Tag Archive: Christianity

Jesus Vacations

Recently, my wife received an email from a college student who worked for her one summer. This girl — an Evangelical Christian — wanted to let Polly know that she was raising $6,000 so she could go to a “secret” country and do illegal missionary work. The girl meant well, I am sure, but her email was a reminder to me of the Jesus Vacations® many Evangelicals take each summer to foreign lands to spread white American Christianity. Scores of Evangelicals take these trips each year, spending millions of dollars as Jesus tourists; convincing themselves that what meager, incidental work they do matters.

Why didn’t the girl’s church pay for her trip? If the goal is winning souls for Christ in a country that forbids such things, why not have the soulwinners or their churches pay for the trip? Instead, trip takers turn to people they know — family, friends, casual acquaintances, workmates — to cough up the money so they can take an unnecessary Jesus Vacation® to what they believe is the foreign mission field. Polly, of course, did not respond to the email, nor did she forward it others as the sender requested. In our Christian days, we didn’t support such wastes of energy and money, and as unbelievers we sure as Hell aren’t going to help American Evangelicals harass foreign non-Christians.

Jesus Vacations® are taken primarily by white middle-class Evangelicals. While certainly “some” good is accomplished; say, building housing, digging wells, and improving the welfare of people in poverty-stricken countries, the irony here is that many Evangelicals who minister to material needs while on their Jesus Vacations® won’t do the same in their own country. In their minds, Haitians are worthy of care, but poor blacks, whites, and Hispanics in impoverished areas in the deep south? Let them starve. Get a job! Mexicans on the American side of the border are criminals worthy of deportation, abusers of American goodness and largess. Mexicans south of the Rio Grande? Why, now they are a mission field; people worthy of missional attention from rich white Evangelicals.

After these Jesus-loving travelers return from their Jesus Vacations®, they will stand before their fellow congregants one Sunday and give a testimony of all the things they did for Jesus; of all the goodwill they spread to the poor; and, most of all, the number of people who prayed the sinner’s prayer and asked Jesus to save them. Charismatic vacationers will regale their churches with claims of miracles, yet will not provide evidence for their claims. Year after year, Evangelicals take Jesus Vacations®, never considering whether they are really doing anything meaningful or whether the money spent for travel and other expenses could have been put to better use.

Jesus Vacations® tend to support the false notion that poor people of color in other countries need affluent white American Christians to help them and deliver them from Satan. Why not, instead, send the money to Christians who live in these countries and let them spend it helping their fellow citizens? Wouldn’t doing so be more cost-effective? Instead of fifty college students coughing up $6,000 each for a Jesus Vacation® — $300,000 — wouldn’t it be far better to send it to people who know their country and communities, and what needs people might have? Bruce, surely you know we can’t trust poor blacks with white people’s money! They need us – “us” being affluent white Evangelicals — to manage how the monies are spent. USA! USA USA!  JESUS! JESUS! JESUS!

mission trip

Comic by Tom Tapp

Of course, sending the money to the field and forgoing Jesus Vacations® will never happen. You see Jesus Vacations® give the appearance of doing good in Jesus’ name. These trips are feel-good, Hallmark-like experiences. They allow trip takers to oh-so-humbly brag about how Jesus used them to materially help and evangelize poor people of color. Praise be to Jesus! Look what I, uh, I mean, Jesus, did! The humble-bragging extends to pastors and older congregants too. Look at what WE did for Jesus! Look at how we helped those poor, helpless Haitians (and ignored the poor people who live next door to the church)! As with most things Evangelical churches do, no one will ever question the value of taking Jesus Vacations®. No one will ever ask, WHY do we take these trips every year? Oh no, you don’t: thou shalt not question. Summers are for vacation Bible school (VBS), youth camp, and Jesus Vacations® (and here in Ohio a day trip to either King’s Island or Cedar Point). And so it goes, year after year . . .

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Portland, Oregon City Leaders Consider Giving Non-Believers Civil Rights Protections

freedom from religion

Portland City Council plans to hold a hearing tomorrow on an ordinance that will grant atheists and other non-believers civil rights protections under Portland law. The summary of the ordinance states:

Amend Civil Rights Code to add non-religion such as atheism, agnosticism and non-belief to the definition of Religion (Ordinance; amend Code Chapter 23.01)

The City of Portland ordains: Section I. The Council finds that:

I . Discrimination on the basis of non-religion such as atheism, agnosticism, and non-belief exists in the City of Portland and the state law does not explicitly prohibit such discrimination against these groups. This change is necessary to clarify that disbelief, or lack of belief should be included in the protected class of “Religion” in order to provide every individual an equal opportunity to participate fully in the life of the City.

2. Providing protections for non-religion such as atheism, agnosticism, and non-belief promotes the intent of the Council to remove discriminatory barriers to equal participation in employment, housing and public accommodations in the City of Portland. Other cities, such as Madison, Wisconsin, have taken similar measures.

