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How I Answer Theistic Arguments For the Existence of a God

monotheism

Many atheists are anti-theists — those who actively oppose theism. I have friends who are anti-theists. I fully understand why they are, and as long as they are civil in their public interactions with theists, I have no objection. Sadly, way too many anti-theists spend their waking hours on social media engaging in shit-throwing contests with Fundamentalists affiliated with the Abrahamic religions. I do understand why atheists get into such contests. Tired of being pushed around and battered by religious zealots, these angry atheists push back, if for no other reason than the good feeling they get from doing so. Religious zealots do the same, thinking that their petty, shallow attacks will put godless heathens in their place.

I walked away from Christianity in November of 2008. Since that time, I have spent a considerable amount of time telling my story and critiquing Evangelical Christianity. As long-time readers know, I have been repeatedly savaged by zealots who object to my writing. One Christian man even went so far as to threaten to slit my throat. Several Christians have suggested I commit suicide. Other “loving” Christians have called on God to judge me swiftly, hoping that I die a painful death. Some Evangelicals have even threatened my wife, children, grandchildren, and my daughter with Down syndrome. I have had enemies who, using my name, set up fake social media accounts, hoping to screw with me and my friends. I am no longer on social media thanks to abuse from Evangelical zealots.

As a public figure â€”  who just so happens to be a former Evangelical pastor and an atheist — I know that public (and private) attacks come with the territory. I am willing to bear the brunt of these attacks because of the good accomplished through my writing.

One of the troubling aspects of the past fourteen years is having to deal with atheists who don’t think I am the right kind of atheist. I have had atheists — who are anti-theists — demand that I stop “coddling” Christians. They don’t like the fact that I tend to be an accommodationist when it comes to religion. I firmly believe that not all religions are the same; that there are some expressions of religion and spirituality that are harmless and might even be helpful to the people who practice them. Here in the United States, we have so many virulent forms of religion that I think my time is best spent trying to combat the belief systems that do the most harm. Anyone who can’t tell the difference between a nominal Episcopalian and a hardcore Baptist has no business saying anything about religion. Such people should at least educate themselves about the various religions of the world so they can understand their differences.

When I am asked about the God question, I give the following answer:

I am agnostic on the God question. It is statistically “possible” that a God, a creator, a divine engineer, or a higher power exists and has not yet revealed itself to us. It’s possible, but highly unlikely. Perhaps, in the future, some sort of deity will make a grand entrance into our time/space continuum.

Having sufficiently studied the various major world religions, I have concluded that the Gods these religions worship are the mythical creations of human imagination. I can say, with great confidence, that the Christian narrative is a work of fiction; that Jesus, if he existed at all, was a man (not God) who lived and died, end of story. I don’t expect any new evidence to be forthcoming that will change my mind.

Practically, I live my day-to-day life as an atheist. I see no evidence for the existence of any of the Gods humans currently worship. I do my best to live according to the humanist ideal, doing what I can to help others and improve the living conditions of people less fortunate than I.

Someone asked me how I answered those who remained theistic because of what they perceive to be order and design in the universe. I am not a scientist, so I am unable to adequately answer such questions from a scientific perspective. I choose, instead, to answer these questions from a philosophical and theological viewpoint. I acknowledge that atheism has no answer to questions concerning how everything came into existence. In his debate with young-earth creationist Ken Ham, Bill Nye readily admitted that this is a question science has yet to answer. The difference between science and Evangelical Christianity, however, is that science says, I don’t know, whereas Christianity, built on two presuppositions — God exists and the Bible is true — says, the Christian God of the Bible created everything. Of course, Evangelicals have no answer to the question, where did God come from? The fact is, no one knows for certain how everything came to be. I think, thanks to science, we know more now than we ever have. This knowledge has forced the Abrahamic religions to redefine their understanding of the universe. Those who refuse to do so are rightly labeled closed-minded, ignorant Fundamentalists.

But what about deistic arguments for the existence of some sort of creator God; a deity that created the universe and then went on a long, long, long vacation; a God who is not the slight bit interested in what is happening on planet earth? I readily understand how people can look at the night sky and the wonders of our planet and conclude that some sort of deity created everything. I know that most people want to believe that their lives matter — having purpose and significance. I understand why most people hope that there is life beyond the grave. We humans have a tenacious desire to live, so it is no surprise that many of us hope that after death we will go over the rainbow with Dorothy and Toto. While I have no need for such beliefs, I do understand why others might feel differently.

When I engage in discussions with Evangelicals about the existence of God, they will often point to the universe as “proof” of the existence of God. In a move that often surprises them, I grant their premise. Okay, a God of some sort created everything. How can we know that that God was the Christian God of the Bible? Perhaps one of the other Gods humans worship created everything? Perhaps it was a team effort, with numerous Gods overseeing the work of creation. The point is this: no one can conclusively prove that their God, or any God, created the universe.

Once backed into the corner, Evangelicals will always run to the Bible and faith. THE BIBLE SAYS and I BELIEVE are often the refrain of those who desperately want to believe that their peculiar version of the Christian God is the right God; that their God and only their God is the creator. Sadly, Evangelicals who appeal to faith — either in the Bible or its God — fail to realize that metaphysical claims have no objective basis and are impossible to refute. When someone invokes faith — a subjective, unverifiable experience — discussion, debate, and argument come to an end. I have yet to have a protracted discussion with an Evangelical that didn’t end with the believer backing his arguments into the garage of faith. This is why I try to attack the theological and historical foundations of their beliefs. Arguing about faith is a waste of time.

