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Tag: Atheism

Songs of Sacrilege: He Flies by Whitney Avalon

whitney avalon

This is the latest installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song 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 send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is He Flies by Whitney Avalon.

Video Link

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Songs of Sacrilege: Dechristianize by Vital Remains

vital remains

This is the latest installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song 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 send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Dechristianize by Vital Remains.

Video Link

Lyrics

[Intro]
Trembling to its fall
Putting and end to it all
By storm, by force
With might, without remorse
We are here to conquer this world

[Verse 1]
Like cancer, our hate consumes the light of elysium
Unstoppable force of demonic supremacy
All destroying, all devouring
Heaven now ravaged; scarred and empty
Strike the death knell of the pandemonium
Imbrue one’s hands in the blood of christ
Washing away all filth of righteousness
The dimming of the light
Engulfing the trinity

He raped the culture of mankind
He raped the pride of the ancient ways
He raped all thought of freewill
I who will watch you fall into obscurity

Washing away all filth of righteousness
The dimming of the light
Engulfing the fucking trinity

I spit upon your deity
Supposed creator of all things
Idol of irreverence you worship above
Show your true face, the image of prevarication

Unhallowed be our twilight
Thy grace untriumphant
Mourn the crowning of unconquerable profanation

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Songs of Sacrilege: Atheists Don’t Have No Songs by Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers

steve martin and steep canyon rangers

This is the latest installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song 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 send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Atheists Don’t Have No Songs by Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers.

Video Link

Lyrics

You know, religious people have such beautiful music and art
And atheists really have nothing…

Until now!

A little tune called “Atheists Don’t Have No Songs”

Christians have their hymns and pages.
(Hymns and pages)
Hava Nagila’s for the Jews.
(For the Jews)
Baptists have the rock of ages.
(Rock of ages)
Atheists just sing the blues.

Romantics play Claire de Lune.
(Claire de Lune)
Born agains sing He is risen.
But no one ever wrote a tune.
(Wrote a tune)
For godless existentialism.
(For godless existentialism)

For Atheists,
There’s no good news.
They’ll never sing,
A song of faith.

In their songs,
They have a rule.
The “he” is always lowercase.
The “he” is always lowercase.

Some folks sing a Bach cantata.
(Bach cantata)
Lutherans get Christmas trees.
Atheist songs add up to nada.
(Up to nada)
But they do have Sundays free.
(Have Sundays free)

Pentecostals sing, sing to heaven,
(Sing to heaven)
Gothics had the books of scrolls,
(Numerologists count)
Numerologists count, count to seven,
(Count to seven)
Atheists have rock and roll.

For atheists,
There’s no good news.
They’ll never sing,
A song of faith.

In their songs,
They have a rule.
The “he” is always lowercase.
The “he” is always lowercase.

Atheists
Atheists
Atheists
Don’t have no songs!

Christians have their hymns and pages.
(Hymns and pages)
Hava Nagila’s for the Jews.
(For the Jews)
Baptists have the rock of ages.
(Rock of ages)
Atheists just sing the blues.

Catholics,
Dress up for mass.
And listen to,
Gregorian chants.

Atheists,
Just take a pass.
Watch football in their underpants.
Watch football in their underpants.

Atheists
Atheists
Atheists
Don’t have no songs!
(Don’t have no songs)

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Sounds of Fundamentalism: Atheists are Stupid Says Evangelical Zealot Logan Joy

logan joy

The Sounds of Fundamentalism is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section.  Let’s have some fun!

Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a six-minute video clip of Evangelical apologist Logan Joy sharing with his supporters why he thinks atheists are stupid.

