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Tag: Hell

The Voices of Atheism: Bart Ehrman Interview: Heaven and Hell

bart ehrman

This is the latest installment in The Voices of Atheism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. Know of a good video that espouses atheism/agnosticism or challenges the claims of the Abrahamic religions? Please email me the name of the video or a link to it. I believe this series will be an excellent addition to The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser.

Thank you in advance for your help.

Today’s video features a Freethought Matters interview of agnostic Dr. Bart Ehrman about his latest book Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife. Enjoy!

Video

So Glad for a Place Called Hell, A Jack Hyles-Loving Christian Says

jack hyles 1973
Jack Hyles, 1973

Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected. 

My posts on Jack Hyles, David Hyles, Jack Schaap, and the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement and its bombastic luminaries have wide circulation on the internet. With wide circulation comes an increase in comments from Baptist Fundamentalists who feel it is their duty to expose their ignorance for all to see. While they THINK they are putting the preacher-turned-atheist in his place, what they are really doing is illustrating the bankruptcy of the IFB church movement. Their emails, comments, blog posts, forum comments, and sermons are reminders that IFB preachers and church members are unable to embrace or accept any form of criticism. When you are certain you are right, it is hard to accept anything/anyone that says you are not right or that your thinking is flawed.

Several years ago, I received an email from a Jack Hyles-loving older woman in Florida. I assume she is older because she references a picture in the post from the early 1970s. Without further adieu, I present to you yet another reason why I am glad not to be a Christian:

Hi, I want to thank you for the picture of Dr. Hyles on your article. I am going to copy and print it for my husband who was in Hammond at the time of this photo. He dearly missed by us and we both think he was honor to be in his ministry for seven years. By the way, I am glad that you are an atheist and out of all church. Maybe you can join Madame Murray O Haire in Hell one day and you both can have a heyday criticizing each other. Good luck with the hereafter, there is one but you are going to in the dark place where no one can see your ugly face again. So glad for that place called HELL.

(All spelling and grammar errors in the original.)

If there was, in fact, a Hell, and there’s not, I too would be glad for its existence. Why would I want to spend eternity in Heaven with the likes of this woman? Long-time readers of this blog have read scores of comments and posted emails I have received from Evangelical and IFB critics. If these Christians are representative of the fine, upstanding folks found in Evangelical churches, why would any of us want to spend one moment in this life with them, let alone eternity? No thanks. Give me Hell. At least there I will have friends, people who loved and accepted me as I am. I hear the weather in Hell is awesome, and the parties are out of this world. Hmm . . . partying on a beach with friends or spending every hour of every day worshiping a narcissistic deity with people who spent their lives on earth attacking and judging anyone and everyone who didn’t worship their God. Which should I choose?

I have been blogging since 2007. I was a Christian when I first started blogging, deconverted in 2008, and have been drawing the ire of Evangelical Christians ever since. Thousands and thousands and thousands of Christians have visited this site. Some of them, particularly Fundamentalists, attempt to set me straight or to win me back to Jesus. When Evangelicals fail in their endeavors, it is not uncommon for them to turn on me, often acting in ways that are decidedly un-Christian. For the life of me, I don’t understand why some Evangelicals act this way. What do they hope to accomplish? Do they think that their atrocious behavior will make Christianity more appealing to me and the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines who read this blog? Or maybe they write us off, and in doing so show their true nature. All I know is this: Evangelicals who behave this way have done more than I ever could to advance the cause of atheism.

Keep preaching the “word” Evangelicals. We are hearing you loud and clear.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

After I am Dead

walking by graveyard

Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected. 

As soon as Christian Fundamentalists read this headline they will shout at their screen:

  • You will be burning in Hell!
  • You will know there is a God!
  • You will know I was right!

They will see my death as vindication of their belief system. I wonder how many of them will say to themselves, I bet Bruce wishes he had listened to me! I can hear a Calvinist saying, now we know Bruce was not one of the elect! They will speak of the preacher-turned-atheist who now knows the TRUTH. (Please see Christopher Hitchens is in Hell.)

If they bother to read beyond the title of this post, they will see that this post is not about my e-t-e-r-n-a-l destiny. I have no concerns over God, judgment, or Hell. I am confident that Hell is the creation of religious leaders who want to control people through fear. Fear God! Fear Judgment! Fear Hell! Since Christianity and the Bible no longer have any power over me, I no longer fear God or Hell. I am reasonably certain that this is the only life I will ever have, and once I die, I will be . . . drum roll please, d-e-a-d.