While I reject the deistic notion of a creator, I am not the least bit concerned about those who hold such beliefs. They are not the people clamoring for a theocracy or demanding that their beliefs be enshrined into law. Fundamentalism is the problem, not religious belief in general. Perhaps after Fundamentalism is destroyed and its monuments to ignorance (the Creation Museum, Ark Encounter, Dinosaur Adventure Land, and Evangelical colleges, to name a few) are weed-covered parking lots, there will be time to critique private, pietistic religious beliefs. For me personally, I have little interest in doing so, choosing to live and let live.

Besides, for all any of us knows, our so-called universe and existence might be some sort of alien race’s game simulation. I find arguments for this to be every bit as persuasive as those that are made for the any of deities humans currently worship. Silly? No sillier than Christianity, Islam, Judaism, or Mormonism.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Why Christians Bombard Evangelicals-Turned-Atheists with Repetitive Words

jesus knocking on door

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

— Unknown

As an outspoken atheist and writer, I frequently come in contact with Evangelical Christians who think they have a duty to express their opinions about my past and present life and what awaits me after I die. Couched in Bible verses and regurgitated religious verbiage, their pronouncements are little more gnats flying around my head on a warm summer day. Irritating, to be sure, but nothing that can’t be dispatched with a quick swat of snark or reason. On days that I am in too much pain to snarkily respond, I allow Christian drones to aimlessly buzz around my head, knowing that if I ignore them, they will soon move on, or one of my regular readers will turn them into a splat. On rare occasions, I unsheathe my sword and spend time cutting to shreds Evangelical presuppositions, proof-texting, and sermonizing. What remain the same, regardless of the level of my response, are the repetitive arguments and statements used by Evangelicals to express their dislike/hatred of something I have written or said.

Come November, it will be fourteen years since I darkened the doors of a church; thirteen years since I wrote the infamous letter, Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners, and let everyone know that I no longer considered myself a Christian; thirteen years of being inundated with emails, blog comments, and social media comments from Evangelicals determined to show me the error of my ways. It’s been years now since a Christian has said something related to my deconversion or past life that I have not heard countless times before. After several thousand or more God wants me to tell you __________ emails and comments, I now just shake my head or laugh when I receive such things.

Occasionally, when I need a bit of humorous levity, I will respond, knowing that most Evangelicals interlocutors aren’t really interested in what I have to say. I have long since concluded that many zealots love to hear themselves talk. Such people aren’t really interested in my spiritual state as much as they are reinforcing their own beliefs. My story — fifty years in the Christian church, twenty-five years as a pastor, and now an atheist — is disconcerting and troubling for many people. If someone such as myself can fall away, then so can they. So, when reading my story, they attack me personally instead of wrestling with their own fears, doubts, and cognitive dissonance. This is why several former parishioners have told me that they can no longer talk to me. These people, who once called me pastor, preacher, and friend, find my current godless state so troubling that it causes them psychological pain. Instead of investigating their pain or examining their own beliefs, these former parishioners or friends choose to end our relationship (and I am fine with that).

Several years ago, a woman who was a teenager in one of the churches I pastored in the 1980s messaged me, thanking me for sending her a link to some old pictures I had posted a year ago on Facebook. (Her father is the focus of the post Dear Friend.) Evidently, my message ended up in her spam folder and she did not find it until this week. This woman, now in her forties, made no attempt to talk to me about family or any of the other commonalities we humans share. Instead, she said, WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU? Immediately, my mind went back to the days when this woman was a rebellious, haughty, mouthy teenager — a constant pain in her parents’ asses. I envisioned her with her head thrown back, curling her face into a snarl, saying, WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU? I did not respond to her, choosing not to waste time responding to someone who really isn’t interested in what I have to say. (Years later, we reconnected on Facebook.)

in 2015, my two (now one since one of them died of COVID-19 last year) remaining Christian friends ran into a man I have known since the early 1970s. (I believe he is ten or so years younger than I am. I was mainly friends with his oldest brother and parents.) After trading pleasantries with my friends, this man said, CAN YOU BELIEVE WHAT HAPPENED TO BRUCE? I am sure he heard about my deconversion from his parents. After receiving news of me leaving Christianity, his mother had sent me a blistering letter that suggested in no uncertain terms that I was under the control of Satan. A year or so later, I received an apology from her (a rare occurrence). While she could not comprehend how I could ever walk/run away from Jesus, she did accept the fact that nothing she could say would likely change my mind. People who know me well know that I am a man of deep convictions and intellectual acumen. They also know that I am rarely swayed by circumstance or emotion. When confronted with the possibility that I could be wrong, I tend to study the heaven out of the issue. I want to KNOW, so blissful ignorance or “faithing it” is not an option for me.

Several years ago, my doctor told me that my heart is skipping every fourth beat and that I might have an “atrial whisper.” He ordered an EKG and told me to me wait as he consulted with a cardiologist. He smiled and asked me if I had something to read. I laughed, and pointed to my iPhone. Having been my doctor for twenty-five years, he knows that I tend to study the life out of things. By the time he had punched in the phone number of the cardiologist, I was on Web MD and Wikipedia looking up “atrial flutter” and other related heart/health issues. This illustrates perfectly how I tend to go after challenges to my beliefs or understanding. When I don’t “know” something, I make it my mission to increase my knowledge. Despite health problems that increasingly rob me of the physical and mental wherewithal to read, learn, and write, I am still driven to know more today than I did yesterday. This is why people who are close to me know that I rarely speak on a matter before knowing the facts. (I am not suggesting that I can’t be wrong or act irrationally. I can. Just ask Polly.) 🙂

An Evangelical woman (a friend of a friend) left the following Facebook comment for me:

I’m sorry that you have lost your contact with God. He’s still there, if you are interested. You may have stopped believing, but he hasn’t stopped existing or loving you. May God bless you. We have exchanged comments in the past and I don’t want to re-open that debate. This post just struck me as being very sad and empty, so I wanted to give a bit of encouragement. That’s all.

