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Tag: Leaving the Ministry

Bruce, What Were the Psychological Aspects of Your Loss of Faith?

no regrets

Recently, a friend of mine asked me about the psychological aspects of my loss of faith. He rightly noted that most of my writing about my deconversion focuses on the intellectual aspects of the process. I told him that talking about the psychological/emotional aspects of my life, both as a Christian and an atheist, gives my critics easy targets to attack. My story befuddles, aggravates, and confuses many Evangelical zealots. If they can find a flaw or weakness in me personally, it makes it that much easier to discredit me or dismiss my story out of hand. Over the past thirteen years, I have been savaged by Evangelical apologists who want nothing more than to deconstruct my life or dismantle my story. Talking about subjective psychological or emotional issues gives them ammunition to not only marginalize me, but also grind me under their Fundamentalist boot heels. That said, I know it is important for me to tell all of my story. If I truly want people to understand my journey from Evangelicalism to atheism, I must talk about the psychological aspects of my deconversion.

As I look back over my life, there are several things that stand out from a psychological/emotional perspective.

First, I struggled with why it seemed that God never materially blessed me. No matter how hard I worked, no matter how many days a week I labored in God’s vineyard, it never seemed that my pay was commensurate with my labor. My colleagues in the ministry all seemed to be doing better financially than I was, and all of them worked fewer hours than I did. Many of them seemed quite passive, rarely going out of their way to advance the kingdom of Christ. They, in my estimation, were placeholders. I, on the other hand, worked, worked, worked, pushed, pushed, pushed, rarely stopping to smell the roses. I sincerely believed the Hell was hot, souls were dying, and Jesus was coming back soon. These beliefs, and others, warped my view of the world. I thought, “better to burn out than rust out.” And so, year after year, I ran the race set before me, with little money to show for it.

It was not until the early 2000s that I realized that I was a lone sprinter, running as fast as I could to finish a race no one else was running. Everywhere I looked, I saw congregants and ministerial colleagues buying houses and land, driving nice cars, taking vacations, and funding their retirement accounts. I thought, “it’s evident God doesn’t reward voluntary poverty or simplicity, so I might as well enjoy the good life like everyone else is.” And so I fundamentally changed how I viewed money and material things. Instead of being the last in line when the church paid its bills, I insisted they pay me first. Polly went out and got a job, and bit by bit we crawled out the financial pit I had dug for us.

I learned that God didn’t care one way or another. Of course, the reason for this is that he didn’t exist. I was waiting for a “dead” Jesus to bless me, and that was never going to happen.

Second, in a similar vein, I struggled with why God seemed disinterested in healing me. My health began to decline in the mid-90s, and no matter what came my way physically, it seemed that God just wanted me to endure it. No matter how much or how long I prayed for healing, God was silent. Oh, I would convince myself that he was “helping” me, but deep down I knew that my prayers weren’t reaching the throne room of Heaven, and most likely were just bouncing off the ceiling.  As I looked at the suffering of other believers, I noticed that God seemed to be ignoring them too. I thought, “isn’t Jesus the Great Physician?” Why does it seem he is always on vacation?

These two issues deeply weighed on me emotionally. I was a committed, devoted, sold-out follower of Jesus, yet it seemed that God didn’t care one way or another. In fact, it seemed that the harder I worked, the worse things got economically and physically. Of course, the reason for this is that I was chasing an imaginary God. I was devoted to a being that did not exist.

While my deconversion was primarily fueled by my re-investigation of the claims of Christianity and the Bible, emotional struggles over money and health problems certainly played a part. It took seeing a secular counselor to help me understand how all these things were intertwined in my life. Untangling my life hasn’t been easy. The wounds left behind by the years I spent in the ministry run deep, affecting me psychologically to this day. In November 2008, I walked out the back door of the church, never to return. I knew that I was no longer a Christian. What I didn’t know is how to best live my life going forward.  As an Evangelical, I believed and practiced the JOY acronym:

  • Jesus First
  • Others Second
  • Yourself Last (or You Don’t Matter)

As an atheist and a humanist, I came to understand that taking care of self had to come first; that I had to care for myself psychologically. I also learned that it is okay to enjoy life; that it is okay to spend money for no other reason than you want to; that it is okay to enjoy material things. Further, I learned that my family mattered to me more than anything. I thought they did when I was a Christian, but an honest accounting of my life revealed that Jesus, the ministry, church members, unsaved people, and just about everyone else came before my family. I regret spending much of my life more devoted to God and others than my wife and children. As an atheist, I now have my mind focused on the things and people who matter. I have learned that it is okay to tell people NO; that I don’t always have to help others; that I don’t have to always please others.

I have spent the past ten years re-making my life. Better? Worse? I will leave it to others to make such judgments. I do know that I am far happier today than I was as a pastor. I am not sure that this post will satisfy those looking for the psychological reasons I deconverted. I know I run the risk of having critics say that I left Christianity because I was bitter over my economic status and God’s indifference towards my health problems. Perhaps, but at the end of the day, the reason I am an atheist is that I no longer believed the central claims of Christianity were true. I may have been angry, bitter, jaded, or pissed off, but these alone were not enough to drive me from the household of faith.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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.

A Former Parishioner Asks: Please Help Me Understand Why You Stopped Believing

why

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

A former parishioner asks:

I just don’t understand how you could just decide you don’t believe any longer. I as you know am a Christian and I could never or would never lose my faith in God, but if I did I would like to think that it would be some type of horrible thing that happened to me to cause me to lose my faith in God. I am not judging you  I am just curious as to what happened to cause you to question and then lose your faith. You were such a good preacher, I learned so much from you I just don’t understand what happened. Please help me to understand.

I am quite sympathetic to those who once called me pastor/preacher. I know my deconversion causes them great pain as they attempt to reconcile the man of God they once knew with the atheist I am today. In some cases, the pain and cognitive dissonance is so great that they can’t bear to write or talk to me. One former pastor friend, the late Bill Beard, told me that I should keep my deconversion story to myself lest I cause others to lose their faith. (Please read Dear Friend.)

I try to put myself in the shoes of former parishioners. They listened to me preach, interacted with me on a personal level, and considered me a godly man. Perhaps I won them to Christ or baptized them or helped them through some crisis in their life. Maybe I performed their wedding or preached the funeral of their spouse, parent, or child. My life is intertwined with theirs, yet here I stand today, publicly renouncing all I once believed to be true; an atheist, an enemy of God. How is this possible, the former parishioner asks?

