Tag Archive: Atheism

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.

2016 Reason Rally

reason rally 2016

In 2012, tens of thousands of skeptics, secularists, atheists, agnostics, and humanists gathered in Washington DC to give testimony to the rise of American secularism. This was, for many secularists, a coming-out party. This was godless Americans telling Christians that they were no longer willing to stand idly by while the religious right trampled on the US Constitution and the separation of church and state. Most of all, it was a public statement of solidarity, a reminder that secularists can be found in virtually every walk of life.

Four years later, American atheist and humanist groups are gearing up to host another Reason Rally. The Rally will be a multi-day event, Thursday, June 2nd through Sunday, June 5th, culminating with a huge gathering at the Lincoln Memorial from 8 am to 5 pm on June 4th. You can find out more about the 2016 Reason Rally here.

Several readers have asked if I plan to attend the Rally. They  would like for me to be considered for one of the speaking slots during the four-day event. While I would never recommend myself to be a speaker, It certainly would be an honor if I was asked to do so.

Roy Madewell, a long-time friend and reader of this blog, asked if I would please encourage readers to suggest to Rally planners that I be considered for one of the speaking slots. Fearing the wrath of Roy and his merry band of atheists, I have acquiesced to his request. If you would like to suggest to planners that I speak at the Rally, please contact them here. (link no longer active)

Bruce’s Top Ten List of Crazy Beliefs

daniel dennett quote

One of the hardest things for me to admit is that I, at one time, believed things that I now know to be untrue. These fallacious beliefs had a deleterious effect on not only my life, but the lives of my wife and children. While everyone concerned would agree that we have escaped the consequences of my beliefs relatively unharmed, I can’t help but think how life might have been different had I not fallen for the greatest con game of all time – Evangelical Christianity.

On one hand, if I had not been raised in the Evangelical church nor attended a Fundamentalist Baptist college, I never would have met my wife. Perhaps, in an alternate timeline I might have met a woman with the same beauty, charm, and kindness as Polly. Perhaps, I say. I remember another woman I dated before Polly. I was madly in love with her, yet, as I look back on our tumultuous relationship, I know that had we married, we likely would have killed each other. Choosing a different path doesn’t necessarily bring a better outcome. The old adage isn’t always true: the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

This I know for sure: I spent most of my life believing things that are not true. And not just believing these things, but putting them into practice. It’s one thing to believe the Christian God exists, but it a far different thing, based on that belief, to devotes one’s life to serving this God. And not just serving him on Sunday, the day when he demands fealty from his followers, but like a devoted slave, I served this God day and night; day after day, year after year, for almost 50 years. This God, found only within the pages of an ancient religious text, promised that he would care for me in this life, and after death he would grant me eternal life in a pain-free, glorious Heaven.

Daniel Dennett is right: There’s no polite way to suggest to someone that they have devoted their life to folly. Indeed, a life of folly. While I can, if given sufficient libations, cry over the spilt milk of my life, I choose to use my past life as a soldier for Jesus as a cautionary warning to all who dare to follow in my steps. I stand on the road of life waving my arms, hoping to turn sincere followers of this God away from the bridge-less chasm that awaits on the road ahead. Take another path, I passionately warn. Sadly, most of this God’s slaves will ignore my warnings, thinking that I am the one who is deceived and in need of saving.

There are others similar to myself, who, due to their blind devotion to religious belief, have squandered the best years of their lives. How can we not regret giving the years when we were strong, healthy, and full of life, to a mythical deity? And worse yet, how can we not regret giving our time, talent, and money to the human-built religious machine that drives over all who dare to get in its way?

Like other survivors of the Evangelical con, I have made an uneasy peace with my past. I have many regrets over how I spent most of my adult life. I know there’s nothing I can do about the past. I choose to learn from it, use it to fuel my writing, in the hope that I can, in some small way, play a part in bringing Evangelicalism to an ignominious end. While I will not live long enough to see its demise, I hope that one day one of my descendants will be the person who holds a pillow over the Evangelical God’s face and finally smothers him to death.

What follows is Bruce’s Top Ten List of Crazy Beliefs. Most former Evangelicals will certainly find this list to be quite similar to theirs. I’ve ranked these beliefs based on how they materially affected me and my family.

  1. The Bible is a God-inspired text, inerrant and infallible
  2. The universe was created in six days and is 6,020 years
  3. God talks to me
  4. The story of the supernatural Jesus – all of it
  5. There is an unseen spiritual dimension inhabited by angels and demons
  6. There is a shadow government, a cabal that runs the world
  7. Demons possess people and inanimate objects such as toys
  8. Satan uses certain styles of music to control the masses
  9. Mental illness is caused by sin
  10. Government schools destroy the minds of students

My Evangelical journey began and ended with the Bible. My devotion to God was fueled by the belief that the Bible was a God-inspired text. This text was inerrant and infallible, and the God who wrote it meant for me to obey its commands and teachings.  Not only did this God expect me to obey, he also commanded me to teach others to do the same. And so I did. Thousands of people sat under the sound of my voice, hearing me declare that loving, serving, and worshiping the Evangelical God was the way to peace, blessing, the forgiveness of sins, and life everlasting.

Everything in my life flowed from my commitment to the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible. As Baptists are fond of saying: God said it, I believe it, and that settles it for me!  My journey out of Evangelicalism was complete when I came to realize that what I once believed about the Bible was not true; that my worldview was built on a delusional foundation. Once the Bible lost its magical power over me, other beliefs, like the ones mentioned above, quickly unraveled. When my mind was unfettered from the Evangelical delusion, I was then free to seek truth wherever it may be found. No longer was I boxed in by a set of beliefs that forced me to embrace irrationality. (Please see The Danger of Being in a Box and Why It Makes Sense When you Are in It and What I Found When I Left the Box) And like most ex-Evangelicals, I am grateful that reason, knowledge, and understanding have set me free.

 

Why?

why

It has been seven years since I left Christianity and have declared myself to be an atheist. Seven years of email from Christians and atheists asking me to explain WHY I am no longer a follower of Jesus. It has been a long time since someone has asked me a question that hasn’t already been asked by someone else. This is to be expected. There are only so many ways I can explain my reasons and motivations for becoming an atheist after spending 25 years in the ministry.

To help me better manage my time, I have decided to make a WHY page that I can point people to when they have questions about my deconversion. After the questioner has read the following posts, I will then be quite happy to answer whatever questions they might have. I think these posts will likely answer 99 percent of the questions people ask me about my journey from Evangelicalism to Atheism.

My Journey

From Evangelicalism to Atheism Series

Why I Stopped Believing

Please Help Me Understand Why You Stopped Believing

16 Reasons I am Not a Christian

Why I Hate Jesus

The Danger of Being in a Box and Why It Makes Sense When you Are in It

What I Found When I Left the Box

Letters

Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners

Dear Friend

Dear Bruce Turner

Dear Ann

Thank you for taking the time to read these posts. If you have any questions, please use the form below to contact me. If you are an Evangelical, I ask that you read one more post, Dear Evangelical, before sending me your question (or sermon). Thanks!