3. It is necessary to update citations to the Oregon Revised Statutes as cited in Chapter 23.01 to the most current version in order to maintain accuracy.

4. Updates to make language used in Chapter 23.01 more inclusive are also needed

According to a 2015 Public Religion Research Institute survey, Portland is the most non-religious city in the United States. Forty-two percent of Portland residents self-identify as non-religious. Unsurprisingly, the most religious community in America is the Baptist stronghold of Nashville, with only fifteen percent of residents identifying as non-religious. Nationwide, almost one out of four Americans check NONE when asked their religious affiliation. This number continues to grow, scaring the shit out of Christian church leaders. Southern Baptists, in particular, are desperately trying to find ways to stem attendance loss. Millennials, especially, show an increasing indifference towards religion. I should note that being non-religious and being an atheist are not one and the same. All atheists are non-religious, but not all NONES are atheists. Most just don’t care about matters of faith. Most of my children fit in this category. They simply have no interest in organized religion. Do they believe in a deity of some sort? I don’t know, but I can tell you that such questions don’t interest them in the least.

According to Portland Commissioner Amanda Fritz, the reason for the ordinance is simple:

Portland has a large percentage of residents who identify as religiously unaffiliated. We need to make these changes to our Civil Rights Code to remove discriminatory barriers, so they may participate equally in employment, housing, and public accommodations in the City.

Readers might be surprised to know that in many locales non-religious people do not have the same civil rights protections as the religious. At the Federal level, atheists have been forced to claim atheism is a “religion” in order to gain equal protection under the law. While atheists are growing in number and influence — much like the LGBTQ community — they often lack the same rights as religious people — especially at the state and local level. Groups such as the Freedom From Religion FoundationAmerican Atheists, the American Humanist AssociationAmericans United for Separation of Church and State, and the American Civil Liberties Union tirelessly fight for civil rights protection for non-believers, diligently challenging  separation of church and state breaches and discrimination against non-believers. These battles are fought daily, and the good news is that unbelievers are, for the most part, winning. This does not mean, however, that the playing field is fair and just for atheists and other non-believers. It’s not. The United States is a long way away from living up to its secular heritage. Religious sectarians are, by nature, exclusionary, demanding that their beliefs be given preferential treatment. Evangelicals, in particular, believe that the United States is a Christian nation, a bright shining city chosen by God to conquer the world with the Christian gospel and the teachings of the Bible. In their minds, atheism is a religion too, albeit a false, Satanic one. I laugh when an Evangelical says to me atheism is a “religion.” If atheism is, indeed, a religion, it is the only sect in American history without beliefs, buildings, clerics, and holy books. Atheism can be defined with one sentence: The disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods. That’s it. If atheism is a religion, it’s the only sect that doesn’t ask anything, including money, of its adherents. Maybe we should get the word out about the First Church of Atheism®. Keep your money, sleep in on Sundays, and eat succulent roasted babies for dinner. Better forget that last one, I suppose.

It will be interesting to see if Portlandian Christians object to the aforementioned proposed ordinance. In 2015, the city of Madison, Wisconsin, became the first community to pass a law making discrimination against atheists and other non-believers illegal. Local Christians said nothing. Channel 3000 reported at the time:

The vote amends the city’s equal opportunity ordinance, adding atheism as a protected class in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodations.

“There are many categories that are protected,” Weier said. “And it did occur to me that if religion was then perhaps the opposite should be”

UW graduate student, and former Atheists Humanists and Agnostics president Chris Calvey was among the five atheists speaking in favor of the proposals.

They told the council stories of housing, employment, volunteer, community, and parental custody discrimination because of their non-belief in God, saying that fact has no bearing on their character, values or what type of job they do.

“It’s actually something we’re commonly very concerned about, just because atheism is viewed as such a taboo in this country. And there’s such a stigma with it. That people in my student group for example are very hesitant to be honest about their lack of belief in God out of fear that they are going to be discriminated against in employment opportunities. If that came up in a job interview that’s held against them,” Calvey said.

“Having it on the books, where we’re legally a protected class, that’ll make things much easier for atheists,” Calvey said. “And we’ll be able to be confident that at least if we’re honest about what we actually believe, then we have the law backing us up so we can’t legally be discriminated against.”

“It’s really making a big statement that we’re not going to put up with discrimination in the name of God. That being a believer doesn’t mean you can discriminate,” Freedom From Religion Foundation co-founder Annie Laurie Gaylor said.