Video Link

Joy had this to say about atheists on his Facebook page (all spelling and grammar in the original):

Let’s just keep it real, atheism is the belief in nothing, that nothing randomly formed everything for no purpose or reason. A bunch of random people, random events, all living and dying for no reason. No morality, just ignorance and hatred for the one who created it all. Yet Christian’s are stupid? Atheists beg on their deathbed for mercy from a God they claim to not believe in, when in reality, it’s because they hate God. Most people hate God. There’s different forms of hating him. One is to worship the God that fits your lifestyle because the God of the Bible doesn’t cut it for you. Another is to be embarrassed of God and his word. There’s also just unbelief. Not believing and mocking others changes nothing. God has healed me, redeemed me, saved me, change me. If you’ve never felt the overwhelming presence of the Holy Spirit, once you do, you’ll never be the same.

We teach evolution as fact in schools when it’s undoubtedly a lie. It’s a lie. Well who knows, right? We’ll see when we die? I can pull up hundreds of testimonies of people declared dead for periods of time who will tell you just how real Heaven and Hell are. Oh but can we trust that? Go ahead, trust in nothing. Or be the Christian that believes God raised the dead but no longer raises the dead. Because He’s somehow changed.. Which is impossible. (Malachi 3:6)

Believe in what you want, God gives you free will but this life is fading fast for all of us. And one day, you may wish you listened to the crazy guy named Logan on Facebook.

Repent. Repent. Repent.

That goes for me as well. Pride kills more souls than any other sin. You’re not already forgiven, repentance is not optional.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Understanding the Difference Between Private and Public

ideas dont have rights

Evangelical Christians, among others, have private (personal) beliefs that people such as I consider uninteresting, intellectually lacking, or irrational. As long as they do not try to force their beliefs on me, codify their beliefs into law, or demand special treatment, I am quite indifferent toward their beliefs. I have no interest in regulating what people believe about God, Jesus, the Bible, or anything else for that matter.

However, when Evangelicals state/argue/debate their beliefs in the public space — newspapers, TV, books, magazines, Facebook, Twitter, the Internet, public meetings, etc. — then the rules of engagement change. Once these beliefs are uttered publicly they are no longer considered private and are open to criticism, investigation, debate, ridicule, mockery, and attack. People deciding to utter their beliefs in public should know this, and if they don’t, they are in for a rude awakening the first time they “share” their beliefs publicly.

As a writer, hopeful author, essayist of letters to the local newspaper, and the public face of atheism where I live, I am considered a public figure. As such, I open myself up to criticism, investigation, debate, ridicule, mockery, and attack. While I would hope people would treat me fairly and with respect, I have no right to expect such treatment and I have no recourse if someone lies about me, distorts my beliefs, or attacks me personally.

I can’t do anything about what someone may say about me or my writing on their own blog or in an internet forum. I can’t control the sermons Evangelical preachers preach about me. They can take something I have written and twist and distort it, and there is nothing I can do about it. This is the wild, woolly nature of the public space.

I wish Evangelical Christians would understand the difference between private and public. When they drag their beliefs into the public space, they have no right to whine, moan, or complain that I am attacking them and their beliefs. If they don’t want their beliefs assaulted or challenged, then they need to keep them out of the public space. As Tristan Vick said in a comment:

Someone needs to tell this caterwauling Christian that it’s people who have rights, not ideas.

Evangelicals often think that this blog is public; that they have a right to say whatever they want in the comment section. However, this blog is actually private; a site that the public can read and if they follow the rules comment on. As the owner of a private site, I have the absolute right to decide who may comment and what comments are approved. This site is no different from the churches Evangelicals attend.

If Evangelicals want to take me to task, critique my writing, or attack my character, they are free to do so on their own blogs, from the pulpits of their churches, on their podcasts, or any other medium of their choosing. But not on my blog.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

The Lies Evangelicals Tell Themselves About Atheists

liar liar pants on fire

It is common for Evangelicals to lie to themselves when confronted with facts and evidence that does not fit their worldview. One need only look at their theological beliefs to see how lies are routinely used to prop up beliefs that can no longer be intellectually and rationally supported. It’s the twenty-first century, not the sixteenth, yet Evangelicals continue to use past justifications to support their outdated, irrational, anti-human beliefs. In other words, they lie to themselves.