Bruce

Is Ken Ham a Sincere Christian?

Ken Ham

I have been asked many times if I think creationist Ken Ham is a sincere Christian. It certainly would make things easier if  Ham were a money-grubbing Elmer Gantry. We could then dismiss him as a con artist and shake our head at those who are duped by his pleas for money to fight the secularist horde at the gate.  However, as I ponder my own one-time blind devotion to Jesus, I’m inclined to think that Ken Ham sincerely believes the Bible is a God-written science and history textbook. I’m sure there’s nothing that will convince Ken Ham, at the ripe old age of 64, that he is not absolutely right. Ham believes that God speaks to him and has called him to preach the creationist gospel. When people are certain God is on their side, there is little hope of disabusing them of their belief.

Now, we may rightly think Ham’s beliefs are ignorant and superstitious, but millions of people hold to similar beliefs, and we should at least acknowledge that they are sincere believers. Before we can understand Ken Ham, we must first understand his belief system. A lot of atheists and evolutionists fail to do this, foolishly attacking Ken Ham the person and not Ken Ham’s beliefs.

Ken Ham is a true-blue fundamentalist, and part of his religious DNA is the belief that the world will become more evil the closer we get to the rapture. Ham believes there are Satanic forces at work trying to destroy Biblical Christianity. Anyone who has been a part of the Evangelical church for any length of time knows how this kind of paranoid thinking permeates Evangelicalism. Atheism is on the rise in the West and Ham sees this as an attack by Satan on all he hold holds dear.  He fears that if he and his followers don’t repel secularism, atheism, evolution, and non-Fundamentalist Christianity, that America will be judged by God and destroyed.

Everything Ham does is an attempt to promote Biblical Christianity and turn back the unrelenting attack of Satan. Yes, Ham makes a good living off his work, and his promotion of young earth creationism attracts millions of dollars in fees and donations, but I suspect that Ham would still do what he does even if he isn’t financially remunerated.

I remember when I used to think like Ken Ham. It was never about the money. My goal was to preach the good news of the gospel to as many people as possible. I was willing to go to great lengths to serve God, even if it meant living in abject poverty. My calling in life was to obediently follow the teachings of the Bible and be a faithful messenger of God to a lost and dying world. There was a time in my life that Ken Ham and I would have been best buds.

When secularists, atheists, and scientists attack Ken Ham the person they make themselves  look bad. They need to focus on his beliefs. Using reason, they need to challenge his assertions, knowing that they may not cause Ham to change his beliefs. There are always doubting Christians lurking in the shadows, watching our behavior and reading our writing. These are people who are most likely to be swayed by sound intellectual arguments.

I may hate what Ken Ham believes and I may think those beliefs promote ignorance, but if my objective is to counter his beliefs, I must focus on what he teaches and not on his person (even when it is very hard to do so). To put it in religious parlance, I must be a good witness and I must always remember that people are going to judge me by the words I say and write. If I personally attack someone, I know that some religious readers will not hear what I have to say. And I don’t blame them.

My friend Kerry left a comment that I think sums up well what I am trying to say:

Name calling does nothing to advance the understanding between world views. I didn’t do it as a believer and I don’t do it as a non-believer in Christianity. I do, from time to time, rework the pithy little sayings so many Christians use, such as; “Love the sinner but hate the sin” which I change to “Love the believer but hate the belief.” For the various beatitudes that get quoted, I usually quote from Confucius or Buddha which sound the same but are a little bit different. They of course do not notice until I point it out to them and educate them on the fact that these sayings are some 600 years before God gave them to the Jews. There are ways to make the point about the facts we as atheists have embraced without doing it in a manner that closes off all minds and debate.

Notes

I am well aware of the fact that Ken Ham does not afford me the same treatment I’ve outlined in this post. While I find this irritating, I must be a better man than he is, if for no other reason than it points out that a person can treat others with decency without being a Christian. I wish more atheists would understand this. I know, it’s hard to be kind and decent towards people who think you are a reprobate and are headed for God’s S&M chamber in the bowels of the earth. If humanism is the way forward for the human race, then we must kill people with our kindness (and our facts).

 

Christmas: A Plea To Evangelicals Who Evangelize Non-Christian Family Members

confrontational evangelism

Evangelical Tom “shares” the gospel with Atheist Jean

Christmas: it’s that time of year.  Joy to the World. Handel’s Messiah. Cookies and fudge. Eggnog. Shopping. Evergreen trees decked with ornaments and lights. Cards. Presents. Ugly sweaters. Family gatherings. Excited grandchildren.  Ah, the wonders of the Christmas season.

But there’s one aspect of Christmas hated by non-Christians, and that’s their Evangelical relatives and friends using the holiday as an opportunity to evangelize those they deem lost and headed for hell.

From tracts stuffed into Christmas cards to Christian-themed gifts, evangelistically- motivated Evangelicals make sure that their non-Christian family members and friends know that Jesus is the Reason for Season and that unless they know The Prince of Peace, They will Have No Peace.

Even worse are those Evangelicals who make a concerted effort to talk to unsaved relatives about their spiritual condition at their family Christmas gatherings. Told by their pastors to use the Christmas season, with its focus on joy and family, as an opportunity to witness to the lost, Evangelicals make a concerted effort to put in a good word for Jesus whenever they are given the opportunity to do so.

We’ve all been there. We’re hanging out with our family at the annual Christian gathering: eating Mom’s food, swapping childhood stories, drinking wine, laughing, and enjoying life.  And out of the corner of our eye we see Evangelical Uncle Bob coming towards us. Oh shit, we say to ourselves, not THIS again.  “This” being Uncle Bob snuggling up to you so he can tell you for seemingly the hundredth time that Christmas is all about Jesus, and that the greatest gift in the world is the salvation that God offers to every sinner. Sinner, of course, being you. And as in every other year, you will politely listen, smile, and think in your mind, just one time I’d like to tell Uncle Bob to take his religion and shove it up his ass. Your thoughts will remain silent, and after your evangelizing relative is finished extolling the wonders of Jesus and his blood, you say to him, just as you do every other year, Hey, Uncle Bob, how about them Cowboys? You know that there is one thing that Uncle Bob loves to talk about almost as much as his savior Jesus, and that’s America’s team, the Dallas Cowboys.

Fundamentalist Calvinist pastor John Piper recently reminded blog readers of the importance of  giving non-Christian relatives prayed- over, Bible- saturated books during the Christmas season. Piper wrote:

The Christmas season is ripe for “reviving your concern” (Philippians 4:10) for the spiritual wellbeing of friends and family members. We may lament the expectations of gift-giving and the excesses of holiday spending, but we can take it as an opportunity to invest in eternity by putting God-centered, gospel-rich content into the hands of those we love.

