Menu Close

Tag: Atheism

Seven Things Evangelicals Say to Atheists and Why They Shouldn’t Say Them

jesus loves atheists

Twelve years ago, I walked out the doors of the Ney United Methodist Church, never to return. While I still had a modicum of belief in the existence of a God, I was finished with organized, institutional Christianity. Once free of the church, it was not long before I slid to the bottom of the slippery slope of unbelief. Since then, numerous Evangelicals have attempted to win me back to Jesus or restore me to good standing with the church. Try as they might, I remain an unrepentant atheist — an apostate and enemy of Christianity. Some apologists have concluded that I have committed the unpardonable sin or that God has given me over to a reprobate mind.

What follows is a list of seven things that Evangelicals have said to me over the years in their attempts to get me to renew my membership with Club Jesus®. I have no doubt that every Evangelical-turned-atheist has heard the same things.

I’ll Pray for You

I’ll pray for you is the number one statement Evangelicals make to those who have left the faith. According to Evangelicals, prayer can fix any problem, including turning atheists into believers. Here’s the problem with this kind of thinking: prayer doesn’t work. For many former Evangelicals, unanswered prayer is one of the reasons they deconverted.

During the deconversion process, I made a careful accounting of past prayers and their answers. I specifically focused on answered big-need prayers. In every case, I was able to trace the affirmative answer back to human instrumentality. While I certainly had several I can’t explain it moments, these were not enough to lead me to believe that the Christian God answered prayer.

And here’s the thing, I don’t know of one Evangelical-turned-atheist who has ever returned to Evangelicalism. Despite all the prayers, those who leave don’t return. Wouldn’t it be a big boost for Evangelical stock if God reached down and saved Bruce Gerencser, the atheist preacher? Imagine what a splash it would make if someone such as I returned to the faith. But it doesn’t happen. Why is that?

For many former Evangelicals, we deconverted because we learned that the Evangelical church is built on a faulty foundation: the inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility of the Bible. Once people realize and accept that the Bible is not what Evangelicals say it is, they are then free to examine more carefully the central claims of Christianity. In my case, I found that Evangelical beliefs could not withstand intellectual scrutiny.

No matter what I say, Evangelicals are going to continue to pray for me. Rarely does a week go by without several Evangelicals letting me know that they are storming the throne room of God on my behalf (or praying God will kill me). Fine, by all means, pray. But there is no need to let me know that you are doing so. Surely God is able to hear and answer your prayer without me knowing about it.

Have You Ever Heard the Gospel?

The short, snarky answer is this: of course not! I spent 50 years in the Christian church and pastored Evangelical churches for 25 years, yet I never heard the gospel one time. Amazing, isn’t it? When Evangelicals take this approach with me, what they really want to know is whether I have heard their version of the gospel. You see, there is no such thing as THE Evangelical gospel. Evangelicals incessantly fight over whose gospel is true. Calvinists and Arminians are fighting a seven-century war over which group has the faith once delivered to the saints. The Bible says, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, yet Christians have spent 21 centuries proving God a liar. The Bible tells us that Christians will be known for their unity and love, yet these beliefs have been turned on their head by sectarians who believe that the only unity and love possible is with people who are part of their exclusive club.

When Christians ever figure out what the gospel is, I hope they will let me know. Until then, I plan to pop some popcorn and watch the comedy known as the internecine wars of Christianity. As one commenter on Facebook said, and I paraphrase:  Evangelicals think that their battles over right doctrine are some sort of intellectual pursuit. They are not. From the outside, all the wrangling over doctrinal minutia looks a lot like toddlers fighting over toys.

God Laid You on My Heart

Several years ago, a former long-time friend and colleague in the ministry contacted me, out of the blue, on Facebook, and told me what he thought of my deconversion and its effect on my family. Needless to say, his words were not kind, and after we traded a couple of emails he stopped writing.

Now my former friend is back. Why? God laid me on his heart. This time, he decided to approach me in a kinder, more respectful way. We traded emails that talked about our families and that was the end of that. While this man was, at one time, my closest friend, we no longer have anything in common. The elephant in the room will always be my atheism and intellectual assault on Evangelical Christianity. And I get it, I really do. It is hard to maintain a friendship with someone who thinks your beliefs are intellectual rubbish.

Over the years, numerous former church members and ministerial colleagues have contacted me because they believed God had laid Bruce Gerencser on their hearts. Instead of wanting to catch up or talk about old times, they thought God has a personal mission for them: contact Bruce Gerencser. In most cases, their message from God is preceded by them doing a web search for my name. In other words, they wondered what I was up to, so they fired up their browser, loaded Google, typed in my name, and were then presented with pages of links for Bruce Gerencser (I am the only Bruce Gerencser in the world). Was it God who was leading them to do the search, or was it curiosity, wondering what Bruce is up to these days?

As an atheist, I don’t think God exists, so Evangelicals telling me that God laid Bruce Gerencser on their hearts has no effect on me. Sometimes, I want to ask Evangelicals how they KNOW God talked to them about me, but I already know all the stock answers for such a question. Evangelicals know what they know, and all the reason in the world won’t change their mind.

God is Trying to Get Your Attention

Evangelicals believe that their God, as owner of everything, is personally and intimately involved in his creation. Despite evidence to the contrary, Evangelicals believe that God is an everyday, real presence, not only in their lives, but the lives of every person, saved or lost. When Evangelicals read my story, they often focus on the health problems I have. See, Evangelicals say, God is afflicting you so he can get your attention. If I really believed this to be true, I would immediately become an Evangelical again. I would be quite willing to put serious time in at Club Jesus® if it meant that my pain and suffering would go away. (This is sarcasm, by the way, as you shall see in a moment.)

However, when I take a careful look at the “health” of Evangelicals, I see that they are every bit as “afflicted” as the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. Well, the Evangelical says, God uses sickness to test, try, or punish Christians. Far more important than bodily health is spiritual health. Sure . . .

Each and every day is a struggle for me. I’ve detailed this many times over the years, so I won’t bore you with the details again. If I thought that the unrelenting pain I suffer is God’s doing, I highly doubt knowing this would turn me into a worshiper of Jesus. What kind of God hurts people so they will love and worship him? In the real world, such abusers are considered criminals, the scum of the earth. Yet, when God abuses people it is because he loves them and has a wonderful plan for their lives. No thanks! I have no interest in worshiping such a God. I would rather burn in Hell than worship a God who spends his days inflicting pain, suffering, disease, and death on not only humans, but all living things.

You’ll Go to Hell if You Don’t Accept Jesus

The more Fundamentalist the Evangelicals, the more likely they are to tell atheists and unbelievers that the latter will end up in Hell unless they repent of their sins and put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. In other words, God is saying that if people don’t accept his foreordained way of salvation, he plans to torture them eternally in a pit of fire and brimstone. In what other setting does such an approach work? Hello, I am your local Kirby Sweeper salesman. If you don’t buy a sweeper from me, I will burn your house to the ground. Such a psychopath would quickly be arrested and locked up. Yet, God, who is every bit as psychopathic as the Kirby salesman, is given a pass.

When Evangelicals try the Hell approach, I quickly tell them that I don’t believe in the existence of Hell; that the only hell is that which humans inflict on one another. Sometimes, toying with them, I will ask them: WHERE is Hell? No answer is forthcoming. Most of the time, I let Evangelicals know that threatening me with Hell will not work. I am immune to being threatened into anything. I spent most of my preaching career threatening people, warning them of the suddenness of death and the certainty of Hell. Over the years, hundreds of people responded to my threats, embracing the wonderful, loving, psychopathic God of Christianity. I now know that such an approach psychologically harms people. Constantly being warned about impending eternal judgment often leaves deep and lasting emotional scars. Consider me scarred.

