Tag Archive: All Praise Belongs to God

Don’t Thank God, Thank Me

tnt good behaviorMy wife and I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the TNT show, Good Behavior, starring Michelle Dockery as Letty Raines and Juan Diego Botto as Javier Pereira. It took us awhile to get used to Dockery’s drug-using, booze-swilling, criminal character. Dockery played the prim and proper Lady Mary Crawley on Downton Abbey, so playing Letty Raines was a huge departure from her previous role. As far as Botto is concerned, Polly would like to run off with him to the Bahamas.

During one of the recent Good Behavior episodes, Letty helps a recently separated woman break into her estranged husband’s home so she could reclaim her belongings. Letty used her criminal lock-picking skills to easily gain access to the home. The woman, amazed by Letty’s “skills,” thanked God for the opened door. Letty replied, Don’t thank God, thank me!

Tens of millions of Americans go through life thanking the Christian God for the good that comes their way. In their minds, goodness flows from God’s hands, not man’s, and all the praise, honor, and glory belong to him. Have you ever spent significant time helping someone, only to have them dismiss your labor with a big THANK YOU, GOD? As a Christian, I knew that I mustn’t ever take credit for my good works. Doing so was prideful. According to the Bible, I was a loathsome, vile, worthless human being, and without God in my life, I lacked meaning, purpose, and direction. The Bible also told me that even after I was saved/born-again/redeemed, the only reason for the good in my life was Jesus. If it wasn’t for the precious, awesome blood of Jesus, my life would have no value. Jesus was my go-between, standing between an angry, vengeful God and the saved sinner Bruce Gerencser. If Jesus ever stood aside, his Father would crush me and throw my sorry ass in hell.

praise god good weatherSunday after Sunday, Evangelicals gather together to prostrate themselves before a narcissistic God and thank him for his awesomeness (in many ways, this God is like Donald Trump). Worship songs are sung in masturbatory fashion, repeatedly praising God for his goodness. Testimonies, given by Christians, praise and thank Jesus for every good thing that has happened in their lives, right down to them f-i-n-a-l-l-y having a bowel movement. Think I am kidding? You need to spend time listening to praise and testimony time at the local Baptist church. The minutest details of goodness are ascribed to God. Never mind that you drank two glasses of fiber drink and swallowed four Dulcolax tablets. It was God, not the drink and tablets that caused your BM. Silly? Sure, but this illustrates the absurdity of the notion that every good thing comes from the Christian God.

Former Christians often were brought to unbelief by daring to question whether God really was materially involved in their lives. I know for me personally, one of the reasons for my deconversion was the fact that almost all the answered prayers I attributed to God were explainable by purely human means. And the handful of events that couldn’t be explained this way? These were not enough to keep me believing. As I scanned the history of my life, I concluded that virtually every event and circumstance — good, bad, and indifferent — could be traced back to myself or some other human.

Christians often thank God when their health problems are made better. Praise Jesus! God healed me, countless Evangelicals have said, never considering whether such claims are true. Most of the physical healing in the world today comes not from the hands of God. It is doctors, nurses, medical technicians, medications, and life-saving procedures which should be thanked. Think about your last surgery. Is there any reason to give God credit for its success? What did God do to warrant such praise?

atheist-thanksgiving

I am a big believer in giving credit to whom credit is due. That’s the point Letty Raines was making when she said, Don’t thank God, thank me! While it is certainly proper for all of us to have humility, there’s nothing wrong with us expecting to be thanked when we help others. Polly loves to cook. She will spend hours preparing scrumptious family meals. Imagine if no one ever thanked her for her labors. Imagine if we thanked Jesus for the meal instead of Polly. Why, I suspect that the next Thanksgiving meal will feature Banquet turkey dinners and no pie.

Think, for a moment, about all the good that has come your way this past week. Was it God who did these things for you? Of course not. It was your spouse, children, friends, or other human beings. Everything that happens in our lives can be traced back to hands that can be easily seen.  There’s no need for any of us to say, Thank you, God. Instead, thank those who did well by you. Be grateful for the labor and kindness. As we traverse the plain of life, let’s give credit to whom credit is due. Thank you to everyone who helped this week to make my life better. And God, if you are reading this post, please know if you ever really do something good, something that alone can be attributed to you, you can bet your last dollar that I will say, to you, THANKS!

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

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

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

Your Purpose in Life is to Testify to the World That God is Great

atheists have nothing to die for

Your calling is you are on planet Earth to put a telescope to the eye of the world. That’s why you exist. By your behavior, your parenting, the way you do your job, the way you worship, and the way you handle your things in life, everyone should read off of your life, “God is great.” That’s why you exist.

