Religion

Black Collar Crime: Catholic Priest Douglas Haefner Accused of Stealing $500,000 From Church

douglas haefner

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

Douglas Haefner, pastor of St. Matthias Church in Somerset, New Jersey, stands accused of stealing $500,000 from the church he faithfully pastored for twenty-seven years.

Bishop James F. Checchio said of the matter:

(Haefner) came to see me in my office, and he said, ‘I need help I’ve been sick. My physical but also emotional problems that I’ve been struggling with are feeding off each other. Some of my emotional problems have led to compulsive behavior on my part, and the compulsive behavior cost money I borrowed money from the parish.

In a letter to the 3,250 families on the roll at St Mathias, Checchio wrote:

It is with sadness that I must inform you that Father’s resignation coincides with serious questions and concerns that recently have been raised regarding the handling of parish finances. Father came to me about his own health problems and these financial issues in recent weeks and has expressed his sorrow for his actions and for letting us all down.

Astoundingl,  the finances at St. Mathias have not been audited since 2009. According to church law, St. Mathias should have had an active priest-appointed financial council that met at least quarterly to review the church’s budget and prepare its annual report. The financial council hasn’t been active in years. This left the fox in the hen house — Father Haefner — with the duty to prepare the church’s annual financial reports. What could go wrong, right?

The allegations against Heaefner are being investigated by local law enforcement.

An attorney for Haefner, Matthew Adams, released the following statement on behalf of his client:

To know Father Doug is to know a caring man who has spent decades ministering to parishioners from all walks of life, including during times of extreme peril. Father Doug has indeed stepped back from his public ministry to address serious health issues. It is quite unfortunate that, as he steps out of the public, some have used the opportunity to violate the confidentiality that, as a matter of law, attaches to those health-related issues. With respect to the allegations being leveled against him, Father Doug enjoys the same constitutional presumption of innocence as any other citizen.

Sacrilegious Humor: A Tour Through American Evangelical Hell by Christian Nightmares

christian nightmares

Warning! Video clip contains coarse language and sexual references.

This is the fifty-fifth installment in the Sacrilegious Humor series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a comedy bit 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 email me the name of the bit or a link to it.

Today’s comedy bit is by Christian Nightmares. I double-dog dare you to watch all thirteen minutes of this video.

Video Link

Recommended Reading: The Bible Unearthed by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Silberman

the bible unearthed

Several commenters have been discussing the historicity of Old Testament events such as the Exodus. You can read their comments here.  A good book on this subject is The Bible Unearthed: Archeology’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman. 383 pages long, The Bible Unearthed is an excellent primer on current scholarship (as of 2001) as it relates to the historical events recorded in the Old Testament.  Much like Bart Ehrman’s books, The Bible Unearthed is written to appeal to non-scholars; people interested in the historicity of the events and people found in the Bible,

About Israel Finkelstein:

Israel Finkelstein is an Israeli archaeologist and academic. He is the Jacob M. Alkow Professor of the Archaeology of Israel in the Bronze and Iron Ages at Tel Aviv University. Finkelstein is widely regarded as a leading scholar in the archaeology of the Levant and a foremost applicant of archaeological data in reconstructing biblical history

About Neil Asher Silberman

Neil Asher Silberman (born June 19, 1950 in Boston, Massachusetts) is an archaeologist and historian with a special interest in history, archaeology, public interpretation and heritage policy. A graduate of Wesleyan University, he studied Near Eastern archaeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Awarded a 1991 Guggenheim Fellowship, he is a contributing editor to Archaeology.

You can purchase The Bible Unearthed here.

Finkelstein and Silberman also wrote a book titled, David and Solomon: In Search of the Bible’s Sacred Kings and the Roots of the Western Tradition. You can purchase the book here. I have not personally read this book.

Two Out of Two Christian Fundamentalists Agree, Bruce Gerencser is Headed for Hell

no atheists in hellMy life continues to be of prurient interest to many Evangelical Christians. Countless Evangelicals, lurking in the shadows, read this blog on a regular basis. Whether they have questions and doubts about Christianity or they see me as a colossal train wreck in the making, many Evangelicals frequent this site, wondering what I will write next. Other Evangelicals consider me a threat to the continued existence of Evangelicalism. In their minds, I am angry, bitter Evangelical-turned-atheist who hates God. I am an ex-preacher who is being used by Satan to lead Evangelicals astray, and they must do everything they can to negate my influence. So they pray (to no avail), write blog posts about me (to no avail), preach sermons about me (to no avail), and gossip about me in private forums. Believing that I am a reprobate who is beyond the reach of God’s saving grace, these Evangelicals see nothing wrong with attacking my character, lying about my past and present beliefs, and even going so far as to attack my wife and children. Revealing their true nature, these zealots rail against me, damning me to Hell and condemning anyone who turns a sympathetic ear towards my words. In behaving this way, they remind Evangelicals-turned-atheists of one the reasons why they walked (ran) away from Christianity.

Recently, a Fundamentalist woman by the name of Vicki stopped by this blog to share a message with me that God had given her. Evangelical commenters are ALWAYS given one opportunity to say whatever it is they believe God had laid upon their blessed little hearts. I have never in ten years of blogging preempted someone from commenting. Got something to say, Evangelicals? By all means, speak your mind. In fact, I will even let you write a guest post. Say whatever you want (need) to say, but just remember, you only get ONE opportunity to do so. I will, in some instances, grant Evangelicals continued commenting privileges IF they demonstrate they can be kind, thoughtful, and play well with others. Most Evangelicals, once given additional opportunities to put in a good word in for Jesus, will eventually either give up or become frustrated and angry, giving yours truly and the readers of this blog a double barrel shot of Bible as they back their way out of the saloon door.