I Know the Holy Spirit is Speaking to You

Some Evangelicals, those who are more liberal-minded and have kind hearts, read a few of my blog posts and then “discern” that the Holy Spirit is speaking to me. Such people often have a great affinity for my critiques of Evangelicalism. In fact, some of them, not paying attention to the fact that I am an atheist, think I am a member of their club. I have received numerous emails from “fellow” brothers and sisters in Lord. When I respond and let them know that I am an atheist, they often can’t believe that I am a child of Satan. How could the Devil’s spawn ever write the way Bruce does? they think to themselves.

I happen to be quite conversant in all things Evangelical. Even though I haven’t pastored a church in over 17 years, I still follow the machinations of Evangelicalism quite closely. It is a subject that interests me, and I suspect this interest shows in my writing. However, my pastime should not in any way be confused with the Holy Spirit speaking to me.

Since I don’t believe in God, telling me that the third part of the Trinity is speaking to me has no value. First, how can anyone possibly KNOW that the Holy Spirit is carrying on a conversation with me in my head? Isn’t such a thing beyond the purview of even the sharpest of God’s discerners? Telling me that the Holy Spirit is speaking to me is akin to telling me that aliens from a far-away galaxy are telepathically communicating with me. The only voices in my head are mine.

Do You Want Your Children or Grandchildren to Grow Up Without Knowing God and Having No Morals?

Ah yes, the classic do it for the kids line of thinking. Here’s the thing: now that I am 63 years old, I have had six decades to contemplate belief in God and its effect on the human race. That’s a long time. I have spent most of my life drinking deeply at the trough of Christianity. I now know that the water in the trough was a mirage. I thought the healing waters of the Christian God imparted morality and ethics to all who would drink, but these days I’ve come to see that, while religion can play part in dispensing morality and ethics, it often, thanks to rigid dogma, proves to be an impediment to moral and ethical development.

Evangelicals, in particular, think that morality and ethics ONLY come from the Christian God. No matter how many studies and arguments prove that such a claim is not true, Evangelicals continue to hang on to the belief that their God and the Bible are the sole sources of morality. This kind of thinking has turned into what is commonly called the culture war. Evangelicals demand that everyone live according to their moral code. They even go as far as using the government to force others to live by their peculiar interpretations of the Bible. If only the Ten Commandments were taught in school, America would be great again, Evangelicals say. However, when unbelievers take a close look at how Evangelicals live, they quickly find out that God’s chosen ones don’t practice what they preach. If the Evangelicals are anything, they are hypocrites.

My six children are all grown. All of them have made up their own minds about God. None of them worships the Evangelical God. For the most part, my children are indifferent towards religion, ALL religion. My thirteen grandchildren? I hope they never see the inside of an Evangelical church, apart from funerals and weddings. I think Evangelical belief often causes psychological harm. In some cases, such beliefs can lead to abuse or turn people into abusers. Why would I ever want my grandchildren within a light-year of an Evangelical church?

If I could script the lives of my grandchildren (and I can’t) I would love for them to take a World Religion class. I know that exposing them to other religions besides Christianity will dampen or destroy any affinity they might have for Evangelicalism. Exposure to knowledge is a sure cure for Fundamentalism. The more my grandchildren learn about religion (and humanism and atheism), the less likely they are to follow down the same pernicious path Nana and Grandpa followed decades ago. If they still decide to embrace some sort of religion, I hope they will embrace practices that affirm their self-worth and cause them to love others. Such values cannot be found in Evangelical churches because they are always secondary to right belief and rigid obedience.

As I watch my grandchildren grow up, I can’t help but see how different they are from their parents (and this is due to their parents allowing them wander down paths they themselves were never allowed to go). I revel in their thirst for knowledge, knowing that satisfying this thirst will inoculate them from being infected by the mind-killing disease of religious Fundamentalism. Perhaps in their generation the curse will finally be broken. While Polly’s Fundamentalist mom laments what our unbelief is doing to our children and grandchildren, I see things differently. I now know that intellectual and personal freedom leads to lives filled with meaning and purpose. Most of all, I want those who bear my name to live lives filled with happiness. Shouldn’t that be our hope for everyone?

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

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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

Creationist Ken Ham Asks His Disciples to Pray for Me

dinosaurs on the ark
Cartoon by Mike Peters

Years ago, I wrote a post titled Ken Ham Warns Atheists Are Out to Steal Your Children and Eat Them Too. While this post was lost in a server crash, I was able to recover the part of the post that resulted in Ken Ham asking his devoted Facebook followers to pray for me:

Teaching children the earth is 6,000 years old, that God killed with a flood every human being save eight a few thousand years ago, and that anyone who does not accept the Evangelical version of the Christian God will be tortured by the Evangelical God in hell for eternity, is quite harmful to the intellectual development of children.

The waiting rooms of mental health professionals are filled with people who have had their sense of self-worth damaged or destroyed by Christian teachings like original sin. Being told you are wicked, that you can be oppressed or possessed by Satan, and that God holds absolute power of your life, does not make for a healthy mind.

So, to Ken Ham, I say this: Yes we are coming for your children. We hope to expose them to the wide, wondrous universe we live in. We hope to teach them to think critically and not to accept something as fact just because a preacher said or God said __________________.

I am not anti-Christian or anti-religion. I am, however, anti-ignorance. I think parents hurt their children when they keep them from ALL the knowledge available about the universe and their place in it . . .

Instead of praying for me, the Hamites went on the offensive, and in doing so, they exposed their ignorance about atheism and their hatred for atheists. Here’s what some of Ham’s disciples had to say (all spelling and grammar in the original):

Start of Quotes

The level of pure hatred in their writings are almost palpable. They are the blind, leading the blind right into Hell!

Should not their own venomous hatred be a warning to them that they are not thinking clearly and rationally? How can they possibility imagine that they are walking in truth when they are eaten up with bitterness and loathing?

And as is highly typical of skeptics, they use lots of insults and personal attacks. In fact, insults are their personal mark and business card. Remember too – Satan is called the accuser of the brethren.

Sad for them. Their hearts are hardened.

evil is cancer…it spreads quickly everywhere…it destorys the ability to think or even reason…the worldly mind just cannot understand the wisdom of God. Praise God for grace.

So much anger and hatred. Just proves, in my mind, that this is a spiritual battle.

I really think the average Christian needs to have a better quick come back for the “God said” “God is speaking to me” and why the Bible is true… Those objections are voiced over and over again and I find the average Christian raised in our churches today simply has no good quick answer….

Jesus said we would be hated by this world because it hated Him first. Also all those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

we are coming for your children.” Over my dead body.

“We are coming for your children” … Arrogant, conceited, rude and intrusive, aren’t they?

This may be the most difficult part of being a Christian, Ken: standing in the face of uncalled-for hatred. Perhaps we should all think of Jesus being nailed to the cross as we hear this kind of nonsensical hatred. Their pride will destroy them. Repentance is the only way….

While we MUST expose the wiles of the evil one, we must also remember that apart from the Grace of God, many of us would likely be in the same position they are in. Jesus warned us that in the End Times there would be a great deception and this is obvious. It is only by the Grace of God that we do not fall for this deception. We are indeed in a war and our enemy does not play fair. Fortunately, we fight with a Commander-in-Chief who also does not fight fair. Our Commander wins…PERIOD because he overcame death, sin, the grave, deception, and every other weapon the enemy throws at us. NO WEAPON formed against us shall prosper. The lies, the hate, the slander, the fear, all the weapons these atheists throw at us shall not prosper.

