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Tag: Existence of God

Personal Testimony: I Know God is Real Because He Saved My Soul

argument from popularity

I recently listened to a debate between atheist Tom Jump and a Christian woman named Sybil. By all accounts, the debate was a train wreck. Jump is a low-key, levelheaded debater, but after an hour of Sybil trying to make the same point over and over and over again, I wondered if he was ready to start banging his head on the wall. No matter how many times Jump addressed her point, Sybil returned to claim that Christianity is real because many people believe in Jesus. Because 2.3 billion people profess to be Christians, that means Christianity is true. Sybil reiterated ad nauseam that countless Christians have personal testimonies of faith in Jesus, so Christianity can’t be false. Jump tried and failed to get Sybil to see that personal testimony is not the evidence for God, particularly the Christian God. Countless people say they have seen Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, UFOs, and have been abducted by aliens, yet we have no evidence that their claims are true. So it is with the existence of God.

The debate is one hour and eleven minutes long.

Video Link

I want to focus on the notion that personal testimony is sufficient evidence for the existence of God — either singular or cumulative.

For those of us who attended Evangelical Baptist/charismatic churches, we know a lot about personal testimonies. Salvation stories were shared from the pulpit, in Sunday school classes, and during testimony times during church services. Testimonies are supposed to a way for believers to give praise and glory to God/Jesus. However, having listened to hundreds and hundreds of testimonies over the fifty years I spent in the Christian church, I can tell you that many testimonies are all about the sinner, not the Savior. What I call “bad sinner” testimonies always get the most attention. In the 1970s and 1980s, Jerry Falwell had countless bad sinners give their testimonies on his TV program, the Old-Time Gospel Hour. At the time, I was mesmerized by these testimonies. However, they have not aged well. We now know many of the bad sinner testimonies were not true. Mike Warnke, for example, claimed to be a Satanic high priest before Jesus saved him. In 1992, Cornerstone Magazine debunked Warnke’s claims. The previous year, Cornerstone trashed the Satanist claims of Lauren Stratford (Laurel Rose Willson), the author of Satan’s Underground.

Wikipedia states:

As Stratford, Willson wrote three books, the most famous of which was Satan’s Underground, purporting to tell a true story of her upbringing as a baby breeder (for sacrifices) in a satanic cult. Willson had also claimed to have first-hand knowledge of high-profile cases of alleged Satanic ritual abuse (including the child abuse cases in Kern County, where she resided), but her claims were dismissed by investigators as unreliable and fabricated.

An investigation by Bob and Gretchen Passantino and Jon Trott in the Christian magazine Cornerstone discovered Stratford’s real name and family background, and that her stories of abuse were false. In interviews with Willson’s family and former associates, it was revealed that Willson had a long history of mental illness and making false allegations of abuse. She repeatedly threatened suicide and practiced self-mutilation. She attracted the attention and sympathy of evangelical author Johanna Michaelsen, one of the most influential promoters of the Satanic moral panic of the period. While living with Michaelsen, Willson claimed to have given birth to three children as a result of rape; two were allegedly killed in snuff films, and the third was supposedly sacrificed in her presence at a Satanic ritual. However, Cornerstone found no evidence that she had ever been pregnant or adopted a child.

She was also briefly involved in the McMartin preschool trial, claiming to have witnessed the abuses and to have been involved in an ongoing lesbian relationship with Virginia McMartin.

Johanna Michaelsen was another Evangelical who built quite a reputation on the testimony circuit.

Rational Wiki has this to say about Michaelsen, the author of The Beautiful Side of Evil and Like Lambs to the Slaughter:

Johanna Michaelsen is a fundie writer and self-proclaimed “authority on the occult” who promoted the Satanic Panic in the 1980s-90s.

….

During the 1970s, Michaelsen claimed to have worked with a psychic surgeon, Pachita, who claimed to do lung transplants, remove impossible tumours and the like, despite considerable evidence that the psychic healer named “Pachita” was far less than claimed. After visiting a Christian centre in Switzerland, she would be convinced that her occult experiences were not from Jesus but Satan. This led to her conversion to Christian fundamentalist.