Take Vicki. Starting a month ago, she left a total of seven comments.  On October 6, Vicki wrote:

Well bottom line, I believe the Bible is the word of God and atheists do not so guess I’m done here. Have a nice day.

And with that, she was done until November 3 when she posted the following, using a different name (IP addresses are a bitch):

Interesting that he and Bruce had things in common but each came to different conclusions. Sounds like some similarities they shared. It seems Mr. Breeden recognized something many do not.

https://howtofalldown.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/wwere-apostates-ever-truly-saved-are-they-saved-now/

I responded:

You will find few Tony Breeden fans here. He started his blog as an attempt to deconstruct my life. In doing so, he puts words in my mouth, judges my motives, and denies me control of my own narrative.

In the end, he concludes that I never was a Christian; an absurdity to be sure. I have little respect for people who refuse to let me tell my story on my own terms (and accept it at face value).

Five hours later, Vicki tried to post her previous comment again on a post I had written about Breeden: Fundamentalist Tony Breeden Returns to Deconstructing My Life After a Four-Year Absence.  Here’s the text of that post:

On February 12, 2012, a man calling himself Preacher started an anonymous blog, How to Fall Down, so he could methodically deconstruct my past and present life. I did a bit of digital snooping, hoping to find out who this Preacher guy was, and it took me all of a few days to discover that it was the one and the only Reverend Tony Breeden. Breeden used to comment on a previous iteration of this blog until I banned him. Breeden’s deconstruction of my life lasted all of one month and thirteen posts.

Four years later, unable to get visions of me naked out of his mind, Breeden has decided to continue his voyeuristic peeking into my closet. While I don’t like his doing so, I know, as a public figure, that I must endure such inquiries into my life, beliefs, and motives. The difference between four years ago and now is that I no longer feel the need to correct those who view my life as a pornographic centerfold while they play with their Bible tool. Readers who have followed along with me over the years know the kind of man I am, as do my friends and family. That’s all that matters.

You can check out Breeden’s latest post here. I hope you will read it.

After Vicki’s last comment, I banned her for violating the comment policy.

Evidently, Vicki did a web search on my name, finding Breeden’s blog and a Christian apologetic blog operated by a man using the moniker SpaniardVIII. Much like Breeden, SpaniardVIII is preoccupied with my writing (and atheism in general).  On a post titled, (Part Two) The True Darkness of Atheism, Vicki and Spaniard VIII have a “discussion” about the atheist Bruce Gerencser. I have reproduced their discussion below, adding my comments as warranted. Enjoy!

Vickihttps://brucegerencser.net/?s=Vicki&searchsubmit=U  Scroll down and you’ll see where he quotes me and there’s a place at the top where you can click on comments for responses. Well, you’ve been to his blog. I wasn’t about to use his blank checklist form to say what I felt I should because that, to me, is just a mockery of Christians. So basically if a Christian goes there and says anything, we’re rude and inconsiderate because we’ve been basically asked not to speak. After all, he knows it all and has heard it all. Sad.

Bruce: The blank checklist Vicki speaks of can be found here: Dear Evangelical.

Here’s the text of the form:

Here’s the form that should make things simple for you:

Name: (Put in fake name because you are so fearless)

Email Address: (Put in fake email address because God knows who you are)

Reason for Contacting Bruce Gerencser (Check all that apply)

_____To tell him he is wrong

_____To preach to him

_____To quote Bible verses to him

_____To evangelize him

_____To tell him he doesn’t know anything about the Bible

_____To let him know God still loves him

_____To let him know I am praying for him

_____To tell him he never was a Christian

_____To tell him he is going to hell

_____To tell him he is still saved and can never be un-saved

_____To tell him he was/is a false prophet

_____To tell him he was/is a wolf in sheep’s clothing

_____To tell him he is angry

_____To tell him he is bitter

_____To tell him his writing shows he has been hurt

_____To tell him he is fat

_____To tell him I hope he burns in hell

_____To tell him that I am praying God will kill him

_____To tell him that he has a meaningless, empty life

_____To tell him he is going to die soon and then he will find out THE TRUTH!

_____To tell him that I know THE TRUTH about him!

Once you have completed the form, cut and paste it into your email or comment.

This form pretty well covers everything Evangelical zealots have said to me over the past decade. That Vicki thinks it makes a mockery of Christians says more about her faith than it does me. She might like to know that NO Evangelical has ever used this form. Oh no, their messages from the Lord can’t be reduced to single sentences on a form letter. What they have to say to me (and to my godless readers) is far too important for them to just put a check-mark on a form. They demand access and pulpit time, as if this blog is some sort of public space where anyone and everyone is free to say whatever the Hell they want to say.

SpaniardVIII: I just read it, so so sad what he said. he is for a rude awakening when he dies.

Bruce: Subtle threat number one: Bruce is in for a rude awakening (Greek for Hell) when he dies.

Vicki: Yes and telling him that is useless……even tho I’ve read on his blog that he admits that he could end up in hell.

Bruce: And yet, much like habitual masturbators, they continue to tell me that I am a servant of Satan, an evil man, a reprobate, and headed for Hell. I have never admitted that I could end up in Hell. Evidently, Vicki doesn’t understand sarcasm. Neither does she understand probabilities. Thus, she conflates possibility with probability. Let me be clear, I have no doubts about where I will end up after I die: the crematorium, with my ashes spread along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. Thus will end the life of Bruce Gerencser, save for the writing he leaves behind and the memories of him held by family and friends.

