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Tag: Deconversion

Dr. David Tee Blames “Books” for My Deconversion

dr david tee's library
Dr. David Tee’s Massive Library, Including Ben Berwick’s Favorite Book, Meerkat Mail 🙂

Dr. David Tee, who is neither a doctor nor a Tee, recently decided to let the readers of his blog know why the Evangelical-pastor-turned-atheist Bruce Gerencser deconverted. Tee, whose legal name is Derrick Thomas Thiessen, has blamed all sorts of things for my loss of faith, but now he has decided that “books” are my problem; that if I had only read the “right” books I would still be a Christian.

Thiessen is not alone in his assertion. One former church member told me that books were my problem; that if I would just start reading the Bible again, all would be well. I had a preacher friend, who prided himself in not reading anything except the Bible, tell me that I needed to get rid of my library and just read the King James Bible. He proudly was an ignorant man of one book. He was certain that if I would just start reading the Bible again, my faith would return.

Here’s what Thiessen had to say (all spelling, grammar, and punctuation in the original):

BG [Bruce Gerencser] often complains that we write about him more than any other topic. That is not true, of course, as we rarely write directly about him. We do write about what he has said on his website, which is totally different.

However, this article is about him directly as he is an example of what not to do. While we are writing mainly for pastors, missionaries, and church leaders, what happened to BG can also happen to the layperson in the congregation.

These words apply to you, your children, and your friends as well. Protecting your faith is essential if you want to hear those treasured words, ‘Well done thou good and faithful servant’. But BG did not protect his faith and he is no longer part of God’s family.

The way that he did that was to open his mind and heart to unbelievers. Here is was, a pastor for 25 years, knowing and preaching the truth for 4000 sermons, yet he still let evil take him down. Instead of following the Bible correctly and discerning between right and wrong words, true and false teaching, he may have slowly let false teaching destroy him.

The Bible tells us that the secular world does not have the truth and lives in a dark world. They truly have nothing to offer the believer. When we were young it was said that the church was about 10 years behind the secular world and that statement applied to a variety of issues.

What we have seen in the last 40+ years is that the church seems to be equal to the secular world in adopting sinful teaching. We are not talking about the use of technology in the sermons although that should be dispensed with, we are talking about accepting secular psychological ideas for counseling, theology, as well as life in general.

When that happens we are not shining our light unto a dark world and not only do we put ourselves as Church leaders in jeopardy, we are doing the same for our congregations. Sadly, BG led his family to destruction as well as many people he can through his website and interviews.

He came to this fallen state by doing the following:

“I decided I would go back to the Bible, study it again, and determine what it was I REALLY believed. During this time, I began reading books by authors such as Robert Wright, Elaine Pagels and Bart Ehrman, These three authors, along with several others, attacked the foundation of my Evangelical beliefs: the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible. Their assault on this foundation brought my Evangelical house tumbling down. I desperately tried to find some semblance of the Christianity I once believed, but I came to realize that my faith was gone.”

Instead of going to God like Billy Graham did when he felt the call to ministry, BG went to unbelievers. he opened the door to his destruction by ignoring what the Bible says about evil men and accepting their words over God’s.

Evil will use a variety of people to try to take you down. It can be through books, movies, t.v. shows, sexy men and women, as well as questionable situations. having God protect you is the way you need to run the race and finish the course.

“During this time period, I read countless books written by authors from a broad spectrum of Christendom. I read books by authors such as Thomas Merton, Robert Farrar Capon, Henri Nouwen, Wendell Berry, Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, John Shelby Spong, Soren Kierkegaard, and NT Wright. These authors challenged my Evangelical understanding of Christianity and its teachings.”

There is no instruction in the Bible to challenge your faith. Jesus simply said ‘ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free’. Both Paul and Peter warned us about false teachers, false prophets, and that evil men go from bad to worse.

What those verses are telling us is that we do not need to challenge our faith but look for the truth. What we do is put all authors into their proper categories. Is he or she a true Christian writing the truth or are they bringing a different gospel and are false teachers, etc?

That is the question every church leader needs to ask when reading books from all types of authors. if you are in doubt about an author, find their biography and read up[ on their beliefs. That information will help you make the correct determination and how you should be viewing their words.

Non-Christian authors may provide insight into how non-believers think and believe, but that is about all they have to offer a believer in Christ. They do not offer any insights on how to live life because they oppose God who has given us his instructions on how to live life.

We follow God over man, something BG failed to do.

“I turned to the internet to find help. I came upon sites like exchristian.net and Debunking Christianity. I found these sites to be quite helpful as I tried to make sense of what was going on in my life. I began reading the books of authors such as John Loftus, Hector Avalos, Robert M. Price, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Jerry Coyne, and Richard Dawkins.”

This is another thing that should not have been done. Instead of going to Christian websites for help, he went to those who left the faith. What we do not read in his words is if he asked for evidence to support the words of those former Christians and atheists?

He does ask for evidence from Christians yet nothing seems to be asked from those people he read. He simply took their word for it and started down his slippery slope. What BG also did wrong was what Deut. 21:21 says:

“Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death; so you shall eliminate the evil from your midst, and all Israel will hear about it and fear.”

Instead of moving away from those evil people, he embraced them and their words. Disobeying God has consequences and BG has certainly paid for his disobedience. Also, like Bill Mahr who cherry-picked the believers he would highlight in his film Religiosity, BG cherry-picked the churches he would visit:

“I tried, for a time, to convince myself that I could find some sort of Christianity that would work for me. Polly and I visited numerous liberal or progressive Christian churches, but I found that these expressions of faith would not do for me. My faith was gone.”

Liberal and progressive Christianity is not Christianity and should not be given the label of being Christian. Why not go to true Christian churches and get the truth? This action sounds like what Bill Mahr did, and that was to protect his atheism, not find the truth.

BG seems to have wanted to deconvert and went to places that would help him do just that. When in doubt, you do not go to unbelievers or those who bring a different gospel. You go to true believers who have love, compassion, and wisdom and tell you the truth.

….

As Sodom, Gomorrah, Noah’s Flood, and the Tower of Babel are examples of what not to do, so are the life and decisions of BG and every other former Christian. Keep your eyes on Christ and you will never fail.

