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My Responses to Dr. Michael Brown’s Seven Questions for Atheists

i have a question

Recently, Dr. Michael Brown, an Evangelical Christian apologist, asked atheists seven questions. Brown explains his reason for doing so this way:

If you consider yourself an atheist today, or if you considered yourself an atheist in the past, I’d love to ask you some honest questions.

But I do not ask these questions to win a debate. Or to be antagonistic. Or to buttress my own beliefs by exposing alleged weaknesses in your position. To the contrary, I ask these questions so I can better understand your mindset as an atheist.

What follows are my answers to Brown’s seven questions. I will send my responses to Brown after this post goes live.

Before I answer Brown’s questions, I want to share with him my background.

I was part of the Evangelical church for almost fifty years. My parents started attending Tim LaHaye’s church, Scott Memorial Baptist Church in El Cajon, California, in the 1960s. Both made public professions of faith and were devout Christians until they divorced in 1972. Our family attended church every time the doors were open. At the age of fifteen, I went forward during a revival meeting and one of the church’s deacons led me to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Two weeks later, I stood before the church and confessed that I believed God was calling me to preach. Several weeks later, I preached my first sermon.

At the age of nineteen, I enrolled in classes at Midwestern Baptist College, a small Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) college in Pontiac, Michigan. While at Midwestern, I met a beautiful dark-haired girl named Polly. She was the daughter of an IFB pastor and the granddaughter of a United Baptist preacher. Two your later we married, and on July 15, we will celebrate forty-four years of marriage. We are blessed to have six grown children, thirteen grandchildren, and an old cat named Joe Meower.

After leaving Midwestern in 1979, I started working for a GARBC (General Association of Regular Baptist Churches) church. Over the course of the next twenty-five years, I also pastored two IFB churches, a Sovereign Grace Baptist church, a Christian Union church, a non-denominational church, and a Southern Baptist church, all in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan.

In 2005, I left the ministry, and in 2008 I left Christianity altogether. In early 2009, I publicly professed that I was an atheist. My wife would also later confess that she no longer believed in the Christian God.

Now that I have given a brief summary of my past, let me take a stab at Brown’s questions.

Question One: Would you say that you are (or, were) an atheist based primarily on intellectual study or based on experience? Or did you never believe in God at all?

While my personal experiences as an Evangelical Christian and a pastor certainly played a part in my deconversion, I primarily deconverted for intellectual reasons. My journey away from Christianity began when I concluded that the Bible was not inerrant or infallible. From there, I took a careful look at my beliefs, particularly the central claims of Christianity. I concluded that these beliefs could not be intellectually and rationally sustained. Once I came to this conclusion, I recognized I could no longer call myself a Christian.

Question Two: Would you say that even as an atheist you still have a sense of purpose and destiny in your life, a feeling that you were put here for a reason and that you have a mission to accomplish?

We give ourselves meaning and purpose. There’s no external force — God, the Universe, the Holy Spirit — that gives us meaning and purpose. While I recognized external human forces affect my life and the decisions I make, I am the captain of my ship. I see no evidence of an otherworldly being or force affecting my life.

Do I have a reason for living? Sure. This is the only life I will ever have, so I am in no hurry (most days) to die. I want a better tomorrow for my children and grandchildren, so I work to that end to affect social and political change.

Do I have a mission? Sure. I think Evangelicalism, especially in its Fundamentalist forms, is harmful, causing untold heartache and damage. As a writer, my goal is to tell my story and expose the abusive, harmful underbelly of Evangelical Christianity.

Third Question: Would you say that you are 100% sure there is no such being as God—meaning, an eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing being? Or would you say that, for all practical purposes, you have concluded that this God does not exist, although it is impossible to prove such a negative with absolute certainty?

I am an agnostic atheist. I am agnostic on the God question. I cannot know for certain if a god of some sort exists. The evidence suggests such a being does not exist, but it is within the realm of possibilities that a deity may one day reveal itself to us.

When it comes to specific religions, say the Abrahamic faiths, I am confident these religions are myths.

Because I see no evidence for the existence of a deity, I live my day-to-day life as an atheist.

Fourth Question: Do you believe that science can provide answers for many of the remaining mysteries of the universe, including how the universe began (including where matter came from and where the Big Bang derived its energy), the origin of life, and DNA coding?

I don’t know. Science continues to give us answers to previously unanswerable questions. Whether science ever explains to us what happened before the Big Bang is unknown. Science does adequately explain our world from the Big Bang forward, and that’s enough for me. Unlike many Christians and atheists, I have little interest in philosophical debates about the existence of God and the beginning of the universe. I’m dying — literally — so I choose to live in the present. I am far more interested in balancing our checkbook than I am the Kalam Cosmological Argument.

Fifth Question: Have you had any experiences in life that caused you to question your atheism? Has something happened to you that seemed genuinely supernatural or otherworldly? Or have you been confronted with some information that shook your atheistic foundations, such as a scientific argument for intelligent design? If so, how have you dealt with such doubts to your atheism?

No. One step in my deconversion was giving an honest accounting of the “miracles” and “answered prayers” in my life. My wife did the same. We concluded that we could rationally explain all but a handful of experiences. This was not enough evidence for us to conclude that the Christian God of the Bible did it. Unexplainable? Sure, but I reject the God of the gaps argument Evangelicals often use to explain the unexplainable. I am content with saying, “I don’t know.”

Sixth Question: Are you completely materialistic in your mindset, meaning human beings are entirely physical, human consciousness is an illusion, and there is no spiritual realm of any kind? Or are you superstitious, reading horoscopes or engaging in new age practices or the like?

Yes, I am a materialist.

I see no evidence of a spiritual realm or souls. I believe that new age practices, horoscopes, Tarot card readings, and homeopathy, to name a few, are in the same category as prayers and miracles: unsupported by evidence.

Seventh Question: If you were convinced that God truly existed—meaning the God of the Bible, who is perfect in every way, full of justice and mercy, our Creator and our Redeemer—would that be good news or bad news? And would you be willing to follow Him and honor Him if He were truly God?

I am already convinced that the God of the Bible does not exist, and I can’t imagine any evidence will be forthcoming to change my mind. Thousands of Evangelical zealots and apologists have tried to evangelize me, without success. It has been years since I heard a new argument for the truthfulness of Christianity. As Solomon said, there’s nothing new under the sun. Every few days, I will get an email, message, or social media comment from an Evangelical who is certain they have the remedy for my atheism Alas, they fail every time.

