Menu Close

Tag: Leaving Christianity

Questions: Bruce, What Are the Positives and Negatives of Being an Atheist?

questions

Every year or two, I ask readers to submit questions they want me to answer. That time has arrived once again. Any question. Any subject. Please leave your questions in the comment section or send them to me via email. I will try to answer them in the order received.

I look forward to reading and answering your questions.

Merle asked:

What are the benefits and downsides to being an atheist?

Atheism is the lack of belief in the existence of God. An atheist is someone who doesn’t believe in God. Technically, I am an agnostic atheist. I cannot know for certain whether a deity of some sort exists, so I am agnostic on the God question. However, when it comes to the extant Gods — especially the Abrahamic Gods — I am convinced that these deities do not exist, thus I am an atheist. It is possible someday a God might make itself known to me, but until then, I remain an atheist.

We live in a society dominated by religion in general and Christianity in particular. I can’t think of one benefit I gained when declaring my atheism. Benefits accrued when I left Evangelicalism, regardless of whether I embraced atheism. I was no longer bound by the authority of the Bible and the church. I no longer had to play by the rules or believe certain things. I was free to believe and do what I wanted. So the most important thing gained by deconverting was FREEDOM! I can now “sin” to my heart’s content. I can cavort with prostitutes, smoke crack, get drunk, rob banks, and commit murder — if I want to. I choose not to. I am no longer bound by religious creeds, rules, and standards. I no longer need them to guide my life. No need for religious texts or religious authorities determining for me what these texts mean. I am a rational human being, capable of deciding for myself how I want to live. I have never felt freer than I do today, and my partner, Polly, can say the same. We do what we want, when we want, with nary a thought about what God thinks or the Bible says. It is a great way to live. Of course, I will burn in Hell if I am wrong about the God question. 🙂

Now to the negatives of being an atheist. If you are a private or secret atheist, you will likely face few, if any, problems. It is when you publicly declare your lack of belief that problems can and do arise. Atheists are roundly considered in an unflattering light as people who lack moral and ethical values; people who have secret desires to commit sexual sin; and people who are child molesters or pedophiles. Stupidly, many Christians believe that moral and ethical values require religion. This is absurd. I can’t think of one value that can’t be formulated without religion — not one. I don’t need the Christian God, the Christian Bible, or the Christian church to know how to live morally and ethically.

As an atheist, I have faced discrimination. I am an outspoken atheist, the village atheist who regularly writes letters to the editor of the local newspaper about Evangelicalism, Trump, MAGA, liberal/progressive politics, abortion, LGBTQ issues, handicapped parking, and degenerates who kill cats for sports. I am a well-rounded letter writer. These letters have resulted in personal attacks from locals on social media or in response letters to the paper. Polly and our children have been accosted at work and the local community college by people demanding they defend something I wrote. Too cowardly to confront me directly — I’m easy to find and contact — they go after my family instead. Last year, a local high school teacher gave one of my granddaughters a hard time over one of my letters. I told her to tell this bully that I would gladly publicly debate him or address his class, answering any questions students might have. There have been several times when business owners made it clear they weren’t interested in doing business with me. I have also lost out on job opportunities; more than qualified — I mean, really, really qualified — yet not receiving an interview.

I consider the aforementioned things to be the price of admission. If I am going to be an out and proud atheist and humanist, there are costs involved I must be willing to pay. (Please see Count the Cost Before You Say “I am an Atheist.”)

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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:

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Is Jesus Hope for the Hopeless and Rest for the Weary?

hopeless and helpless

I used to enthusiastically preach that Jesus was hope for the hopeless and rest for weary. Unfortunately, for many people, Jesus, or I should say Evangelical Christianity, made them weary and hopeless.

What should have been a source of hope and rest turned into something destructive — so destructive that some people have thoughts of committing suicide.

It shouldn’t be this way. I am convinced that Jesus — real or not — is not the problem. I find nothing in the words of Jesus that would cause me to lose hope or have thoughts of suicide.

No, it is what the church has done with Jesus over the past 2,000 years that is the problem. God, Jesus, and the Bible have become tools of manipulation, control, and destruction.

I wish I could share with you the emails I get from people who are former, or trying to be former, Evangelicals. I can’t share them because I respect the privacy of those who email me. For some, my email inbox has become their confessional. I can tell you this: there are a lot of people who are hopeless and weary as a result of their immersion in the Evangelical Christian religion.

They often have no place to turn. In many instances, their families or spouses are still in the church. They desperately need someone to talk to, but they have no place to turn. They can’t go to their pastor — he wouldn’t understand. If they live in a small town, they can’t even seek out a local counselor because everyone will know (you would have to live in a small town to understand this).

So they suffer in silence. In the night they toss and turn and wonder what has gone wrong. Where is God? There is no God. Where is the God of hope? There is no hope. Where is the God who gives rest? There seems to be no rest.

Their thoughts turn to suicide. No, I can’t do that, I’ll go to Hell. Wait, there is no God, who gives a shit?

I want you to know that I give a shit. I have been where you are and some days I am still where you are. There are a lot of readers of this blog who know your story. They have lived it. They are still living it. They know the struggle you are going through — the struggle of a life of faith that has turned into faithlessness, a life of believing that has turned into unbelief. Maybe you are like the man in the Bible who cried “Lord I believe. Help my unbelief.”

I am not out to convert you to my cause or change you. It does not matter whom you worship, where you worship, what you believe, or what label you give yourself.

My desire for you is hope and rest.

For many of us, the Evangelical Christian faith has caused psychological harm. The wounds and scars run deep. All the attempts in the world to marginalize our feelings will come to naught. We know what we know.

It’s late . . .

I can hear the clock ticking.

Another night with no sleep.

I hear my lover snoring.

I think of our life together.

So much time wasted.

So much work invested in things that do not matter.

Years have passed us by.

God, we served you.

God, we loved you.

God, we worshiped you.

God, we left all to follow you.

Careers, ambitions, wealth, family . . .

All forsaken to follow you.

Only to find out it was all a dream, and a bad dream at that.

And so, in the still of the night, I reflect on the heap of my life.

What am I to make of all this?

Can I go on?

Will I go on?