SpaniardVIII: Wow, how can someone take a chance like that? That is insane.

Bruce: Subtle threat number two: Bruce is insane to risk his eternal soul burning forever in the Lake of Fire. Always nice when an Evangelical trots out Pascal’s Wager. I have only heard it ten gazillion times.

Vicki: Yeah, he doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Vicki: Notice in comments how they put words in your mouth and twist what you say? Like I’m really gleeful about what will happen to Bruce when he takes his last breath. You know I’m am not any such thing. I just know the truth of the future of those who die outside of Christ. It’s tragic but atheists will make fun of any concern you say you have for them.

Bruce: Vicki, much like other Evangelical zealots, believes she has been commissioned by Jesus to share the “truth” with atheists; “truth” meaning her peculiar interpretation and understanding of the Protestant Bible. I don’t doubt that she is sincere, but so was the Evangelical lady who drowned her children because God told her to do so.

Vicki wrongly thinks that Christians have the right to say whatever they want to say on atheist blogs. How dare I stop her from putting in a word for the man, the myth, the legend, Jesus H. Christ. What Vicki fails to understand is that this blog is not a public forum. I am the owner, the God of this blog. I have a particular audience I have targeted with my writing: people who have doubts/questions about their Christian faith or people who have already left Christianity. This blog has never been open to Fundamentalist apologists wanting an open forum to attack atheists, agnostics, and non-Evangelical people of faith. There are plenty of places where such debates are welcome, but not here. This is all spelled out in the comment policy, yet Evangelical zealots think I am not talking about them. Memo: I’m talking about YOU!

I wonder if Vicki would be okay with me coming to her church and, from the pulpit, preaching atheism/humanism? I wonder if she would be okay with me coming back week after week, preaching the good news of godlessness? Of course not. She wants access that she would never grant on her own turf.

This blog is and will remain a safe place for Evangelicals to work through their questions and doubts about Christianity. It will remain a close-knit community of atheists, agnostics, humanists, pagans, stray Evangelicals, liberal/progressive Christians, and other non-believers. I make no apologies for what I have built here.

Let me give Vicki the same advice I give to other zealots: Don’t like what I write? Want to set me straight? Want to pummel me with “truth?” Start a blog. It takes all of five minutes to do so. And then you can rage against the atheist to your heart’s content.

SpaniardVIII: Sometimes when a person is determined to stop their ears to God’s Word, they must be left alone to their own destruction.

Bruce: Subtle threat number three: Bruce is an apostate headed for eternal damnation.

Vicki: Sadly true

Vicki: I’d forgotten that I also participated in the comments/response section so you may want to definitely look at that. It really doesn’t seem to matter what you say to them…… Do you recall what they said to you or do you have a link to your comments?

SpaniardVIII: Yes, I have a link, here it is: https://brucegerencser.net/2017/02/randy-the-atheist-turned-evangelical-talks-smack-about-bruce-gerencser/#comments

Vicki: Thanks, I’ll check that out.

Vicki: Sorry to keep posting but found an atheist blog of someone influenced by Bruce Gerencser.

https://lutherwasnotbornagaincom.wordpress.com/

Seems to be a nice guy but read those Ehrman books which destroyed his belief. I will never read those books. Of course, I don’t believe this man was ever Christian, just as I believe Bruce never was. He is definitely influencing some into full blown atheism.

Bruce: Vicki, after doing a web search comes upon Gary’s blog. Gary, a medical doctor, was a one-time zealot for Evangelical Lutheranism. He stopped by this blog years ago to set me straight about my past and present beliefs. He was quite the evangelist. I pointedly and politely challenged some of his beliefs, asking him to read several of Bart Ehman’s books. After that, I didn’t hear anything from Gary until he sent me the following email:

Dear Bruce and Bruce’s readers:

I am the obnoxious, self-righteous, judgmental jerk mentioned in Bruce’s article above.

I came across Bruce’s website by pure chance one day. I think I had googled “ex Baptist fundamentalists” out of curiosity as I was a former Baptist fundamentalist. I was very surprised to find an ex-fundamentalist Baptist pastor turned atheist! As I read Bruce’s blog I realized Bruce’s “problem”: Bruce had not been exposed to the RIGHT form of Christianity…MY form of Christianity…orthodox Lutheranism!

So I tried to “help” Bruce. I tried to share the “truth” with Bruce. But Bruce simply told me that my “truth” was just another form of Christian fundamentalism, not really any different from Baptist fundamentalism.

I was insulted.

As I tried to “share the truth”, Bruce continued to shoot down my assertions…and my assumptions. He told me to go read Bart Ehrman and once done, come back and then he would talk to me.

So I did.

And I was blown away! I was taught as a fundamentalist/evangelical Christian that God would preserve “every word” of his Word. Therefore, the existing manuscripts of the Bible, in the original languages, MUST be inerrant. Well, I found out quickly that they are not. And then, more and more beliefs that I had never questioned were shown to be false assumptions. I finally had to admit that the Bible is full of errors: the Resurrection stories in the Gospels, Acts, and I Corinthians are completely irreconcilable to any thinking human being (who has not been brainwashed by fundamentalist Christianity). Hades (Hell) and the Lake of Fire were ancient Egyptian and Greek concepts long before the Jews picked up these beliefs under the Greek occupation of Palestine just prior to the Roman occupation. And finally, the realization that there is not ONE shred of archaeological evidence of the two million Hebrew slaves living in ancient Egypt for 400 years, nor their wandering, and all but TWO of those 2,000,000 dying, in the Sinai. There was no Exodus, no conquest of Canaan, no great David and Solomon empires. They are all just Jewish fables.

