Tag Archive: Death

Facing Death Without Jesus

death

Guest post by Ian

Since my deconversion, people have asked me how I feel about dying. I tell them that I feel nothing, it would just be the end.

I have had two life-threatening instances over the last 3 years, and neither one has caused me to “cry out to Jesus.”

When I was still a believer, I was scared of death. I knew I was going to heaven, but the thought of death scared me. This is actually the most ridiculous thing ever, since my place in the clouds had been bought and paid for with the blood of Jesus®️. The Apostle Paul talked about people who had been held captive by their fear of death being freed by belief in Jesus. For myself, and most Christians, it wasn’t true, though. I have heard so many Christians talk about lying in bed, in the dark of night, afraid of hell/death/sickness/etc., and praying for Jesus to take the fear away. After the prayer, they are ready face that nasty old Devil again. Why should they be afraid, though? Doesn’t perfect love cast out fear? Aren’t the fearful some of those who won’t see the kingdom of God? I see this as a direct result of the fear-mongering peddled by church leaders of every stripe. They use our fear of death to keep us subjected to their power.

I think, though, that it is the fear of the unknown that scares people. No one has come back from the dead and told us what is there. If you believe nothing is there, then you have nothing to fear. If you believe angels or demons await, then there is a huge fear. The dirty little secret is that you can never really know for sure you are saved. There will always be a little doubt, tucked away somewhere. That is what gnaws on you in the middle of the night, as you lie awake in bed.

My fear of death was mostly cured by Calvinism. One day, I realized it didn’t matter how I felt, I was pre-ordained to either Heaven or Hell, and nothing I could do could change that. That freed me from most of my fear. My deconversion shook away the last remnants of the fear of death. I now understand that there is nothing, death is just the end of this life.

What I do fear is how I might die, and the possible pain involved, but that is a rational fear. I also am sad at what I will miss; that is also normal. Kids growing up, grandkids, friends prospering. I’m selfish and I would like to experience all of it. I also fear being forgotten. In two or three generations, almost no one will know I existed.

I have come to terms with all of that, though. I’m not looking to jump in front of a train, but I’m not going to shrink back when it is my time.

I’d like to finish with this quote. It gave me joy and I hope it will for you, too:

So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide. Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none. When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision. When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.

– Chief Tecumseh, Shawnee Nation

Songs of Sacrilege: The Reflecting God by Marilyn Manson

marilyn manson

This is the one hundred ninety-fifth 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 The Reflecting God by Marilyn Manson.

Video Link

Lyrics

[Verse 1]
Your world is an ashtray, we burn and coil like cigarettes
The more you cry, your ashes turn to mud
The nature of the leeches, the virgin’s feeling cheated
You’ve only spent a second of your life

[Pre-Chorus]
My world is unaffected
There is an exit here, I say it is and it’s true
There is a dream inside a dream
I’m wide awake the more I sleep
You’ll understand when I’m dead

I went to God just to see
And I was looking at me
Saw Heaven and Hell were lies
When I’m God, everyone dies

[Chorus]
Scar, can you feel my power?
Shoot here and the world gets smaller
Scar, scar, can you feel my power?
One shot and the world gets smaller

[Verse 2]
Let’s jump upon the sharp swords
And cut away our smiles
Without the threat of death
There’s no reason to live, at all

[Pre-Chorus]
My world is unaffected
There is an exit here, I say it is and it’s true
There is a dream inside a dream
I’m wide awake the more I sleep
You’ll understand when I’m dead

I went to God just to see
And I was looking at me
Saw Heaven and Hell were lies
When I’m God, everyone dies

[Chorus]
Scar, can you feel my power?
Shoot here and the world gets smaller
Scar, scar, can you feel my power?
One shot and the world gets smaller

Scar, scar, can you feel my power?
Shoot here and the world gets smaller
Shoot, shoot, shoot motherfucker
Shoot, shoot, shoot motherfucker

[Bridge]
Each thing I show you is a piece of my death

No salvation, no forgiveness
No salvation, no forgiveness
No salvation, no forgiveness
No salvation, no forgiveness

This is beyond your experience

Forgiveness
Forgiveness
Forgiveness
Forgiveness

[Pre-Chorus]
I went to God just to see
And I was looking at me
Saw Heaven and Hell were lies
When I’m God, everyone dies

[Chorus]
Scar, can you feel my power?
Shoot here and the world gets smaller
Scar, scar, can you feel my power?
One shot and the world gets smaller

Scar, scar, can you feel my power?
Shoot here and the world gets smaller
Shoot, shoot, shoot motherfucker
Shoot, shoot, shoot motherfucker

Shoot, shoot, shoot motherfucker
Shoot, shoot, shoot motherfucker
Shoot, shoot, shoot motherfucker
Shoot, shoot, shoot motherfucker

Seeing the Christian God Where None Exists

god of the gaps

If there is a Christian apologetics argument that irritates the heaven out of me, it is the God of the gaps argument. Can’t explain something? God. Have something happen in your life for which there seems to be no rational explanation? God. Any place you have unanswered questions, you will find Evangelicals suggesting “God did it.”