I must go on.

God or not, there is a life to be lived.

God or not, I still must live as if I am dying.

Because I AM dying.

So much life yet to live.

So much life yet to experience and enjoy.

God is back on the shelf where he belongs.

Maybe I’ll dust him off again on my final day.

Probably not.

Until then, I will live morally and ethically.

Until then, I will love and hate.

Until then, I will walk the path called life the best way I know.

Without God, without the Bible, and most certainly without the church.

I still have hope.

My hope is no longer built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

My hope is built on the love and goodness of humankind.

These days, the only gods I see are my family, friends, and fellow humans.

I devote myself to these gods.

I worship them.

That’s enough for me.

I will leave eternity to another day.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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:

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

The Loneliness of Those Who Leave the Church

alone

Originally posted in 2015

From your earliest recollection, you remember the church.

You remember the preacher, the piano player, the deacons, and your Sunday School teacher.

You remember the youth group and all the fun activities.

You remember getting saved and baptized.

You remember being in church every time the doors were open.

You remember everything in your life revolving around the church.

You remember praying and reading your Bible.

You remember the missionaries and the stories they told about heathens on the other side of the world.

You remember revival meetings and getting right with God.

You remember . . .

Most of all you remember the people.

These were the people who loved you. You thought to yourself, my church family loves me almost as much as God does.

You remember hearing sermons about God’s love and the love Christians were supposed to have for one another.

Like your blood family, your church family loves you no matter what.

But then IT happened.

You know, IT.

You got older. You grew up. With adult eyes, you began to see the church, God, Jesus, and the Bible differently.

You had questions, questions that no one had answers for.

Perhaps you began to see that your church family wasn’t perfect.

Perhaps the things Mom and Dad whispered about in the bedroom became known to you.

Perhaps you found out that things were not as they seemed.

Uncertainty and doubt crept in.

Perhaps you decided to try the world for a while. Lots of church kids did, you told yourself.

Perhaps you came to the place where you no longer believed what you had believed your entire life.

And so you left.

You had an IT moment — that moment in time when things changed forever.

You thought, surely, Mom and Dad will still love me.

You thought, surely, Sissy and Bubby and Granny will still love me.

And above all, you thought your church family would love you no matter what.

But they didn’t.

For all their talk of love, their love was conditioned on you being one of them, believing the right things.

Once you left, the love stopped.

Now they are praying for you.

Now you are a sermon illustration trotted out as a warning to people who question and doubt.

Now they plead with you to return to Jesus.

Now they question if you were ever really saved.

They say they still love you, but deep down you know they don’t.

You know their love for you requires you to be like them.

You can’t be like them anymore. . .

Such loss.

Time marches on.

The church is still where it has always been.

The same families are there, loving Jesus and speaking of their great love for others.

But you are forgotten.

A sheep gone astray.

Every once in a while, someone asks your mom and dad how you are doing.

They sigh, perhaps tears well up in their eyes . . .

Oh, how they wish you would come home.

To be a family sitting together in the church again.

You can’t go back.

You no longer believe.

All that you really want now is their love.

You want them to love you just as you are.

Can they do this?

Will they do this?

Or is Jesus more important to them than you?

Does the church come first?

Is chapter and verse more important than flesh and blood?

You want to be told they love you.

You want to be held and told it is going to be all right.

But here you sit tonight . . .

Alone . . .

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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:

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Questions: Bruce, Do You Have a Good Relationship With Your Children?

questions

Every year or two, I ask readers to submit questions they want me to answer. That time has arrived once again. Any question. Any subject. Please leave your questions in the comment section or send them to me via email. I will try to answer them in the order received.

I look forward to reading and answering your questions.

A reader recently asked:

Do you have a good relationship with all of your kids? Did any of them ever express resentment or say they’re damaged from being raised IFB (due to fear of hell, sexism, homophobia, general shame, etc)? Do you think it’s possible to still spend time with family members who are still hardcore believers when you’re raising your own kid differently without it damaging your kid?

My partner, Polly, and I have six adult children, ages 45, 43, 40, 35, 33, and 31 (on their next birthday). Four of our children are married or living in committed relationships. We have sixteen grandchildren, ranging in age from five to twenty-three. By all accounts, both Polly and I have good relationships with our children and their families. All of our children live within twenty minutes of our home in Ney. Some of them we see once or more every week. For others, it may be a few weeks between visits. Regardless, both Polly and I think we are close to our children and their families. Whether our children think the same, you would have to ask them. As a man who is largely homebound due to chronic illness and pain, I would love to see my children, their spouses, and grandchildren more often. I recognize they have their own lives, jobs, and responsibilities, but I do yearn for more visits and interaction, as does Polly.

What constitutes a “good relationship” depends on the parties involved. I have different experiences and relationships with each of my children. How they view me as their father is theirs to share. As far as I know, my children love and respect me. Over the past two weeks, I have seen all our children — save son #2; and he and I have stayed in contact via texts. On Sunday, our youngest daughter and her three children came over for lunch, as did our oldest son and two of his three children. He and our oldest grandson, Levi, cleaned out our gutters and unplugged the downspouts. Our youngest son mows our grass every week, and then stays for dinner. Last night, I talked with son #3 about a family problem he was having. We spoke for an hour.

Our family is close, and always willing to help us when needed. And we do the same for them. Could we be closer? Sure. Does our family have unresolved conflict or trauma? Sure, as ALL families do. That said, if you really want to know how our children view their relationships with Mom and Dad, you will have to ask them. I cannot and will not speak for them.

This reader also asked, “Did any of them ever express resentment or say they’re damaged from being raised IFB?”

Not towards their parents. They understand why we were IFB and Mom and Dad were devout Evangelical Christians. They don’t blame us as much as they do the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement itself. They know we were products of lifelong conditioning and indoctrination. As far as resentment is concerned, I have never sensed resentment from any of our children. The Gerencser family is quite stoic, living “live and let live” lives. Do we talk about the past? Sure. Are apologies made and regrets shared? Yes.

