faith. If the book was made into a movie, many modern-day Evangelicals would refuse to watch it due its violence and gore.

The preface of the Christian Classics Ethereal Library edition of the book states:

After the Bible itself, no book so profoundly influenced early Protestant sentiment as the Book of Martyrs. Even in our time it is still a living force. It is more than a record of persecution. It is an arsenal of controversy, a storehouse of romance, as well as a source of edification.

These days, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs is not widely read outside of Evangelical, Baptist, Fundamentalist, Amish, and Mennonite circles. Part of the reason for this is because John Foxe’s credibility has been called into question. Wikipedia states:

The author’s credibility was challenged as soon as the book first appeared. Detractors accused Foxe of dealing falsely with the evidence, of misusing documents, and of telling partial truths. In every case that he could clarify, Foxe corrected errors in the second edition and third and fourth, final version (for him). In the early nineteenth century, the charges were taken up again by a number of authors, most importantly Samuel Roffey Maitland. Subsequently, Foxe was considered a poor historian, in mainstream reference works. The 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica accused Foxe of “wilful falsification of evidence”; two years later in the Catholic Encyclopedia, Francis Fortescue Urquhart wrote of the value of the documentary content and eyewitness reports, but claimed that Foxe “sometimes dishonestly mutilates his documents and is quite untrustworthy in his treatment of evidence”.

In contrast, J. F. Mozley maintained that Foxe preserved a high standard of honesty, arguing that Foxe’s method of using his sources “proclaims the honest man, the sincere seeker after truth. “The 2009 Encyclopædia Britannica notes that Foxe’s work is “factually detailed and preserves much firsthand material on the English Reformation unobtainable elsewhere.” It was typical, however, in the late nineteenth and early decades of the twentieth centuries to treat Foxe’s text as “not to be trusted….If not the father of lies, Foxe was thought to be the master of inventions, and so readers of the Encyclopedia [sic] Britannica were advised and warned.”

Foxe based his accounts of martyrs before the early modern period on previous writers, including Eusebius, Bede, Matthew Paris, and many others. He compiled an English martyrology from the period of the Lollards through to the persecution of Protestants by Mary I. Here Foxe had primary sources to draw on: episcopal registers, reports of trials, and the testimony of eyewitnesses. In the work of collection Foxe had Henry Bull as collaborator. The account of the Marian years is based on Robert Crowley’s 1559 extension of a 1549 chronicle history by Thomas Cooper, itself an extension of a work begun by Thomas Lanuet. Cooper (who became a Church of England Bishop) strongly objected to Crowley’s version of his history and soon issued two new “correct” editions. John Bale set Foxe onto martyrological writings and contributed to a substantial part of Foxe’s ideas as well as printed material.

Foxe’s book is in no sense an impartial account of the period. He did not hold to later centuries’ notions of neutrality or objectivity, but made unambiguous side glosses on his text, such as “Mark the apish pageants of these popelings” and “This answer smelleth of forging and crafty packing.” David Loades has suggested that Foxe’s history of the political situation, at least, is ‘remarkably objective’. He makes no attempt to make martyrs out of Wyatt and his followers, or anyone else who was executed for treason, except George Eagles, whom he describes as falsely accused.”

Sidney Lee, in the Dictionary of National Biography, called Foxe “a passionate advocate, ready to accept any primâ facie evidence”. Lee also listed some specific errors and suggested that John Foxe plagiarized. Thomas S. Freeman observes that, like a hypothetical barrister, Foxe had to deal with the evidence of what actually happened, evidence that he was rarely in a position to forge. But he would not present facts damaging to his client, and he had the skills that enabled him to arrange the evidence so as to make it conform to what he wanted it to say. Like the barrister, Foxe presents crucial evidence and tells a side of the story which must be heard, but his text should never be read uncritically, and his partisan objectives should always be kept in mind.”

By the end of the 17th century, however, the work tended to be abbreviated to include only ‘the most sensational episodes of torture and death’ thus giving to Foxe’s work ‘a lurid quality which was certainly far from the author’s intention’…

…Acts and Monuments was cannibalized for material to warn of the dangers of Papistry and, in Foxe’s name, also to undermine resurgent High Church Anglicanism. The author’s credibility and the text’s reliability became suspect, then, for both Catholic and Anglican Church defenders. Samuel Roffey Maitland, Richard Frederick Littledale as well as Robert Parsons and John Milner, mounted campaigns to disprove Foxe’s findings. Maitland’s and others’ critiques helped to awaken increasing antagonism toward intolerance in the public conscience. Combined with professionalized academic dissociation, left no voices to speak in Foxe’s defence, and reduced Foxe’s historical credibility such that “no one with any literary pretensions…ventured to quote Foxe as an authority.” John Milner, defender of the “old religion” (Catholicism), authored several tracts, pamphlets, essays, and Letters to the Editor: “Dear Sir…”; using all public means available to him for declaring that abuse of Englishmen was occurring “frequently”, ipso edem, the defamation and harassment of Catholics in England – a treatment not similarly visited on Sectarian communities or the Quakers.

Milner’s life project to discredit ‘Foxe’ was polemical—that was the point of arguing: to persuade people to see things as the speaker constructed or, at least, to seeing some merit to his case. Before the Houses of Parliament in the years of Milner’s and others activism, were bills for relieving English Catholics of tax penalties (for being Catholic), having to tithe to the Anglican Church, and relief from imposition of the Oath that stood between any Catholic and a government position.