Earlier this year, two Patrick Henry High School students, ages fourteen and seventeen, were killed in a tragic automobile accident. The Defiance Crescent-News reported at the time:

Two Henry County brothers were killed Wednesday morning when their vehicle became submerged in a Wood County creek just west of here.

Killed were Xavier Wensink, 17, and his passenger, Aidan Wensink, 14, both of Deshler. They were students at Patrick Henry Local Schools.

According to the Wood County Sheriff’s Office, at 11:20 a.m., a call was received concerning a vehicle completely submerged upside down in a creek on Sand Ridge Road, just west of Custar Road. Dispatched to the scene were deputies from the Wood County Sheriff’s Office and Weston Fire/EMS.

Grand Rapids Fire Department was dispatched to assist, as well as the Toledo Fire Department’s dive team. Rescue personnel discovered that the vehicle, a 2000 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, was occupied by the two teenagers.

I wept when I read of their deaths. So young, so much of life ahead of them, but in an instant the bright lights of their lives were snuffed out. Their deaths, of course, left their family and fellow classmates struggling to make sense of it all. God’s name was thrown around. Everyone was reminded of the “fact” that God is in control and he allows (or causes) tragedies to teach us to snuggle up close to him and trust that he is working out everything according to his purpose and plan. How about, don’t kill the fucking kids, God! That’s seems to be the right thing to do. You are the sovereign of the universe. Flex your pinky finger and stop the accident from happening. Nothing is too hard for God, right?

The oldest boy, who would have graduated in 2019, played varsity football. His jersey number was 28. Remember that number. It plays an essential part in the story that follows. Patrick Henry lost its first few games, and then one Friday night they scored 28 points and won the contest. They have in subsequent weeks won three more games, scoring 28 points each time. It’s a miracle, right?

The Defiance Crescent-News had a feature write-up yesterday about the 28 “miracle.” Here’s some of what the reporter had to say (behind a paywall):

Since Inselmann took over at his alma mater in 1991, the Patriots had given their frontman victories with 28 points on the scoreboard eight times going into this season. Never before in Inselmann’s tenure had PH won more than one game in a season with 28 tallies in a game, with the triumphs coming in: ‘91, ‘98, ‘00, ‘03, ‘05, ‘09, ‘13 and ‘14.

Fast-forward to the present day, where a glimpse at this season’s results shows four of the Patriots’ five triumphs coming with the squad lighting up 28 points on the scoreboards. Beginning with the Delta victory, that stat includes three in a row over the Panthers, Archbold and Swanton, with a huge 28-13 triumph over Bryan last week keeping PH undefeated in the league.

The significance?

Xavier Wensink’s jersey number is 28. The meaning?

“I really do believe that our team believes that Xavier is with us, and he is watching,” Inselmann insisted. “I don’t call that coincidence. I just think that the good Lord’s watching over us with Xavier, and the kids believe it.

How the season ends is anybody’s guess at the moment, as PH still has to contend with NWOAL rival Wauseon (3-5, 3-2 NWOAL) before hosting what should be an epic season-ending showdown with Henry County hammer Liberty Center (8-0, 5-0 NWOAL, No. 4 D-V).

But regardless of how it all shakes out, the 2018 Patrick Henry Patriots will forever be remembered as the team that didn’t quit, bringing together a school, program and community that, more than anything, needed something to believe in.

“As long as we keep getting better every week, believing in each other, becoming closer and closer as a team, only God knows where we’re gonna go,” concluded Healy.

As you can see, “God” features prominently in this “miracle.” Look, I get it. People want to make sense of a senseless accident. In the midst of their grief there appears a statistical oddity. This must be “God” sending everyone a message that number 28 is tearing up the turf on the heavenly football field. Or this is a sign that the dead boy is alive and well in Heaven, watching over his teammates.