These atheists are not as secure as they present themselves to be. The truth of God’s Word dispels darkness. Be encouraged Ken. “But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.” Romans 5:20

The claim that Bible belief and teaching retards the thinking of young people is not true. Since the Bible is true, that would be impossible! If science from the beginning had believed and searched the scriptures, there would have been more progress. For example, science once believed in bleeding people to make them feel better, a flat earth, and more. Bible knowledge would have prevented those errors of “science” along with the impossible theory of evolution – the “belief” that everything came from nothing with no influence from any power or intelligence. Now that’s retarded thinking.

And again we see the humanists’ “tolerance”!

I’m interested in reading these updates, but I’d like to follow up on something you wrote above. I have NEVER met anyone who hates God, ever. I’ve never heard anyone say that. They do hate us and our interpretation of God’s word (truth!).

Thank you for sharing. It is so sad that the lost cannot understand the truth and their deception turns their anger towards those who proclaim the truth. We need to understand those on the other side to know how to combat their influence.

Wow…such hatred. I think it is sad that the Christians use to be dogmatic, and that crowd was quiet, and now it has flipped around. They are dogmatic, and the Christians have become the quiet ones. And the gall of people like this to discredit all Creationists, and especially to discredit the credentials of scientists who are Creationists, is unjust. These scientists have payed for their education, and spent as much of their life in school, as the secular scientists, and so it is unjust to claim that these guys are dumb and stupid.

Never forget a man got up and walked out of the grave……….Atheists are such fools.

He needs to know that we don’t believe in the 7 day creation because a pastor said “God said,” but because God said! We need to stick to the word. Thanks Mr Ken.

if God is not real, why would I waste my time arguing or caring about what Christians thought….nothing meanings anything if there is no God….so I would spend my time in as much pleasure and selfishness as possible as I only have maybe 80 years of meaningless existence…I would not want to waste a second on science or Christianity…who cares?…the fact they oppose so strongly shows they are scared and insecure in their own beliefs

I asked a few Athiest once, why do you talk about God so much if God doesn’t exist? Why do you mock it? An Athiest told me its because of all the violence and wars. And I asked if that is true. Why is it a Christian God and not any other gods, for example Allah the god of Islam?.. I have personally paid attention to the media and tv shows that would make fun of religion. And also been in Philosophy classes where they would bring up a Christian God most of the time. Even they say Christianity copied other religions when it was the other way around they pic and choose things. Indeed we are living in the End times I believe. More Christians are being persecuted there was/still is being more Christians being persecuted in the last century than the 1900 years after 0A.D all together. The Lord has really told me that He is my shield. And to have full Faith in Him. As I’ve been reading Scripture lately.

End of Quotes

Here’s my favorite comment, written by Don Swaringen, a 1961 graduate of Bob Jones University :

The claim that Bible belief and teaching retards the thinking of young people is not true. Since the Bible is true, that would be impossible! If science from the beginning had believed and searched the scriptures, there would have been more progress. For example, science once believed in bleeding people to make them feel better, a flat earth, and more. Bible knowledge would have prevented those errors of “science” along with the impossible theory of evolution – the “belief” that everything came from nothing with no influence from any power or intelligence. Now that’s retarded thinking.

Let’s see:

  • “The claim that Bible belief and teaching retards the thinking of young people is not true.” Why? The “Bible is true,” Swearingen says. Talk about circular reasoning: the Bible is true because the Bible says it is true.
  • Bloodletting? A procedure performed on the sick for 1,900 years, long before the modern scientific era. Christian doctors bled numerous Christians and clergymen. All of them had the Bible at their disposal, yet none of them found the “truth” about bloodletting. It took scientists, not theologians, to find out that bloodletting does not help the sick.
  • Flat earth? Evidently, Swaringen is not aware that the flat earth belief came, in part, from the Bible: Daniel 4:10, Isaiah 11:12, Revelation 7:1, Matthew 4:8
  • There would be more progress if science believed the Bible? Really?  What about the scientists who were killed for going against the Bible and the Christian church’s teachings? What does history tell us about countries that have a religious-text-based science? Look at the Muslim world and see what happens when theology trumps science.
  • Science does make errors, but it corrects them. When’s the last time the Don Swaringens of the world have “corrected” an error in their Bible or theology? Everyone together now . . . NEVER!

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

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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

Don’t Believe in God? Pray and Ask Him to Reveal Himself to You.

god reveal himself to you

When confronted with my unbelief in the Christian God, Evangelicals will often ask me to pray and ask God to reveal himself to me. Evangelicals have even given me scripted prayers to pray on more than a few occasions, telling me that if I “sincerely” pray these prayers to the triune God of Christianity, he will reveal himself to me. On days when I am filled with 100-proof Gerencser snark, I will pray the prayers and then report back, “Nope, God didn’t reveal himself to me!” Their reply? “well, you didn’t “sincerely” ask God to pull the rabbit out of the hat.” I am always to blame, not God, when he fails to show his work, speak to me, or do anything that would lead me to conclude he is real.

Evangelicals who take this approach with me are ignorant of their Bibles — the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. Evangelicals believe every word in the Bible is true, written by holy men of old as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. You would think Evangelicals would follow the Word of God instead of asking unbelievers to pray. Don’t they know that the Bible says that God doesn’t hear the prayers of the unsaved, that libertarian free will is a myth, and the only way that someone can be saved is if God chooses to save them? Don’t they know that lost people are dead in trespasses and sins, alienated from God, and unless God grants them the faith to believe, they will never be saved? What drives this notion of praying and asking God to reveal himself to you is bad theology. Shocker, right?

Take the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus in Luke 16. (Please see Luke 16:19-31: The Rich Man and Lazarus.) Towards the end of this story, we have a dialog between Abraham and the Rich Man:

Rich Man: I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him [Lazarus] to my father’s house. For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment [Hell].

Abraham: They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.

Rich Man: Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.

Abraham: If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

The Rich Man, facing the torments of Hell, was rightly concerned about his family, particularly his five brothers. The Rich Man asked Abraham to resurrect Lazarus from the dead and send him to preach to his brothers. Abraham replied, no, they have the Moses and the Prophets, the Old Testament; let your brothers read and hear their words. Knowing the Bible wasn’t enough to convince his brothers to believe in Jesus, the Rich Man pleaded yet again for Abraham to resurrect Lazarus and send him up top to witness to his unsaved loved ones. Abraham’s response is germane to this post: if they won’t hear the Bible, they won’t be persuaded if someone rose from the dead and preached to them.

Evidently, Abraham didn’t know Jesus would soon die and three days later resurrect from the dead. This leaves me wondering, if the Bible is written by God, surely he knew Jesus would soon be crucified, placed in a borrowed tomb, descend into Hell, and resurrect from the dead. Evangelicals believe that Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is the linchpin of their religion; that Jesus’ resurrection is the one thing that should convince unbelievers of the veracity and truthfulness of Christianity. However, Abraham didn’t think such magic tricks were useful. Instead, the Evangelical Abraham said: Read the Bible!