Even if I could be convinced that the God of the Bible is real, I still wouldn’t worship him. Richard Dawkins was right when he said:

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

Such a deity is unworthy of my worship. The only god I worship is my wife. 🙂

If you would like to answer these questions, please send your responses to info@askdrbrown.org.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Is There a Distinction Between Evangelicals and Fundamentalists?

whining evangelical

Note: I use the words Fundamentalist and Fundamentalism in two different ways in the posts, one is capitalized, and the other isn’t. If I am using these words in a general sense, I don’t capitalize them. However, if I am using the words as nouns to describe particular sects, churches, or clerics I capitalize the words. The same goes for the word Evangelical. I have had newspaper editors “correct” my use of the word, making it lower case instead of upper case. Evangelical is in the same category as words such as Catholic, Baptist, and Methodist. Recently, I had a newspaper editor “correct” my use of the phrase Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB), making the words lower case. This, of course, was an incorrect correction, revealing the editor’s lack of knowledge about Evangelicalism and the IFB church movement.

Complete Christianity: The Catholic Blog of Shane Schaetzel recently ran an article titled How to Evangelize the Evangelicals. Schaetzel maintains that there is a difference between an Evangelical and a Fundamentalist:

Evangelicals and Fundamentalists may often look the same at first glance, but they are two very different and distinct people. An Evangelical is not a Fundamentalist, nor is a Fundamentalist an Evangelical.

….

Fundamental Protestantism, otherwise known as “Fundamentalism,” is a relatively new phenomenon, born in the early twentieth century (early 1900s), and is a knee-jerk reaction to the liberal-progressive trajectory of most mainline Protestant denominations. Fundamentalism embodies the zeal of old-school Protestantism, which began to fade away in modern times. In a way, Fundamentalists are merely a reflection of old-school Protestantism, or the way Protestant denominations used to be, prior to the twentieth century.

….

On the surface, Fundamentalists often look a lot like Evangelicals. They even associate with Evangelicals quite a bit. Some might say that Fundamentalism is a subset of Evangelicalism, or sort of a niche within the larger community. However, a growing number of Evangelicals are beginning to disown them, not only for their harsh treatment of other Christians, but also for their harsh treatment of many Evangelicals too.

Fundamentalists do not see Catholics as Christians at all, and reject the Catholic Church as a Christian body. They often refer to the Catholic Church as a “cult,” and tell Catholics we have to choose between Catholic OR Christian, as they say we cannot be both. Their understanding of Christianity is very narrow and limited to their own form of Protestantism, as expressed in The Fundamentals, and as a result they’ll even attack other Protestants both mainline and evangelical. For example, one of their primary Evangelical targets is evangelist Billy Graham, whom they say betrayed Christianity and was actually a “secret agent” of the Catholic Church. As you can see, they are often heavily into conspiracy theories. The anti-Catholic Chick Tracts are a good example of Fundamentalism in action today.

In the United States, a large number of Fundamentalists strictly use the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible, and believe it to be the only infallible English interpretation. This, in spite of the fact that the original KJV contained all of the deuterocanonical books found in Catholic bibles, which were removed only in the late 1800s to “save paper.” Fundamentalists are usually unaware of this, but when it’s pointed out to them, they often dismiss it as “lies” and “Catholic propaganda.”

While Fundamentalists often look like Evangelicals at first glance, they’re pretty easy to spot within casual conversation. They’re often highly dogmatic and argumentative. They’re extremely anti-Catholic, referring to old Protestant arguments against Catholicism, along with some new ones. They even oppose other Protestants, often including Evangelicals, and see themselves as the only “true keepers of the gospel.” Consequently, “ecumenical” is a dirty word to them, and while they might occasionally pray with Evangelicals (depending on the circumstance), they won’t be caught dead praying or working with other Christians — especially Catholics!

My advice to dealing with Fundamentalists is don’t. By that I mean, don’t bother. They’re so stuck in their narrow-mindedness that not even Evangelicals can reach them.

Schaetzel is yet another in a long line of people who speak authoritatively on Evangelicalism or the Independent Baptist (IFB) church movement without actually having a comprehensive knowledge of that which they speak. Just today I listened to a podcast by a well-known atheist. This man went on and on about what Evangelicals supposedly believe. Unfortunately, all he did was expose his ignorance about Evangelicalism. This same man on another podcast pontificated about the IFB church movement, embarrassing himself in the process. I later sent him an email, correcting some of his more glaring errors. I suggested he contact me if he had questions about the IFB (or Evangelicalism in general). I never heard from him.

Fundamentalism is a way of thinking about the world, not a particular sect. I would argue that Schaetzel is a Fundamentalist Catholic, as any cursory reading of his blog will show. Fundamentalism can be found anywhere you have schools of thought, religious or secular. We tend to confine fundamentalism to religion, but fundamentalist thinking can be found in economics, medicine, government, and countless other places. Over the years, I have met more than a few Fundamentalist Atheists and Fundamentalist Socialists. To suggest, as Schaetzel does, that fundamentalism is confined to certain corners of the Christian world is ludicrous.

Now to the question at hand: Is there a difference between Evangelicals and Fundamentalists? What follows is an excerpt from a post titled Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists? that I wrote in 2015. I will have some concluding remarks after this excerpt.

Many people think that Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism are two different species of conservative Christianity. However, I plan to show in this post that Evangelicals are inherently Fundamentalist, and that the only issue is to what degree they are Fundamentalist.

Some of the confusion comes from the fact that there are Evangelicals, such as the Independent Fundamentalist (IFB) church movement, who proudly wear the Fundamentalist label. Thus, an Evangelical — say, someone who is a pastor in the Evangelical Free Church of America – rightly says, I am NOT like those crazy Fundamentalist Baptists. They see the extremism of the IFB church movement, condemn it, and by doing so think that they are not Fundamentalist.

The word Fundamentalist was originally used to describe a group of sects, churches, and pastors who took a stand against perceived theological liberalism in the denominations of which they were a part. From 1910 to 1915, the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA), published 90 essays that were published in a 12-volume set of books titled, The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth. (You can see a complete listing of the essays on Wikipedia.) These essays provided the theological foundation for the modern Fundamentalist movement.

