Tag Archive: Atheism

American Atheists President David Silverman Fired Over Sexual Assault Allegation

david silverman

Earlier this week, I received a cryptic email from American Atheists that said president David Silverman had been suspended due to some sort of misconduct.  Yesterday, BuzzFeed published a report that stated Silverman’s “misconduct” was sexual assault. Silverman has since been fired by American Atheists.

Peter Aldhous, a reporter for BuzzFeed News, writes:

David Silverman, a firebrand atheist with a knack for generating publicity for his cause, has been abruptly fired as president of American Atheists, one of the leading secular organizations in the US.

The group’s board held an emergency meeting Thursday evening and unanimously voted to fire 51-year-old Silverman, based on explosive written allegations of sexual assault and undisclosed conflicts of interest, BuzzFeed News has learned.

“Last night, the American Atheists Board of Directors voted to terminate David Silverman as President of American Atheists,” the group said in a statement released Friday. The board made its decision after reviewing “allegations raised regarding Mr. Silverman’s conduct,” the statement said. The board also said it intends to cooperate with any future investigations.

In a brief statement to BuzzFeed News, Silverman’s lawyer, Sebastian Ionno, said that “Mr. Silverman denies any wrong doing and has never had a non-consensual sexual encounter.” At the time of the alleged incidents, he added, Silverman and his wife were in an open marriage.

….

On Tuesday, American Atheists placed Silverman on paid leave while it investigated a complaint from staff concerned that he had not disclosed financial and personal conflicts of interest relating to the promotion of his book, Fighting God: An Atheist Manifesto for a Religious World, and the appointment to a senior position of a woman with whom Silverman was allegedly having a sexual relationship. (That appointment has been rescinded.)

After word spread about the investigation, American Atheists received additional written complaints about two allegations of sexual misconduct involving Silverman.

Like many other communities in the #MeToo era, the atheist movement is undergoing a reckoning over the treatment of women in its ranks. In February, BuzzFeed News exposed allegations of sexual harassment against another prominent atheist, the physicist Lawrence Krauss. In the wake of that story, two women told BuzzFeed News that they were assaulted by Silverman. They each filed written complaints to American Atheists this week.

In one of those complaints, a woman described a hotel room party held at the end of the 2015 American Atheists Convention in Memphis. She used her name in the confidential complaint, but because of concerns about hostility experienced by other women who have made allegations of sexual misconduct against prominent atheists, she asked BuzzFeed News to use her first initial, R.

She and Silverman had known each other for years, and he flirted with her throughout the evening, she wrote in the complaint. After the other guests left, R. wrote that Silverman asked her to join him in smoking marijuana on the roof. But before they left the room, he suddenly forced himself on her.

“He physically pressed me to the wall and began to kiss me forcefully, grabbed my breasts, and put his hand into my leggings where there was actual penetration of my vagina,” she wrote.

R. believed Silverman knew she was interested in BDSM and wrote that he began using insulting language, calling her a “dirty little whore.” He then pushed her to her knees, “where his penis briefly made contact with my mouth,” she wrote.

R. got her feet and said “no,” she wrote. Silverman then lightly slapped her face and said, “You don’t get to say no to me.”

At that point, R. said the widely used BDSM safe word, “red,” which stopped him, and then she left. The next day, R. took photographs of bruises where she said Silverman had grasped her, and these pictures were included in her complaint to American Atheists.

Two prominent atheists confirmed to BuzzFeed News that R. told them about the incident in the days after it happened.

….

You can read the entire story here.

Was Fundamentalist Pastor Bruce Gerencser Mentally Ill?

bruce gerencser 1991

Bruce Gerencser, 1991, Somerset Baptist Academy. Surely everyone can see from this picture that I was a real Christian.

Telling my story often leads people to surmise that they only way someone could believe and behave as I did was to be mentally ill; that nobody in his right mind would live as I did; that only a crazy person would stand on a street corner and preach at passersby; that only a lunatic would sacrifice his life and that of his family to a non-existent God. Dismissing these things with the wave of a Freudian hand is far too easy, and it allows non-Christians to avoid thinking about how their own behavior might be deemed mental illness by those who do not have their beliefs. For example, countless people believe that essential oils can cure all sorts of diseases, as can chiropractic care. Evangelists from the First Church of Essential Oils and First Subluxation Church of the Spine use blogs, social media, newspapers, and face-to-face encounters to preach their gospel, hoping to convert people to their respective religions. The same could be said about homeopathy, iridology, acupuncture, and herbal cancer cures. Consider also that many political systems of thought, much like Christian Fundamentalists, demand fidelity, purity, and obedience. And we must not forget the God-above-all-Gods, American sports — particularly football and basketball. Spend some time around people whose lives revolve around this or that sports team, and it’s hard not to conclude that these people are delusional members of a cult. Yet, all of these beliefs and behaviors EXCEPT Christian Fundamentalism are considered “normal.” Why is that?

It is not helpful to lazily attach the “mentally ill” label to all Christian Fundamentalists. Now, that’s not to say that some Christian Fundamentalists aren’t mentally ill — they are. What troubles me is when non-Fundamentalists look at Evangelical beliefs and practices and conclude that only insane people would believe and live that way. This is a patently false conclusion. We must either conclude that all humans — yes you — have, to some degree or the other, a mental imbalance, or there are other explanations for why all of us believe and practice the things we do. I would posit that we humans are complex creatures, and our ways of life are shaped, molded, and controlled by our genetics, parents, childhood, environment, economic status, physical health, social strata, and a host of other exposures and variations. Thus, when someone reads one or more of my blog posts — say, posts such as My Life as a Street Preacher, I Did It For You Jesus: Crank Windows and Vinyl Floor Mats, and How the IFB Church Turned My Wife Into a Martyr — without thoughtfully and humbly considering the variables mentioned above, they will not come to a reasoned conclusion.

Part of the problem is that each of us has our own definition of “normal,” and we use that definition as the standard by which we judge the beliefs and practices of others. We rarely ask who it was (God?) that made us the “normal” police or why our standard of normality should be the inerrant, infallible rule (get my point now?) by which we determine whether someone is mentally ill or has a “screw loose.” Atheists love to say “each to his own,” except for religion, of course. Fundamentalists, in particular, have heaped upon their heads by atheists judgment and derision, without atheists making any attempt to understand. No need, many atheists say. Fundamentalists are delusional nut jobs — end of story.

Much of my writing focuses on my past life as a Fundamentalist Christian, especially the twenty-five years I spent pastoring Evangelical churches. I have willingly and openly chosen to be honest about my past, including my beliefs and behaviors. In doing so, I hope my story brings encouragement and understanding, and that doubting Christians or ex-Evangelicals might see that there is life after Jesus. What I don’t want my writing to be is exercises for non-Christians, ex-Christians, liberal Christians, or atheists to practice armchair psychology. Psychoanalyzing me — past and present — is best left to my counselor. Whether I was, in the past, mentally ill is impossible to know. I’m more inclined to think that my past is a reflection of someone who sincerely and resolutely believed certain things, little different from the countless other beliefs embraced by humans.

I have suffered with depression most of my adult life. The reasons for my struggle are many. Certainly, religion plays a part, but I would never say that the blame for my depression rests with Christianity alone. Again, I am a complex being, and the “whys” of my life are many. I left Christianity ten years ago. I pastored my last church fifteen years ago. Yet, here I am long removed from God, Jesus, the church, and all of trappings of Christianity and I still battle depression. Why is that? If Christianity is the root of psychological difficulties, one would think that I would have regained mental health once I was freed from my marriage to Jesus. However, that hasn’t proved to be the case. I have learned that depression can affect believer and unbeliever alike.

I hope readers will see my writing as an opportunity to understand, and not judge. When the day comes that I feel that that is no longer the case, I will have written my last blog post.

About Bruce Gerencser

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

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

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

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

Dear Salesman, Don’t Assume Every Prospective Customer is a Christian

pay attention

Dear Salesman,

You came into our home today to sell us your company’s product. We received a flyer from your company last week, touting its new, low-priced rental program of your equipment. We’ve been wanting to buy or rent your product for some time, so the new rental program was all the motivation necessary for us to call your company and schedule a sales call. What follows in this letter is a mixture of advice and critique. I hope you will learn from what I have written.

