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Anti-maskers Try to Disrupt Ayersville School District Board Meeting

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A small contingent of anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers in Defiance County, Ohio, are trying to force local school districts to make mask-wearing voluntary. These anti-science Trump supporters think the word tyranny means being required to wear masks during school board meetings. As you shall hear in the video below, “tyranny” is not being able to do whatever you want to do. Of course, these “patriots” don’t really believe this. I suspect that if I went to their homes, stripped naked, and stood on the sidewalks in front of their houses, they would call the police. What happened to FREEDOM? Shouldn’t all of us be free to do whatever we want? Of course not. This is nothing more than libertarianism gone wild.

As an Ohioan and a Defiance County resident, I am more than embarrassed by the behavior and ignorance displayed in the following video. Kudos to the Defiance County Sherriff’s deputy and Ayersville school district employees for standing their ground. Fortunately, the mob quietly retreated after being refused entrance to the meeting.

This video is shot in the wrong orientation, but I hope you will watch it anyway. Pay close attention to the anti-science questions and statements made by some of these anti-maskers, including a “medical professional.”

Video Link

Sadly, there’s nothing anyone can say or do that will change their minds. The only thing that might work is a COVID-19 infection and a stay in the ICU on a respirator. Reason, science, and common sense are unable to make a difference with these folks. I know some of them personally, having crossed swords with them over Donald Trump, socialism, and militarism. No amount of “words” will change their minds, as the sheriff’s deputy and others learned.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Short Stories: A Mom and Her Son — A Perfect Night Long Ago

bill gaither trio

Almost thirty years ago, my mother turned a Ruger .357 handgun towards her heart, cocked the hammer, and pulled the trigger. Mom died moments later, slumping to an ignoble end in her bathroom. Mom had tried to kill herself numerous times over her fifty-three years of life before finally succeeding. (Please see Barbara.) I have written about some of these attempts before, so there’s no need to rehash them here.

Mom and I had a complicated relationship. My Fundamentalist religious beliefs kept me having the relationship I should have had with her. While Mom professed to be a Christian, I didn’t believe her. I genuinely thought that if she would just repent of her sins, get saved, and start following the teachings of the Bible, all would be well. No mental illness, no drug ddiction, just love, peace, and joy. It would be years later before I truly “understood” my mom. It would be years before I understood how being sexually abused by her father affected every aspect of her life. Mom’s life was a trainwreck, but once I understood that abusive, violent men often drove her train, I could then love her as she was. Or try to, anyway.

In early 1976, I decided to study for the ministry. At first, I planned to attend Briercrest Bible Institute — an non-denominational Evangelical college in Canada. But, unable to meet the non-resident financial requirements for crossing the border, I chose to attend Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan instead. This singular choice, of course, changed my life, later affecting who I would marry, where I would live, and how I would spend most of my adult life. There’s a new show on TV called Ordinary Joe. The show details how the choices we make affect the trajectory of our lives. What if I had gone to Briercrest instead of Midwestern? How different would my life be today? Better? Worse? Who can say? Alas, life is what it is.

Mom was quite proud of me. I would be the first person in our family to go to college. While Mom never heard me preach, I know she was delighted that I was a preacher. A few months before I left for college, I asked Mom if she wanted to go to a Christian concert with me at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Indiana. This would be the first and last time Mom and I did something together. Just Barbara and her oldest son, Bruce.

Mom said yes, so on the appointed day, we drove to Fort Wayne to hear the Bill Gaither Trio — Bill and Gloria Gaither and Gary McSpadden. Also performing were Henry and Hazel Slaughter. Before heading over to the concert, we ate dinner at a restaurant — its name long forgotten. Mom and I would eat dinner together one more time in the spring of 1978, introducing her to Polly, my beautiful bride-to-be.

