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Bruce, I Love and Respect Your Position

What Evangelicals Really Think About Atheists

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Bruce, I love and respect your position.

No, you don’t.

And you shouldn’t.

If you are a Christian, I mean a card-carrying member of the Jesus club, you should find my views abhorrent, loathsome, and damnable.

I know you say you are my friend.

I know you have become adept at separating the man from his message.

I appreciate the fact that you make an attempt to love me where I am and how I am.

But I wonder . . .

Do you really love me for being me, or is your love a means to an end?

Perhaps you operate under the delusion that if you just love me as you think Jesus loves me that I will return to the Christian faith and the universe, your universe, will be in balance once again.

You hold on, hoping that the hounds of heaven chase me down and drag me kicking and screaming back to the Kingdom of God.

Sometimes, I think you are like those people whose spouses have died. Night after night, they sit on the couch hoping that it is all a mistake and that their spouse is going to walk through the door.

I am not coming through the door.

It is time for you to embrace reality.

What Evangelicals Really Think About Atheists

I am an unbeliever, one with lots of knowledge about Christianity, but an unbeliever nonetheless.

I am an apostate.

I am a Christ-denier.

My life is a repudiation of all you believe is true.

I spit in the face of God and trample under the blood of the covenant.

Outside of these things I am still a pretty good guy.

You don’t really love and respect my position.

How can you?

I stand in opposition to virtually everything you believe.

Besides, I voted for Obama, and I plan to vote for Biden in November.

You believe the Bible is God’s truth.

I don’t.

You believe that human beings are vile, depraved sinners needing salvation.

I don’t.

You believe Jesus is the way, truth, and life.

I don’t.

You think attending church on Sunday is the most important thing a person can do.

I don’t.

What does the Bible say about someone like me?

Be honest.

I am a dog returned to his vomit (2 Peter 2:22).

I am a pig returned to the pig pen (2 Peter 2:22).

I have given heed to seducing spirits and the doctrines of devils (1 Timothy 4:1).

I am a scoffer walking in my own lusts (2 Peter 3:2-7).

I am willingly ignorant (2 Peter 3:2-7).

I am a false prophet, a false teacher out to deceive all who come in contact with me (Matthew 24:11-12).

Let me remind you of what the Bible says about someone like me:

But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of.

And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.

For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;

And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;

And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly;

And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked:

(For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)

The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:

But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.

Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord.

But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption;

And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you;

Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children:

Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness;

But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet.

These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.

For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.

While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.

For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.

For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.

But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. (2 Peter 2)

What Evangelicals Really Think About Atheists

The Bible is clear. God has spoken. It would have been better for me not to have ever known Jesus, never to have been saved.

I understand why some Evangelicals become so violent, so aggressive with me. I am a fly in their ointment, a stench that cannot be removed. Their answer is to declare that I never was a Christian, that I never was saved, that I never believed the truth, that I am a publican and a heathen (Matthew 18).

But YOU know better.

You know what I believed.

You know how I lived.

You know . . .

I don’t ask you to love and respect my position.

Stand for what you believe, what you think is the truth.

All I ask of you is that you truly have an answer for the hope that lies within you (1 Peter 3:15).

Don’t tell me what your denomination, pastor, or church believes.

Don’t tell me to read the latest, greatest book by a Christian apologist.

What do YOU really believe?

If you know what you believe, shout it out from the mountaintops.

But, if you are not so sure . . .

If you have questions . . .

If you have doubts . . .

Consider me an alternative viewpoint.

I am not a guru.

I am not a prophet.

I am just one man on a journey from eternity to here.

This blog is the written expression of my journey.

It is my “bible.”

I am nothing more than one man crying in the wilderness of his own life, seeking to know and understand not only his own life, but the lives of those he inhabits the earth with.

Most of all, I am here to help.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

Dear Family and Friends: Why I Can’t and Won’t Go to Church 

no church

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

To those who call me Bruce, Butch, Dad, or Grandpa:

In November 2008, Polly and I attended church for the last time. Since then, I have walked through the doors of a church three times, once for a baby baptism, and twice for a funeral. All three experiences left me angry and irritated.

The first service was a baby baptism at a local Catholic church. I thought, Bruce, ignore the bullshit, you are there to support your children. I was fine until the priest began exorcising the devil out of my granddaughter. I wanted to scream, but I didn’t. After the service, I made up my mind that I would never again attend such a service. No baptisms, no confirmations, no dedications, no nothing. Nada, zero, zip. All of my children and extended family know this. Polly is free to attend any or none of these services, but I can’t and I won’t.

The last two services were funerals. One was the funeral of my sexual predator uncle. The local Baptist preacher preached my uncle right into heaven. (I wrote about that here: Dear Pastor, Do You Believe in Hell.) The second service was for Polly’s fundamentalist uncle. Nice guy, but the service was all about Jesus, complete with a sermon and call to salvation. Again, I wanted to scream, but I reminded myself that I was there to support our family.

I’ve decided I can suck it up and endure the Jesus talk for the sake of family. I know there are a lot of funerals in our future, that is if the rapture doesn’t take place. I wish it would so there would be no Christians left to bother me. I’ll do my best to support my family in their hour of grief; however, anyone who tries to evangelize me does so at their own risk. I refuse to be bullied by sanctimonious Bible thumpers who think they are salvation dispensing machines.

I’ve decided that I will walk through the door of a church for two events: funerals and weddings. That’s it. I don’t do church, and the sooner family, friends, and local Christian zealots understand this the better. If the event doesn’t say funeral or wedding, I ain’t going. I can’t and I won’t. If this causes someone to be angry, upset, or irritated, there is nothing I can do about it. That’s their problem.

You see, twelve years ago I said to my family, “you are free.” (Please see Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners.) Be who and what you want to be. Be/stay a Christian, choose another religion or philosophical system, or choose nothing at all. With freedom comes choice. It seems the religious love their choice. They find great benefit, purpose, and meaning, through their particular religion. That’s great. If it makes them happy, then I am happy. But, shouldn’t I be afforded the same freedom and happiness? Why shouldn’t my wife and I have the freedom to NOT participate in church services, rituals, and the like?

Suppose I worship the Cat God Purr. Once a year, all the Purrites get together at my house for a very special service. Part of our ritual is the sacrifice of a female cat. Much like the Israelites in the Bible with their blood sacrifices to Jehovah, we offer up a cat as our sacrifice to Purr. Afterward, we roast the cat and eat it, and in doing so we are taking into our body and soul the blood and body of Cat God Purr.

Now imagine me inviting my Christian family to the service. I let them know when the service is and how important it is to me for them to be there. I also let them know that I would like them to partake of the roasted cat so they too could have inside of them the blood and body of the Cat God Purr. Can you imagine how they would respond?