While it is true that Christians throughout the 2,000-year history of the church have been martyred, it is also true that martyrdom stories have been grossly exaggerated, often little more than hagiography. Catholic scholar Candida Moss, former professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame, took a careful look at early Christian martyr stories in her book The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom.  (You can read my review of The Myth of Persecution hereHere’s an excerpt from my 2013 review:

…While Moss admits that Christians were persecuted on and off throughout the first 300 years of church history, she thoroughly debunks the claim that Christians were always persecuted. In fact, many of the instances of persecution were actually prosecutions…

…Throughout the book, Moss details how many of the source documents for the stories about Christian martyrs were embellished, and, at times, fabricated out of thin air.  Even some of the saints revered by the Catholic church have histories that call into question their authenticity. I was quite surprised and delighted that Moss, a professor at a Catholic university, did not shy away from the controversies surrounding the mythic stories of the Catholic church.

Moss also details how some of the ancient martyr stories were actually borrowed from other cultures and religious traditions. There were times when I thought Moss was stretching these connections a bit, but I found the chapter, Borrowing of Jewish and Pagan Traditions, to be quite fascinating…

While Billy Watkins ponders whether he would be willing to lay his neck on the line for Jesus, I want to ponder the notion of a God who asks his followers to die for him. While most of us can readily understand dying for the sake of family or trying to help our fellow man, what are we to make of a religion and a God that put great value on dying for one’s faith? While Christians will likely say that their martyrdom allows them to give a final testimony to God ‘s love and grace, I do wonder about a God who could save someone from having their head chopped off and does nothing. What would we think of a man who stood by while his wife or children were violently attacked and killed? Dying for one’s family is recognized by all to be a heroic act. But, dying for a religious belief? Wouldn’t it be better to lie and live than to tell the truth and die? Unlike the Muslim, the Christian martyr receives no special reward for dying. Why die when you can live?

christian martyrdom 3

At the heart of this discussion is the way Christians are conditioned to accept martyrdom. Church members are regaled with stories of Christians dying for their faith. Pastors preach inspiring sermons about the martyrdom stories in the Bible, complete with modern-day illustrations of Christians dying for their faith. Christians are reminded of the greatest martyr of all time, Jesus. If Jesus willingly died for us, shouldn’t we be willing to die for him? says the local Baptist preacher. And all God’s people said, AMEN!

I wonder if these stories would be enthusiastically believed if church members found out many of them are lies or half-truths? Pastors remind their flocks that True Christians® must be willing to die for their faith. These pro-martyrdom pastors subtly suggest that a person who cowers when faced with martyrdom should not expect forgiveness or a home in Heaven when they die. God is the giver and taker of life, and if he wants to have a Christian’s head lopped off, dare anyone object? The Apostle Paul made it clear that God has a right to do whatever he wants with the Christian’s life:

 Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? Romans 9:20-21

Well, I object. There is no religious belief worth dying for. I question what kind of God would do such a thing to someone he calls his child? I know I would do everything in my power to keep my wife, children, and grandchildren from being harmed, even if it meant losing my own life. It seems quite perverse to me for a God or a religion to ask or demand someone’s death just so the world can see their faith. Wouldn’t LIVING by faith be a better testimony than DYING for faith?

What I have written here should not be taken as a dismissal of the persecution many Middle Eastern Christians face on a daily basis. I abhor all such killing and fully support efforts to put an end to such needless bloodshed. The goal should be for everyone, regardless of belief, to worship freely without the threat of harm or death. The children of Abraham – Christianity, Islam, and Judaism – have histories soaked in the blood of their followers. Perhaps it is time for them to quit trying to subjugate one another. Perhaps it is time to put an end to jihads, crusades, and holy wars. Two thousand years of bloodshed lead me to believe that there must be a better way. Perhaps it is time for peaceful co-existence, leaving it to God to settle matters after death.

As an atheist, I am greatly troubled to see people give their lives for a religious belief. Knowing that the God they are dying for doesn’t exist, I am pained to see them sacrifice everything for nothing. We should weep when we see the young offered up to God as sweet-smelling sacrifice. Is such a God worthy of worship? I think not. Life is worth living, even if it means, in the moment, lying about one’s faith. Christians need to reorder their importance list, moving God down the list behind family. If death comes in protection of one’s loved ones, so be it. But to die for a religious belief, to satisfy the blood lust of the Christian God? Can we even fathom such an abhorrent demand? I know I can’t.

But Bruce, you are not a Christian. How dare you tell Christians what should be important to them! I am not doing so. I am, however, asking them to question their belief in a God who demands his followers be willing to die for him. I am asking them to reconsider what it is that is most important to them.  If the Christian is still willing to die for their faith/God, fine. But they should not expect me to rejoice over their death or understand their motives.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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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Does Anyone Have God-Given Talent?

without me ye can do nothing

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

A boy dreams of being a major league baseball player someday. His parents were both athletes in their younger years, having some success at the high school and college level,

As a youth, he grows quickly, seemingly always a head taller than everyone else. He seems more agile than others his age. He is fast on his feet, quick with his mind, and excels at the game of baseball.

Tee-Ball. Little League. Pony League. High School Baseball. College Baseball.

At every level, he excels.

Finally, his big day comes.

A Major League baseball team makes him their number one draft pick.

It’s not long before he works his way through the minor leagues, and two years after being drafted he makes his Major League début.

He is an instant sensation, quickly showing everyone that he is an all-star in the making.

