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Tag: Lake of Fire

Dear Evangelical, Here’s The Number One Reason We Can’t be Friends

cant we be friends
Cartoon by Paco

It is not uncommon for me to receive emails from Evangelicals who really, really, really want to be my friend. These What a Friend We Have in Jesus Christians think that the reason I am no longer a follower of Jesus is that I never had good Christian friends. In fact, during my fifty years as an Evangelical church member and pastor, I had countless friends, including several men I would have considered my BFFs — best friends forever. (These best friends of mine had a different definition of forever, abandoning me once I started having doubts about Christianity and my faith.)

In November 2008, my divorce from Jesus was final, and those who once called me friend turned to praying for me, preaching sermons about me, gossiping about me, and sending me caustic, judgmental emails. Into this friendless void jump Evangelicals eager to be “real” friends with Bruce Gerencser, the Evangelical pastor-turned-atheist. Why do these friendship seekers want to be friends with me?

Some of them naïvely think that if I am just willing to be exposed to their kind, compassionate, loving version of Christianity, I will somehow, some way, be drawn back into the Evangelical fold. Their goal is the restoration of Bruce Gerencser. In other words, their offer of friendship has an ulterior motive — to win me back to Jesus.

Such attempts to be friends with me irritate the hell out me. I hate it when people, regardless of the reason, have ulterior motives when contacting me. Generally, I can spot ulterior motives a mile away. Depending on my mood, I might respond to these secret agents for Jesus by asking, what is it that you REALLY want? Cut the bullshit and tell me what it is you really want from me.

I have zero interest in having meaningful friendships with Evangelicals. I am fine with being acquainted with or doing business with Evangelicals, but I have no desire to have them over for dinner or to get our families together on the Fourth of July. And the reasons for this are not what Evangelicals might think. No, I don’t hate God, Christianity, or the Bible. None of the reasons Evangelicals think atheists are “unfriendly” apply here. Not that I am unfriendly. People who know me — saved or lost — know that I am a kind, compassionate, loving man with, when provoked, a bit of a quick-to-rise-and-recede redheaded temper. I am kind to animals, don’t step on ants, and don’t kill spiders. I lovingly endure my grandchildren jumping on me as if they are fighting in an MMA match, even though my body screams in pain. I love my friends, neighbors, and family. I get along well with others, even when put in circumstances made difficult by the airing of political and religious viewpoints I oppose. Simply put, on most days, I am a good man, brother, husband, father, and grandfather. Like everyone, I fall short in my relationships with others. When I hurt those who matter to me, I do my best to make things right. So whatever stereotype these friendship seekers might have of atheists, I don’t fit the bill.

The one and only reason I don’t befriend Evangelicals is their belief about Hell. Evangelicals believe that all humans are sinners, and without putting their faith and trust in Jesus Christ they will go to Hell — a place where all non-Christians spend eternity suffering eternal damnation in utter darkness and searing flames. Knowing that the high temperatures in Hell (and later, the Lake of Fire) would turn unsaved humans into sizzling grease spots, the Evangelical God of “love” gives them bodies capable of enduring never-ending pain and suffering. What a wonderful God, right?

lets be friends

I will soon be sixty-five years old. Sometime beyond this moment, I will draw my last breath. According to Evangelicals, the very next moment after I close my eyes in death, I will awake in Hell, ready to begin my eternal sentence of unimaginable pain and suffering. (A theological point in passing: most Evangelicals believe what I just wrote; however, according to orthodox Christian theology, God doesn’t give the saved and lost new bodies until Resurrection Day. So, I am not sure what it is that suffers when I land in Hell, but it won’t be my body. Maybe my suffering will come from my mind being subjected to a never-ending loop of Evangelical sermons and praise and worship ditties.)

Why, you ask, will I be tortured by God in Hell for eternity? One reason, and one reason alone — I do not believe Jesus is anything Christians say he is. And since Jesus is not God, not a Savior, and not divine in any way, and I see no evidence of his eternal existence in the present world, I have no reason to worship him. No matter how good a man I might be, all that matters when it comes to an eternity spent in Heaven or Hell is if I have checked the box on the Evangelical decision card that says: Yes, I prayed the sinner’s prayer and asked Jesus to forgive me and save me from my sins.

