Tag Archive: Christianity

It Only Works If You Believe

just believe

Of late, I have been watching the drama The Path on Hulu. Starring Aaron PaulMichelle Monaghan, and Hugh DancyThe Path portrays the lives of people involved with a religion called Meyerism.  While Meyerism is fictional, many of its core tenets and practices mirror those found in Evangelicalism. I found myself thinking, the only difference between Meyerism — a cult — and Evangelicalism is a matter of degree. This is especially true when Meyerism is compared to the extreme Fundamentalist corner of the Evangelical tent. I am not suggesting that Meyerism is the equivalent of Evangelicalism. It’s not. As Wikipedia makes clear,  Meyerism combines aspects of:

New Age philosophy, shamanism, Scientology, Christian mysticism and Utopianism with a few elements from the Shakers, Sufism, Tibetan Buddhism and Freemasonry ritual.

However, Meyeristic practices such as fidelity to a rigid set of commands and beliefs, obedience to leaders, progressive enlightenment, separation from the world, and the shunning of ex-Meyerists find expression in the practices of countless Evangelical churches.

Eddie Lane (Aaron Paul) and Sarah Lane (Michelle Monaghan) are devoted followers of Stephen Meyer, the founder of Meyerism. Born into a Meyerist family, Sarah is what you would call a “true believer.” Eddie, on the other hand, has questions and doubts about the religious aspects of Meyerism. While Eddie embraces Meyerism’s commitment to family, environmentalism, and helping the poor and suffering, he comes to believe the rest of Meyerism is, in his words, bullshit. He has come to see that what he once considered “truth” was a lie. Eventually, Eddie’s crisis of faith leads to conflict with his wife, family, and Cal Roberts (Hugh Dancy), the leader of Meyerist community in New York. Eddie is banished from the Meyerist community. Labeled a “denier,” Eddie tries to help his teenage son Hawk who recently took Meyerist vows. In episode three of season two, Hawk tells Eddie that he can no longer see him. Eddie desperately tries to reason with his son, but to no avail.

During his passionate plea to Hawk, Eddie tells his son, “it [Meyerism] only works if you believe.” Eddie goes on to explain that if you pull on that string, everything unravels crumbles into nothing. I can’t think of a better illustration of what many of us have gone through as we walked away from Christianity. Christianity, and in particular Evangelical Christianity, only works IF you believe. Dare to pull the string, logically, rationally, and skeptically evaluating sincere beliefs and practice, and everything unravels crumbles into nothing.

Evangelicalism requires the suspension of reason. No matter how vociferously apologists and zealots argue otherwise, Evangelical faith requires belief over truth and dogma over fact. Doubt and questioning the teachings of the Bible/church/pastor is viewed as a lack of faith, a sure sign that Satan is influencing someone’s thinking. Congregants are discouraged from reading books/blogs that will cause doubt. Dr. Bart Ehrman is pilloried as an “enemy of the faith,” and pastors routinely warn church members to stay away from his books. Claiming that they are only watching out for their souls, these men of God know that the facts and educated conclusions found in Ehrman’s books are kryptonite to Evangelical faith. These gatekeepers know that the only way to keep asses in the pews and money in the offering plates is to wall congregants off from exposure to the “world.”

Few Evangelical leaders promote unfettered intellectual inquiry. They know that such inquiries always lead away from what Evangelicals believe is the “faith once delivered to the saints.” Pastors know that once devotees question the inerrancy of the Bible, creationism, the virgin birth, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, and other cardinal beliefs, it is only a matter of time before they will lose their faith. While this loss of faith may not lead to atheism, it certainly leads to an exodus out the back doors of Evangelical churches. When truth — not religious dogma masquerading as truth —  becomes the object of intellectual inquiry, it’s only a matter of time before the Evangelical house built on myth and supernatural nonsense comes tumbling down. Either science is right, or creationism is. Both can’t be right. Either virgins can have babies or they can’t. Either three-day old dead people can come back to life and eat dinner at Taco Bell or they can’t. Take every supernatural claim in the Bible and measure it by what you know to be empirically and experientially true. Both can’t be true. Knowledge-informed thinking and not cognitive dissonance should always be the goal.

