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Tag: Atheism

Bruce, You Played “Church” For Years

peanut gallery

Yesterday, I received several emails from Richard “Rich” Schmidt, pastor of Union Grove Baptist Church in Union Grove, Wisconsin, and the operator of Prophecy Focus Ministries. Carolyn, my editor, responded to Schmidt’s emails. I am no longer able to promptly respond to every email (and social media message) I receive. I appreciate Carolyn stepping in and helping me with my correspondence.

I do want to respond to one of Schmidt’s ill-informed judgments of my life and that of my wife. Schmidt stated:

I wrongly assumed that Bruce was an unconverted evangelical Lutheran or other liberal denomination or group. Unfortunately he is an unconverted former pastor of what would be classified as Bible believing churches. According to the now three blogs of his I have read, he has been inundated with well meaning Christians attempting to keep him from the inevitable destiny of Christ rejecters. You already know exactly what I mean.

The only reason I wrote you is deciding whether or not to cite him in my works highlighting people like Bruce who played church for years, and now have decided to fully expose themselves with their true beliefs. Wolves in sheep’s clothing are all too prevalent.  

I will never use his name, as giving credence to him would be endorsing his current folly. Maybe, just maybe, Bruce and his faithful wife will one day remember what they taught years ago, turn to the Lord Jesus, and keep themselves from a horrible eternity. Based on his failing health, that reality is all too close. Remember: For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). 

Over the past thirteen years, I’ve been told more times than I can count that I was never a True Christian®; that I was a fake Christian; that I was a follower of Satan; a false prophet. Unable to square my story with their peculiar theologies, Evangelicals dismiss my life out of hand. Doing so requires Evangelicals to put their hands over their eyes, blinding them to what is right in front of them: a well-lived Christian life, a man who devotedly followed Jesus and the teachings of the Bible. Over the course of the fifty years I spent in the Christian church and twenty-five years in the ministry, not one family member, friend, church member, or colleague in the ministry ever said of me, “Bruce is not a Christian.” Not one person saw what Schmidt “sees” after reading a handful of posts on this site. Amazing, right?

Schmidt ignorantly believes that I spent much of my adult life “playing at church.” What evidence does he have for his claim? None. First, he doesn’t know me. Second, there’s nothing in my writing that remotely suggests that I was anything other than a serious, dedicated Christian. Schmidt knows this, but he needs some sort of explanation for my story, so he makes one up.

When a person tells me he is a Christian, I accept his testimony at face value. Schmidt says he is a Christian, and I believe him. Who better knows his life than him? Why, then, can’t he extend to me the same respect? Why do Evangelicals have such a hard time accepting people who are different from them; people whose journeys are different from theirs?

What did Schmidt hope to accomplish by emailing me? Did he really think quoting Ephesians 2:8,9 would bring me to my knees in repentance and faith? Did he really think threatening me with Hell would cause me to tremble in fear at the prospect of going to a mythical Lake of Fire after death? Did he really think insulting Polly and me would lead to our return to the One True Faith®?

Polly and I haven’t forgotten that which we were taught and believed years ago. How could we? As long as Rich Schmidt and his fellow Fundamentalist preachers continue to preach at us, we are reminded of why we left Christianity. Why would we ever want to return to the leeks and garlic of Egypt? No thanks.

Previous article about Rich Schmidt

God Plans to Kill Billions of People — Every Buddhist, Muslim, Catholic, Hindu, and Atheist

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Christians Don’t Have the Corner on Selflessness

Here’s a graphic one of my son’s sent me from his Facebook news feed:

selflessness

As they read this, countless atheists hit their heads on tables and mutter, really, this old canard? Let me kill this thinking in one, swift easy statement: if selflessness is consistent with Evangelical Christianity, why are so many Christians selfish? Bam! Shut the door!

People who post things like this have the IQ of a walnut. Rather than THINK, they post. No thinking Christian would EVER claim that selflessness is the domain of Christianity alone. All the Christian has to do is think about all the selfless non-Christians who have helped them over the years and all the selfish Christians who haven’t.

If the question is can the morality taught in the Bible lead to a life of selflessness? then the answer is yes. But, the same could be said for humanism and other ethical and religious systems of belief. Christianity has no corner on the selflessness market. If anything, American Evangelical behavior often reveals a crass indifference to the plight and suffering of others.