Michaelsen’s story of her “occult” experiences shot her into fundie superstardom and she became a beacon for other forms of wingnuttery, like the promoting of Lauren Stratford‘s fraudulent Satanic ritual abuse screeds. Michaelsen was one of the biggest defenders of Stratford and supposedly took Stratford into her home for months. She was also a champion of Mike Warnke, author of another fraudulent memoir of his life as a Satanist.

Michaelsen was also instrumental in telling Christian parents the evils of cartoons like He-Man and She-Ra, as well as Dungeons & Dragons. It even turns out that she was Hal Lindsey‘s sister-in-law, until he left Johanna’s sister for a Bible study student.

Although completely discredited, Michaelsen has her own ministry and rants about “demonic spirits,” the evils of the German rock band Rammstein and Halloween.

Despite not making major mentions of Warnke or Stratford in public, it still seems that after all these years Michaelsen believes that Satanic Ritual Abuse is real.

As an Evangelical Christian and pastor, I heard testimonies from believers who said they were mob hitmen, murderers, bank robbers, sex traffickers, perverts, Satanists, renowned sports stars, or atheists before Jesus magically saved them. Over time, I became quite cynical over such testimonies, and today I largely believe that these stories are fabrications or admixtures or truths and lies. Preachers, in particular, are notorious for massaging their testimonies. As David Foster Wallace said (and I paraphrase), don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.

In 2018, I wrote a post titled Testimony Time: The Blue Light Special at Somerset Baptist Church:

Older readers might remember shopping at the stores of discount retailer Kmart and seeing what was commonly called a “blue light special.” Blue light specials were sudden discounts offered to shoppers during their shopping experience at Kmart. A store employee would roll a cart with a police-like blue light attached to a pole near the aisle where the sudden discount was going to be offered. At the customer service desk, another employee would announce to shoppers, for example, “ATTENTION KMART SHOPPERS! There’s a blue light special going on right now on GE light bulbs in aisle three!” The employee in charge of the blue light would switch it on. and with its flashing/rotating light, the blue light would guide customers to their exciting just-for-them discount on light bulbs. Woo-hoo!

….

For eleven years in the 1980s and 1990s, I pastored the Somerset Baptist Church in Mt. Perry, Ohio.

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The church also attracted more than a few people who had — in my Baptist eyes, anyway — screwy beliefs. One such person was the mother of a woman who was a member of the church (along with her husband and two children). I had visited this woman and her husband several times at their home, hoping that they would join their daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren in worshiping Jesus at the “fastest growing church in Perry County” — as the church’s sign said, anyway. I knew the woman had some charismatic tendencies, but I thought I could preach all that nonsense right out of her if she would only give me the opportunity to do so.

….

As was our custom for many years, the church has a testimony time on Sunday evenings. This was time allotted for church members and visitors to stand up and share with everyone in attendance what Jesus had done for them over the past week. Sometimes, these brag-on-Jesus times turned into narcissistic, look-at-what-I-did-done-do for Jesus sessions. Often, testimony time was a time for congregants to lie about their relationship with God. One dear woman, who had been a smoker her entire adult life, stood up one Sunday and praised Jesus for delivering her from the filthy sin of smoking. We had a quite a praise-fest that night, thanking our Lord for delivering Sister R from her addiction. Years later, I learned that Sister R had, in fact, never stopped smoking, and that the only reason she said that she did was so she could have the appearance of a victorious Christian life like the rest of us. Oh, if she had only known that NONE of us, including her preacher, had victory over sin, she might not had felt compelled to lie. Sister R felt so guilty about not being as spirit-filled as the rest of us that she was willing to lie to her friends about her deliverance from smoking.

….

On one particular Sunday night, the charismatic lady mentioned above decided to attend church with her daughter. She had visited several times before, and let it be known that she really liked my “old-fashioned” preaching. Prior to my sermon, I asked if anyone had a good word they wanted to put in for Jesus. Several people raised their hands, signifying that they wanted to brag a bit on their Lord and Savior. The charismatic woman excitedly raised her hand, anxious to let everyone know about a recent encounter she had with Jesus. When it came time for her to testify, she popped up  from her seat and said this (as recounted from thirty years ago):

I was asleep last night, and all of a sudden I awoke, feeling a “presence” in my bedroom.  As I stood to see this presence, my eyes saw a blinding blue light. Now, I knew that Satan could present himself as an angel of light, so I spoke to this light, saying, If that’s really you Jesus, please make yourself known to me. And right then and there I heard, Attention K-Mart Shoppers! (Okay, that last sentence was a bit of literary fiction, also known as preaching.)  And right then and there I heard a voice that said, it’s me, Jesus. Praise, the Lord. I knew then that the presence in my room was Jesus.