Our children, except Bethany — our oldest daughter with Down syndrome — own their own homes and live on their own. If one of them were a hardcore Fundamentalist Christian, could I still have a good relationship with him or her? I’d like to think so. However, I know sects such as the IFB are exclusionary, reactionary, and narrow-minded. This means that we might not be able to openly and frankly talk with them about certain things. Knowing this, I would do everything in my power to have a good relationship with them. Polly and I deconverted seventeen years ago. Our family remains close,

Our family is far from perfect, but I wouldn’t trade them for all the money in the world.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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:

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Questions: Bruce, Did You and Polly Try Other “Gods” Before You Deconverted?

questions

Question from social media:

Bruce, did you and Polly try other “Gods” before you deconverted?

The short answer is no. I have never thought I had to try every flavor and brand of whiskey to decide whether I like whiskey. While the flavors can be distinct and brands can differ from one another, whiskey is whiskey. I have four different brands of whiskey in our liquor cabinet. Each tastes slightly different from the others, but none to such a degree that I can’t tell I am drinking whiskey. Get a dozen whiskey aficionados in one room and ask them which whiskey is “God,” and you will get all sorts of answers. But none of them will say that this or that glass of whiskey is not whiskey. So it is with “God.”

I was born in a Christian nation, a country that prides itself in freedom of religion, yet is dominated by Christianity. I came of age in Evangelical Christianity. Saved and baptized at the age of fifteen in an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church, I later attended a small IFB college, married an IFB pastor’s daughter, and spent twenty-five years pastoring Evangelical (IFB, Southern Baptist, Christian Union, Sovereign Grace, and Non-denominational) churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. It is Christianity — particularly Evangelicalism — that I know well. It is the religion of my tribe and my culture. It is this religion I primarily deconverted from.

I pastored my last church in 2003. Between July 2002 and November 2008, my wife and I and our children personally visited the churches listed below. These are the church names we could remember. There are others we have either forgotten or vaguely remember, so we didn’t put them on the list. Churches in bold we attended more than once. All told, from 2002-2008 we visited about 125 churches.

Churches We Visited 2002-2008Location
Our Father’s HouseWest Unity, Ohio
First Brethren ChurchBryan, Ohio
First Baptist ChurchBryan, Ohio
Grace Community ChurchBryan, Ohio
Lick Creek Church of the BrethrenBryan,Ohio
First Church of ChristBryan, Ohio
Eastland Baptist ChurchBryan, Ohio
Bryan Alliance ChurchBryan, Ohio
Union Chapel Church of GodBryan, Ohio
Celebrate Life Christian FellowshipBryan, Ohio
Faith United Methodist ChurchBryan, Ohio
Trinity Episcopal ChurchBryan, Ohio
Archbold Evangelical ChurchArchbold, Ohio
Sherwood Baptist ChurchSherwood, Ohio
Ney Church of GodNey, Ohio
Ney United Methodist ChurchNey, Ohio
Sonrise Community ChurchNey, Ohio
Farmer United Methodist ChurchFarmer, Ohio
Lost Creek Emmanuel Missionary ChurchFarmer, Ohio
Hicksville Church of the NazareneHicksville, Ohio
Community Christian CenterHicksville, Ohio
Grace Bible ChurchButler, Indiana
St John’s Lutheran ChurchDefiance, Ohio
Harvest Life FellowshipDefiance, Ohio
Community Christian CenterDefiance, Ohio
Second Baptist ChurchDefiance, Ohio
First Baptist ChurchDefiance, Ohio
Grace Episcopal ChurchDefiance, Ohio
First Assembly of GodDefiance, Ohio
Defiance Christian ChurchDefiance, Ohio
First Presbyterian ChurchDefiance, Ohio
St John’s United Church of ChristDefiance, Ohio
Peace Lutheran ChurchDefiance, Ohio
Pine Grove Mennonite ChurchStryker, Ohio
St James Lutheran ChurchBurlington, Ohio
Zion Lutheran ChurchEdgerton, Ohio
Northwest Christian ChurchEdon, Ohio
Restoration FellowshipWilliams Center, Ohio
Pioneer Bible FellowshipPioneer, Ohio
Frontier Baptist ChurchFrontier, Michigan
Salem Mennonite ChurchWaldron, Michigan
Waldron Wesleyan ChurchWaldron, Michigan
Lickley Corners Baptist ChurchWaldron, Michigan
Prattville Community ChurchPrattville, Michigan
Betzer Community ChurchPittsford, Michigan
Fayette Church of the NazareneFayette, Ohio
Fayette Bible ChurchFayette, Ohio
Fayette Christian ChurchFayette, Ohio
Morenci Bible FellowshipMorenci, Michigan
First Baptist ChurchMorenci, Michigan
Demings Lake Reformed Baptist ChurchDemings Lake, Michigan
Medina Federated ChurchMedina, Michigan
Thornhill Baptist ChurchHudson, Michigan
First Baptist ChurchHudson, Michigan
Rollins Friends ChurchAddison, Michigan
Canandaigua Community ChurchCanandaigua. Michigan
Alvordton United BrethrenAlvordton, Ohio
Pettisville Missionary ChurchPettisville, Ohio
Vineyard ChurchToledo, Ohio
Providence Reformed Baptist ChurchToledo, Ohio
Lighthouse Memorial ChurchMillersport, Ohio
Newark Baptist TempleHeath, Ohio
Church of GodHeath, Ohio
30th Street Baptist ChurchHeath, Ohio
St Francis De Sales Catholic ChurchNewark, Ohio
Bible Baptist ChurchNewark, Ohio
Cedar Hill Baptist ChurchNewark, Ohio
Eastland Heights Baptist ChurchNewark, Ohio
Northside Baptist ChurchNewark, Ohio
Newark Brethren ChurchNewark, Ohio
St John’s Lutheran ChurchNewark, Ohio
Vineyard of Licking CountyNewark, Ohio
Vineyard Grace FellowshipNewark, Ohio
Grace FellowshipNewark, Ohio
Faith Bible ChurchJersey, Ohio
Vineyard Christian ChurchPataskala, Ohio
Cornerstone Baptist ChurchNew Lexington, Ohio
St Nicolas Greek Orthodox ChurchFort Wayne, Indiana
Nondenominational ChurchAngola, Indiana
Nondenominational ChurchFremont, Indiana
Victory Baptist ChurchClare, Michigan
First Assembly of GodYuma, Arizona
Desert Grace Community ChurchYuma, Arizona
Calvary Lutheran ChurchYuma, Arizona
Bible Baptist ChurchYuma, Arizona
Calvary ChapelYuma, Arizona
OasisYuma, Arizona
Faith Baptist ChurchYuma, Arizona
Valley Baptist ChurchYuma, Arizona
Calvary Assembly of GodYuma, Arizona
Foothills Assembly of GodYuma, Arizona
Morningside Baptist ChurchYuma, Arizona
Faith Horizons Baptist ChurchYuma, Arizona
Stone Ridge Baptist ChurchYuma, Arizona
Old Order Mennonite ChurchYuma, Arizona
Grace Bible FellowshipYuma, Arizona
Calvary Temple of ChristYuma, Arizona
Maranatha Baptist ChurchYuma, Arizona
Independent Lutheran ChurchYuma, Arizona
Community Christian ChurchYuma, Arizona
Church meeting in funeral chapelYuma, Arizona
Pentecostal ChurchWinterhaven, California
North Holtville Friends ChurchHoltville, California
Sierra Vista Baptist ChurchSierra Vista, Arizona
Hedgesville Baptist ChurchHedgesville, West Virginia
New Life Baptist ChurchWeston, West Virginia