The words “fundamentalist” and “fundamentalism” can also be used in a generic sense. While almost always used when describing the beliefs of religious sects, fundamentalist beliefs can also be found in politics, science, economics, and even atheism. The focus of this post is Christian Fundamentalism, particularly Protestant Fundamentalism.

There are two components to the Fundamentalism found in Evangelicalism:

  • Theological Fundamentalism
  • Social Fundamentalism

Theological Fundamentalism

All Evangelicals are theological Fundamentalists. What do Evangelicals believe?

  • The Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of the triune God.
  • Salvation is through the merit and work of Jesus Christ.
  • Jesus is the eternal, virgin-born, sinless, miracle-working Son of God who came to earth 2,000 years ago to die on the cross for the sins of humankind.
  • Jesus resurrected from the dead three days after being crucified. He later ascended back to Heaven and now sits at the right hand of God the Father.
  • Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and salvation is gained only by putting one’s faith in Jesus Christ.
  • All non-Christian religions are false and many Christian sects have heretical beliefs.
  • There is a literal Heaven, a Hell, and Devil.
  • Saved people go to Heaven when they die and non-saved people go to Hell when they die.
  • Someday, Jesus Christ will return to earth to judge the living and the dead. The heavens and earth will be destroyed and God will make a new heaven and a new earth.

Evangelicals may quibble with one another over the finer points of this or that doctrine, but EVERY Evangelical believes what I have listed above. And it is these beliefs that make them theological Fundamentalists.

While it is true that liberal and progressive theology are making inroads within Evangelicalism, this does not mean that Evangelicalism is becoming less Fundamentalist. Liberal/progressive Evangelicals are outliers, and, in time, due to the inflexibility of Evangelical theology, they will either leave Evangelicalism and join liberal/Progressive Christian sects or they will become a bastard child subset within Evangelicalism.

The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is an Evangelical denomination, and thanks to the resurgence of Calvinism and right-wing politics within the denomination, the SBC is becoming more and more Fundamentalist. While the SBC does have a liberal/progressive wing, the majority of Southern Baptist churches are Evangelical. Rarely do denominations become more conservative once they start down the path of liberalism, but the SBC, over the course of the last few decades, has reversed the liberal slide and is decidedly more conservative today than it was 20 years ago. Many of the founders of the IFB church movement were Southern Baptists who left the SBC in the 1950s-1970s. Little did they know that the SBC would one day return to its Evangelical roots.

Many people would argue that Al Mohler is very different from the late Fred Phelps, yet theologically they have much in common. And this is my point. At the heart of Evangelicalism is theological Fundamentalism. People wrongly assume that church A is different from church B because of differences between their soteriology, pneumatology, ecclesiology, preaching style, eschatology, music, etc. However, when we look closer, we find that both churches, for the most part, have the same doctrinal beliefs. This is why ALL Evangelicals are theological Fundamentalists.

Social Fundamentalism

Social Fundamentalism focuses on the conduct, lifestyle, and social engagement of the Christian. An Evangelical looks at the rules, standards, and negativity of an IFB church that proudly claims its Fundamentalist moniker and says, SEE I am NOT a Fundamentalist. I don’t believe in legalism. I believe in grace, and I leave it to God to change how a person lives.

This sounds good, doesn’t it? However, when you start to poke around a bit, you will find that almost every Evangelical is a social Fundamentalist — the only difference between Evangelicals being the degree of Fundamentalism. This can be quickly demonstrated by asking those who think they are non-Fundamentalist Evangelicals a few questions. Questions like:

  • Can a practicing homosexual be a Christian?
  • Can a homosexual man be a deacon or pastor in your church?
  • Can a same-sex couple work in the nursery together?
  • Do think it is okay for unmarried heterosexuals to engage in sexual activity?
  • Can a cohabiting heterosexual couple be a member of your church?
  • Do you think it is morally right for a woman to wear a skimpy outfit to church?
  • Is it ever right to have an abortion?
  • Do you think smoking marijuana is okay?
  • Do you think it okay for your pastor to smoke cigars and drink alcohol at the local bar?
  • Is it okay for someone, in the privacy of their home, to become inebriated?

By asking these questions, and a number of similar ones, you will quickly discover that the non-Fundamentalist Evangelical is a social Fundamentalist after all. While these Evangelicals may jeer and laugh at the crazy, extreme rules and standards of the IFB church movement, they too have their own set of non-negotiable social standards. They, like their IFB brethren, are social Fundamentalists. (Please see An Independent Baptist Hate List.)

I am sure some Evangelicals will argue that their social Fundamentalism, like their theological Fundamentalism, comes straight from the B-i-b-l-e. Of course they do. ALL Evangelicals think their beliefs come straight from the Bible. The IFB pastor has a proof-text for everything he preaches against, as does the I am NOT a Fundamentalist Evangelical pastor. Both believe the Bible is truth, an inspired, inerrant, supernatural text. The only difference between them is their interpretation of the Bible.

Here in the United States, we have the perfect Fundamentalist storm of religious Fundamentalism and political Fundamentalism. The US is rapidly becoming an embarrassment as Fundamentalists demand their brand of Christianity be given special treatment, creationism be taught in the public schools, the Federal government be harnessed for the good of Christianity, and their interpretation of the Bible enacted as law. These Evangelicals are not harmless, and if not challenged at every turn, they will become the Evangelical version of the Taliban. I recognize that some Evangelicals are against political and social activism, but they are few in number. History is clear: when any religious group gains the power of the state, freedoms are lost and people die.

While I can applaud any move leftward within Evangelicalism, the only sure way to end the destructive influence of Evangelical Christianity is to starve it politically, socially, and economically. I am not so naïve as to believe that Evangelicalism will ever go completely away, but it can be weakened to such a degree that it no longer has any influence.

There are many Evangelical church members who are kind, decent, loving people. Many of them are generational Evangelicals, attending the same church their parents and grandparents did. I hope, by publicizing the narrow, often hateful, theological and social pronouncements of Evangelical leaders, and the continued inability of these leaders to keep their flies zipped up and their hands off the money, that Evangelical congregants will get their noses out of the hymnbook, turn their eyes from the overhead, and pay attention to what is really going on within Evangelicalism. I hope they will stand up, exit stage right (or left), and take their checkbooks with them.  When this happens, we will begin to hear Evangelicalism struggling for breath as it lapses into cardiac arrest.