First, in their eyes Purr is a false God. Second, the cat roasting ritual is barbaric and offensive. While I may invite them to the service, I would certainly understand if they didn’t come. Why? Because my God is not their God and I respect their right to believe whatever they want to believe. 

It seems if people are atheists, they are not afforded the same decency and respect. Did Polly and I become lesser persons, parents, or grandparents the moment we stopped believing? Does our relationship with family and friends hinge on us sitting our ass in a pew for ten minutes or an hour? Frankly, I refuse to let any particular circumstance harm a relationship. If someone asks me to go to a church service or a ritual and I say no and they never ask me again, it’s no big deal. However, once someone knows that I do NOT attend such services and they continue to ask me anyway, this tells me that they do not respect me.

I spent 50 years in the Christian church and 25 years in the ministry. I’ve had enough church to last me ten lifetimes. The best way for the religious and the nonreligious to get along is for both sides to compartmentalize their beliefs. I don’t talk about religion/atheism/humanism with my Christian family and friends unless they ask. If they ask, I will gladly give my opinion or share my viewpoint. I am not going to invite them to hear Sam Harris speak, nor am I going to give them Bart Ehrman’s books. If they ask or want to know, that’s different, but if they don’t then I choose to focus on the other things we have in common and leave religion/atheism in the closet. Christian family and friends need to do the same. If I ask, then by all means tell me. If not, let’s focus on the things we have in common. Life is too short to have conflict over religion.

I subscribe to the when-in-Rome-Do-as-the-Romans-Do rule. When I am at a Christian’s home and they offer up a prayer to their deity, I respectfully bow my head. It’s their home and they are free to do what they want. Yes, I have an opinion about God and prayer, but their home is not the place to share it. The same goes for my home. We are not religious, we are not Christian. We don’t pray over our meals, nor do we give the gods one thought before we eat. While we do allow Polly’s dad to pray over the meal when he is here, that is out of respect for him. No big deal, just one more prayer hitting the ceiling. Thousands are already embedded in the paint, what’s one more?

When Christians come to my home, they shouldn’t expect me to change how I live or how I talk. I shouldn’t have to change the music I am listening to, change the TV channel, or remove books from the bookshelf. This is our home, and anyone, even family, who walks through the door is a guest. And the same goes for the Christian’s home. If I visit there, I don’t expect them to do anything different from what they normally do. I respect their space, their freedom.

Freedom is supposed to be a two-way street. Unfortunately, for many Christians it is a one-way street called Their Way. They want the freedom to worship their God and practice their faith, but they don’t want to grant others the same freedom. Of course, I know why. They think they have the truth and Polly and I are on a false path that leads to judgment, hell, and eternal punishment. They don’t want us to continue driving on the highway that leads to perdition. But, here’s the thing . . . we don’t think we are on the highway to hell. Since we don’t believe there is a God, it naturally follows that we don’t believe in hell, judgment, heaven, or eternity. It’s up to us to determine what road we want to travel, and for Polly and me, we are quite happy to drive on the road named Reason.

Let me conclude this post with a personal thought about church services in general and why I can’t and won’t attend them.  First, I know the Bible inside and out. I have a theological education, an education that began at a Bible college and continued through the 25 years I spent pastoring churches. So, when I hear preachers and priests preach, I can spot the bullshit from a mile away. I also have little tolerance for preachers who lack the requisite skills necessary to craft a good sermon and deliver it. In my opinion, there’s lots of anemic, pathetic preaching these days. Second, I find many of the rituals offensive. Casting the devil out an infant? Washing away sin with water? Services that are all show and no substance? Vows that are uttered and become lies before the service is over?  Wine and wafers turning into real blood and flesh? Magic wand rituals and practices that pretend to make the past go away and make the present brand new? Preachers, pastors, bishops, and priests touching a person and conferring some sort of divine power? All of these things are offensive to me. They are reminders to me of the bankruptcy of religion and why I want nothing to do with it.

I know that I can’t force people to accept me as I am, but I can choose how and when I interact with them. Years ago, I was listening to Dr. Laura and a grandmother called up complaining about her daughter-in-law. Dr. Laura told her to quit her bitching. If she didn’t, she risked not being able to see her grandchildren. That was good advice and I remembered it years later when my fundamentalist step-grandmother called me. I wrote about this in the post Dear Ann:

. . . For his seventy-fifth birthday you had a party for Grandpa. You called a few days before the party and told me that if I was any kind of grandson at all that my family and I would be at the party. Never mind Polly would have to take off work. Never mind the party was on a night we had church. All that mattered to you was that we showed up to give Grandpa’s birthday party an air of respectability.

I remember what came next like it was yesterday. The true Ann rose to the surface and you preceded to tell me what a terrible grandson I was and how terrible my family was. You were vicious and vindictive.

Finally, after forty years, I had had enough. I told you that you should have worried about the importance of family twenty years ago. I then told you that I was no longer interested in having any contact with you or Grandpa. Like my mother, I decided to get off the Tieken drama train…

That’s what can happen when we push, badger, and cajole. I am an atheist, not a Christian, and will likely remain so until I die. My family and friends need to come to terms with this, and if they don’t, then it’s on them if they ruin our relationship.

When our children married, we vowed that we would NEVER be meddling parents/grandparents. If we offer our opinion on something, we do it once. That’s it. Unless someone asks, we don’t say another word. Every person in my family has the right to live freely and authentically. Yes, they make decisions that I think are foolish, but it’s their life and they are free to live it any way they want. Whether it is Polly’s parents, our children, our daughters-in-law, or our grandchildren, we don’t meddle in their lives. We want them to be happy. If they are happy, then we are happy.

All that I want is the freedom to live my life authentically. Surely, that’s not too much to ask.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

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.

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

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 hundred, 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 67 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 Fundamentalists 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, 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 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, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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

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

god made me an atheist

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

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. 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 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. Twelve 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 but two 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, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

Evangelical Man Wants Me to Tell the Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth About My Life

calvin and hobbes proving truth

Recently, an Evangelical man by the name of Roger Smoak left the following comment on Why I Hate Jesus, the most widely read (and misunderstood) post on this site:

I would be interested in knowing what Really happened? Was it your fibromalga that wasn’t healed? Was it your oldest daughter with cystic fibrosis? Was it your dad dying at an early age or you mom who committed suicide?Was it depression you faced when you quit believing and/or your wife (pastor’s child) had to choose between you and her faith? Was it all the material wealth you experienced during your pastoring where you saw pastors who appeared to worship money instead of God? If the “Western Jesus” has destroyed your belief why can’t you believe in the Jesus of the New Testament? Every day you preached did you question is this was all a farce? What happened when you finally turned agnostic and publicly proclaimed this? Were you pastoring a church? I guess just as you judge others I would like to hear from yourself, church members, family, or someone who could shed some true light on what really happened to you.

When I receive comments such as this — and I have received hundreds of them over the past thirteen years — the first thing I do is look at the site logs to see exactly what the commenter has read.