Fundamentalist/evangelical/orthodox/catholic Christianity is one big “house of cards”. It is based on so many ignorant assumptions that it is baffling how educated, civilized people living in the 21st century still believe it.

So, first, I owe Bruce a HUGE apology. And I should have come back to his blog to apologize a lot sooner than today. I’m really sorry, Bruce! I’m sorry for behaving like the stereotypical hateful, self-righteous, judgmental fundamentalist Christian. I was an ass. I was a jerk. Please forgive me!

I have deconverted from Christianity. I have deconverted from the superstitious, ignorant, bigoted belief system of fundamentalist/orthodox Christianity. And I owe a lot of that to Bruce for opening my eyes to the TRUTH. There may be a God…but it’s not the Christian god, because the Christian god does not exist.

If it means anything Bruce, despite all the hate mail you receive from Christians, know this: You have rescued one man and his family from this false, ancient, fear-invoking, middle-eastern cult.

Thank you, Bruce!

Gary later posted the letter to his blog.

As Gary will tell anyone who asks, I didn’t try to evangelize him. I am not, nor have I ever been, an evangelist for atheism. I have corresponded and interacted with countless Evangelicals over the years. I never try destroy their faith. I ask questions, share my thoughts, and suggest books they might find helpful. It is true that this approach has led to more than a few people — including pastors, pastor’s wives, missionaries, and evangelists — losing their faith. Their deconversions are on them, not me. Unlike Evangelical evangelists, I am not counting souls saved. In fact, I have encouraged more than a few people to stay in church, be it for their family’s sake or personal emotional wellness. Any move away from the cultic tendencies of Evangelicalism is good in my book. To quote a worn-out cliché: it’s the journey that matters, not the destination. I believe this to be true. If I can help someone on their journey, great. Wherever she ends up is right where she needs to be.

That Vicki is afraid of Bart Ehrman’s books is troubling. Surely Evangelicalism can withstand careful examination. Vicki says she is a “truth” seeker, so why not follow the “truth” path wherever it leads? Ehrman is not the enemy, ignorance is.

Let me make this offer to Vicki: I will purchase and mail to you any two of Bart Ehrman’s books. All I ask is that you read them and honestly engage and wrestle with what he writes. Follow the path wherever it leads you! Surely, if God/Jesus/Holy Spirit is all you claim they are, they will protect you from harm, right?

Books by Bart Ehrman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Subtle threat number three: Bruce, you never were a Christian and are headed for Hell.

SpaniardVIII: Just read his post, very sad indeed. I grow up in a home where my family did Santeria. It is like Voodo [sic]. I used to see demons walking in my house. I am previlaged [sic] to have seen the spiritual war that we as Christians face. No Atheist can ever say that the super natural [sic] doesn’t exist because my own eyes has seen it. God’s Word is the truth and everything written in it.

Bruce: SpaniardVIII says “No Atheist can ever say that the super natural [sic] doesn’t exist.” Bruce says, “Dear SpaniardVIII, the supernatural does not exist.” There, an atheist said it. There are countless explanations for miracles and supposed supernatural events. And the few that can’t be logically explained don’t prove the existence of the Evangelical God. All they prove is that we “don’t know.”

As far as SpaniardVIII’s claim that “God’s Word is the truth and everything written in it.” I have two words for him: Bart Ehrman. No honest reader of Ehrman’s books can come away believing that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. His books are death to the notion that the Bible is a supernatural text written by the Christian God. Now, this doesn’t mean loss of faith. It does mean, however, that the Bible must be approached differently from the manner in which Evangelicals approach the text.

Vicki: Tried to share a link with Mr. Gerencser from a blog where the person had things in common with Mr. G and similarities yet came to a different conclusion that Mr. G and all he could say was I broke the comment policy rules. The Christian blogger recognized something that many don’t, that you can live a Christian lifestyle and not be Christian. I guess we’re supposed to take the word of those who claim they were once Christian over what God says about it. I don’t know why I keep attempting to reason with atheists except I sometimes feel compelled. I have doubts as to whether Mr. G even read the testimony.

Bruce: Tony Breeden’s post was an attempt to paint me as always being an unbeliever. In other words, he attempted to control my storyline. When I rebuff such attempts, Evangelicals get upset. How dare I not let them change my story or put words in my mouth.

Vicki asks, “I guess we’re supposed to take the word of those who claim they were once Christian over what God says about it.” Yes, I expect you act like a decent human being and accept at face value what I write about my own life. I do the same for Christians. When someone says, “I am a Christian,” I never “doubt” their profession of faith. Who better to know whether one is a Christian than the person professing to be one.

I hope Vicki knows by now that I read Breeden’s post. I read everything the Reverend writes about me, including the post he published today: Are Children Born Atheists? Science Suggests Otherwise.

SpaniardVIII: Just continue to walk in the path that the Holy Spirit takes you.

Vicki: Yes….I’m just sad for atheists plus have a desire that God’s truth be vindicated before them…..but won’t happen in this life for many of them.

Vicki: …..let God be true, but every man a liar…Romans 3:4

Bruce: Vicki gives her motive away when she says, “[I] have a desire that God’s truth be vindicated before them [atheists].” And therein lies the real reason many Evangelicals comment on this blog. They want to be vindicated, proven “right.” I have long argued that Evangelicals don’t give a shit about me as a person or what I have to say. All that matters is the orgiastic feeling they get when “defending” Biblical “truth.” In slaying the atheist Bruce Gerencser, they are showing the heathen world that their beliefs are oh-so-right. Little do they know that the only people buying their “truth” are those who have already slurped the Kool-Aid.