If such a law were proposed here in the land of God, Guns, and Republican Politics, I am certain local Christians would be outraged, filling local newspapers with letters to the editor about how evil and un-American atheism is. I have been personally attacked in the pages of the Defiance Crescent-News by Evangelicals and Catholics outraged over my atheism, anti-Christian views, and liberal/progressive politics. (Please see My Response to Daniel Gray’s Lies.) One of the reasons I take photographs for the local school district is to put a real flesh-and-blood face on atheism. I want locals to be confused by what they know about me as a man and what their pastors say about evil, Satanic atheists. If Christians actually know an atheist, that relationship often changes their opinion about unbelievers. Behavior matters. I know, when it came to me and my hostility towards LGBTQ people, my beliefs didn’t change until I actually knew and befriended someone who was gay. The same goes for atheists. Take the time to get to know an atheist/agnostic/humanist/pagan or other non-Christian and you will find out that we are not much different from the people you sit next to in church every Sunday. We have the same wants, needs, and desires as you do, and it sure would be nice if we had the same civil rights protections too.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

I’ve Always Lied to Tell the Truth, A Guest Post by Brian

guest post

Guest Post by Brian

Reality is a complicated matter. Three people who appear to have been in the same place at the same time can easily produce three completely different stories about it. Words, then, have a pretty tough time, as they are the means by which we share, as simply or not, as we can, our Reality. I’ve always lied because I learned in the beginning that telling the bald truth was punishable, that it brought pain. Lying allowed me to avoid, or at least delay, the pain.

I was born into a family that served the Lord. First and foremost, beyond all else, the Master was served. It was Jesus-God who gave me life as he had given life to my parents, and of course my siblings. In the beginning, God . . . He created and sustained all and everything, me included.

How was I to know, when my mother pushed me from her womb, that all this was a big fucking lie from beginning to end? She was pregnant for the third time and when she attempted to sit up after delivering, the doctor told her to lie back down: “Please, please lie down! We aren’t finished yet. There’s another one coming . . .”

So it was that either myself or my brother joined his twin that day in 1952.

My mother had already given birth to my eldest sister a few years before, a toxic birth that put her into convulsions at home. Dad called an ambulance and they rushed her to the hospital and filled her with narcotics, severely compromising the whole process and leaving her firstborn brain-damaged, with a failure to thrive. She did appear somewhat as a normal baby but never developed as time passed and eventually had to be taken into full-time care at a provincial hospital. That was after my older brother was born more than year or so later, a robust baby who demanded what all babies do: mommy’s attention. After another pregnancy (me and my brother) it was clear that my older sister would not be getting the care she needed at home so the decision was made to give her over to provincial care. She lived more than fifty years, completely compromised, never able to speak or walk or use her arms. She died tragically in her fifties when a care worker, having routinely raised her in a sling for a bath, lowered her into scalding hot water. She did not die immediately but suffered third degree burns over two-thirds of her body. It took her a few days to finally give in and pass away.

Merciful Jesus. God in Heaven. My father had been preaching for a few years when my sister was born, and he trusted God with the experience of his fathering a toxic child whose life would be lived totally in-care, helpless. So, fifty-some years on, when she was lowered into the bath that would be her last, he said in the midst of his horrible pain, that God’s will is indiscernible, unknowable, and that we must realize that all things work together for good for those who know the Lord.

I was an adult when I lost my sister in this crazy and tragic accident, and I kind of went nuts over it. How could this ever happen? It was wrong, every way I looked at it. I phoned my mom and gently told her that I was calling a lawyer because . . . because . . . because . . . She listened and said that they would follow up. As a result of the death, new provincial legislation was passed to make it less likely that another killing would occur. My parents were given some money for their suffering and I claimed a settlement for myself, for a short term of therapy to deal with the loss.

But let me get back closer to my beginnings as a twin in the early fifties. When my brother and I were born, we had each other’s names. I was him and he was me. When my maternal grandma came to visit with my Baptist preacher grandfather, she changed our names, saying that my brother should be me and I should be my brother. My poor mother, after having remained unaware she was carrying twins, didn’t, by that time, give a rat’s ass who had what name and so I became my brother that day and he, me. This has always seemed to me somehow terribly significant, terribly symbolic of something or other but, as I have tried to share, reality is a mystery, a lifelong theater.

Let me leave this conundrum and go back a bit further, to approximately the ‘20s — the 1920s. It began on farms, both my mom and dad growing up fairly near one another, in rural Southern Ontario, Canada. My dad was the son of a farmer who had himself a large family and then eventually had to work off the farm to scrape together a living, leaving my barely-a-teen dad with the farm work. There were brothers but they found ways to leave so that dad was left with chores he did not enjoy at all. This might be partly a lie, as he refused to confirm or deny it. He would not talk to me much about his early farm life, only to say it was not good and that as he manned the horse-driven plow, the only thing that kept him going was searching the plowed earth as it was turned over, searching with all his might for Indian arrowheads. (Much of that part of the province was settled long before the white man by Natives, then called Indians, and dad collected many arrowheads in his hours of labor.) The years I am referencing here were pre-WWII, and life consisted of farm work, basic schooling and church attendance.

