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Tag: Judgment

Unbelievers and Their Fears of Hell

hell

I am often asked if I still fear going to Hell when I die. I suspect every Evangelical-Christian-turned-atheist, has had, at one time or the other, thoughts about what happens if they are wrong. If Evangelicals are right about God, Jesus, sin, salvation, and life after death, those of us who have — with full knowledge of what the Bible says — walked or run away from Christianity will surely face the eternal flames of Hell. This is where Pascal’s Wager often comes into play. Since none of us can be absolutely certain that Christianity’s teaching are false, shouldn’t we hedge our bets and accept Jesus as Lord and Savior? Of course, the same could be said for EVERY religion. If we really wanted to cover all the bases, shouldn’t we embrace every deity? All any of us can do is make rational decisions about religious belief. I have weighed Christianity, Jesus, God, and the Bible in the balances and found them wanting. Could I be wrong? Sure. But, I am 99.99% certain that I am not. And when it comes to the Evangelical version of the Christian God, I am 99.99999% certain that their God is a myth.

When Evangelicals deconvert, they often minimize the deep psychological marks left behind by their religious past. Intellectually, the notion of an eternal jail in the bowels of the earth is absurd. So is the notion of God fitting non-Christians with an eternal body that will survive endless torture in the flames of Hell (actually the Lake of Fire). And even more absurd is the belief that people who never heard of Jesus will be cast into Hell for what they SHOULD have known. Some Calvinists even think that it is possible that there will be infants in Hell. Since God played a divine sorting game before the world began — you are elect, you are not — there could be infants who are non-elect, and who are therefore condemned to go to Hell.

Rejecting the intellectual absurdities of Evangelicalism frees our minds from bondage, but deep within the recesses of our brain lie thoughts seared into our minds from years of religious indoctrination. Most Evangelicals are cradle Christians, having been born and raised in and around Evangelicalism and its way of thinking their entire lives. Teachings about God, salvation, and Hell make deep impressions on children. This is why many Evangelical churches have programs geared towards “reaching” children for Jesus. Born into sin, these lying, cheating, vile little vipers need Jesus, Evangelicals believe, so they do all they can to win people to Jesus when they are young. Fearing that their children might die before getting saved, Evangelical parents and the churches they attend often psychologically pressure children into asking Jesus into their hearts. It is not uncommon to hear of Evangelical children making professions of faith at ages as young as four or five. Both my wife and I got saved the first time at age five. Evangelicals believe if they don’t reach people when they are young, that it is increasingly likely that these people will NOT accept Jesus as their Savior. Get them when they are young and we will have them forever, the thinking goes.

Former Evangelicals then, must deal with deeply seated beliefs about Hell. Intellectually rejecting these beliefs is one thing; flushing them out of our minds is another. I left Christianity in 2008. I vividly remember nights when I would wake up terrorized with thoughts about being wrong and going to hell. (Christians told me that this was the Holy Spirit trying to get my attention.) These thoughts so bothered me that I sought out the counsel of people who were farther along the path of deconversion than I. I even talked to my counselor about  my fears of being wrong and spending eternity in hell paying for the wrong decision. Everyone told me that my thoughts were quite normal — an Evangelical hangover of sorts. It is naïve for people to think that they can spend decades (or a lifetime as I did) in Evangelicalism and then one day walk away without there being any psychological baggage. Some people can leave Evangelicalism with a single carry-on bag. Others leave with numerous suitcases. Once we are on the other side of faith, it takes time to unpack these suitcases. It is not uncommon for unbelievers to have contradictory beliefs. I know I did. It takes time to sort through these beliefs, discarding those that no longer fit our evolving worldview. Evangelicals raised in evangelistic churches are taught that becoming a Christian is an instantaneous decision. This decision is called being born again — the instantaneous moment in time when people go from lost sinners to saved saints. Deconversion is rarely that simple. While I can remember the moment when I said to myself, I am no longer a Christian, getting to that point was a long — often contradictory — process. And so it is now. I have not arrived. I am still on a journey of sorts. While I know where I have been, I don’t know where I am headed. Christianity taught me that life is all about the destination. Atheism and humanism teaches me that life here and now IS the destination and what is most important is the journey.