According to Thiessen, when I began questioning my beliefs, I should have ONLY read books by Evangelical authors. Evidently, he forgot that I had already read these books. I know what Evangelicals believe and practice, inside and out. Why would I waste my time reading books that repeated the same apologetics arguments over and over again? I know all I need to know about Evangelical Christianity.

I am still on a journey of discovery, following the path wherever it leads. I will become a Christian once again if and when I am presented with evidence to warrant me doing so. My “conversion” will take new evidence, not the same-old-shit-new-day stuff. Of course, Evangelicals don’t have new evidence. Their religion is a closed system of thought. Evangelicals pride themselves on allegedly having the same beliefs that Jesus and the apostles had 2,000 years ago. Of course, they don’t actually have the same beliefs, but they think they do. Evangelicals would know better if they bothered to read books outside of their peculiar rut, but such reading is discouraged and, at times, condemned. Thiessen is the norm in Evangelical circles, not the exception.

There’s much I could say in response to Thiessen, but I will refrain from doing so. I have no idea why he decided to use an eight-year-old post, Why I Stopped Believing, to continue his deconstruction of my life. He makes numerous false statements, including “cherry-picking” the churches Polly and I visited after we left the ministry. Here’s a list of the churches we visited. As you will see, we attended a variety of churches and sects; everything except IFB churches. No need to visit IFB churches since that was our background. Most of the churches were Evangelical theologically, though no church was off limits. We were on a journey, willing to follow the path wherever it led. Sadly, Thiessen is stuck in the religion of his childhood, holding on to his tribe’s deity. Now a senior citizen, Thiessen has no real-world experience with any other religion or system of belief but his own. He does not know what he doesn’t know.

Thiessen says I wanted to deconvert, that I was looking for a way out of Christianity. Nothing in my story remotely suggests that this claim is true. In fact, the truth is the exact opposite. I did everything possible NOT to deconvert. I wanted to keep believing. However, I value truth over “want.” I became an atheist because I had no other choice.

Thiessen is free to show what I have “missed” about Christianity, but I am confident no evidence will be forthcoming.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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According to Enlightened Evangelical Gurus, Deconstruction Should Never Lead to Deconversion

creamery road zanesville ohio
Creamery Road, Zanesville, Ohio

I am Facebook friends with several notable players in the Evangelical deconstruction market. They present themselves as enlightened folks, people who have found a way — supposedly — hang on to Evangelicalism (or Christianity in general) without all its social, cultural, and political baggage. In their minds, one can believe the central claims of Christianity about God, Jesus, and salvation without accepting and believing the stuff in the Bible that makes one feel uncomfortable. As every Christian does, they pick and choose what they want to believe, rejecting or ignoring anything that offends their sensibilities.

Deconstruction means tearing down your beliefs and rebuilding them. According to these gurus, deconstruction always leads the deconstructee back to some sort of recognizable Christian faith. This means that former Evangelicals-turned-atheists did deconstruction wrong. Their journey should have led them to a restored, vibrant faith. In their minds, deconstruction can never to deconversion — the loss of faith. Their pronouncements about following the path wherever it leads have conditions. Faith in Jesus is the end game, and not facts, truth, and evidence.

You can’t expect people to reexamine their beliefs without risking that they might, for good reason, conclude that their beliefs were false; that Christianity is a false bill of goods. When confronted with the reality that scores of people are not only deconstructing, but deconverting, these gurus often resort to the same tactics as Fundamentalist Christians, questioning whether these former believers did deconversion right or truly understand the essentials of faith in Jesus. Or they resort to suggesting that hurt feelings or trauma are the real reasons people deconvert rather than deconstructing and rebuilding.

I am an agnostic atheist because I concluded that the central claims of Christianity are false; that they cannot be rationally sustained. What I am supposed to do? Fake it until I make it? That’s not how I live my life. Deconstruction leads in many directions, including right out the door of Christianity. Are we somehow less than if we reject Christianity altogether? What else would you have us do? Believe what we know to be not true?

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Jacob Crouch “Thinks” He Knows Why Former Evangelicals Use the Terms Deconversion and Deconstruction

deconstruction
How Evangelical Preachers View Deconstruction

Recently, Jacob Crouch, a nursing professor at Mississippi College in Clinton, Mississippi, and a music coordinator at Grace Community Church in Jackson, Mississippi, wrote a post titled Deconversion is Apostasy. Here’s some of what he had to say:

The word “deconversion”, defined simply as the loss of faith in one’s religion, seems to have become popular recently. People have become weirdly comfortable, almost boasting, in the fact that they have deconverted from Christianity. I think part of the comfort with deconversion is that the word is new enough to lack the sober connotations its meaning should convey. We often do this: we soften language to appease our consciences. So I want to say it out loud for those who might be dodging the seriousness of what deconverting from Christianity really means: Deconversion is apostasy.

When someone says, “I’ve deconverted” or “I’m an exvangelical” or “I’ve deconstructed”, I’m convinced that they choose this heady, pseudo-intellectual language because it allows the conscience to miss what they’ve actually done. Those who deconvert are leaving Christ. They are those whom the Spirit says, “will depart from the faith” (1 Tim 4:1). They are the ones who have, “an evil, unbelieving heart, leading [them] to fall away from the living God” (Heb 3:12). This is a serious and dangerous decision.

….

May we be faithful to expose the serious nature of deconversion, and let us be encouraged to pray and love our deconverting neighbors and family members.

Rarely does a week go by that I don’t read a blog post or article written by an Evangelical about those who are leaving Christianity. The numbers speak for themselves. Evangelicalism is hemorrhaging believers left and right. Led by the Holy Ghost to opine on deconversion/deconstruction, Crouch concludes that ex-Evangelicals are, by using terms such as deconversion, deconstruction, and exevangelical to describe themselves, “dodging the seriousness of what deconverting from Christianity really means: Deconversion is apostasy.”

Ex-Evangelicals are some of the most honest people I know; people who are willing to be brutally honest about their past and present lives. Hiding shit is not in the DNA. So, to suggest former Christians hide behind terms such as deconversion, deconstruction, and exevangelical to avoid accountability for their apostasy (and heresy) is absurd. In fact, most ex-Evangelicals I know — and I know lots of them — have no problem with the apostate label.

