Menu Close

Tag: Atheism

Words Matter

words

When you say homosexuality is an abomination . . . you are saying your gay son and neighbor are abominable.

When you say all non-Christians will go to Hell when they die . . . you are saying your non-Christian mother, son, and neighbor will be tortured by God in the flames of the Hell for eternity.

When you say abortion is evil, sick, and murder . . . you are saying those who are pro-choice are evil, sick murderers.

When you say Christians are idiots . . . you are saying your Christian mother and grandfather are idiots.

When you say people on welfare are lazy, good for nothing bums . . . you are saying your out-of-work cousin with cancer is a lazy, good for nothing bum.

When you say atheism is immoral . . . you are saying that your atheist daughter and cousin are immoral.

You can’t divorce your words from their implications.

Words matter.

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 email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Quote of the Day: Listening to Those Who Have Left the Faith by Rick Pidcock

rick pidcock

One of the ways evangelicals have processed a growing awareness of religious abuse has been through starting conferences. The Exiles in Babylon Conference offered many helpful insights to racial trauma but continued to advance narratives that have caused sexual trauma in the church. The Restore 2022 Conference brought complementarians like Karen Swallow Prior and egalitarians like Scot McKnight together to discuss topics such as where God is during abuse, healing from religious trauma, and how churches enable abuse. Their goal was to address these issues within the framework of “restoring faith in God and the church.”

….

But too often with these conferences, there are underlying theological assumptions that fuel power dynamics that do not get questioned to the degree that they should. And when your stated goal is to restore faith in the church, you have theological territory to protect and are invested in a certain outcome that people who have been traumatized by the church may not be ready for or interested in.

Many people are having enough and deciding to leave evangelical churches while mourning the loss of their communities and hoping to discover a healthier experience of Christianity.

But many are leaving Christianity altogether.

Because conservative evangelical media outlets such as The Gospel Coalition continue to bloviate about those who are either deconstructing or deconverting, one has to wonder: Are conservative evangelicals at all willing to sit quietly and listen to those who have left?

And are progressive evangelicals any healthier at silent listening?

Imagine a space for processing such religion-fueled trauma that is led by formerly religious people for formerly religious people. Would it be possible for religious people to sit in silence and learn from atheists and agnostics about how their religion has caused deep trauma, consider how the formerly religious are healing, and learn from their insights in order to heal themselves?

Or must Christians always be leading and talking?

….

Theology by definition is concerned about the ultimate questions in life: questions about whether there is a God, why there is something rather than nothing, the purpose of life, our relationship with ourselves and everyone around us, and what happens after death.

As children, we long for the love and affirmation of our parents. And yet, we’re afraid of how big the world is and how insufficient our understanding of it feels.

In some ways, we’re asking, “Are we OK? And are we safe?”

….

[Janice] Selbie told BNG: “People embrace religions because they were born into them or turned to them during times of transition and vulnerability. Religion promises certainty, security, order and community. People remain religious for those very reasons, as well as fear of hell.”

For the formerly religious to walk away from their certainty, security, order and community can be one of the most vulnerable decisions anyone ever makes. “Divorcing religion means loss of family, community, support and identity. It is too hard for many even to consider,” Selbie said.

To walk away from the certainty of heaven is to embrace the possibility of hell. To walk away from the theology of your family is to embrace the disapproval that you spent years trying to avoid. To walk away from the support of your church community is to embrace the possibility of nobody being there for you when you face a life-threatening illness or when you simply want to hang out with familiar friends.

Deconstruction and deconversion can be like Pinocchio leaving the identity-forming, punishment threatening world of Pleasure Island and moving toward Monstro the whale — the ultimate danger everyone around you fears — for the sake of being present with who you’re learning to love, namely yourself and your neighbors.

But abusive theology preys on our mental, social, spiritual and sexual longings and infuses within us an identity that we’re fundamentally a problem and that we’re forever going to be punished.

Darrel Ray, founder and president of Recovering From Religion, explained during his session, “It’s like you can’t utter the word ‘sex’ without the word ‘sin’ coming out within the same sentence in almost any religious environment, especially if it’s conservative or fundamentalist. … The ideology itself plays a role in the trauma you experience.”

Of course, many kinder, gentler evangelicals might object, thinking that somehow you can hold to theologies that form negative self-identities and that celebrate justice through violence without being abusive, or suggesting that Christians are much kinder than in centuries past. To that defense, Ray asserts: “We may not be lopping people’s heads off. But I’m telling you, I’ve met plenty of Baptists who have been traumatized by the ideology of their Baptist faith and their church because there’s nowhere for a child to escape if they’re in that church and they’re constantly being told the outside is dangerous.”