Here’s a woman who is incapable of understanding any other way of life or system of belief but her own. For her, Jesus is the be-all and the end-all, the reason for getting up in the morning. As she looks at my life through her rose-colored Bible glasses, all she sees is sadness and emptiness. She cannot comprehend a good life, an honorable life, a blessed life, and a life of meaning and purpose without knowing her peculiar version of Jesus as Lord and Savior. For her, my life does not compute. If she really cared about me as a person, she would trawl the depths of my story, and having done so she would then know that telling me, “I’m sorry that you have lost your contact with God. He’s still there, if you are interested. You may have stopped believing, but he hasn’t stopped existing or loving you,” will not elicit the desired response, and will likely be viewed by me as the words of yet another tone-deaf Christian.

Evangelicals need to understand that I am immune to their words. I have reached a point in my life where I rarely respond to their comments, sermons, or attacks. I prefer to spend my time writing and hanging out with Polly. If I sense a Christian sincerely wants to “know” then I will send them a few links to blog posts that I think will answer their questions. Sadly, few of these people bother to read the suggested posts. No need, right? They know what they know, even if what they know is dead wrong.

A better use of time for Evangelical zealots would be to seek out those who have no understanding of Evangelical belief and practice. Ignorance is the fertile ground of Christian Fundamentalism. Why tell someone the gospel twice before everyone has heard the gospel once, right? Well, I have heard it and preached it thousands of times, and when Christians continue to spew the same intellectually vacuous arguments and attempt to emotionally manipulate me, I don’t hear a word they are saying. Their lips are moving, but I ain’t listening.

I know that nothing I have written here will ward off garlic-immune Evangelicals who believe they have a God-given duty to put in a good word for Jesus. Until such people can dare to fathom the possibility of being wrong, there is nothing I can say or do that will change their minds. Only unrequited doubt will put them on the path to intellectual freedom. As long as their minds are shackled to God, Jesus, and the Bible they will continue to view me as an enemy that must be vanquished. Little do they know that they are tilting at windmills.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Why I Could Never Be a Republican

just say no republicans

I am politically progressive and liberal. I make no attempt to hide my democratic socialistic tendencies. I am a registered Democrat and a supporter of Bernie Sanders. I am an inconsistent pacifist. I am of the opinion that the United States has not fought a just war since the two world wars. And even with these wars, the United States, with its immoral nuclear bombings of Japan and its firebombings of Germany, has shown itself to be as violently ruthless as its enemies. The same goes for the United States’ use of napalm during the Vietnam War. (Please read Napalm: An American Biography by Robert Neer.)  Americans love to think of themselves as kind, goodhearted people who only resort to violence when backed into a corner, when in fact the United States, thanks to its colonialist, imperialistic, and nationalistic tendencies, is a nation whose history is steeped in the blood of innocents. (Please read The Dominion of War: Empire and Liberty in North America 1500-2000 by Fred Anderson and Andrew Cayton.)

Prior to the turn of the 21st century, I was a registered Republican — the party of my tribe and religion. The reasons I am no longer a Republican are many. Let me list a few of them. These statements reflect my understanding of the Republican Party at the national level.  I realize that not all Republicans believe/support the positions that follow.

The Republican Party is and I am not:

  • Pro-life
  • Pro-Christian
  • Pro-gun
  • Pro-NRA
  • Pro-war
  • Pro-Israel
  • Pro-big business
  • Pro-Chamber of Commerce
  • Pro-dark money political contributions
  • Pro-unrestricted campaign contributions
  • Pro-charter schools
  • Pro-unregulated religious schools
  • Pro-Pledge of Allegiance
  • Pro-Christian nationalism
  • Pro-American expansionism
  • Pro-American imperialism and colonialism
  • Pro-military as the world’s policeman
  • Pro-Patriot Act(s) and other government intrusions into privacy
  • Anti-welfare
  • Anti-Environmental Protection Agency
  • Anti-Department of Education
  • Anti-Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
  • Anti-affordable college
  • Anti-separation of church and state
  • Anti-LGBTQ
  • Anti-affordable healthcare
  • Anti-single payer option health insurance
  • Anti-immigrant
  • Anti-undocumented worker
  • Anti-Palestinian/Iranian/Afghan/Iraqi/Muslim/Russian
  • Anti-regulation
  • Anti-abortion
  • Anti-euthanasia
  • Anti-global warming/climate change
  • Anti-science
  • Anti-evolution
  • Anti-minimum wage
  • Anti-Black Lives Matter
  • Anti-atheism

And Best Hits of the Republican Party keep on playing.

And if these things aren’t enough, Republicans committed the biggest political crime of the modern era — electing Donald Trump president. And . . . four years later, knowing that Trump was a criminal who caused the deaths of thousands of people from COVID-19, and was unfit for office, Republicans tried to elect him again.

From 2016 to today, what have we learned about the Republican Party? With lips dripping with the blood of injustice, unfairness, and unequal protection under the law, the Republican Party has waged an all-out war against LGBTQ people, people of color, and anyone else who doesn’t fit in their narrow, defined ideological box. Whatever moderate, centrist politicians that once existed in the Republican Party no longer exist. Republicans are now the party of Trump, the fomenters of insurrection, culture warriors intent on turning the United States into a violent theocratic state.

It is for these reasons, and others, that I could NEVER, EVER be a Republican. They are the antithesis of everything I believe and stand for.