So it is for Evangelicals when it comes atheists. Let me illustrate how Evangelicals see atheists with a screen capture from an Evangelical discussion forum. I can’t remember which forum I found this, but it was either the Fundamental Forums, the Baptist Board, or the Puritan Board — three peas in a pod:

how evangelicals view atheistsA

According to this Evangelical dullard, atheism makes people angry, hopeless, and self-destructive. Sound familiar? This statement, of course, has no grounding in reality. This is a lie the man tells himself; a necessary lie in order for his worldview to make sense. In his worldview, the world is neatly divided into two categories: saved/lost, in/out, black/white, Heaven/Hell. Atheists, then, are lost and headed for Hell. Their refusal to believe in the Evangelical God is a sign of a reprobate mind; people who have been turned over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh (Romans 1,2).  Fair enough, I suppose. That’s what the Bible says, right? I can’t fault Evangelicals for believing the Bible; even though they conveniently not-believe-it when it suits them. What people such as myself find irritating is the attacks on our character. Oh, you are an A-T-H-E-I-S-T?  Well, that means you live a life without meaning, purpose, and direction. You love to sin. No matter how often atheists correct this false notion, Evangelicals remain steadfast in their beliefs about atheists. No matter how much evidence is presented to the contrary, Evangelicals continue to lie to themselves about atheists. Why?

Evangelicals are convinced that they are, in God’s eyes, special; that Jesus has chosen to save them by his grace; that everything that happens in their lives is according to their God’s purpose and plan for them; that Heaven awaits them after they die — God’s reward for their faith and obedience. In order for these things to be true, atheists must be viewed as their enemies; people who hate God; people who follow Satan; people who have hopeless, empty lives; people who love to sin against the thrice holy God of the Bible. Of course, none of these things is true. The evidence at hand suggests that atheists on the whole live lives filled with purpose and meaning. Atheists don’t hate God or follow Satan, because they do not believe either exists.

For Evangelicals, atheists are evil personified. It’s been that way, in particular, ever since avowed atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair successfully challenged the constitutionality of prayer and Bible reading in public schools. From the 1960s forward, atheists have become more vocal about their godlessness, and are far more willing to publicly and legally challenge the theocratic tendencies of Evangelicals. Groups such as American AtheistsFreedom From Religion Foundation, and the American Humanist Association have increasingly challenged Evangelical church and state violations in the courts — and have won. Things are so bad now for Evangelicals that even Satanists — who are atheists — are challenging the preferential treatment Evangelicals receive from the local, state, and federal government.

In reaction to what Evangelicals believe is a frontal assault on Christianity, they go out of their way to paint their atheistic enemies as bad, even evil, people. Atheists are called all sorts of names and tagged with all sorts of reprehensible behavior. Sure, there ARE atheists who are awful people, but talk about the pot calling the kettle black! Evangelicals have plenty of bad behavior going on in their own ranks, right? Evangelicalism is roiling with sexual abuse scandals and other sex crimes perpetrated by so-called men of God. (Please see the Black Collar Crimes Series.) Evangelicals have lost any sense of high moral ground, and are now considered the most hated religion in America. Many younger Americans believe Evangelicals are a hate group — people who despise LGBTQ people. Yet, despite all of this, Evangelicals continue to lie to themselves about atheists (and other non-Evangelicals). After all, if atheists have lives just as good and as meaningful as Evangelicals, why be a Christian? If atheists demonstrate the “fruit of the Spirit” without believing in said Spirit, what does that say about Christianity? If atheists love their spouses, love their children, hold down jobs, and contribute to their communities, what does that say about the claims Evangelicals make for their lives being “transformed” by the power of God? It seems to this atheist that Evangelical Christianity doesn’t offer anything that can’t be found outside of religion. Once the Bible with its Bronze Age foolishness loses its authority and power, people are free to craft meaningful, purposeful lives on their own terms. This scares the shit out of Evangelicals. And instead of accepting the fact that atheists are every bit as good, moral, and ethical as Evangelicals are, they lie to themselves as the man did in the above quotation.