I KNEW it was Jesus, the charismatic woman said. This is the same argument Sybil used in her debate with Jump. She knows God is real because she has personal testimony to that effect, as do countless other Christians. In doing this, Sybil is committing the ad populum fallacy.

Wikipedia describes the ad populum fallacy (appeal to popularity) this way:

In argumentation theory, an argumentum ad populum (Latin for “appeal to the people”) is a fallacious argument that concludes that a proposition must be true because many or most people believe it, often concisely encapsulated as: “If many believe so, it is so”.

Just because a large number of people believe something doesn’t make it true. Sybil is a Christian. I assume she thinks Mormonism, Islam, and Buddhism are false religions, and their “gods” are no gods at all. Yet, 1.8 billion Muslims, 500 million Buddhists, and 17 million Mormons think she is wrong. Why should we believe Christianity is true based on the number of adherents, and not these other religions? In fact, upwards of 500 million people are atheists. Using Sybil’s illogical logic, doesn’t this prove that atheism is true?

As of today, Christians have provided no sufficient evidence for the existence of their God (s). However, we do have other explanations for Christianity’s existence, arguments that do not require appeals to myths, magic, or logical fallacies. (Please see Why Most Americans Are Christian.)

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.

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.

COVID-19: Why the Evangelical God Always Wins

god is good all the time

One thing is for certain during the Coronavirus pandemic: COIVD-19 is no respecter of persons. COVID 19 infects and kills young and old, rich and poor, blacks and whites, Evangelicals and atheists. Evangelicals have long argued that the United States is a Christian nation; that we are a people uniquely chosen by God. If this is so, then a logical conclusion one can reach is that most of the people getting infected with COVID-19 and dying are Christians. Why isn’t God protecting his own? Surely this virus would be an excellent tool for God to use to wipe out atheists, agnostics, humanists, Muslims, and other nonbelievers. Why, then, are so many Christians dying, including pastors? (Please see Understanding the Pastors Who Refuse to Close Their Churches During the Coronavirus Pandemic.) How do Evangelical pastors explain the nondiscriminatory nature of COVID-19? This post will delve into the explanations pastors use to defend their God during times such as this.

Evangelicals believe that God is actively involved in his creation. God is a prayer-answering deity who is intimately involved in the lives of Christians. God knows exactly how many hairs are on our heads, and he controls every aspect of our lives on planet Earth. God determines who lives and who dies, and he even controls the weather. (Please see Is God to Blame for Weather that Kills People?) According to Evangelicals, God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and present everywhere. Allegedly, no matter where any of us goes, God is there. Having sex? Using the toilet? Masturbating? Making out in the back seat of a car? God, the ultimate voyeur, is watching. And not only is God watching, but he is also recording every deed every human commits. Think of that for a moment. Seven billion people live on earth, yet God is recording every thought, word, and deed, all the while hearing and answering every prayer uttered by Christians. I gotta say, God sure has a Type-A, workaholic personality. You would think that God would delegate some of this to angels, but based on every sermon I’ve heard on this subject, it is God alone who does these things.

which God praying to

You would think the present pandemic and widespread deaths would perhaps cause Evangelicals to at least think about their God’s culpability in what is going on. However, this sort of reevaluation is unlikely to happen. One thing is certain, whenever something happens that makes God look bad — and believe me he has a lot of bad press these days — Evangelical preachers will take to their pulpits in defense of God. No matter how tragic things become, God’s character and honor must always be defended.

