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Songs of Sacrilege: Inside the Fire by Disturbed

disturbed

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

Today’s Songs of Sacrilege is Inside the Fire by Disturbed.

Video Link

Lyrics

Hahahaha
Ohh Devin, won’t go to heaven
She’s just another lost soul about to be mine again
Leave her, we will receive her

It is beyond your control, will you ever meet again?
Devin, no longer living
Who had been rendered unwhole as a little child
She was taken and then forsaken

You will remember it all, let it blow your mind again
Devin lies beyond this portal

Take the word of one immortal
Give your soul to me for eternity
Release your life to begin another time with her
End your grief with me, there’s another way

Release your life, take your place inside the fire with her
Sever, now and forever
You’re just another lost soul about to be mine again
See her? you’ll never free her

You must surrender it all if you’d like to meet again
Fire, all you desire
As she begins to turn cold and run out of time
You will shiver, ’til you deliver

You will remember it all, let it blow your mind again
Devin lies beyond this portal

Take the word of one immortal
Give your soul to me for eternity
Release your life to begin another time with her
End your grief with me, there’s another way

Release your life, take your place inside the fire with her
Give your soul to me for eternity
Release your life to begin another time with her
End your grief with me, there’s another way
Release your life, take your place inside the fire with her
Ooh Devin, no longer living
Who had been rendered unwhole as a little child
She was taken and then forsaken
You will remember it all, let it blow your mind again

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

The Voices of Atheism: Sam Harris and the Immorality of the Christian God

sam harris

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

Thank you in advance for your help.

What follows is a video excerpt from a debate between Sam Harris and Evangelical apologist William Lane Craig.

Video Link

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Christians are Jesus’ Slaves, Not His Servants

who owns you

I got to thinking about being slaves of Christ. A believer’s true position in Christ has been diluted by the Bible translators’ choice of the word servant and bond-servant for the Greek word doulos. That word has consistently been translated as servant, when it really means slave. Doesn’t that change the flavor of service to the Lord? Being a servant indicates that we can and do serve Him at our own will and pleasure, and slave means we submit our will to an alien will and then the matter is out of our hands.

The Bible is clear in its description that believers are slaves, not servants.  In every case where the word doulos is used it means slave, and the New Testament uses it 130 times. We are not servants of Christ, we’re his slaves.

….

I am reading the Bible through and I notice that a well-known phenomenon that will happen at the end of days also happened from the beginning. In the end, Revelation tells us the antichrist will place a mark on the hand or forehead of all who worship him. (Revelation 13:15-17). The mark allows people to buy and sell, but its reason for being is not the economy, it is a mark of allegiance and worship of the beast. That the mark allows a person to also participate in the economy is a by-product of its placement on the person.

Jesus also sends an angel to place a mark on the forehead of His 144,000 who evangelize the world. (Revelation 7:3-4).

Who brands his slaves? The master. Who puts a mark of ownership on his slaves? The master. Jesus is the ultimate Master and we are His ultimate slaves. That He puts a mark on us should not be surprising.

— Elizabeth Prata, The End Time, Being Slaves of Christ, August 26, 2020

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Bruce, Will You Repent on Your Deathbed and Return to Jesus?

death oscar wilde

Recently, a reader of this blog asked me to answer this question: Bruce, Will You Repent on Your Deathbed and Return to Jesus?

Good question.

I divorced Jesus in November 2008. Since then, I have proudly worn the atheist label. I am often asked WHY Jesus and I had a falling out and I ended our five-decade-long marriage. (Please see the WHY? page.) While the reasons are many, the primary reason I left Christianity is that its beliefs and practices no longer made sense to me. (Please see The Michael Mock Rule: It Just Doesn’t Make Sense.) I no longer believed the central claims of Christianity: the existence of the triune God, the deity of Christ, the virgin birth, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, to name a few. I no longer believed in original sin or that humans were inherently broken and in need of saving. I no longer believed that the Bible was an inerrant, infallible text supernaturally written by God. I came to the conclusion that Jesus lived and died, end of story; that the miracles attributed to him were human fabrications. As you can see, I reject out of hand virtually everything Christians believe and hold dear. Thus, I am an atheist.

Heaven and Hell are religious constructs used by clerics to keep asses in the pews and money in the offering plates. Heaven is the proverbial carrot, and Hell is the stick. Since these places do not exist, I need not fear spending eternity in the Lake of Fire being tortured by God for my unbelief.

While I am confident that Christianity is untrue, I remain open to evidence that suggests otherwise. It’s doubtful that any such evidence is forthcoming. Christian theologians and apologists have been making the case for Christianity for 2,000 years. I suspect everything that can be said, has been said. Solomon was right when he said, “there’s nothing new under the sun.” Countless Christian apologists have stopped by this site to ply their apologetical skills, hoping to reclaim Bruce, the atheist, for Jesus and perhaps save a few of his “followers.” Every one of them has left frustrated that their super-duper, clever, sophisticated arguments failed to win anyone to their cause. Why? Same shit, new day.

