Tag Archive: Atheism

Why I Hate Religion, a Guest Post by Michael Alioto

guest-post

Guest Post by Michael Alioto

Debunking religion has been a theme in many of my Facebook posts. My opinion is best summed up by the expression “religion poisons everything” (Christopher Hitchens). I’m not just talking Christianity…but ALL RELIGIONS that are based on unprovable, improbable, mythological, invisible, supernatural, omniscient beings and their cryptically written laws on how to behave and how to worship. Everyone who has settled on one of the monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Muslim) or on one of their off shoots (Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science) are all “atheists” to every other god except their own. The difference between them and people like me is I go one god further. They are atheistic against Ba’al, Zeus, Thor, Horace, and every other god that has come before. Why? It isn’t for lack of proof (even though there isn’t any). It is blind faith in a book, the Christian Bible. There is little proof that the things in that book happened. Science looks for clues for the worldwide flood, the Exodus, creation and other stories in the Bible, but they are nowhere to be found. The “evidence” that has been presented to the scientific community has been disproven or debunked. All the Ron Wyatt discoveries, the Ray Comfort theories, the “Ark has been found” stories, and Ken Ham “scientific proof” for 6 day creation a 6000 year old universe have been thoroughly debunked. The evidence does not support these accounts.

I don’t understand how a majority of people in the United States and others around the world still believe that Creation, Adam and Eve, the fall of man from a mythical garden (complete with talking snake), Noah and the Ark, Moses and the Exodus, the 10 Commandments, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Daniel, Sampson, Jonah and the whale, etc. are all stories that should be taken literally, from a book with a very sketchy history on how and why it was put together, and written by ignorant authors whose authenticity is in serious question. As a result of people taking the Bible literally, we have had wars, witch-hunts, mass killings, and terrible discrimination of all kinds. Not only that, but we have brain-dead adults with little knowledge about science, home-schooling another generation of young people in a “creation-based” curriculum laughably called “creation science.” We have kids in Sunday School classes being told that science is wrong and the Bible is the only source for knowledge and fact. This retards our growth as a nation and as a species. It has infected our politics to the degree that if you don’t claim to believe in God, in particular the Christian God, you are branded as evil and unelectable. Even someone like Donald Trump, who you know isn’t a “practicing” Christian, says he believes in God and will protect Christianity. Saying these things will gain him votes from Christians. It’ doesn’t matter that he’s a nutcase. He says he “believes” and that’s good enough for them.

But besides all this, there is a deeply personal reason why I hate religion (in particular Christianity). One that I recently became aware of and I would like to share it with you.

As a lot of you know, I was raised in a very religious home. I was  part of three separate Christian denominations in my lifetime, as was the rest of my immediate family (with the exception of my brother who is 15 years younger than I am).  From birth to the age of seven, I was raised Catholic. From ages seven to ten, our family was involved in a non-denominational “Evangelical Free” church with no alliances to any “parent” hierarchy of church governing, administrations or main offices. From ages ten to eighteen, my family went to an Assemblies of God (A/G) church. The rest of my immediate family still attends this church.

At the end of 2014, the A/G had 12,849 churches in the United States with over three million members. Worldwide there are 372,923 churches with close to 62 million members. They even have them broken down by age of child membership. In 2014, out of the three million members in the US, the child membership of the American A/G churches were:

  • 0-5: 323,321
  • 6-12: 406,248
  • 13-17: 275,871

This means that 1,005,440 of the 3 million members (one third) in the U.S. are children. Three million is almost 1% of the population in the US. This is just one denomination out of the 32,000 denominations of Christianity. I mention these statistics to let you know the scope of this one denomination and one interpretation of the Bible. Imagine 32,000 denominations.

My deconversion from Christianity started in Bible college (when I was 17) and ended when I was 21. At 21 years  of age, I didn’t know what I believed, but I did know that based on its own doctrine, its own writings, and the lack of substance in its claims, the biblical God and Christianity WAS NOT what it claims to be.

Between the ages of 21 and 38, I put “seeking the truth” in the back of my mind. During this time, I was busy dating my future wife, getting married, having a daughter, getting divorced, changing career directions, getting reintroduced into the dating scene. At age 38, I met a woman named Melody, who totally changed everything in my life. She was a “spiritual” girl, but not a Christian. She was Wiccan. She died of cancer when I was 42.

About 6 months after Melody died, my sister and I were having a conversation in her dining room. We were talking about religion, Jesus, and the afterlife. My sister started crying, and said to me, “Michael, if you die, I am afraid I will never see you again.” I hugged her and started crying as well. I told her that she was right, that she would never “see me” again, but the reason wasn’t because of what she feared.

She obviously was referring to me going to Hell after I die because I don’t believe in Jesus, God, or the Bible. You see, I know this conversation. I know this line of thought and reasoning. I remember being indoctrinated into this belief at a young age with all the devil, and sinning, and the “Hell to fear and Heaven to gain” mentality that was drilled into my head with the expectation that I would accept it at face value. We were in church every time the doors were open. Sundays were damn near an all-day event. Two services and Sunday School on Sunday morning, Sunday evening service, Tuesday night Awana Club, Wednesday night prayer meeting, Thursday Youth group, Choir practice, not to mention youth retreats, religious camping trips, and other youth group related activities. So I knew exactly where my sister’s fear and anguish was coming from.

At first I felt bad. Those of you who know me know that my family means the world to me. I blamed myself and felt bad for causing my sister harm. I know that it also pains my mother to see me rejecting her religious beliefs. I mean, how bad is that: knowing my sister, mother, and the rest of my siblings, nieces and nephews are all thinking that I will be tortured and tormented for all of eternity? I also know that nothing short of me rejecting my rational thoughts and going back to my blind faith, religious beliefs and roots will help the situation. There is no faking this in my family. Going to church will not rectify the situation. Only a total 180 degree turnaround from my present way of thinking will suffice.

After I thought about this for a bit, my feelings of guilt and anguish from that day turned to anger. I am angry at religion! I am angry at the stupidity of our species which has been led down this path many times before in the history of our existence. We got rid of all those gods that we believed in prior to the most current gods (yes…plural). We still believe in those myths: (virgin birth, blood sacrifice, resurrection from the dead, ascension into heaven) that were attributed to the prior gods, We have just changed the names of the deities. I can’t believe people who, for the most part are rational and smart, suddenly are brain-dead when it comes to this particular area of their lives.

I’m also angry that these teachings are infecting children and teenagers. I am thankful to see that non-religious people: Nones/Atheists/Non-believers,  are increasing in number. At the end of 2014, nearly 22% of the United States population identified themselves as not affiliated with any religion and 15% say they are agnostic or atheist. The 7% who are non-affiliated with any religion, but don’t self-identify as an atheist, basically think there might be some sort of universal force, or want to believe there is something else. They do not think the “bible” is true. In fact, they don’t know the nature of god and are just speculating.

One thing I was very adamant about was that I did not want my family to proselytize my daughter. What I mean to say is that, when we go to my family’s house for holidays and such, they don’t have to stop saying grace at meals or discussing the religious event that they happen to be celebrating (Christmas, Easter, etc.). I just  don’t want them witnessing to her. I don’t want them to try to tell her what they think God thinks, or that she is a sinner worthy of being tossed into Hell unless she believes in God. When my daughter was younger, my mother tried that a couple of times. But I was in the room when that started and I stopped it. Now that she is 18 and knows better; she can defend and explain her stand on religion all by herself. She knows there is no possible way that Creationism or the Noah story is true. She received straight A’s in science and history. She understands evolution, the formation of the earth, moon, and solar system. I have taught her to look at everything logically and rationally. We frequently talk about science and religion, and how ridiculous it is that people believe something that has no proof at all, and take it as fact. She does not understand how I could have believed in that. By the time I was 18, I was just starting to deprogram myself from this part of my upbringing. She will never know that pain, or know the guilt trip that religion brings, or the rejection of well-established, scientific facts and good sense that blind faith requires. She will never have an identity crisis or a crisis of faith when it comes to this topic. She has been spared all that. It pleases me that I have broken that cycle with my daughter, and hopefully, if she has children, she will pass that on to them.