Readers should not assume from this post that I am pro-Democrat. I am not. I held my nose and voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020 for one simple reason: they weren’t Donald Trump. Neither Clinton nor Biden was my first, second, or third choice. (I voted for Bernie Sanders both times in the primaries.) Currently, I am considering leaving the Democratic Party, registering as an independent voter. I’m done with voting for the “lesser of two evils.” The Democratic Party is weak, feckless, and cowardly, given over to extremism instead of getting things done for the American people. Is there no whack-a-doodle position too extreme for Democrats? Evidently not. In many ways, extremists in the Democratic Party are not much different from right-wing extremists in the Republican Party. The two-party system is irreparably broken, controlled by corporate money and career politicians. The “house” needs to be razed so a just, equitable system can be built. The upcoming midterm elections will go a long way in helping me decide whether I am finally done with the Democratic Party. Here in Ohio, both at the state and local level, the Democratic Party is as dead and missing as Jimmy Hoffa.

Maybe none of this will matter. If warmongers in the Republican and Democratic Parties have their way, we could be living in a nuclear wasteland by Christmas. Thinking a war with Russia is “winnable,” and the use of tactical nuclear weapons will show the world we are still the only true superpower, our political leaders are leading us down a path that leads to heartache and devastation. Coming soon will be a push to expand funding for the military and security industrial complexes. To some degree, this already happened before the war in Ukraine. I can only imagine how much money the people who allegedly “keep us safe” and “fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here” will be clamoring for now that we are sending billions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine and NATO. Nothing like a military conflict — and make no mistake about it, we are waging war against Russia and Belarus — for the bottom line.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Health Problems Experienced by LGBTQ People Can be “Cured” by Jesus

gay blade chick tract
Gay Blade, Jack Chick Tract, circa 1972

Warning! Snark ahead! Evangelicals easily offended by having their bigotry exposed should NOT read this post!

In 2016, the American Medical Association’s Internal Medicine Journal released a report detailing the health problems faced by LGBT people.  CNN reported:

Researchers now have a broader understanding of the health disparities suffered by gay, lesbian and bisexual people. A recent study found that these groups are more likely to suffer psychological distress, heavy drinking and heavy cigarette smoking.

The study, published in the American Medical Association’s Internal Medicine journal on Monday, sheds new light on such disparities in a population-based sample of adults in the United States.
….
“This study was one of the largest, most comprehensive studies of its kind to find differences in health and health behaviors by sexual orientation,” said Carrie Henning-Smith, health policy researcher at the University of Minnesota and a co-author of the study. “Our findings should raise concern that lesbian, gay and bisexual adults experience health disparities.”

The researchers analyzed data collected from more than 68,000 [67,150 survey respondents were heterosexual, 525 lesbian, 624 gay and 515 bisexual. The average age was about 47] adults nationwide as part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2013 and 2014 National Health Interview Surveys. The surveys included questions about sexual orientation, chronic conditions, mental health, alcohol consumption, cigarette use and overall health.

The researchers discovered that gay and bisexual men were more likely than heterosexual men to suffer severe psychological distress, heavy drinking and heavy cigarette smoking. Lesbians were more likely than heterosexual women to experience psychological distress, poor or fair health, and heavy drinking and smoking. Bisexual women were more likely to suffer multiple chronic conditions.

“The data did not allow us to identify specific causes of health disparities in this study,” Henning-Smith said. “However, we know from other research that the experience of being part of a stigmatized minority population can lead to chronic stress, which, in turn, can have negative impacts on health and health behaviors.”
The researchers hope that the data could help to inform and encourage clinicians to be more sensitive to and aware of the specific psychological and physical needs of gay, lesbian and bisexual patients.

….

Evangelicals have quickly and viciously used this report as “proof” that being LGBT promotes unhealthy lifestyles. Evidently, these homophobic bigots missed the line that stated “The data did not allow us to identify specific causes of health disparities in this study.” One such person is a woman by the name of Denise who spends a lot of time “anally” reporting on the vile, wicked, sinful behavior of people she labels sodomites. Denise is a Calvinist, the female version of Steven Anderson. Unlike Anderson, Denise doesn’t show her face on videos nor does she let readers know her last name. That said, theology and her obsession with oral and anal sex and STDs are very Andersonesque. In a post titled, Survey: excessive health problems among deviants, Denise opines:

Sin has consequences. Trying to go against God’s created order, suppressing the Truth with their unrighteousness (Romans 1), will have physical ramifications.  They blame those who reject their deviant behavior, for their physical problems which is irrational. The problem is enslavement to sin, and the solution is to repent of one’s sins, confess one to be totally depraved with original sin, and cry out to God our Creator, for mercy and forgiveness. He is quick to forgive and save those who come to Him through Jesus Christ the resurrected Lord for salvation. Those whom HE sets free through faith in Christ Jesus alone by His blood, are made free indeed by Him.

Denise thinks that the reason LGBT people have certain health problems is due to the fact that they are sinful deviants. Denise totally rejects the notion that gay haters such as she are part of the problem. In Denise’s world, LGBT people are sick for one reason — sin!!  According to Anderson’s comrade in the war against “sodomy,” if sodomites would just repent of their sins (which means becoming as God made them â€” heterosexuals) and cry out to the Calvinistic God for mercy and forgiveness, all would be forgiven and their health problems would disappear. Now, I am sure Denise would say, No, LGBT health problems are the consequences of their deviancy. Yes, Jesus will save them and deliver them from their wicked desires, but former LGBT people still have to live with the physical damage done by lifetimes of wrong-way fucking. I suspect Denise would also say that LGBT deviants should repent while they are young before sexual “sins” ravage their bodies. Get out while you are young, Denise likely would say. Live the best years of your life in service of the heterosexual God.