For those of us who are atheists and agnostics, neither appeals to the resurrection of Jesus nor reading the Bible have convinced us that Christianity’s central claims are true. Perhaps this is why some Evangelical zealots ask us to pray and ask God to reveal himself to us. They believe that a supernatural encounter with their God will surely cause us to fall on our knees, repent, and embrace Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. If only believing was that simple, right?

Before asking us to pray to their God, Evangelicals must first provide evidence for the existence of said God. I assume Evangelicals would think it silly for me to pray to any other God but theirs. All deities but the Christian God are no gods at all. There is one true and living God, and Jesus is his name — well, he’s called the Father and the Holy Ghost too. I am quite willing to pray to the Christian God sincerely, but before doing so, I ask Evangelicals to give sufficient evidence for their deity’s existence, that he is whom Evangelicals say he is.

I walked away from Christianity twelve years ago. Since then, I have heard from and, at times, interacted with thousands of Evangelicals trying to “save” me. It’s been years since I have heard a new argument for the existence of God. Solomon rightly said that there is nothing new under the sun, which can certainly be said of Evangelical apologetical arguments.

I don’t get as many emails or comments from Evangelicals trying to “save” me as I did in the past. I suspect Evangelicals have decided that God has given me over to a reprobate mind, that I have crossed the line of no return, or have committed the unpardonable sin. This allows them to attack my character, revealing their lack of character, respect, and decency. After scores of such attacks and deconstructions, I am immune to their words. Twelve years of interacting with such people have given me a thick skin. I am still open to new evidence for their God’s existence, but the incessant playing of William Craig Lane’s greatest hits really doesn’t work with me.

Does the Christian God really need me to pray before he will reveal himself to me? Doesn’t he know everything beforehand, including the words people pray and how he will respond? Why doesn’t God skip the theatrics and appear to me at my home? If, as the Bible says, with God nothing is impossible, surely Jesus can stop by and have lunch with me, and while he is here, heal me of bile reflux, gastroparesis, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, and peripheral neuropathy.

I hope this post puts an end to the notion that if atheists and agnostics would just “sincerely” pray to the Evangelical God that he would reveal himself to them. There is no evidence that this has ever taken place.

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

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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

Bruce, Why Did it Take You So Long to Leave Christianity?

bruce and polly gerencser 1978
Bruce and Polly Gerencser, May 1978

On occasion, I will have an atheist ask me why it took me so long to leave Christianity. Typically, such atheists are lifelong unbelievers, having little to no experience with organized religion. Others became atheists at a young age and have no lasting scars from their brief involvement with Christianity. What is left unsaid here is this: how stupid do you have to be to be a Christian for fifty years?

Last night, I listened to Matt Dillahunty’s podcast, The Hang Up. This week’s episode featured Dr. Darrel Ray of Recovering From Religion and the Secular Therapy Project — two awesome services I heartily endorse.

One of the commenters on the podcast stated:

When you left religion. When exactly was that Matt [Dillahunty]? You joined the military when you were 30 for 8 years? Joined Dell and studied the bible a couple of years after that? So you finally figured out you had been a gullible idiot at 40s.

In other words, how stupid did Matt have to be that it took him years to conclude that the Evangelical religion (Southern Baptist) he grew up in was false?

It’s always lifelong atheists who make such comments. They cannot wrap their minds around how it is that demonstrably intelligent people can stay tethered to Christianity for decades. This post will hopefully explain this issue to atheists.

Much like Matt, I was a wandering Baptist before I finally deconverted. I left the ministry in 2003. Two years later, in the spring of 2005, I briefly tried to reenter full-time ministry, but after candidating for Southern Baptist churches in Weston and Hedgesville, West Virginia, I told Polly that I was done; that I no longer wanted to pastor. At that point, I was still an Evangelical Christian, albeit with an increasingly liberal bent. (Please see It’s Been Fifteen Years Since I Preached My Last Sermon.)

From July 2002 to November 2008, my wife and I, along with our three younger children, wandered from church to church looking for a congregation that took seriously the teachings of Jesus. From Roman Catholic to Greek Orthodox to Evangelical to mainline Protestant, we visited a broad spectrum of Christian churches. All told, we visited over 125 churches. Please read the post But Our Church is DIFFERENT! to see the list of churches we visited.

During this time span, we spent seven months living in Yuma, Arizona and moved to Stryker, Bryan, Alvordton, Newark, and Ney — all in Ohio. In April 2007, we purchased our home in Ney. We spent time visiting numerous local churches, but eventually decided to plop our weary asses in the pews of the Ney United Methodist Church. This would be the last church we would attend, walking out of the church’s doors for the final time on the last Sunday in November 2008.

During this six-year period, we became increasingly disenchanted with organized Christianity. While I was no longer a pastor, we sincerely wanted to find a church where we could use our talents for God’s glory. Atheism was never discussed. We quickly learned that more than a few pastors viewed us as a threat. All we wanted to do is serve Jesus, but the mere fact that we had spent 25 years in the ministry caused territorial preachers to feel threatened. One pastor told Polly that she could best help his church by working in the nursery. A mother of six who spent decades working in the nursery, I am surprised Polly didn’t gut this preacher on the spot. One Evangelical church about two miles from our home made it clear that we weren’t welcome at their church. We visited this congregation twice, and both times the pastor’s wife repeatedly glared at us. I suspect she viewed me as a threat to her husband’s ministry. Sure, I was a far better speaker than many of the pastors of the churches we visited (we heard some atrocious sermons during this time). That wasn’t my fault. All I wanted to do is use the gifts God gave me. I wasn’t there is take over the church, but I knew I could be a help if asked.

By the time we hit 2008, both Polly and I were worn out from all the bullshit, indifference, and petty territorialism we experienced at many of these churches. It was in this fertile soil that our doubts about Christianity began to grow. The previous year, I had started blogging. I connected with people who were emergent/emerging Christians — a postmodern liberal movement within Christianity. I met an ex-Charismatic preacher, Jim Schoch, during this time. We hit it off, spending countless hours talking about the ministry and churches in general. Well, that and eating chicken wings and drinking booze. We were what I called the rebel preachers; still believers — barely — but not church friendly. I will forever be grateful for the countless hours Jim spent with me shooting the breeze. Our discussions really helped clarify some of the problems I was having with Christianity.

You cannot understand my path to agnosticism and atheism without understanding this two-year period of my life — two years of questions and doubts that culminated with me concluding that I no longer believed in God; that the central claims of Christianity were not true.

Now that I have sketched for readers the path I was on before I deconverted, let me answer the question: why did it take you so long to leave Christianity?

In the early 1960s, my parents moved from Bryan, Ohio to San Diego, California. Dad was looking for the pot of gold at the end of the proverbial rainbow. Unfortunately, California proved to be just as disappointing as Ohio for my parents. Dad ended up working sales jobs and driving truck, just as he did in Ohio. Mom’s mental health problems made their presence known, making our new life in California challenging, to say the least. Please see Barbara.)

Not long after arriving in San Diego, the Gerencser family visited Scott Memorial Baptist Church (now Shadow Mountain Community Church), then pastored by Bob Jones University graduate Tim LaHaye, of The Act of Marriage and Left Behind fame. Mom and Dad both made public professions of faith and were baptized, as was I at the age of five. From that moment forward, the Gerencsers were born-again Fundamentalist Christians.

I was seven when Mom and Dad packed up our belongings and we returned to Bryan, Ohio. By then, we were attend-church-every-time-the-doors-are-open Baptists. I attended church three times a week, along with revivals, conferences, and special meetings. Once I became a teenager, I started attending youth group and special events for the church’s teens. I was totally immersed in the life of the church. It was the hub around which everything turned. For atheists reading this post, think how deeply and thoroughly I was indoctrinated in Fundamentalist Baptist Christianity’s beliefs and practices.