Eddie is right: It only works if you believe. Once you stop believing and demand facts and evidence, it’s game over. Once you stop granting the Bible/churches/pastors authority over your life, you are on your way to true freedom. A recent letter writer asked me what was the biggest change in my life after deconverting. I told her that the biggest change was having freedom to follow the path of life wherever it leads. Evangelicalism, with its teachings on Heaven/Hell, eternal punishment, sin, and judgment, leads to bondage. Pastors go to great lengths to convince congregants that this bondage is actually freedom; that is, if you believe the central tenets of the faith. Evangelicalism becomes a bubble of sorts where everything makes perfect sense as long as you are in the bubble. That’s why many of us were committed followers of Jesus for so many years. It all made sense to us; that is until one day we dared to pull on the string, and then we realized that what we had really been believing was an elaborate construct of myths and lies. And in that moment, everything we believed crumbled away to nothing.

If you happen to be an Evangelical, let me encourage you to pull on the string. Dare to value truth over belief. Dare to question and doubt. Dare, to quote the Bible, to seek. I guarantee that if you will intellectually and passionately “seek,” you most certainly will “find.” Come join countless other freethinkers as they walk the path of life. Evangelicalism taught you that life is all about your destination: Heaven or Hell. I’m here to tell you that life is all about your journey, not where you’ll end up after you die. Embrace every day as if it is your last and humbly walk the path that is before you. If you will do that, I promise that you will end up exactly where you need to be.

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.

If God is There, Let Him Stop Me

elijah and the prophets of baal

A recent episode of Hard Sun — a pre-apocalyptic British-American television crime drama series — featured a man who traveled overseas to do aid work. While there, he saw horrific atrocities. He rightly observed that in the midst of these atrocities, the Christian God was nowhere to be found. The man returned home and sought out a Catholic priest, hoping that this man of God could help him sort out his conflicted feelings. During the course of confession, the man admitted murdering a woman he didn’t know in cold blood. His motive? To see if God would stop him. God, of course, didn’t. The man went on a serial killing spree, telling the priest, “If God is there, let him stop me.”

Evangelicals speak of a personal God; a deity who is so concerned with the welfare of people that he knows the very number of hairs on their heads. This version of God is supposedly kind, compassionate and loving. This God is but a murmured prayer away, a friend who sticks closer than a brother or sister. Yet, when careful attention is paid to the plight of the human race, it seems that the Christian God is AWOL. While an argument could be made that all the suffering we see arises unbelievers getting their just deserts, many of those who face great travail and tragedy are followers of Jesus. Poverty, hunger, and homeless is rife among the children of God. Why is it that God is an absentee father, one who sits idly by while his children bleed, suffer, and die? This God is all-knowing and all-powerful, yet he turns a blind eye and a deaf ear to the groans of his creation. I could understand this if Evangelicals worshiped a deistic God; a deity who created the universe and then said to us, “there ya go boys and girls, do with it what you will.” If God is passive and non-involved, then I understand, but Evangelicals say God is very much hands-on; a deity who knows our thoughts, tears, and heartaches; a God who sees our pain and suffering. This God is a myth.

In 1 Kings 18:17-39, we find an interesting story about Elijah attempting to prove to the Israelites which deity was the true and living God:

And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel?  And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim. Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel’s table. So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel. And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word. Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men. Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken. And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under. And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made. And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, 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. And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them. And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded. And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down. And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the Lord came, saying, Israel shall be thy name: And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed. And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood. And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time. And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water. And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again. Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The Lord, he is the God; the Lord, he is the God.

Elijah, a prophet of Jehovah, challenged the prophets of Baal to a God-duel. Elijah and the prophets of Baal would each build an altar, stack it with wood, and put a slaughtered bullock on top. Then each of them would call on their God to send fire down from Heaven and consume their bullock. Elijah, ever the cocky Evangelical preacher, had his bullock repeatedly doused with water. Game on, Elijah said to the prophets of Baal.