So that is why I hate religion. This is also why I wage war on religion. Until Christianity comes up with a provable story, I will not believe. I will not stop warring until I die. My daughter also might continue it, but since she didn’t experience the stuff I did, and it is not a fight she feels as passionately about as I do. If there was some credible evidence, the scientific community would be flabbergasted. But there isn’t any. Christians will say that the scientific community hides these claims so that they never see the light of day. That is not so, and those who say this show their ignorance concerning the scientific method, their own laziness in researching these issues, and their fear that everything they believe about God and religion is wrong.

Local Christian Continues Attack On Bruce Gerencser, the Ney Atheist

angry man

How Dare the Ney Atheist Attack Our God

My letters to the editor of the Defiance Crescent-News often result in local Christians venting their spleen in my direction. I have no doubt that my recent letter about creationism will agitate the faithful, resulting in a new spate of letters denouncing evolution and atheism. Sometimes, letter writers make things personal. For example, here is a comment left by a local resident on the Crescent-News website:

crescent-news comment

Text:

Only problem that you have Gerencser is that you have yet to prove evolution is fact or disprove that there is a deity. So you really dont know any more then anyone else.. And isnt it so strange that you claim to be a minister from a diploma mill in Washington state and yet this is how you respond? Hows that working out for you since Ohio does not recognize this diploma mill? Hope you have not tried to marry anyone as the JAG of Ohio would not look too pleased if you did. Anonymous3371

I have a good idea who this asshole is, but since I don’t know for sure, I will refrain from attaching their name to this comment.  If you would like to read other Christian responses to my letters to the editor, please check out the new Local Response Page. This page is currently 12,000 words long. I will continue to add to it anytime there is a letter to the editor that mentions me by name. You can find all of my letters to the editor here.

Now, about the scurrilous allegations in the aforementioned comment.

On July 7, 2013, a local Fundamentalist Christian by the name of Daniel Gray wrote:

Bruce Gerencser should use facts in his letters. His latest rant is so full of errors as to make his point completely obtuse. Here are a few examples…

…The fact that Gerencser can marry anyone is laughable. He received his claimed ministerial credentials by professing a faith in a deity and swearing to follow that religions teachings. So unless he does so, then his authority to marry anyone under the same is null and void. Anyone he marries could actually find that they are not and never have been married. And last, the only way to change our Constitution is by a constitutional amendment…

…History and facts yet again destroy the views of Gerencser. He should be used to that by now.

Here’s my response to Gray:

This letter is my brief response to Daniel Gray’s recent letter to the editor.

Gray continues to paint me as a liar, a deceiver, immoral, and an all-round bad person. Gray does not know me personally, so I am not sure how he comes to the conclusions he does about me. I have never made one of my letters personal, yet Daniel Gray and a few other letter writers think it is okay to attack my character and suggest that I am not a good person.

As a public figure, I know I must endure such attacks, but I wish my critics would focus on the issues rather than the person. If they would like to have a public discussion on these issues, I am quite willing to participate in any public forum they put together.

On July 21, 2013, I wrote another letter to the Defiance Crescent-News stating:

For the third time Gray suggests that I am not legally able to marry people and that anyone married by me is in danger of having their marriage invalidated. Gray seems to not understand the legal requirements for being licensed to marry people in Ohio. I meet all the statutory requirements and I am duly licensed to marry people in Ohio. Anyone can verify this by doing a ministerial license search on the Ohio Secretary of state’s website.

On August 25 , 2013, fellow shit stirrer Willy Pack, came to my defense:

…Our secular government guarantees all of its citizens freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Fundamentalists, however, have made many clumsy attempts aimed at silencing Mr. Gerencser through intimidation and denigration.

Can anyone doubt that if they had the power of past ages, they would summon him before the court of the Inquisition? They all seem to be vying for the position of head inquisitor. What would be his crime other than not sharing their beliefs and daring to say so publicly? Are they really that intolerant of others’ beliefs or just afraid their beliefs cannot stand up to a little scrutiny?

With all of the different religions, denominations and sects on this planet, one thing is for certain: We are all going to hell according to somebody’s religion.

Once again, let me provide proof of my ordination and my legal right to perform weddings in the state of Ohio:

baptist ordination1983

Bruce Gerencser Ordination, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Buckeye Lake, Ohio April 2, 1983

Bruce Gerencser, Ohio License to Marry, May 2,1983

Bruce Gerencser, Ohio License to Marry, May 2,1983

universal life ordination

Bruce Gerencser, Universal Life Ordination, March 15, 2011

ohio license to marry 2

Bruce Gerencser, Ohio License to Marry, March 22, 2011

And here’s the final proof, straight from the Ohio Secretary of State’s Minister Licensing database:

ministerial license as of january 2015

Bruce Gerencser, Ohio Secretary of State Minister Licensing Database

I originally publicly posted these credentials in a January 23, 2015 post titled, Bruce Gerencser, The Ney, Ohio Atheist. Since this post, I have added ANOTHER ordination:

dudeism

Bruce Gerencser, Church of the Latter-Day Dude Ordination, November 28, 2015

The charge that I have a degree from a Washington state diploma mill is absurd. I attended Midwestern Baptist College from 1976-1979. I was an average student who worked a full-time job, attended church three times a week, ran a bus route, and preached at a drug rehab center while attending college. Need proof?

midwestern Baptist college transcript

Midwestern Baptist College Transcript for Bruce Gerencser 1976-1979

What’s next? Proof that I am circumcised? Proof that I am married, have six children, and eleven grandchildren?  Sadly, some local Christians have no shame. They are quite willing to smear me in public if it means it will make me look bad or cause others to question my credibility.

To Daniel Gray, Anonymous3371, and anyone else who seems to be obsessed with lying about me? I will let Mikey Wilson speak for me:

boy giving middle finger

The Preacher Boy  and the Pastor’s Daughter

bruce and polly gerencser 1978

It seems like yesterday…

The early days of fall have arrived and the young preacher boy busily loads his possessions into a dilapidated, dented Plymouth. It’s time for me to go, he says to his Mom. I wonder what she thinks, her oldest son headed off to college, the first in their family to do so. They embrace, a rare expression of emotion,  and the preacher boy quickly turns away, not wanting her to see the tears running down his face.

Soon the preacher boy is headed north and then east of Bryan. Several hours later he arrives in Pontiac, Michigan, the community he will call home for the next few years.  Midwestern Baptist College, A Character Building Institution, says the sign along Golf Drive. The preacher boy had planned to attend Prairie Bible Institute, but God had other plans for him.

The preacher boy parks his car in front of the dormitory, John R. Rice Hall, and quickly unloads his meager possessions. Tall and lean, the red-headed preacher boy, wearing a blue shirt with the number 75 and the name Rev. on the back, moves his possessions into room 207. The dormitory has two floors and a basement, with wings on either side of a common meeting room. The top floor houses the women. The first floor has two wings, one to each side of the meeting room. Students call one wing the Spiritual Wing, the other the Party Wing. The basement, for obvious reasons,  is called The Pit.

