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Tag: Atheism

Quote of the Day: Who Are You Talking To?

sheldon cooper

What follows is a dialog from the Young Sheldon TV show between Sheldon Cooper (played by Iain Armitage), an atheist, and his Southern Baptist Mom, Mary Cooper (played by Zoe Perry).

Sheldon walks into the kitchen and finds his mom praying . . .

Sheldon: Who are you talking to?

Mom: God.

Sheldon: To yourself, got it.

Sheldon: And you think like Job, God is testing your faith?

Mom: Sure would explain all the bad things that are happening

Sheldon: So believing in a God that is going out of his way to ruin your life is more comforting than believing there’s no God at all?

Mom: Isn’t it past your bedtime?

Gotta love Sheldon. 🙂

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.

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Once Saved, Always Saved: Is Bruce Gerencser Still a Christian?

salvation card

Evangelicals are not of one mind when it comes to the security of the believer. Some Evangelicals believe that a saved person can fall from grace (lose his or her salvation). After a person falls from grace, some Evangelicals believe salvation can be regained through repentance and faith. Other Evangelicals believe that once a person falls from grace, salvation can never be regained.

Evangelical Calvinists believe in conditional salvation, contingent on enduring (persevering) to the end (death). Saved people persevere, unsaved people don’t. While Calvinists will wail and howl at my assertion that they preach salvation by works, their soteriology suggests otherwise.

Many Evangelicals, especially Southern Baptists, Independent Fundamentalist Baptists (IFB), and nondenominational churches, believe in once-saved-always-saved; that once a person is saved, he or she cannot fall from grace. In these churches, salvation is transactional. Once the transaction is completed, the gift (salvation) cannot be returned. A once-saved-always-saved Christian can renounce Christ and live out his days as an atheist, yet when he dies, he will go to Heaven. Salvation, then, is a marriage between Jesus and the sinner, one that can never, ever be dissolved.

At the age of fifteen, I repented of my sins and asked Jesus to save me. At that moment, I was gloriously born again. I was baptized the next Sunday, and the week after that I went before the church again, telling them that I believed God was calling me to preach. For the next thirty-five years, I was a devoted, committed follower of Jesus. My life, in every way, was Christian — as family, friends, and former parishioners can attest. Like all Christians, I sinned, sometimes grievously. Yet, the bent of my life was toward godliness and holiness. I was, to the people who knew me, a true-blue believer.

Yet, I am an avowed atheist today, disavowing everything I once believed. My present apostasy poses a real conundrum for once-saved-always-saved Christians. According to their theology, I am still a Christian. No matter what I say or do, I am going to Heaven when I die. God may punish me in this life, in the hope that I will return to him, but once I arrive in Heaven, I will receive the same heavenly benefits as everyone else. This surely has to chap the asses of Evangelicals who devoted their whole lives to Jesus, denying their flesh and worldly ambitions.

Not wanting to follow their theology to its logical conclusion, once-saved-always-saved Christians go out of their way to prove that I never was a “real” Christian; that I was a fake Christian; that I was a false prophet; that I was a tool of Satan. They will use a nit comb to go through my life, looking for any anomaly that says to them that I was never a Christian. And once they go looking, they always find what they are looking for. Thus, to these Evangelicals, I spent my whole life either deluded or deliberately deceiving everyone around me.

Is it ludicrous that I am still a Christian? Absolutely. It is absurd to think that I am Christian; that the Holy Spirit lives inside of me. What once-saved-always-saved Baptists have is a theological problem. Their soteriology demands accepting me as a fellow brother in Christ. The solution is to change their beliefs, adopting an Arminian or Calvinistic soteriology. Of course, this will never happen. To do so, would require once-saved-always-saved Baptists to admit they are w-r-o-n-g. And we know that ain’t ever gonna happen.

The plane is circling the runway, waiting to land, and then I will be dead. At that moment, I will learn who is right. Or maybe not. All of this is based on several presuppositions: the Evangelical God exists, the Bible is true, and upon death, every human goes to Heaven or Hell, based on whether or not they were saved. I reject these claims out of hand. Thus, when I die, my body will be turned to ash and scattered along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. And if I am wrong? Well, I will remind Jesus of all the confusing beliefs Christians preach about salvation. How could I have possibly known which one was right?

