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Tag: Deconversion

Questions: Bruce, Were You Ostracized After You Deconverted?

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Every year or two, I ask readers to submit questions they want me to answer. That time has arrived once again. Any question. Any subject. Please leave your questions in the comment section or send them to me via email. I will try to answer them in the order received.

I look forward to reading and answering your questions.

Charles asked:

Did your former congregations and Christian friends completely ostracize you after you deconverted?

The short answer is yes. However, the ostracization began before I deconverted. The last Sunday in November 2008 marks the day when I finally admitted I was no longer a Christian and stopped attending church. Before that, I still professed faith in Jesus, albeit a questioning, doubting faith. I started blogging in 2006. As I publicly worked through my questions and doubts, my colleagues in the ministry and former congregants took notice, voicing their concerns over my leftward slide into liberalism and unbelief. Some of these people broke with me, saying they could no longer support a man who held heretical beliefs. In their minds I was backslidden, or, God forbid, a false Christian; someone who never knew Jesus as his Lord and Savior. Most of my friends and acquaintances still considered me a friend or colleague, but they distanced themselves from me, praying I would repent, but ready to chuck me in the trash bin if I did not.

After publicly declaring I was no longer a Christian, I sent out a letter titled Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners to several hundred people. I knew that there were a lot of rumors circulating about me, so I thought, through this letter, I would let everyone know where I was in life. Surely, my family, friends, and former parishioners would want to know, right? I wanted, most of all, for them to “understand.” I quickly learned no one was interested in understanding anything. I received emails, letters, and phone calls from people outraged over my decision to deconvert. Nobody said, “I understand” or “I wish you well.” Instead, I was told I was mentally ill (by my best friend) and/or demon-possessed ( by a woman I’ve known for 50 years). Others told me I was out of the will of God, backslidden, or other terms Evangelicals use to describe people who don’t play by the rules or believe the right things. All of them, to the person, immediately cut me off. Some of my preacher friends preached sermons about me, using me as a cautionary tale of what happens when someone rejects the one true Evangelical faith. Sixteen years later, not one friend remains. My partner, Polly, and I have had to completely start over, building friendships with people who have likeminded beliefs.

I don’t blame people for breaking fellowship with me. I came to understand that my faith-based relationships were conditioned on fidelity to certain beliefs and practices. Once I rejected these beliefs, the bond that held us together was broken. What surprised me was how ugly and nasty people were towards me — decidedly unChristian. They could have told me they were disappointed without burning our relationships to the ground. Sadly, Evangelicals are well-known for how badly they treat people who leave the in group. Only one person — the woman I had known for 50 years — ever apologized for the way they treated me. Everyone else, stood by their hateful, judgmental, disrespectful words, poignant reminders of the rot that is at the core of Evangelical Christianity.

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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An Open Letter to Preachers Trying to “Explain” Why So Many People Are Deconstructing

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Dear Pastor _________,

I have listened to your sermons, read your blog posts, or perused your articles in Christianity Today or The Gospel Coalition about why so many Evangelical church members are “deconstructing.” I have carefully noted your excuses and justifications for why people are fleeing Evangelical churches in droves. I have snickered and rolled my eyes as you blame anyone and everyone except yourself and your church for the decline in attendance and income. It’s the culture, or Hollywood, or postmodernism, or LGBTQ rights, or socialism, or atheism, or countless other things you blame for why Evangelicalism is rotting on the vine. And if all of these “blames” ring hollow, you label those who deconstruct as “cultural” Christians; trotting out the No True Scotsman Fallacy. Those who deconstruct and ultimately leave Evangelicalism aren’t True Christians®. Never mind the fact that many of the people exiting stage left from Evangelical churches were committed followers of Jesus; people who faithfully attended church, supported the church financially, and lived according to the teachings of the Bible. Lots of former Evangelicals frequent this blog. Few of them were cultural or nominal believers. Instead, they served the Lord their God with all their heart, soul, and might. Yet, one day, or over many days, months, and years, they took a careful, painful look at Christianity and its attendant beliefs and practices. They decided they were no longer believers in the Evangelical sense of the word. Many of them became atheists, agnostics, pagans, or nones — people indifferent towards organized religion.

Instead of talking to these disaffected Evangelicals, Pastor __________, you marginalized them, ignoring their honest, open questions and concerns. You labeled them as worldly, carnal, backslidden, or some other pejorative label. And finally, you asserted, without evidence, that those who deconstructed lacked spiritual maturity and Bible knowledge. In other words, they just didn’t know any better. (Who taught them all those years, Pastor? Aren’t you to blame for their lack of knowledge?) Had they known better, they would have remained in the church. After all, doesn’t the Bible say, “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.” (I John 2:19) End of discussion, right?