The preacher boy lives on the Party Wing. There, he soon meets like-minded young men, filled with God, life, and recklessness. The preacher boy settles into the rhythm of dorm life at a fundamentalist college. Rules, lots of rules, and just as many ways to bend the rules to fit the desires of a youthful heart. The preacher boy would live in the dorm for two years, and in that time he would repeatedly run afoul of the rules. Told he is brash and rebellious, a fitting description, those who know him would say, the preacher boy does his best to outwardly conform to the letter of the law.

The blue shirt the preacher boy wore when he arrived at the college was given to him by a girl who hoped he would remember her while he was away. Not long after, the shirt disappeared, as did any thought of its giver. If there is one thing that the preacher boy loves almost as much as God, it is girls. And here he is, enrolled at a college that will provide him ample opportunity to ply his charm. Little does he know that fate has a different plan.

The week before the official start of classes, a young, beautiful 17-year-old girl from Newark, Ohio moves into the dorm. The preacher boy mentions the girl to his roommate. Stay away from her, the roommate replies. Her father is Pastor Lee Shope. Unfazed by the stern warning, the preacher boy decides to introduce himself to the dark-haired beauty. He quickly learns she is quite shy. Not one to be at a loss for words, the preacher boy takes the girl’s backwardness as a challenge, one that he successfully conquers over the course of a few weeks.

Soon, all thoughts of the field fade into the beauty of the pastor’s daughter. The preacher boy quickly finds himself smitten. Come spring, he proposes and she, despite her mother’s disapproval, says yes. Having known each  other for two months short of two years, the preacher boy, now 21, and the pastor’s daughter stand before friends, family and strangers and promise to love one another until death severs their bond.

Thirty-seven years have passed since the preacher boy and the pastor’s daughter  pledged their troth. Under the proverbial bridge has flowed a shared life, one that has blessed them with a quiverfull of children and grandchildren. The grand plans of an idyllic pastorate, two children (a boy named Jason, a girl named Bethany), and a parsonage with a white picket fence, perish in the rubble of the hard work necessary to parent six children and pastor churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Twenty-five years of working in God’s vineyard have left the preacher boy and the pastor’s daughter with deep, lasting scars. They have learned what it means to do without and suffer loss. Yet, they have endured.

Stoicism now defines them. As life has poured out its cruelties and left them wondering why, the preacher boy and the pastor’s daughter continue to hold one another tight, refusing to let adversity win. When their love for God wavered and then died a death of a thousand contradictions, the preacher boy and pastor’s daughter, now aged friends and lovers, joined their hands once more and walked into the dark unknown.

The full moon sits high above his home on this cold winter’s night. The clock on the nightstand clicks as each second passes by, a reminder that life is fleeting. The preacher boy, now a 58-year-old atheist, turns his thoughts to the beautiful, dark-haired girl he met so many years ago. Who would ever have thought we would be where we are today?, he says to himself. Yet…here we are, survivors, taking each and every day as it comes, without a prayer or a God to smooth the way. He wonders what tomorrow will bring, safe in the knowledge that whatever might come their way cannot defeat the enduring love of the preacher boy and the  pastor’s daughter.

Atheists Really Believe in God But Refuse to Admit It says Pastor Nate Pickowicz

atheists dont exist

Calvinist Nate Pickowicz, pastor of Harvest Bible Church in Gilmanton, New Hampshire, recently wrote a post for the Entreating Favor blog titled The God-Fearing Atheist. Pickowicz trots out the age-old, worn-out argument that there really is no such thing as an atheist:

It has been said that there is a “God-sized hole” in every person. In other words, the human heart was designed to want and need God. It’s a kind of fingerprint that God leaves on the souls of those created in His image (Gen. 1:26-27). Here’s the rub, not every person acknowledges or believes that God exists. How then do we explain this?

In John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, he makes a case for “the knowledge of God implanted in the human mind”.1 Because it is often argued that religion is a man-made invention to subjugate the masses, Calvin points to indigenous tribes of people who are fully convinced of the existence of God. Furthermore, almost uniformly, these tribes worship blocks of wood and stones as gods rather than believe in the absence of deity. They are naturally prone to worship.

Calvin then addresses the atheist.

He writes, “The most audacious despiser of God is most easily disturbed, trembling at the sound of a falling leaf.” He’s referring to the abject fear within a person when one comes to the end of himself. We’ve all heard the recently deemed politically incorrect phrase “there are no atheists in foxholes.” This is what Calvin is talking about. Intellectually, one can deny God all day long, but placed into a situation which appeals to a person’s instincts, that “God-sized hole” becomes a gaping, aching chasm. In conclusion, Calvin writes, “If all are born and live for the express purpose of learning to know God, and if the knowledge of God, insofar as it fails to produce this effect, fleeting and vain, it is clear that all those who do not direct the whole thoughts and actions of their lives to this end fail to fulfill the law of their being.”

Did you catch that? Because we’re hard-wired to acknowledge God; if we don’t seek Him, then we violate our own nature!

According to Pickowicz, everyone is hardwired to know God exists. His proof for this claim? The Bible. He presents no empirical proof. Pickowicz, quoting the God of Calvinism, John Calvin, points to the fact that even indigenous tribes acknowledge the existence of a God. Fine, let’s run with this argument for a minute. Let’s say everyone is hardwired to acknowledge God. Why is it then that this knowledge of God is so varied? If it is the Christian God who puts it in the heart of everyone to acknowledge him why is it that so many people acknowledge the wrong God? I would think that the Christian God would make sure that everyone knew that he alone is God, yet day after day billions of people worship other Gods. Why is this?

Pickowicz needs to get his nose out of Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion and do some serious thinking about WHY people are religious and WHY they choose the God they do. Last January, I wrote a post titled Why Most Americans are Christian. In this post, I explained why most Americans, when asked if they believe in the Christian God, will answer yes:

Cultural Christianity is all about what  people say and not what they do. This is the predominant form of Christianity in America. When asked, do you believe in the Christian God? they will say Yes. It matters not how they live or even if they understand Christian doctrine. They believe and that’s all that matters.

It is this Christian world  into which every American child is born. While my wife and I can point to the various conversion experiences we had, we still would have been Christians even without the conversion experiences. Our culture was Christian, our families were Christian, everyone around us was Christian. How could we have been anything BUT Christian?

Practicing Christians have a hard time accepting this. They KNOW the place and time Jesus saved them. They KNOW when they were baptized, confirmed, dedicated, saved, or whatever term their sect uses to connote belief in the Christian God.

Why are most people in Muslim countries Muslim? Why are most people in Buddhist countries Buddhist? Simple. People generally embrace the dominant religion and practice of their culture, and so it is in America.

It is culture, and not a conversion experience, that determines a person’s religious affiliation. The conversion experiences are the eggs the Christian chicken lays. Evangelicals, in particular, have built their entire house on the foundation of each person having a conversion experience. However, looking at this from a sociological perspective, it can be seen that a culture’s dominant religion affects which religion a person embraces more than any other factor.

Only by looking at religion from a sociological perspective can we understand and explain why people believe in a particular God. People such as Pickowicz deny the value of such explanations, preferring to let their Bible do the talking. It is impossible to have a reasonable conversation with people who think such as this. For them, God has spoken, and any knowledge, be it sociological or neurological, that doesn’t affirm the Biblical narrative is rejected out of hand.

Only by looking at religion from a sociological perspective can we understand and explain why people believe in a particular God. People such as Pickowicz deny the value of such explanations, preferring to let their Bible do the talking. It is impossible to have a reasonable conversation with people who think in this manner. For them, God has spoken, and any knowledge, be it sociological or neurological, that doesn’t affirm the Biblical narrative, is rejected out of hand.

