Tag Archive: Atheism

Retired Pastor? How Does THAT Happen?


Pastor Bruce, Preachersville, Kentucky, late 1990s and Atheist Bruce, Defiance, Ohio, 2016

I saw my primary care doctor today for my two-month check-up. I have been seeing the same doctor for eighteen years. We’ve become friends, and my appointments are often just much catching up as they are treating me. My doctor is an Evangelical Christian. While I am sure he has noticed that I don’t talk about God/Jesus/Church any more, we have never had any sort of discussion about my current beliefs and way of life. I am sure he still thinks I am numbered among the elect — a follower of Jesus Christ.

Scripts written/called in, CT scan scheduled, blood tests ordered, bitching about how bad the Browns and Bengals were Sunday finished, time to go home. The nurse — also an Evangelical — came into the room with several reams of paper (or so it seems) detailing everything we talked about during my visit. My doctor said to his nurse, Bruce, is a retired pastor. Before I could say a word, the nurse said, Retired pastor? How does THAT happen? Again, before I could say anything, my doctor said, He’s a retired pastor.

I outwardly smiled and, like Trump changing the discussion from “pussy-grabbing” to Bill Clinton’s dalliances, I said, how many games do you think the Browns will win? My doctor shook his head and laughed, knowing that his Browns suck. Come my next visit in December, I suspect one or both of us will be football-depressed.

For whatever reason, when it comes to my medical treatment, I wall myself off from my atheist and humanist beliefs. I don’t disown them, I just don’t talk about it. I do, from time to time, act like a devout, proselytizing Jehovah’s Witness, leaving copies of the Freedom From Religion Foundation or Americans United For Separation of Church and State newsletters in the waiting room. Even with this low-key act of godlessness, I make sure my name and address is blacked out before placing the newsletters among waiting room reading materials.

What did the nurse mean when she said, Retired Pastor?, how does THAT happen? Evangelical thinking on this subject goes something like this:

  • God calls men to be pastors.
  • The work of the ministry is far above any other job. In fact, it is not a job, it’s a calling.
  • This calling is irrevocable. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. (Romans 11:29)
  • Pastors should die in the pulpit while preaching the gospel. Going to heaven with my boots on, old-time preachers used to say.

Thus, being a retired pastor does not compute .God saved, and called me, so I should still be preaching. But wait a minute. I am no longer a Christian. I don’t believe in the existence of the God I at one time worshiped and served. My salvation and calling were the result of social conditioning, the consequence of spending fifty years in the Evangelical church. At age five I told my mother that I wanted to be a preacher some day. At age fifteen, I put my faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Two weeks later, I went before the church and told them I believed God was calling me to be a preacher. The congregation praised God for his selection of the redheaded Gerencser boy, and a week later I preached my first sermon. Thirty-three years later I preached my last sermon.

Someday, my obituary will be published in the Bryan Times and Defiance Crescent-News. On that day, my doctor will know the “truth” about my life and loss of faith. Until then, I am content to talk about football, baseball, or family, leaving my godlessness for another day. While I don’t think the fact of my atheism would affect my medical care, I prefer not to complicate my professional relationship and friendship with my doctor. If I Iive longer than expected and my doctor retires before I die, perhaps then we will talk about my journey from Evangelicalism to atheism. (Please see From Evangelicalism to Atheism.) Or maybe he’ll stumble upon my blog or read one of the articles I have written for other blogs. I don’t fear him knowing. I just know there’s not enough time in a fifteen minute office visit for me to explain why I am no longer a Christian.

Do you have certain people you haven’t shared your deconversion with? Why do you keep this to yourself? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Evangelical Gnats Are Everywhere

Thanks to my public presence on social media and this blog, I frequently come in contact with people who believe they have a duty to “rescue” me from the clutches of atheism. Just today an Evangelical man asked me if I had ever read Lee Strobel? I have been asked this question more times than I can count. What follows is the brief discussion that ensued.






One of my Facebook page moderators stepped in and told this man to buzz off. I think this man is part of a cadre of Evangelicals who have set up multiple Facebook profiles so they can spread Christian propaganda. Ban one of them and a different commenter shows up and starts commenting. In this man’s case, he left a derogatory comment about gays in the military (using the word homo). I have zero respect or tolerance for such people.

Yes, zealots such as this man are e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. On a warm summer day, so are gnats. Swat!