Next to the Bible, perhaps the most enduringly valuable gifts you can give this Christmas are books soaked in God and his grace. Online articles, sermons, and podcast episodes change lives and sustain souls, but they don’t make for typical material Christmas gifts. Printed books, on the other hand, wrap well, and can be just as life-changing and soul-saving, and more.

As Christmas approaches, we wanted to remind you of our recent titles from the team at Desiring God. We’ve done our best to saturate them in the Bible and fill them with God and his gospel, and we’ve prayed over them again that they might be a means of God’s grace not only for you, but also your loved ones…

Randy Newman, Senior Teaching Fellow for Apologetics and Evangelism at the C.S. Lewis Institutesuggests that Evangelicals look for opportunities to share bits of the gospel:

I know this sounds counterintuitive. In fact, to some, this may sound like downright heresy! Some of us have been trained to “make sure to state the whole gospel” or “their blood will be on our hands.” To me, that sounds a bit like a lack of trust in the sovereignty of God. In our day of constant contact (through email, texts, tweets, etc.) we can trust God to string together a partial conversation at Christmas dinner to a follow up discussion the next day, to a phone conversation, to numerous emails, etc. Some of our unsaved family members and friends need to digest parts of the gospel (“How can God be both loving and holy?”) before they can take the next bite (“Jesus’ death resolves the tension of God’s love and his holiness.”)…

Back in the days when I was a fire-breathing Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher, I encouraged church members to use the Christmas holiday as an opportunity to witness to their unsaved relatives. Hell is hot and death is certain, I told congregants. Dare we ignore their plight?  Remember, the Bible says that if we fail to warn our wicked relatives of their wicked ways and they die and go to hell, their blood will be on our hands. Despite my attempts to guilt church members into evangelizing their relatives, not one member reported successfully doing so. Most of them, I suspect, ignored my preaching and said nothing to their relatives. And those who did likely made half-hearted  attempts to interject Jesus into family Christmas discussions.  Regardless, not one church member was gained as a result of our Christmas witnessing.

Let me conclude this post with a heartfelt, honest appeal from non-Christians to Evangelicals bent on witnessing to family and friends during the Christmas season:

Christmas is all about love, joy, peace, and family. Religion, like politics, is a divisive subject, and talking about it  will certainly engender strife and resentment. I know that you think our negative response towards your evangelistic effort is the result of our sinfulness and hatred of God. What you fail to see is that our irritation and anger is the result of your unwillingness to value family more than you do Jesus. Besides, we’ve heard your Jesus shtick before. We get it: we are sinners, Jesus died on the cross for our sins and resurrected from the grave three days later. If we want our sins forgiven we must repent of our sins and accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior. If we refuse God’s wonderful offer of salvation and eternal life, when we die we will go to hell.  See? We heard you. There’s no need for you to keep doing your best imitation of a skipping record.  If we ask you a question about your religion, then by all means answer it. We asked, and we wouldn’t have asked if we didn’t want to know. However, if we don’t ask, please keep your religion to yourself. If you truly love and respect us, please leave us alone.

If you choose to ignore our request, we will assume that you are determined to be an asshole for Jesus. While we will likely walk away from you, we might, depending on our mood, decide to give you a dose of your own medicine by sharing why we think your God and Jesus are fictitious. We might even challenge your so-called Bible beliefs. You see, we know a lot more about Christianity than we are telling. It’s not that we don’t know. We do, and we find the Christian narrative intellectually lacking. While Jesus gives your life meaning, purpose, and peace, we have found these same things in atheism, humanism, paganism, or a non-Christian religion. We don’t need what you have because we already have it.

Most of us who are non-Christians will spend the Christmas holiday surrounded by Christmas. In many instances, we will be the only non-Christian in the room. While we love the Christmas season, with its bright colors, feasts, and family gatherings, contemplating the fact that we will be the only atheist at the family Christmas gathering can be stressful. We understand that Christmas is considered a Christian holiday. When Christian prayers are uttered we will respectfully bow our heads.  When Christmas carols are sung around the hearth, we will likely join in (many of us like singing Christmas songs). We will do our best to blend in.

Please, for one day, when we are all gathered together in expression of our love for one another, leave Jesus and your religion at the door.  By all means, if you must talk about Jesus, seek out like-minded Christian family members and talk to them. When talking to us, how about we agree to talk about the things we have in common: family, childhood experiences, and our favorite football team

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The Differences Between Evangelical and Atheist Reality

reality christian magazine

No this is not a fake magazine cover. There really is a Reality Christian Magazine.

Each of us has a worldview. For Evangelicals, the Bible establishes the parameters of their worldview. God said it, I believe it, and that settles it, the Christian says. Anything that does not fit within the pages of their leather-bound Bible is rejected out-of-hand. Secularists and atheists, while prone to their own delusions, tend to view the world from a rational, materialistic point of view.

Evangelicals Christians view reality this way:

  • God has a wonderful plan for their lives and nothing happens that is not part of God’s purpose or plan for their life.
  • God uses pain, suffering, financial reversal, sickness, loss, and death to teach them a lesson, get their attention, make them stronger, or punish them for sin.
  • For those who love God and are the called according to his purpose, everything in life works out for good.
  • God loves them and would never do anything to hurt or harm them.
  • It only seems that God is not involved in the day-to-day machinations of his creation. Behind the scenes, in ways that no human can comprehend, God is working, moving, changing, correcting, tearing down, and building up.
  • God hears every Evangelical’s prayer and answers it according to his will.

Of course, the Evangelical view of reality is for Christians-only. Non-Christians are under the wrath and judgment of God and deserve to be cast into hell this very moment. Non-Christians may at times enjoy the blessing of God (it rains on the just and unjust), but God reserves his blessings for those who are his children. Non-Christians are the children of the devil.

I have come to see that Evangelical reality is delusional. It requires a suspension of reason, a shutting-off of oneself to what can be seen, experienced, and known. It requires the rose-colored glasses of faith, glasses which allow the Christian to see a reality that is not visible with human eyes.

What does a secular, atheist view of reality tell us about our world?

  • There is no purpose or plan.
  • Shit happens.
  • Life is a crap shoot and there are no guarantees that it will turn out one way or the other.
  • Genetics play a factor in our lives, and far too often condemn us to suffer horrifying diseases.
  • Being at the wrong place at the wrong time can have catastrophic consequences.
  • Human powers outside our lives make decisions over which we have no control.  Their decisions can, and do, materially affect our lives, both for good and for bad.
  • Talking to ourselves might be helpful psychologically and make us feel better, but we are cognizant of the fact that we are talking to ourselves and not some sort of mythical being.
  • Inanimate objects have no power of their own. Kicking the car and swearing at it when it breaks down may make us feel better, but it is just a car.
  • We understand, despite what the promoters of the American dream might tell us, that we can’t be anything we want to be. It is not true that anyone can be President and it is not true that we are destined to win American Idol/The Voice/The Sing Off/America’s Got Talent.
  • There are things that happen that we can not explain. The secularist and the atheist know that there are likely to always be unanswered questions or explainable events. They know that luck or being at the right place at the right time is often the sole reason for something happening.