I am sixty-three years old. In poor health, struggling just to make it to the next day, I know that I shall die sooner, and not later. Maybe I will live twenty more years. I doubt it. Dealing with chronic illnesses and unrelenting pain wears me out. There could come a day when I have had enough and I put an end to my struggle. Or, I could have a stroke, heart attack, cancer, or die from a hematoma on my brain from being clocked with a Lodge cast iron skillet by my wife. Or I could trip over toys left on the floor by one of my grandchildren, breaking my neck. The death possibilities are endless. Cheerful thoughts, people, cheerful thoughts. 🙂

The question posed to me presupposes that I will have a terminal illness that makes me bedridden, affording me the opportunity to repent of my sins and ask Jesus to save me. On that day, will I have the courage of my convictions and remain true to atheism, or will I pray the sinner’s prayer just in case that Christianity is true?

The pattern of my life suggests that I will remain true to my convictions; that I will die, not with the name of Jesus on my lips, but that of my wife and family. I have no doubt that upon hearing of my soon demise, Evangelical evangelizers will seek me out, hoping to get one last word in for Jesus. Ceiling prayers will be uttered by Christians, pleading with God to save the vile, wretched, sinful atheist Bruce Gerencser. Will these efforts have their desired effect? I doubt it. The fact remains that I deconverted because Christianity no longer made any sense to me. I came to see that the central claims of Christianity were false. Intellectually, I simply don’t buy what Christians are selling. Since it is highly doubtful that any new evidence is forthcoming, I see no reason for me to change my mind on my deathbed.

Let me conclude this post with an excerpt from Lawrence Krauss’ New Yorker article titled, The Fantasy of the Deathbed Conversion:

Earlier this spring, a prominent evangelical Christian named Larry Taunton published a book alleging that Christopher Hitchens, an outspoken atheist, had been, during the last years of his life, “teetering on the edge of belief.” Taunton, who claims to have been one of Hitchens’s friends, cites as evidence two conversations he had with Hitchens during car trips on the way to debates about religion and atheism—debates, it must be said, that Hitchens was paid to attend.

Hitchens’s family and actual friends—people who didn’t pay to spend time with him—know that this claim is absurd. (I was honored to be one of Hitchens’s friends during the last five years of his life.) Hitchens saw Christianity as little more than a social virus with interesting literary overtones. That view never changed during his final year of life—a period during which Taunton didn’t even meet with him. Hitchens loved to engage in generous intellectual repartee, even with those with whom he unequivocally disagreed. His civility, it seems, has been misinterpreted.

This most recent claim, of course, is just the latest in a long line of similar claims about famous atheist conversions. It raises a worthwhile question: Why do evangelical Christians so often seek to claim converts among the dead?

In relatively recent history, the most well-known postmortem Christian evangelist is probably Elizabeth Cotton. In 1915, she declared that, thirty-three years earlier, Charles Darwin himself had revealed to her, on his deathbed, his wish to recant the doctrine of evolution in exchange for Christian salvation. This claim was shown to be false by none other than Darwin’s daughter, Henrietta Litchfield, who was with him at the end. She pointed out that Cotton—like Taunton, in Hitchens’s case—hadn’t actually visited him during his final days. And evangelical Protestants aren’t the only Christians addicted to the narrative of the deathbed conversion. Catholics have made claims about the “long conversion” of Oscar Wilde; the Mormon Church has gone so far as to baptize dead people who haven’t asked for it—pro-bono conversion, as it were.

….

In a conversation we had a few years ago, Hugh Downs, the television anchor, suggested why this might be so. One of the reasons people go to church, he said, is intellectual validation. People attend church for spiritual and social reasons, of course: to pray and to see friends. But they also want to hear their religious convictions affirmed—convictions that, as the Dawkins survey suggests, may seem a little dubious during the rest of the week. Could it be that evangelicals seek to convert the famous dead because they’re insecure about their own beliefs? If they can claim that people they admire as intellects—Darwin, Wilde, Hitchens—ultimately agreed with them, it validates their own faith.

In the end, what evangelists don’t recognize is that atheism is not a belief system like Christianity, from which one might defect after hearing some arguments or having a few sombre conversations. It is, instead, simply a rational decision not to accept the existence of God without evidence. As wise thinkers, including Laplace, Hume, Sagan, and Hitchens, have often said, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. It’s hard to imagine a more extraordinary claim than that some hidden intelligence created a universe of more than a hundred billion galaxies, each containing more than a hundred billion stars, and then waited more than 13.7 billion years until a planet in a remote corner of a single galaxy evolved an atmosphere sufficiently oxygenated to support life, only to then reveal his existence to an assortment of violent tribal groups before disappearing again.

The idea of the deathbed conversion raises another question: even if an atheist were to accept a theistic worldview, why should he choose to adopt Christianity, rather than any of the world’s many other religions? Evangelical Christians assume, rather presumptuously, that the natural choice is Christianity. Hitchens was unlikely to share that view. As he emphasized in his own writing, no one talks about Hell in the New Testament more than Jesus; the New Testament, he wrote, is worse than the Old. Hitchens described the New Testament as envisioning a “Celestial Dictatorship, a kind of divine North Korea.”