So, I ask you, WHY in the names of all humanity’s gods would I want to be friends with anyone who thinks I deserve to be put on the Evangelical God’s rack and stretched for years without end? You see, dear friendship seeker, it is your belief about Hell and my eternal destiny that makes it impossible for me to be your friend. No, Hell isn’t real, and I don’t fear what may come of me after death, but you believe these things to be true and they stand in the way of us having a meaningful friendship. I am thoroughly convinced that in this life and this life alone I have immortality. Once death claims me for its own, I will cease to be. Those who were friends with me will hopefully toast my life, telling their favorite Bruce stories. In time, as is the case for all of us, I will be but a fading memory, a mere blip on the screen of human life.

Bruce, surely you can ignore their beliefs about Hell and accept their offer of friendship. Sure, I could, but why should I? Why would I want to be friends with someone who thinks I deserve eternal punishment, who thinks I have done anything to deserve being endlessly tortured by God. Life is too short for me to give my friendship to people who believe their God plans to eternally roast me in the Lake of Fire if I don’t believe as they do.

Well, fine, Bruce, I WON’T be friends with you!!!  Okey dokey, smoky, don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out. I am too old to care whether someone is my friend or likes me. These days, my friend list is short, but those who are on it love and support me “just as I am,” and I am grateful for them being in my life. To Evangelicals who are butt-hurt because I won’t play in the sandbox with them, I say this: pick a new God who is not a violent, murderous psychopath and worship her. Then maybe, just maybe, we can be friends. As long as you hold the company line concerning sin, death, judgment, and Hell, I will not be your friend.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

How Evangelicals View the World

I found the following graphic today on The Christian Post website. I transformed the graphic to accurately reflect how Evangelicals view the world. 🙂

how evangelicals view the world
bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Heaven and Hell, The Carrot and the Stick

carrot and stick

The four tools most often used by Evangelical preachers to keep people in the pews are:

  • The threat of God’s judgment
  • The threat of Hell
  • The promise of forgiveness
  • The promise of life after death

As with Jonathan Edwards in his famous sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, Evangelical preachers warn parishioners of the judgment to come and the Hell that awaits anyone who does not repent of their sins and become a follower of Jesus.

Here’s what Edwards had to say:

…The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God’s hand has held you up. There is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship. Yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell.

O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: it is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell. You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder; and you have no interest in any Mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one moment…

While few Evangelical preachers can turn a word and speak as eloquently as Edwards, their message is still the same: judgment and Hell await those who do not repent of their sins and follow after Jesus.

Preachers often use what I call the carrot and stick approach. Every person has a choice to make about where they spend eternity. While Calvinists and Arminians argue endlessly over whether we really are free to choose, saving faith does require an act of volition. Every person must choose between Heaven and Hell. Become a follower of Jesus and Heaven, the carrot awaits when you die. Reject Jesus, his salvific work on the cross, and his death-defying resurrection from the dead, then Hell, the stick, awaits you when you die.

Evangelical preachers impress on those under the sound of their voice that it is important to make a decision for Christ NOW! The Bible says in the last part of II Corinthians 6:2:

…behold now is the accepted time; behold now is the day of salvation.

According to Evangelical preachers, none of us has the promise of tomorrow. Proverbs 27:1 states:

Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.

Evangelical preachers are like Larry the Cable Guy. Git ‘er Done! Today, right now, don’t delay.

Some preachers spice up their sermons with illustrations of people who died suddenly or who died after hearing and rejecting the preacher’s warning about God’s judgment and Hell. These stories, true or not, are meant to elicit an immediate response. When I was a preacher, my goal was to press every person who heard my sermon to make a decision. I was of the opinion that there was no such thing as a neutral position. Once a person heard the gospel, heard my sermon, they had a choice to make. Heaven or Hell, which will it be?

A regular reader of this blog sent me a Franklin Graham quote that I think will help illustrate what I am trying to say in this post:

“Death is serious, eternal business. Once our physical hearts beat for the last time, we will instantly find ourselves either in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in all His splendor, or in the pit of Hell away from His presence.”

There’s the carrot and the stick. Heaven or Hell; choose now while your heart is still beating. The moment your heart stops beating, your eternal destiny is settled.