In a recent podcast episode, author and former megachurch pastor Rob Bell said: “The water, if you’re a fish, is so difficult to see. The reason it’s so difficult to see is because everyone around you is swimming in it. There’s no observance of it because it’s the thing everybody’s immersed in. It’s too close to see.”

Formerly religious people have had the experience of swimming in the water that religious people exist in, yet currently have the perspective from standing on the beach.

According to [Janice] Selbie, it is not merely enough for Christians to redefine the water they’re swimming in to a more progressive understanding. She believes true perspective and the fullest healing comes when people leave the water altogether.

“I think even progressive Christians are still ‘drinking the Kool-Aid.’ I don’t typically invite still-religious people to speak at CORT because I think continued affiliation with the Bible is unhealthy when it comes to the LGBTQ community, safety of children and women’s rights.”

Progressive Christians tend to object. “In public and private, I receive angry input from ‘progressive’ Christians for not inviting them to speak at CORT. I won’t risk further traumatizing attendees by doing so, although I do still have Christian family. I do not think it’s possible for evangelicals or other religiously entrenched people to be trauma sensitive with regard to religious trauma, although they vehemently disagree.”

While Selbie would admit that not even all her conference speakers would agree with her belief in the necessity of leaving the water altogether, her assertion that religion encourages “fantasy over reality and often creates massive division (in family and nation) and trauma (individual and collective)” has been demonstrably true.

Atheists and agnostics who spend significant time invested in the church are especially positioned to bring clarity to how theology fosters abuse because they know the theology, they’ve experienced the power dynamics involved, and because they are free to question every facet of Christian theology and power.

— Rick Pidcock, Baptist News Global, What I Learned Listening to Others Who Have Left the Faith, May 25, 2022

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 email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

What Possible Motive Would I Have for Falsely Claiming to be an Atheist?

easy believism

On occasion, an Evangelical commenter will suggest that deep down in my heart of hearts I KNOW that I am still a Christian; that my claiming to be an agnostic/atheist is a ruse or some sort of misdirection meant to lead people away from finding out the truth about what and who I really am. Such a conclusion is derived from reading my writing through blood-of-Jesus-colored glasses, seeing faith where there is none. Several years ago, one commenter even went so far as to suggest that my capitalization of words such as Bible, Heaven, and Hell, was proof that I am, despite my protestations, still a Christian. Taking this approach, of course, allows once-saved-always-saved Baptists to square my past with the present. Once saved by the miracle-working power of Jesus, no matter what I say or do, I cannot be separated from the love of God. No matter how hard I try to divorce myself from God or run from his presence, I remain eternally married to Jesus. Jesus is the epitome of the abusive husband in a no-divorce state. The only way to be free of Jesus is to kill him. I wonder . . . is it possible to kill Jesus twice? 🙂

Most thinking people will recognize that the aforementioned argument is absurd and makes a mockery of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Salvation is reduced to intellectual assent to a set of propositional facts about the nature of God, the human condition, the need of redemption, the threat of judgment, and the promise of eternal life. If someone, as I did when a fifteen-year-old boy, sincerely believes these facts, then he or she is instantly and eternally saved. After being instantaneously saved, it matters not how the saved sinner lives. He SHOULD desire to live right. Indwelt by the Holy Spirit, those born from above SHOULD desire to attend church, pray, read the Bible, and follow the commands and precepts of God. But if they don’t, they are still saved, no matter what! In other words, a Christian could renounce Jesus, reject the teachings of the Bible, embrace atheism, and live a life of debauchery; it matters not, he is still saved. Supposedly, such a life would bring God’s judgment and chastisement, but if it doesn’t, the Christian is still saved. Several Christians have suggested my health problems are God’s chastisement of me for my rebellion against him. The problem with this line of argument is that my health problems started years and decades before I divorced myself my Jesus. What was God up to then?