Thoughts about hell, for Evangelicals-turned atheists, are vestiges from their religious past. When fear of eternal damnation and punishment arise, attack them with reason. Why am I having these thoughts? Where did these thoughts come from?  Doing this strips these fears of their magical power. Keep doing this, and in time you will learn to laugh at such thoughts when they arise. And just remember as you day by day, month by month and year by year move away from your religious past, these kind of thoughts will eventually fade into the fabric of your past. Come the last Sunday in November, it will be eight years since I darkened the doors of a church. It has been years since I have had a fearful thought about hell. Writing about my past and Evangelicalism has helped to ameliorate my fears. I encourage those who have left Christianity to write about their experiences. Publicly, privately, on a blog, in a journal, regardless of the method — write. There’s something cathartic about putting feelings on paper (or on a computer screen).

I correspond with a number of people who use me as a sounding board. They know that I will never betray their confidences, so they have the freedom to share their raw feelings with me. If you need someone to “listen” to you, please write.

For those of you who long ago left Evangelicalism, how did you deal with thoughts of judgment and hell? Please share your thoughts and substitutions in the comment section.

Facing Life and Death Without God

life

Christianity offers its followers the promise of life after death. No matter how difficult and painful this life is, Christians are promised wonderful lives after death living with Jesus and their fellow Christians in a perfect, pain-free heaven. While I wonder how heavenly it is to spend your life prostrate before God worshiping him, Christians live in the hope that someday they will take possession of a room in the Father’s house, built especially just for them. (John 14) Without the promise of life after death in heaven, I wonder if most Christians would still be willing to forgo the pleasures of this life? While some Christians would argue that living according to the laws, teachings, and precepts of the Bible is still a good way to live, I suspect most Christians — without the promise of eternal life and bliss — would quickly abandon their houses of worship, joining people such as myself at the local pub or the church of the NFL. After all, even the apostle Paul said, If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. (1 Corinthians 15:19) Evidently, Paul thought that in this life only Christianity had little to offer. And so Sunday after Sunday, Christian preachers promise parishioners a home awaits them in heaven. According to the Bible, God promises some day to give Christians the desires of their hearts. Wait. Does that mean there will be booze, porn, cigars, dirt track racing, and hunting in heaven? Will heavenly citizens spend their days playing Nintendo or Xbox games? Will God really give Christians the desires of their hearts? Hmm, this got me thinking about the whole going-to-heaven thing. I know a con job when I hear it. What better way to get people to buy what you are selling than to promise them that they will have a wonderful life if they will just sign on the dotted line. A wonderful life, that is, someday, after you have made the 666 monthly payments and died.

Atheism offers no such promises. Atheism is rooted in a humanistic and secularist view of the world. No promises of a divine life in the sweet by and by. Life is hard, and then you die. No promises of blessings in this life or the life to come. Some have argued that atheists have a cold, sterile outlook on life. To some degree this is true. Atheists are realists, knowing they only get one shot at life— best get to living it. Life is what we make it, and even when hard times come (and they will most certainly come), atheists find a way to make the most of it. I could spend my days whining and complaining about my health problems, but what good would that do? Instead, I turn my pain and suffering into a platform for helping others. I can look at the five decades I spent in the Christian church and say, what a waste, but I choose to use these experiences as an opportunity to help others. I know that this is the only life I have, and it is up to me to make the most of it. Spending time wondering about what might have been accomplishes nothing. As my family has heard me say many times, it is what it is. Sure, if there were some magical way to redo certain things from my past I might do it. But maybe not. Polly and I will celebrate our 38th wedding anniversary this July. We met at a Fundamentalist Bible college. If nothing else good came out of our past, both of us would say — on most days — that our relationship was the best thing about our years in Evangelicalism. I would not want anyone to follow the same path we did, yet we do have six wonderful children and 11 awesome grandchildren. They indeed are the bright spots of the years we spent working in God’s coal mine. I have learned, or perhaps I am learning, to reflect on the good of the past, and use the bad things to fuel my writing and my attempts to help others avoid similar paths.