A perfect night, forty-five years ago. A night when a mother and her son could be just that without Jesus, the Bible, or mental illness getting in the way.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Bruce, Wouldn’t Your Life Be “Easier” if You Were Still a Christian?

bible has all the answers

I recently participated in a Zoom discussion with a Mennonite discipleship class in Pennsylvania. At the end of my sermon/lecture/speech on why I am an atheist, I fielded questions from the men in attendance. (Please see Bruce, I Don’t Believe You Are an Atheist.) One man asked me, “do you think your life would be ‘easier’ if you were still a Christian?” I replied, “yes!” The man agreed with me; life was easier for me when all I had to do was read, trust, and obey.

As a Christian, I believed the Bible was the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. I believed the Bible contained everything I needed for life and godliness; that the Bible was God’s blueprint for living. As all Christians are, I was a hypocrite, often ignoring or disobeying the teachings of the Bible. That said, the bent of my life was towards holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. I daily asked Jesus to forgive me of my sins (I John 1:9). I sought truth and guidance from the Bible, asking God, the Holy Spirit, to guide my thoughts, words, and deeds. As honest Christians will also admit, I failed at this endeavor. I kept trying, day in and day out, but I never felt I had “arrived” as a Christian.

Despite the existential struggles that came from being a follower of Jesus, life was simple. I didn’t have to think about morality or ethics. When questions would arise, the answer was always the same: THE BIBLE SAYS __________. Granted, in retrospect, I now know that the Bible required interpretation. Thus, I was the final arbiter of what I deemed moral and ethical — not God. Bruce Gerencser, not the Triune God, had the final say on everything.

In November 2008, I attended church for the last time. In 2009, I wrote a letter titled Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners, detailing my loss of faith. Losing that which had been the foundation of the first fifty years of my life was traumatic, to say the least. I desperately tried to hang on to God, the Bible, and the church, but I was unable to do so. If there was ever a time for God to make himself known to me, it was then. But my doubts and questions were met with silence. Eventually, I concluded that the reason for the silence was this: God was a myth; the God of the Christian Bible was a human construct. Once the Bible and its author (God) lost their authority and control over me, I began sliding down the proverbial slippery slope. Many of the readers of this site have experienced similar frightening slides. Some of you found natural resting places: liberal Christianity, Unitarian-Universalism, or some other religion. For me, my slide finished with a colossal thud at the bottom of the slope. I finally admitted I was an atheist.

Saying I was an atheist was just the beginning of my new life in accordance to science, reason, and skepticism. Gone were God, the church, and the Bible — now what? What do I believe? I had to rethink my morals and ethics. I no longer had at my disposal book, chapter, and verse. I had to ponder what it was I believed about behaviors the Bible called “sin.” I decided that “sin” was a religious construct used by clerics and churches to keep asses in the seats and Benjamins in the offering plates. Sin, Hell, Judgment, Fear . . . thus saith the Lord! Remove these things from the equation and Christianity would shrivel up and die.

I have spent the past thirteen years thinking about what I believe and how I want to live my life. This has been hard. There’s no Atheist Handbook, no rulebook by which to govern my life. Sure, humanism provides a general moral and ethical framework for me, but I still have to determine the moral and ethical beliefs I took for granted as an Evangelical Christian. It would be far easier for me to appeal to a “book” as my standard for living (and certainly Christianity influences my thinking on morality). However, I am committed to doing the hard work necessary to best live my life. My “sin” list now fits on the front of a 3×5 card. Most of the “sins” that perturbed me as a Bible preacher and teacher no longer matter to me. I don’t care about who fucks whom, when, where, why, or how. As long as it’s consensual, that’s the end of the discussion for me.

The longer I’m an atheist, the easier the journey becomes. I have settled many of the moral and ethical questions that perturbed me a decade ago. However, I still struggle with some things. As my politics continue to move leftward, I am forced to rethink what matters politically (and morally). I remain a work in progress.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Questions: Bruce, What Was Your View of “God”?

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I put out the call to readers, asking them for questions they would like me to answer. If you have a question, please leave it here or email me. All questions will be answered in the order in which they are received.