Bruce, You Are NOT an Atheist

bruce gerencser 2015

Bruce Gerencser, still a Christian!!

Evidently, because I use the word “God” in my writing, this is proof that I am r-e-a-l-l-y  some sort of secret Christian. Years ago, an Evangelical man said something similar, suggesting that because I capitalize the word God, that means I really, really, really, deep down in the depths of my nonexistent soul believe in God. Unable to wrap their minds around my story, some Evangelicals think that I am still a Christian; that I will yet return to the fold, all glory and praise to Jesus!

In recent days, several piss-ant Evangelicals have been attempting on Facebook to help me see the error of my way. I banned them, but one of them continues to send me his “thoughts” about my life and my current standing before the Big Kahuna. Here’s the latest:

my friend let me leave you with some things to think about.

especially with your heath issues. I know that you hate my guts and will mock this email to the other lost souls to whom you are advocating atheism/anti-theism.

I have studied your blog.

and you say that no “card carrying atheist you know has ever became a Christian”

well listen to yourself and read your posts.

you are not an atheist.

I have talked to very few people that label themselves that who are “ATHEISTS”

you even admitted to being an agnostic.

and used phrases like “my divorce from God”

you know the truth because you preached it for 25 plus years.

but did you ever REALLY Believe it?

NOTE: I’m not saying you were never saved.

but asking.   did you truly trust Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sin and eternal salvation?


Mr Bruce,

Jesus loves you he died for you and wants you to place your faith in him or come back to him.

truly acknowledge your sin problem

Be willing to turn from it and trust Jesus Christ sincerely with all your heart.

I hope you have a blessed day.

T Baker

Here’s my take on this email:

  • Tom, we are not friends.
  • Tom, I don’t hate you. I don’t know you, so I can’t hate you. And I certainly haven’t seen your guts, so I definitely don’t hate them.
  • Tom, nice, subtle threat of hell — using my health problems as a tool to get me to see the light.
  • Tom, if you have really studied my blog you wouldn’t have written this email.
  • Tom, you are clueless about my motivations for writing and the purpose of this blog.
  • Tom, I am an atheist. I actually do have an atheist card somewhere. I am a member in good standing of American Atheists. You need, for some reason, to believe that I am not what I claim I am. Why is that? What is so threatening about my story that you will go to great lengths to deny what can clearly be seen: Bruce Gerencser, who was once a devoted follower of Jesus, is now an atheist?
  • Tom, most atheists are agnostics. You need to do some study on atheism and agnosticism. Your ignorance is showing.
  • Tom, the phrase “divorced from God” is a rhetorical tool. I intellectually, psychologically, and emotionally divorced myself from God.
  • Tom, are you saved? Sure you are, right? And so was I. I spent 50 years in the Christian church. I was saved (the last time) at the age of fifteen. I preached the gospel for over 30 years, including pastoring Evangelical churches for 25 years. I was in every way a true-blue, committed Christian. That you can’t wrap your mind around this is YOUR problem, not mine.
  • Tom, I hope you know that hundreds of your fellow Christians have used the same tactics as you have as they attempted to win me back to Jesus — all to no avail. By all means, keep trying. I am always in need of new material for this blog.

Quote of the Day: The Myth of Immortality


There is, perhaps, no more striking example of the credulity of man than the widespread belief in immortality. This idea includes not only the belief that death is not the end of what we call life, but that personal identity involving memory persists beyond the grave. So determined is the ordinary individual to hold fast to this belief that, as a rule, he refuses to read or to think upon the subject lest it cast doubt upon his cherished dream. Of those who may chance to look at this contribution, many will do so with the determination not to be convinced, and will refuse even to consider the manifold reasons that might weaken their faith. I know that this is true, for I know the reluctance with which I long approach the subject in my firm determination not to give up my hope. Thus the myth will stand in the way of a sensible adjustment to facts.

Even many of those who claim to believe in immortality still tell themselves and others that neither side of the question is susceptible of proof. Just what can these hopeful ones believe that the word “proof” involves? The evidence against the persistence of personal consciousness is as strong as the evidence of gravitation, and much more obvious. It is as convincing and unassailable as the proof of the destruction of wood or coal by fire. If it is not certain that death ends personal identity and memory, then almost nothing that man accepts as true is susceptible of proof.