First up were the prophets of Baal. From early morning until noon the prophet prayed, saying “O Baal, hear us,” but their God was silent. Elijah mocked them, saying: “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.” This only caused the prophets of Baal to cry out that much louder. They even went so far as to cut themselves with knives and lancets. No matter what they did, their God remained silent, making no attempt to prove her existence.

Then it was Elijah’s turn. Not content to make a simple four word request as the prophets of Baal did, Elijah prayed a sermon as Baptist preachers often do: “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again.”

And sure enough, God sent fire down from Heaven and consumed Elijah’s sacrifice. The Israelites oohed and aahed, admitting that Jehovah was the one true God. Wanting to put an explanation point on the day’s events, Elijah had the 450 prophets of Baal rounded up and murdered. Ah, the God of peace, right?

Every time I think about this story, I am drawn to Elijah’s mockery of Baal. There were 450 prophets of Baal and only one prophet of Jehovah. Not good odds, yet the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob won the day. (Just remember, Jesus only wants winners!) Why is the modern God of Christianity so different from Elijah’s God? As I listen to what Evangelicals SAY about their God, I see a huge disconnect between that and what their God actually does. Perhaps it is fair and right for us to mock this God as Elijah mocked Baal thousands of years ago. It seems to me that the Evangelical God is talking, pursuing (taking a shit), on a journey (vacation), or sleeping. Earth is a Find Waldo book without Waldo.

Evangelicals believe that Satan walks to and fro on earth seeking whom he may devour. He is the prince of earth, and by the look of things he is definitely kicking ass and taking names. Atheists such as myself mock the Bible and profane God’s name, yet the Christian God does nothing. Zealots tell me that someday God is going to get me; that when I die, I will find out how real God is; that when the flames of Hell bring me untold suffering and pain, I’ll finally know that the God of the Bible is the one true God. Idle threats, I say, idle threats.

There’s always a chance that I am wrong about the Christian God, but I’m persuaded that no such deity exists. Much like the man in Hard Sun, the extant evidence before me suggests that there is no God. If there really is a God, he knows where I am and he can, in his own good time, make himself known to me. Until then, I intend to keep pecking away on my keyboard, defending secular and humanistic values.

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.

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Michael Knowles Blames Society’s Ills on Atheism

michael knowles

For the first time in history, atheists constitute the largest religious group in America. [All praise be to Loki.] According to the General Social Survey, the number of Americans who have no religion has increased 266% over the past three decades and now account for 23.1% of the population, just barely edging out Catholics and Evangelicals as the nation’s dominant faith. Mainline Protestant churches have suffered the greatest collapse, declining 62.5% since 1982 and now comprising just 10.8% of the U.S. population

….

As religiosity has declined, social ills have abounded. [Knowles plays loose with statistics, choosing to focus on single categories, and not Christianity as a whole. Christianity is still the dominant majority religion in America.] Nearly one in five American adults suffers from anxiety disorders, which now constitute the most common mental illness in the country. One in six Americans takes antidepressant drugs, a 65% surge over just 15 years. The problem is particularly acute among younger Americans. While depression diagnoses have increased 33% since 2013, that number is up 47% among Millennials and 63% among teenagers. Coincidentally, suicide rates among American teenagers have increased by 70% since 2006. American life expectancy declined again last year, as Americans continue to drug and kill themselves at record rates. [And the majority of these people profess to believe in the Christian God or some other transcendent being. Again, Knowles twists the data to fit his narrative: Atheists are destroying America.]

Social scientists have long since established the link between religiosity and life satisfaction. As social psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky observes, people who attend religious services several times each week are nearly twice as likely as those who worship less than once a month to describe themselves as “very happy.” Such psychologists simply state the obvious: the belief that God loves you and that you will live with him in eternity offers greater consolation than the view of death as a dirt nap that stiffens you into worm food. [In other words, better to believe a lie than to accept life as it is. No thanks.]

….