You arrived promptly for the sales call — and that’s a good thing. Tardiness — especially without notification — is a sure way to get us to reject out of hand what you are selling. If my wife and I, who are just as busy as you are, set time aside for your sales pitch, we expect you to arrive on time. And if you can’t, we expect a telephone call or text message. Last week, I offered for sale two Amazon Fire TV Sticks on a local buy-and-sell forum. The first person to say he wanted them asked if I could wait until Friday for him to pick them up. I said, sure. Friday came and went without the man picking up the Sticks. So, I offered them to the next person who wanted them. She promptly came and picked up the Sticks. The next day, the man who stood us up sent me a Facebook message, asking if he could come and pick up the Sticks. I told him no; that I had offered them to someone else. The man became upset with me, suggesting that I was a terrible person. I took a few moments to educate him on the value of timeliness and keeping your commitments. All that did was aggravate him further. The man told me that he would never do business with me again. Little did he know that I don’t give people who don’t keep appointments a second chance; even those who use the lame excuse that their grandmother was in the hospital and no one had a cell phone. He and his siblings were Millennials, so there was no chance in hell that one of them didn’t have a cell phone. So as a salesman, you get one point for being on time. Unfortunately, as this letter will detail, our interaction with you cost you quite a few other points.

You parked on the street in front of our home, directly in front of the two-foot by six-foot sign for my business, Defiance County Photo. It’s hard to miss, with its blue frame, but somehow you missed it. That’s why you were surprised when you found out I was photographer, and that I, in particular, did local high school sports photography (you proceeded to then spend way too much time telling me of your own photo prowess, complete with dick pics — also known as your “awesome” sports photos). Years ago, I tried my hand at sales. My dad was a salesman for several decades. He was as smooth as silk when it came to selling people things they didn’t need; things such as Kirby vacuüm cleaners and Combined Insurance Company supplemental medical policies. Unfortunately, I was not like my dad, and I failed miserably at selling stuff. I even tried my hand at selling the product you tried to sell us today.

One lesson I did learn from my foray into sales is that it is very important to pay attention to your prospective customers’ homes. How do they live? What’s hanging on their walls? Years later, I would use this technique in my selling of Jesus to sinners. As someone who’s been in sales for years should know, it is important to make a connection with customers. The easiest way to do that is to talk about them, and not yourself. Unfortunately, you didn’t pay attention to your surroundings as you walked into our home, and as a result you made assumptions about us that were invalid. You are much like the Amway salesman that came to our home years ago thinking that by mentioning his Cadillac sitting in our driveway and showing us his Rolex watch and diamond ring, we would be so impressed that we would immediately want to become salesman for Con-way. Nothing in our home — a mobile home — told this man that we were people who placed a premium on material wealth. He missed all the cues that our home, dress, and demeanor told him. You did the same, by not paying attention to us, and by spending way too much time talking about yourself; building yourself into a larger-than-life master of industry. One thing I have learned over my sixty years of life is to spot a bull-shitter from a mile away. Soon as you started regaling us with your exploits, I knew we were talking to a first-class, Grade-A biped manure spreader.

Had you been paying attention, you never would have repeatedly referenced the Evangelical God in your conversation with us. You wouldn’t have told us that God has a plan for everyone’s life or that the Christian God is in control of everything. You also wouldn’t have mentioned how my wife’s employer — for whom she has worked twenty years — has gone downhill since its Evangelical founder died; that the third-generation now running the company is only concerned with profits and the bottom line. What was it about how we lived, dressed, or carried ourselves that said to you we are Christians? There’s nothing in our home that even remotely suggests that we are Christian; no Jesus Junk®, no Bibles lying around, no Evangelical books in our bookcase; nothing that suggests that we are Jesus-loving, church-going Christians. I suspect you wrongly assume that everyone in rural Northwest Ohio believes in God, so you thought it safe to use God to warm us up and entice us to say yes. Little did you know we are atheists. I wonder how uncomfortable that fact might have made you feel had you known.

My wife and I are kind and generous to a fault. We said nothing as you blabbered on about your omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent mythical deity. After you left, my wife even complimented me — with a chuckle in her voice — for using the word darn instead of damn in one of my responses to you. You see, I pay attention to my surroundings. I don’t go out of my way to offend Christians. When my wife’s Evangelical parents come to our home to visit, we temper our language, change the TV channel to Hallmark, and play G-rated music. We don’t want to unnecessarily offend them; even though they find plenty to be offended over by our stocked liquor cabinet, their daughter’s worldly apparel, the atheist books on my bookshelves, our children’s lack of faith, and our lack of church attendance and prayer before meals (though we do allow Polly’s dad to say a prayer before meals). You might learn something from our behavior: that unless you know a prospective customer is a member of the Jesus Club®, perhaps it’s better to not assume. You came to our home to sell us your company’s product, not to sell Jesus. Had we known that Jesus was going to be part of the sales presentation, we certainly would not have invited you into our home.

There is much more that I could say about your interaction with us; stuff that should have resulted in us saying no thanks. But, thanks to me researching your company and its product, and thoroughly educating myself about what it does, we decided to buy your product anyway. While we were turned off by your sales presentation, including the part that treated us like aged imbeciles, we had decided beforehand that if the price in your company’s flyer was indeed correct, we were going to rent your product. So then, it was your lucky day, Mister Jesus Freak, that you ran into customers who could ignore your religious drivel, and instead base their decision on whether your product would meet their needs.

Next time you go into someone’s home to sell them your product, pay attention. Your next prospective customer might not be as thoughtful and deferring as we are. Perhaps it would just be better if you left religion out of your sales pitch altogether. There’s something dirty and shallow about trying to hook prospects with Jesus talk. While I suspect my wife and I are in the minority when it comes to not wanting to hear salesmen talk about their love life with Jesus, an increasing number of local residents are choosing to label themselves as NONES — people who are atheists, agnostics, or indifferent towards religion. These prospective customers want to hear about your product, not your God. Keep that in mind next time you start telling a customer about the God who controls everything. You might find out that the only God who control something is the customer who has the power to say yes or no to your sales pitch; and for customers who aren’t religious, they are more likely to say no to someone who uses religion in an attempt to reel them in.

Sincerely,

Bruce Gerencser

Evangelical Ignorance: “I Don’t Need to Read Any Books, I Have the Bible”

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Evangelicals love to talk about the Bible. They call themselves people of the Book. Yet, despite all their Bible-loving talk, most Evangelicals are quite ignorant about what the Bible actually says. Why is biblical ignorance so widespread within Evangelical Christianity? Evangelicals think that by reading the Bible devotionally they are learning exactly what the biblical text says and means. Rarely do Evangelicals read books dealing with textual and historical criticism. If Evangelicals read books besides the Bible, they turn to books that are approved by their denomination, pastor, or church; or they read books that reinforce their beliefs. Evangelicals are far more likely to read Christian self-help books, Christian romance novels, Christian biographies, or superficial “look what God did for me, he’ll do it for you too” books than they are books that deal with doctrine, church history, or textual criticism. I think I can safely say that most Evangelicals have never read a book written by Bart Ehrman. If pastors and churches sincerely wanted congregants to understand the Bible, you would think that they would encourage them to read the books of the man who has done more than anyone to make the biblical text and early church history accessible to people in the pew. Instead, Evangelicals are often warned to not read Ehrman’s books lest in doing so they have doubts about their faith. What pastors are afraid of is that the people in the pew will learn that what they have been telling them from the pulpit about the Bible is not true. Just stick to reading apologetical books written by Evangelical men of God, pastors say. These authors will never lead you astray. Bart Ehrman is an agnostic, he can’t be trusted to tell the truth. In taking this approach, pastors teach congregants that if you don’t agree with or like the messenger you can safely ignore his or her message.

I was considered by my ministerial colleagues to be well read, especially once I moved away from the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement. Month by month, my library continued to grow. On more than one occasion, church members came into my office and asked me, have you really read all these books? I would chuckle a bit and say, yes, I have actually read all of them. While most of the books in my library reinforced my beliefs, as I got older I began to read authors that were considered heterodox or liberal. Several of my former pastor friends and congregants have said to me that my voracious reading habit was the reason for my loss of faith. One woman told me that what I needed to do is get rid of all my books and just read the Bible. She thought, I’m sure, that the words of the Bible, once read, would have some sort of magical effect on me. Evidently, knowledge was my problem, and if I would just return to the ignorance of faith, all would be well.