I find it hard to criticize such nonsense. I certainly don’t want to cause anyone more heartache, but high school coaches and teachers and news reporters owe it the community at large to tell the truth. Suggesting that God is so tuned in to what is happening on earth that he takes time to “fix” the scores of football games is absurd. I wonder if the players on the losing teams had some sort of tragedy or loss in their lives too? Why, then, did God choose to give the W to Patrick Henry, but not them? Such arguments cheapen faith.

But, Bruce, four games with winning 28 point scores! What do you make of that? It’s a coincidence. Life is filled with such oddities. When they happen, we should say, hmm, that’s interesting. What we shouldn’t do attribute them to the Christian God. Just because something strange and out of the ordinary happens doesn’t mean God did it.

Patrick Henry’s football season will soon come to a close. The school will move on to its winter sports, but left behind will be family and friends who are still grieving their loss. Perhaps, in the still of night, they will sense God’s presence. If that’s what gets them through the night, fine by me. I suspect, however, that more than a few people will, as they toss to and fro on their beds, say, WHY? And to this question, Christians offer up religious platitudes and appeals to faith. However, from my seat in the atheist pew, it seems to me that God’s silence is deafening. Perhaps the reason this is so is because there is no God, and we humans are left to ourselves to figure out the reasons young lives are ended all too soon.

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 “What If” Game

what if

Cartoon by Tom Fishburne

Thanks to modern medicine and clean water, most of us will live into our seventies and even our eighties. Compare our lifespan to that of the rabbits that hop through our yards or the cats sleeping their lives away on our couches, and we live relatively long lives. The difference between us and other animals is that we measure life by hours, days, and years. Rabbits and cats exist, until they don’t, with nary a thought about the brevity of their lives. They live, and then they die. We humans also live and die, but we tend to think a lot about our lives and their ultimate ends. We wonder, is there life after death? We strive to extend our lives as long as possible, fearing that despite what Christians tell us, there might not be anything waiting for us after we die; that death is the equivalent of shutting off our computers. As an atheist, I believe that the only thing that awaits me after death is endless darkness and silence. I have often pondered, in the still of night, being alive and then dead; that moment when all that went into making me who I am ceases to exist.

I don’t fear dying. It’s a waste of time to fear that which you cannot control. That said, I do ponder how best to live what life I have left. Age and health problems have done that to me. If I live to be seventy, I have less than eight years left before I am no more. It seems like yesterday that I was a young buck running free, thinking that I was immortal. It seems like yesterday that I enrolled at Midwestern Baptist College, married the love of my life, and fathered six children. It seems like yesterday that I was pastoring churches, winning souls, and investing my life in the work of the ministry. Now I am sixty-one years old, grandfather to twelve wonderful children, and come June I will draw my first social security check. Compared to my life when I was young, time is moving at breakneck speed. Come May, my oldest granddaughter will graduate from high school. Why, it seems like yesterday she was a toddler clumsily running through our home. Now she is a grown woman with plans to go to college. As I look at my grandchildren, I see how quickly they are growing, both in stature and intellect. Even my youngest grandchild, Ezra, has doubled in size from a few months ago. Born six weeks premature, Ezra is now growing faster than a feeder hog on corn. I suspect he’ll be an NFL linebacker by age two.

In two months, it will be Thanksgiving, and in three months we will celebrate Christmas. Didn’t we just celebrate these holidays a couple of months ago? On and on, with or without us, time moves along, never stopping for us to catch our breath or reset our navigation. I often find that I am in bondage to my to-do list. As my health declines and I feel the need to join the cat at the end of couch, the list gets longer and longer. I feel oppressed when I think about it. Damn, so much to do. I’m never going to get these things done. Silly, I know, because the fact of the matter is that most of what is on my list doesn’t really matter. If I get to the things on my list, fine, but if I don’t, will it make one bit of difference? I doubt it.  As I get closer and closer to the end of life, I find myself — on most days — focusing on the people that matter to me: my family and friends, especially Polly, Jason, Nathan, Jaime, Bethany, Laura, Josiah, Aaliyah, Victoria, Karah, Levi, Emma, Guin, Gabby, Morgan, Alayna, Lily, Charlee, and Ezra. They are the sum of my life, or most it anyway.