There was a time when I would try to correct such false notions about atheists. I have, however, come to the place where I realize that until Evangelicals are willing to stop lying to themselves and are willing to see things as they are, there’s no hope of changing their minds. As long as their pastors preach thundering sermons and write scathing blog posts about the “evil” atheists, their lies will be reinforced. Who are they going to believe? Atheists, in their own words, or their pastors? Until Evangelicals come to the place where they rationally and skeptically weigh what their pastors say, they will continue to believe the lies that are told about atheists. There’s nothing we atheists can do about this except to continue living our lives in ways that give atheism a good name.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Romans 3: What the Bible Says About the “Human Condition”

Evangelicals believe that all humans are born sinners, at variance with God, and headed for Hell unless they repent of their sins and put their faith and trust in the atoning work of Jesus Christ and his resurrection from the dead. Evangelicals get their view of humanity straight from the Bible — a collection of books they believe is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. In their minds, the Bible is different from all other books. Divine in nature, perfect, and true, the Bible reveals to us God, the “human condition,” and what all of us must do to have right standing with the Christian deity and avoid eternal damnation in Hell. According to Evangelicals, atheists and other non-believers deliberately reject the truths of the Bible because they desire to live sin-filled lives. Never mind the fact that Evangelicals also live sin-filled lives. You see, they have an out — Jesus. No matter what terrible things they do, forgiveness and restoration are but a prayer away:

If we [Evangelicals] confess our sins, he [Jesus] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9)

No bad behavior (sin) is beyond God’s forgiveness. King David committed adultery and had the woman’s husband murdered so he could have her for his own, yet he is called a “man after God’s own heart.” (Acts 13:22) We need only turn to the modern-day fall-from-grace/forgiveness stories of men such as Ted HaggardJimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, David Hyles, and countless other “fallen” Evangelical preachers to see how the process works. Those of us who were once Evangelicals have first-hand experience with the sin/forgiveness, wash/rinse/repeat process by which we procured continued right-standing with God. Daily and twice on Sundays, we confessed our sins to God and asked for his complete, total, buried-in-the-deepest-sea forgiveness:

He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:19)

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. (Isaiah 1:18)

The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever. He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:8-12)

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Romans 8:1)

And each and every time, God — or so we believed anyway — granted us forgiveness. Catholics had the confessional, and we Evangelicals had the altars, prayer meetings, and devotional times. In fact, forgiveness was so readily available that all we had to do is send up a quick prayer to Jesus. We could be at work, driving our cars, or cleaning up after masturbating to porn; it mattered not. All God required was for us to say “my bad, Jesus, I’m sorry, please forgive me.” And just like that our sin slates were wiped clean. Awesome, right?

Evangelicals believe they are hopeless and helpless apart from God’s grace. While Evangelicals often present themselves as superior to atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, Muslims, pagans, and other non-believers, when confronted with their own “sinfulness” they reply, “I’m just a sinner saved by grace!”  According to their doctrine, the only thing that keeps Evangelicals from spending eternity in the Lake of Fire with Hitler, Mother Teresa, Christopher Hitchens, Barack Obama, and Bruce Gerencser is the moment in time they repented of their sins and asked Jesus to save them. Evangelicals see themselves as sinners who just so happened to have pushed the right button on the Eternal Hell Fire Insurance Policy® Dispensing Machine.

The Apostle Paul in Romans 3 reminded Christians and unbelievers alike of their true nature. Here’s how Paul describes the “human condition”:

  • None of us is righteous (vs. 10)
  • None of us understands (vs. 11)
  • None of us seeks after God (vs. 11)
  • None of us does good (vs.12)
  • All of us have sinned and come short of God’s glory (vs. 23)

Paul goes on to describe the “human condition” this way:

Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not known: There is no fear of God before their eyes.

Paul in Romans 3 and other places reminds Christians that the only difference between them and non-Christians is faith (Ephesians 2:8,9 and Hebrews 11); faith in Jesus as the propitiation for sin (Romans 3:25 and 1 John 2:2); faith in the God-man who died on the cross for our sins (Romans 5); faith in the Jesus who promised to forgive us of every sin — past, present, and future.