Over the years, I met pastors who prided themselves in being men of one book. One man, a Church of the Nazarene pastor, was proud of the fact that his entire library fit on two four-foot shelves. His library consisted of a Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, several books of illustrations, and a smattering of easy-to-read, pabulum-level books. These kinds of pastors believe that they can just read the Bible and understand exactly what the text says and means. After all, the Holy Spirit lives inside of them. He is their teacher and guide. When they stand in front of their congregations to preach the Word of God, they believe they are doing so as a spirit-filled man of God. Some of the most atrocious sermons I’ve ever heard were preached by men who thought this way.

From 1997-2002, I pastored Our Father’s House in West Unity Ohio. One Sunday evening, three families who knew each other decided to visit our church. After the service, one of the visitors asked me about some of the things I said in my sermon. I told him that I would be glad to loan him several books that I thought would be helpful in answering his questions. He replied, I don’t need to read any books, I have the Bible. In his mind, all he needed to understand the text of the Bible was the Bible itself. I wish I could say that his astounding ignorance was rare, but over the years I met countless sincere Christians who had no interest in reading religious books. Some of them rarely read the Bible, let alone anything else. The fact that daily devotional books such as Our Daily Bread are used by churches to encourage congregants to read the Bible speaks volumes. For readers who are not familiar with such materials, let me explain what they are. Our Daily Bread, for example, has a devotional reading for each day of the year. The reading usually contains several Bible verses and an inspirational sermonette, all fitting on a small page. They are like SparkNotes for the Bible. For many Christians, this is the only Bible they will read on any given day.

I have known more than a few Evangelicals who, once they have used their Bible during Sunday services, store it under the front seat of their car, in the back window, or in the trunk. This way, they will know exactly where their Bible is come next Sunday. One of the reasons pastors repeatedly preach and teach the same basic sermons — four thousand titles for two sermons — is that Bible literacy is quite low among church members. I spent my entire twenty-five years in the ministry trying to get congregants to take Bible reading and study seriously. I can say with great confidence that I failed miserably. This does not mean that these people weren’t good Christians or that they weren’t serious about their faith. Often, thanks to long hours at work or domestic responsibilities, church members had very little time to devote to studying the unsearchable riches of Christ. I, on the other hand, was paid to read and study the Bible. I had hours every day that I could spend pouring over the biblical text and reading dense theological tomes. I used to nag church members about their lack of consistent Bible reading (and praying), but I quit doing so after I realized that the problem was a matter of time, not desire or faith.

Some pastors think that they are so full of the Holy Ghost that they don’t need to study for their sermons. Evangelist Dennis Corle told me that my time could be better spent soulwinning than studying for my sermons. He believed, as many preachers do, that spending time studying was a waste. There are souls to save, these preachers think. I’m just going to trust God, through the Holy Spirit, to tell me what to say. Such preachers reveal for all to see that the Holy Spirit is illiterate. Unlike many of my colleagues, I chose to devote significant time to preparing my sermons. It was not uncommon for me to spend twenty hours a week reading and studying for the sermons I would preach on Sunday. I like to think that my preparation showed in my sermon delivery and knowledge of the biblical text.

As you can see, theological and biblical ignorance are widespread within the Evangelical community. Researchers George Gallup and Jim Castelli pull no punches when they say: “Americans revere the Bible — but, by and large, they don’t read it. And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.” Many Christians can’t name the four Gospels or more than two or three of the disciples. The same can be said for the Ten Commandments. Some of the ignorance can be attributed to the fact that many Evangelical pastors preach what is commonly called “felt needs” sermons; that people who gather on Sunday to worship God want to hear uplifting sermons that inspire them to live for Jesus. These overworked, stressed out children of God want to be told that their lives matter and that God has a purpose and plan for them. They want to hear sermons based on the Bible stories of men and women who were greatly used by God or who wrought great victories in his name. Theological sermons are often met with restlessness and yawns. What congregants want is a Jesus fix, not a seminary lecture.

Many atheists actually know more about the Bible than the people who say they believe that the Good Book is the inspired, inerrant, infallible words of God. One of the reasons that these atheists left Christianity was that they actually decided to find out exactly what the Bible said. And once they did, they were appalled by what they found. As long as widespread biblical ignorance continues to infect Christianity, pastors have no need to worry about congregants finding out the truth; the truth being, that what pastors say about the Bible is not true; that the Bible is not in any way a supernatural text; that the Bible is not inerrant, but instead is littered with hundreds of contradictions and errors. Once Evangelicals realize that they have been duped, they often leave their churches. Many of them remain people of faith, but they no longer trust religious institutions. I have met many disaffected Evangelicals over the past decade. I’ve noticed, given enough time, that they often slowly move towards indifference, agnosticism, atheism, or some sort of generic spirituality. Evangelical leaders are alarmed by the number of Millennials and Generation Z young people who no longer check the “Christian” box on religious surveys. Much has been made about the rise of the Nones. More than a few atheists have wrongly interpreted this rise to mean that some sort of atheist revival is going on. While it is certainly true that atheism in America has grown dramatically over the past twenty-five years, that doesn’t mean that all of the Nones are atheists. Most Nones, in fact, are indifferent towards religion, and if atheists want to win them over to their side, then they are going to have to preach the humanistic gospel. Disaffected young adults are looking for an ethical and moral framework that best represents their beliefs and understandings of the world. Humanism can and does provide such a framework.

I’m optimistic that better days lie ahead for atheism and humanism — that is, if Donald Trump doesn’t get us into a nuclear war first. Those of us who are humanists need to make case that humanism provides a rich and full way to live one’s life. We know that the Bible has little to offer our modern society, but with the abandoning of the Bible comes a moral and ethical vacuüm. It’s our duty (and privilege) to present humanism as the way forward, not only the United States, but the people of the world.

For those who may not know about what I call the humanistic ideal, let me conclude this post with the Humanist Manifesto:

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

The lifestance of Humanism—guided by reason, inspired by compassion, and informed by experience—encourages us to live life well and fully. It evolved through the ages and continues to develop through the efforts of thoughtful people who recognize that values and ideals, however carefully wrought, are subject to change as our knowledge and understandings advance.

This document is part of an ongoing effort to manifest in clear and positive terms the conceptual boundaries of Humanism, not what we must believe but a consensus of what we do believe. It is in this sense that we affirm the following:

Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis. Humanists find that science is the best method for determining this knowledge as well as for solving problems and developing beneficial technologies. We also recognize the value of new departures in thought, the arts, and inner experience—each subject to analysis by critical intelligence.

Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change. Humanists recognize nature as self-existing. We accept our life as all and enough, distinguishing things as they are from things as we might wish or imagine them to be. We welcome the challenges of the future, and are drawn to and undaunted by the yet to be known.

Ethical values are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience. Humanists ground values in human welfare shaped by human circumstances, interests, and concerns and extended to the global ecosystem and beyond. We are committed to treating each person as having inherent worth and dignity, and to making informed choices in a context of freedom consonant with responsibility.

Life’s fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of humane ideals. We aim for our fullest possible development and animate our lives with a deep sense of purpose, finding wonder and awe in the joys and beauties of human existence, its challenges and tragedies, and even in the inevitability and finality of death. Humanists rely on the rich heritage of human culture and the lifestance of Humanism to provide comfort in times of want and encouragement in times of plenty.

Humans are social by nature and find meaning in relationships. Humanists long for and strive toward a world of mutual care and concern, free of cruelty and its consequences, where differences are resolved cooperatively without resorting to violence. The joining of individuality with interdependence enriches our lives, encourages us to enrich the lives of others, and inspires hope of attaining peace, justice, and opportunity for all.

Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness. Progressive cultures have worked to free humanity from the brutalities of mere survival and to reduce suffering, improve society, and develop global community. We seek to minimize the inequities of circumstance and ability, and we support a just distribution of nature’s resources and the fruits of human effort so that as many as possible can enjoy a good life.

Humanists are concerned for the well being of all, are committed to diversity, and respect those of differing yet humane views. We work to uphold the equal enjoyment of human rights and civil liberties in an open, secular society and maintain it is a civic duty to participate in the democratic process and a planetary duty to protect nature’s integrity, diversity, and beauty in a secure, sustainable manner.

Thus engaged in the flow of life, we aspire to this vision with the informed conviction that humanity has the ability to progress toward its highest ideals. The responsibility for our lives and the kind of world in which we live is ours and ours alone.