One of the games older people play is the “What If” Game.  Have you played this game? I know I have. What if my dad didn’t move his family all over the place and I got to go to the same school instead of attending ten schools in twelve years? What if my mom and dad stayed married, instead of divorcing when I was fourteen? What if my dad was still alive instead of dying at age forty-nine and my mom was still alive instead of killing herself at age fifty-four? What if I married the first girl I loved instead of the last one? What if I went to Briercrest Bible College instead of Midwestern Baptist College? What if my parents stayed members of the Episcopal church instead of joining up with Fundamentalist Baptists? What if I stayed on as pastor of Somerset Baptist Church instead of moving 1,600 miles away to Texas to co-pastor Community Baptist Church? What if I never moved away from Southeast Ohio? Or Northwest Ohio? Or Central Michigan? Or Southwest Arizona? What if? What if? What if?

Life is made up of countless decisions. Each decision we make alters our lives, sometimes in insignificant ways, other times in ways that forever change us. Every decision moves us further down the path of life. While we would like to think that, if we had done differently at a certain point in life, things would have turned out better for us, how can we know for sure that that would be the case? Alter your timeline at one point and everything changes. And isn’t that the sum of what we call life?  Ever-moving, ever-changing. The most that any of us can do is use the information at hand to make the best possible decisions. I have made countless bad decisions, choices that altered my life and that of my family in profound ways. Shit, I tell myself, I would sure like a do-over. Well, there are no do-overs, no second chances. All any of us can do is learn from the past and try to do better the next time.

I have also made innumerable good decisions. I could play the “What If” Game and wonder if the good decisions I’ve made could have been better, but that’s a game for fools to play. I don’t believe in soulmates. I suspect had I gone to a different college or lived in a different place, I would have met a woman, fallen in love, gotten married, and lived happily ever after — or not. That said, that’s not what happened, and when I met a beautiful, dark-haired seventeen-year-old girl named Polly at Midwestern Baptist College, I knew she was the one for me. This one choice altered my life in more ways than I could ever imagine. We were naïve youths when we said I do, but here we are five decades later, still in love, and most of all, best friends (even after I boiled her fairly new enamel cast iron pot dry last night while I was forgetfully busy writing a blog post). Both of us could play the “What If” Game, but why would we? Is not what we have good enough? Is it not in fact more than we could ever have imagined? Instead of what wondering about what might have been, I choose to live in the present, grateful for all the blessings that have come my way. As life winds down for me, I choose to think about what I have instead of what might have been.

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.

How Evangelicalism Distorts Reality and Causes Harm

john piper sleep

I recently talked to a high school football player about an accident he was in that almost killed him. I told him that he was one lucky guy to have survived the crash (he was t-boned by a woman who ran a stop sign). He replied, well God still has a plan for me! Polly’s Mom will soon have surgery for breast cancer. She has thrown herself into the arms of Jesus whom she believes will always take care of her and never leave or forsake her. Polly’s father went through hip replacement surgery two years ago, hoping that the surgery would ease his pain and increase his mobility. Instead, in what can only be described as an unmitigated disaster, Polly’s father will never walk more than a few steps again and is relegated to a wheelchair. When asked about his plight, he replies, this is all part of God’s plan. I am putting my faith and trust in Jesus, believing that all things will work out according to his plan. I have a dear Christian friend who has spent the past decade battling one affliction after another. This year, to add insult to injury, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. My friend has faced the indignity of losing her hair from chemotherapy/radiation treatments. Yet, no matter what comes her way, she knows that God will give her strength as he works out his plan in her life.

God is good all the time, Evangelicals say. He has a purpose and plan for everyone, and everything that happens in their lives is according to God’s divine script for their lives. And even when it comes to death, Evangelicals believe that God has appointed a date/time when they will die. No one comes into the world and no one leave this world unless God says they can. The Bible says:

See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand. (Deuteronomy 32:39)

Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. (Acts 17:25,28)

I am [Jesus] he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. (Revelation 1:18)

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: (Hebrews 9:27)

What makes things worse is that not only do Evangelicals believe that God has a purpose and plan for their lives, they also believe that no matter how much they suffer or face adversity, once they die, God will reward them with eternal life in Heaven. I call this the divine payoff. Revelation 21:4 says:

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

Evangelicals hang their hat on the belief that a perfect life awaits them after death. They will be reunited with their Christian loved ones and never again have to deal with non-Christians. A perfect world in every way, preachers say, one wherein dwells love, peace, and righteousness. It comes as no surprise then, that many Evangelicals just float through life, facing what comes their way with indifference, believing God will make all things new in the end and give them the desires of their hearts (hearts that have been changed by God).