Subtle threat number four: Bruce is a liar who will die in his sins and go straight to hell. Booyah, told ya!

Still with me? Wasn’t that fun?

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

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

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

Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church: Eternally Shielded in Rome

sistine chapel

Guest post by MJ Lisbeth

When you go to France, people expect you to complain about the French. On the other hand, if you go to Italy, they expect you to rave about Italians.

Well, I confound both expectations. I have been to France several times, and lived there. Yes, there are rude and arrogant French people, particularly in Paris. But I live in New York, so I am rarely put off by other people’s attitudes. And I have encountered many French people who are helpful and generous, including some who have become friends.

Moreover, as someone who loves history, the arts and bicycling, there seems to be no end to what France can offer. Oh, and they sure know how to do food!

Of course, I can say the same for Italy. Now, I will grant that, on the whole, Italians are, if not warmer, then at least more emotionally demonstrative than the French are. I’ve met some who are generous and truly wonderful in all sorts of ways. Oh, and dare I say this? I prefer Italian coffee.

Still, on my most recent trip to Italy — the summer before last — I didn’t enjoy myself, at least for part of it. In fact, I was depressed enough that I didn’t even want to taste gelato.

You might have guessed that part of my trip was in Rome. Don’t get me wrong: I was happy to see the Forum and Coliseum, and to wander through ancient streets on foot and by bicycle. But, even in the seemingly endless sunshine of Roman summer days, I felt as if were enveloped in a gray rain.

At first, I thought I was just feeling guilt over leaving Chairman Meow, my aging cat whose health took a turn for the worse after I booked the trip. I called my friend, who was taking care of him. She assured me that he was okay, and I had no reason not to believe her: She rescued him and nursed him to health before I adopted him.

Still, I could not shake the gloom that gripped me. That I couldn’t fathom any reason for it made it all the worse.

It finally made sense when, as you might have guessed, I visited the Vatican. It’s one of those things you’re “supposed” to do in Rome; mainly, I wanted to see the Sistine Chapel again. I did, but even seeing one of the greatest accomplishments of one of my artistic heroes couldn’t lift my spirits.

I felt as if I were being crushed, and it wasn’t because of the crowds of tourists that surrounded me. And it wasn’t just the stifling heat and lack of space that made it difficult to breathe. Rather, I felt more like I was stuck in a vise-like pair of giant scissors. I just wanted to get out. The last thing I wanted was to get sick in that place: I might’ve gotten the best medical care available, but I felt as if I would never get out of the grip of the pincers I felt around me.

Later, I realized that those levers I felt at my sides; the crush I felt against my chest, were human legs and another human chest. Except that, even in that crowd, no one was that close to me: I would not allow it. In fact, I also wanted to get out of there because I did not want to end up in the hands of the Carabinieri if I kicked or punched — or in an asylum, in a foreign land, if I screamed.

What I realized, later that night, was that for the first time in years, I was re-living the sexual molestation and abused I suffered, as a child, from a parish priest. And, although I didn’t verbalize it, I understood that I was in the world headquarters, if you will, of the very organization that enabled my abuser. Even so, I would never get to say anything to the old men—priests—who run the organization, any more than I would have the opportunity to confront my long-dead abuser.

I also understood why I visited the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore — one of the major Papal basilicas and the largest Marian church in Rome — just once, even though it stood less than a block from the hotel where I stayed. Although I was awed by the mosaics as well as the other artwork — It was fabulous, even in comparison to other artistic and historical treasures of a city so full of them! — I couldn’t wait to get out of it and away from the piazza that rings it.

At that moment, the enormity of the place, and its close association with the Papacy, was enough to make me want to scream. But the following night, I was looking for something else on the internet when I came across an article about the basilica — or, more specifically, the cardinal who was its archpriest from 2004 until 2011.

He was none other than Bernard Francis Law. Although he wasn’t involved in the diocese in which I grew up, I couldn’t see him as anything but someone who covered for priests like the one who abused me.

After he resigned as Archbishop of Boston, Law moved to Rome. Shortly thereafter, Pope John Paul II appointed him to his post at Santa Maria Maggiore. This move made Law a citizen of Vatican City and, thus, immune to prosecution by US authorities.

When I looked at the domes of Santa Maria Maggiore again, all I could see were golden parachutes. That there were beggars around the church didn’t surprise me; I could only wonder how many other functioning but broken people — people broken by the priests shielded by Law and others like him — shuffled past the church on Esquiline Hill every day. For a few days, I was one of them.

The rest of my trip to Italy — which I spent in Florence — was better. But I needed to get home: I had much work to do. And, I confess, when people asked whether I had a good time in Italy, I nodded and mouthed the usual platitudes about the food and culture and history.

P.S. I am of (mostly) Italian ancestry.

Songs of Sacrilege: Jesus Christ Pose by Soundgarden

soundgarden

This is the one hundred ninety-fifth 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 Jesus Christ Pose by Soundgarden.