Take Roger, a South Carolinian. He read:

That’s it. Right next to the Why I Hate Jesus page is a page titled WHY? On this page is a plethora of posts that curious readers can read, and in doing so find most of their questions about my journey from Evangelicalism to atheism answered. Evidently, Roger didn’t see this page or couldn’t be bothered to look at its content.

Evangelicals tend not to be very curious, that is unless they are surfing YouPorn. Then they are quite interested in every aspect of female and male bodies. But actually reading about and investigating the life of an Evangelical pastor turned atheist? Nah, how much information does one need to judge a man the Bible says is a fool, a follower of Satan.

In 2015 post titled Curiosity, A Missing Evangelical Trait, I wrote:

Why is it that so many Evangelicals have no desire to be curious? Yes, I know many are, so don’t get your panties in a bunch if you are a curiouser-than-a-cat Evangelical, but many aren’t. I frequently get emails or blog comments from Evangelical Christians wanting to “help” me find my way to Jesus. Such people are certain that they possess the requisite knowledge and skill to win me to Jesus. They are sure that if they just befriend me, quote the right verses, soothe my hurts, or understand my pain, I will fall on my knees and fellate their God.

I was in the Christian church for fifty years. I was an Evangelical pastor for twenty-five of those years. I have a Bible college education. Surely they understand that I am not an atheist out of ignorance? Of course not, and here is where their lack of curiosity gets them in trouble. They often don’t know anything about me or this blog. Why? Because they did a Google/Bing/Yahoo search for _________________ and their search brought them to a single blog post of mine. (Or the past 90 days, 64,000+ first-time visitors have come to this site via a search engine — mostly Google.) These searchers read that one post and immediately conclude that I am a poor wayfaring waif in need of their peculiar flavor of Jesus.

When I get comments such as these, I go to the logs and see what pages they read. Usually, they have only read the pages their search brought them to. Their lack of curiosity (or laziness) is astounding, leading them to make wild judgments about me, and come to rash, ill-informed conclusions. If they would just read the About page and the WHY page they would be better informed about me and this blog. How hard can it be, right?

I suspect part of the reason Evangelicals are not, in general, known for their curiosity, is because they are one-hundred percent certain that they are absolutely right. In their minds, they worship the one, true God and this God lives inside of them. This God walks with them, talks with them, and tells them that they are his own. They have a supernatural book given to them by this supernatural God. This book contains all the answers about life they will ever need. Why should they read anything else?

When you are certain, there’s no need to think, reason, investigate, question, or doubt. When the triune God is on your team, no need to consider any other team. When your God/sect/church/pastor has declared that strawberry ice cream is the one true ice cream, no need to try Rocky Road, Mint Chocolate Chip, or any other flavor.

Simply put, no need to know anything else, when you already know all you need to know. God said it and that settled it. One true God, one true religious text, one way of salvation. The earth is 6,023 years old, created in six literal twenty-four-hour days. The Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible blueprint for Christ-honoring families, happy marriages, obedient children, and great sex. When the answer to every question is God, it’s not surprising to find that Evangelicals are not curious.

The good news is that more and more Evangelicals are discovering the curiosity that lies dormant beneath the surface of their lives. Once they make this discovery, they are on their way out of the closed-minded, senses-dulling prison of Evangelicalism. They will find out that science can and does explain the world they live in. Science doesn’t have all the answers, but it is asking the right questions.

Still want/need to believe in a transcendent deity or some sort of spirituality? Once free of the heaven/hell, saved/lost, in/out, good/bad paradigm of Evangelicalism, people are free to wander at will. When the fear of hell and judgment is gone, they are free to experience those things that are meaningful to them. Once the question is no longer will you go to heaven when you die, the journey rather than the destination becomes what matters.

Curiosity may kill the cat, but trust me Evangelicals, it won’t kill you.

Now let me circle back around to Roger’s comment.

From the get-go, Roger says that he thinks I am lying or withholding information. He wants to know what REALLY happened to me. Well, shit, Roger, this blog is titled, The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser. This is a clue that says, HEY ROGER, THIS BLOG IS ABOUT THE LIFE OF EVANGELICAL PASTOR-TURNED-ATHEIST BRUCE GERENCSER!

Most readers would say that I am open, honest, and transparent about my past and present life. I have been willing to write about things that are painful and embarrassing to me. I have never wanted to paint a less-than-honest picture of my life. I watched too many preachers do just that back in my preaching days, and I see it going on still today. Sometimes, I want to scream to them TELL THE FUCKING TRUTH! Alas, Evangelicalism is built on a foundation of truth avoidance; a culture that values name, reputation, and prestige more than it does honesty and truth.

Roger goes through a greatest hits list of reasons he thinks may be the reason I left the ministry and later left Christianity (grammar corrected for readability):

  • Was it your fibromyalgia that wasn’t healed?
  • Was it your oldest daughter with cystic fibrosis?
  • Was it your dad dying at an early age?
  • Was it your mom committing suicide?
  • Was it the depression you faced when you quit believing?
  • Was it your wife — pastor’s child — having to choose between you and her faith?
  • Was it your lack of material wealth you experienced during your pastoring, especially when you saw pastors who appeared to worship money instead of God?

Let me call Roger’s statements the Seven Was-Its.

Was-It Number One: Was it your fibromyalgia that wasn’t healed?

I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 1996 — 12 years before I walked away from Christianity. During my career as a pastor, I battled chronic bronchitis, had bacterial pneumonia twice, had pleurisy several times, contracted mononucleosis — which almost killed me — and was treated for a plethora of joint and muscle problems. Not one time did I question God. I accepted being sick as God’s perfect plan for my life.

Was-It Number Two: Was it your oldest daughter with cystic fibrosis?

Actually, my oldest daughter has Down syndrome. When Bethany was born thirty years ago, my wife and I viewed her as a gift from God. We never questioned God blessing us with Bethany. Bethany having Down syndrome played no part in my deconversion.

Was-It Number Three: Was it your dad dying at an early age?

A curious reader would have found out that my dad and I weren’t close. We didn’t have an adversarial relationship, but definitely not close. I was outside the church raking leaves when Polly told me Dad was dead. We hugged, and I went back raking leaves. While I now miss my dad, his death played no part in my deconversion.

Several months ago, I had my DNA tested. I learned what I have long suspected — that Dad was not my biological father. (I plan to write about this someday.) I found that my father was a truck driver who lived in Chicago at the time. He likely met my seventeen-year-old mom while she was working at The Hub, a now-defunct truck stop in Bryan, Ohio. I have a half-brother in Michigan. Talk about messing up your ancestry tree.

Was-It Number Four: Was it your mom committing suicide?

Mom and I were close. Her suicide at age fifty-four deeply affected me. I so wish she were here today so she could play grandma to our grandchildren. (Please see Barbara.) That said, Mom’s death played no part in my loss of faith. My life with Mom certainly affected me in more ways than I can count, but not when it came to walking away from Christianity.