The email writer asks if some horrible thing happened to cause me to lose my faith. The short answer is no. Eleven years removed from deconverting and fourteen years since I preached my last sermon, I can now see that there were many factors that led me to where I am today. As with all life-changing decisions, the reasons are many. I could point to my disenchantment over the deadness, shallowness, and the emptiness of Evangelicalism; I could point to my loss of health and the poverty wages I earned pastoring churches. I could point to how fellow pastors and parishioners treated me when I left the ministry and later began to question my faith. (Please read Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners.) I could point to my knowledge of lying, cheating, adulterous pastors. I could point to my anger towards those who readily abandoned me when I had doubts about the veracity of Christianity. I could point to the 100+ churches we visited as we desperately tried to find a church that took seriously the teaching of Jesus. (Please read But Our Church is Different.) I could point to the viciousness of professing Christians, people like my grandparents, who put on a good front but were judgmental and hateful towards my family and me. (Please read Dear Ann.) I could point to my bitter experience with Pat Horner and Community Baptist Church in Elmendorf, Texas. (Please read I Am a Publican and a Heathen.) All of these things played a part in my deconversion, but the sum of them would not have been enough to cause me to walk away from Christianity.

Several years ago, I wrote a post titled Why I Stopped Believing. I think an excerpt from this post will prove helpful in answering the question of why I no longer believe:

Since I never made much money in the ministry, there was no economic reason for me to stay in the ministry. I always made more money working outside of the church, so when I decided to leave the ministry, which I did three years before I deconverted, I suffered no economic consequences. In fact, life has gotten much better economically post-Jesus.

Freed from the ministry, my wife and I spent several years visiting over a hundred Christian churches. We were desperately looking for a Christianity that mattered, a Christianity that took seriously the teachings of Jesus. During this time period, I read countless books written by authors from a broad spectrum of Christendom. I read books by authors such as Thomas MertonRobert Farrar CaponHenri Nouwen, Wendell BerryBrian McLarenRob BellJohn Shelby SpongSoren Kierkegaard, and NT Wright.  These authors challenged my Evangelical understanding of Christianity and its teachings.

I decided I would go back to the Bible, study it again, and determine what it was I REALLY believed. During this time, I began reading books by authors such as Robert Wright Elaine Pagels and Bart Ehrman, These three authors, along with several others, attacked the foundation of my Evangelical beliefs: the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible. Their assault on this foundation brought my Evangelical house tumbling down. I desperately tried to find some semblance of the Christianity I once believed, but I came to realize that my faith was gone.

I tried for a time to convince myself that I could find some sort of Christianity that would work for me. Polly and I visited numerous liberal or progressive Christian churches, but I found that these expressions of faith would not do for me. My faith was gone. Later, Polly would come to the same conclusion.

I turned to the internet to find help. I came upon sites like exchristian.net and Debunking Christianity. I found these sites to be quite helpful as I tried to make sense of what was going on in my life. I began reading the books of authors such as John LoftusHector AvalosRobert M. PriceDaniel DennettChristopher HitchensSam HarrisJerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins.

I read many authors and books besides the ones listed here. I say this to keep someone from saying, but you didn’t read so and so or you didn’t read _______. So, if I had to give one reason WHY I am no longer a Christian today it would be BOOKS.  My thirst for knowledge — a thirst I still have today, even though it is greatly hindered by chronic illness and pain — is what drove me to reinvestigate the claims of Christianity and the teachings of the Bible. This investigation led me to conclude that the claims of Christianity and the teachings of the Bible could not rationally and intellectually be sustained. Try as I might to hang onto some sort of Christian faith, the slippery slope I found myself on would not let me stand still. Eventually, I found myself saying, I no longer believe in the Christian God. For a time, I was an agnostic, but I got tired of explaining myself, so I took on the atheist moniker, and now no one misunderstands what I believe.

The hardest decision I ever made in my life was that day in late November of 2008, when I finally admitted to myself, I am no longer a Christian, I no longer believe in the Christian God, I no longer believe the Bible is the Word of God. At that moment, everything I had spent my life believing and doing was gone. In a sense, I had an atheist version of a born-again experience. For the past eleven years, I have continued to read, study, and write. I am still very much a work in progress. My understanding of religion and its cultural and sociological implications continues to grow. Now that I am unshackled from the constraints of religion, I am free to wander the path of life wherever it may lead. Now that I am free to read what I want, I have focused my attention on history and science. While I continue to read books that are of a religious or atheist nature, I spend less and less time reading these. I still read every new book Bart Ehrman publishes, along with various Christian/atheist/humanist blogs and publications, and this is enough to keep me up to date with American Christianity and American atheism/humanism.

For a longer treatment of my path from Evangelicalism to atheism, please read the series From Evangelicalism to Atheism.

If I had to sum up in two sentences why I no longer believe I would say this:

I no longer believe the Bible is an inspired, infallible, inerrant, God-given text. I no longer believe as true the central claims of Christianity; that Jesus is the virgin-born, miracle-working son of God, who came to earth to die for our sin, resurrected from the dead three days later, and will someday return to earth to judge the living and the dead.

The email writer comes from a Baptist background. A conundrum for her is to theologically square my past with the present. There is no doubt that I was a Christian for fifty years. I was a devoted, sincere, committed follower of Jesus. I preached to thousands of people during the twenty-five years I spent in the ministry. Not one parishioner or colleague in the ministry ever doubted that I was a Christian. I was far from perfect, but I was, in every way, a believer.

Those who say I never was a Christian make a judgment based on their theology and not by how I lived my life for fifty years. Baptists must do this because they believe that a person, once saved, cannot fall from grace. The doctrine of eternal security/once-saved-always-saved/perseverance (preservation) of the saints requires them to conclude I am still a Christian or I never was. The few former parishioners and colleagues in the ministry who are Arminian in belief have no problem explaining my trajectory from Evangelicalism to atheism. I once was saved and I fell from grace.

Here’s what I know: I once was a Christian and now I am not. For those who once called me pastor/preacher, they should know that when I was their shepherd I was a Christian. What good I did and what benefits my ministry brought them came from the heart of a man who was a devoted follower of Jesus, a man who loved them and wanted what was best for them. Those experiences, at the time, were real. While I have written extensively on how I explain my past and the experiences I had, former parishioners should content themselves with knowing that I loved and cared for them. While I had many shortcomings, my desire was always to help others. This desire still motivates me to this day.

Much like the Israelites leaving Egypt and heading for the Promised Land, so it is for me. My Promised Land is atheism, agnosticism, and humanism. While I will always have great fondness for many of the people I once pastored, I will never return to Egypt, the house of bondage. Christianity and the ministry are distant sights in my rearview mirror. While I will always appreciate the love and approbation of the people I once pastored, I am not willing to “repent” of my atheistic beliefs. My mind is settled on the nature of the Bible and the claims of Christianity. I fully recognize that billions of people find value, meaning, and purpose in religion, but I do not.