Think for a moment about what Graham said here about the heart stopping. So, if a person’s heart stops, his eternal destiny is settled? What if his heart is restarted using a defibrillator? Does this mean his eternal destiny is not really settled and he gets another chance to decide, heaven or Hell? For those people who have heart transplants, does that mean that they need to decide again?

The bigger problem with Graham’s statement is that it is bad theology. According to orthodox Christian theology, when people die, they do not go to heaven or Hell. Instead, they go to the grave and will remain there until the resurrection of the dead. Grandma is not up in Heaven running around, nor is she peering over the portals of Heaven watching her grandchildren play. Neither is Christopher Hitchens in Hell, being tormented day and night for daring to mock the thrice-holy God. They are dead, lying in the grave, awaiting the second coming of Jesus and the resurrection of the dead.

After the resurrection of the dead, the final judgment will take place and every person will be sent to his or her final reward. And even here, many Evangelical preachers, including Graham, get it wrong. Christians will not spend eternity in Heaven. Instead, they will spend it in the Kingdom of God. Hitchens and the rest of us reprobates? We will not spend eternity in Hell. Instead, we will spend it in the Lake of Fire.

Revelation 20:11-15 makes this quite clear:

And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. 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. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

and Revelation 21:1-8:

And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful. And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

And here is an even more interesting point. Isn’t our eternal destiny settled by repenting of our sins and following after Jesus? These texts state that everyone is judged according to their works, that it is works that determine whether Grandma, Hitchens, or anyone else goes to Heaven or Hell.

I wish Evangelical preachers would get together and figure out exactly where it is we are all going when we die. I wish they would determine if it is really up to we to decide? With so much confusion and lack of theological precision, how are poor, lost atheists such as us supposed to determine in what hotel to make my final reservation?

The purpose of this post is to show how confusing and contradictory Evangelical preachers and their theology can be. If they are not precise and clear, can mere untrained, unwashed Philistines such as us have any hope of finding THE Way, Truth, and Life?

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

The Horrors of the Evangelical Hell

hell

Most Evangelicals believe in a literal Heaven and Hell. The Bible says that it is “appointed unto men once to die.” All of us will die someday, Evangelicals say, and the moment we draw our last breath, we will be transported by God to Heaven or Hell. Where we end up depends on whether we were born again/saved. Those who were saved when they died go to Heaven, and those who weren’t — atheists, agnostics, pagans, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and Catholics (to name a few) — go to Hell.

Hell (actually the Lake of Fire) is a place where unbelievers will be punished and tortured for their sins for eternity. Some Evangelicals suggest that the only sin people will be punished for in Hell is the sin of unbelief; as if this is somehow better than being punished for adultery, fornication, or being LGBTQ. The life expectancy for humans is 70-80 years in most of the developed world. If Evangelicals are right about Hell, this means that a momentary decision made by unbelievers to not believe the Evangelical gospel will be punished for millions, billions, and trillions of years. Think about that for a moment. Just saying no to Jesus means you will be tortured by God of “love” forever. How you lived your life matters not. What good works you did matters not. You may have been an awesome mother, father, grandparent, or friend. It matters not. You may have devoted your life to serving the sick, poor, and marginalized. It matters not. If you didn’t believe the right things (and Evangelicalism preaches a gospel of right beliefs) you will spend eternity suffering in the flames of Hell. (And yes, I am aware that a small percentage of Evangelicals are annihilationists. But even with annihilation, unbelievers are still tortured by God for a time before they are obliterated.)

Worse yet, the natural body can’t withstand the extreme fire and heat of Hell. Those consigned to Hell would immediately melt and be turned to ashes without God doing something to keep that from happening. The Bible teaches that Heaven and Hell are actually temporary holding places. After Jesus returns to earth and defeats Satan, every human will be resurrected from the dead, judged, and then given a new body. Christians will spend eternity in the Eternal Kingdom of God. Unbelievers will spend eternity in the Lake of Fire. (I speak generally. I am well aware of the various Evangelical beliefs on these subjects.) By fitting unbelievers with bodies that can withstand the terrors of Hell, they won’t be turned to ashes. Isn’t God awesome?