As you can see, we covered our bases when it came to organized Christianity. We didn’t visit any IFB churches, nor did we focus solely on Evangelical congregations. Been there, done that, right? Seen one, seen them all? Go ahead and start whining now. I know, I know, your church is DIFFERENT! Sure it is.

We saw no need to visit Jewish or Muslim congregations. While there are differences between the three Abrahamic religions, not so much so that you can’t determine their veracity without immersing yourself in their writings. All three are text-based monotheistic religions that allegedly worship the same deity.

We understood that we were frail, finite beings, marching one step at a time towards death. Having been taught that non-Christians would spend eternity being tortured by God in a burning Lake of Fire, we were naturally fearful about choosing the wrong religion or worshipping the wrong God. Once we determined that the Bible was not what Evangelicals claimed it was and the central claims of Christianity were false, we lost our fear of Hell. Not right away. It took time to undo five decades of religious indoctrination and conditioning.

Granted, some Christians reject a literal Hell and eternal punishment, crafting all sorts of workarounds meant to not make God look like the monster he most certainly is. I read several books on annihilationism, universalism, etc., and concluded that all of them were intellectually lacking; written by authors who couldn’t bear to let go of God and their chosen religion. (And I am not suggesting their writing was without merit. I just concluded that their views were not intellectually compelling; not enough to sway me to their side.)

I am an agnostic atheist. While I can’t say for certain that no gods exist, I am confident that they don’t. I could be wrong, but I doubt that I am. When it comes to the Christian deity, I am convinced that he is a work of fiction. No amount of reading or study will convince me otherwise. I have studied the lay of land, having spent decades reading the Bible and Christian theology. I can’t imagine a Christian apologist saying something or making an argument that I have not heard before. Thus, I have closed the book on Christianity. Perhaps, in the future, a God not yet known will reveal itself to us. If that happens, I will consider that God’s or its follower’s claims accordingly (if he or she makes any).

Humans worship countless Gods. According to Wikipedia — the one true God — there are approximately 4,200 world religions or denominations. Need I study all of them, attend their worship services, or read their texts before I conclude they are false? No. It would take a lifetime to do so — a waste of time if there ever was one. Remove the religions that threaten judgment and eternal punishment, there is nothing left to fear. Religion then becomes personal and social in nature; that which meets felt needs and gives people meaning and purpose. I have no need of religion to find these things. Secular humanism provides the ethical and moral foundation for my life, and family gives me all the meaning and purpose I need. I have no thoughts about life after death. I don’t want to die, but I know it is inevitable. I don’t fret over that which I cannot control. I choose to live for the moment; to live each day the best I can, surrounded by those who matter to me. Even though my body is wracked with horrible pain, I try to find enjoyment in life. Having six children, sixteen grandchildren, and three cats gives me plenty of opportunities to enjoy life, as does watching wild animals and stray/ferals cats in our backyard, working in the yard, building my model train layout, taking country drives with Polly and Bethany, and writing for this blog. I have much to enjoy in life — all without God.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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:

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

The Midwestern Baptist College Preacher Who Became an Atheist

polly shope bruce gerencser 1977
Polly Shope and Bruce Gerencser, February 1977, Midwestern Baptist College Sweetheart Banquet, the only time we were allowed to be closer than six inches apart.

Originally posted in 2015, edited and expanded.

From 1976-1979, I attended Midwestern Baptist College — an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) institution in Pontiac, Michigan. Polly also attended the college, as did her father and uncle before her. While not as large or as prestigious as institutions such as Bob Jones University, Hyles-Anderson College, Tennessee Temple, or Pensacola Christian College, Midwestern is known for turning out men who are church planters and fierce defenders of the Word of God. Started in 1953 by Dr. Tom Malone, Midwestern once had an enrollment of over 400 students. These days, the enrollment is less than a fifty, and in 2010 the college moved its location to Shalom Baptist Church in Orion, Michigan.

At one time, Midwestern advertised itself as a character-building factory. Over the past seventy years, this factory has graduated hundreds of men and women, each devoted to the IFB faith. While some of the students who attended Midwestern no longer wear the Fundamentalist label, I do not know of one Midwestern attendee who is a liberal. As best I can tell, there is only one man who became a liberal, and that is yours truly. Certainly, many churches pastored by Midwestern-trained men are Evangelical and to the left of the Fundamentalism taught by the college, but none of them, as far as I know, are liberals theologically. Even more amazing, as far as atheism is concerned, I am the only person who attended Midwestern and entered the ministry as a Midwestern-trained preacher who is now an atheist.

i am special

I am soooo special.  From time to time, I see in the logs search strings such as “the Midwestern Baptist College preacher who became an atheist.” Google? This site is number one, the top of the page. Same with Bing.  Even when generically searching for “Midwestern Baptist College Pontiac” this site is listed twice on the first page, fifth and sixth, respectively. I am quite sure that the prominence of my writing in search engine results for Midwestern irritates the hell out of those who still profess fealty to the IFB religion and who still view the late Tom Malone as a demigod.