And so it goes . . .

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.

Short Stories: Grandpa is an Atheist

bruce gerencser not afraid of hell

My wife, Polly, and I have thirteen grandchildren, ages two to twenty-two. Over the next three years, ten of our grandchildren will be in junior high, high school, and college. One of the first things our older grandchildren do in school is type my name in Google. And what do they find? This blog. And perhaps for the first time, they learn that Grandpa is an atheist.

Out of respect for my children, I don’t talk about religion with my grandchildren. If asked, I will briefly answer their questions, but I wait until they are in high school before I have in-depth discussions with them about religion and politics. I typically shape my answers according to their age and the religious beliefs of their parents; how open their parents are to me sharing my story. The older they get, the more questions they have. Sometimes, I resort to buying them books for their birthdays or Christmas.

Last Saturday, we watched son #2’s three children, ages 12, 10, and 8. We had a delightful time. The girls talked my ears off, especially Emma, the twelve-year-old. Emma excitedly let me know that she had found my blog and that she knew I was an atheist. (I let her parents know she was reading my blog at school.) Emma is one smart cookie, top-of-the-class, a straight-A student who wants to be a large animal veterinarian someday. She loves to talk, as does her Grandpa, so we get along famously.

Emma didn’t ask me any questions about atheism. I did tell her Nana was an atheist too. However, she did share with me her own experiences in the Catholic church. (She definitely thinks her priest is b-o-r-i-ng.) 🙂 I found it fascinating to listen to her explain her view of the world. And make no mistake about it, kids her age have a worldview. Emma is a voracious reader, as are most of my grandchildren. Their parents are quite liberal when it comes to what they are allowed to read (as Polly and I were, surprisingly, with our children). The broader their reading experiences, the broader their worldview.

I told Emma about one of her older cousins being asked by her teacher if she was related to me. (The teacher had read a letter I had written to the local newspaper.) Sadly, my children have experienced this at the local community college and their places of employment. Dad is a public figure with a peculiar last name. People will naturally make the connection. I told my children they are free to disown me, but so far none of them has done so. As my grandchildren get older, they will face the same scrutiny.

After telling Emma this story, I was delighted to hear her say “I am proud of my Grandpa.”

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.

Did You Know I am a Traitor, Communist, Marxist, a Danger to America, and an Awful Writer Too?

adam stockford facebook

Last month, I wrote a post titled MAGA Mayor Adam Stockford Says Hillsdale, Michigan is a “Traditional Values” Community. Stockford is the mayor of Hillsdale, Michigan. Over the weekend, Stockford posted my article on his Facebook page. Of course, his MAGA-loving followers were quick to go for my jugular. One such neck-slitter was a retired soldier named Ronald Cook.

Cook made no attempt to interact with what I wrote, choosing instead to hurl invectives my way. I gave his comment and private messages the gravitas they so richly deserved. Enjoy! 🙂

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Here are several other comments left by Stockford’s devotees.

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All told, 90 people from Hillsdale read my post. Only three of them read more than one page. Not one of them clicked on the ABOUT page or the WHY? page. In fact, some of them couldn’t bear to finish reading my article. Yet, by reading one post about Adam Stockford and Hillsdale College, people such as Cook concluded I am a traitor, communist, Marxist, anti-American anti-Christ. And I am a bitter, piss-poor writer too. Let me give these fine folks a bit of the Bible: Answering before listening is both stupid and rude. (Proverbs 18:13)

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.

“I Don’t Know What You Are,” My IFB Mother-in-Law Says

godless atheist

Yesterday, Polly and I drove to Newark, Ohio to visit Polly’s mom. She is now living with our nephew and his wife. Mom is dying. Could be soon, or could be months from now, but, regardless, the proverbial plane circling the airport is getting ready to land. Polly and I are responsible for settling Mom’s estate. She refuses to write a will, so it is important for us, legally, to settle her estate as much as possible before she dies. We had fourteen frank end-of-life questions to ask Mom. We were delighted when she answered them without a fuss. I suspect that she has resigned herself to the fact that she is dying. She doesn’t plan to seek extraordinary care. Our advice was for her to arrange for hospice. Mom is in a lot of pain, but she refuses to ask for narcotic pain medications. The blame for her unwillingness to accept pain reliefs rests solely on her Fundamentalist religious beliefs: that suffering has value and is part of God’s plan for her life. Hopefully, a hospice nurse will convince her to take the medications.