One night, during a game where he went 4-4, hit a home run, drove in 3 runs, and stole a base, the TV broadcaster explains the greatness of this talented baseball player.

He has a God-given talent to play like he does.

Nary a person will question such an utterance.

It seems if people excel in life, it is because God has blessed them or God has given them a special dose of talent.

Few are the people who excel in life. Most of us have a few things we are good at and we try to nurture those things the best we can. We know we will not be remembered for any great feat, nor will the record books make any mention of us. We live, we love, we die, and then we are forgotten.

It would seem that God doesn’t want most of us to be standouts or superstars. Evidently, God only has a chosen few he blesses with God-given talent.

How does the nontheist explain the baseball player mentioned above? If it is not God-given talent what is it?

Genetics.

Home environment.

Passion.

Hard work.

Training.

Coaches.

Scouts.

Luck.

All of these are better explanations than God-given talent.

We demean people when we reduce their hard work to something God gives them. The few things I am good at in life are the result of my diligence, commitment, and hard work. Granted, these things come easy for me, BUT I still work hard to cultivate and improve the talents I have. I suspect it is the same for you too.

I am all for giving credit to whom credit is due. However, God is not on the credit list.

The all-star baseball player helps propel the home team to the World Series. The team handily wins the series and the little boy, now a grown-up all-star player, is voted the series’ most valuable player.

As he is interviewed after the last game of the series, he says “I want to thank God ____________________.”

And I say to myself or the TV, No I want to thank YOU. Thank you for playing hard. Thank you for hustling on every play. Thank you for working hard every day to be the very best player you could be.

Video Link

This subject reminds me of my all-time favorite TV prayer. Jimmy Stewart, in the movie Shenandoah, uttered the following prayer at the dinner table:

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

And all the atheists said AMEN.

all things made by god

Many Christians have been taught that without God/Jesus they can do nothing. Their very breath and motor skills come from God. God feeds them, clothes them, gives them a job, gives them a spouse, gives them children, and gives them, well gives them everything. Jesus said in John 15:5, without me ye can do nothing. Many Christian take this verse to mean that without Jesus they can do absolutely NOTHING. Technically, they don’t really believe this. After all, they do sin. Does God give them the power and ability to sin? Well, that’s different, Bruce. Sin comes from Satan or the flesh. God, who created everything and gives us the breath of life and the ability to exist, gets the credit for the good, but not the bad, right? Good=God, Bad=Satan and the Flesh. But, if God is sovereign, if he is the creator of everything, isn’t he also responsible for sin and the bad things that happen? I thought God has the whole world in his hands and the universe exists because of him?

I am all for giving credit to whom credit is due. If someone can show me God did this or that or God gave so-and-so talent, then I will gladly give God the credit. One question. Which God? How do we know it is the Christian God handing out the talent? Does the Christian God put a Made by Jesus label on those he gives talent to? So many questions . . .

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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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What One Catholic Doctor Taught Me About Christianity

william fiorini
Dr. William Fiorini

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

In the 1960s, the Gerencser family moved to California, the land of promise and a pot of gold at the end of every rainbow. Like many who traveled west, my parents found out that life in San Diego was not much different from the life they left in rural northwest Ohio. As in Ohio, my Dad worked sales jobs and drove truck. For the Gerencser family, the pot of gold was empty, and three or so years later we left California and moved back to Bryan, Ohio.

While moving to California and back proved to be a financial disaster for my parents, they did find Jesus at Scott Memorial Baptist Church in San Diego — a fundamentalist church pastored by Tim LaHaye. Both of my parents made professions of faith at Scott Memorial, as did I when I was five years old. From that point forward, the Gerencser family, no matter where we lived, attended an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church.

Not only were my parents Fundamentalist Baptists, they were also members of the John Birch Society. While in California, my Mom actively campaigned for Barry Goldwater, and later, back in Ohio, she campaigned for George Wallace. Right-wing religious and political beliefs were very much a part of my young life, so it should come as no surprise that I turned out to be a fire-breathing right-wing Republican and a Fundamentalist Baptist preacher.

If the Baptist church taught me anything, it taught me to hate Catholics. According to my Sunday School teachers and pastors, and later my college professors and ministerial colleagues, the Catholic church was the whore of Babylon, a false church, the church of Satan and the Antichrist. I was taught that Catholics believed in salvation by works and believed many things that weren’t found in the Bible; things such as: purgatory, church magisterium, Pope is the Vicar of Christ, transubstantiation, infant baptism, confirmation, priests not permitted to marry, praying to statutes, worshiping the dead, and worshiping Mary. These things were never put in any sort of historical context for me, so by the time I left Midwestern Baptist College in 1979, I was a certified hater of all things Catholic.

In 1991, something happened that caused me to reassess my view of Catholics. My dogma ran head-on into a Catholic that didn’t fit my narrow, bigoted beliefs. In 1989, our fourth child and first daughter was born. We named her Bethany. Our family doctor was William Fiorini. He operated the Somerset Medical Clinic in Somerset, Ohio, the same town where I pastored an IFB church. Dr. Fiorini was a devout Catholic, a post-Vatican II Catholic who had been greatly influenced by the charismatic revival that swept through the Catholic church in the 1970s and 1980s. He was a kind and compassionate man. He knew our family didn’t have insurance or much money, and more than a few times the treatment slip turned in after a visit said N/C (no charge).