The misery epidemic threatens not merely American households but also our halls of power. The late Andrew Breitbart observed that politics is downstream of culture, and culture in turn is downstream of religion. “Cult” and “culture” are etymologically related, and a culture is defined by what it worships. A materialistic culture worships wealth; a licentious culture worships sex; a godly culture worships God. But “our Constitution was made for a moral and religious people,” as John Adams wrote to the Massachusetts militia in 1798. “It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

A miserable politics awaits us when the irreligious rot flows downstream. Who but God can help us now? [God is dead, so Knowles and others who think like him better figure out a way to work with non-Christians. God ain’t coming to save us. We alone have the power to “save” our society; the world. Humanism, not Christianity, is the way forward.]

— Michael Knowles, The Daily Wire, God Help Us: Atheism Becomes Largest Religion In U.S., April 8, 2019

Stuart the Evangelical Asks Bruce the Atheist a Theological Question

naked adam and eve

Comic by Hilary Price

The most-read post on The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser is the post titled, Why I Hate Jesus. Written four years ago, this post is also the most misunderstood post. Many Evangelicals wrongly believe I hate the man, myth, and legend named Jesus Christ. Bound by a literalistic approach to life, they fail to see that the post is really about their religion and not a flesh and blood dead man named Jesus. As I shall make abundantly clear in an upcoming post, there are many, many, many Jesuses; that every generation of Christians shapes and molds Jesus into their own image, according to their peculiar theological, political, and social beliefs. To deny this is to deny reality. To suggest that you worship the first century Jesus and practice Christianity (Judaism) just as the Apostles did in 35 CE is ludicrous and a denial of 2,000 years of Church history. Christianity started evolving the moment Jesus called twelve illiterate men to be his disciples. These men and other followers interpreted and reinterpreted the life and words of Jesus, fashioning their own versions of Christ and what it meant to be a follower of him. This evolutionary process continues even to this very day.

An Evangelical man by the name of Stuart left several comments on the Why I Hate Jesus post. Standard Evangelical stuff. I tried to blow off his first comment with a bit of snark — suggesting I was a porn star — but Stuart was bound and determined to put in a good word for Jesus. In his second comment, Stuart wrote (in response to Zoe, a fellow Evangelical turned atheist):

I no longer believe in the existence of Santa, therefore i wouldn’t go to the trouble of creating a website explaining how i came to no longer believe in Santa, simply because it would attract attention from people who do believe in Santa. And frankly i have no appetite for engaging with such people.

Bruce, by creating this space has invited interest from the vast internet audience on the matters he discusses on this site. It would be naive to think compassionate Christians would not do their duty and offer support in the only way they know how in trying to heal the wounded or help pick up the fallen. Bruce knows that, you likely know that, so really, what else do you expect?

If i didn’t believe in something i wouldn’t waste a single moment on it. Atheists are a different breed though. They are evangelical in their denial and latent hatred of God. Personally i love engaging with intelligent people regardless of their ideology or belief. I have yet to meet ANY atheist with any meaningful grasp on theology.

But I guess when even atheism’s poster boy Dawkins is a theological illiterate there is little hope for anyone following in his footsteps.

There was only ever one Jesus, there is currently only one Jesus and there will always forever be only one Jesus. Anyone who tells you different is like an atheist – they simply fail to understand Scripture

And Bruce’s story isn’t wrong, but it is clear he has been deceived. And knowing that there are many many more like Bruce is honestly heart breaking to me.

I responded thusly:

I grew up in the Evangelical church, attended an Evangelical Bible College, and pastored Evangelical churches for 25 years. Yet, according to you, I have no meaningful grasp of Christian theology. I spent thousands and thousands of hours studying and reading the Bible, yet, according to you, I don’t have a fundamental understanding of Christian belief. Surely, you see how irrational and stupid such a statement sounds.

The real issue here is that you don’t like my interpretations and conclusions. Thus, instead of meaningfully interacting with them, you rage against Bruce, the man.

The purpose of this blog is to help people who have doubts about Christianity or who have left Christianity and are looking for support. You, my friend, are not my target audience. I let people such as yourself comment because you provide reminders to ex-Evangelicals of the arrogant, self-righteous beliefs we left behind.

Please keep preaching your gospel, Stuart. People such as yourself win more people to atheism than I ever could.