I am as rare as a real science exhibit at Ken “Hambo” Ham’s Creationist Museum. I am sure there are others who attended Midwestern who no longer believe, but I am the only person who has dared to poke his head above the proverbial ground and say so.

Are you a former Midwestern attendee or graduate who is no longer a Christian? I would love to hear from you. Please use the Contact Form to send me an email. Much like the search for extraterrestrial life, surely, somewhere there’s another former Midwestern student who no longer believes. I’m listening. . .

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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:

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Bruce, What Would You Do If One of Your Grandchildren Got Saved and Became an Evangelical Preacher?

i have a question

A reader recently asked:

Mr Gerencser,

I have a question not to be offensive either.

if one of your children or grandchildren accepted Christ and were called to preach what would you say ? how would you react?

In December 2008, my partner, Polly, and I asked our children and their spouses to come over so we could talk to them about some significant changes that were taking place in our lives. Until this time, Polly and I had been devout Christians, having spent twenty-five years pastoring churches. Our children had traveled from church to church with us, having heard every one of the 4,000+ sermons I preached. Our three older sons, in particular, had been deeply immersed in their father’s ministerial work, spending countless hours attending church services and doing everything from construction work to cleaning buildings to cutting wood to fuel furnaces. They were their father’s gophers, rarely far from his side as work was done on church buildings and outdoor property. Such is the life of preacher’s kids.

Our children knew that Mom and Dad were going through some changes in their lives. I had left the ministry in 2005. In 2004, I pastored my last church, a Southern Baptist congregation in Clare, Michigan. Polly and I had spent the ensuing four years moving from Arizona to Michigan to five communities in Ohio (Stryker, Newark, Bryan, Alvordton, and Ney), seeking a place and church to call home. I call these our “wandering years.” As our political and religious beliefs moved markedly leftward, our social beliefs began to change too. “Sins” I once preached against and for which the children were once punished, were no longer sins; or at the very least, they were no longer behaviors we paid attention to.

Polly and I had spent months talking about our religious beliefs, experiences, and practices. We read numerous books that challenged our theological beliefs, leaving us with many doubts and questions. Eventually, we concluded that we no longer believed that the central claims of Christianity were true. While this process was agonizingly painful, we knew we were on the right path. This path eventually led to us deciding that we were no longer Christians, in the classic meaning of the word. On the last Sunday in November 2008, we attended a service at the Ney United Methodist Church. When we walked out of the church doors for the last time, we knew our lives would never be the same. It would be almost sixteen years before we would attend church again — April 7, 2024, to hear our United Church of Christ pastor friend preach his last sermon before retirement.

We gathered our children and their spouses together to let them know that we were no longer Christians; and that we would no longer attend church. I made it clear to them that I was no longer the patriarch of the family; that I would no longer dictate to them what they should or shouldn’t believe; that they were free to believe whatever they wanted. Polly and I wanted them to know that they were free to make their own decisions; to come to their own conclusions about God and Christianity.

Our children said very little. I suspect they were shocked by what we told them, having only known their parents as a pastor and a preacher’s wife. I was, for the most part, the only pastor they ever had. Our children, by this time, were 29, 27, 24, 18, 16, and 14. Our oldest sons were married/divorced, while the three youngest were still homeschooled and lived at home. Today, none of our children attend an Evangelical church. One of our sons and his family attend a Catholic church, and another son flirts with church from time to time. The other four do not attend church and would not identify as Christians.

In one generation, the Evangelical curse has been broken. For that, Polly and I are grateful. If any of our children want to attend church or self-identify as a Christian, we are fine with it. But, what if they attended an Evangelical church? Their choice, end of discussion. I would say the same regardless of what religious beliefs they had.

Most people who get saved and are called to preach were raised in Evangelical churches. Their salvation and call are predicated on years and decades of indoctrination and conditioning. Polly and I have sixteen grandchildren, ages four to twenty-three. Outside of our Catholic grandchildren, none of them attends church. Without exposure to Evangelical indoctrination and conditioning, it is highly unlikely any of them will get saved or called to preach. Such things are foreign to them. Saved from what? Who would want to be a preacher? Besides, thirteen of our grandchildren are girls, so they are not permitted to be preachers (though they sure do a hell of a lot of preaching). 🙂

My grandchildren know nothing of Pastor Bruce Gerencser. To them, I am a Grandpa, a disabled old man who loves them, jokes with them, harasses them, annoys them with philosophical questions, buys them books about religion and science, and supports them in all of their endeavors. Polly is Nana, a woman who indulges them when they say “I am hungry” or need help with a recipe or sewing project. We see our grandchildren regularly, and, by all accounts, are close to them. I have had countless discussions about science, religion, and philosophy with my older grandchildren. They know they can ask me anything, as long as they understand that I will answer them and they might not like what they hear. They also know that Grandpa is an expert when it comes to discussions about the Bible and Christianity, so if they want to discuss such things they better be prepared for a serious discussion. That said, if one of my grandchildren decides to become a Christian or enter the ministry, I would respect their wishes and support them. I would do my darnedest to steer them towards kinder, gentler forms of Christian faith, but at the end of the day, I am going to love and support them as they are.

Today, we watched the eclipse at my oldest son’s home in Defiance. We had a delightful time as we watched such an amazing solar event. My oldest grandson, who is almost sixteen, is a non-Christian. He is a science geek. He plans to take advanced physics and chemistry this fall. He is a voracious reader, devouring science fiction and non-fiction alike. He is quite the skeptic, showing no tolerance for woo or conspiracy theories. It would not surprise me if he became a world-renowned scientist someday — or a professional chess player. 🙂

My grandson and I, along with his father, talked about all sorts of things science- and religion-related. I am pleased with how well both of them have a grasp on science — much farther ahead than I was at their respective ages. Knowing that skepticism, secularism, and science are antidotes to the Evangelical virus, it is unlikely that either of them would get saved or become a preacher. I am confident that I can say the same thing for the rest of my grandchildren. And if I am wrong, and one of them professes faith in Jesus and becomes a preacher? I will respect them for who and what they are, The choice, as always, is theirs. Unlike the way Evangelicals treated me and Polly when we deconverted, we will never abandon our grandchildren or distance ourselves from them. One of them getting saved might be a phase he or she is going through, so we wouldn’t want to do anything to harm our relationship, knowing that, in time, they might come to see that Christianity is not what it claims to be. That said, I am not naive. If one of our grandchildren got saved in an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church and became an IFB preacher, that could cause problems depending on whether they pushed their beliefs as such believers often do. And if that happened? I would tell them, “Each to their own. As a family, we respect each other’s religious beliefs and don’t try to evangelize each other or demand that everyone live by one set of beliefs.”