Was-It Number Five: Was it the depression you faced when you quit believing?

This one is almost funny. I have battled depression most of my adult life — from my early 20s. Thus, depression was the dark passenger of my life from the time I pastored my first church until today. The difference back then is that I buried my depression under a mountain of lies, prayers, and Bible verses. After I left Christianity, I sought out a secular psychologist to talk to. It was only then that I began to unwind the complexities of my life. I still battle depression today. It ain’t going away. My mental health goal is to keep from falling into the rabbit hole and having suicidal thoughts. Sometimes, I fail.

Was-It Number Six: Was it your wife — a pastor’s child — having to choose between you and her faith?

Now, this one is downright funny — and stupid. Yes, Polly is the daughter of a retired Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor. Her parents have attended the Newark Baptist Temple in Heath, Ohio for over four decades. That said, Polly has never had to make a choice between her “faith” and her husband of forty-one years. I never sensed that she struggled with choosing between me and God. Sure, we left Christianity together, but that’s where the similarities end. Each of us has our own reasons for deconverting. One thing is certain, if I ever said I was planning to re-enter the ministry or start attending an Evangelical church again, Polly would like divorce me or kill me with one of her Lodge cast iron pans. Trust me on this one, my wife has zero interest in Christianity. In many ways, her feelings about the past are much stronger than mine. The only difference is that Polly doesn’t write about her feelings on a blog that is read by thousands of people.

Was-It Number Seven: Was it your lack of material wealth you experienced during your pastoring, especially when you saw pastors who appeared to worship money instead of God?

Seven strikes and you are out, Roger. For most of my ministry, I believed that living in poverty was God’s chosen path for me and my family. A good case can be made from the Bible that materialism and wealth are contrary to the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles. While I prayed for material blessing, I never questioned God’s provision. I worked my ass off, and let God take care of the details.

Roger goes on to ask, “if the ‘Western Jesus’ has destroyed your belief why can’t you believe in the Jesus of the New Testament?

These are the kind of questions that make me want to scream. Roger evidently has never read a Christian history book. He thinks that his brand of Christianity is that of Jesus, the Apostles, and the first century church, when it is, in fact, every bit as westernized as mine was in my preaching days. In fact, I suspect if Roger had met me back in the day, he would have loved my preaching and teaching.

By not being curious, Roger misunderstands the chronology of my life. Roger writes:

Every day you preached did you question is this was all a farce? What happened when you finally turned agnostic and publicly proclaimed this? Were you pastoring a church?

I pastored my last church in 2003 and left the ministry in 2005 — three years before my deconversion in November 2008. I still did some preaching, but I no longer was interested in the dog-and-pony show called the ministry. In 2005 — as a last fling of sorts — I candidated at several Southern Baptist churches in West Virginia. It became clear to me that my heart was no longer in the ministry, and neither was Polly’s. We spent the next three years trying to find a church we could call home. (Please see But Our Church is DIFFERENT! for a list of the churches we visited.) In the end, we concluded that despite the names above the doors, churches are all pretty much the same.

Roger concludes his comment by saying:

I guess just as you judge others, I would like to hear from yourself, church members, family, or someone who could shed some true light on what really happened to you.

This brings me around to the fact that Roger thinks I am lying about my past and present life. He wants to “judge” my life, and determine for himself the “real” reasons I left the ministry and later left Christianity. Roger would love to interrogate my wife and children or “someone” — whoever the hell that is — who would confirm the “real” reasons I am no longer an Evangelical pastor. Something tells me that Roger thinks he already knows the “truth” about my life. He just needs someone to authenticate and confirm his judgments.

I have decided to be brutally open and honest with Roger. I sincerely — in the name of Loki –want him to know the truth about me.

Roger, I never was a Christian. The joke is on the thousands of people I pastored. I was a deceiver, a false prophet, a destroyer of souls. I spent most of my adult life living a lie, pretending to be a follower of Jesus just so I could work 60-80 hours a week, earn $12,000 a year, live off of food stamps, drive $300 cars, and raise six children in a 12′ by 60′ foot mobile home. Instead of accepting secular employment that paid fabulously well, I chose the aforementioned lifestyle all because I wanted to be a wolf among sheep.

I know you really want to know about the sex stuff. You got me, Roger. I fathered several children with female congregants. I also had gay relationships with several deacons. Not only that, I also was a porn addict, frequented houses of prostitution, and attended all-male revues at the local strip club.

I spent five years teaching church children without pay at our Christian Academy. I taught them the Bible and the doctrines of historic Christianity. Why? I was a deceiver, an apostate.

Today, I am a crossdressing worshiper of Satan. Every Halloween, I sacrifice Christian infants to Lord Lucifer. I spend every waking hour trying to destroy God. I hate him, as I do all Christian churches and pastors.

This, I suspect, is more akin to Roger’s narrative of my life than reality. Why read, investigate, ask questions, and attempt to understand when you can read a couple of pages and render infallible, self-righteous judgment.

Let me leave Roger with a verse from the Bible he says he believes. Proverbs 18:13 says:

New International Version
To answer before listening– that is folly and shame.

New Living Translation
Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.

English Standard Version
If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.

New American Standard Bible
He who gives an answer before he hears, It is folly and shame to him.

New King James Version
He who answers a matter before he hears it, It is folly and shame to him.

King James Bible
He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.

Christian Standard Bible
The one who gives an answer before he listens–this is foolishness and disgrace for him.

Contemporary English Version (my favorite)
It’s stupid and embarrassing to give an answer before you listen.

Good News Translation
Listen before you answer. If you don’t, you are being stupid and insulting.

Holman Christian Standard Bible
The one who gives an answer before he listens– this is foolishness and disgrace for him.

New American Standard 1977
He who gives an answer before he hears, It is folly and shame to him.

American Standard Version
He that giveth answer before he heareth, It is folly and shame unto him.

Douay-Rheims Bible
He that answereth before he heareth sheweth himself to be a fool, and worthy of confusion.

Thus saith the Lord.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

Bruce, Has Your Story Won Any Converts to Atheism?

peanut gallery

Recently, a Seventh-Day Adventist pastor emailed me and asked:

You certainly are preaching your good news still, eh? Once a preacher, always a preacher I guess. I read some of your site and I find it intriguing, if a bit … missionary … in its atheistic zeal. I’m curious if your message about your personal journey has won any converts to the atheism cause. Or did most former Christians just come to your site because they already had one foot on the way out and saw you out here? Like you, I’m sick of the lies inside the churches. But its clear I don’t hate the same set of “lies” you do. Unlike many Christian pastors, I have no interest in converting anyone and never have. I write only because I went through this same journey (and its subsequent fallout) with a fellow pastor in the Seventh-day Adventist church, Ryan Bell, and I am gathering information as to why these journeys take place at all. So thanks for taking the time to write down why you left. It actually strengthens me in staying.