Earlier today, Stuart sent me a question: Why were the fig leaves not acceptable? I assume his question is some sort of test to see if I really know anything about Evangelical theology. What follows is my answer.

The Bible says in Genesis 3:1-7:

Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

In Genesis 2, the Bible tells us that Adam and Eve were originally created naked, without sin, and unashamed before God. In Genesis 3, a walking, talking snake came to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and questioned the command God had given them to not eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The snake — whom Evangelicals believe was Satan — said, “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” Eve replied, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.” The snake replied, “Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” Eve looked at the Tree’s beauty and saw that it was good for food and would make her wise — the Ginkgo Biloba of the Garden. She picked a fruit from the Tree, took a bite, and gave it to Adam to eat too. And just like that, Adam and Eve plunged the entire human race into sin. Since that fateful moment, every human is born a sinner, alienated from God. Humans have no choice in the matter. We are forever doomed by a man and woman we don’t even know taking a bite from a piece of fruit. Or so the story goes anyway.

adam and eve wearing fig leaves

Immediately afterward, Adam and Eve realized for the first time that God had created them with genitals. Ashamed that they were naked, Adam and Eve gathered some fig leaves, sewed them together, and made themselves aprons to hide their genitals. Later, God came to the Garden of Eden and took a stroll in the cool of the day. Fearing God, Adam and Eve hid among the trees, hoping that God would see not see them. Alas, God, after playing a quick game of Where’s Waldo (Wally), found them. Adam said to God, “I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” Wait a minute, I thought Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves together for aprons. Why weren’t they wearing them when God made his appearance in the Garden? Maybe the leaves caused chafing, and Adam and Eve decided to return to their natural state. Whatever their reason, God was none too happy. To the first man and woman he said, “Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?” A rhetorical question? Or did God not know? Regardless, Adam replied to God, “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” Ladies, want to know where Evangelical men blaming you for everything comes from? You need look no further than Genesis 3 and Adam blaming Eve for his errant fruit-eating.

talking snakes

God then turned to Eve and asked, “What is this that thou hast done?” A rhetorical question? Didn’t God know what Eve had done? Regardless, in classic Flip Wilson style, Eve responded, “The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.” In other words, the DEVIL made me do it! God, pissed off at Adam and Eve’s bad behavior, cursed all humans and cursed the earth. Ever had to pull weeds from a flower bed or garden? God’s doing. Worse, God condemned all humans to death; instead of unending life, we would now have a fixed time to live and die. And then, to put an explanation point on his anger, God killed a bunch of puppies, skinned them, and made fur loincloths for Adam and Eve. The first person to shed blood of earth was God, not man. In fact, it can be argued that God has shed more blood than all of humanity combined. Either by direct action or commanding his followers to do so, God had slaughtered millions and millions of people. Yet, Evangelicals say he is a God of love, peace, and guacamole.

Genesis 3 ends with God throwing Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden, leaving them and their progeny to fend for themselves. That is, until God got tired of having no one to play with and decided to make Abraham and some of his descendants his playthings. Or so goes the story anyway.

Stuart wants to know, “Why were the fig leaves not acceptable?” The correct answer from an Evangelical perspective is that Adam and Eve sewing fig leaves together to cover their genitals was a picture of human self-righteousness; an attempt by Adam and Eve to cover up their “sin” on their own terms. The thrice holy God would have none of that. According to a plan cooked up by him from before the foundation of the world, sin had to be atoned for with blood; that Adam and Eve’s sin could only be covered through God killing and skinning some puppies and making fur loincloths to cover their sins. The Bible says in Hebrews 9:22, 27-28:

And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission . . . And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