The beliefs of the race and as individuals are relics of the past. Without careful examination no one can begin to understand how many of man’s cherished opinions have no foundation in fact. The common experience of all men should teach them how easy it is to believe, what they wish to accept. Experienced psychologists know perfectly well that if they desire to convince a man of some idea, they must first make him want to believe it. There are so many hopes, so many strong yearnings and desires attached to the doctrine of immortality that it is practically impossible to create in any mind the wish to be mortal. Still, in spite of strong desires, millions of people are filled with doubts and fears that will not down. After all, is it not better to look to the question squarely in the face and find out whether we are harboring a delusion?

It is customary to speak of a “belief in immortality.” First, then let us see what is meant by the word “belief.” If I take a train in Chicago at noon, bound for New York, I believe I will reach that city the next morning. I believe it because I have been to New York, I have read about the city, I have known many other people who have been there, and their stories are not inconsistent with any known facts in my own experience. I have even examined the timetables and I know just how I will go and how long the trip will take. In other words when I board the train for New York, I believe I will reach that city because I have reason to believe it.

If, instead, I want to see Timbuktu or some other point on the globe where I have never been, or of which I had only heard, I still know something about geography, and if I did not I could find out about the place I wish to visit. Through the encyclopedia and other means of information, I could get a fair idea of the location and character of the country or city, the kind of people who live there and almost anything I wish to know, including the means of transportation and the time it would take to go and return. I already am satisfied that the earth is round, I know about it size. I know the extent of its land and water. I know the names of its countries; I know perfectly well that there are many places on its surface that I have never seen. I can easily satisfy myself as to whether there is any such place and how to get there, and what I shall do when I arrive.

But if I am told that next week I shall start on a trip to Goofville; that I shall not take my body with me; that I shall stay for all eternity: can I find a single fact connected with my journey — the way I shall go, the time of the journey, the country I shall reach, its location in space, the way I shall live there — or anything that would lead to irrational belief that I shall really make the trip? Have I ever known anyone who has made the journey and returned? If I am really to believe, I must try to get some information about all these important facts.

But people hesitate to ask questions about life after death. They do not for they know that only silence comes out of the eternal darkness of endless space. If people really believed in a beautiful, happy, glorious land waiting to receive them when they died; if they believed that their friends would be waiting to meet them; if they believed that all pain-and-suffering would be left behind: why should they live through weeks, months, and even years of pain and torture while I cancer eats its way through vital parts of the body? Why should one fight off death? Because he does not believe in any real sense; he only hopes. Everyone knows that there is no real evidence of any such state of bliss; so we are told not to search for proof. We are to accept through faith alone. But every thinking person knows that faith can only come through belief. Belief implies a condition of mind that accepts a certain idea. This condition can be brought about only by evidence. True, the evidence may be simply the unsupported statement of your grandmother, it may be wholly insufficient for reasoning men; but, good or bad, it must be enough for the believer or he could not believe.

Upon what evidence, then, are we asked to believe in immortality? There is no evidence. One is told to rely on faith, and no doubt this serves the purpose so long as one can believe blindly whatever he is told. But if there is no evidence upon which to build a positive belief in immortality, let us examine the other side of the question. Perhaps evidence can be found to support a positive conviction that immortality is a delusion.


All men recognize the hopelessness of finding any evidence that the individual will persist beyond the grave. As a last resort, we are told that it is better that the doctrine be believed even if it is not true. We are assured that without this faith, life is only desolation and despair. However that may be, it remains that many of the conclusions of logic are not pleasant to contemplate; so long as men think and feel, at least some of them will use their faculties as best they can. For if we are to believe things that are not true, who is to write our creed? Is it safe to leave it to any man or organization to pick out the errors that we must accept? The whole history of the world has answered this question in a way that cannot be mistaken.

And after all, is the belief in immortality necessary or even desirable for man? Millions of men and women have no such faith; they go on with their daily tasks and feel joy and sorrow without the lure of immortal life. The things that really affect the happiness of the individual are the matters of daily living. They are the companionship of friends, the games and contemplations. They are misunderstandings and cruel judgments, false friends and debts, poverty and disease. They are our joys in our living companions and our sorrows over those who die. Whatever our faith, we mainly live in the present — in the here and now. Those who hold the view that man is mortal are never troubled by metaphysical problems. At the end of the day’s labor we are glad to lose our consciousness and sleep; and intellectually, at least, we look forward to the long rest from the stresses and storms that are always incidental to existence.