Of course we are apostates — proudly so. The difference between ex-Evangelicals’ use of the word apostasy and Crouch’s is that the word has no power for unbelievers. For Crouch and others like him, apostasy leads to God’s judgment and eternal punishment in the Lake of Fire. Such a fearful thing, right? Not for ex-Evangelicals. To them, Crouch’s beliefs are myths. We are not worried in the least that “God is gonna get us.” While deconversion has many components, fundamentally, those who deconvert from a system of belief no longer “believe” the central tenets of that system. Many ex-Evangelicals still “believe” in some sense or the other. Many ex-Evangelicals still believe in Jesus or have some sense that a deity of some sort exists. Their objections are to Evangelical beliefs and practices. Sure, some ex-Evangelicals are agnostics or atheists, but that cannot be said of all of them.

I wonder if Crouch has talked to many ex-Evangelicals? I doubt it. If he had, I seriously doubt he would say that their choice of self-identifiers is due to trying to “appease our consciences.” Does he even know what ex-Evangelicals think about the human conscience, to start with? Crouch assumes facts that are not in evidence. How does he know that ex-Evangelicals use these labels to appease their consciences; that we use “pseudo-intellectual” terms because it allows our “consciences” to miss what we have really done: leaving Christ?

Is Crouch serious? Does he really think ex-Evangelicals are not self-aware of what they have done? Child, please. We blew up our lives when we deconverted. We lost almost everything we held dear. We lost family, friends, and colleagues. I lost ALL of my Evangelical friends and colleagues in the ministry. A-l-l of them. Fifty years of my life went up in smoke the moment I said I was no longer a Christian. (Please see Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners.) I am quite self-aware of the price I have paid for divorcing Jesus, as are most deconverts.

Crouch calls on his fellow Evangelicals (true Christians) to pray for “deconverting neighbors and family members.” Pray if you must — it won’t make a difference — but I suggest a better approach might be to actually get to know people who have deconverted, who are no longer Evangelical Christians. If Crouch had done so, he never would have written his post.

Do better, Jacob, do better.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Quote of the Day: How Many Americans Have Left Christianity in the Last Twenty-Five Years?

quote of the day

More people have left the church in the last twenty-five years than all the new people who became Christians from the First Great Awakening, Second Great Awakening, and Billy Graham crusades combined.

— Jim Davis and Michael Graham with Ryan Burge, The Great Dechurching, 2023 (Word & Way)

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Dr. David Tee “Explains” Why People Leave Christianity

angry preacher

Dr. David Tee — who is neither a Doctor or a Tee — mounted his Internet pulpit recently to opine on why people leave Christianity. Here’s an excerpt from his post:

People have all sorts of excuses and they have all sorts of motivating triggers that help them make a decision. One thing that bothers us about the reasons they give is that there is no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Yet, these people who have turned away from different religions, mostly those that claim to be Christian., have decided to toss all of their faith away instead of moving to a different church (non-cultic) that meets their needs and shows them what Christianity is all about.

We are not going to list the reasons here. . .

Your eternal destination is on your shoulders, it is your responsibility, not the other people in the church.

Yes, many people do not follow Jesus and act in a way that is consistent with biblical instructions or commands. But you get to rebuke them if they err. using other people’s behavior to leave the church, Christ, and other religious organizations is simply making an excuse for your decision and failing to take responsibility for that momentous occasion.

Most of the reasons read like excuses. They have little legitimacy and point the finger towards the idea ‘I do not like what you did so I will punish you by leaving the church.’ Not a very smart or common sense decision.

….

But as we said, most are excuses and it looks like people did not want to be in the church anyway and were looking for a face-saving way to leave the church.

Evil is hard at work in destroying people so it is somewhat understandable why these illogical and non-common sense decisions were made. People seem to like doing knee-jerk reactions when it comes to church and religion overall.

What is ironic is the fact that you do not see people saying the same type of things about how non-believers or non-religious people treated them and their families. If they like to be treated well why then do they not leave unbelief when they or their families are treated in horrendous ways?

….

However, leaving the church or your faith over those incidents is not a smart thing to do. Those decisions say a lot about the people making those excuses:

#1. They are not looking to God to meet their needs. They are looking at pastors, etc and when they do not get what they want they take it out on God and punish him.

#2. They are holding the pastors and churches to a standard they do not hold themselves to. Are those people who deserted the faith, etc., doing what they expect other religious people to do?

#3. They are selfish and only want a one-way street their way.

#4. Their own claims to be a believer were not based on a strong foundation and they were weak, toppled over the first situation that provided negative input. They were superficial believers and probably like the seeds that were scattered on rocky or hard soil according to the parable Jesus told.

#5. They do not give God much credit or really cared about him. They were turned off of God for very petty acts that could have been overcome with prayer and a change in churches. This does not say much about them and their commitment to God or their religions.

Tee’s real name is Derrick Thomas Thiessen, so I will use his legal name in the remainder of his post.

Thiessen’s post is a theological trainwreck. Thiessen supposedly has a Bible college education and was a pastor, but many of his posts reveal that his theology can be best described as paint-by-number; except for the fact that when a number corresponds to a particular color, Thiessen uses whatever color he wants; regardless of how doing so makes the painting look. Thanks to his literalist, inerrantist, “it means what it says” view of the Protestant Christian Bible, Thiessen has beliefs that are, at times heterodox, or even heretical. I have concluded that he doesn’t really understand the Christian gospel, as he vacillates from salvation by grace to salvation by works to salvation by right beliefs to an admixture of these beliefs. I don’t doubt that Thiessen is a Christian, but damn, I’m not certain that he understands the gospel or has an in-depth understanding of Christian — particularly Evangelical — soteriology. While it would be fun to shred Thiessen’s theological beliefs, I am more concerned about the lies he continues to spread about people who left Evangelical Christianity and embraced atheism, agnosticism, paganism, or non-Christian religions. I say “lies” because Thiessen has been reading my writing for several years. He has written uncounted posts about me personally, Ben Berwick, and the readers of this blog. His unhealthy, creepy obsession with me is well known. No matter how many times I tell Thiessen that I am NOT interested in hooking up with him, he continues to write about me, uttering lies and half-truths as effortlessly as does disgraced congressman George Santos.