If Jesus is the “cure” for LGBT health problems, why are so many heterosexual Christians sick? Churches are filled with people who are sickly, suffering the ravages of countless diseases. Perhaps Evangelicals are sick due to heterosexual anal sex and blowjobs, Denise might say. Only married missionary position intercourse is permitted! Grandma Grace, why do you have cancer? granddaughter Evangeline asks. Grandma Grace shamefully hangs her head and says, I gave Grandpa Joseph a blowjob in 1983. Cancer is God’s punishment for me swallowingIf you want to avoid cancer, Grandma Grace says, never, ever put anything but food in your mouth, and never, ever let your husband come through the back door.

The very notion that LGBT people have certain health problems due to “sin” is ludicrous. I am sure that in the years ahead, researchers will continue to investigate exactly why LGBT people are more prone to certain illnesses. I suspect that researchers with find that AIDS, unrelenting persecution by Evangelicals, Mormons, and conservative Catholics, and lack of medical care contributed to many of the LGBT health issues detailed in the aforementioned study. For those of us who are heterosexual, perhaps we should ask ourselves how our health might be affected if we had to live in circumstances similar to those of LGBT people. I wonder, would we turn to substance abuse, suicide, and have increased mental health issues? Those of us who were savaged by Christian Fundamentalism (please see Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?) understand how constant assaults on your humanity can lead to mental health problems and thoughts of suicide. Those waging war against all things non-heterosexual are the very same people who preach and write against any and all behaviors they consider “sins” against their peculiar version of God. It should be clear to all who dare to see that Evangelicalism, Mormonism, and conservative Catholicism breed hate — hate not only of those they deem “sinful,” but also hate of self. Knowing who and what they really are, these defenders of virginity, heterosexuality, and Christian America rail against the very secrets they hide from their fellow Christians. As is often the case, people who scream and preach the loudest against this or that behavior are often secretly doing the same. Stay tuned. Perhaps we shall someday learn that Denise is really into making her own clothes — which is hard to do without a good bit of scissoring. 🙂

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Dr. Patrick Johnston and His Dangerous Advice to Depressives

sin can make you sick

Dr. Patrick Johnston is a former Ohio family practice physician, the founder of the Association of Pro-life Physicians, and the former director of Personhood Ohio (link no longer active). He and his ex-wife Elizabeth have ten children, all of whom are homeschooled. Several years ago, Johnston wrote a rebuttal to a post that I published about my views on abortion and personhood laws. Johnston believes there are no justifiable reasons for women to have abortions. Rape? Nope. Incest? Nope. Life of the mother? Nope or maybe. Severe physical malformation? Nope. Ectopic(tubal) pregnancy? Nope. Huh? That’s right, Johnston does not think women should have access to abortion services if they have ectopic pregnancies. In a December 2015 Personhood Ohio article, Johnston stated (link no longer active):

Many sincere advocates of life fall prey to the argument that abortion is occasionally necessary to save the life of the mother. An example of an ectopic pregnancy is often given. However, a cursory investigation of the evidence reveals that many babies have survived ectopic pregnancies. There are life-saving alternatives to treat the mother and her ectopically-implanted baby. Successful transplantation of the embryo from the Fallopian tube to the uterus has been reported in the medical literature as far back as 1917. We do not have to kill these babies to save the mother. Their cases is [sic] not hopeless.

Johnston also wrote an article for his blog titled Saving Ectopically Implanted Boys and Girls. Yes, really.

Johnston and Personhood Ohio tried for years to amend Ohio’s Constitution. If successful, Article 1, Section 16 would have been amended to say (link no longer active):

(A) The words “person” in Article 1, Section 16, and “men” in Article 1, Section 1, apply to every human being at every stage of the biological development of that human being or human organism, including fertilization.

(B) Nothing in this Section shall affect genuine contraception that acts solely by preventing the creation of a new human being; or human “eggs” or oocytes prior to the beginning of the life of a new human being; or reproductive technology or In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) procedures that respect the right to life of newly created human beings.

So far, right-thinking citizens and politicians have kept the amendment and its subsequent iterations from being enacted.

In an undated article titled Curing the Miseries of the Mind: Anxiety and Depression (link no longer active), Johnston and his now ex-wife Elizabeth offer up advice to those who suffer from mental health problems. According to the Johnstons, the cure for depression and anxiety is found in the Bible:

If you are suffering from severe depression or anxiety, I want to let you know that there is light at the end of your dark tunnel – and it’s not found in a pill! The God who created you loves you, and does not want you to be miserable. I believe that God’s Word – the Holy Bible – holds the key that, if not cures, greatly alleviates psychological symptoms.

Ah yes, the time-tested Fundamentalist maxim: the B-i-b-l-e is the cure for e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Johnston admits that he does “prescribe a lot of medication for anxiety and depression because they help alleviate symptoms,” but he wants people to know that many physical and mental ailments have “spiritual roots.”  The Johnstons list seven reasons people suffer from anxiety and depression:

  • Genetic and social influences (Yea! Dr. Johnston makes an appeal to science.)
  • So that the sufferers faith will be strengthened
  • Punishment for sin
  • Unforgiveness
  • Ingratitude
  • Unbelief
  • Excessive worry
bible the cure for depression
This graphic is not Dr. Johnston’s, but it does show similar “Biblical” cures for depression.