no atheists in hell

There’s no evidence for the existence of Hell (or Heaven). Ask an Evangelical to point you to where Hell is and they will point down. What? Hell is Australia? I guess Hell could be Antarctica, though its climate seems very un-hell like. All joking aside, most Evangelicals believe Hell is somewhere in the center of the earth. According to Wikipedia, the core of the earth is approximately 1,500 miles in diameter, one-fortieth of the volume of the whole earth. Today, almost eight billion people live on earth. Scientists estimate almost 110 billion people have lived and died on our planet. Evangelicals believe that the vast majority of people past and present will end up in Hell after they die. Evangelicalism is an exclusive club. Few people are actually members. Thus, we can safely say that Hell has a population in excess of 100 billion people. Imagine 100 billion people living in a space the size of the United States. Donald Trump might want to go to Hell and build high rises to accommodate all the non-Evangelicals.

The very idea of Hell is absurd. Yet, a majority of Americans believe in its existence. According to a 2014 Pew Research study, sixty percent of American adults believe in the existence of Hell. Eighty-two percent of Evangelicals believe Hell is a real place. The literalness of Hell is deeply engrained in our thinking. Even among Evangelicals-turned-atheists, Hell often lurks in the depths of our minds. How could it be otherwise? Years of indoctrination, of being told Hell is a real place and unbelievers will spend eternity being tortured by God, will do that to you. I have received numerous emails over the years from ex-Evangelicals who are still struggling with thoughts about Hell. It is hard to shake the sermons and Sunday school lessons about Hell. When people are told a lie repeatedly, it should come as no surprise that they believe it. Undoing the psychological conditioning often takes years.

Hell is a cudgel used by Evangelical preachers to keeps asses in the pews and money in offering plates. If threats of Hell are removed, would Evangelicals still attend church, give money, or evangelize unbelievers? Heaven is the carrot, but Hell is the stick. If there is no fear of Hell (or God), would people still devote themselves to the one true faith? Maybe, for social reasons, but if there are no worries about going to Hell, I suspect people would likely treat their chosen religion more cavalierly than they do now (more like they do in some European countries).

Today, my friend ObstacleChick had an interaction on my Facebook page with an Evangelical man named John. I doubt that’s his real name. John sent OC a private message, one that can only be described as a Hell-inspired death threat.

Here’s a screenshot of John’s message:

message to obstaclechick

OC is a former Evangelical, a Southern Baptist. She attended a Christian school. OC was deeply immersed in Evangelicalism before she deconverted. I suspect what upset OC the most was this asshole calling her Missy. 🙂 OC tried to respond to John’s threat, but, of course, he blocked her so she couldn’t do so (and I blocked him on my page). I hate it when my friends face retribution from Evangelical Christians because they comment on my Facebook page or this blog.

John believes in the existence of Hell. His words reveal that he has been deeply indoctrinated, and that he thinks it normal and acceptable to threaten unbelievers with death and Hell. Perhaps John even thinks he is doing this out of “love.” Isn’t this exactly what the Evangelical preachers do? They preach up the love of God and the awesomeness of Jesus. Yet, they also warn unbelievers that if they refuse God’s offer of salvation through the merit and work of Jesus, judgment and Hell await.

The good news is that there is no Hell. I have seen no evidence for its existence. While thoughts of Hell may infrequently plague my mind, I know they are vestiges of five decades of psychological indoctrination. The longer I am removed from Evangelicalism, the fewer thoughts I have about Hell. Lifelong indoctrination doesn’t disappear just because you stop believing. It takes time to free one’s mind of years and decades of harmful beliefs. If you are struggling with thoughts about Hell, all I can tell you is that it gets better with time. Remember, life is a journey, not a destination. There’s no life after death, so all we have is the life before us.

Update

An hour after I posted this article, I received the following email from an Evangelical man who calls himself Rev. James Makerfield:

I hope this email reaches you well.I hope it reaches MANY in fact!
From the “Zealots”. Or Evangelical “assholes”.  As you put it.    

Number ONE we love you all very much. Mr Bruce you are Loved very much!
The GREATEST HATE is to NOT bring the gospel to the lost! and we all need the gospel! Believers and unbelievers. 

Hell is REAL place!

It is NOT A THREAT!It’s not a fairytale!It’s not a scare tactic! 