Many Evangelicals wrongly think that atheism is a moral and ethical system of thought. It’s not. Atheism is, and will always remain, the disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods. That’s it. If I tell someone I am an atheist, that tells them nothing about my morals or ethics. The fact that I think evolution best explains the natural world says nothing about my morality or ethics either. Evolution is a statement of fact. There are Christians who are evolutionists. A conundrum: Christian=selfless Evolutionist=selfishness. Yet, there are “evolutionists” who are selfless worshipers of the Christian deity. Just another two-cent reason why the whole “Christians are selfless” argument is groundless.

As a humanist, I live my life according to the principles of humanism. These principles are succinctly stated in the Humanist Manifesto III:

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.

As I try to live by the humanist ideal, I am ever aware of how far from that ideal I am. I would never say to anyone that unless they become a humanist they have no capacity for selflessness. Humans are social creatures who thrive in interdependent relationships. Rare is the person who wants solitude and loneliness. Thousands of people read this blog because they want the sense of community and connections that come from doing so. Facebook is a hit because we desire to connect with like-minded people. We want to belong. As part of a tribe or group, we help those we have a connection with. If I had a serious medical need and required $10,000 to save my life, I know that a mere mention of this by my fellow bloggers and Facebook friends would result in the need being met. Why would people who have never met me face to face selflessly help me? It is our humanness and the bond we have with one another that drives us to help others. Are we always selfless? Of course not. All of us, Christian or not, can be selfish assholes, thinking only of what’s best for ourselves. But, more often than not, atheists, humanists, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, pagans, or Buddhists, when called upon, will selflessly help others.

Years ago, I was at Sam’s Club checking out, and in the line next to me was an Asian young man trying to buy some stuff for his mom’s restaurant. The cashier wouldn’t let him make a purchase because he was using his mom’s membership card. The man spoke with broken English and was thoroughly embarrassed by how the cashier was treating him. I left my line and went over to the cashier and gave her a piece of my mind. And then I told her to put his stuff on my card and he could pay me for it. Now she was the one thoroughly embarrassed, having been called out for her ill-treatment of the Asian man. She quickly corrected course and took care of the man’s order. As he left, he looked at me and said “thanks.” I said, “no problem.” Did I do what I did because I was a Christian? Of course not. I have no tolerance for those who berate and belittle others. In other words, I don’t like assholes, and that’s why I came to the man’s defense.

When I come in contact with others, I do my best to be kind and considerate. Several years ago, I had a meltdown at the local Meijer customer service desk. The young woman running the desk didn’t help me as I thought she should in the time I had allotted for her to do so. I told her, forget it, and walked away.  Everything was fine until I swiftly turned around and went back to the desk and shouted, and you don’t give a SHIT, do you? Polly helplessly stood by while I made a public spectacle of myself. She didn’t say a word, but by the time we were halfway home, I realized that I had acted like a first-class asshole. As soon as I got home I called the customer service desk and talked to the young woman who had been the subject of my anger. I apologized for my behavior. Several times she told me, “that’s okay.” I told her, “no it’s not. No one should treat someone like I treated you.” The next time I was at the store she let me know that she appreciated my apology.  She told me that she had never had a customer apologize for treating her like shit.

You see, I am a saint and a sinner. I can act selflessly and I can act selfishly. No one has the selfless market cornered. Take the drowning story in the graphic above.  Does any Christian REALLY believe that an atheist would idly sit by and so nothing while someone drowns? I am a disabled. Anyone who sees me knows I have problems getting around. I have had more than a few people extend kindness and courtesy to me as I try to navigate a store, stadium, or restaurant. Yes, I have met a few selfish people who wouldn’t offer me help if my life depended on it, but they are the exception to the rule. Even when I complain about how people often ignore someone in a wheelchair, I don’t think they are being selfish as much as lacking in instruction about people with disabilities.

The underlying issue is that many Christians, particularly Evangelicals, believe that morality comes from God, and that without God a person cannot act morally and ethically. When challenged with examples of godless people who act morally and ethically, Christians often attack the motive for the godless person’s good behavior. The atheist is acting selflessly because they have an ulterior motive, they say. How can they know this? Can we really know the motives of others? Besides, isn’t the moral and ethical behavior of the Christian predicated on gaining a divine payoff, a mansion in Heaven, and eternal life? Who’s the selfish person now?