At the age of fifteen, I made another public profession of faith at Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio. This is not an uncommon experience for people who were “saved” at a young age. A week later, I stood before the church congregation and told them God was calling me to preach. Several weeks later, I preached my first sermon. Thirty-three years later, I would preach my last sermon. All told, I preached over 4,000 sermons.

At the age of 19, I left my mom’s home to move into the dorm at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. Midwestern was an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) institution known for training preachers. While I was at Midwestern, I started dating an IFB preacher’s daughter, Polly Shope. We married the summer between our sophomore and junior years. Six weeks later, Polly became pregnant, and a few months later, I was laid off from my job. In the spring of 1979, we left Midwestern and moved to Bryan. A few weeks later, I was offered a position as the assistant pastor of Montpelier Baptist Church. Over the course of the next twenty-five years, I would pastor seven churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan.

I was a true-blue believer. I believed every word of the Bible was the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. I believed that the doctrines taught to me by my pastors, youth directors, and professors were the “faith once delivered to the saints.” While I was a voracious reader, having a library of over 1,000 books at one time, every book I owned served to reinforce the idea that what I had been taught and what I was teaching others was true. It wasn’t until the six-year period mentioned above that I began to read authors that caused me to doubt my beliefs. Authors such as John Shelby Spong and Bart Ehrman forced me to question whether what I believed about the Bible and Christianity was true.

As a pastor, I lived in a bubble, as did the churches I pastored. This bubble protected me from the “world.” When you surround yourself with people who all think as you do, it is easy to think that you are right. Further, doubts and questions were discouraged, tools of Satan used to cast aspersions on God, Jesus, the Bible, and Christianity. While certain things in the Bible didn’t make sense to me, I believed God would reveal the truth of the matter in time or in Heaven. I had no reason to doubt the veracity of the Bible.

I lived this way well into my forties. Does this mean I was stupid for hanging on to my faith for so long? Of course not. Looking at the way I grew up, the college I attended, the woman I married, and the years I spent pastoring Evangelical churches, how could it have been different for me?

When lifelong atheists disparage me, I tend to tell them to fuck off. These pillars of truth seem clueless about how religious indoctrination affects every aspect of one’s life — especially the Fundamentalist brand of Christianity. (Please see Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?) Instead of treating me as a dolt, how about giving me a little credit for breaking free from the chains of cultic Christianity? How about giving me credit for punching a hole in the bubble and escaping? How about acknowledging the work I now do to help people who have doubts about Christianity or have left Christianity? Or, you can fuck off. 🙂

Lifelong atheists are a small minority in America. Most Americans come from Christian families. Millions and millions of Americans religiously attend Evangelical churches, pray, read the Bible, and believe Christianity’s central claims are true. Before simplistically and ignorantly calling such people ignoramuses, I suggest that you walk in their shoes a bit instead of projecting your lives onto them.

I wish I had been raised in a home free of religion. I wish I had taken a different path in life — that is, if Polly still became my wife. I wish I had attended a secular college and had non-church employment. I wish, I wish, I wish . . . but wishing is for fools. Life is what it is, and all I know to do is embrace my past, live in the present, and do all I can to help people avoid Evangelical Christianity. For those who walked a similar path as I did, all I can do is listen and say to them, I understand.

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

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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

Personal Testimony: I Know God is Real Because He Saved My Soul

argument from popularity

I recently listened to a debate between atheist Tom Jump and a Christian woman named Sybil. By all accounts, the debate was a train wreck. Jump is a low-key, levelheaded debater, but after an hour of Sybil trying to make the same point over and over and over again, I wondered if he was ready to start banging his head on the wall. No matter how many times Jump addressed her point, Sybil returned to claim that Christianity is real because many people believe in Jesus. Because 2.3 billion people profess to be Christians, that means Christianity is true. Sybil reiterated ad nauseam that countless Christians have personal testimonies of faith in Jesus, so Christianity can’t be false. Jump tried and failed to get Sybil to see that personal testimony is not the evidence for God, particularly the Christian God. Countless people say they have seen Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, UFOs, and have been abducted by aliens, yet we have no evidence that their claims are true. So it is with the existence of God.

The debate is one hour and eleven minutes long.

Video Link

I want to focus on the notion that personal testimony is sufficient evidence for the existence of God — either singular or cumulative.

For those of us who attended Evangelical Baptist/charismatic churches, we know a lot about personal testimonies. Salvation stories were shared from the pulpit, in Sunday school classes, and during testimony times during church services. Testimonies are supposed to a way for believers to give praise and glory to God/Jesus. However, having listened to hundreds and hundreds of testimonies over the fifty years I spent in the Christian church, I can tell you that many testimonies are all about the sinner, not the Savior. What I call “bad sinner” testimonies always get the most attention. In the 1970s and 1980s, Jerry Falwell had countless bad sinners give their testimonies on his TV program, the Old-Time Gospel Hour. At the time, I was mesmerized by these testimonies. However, they have not aged well. We now know many of the bad sinner testimonies were not true. Mike Warnke, for example, claimed to be a Satanic high priest before Jesus saved him. In 1992, Cornerstone Magazine debunked Warnke’s claims. The previous year, Cornerstone trashed the Satanist claims of Lauren Stratford (Laurel Rose Willson), the author of Satan’s Underground.

Wikipedia states:

As Stratford, Willson wrote three books, the most famous of which was Satan’s Underground, purporting to tell a true story of her upbringing as a baby breeder (for sacrifices) in a satanic cult. Willson had also claimed to have first-hand knowledge of high-profile cases of alleged Satanic ritual abuse (including the child abuse cases in Kern County, where she resided), but her claims were dismissed by investigators as unreliable and fabricated.

An investigation by Bob and Gretchen Passantino and Jon Trott in the Christian magazine Cornerstone discovered Stratford’s real name and family background, and that her stories of abuse were false. In interviews with Willson’s family and former associates, it was revealed that Willson had a long history of mental illness and making false allegations of abuse. She repeatedly threatened suicide and practiced self-mutilation. She attracted the attention and sympathy of evangelical author Johanna Michaelsen, one of the most influential promoters of the Satanic moral panic of the period. While living with Michaelsen, Willson claimed to have given birth to three children as a result of rape; two were allegedly killed in snuff films, and the third was supposedly sacrificed in her presence at a Satanic ritual. However, Cornerstone found no evidence that she had ever been pregnant or adopted a child.

She was also briefly involved in the McMartin preschool trial, claiming to have witnessed the abuses and to have been involved in an ongoing lesbian relationship with Virginia McMartin.

Johanna Michaelsen was another Evangelical who built quite a reputation on the testimony circuit.

Rational Wiki has this to say about Michaelsen, the author of The Beautiful Side of Evil and Like Lambs to the Slaughter:

Johanna Michaelsen is a fundie writer and self-proclaimed “authority on the occult” who promoted the Satanic Panic in the 1980s-90s.

….

During the 1970s, Michaelsen claimed to have worked with a psychic surgeon, Pachita, who claimed to do lung transplants, remove impossible tumours and the like, despite considerable evidence that the psychic healer named “Pachita” was far less than claimed. After visiting a Christian centre in Switzerland, she would be convinced that her occult experiences were not from Jesus but Satan. This led to her conversion to Christian fundamentalist.