You see, Evangelicals believe that God is good all the time; that God cannot do anything bad or evil. He is, after all, God, and he tells us in the Bible that he is a good God. And therein is the problem: the Bible. Evangelicals believe the Bible was supernaturally written by God, so whatever it tells about his character and behavior is true. When questioned about the parts of the Bible that cast God in an unflattering light; the parts where God is portrayed as a capricious, arrogant, violent, genocidal son of a bitch, Evangelicals are quick to quote Isaiah 55:8,9:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

In other words, things are not as they seem to unbelievers. What do they know anyway? People such as myself are portrayed as apostates, reprobates, haters of God. Nothing we say about God or the Bible has any merit. Christians just need to trust that God always has their best interests at heart:

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Evangelical preachers frequently remind congregants that God is good all the time and that everything in their lives works together for their good. Week after week this notion is reinforced, so that when tragedy, heartache, and death strike, God is always given a pass. Either God has a higher purpose or plan, or he is using circumstances to test them, try them, or lovingly correct them. God, then, is the “loving” father, who physically abuses his children, but when asked why he does so, God replies, “because I love them.” God is akin to a man who violently beats his wife every day, all the while telling her, I love you, I love you, I love you. Is such behavior really love? Of course not.

As long as Evangelicals view God in this light, they will never question his culpability in everything from mass shootings to pandemics and from wars to famine. On Sundays, with eyes closed and hands raised, Evangelicals sing Don Moen’s 1995 classic worship song, God is Good All the Time:

God is good all the time
He put a song of praise in this heart of mine
God is good all the time
Through the darkest night, His light will shine
God is good, God is good all the time

God is good all the time
He put a song of praise in this heart of mine
God is good all the time
Through the darkest night, His light will shine
God is good, God is good all the time

If you’re walking through the valley
And there are shadows all around
Do not fear, He will guide you

He will keep you safe and sound
He has promised to never leave you
Nor forsake you, and His word is true

God is good all the time
He put a song of praise in the heart of mine
God is good all the time
Through the darkest night, His light will shine
God is good, God is good all the time

We were sinners and so unworthy
Still for us He chose to die
Filled us with His Holy Spirit

Now we can stand and testify
That His love is everlasting
And His mercies, they will never end

God is good all the time
He put a song of praise in this heart of mine
God is good all the time
Through the darkest night, His light will shine
God is good, God is good all the time

Though I may not understand
All the plans you have for me
My life is in your hands
And through the eyes of faith
I can clearly see

God is good all the time
He put a song of praise in this heart of mine
God is good all the time
Through the darkest night, His light will shine
God is good, God is good all the time

God is good all the time
He put a song of praise in the heart of mine
God is good all the time
Through the darkest night, His light will shine
God is good, God is good all the time.

Video Link

And as long as Evangelicals keep their eyes closed to the reality all around them, the “God is good” charade is maintained. Thus, when Evangelical preachers and church members are afflicted with COVID-19 and die, Hebrews 9:27 is quoted: it is appointed unto men once to die. It was their appointed time to die, Evangelicals say. They ran their race, kept the faith, and now God has called them home! All praise be to God! And when Evangelical children, young adults, and men and women in the prime of their lives die from the virus? Appeals are made to God’s unknowable purpose, will, and plan. No matter what happens, God always gets a pass. Why? Silly boy, God is good all the time.

It is only when Evangelicals dare to peek while singing God is Good All the Time, and truly look at things as they are, that doubts and questions begin to creep in. Is God really the deity the Bible claims he is? Is God really good all the time? What in my life says that God even exists? Does what I know about life reflect a God who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and present everywhere? Or, does what I see and know suggest that either God is not intimately involved in his creation; leaving us to fend for ourselves, or doesn’t exist.

Sadly, far too many questioning and doubting Evangelicals stop peeking, fearing the consequences of their thoughts. They can’t bear the thought of a world without God; a life without the machinations of religion. The cognitive dissonance becomes so great that they run to the safety of the house of faith. It is there they find their fears allayed.

Fortunately, other Evangelicals go from peeking to opening both of their eyes wide. All of a sudden, the notion that God is good all the time is absurd. It is then that their carefully constructed houses of cards come tumbling down. Yes, a cold, indifferent, heartless world awaits them. Yes, it can be hard to accept that we alone can combat COVID-19; that science is our best and only hope for a cure; that our fate lies in the hands of fallible, frail humans. That, however, is reality. Not easy to swallow sometimes, but it’s the truth. And isn’t truth what we all should be seeking?

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.