As a humanist, I am deeply interested in seeing my progeny thrive. Because I love them and desire their company, I try to protect them from injury and harm. Because I desire to live in peace and harmony, I do my best to be a selfless member of the human race and the community I live in.  I don’t need the threat of Hell and judgment or the promise of heaven and eternal life to motivate me to act according to the humanist ideal. My country, community, tribe, and family are important to me, and because they are I act accordingly. Why is it that so many Evangelicals fail to understand this? Why do they arrogantly think that morality, ethics, and selflessness are the domain of their religion alone? Why are they deliberately blind to overwhelming evidence that suggests that all people have within themselves the power to act morally, ethically, and selflessly?

Perhaps it is selfishness that drives their blindness? Imagine what would happen if people realized that living a moral, ethical, and selfless life does not require Christianity. Once the threat of Hell and the promise of Heaven is removed from the equation, people are less likely to join up with Fundamentalist religious sects. Instead of looking for the one road that leads to Heaven, they could choose one of the many roads that lead to a virtuous, well-lived life. Imagine people doing good and acting selflessly because it is the right thing to do, not because they fear God or covetously desire a divine payoff after death.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Bruce, the Scoffer

scoffer

According to the dictionary, a scoffer is one who ridicules or mocks someone or something. My Evangelical critics think I am a scoffer, one who mocks or ridicules God/Jesus/Bible/Christianity. Am a really guilty as charged?

2 Peter 3:3-4 states:

Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water . . .

Jude 1:18 adds:

 How that they [the apostles] told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts.

Most Evangelicals believe we presently live in the “last days”; a period of moral decline and a falling away from Christianity prior to the Rapture or Second Coming of Jesus. (Yes, I am well aware of the various eschatological interpretations of the phrase “last days.”) Most Evangelicals believe that the return of Jesus Christian is right around the corner; that all the “bad” things happening in the world (Matthew 24:1-13) today are signs pointing to the imminent return of Jesus (and slaughter of everyone on earth except for Christians).

According to Bible, scoffers are people who mock and ridicule the One True Faith®; ungodly people who walk in their own lusts (desiring that which is contrary to God and the Bible); people who deny Jesus is coming to earth again.

Wes McAdams, the preaching minister at the Church of Christ on McDermott Rd in Plano, Texas, recently published a post titled The Danger of Becoming a Scoffer.

McAdams stated:

The word, “scoff” means to make fun of or mock. Scoffing is treating someone, or their ideas, as stupid or silly. So, a scoffer is a person who habitually laughs at, mocks, and makes fun of others. When a scoffer encounters an idea he doesn’t understand or agree with, his typical reaction is to laugh scornfully.

Being a scoffer reflects an arrogant spirit. “‘Scoffer’ is the name of the arrogant, haughty man who acts with arrogant pride” (Proverbs 21:24). Constantly seeing others as stupid and their ideas as ridiculous is a sure sign of a proud and arrogant heart.

Scoffers tend to have a lot in common with cynics. Meaning, they scoff not just at ideas, but also at the perceived motives of their opponents. A scoffer might even scoff at his opponents on issues where they would seem to agree. The scoffer will laugh and say, “You don’t really believe that. You’re just trying to fool and manipulate people.” The scoffer prides himself on his distrust and skepticism. 

There may be an appropriate occasion to scoff, but it’s never appropriate to be a scoffer. If scoffing has become a pattern in your life, you may need to ask yourself if this is you.

….

The problem with warning people about being scoffers is that scoffers don’t listen. They scoff at warnings, correction, and rebuke. This may be why the Bible says more about scoffers than it says to them:

“Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.”

“A scoffer does not like to be reproved; he will not go to the wise.”

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”

The danger of becoming a scoffer is not only that you are treating people in an unloving way, but that you are being an unteachable person. So, if you find yourself drifting in this direction, turn back now.