Books by Bart Ehrman

The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World

 Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why

How Jesus Became God : the Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee

Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior

Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them)

 Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth

Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are

God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question — Why We Suffer

About Bruce Gerencser

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

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

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

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

Stephen Hawking is in Hell

stephen hawking is in hell

Warning snark and cursing ahead. You have been warned! Now ignore this warning and read away.

Today, renowned physicist and outspoken atheist Stephen Hawking died at the age of seventy-six. According to Fundamentalist Ken Ham, Stephen Hawking is now in Hell.  While Ham doesn’t explicitly say this, his passive-aggressive statement, “a man passed into eternity without knowledge of the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ,” makes it clear that Ham believes Hawking is now being tortured by God in the eternal flames of Hades. Ham mouthpiece Danny Faulkner says pretty much the same thing:

While the world mourns the loss of such a brilliant mind, there is even more to mourn today, as a man passed into eternity without knowledge of the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ (although we don’t know what he was thinking concerning his mortality and afterlife in the final days of his life). We at Answers in Genesis mourn the fact that Hawking and many others have decided that science supposedly has proven that there is no God. However, we firmly believe that science, when properly understood, is consistent with the God revealed in the Bible.

Ken Ham’s lackeys also believe that Hawking is now bunking with Christopher Hitchens (Please read Christopher Hitchens is in Hell) in Satan’s Trump Hotel®. Here’s what some of them had to say:

comments about stephen hawking

comments about stephen hawking 2

Don’t buy for a moment the idea that maybe Hawking on his deathbed reached out and called on Jesus to save him. Evangelicals who say this feel guilty over saying someone is in Hell. They don’t want to be viewed as the judgmental assholes they are. There’s nothing in Hawking’s behavior or words that remotely suggests that Hawking had a change of heart about the existence of any God, let alone the God worshiped by Ham, Faulkner, and a cast of millions.

For readers who may not be familiar with Hawking’s view of life, death, knowledge, and God, let me give you a few of his quotes:

“I have lived with the prospect of an early death for the last 49 years. I’m not afraid of death, but I’m in no hurry to die. I have so much I want to do first.”

“I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

“Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”

“God is the name people give to the reason we are here. But I think that reason is the laws of physics rather than someone with whom one can have a personal relationship. An impersonal God.”

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”

“We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the universe. That makes us something very special.”

“Before we understand science, it is natural to believe that God created the universe. But now science offers a more convincing explanation. What I meant by ‘we would know the mind of God’ is, we would know everything that God would know, if there were a God, which there isn’t. I’m an atheist.”

Hawking may have been an atheist, but that doesn’t mean he had no sense of wonder about the universe:

“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.”

Hawking was struck with ALS at the age of twenty-five, yet he thought it important to have a sense of humor. My favorite Hawking comedy bit comes from a discussion between him and “Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver:

John Oliver: “You’ve stated that there could be an infinite number of parallel universes. Does that mean there’s a universe out there where I am smarter than you?”

Hawking: “Yes. And also a universe where you’re funny.”

Evangelicals will revel in the death of another enemy of God. We who value knowledge and science will lament the loss of one of the greatest minds of our generation. Hawking was not without fault — no human is, including Jesus. His fifty year battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) was an inspiration to those of us who struggle with chronic illnesses, and his vocal atheism was a source of encouragement to those who continue to push back against those who wish to pull us back into the Dark Ages.

Evangelicals will continue to remind people that Hawking died without repenting of  his sins, and is now Hell. Many will take the tack of Texas lawmaker Briscoe Cain:

briscoe cain stephen hawking

Unlike Ham who will face no outrage about his comment because he deletes all such comments from his Facebook page, Cain faced the wrath of people outraged over his comment. (Read the comments below his tweet.) Evidently, it got too hot in Cain’s kitchen. Several hours after his “I’m an Asshole for Jesus” tweet, Cain issued a clarification:

Losing a loved one is never easy and I am sympathetic for his family’s loss. My prayers are with them. Stephen Hawking was brilliant, many even called him one of the greatest public intellectuals of the last century, but the fact remains that God exists. My tweet was to show the gravity of the Gospel and what happens when we pass, namely, that we all will one day meet our Creator face to face. Though Hawking has long been a vocal atheist who advocated against and openly mocked God, I hope nothing but the best for his family and pray that he came to know faith before he passed.

In other words, I’m not a heartless prick. I have sympathy for Hawking’s family. I even said a ceiling prayer for them. But, let me be clear, the Evangelical God is the one true God, and since Hawking did not acknowledge Jehovah’s existence, he is now being stretched on Jesus’ torture rack, screaming please, please, please I now believe. Took late, buddy. You made your bed, not lie in it. Ain’t Jesus wonderful!

You ran your race well, Mr. Hawking, now rest in peace. You will be missed, but your work and books live on. Thank you.

Postscript

I came across the following information after the original post was filed with my editor.

The oh-so-fine Fundamentalist Calvinists at Pulpit & Pen let it be known that Hawking is in Hell:

When Hawking passed away this morning, he discovered that he was not an advanced breed of monkey. He (re)discovered that his body had contained a soul, and that it was in a place of torment awaiting the final judgment of one who made him. There is no more question, for Hawking. There is no more doubt.

The good news is that Hawking, who suffered from ALS, will one day be raised from the dead in a body that cannot die. The bad news is that his body, reunited with his consciousness, will be cast into the Lake of Fire, the Outer Darkness, and a place where the vast void of the Black Holes he studied will pale in comparison to the dark chasm of his new home in the eternal abyss. And that body will not be paralyzed; it will feel every square inch of the pain to which it will be subjected. It is appointed a man once to die, and then the judgment. And the One judging Hawking now will not be of a peer-reviewed panel or congratulatory science-junkies opining on the cogs and wheels that God put into place when He made creation. It will be the One who has been appointed the judge of the quick and the dead.

Coach Dave Daubenmire gleefully rejoiced over Hawking’s demise. (The video will start at the twenty-one minute mark.)

Video Link

Ben, the Baptist went into great detail to describe what Hawking is now experiencing. I detected a smile at one point in his diatribe.

Video Link

And finally, here’s a screenshot of a discussion thread from the Fighting Fundamental Forums — an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) group:

stephen hawking is in hell 3

 

Dear Pastor Russ Dean, Let Me Explain to You Why so Many Atheists Are Angry

pastor russ dean

Pastor Russ Dean and Family (and dog)

Dear Pastor Dean,

You recently wrote the following for Baptist News Global:

For a couple years I’ve been having an intellectual battle with atheists. Not all of them, but the people I refer to as “evangelical atheists.” They are angry and passionate and just as religiously cocksure as the fundamentalist believers they despise.

Or maybe it’s all believers they despise. To them we are all weak-minded and superstitious and pathetically out of touch. If only we’d grow up. If only we’d get an education. If only we had a fraction of their intellectual depth, we would give up our tribal, backwoodsy notions of “God.”

As you can tell, I’m a little passionate about this.

I’m not so much offended by their insulting condescension — though it wouldn’t hurt them to be a little nicer — if only for tactical purposes. As we say in the South, “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”

More to the point, I’m disappointed by their argument against God. While purporting to be so intellectually superior, too many atheists take on only the worst of religion. If I positioned an argument against only 5th-grade science or against those scientists who had used their knowledge to master the atomic bomb or build Internet viruses or promote biological warfare, I could make a pretty good argument against the inanity and wickedness of science, too.

So it is either disingenuous to argue only against religious fundamentalism, or it’s embarrassing for such smart people to be so uninformed about the true variety and richness of religion. Too often atheists ignore the traditions of vigorous intellectual pursuit which can be found in the theological explorations of all of the world’s religions.

To be perfectly honest, I don’t believe in the same god many atheists don’t believe in!

….

Between these two disheartening poles, angry atheists on one hand and fundamentalist Christians on the other, it’s not the muddled mush of some middle ground I’m seeking — which makes staking a claim to “free and faithful” even more difficult.

I want to take a few moments to respond to some of the things you mention in your post about angry atheists.