In this regard, the saddest thing about these imagined deathbed conversions is that, even if they were real, they could hardly be seen as victories for Christ. They are stories in which the final pain of a fatal disease, or the fear of imminent death and eternal punishment, is identified as the factor necessary for otherwise rational people to believe in the supernatural.

If mental torture is required to effect a conversion, what does that say about the reliability of the fundamental premises of Christianity to begin with? Evangelicals would be better advised to concentrate on converting the living. Converting the deceased suggests only that they can’t convince those who can argue back. They should let the dead rest in peace.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Advice for Young Pastors From an Ex-Evangelical Preacher

bruce polly gerencser our fathers house west unity
Polly and Bruce Gerencser, Our Father’s House, West Unity, Ohio Circa 2000

Years ago, I wrote the following post for the Ex-Pastors website. I thought readers of this blog might find it interesting, so I am re-posting it here. Recently, I noticed that an Evangelical writer quoted this article several times in his book. I wonder if he knew I was now an atheist? Regardless of my “relationship” with God, what follows is still good advice for men and women who desire to serve God and man in the ministry.

Young preachers begin the ministry with a lot of fervor and idealism. They go to their first church believing they are going to make a difference, that they are going to be able to do what others before them have not done.

For a time it may seem that they are succeeding in changing the church but then the honeymoon period ends and the preacher realizes that being a pastor is not what they thought it would be. Sometimes this is so devastating to the young preacher that they leave the ministry. The number of one and done pastors is quite high. Being a pastor over a long period of time requires a preacher to lose their idealism and forces them to temper their fervor.

Why?

There are several things that every young preacher must understand about every church: People are people.

There is a power base in every church.

Problems in the church are rarely exposed to prospective pastors.

Moderate, incremental change is difficult. Dramatic, instant change is almost always impossible (because people are people and the power base will resist any change that robs them of their power).

Here are a few suggestions that I hope will be a help to every young preacher that reads this post:

1. Don’t confuse your self-identity with the church. Far too many pastors allow themselves to be swallowed up by the church, losing their self-identity in the process.

2. Don’t sacrifice your children or spouse for the sake of the church. Trust me, 25 years later, the church will have long since forgotten you and your sacrifice will mean little.

3. Choose which battles are worth fighting. Not every hill is worth dying on and not every challenge to your authority of leadership is worthy of a fight. Remember, the church is not your church. You, along with people who likely have been there for many years, are simply caretakers of the church.

4. Be willing to say, I don’t know. I realize this puts you at great risk of being unemployed (since church members crave certainty) but speaking with certainty when you know there is none is lying and dishonest.

5. Be aware of the traps that can destroy your ministry, especially the big 2 – money and women. Never touch the money and never allow yourself to be put in a position where moral compromise is possible.

6. Insist that the church pay you well. Do not be a full-time worker for part-time pay. It is OK to pastor churches that cannot pay you a living wage, but the church must understand that you have an obligation to your family and you must work a job outside the church to properly provide for them.

7. Make sure there is an annual pay review procedure in place. You should not have to beg for a raise. Make sure you have an employment contract where the job requirements, pay level, benefits, pay review period, and termination procedure is clearly laid out. If a church is unwilling to put all of this in writing, what does that tell you?

8. If at all possible, own your own home. Someday you will not be a pastor. Someday you will be old and retired. Then what? Where will you live? Churches can rent out the parsonage and provide you with a housing allowance. Remember, most of the church members are building equity in their home and you should be able to do the same.

9. Insist that the church pays into a 401K that you own. Do not let anyone convince you to opt out of Social Security. It “sounds” OK now but when you are old you will regret it. What happens if you are disabled and have not paid into Social Security? You are out of luck.

10. Make sure that all sacrifice is shared. Remember it is not your church and it is not you alone who is responsible for “saving” the church from whatever crisis it faces.

11. Don’t use your wife and children as gophers and fill-ins every time something needs to be done at the church. Insist that church members take ownership of the church and do the work necessary to maintain the church and do what is necessary to keep the church functioning.

12. Don’t be in a hurry to find a church to pastor. A lot of churches that are looking for pastors don’t deserve a pastor. They have chewed up and spit out the last five preachers before you and, trust me, they will do the same to you. Let them die.

13. If a community already has X number of churches, don’t delude yourself with thinking that if you started a new, exciting church that it would be different than all the rest. It won’t. People are people and churches are pretty much all the same. Don’t flatter yourself.

14. Focus on people that need help. Focus on the least of these. By all means, offer them Jesus but do not neglect their physical needs. The greatest difference you can make in a person’s life it to help them when they are in the gutter and help them rise out of poverty. Above all, be their friend.

15. Visit regularly in the homes of the people you pastor. Get to know them. Allow them to be honest with you and ask you whatever question they want. Eat their food, take them out to eat and pay the bill. Don’t smother them but don’t neglect them either.

16. Don’t get sucked into buildings and programs that the church does not need. Rather than building a fancy new building, complete with gymnasium, think about maximizing what you have so more money can be given to the poor. If church members want to play basketball or do Pilates, they can go to the gym.

17. Do everything you can to integrate the youth into the church. They should be stakeholders. After all, they are the future of the church. This does not mean that you must become one of them. There is nothing more embarrassing than a pastor who tries to act like a teenager. Grow up and be a good example.