It is REAL!   I’d suggest googling “atheists who went to hell”.  If you want proof outside of the Bible.

What I am going describe now is the portrait of the eternal future of EVERYONE who dies without Jesus Christ. 😭

This includes all people who trusted in “RELIGION” (man’s attempt to make himself right with God)

All who tries to earn salvation through good works and morality. 

And all who fell into the trap that not even the demons fell into! ATHEISM and ANTI-THEISM/ANTI-CHRISTIANITY ( which is what a high percentage of atheists really are they’re really Anti-Christians. 

As the Unbeliever takes his or her last breath in this life they will take their first breath in eternity pulled from their body and taken and placed in a deep hot dark pit!

Deafening screams will be on all sides all around them!  The place will stink God awful! 🤢🤮

Take rotten eggs, sulphur, human crap/sewage and a landfill and it won’t hold a candle to the stink of hell and burning souls! 😢

Their body will ignite in flames! You will scream “AHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!”  “NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!”

😭😭😭😭😭😭

You will feel pain that cannot be described in any human language!
You will feel the reality of Revelation 20:15!“And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” Revelation 20:15

You will scream “OH GOD!!!!! YOURE SUPPOSED TO BE LOVE!!!!”
Then you will remember John 3:16“For God so loved the world he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life” John 3:16

You will remember Romans 5:8“But God commendeth his love towards us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us “ Romans 5:8

You will cry “AHHHHH!!!!! THIS CANT BE HAPPENING!!!! WHY WASN’T I WARNED!?!?!?”

Then you will remember every person who tried to witness to you.
You will remember every sermon you ever heard and/or preached but NEVER TRULY believed!

You will remember finding a tract in a bathroom and throwing in the trash or on the ground.

You will remember every person on Facebook and the internet blog,every email, every call every Avenue that Christ used to desperately get you to accept his grace and mercy. 

Now it will be too late!

Furthermore as the rich man pleaded in Luke 16:19-31. 

You will have an indescribable thirst like you have never had before!  UNO ONE DROP OF WATER would be precious but you and everyone else who died in sin will NEVER get it! 😭

You will have a desire for unsaved family and other people trapped in unbelief to come to salvation through Jesus Christ.    

Just as the first rich man did for his 5 unsaved brothers. 

You will pray for God to send someone to tell them the gospel!

You will curse the day you were born!You will curse the moment you were conceived!You will wish you would’ve been squirted on the mattress!

This pain and agony will last for all ETERNITY!

What’s 20 years in eternity!? Less time it takes to blow a breath of air!

If a person lives to be 110 that’s less than a 1/2 in eternity!

900 million years will be less than 1/2 second in eternity!

Think about the prisons on earth even in a earthly human prison there is hope that you can can get out! No one will ever get released from hell!

And imagine being in a prison with every murderer, child rapist,vile of the vile!
In hell you will scream right beside Satan and the Anti-Christ and the false Prophet and thousands of demons for all eternity!

There will be no contact with anyone! Hell will be full of millions that rejected Jesus Christ and each soul will be in complete isolation!

There will be NO REST! Not even a quiet moment!

And yet the LOST world says that we (TRUE GENUINE FOLLOWERS OF JESUS CHRIST!) “HATE” people when we warn them of this COMING REALITY! Pfft!

Jesus Christ loves YOU and he does NOT want you or anyone else to perish in hell. 

What if this email is your last warning?What if you don’t wake up tomorrow?
I STRONGLY ENCOURAGE you and anyone else reading to listen to the Holy Spirits call. 

It sure sounds like John and James are the same person or identical twins.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Hello Bruce, I’m a “Nice” Evangelical

hell

Repost from 2015-2016. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Several times a month, I get emails from Evangelicals who want to let me know that they are not like “other” Evangelicals. They want me to know that there are Evangelicals who are nice, polite, decent, kind, and respectful people. That’s great, their mothers taught them well. However, these “nice” Evangelicals aren’t really as nice as they would have me believe. They desperately want to be viewed in a good light, thinking if I just knew that there are “nice” Evangelicals, I would fall on my knees and call to Jesus to save me. As if my entire deconversion hangs on how I was treated while I was an Evangelical pastor.