Is it any wonder Evangelicals live such schizophrenic lives? On one hand, God commands them to live morally, ethically, and righteously, and even commands them to be as perfect as their Father in Heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48). Yet, on the other hand, they are repeatedly reminded by Paul and other Biblical authors that it is impossible for them to keep, follow, and practice that which God commands. Thinking this way leads to all sorts of emotional stress. Evangelicals may be “sinners saved by grace,” but their behavior suggests that their lives are long on sin and short on grace. One need only read the Black Collar Crime series to see how such thinking affects Evangelicals. So-called men of God — pastors, deacons, evangelists, Sunday school teachers, and worship leaders — praise the wonders of God’s grace on Sundays, all while they are fucking their secretaries, sexually abusing boys and girls, seducing church teenagers, and otherwise engaging in behaviors that most people consider wrong. “Oh Bruce,” Evangelical apologists say, “these stories are the exception to the rule!” Really? You might want to read Is Clergy Sexual Infidelity Rare? before defending God’s spokesmen. You might also want to talk to pastors who are willing to be honest about their own “sinful” behaviors and that of their congregations — that which has been confessed to them in secret.

“Fine, Bruce,” Evangelicals say. “Are atheists any better?” To that question I reply, yes and no. Atheists don’t believe in “sin.”  Most atheists reject Evangelical moralizing about “sin” and instead focus on good and bad behavior. While atheists certainly have smaller “sin” lists, they do believe that certain behaviors can be categorized as good or bad, along with many behaviors being neither good or bad. Most atheists are humanists, and their humanism gives them a moral, ethical, and practical foundation for living one’s life. Atheists recognize that some of their brethren are despicable human beings, every bit as bad as the men of God detailed in the Black Collar Crime series. They also recognize that humans are capable of doing good without the help of imaginary deities.

If atheists reject the Christian view of the “human condition” and forgiveness, how then do they deal with bad behavior? I can’t speak for all atheists, but I can share how I and other atheists I personally know handle personal acts of bad behavior. When we act inappropriately or cause harm to others, we confess it, ask forgiveness from whomever we harmed, and if necessary, make restitution. We recognize that none of us is perfect, and we can, at times, say and do things that hurt others. We own our behavior and vow to act better going forward. If our bad behavior has caused material or social harm, we make amends. One of the reasons I write about the things I do is because I believe I have a moral and ethical responsibility to own past bad behaviors; that the harm I caused to congregants must be atoned for; that the harm I caused to my wife and children must be made right. Simply put, wrongs must be made right. I can’t undo the past, but I can own past bad behaviors, and vow to be a better man, husband, and father. I will, most certainly, fail in this endeavor, but each day of my life I will try to be a better person than I was the day before. No magical wiping of the slate clean, no religious incantations to a mythical God, just an honest, heartfelt commitment to being good. Is that not all that any of us can do?

To Evangelicals I say, leave your harmful religion behind. Humanism provides a far better way to live one’s life. And it’s a lot less stressful and a hell of a lot more fun.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Atheists are Leading the World Astray

atheism

Recently Rodney Kennedy, pastor of Emmanuel Friedens Federated Church in Schenectady, New York, stated that atheists, along with skeptics, secularists, agnostics, and unbelievers, are gaslighting our entire culture; that atheists are to blame for the increasing level of unbelief in the United States.

Kennedy asserted:

Many of the skeptics, agnostics, secularists, atheists, and non-believers have gaslit our entire culture. As reward for this act of delusion, they have produced the age of unbelief.

….

How have atheists managed to gaslight so many Americans? There are many reasons why, but the ones we are qualified to make sense of are rhetorical: How did a group of nonbelievers establish such an epistemic power over such a large number of Americans?  How did they establish credibility/authority? How have they swayed so many people to leave the church? There are various identifying marks that scholars have given to these departing groups: The NONE’s and the DONE’s.