18. Work hard and be honest. Don’t be the kind of preacher that gives all preachers a bad name. Just because you are the pastor of a church doesn’t mean you are entitled to special treatment. Don’t ask for discounts and don’t expect people to favor you just because you pastor X church on Main St.

19. Don’t tell anyone you are a preacher. Don’t self-promote. Don’t insist people call you Reverend or pastor. Be an authentic human being, complete with faults and frailties. Don’t be afraid to admit to the church that you are a failure, that you are no better than anyone else.

20. Don’t let people put you on a pedestal. Trust me, falls off the pedestal are nasty.

21. Above all, understand that life is more, far more, than the ministry. Stop and take time to enjoy life, to enjoy the world you say your God created.

The advice I give here flows out of a lifetime in the Christian church and 25 years in the pastorate. I hope some young preacher might find what I have written above helpful.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Bruce, You Are Wrong!!

garfield never wrong

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Over the past thirteen years, various people have taken it upon themselves in emails, blog comments, Facebook comments, tweets, letters to the editor, sermons, and blog posts to emphatically tell me “Bruce, You Are Wrong!!” Be it my liberal politics, the teams I root for, or my humanistic, atheistic beliefs, these beacons of absolute truth are infallibly certain that I am wrong.

Let me confess right away that I have been wrong many, many, many times. I bet you didn’t know that, right? In fact, there’s not a day that goes by that I am not wrong in some moment, circumstance, or detail.

Usually, when someone writes to me to tell me I am wrong, they have a deeper, more sinister meaning for the word “wrong.” For the most part, I write about Christianity — particularly Evangelical Christianity and the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement. Occasionally, I write about politics, education, sports, photography, and other sundry subjects, but Christianity and all its trappings is my main focus. I spend a great deal of time telling my story, detailing my journey, as only a good, humble, narcissistic ex-pastor can. This blog, whatever else it may or may not be, is this: “Bruce’s Story, Told by Bruce, According to Bruce, the Best He Can Remember It.”

When I am telling my story and my understanding of the journey I am on, I have little patience with those who tell me I am “wrong.” They dissect my life with the razor knife of their own experiences and beliefs, and determine that I am/was not what I say I am/was. They tell me I was never saved, never a Christian, never a real pastor, and I suspect someday someone will even challenge my circumcision.

These kinds of people want to control my storyline. My Evangelical critics want to set the standard by which my life — the one I lived, the one I am presently living — is judged, and it infuriates them when I won’t let them do so. I refuse to allow my story to be co-opted, controlled, or judged by any other standard than my own experiences. It is my life, and I know what I believed, how I lived, and I am certain I know my life better than anyone who only had this blog to judge me by. My dear wife of forty-two years is my best friend and she knows me pretty well, but she doesn’t know everything about me. Almost everything, but not quite. (Polly is wondering, “what the hell is Bruce keeping from me?)

Foolish is a person, armed with only printed words on a computer screen, who would judge a person’s life without any further evidence or knowledge. I certainly want people to enter into my story — in fact, I invite them in. But my readers are just visitors. They only know what I am willing to tell them. If my lover and best friend or my counselor can’t pierce Bruce Almighty’s inner sanctum, don’t think for a moment any outsider can. I’ve been reading the blogs of certain people — Zoe and Andrew Hackman — who have frequented this site for years. I am friends with them on Facebook. I know lots of things about them, but I would never arrogantly say I intimately “know” them. The same can be said for my editor. She’s been editing my writing for almost five years. We have never met in person, and it is likely we never will. I consider her a dear friend. We text each other almost daily. I know a lot about her past life and present life, about her spouse, children, grandchildren, etc. However, I would never presume on our relationship by saying I “know” everything there is to know about her. Yet, countless Evangelical critics think that my reading a few posts on this site that they “know” me, and are in a position to render infallible judgment. 

Sometimes, charges of being wrong are hurled my way because of something I have written about Christianity, the ministry, the Bible, or some other facet of Western Christianity. They vehemently disagree with my interpretation of a particular Bible verse, or they object to particular word usages, words such as Christian, Evangelical, or Fundamentalist.

What is the foundation of their charges against me? Why, their own beliefs and interpretations, or the beliefs and interpretations of their particular sect. Ultimately, the Bible becomes the focus of these kinds of accusations.

According to my eristical interlocutors, I am wrong because I have misread, misunderstood, misapplied, or distorted what the Bible teaches. How do my critics know this? Because they read, understand, and apply the Bible differently from me, and we all know that every Evangelical is infallible in his or her understanding of an allegedly divine religious text, written by mostly unknown authors thousands of years ago.

I could be wrong. In fact, I am quite certain that some of my interpretations of the Bible are wrong or could be better stated. I have no way of proving whether they are. All I have is my mind and my ability to read, and using these skills, I try, to the best of my ability, to discern and understand what a particular text in the Bible says. People are free to differ with me, but why should it be assumed that I am wrong and my critics are right? How do we make such a determination?