I have no desire to cause believers to lose their faith. I am just one man with a story to tell. Over the past eleven years, I have not even once tried to “evangelize” believers in the hope that they will lose their faith and embrace atheism. Yes, I do write about Evangelicalism and atheism, but people are free to read or not read what I write. If they have doubts about Christianity or have recently left Christianity, then my writing is likely to be of some help to them. If they write me asking questions or asking for help, I do my best to answer their questions and help them in any way I can. Over the years, hundreds of such people have written to me. Have some of them deconverted? Yes, including pastors, missionaries, and evangelists. But, deconversion has never been my goal. Instead, I view myself as a facilitator, one who helps people on their journey. It’s their life, their journey, and I am just a signpost along the crooked road of life.

Former parishioners need to understand that Bruce and Polly Gerencser are the same people they have always been, except for the Christian part. We are kind, decent, loving people. We love our children and our grandchildren. We strive to get along with our neighbors and be a good influence in the community. We are now what we were then: good people.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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.

Why I Stopped Believing

why

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

Jason, an Evangelical Christian, asked:

What would cause someone with your Biblical education and years of preaching the Word of God not just claiming to be a Christian but also living it one day decide to not believe and do a 180 and turn your back on it?

While I deal with this question at length in the From Evangelicalism to Atheism series, today I want to give a short, condensed answer to this question.

People like Jason are often perplexed by how it possible for someone with my background and training to one day walk away the ministry and Christianity. Most of the clergy who deconvert do so at a much younger age, often in their 20s and 30s. In my case, I spent fifty years in the Christian church and I pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years before I deconverted. When I started going to counseling, my counselor told me that it was quite rare for someone my age and with my experience to walk away from a lifetime of belief and work. It happens, just not very often.

Jason is not alone. A number of my ex-friends, former ministerial colleagues, family members, and former parishioners can’t understand how it is possible that the man they called Preacher or Pastor is now an atheist. Often they cannot or will not believe the reasons I give for my deconversion. Instead, they try to divine some other reason to explain why Bruce Gerencser, the man of God, the pastor, the preacher, their colleague in the ministry, is now an apostate, an enemy of God. “Is there some secret past I am hiding, some secret sin,” they ask themselves? They wonder if I have mental problems, that I am “unstable.” They rack their brains trying to come up with a plausible explanation, anything but accepting the reasons I give for my deconversion.

Christian Fundamentalism taught me to stand firm on my beliefs and convictions. When I was a pastor, people appreciated and applauded my willingness to resolutely defend my beliefs and convictions. But now that I do the same with atheism, humanism, and liberal politics, they think there must be some other reason I drastically changed my mind and life. Let me be clear, I am the same man, a man who thinks that beliefs matter.

My mother taught me, from my youth up, that it was important to stand up for what you believe. Now, this doesn’t mean that I am not now tolerant of the beliefs of others, because I am.  As I get older, I realize that tolerance is an important virtue. Stepping outside of the box in which I spent most of my life, I have found a rich, diverse, and contradictory world that continues to challenge me and force me to be more accepting and tolerant.

When I entered kindergarten I could already read. My book-loving mother taught me to read, and she developed in me an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. This may seem counter-intuitive at first, since I was raised in a Fundamentalist environment that is known for its ignorance. However, by becoming a proficient and avid reader, I had at my disposal countless opportunities to expand my knowledge. Sadly, my quest for knowledge became quite stunted as a pastor because I rarely read books that would conflict with my Christian beliefs.  However, when I began to have doubts about Christianity and its teachings, my thirst for knowledge kicked into high gear and I began reading books that I once would have considered heretical.

I never made a lot of money pastoring churches. I never had church provided health insurance or a retirement plan. The only benefits I received were a check I got once a week IF the offerings were sufficient to pay me (all too often, they were not).  Outside of the time I spent pastoring Community Baptist Church in Elmendorf, Texas, every other church I pastored paid a part-time or poverty-level wage for the full-time work I gave the church. I often worked outside of the church, as did Polly when I pastored Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio. I am not pointing a judgmental finger at the churches I pastored. Most of the churches were either small or in poverty-ridden areas. Over the years, I was privileged to pastor many gracious, giving poor people. They gave what they could.

About now you are thinking, what in the world are you talking about, Bruce? I thought this post was about WHY you stopped believing? It is, and what I have written above can be distilled down to these three important statements:

  • I was taught to stand firm on my convictions and beliefs
  • I was taught to read at an early age and I developed a thirst for knowledge
  • I never made much money in the ministry

Since I never made much money in the ministry, there was no economic reason for me to stay in the ministry. I always made more money working outside of the church, so when I decided to leave the ministry, which I did three years before I deconverted, I suffered no economic consequences. In fact, life has gotten much better economically post-Jesus.

Freed from the ministry, my wife and I spent several years visiting over a hundred Christian churches. We were desperately looking for a Christianity that mattered, a Christianity that took seriously the teachings of Jesus. During this time period, I read countless books written by authors from a broad spectrum of Christendom. I read books by authors such as Thomas Merton, Robert Farrar Capon, Henri Nouwen, Wendell Berry, Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, John Shelby Spong, Soren Kierkegaard, and NT Wright.  These authors challenged my Evangelical understanding of Christianity and its teachings.

I decided I would go back to the Bible, study it again, and determine what it was I REALLY believed. During this time, I began reading books by authors such as Robert Wright Elaine Pagels and Bart Ehrman, These three authors, along with several others, attacked the foundation of my Evangelical beliefs: the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible. Their assault on this foundation brought my Evangelical house tumbling down. I desperately tried to find some semblance of the Christianity I once believed, but I came to realize that my faith was gone.

I tried, for a time, to convince myself that I could find some sort of Christianity that would work for me. Polly and I visited numerous liberal or progressive Christian churches, but I found that these expressions of faith would not do for me. My faith was gone. Later, Polly would come to the same conclusion.

I turned to the internet to find help. I came upon sites like exchristian.net and Debunking Christianity. I found these sites to be quite helpful as I tried to make sense of what was going on in my life. I began reading the books of authors such as John Loftus, Hector Avalos, Robert M. Price, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Jerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins.

I read many authors and books besides the ones listed here. I say this to keep someone from saying, but you didn’t read so and so or you didn’t read _______.  So, if I had to give one reason WHY I am no longer a Christian today it would be BOOKS.  My thirst for knowledge, a thirst I still have today, even though it is greatly hindered by chronic illness and pain, is what drove me to re-investigate the claims of Christianity and the teachings of the Bible.  This investigation led me to conclude that the claims of Christianity and the teachings of the Bible could not rationally and intellectually be sustained. Try as I might to hang on to some sort of Christian faith, the slippery slope I found myself on would not let me stand still. Eventually, I found myself saying, I no longer believe in the Christian God. For a time, I was an agnostic, but I got tired of explaining myself, so I took on the atheist moniker, and now no one misunderstands what I believe. (see Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners and Dear Friend)

The hardest decision I ever made in my life was that day in late November of 2008, when I finally admitted to myself, I am no longer a Christian, I no longer believe in the Christian God, I no longer believe the Bible is the Word of God. At that moment, everything I had spent my life believing and doing was gone. In a sense, I had an atheist version of a born-again experience. For the past eleven years, I have continued to read, study, and write. I am still very much a work in progress. My understanding of religion and its cultural and sociological implications continues to grow. Now that I am free from the constraints of religion, I am free to wander the path of life wherever it may lead. Now that I am free to read what I want, I have focused my attention on history and science. While I continue to read books that are of a religious or atheist nature, I spend less and less time reading these kinds of books. I still read every new book Bart Ehrman publishes, along with the various Christian/atheist/humanist blogs and publications I read, and this is enough to keep me up-to-date with American Christianity and American atheism/humanism.