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

Quote of the Day: The Problem With Evangelical Apologetics

As a field, apologetics bears quite a few problems. It’s actually not easy to say exactly which might be its worst. But I see this one as a big problem: apologists’ processes never actually land where apologists insist they do. Almost every apologetics argument can be negated right out of the gate through the identification of its logical fallacies, manipulation attempts, or basic cognitive biases. Of the few remaining, they don’t whisk us away to the Happy Realm of Jesus-is-Real. Instead, apologists land themselves in the Iffy Realm of SOMEONE-Might-Be-Real and then simply declare they’ve reached their destination.

In the past, I’ve called this the Unicorn Test: any given apologetics argument not knocked out of the running through illogical reasoning accidentally demonstrates the validity of not just Jesus, but also of Santa Claus, Zeus, Space Princess Cassidy, Thor, Wonder Woman, leprechauns, Harry Potter, the state of Wyoming, and Russell’s Teapot. Substituting other names for “Jesus” in their arguments reveals the truth.

Christians have a really tough time moving from the claim that gods are not, in the main, logically ridiculous to demonstrating that their particular god simply must exist–while simultaneously demonstrating that these thousands of other deities absolutely do not. Apologists take as a given that once they demonstrate that gods in general might exist, they’ve already conclusively demonstrated those other points–and thus clinched their sale.

— Captain Cassidy, Roll to Disbelieve, Christian Evangelists Keep Asking the Wrong Question, October 10, 2019

The Existence of God: Daring to Look Behind the Curtain

god-curtain

Recently, Andrew Hackman said, “Once you see behind the god curtain, there is no point in offering me a “better” god.” Andrew’s words got me thinking about the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz; of how Dorothy and her compatriots traveled to the Emerald City to see the great Wizard of Oz. Rumor had it that the Wizard of Oz had great powers, and who better to give the Scarecrow a brain, the Tin Woodman a heart, the Cowardly Lion courage, and magically return Dorothy to Kansas? The Wizard agreed to grant their wishes if they brought him the broomstick belonging to the Wicked Witch of the West.

Upon achieving the quest, Dorothy and her friends return to the Emerald City, thinking that the Wizard will happily and quickly grant their wishes. Instead, he stalls, hoping they will give up and go away. As they persisted, Toto, the dog, pulled back a curtain to reveal that the great Wizard of Oz was actually a “middle-aged man operating machinery and speaking into a microphone.”

So it for those of us who have pulled back the God curtain, only to find out that “God” was a fabrication of the human mind; that the God we loved, worshiped, and adored was nothing more than a feeble, frail man using magical words and religious texts to convince us of his existence. The God behind the curtain used all sorts of tricks to get us to accept that he was real; that he was the supreme ruler of the universe; that he was the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, the one true God. But once we saw the human behind the curtain, it was impossible for us to unsee. We had three choices: pretend that we didn’t see what was behind the curtain, ignore what we had seen, or admit that the deity we had devoted our lives to was no God at all. For those of us who are atheists and agnostics, we chose number three — there is no God.

wizard of oz

It’s been a decade now since I pulled back the God curtain and found that Christian God (and all other extant Gods) was a fake, a fraud, a human invention. Since that time, countless Evangelicals, Catholics, and Muslims have attempted to evangelize me, saying that I had been worshiping a false God, and that if I would just believe in and follow their peculiar version of God, all my wishes would be granted.

Their remonstrations have fallen on deaf ears. Why? Let me quote my buddy Andrew again, “Once you see behind the god curtain, there is no point in offering me a “better” god.” You see, once you know the truth, there’s no going back. Once you realize the psychological, sociological, and geographical nature of belief in God, the idea that God is “real” falls flat on its face. Christian zealots continue to try to convince me that their flavor of Christianity is “truth,” but I know better. You see, I have pulled back the curtain, and I know that God looks and acts a lot like Bruce Gerencser and seven billion other human beings.

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.

A Decade Removed from Leaving Christianity, My Wife’s Mom Finally Asks Her if She Believes in God

believe-in-god

Polly and I attended church for the last time in November, 2008. While I was quicker to embrace the atheist moniker than Polly, she intellectually, at least, didn’t believe in the existence of God. In recent years, she has been more open about her lack of belief, but even now she’s quite reserved when compared to her word-generating-machine husband. That said, we are both on the same page when it comes to the existence of the Christian God.