— John Piper, Why Am I Here?

Evangelicals such as Calvinistic Fundamentalist John Piper have a reductionist view of the world. In their minds, the sum of everything is the Christian God. Everything traces back to God. He is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, and the beginning and the end. God is in believers, they live their lives through him, and to him go all praise, honor, and glory. This God is a jealous deity, demanding that his followers worship him alone. Worshiping other Gods or no God at all brings upon people his wrath and judgment. This God demands that believers in him devote their entire being to him. He is not only the hub around which everything turns, he is also the rim, tube, and tire. Simply put, from birth through eternity, life is all about God.

After Evangelicals have spent their entire lives worshiping God, guess what they get to do after they die? More of the same. Believers will spend their days, months, years, and centuries in Heaven prostrate before God, giving him praise, honor, and glory for saving them. Granted, according to the Bible, there will be no more pain, suffering, or death, but surely an eternity spent in repetitious worship will, in time, become b-o-r-i-n-g. Who really wants to spend every moment of every day telling God how awesome he is? Wouldn’t a thousand or two years of devoted adoration be enough for God? We humans love and crave the approbation of one another, but I suspect if all we heard day in and day out was people telling is how stupendous we are, we would finally say, enough! Much like Donald Trump, God never tires of hearing our praises. Keep the praise coming! Tell me again about how hugely awesome I am!

Realizing that the aforementioned picture of eternity is not too appealing to most people, Evangelicals try to spice up the sales pitch with stories about eternity being a perfected version of now. Remove sin, sickness, pain, death, LGBTQ people, Catholics, Muslims, Buddhists, atheists, agnostics, and Democrats and give everything that remains eternal qualities — that’s an eternity worth dying for. In this Hitlerian-sanitized world, God’s people will have the desires of their heart. Sure, there will be times of organized praise and worship. Can’t forget who made the awesomeness of eternity possible, right? But most of the never-ending time will be spent enjoying the very things we enjoyed on earth.

While this second version of eternity sounds more appealing, I wouldn’t want to spend eternity living in a place where I can’t enjoy the very things that make this life worth living. Remember, in eternity there will be no family connections. No wife, no children, no parents. All human relationships are dissolved the moment Jesus, the groom, is eternally married to his bride, the church/elect/saved. I can’t imagine a life worth living without Polly, my children, and grandchildren. God, of course, demands loyalty, obedience, and singleness of heart, so I understand why he demands all familial relationships be dissolved. Can’t have anyone getting between individual believers and their jealous God.

god is great

No matter how eternity is viewed, everything tracks back to the thrice-holy, triune God of the Protestant Christian Bible. It’s all about him. It has ALWAYS been about God. Think, for a moment. Why did God create humans 6,022 years ago? Why did God cause/allow humans to sin? God created us without sin, yet he lets us be tempted and fall into sin. Why? So he could ride in on his white horse and save us. God could have created humans so they would never, ever sin, yet he chose, instead, to give them the capacity to kill, rape, steal, and destroy (and even commands them, at times, to do so). The only reason I can think God did this is that he wants to feel needed. Surely this is the reason for all the sickness, disease, and famine. Once humans are laid low, then they will cry out for help, and God will be right there to answer their prayers .000000000001 percent of the time; answering just enough petitions to make people think that he is a prayer-answering God; answering just enough prayers to make believers think that their deliverance is more than randomness and chance.

John Piper would have us believe that the sum of human existence is to give testimony to the greatness of the Christian God. What he fails to answer is the question WHY? Why does the Evangelical God need us to tell him and reveal to others how super-duper he is? Dare we dig too far into this question, only to find out that the reason God needs human approbation is that he is a narcissist; that he is as needy as a cat, demanding to have the back of his head constantly rubbed? God has some deep-seated emotional problems. He would probably benefit from therapy. If this is not so, explain to me why God created humans as he did. Wouldn’t it have been better for everyone if God had left Satan and sin out of the construction plans? Think of how much less work it would be for God if humans were just like him. Christians wouldn’t need to pray, and God wouldn’t have to spend time hearing and not answering prayers. Life, in every way, would have been better if God hadn’t written the “falling into sin” narrative into the script. But, he did. Why?