I hope this post adequately answers the question of WHY I stopped believing.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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 Intractability of Christian Fundamentalists

intractable

Originally written in March 2015. Expanded and edited.

If you have not read Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists? please do so. This will help you understand my use of the word Fundamentalist.

Thanks to this blog, social media, and breathing air, I come in contact with Christian Fundamentalists every day. They comment on my blog, send me tweets, leave Facebook comments, send me emails. I’m like a human shit pile on a hot summer day. Fundamentalist flies are drawn to me and there’s little I can do about it. As a former Evangelical, an out-of-the-closet atheist, and a writer, I know that dealing with Christian Fundamentalists is part of my job description.

I’ve been blogging for over ten years. I started and stopped several times, with every stoppage predicated by the behavior of Christian Fundamentalists and how their actions affected my health and mental wellbeing. Over the years, I’ve gotten mentally and emotionally stronger, my skin has thickened, and I am pretty much impervious to the petty, childish, boorish, ignorant behavior of Fundamentalists. When I am up to it, I might engage them a bit, but most of the time I let them piss on my doorstep and ignore them. When they don’t get the desired response from me, they usually head off to another fire hydrant they can whiz on. (Yes, I am full of metaphors today!)

Some Fundamentalists have upped their game and turned to electronic means of bullying. Readers may remember all the problems I had several years ago with spambots sent my way by a Fundamentalist zealot. At one time, I was receiving 1,500 spam comments a day. This was a concerted effort by someone to frustrate me and cause me grief. During this same time period, I had someone repeatedly try to access the blog log-in. Now, this happens routinely a dozen or so times a day, but this time was different. They attempted to log in thousands of times a day. The good news is they failed. My login remained secure and no spam made it to the live site.

Currently, I receive a hundred or so spam comments a day. Quite manageable. In most cases, it’s drive-by spammers wanting to either infect my computer with a virus or make my penis larger. In the case mentioned above, it was a directed attack. Someone deliberately wanted to cause me problems, perhaps even cause me to stop blogging. A great victory for Team God, yes? Yea God!

My Facebook friends may remember someone setting up a fake account in my name. They then gained access to my Friends list (my fault since I had it set to public) and sent them a new friend request. About twenty-five of my friends friended the fake Bruce Gerencser, and after they did, they got a private message from the fake account. The message? A Christian one, meant to witness to them. Fortunately, several dozen friends contacted me about the fake account, and in less than an hour Facebook shut it down. For future reference, I am the only Bruce Almighty Gerencser in the world. If we are already connected through social media, any other Bruce Almighty is a false one.

The one thing I have learned from this is that Christian Fundamentalists, for the most part, are intractable. Intractable is not a word used very often, so let me give you the dictionary definition:

intractable
Definition from TheSage Dictionary and Thesaurus, Published by Sequence Publishing

This word perfectly describes most of the Fundamentalists I come in contact with through this blog and on social media. Certainty has turned them into nasty, arrogant, hateful individuals who have forgotten what their Bible says about the fruit of the spirit and how they are to treat others. Safe behind their digital shields, they violently brandish their word swords, caring little about what damage they might do. Worse yet, they fail to realize or don’t care that they are pushing people away from Christianity. Why would I ever want to be a part of a religion that allows and encourages the maltreatment of others?

As a pastor, I always taught church members that our actions spoke louder than our words. How we treated others determined how our beliefs would be judged. While I may have been a Fundamentalist for many years, I never treated people like I’ve seen Fundamentalists treat me and others. As I mentioned in the comment rules, they are people who haven’t learned to play well with others. They are the schoolyard bullies, demanding that all bow to their God and their interpretation of the Bible.

I know there is no use trying to shame Christian Fundamentalists into acting like they have graduated preschool. If ten years of blogging have taught me anything, it is that I can’t change how Fundamentalists think or act. But, Bruce, you were a Fundamentalist, as were many of the people who read this blog, and you changed! True enough, but I also know how hard it is to change.

The majority of Fundamentalists will believe what they believe until they die. Why? Because their entire life is wrapped up in their belief system. They are in a self-contained bubble where, in their minds, everything makes sense. If you have not read, 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, please do so. I think you will find both posts helpful in explaining the Fundamentalist bubble. Until a person is willing to at least consider that there is life outside of the bubble, there is no hope for them.

I am convinced that inerrancy — the belief that the Bible is without error — keeps people chained to the Fundamentalist God. Armed with an inspired, inerrant, infallible Bible, given to them by the supernatural God who wrote and autographed it, they go into the “world” and wage war against all who disagree with their literalist interpretation of the Bible. If you want to see this belief in action, read the comments on The Bob Jones III Non-Apology Apology, If You Don’t Believe the Bible You Can’t be Saved, and Family Driven Faith Part Two. One commenter was so certain he was right and smarter than the rest of the class, that he had no need to read a book or any of my other blog posts. He was right, end of discussion.

Those of us who were once Christian Fundamentalists understand Fundamentalist pathology. After all, we wuz one of them. We know how certain and arrogant we once were, full of God and shit. We would have remained this way had it not been for an event, life circumstance, book, website, or blog. When one of these things poked a tiny hole in our bubble, we tried our best to patch the hole. But, try as we might, none of the patches would stick, so our bubble deflated. In rushed the “world” with its knowledge. From that day forward, we knew we could no longer stay in the bubble that had been our home for as long as we could remember. Our Fundamentalist Christian friends and family, along with our pastors and colleagues, tried to patch and re-inflate the bubble; but it was too late. Much like a horse escaping its pen, we were free, and once free we were not coming back.

My purpose in life is NOT to debate, fight, or argue with Christian Fundamentalists. It is a waste of time to do so, and since I have so little time left on this earth, I don’t want to waste it casting my pearls before swine. I’d rather spend my time helping those who find themselves outside of the Fundamentalist bubble. Confused, hurt, looking for help and answers, they are looking for someone whom they can turn to for love and support. I want to be that someone. I also want to help and be friends with those who have already transitioned away from religion. They want to know what a post-God life looks like. Through my writing, I try to be a help. A small help, a temporary help; whatever they need from me, I try to provide. I am not a guru, nor do I have all the answers. At best, I am a bartender, willing to spin a yarn, tell my story,  provide entertainment, and listen to the woes, cares, and concerns of others.