Atheists and secularists know that the world is fraught with danger, and it is amazing that any newborn lives to old age. Christians, on the other hand, know that the world is fraught with danger, but newborns live to old age because God is merciful.  God controls the keys to life and death, and it is he alone who kills us at the appointed hour. I wonder, does God pencil in a time next to our name when we are born? How does God determine this? Is there an annual birth lottery where, like the military draft, God pulls death dates for each newborn?

What comfort is there in having a God who controls your life from birth to death? I much prefer a life where I at least have some say in the matter; a life where my choices and decisions materially affect my future; a life where disaster and death lurk in the shadows; a life that is a game, a chance to outrun the Grim Reaper.

I have no place in my worldview for letting go and letting God. I have no need of putting my hand in the hand of the man (Jesus), or stilled the waters and calmed the seas. With irreverent, even violent gusto, I refuse to surrender to the will of a mythical deity. I shan’t embrace death because a book-bound deity promises me a room in his mansion in the sky.

Life is harsh. If we live long enough it will bruise and bloody us, and ultimately it will kill us. I don’t intend to resign myself to anything. As much as lies within me, I plan on running hard, fighting long, and when I check out of this grand experiment called life, I hope to leave behind a testimony of one who lived life to its fullest.

[signoff]

Is God Punishing Me for My Sin?

god of loveOne of the saddest questions I see in the search logs is this: I have ____________________. Is God punishing me for my sin?

If a person believes the Bible, then the answer to this question is Yes.  God does afflict people because of their sin. God maims, sickens, and kills people, all because they violated one or more of his laws. No disobedience is too trivial for the thrice-holy God to punish. Remember Uzzah, the man who broke God’s law by touching the Ark of the Covenant, a gold-clad chest containing the Ten Commandments, Aaron’s rod, and a pot of manna ? David  commanded the Ark be moved by cart from one place to another. As it was being moved, the oxen pulling the cart stumbled. Fearing that the Ark would topple over, Uzzah, a Levite, reached out to steady the Ark. God rewarded Uzzah for his saintly effort by striking him dead.

In the Old Testament,  God is shown using affliction and destruction to either make a point or to get someone to do what he wants them to do. God is definitely a hands-on kind of deity, punishing sin to the third and fourth generation. In the New Testament, we are told God often afflicts Christians to test or make them stronger. Sometimes, God uses heartache and tragedy to get Christians’ attention. I’ve been told by numerous Evangelicals that the reason I’m in so much physical pain is that God is trying to get my attention. I’ve even been warned that God might kill me if I continue to ignore his warnings.

Then there are the times that God maims, afflicts, or kills people because he wants them to give praise and glory to his name. God, ever the adoration-seeking narcissist, will go to great lengths to get people to worship him. In the still of the night, God comes into the bedroom of the infant daughter of Christians Bobby and Isabelle. Is God there to admire the beautiful little girl? Perhaps he wants to tell her that she will some day grow up and be a woman greatly used by God. Sadly, on this night God had a more sinister plan in mind. He reaches into the crib and puts his nail-pierced hand over the baby’s mouth and quietly suffocates the child to death. Why would a supposedly loving, caring, and kind God do such a thing? For no other reason than come morning he wants the dead child’s parents to give praise and glory to his name. No explanation will be forthcoming. Bobby and Isabelle will be expected to act as if their daughter’s death is all part of God’s wonderful plan for their life.

Christians believe God is the creator of the universe, and as the Sovereign ruler he has complete and absolute control over everything. When Christians face sickness, disaster, or the loss of a loved one, they are reminded by their pastor and friends that God is bigger than their circumstances. Just trust God, they are told. Surely, he is using your troubles to make you stronger and draw you closer to him.  Suffering Christians might even be asked to search their hearts for some sort of secret sin that lies buried deep within. Perhaps God is trying to get them to acknowledge and forsake this secret sin.

The things I have mentioned above are some of the reasons I am no longer a Christian. What kind of God operates in this manner? Of course, I am sure someone will tell me: Bruce, how dare you question God! For many Christians, God is above reproach. Even when he acts like a psychopath, God is given a free pass. After all, the Christian says, his ways are not our ways. We must trust and believe that God knows best.

Sadly, many Christians are so disconnected from reality that they cannot or will not see things as they are.  If a mere human did what the Bible says God did, he  would be tried before a world tribunal for crimes against humanity. And I have no doubt that he  would be convicted on all counts and sentenced to death. Perhaps God deserves the same judgment and punishment.

It’s better to believe that shit happens in life, no God necessary. People get sick, face untold suffering, and die. Through genetics, environment, and lifestyle choices, people are afflicted with all kinds of diseases. In many cases, these diseases are what will eventually kill them. It’s far better to believe that this is how life is than   to think that there is a God in Heaven set on afflicting us for our sin or because he needs his ego stroked.

The liberal Christian is likely to scream foul and say, God is love.  Yes, according to the Bible, God is love,  but he is also everything else I have mentioned in this post. To liberal Christians I say, please take off your blinders and read ALL of the Bible. Ignoring the portions of the Bible that make you uncomfortable or make God look like a mean, vindictive, son-of-a-bitch, doesn’t change the fact that those passages ARE in the Bible. If these accounts are not to be accepted as an accurate description of God and how he operates, why should we then be expected to believe that God is love or that Jesus is who and what Christians claim he is? Where’s the instruction manual for playing the pick-and-choose Bible Game®? From my seat in the atheist pew, it looks like Christians are just making up the rules as they go.

If God is unchanging and Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, then Christians have no other option but to accept God as he is described in the Bible. If Christians are unwilling to do so, then they need to be honest and admit that they have fashioned a God in their own image. Either that or Christians must admit that the Bible is not a divine book; that it is just a work of fiction written by men thousands of years ago.

For most of my adult life, I lived as a stoic, come-what-may, Christian. No matter what suffering, trial, or adversity came my way I believed God was either punishing me for sin, making me stronger, or teaching me a lesson. Like John Bunyan’s Pilgrim on his way to the Celestial City, no matter what came my way I continued to endure and run the race set before me.

My wife and I are quite matter of fact about life. This drives some people crazy, but we have been deeply influenced by Christianity and its belief that we are to bear whatever adversity comes our way. We believed for most of our adult lives  that God was faithful and would never give us more than we could bear. This kind of thinking can make someone quite passive about life. Since God is behind everything, the Christian is expected to keep trusting and believing right up to the moment they draw their last breath. No kicking, no screaming, no defiance. Just a sweet, thank you Jesus smile as they are carried away by angels to Heaven.