When we fully understand the brevity of life, it’s fleeting joys and unavoidable pains; when we accept the facts that all men and women are approaching an inevitable doom: the consciousness of it should make us more kindly and considerate of each other. This feeling should make men and women use their best efforts to help their fellow travelers on the road, to make the path brighter and easier as we journey on. It should bring us a closer kinship, a better understanding, and a deeper sympathy for the wayfarers who must live a common life and die a common death.

Clarence Darrow, Why I Am an Agnostic and Other Essays, The Myth of the Soul

You can purchase Why I Am an Agnostic and Other Essays here.

Sacrilegious Humor: If Atheists Went to Heaven by Dark Matter


Comic by Mark Lynch

This is the forty-third installment in the Sacrilegious Humor series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a comedy bit that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please email me the name of the bit or a link to it.

Today’s bit is a video titled If Atheists Went to Heaven.

Warning, many of the comedy bits in this series will contain profanity. You have been warned.

Video Link

Former Evangelical Shares Why He Can No Longer Believe in the Christian God


Posted with permission from Clay who blogs at Life After 40: My Journey Out of Christian Fundamentalism

It’s been more than two years since I came out as an atheist. In that time, my lost Christian faith has come up often with family and friends. It’s difficult to distill a decade-long journey into a 5 minute elevator speech. When believers ask, that’s typically all they want. They don’t want to hear a lengthy, articulate response. Instead, they hope to hear something that they can easily dismiss as invalid or untrue.

I remember being in those shoes. As a former evangelical fundamentalist, it’s incredibly hard to admit to yourself that you’re wrong. It’s especially hard when you’ve spent the better part of your life in total commitment to what amounts to a fairy tale.

With that said, here’s my 5 minute elevator speech on why I stopped believing.

The Bible
The Bible’s collection of books were penned over a long span of time, some 2000+ years ago, by a diverse group of men who lived in a relatively confined area of desert in the Middle East. Unfortunately, significant portions were written by anonymous authors, and the collective whole is riddled with contradictions, errors and logical fallacies. The canonization of the New Testament (choosing which books were inspired and worthy) was a long, drawn out process that lasted many years and was subject to much debate.1 Political powers also played an influence. It’s especially troubling that the four gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) are from unknown authors, dated several decades after Christ’s death, and even penned in a language not spoken by the apostles. There are discrepancies about the resurrection details, the death of Judas, and what Jesus might have said while on the cross. We also find that the oldest gospel account (Mark) is rather light on miracles, but later accounts are more generous with miraculous events (which is indicative of our human tendency to enhance or exaggerate with each telling). You can also toss in odd things like walking zombies (Matthew 27) and apocalyptic 7-headed monsters in the last book, written by someone stranded on a Greek island, known to harbor mushrooms that can induce wild and vivid hallucinations. Are these facts in dispute among evangelical pastors? No.

The Old Testament doesn’t fare better. The first five books are from unknown authors which includes Genesis — a book that begins with a grossly mistaken account of creation that is not only scientifically incorrect, it’s logically flawed. Compounding it all are bizarre tales of a talking snake, a talking donkey, a man living inside the belly of a large fish — combined with an embarrassing lack of archaeological evidence to support the significant stories of the Old Testament. For example, there’s zero evidence for the mass exodus of Israelites from Egypt and there’s little to no evidence for any of the major patriarchs.

When you read the Bible with truly open eyes (and with the above facts in mind), it’s clear that we’re dealing with a man-made tale of a god named Yahweh who is petty, jealous, vindictive, and cruel — a deity who is very unsympathetic to his own creation. Even worse, the Old Testament gives abundant and clear endorsement for human slavery, genocide, misogyny, and sexual slavery, with a generous sprinkling of blood-lust for sacrifice.

God is Silent
The God of the Bible is silent. He does not actually talk to or respond to people. Conversations are entirely one-sided, and any purported two-way conversations are merely imaginary in the mind, and those who claim to have literally heard God speak to them are routinely shown to be mentally ill folk. These same individuals often commit acts of violence, which can (and has) included killing their own children. And some even choose to run for president, convinced that God told them to!

God is Inactive
The God of the Bible is inactive. Human misery and suffering is rampant, especially in less developed parts of the planet. Disease, famine, pestilence, violence, injustice, and natural disasters demonstrate that the God of the Bible isn’t there to act or intervene. The Bible makes bold and specific promises to believers about the power of prayer, but truly miraculous events are not substantiated. No mountain has ever literally moved, nor has an amputee ever had their missing arms or legs restored via prayer. Positive action and intervention only happen when humans take action. As someone once said, “I’ve never seen faith move mountains, but I’ve seen what it can do to skyscrapers.”