The Bible actually gives us the answer to this question in Genesis 3:22:

And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever

Sin, oddly, gave Adam and Eve the capacity to be Gods. All they needed to do eat fruit from another tree — the tree of life. If they had eaten this fruit they would never have died; they never would have had any need for the Christian God. Can’t have that! The Gods blocked access to the tree of life. From this moment forward, Evangelicals and their God have been in a codependent relationship — each needing the other. God craves the adoration, worship, and praise of believers, and Christians crave the purpose, meaning, and direction gained from worshiping him.

To atheists, what I have written above sounds like grade-A hooey — nonsense of the first degree. However, countless people believe the sum existence and purpose of their lives is God. These sincere followers of Jesus trudge through life thinking that they don’t matter; that everything they say or do is for the glory of God. Jesus told his followers in John 15:5: for without me ye can do nothing.

John Piper illustrates human helplessness this way:

Suppose you are totally paralyzed and can do nothing for yourself but talk. And suppose a strong and reliable friend promised to live with you and do whatever you needed done. How could you glorify this friend if a stranger came to see you?

Would you glorify his generosity and strength by trying to get out of bed and carry him? No! You would say, “Friend, please come lift me up, and would you put a pillow behind me so I can look at my guest? And would you please put my glasses on for me?”

And so your visitor would learn from your requests that you are helpless and that your friend is strong and kind. You glorify your friend by needing him, and by asking him for help, and counting on him.

According to Piper, humans are paraplegics unable to do anything for themselves. Unbelievers, of course, rightly laugh at such a notion. We know differently. Our experiences tell us that many varying factors influence our actions; that we can live life fully and happily without belief in God. In fact, many Christians know this, yet pretend otherwise when at church or in conversations with fellow believers. Common sense says that we are not helpless. And once people realize that they are not helpless, guess what? They no longer have a need for God. This is why the John Pipers of the world spend significant time telling people that they are hopeless, helpless sinners who need God in their lives. Instead of helping people become better, many Evangelical preachers spend their lives reinforcing the codependent relationship between addicts and their dealer. Jesus, then, becomes like a snort of coke, causing believers to become high on (and addicted to) God. As long as the supply of drugs flows, addicts will continue to praise the awesomeness of cocaine. This is why churches have so many activities during the week. Churches have midweek services so congregants can make it to Sunday. Wednesday night church becomes a snort of Jesus to get believers through the week. The same can be said of Bible studies, youth group, special meetings, Christian exercise programs, Christian concerts, etc. All of these things are meant to keep Evangelicals high on Jesus. After all, without cocaine, uh, I mean Jesus, believers can do nothing.

As an atheist, I too have a drug of choice. Instead of turning to formularies of a Bronze Age religious text, I choose instead to get high on life. This life is the only one I will ever have. I have no thoughts of heaven, hell, or eternity, choosing instead to focus on the here and now. I say, LIFE IS GREAT. Yes, with life comes pain, suffering, disappointment, and loss. On balance, though, today is an awesome day to be alive. It sure beats the alternative.

Let me conclude this post with the piece of advice I give on my ABOUT page:

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’d best get to living it. Some day, sooner than you think, it will be over. Don’t let your dying days be ones of regret over what might have been.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

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

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

Groveling at the Feet of God to Whom All Praise, Honor, and Glory is Due

tim tebow

Tim Tebow, giving God all the praise, honor, and glory.

Dear Human Worms,

You are NOTHING! It’s all about me. I am your King, Lord, Sovereign, and master. Nothing happens that escapes my eye. I hear, see, and know everything. I am the one who gives you the ability to breathe and move your legs. I am the one who is in control of every aspect of your lives. I am the puppet master of the universe. I spoke the universe into existence and I alone have the power to give and take life. Get it into your head, worm — it’s all about me, me, me!

Now, grovel before me, worm. 

God

Millions of Christians believe that what I have written above accurately portrays God and their subservience to him. Simply put, with one voice these worms cry, You are everything, oh Lord, and I am n-o-t-h-i-n-g. Each and every day countless Christians do good works, yet, if they are true to the teachings of the Bible, these do-gooders never take credit for their acts of love, kindness, and compassion (or touchdowns, winning baskets, or walk-off home runs). No matter how much effort  and time Christians put into helping others, they must never, ever take the credit. If they do, they are reminded of the fact that the Bible says, without me [God] ye can do nothing. God is everything, everything, everything. Christians are nothing, nothing, nothing.

Why then, do Christians do things such as tell their pastors, great sermon, applaud when singing groups or soloists finish their songs, clap when church children perform, and thank others for doing a good job? Why then, do churches advertise the name of their pastors? Why do churches praise the hard work of Sunday school teachers, missionaries, youth leaders and junior church workers? Why do churches put “IN MEMORY OF . . . ” plates/labels on things, reminding everyone of who gave the money for this or that item/project.  Shouldn’t imprints of human effort be stripped away, and God alone be given all the praise, honor, and glory?