I suspect McAdams’ target audience is Christians, not atheists. That said, McAdams believes scoffers tend to be cynical, distrustful, and skeptical; implying that these are bad character traits to have. I searched McAdams’ website, looking for statements he’s made about atheists or atheism. Here’s what I found:

Likewise, we must prepare our children and grandchildren so that they can properly defend Christianity against the attacks made upon it by its enemies. From the philosopher who claims it is impossible to know anything at all, to the scientist who claims that we are little more than “naked apes,” attacks upon Christianity are never-ending. The atheist says he knows God doesn’t exist, the agnostic says neither he nor anyone else can know God exists, the skeptic says he doubts that God exists, the infidel says that if God exists, it is not the God of the Bible, and so on. Various forms of these false philosophies have crept into the church in some places, and have caused the untaught and the unstable to fall away. Children are especially vulnerable to such false teachings, as often they are required to study under teachers or professors who openly are antagonistic to Christianity. A young person’s plastic, impressionable mind is a prime target for the devil’s ungodly schemes. It is our responsibility to fill the minds of our children with truth (and evidence for that truth) so they will be able to withstand the “fiery darts of the evil one” (Eph. 6:16). It has been said that a child’s mind is like Jell-O®—and that our job is to fill with all the “good stuff” before it “sets.” A study of the evidences supporting Christianity is a fine step in the right direction toward protecting both our children and the future of the church. (An excerpt from an article by Brad Harrub)

Today’s conversation is different than other conversations on this podcast. I typically have conversations on the show with Christians “about life and faith,” but today’s conversation is with my friend Brad Willett, who is not a Christian. In fact, Brad does not believe in God at all. He and I have been talking via email and social media for a couple of years and though we have a very different worldview and disagree with one another on fundamental questions, I am thankful to know him.

In this conversation, Brad and I discussed how he became an atheist and some of his interactions with Christians since he stopped believing in God. We also discussed some of the myths Christians believe about atheists and how Christians can do a better job having conversations with their atheist, agnostic, and skeptical neighbors. I hope this conversation is beneficial to everyone who hears it. (Talking to an Atheist — a discussion between McAdams and an atheist)

Recently, when young atheists were “asked to cite key influences in their conversion to atheism,” they didn’t talk about conferences they attended or books they had read; instead, they made “vague references to videos they had watched on YouTube or website forums.” I think that is incredibly interesting! The internet is helping convert people to atheism. Not because the atheists have the most compelling arguments (obviously they don’t), but because the atheists are harnessing the power of the internet to get their agenda out there. (Why Churches of Christ are at a Pivotal Moment in History)

Even the supposed facts that skeptics and atheists throw out to undermine the Christian faith, are based on assumptions. Naturalistic scientists, for example, approach and present their research with unfounded assumptions. (Losing Faith: 4 Things to Do When Doubts Arise)

Atheists and agnostics deserve to go to hell. Jews, Muslims, and Hindus deserve to go to hell. People in every denominational church deserve to go to hell. And, YES, even New Testament Christians (i.e. members of churches of Christ) deserve to go to hell. We all deserve to be condemned! We have all already committed, “damnable offenses.” All of us have!

Jesus Christ is the only solution to that problem. Becoming His disciple and hiding ourselves in Him is the only way we will escape eternal condemnation (Romans 8:1). (If You Don’t Believe Like I Do, Will You Go to Hell?)

While McAdams paints himself as a charitable person (and I have no doubt he is), lurking behind his charity are Evangelical Church of Christ beliefs, including the belief that non-Christians will spend eternity in Hell (it’s hard to be friends with someone who believes you will burn in Hell for refusing to be a Christian). Further, McAdams’ website is littered with tired, worn-out apologetical arguments for the existence of the Christian God and the veracity of Christianity.

As I perused McAdams writing, I came across this statement about atheists and agnostics:

The atheist says, “Reason, logic, and science prove God does not exist.” The agnostic says, “It cannot be proven whether God exists or not, therefore no one can ever really know.” And these two groups look condescendingly at the Christian, as the Christian simply says, “I have faith in God’s existence.”

McAdams says that atheists and agnostics “look condescendingly at the Christian, as the Christian simply says, I have faith in God’s existence.” Thus, I suspect McAdams thinks many atheists and agnostics are scoffers.

Now to the title of this post, Bruce, the Scoffer. Evangelicals read my writing and conclude that I am personally ridiculing or mocking them. Nothing could be further from the truth. How is an Evangelical-turned-atheist telling his story mockery or ridicule of individual Christians? This says far more about the collective persecution complex of Evangelicals than it does me.