Through this interaction, I gain something too. Not another church member or notch on the handle of my gospel six-shooter. I have no church or club, I am just one man with a story to tell. But I do gain support and strength from those who make this blog part of their day-to-day routine. Sometimes this blog is a cheap form of therapy; other times it is a raucous Friday night at the bar with friends. As people ride along with me on the Bruce Gerencser Crazy Train®, they have gone from acquaintances and readers to friends. Perhaps, this has become another bubble for me, but if it is, I do know there is an entrance and exit that allows me the freedom to come and go as I please. Freedom — a word I never really understood until I saw God, the church, the ministry, and the Bible in the rearview mirror.

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About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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.

It’s Time to Tell the Truth: I Had an Affair

 

silhouette of woman

Originally written in 2015. Edited and expanded.

It’s time for me to come clean.

I can no longer hide from my past.

The ugly, awful truth must come out.

I had an affair.

I had a mistress.

I was intimate with my lover for many, many years.

My wife and children know about the affair. I am so sorry for all the hurt and damage my illicit relationship caused. That my wife and children stood by me all these years is a wonderful testimony to their love for me. I don’t deserve it.

My mistress and I carried on for a long, long time. In fact, she would follow me wherever I moved: Ohio, Texas, Michigan. She was always right there for me.

My mistress is a lot older than I. She is what is commonly called a cougar.

The sex was great. The only problem was I could never satisfy her. The more sex we had, the more she wanted. She was quite the nymphomaniac. I had a suspicion she was having sex with other people (she was bisexual) but it didn’t matter. What WE had was special. She treated me as if I was the ONLY one.

Over the years, we made a lot of promises to each other. We are going to this or that, go here or go there.  But neither I or my mistress delivered on our promises.

I gave my mistress a lot of money.  She deserved it, or so I thought. Yet, no matter how much money I gave her, she always wanted more. She would often tell me “prove that you love me Bruce.” So I would give her more money. I began to wonder if she was a prostitute and I was a john. My wife and children suffered because I gave so much money to her. I justified their destitution by telling myself that my affair was what gave me purpose and meaning in life. Without it I might as well be dead.

I deceived myself for a long time, convinced that what my mistress and I had was real. After all, she made me feel alive. She gave me self-worth. When we were together it seemed as if time stopped and we were transported into the heavens.

One day, a few years back I began to have doubts about my affair. The sex was great, but there is more to life than sex. I certainly enjoyed the company of my mistress, and boy, she sure could cook, but I still felt quite empty when I was away from her.

I began to think about all the sacrifices I made for my mistress: all the money I gave her; the loss of a close, intimate relationship with my wife and children. Was it worth it?  Since my mistress got the best of me, all my family got was leftovers. By the time I came home to them, I was too tired, too busy, and too broke to give them what they needed and deserved.

A decade or so ago, after much self-judgment and reflection, I ended the affair. I sold all of the mementos of our torrid relationship. I told my mistress that I could no longer be in a relationship with her. She didn’t even get angry, or for that matter, even care. She told me “There are plenty of other people who would love to have me in their lives. Your loss, Bruce.”

So we parted ways,

My wife and I, along with our children are trying to rebuild our home. The damage done by this affair is incalculable. I can only hope that, with time, the wounds will be healed.

I should warn all of you about my mistress. She is always on the prowl looking for someone new to entice and bed.

Her name?

The Church

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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.

Four Questions from an Evangelical Pastor

questions

Several days ago, an Evangelical pastor whom I have known for over forty years sent me some questions, the answers to which appear below. I found his questions sincere and honest, unlike many questions I receive from Evangelicals. Far too often, ulterior motivations lurk behind some questions, but I don’t sense that here. Hopefully, readers of this blog will find my answers helpful.

Bruce, do you ever feel like you’re wrong?

I am sixty-two years old. I have been wrong more times than I can count. Over the past decade, I have, on occasion, written about my wrongness, be it beliefs I held or decisions I made. As a pastor, my beliefs evolved over the course of the twenty-five years I spent in the ministry. One of the mistakes my critics make is picking a certain point in my life, and judging me from that moment in time. In doing so, they mistakenly or deliberately ignore what has come before and after. Yes, I entered the ministry as an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist. Yes, I at one time was a Jack Hyles supporter. However, my beliefs and associations continued to evolve. By the time I left the ministry in 2005, my beliefs were, compared to those I entered the ministry with, quite liberal. I entered the ministry with a narrow, judgmental view of people who called themselves Christians. I believed that my little corner of the Evangelical tent was reserved for True Christians®. Twenty-five years later, the front door of the church I pastored said, “the church where the only label that matters is Christian.”

The same could be said of my evolution politically. For many years, I was a diehard Christian nationalist who only voted Republican. I listened to Rush Limbaugh every day. In 2000, for the first time, I voted for a Democrat. By the time I moved to my current home, I was a liberal and a democratic socialist.

And finally, the same could be said of my social beliefs. I entered the ministry as an anti-abortion, patriarchal homophobe. I pastored a Baptist church in southeast Ohio for eleven years. I was well-known for my public pronouncements against abortion, women’s rights, and homosexuality. Yet, two decades later, my views have dramatically changed. I am now considered a defender of choice, women’s rights, and LGBTQ people.

People who have never changed their minds about anything — a common trait among religious Fundamentalists — look at my journey and see a man who is unstable. I, on the other hand, see a man who is willing to change his mind when confronted or challenged with facts and evidence that render his beliefs untenable.

Intellectual and personal growth only come when we are willing to admit we are wrong. Closed-minded Fundamentalism stunts our thinking. One need only visit an IFB church to see what happens when people shut themselves off from the world and refuse to investigate and challenge their beliefs.

So, yes, I have been wrong, and I have no doubt that I will continue to be wrong. A well-lived life is one where there is ongoing progress and maturity. If I regret anything, it is that I waited way too long give in to my doubts and questions; that I waited way too long to expose myself to people who think differently from me; that I waited too long to admit to the love of my life and my children that I was wrong.

Bruce, have you ever hesitated at all in deciding to become an atheist?

The short answer is yes, especially when I first deconverted. For a time, my mind was plagued with thoughts and fears about being wrong and God throwing me in Hell. I feared God punishing me for disobedience. I lay in bed more than a few nights wondering, “what if I am wrong?”

Over time, my doubts and fears faded into the fabric of my life. It’s been years now since I had such thoughts.

Perhaps, this pastor is asking me a different question, wondering if I was hesitant about publicly identifying as an atheist. I have never been one to hesitate when I am confident that I am right. I am not the type of person who hides who and what he is, even if it would make life easier for me if I did so. In this regard, my wife and I are as different as day and night. Now, I don’t go through the streets screaming, “I am an ATHEIST,” but I don’t shy away from the label. I have often warned people who have contacted me about their own questions and doubts to NOT look at my life as a pattern to follow. (Please see Count the Cost Before You Say I am an Atheist) Each of us must choose our own path. I don’t judge or criticize atheists who choose to keep their unbelief private. Each to his own.

