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Tag: Atheism

Your Invitation to Hear My Speech for Atheists of Florida This Sunday

atheists of florida speech

I have the honor of speaking at the monthly meeting of the Atheists of Florida this Sunday, August 29, 2021, at 5:00 pm (EDT). This event is open to the public. After my speech, there will be a Q&A time.

If you are interested in attending, here’s the link for the Zoom meeting. The room will be open at 4:45 pm. I hope to see some of your smiling faces on Sunday. No eggs or tomatoes allowed. ๐Ÿ™‚

My speech will be available afterward as a podcast and YouTube video. I will post those links when they are available.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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

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

Questions: Bruce Did Your Bad Relationship with Your Father Lead to You Leaving Christianity?

questions

I put out the call to readers, asking them for questions they would like me to answer. If you have a question, please leave it here or email me. All questions will be answered in the order in which they are received.

Samantha asked:

I just read your post about your relationship with your father. I must say that I admire your transparency in reflecting upon these painful memories. My question is: Do you think it is possible that your relationship with your earthly dad contributed to you ultimately abandoning the notion of a loving Heavenly Father?

After writing the post Questions: Bruce, How Was Your Relationship with Your Father? I told my wife, Polly, that someone would likely say that my bad relationship with my father led to me leaving Christianity; that my relationship with my father affected how I viewed the Christian God. Polly replied, “you’re kidding, right? Surely, no one would say THAT! She forgets that I am a prophet. ๐Ÿ™‚ Actually, I recently listened to a Christian apologist asserting — without empirical evidence — that people who leave Christianity and embrace atheism have bad relationships with their fathers. In other words, Evangelicals-turned-atheists have “daddy problems.” This is exactly what Samantha is suggesting in her comment above.

When I first read her comment, I felt like giving it the Bruce Gerencser Treatmentยฎ, but I decided, instead, to calmly, patiently, and pointedly answer her question. Samantha may be a first-time reader, so I want to give her the benefit of the doubt.

Samantha’s language suggests she’s a Christian: earthly father, heavenly (big F) Father. So I will answer her question with that assumption in mind.

First, why are fathers to blame for our deconversions, and not our mothers? Christians see a direct connection between earthly father to heavenly Father. However, for me personally, my mother had a far bigger influence on me than my father. It was my mother who taught me to read. It was my mother who fueled my passion for God, Christianity, the Bible, politics, and writing. That’s why, when Mom killed herself at age 54, it broke my heart. Every year or so, I will go to her grave at Fountain Grove Cemetery in Bryan. I stand there and weep, wondering what might have been. Mom’s been gone 30 years, yet I still grieve over what’s been lost. Dad? I felt nothing when he died, and I don’t feel much differently today. I know my siblings feel differently, so I respect their grief, even if I can’t “feel” it.

Second, what is the direct connection between my non-existent relationship with my father and why I deconverted? I wonder if Samantha has read any of my autobiographical writing? (Please see WHY?) If she has, surely she knows WHY I deconverted. My relationship with Robert Gerencser had nothing to do with why I walked away from Christianity. And I mean NOTHING!

Third, countless Christian apologists and zealots have attempted to deconstruct and discredit my story. Fourteen years and thousands of emails, blog comments, and social media messages, yet not one person said that I had a faulty view of God, that my relationship with my father warped my view of the God of the Bible. Yet, the moment I write about my father for the first time, a Christian seizes on a perceived weakness or flaw in my story, suggesting that I would still be a Christian if I had had a “good” relationship with my father. Such people assume they know what a “good” parental relationship is — do tell. Further, they assume that there is one view of the Biblical God — do tell. And finally, they assume that past experiences determine our future — do tell.

Fourth, who, exactly, is this “heavenly Father” Samantha speaks of? Surely she knows that every Christian molds God in their own image, that our “God” eerily looks, thinks, and acts just like us. Yet, Samantha assumes that her “heavenly Father” is the one true God, and that if I had worshiped her deity, I might still be a Christian.

Fifth, my understanding of the nature of God was rooted in the words of the Bible, not my relationship with my father. Do our experiences affect how we view the world? Sure. Polly and I have been married for 43 years. No one knows me like she does. She knows, because she has been along for the ride, that I have wanderlust, that I bore easily, that I am always looking for new things to do. That’s why we lived in a lot of houses. That’s why I worked a lot of jobs — dozens and dozens of jobs. That’s why I pastored seven churches. Is my father to blame for my wanderlust? After all, my life as a child and teenager was one of constant movement. Surely, there’s a connection, right?

I have Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD), along with depression. I have seen the same counselor for a decade. We have talked about my wanderlust many times, and will likely do so again next week as we discuss the post about my father.