Michaelsen’s story of her “occult” experiences shot her into fundie superstardom and she became a beacon for other forms of wingnuttery, like the promoting of Lauren Stratford‘s fraudulent Satanic ritual abuse screeds. Michaelsen was one of the biggest defenders of Stratford and supposedly took Stratford into her home for months. She was also a champion of Mike Warnke, author of another fraudulent memoir of his life as a Satanist.

Michaelsen was also instrumental in telling Christian parents the evils of cartoons like He-Man and She-Ra, as well as Dungeons & Dragons. It even turns out that she was Hal Lindsey‘s sister-in-law, until he left Johanna’s sister for a Bible study student.

Although completely discredited, Michaelsen has her own ministry and rants about “demonic spirits,” the evils of the German rock band Rammstein and Halloween.

Despite not making major mentions of Warnke or Stratford in public, it still seems that after all these years Michaelsen believes that Satanic Ritual Abuse is real.

As an Evangelical Christian and pastor, I heard testimonies from believers who said they were mob hitmen, murderers, bank robbers, sex traffickers, perverts, Satanists, renowned sports stars, or atheists before Jesus magically saved them. Over time, I became quite cynical over such testimonies, and today I largely believe that these stories are fabrications or admixtures or truths and lies. Preachers, in particular, are notorious for massaging their testimonies. As David Foster Wallace said (and I paraphrase), don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.

In 2018, I wrote a post titled Testimony Time: The Blue Light Special at Somerset Baptist Church:

Older readers might remember shopping at the stores of discount retailer Kmart and seeing what was commonly called a “blue light special.” Blue light specials were sudden discounts offered to shoppers during their shopping experience at Kmart. A store employee would roll a cart with a police-like blue light attached to a pole near the aisle where the sudden discount was going to be offered. At the customer service desk, another employee would announce to shoppers, for example, “ATTENTION KMART SHOPPERS! There’s a blue light special going on right now on GE light bulbs in aisle three!” The employee in charge of the blue light would switch it on. and with its flashing/rotating light, the blue light would guide customers to their exciting just-for-them discount on light bulbs. Woo-hoo!

….

For eleven years in the 1980s and 1990s, I pastored the Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio.

….

The church also attracted more than a few people who had — in my Baptist eyes, anyway — screwy beliefs. One such person was the mother of a woman who was a member of the church (along with her husband and two children). I had visited this woman and her husband several times at their home, hoping that they would join their daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren in worshiping Jesus at the “fastest growing church in Perry County” — as the church’s sign said, anyway. I knew the woman had some charismatic tendencies, but I thought I could preach all that nonsense right out of her if she would only give me the opportunity to do so.

….

As was our custom for many years, the church has a testimony time on Sunday evenings. This was time allotted for church members and visitors to stand up and share with everyone in attendance what Jesus had done for them over the past week. Sometimes, these brag-on-Jesus times turned into narcissistic, look-at-what-I-did-done-do for Jesus sessions. Often, testimony time was a time for congregants to lie about their relationship with God. One dear woman, who had been a smoker her entire adult life, stood up one Sunday and praised Jesus for delivering her from the filthy sin of smoking. We had a quite a praise-fest that night, thanking our Lord for delivering Sister R from her addiction. Years later, I learned that Sister R had, in fact, never stopped smoking, and that the only reason she said that she did was so she could have the appearance of a victorious Christian life like the rest of us. Oh, if she had only known that NONE of us, including her preacher, had victory over sin, she might not had felt compelled to lie. Sister R felt so guilty about not being as spirit-filled as the rest of us that she was willing to lie to her friends about her deliverance from smoking.

….

On one particular Sunday night, the charismatic lady mentioned above decided to attend church with her daughter. She had visited several times before, and let it be known that she really liked my “old-fashioned” preaching. Prior to my sermon, I asked if anyone had a good word they wanted to put in for Jesus. Several people raised their hands, signifying that they wanted to brag a bit on their Lord and Savior. The charismatic woman excitedly raised her hand, anxious to let everyone know about a recent encounter she had with Jesus. When it came time for her to testify, she popped up  from her seat and said this (as recounted from thirty years ago):

I was asleep last night, and all of a sudden I awoke, feeling a “presence” in my bedroom.  As I stood to see this presence, my eyes saw a blinding blue light. Now, I knew that Satan could present himself as an angel of light, so I spoke to this light, saying, If that’s really you Jesus, please make yourself known to me. And right then and there I heard, Attention K-Mart Shoppers! (Okay, that last sentence was a bit of literary fiction, also known as preaching.)  And right then and there I heard a voice that said, it’s me, Jesus. Praise, the Lord. I knew then that the presence in my room was Jesus.

I KNEW it was Jesus, the charismatic woman said. This is the same argument Sybil used in her debate with Jump. She knows God is real because she has personal testimony to that effect, as do countless other Christians. In doing this, Sybil is committing the ad populum fallacy.

Wikipedia describes the ad populum fallacy (appeal to popularity) this way:

In argumentation theory, an argumentum ad populum (Latin for “appeal to the people”) is a fallacious argument that concludes that a proposition must be true because many or most people believe it, often concisely encapsulated as: “If many believe so, it is so”.

Just because a large number of people believe something doesn’t make it true. Sybil is a Christian. I assume she thinks Mormonism, Islam, and Buddhism are false religions, and their “gods” are no gods at all. Yet, 1.8 billion Muslims, 500 million Buddhists, and 17 million Mormons think she is wrong. Why should we believe Christianity is true based on the number of adherents, and not these other religions? In fact, upwards of 500 million people are atheists. Using Sybil’s illogical logic, doesn’t this prove that atheism is true?

As of today, Christians have provided no sufficient evidence for the existence of their God (s). However, we do have other explanations for Christianity’s existence, arguments that do not require appeals to myths, magic, or logical fallacies. (Please see Why Most Americans Are Christian.)

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

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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

How to Tell Your Evangelical Parents You Are an Atheist

coming out as an atheist

In the Western world, Evangelical churches are hemorrhaging members left and right — particularly younger congregants. Evangelical pollsters and church growth gurus continue to discuss WHY so many people raised in Evangelical families are exiting stage left once they get out of high school, and WHAT can be done to retain them. I managed restaurants for several major fast-food chains. Several of the stores I managed faced declining sales. As manager, I was tasked with figuring out why customer counts were down and what could be done to get former and new customers to spend their money at the restaurant. This is exactly what is going on in Evangelical churches.

Churches and their pastors know that their future rests in retaining younger members after they graduate from high school and go off to college. Yet, most Evangelical churches (don’t let megachurches skew the picture of what is really happening) are losing younger members — not replacing the older church members who are dying off. Average congregation age continues to climb, especially among sects such as the Southern Baptist Convention — the largest Protestant sect in the United States.

The reasons for these defections are many. However, it seems clear that many young adults are leaving their childhood religious homes because of politics, science, and Evangelicalism’s increasing inability to honestly answer the hard questions of life. Younger adults refuse to be placated by appeals to faith and authority. If their church leaders can’t answer their questions, then these budding skeptics look elsewhere. Further, Evangelical churches, pastors, and educational institutions threw their weight behind the culture war, justifiably earning the label as the most hated religion in America. Younger Christians watched from the sidelines as their pastors, teachers, and parents supported Donald Trump, villainized LGBTQ people, labored to outlaw abortion, and supported systematic racism. These young adults rightly concluded that they no longer wanted anything do to with their parents’ religion.