Bethany seemed quite normal at first. It wasn’t until she was sixteen months old that we began to see things that worried us. Her development was slow and she couldn’t walk. One evening, we drove over to Charity Baptist Church in Beavercreek, Ohio to attend a Bible conference. The woman watching the nursery asked us about Bethany having Down Syndrome. Down Syndrome? Our little girl wasn’t retarded. How dare this woman even suggest that there was something wrong with our daughter.

Bethany continued to struggle, reaching development stages months after infants and toddlers typically do. Finally, we went to see Dr. Fiorini. He suggested that we have Bethany genetically tested. We took her over to Ohio State University Hospital for the test and a few weeks later, just days before Bethany’s second birthday and the birth of our daughter Laura, we received a phone call from Dr. Fiorini. He told us the test results were back and he wanted to talk to us about them. He told us to come to his office after he finished seeing patients for the day and he would sit down and talk with us about the test results.

The test showed that Bethany had Down Syndrome. Her Down Syndrome features were so mild that the obstetrician missed the signs when she was born. Here we were two years later finding out that our oldest daughter had a serious mental handicap. Our Catholic doctor, a man I thought was a member of the church Satan built and headed for hell, sat down with us, and with great love and compassion shared the test results. He told us that many miscarriages are fetuses with Down Syndrome, and that it was evident that God wanted to bless us with a special child like Bethany. He answered every question and treated us as he would a member of his own family.

This Catholic didn’t fit my narrow, bigoted picture of what a Catholic was. Here was a man who loved people, who came to an area that had one of the highest poverty and unemployment rates in Ohio, and started a one-doctor practice. (He later added a Nurse practitioner, a nun who treated us when we couldn’t get in to see the doctor.) He worked selflessly to help everyone he could. On more than one occasion, I would pass him on the highway as his wife shuttled him from Zanesville to Lancaster — the locations of the nearest hospitals. Often, he was slumped over and asleep in the passenger’s seat. He was the kind of doctor who gave me his home phone number and said to call him if I ever needed his help. He told us there was no need to take our kids to the emergency room for stitches or broken bones. He would gladly stitch them up, even if we didn’t have an appointment.

Dr. Fiorini wasn’t perfect. One time, he almost killed me. He regularly treated me for throat infections, ear infections, and the like. Preaching as often as I did, I abused my voice box and throat. I also have enlarged adenoids and tonsils, and I breathe mostly through my mouth. As a result, I battled throat and voice problems my entire preaching career. One day, I came to see Dr. Fiorini for yet a-n-o-t-h-e-r throat infection. He prescribed an antibiotic and told me to take it easy. He knew, like himself, I was a workaholic and would likely ignore his take-it-easy advice. Take the drug, wait a few weeks, and just like always I would be good as new. However, this time it didn’t work. Over the course of two months, as I got sicker and sicker, he tried different treatments. Finally, he did some additional testing and found out I had mononucleosis; the kissing disease for teens, a deadly disease for a thirty-four-year-old man. Two days later, I was in the hospital with a 104 degree fever, a swollen spleen and liver, and an immune system on the verge of collapse.

An internist came in to talk with my wife and me. He told us that if my immune system didn’t pick up and fight there was nothing he could do. Fortunately, my body fought back and I am here to write about it. My bout with mononucleosis dramatically altered my immune system, making me susceptible to bacterial and viral infection. A strange result of the mononucleosis was that my normal body temperature dropped from 98.6 to 97.0. I lost 50 pounds and was unable to preach for several months.

Once I was back on my feet, Dr. Fiorini apologized to me for missing the mononucleosis. I was shocked by his admission. He showed me true humility by admitting his mistake. I wish I could say that I immediately stopped hating Catholics and condemning them to Hell, but it would be several years before I finally came to the place where I embraced everyone who called themselves a Christian. In late 1990s, while pastoring Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio, I embraced what is commonly called the social gospel. Doctrine no longer mattered to me. Moving from a text-oriented belief system, I began to focus on good works. Tell me how you live. Better yet, show me; and in the showing, a Catholic doctor taught me what it really meant to be a Christian.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

Rebecca Davis Worried About Her Lustful Four-Year-Old Ogling A Woman Wearing a Bikini

hannah davis sports illustrated
Hannah Davis, 2015 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Model

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Rebecca Davis works for the American Family Association (AFA). She is the assistant editor of The Stand, the official whine and outrage newsletter of the AFA. Several years ago, she wrote an eye-opening article about her 4-year-old’s propensity to lust after women in bathing suits and lingerie. While she denies that she is saying her little boy lusts, her article suggests otherwise (link no longer active):

It is almost swimsuit season. There are a number of adjectives I could use to describe my disdain for this time of year. Itsy-bitsy and teeny-weeny are two of them.

No, I’m not a prude, and no, I’m not bitter because I don’t have the perfect figure. I have never been Ms. Skinny Mini, and after having two babies and holding on to an extra 10 pounds each time, I probably never will be. But that’s not really the reason I dread swimsuit season.

Actually, summer is one of my favorite times of year. I enjoy taking our son to the pool. He begs year-round to go the beach.

But the older he gets, the more difficult it becomes to take him to the beach … to the grocery story, to the mall, even to church at times. His eyes are constantly surveying his surroundings, and many times he sees entirely too much.

Although he is only four years old, his little mind is wired to be visual. The dominant perceptual sense in men is vision. God made males that way for a reason, and I’m thankful he did.

There are a number of studies and findings that conclude male brains are more visually stimulated than the female brain. It’s a fact that my son’s actions prove true, even at such a young age.