I am more than happy to engage Evangelicals in thoughtful discussions about my story, the existence of God, the central claims of Christianity, the nature and historicity of the Bible, etc. However, MOST Evangelicals who contact me (totaling thousands of contact points over the past fourteen years) have no interest in “thoughtful discussions.” Instead, with fangs bared, they attack me, often going to great lengths to smear my character. These followers of Christ threaten me with Hell, warning that I will face untold torture for eternity if I don’t repent. Their emails and comments have made the front page of this site numerous times. It is these behaviors I mock and ridicule.

Let me conclude this post by returning to McAdams’s claim that scoffers tend to be cynical, distrustful, and skeptical. Am I cynical? Yep. Distrustful and skeptical? Yep, and yep. And I make no apology for being so. After spending fifty years in the Christian church and twenty-five years as an Evangelical pastor, I have every reason to be cynical, distrustful, and skeptical. Throw in my experiences with former colleagues in the ministry and Evangelical zealots, is it any wonder I look at Christianity the way I do? Forget my arguments against the claims of Christianity. Just look at the behavior of Evangelicals — especially in the age of Donald Trump. Where is Jesus? Where can one find people who love God and love their neighbors as themselves? It is this Christianity that deserves nothing but scorn, ridicule, and disgust. There’s a reason Evangelicalism is one of the most hated religious sects in America — and Evangelicals need only look in the mirror to see who is to blame.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Cosmic Significance

god watching humans

A guest post by Neil Robinson. Neil blogs at Rejecting Jesus.

One of the most liberating aspects of jettisoning Christianity was the realisation that nothing I did had cosmic significance. Nothing anybody does has cosmic significance. Yet to hear the cult’s leaders and spokesmen talk, now as then, everything matters.

First and foremost, what you believe determines whether you lived forever in Heaven or not. Can you credit that: what you believe! So better get that doctrine sorted out! Right thought makes all the difference. Believe something only minimally unorthodox and your eternal life is in jeopardy. Not only that, but what you think in the privacy of your own head, about issues like abortion, homosexuality, politics and society, is subject to the Lord’s scrutiny. Better get it right – ‘right’ being the operative term. It means recognising that the Almighty is really only interested in the USA; with the exception of Israel, he hasn’t much interest in other nations, so better get your thinking straight on that score too, buddy.

God is, or so his self-appointed mouthpieces like to tell you, obsessively interested in how you, as an individual, spend your time, the language you use, and whether you’re a faithful steward of the money he supplies (a.k.a. the money you earn for yourself). He lays it on your heart about how you should spend your time, the only valuable way of doing so being in the service of his Kingdom-that-never-comes.

You’re made to feel that if your marriage isn’t close to perfection then you’re not really working at it (though god knows the ‘Biblical view’ of marriage is nothing like the one promoted by today’s Christian leaders). You’re made to feel you must share the gospel with everyone else you have relationships with: children, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, complete strangers. Don’t they too deserve to have a chance at eternal life? You don’t want them denied it because you failed to speak up, do you? Well, do you?

And then there’s the guilt when you can’t do all of this. You’re not sure you believe all the right stuff. You think you do but then you’re told about some point of doctrine you hadn’t considered and it is, apparently, really essential you believe that too. So you consult the Holy Spirit who you think lives in your heart and you wonder why he hasn’t spoken up before now. Maybe you have liberal views about abortion. And really, you can’t find it in yourself to condemn all those ‘sodomites’ you’re told about; what difference does it make if you do or don’t? And your marriage is less than perfect. In fact, it’s a little bit messy, like human relationships tend to be, and sometimes you want just to relax, maybe laze a little bit. Not everything you do has to contribute to the Kingdom, after all.

But the guilt won’t let you. What kind of Christian are you, anyway? And as for witnessing at every opportunity, you wonder why you feel like a dog that’s compelled to pee at every lamp-post. Can’t friends just be friends? Can’t you just appreciate others for who they are, not as sinners who need saving? Apparently not.