When I started blogging in 2007, one question I asked myself was whether I wanted to write anonymously. I chose to use my real name, but there have been moments when I wondered if I made the right choice. I have been brutally attacked and threatened by Christian zealots. The pain these people inflict leaves deep, lasting scars. Two weeks ago, this blog celebrated its fifth anniversary. Anyone who has ridden Bruce’s crazy train for years knows that me making it to five years is surprising. On at least three other occasions over the years, I have stopped blogging and deleted all of my posts due to savage attacks from Christian Fundamentalists (and, at one time, Fundamentalist atheists).

My life is pretty much an open book. I try to be open and honest, owning past mistakes and transgressions. Are there moments when I wish I had used a pseudonym instead of my real name? Sure, but it’s too late now to do so. The horse has left the proverbial barn. Even if I stopped blogging tomorrow, it would be impossible to erase my Internet footprint.

Bruce, was your transition difficult for you to accept?

I want to answer this question from two vantage points. First, was my transition from Christian to atheist hard for me to accept? Not at all. I have always believed truth matters. My life appears to my Evangelical critics to be one of a wanderer, a double-minded man (whom the Bible says is unstable in all his ways). My battle with depression is a sure sign to them that I am weak-kneed mentally. Perhaps, but I am the kind of person who is unafraid of changing his mind or being viewed as odd or different. In 2005, my mother-in-law and I had an epic blow-out. I believe I have written about this in the past. (This blow-out, by the way, totally altered our relationship — for the better, from my perspective.) Several days after our titanic battle, my mother-in-law called me. We talked about many things. During our conversation, Mom said, “Bruce, we always knew you were “different.” And she was right. I have always been the kind of person who follows the beat of my own drum, both as a Christian and an atheist. I have no doubt that my singular drum beating has caused me problems and affected the relationships I have with Polly, my children, and my extended family. I am who I am, and I have reached a place in life where I no longer apologize for being Bruce Gerencser.

Second, was my transition from a pastor to a commoner hard for me to accept? Absolutely. My entire life was wrapped up in Jesus and my calling to preach the gospel. The ministry was my life. I enjoyed being the hub around which everything turned. I enjoyed the work of the ministry, especially studying for and preaching sermons. To this day, I miss standing before people and saying, “thus saith the Lord.” I miss the love and respect I received from congregants. I miss the place I had in the community due to my position as a minister.

Walking away from the ministry and Christianity meant abandoning my life’s calling; abandoning everything I held dear. Doing so meant, at the age of fifty, I had to answer countless questions that I hadn’t thought about in years. Fortunately, Polly walked hand in hand with me when I deconverted. I can only imagine how different our lives might have been had I became an atheist and Polly remained a Christian. I highly doubt our marriage would have survived.

Do I still miss certain aspects of the ministry? Sure. Fortunately, writing has become a ministry of sorts for me. This blog and its wonderful readers are my church. I digitally preach sermons, hoping that people find them encouraging and helpful. The traffic numbers suggest that a few people, anyway, love and appreciate the content of my post-Christian sermons. And all Loki’s people said, AMEN!

Bruce, do you wonder at all about any form of an afterlife?

I do not. I have come to accept that life is short, death is certain, and once we draw our last breath we cease to exist. There was a time, post-Jesus, when I hoped there was some sort of life beyond the grave. It’s hard to comprehend not existing. I have had numerous thoughts about non-existence; about going to bed at night and never waking up; of being alive one moment, and dead the next. 2019 was a tough year physically for Polly and me. I thought about how life might be without Polly lying next to me; of not hearing the keys in the door late at night and her voice ringing out, “I’m home.”

As much as I might want for there to be life after death, the facts tell me that no such thing exists. What evidence do we have for an afterlife? None, except the words in this or that religious text. I am no longer willing to build my life and future on what the Bible does and doesn’t say. This is a good spot for me to share the advice I give on the About page:

If you had one piece of advice to give me, what would it be?

You have one life. There is no heaven or hell. There is no afterlife. You have one life, it’s yours, and what you do with it is what matters most. Love and forgive those who matter to you and ignore those who add nothing to your life. Life is too short to spend time trying to make nice with those who will never make nice with you. Determine who are the people in your life that matter and give your time and devotion to them. Live each and every day to its fullest. You never know when death might come calling. Don’t waste time trying to be a jack of all trades, master of none. Find one or two things you like to do and do them well. Too many people spend way too much time doing things they will never be good at.

Here’s the conclusion of the matter. It’s your life and you best get to living it. Some day, sooner than you think, it will be over. Don’t let your dying days be ones of regret over what might have been.

I do my best to live by this statement. If, perchance, I learn after I die that there is an afterlife, fine my me. I have no worries about the existence of the Christian God and his Heaven/Hell. I am confident that the only Heaven and Hell is that which we make in this life. That said, is it possible that some sort of cosmic afterlife exists? Sure, but I am not counting on it. I am not going to waste this life in the hope that there is some sort of divine payoff after I die

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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, You Ruined Your Children When You Walked Away From Jesus

oldest-gerencser-children
Oldest Three Boys with Oldest Daughter, Front pew Somerset Baptist Church, Circa 1990

My wife and I have six adult children. Our children are gainfully employed and we have good, close relationships with all of them. Our children were raised as PK’s — preacher’s kids. Growing up as the children of the pastor wasn’t easy. Both congregants and their father held them to a higher standard than that of other children. My children knew that their behavior would directly reflect on me — warranted or not. As a result, my children were generally respectful, polite, and well-behaved. I have often wondered if they liked this life that was chosen for them. None of them has said one way or the other, but I do wonder if they would have preferred a “normal” childhood (however “normal” is defined).  Perhaps, one of these days my daughter or one of my sons will write a guest post for this site, sharing their thoughts about what it was like growing up as the children of Rev. Bruce Gerencser, a devout Evangelical pastor. Or maybe, just maybe, my children prefer to let their childhoods lie buried in the past, never to be resurrected again. Their stories are theirs alone to tell. The same goes for Polly.