On a completely different front, liberal/ progressive Christian scholars, writers, and bloggers, along with former Evangelical Christians such as myself, need to step up their frontal assault on the misplaced authority Evangelicals give to the Bible. We need more writers like Dr. Bart Ehrman, people who are willing to write on a popular level about the errancy and fallibility of the Bible. I firmly think that when Evangelicals can be disabused of their literalism and belief that the Bible is an inerrant, infallible text, they will be more likely to realize that Evangelicalism is a house of cards.

Remember, if it walks, acts, and talks like a Fundamentalist, it is a Fundamentalist. Evangelicals can protest all they want that I am unfairly tarring them with the Fundamentalist brush, but as I have shown in this post, their theological and social beliefs clearly show they are Fundamentalists. If they don’t like the label, I suggest they change their beliefs and distance themselves from Evangelicalism. They need not become atheists/agnostics if they leave Evangelicalism. Even though I was not able to do so, many former Evangelicals find great value and peace in liberal/progressive Christianity. Others find the same in non-Christian religions or universalism. If it is God you want, there are plenty of places to find him/her/it.

Conclusion

While Evangelicalism is a somewhat broad tent, it remains decidedly a Fundamentalist sect. The old adage applies here: the exceptions prove the rule. The latest national meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention showed just how Fundamentalist the denomination has become. While there is a movement within the SBC — mainly Calvinists, Trumpists, and right-wing extremists — to move the sect even farther to the right, make no mistake about it, the SBC is a Fundamentalist denomination. Most of the liberals and progressives left years ago. The SBC is dominated and controlled by men with Fundamentalist ideologies and worldviews. One need only look at the Baptist Faith and Message — the official doctrinal statement of the SBC — and its recent messenger-approved resolutions to see how far the sect has moved to the right.

The same can be found in other Evangelical sects. Even in mainline churches, especially in rural America, you will find churches and pastors who hold Fundamentalist beliefs. Locally, I know of one United Methodist pastor who graduated from a Fundamentalist Bible college, and another pastor who is a graduate of Bob Jones University. While I have met a number of mainline pastors over the years who had liberal/progressive beliefs, I have also met men who would have been comfortable fellowshipping with hardcore Evangelicals. Ignoring this fact is dangerous because it ignores a malignant tumor that is metastasizing in churches everywhere. Left untreated, this tumor will destroy healthy tissue and ultimately kill its host.

Responding to John Piper’s “Five Reasons Evangelical Christians Fall Away”

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John Piper

John Piper recently delivered the commencement address at Bethany College and Seminary in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Titled Seventy Years Without Shipwreck, Piper humble-brags about the fact that he has been a Fundamentalist Christian for seventy years; that God has never forsaken him; that he never deconverted.

Piper begins his address by letting students know that he doesn’t like the word “deconversion.” Piper thinks the word is trendy; a word devised by Satan to mask what is really going on; a word that has no basis in reality (since, according to Piper’s Calvinistic theology, it is impossible to “deconvert”).

Piper states:

The word deconversion is not in the Oxford English Dictionary. At least, not yet. Words are created to name reality, not the other way around. But we didn’t need the word deconversion. The Bible abounds with words and descriptions of some forsaking Christ:

apostasy (2 Thessalonians 2:3)

falling away (Matthew 24:10)

shipwreck of faith (1 Timothy 1:19)

turning back from following the Lord (Zephaniah 1:6)

trampling underfoot the Son of God (Hebrews 10:29)

going out from us (1 John 2:19)

cutting off of a branch (John 15:2)

becoming disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27)

turning away from listening to the truth (2 Timothy 4:4)

denying the Master who bought them (2 Peter 2:1)

We didn’t need a new word. My guess is that the new word deconversion came into existence so that the old, foolish, tragic, heart-breaking reality could feel as trendy as the word. How shrewd is our enemy.

The overarching premise of Piper’s address is that people deconvert not for unresolved questions about “history, science, logic, or ethics,” but because they have a deep-seated love for “darkness” and sin. Yes, the reason you and I walked away from Christianity is that we wanted to sin; that our faith precluded us from fulfilling our lusts and desires, so we divorced Jesus so we could fuck, steal, lie, cheat, and murder to our heart’s content.

penn gillette

While this argument may work with those uninitiated in Evangelical Christianity, those who spent their lives working in God’s vineyard (and coal mine) know better. There’s plenty of fucking, stealing, lying, cheating, and murdering going on among God’s elect. Murder, you say? Yes, murder. One church member I pastored murdered his infant daughter by shaking her to death. Another church member slaughtered his ex-girlfriend with a knife in a fit of rage. He is presently serving a life sentence. While neither of these men were “committed” followers of Jesus, they both professed saving faith in Jesus Christ. Besides, I personally know a number of on-fire Christians, pastors, evangelists, missionaries, and college professors who committed adultery and fornication — both heterosexual and homosexual. Piper has been in the ministry too long not to know these things. There’s no difference between how Christians live and how the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines and Jezebels of the world live.

Piper goes on to list five ways the deconverted sin. First, they have a love for “life’s cares, riches, and pleasures. Second, they have a “love for the present age.” Third, the deconverted “reject a good conscience.” Forth, they become “re-entangled in worldly defilements,” and finally the deconverted have been led astray by the “deceitfulness of sin.”

Piper sums up his five points this way:

I don’t think you will find any exceptions to this in the Bible. The root cause of apostasy, or falling away, or making shipwreck of faith, or deconversion, is not the failure to detect truth, but the failure to desire holiness. Not the absence of light, but the love for the dark. Not the problems of science, but the preference for sin.

In other words, Piper only sees one reason for our apostasy: sin. No matter what we say, no matter how many times we tell our stories and explain ourselves, the Pipers of the world refuse to accept we what say at face value. I can only conclude, then, that Piper and his ilk deliberately lie about unbelievers and their motivations, using their apostasy to justify their theological beliefs.

Piper concludes his address by saying that Christians who deconvert were never True Christians®. Of course, he does . . .