The Bible has the unique ability to be whatever a person wants it to be. Most people have a bit of Thomas Jefferson in them, scissors in hand, cutting out the things they disagree with or the things that weaken their theological, political, and social beliefs. The short of it is this: if you need to prove something, go to the Bible. You will likely find the answer you are looking for.

I am quite aware of the fact that I read the Bible differently from the Evangelical Christians who think I am wrong. The one-up I have on them is that I used to read the Bible as they do. I understand their hermeneutics and theology, and I am well aware of their interpretations. That said, I have no compulsion or need to read the Bible as Evangelicals or progressive/liberal Christians would read the Good Book. I have no need to make the Bible fit a peculiar systematic theology grid, as Evangelical Christians do. Instead, I try to read the Bible like the average, unenlightened Bruce would read the Bible. I try to transport myself back in time in hopes of getting a historical and cultural perspective on the passage I am reading.

In Genesis 1:26, God says “let us make man in our image.”  When I read this passage, I say to myself: this says there is a plurality of Gods. Let US. As I read the Old Testament, it is very clear to me that the Israelites were polytheistic and over time became monotheistic (or as oneness-Pentecostals would assert about Trinitarian Christians, they still ARE polytheistic).

Of course, those who think I am wrong say: but the New Testament says______ and they import their Trinitarian theology into the Genesis text. That’s all well and good if you are an Evangelical Christian, but I am not. I am quite free to read the Bible as it is written without forcing myself to put all the pegs in the right holes. The Christian has the burden to make it all fit, not I.

I may be wrong, but it is a leap of faith to assume that because I am wrong, you are right. There is no way to “prove” who is right or who is wrong when it comes to the Bible. Baptists and Campbellites (Church of Christ) spar often over one Greek word, eis, in Acts 2:38. Who is right? Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know all the arguments from both sides of the fence. Who is right? All of us have to determine for ourselves what we believe about God, Jesus, the Bible, and Christianity. This blog is simply my take on these things.

Seriously, the amount of skin I have in this game gets less and less every day. Talking about the Bible and what it purportedly teaches is all fun and games. Since the Bible no longer has a mystical, supernatural hold on me, I am quite free to ignore it at will. I am free to be wrong because being wrong about the Bible is like being wrong about picking the wrong players for a fantasy football league — not the end of the world.

My bigger focus is on those who are considering leaving Christianity or who have already left Christianity. I try to be a good example of a person who successfully broke the chains of bondage and left Christianity. I do not call on people to follow me or to do what I did. All I am is one guy with a story to tell. If my story helps someone, if it gives them the strength to take the big step they need to take, then I am grateful and humbled by being a small measure of help to them. However, if all I do is piss you off and make you think you have scabies, perhaps your short life would be better served reading other things than this blog. Telling me I am wrong will not bring the effect you desire. I will gladly admit to being wrong. Next?

Perhaps you are really hanging out here because, deep down, uncertainty is pulling at you, and you are trying to suppress it by lashing out at the poor, deluded, deceived, ignorant Evangelical-preacher-turned-atheist named Bruce. If me being your whipping boy leads to your deconversion, whip away, my friend, whip away.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Smile God Loves You — Just Kidding!

smile god loves you

Imagine a story that goes like this . . .

One day, a young man walks up to a young woman and says:

I love you and I want to marry you. I know we have never met before, but I really, really, really love you, and if you will love me back, I have a wonderful plan for your life. I will be right by your side twenty-four hours a day. In fact, you will never be free of me because I promise to never leave or forsake you. I know you don’t know me from Adam, but if you will love me and never forsake me, I will be your BFF.

Suddenly, the young man’s face turns dark, and with a stern, threatening voice he says to the woman:

And if you don’t accept my proposal of love and lifelong commitment, I promise to make your life miserable. I will afflict you, burn your house down, and reduce your life to Job’s ash heap. I will make your life so miserable that you will wish you never had been born.

Any normal woman would recoil and run from such a man. Who would ever want to love such a person, one who offers conditional love, a love that promises violence and death if not requited? Yet, this is exactly the love that many Evangelicals try to sell to non-Christians.

Let me illustrate this fact with a tract from Osterhus Publishing House in Minneapolis, Minnesota. I picked this tract up at Dietsch Brothers Fine Chocolates and Ice Cream in Findlay, Ohio.

osterhus publishing tract 2
Osterhus Publishing Tract, Front
osterhus publishing tract
Osterhus Publishing Tract, Back

Is this not the essence of the gospel many Evangelicals preach?  God says, “Love me or you’ll wish you had.”

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Feminism to Blame for Whatever is “Wrong” with Men

lori and ken alexander

God didn’t give men high sex drives so they could watch porn and masturbate, commit fornication with multiple women, or delve into homosexuality and pedophilia. No, God gave men high sex drives so they would want to marry and be fruitful and multiply. Many women will bemoan the fact that there are no good men left because they have all gone astray, therefore, there isn’t anyone for them to marry. The problem stems from feminism. When women stopped being feminine and doing what God calls them to do, men stopped being masculine and doing what God calls them to do.

….