When I am feeling up to it, I respond to the “nice” Evangelical’s email with a few questions. Questions like:

  • Do you believe that humans are inherently “sinful”; that humans are broken and in need of fixing?
  • Do you think believing in Jesus is the only way for people to have their sins forgiven?
  • Do you believe there is one true God, and that all other deities are false?
  • Do you believe the Bible is an inspired, inerrant, infallible text?
  • Do you believe that a person must be saved/born again/become a follower of Jesus to go to Heaven when he dies?
  • Do you believe that a person who is not saved/born again/a follower of Jesus goes to Hell when he dies?

The answers to these questions will quickly reveal that the “nice” Evangelical is no different from Fred Phelps, Pat Robertson, Steven Anderson, Jack Hyles, Jack Schaap, Bob Gray, Sr., Bryan Fischer, James Dobson, or Franklin Graham. The “nice” Evangelical and the nasty/hateful Evangelical, both share the same beliefs. The former comes in a nicer, more pleasing package, but inside the package are the same abhorrent, vile beliefs.

Sometimes, a “nice” Evangelical will be coy about his beliefs. When pressed on the question of God torturing non-Christians in Hell/Lake of Fire for eternity, he often replies that he leaves such things up to God. A “nice” Evangelical want me to know that he doesn’t judge, he just unconditionally l-o-v-e-s others. However, if he believes the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God, then he already knows what God says on the matter. Fact: non-Christians will go to Hell when they die. Fact: atheists, agnostics, secularists, and humanists will go to Hell when they die. Fact: most of the readers of this blog will go to Hell when they die. Fact: most of my Facebook friends will go to Hell when they die. Fact: most of my Twitter followers will go to Hell when they die. Fact: and, to make it quite personal, Bruce and Polly Gerencser and most of their children will go to Hell when they die.

The “nice” Evangelical, if he is truly a Bible-believing, Jesus-loving Evangelical, is boxed in by his beliefs. There is one God — the Christian God; one way of salvation — Jesus; and Hell awaits all of those who reject him. This is why I respect someone like the late Fred Phelps more than I do a “nice” Evangelical. Phelps just tells non-Christians how it is. He makes no effort to hide his beliefs. The forwardness of such Evangelicals allows me to know exactly where I stand with them. No need for us to play the pretend-friend game or make nice with each other.

Sometimes, “nice” Evangelicals will take a psychological approach. They view me as one who has been wounded by the nasty, hateful, judgmental Evangelicals. They read a few of my blog posts and determine that I have been hurt in some way, and that this is the reason I am not a Christian. In their minds, they think if they are just really, really, really nice to me that I will be overwhelmed by their niceness and fall in love with Jesus all over again. Since “nice” Evangelicals think Jesus is w-o-n-d-e-r-f-u-l, they can’t imagine someone NOT wanting to become a follower of Awesome Jesus. A “nice” Evangelical sees Jesus patiently knocking on the door of my heart, pleading for me to let him in. Isn’t this the same Jesus who says that if I DON’T open the door, he is going to torture me for eternity in a lake that burns with fire and brimstone, a place where the worm dieth not? Isn’t this the same Jesus who will fit me with a special body after death so that no matter how severely he tortures me I can never die?

While there is certainly a truckload of harm and hurt in my Evangelical past, the reason I am not a Christian is because I do not believe the central claims of Christianity to be true. I don’t believe the Bible is an inspired, inerrant text. I don’t believe Jesus was God, virgin-born, a miracle worker, or resurrected from the dead. I don’t believe God created the world, nor do I believe in “sin.” Simply put, I reject everything one must believe to be a Christian. No matter how “nice” an Evangelical is to me, I do not buy what he is selling. Salvation requires faith, a faith I do not and will not have.

Look, I am glad that many Evangelicals are nice people. I am glad they treat me and others like me with kindness, decency, and respect. Their behavior certainly makes the world a better place. That said, I suspect their behavior is a reflection of their tribal training and culture more than it is their Evangelical beliefs. I am glad someone taught them to be decent, thoughtful people. I do, however, wish they would stop wasting their time by trying to “nice” me to Jesus. I have no interest in Jesus, and I think their time would be better spent teaching Evangelicals how to behave in public. As blog comments, news articles, blogs, social media,  and personal emails show, there are a lot of Evangelicals who don’t the first thing about the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. Instead of trying to save people who don’t want to be saved, “nice” Evangelicals should spend their time getting fellow Evangelicals saved.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Bruce, Did You Ever Pray for God to Abolish Hell?

i have a question

I recently asked readers to submit questions they would like me to answer. If you have a question you would like me to answer, please leave your question on the page, Your Questions, Please.