It was the church that offered my dad his freedom, and he enrolled in a Bible school to become a Baptist preacher. I am not sure what became of the farm when he made the choice to leave for the ministry, but I think it managed to carry on for several more years before it was given up. I don’t think my grandfather ever returned to work the land in any big way.

My maternal grandfather was a Baptist preacher, so mom grew up in a preacher’s home. The decades before the WWII were full of school and church life for my mom. She was a middle child and had both brothers and sisters. She left a diary from her high school days that my brother found among her things after she died last year and the diary revealed a young woman with strong feelings and a well-trained skill in writing around dangerous subjects and not revealing outright that which would be sinful and wrong. (My dear mother taught me to lie, I would say, taught me survival. My father withheld to survive, kept quiet and moved carefully.) In her diary, mom made it clear that any boy interested in being her friend in school would be vetted first by daddy and judged for his worthiness primarily by how much faith he showed and lived for all to see. People who did not attend church were unlikely to be good company at all and though they were part of the crowd at public school, they were always viewed through a Christian lens and kept at a safe distance.

Mom knew dad in those school days. He was a Christian, she thought for sure, but he was apparently not very social and kept pretty much to himself and a few other young men. (I think his time was fairly dominated with farm chores!) Even in those early mentions of my father in my mom’s diary, he revealed himself a loner and my mom applied her romantic wishes to that fairly blank slate. Dad fit the bill because he was a Christian. She thought he was smart-looking and when he chose ministry, mom set her sights on him. She made her own way toward independence by choosing the nursing profession, a perfectly acceptable choice for a young, unmarried Christian woman. It was a life of service that was acceptable and somewhat approved in the church, especially as it became clearer that war was coming again. Dad finished bible school — about three years of study. It was a rigorous teaching in Protestant doctrine with proud Baptist colors.

This was a time after the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy that swept America and resulted in Canadian Baptists choosing one side — the Convention — or the other side — ours, the true faith of the Union: those who held faithfully to the matters of inerrancy of scripture, the Atonement, the Resurrection and so forth, those essentials which, should they be abandoned, would lead us all down those dark path to eventual Satanic Atheism. In earlier Canadian history, we believers endured other splits too, and my dad clung to the Calvinist leanings of the old Regular Baptist days in his Bible school training. I surmise this from my memory of listening to his sermons, not from his sharing with me, because he refused to talk about his life. I made it clear to him by my rebellion as a teenager that I did not have a sincere interest in serving the Lord and so would use any information he shared with me regarding his history and ministry work, as fodder to attack what was not to be attacked but worshipped and adored.

Well, I certainly was morose and angry as a teen, depressed quite a bit and unable to feel free. My dad, being an isolated man, found it easier and better all around to remain a loner. He couldn’t help me — I knew that early on. He never really had a best male friend in his adult life and spent his time alone, reading. He collected religious books so that our simple home life was lined with them — cases and cases of mostly religious books, with a bit of literature thrown in, along with the popular cowboy writing of the time: Zane Grey and some Louis L’amour. I never did, and never have, read the cowboy stuff. We had a huge sculpted-cover, gold-page-edged Bible that was a job to even lift and marvel over. It had pictures too. I saw Daniel in the lion’s den!

Dad joined the air force, the Royal Canadian Air Force, just before the war and at the tail end of Bible School. He served on the prairies as an airplane technician, testing planes that had been serviced there. He did ground testing and hardly flew, though as a child he had spent time cutting out newspaper pictures of planes and collecting them in a scrapbook we discovered among his things as he aged. After his service, he married mom and they went into ministry and raised six kids.

My dad’s first church was one that he built himself, with the assistance of other men of faith. Dad had become a fine carpenter in his farm days and his skill was utilized fully in this new vocation. The church in its heyday had over a hundred members in a town that never broke ten thousand in population.

Mom worked as a nurse to supplement a lousy living in the ministry. I’m quite sure my dad never felt free to ask for a decent wage, nor would he believe God wanted him to ask. Instead, we lived by faith, and Mom’s hard work as a nurse.

It is my belief that God hates women and wants them eternally punished. I know this from watching how women are treated in churches, even those who call themselves modern and open. (I jest of course about God’s hate, because as far as I have seen, there is not now and never was a God. There are myriad concoctions called Gods invented by myriad people over time but I cannot believe in any of them.) As for women and God, things have changed for the better over the years but there are plenty of throwback Baptists and others out there busily holding to the Bible and routinely abusing women because they are well aware of God’s judgment on females from Eden onward. True love is following God’s will first and foremost. That which today I call open and blatant abuse of women, throwback religious men call the only true love in the world, the love of God for the weaker sex.

Even though dad took full advantage of God’s hatred for women, he did not relish bullying behavior. He believed in corporal punishment because he understood the scriptures as supporting it but he rarely exercised the option. Dad was not a physical abuser. He was not a man who raised his voice much beyond the pulpit, or even in the pulpit. My father’s failings had to do with what I would call ‘lack in life,’ what he did without, how he coped by being alone, being a loner.