If I am still, way down in the depths of my imaginary soul, a Christian, why would I claim to be an agnostic/atheist now? Point to one good thing that comes from me professing to be an atheist. I live in rural Northwest Ohio. The Evangelical Jesus is on public display everywhere I look. In the Williams/Defiance/Fulton/Henry County area, three hundred churches dot the landscape. Almost all of them skew to the right theologically and politically. I am not only an atheist, I am also a pacifist and a Democratic Socialist. I am everything most people in the quad-county area are not. Being an outspoken atheist has resulted in social ostracization. While I have in recent years tried to pick my battles more carefully, I am still labeled by Christian zealots as an immoral tool of Satan. I continue to despise the preferential treatment given to Christianity and I deplore attempts to promote theocratic thinking and scientific ignorance. I have concluded that locals can live with my godlessness as long as I don’t shove it in their faces. Of course, there is this little problem called The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser. Anyone who bothers to do a search on my name — I am the only Bruce Gerencser in the world — will quickly find out my views about God, Christianity, the Bible, Evangelicalism, Trump, right-wing politics, asphalt auto racing, and the designated hitter. I am not hiding my lack of belief as much as I am being more careful in choosing when, where, and how I want to take a stand against God and his anointed ones.

eternal security

It seems to me that it would an easier path for me if I said I was a Christian and lived as most local Christians do — as practical atheists, espousing a cultural Christianity that is trotted out for holidays, weddings, funerals, and periodic outbursts of self-righteousness over perceived secular attacks on the baby Jesus. I would, in effect, live as if God doesn’t exist. Such living is hypocrisy at its best — saying one is a Christian, yet living as if God is a myth. Surely, if people say they are Christians, shouldn’t they make a good faith effort to live according to teachings of the Bible? Shouldn’t their lives reflect their beliefs?

I can’t think of one rational reason for me to still be a Christian, yet claim to be an atheist. Being a Christian, even in name only, is a path of ease, one that requires nothing from me. Atheism, on the other hand, brings social and cultural criticism, ostracism, and attack. I do my best to be an example of a good atheist, someone who lives according to the humanistic ideal. I try to let my good works show the kind of man, husband, father, and grandfather I am. I want local Christians to know that people can be unbelievers and still live moral and ethical lives. Most of all, I want my life to be a glaring contradiction when how I live is compared to presuppositions and stereotypes about atheists. A Christianity worth having is evidenced not by beliefs, but by how a follower of Jesus lives. So it is with atheists. How we live our day-to-day lives is vitally important. People are watching us, trying to figure out what kind of people we really are. I want to be the best atheist in town, one who loves his fellow man and, when needed, lends his care and support to those in need. Surely, atheists and Christians alike should desire what is best not only for their progeny, but also for their friends and neighbors.

If you can come up with a reason for someone to still be a Christian, yet claim to be an atheist, please share it in the comment section below.

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 email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

I’m a Satanic, Gay, Atheist, Former Pastor

peanut gallery

Last Fall, Vice News came to our home here in Ney, Ohio, to interview me for a video titled QAnon Conspiracies Are Tearing Through Evangelical America. So far, the video has been viewed 1,500,000 times.

Video Link

As one might expect, the comments, 11,000+, have been quite entertaining. Evangelicals have attacked me in every way possible. (And there have been a number of complementary, supportive comments too.) I knew this would happen. After all, the video exposed Trumpist Pastor Greg Locke as a nutjob and conspiracy theorist. YouTube comments can be vicious. Jesus’ followers seem to set their Lord’s commandments aside when commenting on social media. That’s why they find Locke so appealing. He’s a vicious, nasty, violent liar. Personally, I find their comments quite entertaining (and sad), reminders of what lies in the heart of many Evangelicals.

Recently, a man (maybe a woman) left the following comment:

satanist gay atheist

I am a former pastor who is a Satanic, gay atheist. 🙂

I AM a former pastor, and I am an atheist, but gay and Satanic? I am an atheist, so not only don’t I believe God exists, I don’t believe Satan/demons exist either. As far as being gay? Evidently, my rainbow-colored suspenders are a sure sign I’m g-a-y. 🙂 (I do occasionally wear them because I know they irritate the Hell out of Evangelicals. Other times, I wear them to show my support for the LGBTQ community. And, quite frankly, I like these suspenders. I have thirteen pairs of Perry Suspenders. I am a fashionista.) 🙂

Calling me “gay” is meant to be a slur, a way to personally attack me. Juvenile behavior by middle school boys who think it’s okay to call people fags, queers, or pussies. When, oh when, will God’s chosen ones grow up?

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 email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Four Major Reasons People Leave Christianity and Become Atheists

bible made me an atheist

According to Wintery Knight, an Evangelical blogger and apologist, there are four major reasons people leave Christianity and become atheists:

They want to do something immoral with impunity. This type of person wants to do something immoral that is forbidden by Christianity, like pre-marital sex or getting drunk in clubs with friends. They dump Christianity in order to have freedom to seek happiness in this life.