The recent Coronavirus pandemic and the lethal nature of COVID-19 — especially for senior adults with health problems — certainly has refocused my attention on death. Not only my own death, but that of my wife, children, grandchildren, in-laws, and siblings. I can’t help but think about my editor, Carolyn. She’s older than I, and I wonder what I will do if Loki calls her home? 🙂 Who will clean up my writing? And I could say the same thing about other friends of mine. I genuinely want them to live long lives. At the very least, I want them to outlive me. 🙂 I hate funerals.

Here’s what I want to happen after I draw my last breath.

First, I do not want a funeral service. Waste of time, effort, and money. No need for fake friends or distant family members to show up and weep fake tears. No need for flowers. I want Polly to spend as little as possible on disposing of my dead carcass. Trust me, I won’t care.

plus size cremation

Second, I want to be cremated. No special urn. A cardboard box will work just fine. If Polly wants to show her love for me, a Hostess cupcake box would be sweet.  As I jokingly told my children, when I am cremated I will go from ass to ashes. None of them disagreed with this assessment. 

Third, I want my ashes to be spread along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. Polly knows the place. I hope my children, daughters-in-law, son-in-law, grandchildren, and close family will be there. Maybe my newly discovered step-brother will be there. I want no prayers said, and as few tears as possible. Perhaps those who are gathered will share a funny story, one of their many Butch/Bruce/Dad/Grandpa stories. I hope they will remember me for the good I have done and forgive me for those moments when I was less than I could or should have been.

And that’s it.

Life is not about dying, it’s about living. Since I am on the short side of life, I dare not waste the time I have left. When death comes, the battery in my life clock will be depleted. Much like the Big Ben clock beside our bed — the one I listen to late at night as it clicks off the seconds — I know there is coming a day when I will hear CLICK and that will be it.

How about you? As an atheist or non-Christian, what do you want to happen after you die? Have you made funeral plans? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Why I am Not Interested in a Nicer, Friendlier Christianity

hell

Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected. 

I often write about the extreme right of Evangelicalism, the end of the Evangelical spectrum inhabited by churches and sects that nice, friendly Evangelicals like to call Fundamentalist nut jobs. However, as I clearly show in my post titled Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?, ALL Evangelicals are Fundamentalists. Evangelical belief requires theological fundamentalism, a core set of beliefs that one must adhere to be a Christian and considered an Evangelical in good standing. Some who deny this fact are really liberal/progressive Christians living in denial. Raised in the Evangelical church and familiar with its worship and practice, these liberal/progressive Christians don’t want to abandon the only church they have ever known. Their theology puts them squarely outside of Evangelicalism, yet they refuse to accept this, digging their heels in when attempts are made to drag them into the liberal/progressive church. There’s not much anyone can do for these folks. In time, the keepers of Evangelical truth will expose and embarrass them and they will be forced to leave. For now, they play pretend Evangelical.

There’s another subset within Evangelicalism that thinks they are what I call a nicer, friendlier version of Evangelicalism. They are convinced that legalism, rules, moralizing, and the like are the problem, so they attempt to advertise their churches as places that are judgment free; places where sinners can come to find healing and deliverance. However, these nicer, friendlier Evangelicals hang onto theological fundamentalism. While their lifestyle or what they consider a sin might be different from their legalistic brethren, theologically there is very little difference between the two.

Here’s how you force nicer, friendlier Evangelicals to show their true colors. Forget this or that doctrine. Forget everything except what I share next:

Evangelical: The church I go to, First Church of the Most Awesome People in Town, is the nicest, friendliest church in town. We love everyone, and I am sure that if you come to our church you will feel right at home!!

Bruce: Let me ask you several questions. First, do you believe in a literal Hell?

Evangelical: Yes, that’s what the Bible teaches.

Bruce: Who ends up in Hell?

Evangelical: Well, um, uh, I am not the judge, only God is. But the Bible does say that a person must know Jesus as their Lord and Savior to go to Heaven when they die.

Bruce: So, since I am not a Christian and I refuse to acknowledge Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I will go to Hell when I die, right?