The problem with this kind of fanciful thinking, of course, is that it is irrational. Evangelicals have no proof for their claims except to say, THE BIBLE SAYS! And therein lies the problem. Countless Christians believe the Bible is a supernatural text written by a supernatural God, and given to them to reveal the truth about life, death, and the afterlife. Evangelicals have no tangible evidence for these claims except to quote book, chapter, and verse. God said it, I believe it, and that settles it for me, Evangelicals say about the Bible. Faith blinds them to reality and often leads to real-life, disastrous outcomes. I can’t help but think of my father-in-law. When the surgeon recommended hip replacement, Dad said yes, believing that God would work everything out according to his will. That the surgery was an epic failure is of no matter. Whatever happens is according to God’s sovereign, unknowable plan. Evangelicals are conditioned to never gripe or complain about anything. They are told to have faith, believing: And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28) The Apostle Paul said in Romans 9:20,21:

Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?  Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?

Don’t bitch, whine, or complain, Christians! God is on the job, and everything that happens in your lives is according to his script for your life. Buckle up and hang on. Those who make it to the ride’s end will be handsomely rewarded with pain-free eternal lives. Years ago, I heard Polly’s cousin, Evangelist David Young, say, there is coming a day when you will be glad you are a Christian! The Bibles does say, after all, that he that endureth to the end shall be saved. In the minds of Christians, there is coming a day when they will be vindicated and everything will be made new. Life on this side of the grave is viewed as insignificant, a mere moment in time when compared with millions of years of blessed, wonderful, atheist-free eternal life. This present life, then, is all about preparing to meet God face to face. According to James 4:14:

Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

For us old-timers who attended school back in the day when buildings were heated with boilers, we can remember aimlessly watching the stream rise up from the radiators and dissipate on cold winter days. This aptly describes how Evangelicals are taught to view life.

If Christianity is anything, it is the religion of helplessness. The Christian song, I Can’t Even Walk Without You Holding my Hand perfectly illustrates this:

I thought number one
Would surely be me
I thought I could be
what I wanted to be
I thought I could build
on life’s sinking sand
but now I can’t even walk
without you holding my hand

I thought I could do a lot on my own
I thought I could make it all day long
I thought of myself as a mighty big man
but Lord I can’t even walk
without you holding my hand

O Lord I can’t even walk
without you holding my hand
the mountains too high
and the valleys too wide
down on my knees
that’s where I learned to stand
O Lord I can’t even walk
without you holding my hand

I think I’ll make Jesus my all and all
and if I’m in trouble
on his name I’ll call,
if I didn’t trust him
I’d be less of a man
cause Lord I can’t even walk
without you holding my hand

O Lord I can’t even walk
without you holding my hand
the mountains too high
and the valleys too wide
down on my knees
that’s where I learned to stand
cause Lord I can’t even walk
without you holding my hand

O Lord I can’t even walk
without you holding my hand

Video Link

In Acts 17:28, Paul says: For in him we live, and move, and have our being …

Millions and millions of Christians believe that they couldn’t breathe or walk without God giving them the power and strength to do so. In 2016, the late Billy Graham wrote:

Did you ever stop to ask yourself where you got the inner strength to overcome these problems? Yes, I realize you probably take credit for it—but in reality, God made you, and He was the One who gave you the ability to do it. In other words, without God’s unseen help you would have been helpless.

Why, then, do you find it so hard to admit you need God, or to turn to Him when you face something you don’t know how to handle (as you inevitably will)? There may be several reasons—but the basic reason can be summed up in one word: pride. Pride makes you want to take all the credit for the things you’ve been able to accomplish, and pride also makes you want to do everything on your own.

But pride can be a very dangerous thing, blinding us to our faults and cutting us off from others. Pride also can lead us into doing things that are wrong, because we think they’ll make us greater or more powerful. The Bible warns, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).

….

John Piper had this to say about Christian helplessness:

Suppose you are totally paralyzed and can do nothing for yourself but talk. And suppose a strong and reliable friend promised to live with you and do whatever you needed done. How could you glorify this friend if a stranger came to see you?

Would you glorify his generosity and strength by trying to get out of bed and carry him? No! You would say, “Friend, please come lift me up, and would you put a pillow behind me so I can look at my guest? And would you please put my glasses on for me?”

And so your visitor would learn from your requests that you are helpless and that your friend is strong and kind. You glorify your friend by needing him, and by asking him for help, and counting on him.

In John 15:5, Jesus says, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” So we really are paralyzed. Without Christ, we are capable of no Christ-exalting good. As Paul says in Romans 7:18, “Nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.”