Video Link

Lyrics

[Verse 1]
And you stare at me
In your Jesus Christ pose
Arms held out
Like you’ve been carrying a load
And you swear to me
You don’t want to be my slave
But you’re staring at me

[Chorus]
Like I, like I need to be saved, saved
Like I need to be saved, saved
In your Jesus Christ pose
In your Jesus Christ pose

[Verse 2]
Arms held out
In your Jesus Christ pose
Thorns and shroud
Like it’s the coming of the lord
And I swear to you
That I’d never feed you pain
But you’re staring at me

[Chorus]
Like I’m, like I’m driving the nails, nails
Like I’m driving the nails, nails
Like I’m driving the nails (Nails)
Nails (Nails), nails (Nails)
Like I’m driving the nails (nails), nails
In your Jesus Christ pose
In your Jesus Christ pose

Arms held out
In your Jesus Christ pose
Thorns and shroud
It’s the coming of the lord
Would it pain you more to walk on water
Than to wear a crown of thorns
It wouldn’t pain me more to bury you rich

[Chorus]
Than to bury you poor
Poor (in your Jesus Christ pose)
Poor (in your Jesus Christ pose)

Black Collar Crime: Lutheran Pastor Bryan Engfer Accused of Theft

pastor bryan engfer

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

Bryan Engfer, former pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, stands accused of embezzling more than $13,000 from the church’s “Pastor’s Discretionary Fund.”  According to WISC-3, Engfer used the pilfered funds to purchase a car and to pay for a country club membership. The money was supposed to used for helping people in need. Evidently, Engfer was “needy.”

Engfer faces up to six years in prison if convicted.

Songs of Sacrilege: The Reflecting God by Marilyn Manson

marilyn manson

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

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is The Reflecting God by Marilyn Manson.

Video Link

Lyrics

[Verse 1]
Your world is an ashtray, we burn and coil like cigarettes
The more you cry, your ashes turn to mud
The nature of the leeches, the virgin’s feeling cheated
You’ve only spent a second of your life

[Pre-Chorus]
My world is unaffected
There is an exit here, I say it is and it’s true
There is a dream inside a dream
I’m wide awake the more I sleep
You’ll understand when I’m dead

I went to God just to see
And I was looking at me
Saw Heaven and Hell were lies
When I’m God, everyone dies

[Chorus]
Scar, can you feel my power?
Shoot here and the world gets smaller
Scar, scar, can you feel my power?
One shot and the world gets smaller

[Verse 2]
Let’s jump upon the sharp swords
And cut away our smiles
Without the threat of death
There’s no reason to live, at all

[Pre-Chorus]
My world is unaffected
There is an exit here, I say it is and it’s true
There is a dream inside a dream
I’m wide awake the more I sleep
You’ll understand when I’m dead

I went to God just to see
And I was looking at me
Saw Heaven and Hell were lies
When I’m God, everyone dies

[Chorus]
Scar, can you feel my power?
Shoot here and the world gets smaller
Scar, scar, can you feel my power?
One shot and the world gets smaller

Scar, scar, can you feel my power?
Shoot here and the world gets smaller
Shoot, shoot, shoot motherfucker
Shoot, shoot, shoot motherfucker

[Bridge]
Each thing I show you is a piece of my death

No salvation, no forgiveness
No salvation, no forgiveness
No salvation, no forgiveness
No salvation, no forgiveness

This is beyond your experience

Forgiveness
Forgiveness
Forgiveness
Forgiveness

[Pre-Chorus]
I went to God just to see
And I was looking at me
Saw Heaven and Hell were lies
When I’m God, everyone dies

[Chorus]
Scar, can you feel my power?
Shoot here and the world gets smaller
Scar, scar, can you feel my power?
One shot and the world gets smaller

Scar, scar, can you feel my power?
Shoot here and the world gets smaller
Shoot, shoot, shoot motherfucker
Shoot, shoot, shoot motherfucker

Shoot, shoot, shoot motherfucker
Shoot, shoot, shoot motherfucker
Shoot, shoot, shoot motherfucker
Shoot, shoot, shoot motherfucker

How Can I Be Certain the Evangelical God is a Myth?

certainty erich fromm

A regular reader of this blog sent me an email and asked the following:

I am unsettled by the notion that there is a possibility that the bizarre God of fundamentalism might exist. The idea that YHWH exists as described by Dan Corner, Jack Chick and their ilk terrifies me. Because that means we are dealing with a being that is irrational, uncaring, inconsistent, and quite frankly confusing in every aspect. It is that particular aspect of Christianity that I fear being true.

This person is “almost” sure that there is no God, but his need for certainty continues to plague him. I am sure that many readers can attest to having similar feelings at one point in time in their journey out of Evangelical Christianity. What this person continues to struggle with is doubt and fear. What if the fiery God of Jonathan Edwards really is as advertised? What if countless bellowing Evangelical preachers are right about God, sin, judgment, and the afterlife? Surely, there’s some test that we use to prove once and for all whether this God is the one true God. Surely, in this day of modern science, we have some sort of test we can use to finally and authoritatively rule out the existence of the Evangelical God. Unfortunately, the best that science can do is tell us that Evangelical interpretations of Genesis 1-3 are false; that the universe was not created in six literal twenty-four hour days; that the earth is not 6,022 years old (as of October 22, 2018). These facts do, however warn us about how Evangelicals interpret the Bible; that their Fundamentalist literalism, hermeneutics, and presuppositions don’t stand the smell test. And if Evangelical interpretations are false on these fundamental issues, what’s to say that their concept of God is not also without merit? The question we must ask here, then, in the one asked by Satan, the walking snake: yea hath God said? Is the Bible a supernatural text? Is it divinely inspired and inerrant? Settling these issues — read Bart Ehrman — will go a long way in burying Jesus in the sands of Palestine. That said, concluding that the Bible is NOT what Evangelicals claim it is, and that its words were written by humans, will not erase all doubt one might have about the existence of God. Answering these questions will get a person almost to home, but there could still be, as in the case of the person who emailed me, niggling doubts.