For example, from the time he was about two years old, if we were in a store and simply walked past the lingerie section, he would point and say “Mama.” Now, it’s all I can do to keep his eyes from innocently zoning in on the window displays when we walk rather hurriedly past Victoria’s Secret.

For several months now, I have been receiving issues of Glamour magazine in the mail. I have no idea why. Somehow I became a subscriber to the magazine. (I have tried to cancel my unwanted subscription but that’s another story.) An issue came in the mail; I accidently left it facedown on the counter before putting it in the garbage can. I was in the kitchen cooking and noticed my son sitting at the counter staring at a scantily clad woman on the back cover. My heart sank.

Then it wasn’t long after that he was with me in a beauty-supply store. I was down on my knees examining some shampoo (for color-treated hair, I admit) when my son picked up a small promotional card off the nearby shelf, handed it to me, and said, “Mama, look!” The card pictured an outstretched woman in a seductive pose wearing a skimpy swimsuit. Again, my heart sank.

Let me make a very clear disclaimer at this point. My son is only four years old. In no way am I implying that his observations are sexual in nature. They are not. His reactions are natural – not lustful – responses to the way his brain is wired.

I use the above examples to show just how powerful a female’s attire can be over males of all ages.

When my son sees a woman wearing clothes that barely cover her body, be it in a picture or in person, he always asks, “Mama, why are they dressed that way?”

I’m thankful for his questions; they make for good teachable moments. I’m thankful that seeing women dressed immodestly is not the norm for him right now. I want it to stay that way, but the reality is it won’t.

So, as his mother, how can I protect him? How can I teach him to channel the wirings of his little brain through a biblical worldview? How can I keep his mind, heart and body pure for his future wife, if the Lord wills him to marry one day? More than that, how can I encourage him to live a daily life of purity out of love and honor for God?

Honestly, I don’t have the answers to all these questions. I am learning that parenting is a day-by-day journey. Some days I do it right; some days I do it wrong. But thankfully God is a God of grace and mercy.

One thing I do know is that, with my husband, we can make an extra effort to keep our son’s eyes from seeing the immodest pattern of this world by monitoring what he watches, changing the channel if need be, diverting his attention elsewhere when in public, and having open and honest dialogue with him when he does have questions about what he sees. Our aim is to always do so out of honor, never out of shame.

We can also show him the importance of modesty by the way I dress and by the way we dress his little sister.

And I can encourage you, ladies, to be intentional about what you wear (or don’t wear) to the beach or pool this summer.

If nothing else, be mindful of your appearance for the sake of my son … your son or someone else’s son.  Actually, keep all men in mind! You may have no idea what you do to them – and to yourself – when you wear a bikini or expose yourself in other ways…

In the past, I have detailed how women in Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) churches are blamed for the lustful thoughts of teenage boys. Rebecca Davis, an Evangelical, does the same. Her poor little boy already has a wandering eye, and it is up to the women of the world to keep him from lusting. He can’t help himself, Davis says, because his mind is wired for the visual. It’s just how males are. (Of course, she refuses to accept this exact same argument when it comes to homosexuality.)

I suspect most readers will think Davis’s article is ignorant and silly. And it is, but millions of Christians think like this. Taught that their sexuality must be repressed, is it any surprise that 4-year-old Evangelical boys grow into sexually dysfunctional 20-year-old toddlers? Years ago, I was the co-pastor of Community Baptist Church in Elmendorf, Texas. One prayer meeting night, a woman came up and scolded us for letting our girls sleep on the church floor with their panties exposed. That’s right, little girls sleeping with their panties exposed were a problem. I think she expected me to immediately get the girls off the floor. Instead, I curtly told her, don’t look. Were there pedophiles in the church I didn’t know about? Maybe. Was she afraid that teenage boys would see panties and lust? Perhaps. I suppose if some teenage boy lusted, it would be our four- and two-year-old daughters’ fault, right?

While Evangelicals want to point to the “world” and blame it for sexualizing everything, it is those who adhere to the sexual mores of the Bible who have done so. They are the ones who have turned a woman’s breast into a sex object that must be covered up at all times. They are the ones who focus on cleavage, legs, asses, and the female shape in general. Cover up, women are told. Hide your feminine figure. If left to people such as Davis, the human race would perish. Sexual attraction and desire are n-o-r-m-a-l and healthy. It’s the Bible that is out of step with what it means to be human. From Genesis to Revelation, God demands that humans deny their sexuality. I thought God made us sexual beings? It seems strange that he would create us with sexual desires and then say it is a sin if we act on them. Well, maybe not. This is the same God, after all, who created some of us just so he could damn us and torture us in the Lake of Fire for eternity.

So, what do you think? Will Rebecca Davis’s four-year-old son turn into a horn-dog Evangelical teenager a decade from now? If he finds himself uncontrollably lusting after women, who will be blamed? Perhaps, thanks to being taught to Just Say No, he gets the deacon’s daughter pregnant. Whose fault will this be? Again, the Bible is not the answer. Children and teenagers need to be taught the facts of life. As they get older, they need to be taught sexual responsibility. Since most church teenagers engage in some sort of sexual activity before marriage, isn’t it in their best interest to make sure they know how to use birth control? Instead of telling them THE BIBLE SAYS, how about doses of common sense and honest instruction about sex? Instead of teaching them masturbation is a sin, how about teaching them that self-pleasuring is a way to release sexual tension. Better to spank the monkey than get the deacon’s daughter pregnant.