Such thinking distorts reality and can cause great harm. Christians beg and plead with God for deliverance from “sin,” believing that God will give them victory over their transgressions. And when they fall or run into the same “sin” again? Why, 1 John 1:9 covers it all: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. All helpless Evangelicals need to do is confess their “sins” and God wipes their slate clean. Their helplessness breeds codependency. Evangelicals are never told that they have the power to change their ways. Want to stop looking at porn? Stop looking a porn. Want to stop being an abusive spouse? Change your ways. But instead of taking personal responsibility for bad behavior and changing their ways, Evangelicals cast all their “sins” and burdens at the feet of Jesus, crying, LORD I AM HELPLESS. PLEASE HELP ME. Such thinking breeds infantilism. Poor, helpless Christians caught in an endless cycle of repentance and forgiveness never develop the resolve to change their ways. And Jesus the drug dealer likes them this way — hooked on helpless pleading for forgiveness.

This kind of thinking is rooted in the teachings of the Bible. Whatever it says, Evangelicals say, is true. If God says Christians are helpless without him, that means they are helpless. God has spoken, end of story. As long as the followers of Jesus give the Bible undue, unwarranted influence over their lives, they will continue to be helpless. The Christian God doesn’t heal mental cripples, he makes them. In fact, God wants Christians to totally depend on him. If Christians wake up and realize they DON’T need God to live their lives, I suspect that many of the “sins” (bad behaviors) they struggle with will find resolution. The burden of change rests on us. Yes, change is hard, but it is possible if we truly put our mind to it. Begging and pleading with God accomplishes nothing. How can it, right? At best, the Creator is a deistic entity who isn’t involved in the ministrations of men. It’s far more likely, however, that we are on our own, and if we want to change it is up to us to do so.

How did Christian beliefs about the nature and helpless of man distort reality in your life? Did these beliefs cause harm, not only to yourself, but to others? 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.

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

Quote of the Day: The Brevity of Life by Clarence Darrow

clarence-darrow

When we fully understand the brevity of life, its fleeting joys and unavoidable pains; when we accept the fact that all men and women are approaching an inevitable doom; the consciousness of it should make us more kindly and considerate of each other. This feeling should make men and women use their best efforts to help their fellow travelers on the road, to make the path brighter and easier… for the wayfarers who must live a common life and die a common death.

— Clarence Darrow, as found on James Haught’s blog

Quote of the Day: Death is the Only Fact We Have by James Baldwin

james baldwin

Life is tragic simply because the earth turns and the sun inexorably rises and sets, and one day, for each of us, the sun will go down for the last, last time. Perhaps the root of our trouble, the human trouble, is that we will sacrifice all the beauty of our lives, will imprison ourselves in totems, taboos, crosses, blood sacrifices, steeples, mosques, races, armies, flags, nations, in order to deny the fact of death, which is the only fact we have.

— James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time via the No Qualms blog

Quote of the Day: The Long Procession of Life

creamery road zanesville ohio

Creamery Road, Zanesville, Ohio

I often think of humankind as a long procession whose beginning and end are out of sight. We the living… have no control over when or where we enter the procession, or even how long we are part of it, but we do get to choose our marching companions. And we can all exercise some control over what direction the procession takes, what part we play, and how we play it.

— Marty Wilson, a friend of James Haught

Songs of Sacrilege: God is On Our Side by Roxanne Cote

god is on our side

This is the one hundred seventy-eighth 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 Songs of Sacrilege is God is On Our Side by Roxanne Cote.

Video Link

Lyrics

Can’t you see the starving child?
Can’t you see the corpses piled?
A comedy of dirt and blood
And God is on our side
Sex slaves and trafficking
Broken homes are for bidding
Love at a price to buy
And God is on our side
Day and night
I yearn for you
by the dimmest light
And I know
I’m bearing my greatest fight
Where religions were made to divide
My brother and I
For all the love we tried and
Prayers we lied and
God is on our side
Monks and kings are born heartless
Living in wild circus
But your myths are here to guide
And God is on our side
Governing a red madness
Fruiting a black sadness T
he faith in me has died
And God is on our side

Christopher Hitchens Monologue

Is it good for the world to appeal to our credulity and not to our skepticism? Is it good for the world to worship a deity that takes sides in wars and human affairs? To appeal to our fear and guilt, is it good for the world? To our terror, our terror of death, is it good to appeal? To preach guilt and shame about the sexual act and the sexual relationship, is this good for the world? And asking yourself all that while, are these really religious responsibilities, as I maintain they are? To terrify children with the image of hell and eternal punishment, not just of themselves, but of their parents and those they love Perhaps worst of all, to consider women an inferior creation, is that good for the world? And can you name me a religion that has not done that?