Polly’s father is a retired Independent Fundamentalist Baptist pastor. Dad graduated from Midwestern Baptist College in 1976 — the same year his daughter enrolled for classes. Dad and Mom moved south to Newark, Ohio where Dad became the poorly-paid assistant pastor of the Newark Baptist Temple. The Baptist Temple was pastored by Jim Dennis. Jim was married to my mother-in-law’s younger sister. Dad would later pastor a church in nearby Buckeye Lake. After this church closed, Dad and Mom returned to the Baptist Temple, the church they call home to this day,

Talking about things has never been Mom and Dad’s forte. When we left the ministry in 2005 and Christianity in 2008, Mom and Dad never said a word — NOT ONE WORD! (even after receiving Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners). That is, until today. As most of you know, Polly is having surgery tomorrow to remove bladder cancer and repair a fistula. An hour or so ago, Polly’s mom called her at work. This is the gist of their conversation:

Mom: I have never asked you before, but do you think like Bruce does?

Polly: What do you mean?

Mom: Well, like do you still believe in God?

Polly: No, Mom!

Mom: How can you not? You asked Jesus to save you when you were seven! [actually, it was at age five]

Polly: I’m fine, Mom.

Mom: Well, we pray for you and Bruce and the kids [all heathens, in her eyes, by the way], a lot!

End of discussion.

Polly texted me, “Sigh, OMG! How many years did she have to ask?”

Polly texted me later “Pretty sure she was more upset than me! If she didn’t want to know, she should have kept quiet! I told her I had excellent specialists taking care of me. I mean, seriously! What’s Jesus going to do for me?”

This is the first and only time Polly’s parents have asked about our loss of faith. They had a decade to ask, yet never, ever said a word outside of the constant reminders, “we are praying for you!” I suspect Mom felt led by the Holy Spirit to call her daughter. Knowing that Polly was having surgery, Mom wanted to make sure where her daughter stood with the Christian God. I am quite sure she didn’t expect to hear Polly say she didn’t believe in God. Mom and Dad and their former pastor, the late Jim Dennis, have always believed that I have a larger-than-life influence over Polly. There was a time that that was true, but those days are long gone — as in, twenty-five plus years gone. Polly is her own person, and able to make decisions for herself — including whether she believes in the existence of God.

Polly enters the hospital tomorrow trusting that skilled medical professionals will do their best to remove the cancer and fix the bladder side of the fistula. We are confident that they will succeed in this endeavor. Mom fears for Polly’s soul. All I want is for the love of my life to come home safe and sound.

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.

Why Do Atheists Refuse to Believe in God?

there is no god

People frequently search for: Why do Atheists Refuse to Believe in God? and Google and Bing return this site as a possible answer to their question. I have never written a post with that exact title, so I thought I would do so today. Hopefully, this post will adequately answer those who want to know why atheists refuse to believe in God.

Before I can answer this question, I must first ask one of my own: which God? Which God, exactly, are atheists accused of not believing in? You see, when people ask such questions, they have a specific deity in mind. Most often, in the United States, the God of the question is the God of Christianity. But, even here, I have to ask, which God? Christians are hardly unified when it comes to God. Some Christians believe God is a triune being, others don’t. Ask Christians what’s required for salvation, and the answers are endless. The Bible may say, one Lord, one faith, and one baptism, but as casual observers can attest, Christians believe in and worship a variety of deities.

For the sake of argument, I choose the Evangelical God. Most liberal Christians don’t care whether atheists believe in God. Functional universalists, liberal Christians are more concerned with love, kindness, and good works, than they are checking the box next to the One True God®. Evangelicals, on the other hand, expend mountains of energy making sure that not only they believe in the “right” God, but that the rest of us do too.

Most Evangelicals genuinely believe that atheist unbelief is deliberate; that atheists are a stubborn lot who refuse to believe in the Christian God because of a (secret) desire to live in sin. Many Evangelicals believe that atheists are rebels at heart, people who refuse to submit to God’s rule and authority. Sometimes, Evangelicals say that atheists refuse to believe in God because they either hate him or are followers of Satan. Needless to say, most of what Evangelicals say and know about atheists is false. Atheist writers often go to great lengths to correct Evangelical mischaracterizations, yet they fail, thanks to preachers repeating them Sunday after Sunday in their sermons. Who ya’ going to believe, Pastor John or Bruce, the atheist?  Sadly, far too many Evangelicals believe their pastors speak on God’s behalf, so they blindly accept as fact whatever their pastors say to them. Granted, atheists can do the same. Misrepresenting the claims of Christianity is just as bad as not listening to the explanations atheists give for not believing in God.