I have repeatedly talked about the reasons why I deconverted. I have, time after time, responded to Evangelical apologists who, much like Thiessen, think they know the “real” reasons people walk away from Christianity; people who attack the character of the deconverted and malign their motives for doing so. These scurrilous attackers of former Evangelicals often pontificate on the whys of deconversion without meaningfully and extensively talking to those who have actually deconverted. God condemns such behavior in Proverbs 18:13: Answering before listening is both stupid and rude.

Thiessen says that people like me are excuse-makers; that we blame others for our loss of faith; that the church hurt us, so we left, with feelings hurt, never to return. Thiessen later says that those who leave Christianity are selfish, people who want their way, and when they don’t get it, they take it out on God and punish him (there’s some of that famous Thiessen theology). Thiessen suggests that people who deconvert are superficial Christians or even fake believers; that they never cared much for God or gave credit to him (for what, exactly, Thiessen doesn’t say).

I ask you, dear readers, do Thiessen’s reasons for why people leave Christianity reflect why you are no longer a Christian? Thiessen knows better. He knows exactly why people deconvert. I have explained this to him numerous times in my writing and email responses to him. It is evident, at least to me, that Thiessen is not an honest interlocuter; that his goal is to demean and defame, and not honestly and humbly understand.

What do you think about Thiessen’s post? Please share your erudite thoughts in the comment section. I am sure “Dr.” Tee will appreciate your responses. I would suggest that you comment on his blog, but he doesn’t allow comments.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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What Shall We Say About Evangelicals-Turned-Atheists Who Return to Christianity?

i have a question

A reader named Martin read the post The Lies Evangelicals Tell About Being Former Atheists or Evangelizing the Godless and asked:

“I can’t imagine someone rejecting all he knows to be true for a belief system that he has already deemed incoherent, irrational, and false.”

Isn’t this just the atheist version of “once saved always saved”? Once an atheist, always an atheist. “You didn’t have true disbelief, you were merely a none!”

Here’s what I said in context:

So when I hear Evangelical talking heads speak of being atheists before they became Christians, I want them to explain how they are using the word “atheist.” More often than not, they are using the word incorrectly. The word “atheist” is not a placeholder for unbelief. When an Evangelical tells me he was an atheist before becoming a Christian, I want to know exactly how he became an atheist. If he says, oh, I always was an atheist, I then know that he was a NONE and not an atheist. The same goes for people who say they were Evangelicals, became atheists, and then later returned to Evangelicalism. While it is certainly within the realm of possibility for someone to follow such a path, I have a hard time believing someone who says he was a studious atheist, realized the error of his way, and became an Evangelical. Knowing first-hand what goes into someone leaving Evangelicalism and embracing atheism, I can’t imagine someone rejecting all he knows to be true for a belief system that he has already deemed incoherent, irrational, and false. It leaves me wondering, what is the real reason for returning to the Evangelical cult?

I never speak in absolute terms. I recognize when it comes to human beings, almost anything is possible. Thus, I would never say “once an atheist, always an atheist.” I would say, however, that when I hear that people who were Evangelical-turned-atheists returned to atheism, I question their motives for doing so. Why did they become atheists to start with? Why did they really embrace Evangelicalism again?

People who deconvert from Evangelicalism primarily do so for intellectual reasons. They reach a place where they conclude that the central claims of Christianity are not true. Certainly, psychological and emotional factors play a part, but most Evangelicals-turned-atheists I have talked to told me that the main reason they are no longer Christians is that they don’t believe the Bible and the teachings of the church are true. Thus, when people return to Christianity after claiming to be atheists, I have to wonder if they did the intellectual work required to become an atheist. It’s hard (not impossible) for me to imagine people knowing that Christianity is built on untruths and myths ever returning to the faith they left. Sure, it happens, but it is rare.

Why then do people return to the garlic and leeks of Egypt (Christianity) once they have found the Promised Land (atheism)? Over the past fifteen years I have been writing about Evangelical Christianity a handful of notable Evangelicals-turned-atheists have returned to Evangelicalism. A few of them embraced liberal forms of Christianity, sects where they could believe in evolution and universalism and still be considered Christians. Most of them returned to the faith because they missed the “church,” with its community and fellowship. We atheists don’t do fellowship and community very well. It can be lonely being a heathen in a local community of Christians. Some people can’t handle this loneliness (and this is not a criticism) so they return to that which was familiar and comfortable for them — the church. They find some way to be at peace with the cognitive dissonance they have, choosing personal peace and happiness over reason.

I don’t know of one committed Evangelical who deconverted for intellectual reasons and later returned to Christianity for intellectual reasons. I am sure they exist, I just don’t know of any. How can someone rationally conclude that the Bible is errant and fallible; that Jesus was not divine; that Jesus was not virgin born; that Jesus was not a miracle worker; that Jesus did not resurrect from the dead and then return to a sect who believes these things are true and requires you to believe them if you want to be a member of the church? That seems to be a bridge too far.

Sadly, Evangelical churches and preachers love to publicize and promote these reclaimed sheep. Imagine if I publicly announced that I was no longer an atheist; that I was returning to Christianity and the ministry. Why, I would be an overnight celebrity! I would quickly have scores of speaking gigs and a fat bank account balance. “Evangelical Preacher-Turned-Atheist Bruce Gerencser Returns to the Faith! Come Hear His Exciting Testimony of Deliverance from the Jaws of Satanic Atheism.” I am sure I would write a few books. Churches would have me come to teach people how to win atheists to Christ. No one would ever bother to ask me WHY? All they see is a reclaimed soul for Jesus. They aren’t interested in hearing the real reasons I returned to the fold.

I surmise many Evangelicals-turned-atheists expected more from atheism than it could provide (nor was ever meant to provide). A man and woman were married for twenty-five years. Over time, they grew distant from each other. Realizing they both had different needs and wants, the couple divorced and when their separate ways. One night the man called the woman to see how she was doing. He suggested they eat dinner together and catch up. One thing led to another, and the couple ended up in bed. Why? Familiarity. I suspect that is one of the primary reasons Evangelicals-turned-atheists return to Christianity. They want, need, and crave the familiarity they had with their “lover,” the church. I don’t fault them for doing so. Just don’t tell me they did so for intellectual reasons. Either Christianity is true or it’s not. If you through skeptical inquiry and careful, thorough study, conclude that the central claims of Christianity are false, what evidence could later convince you that you were wrong? I can’t think of any. Thus, if you return to the faith, you are likely doing so for reasons other than intellectual.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Deconstruction Advice for Evangelical Christians

deconversion

What would prompt you [someone who has questions about Christianity] to feed on the garbage you’re reading and watching, thereby polluting your mind?…Certainly, someone does need to read and interact with secular material, but that person is not (yet) you. You first need to prepare yourself…Quit reading and watching the infidel material you’ve been absorbing. Confess your recklessness and irresponsibility to God. Notice: I’m not saying, quit asking questions. I’m saying, quit going to the wrong people for answers.