After my wife and I divorced Jesus, I heard from former colleagues in the ministry and parishioners who had a message for me from Jesus: YOU ARE RUINING YOUR FAMILY, BRUCE! Polly was never blamed for anything. Always Miss Perfect! 🙂 I was the head of the home, I was told, so I was responsible for how their lives turned out. It’s been eleven years since we attended church for the last time. Our children, at the time, were age 15, 17, 19, 24, 27, and 29.  All of them were old enough to decide for themselves when it when came to God, Christianity, the Bible, attending church, etc. Three of them were married and had children. Yet, according to my critics, it’s my fault for their loss of faith. Granted, Mom and Dad not going to church, Dad not preaching, and Jesus/Bible/church not being the focus of discussion 24/7 certainly confused them. I have been accused of turning my children over to the wolves by just cutting them loose after I deconverted; that I owed it to them to steer them in the “right” direction, even if I didn’t want to head that way myself. Here’s the thing: my children were old enough to think for themselves. Steering them in the right direction meant giving them the freedom to be whomever and whatever they wanted to be — no strings attached. Some of my children were already at the back door of the church, ready to push it open and walk away. All my deconversion did was give them freedom — you’re free, cheezy bread, you’re free!

Video Link

Fundamentalist family members believe that if I would have just kept serving Jesus and preaching the Word, that all of my children would still be attending Evangelical churches, would still be worshiping Jesus, and would still be part of the machinations of church life. I can’t help but feel my mother-in-law’s disappointment when she quietly shakes her head over our “worldliness” and that of our children. How worldly are we? Why, we drink alcohol and cuss. That’s about it. Well that, and watch HBO. Yes, two of my sons have gone through divorces, but am I to blame for their failed marriages? I think not. Sure, our family is more boisterous now that Jesus isn’t the center of attention, but we are not degenerates. This Sunday, our family will gather at our home for Christmas — twenty-four, in all.  We will all cram into our 12’x18′ living room to watch the opening of gifts. Someone will suggest, as they always do, that the windows need to be opened and we need to build on an addition to our home. Jokes will follow, and Dad will abused by his sons. One thing is for certain, crammed as the room shall indeed be, it filled with love. The focus will be on family, not religion. “But, Bruce, JESUS is the reason for the Season!” Really? No, he’s not, not even in Evangelical homes. Oh sure, there will be prayers and Jesus talk, but once those things are dispensed with, it’s on to fun, food, and fellowship. The Gerencser family just so happens to enjoy the fun, food, and fellowship, sans Jesus. Several of our children will attend mass over the Christmas season, but for the most part they will focus their time and energy on their families. You see, whatever they think of me leaving the ministry and my subsequent loss of faith, they understand that what really matters is family. And if I can be faulted for teaching my children (and grandchildren) anything it is this: family matters.

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Youngest Children, Defiance, Ohio, Circa Late 1990s, Early 2000s.

When the substance of this life is boiled away and you are on your deathbed, what will matter the most to you? Your money? Your car? Your home? Your looks? Your material possessions? I doubt it. I know, for me at least, that what matters are Polly, Jason, Nathan, Jaime, Bethany, Laura, Josiah, Aalyiah, Victoria, Karah, Levi, Emma, Guin, Gabby, Morgan, Charlee, Lily, Alayna, Ezra, my daughters-in-law, my son-in-law, Polly’s parents, and my brother and sister. From there, I have a few friends who are dear to me. These people make up the sum of my life. I labor under no illusions. I will never be an award-winning Sports Illustrated photographer or be remembered for being a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. I know when I die that I will, over time, be forgotten by most of the people with whom I have crossed paths. I will become little more than a historical footnote. Perhaps this blog will live on after I die, but who will pay to keep it operating, and who will take care of its day-to-day administration? It, like everything in life, will eventually fade away. Everything in life is transitory, but a vapor, the Bible says, that appears for a moment and vanishes away. I remember sitting in school classrooms on cold winter days, aimlessly watching the steam from boiler radiators rise up and dissipate. That’s life. When Polly, our children, and our grandchildren share their favorite Bruce/Dad/Grandpa stories at my lakeside memorial, I hope they will have good things to say about me, and a few ribald, silly things too. In that moment, they will learn that all we really have is our memories. Treasure them, for they too, over time, will fade away.

As for former colleagues in the ministry, former church members, and Evangelical family members who continue to paint me as Billy Bob Thornton in Bad Santa — a man who ruined his family — all I can say is “talk to the hand.” Well, I “could” say a lot more than that — I love the F word these days — but why bother? It’s too late in the game for me to worry about catcalls from the stands; to worry about arrogant, judgmental Christians who cannot or will not see how blessed the Gerencser family really is without Jesus.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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.

Questions: What Happened?

i have a question

I put out the call to readers, asking them for questions they would like me to answer. If you have a question, please leave it here or email me. All questions will be answered in the order in which they are received.

Steve asked:

What was unanswered for me by your comments on faith and the loss of your faith in God, is what happened. I wrestle with confusing contradictions of definition and practice in my own life, but for me God never got lost in that ongoing struggle. In fact, my frailty and understanding of my human weakness has come clearly into view while the faithfulness and forgiveness of God is my only hope. I just want to understand what happened on the path from your faith in God to atheism. Maybe how did you come to faith first and what dissolved it?

Life has been very hard, but God is still real. What made that different for you?

Since December 2014, I have written 3,545 posts, totaling 2,963,575 words. Suffice it to say, I have written extensively about my journey from Evangelicalism to atheism. I have told, re-told, and told again what led me to file for divorce from Jesus. Yet, despite all of this, many Christians still don’t understand WHY I am no longer a Christian. Steve is one such person.

Why do some Christians have such a hard time understanding my story; understanding my loss of faith? The main reason, I believe, is their inability to wrap their minds around the fact of a devoted, committed Evangelical pastor turning his back on everything he held dear. Jesus is the everything of Evangelicalism. He’s a lover, savior, friend, and confidant. He is the alpha and omega; the first and the last; the beginning and the end. I am sure Steve wonders, “why would anyone ever want to walk away from Jesus; walk away from the forgiveness of sins and life eternal; walk away from a life filled with meaning, purpose, and direction?”

I pastored thousands of people over the course of twenty-five years in the ministry. More than a few people struggle with accepting that I am no longer a Christian; that I am no longer a pastor; that I am no longer the passionate lover of Jesus they warmly and lovingly called Preacher. These people reflect on my sermons, passion for evangelism, commitment to sound doctrine, and tireless labors and ask themselves, “what happened?”

What happened, as I have detailed numerous times, is that once I no longer believed that the Bible was an inspired, inerrant, infallible text, I was then free to re-examine the claims of Christianity. I spent countless hours pondering the beliefs I once held dear. Sure, there were emotional aspects of my deconversion, but ultimately my decision to walk away from Christianity had to do with one simple fact: I no longer believed the central claims of Christianity to be true. I concluded cardinal doctrines such as the virgin birth of Jesus, his resurrection from the dead, and the miracles recorded in the gospels could not be rationally sustained. (Please see The Michael Mock Rule: It Just Doesn’t Make Sense) Once these beliefs fell by the wayside it was clear to me that whatever I was, I wasn’t a Christian. So, on the last Sunday of November in 2008, I walked out of the back door of the Ney United Methodist Church, never to return.