Some of this persuasion comes in the form of personal testimony. Steven Weinberg ends his a lovely essay, “Without God,” explaining why he cannot believe in God with the confession, “Living without God isn’t easy. But its very difficulty offers one other consolation — that there is a certain honor, or perhaps just a grim satisfaction, in facing up to our condition without despair and without wishful thinking — with good humor, but without God.” The offer on the table that people are taking up is that life without God provides honor, dignity, a grim satisfaction. This seems a Esau-like bargain — a giving up of faith for the swill of atheist soup. This “grin and bear it” with a stiff upper lip seems a far distance from the hope that lives in the hearts of Christian believers.

Many atheists have managed to self-produce an aura of intelligence. The so-called “New Atheists” actually refer to themselves as the “Brights.” Smart people, in other words, no longer believe in God. This may be a reaction to the numbing anti-intellectualism of one form of Christian faith known as evangelicalism. In any event, smart people are presented as those with enough sense not to believe in God.

….

The atheists have an amazing self-confidence to insist that the secular creed has at last been proven: that a belief in a loving God is no longer possible. One of the ironies of the recent spate of books defending atheism is the confidence the “New Atheists” seem to have in knowing which God it is they are sure does not exist. The best-sellers in this genre of unbelief have been Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything; Sam Harris, The End of Faith; Daniel Dennett, Breaking the Spell; Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion. One gets the impression that this type of atheist is so sure of victory that their only remaining task is to watch the ship of faith crash into the rocks and sink into the dark and stormy sea.

A claim of superior intelligence, self-confidence bordering on arrogance, and an easy dismissal of more than 2,000 years of Christian belief provide the flares of the gaslighting project of the atheists. In previous moments of a wave of atheism, Christian theologians have weathered the storms. Now, the invention of “gaslighting” — emotional proof and manipulation — seem to give an advantage to the atheists. A generation not interested in reality, facts, or truth can be easily led to follow politicians, preachers, or atheists.

Kennedy takes a cheap shot at atheists, wrongly lumping all unbelievers together. Kennedy’s words sound Evangelical, yet when I checked out his church’s website, I found that the church is an LGBTQ-affirming liberal church; the product of a merger between an American Baptist church and a United Church of Christ congregation. So what gives with his cheap, ill-informed swipe at atheists? Does he not know any atheists? Does he really think we are to blame for the rising unbelief in the United States?

Kennedy wrongly assumes that “New Atheists” — are they even a thing anymore? — speak for all atheists. They don’t, and they never have. Imagine Kennedy’s objection if I said Franklin Graham, Robert Jeffress, Al Mohler, and Tom Ascol represented all Christians. Kennedy would be outraged and rightly chastise me for being ignorant about the depth and breadth of Christianity. This is exactly what he is doing when he says the Four Horsemen: Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and the late Christopher Hitchens are the defacto representatives for atheism; as if there is even an “atheism” to represent.

Kennedy sees the alarming rise of the NONES and DONES and looks for reasons why this is happening. He concludes that atheists are to blame; that atheists are gaslighting our culture. (This leads me to think that Kenndy doesn’t understand what gaslighting really is.) According to Kennedy, the atheist worldview is swill — the slop given to hogs by farmers. Again, it seems that underneath Kennedy’s outward liberal persona lies Evangelicalism.

Kennedy doesn’t like that atheists offer a worldview rooted in reality, stripped of fanciful claims about salvation and Heaven. Why does this bother Kennedy so much? If Christianity is a superior worldview, why are people rejecting it, especially younger adults? Are atheists using myths, coercion, and fanciful claims to win over people to their cause? Of course not. We see life as it is. We don’t make promises we cannot keep or promises that have no basis in fact. Kennedy promises his flock bliss in the sweet by and by if they will but believe (and obey) in this life. Yet, people are no longer buying what Kennedy and other so-called men of God are selling. Why is that?