American atheists tend to respond to the dominate religion of their culture — Evangelical Christianity. Evangelicalism dominates everything from state and federal governments all the way down to local school boards and city councils. Groups such as the Freedom From Religion Foundation, American Atheists, American Humanists, and Americans for Separation of Church and State spend countless hours dealing with Evangelical breaches of the wall of separation between church and state. Often, these groups are forced to sue schools and governments to stop their violations of the U.S. Constitution. I live in rural Northwest Ohio, a place dominated by God, Guns, and Right-Wing Republican politics. The aforementioned groups could spend the next year here litigating church and state violations. Imagine, for a moment, being an atheist in such a place. Imagine having to sit and watch as Evangelicals trash the Constitution. Imagine not being able to find employment because many businesses don’t want to employ an atheist. Imagine a place where every officeholder is a Republican who loves Jesus, the Bible, and Friday night football. Imagine hearing of sermons where atheists are described as haters of God, child molesters, possessed by demons, and tools of Satan. Imagine being one of only a few atheists who are willing to push back against Evangelical zealots, standing in for others who fear loss of employment, family, and friends if they dare say they don’t believe. Imagine being forced to be a secret atheist lest it ruins your marriage. Imagine pretending to be a Christian and attending church so your spouse and family won’t question your beliefs and judge you harshly.

What I have described above is real life for many atheists. You might want to walk in their shoes before you slap the “angry” atheists label on them. I wonder, would you be angry if you had to live in denial of who and what you are? What if the shoe were on the other foot, and it were Christians who were treated in this manner. How would you respond then? You speak from a seat of privilege. While that privilege is increasingly being challenged, Christians still have the seat at the head of the table. Last fall, I attended a secular coffee house concert where a Christian musician started to tell a faith-based story. She paused for a moment, perhaps pondering the appropriateness of her evangelizing, and then said, well, we are all Christians here, right? I wanted to shout, HELL NO, WE ARE NOT ALL CHRISTIANS. Instead, I mumbled something to my wife and kept quiet. The musician’s statement reflects commonly held sentiment here in Northwest Ohio. I suspect the same could be said of the South and Midwest. Jesus is the king of the hill, and if you want to be fully embraced by your community you better at least pretend to be a Jesus Club® member.

You object to atheists responding to what you call the “worst of religion.” I assume that you think your version of Christianity is a better version, and perhaps it is. You and your church are progressive socially and politically. You have many beliefs that I admire. Yes, I said admire. I’m sure we could work together in turning back Donald Trump’s Evangelical followers as they attempt to establish a theocratic government. While I am not sure of your view of the culture war, I suspect on this front too we could find common ground to work together. I am pro-choice, yet I am more than willing to work with people of faith who object to abortion for moral reasons. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a Christian willing to accept my help. Instead, I am labelled a murderer who is worthy of death.

I was an Evangelical pastor for twenty-five years. I grew up in the Independent Baptist/Evangelical church. I pastored churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. I even pastored a Southern Baptist church for a time (not a pleasant experience). I am quite conversant in Christian theology, in all its shapes, sizes, and forms. Progressive Christians tend to paint themselves as different from Evangelicals. Often they are, but I have also found that if I dig a bit I will sometimes expose Evangelical beliefs at their core. For example, take the doctrine of eternal punishment. This is the one doctrine that many of my fellow atheists and I have a problem with. Not that we think there is Hell, but that there are Jesus-loving people who look at us and say, unless you believe as I do, unless you are saved by the Lord Jesus Christ, you will spend eternity in a lake of fire being tortured by God day and night. Worse yet, the God whom Evangelicals say loves everyone plans to give all non-Christians a new body after death so they can withstand endless burning and torture.

Whatever your beliefs might be, Pastor Dean, the only doctrine that really matters to me is whether you believe that I will spend eternity in Hell (or be annihilated) because I am an atheist; because I do not find the evidence for Christianity compelling. If you believe that, yes, I will spend eternity in Hell, then I have a hard time seeing you as a decent person. I am a kind, loving, thoughtful man. I’ve been married for forty years. I love my wife, six children, and eleven grandchildren. While I am far from perfect, I would be more than happy to compare good works with the best of God’s chosen ones. Yet, if there is a Hell, none of this matters. All that matters is that I have the “right” beliefs — as if Christians themselves even know what these right beliefs are. Belief in Hell, then, is the standard by which I judge Christians. If they believe only certain people will go to Heaven after death, then I have zero interest in being friends with them. Thinking your neighbor deserves to be tortured for wrong beliefs or human behaviors deemed “sinful” is offensive. Surely, you can see how atheists might become angry over Christians dismissing their lives in this manner. Granted, atheists aren’t worried about going to Hell because Hell doesn’t exist, but like most humans, we do desire to be well thought of by others. We very much want to part of the communities we live in.

Most of the atheists I know aren’t angry. They just want to live and let live. They want to live authentic lives filled with meaning and purpose (and not have Christians tell them there is no meaning and purpose in life without the Christian God). Unfortunately, literalism and certainty drive many Christians to evangelize anyone and everyone who doesn’t believe as they do, atheists included. Readers of this blog know that I am not an evangelist for atheism. I write about my past experiences as an Evangelical pastor. I also critique Evangelical Christianity, calling into question beliefs and practices they swear are straight from the mouth of God. I know Evangelicalism inside and out, and readers tend to trust my opinions. That said, I don’t care one way or the other if someone becomes an atheist. I consider any move away from Fundamentalism (and Evangelicalism is inherently Fundamentalist) a good thing. I view myself as a facilitator who helps people as they journey along the road of life. To use a worn-out cliché, it’s the journey that matters, not the destination.

My writing is widely read by religious and non-religious people, and it attracts legions of Evangelical zealots. These zealots call me names, attack my family, and even threaten me with death. These “loving” people of God are hateful and mean-spirited, some of them going so far as to attempt to hack my site or crash it with DDOS attacks. You see, Pastor Dean, your backyard has plenty of shit in it too. How about we both agree that angry Christians and angry atheists do not represent Christianity and atheists as a whole? How about we agree not to use social media as the measuring stick for determining the demeanor of Christians and atheists as a whole? I am sure that, like me, you can become angry. Anger is, after all, a human emotion. After leaving Christianity, I actually had to reconnect with my emotions. I had to learn that it was normal to be angry. What mattered is what I did with my anger. I spent fifty years dying to self/crucifying the flesh. The real me was swallowed up by Jesus and the ministry. It was refreshing, post-Jesus, to be human again. I am still in the process of reconnecting with the real Bruce Gerencser.

Rarely does a week go by where I don’t receive an email or a blog comment from Christians who think they can psychoanalyze me by reading a few blog posts. These mind readers just know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I am bitter, angry, and hate God. No matter how much time I spend responding to them or explaining myself, they still heap judgment upon my head. Years ago, I told my counselor that I was perplexed by this treatment. Here I would share my journey and answer their questions and these followers of the thrice holy God would still heap judgment and condemnation upon me. Why? I wondered. My counselor laughed and told me, Bruce, you wrongly think they give a shit about what you believe. They don’t. He, of course, was right. Evangelicals, for the most part, aren’t interested in my story or what I believe. What matters is winning me back to Jesus. What matters is winning a victory for Team Jesus®. What matters is vanquishing the atheist preacher and his “followers.”

Perhaps, by now, Pastor Dean, you can sense and understand why I might be justifiably angry if I chose be. However, I choose not to be angry. Life is too short for me to spend it arguing with people who aren’t really interested in what I have to say.  Let me concludes this post with the advice I give to everyone who stumbles upon my blog:

You have one life. There is no heaven or hell. There is no afterlife. You have one life, it’s yours, and what you do with it is what matters most. Love and forgive those who matter to you and ignore those who add nothing to your life. Life is too short to spend time trying to make nice with those who will never make nice with you. Determine who are the people in your life that matter and give your time and devotion to them. Live each and every day to its fullest. You never know when death might come calling. Don’t waste time trying to be a jack of all trades, master of none. Find one or two things you like to do and do them well. Too many people spend way too much time doing things they will never be good at.

Here’s the conclusion of the matter. It’s your life and you best get to living it. Someday, sooner than you think, it will be over. Don’t let your dying days be ones of regret over what might have been.

Please feel free to contact me when you have a question about atheists and their beliefs. You and I are never going to agree on the God question and the veracity of Christianity, but we can both do our best to understand each other. When given the opportunity, I do my best to call out atheists when they wrongly represent Christian belief. Facts matter, and atheists should be factual in their representations of Christian belief and practice. I ask that you do the same. I am considered by more than a few atheists to be too friendly with religious people. Since most people worship some sort of deity, it would be foolish for me not to be friendly to people of faith. All I ask is that religious people grant me the same courtesy.