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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:

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Count the Cost Before You Say “I am an Atheist”

god made me an atheist

Originally posted in 2015. Edited, updated, and expanded.

The Bible gives some pretty good advice about counting the cost in Luke 14:28-30:

For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.

Who starts a building project without first counting the cost? The key phrase here is counting the cost. Every choice we make has a consequence. I think a loose definition of Newton’s Third Law of Motion applies here: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Foolish is the person who does not consider the consequences of saying for the first time to family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances, I AM AN ATHEIST.

When I left Christianity and the ministry in 2008, my wife came along with me. Polly was a few steps behind, but close enough that we could hold hands. We spent many hours reading books and having long discussions about the past, the Bible, and Christianity in general. Dr. Bart Ehrman was nightly pillow talk for many months. When we finally came to the place where we said to one another “We are no longer Christians,” we knew that telling our family, friends, and acquaintances would cause a huge uproar. What should we do?

Polly decided to take the quiet approach, keeping her thoughts to herself. When asked, she would answer and try to explain, but if people didn’t ask, she felt no obligation to out herself. She still operates by that principle. There are people she works with who likely think she still goes to church on Sunday and is a fine Christian woman. Several years ago, a woman Polly had worked with for 20 years asked her if she was going to church on Easter. Polly replied, no. Her co-worker then asked, So do you go to church? Polly replied, No. And that was that. I am sure the gossip grapevine was buzzing. Did you know Polly doesn’t go to church? Why, her husband was a pastor! And they don’t go to church? Never mind that the woman asking the questions hadn’t been to church in over a decade. She stays home, watches “Christian” TV, and sends money to the TV preachers she likes.

I took the nuclear approach. I wrote an open letter to my friends, family, and former parishioners. This was totally in character for me. I am an all-in kind of guy. In Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners, I wrote:

I have come to a place in life where I can no longer put off writing this letter. I have dreaded this day because I know what is likely to follow after certain people receive it. I have decided I can’t control how others will react to this letter, so it is far more important to clear the air and make sure everyone knows the facts about Bruce Gerencser.

I won’t bore you with a long, drawn-out history of my life. I am sure each of you has an opinion about how I have lived my life and the decisions I have made. I also have an opinion about how I have lived my life and the decisions I made. I am my own worst critic.

Religion, in particular Baptist Evangelical and Fundamentalist religion, has been the essence of my life from my youth up. My being is so intertwined with religion that the two are quite inseparable. My life has been shaped and molded by religion and religion touches virtually every fiber of my being.

I spent most of my adult life pastoring churches, preaching, and being involved in religious work to some degree or another. I pastored thousands of people over the years, preached thousands of sermons, and participated in, and led, thousands of worship services.

To say that the church was my life would be an understatement. As I have come to see, the Church was actually my mistress, and my adulterous affair with her was at the expense of my wife, children, and my own self-worth.

Today, I am publicly announcing that the affair is over. My wife and children have known this for a long time, but now everyone will know.

The church robbed me of so much of my life and I have no intention of allowing her to have one more moment of my time. Life is too short. I am dying. We all are. I don’t want to waste what is left of my life chasing after things I now see to be vain and empty.

I have always been known as a reader, a student of the Bible. I have read thousands of books in my lifetime and the knowledge gained from my reading and studies has led me to some conclusions about religion, particularly the Fundamentalist, Evangelical religion that played such a prominent part in my life.

I can no longer wholeheartedly embrace the doctrines of the Evangelical, Fundamentalist faith. Particularly, I do not believe in the inerrancy of Scripture nor do I accept as fact the common Evangelical belief of the inspiration of Scripture.

Coming to this conclusion has forced me to reevaluate many of the doctrines I have held as true over these many years. I have concluded that I have been misinformed, poorly taught, and sometimes lied to. I can no longer accept as true many of the doctrines I once believed.

I point the finger of blame at no one. I sincerely believed and taught the things that I did and many of the men who taught me were honorable teachers. I don’t blame those who have influenced me over the years, nor do I blame the authors of the many books I have read. Simply, it is what it is…

The backlash from my letter was immediate and severe. Keep in mind I was not yet an atheist. All I said was that I could no longer embrace the teachings of Christianity. I was agnostic when it came to the God question. I still had lots of doubts and questions.

The reaction of my family and Polly’s family was the hardest to bear. For the most part, they said nothing. To this day, some family members, including Polly’s late parents, have not said one word to us about our defection from Christianity. It’s like there’s a huge elephant in the room that no one can see but us. Sixteen years of silence.

My friends and fellow pastors took to writing me letters, sending me emails, visiting me, preaching about me, and having prayer meetings focused on praying me back into the fold. The level of nastiness and judgmentalism was overwhelming. During this time, a long-time friend and parishioner turned pastor came to see me. I wrote about his visit in A Letter to a Friend. In the letter I wrote:

You got my letter.

I am certain that my letter troubled you and caused you to wonder what in the world was going on with Bruce.

You have been my friend since 1983. When I met you for the first time, I was a young man pastoring a new Church in Somerset, Ohio. I remember you and your dear wife vividly because you put a $100 bill in the offering plate. Up to that point we had never seen a $100 bill in the offering plate.

And so our friendship began. You helped us buy our first Church bus. . .You helped us buy our Church building. . . In later years you gave my wife and me a generous gift to buy a mobile home. It was old, but we were grateful to have our own place to live in. You were a good friend.

Yet, our common bond was the Christianity we both held dear. I doubt you would have done any of the above for the local Methodist minister, whom we both thought was an apostate.