I suspect the main reason is that Christianity has failed to deliver on its promises. People are no longer willing to “trust” that the man in the pulpit is telling them the truth. Further, thanks to the Internet, people are learning that preachers don’t practice what they preach; that scores of ministers are arrested every year for sex crimes; that pastors say one thing from the pulpit and do another thing in the privacy of their homes. If Kennedy is looking for someone to blame for increasing unbelief, I suggest he look in the mirror. While atheism is increasing, most NONES and DONES are not atheists. They are people who look at organized Christianity and say “no thanks.”

The Internet has played a big part in the overturning of the tables in the Temple. For centuries preachers were gatekeepers of “truth.” People had nowhere else to turn. And then came the Internet. Christians could now fact-check their pastors or verify the veracity of their church experiences. What they found on the Internet didn’t line up with what they heard from the pulpit or saw in the lives of people who allegedly are followers of Jesus. Some of them found blogs authored by former Christians. I am one such ex-Evangelical. I have been blogging for fifteen years, telling my story to millions of people.

Why are people attracted to my writing? Am I serving up “swill” as Kenndy alleges? Am I pulling the wool over readers’ eyes? That’s for you to decide. I am just one man with a story to tell. I have no desire to make converts to atheism. I am content to tell my story and leave it at that. Sure, my critiques of Evangelicalism can be sharp, but there’s nothing subversive about them. I am content to write and leave it to readers to decide whether my words ring true.

Why did Kennedy write what he did? Did he think his words would effectively reach the NONES and DONES? If so, he might want to rethink that approach. Was his goal to goad atheists? Or maybe he’s a cleric trying to find ways to keep asses in the pews and dollars in the plates. Regardless of his motivation, he might want to consider how atheists could be his ally. Both Kennedy and atheists think Evangelicalism is causing material harm to our culture. Why not join together around a common cause? Further, Kennedy might want to actually talk with atheists about what they believe and why; about how they view religion and the world; what their wants, needs, and desires really are. As things stand, the only atheist Kennedy knows is a strawman.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

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Born-Again Atheist, No Turning Back!

born again atheist
Cartoon by Mark Lynch

Guest Post by Lon Ostrander

People often ask, how did you go from preacher to atheist. What happened? What caused you to change your mind? Many of us are familiar with the chorus: “I have decided to follow Jesus, I have decided to follow Jesus, No turning back, No turning back.” The song seems to suggest that a U-turn was always a possibility that needed to be constantly and intentionally resisted. There are U-turns and then there are U-turns. For me, it wasn’t like an instant realization that I was heading in the wrong direction and executing a sudden handbrake turn in the middle of Main Street. No, it was more like a huge, gradual, barely discernible arc away from the straight gate and narrow way until I found myself traveling a sparsely trafficked wide road marked by rational thought and naturalistic explanations. Though I hardly noticed, the arc was complete, and six years after leaving the pulpit, I had only to execute an easy and liberating merge onto the Atheist Highway.

Decades earlier, my parents permitted our Pentecostal lady co-pastors to take eight-year-old me to a fire-and-brimstone tent meeting where the thundering music and screaming evangelist had me convinced that Jesus was returning that very night and that the end of my world was upon me. The possibility loomed that I would never get home alive and may never again see my parents and siblings. Well, Jesus didn’t return that night. The rapture did not happen, and I was not left behind. Much to my relief, I even survived long enough for the preacher ladies to get me back home with only minor psychological damage. Well, that’s just my opinion. The preacher ladies happily reported that I had decided to follow Jesus. Well, it was more terror than decision. The seed of doubt was planted that very night but would lie dormant for years.

Later in life came opportunities for repeated salvations, reaffirmations, and total immersions.

I had theological questions but more particularly, eschatological questions. Malevolent eschatology had gotten me into this mess, and I hoped that a better understanding of scriptures would eventually help me make sense of it all. When I began my ministerial studies at the age of forty-one, my concerns only increased. Especially concerning were the words attributed to Jesus as recorded in Matthew 16:28, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, there are some of those standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom” There are similar statements in the other gospels and it looked like Jesus lied, was mistaken, or couldn’t tell time. My quest for understanding eventually led me to discover the preterist movement which essentially teaches that every event associated with the end times, Jesus’ second coming, the tribulation, the resurrection of the dead, the final judgment, had already happened. Jesus’ return to earth was a “spiritual” return and the establishment of the Kingdom of God was likewise spiritual. I had only to check my spiritual rearview mirror to see it. Preterism was briefly satisfying, but as we all know, eschatology is a bitch, and then we die. Atheism ahead. Take the next exit.