The Johnstons then give their Jesus-infused prescription for overcoming depression. Are you ready to be delivered, fellow depressives? All right, let’s all get h-a-p-p-y! The Johnstons believe that the following tips will help people “overcome the daily onslaught of anxiety and depression”:

  • Write out encouraging Bible verses, quotes, or thoughts, and tape them up at your house or work, or carry them in your purse or wallet. Refer to them and memorize them whenever you are struggling with unhealthy thoughts.
  • Turn on uplifting Christian music. Sing and meditate on the principles of God’s Word. Praise and worship the Lord. Try dancing to praise music! By all means, turn OFF any music or television that saddens you or causes you to focus on your troubles.
  • Make a list of ten things to think about when you are tempted to think things you shouldn’t. Make your list very practical. For instance: “What will I buy at the store?”, “Where will we go on our next vacation?”, “What will I say to my friend/neighbor/family member next time we speak?”, etc. Always have this list on hand to refer to when tempted to be anxious, depressed, or angry.
  • Occupy yourself with a big project or many projects that direct your mind off of yourself and onto others. There is no end to the number of nursing home residents, hospitalized patients, struggling families, volunteer organizations, and ministries who need a letter or a helping hand. Do not sit around and wait for your problems to disappear. Busy yourself with projects and invest your time in caring for others.
  • Always fight the tendency to pity yourself. You will find one hundred reasons to believe that self-pity will make you feel better but it never solves anything. When tempted to pity yourself, think of others you know who are in much worse circumstances (i.e. the paralyzed teenager, the young husband who just lost his wife, Christians who are persecuted for their faith in China, Cuba, or Indonesia, etc.). Make a list of such people and remind yourself of how blessed you are. Stop and take a moment to pray for those who are less fortunate than yourself.
  • Journal!! Write out your thoughts, regardless of how troubling or embarrassing they may be. Often, when you see on paper what is going on in your head, you will be surprised by how manageable your problem is through changing your way of thinking!
  • A few good Scriptures on topics of importance are listed below for your edification. Suffering: 1 Pet. 4:12-16, Rom. 8:17-18, 2 Cor. 4:17, James 1:2-4  Forgiveness/Mercy: Matt. 6:14-15, Matt. 18:21-22, Heb. 8:12, Prov. 11:19, James 5:9 Thankfulness: Phil. 4:11, Heb. 13:5, Rom. 1:21 Fear/Worry/Doubt: Matt. 6:25-34, Phil. 4:6-7, 2 Tim. 1:7, I Cor. 10:13

Certainly, some of the advice offered by the Johnstons can often help alleviate the effects (not the cause) of anxiety and depression. However, make no mistake about it, the Johnstons believe that the Christian God and the Bible are the CURE for those suffering from mental difficulties. I suspect that Dr. Johnston tells depressives who are not Christians that Jesus can and will cure what ails them. For those who are Christians, Johnston tells them to put mind over matter and remember that there are always people worse off than you. Trust Jesus and all will be well.

If Johnston is prescribing God and the Bible as a cure for anxiety and depression then he is committing medical malpractice. His patients should expect treatment by a doctor thoroughly grounded in the scientific method. Using the tips mentioned above to “cure” depression might work for a time, but true healing comes through counseling, behavior modification, and, if warranted, psychotropic drugs. As someone who has suffered from depression for most of my adult life — both as a Christian pastor and as an atheist — I know that the sort of Christian voodoo offered by Johnston does not cure depression. If Johnston objects to what I have said here, he is free to present empirical data that suggests otherwise. Until then, Dr. Johnston’s tips for curing anxiety and depression should be viewed in the same light as the chants and gimmickry of witch doctors.

Note

We know the Johnstons personally. We attended church with them in 2004-2005 at Faith Bible Church in Jersey, Ohio. Faith Bible is a family-centric, Reformed Baptist congregation.

Elizabeth filed for divorce in 2020, saying “he [Patrick] has been repeatedly unfaithful to me, as well as psychologically and emotionally abusive.”

Elizabeth stated at the time:

After repeatedly taking him back, covering for him, preserving his reputation, and forgiving him of adultery, pornography and sexual immorality, which began 16 years ago, I have been forced to come to the harsh realization that I’ve done all I can and am entrusting Him to my Savior! I don’t share this to harm or humiliate, but to help explain why I, a Christian woman who hates divorce, have decided to separate and pursue a divorce.

The deception and aggression has recently gotten very unhealthy, so I am being forced for the sake of my children to make the hardest decision of my life. To stay at this point would be more harmful to my children than to separate. I will be blasted for not staying married. Don’t listen to the critics, and just pray for us instead.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

The ONE True Church of Jesus Christ

catholic one true church

The Churches of Christ, along with the Baptists and the Roman Catholic Church, consider themselves to be the one true church of Jesus Christ. According to catholic365.com, there are five reasons the Roman Catholic Church is the true church:

1. Authority- Jesus gave specific instructions regarding dealing with members of the Church who were in sin. Matthew 18:15-18 says “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector. Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” What Evangelical/Protestant Church has the authority to remove someone completely from the church? None. If an individual is removed from a ‘congregation’ then he/she can go down the street and join another ‘congregation’ of the same denomination. The congregations are individualized and have no authority outside their own denomination. That is not true with the Catholic Church. If removed from the Catholic Church, one cannot go to another city and join another Catholic Parish.

2. History- The Roman Catholic Church is the oldest and original Christian Church, therefore, the beliefs and teachings of the Church were directly passed onto the leaders of the Catholic Church by the apostles. The Catholic Church began with the teachings of Jesus Christ, around 1st Century AD in the province of Judea of the Roman Empire. The Catholic Church is the continuation of the early Christian community established by Jesus and no modern Christian Church can make that claim. By the end of the 2nd century, bishops began congregating in regional synods and to correct doctrinal and policy issues and by the time the 3rd century came around, the Bishop of Rome (Pope) served as the decisive authority, kind of like a court of appeals, for problems and issues the bishops could not resolve. This is identical to the Bible’s teaching. In Exodus 18 we see where the children of Israel brought their disputes to Moses and Moses settled those disputes. However, it also shows where leaders appointed by Moses also worked to settle disputes.