Piper states:

We all know — you have been well taught — that God never loses any of his elect. Not one of his predestined children is ever lost. “For those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:30). None of them deconverts finally. The ship of saving faith always makes it to the haven. “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19).

With a quote from the Bible and a wave of his arrogant, self-righteous hand, Piper dismisses millions of people who were once devoted followers of Jesus; people who loved the Lamb and followed him wherever he went; people who committed their lives to sacrificially serving the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords; people who were Christian in every possible way. I was part of the Evangelical church for fifty years, and a pastor for twenty-five years. Much like Piper, I was a Christian for a long, long time. Imagine if I dismissed Piper’s faith out of hand. After all, he has not lived a sinless life; marital problems, disaffected children, and all sorts of less-than-Christian behavior. Piper would rightly be offended if I dismissed the totality of his life, focusing, instead, on his “sins.” Maybe the good pastor secretly has hedonistic desires, and not the Christian kind that he loves to preach about.

How about we accept each other’s stories at face value? That’s what decent, thoughtful people do. When a Christian tells me their conversion story, I believe them. I expect the same treatment in return. I once was a Christian, and now I am not. But, Bruce, the Bible says ____________. That’s your problem, not mine. My past life was one of devotion to Jesus and the work of the ministry — in thought, word, and deed. It’s your thinking that needs to change, not mine. And as long as Piper and his merry band of keepers of the Book of Life continue to ignore the stories of those who have walked away from the faith, they will never truly understand why an increasing number of believers are exiting the church stage left.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Atheist-Socialists Are Trying to Destroy the United States From Within

atheism

“It happened gradually, and then it happened suddenly, as Hemingway would put it,” Pete Hegseth explained.                                                  

Hegseth is a best selling author, and co-host of Fox and Friends Weekend. His co-author, David Goodwin is president of the Association of Classical Christian Schools. They write that educational reformer John Dewey advocated progressive teaching in the 1920’s. And in 1935, after they fled Nazis Germany, Marxists from the Frankfurt School of Social Research introduced their views to students at New York’s Columbia University.

“These were all atheists. These were all socialists, or almost all of them were and their goal was social change, and they knew the schoolroom was the place they could do it. And it started with the removal of God,” Hegseth said.

David Goodwin believes the biggest change sidelining Christian education occurred when the U.S. Supreme Court, under Chief Justice Earl Warren, removed God from the classroom.

“They gradually took prayer out of school, they then took the Bible out of school, and they then forbid really any teaching of Christian instruction in school, ” explained Goodwin. “But that was the kind of the capstone of a long effort. It wasn’t the beginning, it was really the end.”

Also, Goodwin and Hegseth contend that progressives intentionally replaced classical Christian education with American nationalism. 

“We look at our Pledge of Allegiance – at least we do as conservatives and patriots and say, ‘Hey, that’s a great thing under God.’ Well, the original pledge was written in the late 19th century by a socialist who ultimately wrote it without under God, because the pledge was meant to shift kids away comfortably from God at the center of the class, from the cross, at the center to the flag at the center of the classroom, which was an easier sell to parents at the time,” Hegseth explained. “And now, of course, fast forward to today, and they’re happy to get rid of the flag.”

So, do Hegseth and Goodwin believe that America’s elites possess a well-devised spiritual strategy that transcends politics? 

“You see, we fight in terms of politics now and may win incremental battles here or there. What the left understood is they had to go to the heart of what made us who we are. What do we value? What’s our vision of the good life? What do we consider our virtues?” Hegseth explained. “And when they targeted that, they targeted at the foundation of who we really are, really the current underneath the top waters of the stream of cultures, the top waters, the current is paideia underneath, and they targeted that.” 

— Gary Lane, CBN News, ‘It Started with the Removal of God’: How Atheist-Socialists Have Fought America from Within, July 5, 2022

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

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Evangelical Michelle Lesley Proud That Her Son Deceived a Catholic Woman so He Could Evangelize Her

Michelle Lesley, an Evangelical Christian zealot and a frontline soldier in the war against the perceived “liberalism” in the Southern Baptist Convention, recently tweeted:

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Lesley, who blogs at Michelle Lesley — Discipleship for Christian Women, made her Twitter account private after this tweet. I wonder why?

Lesley, lacking any sense of humility or decency, brags about the fact that her Christian son lied to and deceived a Catholic woman so he could evangelize her. In Lesley’s world, the end justifies the means.

Here’s how I read this tweet. Lesley’s nineteen-year-old son saw a pretty Catholic girl and felt physically attracted to her. Damn those hormones, right? Wanting to get to “know” this woman better, the son decided to ask her out on a date. Before the day of the date, the young Lesley (at the behest of his mother?) stalked this woman on social media. Much to his horror, he found out that the target of his affection was a fish-eating, antichrist-following, seven-fold child of Hell. Being a good Fundamentalist, Lesley’s son knew he couldn’t date this pretty Catholic woman. The Bible (and his mom) forbids such relationships. So what did the young Lesley do? He lied to the woman about his intentions, asking her out on a date so he could convert her to the one true faith. He could have politely told her that he couldn’t date her due to his religious beliefs, but he decided to deceive her instead. Why?

While I cannot know the son’s motivation, here’s what I think happened. Baptist boy really, really, really likes Catholic girl. He “wants” her. What should he do? Instead of checking his hormones long enough to see that it was unfair and unkind to this woman to deceive her about his attention, his horndog Baptist training kicked in: if I witness to her and she gets saved, we will then be equally yoked, and we can date.

The young Lesley’s attempt to manipulate this woman was thwarted. No mention is made of her getting saved (why should she, she was already a Christian), so the salvation for sex (sorry, Baptist boys want what all teen boys want, including Lesley’s morally “superior” son) scheme failed.

Michelle Lesley and her son owe this Catholic woman a public apology for deceiving her and using her as a perverse object lesson. Will an apology be forthcoming? I doubt it. Evangelicals typically drive automobiles with no reverse gear.

Previous posts about Michelle Lesley:

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

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

My Response to IFB Pastor Patrick Holt’s Letter to the Editor of the Defiance Crescent-News

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Earlier this week, the Defiance Crescent-News published Patrick Holt’s response to my letter about his previous letter.