Are you gonna hide forever?
Are you gonna hide forever?
Are you gonna hide forever?
Are you gonna hide forever?
Are you gonna hide forever?

The Sounds of Fundamentalism: Evangelical Bill Wiese Preys on Dying Atheist

bill wiese

This is the one hundred and seventy-ninth installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section.  Let’s have some fun!

Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism features a video clip of Evangelical Bill Wiese talking out how he evangelized a dying atheist. Wiese, a con-artist for Jesus, is best known for his claim of having an out of body experience that landed him in hell for twenty-three minutes. Wiese has made a lot of cash off of this con, so there is no reason to believe that his atheist story is true either, or at the very least it happened as exactly as Wiese says it did.

Video Link

Dear Bruce, Did You Feel “Sad” After Losing Your Belief in the Afterlife?

calvin and hobbes death

Recently, a reader sent me the following question:

My question is this: after you became an atheist, did you feel “sad” (using sad for a lack of a better word) with your new belief that there is no hope of the afterlife, specifically the hope to see deceased loved ones again?

This is an excellent question, one that I hope I can answer adequately and honestly.

Deconversion — the losing of one’s religious faith — brings with it all sorts of emotions. It’s not uncommon for Christians-turned-atheists/agnostics to feel a deep sense of loss. This is especially true for people who spent years in the Christian church. I spent almost fifty years in the Christian church. Twenty-five of those years were spent pastoring Evangelical churches. Christianity and the ministry were the sum of my existence. Yes, I had a beautiful wife and six wonderful children, but they were not as important to me as God and the work I believed he called me to do. My life was consumed day after day, week after week, year after year, with evangelizing the lost, preaching the Word of God, and ministering to the needs of congregants. I had a large network of ministry colleagues, and I was very close to my wife’s family, of whom three were Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastors, along with an evangelist and a missionary. From early morning to late at night, my life revolved around Jesus, the church, and the Bible. And then one day in November 2008, all of this was gone. Everything that gave my life purpose, meaning, and direction was gone. The men I counted as dear friends no longer spoke to me, and my wife’s family treated me as if I had some sort of dreaded disease. All I was left with, ironically, was all that really mattered: Polly, Jason, Nathan, Jaime, Bethany, Laura, Josiah and their spouses and children. It’s too bad that it took me much of my adult life to figure this out.

Ten years ago, I told family, friends, and former parishioners that I was no longer a Christian. For a time, I believed in the existence of some sort of deistic God, but over time I slid farther down the slippery slope of skepticism and reason until I realized that I was, in fact, an atheist (though technically I am an agnostic and an atheist). And once I realized I was an atheist, my next thought was, now what? (See Dear Family, Friends, and Former ParishionersDear Friend, and  the series From Evangelicalism to Atheism.)

I remember many a sleepless night after I deconverted, my mind filled with fear, doubt, and sadness. I wondered, Bruce, what if you are wrong? What if the Christian God really does exist? Man, you are so going to burn in Hell. I worried about my wife’s increasing agnosticism, concerned that God would hold me accountable for her loss of faith if I was wrong. I often had thoughts about death and the meaning of life. Having lost all my social connections, I often wondered if I would ever have friends again. And so, for months, my thoughts focused on what I had lost, and not what I had gained. I conversed with several Evangelical-turned-atheist acquaintances, telling them about my restless thoughts. I was told, give it time. Things will, I promise, get better. And sure enough, they were right. As months turned into years, thoughts about God vanished, and in their place came thoughts of making the most of what years I had left. I lamented the fact that I had wasted most of my life chasing a phantasm, pursuing promises that would never be fulfilled. But lamenting that which I lost did nothing for the present. I had before me a wide-open path upon which to walk. No God stood in my way. Where I took my life post-Jesus was all up to me.