These doubts are the vestiges of Evangelical indoctrination. Sunday after Sunday, these “truths” were preached from the pulpits of the churches we attended. Spend enough years hearing such sermons, and you are going to think these beliefs are true. The essence of faith is believing without seeing. Evangelicals believe in God, Heaven, Hell, and the afterlife, not because they have ever seen them, but because their churches, pastors, families believe them to be true. Surely, all these people can’t be wrong, right? Actually, they can be (and are) wrong. Faith, for the most part, bypasses reason and intellectual inquiry. Evangelicals believe what they do because everyone they know believes the same. It is only when Evangelicals step outside of the Evangelical box that they see their resolute beliefs are not as solid as they think they are. (Please see The Danger of Being in a Box and Why it Makes Sense When You are in it and What I Found When I Left the Box.)

I cannot, for the letter writer, tell him what to believe. He must walk his own path and come to his own conclusions. The doubts he still battles are emotional in nature. Telling him to read yet another book will not drive away the fear and doubt that afflict him. His immersion in Evangelicalism has left deep scars that might take a long time to overcome. All any of us can do when it comes to religion is ask ourselves, how probable is it that Evangelical beliefs are true? What evidence is there for their truthfulness? It is “possible” that a commercial jet flying over my house could lose one of its engines, and that engine would fall on my house and kill me. Possible? Sure. Probable? No! I don’t go around worrying about a jet engine falling on my head. That would be stupid. I am confident — 99.99999999 percent that I will live out my entire life without a jet engine falling from the sky and killing me. With all the things that could kill me, it is irrational and a waste of time to worry about falling engines.

So it is with the Evangelical concept of God. I am confident that the Evangelical God is not who and what Christians claim he is. Reason, skepticism, and intellectual inquiry has led me to conclude that the Evangelical God is a fictional being, not one I need worry about lest he rain fire and brimstone down on my head. The odds are such that I don’t worry one whit about this God’s existence. If I was going to “worry” about the existence of a Creator God, I would mentally afflict myself wondering whether the deistic God exists. But why worry? This God is unapproachable and unknowable. All any of us can do is LIVE! It is primarily the Abrahamic God that keeps some people up at night with his threats of judgment and Hell.

Surely, if the Evangelical God is real he would help the letter writer with his doubts. He is slipping away, Lord. Do something! Of course, God is silent. Why? He is a fiction of the human mind. Once this fact becomes rooted in your mind — and it might take years — gone are doubts about this God’s existence.

Well, Bruce, what if you are wrong and you die, only to find out God is real? All I know to do is to say to God: My bad, Jesus!  I am 99.99999999 percent sure that is one apology I will never have to deliver. Could I be wrong? It’s possible — as in .00000001 percent possible, but I don’t plan on wasting my time on things for which there is no evidence.

Books by Bart Ehrman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

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

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

Songs of Sacrilege: Holiday by Green Day

green day

 

This is the one hundred ninety-third 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 Holiday by Green Day.

Video Link

Lyrics

[Intro]
Say hey!

[Verse 1]
Hear the sound of the falling rain
Coming down like an Armageddon flame (Hey!)
The shame, the ones who died without a name
Hear the dogs howling out of key
To a hymn called “Faith and Misery” (Hey!)
And bleed, the company lost the war today

[Chorus]
I beg to dream and differ from the hollow lies
This is the dawning of the rest of our lives
On holiday

[Verse 2]
Hear the drum pounding out of time
Another protester has crossed the line (Hey!)
To find the money’s on the other side
Can I get another Amen? (Amen!)
There’s a flag wrapped around a score of men (Hey!)
A gag, a plastic bag on a monument

[Chorus]
I beg to dream and differ from the hollow lies
This is the dawning of the rest of our lives
On holiday

[Interlude]
“The representative from California has the floor”

[Middle Eight]
Sieg Heil to the president Gasman
Bombs away is your punishment
Pulverize the Eiffel towers
Who criticize your government
Bang bang goes the broken glass
And kill all the fags that don’t agree
Trials by fire, setting fire
Is not a way that’s meant for me
Just ‘cause, just ‘cause
Because we’re outlaws, yeah!

[Chorus]
I beg to dream and differ from the hollow lies
This is the dawning of the rest of our lives
I beg to dream and differ from the hollow lies
This is the dawning of the rest of our lives
This is our lives on holiday

Songs of Sacrilege: God is Busy, May I Help You by Kultur Shock

kultur shock

This is the one hundred ninety-second 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 God is Busy, May I Help You by Kultur Shock.

Video Link

Lyrics

I know, I’m stranger in your land
I know, ladies and gentlemen
I know, I am coming here to stay
And take your jobs away

And you know, I will trade your soul for mine
Freedom doesn’t cost a dime
Don’t waste your time, religion is crime
I can make your problems go away right now

‘Cause God is busy, may I help you?

I know, stayed way too long
I know, we are not cute anymore
I know, we will never hear this song
On the radio

And you know, every word is truth and I
I can make you laugh and cry
And šljivovica, rakija
She can make your problems go away right now

‘Cause God is busy, may I help you?

 

Is Satan Real?

satan clutching the world

Yes and no. Satan is real to the degree that people believe he is. Evangelicals, in particular, believe that Satan is a living, breathing fallen angel. Evangelicals are Biblical literalists, so when they read what the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God says about Satan, the Devil, or Beelzebub, they believe what they are reading is non-fiction and biographical in nature. In their minds, Satan is every bit as alive as Jesus. He is a roaring lion who walks on the face of the earth seeking whom he may devour. Satan is a tempter who finds great joy in causing Christians to fall into sin. The number one excuse Evangelical preachers give when accused of sexual misconduct? No, not “I DIDN’T DO IT!” No, not “I thought she was eighteen.” No, the number one excuse given by Evangelical preachers is, to quote Flip Wilson, “THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT!” 