I have always been passionate about whatever I do in my life. So, what might be perceived as “missionary zeal” is actually just me being me. As a writer, I believe I have something to say that matters, so I put my whole being into my work. That said, my goal has never been to be an evangelist for atheism. My target audience remains the same today as it was a decade ago: those who have questions/doubts about Christianity and those who have left Christianity. I see myself as a facilitator. My goal is to help people distance themselves from Fundamentalist Christianity. (Please see Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?)

The letter writer asks if my story has won any converts to atheism. The short answer is yes. Numerous ex-Evangelical pastors, evangelists, missionaries, and laypeople say that my writing was instrumental in their deconversion. While this is not my goal, I am humbled by the fact that many people find my writing helpful. That thousands of people read this blog still blows my mind.

The readers of this blog are quite eclectic. While I am an atheist and an agnostic, many readers are not. Evangelicals and liberal Christians, along with atheists, agnostics, pagans, and other non-Christians read my writing. Many of them have both feet firmly planted in their religious traditions. Others do not. Questioners and doubters, along with people seriously considering leaving the fold, often find that my writing resonates with them. My words ring true.

Of course, I also attract Evangelical apologists and critics, along with Muslim and Catholic zealots. Countless Christians have sent me emails or left comments on a particular post, hoping to bring me back into the fold, deconstruct my life, or discredit my story. In my early blogging days, I thought that if I just openly and honestly shared my story apologists, zealots, and critics would, at the very least, understand where I am coming from. Those days are long gone. Instead of engaging in endless debates, I give such people one opportunity to “share” whatever it is God as laid upon their hearts. If they play well with others, I might approve further comments from them. Unfortunately, most Evangelical commenters are terrible representatives of Christ on earth. (Please see Dear Evangelical.) Even if they could mount an effective defense of Christianity, why would I ever want to be around such nasty, arrogant, mean-spirited people?

As far as the “why” of my deconversion, here’s my stock answer:

I no longer believe that the central claims of Christianity are true. I came to a place in my life where these beliefs no longer made sense to me. (Please see The Michael Mock Rule: It Just Doesn’t Make Sense.) I reject all the miraculous claims made for Jesus, from his virgin birth to his resurrection from the dead. I do believe Jesus is was a real flesh and blood human being who lived on Palestine 2,000 years ago, However, as with all humans, he lived and died, end of story.

Over the years, I have corresponded with hundreds of clergy who are either no longer believers or have serious doubts about Christianity. Our numbers are increasing daily. Why is that?

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

Dear Ward

peanut gallery

Recently, a Christian man by the name of Ward left a comment on the post Dear Jesus. Instead of answering him in the comment section, I thought I would turn his comment and my response into a post.

I feel sad for you Bruce . . .

Typically, when a Christian begins a comment with “I feel sad (sorry)” or makes some sort of psychological judgment, it is a sign that the commenter is here to evangelize, correct, or excoriate. Remember, thousands of Evangelical commenters have come before you, so you bear the weight of their collective assholery.

When I read this line, I thought, why should anyone feel sad or sorry for me? All things considered, I am quite happy. I have been married almost forty-two years, have six grown children, and thirteen wonderful children. Sure, life has its difficult moments, and recent years health-wise have been challenging not only for myself, but also for my wife. Yet, in every way, my life today is better than it was when I was a follower of Jesus.

Imagine if I started a conversation with you that intimated that I felt sorry for you because you were a Christian. How would you feel and respond?

[I feel] sad for the things you endured . . .

I realize that you are basing this judgment on reading the post Dear Jesus. Unfortunately, when people only read certain posts it is easy for them to come to wrong conclusions. Yes, from my childhood forward I have endured trial and adversity. However, all in all I had a happy childhood and ministerial career. (Please see Bruce, Were You Happy in the Ministry? Part One and Bruce, Were You Happy in the Ministry? Part Two.)

[I feel] sad for the path you chosen.

Why? If you had a blog, I would never leave a comment that said I felt sad (sorry) for you because you were a Christian. In the twelve years since I divorced Jesus, I have never left such a comment anywhere on the Internet or social media. Every person is on a journey. Each of us has a story to tell — Christian or atheist. I accept at face value that you profess to be a Christian. Who am I to question your story? Unfortunately, scores of Evangelicals have attempted to deconstruct my life. I have had blog posts written about me, and several preachers have even preached sermons that suggested I never was a “real” Christian. (Please see Gone but Not Forgotten: 22 Years Later San Antonio Calvinists Still Preaching Against Bruce Gerencser.)

I am one man with a story to tell. All that I ask of Christians is that they accept my story at face value and not fling theological epitaphs my way. Unfortunately, most Evangelical commenters don’t play well with others.

Your story of lost faith sounds as familiar as many others I’ve read such as Charles Templeton.

I am not sure how closely my life tracks with that of Charles Templeton, but I am one of many Evangelical preachers who are atheists or agnostics. Our number increases daily.

I understand and agree with many of your criticisms of the American evangelical movement and the professional church, but what I don’t understand is the decision to become an atheist.

You are certainly not the first Christian not to understand why I deconverted. Usually, a refusal to read my writing or an inability to square one’s theology keeps Evangelicals from truly understanding my story. Unable to make the square peg of my life fit in the round hole of their theology and experiences, many Evangelicals just dismiss my story out of hand by saying, “Bruce, you never were a real Christian.” Or worse, they say that I am still a Christian; that I am backslidden. How about letting me tell my story and accept it as told? Why is it so hard for Christians to accept that I once was a Christian and now I am not? “But Bruce, the BIBLE says ________.” Sorry, but it is not my problem if Evangelicals can’t square my storyline with their peculiar interpretation of the Bible. There’s no question that I once was a Christian, and I am sure as hell not a Christian now.

As others I’ve read it usually revolves around the theme of “If God is good why does he allow evil?”. I can see the move to the left in a way, though politically they are no better than the right, as there is a growing leftist “evangelical movement. You said you served God from a leftist perspective for a time and I see others who maintain a sense of fulfillment in that place without rejecting God. Is it just as simple as God allowed bad things to happen in your life?

There are many reasons people walk (run) away from Christianity. That’s why I point people to the WHY page — a collection of posts that explain why I am no longer a follower of Jesus.

If I had to pick one reason for why I am not a Christian it is this: I no longer believe that the central claims of Christianity are true. I came to a place in my life where these beliefs no longer made sense to me. (Please see The Michael Mock Rule: It Just Doesn’t Make Sense.) I reject all the miraculous claims made for Jesus, from his virgin birth to his resurrection from the dead. I do believe Jesus was a real flesh-and-blood human being who lived on Palestine 2,000 years ago, However, as with all humans, he lived and died, end of story.

I want to conclude this post by responding in part to your response is Grammar Gramma.