I think of preachers as people who are communicators and who work on language and expression in order to convey the “message,” but my dad was not a communicator. He did not willingly talk much at all and preferred silence. He adored words — don’t get me wrong — words on a page that he could devour in silence. He never listened to music and had only an acceptable singing voice, not pleasing but not tone-deaf. Mom played the piano, somewhat unevenly, as her family grew, and she sang well too.

But what am I trying to do here by sharing these bits and pieces, this overview of life before and then during the time when I came along? It’s complicated. Some of it is probably lies I have told to survive. Reality is fluid and so we aim at a moving target in sharing our lives.

Mom and dad died last year, not more than a month or so between their exits into the ether. Dad was already quite demented but still smiling sometimes and it took him several weeks to realize mom was gone. He would look at me and his forehead would furl: “Mom’s gone to heaven now?” he would ask again and again and I would tell him that yes, she was gone, that she had died. Reality is a mysterious thing; have I said that too much? So how did he just up and die himself once the truth of mom’s passing was set in his head? Was his death, so close to hers, a fluke? Reality is not a simple thing to keep up with and those who say the Bible is a book God made simple enough for all to understand merely display their ignorance, and perhaps their inner wish that they had a clue about it. They are liars, startlingly similar to myself.

I am now retired, several years to seventy and an atheist without Jesus and his promise, and without his dad too. Being honest is not easy because I learned to lie in childhood to survive. I learned to parrot the correct words. I learned to hate myself for being bad.

I’m a ways down life’s road now and still too much a cliché, still not enough myself, not able to simply be. I watch children, little children being themselves and I marvel. I see in their free flight why we harm them, clip their wings and send them to training school.

I don’t believe in magic Jesus and sometimes wonder if more than half of the historical Jesus ever really lived at all. I wonder if there was a guy who drew attention, was bright and said some remarkable things, then drew the attention of bullies and was killed by them . . . and became a blank slate for humankind to write on. Perhaps the Bible is mostly graffiti. A lie too. Perhaps the Bible lies like I do or — no — better, much, much better.

But the Bible does not bear much attention in my life now and lacks pragmatic purpose, to say the least. We live in a time when our politics have become comic to the point of tragedy. Unless we can move beyond delusion and belief, we cannot allow ourselves to love our neighbors because we do not allow a basic love of self. There. I said it. I have played my card. We are not the selfish and fallen but the hated and abandoned and we finally have ourselves to answer for that lack. At what age in our lives do we finally become the author of our lives?

The man behind the curtain is finally only that one we see when we glance in a mirror.

I have come to believe that religion is not helpful. It is, as is often suggested, misguided and subject to human error. But that is because it is invented by imperfect beings who are always changing. Religion, or Belief, is not something that saves, but that depletes and spends uncontrollably, without reasonable balance. It demands that we admit we are basically evil and cannot help ourselves, and it has such power in our lack, the baggage of lack we carry with us, that we fully entertain outright abuse in our lives. We will listen to the first commandments and not balk and cry out a healthy “Bullshit!”

One of the most compelling proofs of our learned lack is the fact that children who are routinely beaten cannot even stand with themselves in their heart of hearts and have learned, through our lack as their elders, to take responsibility for the actions of the abusers who injure them. We have not been able as people to engender in our kids a basic right to own themselves and be free of taking responsibility for those who harm them. A beaten child always admits he is bad and so get beaten more. Children almost always share this when asked about being harmed. They believe they caused it and if they could only be better, then it would stop. We teach this in church every bit as much as we teach it from the bottom of a bottle of whiskey, every bit as much as an adult who punches to the head of a six-year-old child. Men do this harm far more than women, but it is not about gender, but about self-respect. Religion has been around far longer than any of us, and yet it has not accomplished the most fundamental and integral outcome. It has not modeled for us a basic, life-giving self-respect. It has co-opted our language and redefined words to fit “scriptural”’ ends but it has not looked after our innocence. We have been abandoned, and so have learned how to abandon ourselves. Thank you Jesus. Thank you Mohammed. Thank you God. There are so many religions that we have religions containing religions ad nauseum and all of them requiring our sustenance, our food and money, and all of them depleting our respect for ourselves and others.

Religion lies for a living. All religion. All Gods. Magicians are liars too but far more honest than any Pope. They trick your eyes and ears and make an honest living from it. Religion purports to be something other than what it is in pragmatic reality. It purports to save while in fact it spends, hoards and depletes. It purports to define and display the essence of love while it remains full of falsehood and deception.

My mom and dad loved me, loved all six of us kids with all the heart they could muster and it was good. It was far better than most experienced nearby us and I am forever thankful for what they accomplished. My parents loved us as all parents love, to the utmost, to the very best they can do, with everything they have . . . .