Be well, Pastor Dean.

Bruce Gerencser

P.S. I also could have written thousands of words about how I was treated by colleagues in the ministry and former congregants after they found out l left the ministry and left Christianity.  Needless to say, these so-called men of God and sanctified church members revealed for all to see the ugliness and hate that lies just under the surface of Evangelical Christianity. I find myself asking, why in the hell would I ever want to be a Christian again? Why would I want to around people who treat people in such dehumanizing ways? Forget whether the Christian narrative is true. If Christians can’t be people of love, compassion, and peace, they have nothing to offer unbelievers.

Note

Pastor Dean’s bio states:

Russ Dean is co-pastor of Park Road Baptist Church in Charlotte, N.C. A native of Clinton, S.C., and a graduate of Furman University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he earned a D.Min. degree from Beeson Divinity School. He and his wife, Amy, have been in church ministry for 30 years, and they have served as co-pastors of Park Road since 2000. He is active in social justice ministries and interfaith dialogue, and when he isn’t writing sermons or posts for Baptist News Global you’ll find Russ in his shed doing wood working, playing jazz music, slalom or barefoot water skiing, hiking and camping, or watching his two teenage boys on the baseball field.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of almost 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

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

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

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Liberals (Who are Mostly Atheists) Detest Happiness

mallory millettKate [Mallory Millett’s sister] announced her atheism very early on and the vacuum created sucked in even more corruption, lying, stealing, fury and domination of others. If God and the afterlife are abandoned then you’re going to be cranky, morose, generally angry, and it’s simple to toss out the Ten Commandments. I would venture that her mental instability created her affinity for the atheism of Marxism. To quote Dennis Prager: “My belief in God and the afterlife keeps me sane. The thought that just this life is all there is would mean that life is random and pointless. It means I will never again see those I love. This would drive me mad. I don’t see how it wouldn’t drive anyone mad who cares about suffering and who loves anyone. So, is there an afterlife? If there is a God, of course there’s an afterlife.”

Most everyone on the left is atheistic, depressed, dark and miserable, and they want us all to be miserable. Winston Churchill said, “Socialism results in the equal sharing of misery.” They detest happiness. Nothing makes them more miserable than another’s happiness. There is no more comedy! Since they swooped in and took over Hollywood and Broadway, everywhere you search for comic relief is dark, dark, dark. Surf through 200 TV channels and it is grim, grim, grim and then there’s a dismemberment. Our “entertainment” has become death, terror, horror and filth. Americans were funny people – funniest in the world after the Brits. First, they lost humor and then we followed. Tina Fey? Major funny-killer. Lena Dunham? A disgrace! Saturday Night Live? David Letterman? Kill me, just shoot me.

I love the term “Feminazi,” as these humorless women are, indeed, fascists, killers of faith and society. So many people think the rise of women and the evisceration of our culture are somehow coincidental. But it’s been calculated and deliberate. It’s the only way America can be “fundamentally transformed” into the Marxist test-tube to dazzle the world. It’s the result of HATE: hating God, hating life, hating society, hating men, hating babies, hating history, hating our fathers, hating our families, hating our white male Founders, hating happiness, hating heterosexuality, hating Western civ. Is this not madness?

— Mallory Millett, Front Page Magazine, My Sister Kate: The Destructive Feminist Legacy of Kate Millett, February 7, 2018

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Atheists are Pathological Liars, says Bruce Walker

bruce walkerAtheism is the slavish and simple-minded embrace of ignorance.  When people call themselves “atheists” today, what they really mean is Christophobes, people with an irrational hatred and fear of Christianity.  The arguments they make against Christianity are both bizarre and silly.

Consider first the macabre atheistic position that only stupid people believe in God (i.e., Christianity) [straw man argument that no thinking atheist makes].  Until the latter part of the 19th century, virtually all great scientists were extraordinarily devout Christians.  Indeed, the scientific method itself was created by Roger Bacon, a Franciscan friar.  Buridan, a priest, perfected the scientific principle of impetus and answered many questions about the revolving of our planet.  Ockham created the idea, the heart of modern science, that the most simplified explanation for phenomena ought to be considered the truest.

Science long was exclusively the province of devout Christians, and the greatest scientists, like Newton, Maxwell, and Kelvin, were also profoundly religious individuals whose faith was greater than that of most people of their time.  Even through the modern age, important scientists have been Christians.

The contrast with atheism is stark.  Until the modern age, there were virtually no atheist scientists worth mentioning [yet, many modern scientists are atheists, agnostics, or indifferent towards religion].  Atheism, instead, proved an obstacle to scientific thought.  Most prominent was the wiliness of atheists to lie.  Lacking any divine overseer to perceive and punish mendacity, virtually all atheists – Nazis, Soviets, Maoists, fascists and our indigenous atheists – have been willing to lie and to conceal if the subterfuge is deemed in the interest of a greater cause.

….

The pattern is clear: atheists are Christophobes who irrationally hate and fear Christians (and also religiously serious Jews) because they hate and fear the idea of a divine and perfect judge of our honor and virtue.  Atheists are the dead end of scientific inquiry and rigorous speculative theory because of their phobia.  They run from truth as they run from God [if God is chasing atheists, surely he can catch them].  They are profoundly unserious minds whom no one needs to heed.

— Bruce Walker, American Thinker, The Ignorance of Atheism, February 10, 2018

Walker, a chiropractor, lives in Perth, Australia and is on the faculty of Murdoch University.

Bruce, I Want to be Your Friend — Part Two

cant we be friends

Cartoon by Paco

If you have not done so, please read the previous post on this subject here.

After posting Bruce, I Want to be Your Friend Part One, I read a perfect illustration of what I was talking about in this post.

Writing for A Clear Lens — an Evangelical apologetics blog — Nate Sala wrote:

A lot of people in the Church seem to be asking the same question more and more these days: How do I talk to people about my faith in Christ? This is an excellent question to ask! Particularly considering the current climate of tribalism, whataboutism, and the outrage culture, how are Christians supposed to navigate often difficult conversations in order to get to the Gospel in the 21st century?

I’ve spent the last nine years formulating an effective method of communicating why Christianity is true; and a lot of this has been through trial and error. And I do mean, a lot of error! But now I see that the difficulty in sharing our faith with folks is not rooted in whatever is happening in the news or academia or political correctness or even atheist websites. I am convinced that the difficulty in sharing our faith stems from our having forgotten how to be in relationship with each other.

….

We need to stop making speeches and start making friends. Evangelism and apologetics is only as effective as the authentic relationship you have with folks. Let speeches be for political venues or TED Talks or even the pulpit. But for us, when we want to communicate to people about our faith, we need to begin with real relationship. That means asking questions to get to know people. In other words, treat your interactions with folks like you would a first date.

We all know (at least I hope we all do) the dos and donts of dating. Don’t dominate the conversation with long-winded speeches about yourself or your views. If you do that there won’t be a second date! Instead ask questions about your date in order to discover who they are and show them that you are genuinely interested in them. And then just listen carefully to what they say. This is no different when it comes to evangelistic or apologetic conversations. Don’t begin with an agenda where three steps later you’re asking someone to say the sinner’s prayer with you. Just start off by getting to know the person you’re talking to. Treat your interactions like a first date with an important person. And, when the person you’re speaking to feels comfortable, ask them about their faith. Let me say that again: When the person you’re speaking to feels comfortable, then ask them about their faith. As a matter of fact, J Warner Wallace has a great question you can ask them: What do you think happens after we die?

Friends, if you try to treat people like a checkmark on your agenda, you will come across as an inauthentic used-car salesman. Instead, if you treat your conversations like a first date with an important person, you will find the path to evangelism and apologetics so much easier!

Read carefully what Sala says: friendship is a tool to be used in evangelizing non-Christians. In other words, it’s friendship based on deception, not honesty. Imagine if Evangelical zealots were honest and said, look I want to be your friend, but I only want to do so because I see you as a hell-bound, sin-laden, enemy of the Evangelical God who is headed for hell unless you buy what I am selling. Why, I suspect most people would say fuck off. Few of us want friends who can’t love and accept us as we are, where we are. And don’t tell me Evangelicals love everyone, loving them so much that they just have to tell them the truth — JESUS SAVES! Who wants friends who see them as defective in some way; friends who view them as broken; friends who see them as purposeless and empty; friends who cannot and will not love them as is, without conditions?