Most Evangelicals have what I call a “borrowed faith.” The bulk of Evangelical members were raised in the church. Everything they heard and experienced reinforced the faith taught to them by their parents, pastors, and youth leaders. For readers not raised in such environments, it is often hard to understand how isolated and intellectually stilted such places are. Everything is governed by a set of propositional facts about God, Jesus, the Bible, and their peculiar version of Christianity. While “questions” are sometimes permitted, the only answers allowed are those which conform to the one true faith.

Evangelical pastors know they must protect their churches from the Philistine horde outside the gates, so they use lies, distortions, and repetition of beliefs to hopefully inoculate their congregations from faith destroying questions and doubts. Churches and their pastors know that atheism and agnosticism are existential threats to their existence, so what do they do? They either pretend there’s no such thing as an atheist (Romans 1) or they lie about what it is atheists actually believe. One need only watch YouTube videos shat out by Evangelical apologists to see how these men grossly misrepresent atheist beliefs. If atheism is no threat to Evangelicalism, why all the interest from apologists? If God and his Word will always prevail against the godless, why do apologists spend so much time attacking atheism? Their behavior suggests that atheism is a real and present danger for Evangelical churches. Thus, pastors and apologists are willing to lie, distort, and misrepresent atheist beliefs (and their own beliefs) in their attempts to hang on to those whom pollsters call the “Nones.”

Nones are best described as those who are disaffected by religion. While many Nones are atheists or agnostics, some are not. Nones are often people who no longer give a shit about the religion of their youth. Quite simply, their churches, pastors, and parents no longer provide adequate answers to their doubts and questions. Many of them are sickened by the Evangelical culture war and the reduction of church on Sundays into a spectator sport. Four years of support for Donald Trump and the immoral policies of the Republican Party have driven thoughtful, caring young adults out of the church. And what do many Evangelical apologists and pastors do? They double-down, suggesting that the problem is a lack of Bible knowledge among young adults. “Get back in church,” these preachers demand, “and listen to my preaching.” These supposed men of God think that there’s nothing that can’t be fixed with a few verses and sermons from the Bible. They refuse to acknowledge that the real issue is that disaffected young adults no longer buy what they are selling; that behavior speaks louder than words. These salesmen for Jesus also fail to understand that the Nones often sat in their churches for years, silently plotting exits from these temples of ignorance and irrationality. Over the years, I have corresponded with countless young adults who were biding their time until they were old enough to stop attending church or move out on their own. Some of the people I have talked with have actually escaped the snare of Fundamentalism, but they keep the true nature of their beliefs secret. Even older people can be trapped behind enemy lines, so to speak, unable or unwilling to tell their spouses, children, parents, and grandparents that they no longer believe.

I am often asked for advice on how to tell your Evangelical parents that you no longer believe in God. (Please see Count the Cost Before You Say “I am an Atheist.” This is not an easy question to answer due to the fact that there are so many variables to consider. When my wife and I left Christianity in 2008, I drafted a letter and sent it to family, friends, former parishioners, and colleagues in the ministry. (Please see Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners.) While this letter was signed by both of us, it was largely received as coming from me alone. Polly was viewed as a lemming, a woman under the spell of her husband — a lie that still irritates the hell out of her to this day. Polly’s mother and extended family — all Independent Fundamentalist Baptists (IFB) — believe that once I die Polly will come running back to Jesus and the church. They think so little of her that they refuse to acknowledge that it was her decision alone to tell Jesus to take a hike.

Over the past 12 years, we have paid a heavy price for sending out that letter. We have lost all of our friends, and family relationships are strained to the point of breaking. I have been asked if I had to do it all over again would I still send out the letter? Looking at the carnage that came from the letter, was it worth it? Would it have been better for all involved if I just ducked and kept quiet? Maybe, but that has never been my style. I knew the Evangelical gossip mills were working overtime as they deconstructed my life, my ministry, and even my marriage. The only way I knew to control what was being said about me and Polly was to write a letter and send it to hundreds of family members, friends, former parishioners, and colleagues in the ministry. I thought, naively, that this would put an end to the lies and gossip. Silly me. I should have known better. While the deconstructions of my life have waned a bit, I still hear from people from time to time or learn second or third hand that I am still be talked about behind my back. So while I stand on decision to send a letter to those who knew me, I would never suggest to anyone else that they do the same — that is unless you want immediate fireworks and assaults on your character.

Many Evangelicals-turned-atheists quietly leave the religion of their parents and family behind. They dodge questions or obfuscate the true nature of their unbelief. “Mom, I just haven’t found a church that I like,” a little white lie that hides the fact she hasn’t darkened the doors of a church since going to college. I am what most people consider the village atheist. I live in rural northwest Ohio, five miles from the place of my birth. I can safely say that virtually everyone knows who I am. Yet, on occasion, I will run into older people (who often don’t have computers/Internet) who knew me from my preaching days. They will ask me, “Bruce, where are you preaching these days?” assuming I am still a Bible-believing preacher. I typically reply, “I am not preaching anywhere right now, ” and then I so quickly change the subject that they don’t know what hit them. Should I give them a rundown of my loss of faith in the middle of the grocery store? I think not. Am I deliberately deceiving them? No. I am just choosing what questions to answer. I don’t owe anyone an accounting of my life.

Some Evangelicals-turned-atheists want to be out and proud. They are tired of hiding in the shadows, tired of giving evasive answers to questions about their religious beliefs and relationship with Jesus. Yet, they know that sharing with their parents that they have abandoned the family deity will not only cause conflict but hurt the people they love. Further, there is a real risk of being excommunicated from their family.

For those of you who want to stand up at the next post-COVID family reunion and shout, I AM AN ATHEIST!, I suggest that you carefully weigh the consequences of doing so. I am not saying that you shouldn’t do this — far from it. However, once you out yourself to your parents, you no longer control what happens next. LGBTQ readers can tell us this is true, and that often there is a heavy price to be paid for being true to self.

And therein lies the fundamental issue for Evangelicals-turned-atheists: being true to self. We all want to live authentic lives. We all want the right to be who and what we are. Unfortunately, Evangelical Christianity is not known for love, acceptance, and tolerance. Countless atheists were cut off from their families, told never to return until they “got right with God.” It is heartbreaking to learn that many Evangelical parents love Jesus and their church far more than they love their atheist children. In fact, such people believe their churches are their true families. The notion that blood is thicker than water just doesn’t apply in many Evangelical families.

Generally, I encourage Evangelicals-turned-atheists to be honest and frank with their believing parents. Life is too short to deny who and what you really are. If your parents truly love you, they will understand. Maybe not today, tomorrow, or a year from now, but they will eventually embrace you as their son or daughter, regardless of your beliefs. And if they don’t? Then you have to ask yourself if you really want to continue to have a relationship with your parents. I know, I know, harsh words, but your life is short, my friend, and isn’t it better to surround yourself with people who genuinely love you and accept you as you are? And it goes without saying that we should do the same for our parents. We are not asking them to join our merry band of heathens. All that ask for is respect.

I hope you find this post helpful. I would love to hear you tell of your own experiences with your parents in the comment section. What advice would you give to Evangelicals-turned-atheists who no longer want to lurk in the shadows of life?