Dave asked:

[Christian] Fundamentalists believe you can bring anything to God in prayer and he will answer it. They also believe in eternal torture as this god’s punishment for most of the human race. As a pastor did you ever pray that God would not allow such a monstrosity as hell? Why do you think that this plea is not made continuously by people who hold this belief? Is it because they don’t really believe they can change the mind of God, or is it because they relish the idea that nonbelievers will get what they deserve?

Evangelicals believe that the Bible God hears and answers their prayers. While Evangelicals are all over the place theologically on prayer, they believe that God does hear their petitions and answers in one of three ways:

  • Yes
  • No
  • Not now

According to Evangelicals, every prayer that conforms to the will of God is answered affirmatively. Why, then, do most Evangelical prayers go unanswered — especially big-ticket items such as the ones mentioned by Dave? Why does God seem indifferent to human suffering, pain, and loss? According to Evangelicals, God saying no or not now happens for one of these reasons:

  • God wants to increase our faith
  • God wants to test us and make us stronger
  • God wants to chastise us for our sins, restoring us to a right relationship with him
  • God wants to bring glory to his name

While I am sure there are other “reasons” for God saying no or not now, these are the big four — the reasons most often cited by Evangelicals.

For thirty-five years, I prayed every day — often multiple times a day. Yet, I never, one time, asked God to abolish Hell. I believed Hell (and the Lake of Fire) was an awful place of eternal damnation and suffering, yet I also believed the people in Hell were getting exactly what they deserved. Salvation had been offered to them by Jesus Christ, yet they rejected it, choosing instead their own selfish desires. Of course, I dared not think too hard on the matter, lest I see multiple glaring contradictions. Had I thought about that matter, I would have concluded that God was unjust and unfair; that eternity in Hell seemed to be determined by who your parents were and geography.

After embracing Calvinism, I concluded that eternal destiny was determined not by making a decision for Christ, but because God had chosen some people to spend eternity in Hell. No one deserved salvation and eternity in Heaven, so God can’t be blamed for sending most people to the Lake of Fire.

I never believed I could change the mind of God through my prayers. God was the sovereign Lord over all, and everything that happened was according to his purpose and plan. People saved under my ministry were converted because God purposed from before the foundation of the world to bring them to saving faith. When I prayed, it was not so God would give me what I want, but so my will would conform to God’s. Ironically, on many occasions God’s “will” aligned perfectly aligned with mine. It was amazing that God often gave me exactly what I wanted. I later concluded that the only person answering my prayers was me; that my prayers were self-fulfilling wants, needs, and desires.

Dave concludes by asking a question that most Evangelicals don’t want to answer: [do] they [Evangelicals] relish the idea that nonbelievers will get what they deserve?

I do know that some Evangelicals relish the fact that I will some day go to Hell to be punished and tortured by God for eternity. I am viewed as someone especially deserving of eternal torture. I knew the “truth” and rejected it. I spit in the face of Jesus, choosing atheism over the one true faith. I have received countless emails and blog comments from Evangelicals who, with sadistic delight, describe what God is going to do to me after I die. Usually, they end with a call to repentance or “praying for you,” but I suspect that many of my critics relish what awaits for me in Hell.

Deep down, Evangelicals need validation; to know for certain that they are right. Their lives are built on certainty; that their God is the one true God; that the Bible is a supernatural book given to them by a supernatural God, a book that is a blueprint or manual for life; that their decision to put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ was the right choice, guaranteeing them an eternity of heavenly bliss.

Those who don’t believe as they do will get exactly what they deserve — eternal punishment in Hell. What better way for you to be proven right than for unbelievers to be cast into the Lake of Fire? I suspect some Evangelical zealots will take day strolls to the rim of the Lake of Fire, and say to unbelievers, I TOLD YOU SO! The eternal suffering of unbelievers is, for Evangelicals, vindication of their beliefs.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Bruce Gerencser