They want to make decisions based on their emotions, rather than wisdom. This type of person thinks that God’s job is to save them when they act irresponsibly. When God disappoints them by not make their recklessness “work out”, they leave the faith.

They want to be loved by people, not by God. This type of person thinks that Christianity is a tool that they can use to become popular. When they first try to articulate the gospel in public, they find that people don’t like them as much, and they feel bad about offending people with exclusive truth claims that they cannot back up using logic and evidence. So, they water down Christianity to get along with non-Christians. Finally, they jettison Christianity completely. This happens to a lot of young Christians the moment they hit college/university.

They don’t want to learn to defend their faith. This type of person is asked questions by skeptics that they cannot answer. Usually, this happens when people go to university after growing up in the shelter of the Church. The questions and peer pressure make them feel stupid. Rather than investigate Christianity to see if it’s true, they drop it, so they can be thought of as part of the “smart” crowd.

Sigh (please see Why I Use the Word “Sigh”).

Let’s see, I have been married for forty-three years and I’ve never fucked anyone but my wife. I have no “secret” desires to sin. In fact, I suspect my godless life is quite Christian. Outside of my use of swear words, my TV viewing habits, and my love of whiskey, I am as moral and ethical as any Christian (not a very high standard, to be sure). Does Wintery Knight really want to get in a dick measuring contest to see who is more moral and ethical? (Please see the Black Collar Crime Series.) Wintery Knight thinks that Evangelicals-turned-atheists wanted to fuck with impunity (remember, it’s always about sex for Evangelicals) and that’s why they deconverted. Is that how it was for you? We can only wish, right? 🙂

Wintery Knight says Evangelicals-turned-atheists made decisions based on emotion, and when these decisions didn’t work out, they blamed God and deconverted. Was that the case for any of you? And let me be clear, all decisions are emotion-based. Humans are emotional creatures. “Wisdom” is a word used by Evangelicals to describe “thinking as God thinks” or “making decisions according to the Bible.” Atheists understand that we make the choices we do because we want to. Sometimes these decisions work out, sometimes they don’t. That’s life. I am almost sixty-five years old. I have made thousands of decisions in my lifetime. Good, bad, and indifferent. Unlike my wife, Polly, I have little problem making decisions. I spent most of my life working management-level jobs. Decision-making was expected of me. I have made some colossal mistakes over the years. Just ask Polly. 🙂 At no time as a Christian did I ever blame God when things didn’t turn out as I expected. (I asked WHERE was God in the post Dear Jesus, but I never blamed God for anything. I was a Calvinist, after all. Everything in my life was decreed by God, including my deconversion.) 🙂

Wintery Knight thinks Evangelicals-turned-atheists viewed Christianity as a way to become popular. Really? I mean, really? Does this remotely resemble your experience? Wintery Knight goes on to apply the slippery slope argument to Evangelicals-turned-atheists. We tried “to articulate the gospel in public,” found out [unsaved] people didn’t like us as much [duh, who likes someone who (unsolicited) interjects religion and politics in social settings?], and felt bad about offending people. So, we watered down Christianity to get along with unbelievers, and finally we “jettison [ed] Christianity completely.” I don’t know of one Evangelical-turned-atheist who would say Wintery Knight’s claim is true.

And finally, Wintery Knight says that Evangelicals-turned-atheists didn’t want to learn how to defend the faith; that they felt stupid when asked questions by unbelievers; so they deconverted so they could be considered part of the “smart crowd.”

Evidently, Wintery Knight hasn’t talked to many, if any, Evangelicals-turned-atheists. Most of the former Christians who read this blog are actually quite conversant in all things Christianity. They read and studied the Bible for years. In my case, I read the Bible from cover to cover numerous times. I spent thousands and thousands of hours reading and studying the Bible — roughly twenty hours a week. All told, I preached 4,000 sermons. I can safely say that I know the Bible inside and out. And I can say the same for the ex-Evangelical pastors, evangelists, missionaries, youth directors, worship leaders, college professors, and deacons, to name a few, who frequent this site. We left Christianity with full knowledge and eyes wide open.

Go read the full text of Wintery Knight’s screed on his site. His attempt to take down Dan Barker, a former Evangelical pastor and co-president of the Freedom of Religion Foundation, is a hoot.

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 email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Bruce Gerencser