The Abrahamic religions — Christianity, Islam, and Judaism — are, according to the Bible, blood cults. You can come to no other rational conclusion IF you read the Bible as most Evangelicals do — literally. Now, if you see Genesis 3 as a fictional story meant to impart a greater meaning, well anything is possible. It’s 2019, and thanks to five centuries of literalistic interpretations of a book they believe is an inspired, inerrant, infallible text written by God, Evangelicals are forced to defend all sorts of absurdities. And I get it. People such as Stuart have to preach the party line. Otherwise, they are admitting that Evangelicalism is built on a foundation of lies and misinterpretations. Without a real Adam and Eve created by God in October 4004 BCE, the Evangelical house of cards comes tumbling down. A real New Testament God-man requires a real Adam and Eve. The Last Adam needed a First Adam for the Evangelical gospel to make sense. Without original sin, there was no need for Jesus to take a thirty-three-year vacation on earth. If Adam and Eve were metaphors as liberal and progressive Christians allege, then it can be argued that Jesus was a metaphor too. Upholding what Christians will celebrate come Easter Sunday requires a literal reading of the Bible. Without it, the Christian gospel of atonement for sin and redemption makes no sense — at least to me, anyway.

Now, this hardly means that Evangelicals are off the hook. Literalism can be a real bitch. In fact, I don’t know of one Evangelical who is truly a literalist from Table of Contents to Concordance. All Evangelicals — when it suits them — spiritualize scriptures that don’t “fit” their literal reading and interpretation of the text. Evangelicals have what I call theological schizophrenia. Granted, Evangelicals try to make their peculiar interpretations mesh with one another. Countless Christian books have been written about Bible hermeneutics, systematic theology, and harmonizing the Biblical text. Try as they might, however, Evangelicals fail at this task. The Bible is an incoherent mess of contradictory texts, and if taken and believed literally, they lead to all sorts of nonsensical and harmful beliefs.

Yet, when I challenge Evangelicals to take EVERY word of Genesis 1-3 literally, they either say they do or start making excuses for while they don’t. I have challenged countless Evangelicals to let the words of the unknown author of Genesis stand on their own, and in doing so see that it is impossible to square Trinitarian Christianity with the text. In fact, honesty demands admitting that there were actually at least THREE Gods mentioned in Genesis 1-3, and that Christianity does not, in fact, rest on a monotheist foundation.

I double-dog dare Evangelical readers of this post to read the Bible as it is written, and not let theological presuppositions get in the way of what the text says. Read each book by itself and ask, “what is the author is trying to say?” Dare to ask yourself, as the talking snake asked Eve, “yea hath God said?” Just asking this question is the first step towards intellectual freedom; the first step towards freeing oneself of Evangelical bondage.

If you are an Evangelical who has stumbled upon this post, I am so glad you stopped by. Let me recommend several books you might find helpful as you weigh some of the claims I make in this post. If the Bible is “truth,” surely it will withstand intellectual investigation. Don’t take your preacher’s word for it. To quote the Good Book, seek and ye shall find . . .

Books by Robert Wright

The Evolution of God

Books by Bart Ehrman

The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why

How Jesus Became God : the Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee

Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior

Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them)

Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth

Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are

God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question — Why We Suffer

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.

The Voices of Atheism: Christopher Hitchens at His Best

christopher hitchens

Christopher Hitchens

This is the ninth 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 Christopher Hitchens. Enjoy!

Video Link

The Voices of Atheism: Christopher Hitchens on The Old Testament

christopher hitchens

Christopher Hitchens

This is the eighth 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 Christopher Hitchens. Enjoy!

Video Link

Songs of Sacrilege: Faithless by Rush

rush

This is the two hundredth and second 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 Faithless by Rush.

Video Link

Lyrics

I’ve got my own moral compass to steer by
A guiding star beats a spirit in the sky
And all the preaching voices –
Empty vessels ring so loud
As they move among the crowd
Fools and thieves are well disguised
In the temple and marketplace

Like a stone in the river
Against the floods of spring
I will quietly resist

Like the willows in the wind
Or the cliffs along the ocean
I will quietly resist

I don’t have faith in faith
I don’t believe in belief
You can call me faithless
But I still cling to hope
And I believe in love
And that’s faith enough for me

I’ve got my own spirit level for balance
To tell if my choice is leading up or down
And all the shouting voices
Try to throw me off my course
Some by sermons, some by force
Fools and thieves are dangerous
In the temple and marketplace

Like a forest bows to winter
Beneath the deep white silence
I will quietly resist

Like a flower in the desert
That only blooms at night
I will quietly resist

Songs of Sacrilege: For the Love of God by Mindless Self Indulgence

mindless self indulgence

This is the two hundredth and first  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 For the Love of God by Mindless Self Indulgence.

