Menu Close

Tag: Leaving the Ministry

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Battler

the battler

Originally written in 2010

The Battler

When he battled liberal churches and preachers, they loved him.

When he battled Democrats, they loved him.

And then he became too liberal for them.

When he battled Fundamentalists, they loved him.

When he battled those who preached cheap grace, they loved him.

And then he became too liberal for them.

When he battled the institutional church, they loved him.

When he battled mega-churches and TV preachers, they loved him.

And then he became too liberal for them.

One day he realized that he had spent his entire life battling, and to what end?

No one stood by him.

The great battler stood alone.

Along the way, he had changed.

And when he changed, they walked away.

He learned a hard lesson.

They never really did love him.

They loved his smart writing.

They loved his stand for truth.

They loved his personality.

They loved everything about him except what mattered.

When he needed them the most, they were nowhere to be found.

He made them “uncomfortable,” they said,

He had changed.

He wasn’t what or who he used to be.

What happened to him, they asked?

Perhaps the real question is this: what happened to them?

He often feels like a one-night stand.

Used.

He still fights the battle.

But now the battle is within.

He battles the demons of the past,

He battles the reality of the present.

And he battles fear of tomorrow.

He is forced to forge new relationships.

Why does he feel closest to people whom he has never met?

He used to laugh at the very notion of internet friends, yet where would he be today without them?

They read what he writes and offer their opinion.

They agree, they disagree, but they let him be who he is.

They require no fidelity or obedience.

What’s a battling old preacher to do?

The fires still burns.

Passion still stirs in his being.

But the old battles provide no fight.

So he looks for new battles to fight.

Maybe he will fight for those scarred and damaged by the gods.

Maybe he will fight for those who cannot or fearfully will not fight for themselves.

Maybe he will fight for those whose lives have been ruined by People of the Way.

Maybe he will fight for a better world for his children and grandchildren.

There are still battles to fight.

Choose who and what you will fight for.

And forget those who only loved you for the battles you fought.

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.

Bruce, What’s the REAL Reason You Left the Ministry?

liar liar pants on fire

In the fall of my tenth grade year, I made a public profession of faith at Trinity Baptist Church in Findlay, Ohio. I was fifteen. I vividly remember sitting with my church friends several rows back on the left side of the auditorium as Evangelist Al Lacey preached the gospel. I had heard over a thousand sermons by that time, yet on this night the preacher’s words struck pay dirt in my wicked, sinful heart. When it came time for the invitation — a time at the end of the service when the congregation stands, sings an invitation hymn such as Just as I Am, and the preacher pleads with people to come forward to get saved, rededicate their lives to Christ, join the church, or any other decision God may be laying on their hearts — I wasted no time stepping out of my pew and coming to the front. I was met there by an altar worker and deacon named Ray Salisbury. Ray knelt with me at the altar, took me through the plan of salvation, and had me pray to ask Jesus to save me. When I got up from the altar, it was if a heavy burden had been lifted from life.

Two weeks later, I went forward again, this time to let the church know that God was calling me to preach. Outside of people getting saved, there was no greater shared experience than a young man saying God was calling him into the ministry. Youth pastor Bruce Turner quickly took me under his wing. (Please see Dear Bruce Turner.) Two weeks later, I preached my first sermon from 2 Corinthians 5:20:

Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.

By the time I left the ministry in 2005, at age of forty-eight, I had preached over four thousand sermons, and pastored Evangelical churches in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan.

One of the questions my Evangelical interlocutors often ask is this: Bruce, what is the REAL reason you left the ministry? To these people, the reasons I give for leaving the ministry and later leaving Christianity are suspect. Several days ago, I re-read a post of mine John Loftus posted ten years ago on the Debunking Christianity website. I had forgotten the accusations Evangelical commenters had thrown my way (any grammar and spelling errors in the original comments):

Cathy: So the wolf has finally taken off his sheep’s clothes. Took a while. (Cathy is a member of Community Baptist Church in Elmendorf, Texas, a church I co-pastored in 1994. Please see the series I am a Publican and a Heathen.)