I will celebrate my 59th birthday in June. I have lived 12 years longer than my mother and five years longer than my dad. There are days when my body is so overwhelmed with pain that I wonder if I can live another day. The means of my demise are always nearby, yet despite my suffering I choose to live. Why? Because this is the only life I will ever have. I only have one opportunity to love Polly, Jason, Nathan, Jaime, Bethany, Laura, Josiah, my grandchildren, my brother and sister, and Polly’s mom and dad. I know that when I draw my last breath, there will be no family circle meeting in the sky — sorry Johnny! This is why I want to live each and every day to its fullest. This is not a cliché to me. This life matters. My wife, children, grandchildren, son-in-law, daughters-in-law, siblings, extended family, and friends matter to me. I know that I am only going to see them and enjoy their company in this life. There are places I want to go to and see. I want to enjoy and experience the fullness of what it means to be human. And since casting off the shackles of religion, I have been free to drink deeply of the human experience. No longer fearful of God’s judgment or hell, I am free to see, touch, taste, and hear the things I desire. Yes, there is that dirty word that dare not be spoken in Evangelical churches — desire. I spent way too many years denying passions, desires, wants, and needs, all for the sake of God, Jesus, the church, and the ministry. No more. It is wonderful to do something just because I want to. I do not have to pray about it or see if the Bible approves of it. Bruce approves, end of discussion.

When I write posts such as this, there are always a few horse-bridled Christians who let me know that there is coming a day when I will regret not bowing to the will of the S&M master, Jesus. Someday Bruce, Evangelical zealots tell me, God is going to make you pay for your attacks on Christianity. Someday, God is going to judge you for your wanton living and rejection of the Bible. Sometimes, I think Christians such as these people relish the day when God is going to give atheist Bruce Gerencser an eternal ass-whipping. I am sure they will be standing among the crowd cheering and saying to God, hit him again! He deserves it, Lord.

I have been blogging now for going on nine years. I left Christianity in 2008, and since then countless Evangelicals — along with a few Catholics — have attempted to win me back to Jesus through the use of Pascal’s Wager. The basic premise is this, Bruce, what if you are wrong? Good question. Since I am not infallible, nor do I have at my disposal the sum of all human knowledge and experience, all I can do is make reasoned, knowledgeable decisions based on the evidence at hand. I can tell readers this much: I have been wrong many, many times. Not only that, I have made enough mistakes that if you piled them up they would reach to the International Space Station. I am, after all, a feeble, frail, and at times contradictory, human being. I can, like all people, be led astray by my passions, judgments, or incomplete information. I am not immune to irrationality and cognitive dissonance. However, when it comes to Christianity and its promises of eternal life in heaven or judgment in hell, it is my educated opinion that the claims of Christianity are false. Trying to get me to choose Jesus just in case I am wrong makes a mockery of intellectual inquiry (and Christianity). Having spent most of my adult life in the Christian church and 25 years studying and preaching the Bible, I think it is safe to say that I know a good bit about Christianity. I cannot remember the last time that some Christian presented me with something I have not heard before. I am not being arrogant here — as I am sure some Christians will allege. I spent decades reading and studying the Bible — devouring countless Christian books. I immersed myself in Christianity and its teachings, so when I say I am no longer a Christian because I think the claims of Christianity and the Bible are false, my conclusions — unlike many Christian opinions of atheism — come from an educated, reasoned, well-thought-out position. Do I know everything there is to know about Christianity? Of course not, but I sure as hell know more than most the Christians (and preachers) I come in contact with on a day-to-day basis. My point is this: I am an atheist today, not out of ignorance, but because I weighed Christianity in the balance and found it wanting.