Pickowicz, like Calvin, thinks that when put in circumstances where death is a distinct and imminent possibility, atheists will abandon their godlessness and cry out to God. And evidence for this? There is none. I am sure there are stories of atheists crying out for God when dying, just as there are stories of Christians cursing God when facing death. Again, there are numerous reasons for why these things happen, but Pickowicz rejects them all, assured that all atheists KNOW there is a God and when they die they will cry out to the Christian God. (I would love to hear Pickowicz’s explanation for the fact that most people, when they die, will call out for some other God besides the Christian one.)

Christopher Hitchens, arguably one of the most notable atheists of our generation, died December 15, 2011. Detailing Hitchens’ final days, Ian McEwan of the New York Times wrote:

The place where Christopher Hitchens spent his last few weeks was hardly bookish, but he made it his own. Close to downtown Houston is the Medical Center, a cluster of high-rises like La Défense of Paris, or London’s City, a financial district of a sort, where the common currency is illness…..

….. While I was with him another celebration took place in far away London, with Stephen Fry as host in the Festival Hall to reflect on the life and times of Christopher Hitchens. We helped him out of bed and into a chair and set my laptop in front of him. Alexander delved into the Internet with special passwords to get us linked to the event. He also plugged in his own portable stereo speakers. We had the sound connection well before the vision and what we heard was astounding, and for Christopher, uplifting. It was the noise of 2,000 voices small-talking before the event. Then we had a view from the stage of the audience, packed into their rows.

They all looked so young. I would have guessed that nearly all of them would have opposed Christopher strongly over Iraq. But here they were, and in cinemas all over the country, turning out for him. Christopher grinned and raised a thin arm in salute. Close family and friends may be in the room with you, but dying is lonely, the confinement is total. He could see for himself that the life outside this small room had not forgotten him. For a moment, pace Larkin, it was by way of the Internet that the world stretched a hand toward him.

The next morning, at Christopher’s request, Alexander and I set up a desk for him under a window. We helped him and his pole with its feed-lines across the room, arranged pillows on his chair, adjusted the height of his laptop. Talking and dozing were all very well, but Christopher had only a few days to produce 3,000 words on Ian Ker’s biography of Chesterton.

Whenever people talk of Christopher’s journalism, I will always think of this moment.

Consider the mix. Constant pain, weak as a kitten, morphine dragging him down, then the tangle of Reformation theology and politics, Chesterton’s romantic, imagined England suffused with the kind of Catholicism that mediated his brush with fascism and his taste for paradox, which Christopher wanted to debunk. At intervals, Christopher’s head would droop, his eyes close, then with superhuman effort he would drag himself awake to type another line. His long memory served him well, for he didn’t have the usual books on hand for this kind of thing. When it’s available, read the review. His unworldly fluency never deserted him, his commitment was passionate, and he never deserted his trade. He was the consummate writer, the brilliant friend. In Walter Pater’s famous phrase, he burned “with this hard gem-like flame.” Right to the end.

So much for atheists leaving this world screaming for God. Hitchens entered the foxhole of mortality, knowing that thoughts of God were for those unable to face the brutality of death. Hitchens died as he lived, a man who held true to his godlessness until the end. (If you have not read Hitchens’ final book Mortality, I encourage you to do so.)

I know there is nothing I can write that will change Pickowicz’s God-addled mind. But perhaps time will. Pickowicz is a young guy who has not experienced much of life. I can only hope that he will get to know a few flesh-and-blood atheists before he dies. I hope he will have the opportunity to observe not only how atheists live but how they die. I am confident that the young preacher will find that dying atheists hold true to their convictions until the end. Unlike countless Christians when faced with death who have to be reassured of their salvation, atheists will need no such reassurance. Atheists knows that death is the end. All that remains are the memories their friends and families have of a well-lived life. And that, my friend, is enough.

Mark and Jill Herringshaw: A Prayer Against Creeping Atheism 

sex before marriage

CAD Monkey Cartoons

Recently, Mark and Jill Herringshaw wrote a post for Beliefnet titled, A Prayer Against Creeping Atheism. In the post, the Herringshaws express concern over what they see as “allocating certain areas of our lives (our sexuality in particular) to an atheistic philosophy that says, God’s not really involved in this area of my life. I’ll do it because it feels right.

According to the Herringshaws, Psalm 10:4, 6, 11, 12b aptly describes the philosophy of atheists, pantheists, and Deists:

The wicked are too proud to seek God.They seem to think that God is dead. They think, “Nothing bad will ever happen to us! We will be free of trouble forever!”The wicked think, “God isn’t watching us! He has closed his eyes and won’t even see what we do!”They think, “God will never call us to account.”

From these verses, the Herringshaws extrapolate five points:

  • God is dead.
  • There are no standards of morality.
  • Nothing and no one is holding us accountable.
  • If there is a God, he is uninvolved in our lives.
  • Nothing is bad, so, we can do whatever we please.

Like most Evangelicals, the Herringshaws have no clue as to what atheists actually think about life. Is atheism, in the strictest sense, a philosophy? Of course not. Atheism is nothing more than the lack of belief in gods. Atheists don’t think the Christian God is dead. This God was never alive to start with. To find people who think God is dead, I suggest that the Herringshaws take a careful look at Evangelicalism. From my seat in the pew, it looks to me as though there are millions of Evangelicals who believe God is dead. Look at the way many Evangelicals live their lives, indifferent to the teachings of the Bible and the lost condition of the world. Most Evangelicals rarely study the Bible. Most Evangelicals never share their faith with non-Christians. Apart from where their buttocks rest on Sunday morning, Evangelicals are, in every way, just like the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world.

Why are Evangelicals so worldly? Perhaps, they are the ones who think God is uninvolved in their lives. These world-loving Evangelicals are playing a religious version of Where is Waldo? Where is God? many Christians wonder. Their pastors and fellow church members bravely speak of a God who is intimately involved in their lives, but careful examination of their life histories tells a different story. Outside of helping Sister Bertha locate her car keys, God is nowhere to be found.

According to the Herringshaws, atheists have no standard of morality and believe that no behavior is bad. Again, it is evident that the Herringshaws don’t know much about how atheists live their day-to-day lives. Atheists, likes Evangelicals, have jobs, families, pets, cars, and homes. Our lives are quite similar to those of Evangelicals. Do the Herringshaws really think that atheists spend their days seeking out hedonistic pleasures, unaccountable to anyone but themselves? While I am sure there are atheists who live this way, most don’t.

Most of the atheists I know govern their lives based on humanistic morals and ethics. I wonder if the Herringshaws have ever read the Humanist Manifesto? If they have, they certainly wouldn’t have ignorantly suggested that atheists have no standard of morality. The Humanist Manifesto III states:

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.

This modern statement of morality and ethics is in every way superior to the ancient, outdated teachings of the Bible. This document, unlike the Bible, has been revised several times, and therein lies the real problem for the Herringshaws. They are stuck with a book that cannot be updated or revised. They are forced to defend the morals and ethics of a 2,000 year old religious text.

What is the one issue that most upsets the Herringshaws? Human sexuality (see quote in first paragraph).

According to the Herringshaws:

Many Christians are engaging in forms of pre-marital sex (with or without the literal act), conveniently assuming that the standard of righteous sexual behavior prior to marriage is ambiguous in Scripture. Ironically, they have a legalistic perspective on what the sex act is. (Depending on what the definition of “is” is?!) Well, Paul certainly hinted at it in Ephesians 5:3. Can you take a hint?

When one hints about something, there is an underlying, implied message. The New Testament isn’t dogmatic; it doesn’t necessarily list emphatic do’s and don’t’s per se. It simply instructs us to keep our consciences clear. So what does constitute sexual immorality in unmarried couples? Answer:  Whatever hints at sexual immortality. This would certainly include a lot of behaviors, particularly anything considered foreplay.

