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Tag: Curiosity

Bruce, You are a Very Sad and Bitter Old Man

pastor steve proctor

Steve Proctor is the pastor of Westwood Baptist Church in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. Westwood Baptist is an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church affiliated with the Baptist Bible Fellowship in Springfield, Missouri. I was saved, baptized, and called to preach at a BBF congregation — Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio — in the early 1970s.

Proctor came to this site via Google search. Proctor, as is common among his species, showed no interest in learning anything about me. (Please see the WHY? page.) He read all of two posts:

After spending ten minutes on this site, Proctor deemed himself sufficiently informed to comment on my psychological state and my age, along with throwing in a not-really-sorry for the “hurts” in my life that must have caused “this” — whatever “this” is — and a promise to pray for me.

Proctor’s comment — which he posted twice — patience pastor, patience — was succinct and to the point:

You are a very sad and bitter old man. I’m so sorry for the hurt in your life that must have caused this. I will pray for you.

Proctor uses the word “sad” not in the sense of depressed or discouraged, but to say that I am pathetic or a joke. He then says I am bitter. Knowing that he only read two posts on this site, I have no idea how this IFB Freud determined I was bitter. And for the record, I am not. I have debunked this claim numerous times, so I won’t do it again. I will say, however, that Proctor has zero evidence for his claim. First, he didn’t read enough of my writing to know anything about me. Second, he made no attempt to reasonably and politely interact with me. Instead, he just threw the word bitter out there, hoping to wound me. Sorry, Pastor Proctor, but I’m immune from such juvenile attempts to cause harm.

Proctor goes on to call me an old man. He got that one right, but how is my advanced age relevant? Besides, doesn’t the Bible say that Christians are supposed to treat the elderly with honor and respect? Evidently, God’s commands don’t apply when commenting on an atheist senior citizen’s blog.

Proctor goes on to allege that some sort of hurt in my life caused “this.” Proctor doesn’t say what “this” is, but I assume “this” is my atheism and my opposition to Evangelical Christianity. Had Proctor bothered to have curiosity (please see Curiosity, A Missing Evangelical Trait) about the man, the myth, the legend Bruce Gerencser, he likely would have found that I have addressed the “hurt” allegation numerous times. Sorry, Pastor Proctor, but some sort of “hurt” didn’t cause me to divorce Jesus and walk away from Christianity. I deconverted for intellectual reasons, not emotional ones. (Please see The Michael Mock Rule: It Just Doesn’t Make Sense.) I am more than happy to engage you on THOSE issues, if you are so inclined. Warning, I know the Bible well, have spent most of my life reading and studying the Bible, and have preached more than 4,000 sermons.

Evidently, Proctor’s Bible is one of those new-fangled translations that leave words and verses out of the one true and perfect Bible — The King James Version. (That’s sarcasm, by the way. Proctor is King James-only.) The verse that seems to be missing from Proctor’s Bible is Proverbs 18:13:

He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.

I love how The Living Bible translates this verse:

What a shame—yes, how stupid!—to decide before knowing the facts!

God says that Pastor Proctor is shameful and stupid for judging me before knowing the facts. I agree with God.

Westwood Baptist’s website states:

At Westwood, we want you to feel at home and be part of our family. Westwood is a church with a heart where loving and caring friends will help you and your family grow in God’s grace.

On a page titled, A Word From the Pastor, Proctor says:

Here at Westwood, we are known as “A Church with a Heart.”  God has truly given our church a heart for people.  Our desire is to provide effective ministry to every person of every age from all walks of life.  From the moment you visit for the first time, we hope that you sense the love that fills our hearts.  More importantly, we hope that we are able to show you our Lord’s heart.

Sounds like a church pastored by a loving and caring man, a church with people who are filled with love. How do we square these advertising clichés with Pastor Proctor’s comment on this site? Where’s the love, pastor, where’s the love?

Proctor says he will pray for me. If he is the typical IFB preacher, he won’t do so. You see, “I will pray for you” is meant to convey judgment, that Proctor deems my life insufficient or damaged in some way. It is often an epithet preachers hurl at people they disagree with. They have no intention of seriously storming the throne room of Heaven on your behalf. That would be too much work. There are too many other unbelievers to vanquish and condemn to bother praying for them. That said, thousands of Evangelical Christians have said they are praying for me. Despite thousands and thousands of prayers asking God to save me, kill me, or chastise me, I remain an unrepentant atheist. Why, it is almost as if prayer doesn’t work.