These days, the only time I have thoughts about God is when I am writing a post for this blog. God is now, for me, an academic exercise, as is the Bible. I know I have been given a great responsibility to be a help to people who are trying to extricate themselves from the pernicious vice-like grip of Evangelical Christianity. I have received countless emails over the years from people who need help freeing themselves from Evangelicalism. Sometimes, people are so ensnared that it is hard to see for them a clear path to faithlessness that doesn’t first cause great heartache. I have wept over emails detailing marriages that ended in divorce over a husband or wife sharing with their spouse their loss of faith, only to be told, if you ask me to choose between you and Jesus, I am going to choose Jesus. I have also wept over stories from people who were ostracized by their families over their atheism/agnosticism; sons and daughters who were told they were no longer welcome in their parents’ home or no longer invited to family holiday gatherings.

Walking away from Evangelicalism and embracing atheism/agnosticism can be costly. (See Count the Cost Before You Say I Am an Atheist.) Not only a must new atheist face social and familial fall-out from the deconversion, he or she must also wrestle with the implications of new-found beliefs. One such wrestling match is the loss of belief in the afterlife. The power of Christianity rests in its ability to convince people that everyone is a sinner, there is life after death, and the church is the sole salesman of the ticket required to gain entrance into Heaven. Remove the afterlife from the equation — threats of Hell and promises of Heaven — and Christian churches would empty out overnight.

My Dad died at the age of forty-nine. Mom killed herself at age fifty-four. My Dad’s parents died in the early 1960s. My Mom’s dad died in the early 2000s — good riddance, and my favorite grandmother died in 1995. I dearly miss my parents and my one grandmother. I so wish I could, at this juncture in my life, sit down with them and talk about life, past and present. But wishing doesn’t change the fact that they are dead and I will never see them again. Polly’s parents are in their eighties. Every time the phone rings, we wonder, is this someone calling to tell us Mom or Dad is dead? I have a younger brother and sister, neither of whom is in good health.

I have my own battles with chronic pain and illness. I know that most of my life is in the rear-view mirror. Over the weekend, I was setting up a new LED studio light in my upstairs photography studio. Polly was helping me. As I was working on the light, I decided to sit in my wheelchair. I started to sit down, only to have the wheelchair kick out from under me. I hit the floor, much to Polly’s horror, with a big thud. Fortunately, I didn’t break anything, but days later I am still dealing with the physical consequences of my fall. Polly and I both know that death could come at any moment. Until October of last year, Polly was a picture of good health. That picture quickly changed one morning when Polly woke me up, telling me that her heart was beating really fast. I checked her blood pressure, and sure enough her resting pulse rate was 180. Off to the emergency room we went. Polly was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. If that wasn’t enough to deal with, three months later she developed a bleeding problem that required surgery.

In recent months, both of us have talked about losing the other, trying to imagine how life would be without the other one. We make jokes, of course, because that’s what Gerencsers do. It is though humor we embrace the reality that someday, be it tonight or twenty years from now, the ugly specter of death is going to come knocking at our door. As realists, we know that only in this life will we have each other. One day, our hearts will break as one of us says goodbye to the other. We know that we shall never see each other again; that the only things that will remain are the memories we have of one another.

So, to answer the question posed at the start of this post, yes, there are times I feel sad about the permanence of death. Who among us hasn’t had thoughts of what it will be like when the light of your life turns dark. Just the other day, I was thinking about death and how it brings an immediate cessation of life. I know, not a deep thought. But, it got me thinking about how much time I waste doing things that really don’t matter or have little value. If the battery in the clock of my life is slowly running out, what is it that I want to do with what life I have left? My death will certainly cause sadness for my family and friends, but if, while I am alive, I do all I can to love them and enter into their lives in meaningful ways, then perhaps their sadness will be lessened.

It’s impossible to escape sadness and heartache in this life. If atheism has taught me anything, it has taught me life can be harsh, cruel, and unfair. This site’s ABOUT page leaves readers with the following advice:

You have one life. There is no heaven or hell. There is no afterlife. You have one life, it’s yours, and what you do with it is what matters most. Love and forgive those who matter to you and ignore those who add nothing to your life. Life is too short to spend time trying to make nice with those who will never make nice with you. Determine who are the people in your life that matter and give your time and devotion to them. Live each and every day to its fullest. You never know when death might come calling. Don’t waste time trying to be a jack of all trades, master of none. Find one or two things you like to do and do them well. Too many people spend way too much time doing things they will never be good at.

Here’s the conclusion of the matter. It’s your life and you best get to living it. Someday, sooner than you think, it will be over. Don’t let your dying days be ones of regret over what might have been.

I hope I have, to some degree, answered the aforementioned question. If you are an atheist or an agnostic, how do you deal with thoughts about the finality of death, and the sadness that comes when thinking about never seeing your loved ones again? 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.

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