Evan asked:

My first question is, what is God to you? Also, when you were actively involved in the church, what, how, and where did you see God as? To give some examples, is God a bearded man in the sky watching us (as silly as that sounds)? Is he Invisible, Risen? Lively or Unlively? What about when praying to him (as in Jesus)? Do you think he was listening to your words?

Evan is not a Christian, so he asks these questions from the perspective of an unbeliever trying to understand how Christians view and understand God. There is no singular Christian view/understanding of God, so it is impossible to define God from a singular perspective. Put a hundred Christians in a room and have them answer Evan’s questions, and you will end up with dozens of answers. Much like Jesus, “God” is a product of human imagination and experience. Simply put, God is whoever/whatever you want him/her/it to be. What follows, then, is how I viewed God as an Evangelical Christian and pastor. My past view of God is normative within Evangelicalism, but certainly not the only view found within the Evangelical tent.

Evan’s first question is in the present tense, so let me briefly answer it before answering the “what is God to you” in the past tense. I am an atheist, so I don’t believe in the existence of deities. I am persuaded that God is a human construct, the byproduct of a pre-science world. Humans looked at the universe and tried to explain what they saw. Enter Gods. Science, of course, has now answered many of the questions that were once answered with “God.” As science continues to answer more and more questions about our universe, God becomes irrelevant. Of course, the concept of “God” is deeply ingrained in human thinking, so ridding our world of deities is not easy.

As an Evangelical Christian, I believed God was eternal and transcendent; that God was three persons in one (the Trinity): God, the father, God, the Son, and God, the Holy Spirit. God was all-knowing, all-seeing, and all-powerful. Simply put, God was everywhere. There was no place I could go to escape the presence of God.

God was a personal deity. Jesus died on a Roman cross for my sins (substitutionary atonement) and resurrected from the dead three days later. By putting my faith and trust in Jesus, I believed he forgave my past/present/future sins, and I would go to Heaven after I died. The moment I was “saved.” the Holy Spirit moved into my “heart” and became my teacher and guide.

I viewed God as a spiritual presence in my life and the world. Through the Bible and prayer, God “spoke” to me — not audibly per se. Feeling and knowing the presence of God is hard to explain. Religious indoctrination and conditioning led me to believe God was an ever-present reality in my life. There was no escaping God, even when I was sinning. When I prayed, I thought I was directly talking to God. At times. I had profound experiences when praying, reading the Bible, or preaching. Just as God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, I believe God walked with me too.

This is a dumbed-down (no offense to Evan) version of how I viewed and experienced God as an Evangelical Christian. I could have written a 10,000-word treatise on the Trinitarian God, complete with a plethora of Bible references. However, doing so would likely not give Evan the answers he is seeking.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

How My Christian Belief Ended

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Guest post by Karuna Gal

I hung onto the Christian faith most of my life. Unlike me, my siblings lost their belief pretty early on, with no fuss or bother. They did baptise their children, and some of those kids made their First Communion and Confirmation. However, the kids are “Nones” – they don’t follow any religion.

So, why did I stay a Christian? I was very religious. I was thoroughly convinced that there was a God. Another reason was that I had no doubt that Jesus was resurrected from the dead. The first disciples were so sure about this that they died for their beliefs. Why would they lie about something that put them in such danger?

Although I explored other spiritual traditions, like Hinduism and Native American, I always kept the Christian faith as the touchstone of my religious belief. I had grown up as a Roman Catholic Christian and that conditioning was strong. It ran in my family. We had a priest and a Third Order Franciscan (a lay order) on my mom’s side.

When I was in college I finally rejected Catholicism because of its history and attitude toward women. Thus began a long process of looking for a church that would help me in my spiritual evolution. I wanted to work on my shortcomings and fears and become a better person. Oddly enough, though, the different churches I attended were hardly into this at all. Even the Quaker church I tried for a while was more evangelical than interested in “the still, small voice.”