OCPD is described like this:

In patients with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, preoccupation with order, perfectionism, and control of themselves and situations interferes with flexibility, effectiveness, and openness. Rigid and stubborn in their activities, these patients insist that everything be done in specific ways.

Polly says, “I know that person. And I still love him.” ๐Ÿ™‚

OCPD and OCD are similar, but not the same. People who have OCPD tend to choose certain behaviors, seeing them as rational and best. The description above says people with OCPD have a “preoccupation with order, perfectionism, and control of themselves.” What does that sound like to you? Right beliefs. Right living. Do THIS, Believe THIS . . . Is this not the essence of Evangelical Christianity, particularly Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) Christianity? Sure, my childhood played a part in the development of OCPD in my life. However, if I were to place the blame on anyone or anything, it would be the IFB churches I attended as a child and teenager, and the pastors, youth directors, and Sunday school teachers who indoctrinated me in the “one true faith.” Who made a deeper and lasting imprint on my life? A non-involved, disinterested father, or so-called men of God who took an aggressive interest in conforming me to their interpretations of the King James Bible? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way.

I admit that my childhood made a deep, lasting mark on my life. How could it not? I can’t unsee my mother’s suicide attempts and mental illness. I can’t “unfeel” my father’s lack of love for me. My life is the sum of my experiences. However, I would argue that these experiences have made me a better man; that I am a loving, kind, and compassionate person, having long cared for the “least of these,” all because of the pain and suffering I have experienced in my life (and continue to experience).

Finally, until writing the aforementioned post, I hadn’t thought about my dad in years. Writing this post has proved to be painful, dredging up things long buried in the deep recesses of my mind. I told Polly last night that I regret answering Logan’s question. Now my mind is filled with numerous other stories I could have shared — few of which would paint my dad in a positive light. I suspect it will take therapy to return these memories to where they belong.

I shared my feelings about Logan’s question with Carolyn, my editor. She told me, “Bruce, you don’t have to answer every question.” Of course, she’s right. However . . . OCPD. I have to work the list, answer the questions in the order in which they are received. I can’t not answer Logan’s or Samantha’s or even “Dr.” I-Give-Christianity-a-Bad-Name David Tee’s (though he is now banned) questions. Sometimes, I just need to decline to answer, tell them their questions are intrusive/offensive, or maybe, just maybe, I need to tell such people to fuck off. Or, I could just blame dad. ๐Ÿ™‚

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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

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

Anuses and Dicks: Why I Have Such a Negative View of Evangelical Christianity

jesus and bruce

Rarely does a week go by without several Evangelicals telling me that the real reason that I left Christianity was that I was emotionally “hurt” in some way; that I deconverted because my fee-fees were “hurt.” This claim is patently untrue, yet no matter how many times I correct people, they continue to assert without evidence that the reason I divorced Jesus was that the church or some person “hurt” me. Making this unfounded claim allows Evangelical zealots to dismiss my story out of hand. Regardless of what intellectual reasons I give for my deconversion, these zealots believe the “real” reason Jesus and I had a falling out was emotional, not intellectual. Sometimes, Evangelicals say that not only was I “hurt,” I am also angry and hate God. Again, by pointing to emotional reasons for my loss of faith, they can ignore anything else I say about the matter.

I willingly admit that people refusing to accept my story at face value irritates the heaven and hell out of me. When someone tells me she is a Christian and why, I believe her. Why can’t she extend to me the same courtesy and respect? My wife, Polly, and I were talking about this very thing last night. Such sweet nothings we talk about in bed. ๐Ÿ™‚ As we talked, I had a Loki-inspired revelation: I HAD been hurt. I finally saw the light.

You see, after I publicly said I was no longer a believer (please see Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners), Evangelical family members, colleagues in the ministry, and former church members sharpened their knives and slashed me repeatedly from stem to stern. Their savage attacks drew blood and wounded me. I thought, aren’t we friends? Didn’t we spend countless hours fellowshipping with each other? Didn’t you love my preaching and appreciate my help when you had difficult times? So how did I go from you calling me Preacher to saying I am a child of Satan?

While several congregants sincerely tried to understand my story, most clerical family members and friends came after me as a shark would when smelling blood in the water. Their words caused great emotional harm to both me and Polly. While I bore the brunt of their ugly, mean-spirited words, Polly read their assaults and wondered, “how could Christians act like this? What did we ever do to deserve such treatment?” Unfortunately, these questions remain unanswered to this day.

While “hurt” played a negligible part in my deconversion, the harm caused by Evangelical zealots post-Jesus has certainly affected how I view Christianity and whether I would ever reconsider becoming a follower of Jesus. After thirteen years, I can say that my treatment by Evangelicals has been overwhelmingly negative; that their words and behavior do little to commend Jesus to me, Polly, and the readers of this blog.

