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Tag: Email from Evangelicals

Dear Ward

peanut gallery

Recently, a Christian man by the name of Ward left a comment on the post Dear Jesus. Instead of answering him in the comment section, I thought I would turn his comment and my response into a post.

I feel sad for you Bruce . . .

Typically, when a Christian begins a comment with “I feel sad (sorry)” or makes some sort of psychological judgment, it is a sign that the commenter is here to evangelize, correct, or excoriate. Remember, thousands of Evangelical commenters have come before you, so you bear the weight of their collective assholery.

When I read this line, I thought, why should anyone feel sad or sorry for me? All things considered, I am quite happy. I have been married almost forty-two years, have six grown children, and thirteen wonderful children. Sure, life has its difficult moments, and recent years health-wise have been challenging not only for myself, but also for my wife. Yet, in every way, my life today is better than it was when I was a follower of Jesus.

Imagine if I started a conversation with you that intimated that I felt sorry for you because you were a Christian. How would you feel and respond?

[I feel] sad for the things you endured . . .

I realize that you are basing this judgment on reading the post Dear Jesus. Unfortunately, when people only read certain posts it is easy for them to come to wrong conclusions. Yes, from my childhood forward I have endured trial and adversity. However, all in all I had a happy childhood and ministerial career. (Please see Bruce, Were You Happy in the Ministry? Part One and Bruce, Were You Happy in the Ministry? Part Two.)

[I feel] sad for the path you chosen.

Why? If you had a blog, I would never leave a comment that said I felt sad (sorry) for you because you were a Christian. In the twelve years since I divorced Jesus, I have never left such a comment anywhere on the Internet or social media. Every person is on a journey. Each of us has a story to tell — Christian or atheist. I accept at face value that you profess to be a Christian. Who am I to question your story? Unfortunately, scores of Evangelicals have attempted to deconstruct my life. I have had blog posts written about me, and several preachers have even preached sermons that suggested I never was a “real” Christian. (Please see Gone but Not Forgotten: 22 Years Later San Antonio Calvinists Still Preaching Against Bruce Gerencser.)

I am one man with a story to tell. All that I ask of Christians is that they accept my story at face value and not fling theological epitaphs my way. Unfortunately, most Evangelical commenters don’t play well with others.

Your story of lost faith sounds as familiar as many others I’ve read such as Charles Templeton.

I am not sure how closely my life tracks with that of Charles Templeton, but I am one of many Evangelical preachers who are atheists or agnostics. Our number increases daily.

I understand and agree with many of your criticisms of the American evangelical movement and the professional church, but what I don’t understand is the decision to become an atheist.

You are certainly not the first Christian not to understand why I deconverted. Usually, a refusal to read my writing or an inability to square one’s theology keeps Evangelicals from truly understanding my story. Unable to make the square peg of my life fit in the round hole of their theology and experiences, many Evangelicals just dismiss my story out of hand by saying, “Bruce, you never were a real Christian.” Or worse, they say that I am still a Christian; that I am backslidden. How about letting me tell my story and accept it as told? Why is it so hard for Christians to accept that I once was a Christian and now I am not? “But Bruce, the BIBLE says ________.” Sorry, but it is not my problem if Evangelicals can’t square my storyline with their peculiar interpretation of the Bible. There’s no question that I once was a Christian, and I am sure as hell not a Christian now.

As others I’ve read it usually revolves around the theme of “If God is good why does he allow evil?”. I can see the move to the left in a way, though politically they are no better than the right, as there is a growing leftist “evangelical movement. You said you served God from a leftist perspective for a time and I see others who maintain a sense of fulfillment in that place without rejecting God. Is it just as simple as God allowed bad things to happen in your life?

There are many reasons people walk (run) away from Christianity. That’s why I point people to the WHY page — a collection of posts that explain why I am no longer a follower of Jesus.

If I had to pick one reason for why I am not a Christian it is this: I no longer believe that the central claims of Christianity are true. I came to a place in my life where these beliefs no longer made sense to me. (Please see The Michael Mock Rule: It Just Doesn’t Make Sense.) I reject all the miraculous claims made for Jesus, from his virgin birth to his resurrection from the dead. I do believe Jesus was a real flesh-and-blood human being who lived on Palestine 2,000 years ago, However, as with all humans, he lived and died, end of story.

I want to conclude this post by responding in part to your response is Grammar Gramma.

Wow gramma you are exactly the type of person I would expect to encounter when engaging atheists, arrogant, rude, dismissive.

I hope what I have written above might cast some light on how your first comment might have been perceived by the atheists and agnostics who frequent this blog.