Evangelicals feign friendship so they can evangelize. True friends, on the other hand, enjoy your company and accept that differences are what make each of us special. Evangelicals look to convert, adding more minds to the Borg collective. Conformity, not diversity is the goal. Doubt that this is so? Ask your new Evangelical “friend” if, after you get saved, you can continue having gay sex and continue working for Planned Parenthood. Ask him or her if you and your significant other can have your same-sex wedding at their church.  Ask if you, as a gay man, can teach Sunday school or work in the nursery. Absurd, right?

I have no doubt Sala and other Evangelicals will object to my characterizations of their intent. However, I spent a lifetime in Evangelicalism. I know how Evangelicals operate. I know what lurks behind their “friendliness.”  I know that they use friendship as a means to an end, much like foreplay before sexual intercourse. Evangelicals fondle and caress your emotions, hoping that you will spread your legs wide so they can penetrate you with their slick gospel presentations. No thanks.

For all I know, Nate Sala is a nice guy, as are many Evangelicals. I just wish they would all be honest about their intent when they lurk in the shadows hoping to befriend unwary “sinners.” While this might not generate as many club members, there will be no regrets come morning.

About Bruce Gerencser

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

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

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

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

Bruce, I Want to be Your Friend — Part One

cant we be friends

Cartoon by Paco

Several times a month I receive emails from Evangelicals wanting to be “friends” with me. These emails invariably say that the writer is Evangelical, but not like the Evangelicals I focus on in my writing. Often, these writers attempt to “hook” me by saying that they totally understand why, based on reading about my past experiences, I would walk away from the ministry and Christianity. They too, I am told, would have done the same. Usually, these emails are filled with compliments about my transparency, openness, and honesty. These Evangelicals promise me that their motives are pure, that they have no desire to try to win me back to Jesus. All they want is an opportunity to show me “true” Christian love and friendship.

I also get frequent Facebook friend requests from Evangelicals who, again, promise that they have no ulterior motive for friending me. Years ago, one such person friended me on Facebook. He knew everything about me, having read my blog and talked to his sister who was, at one time, a member of one of the churches I pastored. So, I friended him, thinking that maybe, just maybe, he was different from other Evangelicals. And for a while he was, but one day he became inflamed with righteous indignation over something I had written about Christianity. Our discussion quickly spun out of control, and the man unfriended me. He warned his sister about me, saying that I was satanic and Christians should avoid me lest I influence them with my demonic words.

These days, I simply do not respond to Evangelical friendship requests, be they via email or on social media. Last year, the president of a Christian college attempted to goad me into having lunch him by appealing to my desire for openness and understanding. This man told me that he just wanted to share a meal and hear my story. I told him, as I do anyone else who takes this approach, Look, I have written over two thousand blog posts. I have written extensively about my past and present life. If you really want to know about my life, READ!  If, after reading my writing, you have questions, email them to me and I will either answer them in an email or a blog post. Of course, this is not what these “friendly” Evangelicals want. They want a face-to-face meeting with me so they can probe my life, hoping to find that wrong beliefs led to my deconversion. Never mind that I have written numerous posts about my past beliefs. Everything someone could ever want to know about my life and beliefs can be found on this blog.

Perhaps the question these Evangelicals should ask is this: why would I want to be friends with you? What would a friendship with you bring to my life that I don’t already have? It’s not like I don’t have any friends. I do, and I am quite happy with the number of friends I have, both in the flesh and through the digital world. Not only that, but my wife of almost forty years is my best friend, and I am close with my six children and their families. I have all I need when it comes to human interaction. Why, then, would I want to be friends with Evangelicals who, as sure as I am sitting here, wants to evangelize me? Friendship Evangelism remains a tool churches and parachurch ministries use in their evangelistic efforts. Friendship becomes a pretext. The real goal is to see sinners saved. Promoters of Friendship Evangelism know that befriending people disarms them, making them more sensitive and receptive to whatever version of the Christian gospel they are promoting.

As long-time readers of this blog know, I am pretty good at stalking people on the internet and social media. I have learned that you can tell a lot about people just by looking at their Facebook wall, along with the groups they are a part of and the pages they like. Recently, a local man contacted me, offering to buy me dinner with no strings attached. What, no expectations of sex after the date? Consider me a doubter. I decided to check out the man’s Facebook profile. I found out that he voted for Donald Trump and supports most of the Evangelical hot-button issues. He opposes same-sex marriage and abortion. We have nothing in common socially or politically, Why, then, would I want to be friends with him?

Friendships are generally built around shared beliefs. I don’t have any interest in being friends with people who voted for Donald Trump or support political views I consider anti-human, racist, bigoted, and misogynistic. And I sure as hell don’t befriend people who root for Michigan. I have standards, you know? Seriously, most of us have friends who hold to beliefs similar to our own. We might have a handful of friends who differ with us, but we find ways to forge meaningful relationships with such people. I am friends with several Evangelicals, but the main reason I am is that our friendships date back to the days when we were walking the halls of Lincoln Elementary. We’ve agreed not to talk about religion or politics. We share many common connections that make such discussions unnecessary. I am sure they fear for my “soul” and pray that I would return to the fold, but these things are never voiced to me. If they did attempt to evangelize me, it would most certainly put an end to our friendship.

To the man, these friendly Evangelicals believe that my life is missing something — Jesus — and is empty, lacking meaning, purpose, and direction. In their minds, only Jesus can meet my needs. Without him, what is the point of living another day, right? In their minds, Jesus is the end-all. Why would I want to trade the life I now have for Jesus? What can Jesus — a dead man — possibly offer me? Well, Bruce, these Evangelicals say, Jesus offers you forgiveness of sins, escape from Hell, and eternal bliss in Heaven. Surely, you want to go to Heaven when you die? Actually, I am content with life in the present. Threats of hell or promises of Heaven have no effect on me. Both are empty promises.

Why would I ever want to be friends with someone who believes that, unless I believe as they do, their God is going to torture me in a lake filled with fire and brimstone for eternity? This same God – knowing that my present body would, in hell, sizzle like a hog on a spit – lovingly plans to fit me with a special fireproof body that will be able to feel the pain of being roasted alive without being turned into a puddle of grease. What an awesome God! No thanks. I have no interest in being friends with anyone who thinks that this what lies in the future for me. I can’t stop (nor do I want to) such people from reading my writing, but I sure as hell don’t want to “fellowship” with them over dinner at the local Applebee’s.

I would like to make one offer to Evangelicals who want to be friends with Atheist Bruce. Fine, let’s go to the strip club and have drinks, and let’s do it on All Male Revue Night. I’m not all that interested in seeing males strip, but I thought taking these Evangelicals to such a place would help them to see how I feel when they view my life as lacking (naked) and in need of clothing (Jesus).

My life is what it is. True friends accept me as I am, no strings attached. Evangelicals, of course, have a tough time doing that. In their minds, Jesus is the end-all, the answer to all that ails the human race. Life is empty without the awesome threesome — Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. I spent fifty years in the Christian church. For half of those years, I was preaching the Evangelical gospel. I was, according to all who knew me, a devoted, zealous follower of Jesus. Whatever my faults may have been (and they were many), I loved Jesus with all my heart, soul, and mind. Deciding to walk away from the ministry and Christianity were the two hardest decisions I have ever made. Yet, my life in virtually every way is better today than it was when I was a Christian. Quite frankly, Christianity has nothing to offer me. I am content (well, as content as a perfectionist with OCPD can be, anyway) with life as it now is. Sure, life isn’t perfect, but all in all, I can say I am blessed. Yes, blessed. I am grateful for my wife, six children, and eleven (soon to be twelve) grandchildren. I am grateful that I can, with all the health problems I have, still stand, walk, and enjoy my life as a photographer. The advice I offer up to people on my ABOUT page sums up my view of life:

You have one life. There is no heaven or hell. There is no afterlife. You have one life, it’s yours, and what you do with it is what matters most. Love and forgive those who matter to you and ignore those who add nothing to your life. Life is too short to spend time trying to make nice with those who will never make nice with you. Determine who are the people in your life that matter and give your time and devotion to them. Live each and every day to its fullest. You never know when death might come calling. Don’t waste time trying to be a jack of all trades, master of none. Find one or two things you like to do and do them well. Too many people spend way too much time doing things they will never be good at.