Evangelical: (looks down to ground) Uh, well, um, yeah, if you don’t repent of your sins and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ you will go to Hell when you die.

Bruce: How long will I be in Hell? Is it like Catholic purgatory where I’ll suffer for a time and then be taken to Heaven?

Evangelical: Well, uh . . . (long, long, long pause) if you die without knowing Jesus as your Lord and Savior you will spend eternity in the torments of Hell.

Bruce: Fire and brimstone and where the worm dieth not?

Evangelical: Yes.

Bruce: Since this body I currently have would burn up if I was thrown into a pit of fire and brimstone, does this mean God gives me a new body that will withstand the torments of Hell?

Evangelical: (silently praying the Rapture would happen)

Bruce: And doesn’t this mean that your God created me, killed me, and sent me to Hell with a new body fashioned by him to withstand day and night torture for eternity?

Evangelical: (God, won’t this atheist go away)

Bruce: Is this the God you worship? Why would anyone want to worship such a horrible deity?

Forget all the other doctrines, this is the only one that matters. I don’t care how nice or friendly Evangelical churches thinks they are, if they believe in Hell, then they are party to their God’s savage, endless torture of billions of people. They might smile more or practice friendship evangelism, but the result is still the same: those who don’t repent of their sins and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ go to Hell when they die. (Please see We Love People and Are the Friendliest Church in Town.)

The next time you run into a nicer, friendlier Evangelical, go for their jugular. Ask them point-blank if they believe in Hell. Their answer(s) to this question will tell you all you need to know. Personally, I have no interest in being a part of a group or being friends with anyone who thinks that I will burn in Hell for eternity because I am not like them. This kind of thinking is no different from the thinking of the demented killers portrayed on Criminal Minds. Our God is an awesome God, the Evangelical says, and He loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. And if you refuse to accept his gracious, wonderful offer of salvation, our God will someday torture you for all eternity.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Will There be Different Punishments in Hell and the Lake of Fire?

how to get out of hell

Just when I thought the Bible God couldn’t be crueler, an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher names James Bachman found a way to make God a bigger dick than I ever thought possible. Bachman, pastor emeritus of Roanoke Baptist Church, in Roanoke, Indiana, is the author of the ‘Parson to Person’ column that appears weekly in the West Bend News. Two weeks ago, Bachman answered the following question:

Are those who are in hell receiving less punishment than they will after the judgment?

Bachman replied,

Yes, their present punishment in hell is equal for rejecting Christ and not believing on Him. – “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” 1 John 5:12. Hell is a terrible place of continual torment in flames. – “And in hell he lifts up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” (Luke16:23-24)

At the end of this world all unbelievers will be delivered up from death and hell to be judged justly for additional punishment according to their own sins. – “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.”(Revelation 20: 12-14)

An earthly illustration would be a bad criminal being put in a county jail until after his trial and sentencing. Then he is sent to prison where he
will spend the remainder of his sentence. For unbelievers who start out in hell, they will have to spend the rest of eternity after their judgment in the lake of fire, still experiencing hell but also at the same time, additional suffering for each of their sins.

….

Most IFB preachers believe that Hell is a temporary holding place in the bowels of the earth for non-Christians after they die. Then, at the end of time, the inhabitants of Hell will cast into the Lake of Fire. Revelation 20:14-15 says:

And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

The Lake of Fire, then, is the eventual permanent residence for all non-Christians. Billions of people will reside in the Lake of Fire, subject to excruciating torture day and night for eternity. Why? Because they were born to the wrong parents, lived in the wrong country, worshipped the wrong god, or believed the wrong things. Sure, Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, and Donald Trump will be there, but most of the inhabitants of the Lake of Fire will be just ordinary, good people who, on balance, tried to live good lives, or people such as Jews in WWII who were systematically slaughtered by the Nazis, or people who were blown to bits by mankind’s war machine, or children who died ignominiously of curable diseases, thirst, or starvation.

Many of the residents of the Lake of Fire will end up there without ever hearing the name of Jesus or the Christian gospel one time. Evangelicals such as Bachman explain how this is just by saying that no sinner deserves salvation; and that all sinners deserve Hell and the Lake of Fire. Consider yourself lucky if you are one of the elect, the chosen ones. Such lines of argument fall flat, failing to adequately explain how a just God could banish people, through no fault of their own, to the Lake of Fire for not hearing the gospel. Really, God?