If you really want to know why people are deconstructing (and deconverting), Pastor _________, let me suggest a few reasons that come to mind:

  • The politicization of the pulpit and the church. Evangelical churches have become the propaganda wing of the Republican Party.
  • Donald Trump. Eighty-two percent of voting white Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump — twice. Trump is morally repugnant, and an evil man, yet Evangelical pastors and churches promote him as God’s candidate — even going so far as to say that he is a Christian.
  • Evangelical churches largely ignore environmental concerns, especially global warming, and catastrophic species decline. Why worry about the environment — Jesus is coming soon!
  • Evangelical churches generally demonize LGBTQ people — especially transgender men and women.
  • Evangelical churches tend to promote complementarianism, encouraging treating women as “less than.” Misogyny is common.
  • Evangelical churches are anti-abortion (pro-life), while at the same time supporting capital punishment, killing immigrants, and war.
  • Evangelicals generally ignore what the Bible about caring for the least of these: the poor, marginalized, sick, hungry, widows, orphans, and people of color.
  • Pastors and churches over-emphasize certain “sins,” ignoring others. Sexual sins are given far more attention than other sins — especially icky homo sins.
  • Church scandals and sexual misconduct by pastors are legion, routinely ignored or swept under the rug.
  • Hypocrisy. People who deconstruct often say that they became weary of the “Do as I say, not as I do” hypocrisy by church leaders.

While none of these reasons prove that Christianity is false, they do show that there is a huge disconnect between what pastors and True Christians® say they believe and how they actually live their lives. This often leads, as it did for me, to a reexamination of sincerely held beliefs. One need only read the emails, blog comments, and social media messages I receive from Evangelicals to see that Evangelicalism is a barrel of rotting apples. Sure, there are a few edible apples in the barrel, but not many.

Pastor __________, if you want to really know why people in your church are deconstructing, may I kindly suggest that you stop making excuses and justifications and look in the mirror. You are to blame for the sheep jumping over the fence, never to be seen again. You value political power and social control over meeting people where they are. You choose to point fingers instead of actually asking doubters and questioners why they are deconstructing. And after they left the church, you made sure to call them out and lambast them from the pulpit — even if you, wink, wink, didn’t mention them by name. You made sure that the sheep still in the pen knew these black sheep were sinful or deficient in some way, even going so far as to say that they were never, ever Christians.

If you really want to talk about deconstruction, I am game. Send me an email or have me on your podcast. There’s no reason for you to continue in ignorance one day longer. Or maybe you are not ignorant. You know why people are deconstructing, but you have an earthly kingdom to preserve, so you lie or misattribute motivations. The cure for your dishonesty is to actually talk to — not at — people who are deconverting or who have gone through the deconstruction process.

Seek and ye shall find, Pastor.

Saved by Reason,

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What Surprised Me the Most When I Left Christianity

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It’s been almost sixteen years since I walked out the doors of the Ney United Methodist Church, never to return. Not long after, I sent out my infamous letter, Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners, to several hundred family members, friends, former church members, and colleagues in the ministry. For a time, I self-identified as an agnostic, but after months of “explaining” what I meant by the term, I decided to call myself an atheist. Strictly speaking, I am an agnostic atheist.

I naively believed that letter recipients would “understand” my deconversion; that they would appreciate hearing my story straight from my mouth, and not third and fourth hand as the Evangelical/IFB rumor mill raged. Boy, was I wrong. To the person, every one of them abandoned me, and many of them personally attacked me in letters, emails, and sermons. One former church member asked me to “explain,” but after I kindly and gently did so, she told me she could no longer be friends with me or talk to me. Another dear friend told me that he found my deconversion too unsettling to continue to be my friend. I saw nothing in their treatment of me that suggested they understood Jesus’ teachings on how to treat your “enemies” or how they should treat people in general. Their responses gave me a bird’s-eye view of how Evangelicals treat people who dare to leave their club. No kindness. No love. No compassion. No respect. Just judgment and condemnation.

Sixteen years later, I have only had one person walk back their words — a lifelong friend who said I was demon-possessed. That’s it. As for the rest of them, their words and behavior were un-Christian, to say the least. You would think that the Holy Spirit might have convinced them of their sins and called on them to apologize for their awful words. No apologies have been forthcoming. I concluded, then, that my former friends, family members, and parishioners believed that the teachings of Christ didn’t apply to them when it came to dealing with an Evangelical preacher-turned-atheist.

As a result, I lost my entire social network. Fifty years of relationships went up in smoke, and it is doubtful I will ever regain an atheist/agnostic/humanist version of what I lost. I paid a heavy price for daring to deconvert. I was penalized for being honest. Sixteen years on, Evangelicals continue to shit on my doorstep. I can’t remember the last time I received a polite, thoughtful, kind comment or email from an Evangelical Christian. Why is that?