If Christians come up with new evidences for the veracity of their claims — and I doubt they ever will —  then I will gladly consider them. Until then, I am content to number myself among the godless. And when I die, I hope to leave this life knowing that I did what I could to be a help to others. I hope, on the day that my ashes are scattered along the shores of Lake Michigan, that my family and friends will speak well of me. I hope that none of them will have to lie, but that they will truly believe that my good works outweigh the bad. This is why I think that is important to finish well. I am sure Polly and my children have less-than-complimentary stories they could tell at my wake, but I hope, because I have made a concerted effort to be a better man, that they will share stories about a good man who just so happened to be an atheist.

I am often asked if I fear death. Yes and no. Since no one has died and come back to life — including Jesus — I do fear the blackness that awaits. There are been those times, late at night, when I have pondered being alive one moment and dead the next; going to sleep and never waking up. But this fear does not overwhelm me. I know that I cannot do anything about dying. It is, to quote the Lion King, the circle of life. We are born, we live, we die. End of story. All I know to do is to live a good life and be a good husband, father, grandfather, friend, and fellow citizen of earth. I have had the privilege of living at this time on humanity’s calendar, and when it comes time for me to draw my last breath, I hope my dying thoughts will be those of love. Love of family, love of friends, love of writing, love of photography, and love of all those who have made my life worth living. Will that not be what all of us desire? To love and to be loved? As dying pushes away all the minutia of life, what remains is love. For me, that will be enough.

Is God to Blame for Terrorist Attacks? Anne Graham Lotz Says, Yes!

911

Suppose a mother has a toddler who wants to play in the street.  She know her son could be hit by a car if he does, but she wants to teach him a lesson, so she allow him to play in the street.  Pretty soon a car comes down the street, hits her son, and he dies. Is she to blame for his death? After all, he is the one who wanted to play in the street. She just allowed/permitted him to do so. Yes, she could have stopped him, but she thought it important that he learn a lesson, so she let him have his way.

Does anyone think this mother is a good mother? Does anyone think, if this woman has any more children, that they should be removed from the home? Some Evangelicals think their God is just like this mother. According to fundamentalist Anne Graham Lotz, the daughter of Billy Graham, because the United States turned its back on God, God is allowing terrorists to attack the U.S. Here’s what Lotz had to say on Jan Markell’s Understanding The Times radio program. (you can listen to broadcast here):

In the days of Noah, they were eating, drinking, getting married. There is nothing wrong with any of that. All of those are normal everyday activities. But in Noah’s day they did it all apart from God,” There was no acknowledgment of God. God was irrelevant to them. … I think that is where we are today.”

“I look at some of the things that we get preoccupied with, whether it’s an entertainer or whose baby they are having, or on the red carpet, or footballs being deflated by a quarterback. We zero in on those things and talk about them and we have no idea that we are on the edge of the whole world collapsing around us.That is the strongest similarity of the days of Noah and our day.”

“Today, we are consumed by superficial things. Some of the areas of the world they are not. If you go to Syria or Iraq, those Christians over there, I will guarantee you, are very focused. In America, we are just neglecting God and ignoring Him. I just saw a piece about the rise of atheism, people walking away from the church. In fact, the Christian church is declining, according to Pew Research.”

That is why God sends us wake-up calls. That’s why he allows the terrorists to strike or a tornado to rip through our city, because for whatever reason, we don’t seem to give Him our attention until we are desperate. If we don’t give Him our attention, then He is going to allow things to happen to make us more and more desperate until we do cry out.“…

…”We share the gospel because people whom we lead to Christ right now, it’s almost like we save them twice,” she said. “We save them from an earthly hell that is coming during the tribulation period, which I think we are very close to, and we save them from eternal hell, which is when you step into eternity. The second death is the worst of all when you are separated from God forever.”

9-11? Shooting in Charleston? Terrorist attack in Chattanooga?  Tornadoes? Earthquakes? Tsunamis? All warnings from God. In Lotz’s Bible-saturated mind, since 2008 when the great usurper, Barack Obama, took office, there has been an unprecedented rise in sin and disobedience. Since we live in the Last Days®, it should come as no surprise that God is allowing all these things to happen. He is trying to get our attention. Time is short, repent and turn to Lotz’s God for salvation. Like the mother above, God is simply allowing these things to take place to teach us a lesson. And like the mother who is rightly held accountable for her son being killed, God also must be held accountable for what he allows.