This kind of thinking makes people less human. It often robs them of their will, their desire to live. Many Christians are like the Apostle Paul who wished he could die and go to a better place. After all, according to the Bible, this world is such a sinful, wicked place that death becomes the sweet release.  But what if Christians are wrong about life, suffering, and death?  Let me use here what I call reverse Pascal’s Wager. What IF this life is all the Christian has? What if death really is the end? Shouldn’t  Christians want to enjoy THIS life to its fullest? Wouldn’t they want to live every moment of every day in such a way that reflects the brevity and finality of their life? Instead of living according to the notion that they are most miserable if this is all there is, how about seeing that life is a great a blessing even if there is no afterlife.

Despite the physical struggles, pain, and debility that dominate my life, I am grateful to be counted among the living. I’m not ready to become worm food, nor am I ready for people to say lies about me at my funeral. I refuse to go “gentle” into the night (Dylan Thomas, Do Not God Gentle Into that Good Night). I will not stand like a lemming in line waiting for the Wraith to come and turn me into food. Life is worth living and I don’t need the promise of eternal life to make it so. And I sure as hell don’t need to concern myself with thoughts of a mythical, sin-punishing God who finds some sort of perverse pleasure in pulling the wings off his creation.

[signoff]

Dear Evangelical, Please Be Honest With Unbelievers

full disclosure

Graphic by Chris Slane

Evangelicals like to tell anyone who will listen that they are truth-seekers; that they are not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. But is this really true?

I contend that many Christian zealots have a hard time admitting what they really believe. Rarely, when speaking with non-Christians, do they give a full disclosure of their beliefs. Instead, they speak of the transformative powers of their religion and how Jesus changed their lives. They speak of the fruit and benefit of being a Christian. All this is well and good, but shouldn’t Christians tell the whole story when sharing with someone the wonders of Christianity? Surely they want a person to enter into the Christian religion with their eyes wide open, right?

The truth is just the opposite. Most evangelism methods teach people to focus on the gospel, to focus on Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. When a non-Christian asks questions that are not on-point, they are told to direct the person back to the main message of the forgiveness of sins and salvation in Jesus Christ. Questions and doubts are better left to another day, after the person has become a Christian.

This seems to me like a car salesman selling someone a car without letting them look under the hood. The salesman extols the beauty and craftsmanship of the exterior without ever disclosing that the motor is missing. This is the way many people feel a year or so after they have been saved/converted/born again.

These new converts entered Christianity with a superficial knowledge of what it is that Christians believe. They were told the bare minimum necessary to get them into the baptismal and church pew. If we can just get the non-Christians saved and in the church we can then teach (indoctrinate) them the rest of story, Christians think to themselves. No need to muddy the waters with talk about abortion, homosexuality, tithing, or any of the sundry other beliefs that Christians hold dear. All the sinner needs to know is that heaven is real, hell is hot, death is certain, and the forgiveness of sin is but a prayer away.

This way of evangelizing is rooted in the notion that the number of souls saved and the number of people attending church are the standard for determining success. By this standard, Jesus was an overwhelming failure. When the disciples in Jerusalem gathered in the upper room they numbered 120. Not a much of a crowd after 3 years of preaching, healing the sick, and raising the dead.

The capitalistic corporate mindset that flows in the veins of much of Christianity will ultimately cause the its death. The Christian church has suffered a wound that could be mortal. It is bleeding profusely, and unless she finds a way to stop the flow she will die.

Far too many Evangelical churches and pastors think the answer to reaching the masses is catchy clichés and slick advertising. If we can just get non-Christians to pay attention to us, Evangelical pastors think, then they will come to our store and check us out.  And granted, humans are quite gullible and subject to being easily swayed by flashy colors and promises beyond their wildest dreams.

As much as we would like to think otherwise, advertising works. We see or hear an ad and the message becomes fixed in our minds. Sometimes it is very subtle. Now that millions of homes have a DVR and viewers are skipping the advertisements, advertisers have taken to using in-show product placement. The next time you watch a TV show, look carefully for the product placements. Look behind the scene. The advertisements are everywhere.

Apple is a master at the product placement game. Virtually every TV show has an Apple computer, tablet, or iPhone prominently displayed. This annoys me to no end. I know that only a small percentage of homes actually have an Apple computer and that we are a Windows-based PC culture, yet if I didn’t know that, I would think every home in America had an Apple computer.

Apple wants consumers to buy into their myth: that owning an Apple product is more than just owning a new piece of hardware. It is an “experience”  Forget the price. Forget everything that might be a negative about the product and focus on the experience. (Full disclosure: I own an iPad Pro and iPhone.)

The bottom line is that corporations want consumers to buy their products and they use slick advertising to induce us to purchase their wares. They never mention what their product won’t do.  They want consumers to buy into the advertising hype without looking too closely at the negative aspects of their product. After all, they are well aware that they must convince consumers to want what they don’t need.

If corporations gave full disclosures with every product they sell, their sales would plummet. They know they must promote the positive and hide the negative in order to continue to sell products. So it is with Evangelical Christianity.

A belief system is far more important than buying a consumer product. A belief system is meant to permeate itself throughout a person’s life.  When we say we are a Christian, Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim, Pantheist, Mormon, or Humanist, we should know why we are labeling ourselves in this manner. Beliefs affect how we view the world and each other. They also determine what things we value and consider important.

I deconverted seven years ago. Since then, several people I know have come out in a big way and declared themselves to be atheists, only to, a few months or years later, return to the Christian religion. The reasons for their double-mindedness are many, but the key issue is that these people did not carefully consider what it means to be an atheist. Perhaps they were just angry at God or angry at their church or pastor and in a moment they said, FINE! I reject God and I am now an atheist!  Once the anger subsided they realized that their decision to call themselves atheist was a decision based on emotion and not fact.

Many Evangelicals come into the Christian church in similar fashion. Trouble comes into their lives: marriage problems, family problems, financial reversals, health problems, addictions, mental distress, or emptiness. They are looking for answers, for meaning, purpose, and deliverance. They want their lives to be different.

And into their need steps a Christian preaching a minimalist message of a Jesus who will fix what ails you. Just, let Go and let God, the people are told. Preachers and evangelizers tell them just enough to get them inside the front door of the church house. A new convert is made, glory to God!

Once inside the church,  they are then, bit by bit, exposed to the “rest” of the Christian belief system. Some new converts are appalled once they hear, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story. They might say to themselves, I wish they had told me these things BEFORE I became a Christian. Others, desiring the communal aspects of belonging to a group, quickly become cafeteria Christians, believing what they want to believe and rejecting that which they find offensive.

Over time, the communal aspects of Christianity often lose their power. The new and the not-so-new converts start to see that Evangelicals aren’t any different from non-Christians. They come to understand, that  for all their talk of change and newness of life, Evangelicals are quite like the rest of the human race.

Evangelicals lie, cheat, kill, steal, and commit acts their Bible says are sins at the same frequency and level non-Christians do. Simply put, they are just like everyone else (and smart is the Christian who understands this).