The reason for this is not to undermine our sexual fulfillment! Perish the thought! Great covenantal sex is one way in which Heaven is manifested on earth. It’s a tool to give great glory to God! It’s a weapon of spiritual warfare in our marriages, for it solidifies our marital unity.

In a post titled 50 Shades of Great, The Herringshaws remind Evangelicals that their sexuality belongs to the king of voyeurs, God:

Sex is God’s idea, and everything He created is good. We recognize the Bible as the authoritative manual for life, including sex. In this Manual, which is the Source of our existence, we find that there are boundaries around sex. These boundaries, like a safety rail, ensure that sex will be all God has designed it to be – abundant and joyful
….
Believers don’t take sex advice from best sellers nor from the media in general. We take our cues from our God who created sex in the first place (a trusting yet risky gift, as He knew how prone we would be to muck it up). And when we live by the Book, life is better, and sex is best.

It’s always been about sex. Evangelicals such as the Herringshaws are, like their God, voyeurs preoccupied with who is doing who, when, where, and how. What alarms the Herringshaws is the increasing number of Evangelicals who dare to keep God out of their sex lives. These whoopie-making Christians are increasingly ignoring the Puritanical morality they hear preached Sunday after Sunday from Evangelical pulpits. My God, these Evangelicals are having sex with whomever they please and they are having fun doing it. Can’t have that, right?

Again, is atheism to blame for the “immorality” that is spreading to every corner of the Evangelical church? Of course not. The blame rests on church leaders like the Herringshaws, who refuse to abandon the Bible’s antiquated, nonsensical teachings on sex. Times have changed. Evangelicals increasingly support same-sex marriage and fewer of them are waiting until marriage to have sex. Despite purity pledges and rings, Evangelical teenagers continue to engage in premarital sex. Like their atheist counterparts, Evangelicals increasingly know that sexual desire and intimacy are very much a part of what it means to be human. The Herringshaws need to understand that their battle against normal, healthy human sexual expression has been lost.

I Don’t Want to Die

I don’t want to die and neither do you.

Another family member died. He was 50 and suffered greatly for over 20 years.

Maybe death was a release for him, I don’t know. The preacher at his funeral said it was. All I know for sure is that he is dead and he ain’t coming back.

People say his suffering is over. They speak of him being in a better place.

He can’t speak for himself on these matters. He is dead.

Maybe he would be willing to suffer as long as that meant he could live another day.

Maybe he would choose this life, the only reality he has ever known, over a promised, never-seen, life in a better place.

All of us seem to think that we know what the dead would have wanted.

Have you ever thought about what it means to be dead?

I have.

Perhaps I am a bit morbid, too introspective for my own good.

I have had those moments in the still of the night, moments when I think of being alive one moment and dead the next.

The reality of non-existence.

In a split second, going from a living, conscious, thinking human to nothing.

I am a glass half-empty kind of person, a pessimist and a realist at heart,

Instead of focusing on all my relatives and acquaintances who have lived 70, 80 or 90 years, I focus on those who haven’t.

Dad was 47 when he died, Mom was 54.

I had several cousins who died in their early 50s.

One of my uncles, in his 30s, was murdered.

My sister-in-law died in a 2005 Memorial Day motorcycle accident, She was 43.

My best friend’s sister, a girl I went to school with in the 1960s, died in her early 50s.

I could go on and on…

These deaths are poignant reminders of my own mortality.

Even if I live to age 70, I have 11 years of life left, just short of the amount of time we have lived in our present home.

I don’t think I will live that long. Maybe I will. I certainly hope so, but my body tells me not a chance.

Despite the pain and increasing loss of mobility and cognitive function, I still want to live.

Maybe there will come a day when I won’t want to live any longer. Maybe not.

Today? I want to be counted among the living.

The truth is this: I fear death.

Death is the one experience that no human, including Jesus, has ever come back from to tell its story.

I fear the darkness and finality that death brings.

Fearing death is quite normal.

Who wants to trade a living existence for the emptiness of the grave?

Someone is sure to say, I hate my life, I wish I were dead.

Fine, kill yourself.

I thought so…

Yes, life can suck, life can be unbearable, and life can bring agony and suffering at every turn.

Yet, we still want to live.

Religion exists for the purpose of calming our fear of death.

Forget all the doctrines, religion is the antidote for the frightening reality of death.

Evangelicals Christians love to talk of being ready to die. Take me Lord Jesus when it is my time to go, they piously say.

They speak with big theological words about not fearing death because of Jesus who conquered death for them.

They speaking of their readiness to die for their faith if called on to do so.

Yet, few Christians seem to be in a hurry to die.

Christian want to live just as everyone else does. Don’t listen to their words. Watch how they live.

I find no comfort in religion, nor do I find any solace in thoughts of returning to the collective universal consciousness when I die.

All I know for sure is that dead is dead and I am not ready to become an urn of ashes scattered along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan.

As the Petra (a Christian rock group) song says, I want to live until I die.

Sacrilegious Humor: There is No God by Mitchell and Webb

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

Today’s bit is There is No God by Mitchell and Webb.

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

Video Link

Sacrilegious Humor: If Football Players Were Atheists by College Humor

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

Today’s bit is If Football Players Were Atheists by College Humor.

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

Video Link

Seven Things Evangelicals Say to Atheists and Why They Shouldn’t Say Them

 

jesus loves atheists

Seven years ago, I walked out the doors of the Ney United Methodist Church, never to return. While I still had a modicum of believe in the existence of a God, I was done with organized, institutional Christianity. Once free of the church, it was not long before I slid to the bottom of the slippery slope of unbelief.  Since then, numerous Evangelicals have attempted to win me back to Jesus or restore me to good standing with the church. Try as they might, I remain an unrepentant atheist, an apostate and enemy of Christianity.

What follows is a list of seven things that Evangelicals have said to me over the years in their attempts to get me to renew my membership with Club Jesus. I have no doubt that every Evangelical-turned-atheist has heard the same things.

I’ll Pray for You

I’ll pray for you is the number one statement Evangelicals make to those who have left the faith. According to Evangelicals, prayer can fix any problem, including turning atheists into a believers. Here’s the problem with this kind of thinking. Prayer doesn’t work. For many former Evangelicals, unanswered prayer is one the reasons they deconverted.

During the deconversion process, I made a careful accounting of past prayers and their answers. I specifically focused on answered, big-need prayers. In every case, I was able to trace the affirmative answer back to human instrumentality. While I certainly had several I can’t explain it moments, these were not enough to lead me to believe that the Christian God answered prayer.

And here’s the thing, I don’t know of one Evangelical-turned-atheist who has ever returned to Evangelicalism.  Despite all the prayers, those who leave don’t return. Wouldn’t it be a big boost for Evangelical stock if God reached down and saved Bruce Gerencser, the atheist preacher? Imagine what a splash it would make if someone such as I returned to the faith. But it doesn’t happen. Why is that? For many former Evangelicals, we deconverted because we learned that the Evangelical church is built on a faulty foundation: the inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility of the Bible. Once people  realize and accept that the Bible is not what Evangelicals say it is, they are then free to examine more carefully the central claims of Christianity. In my case, I found that Evangelical beliefs could not withstand intellectual scrutiny.

No matter what I say, Evangelicals are going to continue to pray for me. Rarely does a week go by without several Evangelicals letting me know that they are storming the throne room of God on my behalf (or praying God will kill me). Fine, by all means pray. But there is no need to let me know that you are doing so. Surely God is able to hear and answer your prayer without me knowing about it.

Have You Ever Heard the Gospel?