Wow gramma you are exactly the type of person I would expect to encounter when engaging atheists, arrogant, rude, dismissive.

I hope what I have written above might cast some light on how your first comment might have been perceived by the atheists and agnostics who frequent this blog.

Why did you comment on this blog? If you believe that atheists are arrogant, rude, and dismissive, what’s the point of leaving a comment? While Grammar Gramma can speak for herself, I can confidently say that she is neither arrogant, rude, and dismissive. I suspect much like me and other unbelievers, she is weary of Christians who don’t invest the requisite time necessary to understand my story or who begin their comments with judgments or psychological analysis. Most atheists and agnostics I know are plum wore out by Christians who judge and criticize their lives instead of taking the time to truly understand their story.

I hope I have adequately answered your questions. If not, please let me know.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

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. 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 is a vile sinner under the just condemnation of God, deserving eternal punishment in Hell/Lake of Fire. The Bible also says that 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 died 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 made part of 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. 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 wife went to college to get an 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, 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 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 apostles and thought that they were a pattern to follow. Run the race, Paul told me, I. 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 towards 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 the same three or four people show up.

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 leaving the Christian church and leaving the ministry 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, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

Songs of Sacrilege: The Spirit Bears The Curse by Derek Webb

derek webb

This is the one hundred seventy-fourth installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please send me an email.

Today’s Songs of Sacrilege is The Spirit Bears The Curse by Derek Webb. Webb, formerly part of Contemporary Christian Music group Caedmon’s Call, is now an unbeliever. The song “sounds” like a praise and worship song until the end, and then takes an interesting turn.

Video Link

Lyrics

help me to forget
all of my regret
i know you’re strong enough to do the job
you go by many names
forever stay the same
your promises i claim
you’re all i’ve got

we gather here because we know
there’s nowhere else that we can go
where we can be really free

so we raise our voice
we raise an offering
would you come near
and quench our thirst
oh, lift our hearts
as the spirit bears the curse

oh, we depend on you
we know that you’ll come through
we feel it instantly when you move
it’s more than chemistry
more than community
you enter into me
you’re in my veins

you bear the weight of all our grief
uncertainty and unbelief
oh, you restore our sanity

so we raise our voice
we raise an offering
would you come near
and quench our thirst
oh, lift our hearts
as the spirit bears the curse

now my knees are weak
my speech is slurred
oh, the things you shake
oh, the things you stir
i am calling out the only name
that delivers me from my guilt and shame

oh, alcohol
alcohol
oh, alcohol
we raise our voices for alcohol
alcohol
an offering for alcohol
alcohol
oh, alcohol
oh, alcohol

Dear Pastor Eric Strachan: What’s the REAL Reason You Are a Christian?

eric strachan
Pastor Eric Strachan

Repost from 2015. Edited, updated, and corrected.

Several years ago, Eric Strachan, retired pastor of  New Life Community Church, Petawawa, Ontario, Canada, wrote an article for The Pembroke Daily Observer titled How Come Some Don’t Believe There is a God?  Strachan decided to answer the question of why some of us don’t believe in the Christian God. And, like most Evangelical pastors who take up this question, Strachan gave the wrong answer. Here’s what he had to say:

Tell me, what do the following have in common – renowned feminist Gloria Steinem, film maker Woody Allen, billionaire Warren Buffet, Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki, martial arts expert Bruce Lee, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg and last but not least Rolling Stones front man Mick Jagger?

Scratching your head? Stumped? Let me give you a hint by adding to that list Jim Gibson, the mayor of Head, Clara and Maria who sits on the Renfrew County council. If it didn’t click before, now it has. All of the foregoing lay claim to being atheists. That means they’re not theists. A ‘theist’ is one who believes in God, but put an ‘a’ in front of that six-lettered word and you come up with what the Merriam-Webster dictionary defines as ‘one who denies the existence of God’. That’s an atheist! And let’s face it, whereby in another era many atheists kept their personal denial of God’s existence somewhat private, today, in this post-Christian age they’re out of the closet and not just out of the closet, but preaching their unbelief with unashamed evangelical fervour.

Take for instance Ronald Reagan Jr., the son of the one-time Christian president of the United States of America, Ronald Reagan. Junior is now part of the ‘Freedom from Religion Foundation’ that bemoans the intrusion of religion into the political sphere. In a series of television ads Reagan advocates for the complete separation of church and state, finishing the brief ad looking straight into the viewer’s eyes with the bold pronouncement, “Ron Reagan, lifelong atheist, not afraid of burning in Hell.” That’s bold isn’t it? I mean, really bold! But there is a brash radical boldness about today’s atheism, just listen to some of the front runners of the movement, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins, they are preaching their ideology brother, and there’s an enthusiastic chorus of atheistic ‘Amens’ coming from all corners of the globe!

I don’t know about you, but a few weeks ago I stood in the Maternity Ward of our local hospital and looked at a pair of newborn twins, and then the other day I held them. It was an awesome moment for me, I was in absolute awe, strangely and mutely silenced as I touched tiny fingers, beheld tiny eyes, felt skin as soft as velvet and pondered to think that what I now held in my arms, these beautiful babies, had their mysterious beginnings in a microscopic cell. Who, I ask you, but a Supreme Omnipotent Creator could engineer such a marvel? You simply cannot look into the face of a newborn and declare “There is no God!”

But all that asides, I’ve discovered throughout the years that there are many reasons why many men and women today align themselves with people like Mark Zuckerburg and Ron Reagan Jr. I think there are many people who are atheists today because they’ve experienced human tragedy, painful traumatic events in their lives, wars, rapes, a dysfunctional childhood, abuse, the tragic loss of a loved one and they’ve simply not been able to come to a satisfactory answer to the perennial perplexing question, “If there is a loving, all-powerful God, then why would He allow this to happen to me?”

Outside of their own personal traumas, many embrace atheism today because they read of the Jewish Holocaust, see and witness human tragedies on a widespread scale, famines, genocides, ethnic cleansings and they ask themselves despairingly, “If there is a God, why would He allow such atrocities?” Together with that, there are many who fly under the banner of atheism today because at some memorable junction in their lives they have been desperately hurt, wounded and scarred by someone who professed to be a believer. Tragically the messenger has discredited the message by his/her inappropriate behaviour and the wounded one has committed the classic error that all of us are inclined to do, of throwing out the baby with the bathwater!

Personally, I would love to sit down with guys like Woody Allen or Mark Zuckerburg and Mayor Jim Gibson. I would love to ask them “Why are you an atheist?” And then I would love to sit and listen, without interruption or defence on my part, them tell me why. I would venture to say that some of them would come up with some very strong intellectual arguments as to why they reject God, but I’m also absolutely convinced that many of them would tell me that they have embraced the belief system of atheism because they’ve been wounded by professed believers, or they’ve seen too much hypocrisy in the ranks of those who believe.