The pews of Christian churches are filled with people with questions and doubts about what their pastors call truth. Their skepticism and dubiety are never given a voice because doing so would open them up to scrutiny or charges of lacking faith. Evangelical churches and pastors demand fidelity to their teachings, and outliers or non-conformists are looked down upon, and in some cases, kicked out of the church. In many churches it is, Believe this or leave.

The atheist movement is growing due to the fact that people are asking questions that they find no answers for within the Christian church. As their questions and doubts grow, so does their disaffection and estrangement from the church. Having become a Christian with the bare minimum of belief. they have little or no ability to find answers to their doubts or questions. Often their pastors are no help because the only answers they have are pat, superficial, proof-texts from the Bible. If all else fails, doubters are reminded that the Devil uses doubt to lead Christians astray. The antidote for doubt is faith and resting on the promises found in the Bible.

These tactics may have worked years ago, but not today. People have questions and they want answers. Real answers. Saying, God says or the Bible says, is not sufficient. As Christians listen to more and more preaching they start to ask themselves, do we believe this? As they listen to the political and social pronouncements from the pulpit they ask, does this accurately reflect our worldview? Telling such doubters to just faith it will surely drive them into the arms of humanists, atheists, and secularists like myself.

Questioning often leads these Evangelicals to look for answers outside the church. They start reading books or searching the internet. They stumble upon blogs such as The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser, Godless in Dixie, Leaving Fundamentalism, Slacktivist, Debunking Christianity, or No Longer Quivering. They say to themselves, now here are people who understand where we are in our lives. They understand our doubts and questions.  They might even email the blog owner or leave a comment asking for help. They find out that questions and doubts are okay, and that the most important thing is following the path of life wherever it leads.

When doubters and questioners write me, I do not try to convert them to atheism. I encourage them to read and study, offering the titles of a few books that might be of help.  I encourage them to seek out answers for their questions and doubts. Above all, I gently ask them to walk the path of life with honesty and integrity. If they will do this, I tell them, they will end up exactly where they need to be.

I try to give people full disclosure when I talk about my own life and my journey from Evangelicalism to atheism. I do not hide the negative aspects of becoming an atheist. It is important that doubters have full knowledge before they choose to number themselves among the godless. (Please see Count the Cost Before You Say I Am an Atheist)

I wish Christians would do the same. Instead of using shallow, superficial evangelism methods, Evangelicals should be honest about what means to profess faith and Christ and be a part of a Christian church. Evangelicals need to stop hiding the unsavory or harsh aspect of Christianity and the Bible. Instead, prospective Christians should be encouraged to study the history of Christianity before deciding to become Christians. Evangelical churches and pastors should make sure prospective converts are fully informed about what it means to follow Jesus, including the social and cultural prohibitions.

The Christian churches are hemorrhaging people because they have failed to do this. Surely, it is preferable to have fewer, but better informed converts, than to have pews filled with people whose knowledge of Christianity wouldn’t fill a typewritten page.

Ignorance is rife within the Christian church. The average Christians couldn’t defend their beliefs if their lives depended on it. All they know is this:Jesus saved Me! Praise Jesus, when is the next fellowship dinner?  Quote the Ten Commandments? Summarize the Sermon on the Mount? Defend the Trinitarian teaching on God? Give a cogent, complete defense of how a person is saved?  Not a chance.

The truth is most Christians rarely read the Bible. Their knowledge of Christianity comes from what the pastor says during his sermons.  I long ago concluded that for many Christians, their belief system is whatever their pastor believes. They live in blissful ignorance of what the Bible actually says and what the Evangelical church actually believes.

If Christian churches wants to stem the tide of disaffection and departure, they must begin telling the truth. All the truth, not just a sanitized version to sell people on the notion of what Jesus can do for them.

Christianity is doing a good job making people atheists. Until they get serious about disclosing the good, bad, and ugly of the Christian faith, they will continue to make people the twofold children of hell.

To those churches and pastors who love to blame evolutionists, secularists, and atheists for their numerical decline and loss of power, I say this: don’t blame us. It is your own fault for thinking you could continue to hoodwink people into believing without knowing. In this modern era of science such an approach no longer works. If you want people to treat Christianity seriously, and you want people to consider joining your club, then you owe it to prospective converts to tell them the whole truth about the Christian religion. If you refuse to do this, the only blame for the empty pews rests with you.

“Godly” Evangelicals

martin luther jews and catholics

The Evangelical church talks a lot about the ungodly. What exactly does it mean to be ungodly? The dictionary defines ungodly this way: characterized by iniquity; wicked because it is a sin. While the word is used as an adjective, in the Evangelical church the word is most often used as a noun to describe all those who do not worship the Christian God.

Lest you think that the term ungodly describes a special kind of sinner, consider the fact that 2 Peter 3:5 uses the word to describe the millions of people God drowned when he covered the world with a flood (Genesis 6-9). According to Romans 1:18: the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness. Any cursory reading of the Bible reveals that the Christian God has it out for the ungodly. While God sure would love to save them, (that is if they are one of the elect), he is quite willing to rain holy terror down on their heads. From Noah’s flood to the fire and brimstone of Sodom and Gomorrah, from the suffering of Jesus on the cross to the destruction of the universe in the book of Revelation, God has it out for the ungodly. He seems quite willing to use any means necessary to rid the world of the sinful, wicked people he created. Sometimes I wonder if God made a genetic mistake of some sort while creating us and he has been trying to fix it ever since. But, like cockroaches, we humans are hard to kill off.

According to Evangelicals, the ungodly, those who are anti-God, anti-righteousness, and anti-holiness, will face judgment, hell, the Lake of Fire and death. On judgment day, also known as the Great White Throne Judgment, God will gather together everyone who has ever lived and pass judgment on their works. Wait a minute, works? Yes, works. If you listen to Evangelical preachers preach you’ll likely come away thinking that the standard of final judgment is whether a person accepted Jesus as their “personal” valet, uh, I mean Savior.  However, the Bible says this:

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. (Matthew 25:31-46)

And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15)

Let the Bible gymnastics begin as Evangelical readers fall all over themselves trying to explain how these verses don’t really mean what they seem to say.  The Evangelical, despite all his talk about right-living, salvation, following Jesus whithersover he goeth, having salvation, and a presidential suite reserved at God’s Hilton in the sky, also wants to enjoy the world with its temptations, pleasures, and entertainments. Ask yourself, how many Christians do you know who live according to the teachings of the Bible? Many Christians say they do, but how they live their lives tells a far different story. While some studies suggest that having religious beliefs makes people happier, other studies suggest that Christians pretty much live like the rest of us do (Just this week, a study (link no longer active) done by LifeWay, an Evangelical Christian organization, showed that the majority of women who get an abortion attend a Christian church).  Here’s what we know for sure: outside of what Christians do on Sundays from 10:00 AM to Noon, godly men are every bit as ungodly as those their Holy Book consigns to the flame of hell.  This is why every time the WordPress spellchecker gives me the following I snicker and nod my head in agreement:

godliness

Cliche, indeed!