Why did you comment on this blog? If you believe that atheists are arrogant, rude, and dismissive, what’s the point of leaving a comment? While Grammar Gramma can speak for herself, I can confidently say that she is neither arrogant, rude, and dismissive. I suspect much like me and other unbelievers, she is weary of Christians who don’t invest the requisite time necessary to understand my story or who begin their comments with judgments or psychological analysis. Most atheists and agnostics I know are plum wore out by Christians who judge and criticize their lives instead of taking the time to truly understand their story.

I hope I have adequately answered your questions. If not, please let me know.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Advice for a Young Evangelical Bible College Student

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I receive all sorts of emails every day, everything from personal attacks to honest questions. Rarely does a week go by where I don’t receive an email that deeply affects me emotionally. Several days ago, I received one such email from a young Evangelical Bible college student. After reading and pondering his words , I thought his email would be a great subject for a blog post.

I have removed all personally identifiable information. People who email me in good faith can rest assured that I will always protect their privacy. Here’s what this young man had to say:

I am a Biblical Studies major in pursuit of becoming a pastor. Growing up, faith was all I had and everything that I held onto. Over the past year, I have learned things about the faith and the church that have left me confused and hurt. I am going into student debt to pursue this “calling” I feel in my life. Yet, this calling has slowly faded away and I am sitting here writing this, confused on what to do or where to go. I am scared to let go of my faith, although I am not sure why. It is hard for me to ignore hard facts and scientific explanations. They just make sense. I know you said you have 25 years of ministry, and my whole life has been built up for me to go into ministry as well. I am looking for answers, and I do not know who to turn to as all of my family and friends are believers, and I honestly do not feel comfortable coming to them. Please write me back any advice, book to read, or just honestly someone to share experiences with.

I want to applaud this man for being willing at such a young age to question his beliefs and seek out answers to his doubts and questions. I wish I had the courage this young man has back when I was a student at Midwestern Baptist College in the mid-1970s. Sadly, I was a true-blue believer, and with nary a question or doubt, I continued on a ministerial path that led me to pastorates in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. I was fifty years old before questions and doubts overwhelmed belief and I deconverted.

My objective in responding to this man is NOT to convert him to atheism. I have never been an evangelist for atheism, and I don’t intend to be one. My goal remains the same as always: to help people who have doubts and questions about Christianity or who have already deconverted. I see myself as a facilitator. To use a worn-out cliché, life really is a journey. Evangelicalism teaches — dare I say demands — believers to focus on the destination — Heaven or Hell, and not the journey. Life is little more than preparation for meeting and living with God in the life to come. I challenge people to see that life is all about the journey. Your destination is immaterial. Walk the path that is in front of you, following its course wherever it leads. In doing so, you will end up exactly where you need to be. My only regret is that I waited until I was in my forties before I realized this grand truth.

This man comes from a family who is devoted to Jesus. I can only imagine how painful his doubts and questions are as he thinks about how seeking answers might affect his relationship with his family. As many readers of this blog know firsthand, daring to step outside of the prescribed rut of Evangelical faith can lead to catastrophic consequences. Verbalizing such things can lead to estrangement and excommunication. That’s why I warn people in the post Count the Cost Before You Say I Am an Atheist to carefully consider confessing unbelief to Evangelical family and friends. Once you share your doubts and questions or admit you no longer believe, you no longer control what happens next. That’s why several commenters on this blog call themselves atheist Christians. Family (or economic) concerns prevent them from being out and proud. I would say to this young man: ponder carefully what you say or do going forward. Weigh the consequences carefully.

The email writer mentions having a “calling,” that he is attending an Evangelical college to pursue that calling. Evangelicals believe that men are “called” by God into the ministry. I wrote about that very subject two weeks ago in a post titled, I’m a Prophet, Preacher, or Evangelist Because I Say I Am. When you believe that God is “calling” you, it can be quite a struggle when you begin to doubt not only your call, but also your beliefs. I remember the struggles I had over trying to reconcile what I believed was a divine calling with my waning faith. In the end, my slide down the slippery slope of unbelief destroyed any notion of a divine calling. As an atheist and a humanist, I still have a sense of what I consider a “calling.” Not in a supernatural sense, of course, but I still feel drawn to helping others — Christian or not.

I am more than forty years older than this young man. I try to picture myself at the age of twenty-one sitting in my dorm room questioning my faith. This man is surrounded by people who appear resolute in their Christian beliefs, yet he has doubts and questions. Is there something wrong with him? Of course not, though Evangelical zealots will say that this man is being tempted by Satan, battling “secret” sin, or is not a True Christian®. Remember, questions and doubts are not really permitted in Evangelical circles. Oh, apologists will beg to differ, but the fact remains that doubts and questions are permissible only if they lead to Biblical answers. Straying outside of the safe confines of the Evangelical box is verboten, as is asking an ex-Evangelical-turned-atheist preacher for help. (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 doubting Evangelicals ask me for advice, I typically suggest that they read Dr. Bart Ehrman’s books. The reason I do so is because Ehrman, a professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a leading authority on the New Testament and the history of early Christianity, is a former Evangelical. Ehrman began his ministerial training at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, and Wheaton College, in Wheaton, Illinois — both staunch Evangelical institutions. He finished his M.Div. and Ph.D. at Princeton Theological Seminary. Today, he is the author of numerous books on the history of the New Testament.