The short, snarky answer is, of course not! I spent 50 years in the Christian church and pastored churches for 25 years, yet I never heard the gospel one time. Amazing, isn’t it?  When Evangelicals take this approach with me, what they really want to know is whether I have heard their version of the gospel. You see, there is no such thing as THE Evangelical gospel. Evangelicals incessantly fight over whose gospel is true. Calvinists and Arminians are fighting a seven-century war over which group has the faith once delivered to the saints. The Bible says, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, yet Christians have spent 21 centuries proving God a liar. The Bible tells us that Christians will be known by their unity and love, yet these beliefs have been turned on their head by sectarians who believe that the only unity and love possible is with people who are part of their exclusive club.

When Christians ever figure out what the gospel is, I hope they will let me know. Until then, I plan to pop some popcorn and watch the comedy known as the internecine wars of Christianity. As one commenter on Facebook recently said, and I paraphrase,  Evangelicals think that their battles over right doctrine are some sort of intellectual pursuit. They are not. From the outside, all the wrangling over doctrinal minutia looks a lot like toddlers fighting over toys.

God Laid You on My Heart

Several weeks ago, a former long-time friend and colleague in the ministry contacted me, out of the blue, on Facebook. A few years back, he contacted me and told me what he thought of my deconversion and its effect on my family. Needless to say, his words were not kind, and after we traded a couple of emails he stopped writing.

Now my former friend is back. Why? God laid me on his heart. This time, he decided to approach me in a kinder, more respectful way. We traded emails that talked about our families and that was the end of that. While this man was, at one time my closest friend, we no longer have anything in common. The elephant in the room will always be my atheism and intellectual assault of Evangelical Christianity. And I get it, I really do. It is hard to maintain a friendship with someone who thinks your beliefs are intellectual rubbish.

Over the years, numerous former church members and ministerial friends have contacted me because they believed God had laid Bruce Gerencser on their hearts. Instead of wanting to catch up or talk about old times, they thought God has a personal mission for them: contact Bruce Gerencser. In most cases, their message from God is preceded by them doing a web search on my name. In others words, they wondered what I was up to, so they fired up their browser, loaded Google, typed in my name, and were then presented with pages of links for Bruce Gerencser (I am the only Bruce Gerencser in the world). Was it God who was leading them to do the search, or was it curiosity, wondering what Bruce is up to these days?

As an atheist, I don’t think God exists, so Evangelicals telling me that God laid Bruce Gerencser on their heart has no effect on me. Sometimes I want to ask Evangelicals how they KNOW God talked to them about me, but I already know all the stock answers for such a question. Evangelicals know what they know, and all the reason in the world won’t change their mind.

God is Trying to Get Your Attention

Evangelicals believe that their God, as owner of everything, is personally and intimately involved in his creation. Despite evidence to the contrary, Evangelicals believe that God is an everyday, real presence, not only in their lives, but the lives of every person, saved or lost. When Evangelicals read my story, they often focus on the health problems I have. See, Evangelicals say, God is afflicting you so he can get your attention. If I really believed this to be true, I would immediately become an Evangelical again. I would be quite willing to put time in at Club Jesus if it meant that my pain would go away.

However, when I take a careful look at the “health” of Evangelicals, I see that they are every bit as “afflicted” as the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. Well, the Evangelical says, God uses sickness to test, try, or punish Christians. Far more important than bodily health is spiritual health.

Each and every day is a struggle for me. I’ve detailed this many times over the years, so I won’t bore you with the details again. If I thought that the unrelenting pain I suffer with is God’s doing, I highly doubt knowing this would turn me into worshiper of Jesus. What kind of God hurts people so they will love and worship him? In the real world, such abusers are considered criminals, the scum of the earth. Yet, when God abuses people it is because he loves them and he has a wonderful plan for their lives. No thanks! I have no interest in worshiping such a God. I would rather burn in hell than worship a God who spends his days inflicting pain, suffering, disease, and death on not only humans, but all living things.

You’ll Go to Hell if You Don’t Accept Jesus

The more Fundamentalist the Evangelicals, the more likely they are to tell atheists and unbelievers that they will end up in Hell unless they repent of their sins and put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. In others words, God is saying that if people don’t accept his ordained way of salvation, that he plans to torture them eternally in a pit of fire and brimstone. In what other setting does such an approach work? Hello, I am your local Kirby Sweeper salesman. If you don’t buy a sweeper from me, I will burn your house to the ground. Such a psychopath would quickly be arrested and locked up. Yet, God, who is every bit as psychopathic as the Kirby salesman, is given a pass.

When Evangelicals try the Hell approach, I quickly tell them that I don’t believe in the existence of Hell; that the only hell is that which humans inflict on each other. Sometimes, toying with them, I will ask them, exactly WHERE is hell?  Most of the time, I let Evangelicals know that threatening me with Hell will not work. I am immune to being threatened into anything. I spent most of my preaching career threatening people, warning them of the suddenness of death and the surety of hell. Over the years, hundreds of people responded to my threats, embracing the wonderful, loving, psychopathic God of Christianity. I now know that such an approach mentally and emotionally harms people. Constantly being warned about impending eternal judgment often leaves a deep and lasting emotional scar. Consider me scarred.

I Know the Holy Spirit is Speaking to You

Some Evangelicals, those who are more liberal-minded and have kind hearts, read a few of my blog posts and then “discern” that the Holy Spirit is speaking to me.  Such people often have a great affinity for my critiques of the Evangelical church, In fact, some of them, not paying attention to the fact that I am an atheist, think I am a member of their club. I have received numerous emails from “fellow” brothers and sisters in Lord. When I respond and let them know that I am an atheist, they often can’t believe that I am a child of Satan. How could the Devil’s spawn ever write the way Bruce does? they think to themselves.

I happen to be quite conversant in all things Evangelical. Even though I haven’t pastored a church in over a decade, I still follow the machinations of Evangelicalism quite closely. It is a subject that interests me, and I suspect this interest shows in my writing. However, my pastime should not in any way be confused with the Holy Spirit speaking to me.

Since I don’t believe in God, telling me that third part of the Trinity is speaking to me has no value. First, how can anyone possibly KNOW that the Holy Spirit is carrying on a conversation with me in my head? Isn’t such a thing beyond the purview of even the sharpest of God’s discerners? Telling me that the Holy Spirit is speaking to me is akin to telling me that aliens from a far-away galaxy are telepathically speaking to me. The only voices in my head are mine.

Do You Want Your Children or Grandchildren to Grow Up Without Knowing God?

Ah yes, the classic do it for the kids line of thinking. Here’s the thing: now that I am closing in on 60, I have had six decades to contemplate belief in God and its effect on the human race. That’s a long time. I have spent most of my life drinking deeply at the trough of Christianity. I now know that the water in the trough was a mirage. I thought the healing waters of the Christian God imparted morality and ethics to all who would drink, but these days I’ve come to see that, while religion can play part in dispensing morality and ethics, it often, thanks to rigid dogma, proves to be an impediment to moral and ethical development.

Evangelicals, in particular, think that morality and ethics ONLY come from the Christian God. No matter how many studies prove that such a claim is not true, Evangelicals continue to hang on to the belief that their God and the Bible are the sole sources of morality. This kind of thinking has turned into the culture war. Evangelicals demand that everyone live according to their moral code. They even go as far as using the government to force others to live by their peculiar interpretations of the Bible. If only the Ten Commandments were taught in school, America would be great again, the Evangelical says. However, when unbelievers take a close look at how Evangelicals live, they quickly find out that God’s chosen ones don’t practice what they preach. If the Evangelicals are anything, they are hypocrites.