Here is what I had to say:

Dear Editor,

Patrick Holt is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist preacher. Stuck in the 1950s, Holt thinks America would be great again if we just returned to the homophobic, racist, misogynistic 50s; a return to the days when Evangelical Christianity ruled the roost. Holt looks at our culture and sees decline, decay, and godlessness. He blames these failures on the removal of Bible reading, prayer, and the Ten Commandments from public schools. If only our progeny were led in daily prayer and Bible reading by their teachers and taught the Ten Commandments, our culture would magically return to the glory days of the 1950s.

That ship has sailed, never to return. The 1950s were hardly what Holt intimates them to be. Racism. Homophobia. Misogyny. Patriarchalism. McCarthyism. Criminalization of birth control and abortion. Shall I go on? Those of us who value social progress, equality, and equal protection under the law have a very different view of the world. We intend to push back when Evangelicals try to drag us back to the “good old days.” Evangelical Christianity is dying on the vine. Younger Americans are abandoning organized religion in record numbers. The number of atheists, agnostics, and nones continues to grow, now equaling Evangelicals as a voting bloc.

Holt would have us believe that the only thing keeping him from being a thief and murderer is Jesus. Is that not the conclusion we must come to when he says “Godlessness leads to lawlessness?” I don’t know about Holt, but I murder all the people I want to. I burglarize as many of my neighbors as I want to. I just don’t want to. The unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world have moral and ethical values — no God needed.

This Saturday, Defiance will have its first Pride Walk. I have no doubt that Holt will see this event as yet another sign of decay and depravity, a sign of the soon return of the dead Jesus. I plan to be at the Pride Walk. I am sixty-five years old, by all accounts a curmudgeon. Yet, I know that a better tomorrow requires justice and equality for all. I have thirteen grandchildren. I want a better future for them. I understand Holt’s beliefs. I once was an IFB preacher, an Evangelical pastor for twenty-five years. I also know that it is possible to break free from the narrow, bigoted, anti-human beliefs of Evangelical Christianity.

Bruce Gerencser
Ney, Ohio

Holt, the pastor of Bible Baptist Church in Grover Hill, Ohio, replied:

Dear Editor,

I recently wrote a letter concerning the past and recent mass shootings in schools. I mentioned that when I was in school that there were no shootings and that prayer, the Bible and the Ten Commandments were then present. People wanted those three removed and now our schools have mass shootings.

Also mentioned was the attempt at removing those three from our society. The published response never mentioned anything about the school shootings, just a number of accusations that the writer perceived in his mind.

The author did a “Wizard of Oz” trick. Remember when Toto pulled back the curtain? The wizard said something similar to this: “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” Otherwise, divert attention away from the obvious.

The author, a former preacher and pastor, claims to know what I think and believe. Sorry, that’s not possible, unless you are prophet, a mind reader or the Lord Jesus. What do we have now? Mass shootings everywhere. Murder and crime are increasing rapidly.

The author states that Christianity is dying and that those without God are taking control. So in his words what we have today is a result of those without God taking control.

Remember you can decide what you want or do not want, but you cannot change what the result will be. Look around you folks. What is going on, according to the author, is a result of those without God.

Patrick Holt
Grover Hill

Tonight, I submitted a rebuttal to the newspaper.

Dear Editor,

What follows is my rebuttal of Patrick Holt’s recent letter to the editor.

I never mentioned Pastor Holt’s school shootings “argument” because it is absurd. Holt sees a connection between banning school prayer, Bible reading, and the Ten Commandments in public schools, and school shootings. When he and I were in school, cell phones had not been invented. There were few school shootings. Now virtually every public school student has a cell phone and we have frequent school shootings. Using Holt’s logic, I could easily conclude that cellphones caused the increase in school shootings. I can make the same argument with birth control. Absurd, right? Holt should stop reading the Bible, and read up on the “correlation implies causation” fallacy. Holt wrongly thinks that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between prayer/Bible reading/Ten commandments and school shootings. He provides no evidence for this claim other than he thinks it’s true.

Holt forgets the discussion we had on my blog. He is not a stranger to me. Further, Holt is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher. I am generally considered an expert on the IFB church movement. I was raised in the IFB church, attended an IFB college, married an IFB pastor’s daughter, pastored IFB churches, and I continue to closely follow the machinations of the IFB church movement. I know Holt’s beliefs quite well. Holt made no attempt to rebut my claims. I assume, then, that my assessment was spot on.

Holt’s soteriological and eschatological beliefs force him to see the world as fallen, in a continued state of decline. I reject his beliefs out of hand. The current attack by the religious right on women, LGBTQ people, religious minorities, and the separation of church and state rests squarely on the shoulders of Holt and his ilk. The “godless” have no power. While we “godless” are rapidly increasing in number, seven out of ten Americans identify as Christian. If Holt is looking for someone to blame, I suggest he look in the mirror. As a humanist, my goal is to make the world a safer place to live. Instead of blaming atheists for school shootings, put the blame where it belongs: non-existent gun laws, easy access to weapons of mass carnage, and our nation’s continued worship of the AR-15. The solution to school shootings is right in front of us. Or we could just keep praying . . .

Bruce Gerencser
Ney, Ohio

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

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Short Stories: Living Life Like an Ant

black ant

Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise!

— Proverbs 6:6

 There be four things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise: The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer.

— Proverbs 30:24, 25

Several weeks ago, we took a vacation to southeast Ohio, a trip that turned into a disaster and left me in a precarious mental state (from which I have not recovered). Please read I’m Back From Vacation for further information about our trip.

One evening after we returned from our trip, I told Polly I wanted to go to the Jubilee — a fair and carnival that has encircled the William’s County Courthouse in Bryan, Ohio every June of my sixty-five years of existence. The Jubilee is a shell of what it once was, an empty reminder of glory days long since passed. Declining attendance and exorbitant prices likely will doom its existence sometime in the future. When I was a teenager, the Jubilee was THE place to be. The square would be packed with people. I typically went to the Jubilee every night, hoping to run into my friends. We’d eat high cholesterol, sugary food, ride the Ferris wheel or Scrambler, flirt with girls, and horse around.