Mom is eighty-seven years old. She’s been a Fundamentalist Christian her entire life — first as a Nazarene, and then as an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB). Mom has attended the Newark Baptist Temple in Heath, Ohio for the past forty-six years. Polly’s father was the church’s assistant pastor for five years (1976-1981) before striking out on his own. (Dad and I started a church together in Buckeye Lake.) Polly’s uncle, the late Jim Dennis, pastored the church for fifty years. (Please see The Family Patriarch is Dead: My Life With James Dennis.) The church is currently pastored by Mark Falls. (Please see An IFB Funeral: Fundamentalist Christianity Poisons Everything.) Mom’s entire life has been shaped, formed, and controlled by IFB beliefs and practices. At this point in life, she is who she is. She is going to the grave happily praising the IFB God. We accept that there’s nothing we can say or do that will soften her view of us, our heathen children, and our godless grandchildren (even though some of our children believe in God, just not the IFB God).

Polly and I have known each other for forty-six years. Mom didn’t want us to get married, and went out of her way to upend our marriage plans. Five months before our wedding date in 1978, Mom told Polly that she could not marry me. This, of course, enraged us. We talked about eloping. Instead, Polly, for the first time, stood up to her mother and told her that we were getting married with or without her blessing. Bluff called, the wedding went on as planned.

Over the past five decades, we have had numerous conflicts with Mom. Never Dad, just Mom. You see, she was the head of the home. She ruled the proverbial roost. My quiet, passive father-in-law never stood up to her. I do remember several passive-aggressive moments where Dad did exactly what she told him he couldn’t do, but most often he just bowed to her wishes.

I dearly love my mother-in-law. I will sorely miss her when she is gone, though I suspect she can’t say the same about me. Mom wrongly thinks that I control Polly; that she doesn’t think for herself or make her own decisions; that Polly is still a Christian, and she will return to Jesus once Satan is out of her life. None of these things, of course, is true. We left Christianity in November 2008. Fourteen years later, Mom has yet to have a meaningful discussion with us about why we deconverted. She has talked about us to her pastor and other family members. She’s asked her church to pray for us. She repeatedly tells us verbally or in written messages on cards that she is praying for us. We have come to accept that this is just the way it is. Her religion demands she respond this way. There’s no possible scenario where she can love and respect us as we are.

One of our biggest fears is that her pastor will preach AT us during the funeral or church members will accost us, saying “Bonnie told me she hopes to see you in Heaven some day. Wouldn’t you like to be saved today?” We are so concerned that this could happen that we are considering skipping the funeral or sitting at the back of church so we can leave immediately after the service. I am not convinced that if Mom’s pastor mentions atheism by name that I can control my emotions. I hate to ruin the funeral by standing up in the service and telling Mom’s pastor to go fuck himself. Doing so would be epic, righteous, and awesome, but I must think of others too. So, our goal is to go out of the way to avoid interaction and conflict with God’s chosen ones.

We spent six hours in Newark. All told it was a physically taxing fourteen hour day, leaving me with excruciating pain and emotional brokenness. We had a delightful time talking to Mom, our nephew and niece, and their two children. It was a perfect day for five hours and fifty-five minutes. Unfortunately, the last five minutes ruined the stay, reminding us of how much we despise the IFB church movement, the Newark Baptist Temple, and its pastor.

Two years ago, Mom sent me a long, detailed list of demands she expected to be met for her funeral. (She did the same for Dad.) I briefly glanced at her demands and put them in an envelope for safekeeping. Several days ago, I got the paper out and read it carefully. What quickly became clear to me is that my family would have no part in the funeral service. Instead, Mom’s “real family” would be in charge of and take care of everything. Only people associated with the Baptist Temple will play a part in her funeral. Of course, we are used to being treated this way, going back long before our atheist days. Mom treats our children differently from the way she treats her grandchildren, nieces, and nephews who live in Newark. You see, they are all IFB Christians. In Mom’s eyes, we are godless heathens or the wrong type of Christians. While we are used to being treated this way, it still hurts to be “othered.” And now our grandchildren are picking up on this. “Why does Mamaw give them birthday/Christmas gifts and doesn’t do the same for us?” one of my grandchildren recently asked. Mom graciously shares the wealth with her “family” in Newark. Our grandchildren got a singular gift from their Mamaw last Christmas — a Christmas ornament to “remember” her by. Special events for Mom’s real family are memorialized with gifts, including money. (One grandchild recently received $100 for graduation.) Our grandchildren don’t receive such gifts. Worse, because Polly and I have step-grandchildren, Mom refuses to acknowledge they are her great-grandchildren. She seems to believe that blood is all that matters. Thus, she accepts as her great-grandchildren her grandson’s children with three different women, but not our “step” granddaughters. (For the record, we do not use the “step” label.) Mom has caused untold harm by “othering” some of our grandchildren.