In 2007 my secular work took me to Osaka, Japan. Six years before, I had given up the ministry, as ordination of a divorced and remarried matrilineal Jew was just not happening in the Central New York District of the Wesleyan Church. So, I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I was never “caught in the pulpit” as a nonbeliever. My questions and doubts while pastoring were primarily theological and not really an obstacle.

In Japan, Christians are a small minority but while there I attended a local Christian church and found the Christians there to be just as petty and disagreeable as they were back home. The predominantly non-Christian Japanese people were, by contrast, always friendly, polite, and cordial. It was in Japan that I visited a local bookstore and picked up copies of Richard Dawkins’ “God Delusion” and Christopher Hitchens’ “God Is Not Great.” My “spiritual” journey had already taken me to a place of practical deism with brief stops at preterism, liberalism, and universalism. I realized that what little was left of my faith was not only far less toxic, but also entirely without value. It is only a matter of practicality to discard worthless trash. From there merging onto the atheist highway was easy. I was no longer a believer. It was also during my assignment in Japan that my father died. I returned home for the funeral, no longer a believer. I attended my father’s funeral and burial as an atheist, with more anger than empathy for the Christian hopes and fantasies expressed at my father’s funeral service and burial.

Since embracing the atheist and existential nihilist labels, have I ever experienced any doubts? No, never a doubt in my mind. I cannot imagine any scenario that could possibly motivate me to turn back to religious woo of any description.

Do I have any regrets? To borrow a few lines from Ol’ Blue Eyes, “Regrets, I’ve had a few, But then again, too few to mention. I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption.” Certainly, I regret that I spent more than half of my life believing in a myth as though it were true. I regret the negative church experiences that my family had to endure as they were uprooted from home in New York to experience rather nasty church situations in Georgia, Pennsylvania, and then back home again. Finally, I regret the anguish they experienced coming to grips with the reality that preacher and believer dad was no longer either. Dad had changed his course. Husband had changed his mind.

On the other hand, I am encouraged that we’re seeing it through together. Susan and I just celebrated our forty-fifth anniversary on December ninth. Our sons and their families are very much a part of our lives. Our sons and their step sibs by a previous marriage are all friends. I have made the big U-turn. About religious faith, I have most certainly changed my mind, yet life is good, ever challenging, and much too short.

For five years now, I have had the unique privilege of serving as president of The Clergy Project, our online community of current and former religious professionals who have changed their minds. With the rarest of exceptions, that only prove the rule, we will not be turning back. We are not flip floppers. We are not wavering or vacillating. We have changed our minds, all 1,222 of us, and now we are seeing this thing through together, providing mutual support, community, and hope to each other. We hail from more than fifty countries and include former Christians of all stripes, Jews, Muslims, a Buddhist here and a Hindu there, a couple former Wiccans, a Raelian, a Moonie, and even a Zoroastrian. We dared to question. We dared to examine the evidence. We dared to face the truth, and sooner or later we dared to let others know we have changed our minds. For many of us, coming out as nonbelievers came at great cost, but as Winston Churchill quipped at the end of the movie, Darkest Hour, “Those who never change their minds never change anything.”

Well, that is my story. Twenty-one years after leaving the pulpit, and fifteen years after becoming a born-again atheist, I’m still easing on down that atheist highway. Turning back is not an option.  It’s not the “Highway to Hell” (AC/DC), but more like the “Road to Nowhere” (Talking Heads). It is the road travelled and the people we share it with that make it all worthwhile.

Leonard (Lon) Ostrander, born atheist on October 22, 1949, in Elmira, New York, former Wesleyan Pastor 1995-2001, quality assurance representative, current president of The Clergy Project

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Bruce Gerencser