Churches I attended had a lot of activities and events. There were prayer teams, Christmas pageants, and food pantries for the poor. They held potlucks and silent auctions. But when it came to the challenge of working on really improving yourself — well, forget it. I think someone has called churches social clubs with a religious veneer, and I have to agree with that statement. A lot of times I felt that I was a freak, wanting to deepen my spiritual life and improve myself, and no one around me, including the clergy, seemed to understand or care about this sort of thing at all. I didn’t see quite yet that Christianity was unable to give me what I wanted. So, I kept plugging away, keeping active in the church. I hoped and believed that if I continued to do my service to the church, Christ would grant me the grace of becoming a better person.

Things came to a head in my early fifties. I was a member of an Episcopal church for about ten years by then and was very involved in it. But I was slowly getting soured on it. I started to be bored by the bad sermons on Sunday mornings. Even if I felt a little inspiration after Sunday services it quickly dissipated by Sunday evening. The work I did for the church seemed to be good for the church (especially all that fundraising) but I didn’t see any improvement in myself. I was still the fearful, depressed, and flawed person I ever was.

Then something occurred that took my questioning to another level. A friend who was running a successful Sunday School program was treated most shamefully by clergy and some “pious” church members. I was an eyewitness to their uncharitable and hypocritical behavior towards her. My disgust and surprise over this were heightened because I was going through “The Change.” There was nothing like going through menopause to thoroughly test my assumptions and give me a much better bullshit meter.

And then, finally, came the total destruction of my belief in God and in Jesus’ resurrection. This happened because I read Reza Aslan’s book “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus.” While it was interesting to get a Muslim’s perspective on Jesus, Azlan mentioned another book that dealt the final blow to my belief. It is called “When Prophecy Fails,” written back in 1956. This book shows how people, when their millenarian or messianic belief fails to deliver, double down on their belief in spite of that. Along with discussing historical examples of this behavior the authors describe the folly of a modern American group who were waiting for spaceships to come and take them to another, more congenial, planet. The “Higher Beings” never arrived in those spaceships when they were supposed to. The people waiting for their deliverance from above were disappointed, of course. The group broke up, but a surprising number of them continue to believe the spaceships are still coming. The folks on this earth just got the dates wrong. The spaceships are still going to arrive, absolutely!

Sound familiar?

So, the first disciples of Jesus were sincere, but they were sincerely deluded. They doubled down on their belief in the resurrection of Jesus because it never happened. There was to be a Second Coming, too, absolutely! They were so convinced that this was the truth that they were actually willing to die to prove it. They just couldn’t face the sad fact that their supposed Messiah was dead as a doornail and would never return.

It seems incredible that people would risk death over a delusion they hold, but then we are seeing anti-vaxxers saying from their deathbeds that the COVID they are dying from doesn’t exist. I even read that one man, whose wife died from COVID though he recovered from it, is out protesting against mask-wearing!

I once read a quote from a modern German poet, which I remember as “A dead Christ shouts from the rooftop of the world that there is no God.” And that was how I finally realised, after all my years in Christianity, that there is no God, no resurrection.

How did I reconcile myself to my new understanding of the world? It took a while, a couple of years, and it was a very painful process. I left my church. Surprisingly few people from church followed up with me to ask why I left, even after all the time I had spent there. I was full of despair, feeling that I could never find a way to spiritually improve myself.

Then I started to accompany a friend to a Buddhist temple, more for fun than anything else. The monk there — who is now my teacher —- talked about how life is suffering; that there is a way out of suffering. And that is by ethical behavior and practicing meditation. So it’s all on your shoulders – no God, no Jesus, no priest or intermediary. Just you and your efforts to become a better human being. Buddhism works for me, and I am very happy. I wish that my theism and my own delusions about Christianity hadn’t lasted so long and held me back from pursuing my spiritual evolution. But better late than never.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Bruce Gerencser