The Catholic Church remained the only Christian Church until the East-West Schism of 1054, which caused medieval Christianity to split and become two separate branches. The greatest division, however, came during the Reformation from 1517-1648, led by Martin Luther. The East-West (Great) Schism was caused by Patriarch Michael I. According to Titus 3:9-11, the divisions led by Patriarch Michael I and Martin Luther were sin. “Avoid foolish arguments, genealogies, rivalries, and quarrels about the law, for they are useless and futile. After a first and second warning, break off contact with a heretic, realizing that such a person is perverted and sinful and stands self-condemned..”

3. The Catholic Church gave Christians the Bible- The first official list of books contained is what is the Bible was done at the Council of Hippo in 393 and then again in Carthage in 397 and 419. However, the Council of Trent in 1556 was the first time the Church infallibly defined these books as ‘inspired’ because it was questioned by Reformers. We have to admit, the apostles did not walk around with nice leather bound Bibles in their hand. There are many parts of the Bible that are oral tradition which was written down because when early believers attended the Synagogue or church, the scripture was read. They did not have their own copy with their name engraved on the front. Oral tradition was the norm of practice long before writing and reading was a part of life. The Jews followed the Old Testament before Jesus was born and Jesus is pictured in Scripture reading from the Old Testament in the Synagogue. There were multiple writings from this time but it was only after the list of books determined to be the ‘inspired Word of God’ by the Catholic Church first with the Council of Hippo in 393 that the world had what is called “The Bible”. The Bible remained the original 73 books determined by the Catholic Church until the Reformation, when Martin Luther threw out 7 books of the Old Testament that disagreed with his personal view of theology…the same Old Testament adhered to by the Jews. He threw these 6 books out in the 16th Century. Luther also attempted to throw out New Testament books James, Hebrews, Jude and Revelation. In referring to James, he said he wanted to ‘throw Jimmy into the fire’ and the book of James was ‘an epistle of straw’ with no usefulness. After Pope Damasus I approved the 27 New Testament Books however in 382 AD, Luther agreed with the Pope and accepted the New Testament books but denied the Old Testament books …which remained out of his Bible. Non-Catholics will accept the Biblical books which are contained in the Protestant Bible but do not acknowledge they are accepting and trusting the authority of the Catholic Church because the Catholic Church was the one who proclaimed the entire list, as a whole, as ‘inspired’. The letters within the Bible are not the only letters and materials written by the Apostles so, as a result, those contained within the Bible had to be declared ‘inspired’ and it was the Catholic Church which did that duty.

4. The Sacraments are Biblical- The Apostles were given the power to ‘forgive sins’ in John 20:23, Peter taught in I Peter 3:21 that ‘baptism now saves you’, ‘anointing the sick with oil was shown in James 5:14-15, laying on of hands in Acts 8:17 and 2 Timothy 1:6, marriage in the Lord in I Corinthians 7:39 and Jesus stated numerous times that the disciples should participate in the breaking of bread (Eucharist) by stating ‘he who eats my flesh has eternal life’.

5. Sola Scriptura is not supported in the Bible- It is difficult to make a claim such as Sola Scriptura (The Bible Alone) when, in its very essence, the claim must be written within the Bible in order to be Biblical. The concept of “Bible Alone” says it is not truth if it is not contained in the Bible, therefore removing ‘tradition’, but the Bible refutes that principle. Jeremiah 25:3 says the “Word of the Lord” is “spoken”, not just written. Paul told us to hold to our traditions, which are taught by word and mouth or by letter, according to 2 Thess 2:15. The Bible also portrays where a Council was held to settle doctrinal disputes in Acts 15. (Who else has a Council to settle doctrine disputes and holds the authority to do such other than the Catholic Church?) The Bible also warns about ‘twisted’ interpretations of Scripture in 2 Peter 3:16 and I Timothy 3:15 says THE CHURCH is the pillar and the bulwark of the truth. The Catholic Church has one teaching…one unified teaching…as opposed to the now 43,000 evangelical (Protestant) groups currently established, with 2.3 added each day. Their views on everything from the Trinity, homosexuality, abortion, and salvation all contradict each other. Truth cannot be false at the same time and Truth cannot contradict each other.

trail of blood

Many Baptist churches also consider themselves to be the one true church. These Baptists believe that they can trace their lineage all the way back to Jesus and his apostles. In 1931, Baptist pastor J.M. Carroll published a booklet titled The Trail of Blood. This booklet detailed what is commonly called Landmarkism or Baptist Successionism — the belief that some Baptist churches are the one true church founded by Jesus Christ. Carroll gave ten infallible marks of a true church:

1. Christ, the author of this religion, organized His followers or disciples into a Church. And the disciples were to organize other churches as this religion spread and other disciples were “made.”

2. This organization or church, according to the Scriptures and according to the practice of the Apostles and early churches, was given two kinds of officers and only two–pastors and deacons. The pastor was called “Bishop.” Both pastor and deacons to be selected by the church and to be servants of the church.

3. The churches in their government and discipline to be entirely separate and independent of each other, Jerusalem to have no authority over Antioch–nor Antioch over Ephesus; nor Ephesus over Corinth, and so forth. And their government to be congregational, democratic. A government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

4. To the church were given two ordinances and only two, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These to be perpetual and memorial.

5. Only the “saved” were to be received as members of the church (Acts 2:47). These saved ones to be saved by grace alone without any works of the law (Eph, 2:5, 8, 9). These saved ones and they only, to be immersed in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19). And only those thus received and baptized, to partake of the Lord’s Supper, and the supper to be celebrated only by the church, in church capacity.