I baptized you and was privileged to be your pastor on and off over my 11 years in Somerset. You left several times because our doctrinal beliefs conflicted, you being an Arminian and I being a Calvinist.

One day you came to place where you believed God was leading you to abandon your life work, farming, and enter the ministry. I was thrilled for you. I also said to myself, “now Bill can really see what the ministry is all about!”

So you entered the ministry and you are now a pastor of a thriving fundamentalist Church. I am quite glad you found your place in life and are endeavoring to do what you believe is right. Of course, I would think the same of you if you were still farming.

You have often told me that much of what you know about the ministry I taught you. I suppose, to some degree or another, I must take credit for what you have become. (whether I view it as good or bad)

Yesterday, you got into your Lincoln and drove three plus hours to see me. I wish you had called first. I had made up my mind to make up some excuse why I couldn’t see you, but since you came unannounced, I had no other option but to open and the door and warmly welcome you. Just like always . . .

I have never wanted to hurt you or cause you to lose your faith. I would rather you not know the truth about me than be hurt in any way.

But your visit forced the issue. I had no choice.

Why did you come to my home? I know you came as my friend, but it seemed by the time our three-hour discussion ended, our friendship had died and I was someone you needed to pray for, that I might be saved. After all, in your Arminian theology there can be no question that a person with beliefs such as mine has fallen from grace. . .

During the first few months after my initial letter, I heard from Laura Hardman, the wife of Evangelist Don Hardman. She bared her fangs and let me know that it was quite evident to her that I NEVER was a Christian.

About two years after the Dear  Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners letter I wrote:

Almost two years ago I sent my friends, family and former parishioners a letter concerning my decision to deconvert from Christianity. I wish I could say my letter was well received.  I wish I could say that people told me they supported my decision. I wish I could say I have been treated in a kind and respectful manner.

But I can’t.

A longtime friend of mine, Bill Beard, pastor of Lighthouse Memorial Church, drove over three hours to my home to talk (argue) with me about my deconversion. He and I had been friends for over 25 years.

Laura Hardman, wife of Evangelist Don Hardman, wrote me a scathing letter telling me that I never was a real Christian, I had been friends with the Hardmans for over 20 years. I wrote them back and I have not heard from them since.

Friends of mine for over 40 years, missionaries with Child Evangelism Fellowship, wrote to me and told me I was under the influence of Satan. They sent me literature to read. I returned it with a letter of my own. They never wrote back.

I stumbled upon a forum discussion about me. They were discussing what to do about Bruce.

I have received numerous emails from former parishioners telling me of the error of my ways.  Some of them are deeply troubled about how this could happen. How could their pastor now be an agnostic who doesn’t believe in the Bible or God?

A few former parishioners took it upon themselves to tell me their conclusions about me. Many of them mentioned my reading habits. They told me I read too many books and they suggested I just read the Bible.

Two former parishioners wrote to tell me that though they disagreed with me, they loved me and were my friend. I really appreciated their love and friendship.

I hear bits and pieces of the gossip about me that is floating around Bryan and Defiance — people questioning whether or not I was ever a Christian. Some raise issues about my mental stability. One thing they never do? Talk to me personally.

My adult children have to field questions at work and college about their apostate father. Once again, the questioners never talk to me personally.

It is not much better on the family front.

Silence is how family has decided to deal with me. It’s like I never wrote the letter about deconverting from Christianity. Behind the scenes there is a lot of gossip about me and what to do about the Bruce matter. Last Christmas, the patriarch of the family, a pastor of 40 plus years, was intent on confronting me about my apostasy. I am grateful my mother-in-law quashed his plan to confront me. It would have been ugly. I mean ugly.

Polly decided that we could no longer do Christmas at her parent’s home. The stress and undercurrent are such that it is impossible to “enjoy” time with the family during the Christmas holiday (we do go to visit when the extended family is not there).

I wish I could tell you that I came through all of this unscathed, but I can’t. I decided to seek out a counselor two years ago. I knew I needed to talk to someone about the pain and deep wound I was carrying as a result of my defection from Christianity. I still see a counselor every few weeks. His work with me has been extremely helpful and has enabled me to move forward and away from the past. The scars remain. The viciousness of people who say they are followers of the man who said turn the other cheek and love your enemy has scarred me. Every time a Fundamentalist spews his bile on this blog, I am reminded of the deep wound I carry. I am also reminded that I am glad to be free from such an ugly, vile, and vicious belief system and way of life.

So how are things now?

Some family members are still silent. Perhaps they will never ask, inquire, or attempt to engage me in a discussion. I think some people are intimidated by me, so they avoid the elephant in the room. Others fear I might cause them to doubt or lose their faith, so they avoid all contact with me. I have come to accept this. I wish they would talk to me, but I know I can’t force the issue.

All of my Christian friends have abandoned me. I don’t blame them. I have come to see that our friendship was held together by fidelity to certain beliefs. Remove the beliefs and the friendship dissolves. If I came back to the Christian faith, I would instantly have dozens of friends. I would be lauded as the Preacher reclaimed From the Devil’s Clutches. Hmm . . . there is money to be made . . .

If I had to do it all over again, would I do it the same way? Would I write THE letter? Probably. My experiences have given me knowledge that is helpful to people who contact me about their own doubts about Christianity. I am often asked, what should I do? Should I tell my spouse? Should I tell my family, friends, or coworkers?

My standard advice is this: Count the cost. Weigh carefully the consequences. Once you utter or write the words I AM AN ATHEIST, you are no longer in control of what happens next.  Are you willing to lose your friends, destroy your marriage, or lose your job? Only you can decide what cost you are willing to pay.

I know there is this notion that “Dammit, I should be able to freely declare what I am,” and I agree with the sentiment. We should be able to freely be who and what we are. If we lived on a deserted island, I suppose we could do so. However, we are surrounded by people. People we love. People we want and need in our life. Because of this, it behooves (shout out to the KJV) us to tread carefully.

I hope some of you will find this post helpful. My deepest desire is to help you on your journey. I am hoping that my walking before you can be of help to you as you decide how best to deal with and embrace your loss of faith.