Now it must be acknowledged that everything my parents had included what they lacked in their own lives. I see as I get older that my father and much of his family suffered depression, untreated. My loner father treated his condition by becoming a preacher and my mom coped with being a Christian woman by marrying a preacher like her own father. The same subterfuge of her high school diary was perpetuated by finding a like structure in adulthood to carry on carrying on.

Both my parents were given over to God and in turn, they gave over their children. Of their five remaining children, only two were able to turn away from religion at all. The rest carry on the tradition with some variations in flavor but the basic ingredients the same old same old . . . .

And my journey? I was saved as a youngster, barely school-age, terrified and having nightmares about hellfire. I believed in God because I was told to and that was all there was as far as I could see. I learned at a very young age that I was a sinner and had to keep asking for forgiveness because I could hear swear words in my head and I stole some candy or did any of a million innocuous things that proved I was bad.
As I grew older, I grew more depleted and more sullen. I felt such anger, a generic misery that I understand now as my own body protesting the harm being done by our way of life. But then, back then I understood none of it. As a teen, I rebelled as much as I could, smoking dope and listening to Hendrix and Dylan. I tried like hell to drop out but could not quite accomplish it and always ended up at home again feeling dragged along and horrible.

Then, I figured it out. I realized that Jesus needed me to be myself and to follow only him and not any religion or way. I began my own private church, Brian’s church, and began to cherry-pick scriptures to be comfortable, to be able to still have Jesus and yet be done with the church as I knew it.

Honestly, really, in our heart of hearts, don’t we all invent our own church and our own God when we choose to throw the Faith dice? I think we do. I recently heard somebody say there are as many Christianities as there are Christians and that strikes me as on the mark.

As I grew tired with my own church inventions, I changed them up and continued on. I stopped attending churches except for the odd wedding or funeral. I found myself spending less time — less and less time — obsessing about these matters and even one day entertained the idea that I might not really believe in God at all. It was only for a second, though, and it haunted me so that I steered clear of it for years.

One day more than halfway through my life and long after I had fallen in love, married and had kids, I said quietly to myself, “I don’t believe.” Again, as before, I prepared to feel a blow to my sternum and to be flooded with fear. But nothing happened. Somehow, in the interim, in time passing, Elvis left the building and I stood there quite alone with my breath. The world glowed as I stood there and I tried it again: “I really just plain don’t believe.” Silence, normal pregnant silence, and the world was alive in my eyes. I stood there and felt a huge weight gone, just gone. Holy Jesus! This is honesty. I am being honest!

I once wrote a found-poem from a McDonald’s paper placemat. The placemat was targeting children and was simply numbered instructions that led the child to form a smile on their faces. At the end of the poem, the last point was the statement: “You are Happy!” I was indeed. Honest truth . . . I had been released!

I am free to honor myself and to honor innocence in all things. I declare wholeness and that we are not fallen creatures. I declare abandonment of restrictions on our vision, our journey in life. I declare that what the whole church has been unable to accomplish for centuries, Norm Lee has accomplished! (Norm was a teacher, an abused child almost killed by his dad, beaten to a pulp. He went on to dedicate himself to being a dad who would never harm his kids, never punish them but stay in healthy relationship with them and let them take the lead in their own lives. I had the great good fortune to know this man, who wrote a book called “Parenting without Punishing.”)

One person can change the direction of the world by saying the buck stops here. I will not harm as I was harmed. The basic message, perhaps, of Jesus’ Beatitudes was to live fully. When one strips away the references to the time and to a God, one is left with a very symbolic expression: feel truly and with passion. Honor yourself and others. Be blessed with life. Perhaps the Christ did just that, I don’t know, and if he said, Follow me, he meant live your life free and clear, without fear and without harming yourself and others. Be Norm Lee.

Know what I mean? Reality is a mystery to me.

The Voices of Atheism: Why Theists Can’t Convert Atheists by Genetically Modified Skeptic

genetically modified skeptic

This is the fourth installment in The Voices of Atheism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. Know of a good video that espouses atheism/agnosticism or challenges the claims of the Abrahamic religions? Please email me the name of the video or a link to it. I believe his series will be an excellent addition to The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser.

Thank you in advance for your help.

Today’s video features Drew, the Genetically Modified Skeptic. Enjoy!

Video Link

Black Collar Crime: Pastor Charles “Tiger” Aguon II Accused of Grooming Teen Boy

charles tiger aguon II

The Black Collar Crime Series relies on public news stories and publicly available information for its content. If any incorrect information is found, please contact Bruce Gerencser. Nothing in this post should be construed as an accusation of guilt. Those accused of crimes are innocent until proven guilty.

Pastor Charles “Tiger” Aguon II, headmaster/teacher at Kingdom Preparatory School in Auburndale, Florida, stands accused of grooming and sexually molesting a teen boy.