Dimitrios: Are you still married? There is more to this story than what you are leading us to………I recognize this is your story, but I can’t help but sense there is more to this than simply “losing” your faith. Are you a homosexual?

Dimitrios: Please disregard my last post…and, I apologize…I see from earlier posts that your wife is still with you. I’ve experienced people “leaving” their faith, due to a lifestyle attraction that was not supported by the church. In any event, I still feel there is more, but perhaps it is best unsaid.

Rusty: what a crock of horse manure if I ever read any.

Guest: I have doubts as to whether your testimony is truthful. but one thing I do know… It is incomplete. of all the journey and hardship you testify of — I don’t recall you mentioning the lord Jesus. It would appear that you became a baptist … not a born again Christian — you burnt yourself out serving a man made establishment. it is not possible to burn yourself out serving God as firstly it is a matter of loving him — to do so you must fall in love with God — after this, all things have joy, good and bad situations, have joy just as it is a joy to endure any amount of hardship for a child you love with all your heart, so it is a joy to endure anything for God, when you love him.

YoBro1: To Bruce G. So…..what really IS your problem? I’m not gonna quote scriptures and tell everyone off. We be praying for you here in Az man. Your brutal truth about what has happend to you, has happend to many as well. Just like Job, he wanted to discredit God and make his wrong justified to make himself feel better. Your you, and you know when the time is right. But, remember He keeps knocking at everyones heart. Be blessed.

Steven Shull: It does sound as if you have an injury that never healed and you blame God or the church for it. Maybe I am wrong. But you kind of come across that way. The Bible says in Ephesians 6:10 that we wrestle not against Flesh & Blood but against principalities and spiritual forces of evil (demons). If you don’t believe your enemy exists or is at war with you. Then that line of thought just gives that enemy even more power to mess with you as he sees fit. As I have said earlier I have been through similar situations in the Church. But rather then trying to find fault with the people in the church or learning Hebrew and Greek so I can study a more perfected Bible translation. I made the extra effort to see who was pulling the levers behind the scenes. Like the wizard of OZ. You find someone hiding behind the curtain. Someone desperately hoping to be dismissed (he needs that to happen) so he can help people discredit God and His word by causing Christians to not see who really is at fault. Then people will fight among themselves and blame God for the outcome.

Straightforward: that’s what happens when man turn to the other side. or they have been there, just that they hid it for sometime.

Over the past thirteen years, countless Evangelical zealots have left similar comments on this blog or sent them to me in emails. Unable or willing to accept my story at face value, they look for the “real” reason I left the ministry and later deconverted. Most often, my critics think I had some sort of secret sin in my life? Did I have an affair? Was I child molester? Did I steal from one or more of the churches I pastored? Was I a deceiver, a false prophet, a wolf in sheep’s clothing? The list of sins I allegedly committed is endless. No evidence is given for these allegations. My critics just KNOW in their heart of hearts that there must be some secret reason for such radical changes in my life. What God called preacher would ever leave the ministry or abandon Christian altogether. No, no, no, there must be some reason for me leaving the ministry and leaving Christianity other than what I have said.

These kind of people used to irritate the hell out of me. I thought, “why can’t they just accept what I have to say? Why try to trash my character and reputation? Why make me out to be a liar? Over the years, I have learned that when some Evangelicals read my story, it causes them to doubt their own salvation, leading to cognitive dissonance. Instead of examining their own lives, they dig for ways to dismiss mine. They comb through my life with a lice comb, hoping to find nits that prove that I was never a True Christian®; that I was a tool of Satan; that I was a false prophet.

When Evangelical zealots take this approach with me, I no longer try to help them see the light. Instead, I tell them, believe what you will. My critics would love to see COVID-19 take me out, but until it or some other disease claims my life, I plan to continue telling my story. I am one man with a story to tell, and I still have a few more chapters to write.

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.

Sixteen Reasons Why I am Not a Christian

why

Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected. 