Evangelicals, especially of the Calvinistic variety, think it is their duty to defend God’s honor. They rightly understand that saying God CAUSED these events makes God look bad, so they try to defend the Big Man’s honor by saying he passively allowed these things to happen; he didn’t cause them. Wait a minute. Isn’t God the first cause of EVERYTHING? With causality comes responsibility and culpability.  Either God is in control of everything or he is not. If he’s not, then it is safe to conclude that this God is no God at all.

I could have taken another approach with this post. Lotz wrote that “In America, we are just neglecting God and ignoring Him.” I could have wrote about the petulant, infantile God who maims and murders innocents so Americans will pay attention to him. This God, the Evangelical God, he’s just a bad dude all the way around. Perhaps it is time to lock him up and throw away the key.

Question: Will Christians Praying for Your Demise Have Their Prayers Answered?

imprecatory prayer

Several weeks back, I asked readers to submit questions they would like me to answer. If you would like to ask a question, please leave your question here.

Steve asked:

Yes sir, I have a question!

Do you think the many Christian prayers for your demise will succeed?

Many Christians believe that God should get all the praise for the good things that happen and Satan and sinners should get blamed for the bad things that happen. This fact poses a conundrum for those praying for my demise. If God kills me, this means it was a good thing, right?  But, if God is the giver of life, the fact that I am still alive is also a good thing.  Perhaps God wants me to live so the Holy Spirit can regenerate me, effectually call me, and impart to me his wonderful irresistible grace. Or perhaps I am not one of the elect, not in the Lamb’s Book of Life; then I am an unregenerate, apostate reprobate. If I were God, I would kill someone like me, seeing that I do so much damage to the faith of others.

Some day, I will die. The way I am feeling as I write this post, it could be today. Or tomorrow. Or twenty years from now. Regardless of the date of my demise, there will a Christian somewhere who will see it as proof that their imprecatory prayer worked,;that God whacked me because they asked him to.

Hey Girlfriend, Jesus Has Passionate Eyes

Here’s the latest from Paula Hendricks, a writer for the Lies Young Women Believe

Come on girlfriend (please say girlfriend with your best Valley Girl impersonation) , time to abandon all those dreamy-eyed guys you have a crush on and hook up with Jesus. Don’t want to? Fine, then Jesus is going to burn you up with his eyes and send you to hell.

Jessa Duggar Seewald: Preaching Hellfire and Brimstone

jessica duggar ben seewald
Jessa Duggar and Ben Seewald getting it on in public

Several days ago, Jessa Duggar Seewald, one of the Duggar 19 and counting clan, took to Facebook to express her righteous indignation over people using human logic and reason to determine how to live their lives. In the fashion of Jonathan Edwards Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, Duggar Seewald blasted all those who live their lives by any other standard than hers:

One of the most quoted verses from the Bible is Matthew 7:1 “Judge not!” Whenever someone speaks out against something that God calls sin, “Don’t judge!” can be heard coming from a thousand lips. People don’t like to have other people disapprove of the way they’re choosing to live their life.

I will speak to you a hard truth. I do not write this because I think that it will bring me popularity. It won’t. But it is Truth from the Word of God: the Bible.

To not tell people this is to hide the truth from them. To keep silent is to not care for their eternal destiny! I care about you, and this is why I am speaking out!

In this world, people have seared their consciences. The standard of what is “ok” or “permissible” in our society today, hardly reflects God’s standard.

People are content to live on in lying, cursing, pride, anger, bitterness, disrespecting of parents, lust, pornography, fornication, adultery, and other sexual sins– and if anyone tries to confront them, their attitude and response is, “You live your life, I’ll live mine. Don’t you tell me what to do! Only God can judge me!”

They don’t even realize what they’re saying. God’s judgement isn’t something to be taken lightly! It should scare you! Man’s “judgement” is a 1000x lighter… usually just a voicing of disapproval. But when unbelieving, sinful men die and stand before God, He justly condemns them to hell.