Video Link

According to Evangelicals, Satan has a large army of demons, and in legion with one another, they do their damnedest to tempt Christians to sin against God. Satan dangles the wares of the world in front of them, and in moments of weakness, they give in and sin. Much like the red scare in the 1950s McCarthy era, Evangelicals see Satan under every bed. Try as they might to bind him and cast him out, Satan continues to afflict God’s chosen people. He is their arch nemesis.

Believing Satan is real allows Evangelicals to escape personal responsibility for bad behavior. The thinking goes is that if Satan had not led them astray they wouldn’t have sinned. Dammit, Satan. If you hadn’t tempted me, I never would have had sex with my secretary! Just exchange “sex with my secretary” with whatever sin they are accused of committing. Wait a minute. I thought Evangelicals are indwelt with the Holy Spirit? Shouldn’t having God living inside of you provide an inoculation against sinning? How is it possible that the voice of Satan drowns out the voice of God? Evangelicals regularly attend church and do all the religious stuff they are expected to do, yet they continue to sin in thought, word, and deed. What gives?

Of course, Evangelical preachers have all sorts of answers for the continued Satan-fueled sinfulness of Christians, one of which is that they are a work in progress (sanctification) and God is not finished with them yet. Fine, I can understand that. We all grow and mature as we age. None of us is the person today that we were when we were in our twenties. However, it is Evangelicals who demand non-Christians perfectly obey the moral teachings of the Bible. Who is the primary driver and funder of the culture war? Evangelicals. Who is it that has a hard-on over homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and premarital sex? Evangelicals. Hear a voice screaming long and hard in the public square about “immorality”? Who is it? An Evangelical. Everywhere we look we find Evangelicals who feel they are the morality police. Yet, these same people don’t practice what they preach.

If Evangelicals can use Satan as an excuse for their bad behavior, why can’t non-Christians, atheists, agnostics, and pagans do the same? After all, the Bible says that non-Christians have been taken captive by Satan and he does whatever he wants with us. Which makes sense, as the Bible also says that Satan is our father. Damn parental training, right? If only God had been our father . . . oh, wait, he doesn’t seem to be a very good daddy either.

Here we are, it’s 2018. We live in an enlightened scientific world. You would think that believing Satan is real would be banished to the dustbin of human history. Unfortunately, Evangelicals still live in a world where a real Satan is required to explain evil and behaviors deemed to be sin. Over the past decade, I have been told by Evangelicals countless times that I am a tool of Satan. How else to explain my deconversion from Christianity? Satan made me do it!

As an atheist, I firmly believe that culpability for good or bad behavior rests with the person committing the act. While there may be mitigating factors, we are the ones who do what we do. We are responsible for our actions. Imagine how different Evangelical churches might be if personal accountability was preached? Instead, congregants are told that they are broken and need of saving, and even after Jesus saves them, Satan lurks in the shadows ready and able to tempt them to “sin.” Church members are encouraged to continually prostrate themselves before God, begging for his care and protection. Paul reminded first century Christians that they were powerless without Jesus; that the Christian life is one of constant battle with Satan and the flesh. Preachers tell congregants to attend church every time the doors are open, tithe, pray, tithe, read the Bible, tithe, and fast, and maybe, just maybe, when Sister Verily Voluptuous walks down the aisle, they might be able to withstand having “impure” thoughts. And you Christian ladies, the same goes for you too. Don’t think for a moment you are exempt. Your longing looks at Brother Wellhung Hunkubut have been noted! Time to follow the lust-prevention plan mentioned above.

I have long argued that Evangelical doctrine infantilizes church members; that it teaches them they are powerless and weak and in need of constant religious care; that without Jesus they will run headlong into sin and act just like the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. Hey, don’t tar us worldlings with that brush! We’re better than that, and when we aren’t we accept responsibility for our bad behavior; all without God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, Christianity, and preachers. Granted, our “sin” lists are much smaller than those of Evangelicals, but we can and do behave in ways that are harmful to others. When I harm others, I apologize and, if necessary, make restitution. No Satan or “flesh” to blame, no God from whom to ask forgiveness. I am to blame, end of story.

I am sure some smart-ass Evangelical will attempt to argue that good behavior requires God/Christianity/Bible, but based on my observations of the Evangelical landscape, that methodology is not working out too well. It seems to me that neither God, nor Christianity, nor the Bible is stemming bad behavior. Catholic and Evangelical churches alike are overrun with pedophiles and skirt chasers, and Christians watch porn at the same levels as their counterparts in the world. Christians seem to, in every way, live their lives in the same manner as those they damn to hell for not believing Jesus is the Way, Truth, and Light. But, Bruce, a recent study said Christians are HAPPIER! Take that! Yeah, delusion will do that to you. Eighty-one percent of voting Evangelicals voted for the worst American president in American history, so it is clear that their happiness, at least politically, is derived from lies. And I readily admit that the promise of a room in God’s Trump Hotel® in the afterlife might make me happy too, but there is no evidence for the fulfillment of such a promise. We live, we die, end of story. Solemn, at times depressing? Sure, but life is what it is. You can either choose to live in a fantasy world, or you can see things as they are, and not how religious gurus tell you they will be some day.

Did you attend a church where Satan was alive and well? Did you fear Satan? Where you tempted by his wiles and devices — or thought you were anyway? Please share your stories in the comment section!

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

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

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