The Gospel is Ineffective and its Promise Lacks Evidence
The gospel of Christ makes several audacious promises, which includes: forgiveness; transformation; peace; love; and the ultimate prize: eternal life. Unfortunately, people are routinely targeted with this promise when they are the most vulnerable — during a crisis in their life. Evangelical churches make it a point to go after young children with the intent to indoctrinate before those young ones can think for themselves. What’s especially cruel is how some evangelicals abuse youngsters by painting vivid pictures of fiery eternal torment if they don’t follow along with the adults.

But the real question is, are the promises true? Many competing religions promise peace and contentment, and their followers claim to enjoy just that. Christianity can’t claim uniqueness in that regard. But is the gospel message of Jesus truly transformational? Given that divorce rates among Christians and unbelievers are the same, I think we have our answer. Neigh, I forgot to mention that the rates are even higher among protestants. Or consider the viewing habits for pornography. Evangelicals consider porn a grave sin, and yet we see no difference between the secular populations vs. the Christian population. In fact, we find that Protestants are even more likely to view porn. And alas, we find that some of the most judgmental, hateful and intolerant people are those of the Christian faith.

Now to be fair, I know people have been truly helped and motivated by the Christian message of love and forgiveness. There are some truly wonderful people in the church. But I find similar mixes of people outside the church. Christianity isn’t really much more helpful than any other self-help programs. So it’s not the transformational panacea it claims to be.

There’s No Soul, Spirit or Eternal Abode
But what about that promise of eternal life? It’s the ultimate carrot. Some have claimed to have died, gone to heaven, and returned to tell the tale. But we frequently find these stories are attention-seeking grabs and/or publicity for a profitable book deal. Unfortunately, there’s zero evidence to support the notion of an eternal abode. What we know for certain is that who we are — our unique personalities — is solely contained in our brains. It’s not in some ethereal spirit or soul. We now have 100’s of years of research in human psychology combined with medical science about the brain’s structure and inner-workings. A person’s personality and conduct can be easily and grossly manipulated by chemicals that interact in the brain tissue. We also see the devastating effect of diseases like Alzheimer and dementia on a person. Severe head trauma can also result in significant changes to a person’s psyche — what folks originally attributed as the soul. A good question to ask yourself is, “if you’ve ever been knocked out by anesthesia for a medical procedure, did you have any knowledge of things happening during that time?”. All of us who have been knocked out can answer — we have no recollection of ANYTHING. There’s no immortal spirit hanging out to watch as wisdom teeth are extracted or to watch as Dr. Gregory House cut into our chest.

So when the brain is dead, that’s it folks. And as much as I might like a good zombie movie, it’s fictional — just like a majority of the Bible.

1 When the early church was debating about the gospel accounts for canonization, there were many other gospel accounts considered for inclusion which included The Gospel of Thomas and The Gospel of Peter. So how did they decide to go with the four we currently see? Irenaeus summed it up in the following quote: “It is not possible that the gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are. For, since there are four-quarters of the earth in which we live, and four universal winds, … it is fitting that she should have four pillars breathing out immortality on every side, and vivifying men afresh.”  Yeah, that’s a good reason. Since the earth is flat and has four corners, there should be four gospels! It all makes sense! [Face Palm]

Evangelical Dualism: It’s Not Me, It’s Jesus 

crucifying the flesh

Christians will tell you that the good works they do are all because of Jesus. Recently, an Evangelical woman by the name of Pam left several comments detailing her battles with perfectionism. It was only when she learned to let go and let God that she was able to find victory over her perfectionist tendencies. According to Pam, the flesh is the problem, and the only way Christians can live fulfilled, happy lives is to die to self and allow Jesus to have absolute control. It was Jesus himself who said to those who would be his disciples, let a man deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. It was the apostle Paul who said that without Christ he could do nothing. Paul reminded Christians that they must deny the flesh and give themselves over, without reservation, to Jesus. In First John, Christians are reminded that if they love the world and the things that are in the world, then love of the father is not in them. In fact, the writer of First John tells Christians that if they sin, they are children of the devil.