Here’s the conclusion of the matter. It’s your life and you’d best get to living it. Someday, sooner than you think, it will be over. Don’t let your dying days be ones of regret over what might have been.

For me, the game of life is late in the fourth quarter. I must focus my attention and energy on relationships that are mutually beneficial, relationships that offer love, kindness, and acceptance. No Evangelical worth his or her salt can offer me such a relationship. Lurking below the surface will be thoughts about how much better my life could be with Jesus and thoughts of what will happen to me if I die without repenting of my sins. Evangelicals who really believe what the Bible says can’t leave me alone. They dare not stand before God to give an account of their lives, only to be reminded that, when given the opportunity to evangelize the atheist ex-preacher Bruce Gerencser, they said and did nothing. And it is for these reasons that I cannot and will not befriend Evangelicals.

Read Part Two here.

About Bruce Gerencser

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

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

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Life in Rural Northwest Ohio: Committing Social Suicide

jesus-flag

Local home flying the team flag. Go TEAM JESUS!

I have spent most of my sixty years of life living in rural Ohio. I was born in Bryan, Ohio — a small community in Northwest Ohio. My dad’s parents immigrated to the United States from Hungary in the 1920s and settled down on a hundred acre farm a few miles south of Bryan. Dad and his siblings attended schools in the very district my wife and I now call home. We live in a small spot along State Highway 15. Ney, population 345, has two bars/restaurants and a convenience store/fast station. Dad graduated from Ney High School in 1954. I attended elementary school for several years west of here in the flashing-light, spot-in-the-road town called Farmer. Dad frequently moved us from town to town, unable, for some inexplicable reason, to pay the rent. It wasn’t until junior high that I got a taste of “big” city life.  For three and a half years, we lived in Findlay, the home of Marathon Oil. This allowed me to attend the same school for three straight years. I actually had the same friends from one school year to the next!

Divorce and Dad moving us to Arizona turned my happy world upside down. At age sixteen, I returned to Findlay for my eleventh-grade year. I then returned to Bryan to live with my mother. Lots of drama, including Mom being locked up in Toledo State Hospital, resulted in my siblings and me being uprooted and moved once again to Arizona. By then, I had dropped out of high school. In the fall of 1975, I moved back to Bryan and took a job working at a local grocery store. A year later, I left Bryan to attend classes at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. I returned to Bryan three years later, pregnant wife in tow.

Polly and I spent much of our married life living in small, rural communities. The churches I pastored were, for the most part, attended by white, working-class people. In 1995, we moved back to the flatland of rural Northwest Ohio. I pastored two nearby churches, moving away from the area to pastor a church in rural Michigan, along with a move to Yuma, Arizona. In the end, like the proverbial bad penny, I seem to always make my way back to Northwest Ohio. In 2007, we bought our house in Ney. Our six children and eleven grandchildren (soon to be twelve) all live within twenty minutes of our home.

There are times when Polly and I yearn for the big city; for the anonymity that living in such places provide. But, we love our family, and when we bought our home, we committed ourselves to living here until death do us part. This is the place and people we call home. We love the slowness of life, and when we need a big city fix, Fort Wayne and Toledo are but an hour away.

I write all this to say that my roots run deep into the soil of rural Ohio. No matter how often I fled the scene, looking for excitement and diversity, I always seemed to come right back to where life started for me. Polly was a city girl, but forty years of country living have turned her into a small-town girl who has embraced the rural way of life. Would we live where we do if it weren’t for our children and grandchildren? Probably not. And the reason for this is simple. While both of us feel quite at home in rural Ohio, our beliefs have changed greatly over the past two decades. This change of thinking puts us at odds with most of our neighbors — politically, religiously, and socially.

Rural northwest Ohio is the land of God, Guns, and the Republican Party. Hundreds of conservative churches dot the landscape, and virtually every public office is held by a Republican. In Defiance County where I live, the Democratic Party has fielded two winners in the last decade, neither of whom is currently in office. Living here means that I must accept  the monoculture of my surroundings, a society where it is assumed that everyone thinks and believes the same way. Someone like me, a socialist/pacifist/atheist, is a rare bird. While I have met more than a few people with similar views (particularly young adults), there are no liberal/humanist/atheist/secular groups or meet-ups in rural Northwest Ohio. People who don’t fit the rural Ohio political and religious mold exist, but few are vocal about their liberalness and unbelief. Why? Doing so would be socially suicidal.

One of my sons and I were talking about this tonight — about how being an out-of-the closet unbeliever or liberal leads to social suicide. While I am often lauded for my outspokenness about local politics and religion, my position has come at a high cost socially. I have in the past pondered whether, if I had it to do all over again, I would have been so vocal early on about my atheistic beliefs. I know that my outspokenness (and my age and disability) has made me unemployable. I own a photography business. When locals are given a choice between an Evangelical photographer and me, guess what? They usually choose the God-fearing one (regardless of the quality of work).

Over the past fifteen months, I have made a concerted effort to, outside of this blog, to tone down my public pronouncements. At times, I feel guilty for doing so; feeling as if I am a sell-out or a hypocrite. Everyone should be able to be who and what they are, right? Sure, but small-town life demands at least some modicum of outward conformity to tribal political, religious, and social beliefs. Disobey and you will pay the price. And for my family in particular, I don’t want them being socially and economically punished for who their father is. Some of my children may agree with me, but their futures depend on them not committing social suicide. Rarely does a week or two go by without one of my children telling me that someone at work — a boss, fellow employee, or customer — was inquiring about whether they were related to me. My children have become experts at fielding such interrogations, knowing that they are always free to say, Hmm, Bruce Gerencser? Don’t know the guy.

ney ohio village limits sign

Ney Village Limit Sign, Slightly Altered.

I plan to live the remaining days and years of my life in Ney, Ohio. As a committed liberal and atheist — who also wants to get along and be accepted by his neighbors — I have to find ways to be true to self while at the same time not being ostracized by locals. Everything, unfortunately, comes down to money. My wife and I need to earn money to live. Earning money requires acceptance by local employers/customers. While it would be wonderful to be a street-corner atheist (and some locals think I am way too outspoken, even at presently muted levels), I have to live here, and being one would be social suicide. The violations of separation of church and state are so common is this area that the Freedom From Religion Foundation could spend the next year or so filing lawsuits against local government agencies, schools, and businesses. Yes, I find these violations of the law egregious, and the street-corner atheist in me wants to call out and condemn their sins. But, I can’t, for in doing so I would cause great social harm not only to myself but to my wife, children, and grandchildren. If I made $40,000 a year blogging, things would be different, but as things now stand, I must swim in waters infested with Evangelical/right-wing Republican sharks, and being a lone fish is sure to turn me into a snack.

I have much hope in the belief that things are slowly changing here in rural Northwest Ohio. Local millennials are not as religious as their parents, and they most certainly don’t hold to the moral and religious values of their grandparents. It is in these young adults that I see promise. It is unlikely that this area will ever be as liberal as the West or East coasts, but I am hoping that there is coming a day when it won’t be social suicide to say that I am a liberal, a socialist, and non-Christian.

For now, I must choose my battles carefully, hoping that I can safely navigate the dangerous waters of rural Ohio. I have seen progress on this front thanks to my high school basketball photography. I have talked to more locals in the past few months than in the last ten years combined. I want them to see me as a family man, as a decent, kind curmudgeon who also happens to take really good pictures. I know that Google is not my friend, but there nothing I can do about the stories she might tell if someone asks her about Bruce Gerencser. Just last week, one my children ran into several people their age who were once members of a local church I pastored. These young adults have heard the gossip about me and read up on me, thanks to the Internet, but they still can’t understand how it is possible that the man they once called pastor is now a heathen. What happened? they asked, desperately trying to figure out how I ended up where I am today. Lost on such people is the fact that I am, in many ways, the same man I was when I was their pastor. Sure, I am a political liberal and an atheist. But, personality-wise I am pretty much the same guy. I am still a down-home friendly man with a wry sense of humor. I am…Bruce. [My editor commented, Your closing raises some interesting questions. Are you the same guy? I think it is hard for you to claim that you are. Sure, you are still a decent, hard-working man, but you have done an about-face in regard to many of your core beliefs of your prior life.]

I would love to hear from readers who find it difficult to navigate the waters of their communities. Please leave your thoughts in the comment section.