Evangelicals typically believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. This belief is foundational to Evangelical faith, and that’s why I point doubters to Ehrman’s books. Written on a popular level, Ehrman’s books lay siege to and destroy the Evangelical notion that the Bible is in any way inerrant or infallible. Inspired? That’s a faith claim. Inerrancy and infallibility, on the other hand, are matters of facts and evidence.

I would suggest that this man read several of Ehrman’s books. Here’s a partial list of his works:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ehrman recently released a book titled, Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife. I am currently reading through this book. Fascinating, to say the least. I have concluded, so far, that there’s a lot I don’t know about Heaven or Hell from a historical or Biblical perspective.

I am confident that reading Ehrman’s books will disabuse all but the most stubborn of Evangelicals of their belief that the Bible is an inspired, inerrant, infallible text. While coming to an enlightened conclusion about the Bible does not necessarily lead to unbelief, it does render Evangelical dogma untenable. Once this happens, an Evangelical is ready to take a hard look at what it is he really believes. Once the Bible loses its power and authority over a believer, he is free to let facts and science determine the validity of religious beliefs. For me personally, skeptically and intellectually examining the core tenets of Christianity led me to conclude that these beliefs could not be rationally sustained. Your mileage may vary. Many ex-Evangelicals find ways to hang on to some sort of Christian faith. Any move away from the Fundamentalist tendencies of Evangelicalism is a good one. (Please see Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?)

I hope this young man will continue to correspond with me. I sincerely wish nothing but the best for him, realizing that difficult days lie ahead for him if he continues to walk the path he is on. Unlike Evangelical family and friends, I am more than willing to help regardless of where his journey takes him. I have six grown children, all of whom were raised in Evangelical churches. Not only was I their father and prison warden, but I was also their pastor. After Polly and I left Christianity in 2008, I have watched as my children have struggled with matters of faith. Their respective journeys have taken them away from Evangelicalism, but not necessarily towards unbelief. The unbelief of their parents, especially their preacher father, gave them the freedom to wander; to seek knowledge and understanding outside of the narrow confines of Fundamentalism. I wish the same for this young man.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Evangelical Man Says Christopher Hitchens is in Hell and All Atheists Hate God

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Email From the Peanut Gallery

Warning! Buckets of snark ahead.

An Evangelical man by the name of Stephen left the following comment on a post titled, Christopher Hitchens is in Hell. It’s the only post Stephen read, so I assume he was searching for a writer who told the “truth” about Hitchens’ eternal destiny. I am sure he was disappointed to find out that I, too, am an atheist. Rather than approve Stephen’s comment, I thought I would turn it into a post. My comments are indented and italicized. All grammar in the original.

Hitchens is short for hell’s kitchen

I just love it when a Christian zealot starts his screed with an attempt to be humorous or cute. Sorry, Stephen — epic fail! That said, I do suppose that Christopher Hitchens would enjoy hanging out in Hell’s Kitchen. I hear the food is awesome.

…and he [Hitchens] put himself there out of sheer desire too since he could not be honest and man enough to admit he just hates God and the concept of Him, just like all atheists do

Evangelicals believe that Hitchens died in his sins and is currently residing in Hell — a place where the Christian God tortures non-Christians for eternity. Hitch didn’t have much good to say about Christianity. My God, he even eviscerated Mother Theresa in his book, The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice.

Wikipedia describes Hitchens this way:

“As an anti-theist, he regarded all religions as false, harmful, and authoritarian. He argued in favour of free expression and scientific discovery, and that it was superior to religion as an ethical code of conduct for human civilization. He also advocated for the separation of church and state. The dictum “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence” has become known as Hitchens’s razor.”

It’s not enough for Stephen to attack Hitchens’ atheistic beliefs. Stephen goes after his character, saying Hichens is not man enough, not honest enough to admit that the real issue he has with Christianity is that he hates God.

Atheists hate God. Where oh where have I heard that before. *sigh* Instead of thinking about why someone might not believe in the existence of deities, Stephen says ALL atheists hate God. Note that he doesn’t say, atheists hate all deities. For Stephen there is one true God, his, and it is that God Hitchens and all atheists hate.