There are a plethora of reasons why atheists refuse to believe in God. I can’t speak for all atheists, so all I can do is speak for myself and others like me. I was in the Christian church for fifty years. Twenty-five of those years were spent pastoring Evangelical churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. I have a thorough understanding of Christian theology and church history. I spent thousands and thousands of hours reading and studying the Bible. I read countless theology books. For many years, I focused my reading on Calvinistic authors from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century. That said, my studies were deep, but not wide. I focused my reading on authors who fit in the Evangelical/orthodox box, never straying outside of the four walls of the box until the tail end of my ministerial career. Once I began to read authors outside of my peculiar rut, I started having questions about my beliefs and practices. These questions only increased after I left the ministry in 2005. I began to carefully reexamine the cardinal doctrines of Christianity. Once I concluded that the Bible was NOT the inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God, my house of cards came tumbling down. Once the dust settled, I was no longer a Christian.

I tried to find some sort of stopping-off place as I slid down the proverbial slippery slope, but I found liberal Christianity and Universalism to be intellectually lacking. I so wanted to keep believing in God, but alas I couldn’t do so, and on the last Sunday in November 2008, I walked out of a Christian (Methodist) church for the last time. Several months later, I mailed out a letter titled, Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners. This letter was my coming-out, me saying to the world that I was no longer a Christian. For a time, I called myself an agnostic, but after having to repeatedly explain exactly what I meant by the word, I decided to claim the atheist moniker.

When asked why I am an atheist, I tell people two things. First, I no longer believe the central claims of Christianity. Second, Christianity no longer makes any sense to me. (Please see The Michael Mock Rule: It Just Doesn’t Make Sense.) It’s not that I refuse to believe in the Christian God; as it is, I find Christian beliefs intellectually lacking. If I refuse anything, it’s to have “faith” and just “believe.” One former congregant told me after I deconverted that books were my problem; that I just needed to stop reading books and only read the Bible. If I would do that, all would be well. The problem, of course, with this line of thinking is that Christianity is a text-based religion; that the foundation of Christianity is the Bible. Thus, when I say I no longer believe the central claims of Christianity, what I am really saying is that I no longer believe the teachings of the Bible; I longer believe the Bible is divine truth; I no longer believe the Bible is God’s supernatural word to fallible men. Ultimately, the Bible is the problem, and that’s why I am an outspoken atheist today.

To Christians who ask, Why Do Atheists Refuse to Believe in God? I say this: it’s not that I refuse to believe in your God as much as I don’t see evidence for him/her/it. As an Evangelical Christian, my sight was blinded by faith and dogma. Today, my eyes are wide open. All it takes for me to believe in the Christian God is evidence for his existence and proof that the Bible is what Evangelicals claim it is. Bruce, you must have “faith.” Just believe! And therein lies the problem. If there is one thing I can’t do, it is have faith in a deity I have never seen or heard. But, Bruce, GOD IS REAL! To that, I respond, show me. I refuse to take your word for it. Surely, the evidence for the existence of the Christian God is overwhelming, right? John allegedly said of Jesus in John 21:25:

And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.

Not even the world itself could contain the books that should be written about Jesus’ works, yet all we have is one contradictory compilation of books called the Bible. If Jesus is all the Bible says he is, surely there would be more evidence to support these claims. Instead, there’s a paucity of evidence, and it is this lack of evidence that keeps me an atheist.

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.

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.

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If God is There, Let Him Stop Me

elijah and the prophets of baal

A recent episode of Hard Sun — a pre-apocalyptic British-American television crime drama series — featured a man who traveled overseas to do aid work. While there, he saw horrific atrocities. He rightly observed that in the midst of these atrocities, the Christian God was nowhere to be found. The man returned home and sought out a Catholic priest, hoping that this man of God could help him sort out his conflicted feelings. During the course of confession, the man admitted murdering a woman he didn’t know in cold blood. His motive? To see if God would stop him. God, of course, didn’t. The man went on a serial killing spree, telling the priest, “If God is there, let him stop me.”