Thanks to establishing strict contact email policies, I get far fewer emails from Evangelical — especially Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) — zealots and apologists today than I did years ago. But, the cumulative effect of these emails makes it clear to me that Evangelical Christianity causes psychological harm, turning the abused into abusers. Every week, I feature at least one email or comment I have received from Evangelicals — nasty, hateful missives meant to cause harm, not redemption. I even let some of these people comment, setting aside my comment policy (“Dr.” David Tee/David Thiessen/Theologyarcheology comes to mind). Forget, for a moment, what Bruce Gerencser thinks about Christianity. Instead, ask long-time readers of my writing what they think about the “one true faith.” I’m confident you will likely not find one person who has a favorable opinion of Evangelicalism and the IFB church movement. Why is that?

If the goal, Evangelicals, is to reclaim the sheep who have gone astray, you might want to rethink your approach. Wildly running at these sheep with a butcher’s knife and loudly screaming epitaphs will only cause them to flee, seeking refuge in hills and valleys, safe from crazy, knife-wielding Evangelicals.

It is unlikely that Christians can provide any argument that would convince me that the God of the Bible is real; that Jesus is the virgin-born, miracle-working, resurrected son of God. However, how I view Evangelical Christianity as an institution and cultural force can be changed with kind words and good works. So far, all I see is a truck going down the road to a hot dog processing plant. The truck hits a big bump, jarring the back door of the delivery box open. And out fall boxes of anuses and dicks.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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

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

Questions: Bruce, Why are Humans Religious?

questions

I put out the call to readers, asking them for questions they would like me to answer. If you have a question, please leave it here or email me. All questions will be answered in the order in which they are received.

William asked:

History is replete with different types of religious beliefs, why is this do you think? Are humans programmed to believe in a superior deity(ies)? Is the mind hardwired to explain things through magical ways? Are rituals to please a God(s) just another form of gambling, hoping to strike it lucky? Or is it just a throwback to our heightened imagination pre-agriculture as a defense mechanism when we really had to be afraid of the dark?

I am an atheist. I have not, as of today, seen any evidence for the existence of a deity or deities. I am convinced that the supernatural claims of the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, along with the claims of the other major religions of the world, are false. That said, most humans are, to some degree or the other, religious. While atheist, agnostic, secular, humanist numbers are increasing, as is the number of people indifferent towards religions, there’s no doubt that we live in a religious world.

This fact can be explained in several ways. First, humans are likely religious because being so gives us some biological/ evolutionary advantage. Second, sociologists and other scientists tell us that personal religious beliefs are determined by geography, parental training, cultural influence, church indoctrination, and personal experiences. Third, most people don’t choose a religion. Instead, they adopt the religion of their parents and culture. One need only look at a religion dispersion map to see how the aforementioned reasons determine with which religion people self-identify.

Will we ever have a post-religion world? Maybe. We are generations away from such a world, and who knows, another religion may arise in the future that captivates millions and millions of people. Until we take skepticism, reason, and intellectual inquiry seriously, religion will continue to infect our minds. Perhaps the best we can hope for is neutering religious fundamentalism — the most dangerous force in the world.

My editor, Carolyn, wonders if I understood William’s question correctly.

Carolyn writes:

Oddly enough, I read the question in a very different way. I thought he was asking why, from the beginning of religion, humans developed such religions. I figure that it was basically fear of the unknown, and the unknown was HUGE!! Will the sun still come up tomorrow? Perhaps we should worship it or pray to it. The rain is pouring down and the creek is rising toward our shelter. Maybe we should pray to a god to keep the creek from rising more and our shelter from washing away. The bear is mighty and fierce. Perhaps we should pray to him to protect us from other animals. Etc., etc., etc.

Perhaps it took Bruce AND Carolyn to answer William’s question. ๐Ÿ™‚ I can expand on Carolyn’s addition if needed, but I think she adequately adds yets another reason humans were/are religious. Thanks!

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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

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

Watch My Interview on The Freethought Hour

freethought hour

Earlier today, I had the privilege of appearing on The Freethought Hour, a live program hosted by John Richards. Due to a glitch, viewers werenโ€™t able to watch the program live. It is now available on YouTube.

Give it a watch and let me know what you think. Let me apologize in advance for me accidentally spilling water on my shirt. Drove me nuts, but I was on a live program, so there was nothing I could do. ๐Ÿ˜‚

If you are so inclined, please click LIKE on the video and leave a comment.

Here’s the YouTube video link.

Thank you for your continued support.

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bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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

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

Bruce Gerencser