The Ledger reports:

PCSO investigators conducted an emergency forensic interview with the teen, who said Aguon simulated sex with him and touched his penis numerous times, with a specific occurrence in November and another in December.

During a monitored phone call between Aguon and the boy Tuesday, the teen told Aguon he felt uncomfortable and did not like when Aguon kissed and touched him.

Aguon then asked the boy, “Oh, the loving on you?” said Judd, referencing the phone call.

After the teen said he didn’t like it when Aguon touched his private parts, kissed him and bit his lip, Aguon then said, “You know I was only messing with you,” according to the arrest affidavit.

When the teen told Aguon a second time he did not like it, Aguon then said, “I’m sorry.”

Less than two hours later, Aguon was arrested at Kingdom Preparatory School around 1:30 p.m.

Judd said Aguon admitted to detectives that he knew his behavior was inappropriate, and that he should not have engaged in that type of behavior.

The Voices of Atheism: Stephen Fry Takes on The Catholic Church

stephen fry

This is the third installment in The Voices of Atheism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. Know of a good video that espouses atheism/agnosticism or challenges the claims of the Abrahamic religions? Please email me the name of the video or a link to it. I believe his series will be an excellent addition to The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser.

Thank you in advance for your help.

Today’s video features Stephen Fry. Enjoy!

Video Link

Songs of Sacrilege: Christmas Time in Hell by the South Park Team

christmas time in hell

This is the one hundred ninety-ninth installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Christmas Time in Hell by the South Park Team.

Video Link

Lyrics

Satan: Well I tell you what,
Maybe we’ll have ourselves a little Christmas, right here.
C’mon everyone, gather `round!

String up the lights and light up the tree
We’re going to make some revelry
Spirits are high, so I can tell
It’s Christmas time in hell!

Demons are nicer as you pass them by
There’s lots of demon toys to buy
The snow is falling and all is well
It’s Christmas time in hell!

There goes Jeffery Dahmer,
With a festive Christmas ham
After he has sex with it,
He’ll eat up all he can.

And there goes John F. Kennedy
Caroling with his son
Reunited for the holidays
God bless us, everyone!

Everybody has a happy glow
Let’s dance in blood and pretend its snow
Even Mao Tse-Tung is under the spell
It’s Christmas time in hell!

Adolf, here’s a present for you.

Hitler: Oh? O Tannenbaum!

Satan: Yes, O Tannenbaum!

God cast me down from Heaven’s door
To rule in hell for evermore
But now I’m kinda glad that I fell
‘Cause It’s Christmas time in hell!

Here’s a rack to hang the stockings on
We still have to shop for Genghis Kahn!
Michael Landon’s hair looks swell!
It’s Christmas time in hell!

There’s Princess Diana
Holding burning mistletoe
Over poor Gene Siskel’s head
Just watch his weenie grow!

For one day we all stop burning
And the flames are not so thick
All the screaming and the torture stops
As we wait for old Saint Nick!

So string up the lights and light up the tree
We’re damned for all eternity
But for just one day all is well
It’s Christmas time in hell!

We’ve got to toast together, and make it quick!
We’ve gotta make room for Andy di*k.
Wake his mother and ring the bell

It’s Christmas time…

(Christmas time… Christmas time… Christmas time…)

Christmas time…

(Christmas time… Christmas time… Christmas time…)

It’s Christmas time in hell!

Merry Christmas Rooming House!

How My Relationships With Women Have Changed Post-Jesus

temptress

I grew up in a system of religious faith that taught me a negative view of women. Every Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor and professor who instructed me in the True Christian Faith® taught me the following:

  • Women were created by God to be their husbands’ helpmeets.
  • Women are commanded by God to be keepers of their homes. Their primary tasks are housekeeping, cooking meals, caring for children, and spreading their legs whenever their husbands want sex.
  • Women, when compared to men, are weaker vessels and need the protection of males.
  • Men are the head of their homes and their wives are to submit to their rule and authority.
  • Women are temptresses, leading men (and teen boys) into sexual immorality.
  • Women have the duty to dress in ways to keep men from lusting after them. Women, then, are sexual gatekeepers.
  • Women cannot be pastors or serve in any church capacity that puts them in authority over men. Some of pastors and professors taught me that women were to be silent in church and were not permitted to participate in church governance.

These beliefs were modeled — albeit imperfectly and hypocritically — to me throughout my primary, secondary, and post-secondary years. It should come as no surprise, then, that once I began preaching and pastoring churches, I taught these beliefs to congregants. Multiple generations of people were taught by me that women were inferior, dangerous beings best suited for domestic work, teaching women, preparing church dinners, and staffing the nursery.  Women who violated these Biblical truths were viewed as rebellious towards God, their churches, and their husbands.