I hope Pastor Proctor will remember this post the next time he leaves a stupid — to quote God’s Word — comment on someone’s blog. I hope he will stop being a Fundamentalist preacher, choosing instead to be kind, decent, thoughtful human being who sincerely tries to get to know people different from him — be they atheists, agnostics, humanists, socialists, liberals, or others.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

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Curiosity, A Missing Evangelical Trait

curiosity

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Why is it that so many Evangelicals have no desire to be curious? Yes, I know many are, so don’t get your panties in a bunch if you are a curiouser-than-a-cat Evangelical. I frequently get emails or blog comments from Evangelical Christians wanting to “help” me find my way back to Jesus. Such people are certain that they possess the requisite knowledge and skill necessary to reclaim the famous Evangelical-turned-atheist Bruce Gerencser for Jesus. They are sure that if they just befriend me, quote the right Bible verses, soothe my hurts, or understand my pain, I will fall on my knees and call on the name of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

I was in the Christian church for fifty years. I was a pastor for twenty-five of those years. I have a Bible college education. Surely they understand that I am not an atheist out of ignorance, right? Of course not, and here is where their lack of curiosity gets them in trouble. They often don’t know anything about me or this blog. Why? Because they did a Google/Bing/Yahoo search for _________________ and their search brought them to a single blog post of mine. They read that one post and immediately decide that I am a poor wayfaring waif in need of their peculiar brand of God/Jesus/Christianity.

When I get comments such as these, I go to the logs and see what pages they read. Usually, they have read only the page their search brought them to. Their lack of curiosity (or laziness) is astounding, and leads them to make wild judgments about me, and come to rash, ill-informed conclusions. If these people would just read the About page, the WHY? page, or the Dear Evangelical page, they would be better informed about me and this blog. But they don’t. Why is that? 

I suspect part of the reason Evangelicals are not, in general, known for their curiosity is that they are 100% certain they are absolutely right. In their minds, they worship the one, true God and this God lives inside of them in the person of the Holy Spirit. This God walks with them, talks with them, and tell them that they are his own (from the hymn In the Garden). They have an inerrant, infallible supernatural book given to them by this supernatural God. This book contains all the answers about life that they will ever need.

When you are filled with certainty, there is no need to think, reason, investigate, or doubt. When the man upstairs is on your team, no need to consider any other team. Why be a lowly Reds fan when you can be a Yankees fan? When your church has declared that Moose Tracks ice cream is the one true ice cream, no need to try any other ice cream.

Simply put, there’s no need to know anything else when you already know all you need to know. God said it, I believe it and that settles it for me, the Christian ditty goes. One true God, one true religious text, one way of salvation. The earth is 6,023 years old, created in six literal 24 hour days. The Bible gives the blueprint for having a Christ-honoring family, a happy marriage, obedient kids, and awesome missionary position sex — but only for the purpose of trying to catch up with the Duggars. When the answer to every question is “God” or “the Bible says,” it’s not surprising to find that Evangelicals are not, by nature, curious.

The good news is that more and more Evangelicals are discovering the curiosity that lies dormant beneath the surface of their lives. Once they make this discovery, they are on their way out of the closed-mindedness and senses-dulling prison of Evangelicalism. They will find out that science can and does explain the world they live in. Science doesn’t have all the answers, but it is asking the right questions.

Still want/need to believe in a transcendent deity or some sort of spirituality? Once free of the heaven/hell, saved/lost, in/out, good/bad paradigm of Evangelicalism, people are free to wander at will. When the fear of hell and judgment is gone, they are free to experience those things that are meaningful to them. Once the question is no longer “will you go to heaven when you die?” the journey, rather than the destination, becomes what matters.

Curiosity may kill the cat, but trust me Evangelicals, it won’t kill you.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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.

Blamed for Curiosity

one too many questions
Graphic by David Hayward

Guest Post by Melody

A few days ago, I found myself commenting on Patheos, a part of which I will repeat here. It was about how God chose people — Judas, Jesus, etc. to play the role already laid out for them. Ultimately this makes free will more or less non-existent. The concept of free will combined with God’s complete foresight and knowledge often had puzzled me as a Christian.

If God already knew who would become his children and who wouldn’t, free choice didn’t really exist. Except God (and everyone else) said it did. I never could make sense of it and I so wanted to understand — that’s just how I’m wired — because I loved God and took it very seriously.

And then I wrote the following: “That’s one of the things that hurts, by the way, because questioning children and adults are seen as rebellious or irritating, whereas the questions came from a deep longing to understand and not from a negative or rebellious place at all. It did, however, ultimately show me that there weren’t any good answers to my questions.”