The Jubilee has a deep, sentimental connection with me. Not so for Polly. She never liked going to the Jubilee. Of course, always having toddlers and children in tow will do that to you. Polly knew that going to the Jubilee might be good for me mentally, so she said “sure, let’s go.” We put on our go-to-town clothes, lathered up sunblock, got $60 from the ATM, and parked a couple of blocks away from the Square. Bethany was with us. I thought she might enjoy riding a couple of rides. She did, though Polly was not as excited since she had to ride with her. They rode the Ferris wheel and the carousel.

As I stood nearby watching them, I looked down to the ground and saw a big black ant. He quickly captured my attention. Long-time readers know that I love ants. My grandchildren are not permitted to kill them. As I watched this ant scurry about, I thought about his brief and dangerous existence. Here he was scuttling around, searching for food. All around him was danger, particularly thoughtless humans who wouldn’t give a moment’s pause before crushing his insignificant body on the sidewalk. Everywhere this ant went there were obstacles to avoid; threats to his very existence. With nary a thought (do ants think?) about the existential threats around him, the ant continued to look for food. For a few minutes, the sounds of the causeway faded away and my mind was focused on this diminutive, yet magnificent creature.

My mind went to the Bible, Proverbs 6:6: consider her [the ant’s] ways, and be wise. On this hot summer night, this ant had a lesson to teach me, reminding me that life is short, filled with danger, and all I can do is embrace my life as it is. I too am scurrying about, hoping to meet my needs and make it to another day. The threats to my existence are very different from those of the ant, but they are just as real. I know that I am running out of time. Days, weeks, months, or even a few years from now, Polly will post a final article on this site, announcing my demise. I’ve embraced my mortality, realizing there’s little I can do to stave off the inevitable. So how then should I live?

On the ABOUT page I give this advice:

You have one life. There is no heaven or hell. There is no afterlife. You have one life, it’s yours, and what you do with it is what matters most. Love and forgive those who matter to you and ignore those who add nothing to your life. Life is too short to spend time trying to make nice with those who will never make nice with you. Determine who are the people in your life that matter and give your time and devotion to them. Live each and every day to its fullest. You never know when death might come calling. Don’t waste time trying to be a jack of all trades, master of none. Find one or two things you like to do and do them well. Too many people spend way too much time doing things they will never be good at.

Here’s the conclusion of the matter. It’s your life and you best get to living it. Someday, sooner than you think, it will be over. Don’t let your dying days be ones of regret over what might have been.

Eight years later, I stand by this advice.

I continue to lose dexterity and motor function. These losses constantly chip away at the things I can safely do. Sometimes, I do things I shouldn’t, tempting fate — much to Polly’s consternation. Most days, I recognize my limitations. I am ready to die, but I prefer it not to be today.

This ant taught me a lot about life, about being focused on what matters. While I am still in a difficult place psychologically, a black ant did give me a brief respite from my struggles.

Thanks, Mr. Ant . . .

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

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Short Stories: The Night Polly Almost Went to Jail

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1980s Chrysler K Car, Junction City, Ohio

In 1989, Polly was driving in the northbound lane of Route 13 north of Thornville, Ohio, and south of Interstate 70. Suddenly, an automobile stopped in front of her and Polly bumped into the car. The driver quickly fled the scene of the accident. Polly, shaken, drove to the gas station at the top of the hill. At the station was a highway patrolman. Polly told him what happened. He looked at the front of her car. Seeing little visible damage, he told her not to worry about the accident. Polly continued on her trip to her mom and dad’s home in Newark.

Later that night, the person whom Polly drove into — an unlicensed teen girl, driving a relative’s car — totaled the car she was driving. Her relative had the same insurance company as we did. Unbeknownst to us, the insurance agent filed a $4,000 claim against our insurance without telling us. To this day, we don’t know how the agent connected Polly to the accident, Nonetheless, he did. Small town life, I suppose.

In Ohio, you are required to file an official accident report if you are in an accident that results in property damage. Since the girl fled the scene of the accident, Polly didn’t file a report. (And I am sure I am the one actually responsible for her not filing the report.) This would later have a disastrous (and funny) outcome.

A month later, I am standing on the porch waiting for Polly to come home from church. We always drove separate cars. On this night she was driving our 1980s Chrysler K car. As I watched Polly drive up the side street near our home in Junction City, Ohio, a village police officer pulled up behind her with his lights on. I snickered a bit as I watched this unfold. I was the one who got tickets — lots of tickets — not Polly. As I watched, the officer had Polly get out of the car. I thought, at the time, “that’s strange.” He had stopped her for a burned-out headlight. It had been burned out for several weeks. I had planned to replace it, but there were sermons to preach and souls to save, so I put it off to another day After running her driver’s license number, he informed her that there was a warrant out for her arrest, so he was arresting her for failure to report an accident. Yep, there was a warrant out for her arrest. We had just moved to Junction City and Polly’s license still had our old address on it, so she never received notice of her license suspension. Fortunately, the women’s section of the Perry County Jail was filled. There was no room for her in the inn, so to speak. Instead, she was told to contact the state highway patrol to resolve the matter.

Polly was traumatized from this experience. I, on the other hand, was enraged. In a matter of days, I was able to get the warrant for her arrest and license suspension dismissed. All is well that ends well, right? Not in our shared life. 🙂

Two weeks later, Barney Fife shows up at our house, knocks on the door, and hands Polly a traffic ticket. For what, you ask? The burned-out headlight. Boy, was I livid! I mean, sinning-in-the-flesh angry. My wife of forty-four years and our six children will tell you that it is best to avoid me when I am angry like this. I have a quick-to-rise-quick-to-recede temper. (Apologies to readers who thought I was a perfect human being. I’m not.) Polly has learned over the years to just ignore me. Let me mutter, cuss, and air my grievances, knowing that my anger will soon disappear and I will say, “Hey, want to go to dinner tonight”? On this day, my anger was justified.

Junction City had a mayor’s court. Such courts are known for abuse and corruption. When we arrived at the appointed time for judgment, we were the only serfs there. Most people just paid their tickets, end of story. That was not going to happen for Polly Gerencser on this night. Her husband, known in them thar parts to be a fire-breathing crusader, was by her side. When they called her name, I started to speak. The mayor tried to put me in my place, telling me only Polly could speak (she was terrified). I told the mayor that I planned to speak, regardless. I then laid into them about how wrong it was to give Polly a ticket weeks later for a trivial headlight violation. “That’s the law, sir!” the mayor said. I replied, “fine. My wife is going to plead not guilty. This means you are required to transfer this case to County Court. Do you really want all this exposed in public court”? After quickly conferring with each other, the mayor sanctimoniously said — as if he was doing Polly a BIG favor — “I will dismiss the ticket, but you have to pay court costs.” I replied, “we are not paying costs.” Barney Fife and Mayor Roy Stoner (the mayor of Mayberry) conferred again, quickly deciding to waive the costs. With that, we said “thank you” and walked out the door. I am sure they were glad to be rid of that temperamental redheaded preacher. We move away from Junction City a few months later.