The truth is, Christians love receiving the approbation of others as much as the rest of us. I am a big believer in giving credit to whom credit is due. I appreciate it when people thank me for the work I do on this blog. Their support helps spur me on, be it financial support or a short email that lets me know they appreciate my writing. When people do well, we should praise them. I know I don’t do it enough.

My children have turned out to be good people. They aren’t perfect, but neither is their father. My oldest son was recently promoted to a management position with a large manufacturing concern. My youngest son was recently promoted to team leader at the same company. Son number two is a network administrator for a local wireless internet provider and phone company. Son number three is an expert automobile mechanic. My youngest daughter continues to sharpen her seamstress and furniture restoration skills.

Eighteen years ago, Polly started working in the auxiliary services department for a large manufacturing business. We moved away from Northwest Ohio several times, yet each time we returned, Polly’s previous employer immediately offered her a job. Last year, Polly was promoted to the position of shift coordinator. She is responsible for second and third shift auxiliary services employees. If you had asked me 20 years ago whether Polly was supervisor material, I would have said no. Yet, here she is, supervising two shifts, and, by all accounts, doing a great job.

My children and wife have one trait in common: they are all hard workers. When Polly and I first married, our meals consisted of whatever came from boxes or cans. Today, Polly is an excellent — dare I say superb — scratch chef. Unbeknownst to Polly, I ordered her an immersion mixer. It arrived today. Her glee was a sight to behold. Why, if I didn’t know any better, I would have thought that I bought her a vibrator with a lifetime supply of batteries.

As many of you know, I have someone who edits my writing. While I am a better writer than I was a year ago, there are days when my writing, due to fatigue, pain, or entrenched bad habits, can still be a pain in the ass to edit. While she tells me it is not necessary, I thank my editor from time to time. Why? Because I appreciate her hard work.

Yes, many people are lazy slackers whose goal in life is to do as little work as possible. These workers tend to be the people whom we complain about on social media. Sadly, some people just don’t care. But, others do. When cashiers, waitresses, restaurant workers, and customer service representatives — to name a few — do a great job I try my best to say thanks. If they are wearing a name tag, I address them by their name. It takes all of two seconds for me to do this, yet it reminds those serving me that I appreciate their efforts.

And that’s the point of this post. Why should a narcissistic, demanding employer — God — receive praise for that which he did not do?  Everything you and I do today, tomorrow, and until we end up ashes in urns is because of our own hard work and effort. Granted, none of us got to where we are today without the help of others (Thanks, Mom!). Hillary Clinton is right; it takes a village to raise a child. My life is the sum of all those who have touched and helped me in some way. It is important that I recognize this lest I turn into Donald Trump. I would not be where I am today without the help of others. When I write the acknowledgement pages for my book, I will rightly thank all those who helped me along the way. But, none of them will expect me to grovel at their feet, giving all the praise, honor, and glory to them. Only in the Christian world are people expected to die to self and give God the praise that should be theirs.

deny self

Is it any surprise, then, that many Christians have poor/no self-esteem? I know it has taken Polly and I many years to regain any sort of respect for self. Hammered by a lifetime of preaching meant to destroy self-worth, is it any wonder that, to this day, we have a hard time accepting praise from others. Our lives were swallowed whole by God’s absolute claim on our lives. We were called on to be bond servants (slaves) of the most high God. We worked seven days a week, from early morning hours to late at night — never once expecting the praise of others. We do it for you, Jesus, we said to the ceiling, believing that none of our good works would have been possible without God. Even when people broke with protocol and threw some praise our way, we quickly deflected it, throwing it back to God. We are just his humble servants, we told those who thanked us. Without him, we are nothing.

If I have learned anything post-Jesus, it is that without him I have come to understand that I am someone who is deserving of the approbation of others. I have worth and value. I matter to my my wife, children, and grandchildren. I matter to my friends and extended family. And yes, I matter to many of the readers of this blog. And I can say the same about those who have positively touched my life. We matter, not because of God, but because we are fellow travelers on the road of life. While we are all headed for the same destination — a soylent green factory — how much better and fulfilling is our journey having people by our side.

How about you? Were you taught that all praise, glory, and honor belonged to God? How did these teaches affect your view of self? What have you done to regain a healthy view of self? Do you still have a hard time accepting praise from others? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.