As a theist and a Christian, I’d love to ask any of them what they think of Jesus Christ. I’d furthermore like to invite their responses to the question, “What do you think of the comments made by historian after historian down through the generations that this man Jesus Christ is the most important man who ever lived?”

I wonder what they’d say. I wonder what Gloria would say, and I wonder what Woody, Warren and Bruce would say. And I guess for that matter, I wonder, I really wonder, what Jim Gibson, the mayor who sits on the Renfrew County Council would say. It would be interesting to know, wouldn’t it? For let’s face it, if you forthrightly profess to be an atheist, deep down, at least according to you . . . there’s a substantial reason why!

Strachan did wonder what Bruce would say – not me, of course – so I thought I would tell him.

Strachan, like many Evangelical pastors and apologists, refuses to accept at face value the stories atheists tell about their deconversion. While he paints himself as a man willing to listen, he knows what their real problem is; they were hurt and they need Jesus; or they couldn’t reconcile the evil in the world with there being any God, let alone the Christian God. In one short post, Strachan gives all the reasons Christians say people such as myself and many of the readers of this blog are atheists. All the reasons except one, that is. While many atheists certainly struggled with some or all of the issues mentioned by Strachan, the primary reason for their deconversion was an intellectual one.

Video Link

Strachan seems to not know that many atheists were at one time devout Christians. It’s not that we don’t understand the teachings of Christianity. We do, and we find them wanting.

Here’s what’s offensive about Strachan’s line of reasoning. He refuses to allow atheists to tell their own stories.  He wants to rewrite their storylines, making them fit his understanding of faith and unbelief. Imagine if atheists treated Christians the same way. Imagine if atheists refused to accept at face value Christian conversion stories. Why, Christians would be incensed over our refusal to accept their narratives at face value.

Imagine a discussion between Pastor Eric Strachan and Bruce Almighty, the Atheist:

Strachan: I am a Christian.

Atheist: Why are you a Christian?

Strachan: I realized I was a sinner and I needed my sins forgiven. I realized Jesus died on the cross for my sin. Jesus offered me salvation and deliverance from sin if I would put my faith in him. I did, and I have been a Christian for over sixty years.

Atheist: Yeah, but why are you REALLY a Christian?

Strachan: I told you.

Atheist: No, I want to know the REAL reason you are a Christian.

Strachan: I told you, don’t you believe me?

Atheist: Well, I just know there must be some other reason you are a Christian.

Strachan: Uh . . .

Atheist: What aren’t you telling me?

Strachan: Well . . .

Atheist: Did you become a Christian so you could be a pastor?

Strachan: I told you the reason I became a Christian. Why don’t you believe me?

Bruce, the atheist, and Strachan go back and forth until Strachan realizes the atheist refuses to accept his story at face value, and nothing is going to change his mind. Strachan hands the atheist a tract, promises to pray for him, and sadly walks away.

The next week, the atheist writes an article for The Pembroke Daily Observer about the REAL reason Eric Strachan became a Christian.

I wonder how Strachan would feel?

Strachan makes a plea for civility, discussion, and understanding. However, such understanding only comes when we treat others with respect and allow them to tell their own stories. Both Christians and atheists should have the freedom to control their storylines, to explain how they came to where they are today. When Christians tell me why they became followers of Jesus, I believe them. I’ve been there, and I understand what it means to commit one’s life to Jesus. I also understand what it means to lose one’s faith, to wake up one day and realize you no longer believe in God. Since these experiences are mine, who better to understand them than me?

If Christians such as Eric Strachan really want to understand WHY atheism, agnosticism, secularism, and religious indifference are growing in North America, they are going to have to listen to what defectors have to say. Throw away the apologetics books that purport to give the REAL reasons people turn to atheism. These books are filled with distortions and lies. Who better to answer the WHY question than atheists?

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

Bruce, You’re Not an Atheist

no such thing as an atheist

I recognize that telling my story publicly invites critique, criticism, and attack. I started blogging in 2007, and no matter where I am in my journey, there are people who think they “know” the real Bruce Gerencser; that they have pulled back the curtain of my life and exposed the real me. Never mind the fact that my critics rarely read my writing or make good faith efforts to truly understand my story. In their minds, they know everything they need to know about the man, myth, and legend, and they are ready to render judgment.

Evangelical zealots love to tell me that I never was a Christian; that my faith and devoted life as a follower of Jesus was a lie. Long-time readers know this claim irritates the hell out of me. By making this bald assertion, my Evangelical critics refuse to accept my story as told. Years ago, one Evangelical preacher told me, “Bruce, I know you better than you know yourself.” Sadly, more than a few Christians think they have the gift of divination; that they have some sort of innate ability to see the “real” me.

Occasionally — as was the case recently on the post Guilt: the Essence of Christianity — critics will take a different tack, suggesting that I am not an atheist; that I still believe in God, albeit a “different” God from the one from my Evangelical past.

Take a comment left by a woman by the name of Diane Villafane:

Thank you for being honest, and congratulations on taking a step ahead in your spiritual journey. I’ve been there and done that.

I wanted to add, I don’t think you are an atheist. You just came to a realization that God is not the anthropomorphic being described in the Bible.

Villafane read all of one post — which took her four minutes — and rendered judgment. She made no attempt to understand my story. Nope, she read a few hundred words and then concluded that despite what I say, I am NOT an atheist; that I have just changed concepts of God.

Why do some of my critics deny me the right to disbelieve?

Some people believe that there’s no such thing as atheists; that atheists deliberately suppress their knowledge of the existence of God. Evangelical presuppositionalists, in particular, say that the Christian God of the Bible has revealed himself to everyone through conscience, creation, and divine revelation (the Bible).

Others “sense” that I, deep down in my little ‘ole heart of hearts, still believe in God. These critics pick things out of my writing, seeing these nuggets as evidence of my continued belief in God. No matter what I say, they are convinced that I am still a Christian; or at the very least a believer in some sort a divine creator.

Some Evangelicals will argue that I can’t be an atheist because I profess to having been saved; that once a person is born again, he can never, ever, for any reason, lose his salvation. In their minds, I am a backslidden Christian, and, in time, God will chastise me and bring me back into the fold.

Here’s what I find interesting: everyone is entitled to their opinion and judgment about my past and present life — that is, except me. What I say doesn’t matter. “You SAY you are an atheist, Bruce, but I don’t believe you!” It is in moments such as this that I sigh. Is there no end to such stupidity? I know, I know, rhetorical question. As long as I put my story out there for the public to read, I am going to have people shape my storyline to fit their peculiar beliefs. All I know to do is to continue telling my story. If people refuse to accept my story at face value, there’s nothing I can do about it, other than utter a few choice swear words.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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

Advice for a Young Evangelical Bible College Student

questions

I receive all sorts of emails every day, everything from personal attacks to honest questions. Rarely does a week go by where I don’t receive an email that deeply affects me emotionally. Several days ago, I received one such email from a young Evangelical Bible college student. After reading and pondering his words , I thought his email would be a great subject for a blog post.