I have spent the past twelve years answering questions about WHY I stopped believing in the existence of God. Yet, some readers still can’t understand why I am no longer a Christian. I even wrote two posts answering the WHY question: Why I Stopped Believing and Please Help Me Understand Why You Stopped Believing. The former was written for an obstinate Christian commenter, and the latter was written for a former parishioner — who later unfriended me on Facebook because she found my story so troubling.

What follows are sixteen reasons WHY I am not a Christian. There are many more reasons than these, but this list should satisfy those who continue to prod and poke, trying to find the REAL reason(s) I am no longer a Christian.

  1. I no longer think the Bible is a God-inspired text.
  2. I no longer think the Bible is an inerrant text.
  3. I no longer think Jesus is God.
  4. I no longer think Jesus was virgin-born.
  5. I no longer think Jesus turned water into wine, walked on water, healed the sick, raised the dead, or performed any of the other miracles the Bible says he did.
  6. I no longer think Jesus resurrected from the dead. Jesus lived and died, never to be seen again.
  7. I no longer think there is a Heaven or a Hell.
  8. I think the belief that God will torture all non-Christians in Hell for all eternity is repugnant, abhorrent, revolting, repulsive, repellent, disgusting, offensive, objectionable, cringeworthy, vile, foul, nasty, loathsome, sickening, nauseating, hateful, detestable, execrable, abominable, monstrous, appalling, insufferable, intolerable, unacceptable, contemptible, unsavory, and unpalatable.
  9. I think the Bible shows a progression of belief from polytheism to monotheism.
  10. I think the Bible teaches multiple plans of salvation.
  11. I think much of the so-called history found in the Bible is fictional.
  12. I think the Bible God is an abhorrent, violent deity, one I would not worship even if I believed it existed.
  13. I think science best explains the natural world.
  14. I no longer think humans are sinners.
  15. I think humanism provides a moral and ethical basis for life.
  16. I see no evidence for the existence of the Christian God; thus I am an atheist.

These reasons are based on a lifetime spent studying the Bible and studying the textual, historical, and moral underpinnings of Christianity. These studies led me to conclude that the Christian God is a fiction, as is much of the Christian narrative.

If I had any doubt about these things, twelve years of interacting with Christians on this blog have led me to conclude that Christianity, as currently practiced in the West, is bankrupt. I see nothing in Christianity that would ever cause me to reconsider my rejection of the Christian God.

While I have many online friends who are liberal/progressive Christians, I cannot intellectually embrace their beliefs. Since none of them thinks I’m headed for Hell when I die, I hope they understand why I cannot embrace their faith.

I refuse to let others control my storyline. It’s my life, and who knows it better than I do? All I know to do is tell my story. Each reader is free to accept or reject what I write.

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.

Bruce Gerencser CLAIMS He Once Was a Christian

bruce gerencser false jesus

Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected. 

I have been blogging since 2007.  When I started blogging, I was an Emerging church, red-letter Christian who, along with his wife, was desperately seeking a church that took the teachings of Jesus Christ seriously. (Please see But Our Church is DIFFERENT!)

Our search took us to many churches. We found that Christian churches, regardless of the name on the sign, were largely vapid, empty places, filled with good people who were more concerned with church amenities and programs than following Jesus. We came to the conclusion that, whatever Christianity might have been 2,000 years ago, it died long ago. In its place has grown up an institutionalized church more concerned with power, money, and right beliefs than following after the Prince of Peace, Jesus the Christ.

The last church we attended was the Ney United Methodist Church, pastored by a fine young pastor I greatly admire. By this time, we were already at the back of the church with one foot out the door, and in November of 2008 we turned around, put the other foot out the door, and walked away from Christianity.

There was nothing wrong with the Ney United Methodist Church or its pastor Ron Adkins. Great people. Kind people. Good people. And they were just like every other Christian church we visited. We came to see that churches really are social clubs, especially here in rural northwest Ohio, where churches are often filled with people with similar last names. The churches are like a family reunion every Sunday.