My wife and I lived by these beliefs for many years. Our home was what I would call a traditional IFB home. Not only did Polly care for the home, she also home schooled our six children. For five years, she taught our children and others in our church’s private Christian school. Polly did work in a church day care (Temple Tots, a ministry of the Newark Baptist Temple) and taught third grade one year at Licking County Christian Academy in Heath, Ohio. Polly received a lesser wage than male teachers because I was the head of our home; she was  not.

Ten years before we deconverted, Polly took a job cleaning offices at a local manufacturing concern. She works for this company today as a manager, recently celebrating twenty years on the job. By the time Polly started working at Sauder Woodworking, our marriage had evolved, taking on more of an egalitarian quality. Our quest for true marital equality and egalitarianism continues to this day. Old habits die hard, but we do work presenting an egalitarian model to our children and grandchildren. I suspect this late in the game we will never outlive the deep marks complementarianism has made on us personally and on our marriage.

It wasn’t until I deconverted that I was able to have female friends. As long as Jesus and I were best friends, I had no female friends. How could I, since I believed that some women were temptresses out to seduce and bed me? I had women I considered acquaintances, but I always kept them at arm’s length out of fear of being tempted to sin. I was taught to avoid the very appearance of evil. Thus, I was not permitted to enjoy the company of women if my wife was not present. No social interaction whatsoever was permitted. Of course, this kind of thinking cut me off from a wealth of wisdom and knowledge. When it came to the churches I pastored, I ran the show, and when serious decisions had to be made, it was the men who made them. Women were permitted to vote in business meetings, but there was no doubt about which sex and which member of that sex was in charge.

in 2008, I divorced Jesus. Once free of Christianity, I was then free to be friends with whomever I wanted, regardless of their sex (or sexual orientation). Now, this doesn’t mean that I am oblivious to the fact that close company with the opposite sex can and does lead to moral compromise. That said, I don’t “fear” women. I own my sexuality, so it’s up to me how and to what degree I interact with women. Both Polly and I are free to enjoy the company of the opposite (or same) sex, even though, quite frankly, we enjoy one another’s company the most.

Earlier this week, I had my beard trimmed. I was starting to look a lot more like Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomer, than Santa Claus. Prior to this appointment, my hair — when I had any — and beard had always been trimmed by men. This time a woman trimmed my beard. I became casually acquainted with her (and her husband) several years ago as I photographed my grandson’s baseball games. Her son played on my grandson’s team. I have run into her many times since at baseball games, high school games, and school events. A month or so ago, I ran into her at a local high school basketball game. I knew that she cut hair, so I asked her if she trimmed beards. I told her my previous barber was quite a hack, and I was looking for someone to care for Santa’s beard. She told me she trimmed beards, so this week I had her cut mine. She did a wonderful job. I must admit that it felt strange having a woman not named Polly run her fingers through my beard. That said, she’s the beard trimmer for me.

As Polly and I were leaving, I told the woman who trimmed my beard, “you are the first woman to ever cut my hair or trim my beard in almost sixty-two years.” I did not tell her that it took divorcing Jesus for me to be comfortable with a woman who is not my wife touching my hair and/or beard. I believe she is religious, so I don’t want to have THAT discussion while she has scissors in her hand.

Did you avoid relationships with the opposite sex due to your religious beliefs? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

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The Voices of Atheism: The Best of Christopher Hitchens — Arguments and Comebacks

christopher hitchens

Christopher Hitchens

This is the first installment in The Voices of Atheism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. Know of a good video that espouses atheism/agnosticism or challenges the claims of the Abrahamic religions? Please email me the name of the video or a link to it. I believe his series will be an excellent addition to The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser.

Thank you in advance for your help.

Today’s video features the late Christopher Hitchens. Enjoy!

Video Link

Books I Recommend by Christopher Hitchens

God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything

Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens

Mortality

The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever

Hitch-22: A Memoir

The Voices of Atheism: Christopher Hitchens on Religion

christopher hitchens

Christopher Hitchens

This is the first installment in The Voices of Atheism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. Know of a good video that espouses atheism/agnosticism or challenges the claims of the Abrahamic religions? Please email me the name of the video or a link to it. I believe his series will be an excellent addition to The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser.

Thank you in advance for your help.

Today’s video features the late Christopher Hitchens participating in a panel discussion on religion. Enjoy!

Video Link

Books I Recommend by Christopher Hitchens

God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything

Arguably: Essays by Christopher Hitchens

Mortality

The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever

Hitch-22: A Memoir

Sacrilegious Humor: The Best of Bill Maher on Islam and Christianity

bill maher

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

Today’s video is a compilation of Bill Maher’s bits on Islam and Christianity.

Video Link

Sacrilegious Humor: Compilation of Comedy Bits on Religion

atheists-go-to-heaven

Comic by Mark Lynch

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

Today’s video is a compilation of various comedians doing bits on religion.

Video Link