Back to Mom’s funeral demands. Mom isn’t a deep-thinker or a list maker. Yet, the funeral demands are detailed, typed out, and presented in a way a preacher would make his sermon. Do you get where I am headed here? I suspect Mom’s pastor compiled the list of funeral demands. And that’s fine, but don’t think for a moment that Polly and I don’t see what is going on here

As we were leaving Newark, the following “discussion” took place. Please note that this is a conversation Mom wanted to have with me. Not her daughter, me.

Mom: I want _______ (nephew) and ________ (niece) to handle my funeral.

Bruce (puzzled): Do you think I’m going do something you wouldn’t like?

Mom (looking pained): Well, you know . . .

Bruce (even more puzzled): No, I don’t know . . .

Mom (forced to say what she meant): Well, you know, I don’t know what you are.

(Ah, our atheism, MY atheism is the problem, but Mom refuses to use the A word.)

Bruce: I’ve been your son-in-law for forty-four years. I will always respect your wishes. You gave us a paper outlining your funeral. We will do exactly what you want done.

Mom: Oh, okay.

Bruce: But I’m more than happy to let ________ and _______ handle the funeral.

And we will. Polly and I want nothing to do with the funeral. It would have been nice if several of our children were given an opportunity to participate, but that’s not going to happen, so we will accept that.

Mom’s funeral is the final strand binding us to the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement and the Newark Baptist Temple. When we drive out of Newark for the last time, we will look in the rear-view mirror and defiantly wave goodbye with our middle finger. So much pain, trauma, and abuse. So many bad memories (and yes, some good memories too). The scars will remain, but praise Loki, the curse will be broken.

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.

Do Clergymen Have “Easy” Lives?

bruce gerencser 1987
Bruce Gerencser, Somerset Baptist Church, 1987

Over the years, I have thought about starting a series titled “Dumb Shit Atheists Say.” Atheist YouTube creators and podcasters, in particular, say all sorts of nonsense about Christianity, Evangelicalism, and the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement. I have, on occasion, tried to politely correct some of their more egregious errors, to no avail. I have received no response from the offenders, and far too often, they make the same factual errors over and over again. These same people object when Christians mischaracterize atheist beliefs, yet they are blind to their own mischaracterizations.

If atheists are going to talk about Christian theology, the Bible, and church history, at the very least they should have a rudimentary understanding of these things. And if they are unwilling to do this, they should shut the hell up. They are making atheists look bad.

Recently, I heard an atheist YouTuber say that clergymen have easy lives. He implied they were grifters. This strawman assertion is categorically absurd; a distortion meant to paint clerics in a bad light.

Most atheists (or Christians, for that matter) have no idea about how preachers live their lives. Are there lazy, indolent pastors? Sure, just as there are in every profession. By the same token, there are far more hard-working clergymen who devote their days to their positions. Yet, instead of recognizing this fact, these atheists portray clergy laziness and indolence as the norm for all preachers.

Most clerics are devoted to the work they believe God called them to do. They are devoted to the work of the ministry, believing they have some sort of divine purpose and calling. How else do we explain their willingness to work for low wages, often with few benefits? Many pastors even work a second job so their churches can have a pastor.

Contrary to what the aforementioned YouTuber said, pastors work hard and do so regardless of what they are paid. For every megachurch pastor making millions of dollars, there are thousands of pastors making average, or below-average wages (even when housing allowance is taken into account). It’s one thing for atheists to attack and challenge theological beliefs. It is another thing to attack the character of clergymen, all because they don’t like what they stand for.

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.

Bruce Gerencser