So I thought perhaps I should let it all out and rant for a while about this. I had questions, loads of them, as a child, teen, and adult. I had and still have a thirst for knowledge and I always assumed this to be a good thing. You should use your mind, shouldn’t you? Your reasoning, your God-given gifts?

Perhaps not….

Therefore, it can hurt a lot when people — parents, teachers or preachers — assume you are just being irritating and annoying for the sake of it; that you’re putting your finger on something to challenge their authority or to make them feel stupid, when all you are doing is trying to really understand and you are very seriously trying to find the truth — stubbornly so.

It doesn’t make for pleasant conversation, that’s for sure.

It does make for confused believers, however. Over the years, I learned that some questions were not allowed, that they were seen as challenging God himself, that I wasn’t supposed to ask them. In the end, I self-censored my questions and stopped myself from asking them out loud. It didn’t meant they had left me though. They had just gone underground.

It also made me disappointed. These authorities were supposed to have the answers and help us, the believers, in finding them. If God had all the answers, shouldn’t his representatives be able to answer? And if neither God, nor his representatives, provided one with any answers, is it really such a surprise people ultimately leave their faith?

You’d think they would at least understand that!

It has taught me that there are different kinds of believers — that some of them are okay with not knowing, with accepting all the unknowns about God; that not knowing doesn’t bother them in the least. That, presumably, they get a lot of other things out of their faith: community, a sense of belonging, meaning etc.

But that there are also believers who do long to know — quite desperately, even. They find their way to God through knowledge and if that method fails, will begin to look at faith and religion differently.

They become the kind of believers who then become what they have been accused of for ages already: rebellious and skeptical.

How were your doubts addressed by (church) authorities or family? Did you feel falsely accused of being rebellious or irritating when asking uncomfortable but honest questions?

Would you like to write a guest post? Please send me an email and let let know of your interest.

Bruce, You Are Doing an Awesome Job, Says One Fundamentalist Christian

curiosity

Readers might be surprised to learn that I am frequently contacted by Evangelicals who think I am still a Christian. They send me their prayer requests, ask for donations, ask for church recommendations, or have some pressing theological question they would like me to answer. Several Evangelicals have even wanted me to help them get the victory over sexual sin! Showing an utter lack of curiosity (Please see Curiosity, A Missing Evangelical Trait.) they assume I am a member of the Jesus Club™. Imagine their surprise when they find out I am a God-hating, baby-eating, Satan-worshiping, sin-loving atheist. One woman sent me a long email about how wonderful she thought I was — a true brother in Christ. And then, less than a day later, she sent me another email expressing her dismay over me being an atheist. The cognitive dissonance this caused her was so overwhelming that she didn’t know what to do. Surely an atheist couldn’t say or write anything that would “speak to her soul,” yet that is exactly what my writing did for her.

I am always amused when Evangelicals suggest that now that I am an atheist I no longer understand the Bible or Evangelical Christianity. They assume that the moment I said I no longer believe, God sent a supernatural vacuüm cleaner to earth and sucked five decades of knowledge out of my brain. After all the BIBLE says, But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. Now that I am a “natural” man, I no longer understand the Bible. This argument is so absurd that I don’t even try to respond. I know what I know, regardless of my “spiritual” condition.

Just this week I received an email from an Evangelical praising me for showing the vileness of the song My Church. The letter writer wrote, with a subject of Great Job!:

You probably don’t need to hear this, but I just this week heard the “My Church” song and was disgusted. I wanted to look up the lyrics to talk about in a lesson at church and found your sight[sic]. What you are doing is awesome.

A short while later, the letter writer, after checking out my awesome Christian blog, sent me this:

I just emailed you and I’m sorry for wasting your time. At a glance I thought you were someone who loved God and saw things the same way I do. I am not going to say things you already know, nor come to a level that some on your pages have as far as trying to belittle your opinion. Those actions are not very Christian, but at the same time i felt I needed to let you know that after reviewing your blog I see I was hasty in my earlier email and hope the furthest away from you continuing in this work. Though your desire is for this to not happen; I do pray that God will help you in health but more importantly find your way to him.

And…just like that I went from AWESOME to a bad man in need of salvation.

Note:

I am an expert at post tagging. Each day, upwards of twenty-five percent of my blog traffic comes from search engines. Most of these searches are performed by Christians. Each day hundreds of people come to this site thinking they are reading the writing of a brother in the Lord. Thanks to every post being appropriately and religiously tagged, my writing is usually well-ranked by Google and Bing. Of course, subject matter helps. When Evangelicals want to know if it is a sin for a man to have long hair, they usually end up at this site. And that is good, right? Knowledge is the only cure for Fundamentalism.