Feminism taught women to hold off getting married and pursue higher education and careers instead. Essentially, they were told to become men. In order to do this, they were taught that they must become liberated with your bodies and enjoy sex outside of marriage (fornication) by using birth control. THIS was and is the feminist message that young women hear! What happens when most of the young women decide to delay marriage, sleep around, and use birth control? Men no longer have a healthy sexual outlet in marriage and instead find sexually available women to meet their sexual needs or resort to porn or other sinful activities.

When women left their God ordained role, men left theirs. When women because immodest and promiscuous, men stopped having the goal of getting married and having children. And culture is being destroyed while everyone suffers. Women weren’t created for men’s roles and men weren’t created for women’s roles. It’s as simple as that. When women want to become men, chaos ensues. Chaos will always ensue when God’s will is ignored.

— Lori Alexander, The Transformed Wife, When Women Leave Their God Ordained Role, September 15, 2020

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Bruce, Have You Ever Had a Supernatural Experience?

atheism

A commenter on this blog, T34, recently asked the following question on the post titled, Is Christianity a Blood Cult?

I read a few of the articles [on this blog] and none of the titles seem to answer my question. Please know I [am]not an evangelist. I honestly am searching for answers. I want to know if Bruce has had any supernatural or spiritual (not religious) experiences or relationship with God or another? I would like to understand more why Bruce chose to be an outright atheist as opposed to just non-religious or agnostic. And if he has had any supernatural or spiritual experiences I’d like to know what they were and what he thinks of them now.

Polly and I typically listen to The Atheist Experience on Sunday nights before we go to bed. This week, Matt Dillahunty, one the hosts, mentioned the difficulty in defining the word “spiritual” or “spirituality.” Ask a hundred people to define these words and you will get 101 different answers. “Spiritual” to a Baptist is very different from the way a Catholic, Buddhist, Pagan, or humanist might define the word. T34 equates “spiritual” with “supernatural,” so I will proceed using that definition, understanding that there is no absolute textbook definition for these words. For example, a Charismatic Christian considers speaking in tongues to be “supernatural” experience. An Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) Christian, however, considers speaking in tongues a tool used by Satan to lead people astray.

Before I answer T34’s question, I do want to answer one claim that she makes: she suggests that supernatural and spiritual experiences are not religious. I don’t believe that at all. It is religion, in all its shapes and forms — organized or not — that gives life to supernatural and spiritual claims. Without religion, I doubt humans would have much need for such experiences.

My editor pointed out that non-religious people can and do have paranormal experiences. Are paranormal experiences such as “seeing” ghosts supernatural in nature? Maybe, but I suspect that if naturalism and science had a stronger hold on our thinking, thoughts of ghosts would likely fade away. I’m deliberately painting with a BWAPB — Bruce’s Wide Ass Paint Brush. I recognize that there could be some experiences that might not fit in the box I have constructed in this post. Unlikely, but possible.

I had a church piano player in Somerset who was certain that her dead lover (long story) appeared next to her when she played the piano. I never saw him, but she swore he was right there cheering her on as she played “Victory in Jesus.” Could her story be true? Sure, but not in the way some people may think it is. Her story is true in the sense that she “thinks” it is. In her mind, this man is very real, even though his dead body is planted in the nearby cemetery. Thus such things can be “true” without actually being factually and rationally true.

I was part of the Christian church for 50 years. While I spent my preschool years in Lutheran and Episcopal churches, once I started first grade in 1963, I attended Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB), Southern Baptist, and garden variety Evangelical churches. I spent 25 years pastoring Evangelical churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan, pastoring my last church in 2003.

When I discuss the spiritual/supernatural experiences I have experienced in my life, these events must be understood in light of the sects I was raised in, what my pastors taught me, what I learned in Bible college, and my personal learning and observations as a Christian and as an Evangelical pastor. My understanding of what is spiritual/supernatural is socially, culturally, tribally, and environmentally conditioned. A Southern Baptist church can be located on the northwest corner of Main and High in Anywhere, Ohio and a Pentecostal church located on the southeast corner of Main and High in the same town. Both preach Jesus as the virgin-born son of God, who came to earth, lived a sinless life, and died on the cross for our sins. Both preach that all of us are sinners in need of salvation, that one must be born again to inherit the Kingdom of God. And both believe Satan is real, Hell is sure, and Donald Trump is the great white hope. Yet, when it comes to “experiencing” God, these churches wildly diverge from one another. The Pentecostals consider the Baptists dead and lifeless, lacking Holy Ghost power, while the Baptists consider their Pentecostal neighbors to be way too emotional, to have a screw loose. Both churches “experience” God in their own way, following in the footsteps of their parents, grandparents, and older saints who have come before them.

As a man who pastored several churches in desperate need of change, I heard on more than a few occasions church leaders and congregants say, when confronted with doing something new or different, “That’s not the way we do it!” Behaviors become deeply ingrained among Christian church members. Our forefathers did it this way, we do it this way, and we expect our children and grandchildren will do the same. A popular song in many Evangelical churches is the hymn, “I Shall Not be Moved.” The chorus says:

I shall not be, I shall not be moved.
I shall not be, I shall not be moved;
like a tree planted by the water,
I shall not be moved.