 

What Should We Do About Bruce?

what happened to you

Comic by Jason Dodge

It has been twelve years since I last pastored a church. While I had many opportunities to pastor again in the years before my deconversion, I was no longer willing to go through the dog and pony show required to get a church, and I was unwilling to put my family through any more new church experiences. I came to see that I sold my services too cheap. I allowed churches to take advantage of the Gerencser family. Churches were quite willing to keep us in the poor house for the sake of the kingdom of God and the church’s checkbook balance. I also came to the conclusion that many churches deserve to die, and, quite frankly, many of the churches that contacted me about becoming their pastor didn’t deserve the dedication and effort I would give them.

Long before I made an intellectual decision about the Bible and Christianity, I lost faith in the church and the work of the ministry. I am now an atheist because I no longer believe the central claims of Christianity, but in 2003 I still loved Jesus but I didn’t love his church. I lost heart for that which I had spent most of my adult life doing. As is the case for many atheists, especially those who were once devoted followers of Jesus, my intellectual journey out of Christianity began with a crisis of faith.

I was a good pastor, a hard-working  man who rarely took a day off. I always put the church first. The church bills always got paid before I did.  I worked seven days a week for poverty wages, with no benefits or insurance. Not one of the churches I pastored ever offered any form of benefit package or insurance. One church even expected me to pay special speakers out of my own pocket. After all, I wasn’t working on that Sunday, the speaker was.

Granted, I willingly lived this way. No one forced me to do so. I want to be clear, lest anyone  should say I’m whining or bitter, I CHOSE to live this way. While I think some of the churches I pastored were indifferent or callous toward the needs of their pastor and his family, I could have decided to leave the ministry and take a secular job. I didn’t because I felt a sense of divine calling, and if suffering and doing without were a part of fulfilling that calling, so be it.

People I once pastored or were friends with continue to be shocked when they find out that I not only have left the ministry, but I am also an atheist.  Some people are so shocked that they can’t even talk to me about it. Several former parishioners have told me that they find my deconversion quite unsettling to their own faith, so they stay away from me.

Often, these people turn to praying for me religiously. One church, after its pastor heard that I had left the faith, held regular prayer meetings on my  behalf. They stormed the portals of heaven for the sake of my soul, all to no avail. Other people resort to sending me letters, emails, books, tracts, etc. Somehow, they naïvely think that they or some author is going to tell me something that I’ve never heard before. Solomon was right when he said, There’s nothing new under the sun. I can’t imagine what a Christian could say or show me that would cause me to say, Wow! I’ve never seen that before. Jesus, I’m sorry for my unbelief. Please save me, amen. It’s not going to happen.

Several years ago, I stumbled upon a discussion in which those involved thought was private (A friend of mine emailed me about the discussion. I signed up for the forum where it was taking place using a fake name). The discussion centered on, as one man put it, What should we do about Bruce?

No one had yet put forth an answer to the question, but having had lots of experience with people trying to figure out what to do with me, I thought I would venture a few answers of my own.

  • By all means gossip about me and question my salvation, ministry, and life. Just do what Jesus would do.
  • By all means write cryptic blog posts about me in the hope of making yourself feel better about my defection from the faith. Nothing like straightening out a heretic to make oneself feel better.
  • By all means send me religious books. They sell well on eBay.
  • By all means pray night and day for me. Keep begging God to bring me back into the fold. I know how important this is to you. If I indeed stay an apostate it calls into question your faith. After all, you were saved under and baptized by, a God-called preacher who may have NEVER been saved. This is kind of like having Judas for your pastor.
  • By all means mention me in your sermons. I know how much a good illustration can spice up a sermon.
  • By all means keep doing all these things, forever reminding me of some of the reasons why I left the ministry and ultimately abandoned Christianity.

I am convinced that most Evangelicals cannot truly be friends with someone such as myself. The urge to evangelize, witness, convert, call to repentance and straighten out is just too great. An Evangelicals is like a teenage boy browsing the pages of Hustler magazine. The urge to masturbate is too great for the boy to refrain. So it is with God’s chosen ones. They have a pathological need to fix what they perceive is wrong with me, regardless of the fact that I am fine, having no need of repair.

Their Christianity has no place for the world. It has no place for those who are not just like them. Their world is a narrow, homogeneous place, neatly divided into saved and lost. While Evangelicals will make forays into the world to evangelize, to do what business is necessary, and to earn a living, once their work is complete they retire to the safe confines of their homes and churches. They dare not linger in Sodom lest they be tainted by sin and worldliness.

Fortunately, the world has made an inroad into their home. The Al Gore invented Internet, Google, websites and blogs give them a front row seat to the world. Those who once knew me will type “Bruce Gerencser” in a search box and hit enter. And once they do they are one click away from this blog.  Their search began with the thought, I wonder what happened to Bruce?  It’s not long, then, before their thoughts turn to LOOK AT WHAT HAPPENED TO BRUCE!!!

These Bruce-sleuths continue to read, and thanks to the server logs I know what they have read. I now know that they are aware of what has happened to the man they once called pastor, preacher, or friend. What will they do now?

Pray? Call me to repentance? Call me out on their blogs? Leave a comment on this blog? Try to evangelize me or win me back to Jesus? Think of what a prize I would be, an Evangelical-pastor-turned atheist reclaimed for the glory of God. In fact, I bet I could make a lot of money with a shtick like that.

It’s been seven years now since I said to the world that I was no longer a Christian. Hundreds of thousands of Christians have read my writing, and some of them have tried to reclaim me for Jesus. While their attempts certainly provide me with writing opportunities, their efforts have miserably failed. Perhaps Evangelicals need to change their approach. Forget trying to evangelize me or show me the error of my way. Instead, listen carefully to my story. Attempt to understand and learn. I still have much to offer the Christian church, as do a lot of my fellow apostates. We’re still preaching and maybe, just maybe, we’ve got something to say.

Notes

I’ve thought about starting a secret-Christian business. I would market this business to churches and pastors who want to know how their church is viewed from the outside. In most cases, my report wouldn’t be pretty. Many Evangelicals churches are quite incestuous and inwardly-grown. They have no idea about how they are perceived by the outside world.

Another Day, Another Christian Attempts to Show Me the Error of My Way

see the truth

What follows is an email I received from a Christian who felt the need to show me the error of my way. My response is emboldened and indented. I get letters like this quite often. Unfortunately, many Evangelicals have a pathological need to be right. Not only do they have the need to be right, they are driven to make sure everyone else thinks and believes exactly as they do, They can’t conceive in their minds of any reason why someone would believe differently. Jesus becomes the perfect man or woman every person should want to marry. When confronted with stories like mine, many Evangelicals lack the capacity to wrap their minds around the notion of someone purposely walking away from the most a-w-e-s-o-m-e God e-v-e-r. (Please read last three words out loud with a valley girl voice.)