I wonder if Stephen hates Allah, Buddha, or the plethora of other deities humans worship? I doubt it. He would likely say that hating such deities would be stupid. “Who hates imaginary beings?” Exactly, Stephen. Atheists don’t hate your God any more than they do any of other Gods in the panoply of deities. It’s silly to hate imaginary beings, and that’s why most atheists do not hate God — whatever name he may go by. Now, asking if atheists hate Evangelicalism, Christianity, or other organized religions is another question altogether. Many atheists hate religion in general. However, many atheists do not hate religion as a social, cultural, tribal construct. What they do hate are the harmful behaviors committed in the name of this or that God. As a humanist, my concern is with the effect of religious faith and not religion itself. Many atheists agree with this sentiment.

Of course, Stephen will likely reject what I have written here, saying that atheists, deep in their heart of hearts, hate God. No matter what atheists say to the contrary, for the Stephens of the world, atheists hate God.

– imagine up as many logical fallacies you can think of to justify themselves…the human heart is desperately sick, who can understand it?…,

I am not sure what to make of what Stephen says here. He says “the human heart is desperately sick, who can understand it?” This is a loose rendering of Jeremiah 17:9: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

Evangelicals believe humans, by nature, have been ruined by the Fall; that everyone is born into this world a sinner; that without the salvation offered through the merit and work of Jesus, all of us will spend eternity in Hell (Lake of Fire).  As a Christian, Stephen believes he has a golden ticket. His heavenly reservation is secure. When Stephen dies, he will live on in Heaven with Jesus and his fellow Christians. I wonder if the food in Heaven’s Kitchen is better than that in Hell? I doubt it.

Perhaps Stephen might enlighten readers as to what these “many logical fallacies” are. Most atheists value rationalism, skepticism, and intellectual inquiry. Our goal is to construct a logical, consistent worldview. Evangelicals, on the other hand, are required to follow a God-ordained, Bible-based worldview, regardless of whether it squares with science or history. No Christian comes out a winner when arguing worldviews with an atheist/humanist. There’s too much craziness in the Bible for an Evangelical to hold a logical, consistent view of the world. Viewing the world through Bible-colored glasses will always lead to a warped, anti-human viewpoint.

Most unbelievers as atheists themselves might even forget that at one time they had to have chosen to and that must have been out if a high magnitude of shear ignorance if they knew what they were missing..it’s like refusing to believe Gravity exists then jumping of the Empire State building to prove it but never being able to because at the time you find out you were wrong you’re dead.

Most unbelievers (non-Christians) are not atheists. This is a common misconception. Unbelief is not the same as atheism. Most unbelievers are indifferent towards religion or know nothing about it. An atheist is someone who has made a positive affirmation of his denial of the existence of deities. While an argument can be made for all humans being born atheist, it’s preferable, at least from my perspective, to limit the term “atheist” to those who intellectually, rationally deny the existence of gods.

Stephen says that atheists are ignorant. How else can one explain all that atheists give up by not being Christians? Here’s the thing: eternity in Heaven does not sound that attractive to me. What will Evangelicals be doing in Heaven for all eternity? The inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God gives us a good idea. The triune God expects Heaven’s inhabitants to spend their days in worship and praise. Imagine how sore your back will get prostrating yourself before Jesus day and night! Compare what’s going on in Heaven to the atmosphere in Hell. Party Time! Sure, Hell will be a bit warm for my liking, but I sure prefer Hitchens and his crowd to Stephen’s group. Who in their right mind wants to spend eternity in church? No thanks!

Stephen tries to use a variation of Pascal’s Wager to warn atheists of the danger of unbelief. As usual, its use is an epic fail. I would ask Stephen, have you applied Pascal’s Wager to all other deities? Surely, that’s the prudent thing to do right? Stephen can deny Allah exists, but when he jumps off the proverbial Empire State Building, he will quickly know — albeit too late — that Allah exists. The only safe thing for Stephen to do is to believe in every God, covering all of his bases. Better safe than sorry, right? “No, no, no,” Stephen says, “there is only one true God — mine!” And there goes Pascal’s Wager up in smoke.

one thing we know, there’s no atheists in hell.

Finally, Stephen says something I agree with. There are no atheists in Hell! Of course, Stephen means something different when he says this. He means every atheist in Hell is now a believer; that burning in Hell f-o-r-e-v-e-r will teach those awful atheists the TRUTH about God. Regardless, the reason there are no atheists in Hell is this: There is no Hell, no Heaven, no afterlife, and no God. Atheists aren’t worried in the least about going to Hell. Hell, with its eternal punishment, is a religious construct cooked up by clerics and theologians to keep congregants in line and keep money flowing into church coffers. Remove the fear of Hell and judgment from the equation and most people will  trade sitting on hard pews for sleeping in on Sunday mornings. The salvation game only works when humans are viewed as broken and in need of fixing — or as Stephen said, “desperately sick.” Once humans figure out the concepts of sin, salvation, and eternal life are myths, the game is over.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

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