Now, everyone knows Christians sin. We know that Christians live lives that are, for the most part, indistinguishable from non-Christians. How then, do Christians square what the Bible says about how they should live their lives with how they actually live? Christians believe that humans are either bipartite or tripartite beings — body and soul or body, soul, and spirit. This dualistic understanding of human nature allows Christians to rationalize and reconcile conflicting teachings in the Bible about human nature and God’s demands. It’s the body that sins. It’s the flesh that Satan can take control of, resulting in Christians committing all sorts of sinful acts. The Bible teaches that Christians are to walk in the spirit and not the flesh. Over and over, the Bible reinforces the belief that Christians, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, are dualistic creatures that will spend their lives on earth in constant battle with competing desires, needs, and influences.

For 2,000 years, Christians have been practicing some sort of self-flagellation that is meant to crucify the flesh, rendering them dead to sin and alive to Christ. Over the years, I heard countless illustrations (and gave many myself) about the battle between the spirit and the flesh. I remember one pastor saying that this battle is like having two dogs — spirit dog and flesh dog. The strength of these dogs is determined by which dog we feed. If Christians want to live victoriously, then they must feed the spirit dog. Feeding the flesh dog leads to lives of sin, carnality, and the chastisement of God. This cosmic battle between good and evil can be illustrated many different ways. What most Christians don’t know is that this dualistic understanding of human nature comes from Gnosticism, a system of belief judged heretical centuries ago. In fact, if you listen carefully to what Christians say, you will quickly conclude that in 2016 Gnosticism is alive and well. This is no better illustrated than with the way Christians explain the constant tug and pull in their life between good and evil, righteousness and unrighteousness, and the flesh and the spirit.

In Romans 7, the apostle Paul talks about this battle:

Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me. Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful. For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

From these verses, and others, Christians include that their flesh (body) is sinful and that the good deeds they do are not their own works, but the works of God who uses them for his own purposes. This is why Christian zealots can ignore the commenting rules on this blog and post comment after comment filled with Bible verses, sermons, and other acts of Evangelical masturbation. You see, it’s not them saying/writing these words, it is Jesus. They are just conduits through which Jesus speaks to poor deluded atheists and other unbelievers. In many ways, these zombies for Jesus are not much different from Madam Zelda, who channels dead loved ones so she can give messages to those they have left behind. Evangelicals must daily crucify their flesh. The use of the word crucify reminds them to the degree they must be willing to go to be used by Jesus. Jesus was willing to be brutally, viciously beaten, ultimately dying on the cross, so that human sin could be atoned for. Wanting to be like Jesus, Evangelicals physically and psychologically flagellate themselves, hoping by their acts of self-denial that Jesus will find them worthy and use them for his purpose and glory.

Lost on Evangelicals is the fact that their very acts of self-denial are they themselves doing works. They are the ones dying to self. They are the ones crucifying the flesh. They are the ones taking up their crosses and following Jesus. No matter how far along the Christian experience you want to go, eventually human action will be found. This is why I have argued that Christianity, at its heart, is not a religion of faith/grace. It’s all about works, and it always has been. If God is the same yesterday today and forever, then he cannot and will not change. The Old Testament is clear, God had a prescribed way his chosen people were required to live, under the penalties of judgment, death, and eternal damnation if they did not. In the Gospels, Jesus made it very clear in the Sermon on the Mount that if people wanted to be his disciples they would have to live a certain way. Paul continues this works-based thinking in his epistles when he contrasts the works of the flesh and the works of the spirit. James says that faith without works is dead and the writer of First John spends five chapters listing the works that must be in the lives of those who say they are followers of Jesus. Even salvation is a work. For sinners to be saved, they must accept the gospel message, repent of their sins, and believe in Jesus Christ. They must put their faith and trust in Jesus alone. No one becomes a Christian by sitting at home and just waiting for it to happen. The new birth — being born from above — requires an act of volition. Christians will go to great lengths to explain why these acts of the will are really God’s doing, but the fact remains that it is unbelievers who are making  conscious choices to either accept or reject Jesus Christ.

Dualism, of course, is a theological construct that is used to explain the contradictory teachings of the Bible. There is no possible way to reconcile Jesus, Paul, James, and John without resorting to some sort of dualistic magic. Those of us who are atheists have an entirely different view of human nature. We recognize that our lives are affected by genetics, environment, personal choices and decisions, and being at the wrong/right place at the wrong/place right time (to name a few). We also know that luck plays a big part in who and what we are. Most of us would agree that choices and decisions are not made in a vacuüm and that every action results in a reaction. Choices have consequences,  and while we can look at the various reasons that people make the choices that they do, at the end of the day all of us are responsible for the choices we make.