That chorus pretty well explains most churches. Whatever their beliefs and practices are, they “shall not be moved.” So it is when determining what are real “spiritual” or “supernatural” experiences.

supernatural

As a Baptist, I believed the moment I was saved/born-again, that God, in the person of the Holy Spirit, came into my “heart” and lived inside of me, teaching me everything that pertains to life and godliness. It was the Holy Spirit who was my teacher and guide. It was the Holy Spirit who taught me the “truth.” It was the Holy Spirit who convicted me of sin. It was the Holy Spirit (God) who heard and answered my prayers. It was the Holy Spirit who directed every aspect of my life.

As a pastor, I typically preached a minimum of 4 sermons a week. I spent several full days a week — typically 20 hours a week — reading and studying the Biblical text, commentaries, and other theological tomes. As I put my sermons together, I sought God’s help to construct them in such a way that people would hear and understand what I had to say. Daily, I asked God to fill me with his presence and power, especially when I entered the pulpit to preach. I always spent time confessing my sins before preaching, believing it was vitally important for me to “right” with God before I stood before my church and said, “thus saith the Lord.”

I expected the Holy Spirit to take my words and use them to work supernaturally among those under the sound of my voice. I believed that it was God alone who could save sinners, convict believers of their sin, or bring “revival” to our church. I saw myself as helpless — without me, ye can do nothing, the Bible says — without the supernatural indwelling and empowerment of the Holy Spirit.

As a committed Christian, I was a frequent pray-er. I prayed for all sorts of things, from the trivial to things beyond human ability and comprehension. I believed that with God all things were possible. In the moment, I believed that God, through the work of the third part of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, was working supernaturally in my life, that of my family, and of my church. My whole life was a “spiritual” experience, of sorts. God was always with me, no matter where I went, what I said, or what I did, so how could it have been otherwise?

In November 2008, God, the Holy Spirit, along with all of his baggage, was expelled from my life. For the past twelve years, I have taken the broom of reason, science, skepticism, and intellectual inquiry and swept the Christian God from every corner of my mind. While I wish I could say that that my mind is swept clean of God, dust-devils remain, lurking in the deep corners and crevasses of my mind. All I know to do is keep sweeping until I can no longer see “God” lurking in the shadows.

T34 wants to know how I now view the “spiritual” and “supernatural” experiences from my past life as a Christian and Evangelical pastor. As an atheist, I know that these experiences were not, in any way, connected to God. I have concluded that the Christian God is a myth, that he/she/it is of human origin. If there is no God, then how do I “explain” the God moments I experienced in my life? Does Bruce, the atheist, have an explanation for what “God” did in his life for almost 50 years?

Sure. The answer to this question is really not that difficult. I spent decades being indoctrinated by my parents, pastors, and professors in what they deemed was the “faith once delivered to the saints.” This indoctrination guaranteed the trajectory of my life, from a little redheaded boy who said he wanted to be a preacher when he grew up — not a baseball player, policeman, or trash truck driver, but a preacher — to a Bible college-trained man of God who pastored seven churches over 25 years in the ministry. I couldn’t have been anything other than a pastor.

And so it is with the “spiritual” and “supernatural” experiences I had in my life. My parents, churches, pastors, and professors modeled certain beliefs and practices to me. I “experienced” God the very same way these people did. Social and tribal conditioning determined how I would “experience” God, not God himself. He doesn’t exist, remember?

I sincerely believed that, at the time, God was speaking to me, God was leading me, and God was supernaturally working in and through my life. But just because I believed these things to be true, doesn’t mean they were. A better understanding of science has forced me to see that my past life was built upon a lie, a well-intended con. This is tough for me to admit. In doing so, I am admitting that much of my life was a waste of time. Sure, I did a lot of good for other people, but the “spiritual” and “supernatural” stuff? Nonsense. Nothing, but nonsense. And saying this, even today, is hard for me to do. It’s difficult and painful for me to admit that I wasted so much of my life in the pursuit of something that does not exist.

T34 asked why I “chose to be an outright atheist as opposed to just non-religious or agnostic.” I am not sure what an “outright” atheist is as opposed to an atheist. Remembering what I said about the connection between religion and the “spiritual” and “supernatural,” isn’t someone who is non-religious an atheist or an agnostic? While such people may not carry such labels, aren’t non-religious people those who do not believe in deities? If someone believes in a God of some sort, be it a personal deity or some sort of divine energy, they can’t properly, from my perspective, be considered non-religious.

Granted, there is a difference between people who are non-religious and people who are indifferent towards religion. An increasing number of Americans are indifferent towards religion. They simply don’t give a shit about religion, be it organized or not. I suspect that many of these NONES will eventually become agnostics and/or atheists.

I label myself this way:

I am agnostic on the God question. I am convinced that the extant deities are no gods at all; that the Abrahamic God is a human construct. That said, I cannot know for certain whether, in the future, a deity might make itself known to us. I consider the probability of this happening to be .00000000000000000000001. Thus, I live my day-to-day life as an atheist — as if no deity exists. I see no evidence for the existence of any God, be it Jehovah, Jesus, Allah, Vishnu, or a cast of thousands of other gods. The only time I “think” about God is when I am writing for this blog. Outside of my writing, I live a God-free life, as do my wife, dog, and cat.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Billions of People are Christian so Christianity MUST be True

one true religion

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

One of the arguments Evangelical Christians use to “prove” the exclusivity of Christianity is this:

 “Bruce, billions of people are Christians. Surely, they can’t ALL be deluded and deceived, right?”