This blog is here to remind those struggling with leaving Christianity or who have already left Christianity, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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:

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

What Motivated Me to Work so Hard for Jesus

working for jesus

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected

It all started with my belief that the Bible was the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. I considered the Bible the road map for navigating through a Satan-dominated, sin-plagued world; a blueprint for everything from marriage to child-rearing to what clothing to wear. The Bible, along with the Holy Spirit who lived inside of me, was my God’s way of speaking to me and telling me what to do

According to how Evangelicals interpret the Protestant Bible, every person, from conception, is a vile, broken sinner under the just condemnation of God, deserving eternal punishment in Hell/Lake of Fire. Fortunately, God graciously provides a way for us to have our sins forgiven and avoid eternal punishment. God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to the earth to be the final atonement for our sins. Jesus Christ was executed on a Roman cross, and three days later rose again from the dead, conquering death and the grave. Our salvation and eternal destiny rest squarely on the merit and work of Jesus. He, and he alone, is the way, truth, and life. Through the preaching of the Word (the Bible) and the work of the Holy Spirit, God calls out to sinners, saying, repent and believe the gospel. Those who hear his voice are gloriously saved and adopted into the family of God.

The Bible taught me that as a God-called, God-ordained minister of the gospel, I had the solemn obligation to preach the good news to everyone. Work for the night is coming. Leave everything for the sake of the gospel. Only one life twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last. These clichés were not mere words to me. They were clarion calls to forsake all, including my family and economic security, and follow Jesus.

Every church I attended, every youth group I was a part of, and every summer youth camp I went to, reinforced the belief that God wanted (demanded) one hundred percent of me. All to Jesus I surrender, All to Him I freely give, says the old gospel song, I Surrender All. I went to an Evangelical Bible college to train for the ministry. Every class curriculum, every professor, every chapel speaker shouted out to students:

Souls for Jesus is our battle cry.
Souls for Jesus is our battle cry.
We never will give in while souls are lost in sin
Souls for Jesus is our battle cry.

My partner, Polly, went to college to get a Mrs. degree. She believed God wanted her to marry a preacher. Polly knew that she would have to make sacrifices for the sake of her husband’s call. She was taught that Jesus, the ministry, and the church came first. She was also taught that her husband was specially chosen by God to proclaim the good news of the gospel. She was encouraged to read biographies of great men and women of faith to learn how to deal with being married to a man of God. Polly and I entered marriage and the ministry knowing God had called us to a life of self-denial and devotion to the work of the ministry. Hand in hand, without complaint, we embraced the work we believed God had set before us.

I consider 1983-1994 to be the high point of my ministerial career. I pastored a growing, busy Evangelical church. Sinners were weekly being saved, baptized, and joining the church. Backsliders were being reclaimed. God was smiling on our work. Not only was this my observation, but it was the observation of my colleagues in the ministry. God was doing something special at Somerset Baptist Church.

During this time, I did a lot of preaching.  A typical week for me looked something like this:

  • Jail ministry on Tuesday
  • Nursing home ministry on Wednesday
  • Midweek service on Thursday
  • Street preaching 2-3 days a week
  • Teaching the adult Sunday school class
  • Preaching twice on Sunday

We also had a tuition-free Christian academy, open only to the children of church members. In addition to my busy church preaching schedule, I held revival services and preached at bible conferences and pastor’s fellowships. I was motivated by what I believed the Bible taught me about the work of the ministry. I looked at the life of the disciples and thought that they were a pattern to follow. Run the race, the Apostle Paul told me. I was totally committed to what I believed was God’s calling on my life.

Some Christians object and say “you are the one who worked yourself to death. Don’t blame the Church or God. OUR pastor doesn’t work this way. He takes time for his family. Blah. Blah Blah.” Even now, as an atheist, I find such objections lame. If the Bible is true, if what it says about God, sin, salvation, death, Hell, and Heaven is true, how dare any preacher, or any Christian for that matter, treat the gospel of Jesus Christ so carelessly?  How dare any preacher not burn himself out for the sake of those in need of salvation. No time for busywork. No time for golfing with your fellow preachers.

More than a few pastors are lazy hirelings who do just enough to keep from getting fired. They pastor a church for two or three years, wear out their welcome, and then move on down the road to another church. I have no respect for pastors who defend their laziness by stressing the importance of balance in their lives. Where do they find such a notion in the Bible they say they believe? Jesus doesn’t call them to balance. He calls them to forsake all and follow him.

One of the reasons I see Christianity as a bankrupt religion is the lackadaisical approach Christians and their spiritual leaders have toward matters that supposedly have eternal consequences. Most of what goes on in the average church is meaningless bullshit. Call a business meeting to decide on the color of the paint for the nursery walls and everyone shows up. Implore people to come out for church visitation and only the same three or four people show up, week after week.

Why should I take the Bible, God, Jesus, salvation, Heaven, or Hell seriously when most Christians and pastors live lives that suggest they don’t? It took me leaving the ministry in 2005 and Christianity in 2008 for me to realize that most of what I was chasing after was nothing more than a fool’s errand. Many of the ex-ministers who read this blog know what I am talking about. So much of life wasted, and for what? Too bad I had to be fifty years old before I realized what life is all about. Too bad I sacrificed my health on the altar of the eternal before I realized that there is no eternity, just the here and now.

From a psychological perspective, I understand that my type-A, workaholic personality made it easy for me to be the preacher I came to be. Whether it was pastoring churches or managing restaurants, I worked day and night, rarely taking time off for family or leisure. I still have the same tendencies, the difference now being that the list of things that matter to me is very small. Polly matters. Family matters. My neighbors matter. But matters of eternity, Heaven, and Hell? Nary a thought these days. If the Christian God exists, then I am screwed, and more than a few of the readers of this blog are too. However, I don’t think the Christian version of God exists, so I am investing all my time, money, and talent — how many times did you hear that phrase in a sermon? — on the only life I have — this one. I will leave it up to the gods and my family to do what they will with me after I am dead. Of course, depending on what happens to me after death, I could come back from the dead and write a book titled, “Heaven is for Real and Boy, Are the Atheists in Trouble.”

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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:

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Bruce Gerencser