We should pity Evangelical teen boys and men who must go through life with blinders on lest they ravage the first woman they see in tight shorts. Instead of enjoying the beauty of God’s creation, they are taught the human body is shameful and should only be uncovered in darkness after marriage. While I am not suggesting we all turn into naturalists, surely a man can be in the same room with women to whom he might be attracted and not turn into the First Baptist Rapist.

Physical attraction is normal and healthy. I am a married man, happily so for almost 42 years. I love my wife and she is my one and only. Until death do us part, I am hers and she is mine. That’s the commitment we made to one another one hot July day in 1978. Does this commitment mean we can no longer walk down the store aisle and check out the goods? Is Polly being unfaithful if she says Matt Bomer, Sean Connery, or Daniel Craig is attractive? Am I being unfaithful when I admire another woman’s beauty? Of course not. We are confident in our ability to control our sexual desires.

When I was a fifteen-year-old boy, I was standing outside Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio with a group of Baptist Bible Fellowship preachers. I was in heaven just being around these renowned men of God. Well, preacher men are just like factory men, and when they are around their own, they will let down their guard and talk like one of the boys. One preacher made a joke about Jesus’s command, “but I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”  He said, the first look is not a sin, the second one is. Just make sure the first look is a long one. Everyone laughed. Great advice for a sexually aware 15-year-old preacher boy, right?

Forget the Bible and religion for a moment and think about this issue from a scientific perspective. Where would the human race be if males and females were not attracted to one another? This attraction is vital to the propagation and future of our species. We can talk about inner beauty and loving someone for their mind, but the fact is, for those of us in a relationship with another, it was sexual attraction that first brought us together. There were plenty of women I could have dated while a student at Midwestern Baptist College. Why did I decide to ask 17-year-old Polly Shope out on a date? She was and is a beautiful woman, but there were other beautiful women at the college. Why was she the one? Biology? Chemistry? Fate?

Here’s what I know: every relationship begins with a look. Hmm, that’s a nice-looking man or woman. Have you ever seen couples that you wonder how they were attracted to one another? You know, the drop-dead gorgeous woman with the guy who looks like he just spent the last month homeless, living on the street. I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that sexual attraction is key to our relationship with our significant other. Yes, given time, the relationship becomes far more than sexual attraction, but few relationships start without it. (I speak broadly, knowing that people can and do enter relationships for reasons other than sexual attraction.)

Instead of asking everyone to cover up for the sake of her son, perhaps Davis should focus on helping him grow into a sexually responsible man. I wouldn’t be worrying about the things Davis seems preoccupied with for my 4-year-old son. I’d be more worried about a four-year-old plugging up the toilet with army men or Legos or sticking a kitchen knife in an electrical plug than I would a woman in a bikini causing him to have inappropriate thoughts. If Davis is concerned about the bikini effect, perhaps she should pay attention to her husband’s eyes.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

Bruce, I’m Afraid I will Become an Atheist

bible made me an atheist
Comic by Mike Stanfill

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

You want out. You know the religious community you’re a part of is not good for you. You know that your pastor thinks he speaks for God, and you have come to see the arrogance of such a claim. Your gut is screaming to you RUN! RUN!RUN! but you are afraid.

You fear God will chastise or kill you for your rebellion. You fear losing your spouse, children, extended family, and friends. You fear losing the close connection you have with those you go to church with.

As many do, you search the internet for answers. Perhaps a Google search has brought you to this blog. Much of what I write resonates with you. You find yourself nodding and saying amen. But . . .

I am an atheist.  Atheists are routinely despised and hated in America. While my writing makes sense to you, you fear becoming like me. You fear that if you truly embrace what your heart/mind is telling you, you might become an atheist. And this scares the shit out you.

I wish I had comforting words to share with you, but I don’t. This blog does not exist for the purpose of converting Christians to atheists. I have no interest in being an evangelist for atheism. I am far more interested in helping those who have been hurt by religion, people who want a way out, but can’t seem to find it. At best, I am a facilitator, one who helps others as they journey through life.

My journey has brought me from Evangelicalism to atheism. Much like many Christians-turned-atheists, my journey had a lot of stops before I reached the conclusion that I was an atheist. For a time, I was a liberal Christian, then a universalist, and later an agnostic. Each and every step of the journey was/is difficult. Atheism and humanism are where I finally found the peace and purpose I was looking for. Your journey may not be the same as mine, and that’s okay.

I want to encourage you to continue to walk forward. Listen and read. Investigate. Challenge. Question. Be skeptical. When you come to what seems to be a resting place, ask yourself, why am I stopping here? Can I live with where I am? Do I have peace? Does this make sense to me?

Many have run from Fundamentalism only to find themselves tangled up in a less aggressive form of Christianity. They abandon the social Fundamentalism of their previous churches, only to find themselves ensnared by the same theological Fundamentalism they left. (See Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?)

Some people find rest and peace in liberal/progressive Christianity. Others find that liberal Christianity is just a temporary stop along the slippery slope of reason. Many people, unwilling to abandon spirituality altogether, join groups such as the Unitarian Universalist church or one of the many “spiritual” religions of the world.

Some, like me, keep on traveling until they embrace agnosticism or atheism. They have let reason guide them every step of the way. Are they more enlightened than others are? No. While I have no need for a deity or a religion, I recognize that many people do. In their darkest moments, many people need a God to cling to, a transcendent being who gives them hope. I do not consider such people ignorant or foolish. If that is what gets them through the night, who am I to object? As long as their religion is kept within the walls of their home or church, they will get no argument from me.