Evangelical Apologist William Lane Craig

I get a lot of emails from Evangelical Christians who are struggling with their faith. Pastors, evangelists, missionaries, college professors, and devout church members will contact me about their existential struggles. Some of them have questions, others just want someone to listen to them. Consider how bad it is for many Evangelicals that they can’t talk to their pastors or other church leaders, so they contact a stranger on the Internet. They read my story and it resonates with them. They see me as someone who will understand, and they hope I will listen to them or answer their questions.

My goal as a writer has always been the same: to help people who have doubts and questions about Christianity and to help people who have left Christianity altogether. My objective has never been evangelization. While scores of people have deconverted after interacting with me, that’s never been my goal. I genuinely want to help people. I suspect that I am not much different today from the way I was as a pastor. Of course, I no longer see salvation or restoration as the end-all. I am content to help people wherever they are on this journey called life. I don’t try to “save” people. I’m content to let people come to their own conclusions. I might challenge their worldview and beliefs, but I know that their journey is theirs, and I’m content to let them follow the path wherever it leads. Any movement away from Fundamentalism (please see Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?) is a good one.

When interacting with deconstructing Evangelicals, the first thing I do is listen. I am fascinated by their stories, so similar, yet so different. Sadly, they find themselves in a lonely place. No one wants to listen to them. Their pastors see them as a “problem” that needs to be fixed. Evangelicalism demands conformity and obedience. While differences of belief are permitted, typically they are discouraged or expected to fit closely defined parameters. Evangelicalism is like a box. Church members are free to wander within the box, asking hard questions such as premillennial or postmillennial, KJV or NIV, speaking in tongues or not, Calvinism or Arminianism, and a host of other game interpretations. Asking hard questions about God, the Bible, and the central claims of Christianity are unwelcome, and will quickly bring a visit from the pastor or a list of approved books from Evangelical apologists to read. Dare to climb out of the box to see what’s on the outside and you will be judged, condemned, and marginalized. And in some cases, you will be asked to shut the hell up or you will be threatened with excommunication. (Please see The Danger of Being in a Box and Why it Makes Sense When You Are In It and What I Found When I Left the Box.)

When interacting with Evangelicals, the first thing I do is encourage them to read books and blogs, listen to podcasts, and watch YouTube videos. I suggest they stay away from Evangelical apologists and preachers. Such people have an agenda: to keep asses in the pews and money in the offering plates. Their goal is to maintain the status quo and protect at all costs that which they and their fellow gatekeepers have built. They know that providing honest answers to questions about God, the Bible, and church history will cause more doubts and questions, and even unbelief.

When dealing with Evangelicals, I always recommend they read authors such as Bart Ehrman and John Shelby Spong. If I sense they can handle stronger doses of medicine, I recommend authors such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and the anthologies published by John Loftus. These men speak truth, but their books can be difficult for sensitive Christians to swallow.

If, as Evangelicals allege, God, the Bible, and life after death are the most important things facing the human race, then it behooves us to know whether their claims are true. Reading books written by Evangelical authors will only reinforce, not challenge, beliefs. Such writers are certain they are right, and they want you to be just as certain as they are. Non-Evangelical authors are usually more interested in facts and evidence. Their goal is education, not evangelization and conversion.

The second thing I do is encourage them to talk to people who have different beliefs from theirs. Visit non-Evangelical churches. Interact with writers who are willing to listen and try to answer what questions you might have. My inbox is always open. I will interact with some people for a time and then I won’t hear from them again. I am quite happy to be “used” if I can help people in some way. Sometimes, people will reconnect with me years later. Often, they email me to let me know where they are in life or that they are now an atheist.

Third, I ask people to be brutally honest with themselves. Meet truth in the middle of the road and do business. Don’t try to back up or go around. If people are willing to do so, they will always end up exactly where they need to be. While many of them will remain Christians, I am confident that they will come to understand that Evangelicalism cannot be rationally sustained; that the Bible is not inerrant or infallible; that many of their beliefs are irrational and harmful. Evangelicalism sells itself as THE Way, THE Truth, and THE Life, but many people learn that there is a Christianity that exists that is not Fundamentalist; one built on a foundation of love, peace, mercy, and kindness. While I am always happy when people embrace atheism, I know that most people won’t. Thus, I gently encourage people to expand their religious horizons. The goal, from my seat in the atheist pew, is to smother the life out of Evangelicalism.

Hopefully, this short post will be helpful for those who are on the path away from Evangelicalism. I have no interest in arguing with zealots or debating apologists. I don’t intend to cast my pearls before swine. But I do want to befriend deconstructing Evangelicals and help them in any way I can.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Responding to John Piper’s “Five Reasons Evangelical Christians Fall Away”

john piper
John Piper

John Piper recently delivered the commencement address at Bethany College and Seminary in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Titled Seventy Years Without Shipwreck, Piper humble-brags about the fact that he has been a Fundamentalist Christian for seventy years; that God has never forsaken him; that he never deconverted.

Piper begins his address by letting students know that he doesn’t like the word “deconversion.” Piper thinks the word is trendy; a word devised by Satan to mask what is really going on; a word that has no basis in reality (since, according to Piper’s Calvinistic theology, it is impossible to “deconvert”).

Piper states:

The word deconversion is not in the Oxford English Dictionary. At least, not yet. Words are created to name reality, not the other way around. But we didn’t need the word deconversion. The Bible abounds with words and descriptions of some forsaking Christ:

apostasy (2 Thessalonians 2:3)

falling away (Matthew 24:10)

shipwreck of faith (1 Timothy 1:19)

turning back from following the Lord (Zephaniah 1:6)

trampling underfoot the Son of God (Hebrews 10:29)

going out from us (1 John 2:19)

cutting off of a branch (John 15:2)

becoming disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:27)

turning away from listening to the truth (2 Timothy 4:4)

denying the Master who bought them (2 Peter 2:1)

We didn’t need a new word. My guess is that the new word deconversion came into existence so that the old, foolish, tragic, heart-breaking reality could feel as trendy as the word. How shrewd is our enemy.