6. The inspired scriptures, and they only, in fact, the New Testament and that only, to be the rule and guide of faith and life, not only for the church as an organization, but for each individual member of that organization.

7. Christ Jesus, the founder of this organization and the savior of its members, to be their only priest and king, their only Lord and Lawgiver, and the only head of the churches. The churches to be executive only in carrying out their Lord’s will and completed laws, never legislative, to amend or abrogate old laws or to make new ones.

8. This religion of Christ to be individual, personal, and purely voluntary or through persuasion. No physical or governmental compulsion. A matter of distinct individual and personal choice. “Choose you” is the scriptural injunction. It could be neither accepted nor rejected nor lived by proxy nor under compulsion.

9. Mark well! That neither Christ nor His apostles, ever gave to His followers, what is known today as a denominational name, such as “Catholic,” “Lutheran,” “Presbyterian,” “Episcopal,” and so forth–unless the name given by Christ to John was intended for such, “The Baptist,” “John the Baptist” (Matt. 11:11 and 10 or 12 other times.) Christ called the individual follower “disciple.” Two or more were called “disciples.” The organization of disciples, whether at Jerusalem or Antioch or elsewhere, was called Church. If more than one of these separate organizations were referred to, they were called Churches. The word church in the singular was never used when referring to more than one of these organizations. Nor even when referring to them all.

10. I venture to give one more distinguishing mark. We will call it–Complete separation of Church and State. No combination, no mixture of this spiritual religion with a temporal power. “Religious Liberty,” for everybody.

In the 19th century men such as Barton StoneThomas Campbell, and Alexander Campbell took it upon themselves to restore Christian churches to their First Century Apostolic purity. Firmly rooted in Baptist soil, the Restoration movement caused numerous fractures and splits, leading to the establishment of groups such as the Churches of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). While Landmark Baptists and Churches of Christ have similar doctrinal beliefs, neither considers the other part of the true church. These two groups have spent much of the last 160 years fighting over whether baptism is required for salvation. Put a Church of Christ evangelist in the same room with a Baptist elder and they will spend their time together arguing over the Greek word eis (for) in Acts 2:38:

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

The evangelist will argue that the word for means that a sinner must be baptized in order to have their sins to be remitted. The elder argues that the word for means because of. Christians are baptized, not to have their sins remitted, but because their sins have already been washed away.

church of christ

Al Shannon is a Churches of Christ preacher who displays his theological prowess on the Biblical Proof website. In a May 20, 2016 post titled Are There Any Christians in Denominational Churches?, Shannon makes sure his readers understand that the only true Christians are those who are a member of a Churches of Christ congregation. Shannon writes:

Are there good people in all denominational churches? Are there any Christians once named among them? It’s a fundamental question because denominations profess to be Christians, yet they deny what it requires to become a Christian.

Most Christians understand that when someone obeys the gospel (Rom. 6:17) the Lord adds him to His church (Acts 2:47), of which is the only blood-bought (Acts 20:28) institution the Bible speaks. This is the “church” which Christ built (Mt 16:18).

The Bible speaks often of the Great Apostasy (2 Thess. 2:3-4 f; 2 Tim. 4:3-4). This manifested itself in Roman Catholicism, from which every denomination in the world today sprang (Rev. 17:5). Error truly does begat error.

The Bible also speaks of (and condemns) sectarianism and division, which is what denominationalism really is, as each term stands firmly against the Bible-based unity declared in Ephesians 4:4.

In Galatians 5:19-21, Paul lists “factions, parties, and  divisions” as being “works of the flesh,” and warned all men everywhere and for all time that “they who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

In trying to understand why there are no Christians in any denomination, let us consider three points. First, there was division at Corinth. Just a mere six years after the Corinthian church was planted some of these brethren had developed a sectarian spirit. In 1 Corinthians 1:11 Paul begs his brothers in Christ there to free themselves from all contentions.

….

Secondly, the overwhelming bulk of the denominations in the world today subscribe to most of the views of John Calvin, in particular the false doctrine of “faith only” (that they are saved at the point of belief, separate and apart from further obedience, regardless of what John 3:5 may say).

Therefore, those in the denominations have never obeyed the gospel. They have deceived themselves into believing a lie (2 Thess. 2:11-12), and will, therefore, be destroyed at the Lord’s coming (2 Thess. 1:7-9).

….

Finally, New Testament Christians must be careful not to make man-made laws for our brethren (as some sought to do in Acts 15:1-2). When such happens, a sectarian spirit will develop and will result in something other than New Testament Christianity (Psa. 127:1).

Based on what I have shared above, the Catholics, Baptists, and the Churches of Christ all claim to be the one true church of Jesus Christ. What makes things even more difficult is that there are numerous other groups that claim they are the one true church. How are people supposed to know which sect is the one true church? The Catholics, Baptists, and Churches of Christ all point to the Bible (and history) as proof for their true church declaration. In Ephesians 4:5,6 the Apostle Paul wrote:

One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

Paul seems to be saying that there is only one true church. While Protestants will say (Baptists and Churches of Christ do not consider themselves Protestants) the one true church is comprised of the true Christians found in the various Christian sects, the Churches of Christ and many Baptists reject what is commonly called the Universal Church or the Invisible Church. They believe that the only church is local churches, each an independent franchise of the One True Church ClubŽ.

So what are sinners to do? Which church is the one true church? How can anyone know whether any sect is the one established by Jesus and the Apostles? You’d think Jesus would come down from Heaven and make clear which group is his ChurchÂŽ. Better yet, why not rain fire down from the skies and destroy every church that is not a part of the One True Church ClubÂŽ. Surely unbelievers can’t be expected to figure out which church is the right one. Come on God, help us out.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Bruce Gerencser