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

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After Roe v. Wade….Title IX?

title ix

A Guest Post by MJ Lisbeth

In a cruel irony, the US Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade on 24 June 2022; one day after the 50th anniversary of Title IX becoming enshrined in American law.

Roe v Wade, which guaranteed the right to an abortion, and Title IX, which mandated equal funding for male and female students in educational institutions that receive Federal funding (just about all of them, including the priciest private universities) have long been linked in my mind. For one thing, a very different Supreme Court decided Roe v Wade only seven months after then-President Richard M. Nixon signed Title IX into law. But, even more importantly, one helped to make the other, if not possible, then at least practicable.

I am not a legal or constitutional scholar or even, for that matter, particularly knowledgeable about the history of women’s rights or equality. So, take what I am about to say for what it’s worth:  While Title IX opened opportunities for girls and women their mothers could only have imagined, Roe v Wade, if indirectly, made it possible for them to take advantage of—or, at least, not to lose—many of those new-found opportunities.

To be sure, there is still nothing like gender equality in most areas of American society.  Most educational institutions aren’t even in compliance with Title IX. Still, today’s young women can—at least, they have been able—to not only aspire to what their elder sisters, mothers, and aunts have achieved, but so much more. In the most visible manifestation of Title IX, ten times as many girls and women participate in school and college athletics as participated at the time the law passed. That, of course, has led to more women, pursuing careers, not only in sports, but also in other previously male-only or male-dominated fields: as a result of Title IX, medical, law, and other graduate schools, and undergraduate programs like engineering, could not continue their quotas or bans on female students—which were imposed with the rationale that women would “get married and drop out of the workforce” and the education and training were therefore “wasted.”

But many women would not have been able to take advantage of those new opportunities if they could not regulate when they became pregnant and gave birth—or, for that matter, choose whether they wanted to become mothers at all. Before Title IX, schools and colleges often dismissed students who became pregnant. Even after the law passed, many employers fired pregnant employees or shunted them to “mommy tracks.” While Title IX could not affect this practice, it probably led, if indirectly, to laws against it. And access to safe and legal abortions—a legacy of Roe v Wade—made it possible for many women, not only to stay in school and jobs, but also to determine the trajectory of their careers.

Just as Title IX has had secondary effects, so did Roe v Wade. You’ve probably seen the slogan, “Abortion is women’s health care.” It’s true in more ways than one. Of course, an abortion is sometimes necessary to save the life of the woman or to prevent disabling or destabilizing conditions from worsening. But not for nothing are Planned Parenthood centers the go-to places for other kinds of women’s health care. In some areas, it is the only provider of such services for several counties. More to the point, though, is a reason why PP centers perform procedures and treatments that are now routine for girls and women but were rarities or privileges, if they were available at all, to their mothers and grandmothers. 

While there is still much room for improvement in women’s health care, and it’s still nowhere near the standards of care for men, it can be argued that the availability—and, in some circles, acceptability—of abortion has led to vast improvements. Much of that has to do with an attitude engendered by the availability and acceptance of abortion.  Until the modern feminist movement, which sparked the fight that led to Roe v Wade, women’s bodies were seen mainly as incubators. In other words, a woman’s health was seen mainly in terms of her fitness for bearing and rearing children. (That meant, of course, that women’s mental health care was all but non-existent or women were actively pathologized.) In part because women could now choose when or whether they would become pregnant, they could exercise other choices—and insist that they were, as sentient individuals, as worthy of high-quality health care, for their own needs and their own quality of life, as men. As women could get better care and take better care of themselves, they were better able to pursue their dreams and goals. To me, this change was analogous to, and as revolutionary as, the Renaissance idea that the human body is beautiful and intrinsically worthy of aesthetic or scientific study.

Such an ethos is anathema to religious conservatives, who led the fight to seat the judges who voted to overturn Roe v Wade. So is the freedom to make choices, whether in one’s career or life. If the history of slavery has taught us anything, it’s that if laws or decrees limit people’s agency over their own bodies and their freedom of movement, it doesn’t matter whether or not they have any other rights. The Taliban have certainly learned that lesson well: They didn’t have to bar girls and women from school or jobs; they only had to mandate cumbersome clothing and forbid them from going any place they might want to go without the permission or accompaniment of a male relative in order to reverse the gains in education and work they made in the previous two decades. Likewise, passing similar laws in Saudi Arabia, and forbidding women from riding bicycles or driving cars, left that country’s females at the mercy of their fathers’, brothers’, and other male relatives’ caprices. Such restrictions also make it more difficult, if impossible, for women and girls to get the healthcare they need: Sometimes men think women don’t really need such care, or they are unwilling to bring their sisters and wives to male doctors, the absence of female doctors notwithstanding.

One particularly disturbing aspect of the reversal of Roe v Wade is that some states, if they haven’t done so, will ban abortions even in cases of incest and rape. Why do I, as a transgender woman (who will never become pregnant), care about that or, for that matter, about abortion law in general? I was sexually abused as a child, by a priest and a family friend. I can’t help but to wonder how my life might be different if the nine-year-old boy who experienced the abuse had been a thirteen-year-old girl. Imagine how that could have constricted her choices, and how it could have affected her life in other ways, if such an experience could shatter the reality—not to mention the career and family—of a thirty-year-old woman.

Because, as I said previously, I am not a legal or constitutional scholar, I can’t say whether overturning Roe v. Wade will lead to the evisceration or repeal of Title IX. But it’s hard not to imagine that the repeal of Roe v Wade could lead to many girls and young women not taking advantage of, and furthering, the opportunities Title IX afforded their mothers. White Evangelical Christians—who are to the Republican Party as African Americans have been to the Democratic Party —could hardly have hoped for more.

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

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Bruce Gerencser