This seems to make sense, doesn’t it? The sheer number of Christians makes it highly unlikely that Christianity is untrue, right? However, history is replete with examples of people sincerely believing things that were later found to be untrue. Millions of people have been slaughtered by zealots sincerely committed to beliefs that were untrue.

In the political realm, we see this all the time. President Lyndon Johnson lied about the Gulf of Tonkin incident that drew us into the Vietnam War. President George Bush and his lackeys lied about weapons of mass destruction, and used this lie to start a war with Iraq. Adolph Hitler, a Christian man, along with his fellow Nazis, spun a lie about the Jews and the superiority of the Aryan race. Germans embraced this lie, resulting in the death of millions of people. In each of these illustrations, the lie was believed by the masses.

What does Christianity offer to people? It purports to answer the “big” questions of life, especially the question of life after death. There is no question that Christianity gives hope, meaning, and purpose to billions of people. However, just because millions of people find hope, meaning, and purpose in Christianity doesn’t necessarily mean it is true.

catholic one true church

Christianity is an exclusive religion. Some sects within the Christian tent (i.e. Catholicism) claim exclusivity for their particular sect. Some churches take this exclusivity a step further and claim that they are one of the few true churches (i.e. Darwin Fish, A True Prophet of God). A Christian is a follower of Jesus and his teachings. At some level, the Bible must be embraced as truth. Otherwise, how can a person know they should follow Jesus or what the requirements are to be a follower?

Since Christianity is an exclusive religion, all other religions are considered false. All other gods are no gods at all. According to Christians, their God, the God of the Bible, the God who reveals himself through creation and conscience, is the one true and ever-existing God.

It is this certainty about God, the Bible, sin, salvation, and life after death that draws millions of people to Christianity. Every Easter, millions of people will gather together to proclaim their belief in a God-man named Jesus. In him, they find the forgiveness of sin and life eternal. Surely the sheer magnitude of worldwide Easter gatherings stands as proof that Christianity is true!

There’s just one BIG problem with this seemingly insurmountable “fact.” There are other sects that have millions/billions of worshippers too. There are millions of Hindus, Muslims, Jews, and Buddhists who believe their God is the true God or one of the many gods in the universe. Take a look at the numbers for the major religions of the world:

top 15 religions in the world

Let’s play fill in the blank:

Millions/Billions of people are __________ (fill in with one of the above religions). “Surely they can’t ALL be deluded and deceived, right?”

I hope you see that the number of believers/followers doesn’t necessarily mean a religion is true. It is quite possible for a religion to be totally manmade and yet have millions/billions of adherents. This is easily proved.

When I think of a manmade religion, I can think of no better example than Mormonism. Joseph Smith invented the Mormon religion, yet 15+ million people are practicing Mormons. There are over 29,000 Mormon congregations in the world and over 88,000 Mormon missionaries go from place to place making disciples for their God. Surely, this is proof that the Mormon religion is the one true faith and the Mormon God is the one true God, right?

Wikipedia gives a concise summary of how the Mormon religion started:

Mormonism originated in the 1820s in western New York during a period of religious excitement known as the Second Great Awakening. Founded by Joseph Smith, the faith drew its first converts while Smith was dictating the text of the Book of Mormon from golden plates he said he found buried after being directed to their location by an angel. The book described itself as a chronicle of early indigenous peoples of the Americas, portraying them as believing Israelites, who had a belief in Christ many hundred years before his birth. Smith dictated the book of 584 pages over a period of about three months saying that he translated it from an ancient language “by the gift and power of God”. During production of this work in mid-1829, Smith, his close associate Oliver Cowdery, and other early followers began baptizing new converts into a Christian primitivist church, formally organized in 1830 as the Church of Christ. Smith was seen by his followers as a modern-day prophet.

Smith later wrote that he had seen a vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ in spring 1820 in answer to his question of which denomination he should join. Sometimes called the “First Vision”, Smith’s vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ as two separate beings was reportedly the basis for the difference in doctrine between Mormonism’s view of the nature of God and that of orthodox Christianity. Smith further said that in answer to his prayer the Lord instructed him to join none of the existing churches because they were all wrong. During the 1820s Smith reported having several angelic visitations, and by 1830 Smith said that he had been instructed that God would use him to re-establish the true Christian church and that the Book of Mormon would be the means of establishing correct doctrine for the restored church.

Mormonism is a wonderful example of American entrepreneurship. Founded on the lies/delusions of Joseph Smith, it is now one of the largest religions in the United States. There is no truth to the founding story, yet millions of people believe it. This is clear evidence that it is possible for millions of people to believe something and it be totally false.

one true religion

How do you know that Christianity is any different from Mormonism or any of the other religions of the world? As I have clearly shown, the number of people who believe is not proof that any particular religion is true.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.