What a wonderful release it is then, when you finally realise that none of this crap matters. Nothing you do, say or think makes the slightest bit of difference to whether you or others live forever (Spoiler: you won’t, they won’t). How you act may help others feel a bit better about themselves or provide you with a sense of fulfilment but that’s the extent of it. Outside your immediate context, you’re insignificant, and there’s great significance to that. The pressure is off; God is not watching you to see whether you’re a good and faithful servant. Your time, money, and thoughts are yours and yours alone. It’s entirely up to you how you use them, free from the tyranny of religion.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Bruce, Wouldn’t Your Life Be “Easier” if You Were Still a Christian?

bible has all the answers

I recently participated in a Zoom discussion with a Mennonite discipleship class in Pennsylvania. At the end of my sermon/lecture/speech on why I am an atheist, I fielded questions from the men in attendance. (Please see Bruce, I Don’t Believe You Are an Atheist.) One man asked me, “do you think your life would be ‘easier’ if you were still a Christian?” I replied, “yes!” The man agreed with me; life was easier for me when all I had to do was read, trust, and obey.

As a Christian, I believed the Bible was the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. I believed the Bible contained everything I needed for life and godliness; that the Bible was God’s blueprint for living. As all Christians are, I was a hypocrite, often ignoring or disobeying the teachings of the Bible. That said, the bent of my life was towards holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. I daily asked Jesus to forgive me of my sins (I John 1:9). I sought truth and guidance from the Bible, asking God, the Holy Spirit, to guide my thoughts, words, and deeds. As honest Christians will also admit, I failed at this endeavor. I kept trying, day in and day out, but I never felt I had “arrived” as a Christian.

Despite the existential struggles that came from being a follower of Jesus, life was simple. I didn’t have to think about morality or ethics. When questions would arise, the answer was always the same: THE BIBLE SAYS __________. Granted, in retrospect, I now know that the Bible required interpretation. Thus, I was the final arbiter of what I deemed moral and ethical — not God. Bruce Gerencser, not the Triune God, had the final say on everything.

In November 2008, I attended church for the last time. In 2009, I wrote a letter titled Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners, detailing my loss of faith. Losing that which had been the foundation of the first fifty years of my life was traumatic, to say the least. I desperately tried to hang on to God, the Bible, and the church, but I was unable to do so. If there was ever a time for God to make himself known to me, it was then. But my doubts and questions were met with silence. Eventually, I concluded that the reason for the silence was this: God was a myth; the God of the Christian Bible was a human construct. Once the Bible and its author (God) lost their authority and control over me, I began sliding down the proverbial slippery slope. Many of the readers of this site have experienced similar frightening slides. Some of you found natural resting places: liberal Christianity, Unitarian-Universalism, or some other religion. For me, my slide finished with a colossal thud at the bottom of the slope. I finally admitted I was an atheist.

Saying I was an atheist was just the beginning of my new life in accordance to science, reason, and skepticism. Gone were God, the church, and the Bible — now what? What do I believe? I had to rethink my morals and ethics. I no longer had at my disposal book, chapter, and verse. I had to ponder what it was I believed about behaviors the Bible called “sin.” I decided that “sin” was a religious construct used by clerics and churches to keep asses in the seats and Benjamins in the offering plates. Sin, Hell, Judgment, Fear . . . thus saith the Lord! Remove these things from the equation and Christianity would shrivel up and die.

I have spent the past thirteen years thinking about what I believe and how I want to live my life. This has been hard. There’s no Atheist Handbook, no rulebook by which to govern my life. Sure, humanism provides a general moral and ethical framework for me, but I still have to determine the moral and ethical beliefs I took for granted as an Evangelical Christian. It would be far easier for me to appeal to a “book” as my standard for living (and certainly Christianity influences my thinking on morality). However, I am committed to doing the hard work necessary to best live my life. My “sin” list now fits on the front of a 3×5 card. Most of the “sins” that perturbed me as a Bible preacher and teacher no longer matter to me. I don’t care about who fucks whom, when, where, why, or how. As long as it’s consensual, that’s the end of the discussion for me.

The longer I’m an atheist, the easier the journey becomes. I have settled many of the moral and ethical questions that perturbed me a decade ago. However, I still struggle with some things. As my politics continue to move leftward, I am forced to rethink what matters politically (and morally). I remain a work in progress.

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Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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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Bruce Gerencser