Every one of us is on a journey through life. We know where we have been, we know where we are, but we do not know where we will end up. If you had told me twenty years ago that I would not be a pastor and that I would be an atheist, I would have laughed uncontrollably at such a foolish notion. Yet, here I am, an atheist.

I do think that religious Fundamentalism is a pernicious evil that we should work very hard to eradicate. It is alarming to what degree Christian Fundamentalists control the Federal government these days. It is in everyone’s best interest to neuter religious Fundamentalism wherever it is found. When Fundamentalists gain political power, freedoms are lost and people die.

This blog is meant to be a bright flashing light along the journey of life. It says to Evangelicals that there is deliverance from the bondage they are in. You need not fear becoming an atheist. No one will try to convert you. You WILL be challenged and encouraged to exercise reason as you continue your journey, however there are no altar calls at my church. Read, study, and ask questions. Don’t be afraid to go off the beaten path. Sometimes, in an out-of-the-way place, you will find what you are looking for.

Here is the gist of what I am saying in this post. I don’t care one bit whether you become an atheist. I want to help facilitate your journey. I want to encourage you to walk openly, with honesty and integrity. Remember the old church song, Where He Leads I will Follow? Instead of God leading the way, let reason and evidence lead the way. Be willing to investigate and challenge everything you say you believe.

Yes, you MIGHT end up becoming an atheist, and if you do, I will gladly welcome you to the club of the damned. However, maybe you will stop somewhere else on the road of life, and as long as you have walked openly, with honesty and integrity, I will say, good for you.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

The Voices of Atheism: Dying Out Loud by Dave Warnock

This is the latest installment in The Voices of Atheism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. Know of a good video that espouses atheism/agnosticism or challenges the claims of the Abrahamic religions? Please email me the name of the video or a link to it. I believe this series will be an excellent addition to The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser.

Thank you in advance for your help.

Today’s video features a Freethought Matters interview of Dave Warnock. Dave is a former charismatic Evangelical pastor. Currently, Dave is battling Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Video

Video Link

What Motivated Me to Work so Hard for Jesus

working for jesus

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected

It all started with my belief that the Bible was the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. I considered the Bible the road map for navigating through a Satan-dominated, sin-plagued world. The Bible, along with the Holy Spirit who lived inside of me, was my God’s way of speaking to me and telling me what to do

According to how Evangelicals interpret the Protestant Bible, every person is a vile sinner under the just condemnation of God, deserving eternal punishment in Hell/Lake of Fire. The Bible also says that God graciously provides a way for us to have our sins forgiven and avoid eternal punishment. God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to the earth to be the final atonement for our sins. Jesus Christ died on a Roman cross, and three days later rose again from the dead, conquering death and the grave. Our salvation and eternal destiny rest squarely on the merit and work of Jesus. He, and he alone, is the way, truth, and life. Through the preaching of the Word (the Bible) and the work of the Holy Spirit, God calls out to sinners, saying, repent and believe the gospel. Those who hear his voice are gloriously saved and made part of the family of God.

The Bible taught me that as a God-called, God-ordained minister of the gospel, I had the solemn obligation to preach the good news to everyone. Work for the night is coming. Leave everything for the sake of the gospel. Only one life twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ. These clichés were not mere words to me. They were clarion calls to forsake all, including my family and economic security, and follow Jesus.

Every church I attended, every youth group I was a part of, and every summer youth camp I went to, reinforced the belief that God wanted (demanded) one hundred percent of me. All to Jesus I surrender, All to Him I freely give, says the old gospel song, I Surrender All. I went to an Evangelical Bible college to train for the ministry. Every class curriculum, every professor, every chapel speaker shouted out to students:

Souls for Jesus is our battle cry.
Souls for Jesus is our battle cry.
We never will give in while souls are lost in sin
Souls for Jesus is our battle cry.

My wife went to college to get an Mrs. degree. She believed God wanted her to marry a preacher. Polly knew that she would have to make sacrifices for the sake of her husband’s call. She was taught that Jesus, the ministry, and the church came first. She was also taught that her husband was specially chosen by God to proclaim the good news of the gospel. She was encouraged to read biographies of great men and women of faith to learn how to deal with being married to a man of God. Polly and I entered marriage and the ministry knowing God had called us to a life of self-denial and devotion to the work of the ministry. Hand in hand, we embraced the work we believed God had set before us.

I consider 1983-1994 to be the high point of my ministerial career. I pastored a growing, busy Evangelical church. Sinners were being saved, baptized, and joining the church. Backsliders were being reclaimed. God was smiling on our work. Not only was this my observation, but it was the observation of my colleagues in the ministry. God was doing something special at Somerset Baptist Church.

During this time, I did a lot of preaching.  A typical week for me looked something like this:

  • Jail ministry on Tuesday
  • Nursing home ministry on Wednesday
  • Midweek service on Thursday
  • Street preaching 2-3 days a week
  • Teaching the adult Sunday school class
  • Preaching twice on Sunday

We also had a tuition-free Christian academy, open only to the children of church members. In addition to my busy church preaching schedule, I held revival services and preached at bible conferences and pastor’s fellowships. I was motivated by what I believed the Bible taught me about the work of the ministry.  I looked at the life of the apostles and thought that they were a pattern to follow. Run the race, Paul told me, I. I was totally committed to what I believed was God’s calling on my life.