Evangelicals speak of a personal God; a deity who is so concerned with the welfare of people that he knows the very number of hairs on their heads. This version of God is supposedly kind, compassionate and loving. This God is but a murmured prayer away, a friend who sticks closer than a brother or sister. Yet, when careful attention is paid to the plight of the human race, it seems that the Christian God is AWOL. While an argument could be made that all the suffering we see arises unbelievers getting their just deserts, many of those who face great travail and tragedy are followers of Jesus. Poverty, hunger, and homeless is rife among the children of God. Why is it that God is an absentee father, one who sits idly by while his children bleed, suffer, and die? This God is all-knowing and all-powerful, yet he turns a blind eye and a deaf ear to the groans of his creation. I could understand this if Evangelicals worshiped a deistic God; a deity who created the universe and then said to us, “there ya go boys and girls, do with it what you will.” If God is passive and non-involved, then I understand, but Evangelicals say God is very much hands-on; a deity who knows our thoughts, tears, and heartaches; a God who sees our pain and suffering. This God is a myth.

In 1 Kings 18:17-39, we find an interesting story about Elijah attempting to prove to the Israelites which deity was the true and living God:

And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel?  And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim. Now therefore send, and gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel’s table. So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel. And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word. Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the Lord; but Baal’s prophets are four hundred and fifty men. Let them therefore give us two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: and I will dress the other bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under: And call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the Lord: and the God that answereth by fire, let him be God. And all the people answered and said, It is well spoken. And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under. And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made. And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked. And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them. And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded. And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down. And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the Lord came, saying, Israel shall be thy name: And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed. And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood. And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time. And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water. And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again. Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The Lord, he is the God; the Lord, he is the God.

Elijah, a prophet of Jehovah, challenged the prophets of Baal to a God-duel. Elijah and the prophets of Baal would each build an altar, stack it with wood, and put a slaughtered bullock on top. Then each of them would call on their God to send fire down from Heaven and consume their bullock. Elijah, ever the cocky Evangelical preacher, had his bullock repeatedly doused with water. Game on, Elijah said to the prophets of Baal.

First up were the prophets of Baal. From early morning until noon the prophet prayed, saying “O Baal, hear us,” but their God was silent. Elijah mocked them, saying: “Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.” This only caused the prophets of Baal to cry out that much louder. They even went so far as to cut themselves with knives and lancets. No matter what they did, their God remained silent, making no attempt to prove her existence.

Then it was Elijah’s turn. Not content to make a simple four word request as the prophets of Baal did, Elijah prayed a sermon as Baptist preachers often do: “Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again.”

And sure enough, God sent fire down from Heaven and consumed Elijah’s sacrifice. The Israelites oohed and aahed, admitting that Jehovah was the one true God. Wanting to put an explanation point on the day’s events, Elijah had the 450 prophets of Baal rounded up and murdered. Ah, the God of peace, right?

Every time I think about this story, I am drawn to Elijah’s mockery of Baal. There were 450 prophets of Baal and only one prophet of Jehovah. Not good odds, yet the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob won the day. (Just remember, Jesus only wants winners!) Why is the modern God of Christianity so different from Elijah’s God? As I listen to what Evangelicals SAY about their God, I see a huge disconnect between that and what their God actually does. Perhaps it is fair and right for us to mock this God as Elijah mocked Baal thousands of years ago. It seems to me that the Evangelical God is talking, pursuing (taking a shit), on a journey (vacation), or sleeping. Earth is a Find Waldo book without Waldo.

Evangelicals believe that Satan walks to and fro on earth seeking whom he may devour. He is the prince of earth, and by the look of things he is definitely kicking ass and taking names. Atheists such as myself mock the Bible and profane God’s name, yet the Christian God does nothing. Zealots tell me that someday God is going to get me; that when I die, I will find out how real God is; that when the flames of Hell bring me untold suffering and pain, I’ll finally know that the God of the Bible is the one true God. Idle threats, I say, idle threats.

There’s always a chance that I am wrong about the Christian God, but I’m persuaded that no such deity exists. Much like the man in Hard Sun, the extant evidence before me suggests that there is no God. If there really is a God, he knows where I am and he can, in his own good time, make himself known to me. Until then, I intend to keep pecking away on my keyboard, defending secular and humanistic values.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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

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