My life is in admixture of good and bad works and good and bad decisions, with a healthy dose of neither good or bad. As a Christian, I ascribed the good that I did to Jesus and the bad that I did to Satan and/or the flesh. As an atheist, I accept full responsibility for what I do, and when I do good things I rightly accept the praise and approbation of others. After all, it is I, not God or some other person, who did the good work. While I may deflect the praise of others through humility, realizing that others often play a big part in the good things that I do, I now know that is okay for me to say (and for others to say) good job, Bruce. I also know that when I do bad things that I need to look no further than me, myself, and I. While my wonderful, loving, awesome, super, fabulous, beautiful wife of 38 years can irritate the hell out of me, if I respond to her in anger or impatience I have no one to blame but myself. I am in control of my actions, words, and, to some degree, my destiny. I can look back over my life, as I am wont to do, and see how the various decisions I have made have affected where I am today. While I know the reasons for my health problems are many, some of which are beyond my control, I also know that choices that my parents made and choices that I have made play a part. Who among us hasn’t said, I wish I had done __________. I believe it was George Foreman that said that his obituary will one day read that he died of one too many cheeseburgers. Foreman understood that connection between choices and consequences. Our lives are complex mixtures of many factors, all of which are rooted in naturalism and materialism. I need not look far to find the reasons and answers for who and what I have become. Voltaire was right when he said, “Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her. But once they are in hand, he or she alone must decide how to play the cards in order to win the game.” Napoleon Hill, the author of Think and Grow Rich, stated, “You are the master of your destiny. You can influence, direct and control your own environment. You can make your life what you want it to be.”  While I certainly don’t take Hill’s words as far as those who believe that by mere thinking and believing they can cause things to happen, I do understand that the life that I am now living is mine alone and that to a large degree what I do with it is up to me. Believing that a deity is the master of my universe and the controller of my rudder complicates things, so cutting him out of my life allows me not only to make my own decisions but also accept responsibility for what good or bad comes as a result of the choices that I’ve made. While I still have moments when I wish there were someone to blame — say the devil or the flesh — I know that when I look in the mirror I see the one person who is responsible for how Bruce Gerencser lives his life. To quote an oft used line, the buck stops here.

How did dualistic thinking affect your life as Christian? How have things changed for you now that you no longer believe? If you are a progressive or liberal Christian or the practitioner of another religion, how do you view your life and the decisions you make? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Christian Porn: Kevin Sorbo’s Atheist Salvation Fantasy

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In recent years, several movies marketed to Evangelicals have featured erotic scenes of Evangelical revivalism ravishing atheism. Movies such as God is Not Dead are built around the notion that the Christian gospel has the power to brings atheists to their knees. Never mind the fact that these Evangelical fantasies are about as real as the scenes found in countless porn movies. While I can point to countless Evangelicals who are now atheists, rare are atheists who become Christians. When people tell me that they were atheists before they embraced the wonderful, matchless grace of Jesus, I question them as to what they really believed. Most often these former atheists were not atheists at all. At best, they were anti-theists or indifferent to religion. These atheists-turned-Christians wrongly assume that not believing in the Christian God means the unbelievers are atheists. This simply is not the case.

Most atheists I know can give numerous reasons for why they are atheists (or agnostics). Most of the atheists-turned-Christians I have met couldn’t explain atheism if their life depended on it. Ask them what atheist writers they have read and they will likely give you a blank stare. What often happens is that Evangelical pastors and evangelistic zealots convince these new Christians that they were once atheists. What better testimony is there than that of an atheist who realized the Evangelical deity was the true and living God. Outside of being a Satan worshiper, a mob kingpin, or Pablo Escobar’s right hand man, there is no greater Christian testimony than to have once been an atheist.

Most atheists are naturalists and materialists. Most atheists put a lot of stock in the sciences. It is hard for me to imagine someone abandoning science and a naturalistic view of the world in exchange for a religious system built upon an anti-science, anti-reason foundation. I am sure, on rare occasions, it happens, but I do not personally know of one person who was once a card-carrying atheist and who is now a Bible-believing Evangelical Christian.