Some Christians object and say “you are the one who worked yourself to death. Don’t blame the Church or God. OUR pastor doesn’t work this way. He takes time for his family. Blah. Blah Blah.” Even now, as an atheist, I find such objections lame. If the Bible is true, if what it says about God, sin, salvation, death, Hell, and Heaven is true, how dare any preacher or any Christian for that matter, treat the gospel of Jesus Christ so carelessly.  How dare any preacher not burn himself out for the sake of those in need of salvation. No time for busywork. No time for golfing with your fellow preachers.

More than a few pastors are lazy hirelings who do just enough to keep from getting fired. They pastor a church for two or three years, wear out their welcome, and then move on down the road to another church. I have no respect for pastors who defend their laziness by stressing the importance of balance in their lives. Where do they find such a notion in the Bible they say they believe? Jesus doesn’t call them to balance. He calls them to forsake all and follow him.

One of the reasons I see Christianity as a bankrupt religion is the lackadaisical approach Christians and their spiritual leaders have towards matters that supposedly have eternal consequences. Most of what goes on in the average church is meaningless bullshit. Call a business meeting to decide on the color of the paint for the nursery walls and everyone shows up. Implore people to come out for church visitation and the same three or four people show up.

Why should I take the Bible, God, Jesus, salvation, Heaven or Hell seriously when most Christians and pastors live lives that suggest they don’t. It took leaving the Christian church and leaving the ministry for me to realize that most of what I was chasing after was nothing more than a fool’s errand. Many of the ex-ministers who read this blog know what I am talking about. So much of life wasted, and for what? Too bad I had to be fifty years old before I realized what life is all about. Too bad I sacrificed my health on the altar of the eternal before I realized that there is no eternity, just the here and now.

From a psychological perspective, I understand that my type-A, workaholic personality made it easy for me to be the preacher I came to be. Whether it was pastoring churches or managing restaurants, I worked day and night, rarely taking time off for family or leisure. I still have the same tendencies, the difference now being that the list of things that matter to me is very small. Polly matters. Family matters. My neighbors matter. But matters of eternity, Heaven, and Hell? Nary a thought these days. If the Christian God exists, then I am screwed, and more than a few of the readers of this blog are too. However, I don’t think the Christian version of God exists, so I am investing all my time, money, and talent — how many times did you hear that phrase in a sermon? — on the only life I have — this one. I will leave it up to the gods and my family to do what they will with me after I am dead. Of course, depending on what happens to me after death, I could come back from the dead and write a book titled, “Heaven is for Real and Boy are the Atheists In Trouble.”

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

Songs of Sacrilege: The Spirit Bears The Curse by Derek Webb

derek webb

This is the one hundred seventy-fourth 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 Songs of Sacrilege is The Spirit Bears The Curse by Derek Webb. Webb, formerly part of Contemporary Christian Music group Caedmon’s Call, is now an unbeliever. The song “sounds” like a praise and worship song until the end, and then takes an interesting turn.

Video Link

Lyrics

help me to forget
all of my regret
i know you’re strong enough to do the job
you go by many names
forever stay the same
your promises i claim
you’re all i’ve got

we gather here because we know
there’s nowhere else that we can go
where we can be really free

so we raise our voice
we raise an offering
would you come near
and quench our thirst
oh, lift our hearts
as the spirit bears the curse

oh, we depend on you
we know that you’ll come through
we feel it instantly when you move
it’s more than chemistry
more than community
you enter into me
you’re in my veins

you bear the weight of all our grief
uncertainty and unbelief
oh, you restore our sanity

so we raise our voice
we raise an offering
would you come near
and quench our thirst
oh, lift our hearts
as the spirit bears the curse

now my knees are weak
my speech is slurred
oh, the things you shake
oh, the things you stir
i am calling out the only name
that delivers me from my guilt and shame

oh, alcohol
alcohol
oh, alcohol
we raise our voices for alcohol
alcohol
an offering for alcohol
alcohol
oh, alcohol
oh, alcohol

Songs of Sacrilege: Revelation 22:20 by Puscifer

puscifer

This is the latest 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 Revelation 22:20 by Puscifer.

Video Link

Lyrics

Don’t be aroused by my confession
Unless you don’t give a good goddamn about redemption, I know
Christ is comin’ and so am I
You would too if this sexy devil caught your eye

She’ll suck you dry
And still you’ll cry to be back in her bosom
To do it again
She’ll make you weep
And moan and cry to be back in her bosom
To do it again

(Pray)
‘Til I go blind
(Pray)
‘Cause nobody ever survives
Prayin’ to stay in her arms just until I can die a little longer
Saviors and saints, devils and heathens alike
She’ll eat you alive

Jesus is risen, it’s no surprise
Even he would martyr his mama to ride to hell between those thighs
The pressure is building at the base of my spine
If I gotta sin to see her again then I’m gonna lie, lie, lie

She’ll make you cry
I’ll sell my soul to be back in your bosom
Gladly now please suck me dry
And still you’ll cry to be back in her bosom
To do it again

(Pray)
‘Til I go blind
(Pray)
‘Cause nobody ever survives
Prayin’ to stay in her arms just until I can die a little longer
Saviors and saints, devils and heathens alike
She’ll eat you alive

My pulse has been rising, my temples are pounding
The pressure is so overwhelming and building
So steady there, Freddy, I’m ready to blow
What is she, what is she, what is she waiting for?

(Pray)
(Pray)
(Pray)
(Pray)

(Pray)
‘Til I go blind
(Pray)
‘Cause nobody ever survives
(Pray) Prayin’ to stay in her arms just until I can die a little longer
Saviors and saints, devils and heathens alike
She’ll eat you alive