The overarching premise of Piper’s address is that people deconvert not for unresolved questions about “history, science, logic, or ethics,” but because they have a deep-seated love for “darkness” and sin. Yes, the reason you and I walked away from Christianity is that we wanted to sin; that our faith precluded us from fulfilling our lusts and desires, so we divorced Jesus so we could fuck, steal, lie, cheat, and murder to our heart’s content.

penn gillette

While this argument may work with those uninitiated in Evangelical Christianity, those who spent their lives working in God’s vineyard (and coal mine) know better. There’s plenty of fucking, stealing, lying, cheating, and murdering going on among God’s elect. Murder, you say? Yes, murder. One church member I pastored murdered his infant daughter by shaking her to death. Another church member slaughtered his ex-girlfriend with a knife in a fit of rage. He is presently serving a life sentence. While neither of these men were “committed” followers of Jesus, they both professed saving faith in Jesus Christ. Besides, I personally know a number of on-fire Christians, pastors, evangelists, missionaries, and college professors who committed adultery and fornication — both heterosexual and homosexual. Piper has been in the ministry too long not to know these things. There’s no difference between how Christians live and how the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines and Jezebels of the world live.

Piper goes on to list five ways the deconverted sin. First, they have a love for “life’s cares, riches, and pleasures. Second, they have a “love for the present age.” Third, the deconverted “reject a good conscience.” Forth, they become “re-entangled in worldly defilements,” and finally the deconverted have been led astray by the “deceitfulness of sin.”

Piper sums up his five points this way:

I don’t think you will find any exceptions to this in the Bible. The root cause of apostasy, or falling away, or making shipwreck of faith, or deconversion, is not the failure to detect truth, but the failure to desire holiness. Not the absence of light, but the love for the dark. Not the problems of science, but the preference for sin.

In other words, Piper only sees one reason for our apostasy: sin. No matter what we say, no matter how many times we tell our stories and explain ourselves, the Pipers of the world refuse to accept we what say at face value. I can only conclude, then, that Piper and his ilk deliberately lie about unbelievers and their motivations, using their apostasy to justify their theological beliefs.

Piper concludes his address by saying that Christians who deconvert were never True Christians®. Of course, he does . . .

Piper states:

We all know — you have been well taught — that God never loses any of his elect. Not one of his predestined children is ever lost. “For those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Romans 8:30). None of them deconverts finally. The ship of saving faith always makes it to the haven. “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us” (1 John 2:19).

With a quote from the Bible and a wave of his arrogant, self-righteous hand, Piper dismisses millions of people who were once devoted followers of Jesus; people who loved the Lamb and followed him wherever he went; people who committed their lives to sacrificially serving the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords; people who were Christian in every possible way. I was part of the Evangelical church for fifty years, and a pastor for twenty-five years. Much like Piper, I was a Christian for a long, long time. Imagine if I dismissed Piper’s faith out of hand. After all, he has not lived a sinless life; marital problems, disaffected children, and all sorts of less-than-Christian behavior. Piper would rightly be offended if I dismissed the totality of his life, focusing, instead, on his “sins.” Maybe the good pastor secretly has hedonistic desires, and not the Christian kind that he loves to preach about.

How about we accept each other’s stories at face value? That’s what decent, thoughtful people do. When a Christian tells me their conversion story, I believe them. I expect the same treatment in return. I once was a Christian, and now I am not. But, Bruce, the Bible says ____________. That’s your problem, not mine. My past life was one of devotion to Jesus and the work of the ministry — in thought, word, and deed. It’s your thinking that needs to change, not mine. And as long as Piper and his merry band of keepers of the Book of Life continue to ignore the stories of those who have walked away from the faith, they will never truly understand why an increasing number of believers are exiting the church stage left.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Why Our Christians Friends Leave Us When We Deconvert

church is a family

One thing being a part of a church does for us is give us a community through which we find meaning, purpose, and identity. I spent the first fifty years of my life in the Christian church. For many years, I attended church twice on Sunday and on Wednesdays or Thursdays for prayer meeting. These church families I was a part of were central to my life. Most of my friendships were developed in connection with the church and my work as a pastor. I spent twenty-five years pastoring Evangelical churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. I developed scores of friendships, not only with congregants but also with colleagues in the ministry. As a pastor, I would attend pastor’s conferences and meetings. It was at these meetings that I had opportunities to talk with my preacher friends, sharing with them my “burdens.” We would laugh, cry, and pray together, knowing that the bond we had as fellow followers of Jesus and God-called preachers of the gospel was rooted in loving each other as Christ Jesus loved us.  A handful of preachers became close, intimate friends with my wife and me. Our families would get together for food, fun, and fellowship — hallmarks of Baptist intimacy. We saw vulnerabilities in each other that our congregants never would. We could confide in each other, seeking advice on how to handle this or that problem or church member. When news of church difficulties came our way, we would call each other, or take each other out for lunch. These fellow men of God were dear to my heart, people that I expected to have as friends until I died.

As a teenager, I had lots of friends, male and female. Most of my friends were fellow church members, though I did have, thanks to playing sports, a few friends in the “world.” I always found it easy to meet new people and make friendships. I had no qualms about talking to complete strangers, a gift that suited me well as a pastor. As a nineteen-year-old boy, I enrolled in classes at Midwestern Baptist College in Pontiac, Michigan. I quickly made a lot of new friends, including one who sleeps beside me to this day. I lived in a dorm room with three other men. Virtually every waking hour of my life was spent with fellow students — at church, school, and social events. As anyone who has ever lived in a college dormitory will tell you, dorm life is busy and full of activity. Practical jokes were an everyday occurrence, and, as a consummate jokester, I found great satisfaction in pulling one over on my fellow students. I lived on a dormitory wing that was labeled the “party” wing. The other dormitory wing was called the “spiritual” wing. My fellow party-wing residents loved Jesus, but they loved having a good time too. The spiritual wing? They loved Jesus too, but frowned on doing anything that might be perceived as bawdy or mischievous.