Video Link

Lyrics

I was doing just fine
‘Til the son of God had saved me, now
And I sin all of the time
Living life begging forgiveness

Sweet religion
Blood is spilling, blood is spilling
Sweet religion
Persecute the weak and willing
I’ve been here so long
For the love of God

(Come here, I got somethin’ to tell you, Jesus!)

My flesh is so weak
And my spirit is not so willing, baby
Turn the other cheek
And I’ll spank you right on your ass, baby

Sweet religion
Help me, Satan! Help me, Satan!
Sweet religion
Drag me down into your basement
I’ve done nothing wrong
For the love of God

Sweet religion
Blood is spilling, blood is spilling
Sweet religion
Help me, Satan! Help me, Satan!
I’ve been here so long
For the love of God

Black Collar Crime: Christian Man Repeatedly Rapes Woman, His Pastor Puts in a Good Word For Him

thomas jackson

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.

Without fail, it seems, pastors can be found putting in a good word for parishioners convicted of sex crimes. Why is it pastors feel a need to speak on behalf on sexual predators? God forgives and forgets, these pastors might say, and so should we. To that I say, bullshit. The only person who is in the position to forgive is the victim. We as a society must hold such people accountable, not only legally, but in the court of public opinion. There are some crimes that are so heinous that there can be no redemption. Punishment is in order, end of story.  Such is the case of Michigan City police officer Thomas Jackson.

Today, a tearful Jackson was sentenced to 36 years in prison for repeatedly raping an intellectually disabled woman. The Michigan City News-Dispatch reports:

Jackson admitted during his first jury trial to having engaged the 25-year-old in vaginal, oral and anal sex on various occasions and at different locations over the course of approximately two years when she was in her early twenties.

During that trial, he was acquitted of one count of rape, and the jury hung on the remaining three counts.

A new jury in his second trial delivered guilty verdicts on all three remaining counts in December.

“I wish I could go back and undo everything, and I pray, one day, that (the victim and her family) do forgive me,” Jackson cried from the defense table Friday. “ . . . I’m so sorry and I’m so ashamed of what happened.”

According to the probable cause document in the case, the victim possesses the emotional and mental capacities of a child between the ages of 10 and 12.

For that reason, Deputy Prosecutor Mark Roule drew parallels between Jackson’s rape case and cases of child molesting.
“Intellectually, a child was sexually abused – repeatedly,” Roule said of Jackson’s victim.

Jackson’s lawyer called on several people to put in a good word for his client. While the News-Dispatch story does not give the exact words spoken by Jackson’s pastor, it did say:

The defense called multiple witnesses to testify on Jackson’s behalf, including his former pastor, a childhood friend and the field officer who handled Jackson’s case when he was on pretrial probation. All three talked of what they perceived to be Jackson’s high moral character or spirituality.

High moral character or spirituality? Really? I know we live in a Trumpian world now, where everything is turned upside down, but surely rational people would say that repeatedly raping an intellectually disabled woman and high moral character/spirituality are incompatible. Someone with high moral character does not rape a child. Jackson, by his actions, showed he is anything but moral or spiritual. And from my seat in the atheist pew, there is nothing Jackson can do in this life to redeem himself. Perhaps, Jackson loved puppies and was nice to his kids. He might have been a wonderful police officer. None of those things matters. His crime was such that any goodness in his life was obliterated by his vile actions. Wouldn’t it be nice if just once a pastor at a sentencing hearing stood before the court and said, “this man is a vile miscreant who deserves everything he gets, and if I had my way he would be locked up until he dies”? Why is it that so-called men of God can never rise to the occasion? Does their theology stand in the way; the necessity of forgiving all who sin? Perhaps they fear causing harm to the perpetrator’s family. Fine, then say nothing. Surely that is a better path than choosing to paint a sexual predator as a moral/spiritual man who happened to take a wrong turn.