Email begins here

I was just reading your blog and my heart was touched. The Father definitely loves you, and his children should also. I want to apologize sincerely for every person who has spoken harshly to you in the name of Christianity. Please do not mistake there  words or feelings for God’s. Jesus loves us all so much that when we sin and mar ourselves with the grime of this world He consistently reaches for us and continues to ask us to take his hand so that He can rescue us. I’m sure you’ve heard some of this before, and if not, i would guess that this is probably the reason you have “fallen” away. Just know that it is never too late to grab His hand. He doesn’t care how long it takes to win your heart, just as long as you receive and believe in Him.

So, what you are saying here is that I should ignore what Christianity is and instead embrace some form of hypothetical Christianity. Here’s the deal, and Christians need to understand this….It doesn’t matter to me what the Bible says, what you believe, or what you say your church believes. All that matters how you and your fellow Christ-followers live your lives.

If Jesus is all you say he is then it seems to me he would make a big difference in the life of Christians. But he doesn’t. For all your preaching and Bible verse quoting, the truth remains that there is little to no difference between an atheist and a Christian. Outside of where one sits on Sunday Morning the difference is nil.

Why would I want to embrace a religion that makes no difference in my life? Look around. Christians bicker and fight amongst themselves. They argue over the most trivial of things. Christians don’t agree on anything. Christians can’t even agree on salvation, baptism, and communion. If you can’t get those things right, why should I believe that you are right on anything else?

I would like to caution you though, because teaching people to blaspheme the Holy Spirit is a serious offense to God.

Since I don’t believe your God exists or the Bible is truth, your threat carries no weight. This might work for people who are still Christian, but not with me. I gladly and willingly blaspheme your God. He knows where I am. If he wants to kill me, here I am.

Imagine if you had 3 children, and one of them gets upset with you because you wouldn’t do things their way, so out of anger, frustration & disappointment that one decides to run away and tell everyone how horrible you are, or better yet, tell people that you never existed, that your other children made you up in their minds because they needed to feel secure and were not intelligent enough to take care of themselves. Now, say if you came back to that parent’s home and found a way to sneak in and convince the other 2 children that the lies you have been spreading about that parent are true. If you convinced them to join you in running away, can you imagine how that parent would feel? They would be enraged because you not only put yourself in danger, but you drug their other children into the situation and now they will be out of a home, without food and security. You all would be exposed to horrid things that the parent was only trying to protect you from in the first place. He would have to punish you.

I have no idea what you are saying here. It makes NO sense. That said, I encourage people to think for themselves.

A just God cannot just tolerate sin, that is why He made a way for them to be pardoned. He sent His Son to live a sinless life, and at the end take a punishment that anyone who sinned deserved [brutal death]. Afterward He rose from death to prove that He had power over it and went before the Great Judge [God] so that if anyone believed (so wholeheartedly that they would openly confess it before anyone) that Jesus indeed was the Son of God and subjected Himself to murder that He would trade what He [rightfully] deserved [eternal life enjoyed with the Father] for what we [rightfully] deserved (brutal death). He’s coming back to earth again, and this time he will be stripping the planet of every evil so that His people can live in freedom and in close relationship with Him. He can’t rid the earth of evil without being extremely severe because evil does not play nice or fair. Besides that, his anger is burning because of the suffering of not only human beings, but all creation, as a result of our sin. God is righteous and so are His judgments! Holy Spirit, please open their eyes to see the truth!

A just God cannot tolerate sin? Really? Look around.  Your God is tolerating all sorts of sin. In fact, it seems God doesn’t care about sin at all; even among his followers: they sin willfully and often. When’s the last time there has been an Ananias and Sapphira report? Christian TV is proof that God is not serious about sin.

God’s anger is burning over suffering? How do you know this? What proof do you have? In the Bible when God was angry he acted out. I don’t see God anywhere today. Suffering abounds and your God does nothing.

You are parroting the Bible. You believe that it is truth. I get that, but you need to understand that I believe what I can see. When your God shows up and does some real God work then I will believe. Until then, I remain unconvinced that your God is anything more than a fiction concocted by people to explain their understanding of a pre-science, pre-modern world. Perhaps it is time to create a new God that is modern and understands science.

Whether you believe God is real or not, He is! And I will pray that you will have an encounter with him for yourself that will change your heart toward the Lord. I pray that your eyes will be opened to the truth. God is real, His love is real and a true encounter with Him is life changing. Prayerfully you will truly meet the King and willfully submit to Him without Him having to force you to. The bible does say that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus, the Christ [Anointed One] is Lord. There is a great judgment coming to all who deny Him. I pray that you will not have to be judged in that day.

So God is real because you say he is. Awesome. End of discussion. Do you believe faeries are real? Why not? Whether you believe or not, faeries exist! I have never seen one BUT I read about them in a book so they must be real. Believe!!

I love you Bruce, although I have never met you and my hearts desire is that you will give in to the wooing of our Lord and savior Jesus the Christ. He loves you soooo much, I just wish you could see it. He won’t condemn you, if you would just turn to Him and admit your need for His forgiveness. He needs you to recognize that you have wronged Him, but He’ll treat you like nothing ever happened once you repent. Repent, for the Kingdom is at hand and the hour of destruction is approaching quickly.

No, you don’t love me. Don’t give me this syrupy, cheap Christian love. My wife, kids, grandkids, family, and friends love me. They don’t have some fucked-up Jesus-love for me. They love me for who I am. You can’t do that. Unless I become like you, you can never accept me for who I am. Just as your God does not love everyone, you really don’t love everyone either, and you need to stop telling yourself that you do. Your email to me is filled with invective and judgments. You, a total stranger, think you have the right to speak to me like this. Such arrogance.

I wronged God and need to confess it to him? It will be a cold day in a mythical hell before that happens. The people doing the wrong are people like you. You come preaching a religion and a God I want nothing to do with. You offer me no tangible proof for God other than “you say so.” You shit all over my front porch and then say to me, isn’t that wonderful!

You say the hour of destruction is approaching quickly. Today? Tomorrow? Next week? Next year? When? Christians keep threatening nonbelievers with “God is coming to whip your ass,” but he never shows up. Either God is a coward, he’s dead, or you are misrepresenting him. Perhaps your God is like the God Baal Elijah mocked in 1 Kings 18:27:

And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them (the prophets of Baal) , and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.

Perhaps your God, like Baal, is busy talking, using the toilet, on vacation, or asleep.

I am sure you mean well, but I am to the place in life where I am no longer willing to ignore people like you. I have had enough. When people like you come into my house and throw around feces covered in a veneer of love, I’m going to expose you and your God for who you really are: arrogant control freaks who demand everyone be like them lest they suffer eternal damnation and torture in hell.

What a wonderful God you serve. On behalf of my fellow atheists, let me say, NO THANKS!

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