I have removed all personally identifiable information. People who email me in good faith can rest assured that I will always protect their privacy. Here’s what this young man had to say:

I am a Biblical Studies major in pursuit of becoming a pastor. Growing up, faith was all I had and everything that I held onto. Over the past year, I have learned things about the faith and the church that have left me confused and hurt. I am going into student debt to pursue this “calling” I feel in my life. Yet, this calling has slowly faded away and I am sitting here writing this, confused on what to do or where to go. I am scared to let go of my faith, although I am not sure why. It is hard for me to ignore hard facts and scientific explanations. They just make sense. I know you said you have 25 years of ministry, and my whole life has been built up for me to go into ministry as well. I am looking for answers, and I do not know who to turn to as all of my family and friends are believers, and I honestly do not feel comfortable coming to them. Please write me back any advice, book to read, or just honestly someone to share experiences with.

I want to applaud this man for being willing at such a young age to question his beliefs and seek out answers to his doubts and questions. I wish I had the courage this young man has back when I was a student at Midwestern Baptist College in the mid-1970s. Sadly, I was a true-blue believer, and with nary a question or doubt, I continued on a ministerial path that led me to pastorates in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. I was fifty years old before questions and doubts overwhelmed belief and I deconverted.

My objective in responding to this man is NOT to convert him to atheism. I have never been an evangelist for atheism, and I don’t intend to be one. My goal remains the same as always: to help people who have doubts and questions about Christianity or who have already deconverted. I see myself as a facilitator. To use a worn-out cliché, life really is a journey. Evangelicalism teaches — dare I say demands — believers to focus on the destination — Heaven or Hell, and not the journey. Life is little more than preparation for meeting and living with God in the life to come. I challenge people to see that life is all about the journey. Your destination is immaterial. Walk the path that is in front of you, following its course wherever it leads. In doing so, you will end up exactly where you need to be. My only regret is that I waited until I was in my forties before I realized this grand truth.

This man comes from a family who is devoted to Jesus. I can only imagine how painful his doubts and questions are as he thinks about how seeking answers might affect his relationship with his family. As many readers of this blog know firsthand, daring to step outside of the prescribed rut of Evangelical faith can lead to catastrophic consequences. Verbalizing such things can lead to estrangement and excommunication. That’s why I warn people in the post Count the Cost Before You Say I Am an Atheist to carefully consider confessing unbelief to Evangelical family and friends. Once you share your doubts and questions or admit you no longer believe, you no longer control what happens next. That’s why several commenters on this blog call themselves atheist Christians. Family (or economic) concerns prevent them from being out and proud. I would say to this young man: ponder carefully what you say or do going forward. Weigh the consequences carefully.

The email writer mentions having a “calling,” that he is attending an Evangelical college to pursue that calling. Evangelicals believe that men are “called” by God into the ministry. I wrote about that very subject two weeks ago in a post titled, I’m a Prophet, Preacher, or Evangelist Because I Say I Am. When you believe that God is “calling” you, it can be quite a struggle when you begin to doubt not only your call, but also your beliefs. I remember the struggles I had over trying to reconcile what I believed was a divine calling with my waning faith. In the end, my slide down the slippery slope of unbelief destroyed any notion of a divine calling. As an atheist and a humanist, I still have a sense of what I consider a “calling.” Not in a supernatural sense, of course, but I still feel drawn to helping others — Christian or not.

I am more than forty years older than this young man. I try to picture myself at the age of twenty-one sitting in my dorm room questioning my faith. This man is surrounded by people who appear resolute in their Christian beliefs, yet he has doubts and questions. Is there something wrong with him? Of course not, though Evangelical zealots will say that this man is being tempted by Satan, battling “secret” sin, or is not a True Christian®. Remember, questions and doubts are not really permitted in Evangelical circles. Oh, apologists will beg to differ, but the fact remains that doubts and questions are permissible only if they lead to Biblical answers. Straying outside of the safe confines of the Evangelical box is verboten, as is asking an ex-Evangelical-turned-atheist preacher for help. (Please see The Danger of Being in a Box and Why it Makes Sense When You are in it and What I Found When I Left the Box.)

When doubting Evangelicals ask me for advice, I typically suggest that they read Dr. Bart Ehrman’s books. The reason I do so is because Ehrman, a professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a leading authority on the New Testament and the history of early Christianity, is a former Evangelical. Ehrman began his ministerial training at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, and Wheaton College, in Wheaton, Illinois — both staunch Evangelical institutions. He finished his M.Div. and Ph.D. at Princeton Theological Seminary. Today, he is the author of numerous books on the history of the New Testament.

Evangelicals typically believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. This belief is foundational to Evangelical faith, and that’s why I point doubters to Ehrman’s books. Written on a popular level, Ehrman’s books lay siege to and destroy the Evangelical notion that the Bible is in any way inerrant or infallible. Inspired? That’s a faith claim. Inerrancy and infallibility, on the other hand, are matters of facts and evidence.

I would suggest that this man read several of Ehrman’s books. Here’s a partial list of his works:

The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why

How Jesus Became God : the Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee

Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior

Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them)

Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth

Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are

God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question — Why We Suffer

Ehrman recently released a book titled, Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife. I am currently reading through this book. Fascinating, to say the least. I have concluded, so far, that there’s a lot I don’t know about Heaven or Hell from a historical or Biblical perspective.

I am confident that reading Ehrman’s books will disabuse all but the most stubborn of Evangelicals of their belief that the Bible is an inspired, inerrant, infallible text. While coming to an enlightened conclusion about the Bible does not necessarily lead to unbelief, it does render Evangelical dogma untenable. Once this happens, an Evangelical is ready to take a hard look at what it is he really believes. Once the Bible loses its power and authority over a believer, he is free to let facts and science determine the validity of religious beliefs. For me personally, skeptically and intellectually examining the core tenets of Christianity led me to conclude that these beliefs could not be rationally sustained. Your mileage may vary. Many ex-Evangelicals find ways to hang on to some sort of Christian faith. Any move away from the Fundamentalist tendencies of Evangelicalism is a good one. (Please see Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?)

I hope this young man will continue to correspond with me. I sincerely wish nothing but the best for him, realizing that difficult days lie ahead for him if he continues to walk the path he is on. Unlike Evangelical family and friends, I am more than willing to help regardless of where his journey takes him. I have six grown children, all of whom were raised in Evangelical churches. Not only was I their father and prison warden, but I was also their pastor. After Polly and I left Christianity in 2008, I have watched as my children have struggled with matters of faith. Their respective journeys have taken them away from Evangelicalism, but not necessarily towards unbelief. The unbelief of their parents, especially their preacher father, gave them the freedom to wander; to seek knowledge and understanding outside of the narrow confines of Fundamentalism. I wish the same for this young man.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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