Judge Michael Bergerson didn’t buy the whole “Jackson was a moral/spiritual man” line of thinking:

The repeated rape of [the victim] on the whim of the defendant over the course of several years is hard to fathom and evidence of a depraved mind.

Notwithstanding his position as a Michigan City Police officer, as a human being, the defendant had a duty to protect a person with obvious cognitive disabilities who had been entrusted to his care, custody and control. In doing so, the defendant transgressed a boundary of sickening proportions.

For further context on this story, please read this South Bend Tribune story from September 2018. The woman’s parents, in my opinion, showed a lack of awareness and discretion in allowing their daughter to have a relationship with the married Jackson.

Songs of Sacrilege: Wrong Side of Heaven by Five Finger Death Punch

five finger death punch

This is the two hundredth 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 Wrong Side of Heaven by Five Finger Death Punch.

Video Link

Lyrics

I spoke to God today, and she said that she’s ashamed.
What have I become, what have I done?
I spoke to the Devil today, and he swears he’s not to blame.
And I understood, cause I feel the same.

Arms wide open, I stand alone.
I’m no hero, and I’m not made of stone.
Right or wrong, I can hardly tell.
I’m on the wrong side of heaven, and the righteous side of hell.
The wrong side of heaven, and the righteous side, the righteous side of hell.

I heard from God today, and she sounded just like me.
What have I done, and who have I become.
I saw the Devil today, and he looked a lot like me.
I looked away, I turned away!

Arms wide open, I stand alone.
I’m no hero, and I’m not made of stone.
Right or wrong, I can hardly tell.
I’m on the wrong side of heaven, and the righteous side of hell.
The wrong side of heaven, and the righteous side, the righteous side of hell.

I’m not defending, downward descending,
Falling further and further away!
Getting closer every day!

I’m getting closer every day, to the end.
To the end, the end, the end,
I’m getting closer every day!

Arms wide open, I stand alone.
I’m no hero, and I’m not made of stone.
Right or wrong, I can hardly tell.
I’m on the wrong side of heaven, and the righteous side of hell.
The wrong side of heaven, and the righteous side of hell.
The wrong side of heaven, and the righteous side, the righteous side of hell.

Quote of the Day: Theological Beliefs Force People to Endure Needless Suffering

assisted suicide

Cartoon by Ted Rall

Granting dying patients the power to determine when their lives will end has long been a serious point of contention with some American religious groups who view these right to die laws as government embracing a “culture of death.” Well-known right to die activists such as Jack Kevorkian have countered that religious ethics should not subvert sound medical reasoning. As of now, the argument against establishing right to die laws remains the dominant American position as only six states and the District of Columbia currently allow physicians to prescribe medications that hasten death. Another, more blunt way to put it, is that a theological belief is forcing millions of families and individual Americans to endure needless suffering that most of us spare our pets.

On its face, the religious objection to right to die laws is based on an otherwise morally praiseworthy worldview that all human life is sacred. Understanding how this seemingly positive belief became the chief impediment to ending so much needless human suffering presents a great lesson in the underlying conflict between science and dogmatic belief.

To be clear, I do not think this conflict needs be a zero-sum game. Indeed, the Constitution provides a great blueprint for how religious faith and science can interact in the same space to overall mutual benefit. Moreover, a strong argument can be made that a constant state of tension is how our market of ideas should function under. That said, I do agree with the critics of dogma such as neuroscientist and author Sam Harris in one very important respect; the main problem with dogma, no matter how benign, is that it is unresponsive to new evidence and discoveries.

The practical issue is the period in which most religious scripture takes place is centuries apart from the time period when modern science came about. Therefore, it is utterly impossible for scripture to take into account the evidence that modern science has produced. This places literal, dogmatic interpretation of spiritual text often in conflict with readily provable realities that modern science has revealed. For instance that the earth is billions, not thousands of years old. Often times, the descriptive conflict between religious dogma and modern science does not bear any direct impact on the everyday lives of most. When the subject matter spills into medical ethics however, the debate can have very real consequences.

— Tyler Broker, Above the Law, The Right to Die, March 12, 2019