My six children are all grown. All of them have made up their own minds about God. None of them worships the Evangelical God. For the most part, my children are indifferent to religion, ALL religion. My grandchildren? I hope they never see the inside of an Evangelical church. I think Evangelical belief often causes emotional and mental damage. In some cases, such beliefs can lead to abuse or turn people into abusers. Why would I ever want my grandchildren within a light year of an Evangelical church?

If I could script the lives of my grandchildren (and I can’t) I would love for them to take a World Religion class. I know that exposing them to other religions besides Christianity will dampen or destroy any affinity they might have for Evangelicalism. Exposure to knowledge is a sure cure for Fundamentalism. The more my grandchildren learn about religion (and humanism and atheism), the less likely they are to follow down the same pernicious path Nana and Grandpa followed decades ago. If they still decide to embrace some sort of religion, I hope they will embrace practices that affirm their self-worth and cause them to love others. Such values cannot be found in an Evangelical church because they are always secondary to right belief and rigid obedience.

As I watch my grandchildren grow up, I can’t help but see how different they are from their parents (and this is due to their parents allowing them wander down paths they were never allowed to go). I revel in their thirst for knowledge, knowing that satisfying this thirst will inoculate them from being infected by the mind-killing disease of religious Fundamentalism. Perhaps, in their generation the curse will finally be broken. While Polly’s parents lament what my (our) unbelief is doing to my children and grandchildren, I see things differently. I now know that intellectual and personal freedom lead to a life filled with meaning and purpose. Most all of all, I want those who bear my name to live lives filled with happiness. Shouldn’t that be our hope for everyone?

Know-it-all Christians

know it all

If there is one thing that eight years of blogging has taught me, it is that many Evangelicals are know-it-alls. Armed with a perfect Bible and indwelt by the Holy Spirit, these super-saints have life figured out. They KNOW they are right and they KNOW I am wrong. And based on having the ability to discern the thoughts and motivations of others, they stand in judgment over those who have left the Christian faith.

Take Britta, a local pastor’s daughter. Several years ago, Britta stopped by and left a comment that revealed she knew exactly what was wrong with Bruce Gerencser, the pastor-turned-atheist. What follows is her comment and my response (indented and italicized):

All grammar and spelling errors in the original.

Hi Bruce – I think I see how you ended up here. I’ve not read all of your posts, but it seems that your path is similar to a lot of folks: entrenched in some legalistic sect (borderline cults, really), then fleeing from that absurd burden you are comforted by those espousing that “the well is poisoned” (liberals of the old mainline groups), until finally you have to ditch it all. I can’t say I blame you too much – it’s exhausting to be tossed about on every wave.

Britta read all of about 15 posts on this site. Based on these posts, she was quickly able to discern what I was really all about. This is truly amazing, I must say. Many Christians have a magical gift of being able to pass judgment on most anybody, using the slimmest of information. Of course, this is the opposite of what the Bible teaches. Proverbs 18:13 states: He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him. A Christian should never make any judgment before hearing (reading) the whole story.

But I don’t believe that you’re an athiest. Sure, you say you don’t believe in the God of the Bible, but you do believe in a god. You. Perfectly reasonable, actually. There is no other choice. I know that know other god is going to show up and pronounce himself as such — and you know it, too, despite your protestations — and so you get to stay god of your world. Tah-dah! (Atheism is really disingenuous.)

Britta evidently thinks that there is no such thing as an atheist. All people either believe in the Christian God or they are their own God. Atheists need not apply.

No matter how many times Christians like Britta assert that there is no such thing as an atheist — here we are. And our numbers are growing. Pretending something doesn’t exist doesn’t make it so.

If by God, Britta means the person in control, then yes, I am my own God. It is my life, who else would be in control of it but me?

Christians are no different. Oh, they “say” God is in control of their lives, but they, for the most part, don’t live any differently from atheists. Are Christians morally superior to atheists? The evidence suggests they are not. Day in and day out, Christians and atheists alike live their lives the best they know how. Christians are every bit as much the “God” of their world as is the atheist (contrary to what the Bible says). Christians speak about a God who is in control of everything, but then turn around and live their lives as if this God is not in control at all (except for an occasional winning touchdown or election win).

Maybe I’m being too harsh. Perhaps, despite your own time in the pulpit, you never understood the simplicity of grace. It really is foolishness to the perishing, but life to those being saved, so here ’tis, for good measure:

Britta finally gets down to what she really thinks about my life: despite 50 years in the Christian church and 25 years in the pastorate, I never really understood the simplicity of grace.

Of course the unstated point here is that Britta understands what I do not. She proves her point by loosely quoting a Bible verse. It is all foolishness to me because I am perishing (lost, headed for hell). It is life to her because she is one of the saved (or one that is being saved).

You (and me and all of us) are not perfect. A God worth worshiping IS perfect. Perfection rightly demands perfection, and since none of us can attain perfection, God offered himself in our place to be that perfection. Nothing we do merits his gift. All we have to do is accept it — that is, bend a knee and admit that we are lost without God and his gift of grace.

Britta and I agree on one thing: none of us is perfect. However, Britta’s comment betrays an arrogance found among many Christians. While their behavior may not be perfect, they arrogantly think that their interpretation of the Bible is.

Britta asserts that God is perfect. What proof does she have for her claim? The Bible? Surely not. By examining how God reveals himself through the Bible, we humans can quickly discern that God is far from perfect.  In fact, God is quite capricious. He even changes his mind. I would think a perfect deity would get it right the first time. God fucked it up from the start. He couldn’t even get creation right.

Evidently Britta has not read the book of James. James contradicts Britta’s assertion that salvation is a free gift and that all we have to do is receive it. James says that faith without works is dead. So which is it? Faith alone? Faith plus works?

(And I should add that Britta does a poor job presenting the Christian gospel. Her presentation is incomplete, to say the least.)

It’s an easy burden — but the crank legalist won’t allow it, neither will an ersatz intellectual grasp it. I’m sorry both camps have been so hard on you. (Really, I am sorry – no snark.) It takes the Spirit of God to discern things of the spirit. I’ll pray that God will open His Word to you.

Britta betrays the true nature of much of modern Christianity. It is nothing more than good, old-fashioned Gnosticism. You see, a person can’t discern the Bible and the things of the Spirit unless the Spirit of God gives them the ability to do so. On one hand, people are told they must repent and believe the gospel, but on the other hand they are told they can’t even discern what God wants unless God gives them the ability to do so.

Britta thinks she has a special, inside track with God. She is praying that God will open up the Bible to me. What is God going to show me that I haven’t already seen?  Is there some secret message, some special code that has somehow eluded me all these years? How will I know if God opens up the Bible to me? Will I start speaking Aramaic Greek?

I wish you the best, sir…
Britta

What if “best” is where I am now? Does Britta genuinely wish me the best? Of course not. There is no “best” without Jesus (or Britta’s version of Jesus).

Next up is a comment from a young Christian named Jason. Jason commented on a post I wrote about the Bible teaching different plans of salvation. Here’s what he had to say:

I have no doubt that there are “Christians” that don’t understand a lot. Many of them, as you say, may be inclined to blindly follow. However, I don’t agree that this is true of most or any “real” Christians. Those actively reading God’s word and being involved in church groups would not follow these categories. The “Christians” you are referring to in these statements are the ones who are simply professing Christians.

Right away Jason lets me know that there are two types of Christians: professing Christians and REAL Christians. Of course, Jason is a REAL Christian. I find it interesting that every Christian who takes this approach always thinks he or she is one of the REAL Christians. Calvinists do the same. I have never met a Calvinist who didn’t say that he or she was one of the elect. Seems quite self-serving, if you ask me.