Actor Kevin Sorbo is working on a film about “an atheist who, upon experiencing a near-death experience, converts to Christianity.” Titled Let There be Lightthe movie will feature Sorbo as the world’s greatest atheist. Think Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, or Steven Hawking. Or move way down the list to C movie atheists such as myself or other one-time Evangelical preachers. Try to fathom what possibly could happen for one of us to have a come-to-Jesus moment where we reject reason, skepticism, rationalism, atheism, agnosticism, humanism, and science and in their place embrace the mind-numbing, anti-intellectual, irrational, and anti-science beliefs of Evangelicals. Sorry Kevin Sorbo. This might be some sort of Christian porn fantasy, but in real life it is highly unlikely that a well-known atheist would reject atheism in favor of Evangelicalism.

Of course, this won’t stop Sorbo and others like him from making movies such as God is Not Dead, God is Not Dead 2, and Let There be Light. You see, these movies are not made for atheists or to be used as an Evangelistic tool to reach the godless for Jesus. These type of movies are campaign propaganda meant to stir the hearts of believers, leading them to believe that ANYTHING is possible — even the salvation of Richard Dawkins.

Yesterday, Mother Teresa was granted sainthood. This monumental event led Benjamin Wiker, an Associate Professor of Political Science at Franciscan University of Steubenville to say that Catholics  should now pray to Saint Teresa of Calcutta, asking her to heal Steven Hawking of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) and convert him to Christianity Wiker writes:

I know this might be rather bold, but I’d like to ask, say, several million people out there to pray to Mother Teresa during her canonization day, and eight days thereafter, for the conversion and complete healing of the great physicist Stephen Hawking.

Why? As simply as I can put it, his conversion and cure would be a miracle that would show to the world that Christian faith and science are not opposed, but (as St. John Paul II said) “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.”

Imagine what would happen to Hawking himself if God would see fit to answer this prayer through the intercession of Mother Teresa. He would not be any less a physicist. He would still know what he had previously known, from Black Holes to Quantum Mechanics, but his universe would quite suddenly become immeasurably larger and more complex.

Hawking would then be faced with an even bigger task than coming up with a Theory of Everything because the Everything he would now have to fit into the Theory would involve mysteries beyond the ken of science, but not in ultimate contradiction to them. Faith and science couldn’t be in contradiction because they in fact co-exist in a much larger harmony. There are Black Holes and there are also Albanian nuns (or at least one) whose prayers somehow bring about the divine healing of unhealable diseases like Lou Gehrig’s disease, which has for so many years afflicted Hawking.

Moreover, if these prayers were answered, Hawking would know exactly what it was like, some two millennia ago, to be healed directly by Jesus, and that would mean that the New Testament would quite suddenly be transformed from a book of fiction (as too many scientists see it) to a book of startling miraculous facts. That book would then have to be on the same shelf with his physics books.

As far as I know, Hawking never met Mother Teresa. But I have often thought, when seeing Hawking so sadly trapped in a painfully twisted body for so long, what it might have meant for him if Mother Teresa had come to him, as she had to so many like-wise broken bodies lying in the dust of Calcutta, and picked his frail body up, looked into his eyes, and spoke with him about the love of Christ.

One might say that it’s too late for such a meeting. But it just may be the perfect time, her canonization, a very busy time for saints. She could, God willing, go to him now.

I also think about this meeting for what might seem an odd reason. Stephen Hawking has lived far, far longer than anyone should who has Lou Gehrig’s disease. That in itself is a mystery. Perhaps it is a mystery waiting for such a meeting.

I pray that it is, and hope again, for several million others to do likewise. Spread the word.

St. Teresa, by the Grace of God you ministered to the poorest of the poor, the sickest of the sick, the crippled, the leprous, and the dying. We beg you please, in virtue of the Graces now bestowed upon you in canonization, to pray for the complete physical healing and conversion of Stephen Hawking. Through the same Christ our Lord you so dutifully served. Amen.

I predict, based on the evidence at hand, that no notable atheists will be converted through Sorbo’s movie. I also predict that seven days from now Steven Hawking will (sadly) still have ALS. And as a final prediction, I predict that Christian preachers, priests, and movie makers will continue to make money off Christian porn featuring straw-men atheists who do not exist in real life. From the safe corners of Christianity, God’s spokesmen will continue to tilt at the atheist windmills of their own making. Cheering crowds of Christians will rejoice, thinking their leaders have once again routed the enemies of God. Little do they know that no atheists were harmed in the making of this movie.