But people disregard the Bible, and instead use all kinds of human logic to try to justify their way of living:

Person #1: “I’ve been living this lifestyle for years, and I’m a ‘Christian.’ I don’t feel that God is angry with me. I believe in a loving God, not one who would send people to hell.”

The person speaking this is right– their god is not angry with them. He can’t be, because he doesn’t exist. They are not talking about the God of the Bible. They have created a god in their own mind to suit themselves. They have removed any notion of the Justice of God, and have created a god of their imagination that they can be comfortable with.

The Bible teaches that God is a Just Judge, and He must punish sin. Every one of us have broken God’s law, and hell is our deserved punishment. (Unless you’re reading some very distorted “translation” of the Bible, you cannot get around the fact that there is a hell).

Person #2: “I have a ‘peace’ about this, and I’m listening to my heart. God doesn’t seem to be judging me. If God didn’t approve, why wouldn’t He strike me dead right now?”

First off, our human hearts are bent toward sin and not righteousness. We shouldn’t follow the inclinations of our heart, but rather we know what is right and wrong according to what we find in God’s Word: the Bible.

Secondly, God isn’t slacking to fulfill His promised Judgement on sin–it’s coming. And the only reason you’re are alive right now is because He is merciful and has kept your heart beating for another day. He is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should reach repentance. But He will not hold back forever. The hours of your time here on earth are ticking away. You’re not promised another day, or even another breath. God’s Day of Judgement draws near. It will come as a thief in the night–when you least expect it. Everything that you have done in secret will be exposed. Nothing we do is hidden from God’s view. (1 Peter 3:9&10)

This should be concerning to you. I know it was for me! When I saw myself in light of God’s standard, and I knew that I fell short. But I found hope in the Gospel– the “good news” of Jesus Christ! I would still be lost today were it not for His grace!

Read what God has done so that you and I might be forgiven of our sins and saved from the punishment we deserve:

16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” John 3:16-21

Repent! Turn away from sin, and to Jesus Christ today! Be saved from the wrath to come.

The believing man has Christ’s perfect record put to their account.

God gives him a new heart and new desires.

If you find yourself a sinner in need of Jesus, then open your Bible today and begin to read the books of John and Romans. Let the Word of God root out the sins of your heart. Do not let up until you have found Salvation for your soul!

Standard Evangelical scare tactics. God is gonna get you for sinning. He may not get you in this life, but, Duggar Seewald promises, he will get you in the life to come.

Duggar Seewald lists the following sins:

  • Lying
  • Cursing
  • Pride
  • Anger
  • Bitterness
  • Disrespecting of parents
  • Lust
  • Pornography
  • Fornication
  • Adultery
  • Other sexual sins

Four of these  sins have to do with sex. It seems that the Duggar clan spends an awful lot of time talking about sex. Why is that? Why are Evangelicals, in general, obsessed with who is sticking what, when, and where? Inquiring minds want to know, what exactly is “o-t-h-e-r sexual sins”? Kissing before marriage? Copping a feel on a Friday night date? And why didn’t she mention the sexual sin above all sins, the sin Evangelicals love to call sodomy?

Here’s the good news. We all get to watch the Duggar children grow up. Some day, researchers and reporters will delve into the lives of the Duggar clan and I suspect they’ll find that the Duggar family is not quite as pure as the driven snow. Perhaps, as a commenter mentioned, we’ll find out one of the Duggar children is gay. Wouldn’t THAT be sweet? Or worse yet, we’ll find out that several of them fornicated (held hands, you know the way Martians have sex) before marriage. Perhaps one of the Duggar boys wills will finally admit to spanking the monkey/choking the chicken/beating the meat, depriving the world of potential little Duggars.

If there is one thing I know for certain it is this; those who pride themselves in being morally superior to the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the “world” will someday be exposed as hypocrites and frauds. As the Duggar family Bible says, Pride goeth before a fall.

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Bruce Gerencser