Evangelicals also argue that according to Romans 1 and 2, all humans have moral consciences given to them by God, rendering them without excuse. Further, all any of us need to do is look at the created universe and connect the dots. Somebody bigger than you or I created the universe! In 1960, gospel artist Mahalia Jackson sang:

Who made the mountains, who made the trees
Who made the rivers flow to the sea
Who hung the moon in the starry sky
Somebody bigger than you and I

Who made the flowers to bloom in the spring
Who writes the song for the robins to sing
Who sends the rain when the earth is dry
Somebody bigger than you and I

(He lights the way) He lights the way
(When the road is long) When the road is long
(And He keeps you company) He keeps you company
(With His love) With His love to guide you
(He walks beside you)He walks beside you
(Just like he walks with me) Just like He walks with me

When I am weary, filled with despair
Who gives me courage to go on from there
And who gives me faith that will never never die
Somebody bigger than you and I
(Somebody bigger than you and I)

I am more than willing to admit that it is possible for someone to look at the night sky and conclude that a creator of some sort created everything — a deistic God, perhaps. However, how one gets from A GOD to that God being THE GOD of Trinitarian, Protestant Christianity is a whole different discussion. Evangelicals answer this objection by saying that if an unbeliever — say an aborigine in Australia — looks at the night sky and says to himself, “a God of some sort created this,” the Christian God will either take that into account on judgment day (giving them lesser punishment in the Lake of Fire?) or will send an Evangelical missionary to their door to tell them who, exactly, created the universe.

Evangelicals go to great lengths to cover their asses on the question of what happens to people who have never heard the gospel. Press them long enough, and Evangelical apologists will eventually appeal to mystery, the alleged justice and fairness of God, or God’s thoughts and ways not being our thoughts and ways. Evangelical Apologetics 101 teaches that if your answer to a difficult question is lacking, just appeal to God’s unknowing ways or run to the safety of the house of faith.

Where Bachman’s God becomes especially cruel is when those who land in Hell are punished further in the Lake of Fire. In Luke 16, we find the story of the rich man and Lazarus. Luke 16 tells that the rich man died, went to Hell, and is tormented day and night. According to Bachman, the rich man went to Hell because he rejected Jesus Christ. Never mind the fact that the Bible says otherwise; that the rich man went to Hell because of how he lived in light of those suffering around him. He was indifferent to the plight of Lazarus, and now he is being punished in Hell for his indifference.

Bachman believes that the inhabitants of Hell, some of whom have been suffering for thousands of years, will be delivered from Hell, only to be re-judged for their sins and cast into the Lake of Fire to suffer worse torture than before. Imagine the rich man getting his release from Hell, a brief respite from pain and suffering, only to be told that he was headed for a more violent torture chamber, one that will remind him for all eternity of all the ways he slighted the Christian God and broke his rules. Bachman’s God wins the “Worst God Ever” award.

Years ago, I was listening to a cassette tape of a sermon by evangelist Rolfe Barnard, a Calvinistic Southern Baptist preacher. Back in the day, Barnard was, by far, my favorite preacher. Barnard described the Lake of Fire as a fiery, smoky pit located outside of the New Jerusalem — the home of God’s elect. On judgment day, says Barnard, the elect will stand nearby and watch as God judges their friends and loved ones and casts them into the Lake of Fire. On this day, there will be no tears. God’s chosen ones will praise his name and give glory to his holiness and justice every time he tosses a person in the Lake of Fire. Imagine the perverseness of this illustration. Imagine standing by and watching as God throws your children and spouse in the Lake of Fire, knowing that they will be horrendously tormented for eternity. “Praise Jesus! My son is facing the just desserts for his sin and rejection of Evangelical Christianity!! Woo Hoo! Jesus, you are awesome!” Talk about sick, disgusting theology.

Evangelicals make all sorts of theological arguments. I am weary of them all. I just want to know what they believe about judgment, Hell, and the Lake of Fire. Forget all the ‘splaining and Bible proof-texting. Just tell me whether or not all non-Evangelicals will be tortured by God for eternity in the Lake of Fire. How you answer this question tells me all I need to know about you as a person, your God, and your religion.

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.

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Bruce Gerencser