One day, a pastor by the name of A.V. Henderson preached at chapel (students were required to attend chapel five days a week). I have preached and heard thousands of sermons in my lifetime. I remember very few of them. I do, however, vividly remember Henderson’s sermon, even forty-five years later. Henderson was the pastor of Temple Baptist Church in Detroit. Temple was an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) megachurch founded by Baptist luminary J. Frank Norris and later pastored by G.B. Vick. The 1970s were the zenith of the IFB church movement. Most of the largest churches in the United States were IFB churches. Churches such as Temple Baptist were pastored by men who were great orators and pulpiteers. Henderson was no exception. Henderson’s chapel sermon was from the book of Job. It was, by all counts, a thrilling, rousing sermon. However, Henderson said something during his sermon that I didn’t, at the time, understand. He said, with that distinct Texas drawl of his, that people will go through life with very few true friendships; that most people were fortunate to have two or three lifelong friends. I thought at the time, what’s he talking about? I have lots of friends! Forty years-five later, I now know that A.V. Henderson was right; that true friends are rare indeed; that if you have two or three such friends, you should consider yourself fortunate.

It has been almost fifteen years since I last attended church; fifteen years since I have listened to preaching; fifteen years since I have sung the hymns of the faith; fifteen years since I have dropped money in an offering plate; fifteen years since I broke bread with people I considered my family. In early 2009, I sent a letter to my family and friends detailing my loss of faith. You can read the letter here: Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners. I grossly underestimated how people would respond to my letter. In a matter of days, I received angry, venomous emails, letters, and phone calls. One ministerial colleague drove four hours to my home, hoping to turn me back towards the faith. You can read the letter I sent to him here: Dear Friend. I was shocked by how hateful and vitriolic my friends were to me. And here I am fifteen years later, and I still, on occasion, hear from someone who knew me and is shocked over my betrayal of all that I once held dear.

The friendships of a lifetime are now gone — all of them, save my friendship with an Evangelical man I have known for fifty-seven years (we walked to elementary school together). A.V. Henderson’s words ring true. I have one friend who has walked with me through every phase of my life. The rest of my “true” friends have written me off (2 Corinthians 6:14), kicked the dirt off their shoes (Mark 6:10, 11), or turned me over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh (I Corinthians 5). I was naive to think that it could be any other way.

Many people believe in unconditional love. I know, at one time, I did. I have learned, however, that unconditional love is largely a myth. (Please read Does God Love Us Unconditionally?) Unconditional love suggests that nothing we do to those we love can break the bond we have with them. Many people carry the notion of unconditional love into their friendships. We think, these people love me, no matter what. They will always be my friends. And then something happens. In my case, I spit in the face of God, pissed on the blood of Jesus, and used the pages of the Bible to wipe my ass, so to speak. I repudiated everything I once believed, and in doing so called into question the beliefs of my friends. The glue that held our friendships together was our fealty to a set of theological beliefs. Once these beliefs were questioned and discarded by me, that bond was irreparably broken. If the connection Christians have with their churches is akin to family, then when people walk away from the beliefs and practices of these families, they are, in effect, divorcing themselves from their families.

Marital divorce tears the bond between husband and wife. When Christians divorce themselves from Jesus, the bonds they have with their friends are ripped asunder. While this divorce can be amicable, most often it is not. My divorce from Jesus and the church was very much like a high-profile tabloid divorce. And even though the judge signed the divorce decree fifteen years ago, repercussions remain to this day.

I have learned that few friendships last a lifetime. Most friendships are dependent on time and location. Remember all your friends who signed your high school yearbook? Are you still friends with them today? Remember the best-buds-for-life from your college days? What happened to those friendships? Were these relationships true friendships? Sure, but they weren’t meant to last a lifetime. And that’s okay.

I don’t blame my former friends for the failure of our friendships. I am the one who moved. I am the one who changed his beliefs. I am the one who ripped apart the bond of our friendship. I do, however, hold them accountable for their horrendous treatment of me once I deconverted. They could have hugged me and said, I don’t understand WHY you are doing this, but I appreciate the good times we had together. I wish you, Polly, and the kids well. Instead, I was treated like dog shit on a shoe bottom; a person worthy of scorn, ridicule, and denunciation. By treating me this way, they destroyed any chance of restoration. Why would I ever want to be friends again with people who treated me like the scum of the earth?

I have spent the past decade and a half developing new friendships. These days, most of my friendships are digital — people who I will likely never meet face to face. This has resulted in Polly and me becoming closer, not only loving each other, but also enjoying each other’s company. For most of my marriage, Jesus, the church, and the ministry were my first loves. (Please see It’s Time to Tell the Truth: I Had an Affair.) It’s not that I didn’t love my children and wife, I did. But they were never number one in my life, and Polly and the kids knew it. I was a God-called man who devoted his life to Jesus and the church. Polly knew that marrying a preacher meant that she and the kids would have to share me with the church. (And her teachers in college and fellow pastor’s wives told her that’s how it had to be. God came first.) Little did she know that she would spend way too many years getting leftovers from a man who loved her but was worn out from burning the proverbial candle at both ends. Now that religion no longer gets between us, Polly and I are free to forge an unencumbered relationship. We have always loved each other, but what has now changed is that we really like each other too and are best friends. And in Polly, I have found one of the true friends A.V. Henderson preached about forty-five years ago. I am indeed, blessed.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Elizabeth Prata Reveals She’s Never Talked to an Evangelical-Turned-Atheist, But Knows They Never Were True Christians

hear see speak no evil

It’s Tuesday. A new day for Evangelical zealots to read the minds of Evangelicals-turned-atheists and tell them why they “really” deconverted, and what their “real” motivations were for abandoning Christianity. Elizabeth Prata is one such tone-deaf Evangelical.

In a post titled, Can You Be an Ex-Christian? Prata stated:

There’s no such thing as an ex-Christian. Look at 1 John-

They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” (1 John 2:19)

John is saying here that people who ‘backslide’ and then fall away from the faith entirely, never really were saved to begin with. “They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him,” (Titus 1:16).

For many professing “ex-Christians”, it starts with apostasy, something Paul said there would be plenty of in the last days.

….