I will never understand why people responded to me the way they did. I learned that my relationships were conditioned of me believing the right things. Even though we had lots of other things in common, all that mattered was shared religious beliefs. Once I said I no longer believed, I became their enemy. Yet, they treated me differently than they treated unsaved family, friends, and neighbors. I suspect they believe that I have committed the unpardonable sin or crossed the line of no return. How they could possibly know this is unknown. Evidently, I am no longer worthy of saving. 🙂

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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Evangelical Apologist Tim Barnett Says Deconstruction Leads to Hell

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Tim Barnett, an apologist and speaker with Stand to Reason — an Evangelical apologetics ministry, recently wrote a post giving three reasons why he is against deconstruction:

While writing The Deconstruction of Christianity with Alisa Childers, we discovered some fundamental beliefs that undergird the deconstruction process. Moreover, these ideas are antithetical to the Christian worldview. This helps explain why so many who deconstruct their faith end up leaving the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). Here are three reasons why I changed my mind about deconstruction.

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First, deconstruction has no correct destination.

A defining feature of deconstruction is that there’s no right way to do it and no right destination.

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Why isn’t there a right place to land in deconstruction? The answer is that deconstruction is a postmodern process. What I mean is, deconstruction isn’t about objective truth. It’s about personal happiness.

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Notice how deconstruction assumes there is no objective truth when it comes to religious beliefs. That’s why it doesn’t matter how you do it or where you end up as long as you’re happy.

I want you to notice two things. First, Jesus mentions two ways. There is a narrow way and a broad way, a right way and a wrong way. Second, Jesus mentions two destinations. The right way leads to a good destination: life. The wrong way leads to a bad destination: destruction. According to Jesus, there is absolutely a right place to land, and he tells us how to get there.

Second, the deconstruction process never ends.

Imagine you deconstruct your beliefs. Now what? Well, you construct new ones. However, once you construct new beliefs, you have to deconstruct those too. See how this works? There’s no finality to this process. Deconstruction requires a never-ending skepticism about your beliefs and the beliefs of others.

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Third, deconstruction has no biblical authority.

In deconstruction, there is no external authority to tell you what your faith should look like. You are the ultimate authority.

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Deconstruction isn’t about submitting to biblical authority; it’s about choosing to be your own authority.

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I changed my mind about deconstruction. After researching this topic, I’ve come to see that deconstruction isn’t merely asking questions or a synonym for doubt. Rather, it’s a process with no correct destination, no ending, and no biblical authority.

As you can easily see, Barnett is against deconstruction because it can and does lead to what he believes is a bad outcome — deconversion. Left unsaid is that Barnett is likely against deconversion because it leads to people leaving Evangelicalism for kinder, friendlier, more hospitable churches and faiths. In other words, since deconversion results in Evangelical churches hemorrhaging members — many of whom were committed followers of Jesus — the answer is to ignore WHY that is, informing restless, thoughtful Evangelicals, “God says, thou shalt not deconstruct.” And with proof texts uttered, deconstruction has been put to bed. Or so Barnett thinks, anyway.

My correspondence with deconstructing people suggests far different reasons for their deconstruction than postmodernism, or, Loki-forbid, the desire to think for themselves and be happy. Their emails suggest that Evangelical churches and preachers need to look in the mirror if they want to see why people are deconstructing (and deconverting). Many of the people deconverting have gotten a whiff of Evangelicalism’s rotting corpse and want nothing to do with it. They see the hatred of LGBTQ people and immigrants. They see the racism, bigotry, and misogyny. They see the extreme politics and social views — especially support of Donald Trump. They see the news stories about sex crimes committed by Evangelical preachers, yet never hear their pastors say a word about the abuse scandal. They see the fancy suits, designer clothes, and Rolex watches as their pastors preach about the humble Jesus who had no place to put his head. They hear the rumors and know what goes on in secret in the homes of their pastors and other church leaders. Worse, many of them are preacher’s kids. They have seen the hypocrisy firsthand.

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Barnett is against skepticism when it comes to the claims of Christianity. I suspect he doesn’t take this same approach when it comes to non-Christian religions. In other words, be skeptical about all the other religions of the world, but when it comes to Christianity, just believe; read the Bible, pray, and trust that your pastor will tell you the truth. (Can you really trust anyone who hasn’t or won’t deconstruct their beliefs?)

Barnett is right in one regard; deconstruction can be driven by a desire for happiness –as if that is a bad thing. You bet. Once you leave Egypt and break the bonds of Evangelicalism you have a newfound freedom. That freedom can lead to increased happiness. Sounds like a pretty good selling point for skepticism and rationalism. 🙂

As Evangelical apologists are wont to do, Barnett reminds those considering deconstruction that HELL awaits those who follow this path. Only those who “question” their faith within the safe confines of the Evangelical box shall be saved! Deconstruction leads to Hell, just look at that Bruce Gerencser guy.

Checkmate. 🙂

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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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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.

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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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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.

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.

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.

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

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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.

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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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Bruce Gerencser