About this statement:

“Christians are confused about what salvation is. Of course this is understandable because the Bible teaches many different plans of salvation.”

I don’t quite understand what you mean by the Bible teaches many different plans of salvation. It says clearly that Jesus is the only way to God the Father in John 14:6 “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through Me’”. The Bible also explains in Romans 5:8 that Jesus did (sic) in our place and wiped our sin clean “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” It’s beyond me what other kind of “plan of salvation” could be.

Jason is perplexed by my statement that the Bible teaches many plans of salvation. I know that Jason has been “taught” that there is only one plan of salvation, but he might want to read the Good Book again.

In the Old Testament, how were people saved? By keeping the law.

In the New Testament, how were people saved? Paul said by faith. James said by faith and works. In Acts the early church concluded that certain works were required for Gentiles to be saved.

There are thousands of Christian sects. Each sect has its own take on salvation. Is it by faith alone? Is it by faith and works? Is it by baptism for the remission of sins? Must a person speak in tongues as evidence of salvation? Must a person persevere to the end to be saved?

Supposedly, the salvation message is so simple that even a child can understand it. If this is so, why is there so much confusion in Christianity over what is required for a person to be saved? If, as Britta says above, the Holy Spirit gives discernment, why is there so much confusion? Maybe the Holy Spirit needs to be relieved of his duties. Perhaps God should do away with the Bible and put out a Salvation FAQ. In the FAQ God should state very clearly his demands, using as few words as possible. Surely God wants everyone to know the simple gospel message, right? Oh wait, no he doesn’t, since he created some people so he could damn them, and he even makes some people spiritually deaf so they will not hear the gospel. What kind of God says to a deaf man, HEAR?

I understand that you, as a former pastor, may have been faced with many people that fell under the categories listed, but I reassure you that Christians, like myself, who, really in their hearts believe that Jesus is their savior and make that effort to learn more about Him, don’t really fit the description.

Jason wants me to know that he is not like other Christians. He is a sincere Christian®. He is a devoted Christian. He really, really believes in his heart and he makes an effort to know more about Jesus — not like those other “not real” Christians.

I am sure Jason means well. I have no doubt he sincerely believes. That said, my only advice to him is that he needs to read as many books as possible that challenge the version of Christianity he thinks is the “way, truth, and life.” Carefully read the Bible. Forget what you have been taught. What if Paul, Peter, and James really taught three different plans of salvation? What if there really are multiple Gods in the Old Testament? Instead of interpreting everything through a Trinitarian Protestant lens, let the Biblical author and text speak for itself.  When the Bible says “Let US make man in our image” don’t assume US means the Trinitarian Protestant God. Maybe it means multiple Gods. Polytheism can be found all over the Old Testament if readers will take off their Trinitarian blinders.

All Evangelicals thinks that their beliefs are right and that their God is the true God. All other Gods are false Gods. Their plan of salvation is the one that will assure them a room in God’s Heavenly Motel Six, and their interpretation of the Bible is, without a doubt, exactly as God meant it to be. Uncertainty and doubt are the tools of Satan, so through life they plod armed with certainty, assured that their beliefs are superior to all others.  Until they can at least entertain the possibility of being wrong, there is no hope for them.

Bruce, Do You Believe in God?

atheist and deist having sex

Written in 2010 Edited for clarity and grammar

I still get asked fairly often, Bruce, do you believe in God? Even though I self-identify as an atheist, some people doubt that I really, really, r-e-a-l-l-y believe that there is no God.

When it comes to the God question, I am agnostic. I can say with great confidence that I don’t believe any of the current deities in the human panoply of Gods is God at all. Could some sort of deity show up on the scene in the future? Sure, it is possible. Is it probable? No.

So why then do I self-identify as an atheist and not an agnostic?

First, I got tired of having to explain what I meant by the word agnostic. Saying, I am an atheist is pretty straightforward and less likely to misinterpreted.

Second, I live from day to day with no thought of whether a deity exists. I don’t do anything in my life that remotely says to someone else, Bruce believes in God (and I have met a lot of Christians who are just as atheistic as I am). Morally and ethically I do my best to live according to humanistic principles. (See The Humanist Manifesto III.)  My concern is with how I live in the here and now. I have no thoughts of Heaven (or hell), no thoughts of eternal life, and no thoughts at all about anything beyond the grave.

That said, when I look at the natural world I can certainly see how someone might adopt some form of deism. While I do not find deistic arguments intellectually satisfying, I do understand how someone might come to such a conclusion. Most of the deists I know are every bit as atheistic as I am. The difference between us is that they hope that there is some sort life beyond the grave.

Even if I grant the premise that it is possible/likely that a God of some sort created the universe, there is no plausible way for me to make the jump from this nonspecific, ambiguous God to the Christian God of the Bible. Believing that a God of some sort created everything is one thing, but believing that the Christian God of the Bible is that creator is a leap of faith I cannot take (and I wish Christians would admit that when they use the word God, it is not a generic God they are talking about).

At the end of the day, atheism and evolution offer the best explanations for what I observe in the natural world. Do they provide ALL the answers?  Of course not, but I no longer need certainty. I am quite content to live with ambiguity, and not knowing everything is a humble reminder that I am human. While I still thirst for knowledge and understanding, I know that my quest will never reach a place of certainty or infallibility.

Sin

sin can make you sickOriginally written in 2009. Edited for clarity and grammar.

Sin.

According to the Bible sin is transgression of the law.

Let the debate begin.

Which law?

Old Testament?

New Testament?

Both?

Christianity teaches that sin separates us from God.

Sin is what sent Jesus to the cross.

We are all sinners.

Born that way.

We sin because we are sinners.

Sin will ultimately land us in hell unless we trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins.

Sin is the problem and Jesus is the solution.

Our hearts are black, but Jesus can make them white through his blood that he shed on the cross.

Without sin, I wonder if Christianity would exist?

For those of us who are not Christians, sin takes on a different meaning.

Since there is no God to offend, and no God to give an account to, sin does not carry the force that it does for the Christian.

The list of sins, according to the Bible, according to the pastor, according to each Christian, is quite long.

Every person has his or her own sin list.

No two sin lists are the same.

As an unbeliever, my “sin” list is quite short.

And it gets shorter every day.

Since I reject the Bible as an objective standard of right and wrong, how do I determine my morals and ethics?

Do I need a god, church, or pastor to tell me what my morals and ethics should be?

Do I need a Bible to tell me what is right or wrong?

According to the Bible, all the law can be summed up in two commands:

  • Love God
  • Love your fellow man

My morals and ethics are based on the premise that I should love my neighbor as myself.

I should treat people like I would want to be treated.

I should not do things that would harm other people.

I should value my relationships with my family and my fellow human beings to the degree that I live in such a way that my actions cause them no harm.

God does not enter the picture. My only concern is the relationships I have with others. When I live in a selfish, unloving, unkind, unjust manner then I am “sinning” against my fellow human beings.

My “sin” does not bring the judgment of God, but it does hurt the relationships I have with others.

My “sin” causes personal loss and pain.

If what I do does not hurt others or damage my relationships with them then it is not “sin.”

This makes life much simpler for me.

I am still a “sinner” but I am much less a “sinner” now that I have abandoned Christianity.

Losing God, the Bible, and the complex, never-ending, sin list has allowed me to realize, for the first time in many, many years, that it is okay to be human.

After living a lifetime of denying who I am, I am now free to be Bruce. In many ways, I am still finding out who I really am.

I suspect I will always have a Christian sin hangover. A lifetime of being beat over the head with an angry God, a dying Savior, and a rule book called the Bible, has left a lot of deep wounds. In the time, the wounds heal, but the scars remain.

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