So the apostate’s progression is: profess Christ by mouth… but since there was no visible fruit to show the state of grace they were claiming on the inside, they were never really saved; fail to walk closely with Jesus by procrastinating in discipleship, bible study, prayer, and/or worship, furthering the distance between themselves and Jesus; listen to or promote destructive heresies that either they knowingly or unknowingly begin to believe, start doubting Christ’s sufficiency; doubt more, and then slide to full blown renunciation and end up in a state of atheism.

….

The end result of a Christian in name only – that is, one who claimed Jesus but never really believed – and is one who is at risk of being tempted by destructive heresies, and ultimately of apostasy. What comes next is atheism.

Atheism is a natural cul-de-sac in the road away from the cross.

….

After apostasy settles in and atheism rears its head, a person is well and truly now in the dangerous pits of despair, misplacing their burgeoning faith in something for a faith in nothing that will last forever.

I’m should just say “sigh” (please see Why I Use the Word “Sigh”), but for the sake of the children 🙂 I will respond to Prata’s awful prattle.

It’s evident Prata has never meaningfully talked to Evangelicals-turned-atheists. Instead, much as countless other Evangelicals have done, she ignores their stories out of hand, justifying her boorish behavior by quoting the Bible. Much like Joe Sperber did in his email interaction with me, (please see Joe, The Evangelical, Likens My Life to Driving Off a Cliff and Committing Suicide) Prata uses 1 John 2:19 to justify her out-of-hand dismissal of deconversion stories:

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

According to Prata’s interpretation of this verse — a common interpretation — Evangelicals-turned-atheists were never Christians. Why? True Christians never leave the church. And make no mistake about it, the “us” in this verse is the local, visible church, and not the invisible, universal church. True Christians go to church and continue going to church all the days of their lives. Evangelicals-turned-atheists stopped going to church, so this is “proof” that they were never Christians.

This is akin to a man who was married to a woman for fifty years before divorcing his wife. The Pratas of the world say to the man, “you never were married.” Absurd, right? The man was married, and now he’s not. No amount of revision can change the fact that the man was married for fifty years. So it is when it comes to the deconversion stories of former Evangelicals. These people were once Christians and now they are not, regardless of what the Bible says. Facts are facts. Surely, that’s a “fact” we can all agree upon.

Here’s the money quote:

So the apostate’s progression is: profess Christ by mouth… but since there was no visible fruit to show the state of grace they were claiming on the inside, they were never really saved; fail to walk closely with Jesus by procrastinating in discipleship, bible study, prayer, and/or worship, furthering the distance between themselves and Jesus; listen to or promote destructive heresies that either they knowingly or unknowingly begin to believe, start doubting Christ’s sufficiency; doubt more, and then slide to full blown renunciation and end up in a state of atheism.

According to Prata, Evangelicals-turned-atheists never had “visible fruit to show the state of grace they were claiming on the inside.” In other words, their “works” didn’t match their words. Prata confidently states “Evangelicals-turned-atheists, procrastinated in discipleship, bible study, prayer, and/or worship, furthering the distance between themselves and Jesus; listening to or promoting destructive heresies.” Does this sound remotely true to you, especially those of you who were pastors, evangelists, missionaries, youth pastors, Sunday school teachers, deacons, Christian school teachers, and Evangelical college professors? Does this remotely sound true to those of you who were in church every time the doors were open? Of course not.

I was in the Evangelical church for fifty years, and a pastor for twenty-five years. I slavishly, passionately, and devotedly loved and followed Jesus. I forsook my houses, lands, and material possessions for the “sake of the call.” I devoted my life to preaching the gospel, winning souls, and building up the people of God. I daily read and studied the Bible, spending thousands and thousands of hours immersed in the Word. I preached 4,000 sermons. For years, I was an expositional preacher. I was not perfect, sinning daily in thought, word, and deed. But, the bend of my life (to quote John MacArthur) was towards holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. I raised my children up in nurture and admonition of the Lord. My wife and I, along with our six children, separated ourselves from the “world.” Personal holiness was important to us. We homeschooled our children, doing everything we could to train them up in the ways of the Lord. My theology certainly moderated and changed over the twenty-five years I spent in the ministry, but never strayed beyond Christian orthodoxy. Based on my story alone, it is abundantly clear that what Prata says about Evangelicals-turned-atheists is not true. I know she reads this blog, so I call on her to immediately repent and apologized to those whose character she has besmirched. Will she do so? I doubt it. Evangelicals drive cars that don’t have reverse gear. Certainty breeds arrogance, and arrogance precludes Evangelicals from admitting they are wrong.

Why do Evangelicals refuse to accept the stories of Evangelicals-turned-atheists at face value? Why do they close their eyes and plug their ears, pretending to not see and hear what is right in front of them? Why do they continue to quote Bible verses and sermonize? Why, if all else fails, do they turn to violence and torture porn, threatening Evangelicals-turned-atheists with eternal, everlasting torment in the Lake of Fire? Why do the stories of Evangelicals-turned-atheists bother them so much, often causing them to erupt in outrage? Why not just ignore those who deconvert, giving them over to Satan as the Apostle Paul did?

Here’s what I think: our stories scare the shit out of them. They know our stories ring true, yet we walked (or ran) away from God, Jesus, the Bible, and the church. And if this can happen to us, it could happen to them too. Over the years, several former church members — close friends — ended their friendships with me. Why? They found my story to be disconcerting. How is it possible that the man they called Preacher, the man who led them to Christ, baptized them, and taught them the Word of God, is an atheist? Unable to come to terms with my loss of faith, they distance themselves from me lest my atheist cooties rub off on them. One close ministerial colleague of mine, upon learning I left the faith, came to my home to beg me to reconsider. After hours of begging and pleading, it became clear to this man that I would never return to Christianity. (Please see Dear Friend.) He then begged me to NOT tell anyone about my deconversion, fearing that my doing so would lead people away from Jesus. Of course, I could not honor his request.

There’s nothing more powerful than a well-told story. This is why I am just one man with a story to tell. I write, people read, and decide for themselves whether my story rings true. Traffic numbers suggest that my story rings true for thousands and thousands of people. I receive frequent emails and comments from people thanking me for my writing. I am humbled by their kind words, reminders of the fact that my story matters. And so does yours. If you have not told your story, I hope you will consider doing so. Please contact me if you would like to share your story on this site.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Bruce Gerencser