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

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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

Why I Don’t Do Debates

gerencser family 2018
Bruce and Polly Gerencser and Family 2018

Smart is the person who understands his skill levels, his strengths, and his weaknesses. There’s nothing worse than watching someone unskilled attempt to do something that is out of his skill set, all because he thought it would be a good idea or his supporters suggested he do it. Years ago, during my Fundamentalist Baptist days, I got into a discussion with a liberal Baptist preacher. We were attempting to talk about psychology, a subject that I knew nothing about. Back and forth we went, with me pontificating, showing that I had no understanding of the subject at hand. If I remember right, it is when we got the subject of Abraham Maslow, that I tried to make my liberal Baptist friend see that I was an “expert” on Maslow, that he said, “Bruce you don’t know what you are talking about. You’re full of shit.” And he was right.

As a preacher, I believed I always had to have an answer for every question. I had to be the smartest guy in the room, the source of all wisdom and knowledge. After all, I spoke for God. Sure, I had a large library, but my all of my books essentially reinforced my beliefs, reminders of the fact that I was right. I had a handful of books on psychology, but these authors, to the person, were anti-psychology. Their theme was the same as virtually every Evangelical book: The Bible Says _______________.

Over time, I learned three things:

  • I had huge gaps in my knowledge and understanding of the world
  • I had good public speaking and writing skills
  • I should focus my time and effort on the things that I am good at

I was fifty years old when I left Christianity and became an atheist — by all accounts, a set-in-his-ways old man. Today, I am sixty-three. While I have learned all sorts of new things since deconverting, I am too old to embark on a new career, to reinvent myself. As long-time readers know, I have a lot of health problems, and it seems that no miracle healing is forthcoming. I have accepted the premise that my life is what it is, and unless I want to live every day in despair, I must take life as it is and do what I can. I am a realist, a pessimist at heart, so I don’t expect doctors to come riding in on white horses to deliver me from my afflictions. Knowing this, it is essential that I focus on honing my writing and speaking skills, not wading into new endeavors.

This brings me to the subject of debates. Over the years, I have been asked if I am interested in debating Christians. The short answer is no. Let me explain.

First, there are numerous atheist and agnostic debaters producing quality — dare I say phenomenal — content: Matt Dillahunty, Bart Ehrman, Steven Woodford (Rationality Rules), Alex O’Connor (Cosmic Skeptic), Drew McCoy (Genetically Modified Skeptic), Aron Ra, and Seth Andrews (The Thinking Atheist), to name a few. I see no need to add my weak voice to an already crowded field of expert debaters. I ask myself, do we really need another hamburger joint in town? The answer is no.

Second, I am a conversationalist, a storyteller. This blog has always been one man with a story to tell. I suspect that if I changed my focus to the rules of logic, philosophy, and debating, my hard-won audience would likely go elsewhere. Most people who read this blog do so because they find my story resonates with them in some way. When doubting, troubled Evangelicals show up for the first time, they find a man who understands their pain, what they have experienced and gives voice to their struggles. Such people have always been my focus, and I see no need to change my course now.

Now, this doesn’t mean I never talk about logic or philosophy, I do. The same goes for science. I do not get into debates (arguments) with creationists. First, I am not a scientist, and second, young earth creationists, in particular, are some of the most obstinate people on planet Earth. If I choose to briefly engage them, I ignore their ill-informed science arguments and, instead, attack the foundation of their beliefs: the inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility of the Bible. Disabuse Evangelicals of the notion that the Bible is an inerrant, infallible book, and the rest of their beliefs come tumbling down. For me personally, it’s a matter of focusing on what I know, instead of getting into an argument about science where neither participant knows what the hell they are talking about.

You won’t see my on the debate stage any time soon. I will be in the crowd cheering on my favorite atheist debaters. I plan to stick to telling my story. I am working towards, after years of broken promises, putting out a podcast. I am waiting for a laptop I purchased to arrive, and then I will be ready to go. My goal is for my podcast to be an extension of this blog: telling my story and continuing my in-the-know critiques of Evangelical Christianity. If this project goes well, my podcast will be available on all the major podcasting services, including YouTube. I recognize that the video and podcast markets are growing by leaps and bounds. If I believe my story is worth hearing and can help those who have doubts about Christianity or who have left the faith, then it is important for me to take my story and turn it into accessible videos and podcasts. Like it or not, younger people, in particular, are more likely to listen to my story on one of the video/audio services than they are to do a search on Google and come to this site. One-third of the people who come to this blog for the first time arrive via a web search on any given day. I suspect that the age demographic skews older for these first-timers, so my goal with the podcast is to reach people who don’t normally frequent this site. The Apostle Paul said he became all things to all men, and that’s my approach with the podcast. I hope to produce one podcast each week. This should not affect my writing schedule — health-willing. You can subscribe to my YouTube channel here.

As always, thank you for your love, kindness, and support.

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

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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

Bruce, As an Evangelical, What Were You Taught About Atheism?

naked adam and eve

This could be the shortest post I have ever written. Not really. Remember, I was a preacher for twenty-five years. I always have something to say on a subject. That said, the short answer to this question is this: absolutely nothing. I have no recollection of my pastors or my professors at Midwestern Baptist College ever mentioning atheism or atheists. In the 1970s and 1980s, the enemies of Evangelicalism — particularly in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement — were: liberalism, the Southern Baptist Convention, modern Bible translations, situational ethics, and sexual immorality. The culture war fueled by Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority was all the rage. I heard lots of sermons about abortion and prayer/Bible reading in schools, but not atheism proper. At times, atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s name would come up in sermons, but only in the context of the aforementioned culture war issues.

I pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years. I can’t recall preaching one sermon on atheism. I mentioned O’Hair on occasion, but not her atheism per se. In fact, I didn’t know any atheists. As far as I know, no atheist ever attended one of the churches I pastored. Were there atheists in the midst? Sure, just like there were LGBTQ people too. Such “abhorrent” beliefs and identities were, however, hidden — deeply buried in the proverbial Fundamentalist closet.

There is one atheist story I would like to share with readers, a humorous conclusion to this post. During my freshman year of college, a fellow dorm student and I were out knocking on doors one Saturday, hoping to find someone willing to let us share the gospel with them. Students were required to go soulwinning every week. And then we were required to report our evangelistic endeavors to the college. Many students, myself included, lied about how many doors they knocked on, how many people they led to the Lord. During the three years I attended Midwestern, I led a total of two people to Christ. I was, when it came to winning souls, a failure.

As my friend and I went from door to door in a Pontiac neighborhood, we had little to no success when it came to the “souls saved” department. What happened next, however, left an indelible impression on two virgin Baptist preachers-to-be. First, as we walked up the sidewalk to the next house, we noticed a number of squirrels in the yard. All of a sudden, one of the squirrels ran for my friend, jumped on his leg, and proceeded to scale his tall frame before jumping off his shoulder. Once we regained our composure, we walked up to the door and knocked. I should note before I tell the rest of this story, that locals were frequently harassed by Midwestern students. Imagine, being up late on Friday night, only to have a couple of Bible thumpers banging on your front door first thing in the morning. Many of us went soulwinning early on Saturdays so we could have the rest of the day to ourselves. It was the one day when I could spend significant time with my wife-to-be.

Then, as we knocked on the door, we heard people scuffling inside. Soon the door opened, and standing there stark naked were a man and a woman. My fellow dorm mate and I were speechless — I mean dumbstruck. Before either of us could start our soulwinning spiel, the man said, “we’re atheists, and we are not interested in what you have to say.” And with that and a laugh, the man shut the door.

This would be my first and last interaction with an atheist until I started reading books by atheist and agnostic authors in 2008. I still haven’t met many atheists in person. Most of my interaction with godless people has come through this blog and social media.

As a Christian, did you know any atheists? Did your pastor ever preach about atheism? Please share your experiences in the comment section.

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

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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