I pastored for the last time in 2003. After being badgered by several colleagues in the ministry about using the gifts God had given me, in 2005 I candidated at several Southern Baptist churches in West Virginia. While two churches wanted me to consider being their pastor, it became clear to both Polly and me that we no longer wanted to be in the ministry. We were burnt out, no longer willing to work for poverty wages and few benefits. Between 2003 and November 2008, various Christians who knew me labeled me as burnt out, depressed, under an attack by Satan, or a good man gone bad. I was still viewed as a Christian, but due to my changing theology, many of the Evangelicals who knew me now considered me a liberal. Those of you who began reading this blog in 2007 will remember my word battles with Pastor John Chisham, aka PastorBoy, over the gospel and salvation. (Chisham is now divorced, remarried, and no longer a pastor.)

Like many Evangelicals who become atheists, I took a long, bumpy, winding train ride to get to atheism. I started out as an Evangelical, then a Progressive Evangelical, then an Emerging Church Evangelical, then a Red-Letter Christian, then a Liberal Christian, then a Universalist, then an Agnostic, and then, finally, I arrived at the Atheist station. Polly arrived at the station not too long after I did.

All told, I was a Christian for almost fifty years. I spent three of those years in Bible college, preached for thirty-three years, and pastored churches for twenty-five years. During this time, no one ever said, I doubt Bruce is a Christian. No one ever doubted my commitment to Christ or my desire to follow Jesus.

But now it is different. Because I am now an atheist, Christians are quick to say I never was a Christian or that I was a false prophet, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. How else to explain my story, right?

Some Christians take a different approach. They question my character, my truthfulness. They say things like, “IF Bruce Gerencser’s story is true” or “Bruce Gerencser CLAIMS he was a Christian.” If you search the internet, you will find claims like this on blogs and forums. Several years ago, Lee Shelton, the Contemporary Calvinist wrote:

Bruce Gerencser, an atheist who claims to have once been a Christian…

This is a classic example of the passive-aggressive approach Christians take with me when they read my story. They seem to be unable to accept my story at face value, Of course, I know why. My story doesn’t fit their neatly defined theological grid. Lee Shelton is a five-point Calvinist, and since I didn’t persevere in grace that means I never really was a Christian. I was a temporary believer, not one of the elect to whom God has extended his special, discriminate grace. Of course, I could just be on a time-out and someday I will return to Christianity and persevere to the end. Shelton doesn’t consider THAT possibility.

Here’s what I think. Many Christians find my story threatening. They wonder, if a man like Bruce Gerencser, a lifelong Christian and a pastor, can fall from grace or live a long life of deception, perhaps this could happen to me too. None of the people who called me pastor or considered me a ministerial colleague ever doubted that I was anything but a dedicated, sold-out-for-Jesus Christian. So, either I really was what I claim I was OR I am the best liar and deceiver who has ever lived. And trust me, I am a terrible liar.

Everywhere I look, I see agnostics and atheists who were once devoted followers of Jesus Christ. Pastors, youth directors, worship leaders, missionaries, deacons, evangelists, soulwinners, bus workers, and Sunday school teachers; on-fire, filled-with-the-Holy-Ghost Christians. Thousands of former followers of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords read this blog. Were all of these washed-in-the-blood Christians deceived, never having tasted the goodness of God? Would a scientist doing a study on this group conclude that they were false Christians? Of course not. In every way, they were once numbered among those who followed the lamb wherever he went. When Jesus said “follow me,” they cast their nets aside, forsook all, and followed him. No matter what they now are, the past cannot be erased by the wave of a magic theological wand.

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.

My Recent Interview with Manny Otiko

I was recently interviewed by journalist Manny Otiko. Manny writes:

A few years ago, I heard about the practice of ministers who lost their faith and walked away from the clergy. These are not isolated incidents. Ex-ministers even have their own support group called The Clergy Project, which has 1,000 members, according to its website. I was always curious about how someone quits being a minister. Here is an interview with Bruce Gerencser, a former minister, who now describes himself as a humanist.

You can read my interview here.