Yes, Bruce, I get all that, but WHAT happened? And therein lies the problem for many of my interlocutors. They have convinced themselves that I am hiding a secret of some sort — the REAL reason I deconverted. What such people want is an emotional explanation for my loss of faith. Surely there’s a trauma of some sort buried deep in the recesses of my story. I hate to break it to people, but there’s no untold secret. I have done all I can possibly do to honestly, openly, and completely tell my story. I don’t know what else I can say to people other than to say, read my blog! (Start with the WHY page.)

Part of the problem for Christians such as Steve is that they compare their lives to mine. Steve speaks of living a hard life, yet knowing that the Christian God is real and ever with him. Surely, it should be the same for me, right? I am not one to compare my life to the lives of others. Life is complex and messy, and each of us has unique circumstances and experiences. Instead of trying to find the one thing that led to my loss of faith, I wish Christians would just accept my story at face value. Many Christians cannot square my story with their own stories and beliefs. That’s not my problem. All I know is this: I once was saved, and now I am not. I once was a follower of Jesus, and now I am not.

Christians often look for defects in my story. Steve asking about how I came to faith is a good example of this approach. If a defect in the conversion process can be found, then my story makes perfect sense. I never was a Christian! See, I didn’t follow the right steps. Of course, such thinking is absurd. In the twenty-five years I spent pastoring churches, not one congregant, Christian friend, or ministerial colleague ever doubted my salvation or commitment to Christian orthodoxy and the teachings of the Bible. It’s disingenuous to say I never was a Christian. Nothing in my frail, imperfect life suggested that I was anything but a Christian.

I can’t keep Christians from combing through my life, looking for glosses, weaknesses, and contradictions. I know what I know, and that’s all that matters. I have published enough information about my life for anyone so inclined to come to a conclusion about my faith and subsequent atheism. People looking for secrets are sure to be disappointed. Well, except for my “secret” life as a pole dancer and stripper. Coming soon to a strip club near you! (Please see the ABOUT page.)

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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.

I Can’t Believe Bruce Doesn’t Believe in God

bruce-doesnt-believe-in-god
1989, Somerset Baptist Academy. A bit of levity. I’m wearing one of the teachers’ coats, earmuffs, armed with a squirt gun and stuffed animal. That fat face sure needs a beard. No wonder I lost my faith!

This is a post I started years ago and never finished until now.

Several years ago, friends of mine, Dave and Newauna,  drove to Fort Wayne, Indiana to attend a concert at Sweetwater Sound, a combination music store/recording studio/private lesson venue/instrument repair shop/performance venue. The brother of a man whom I was close to as a young man is an executive with Sweetwater. His name is Troy. My friends and Troy talked for a bit, shooting the breeze as rural folks do. Eventually, the discussion turned towards Bruce Gerencser, the Evangelical-pastor-turned-atheist. My friends did not relay the entire conversation to me. They did let me know, however, that Troy was perplexed over my loss of faith, saying, “I can’t believe Bruce doesn’t believe in God.” I am sure my friends replied, “we can’t believe it, either!”

I can’t believe it.

Did you know?

How long has he been like this?

Shouldn’t we confront him?

Shouldn’t we pray for him?

I just don’t believe he is not a Christian anymore.

Such are the consternations of my former Christian friends and acquaintances. They are genuinely shocked and bothered by my defection from Christianity.

Surely, Bruce must have had a mental breakdown.

Maybe his medical problems have caused him to lose his mind.

 Bruce read too many books. He needs to get back to just reading the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. The Bible is the cure for what ails him!

Some think this is a temporary state for me. I’ll be back! (Said as only Arnold Schwarzenegger could say it.) It is hard for them to comprehend that Elvis really has left the building. Come November, it will be eleven years since I walked out of the back door of the Ney United Methodist Church, never to return. (Please see Dear Family, Friends, and Former Parishioners.)

I don’t like the fact that I cause others mental anguish. I genuinely want to be liked and respected by others. There is little, however, I can do, to alleviate their distress. People can and do walk away from Jesus — even pastors.

Sometimes, people are troubled over my defection because they must then consider the fact that “if Bruce can leave the faith anyone can.” I am well-grounded in the Bible and the teachings of the Christian church. If I can reject Jesus after knowing what I know, what is to be said for those not as well schooled as I in Christianity?

When it comes to Christianity, the less you know the better. Just believe. Don’t question anything. Just have faith. Don’t doubt.

Here’s what I want to say to the people who know me well. “Please don’t lose any sleep over my deconversion. I am at peace with where I am in life. I have no desire to wreck your faith in God, but, at the same time, I am not going to hide where I am in life. If you can live with my infidelity to God, we can be friends. If my faithlessness causes you pain and heartache, it is probably better for you to stay away from me.” (2019? All of my former friends have left me, save Dave and Newauna. Dave and I have been friends since third grade. He was right by my side when Polly was in the hospital. A true friend, indeed.)

When Christians friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter feed, or read this blog, they need to understand that they are getting the unvarnished Bruce Gerencser. I am not pretending to be anyone other than who I am. Christian Bruce, Pastor Bruce, Preacher Bruce, Rev. Bruce, Conservative Bruce — all have died a slow, agonizing death.

In a sense, I have been reborn. Liberal Bruce. Agnostic Bruce. Atheist Bruce. Old, tired, worn-out Bruce. In my previous life, I thought I had reached the end of the journey. Jesus was the end-all, and I was waiting for the big payday in the sky. Now life is an unscripted journey. It remains to be seen where I’ll end up. And I am fine with that. I no longer have to have all the answers. Some days, I am just happy if I can find where I left the TV remote the night before.

Bruce, aren’t you afraid of Hell? No, I’m not. The only Hell that exists is on this earth — caused by the machinations of wicked men and women, and not devils, demons, or gods.

I see no evidence for a hands-on, personally involved, “He has a wonderful plan for your life” God. I refuse to embrace a deity who thinks a “wonderful” plan includes pain, suffering, loss, and death. I much prefer the “shit happens” approach to life; life that happens whether I am ready for it or not; life that is as much luck as it is planned.

I know I am a great disappointment to many people. I am indeed sorry for disappointing them. That said, I’m sure none of my former Christian friends or acquaintances wants me to embrace a lie. To say “I believe” just to soothe the consciences of those bothered by my loss of faith is something I can’t do.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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, You are a Liar

garfield liarLet me say from the start: I have, on occasion, lied. I am human, so it really would be a lie for me to say that I have never stretched the “truth,” told little white lies, whoppers, or an occasional big, fat black lie. (Why is it that black is the color always used for the really bad things in life?) I have lied on purpose, by accident, and told a few stories that were exaggerations I am sixty-two years old, and having lived on planet earth for 22,720 days, is it any surprise that I have told a lie or two or three hundred? Of course not. No one reaches the sunset years of life — including born-again Christians — without telling a few lies. That said, I rarely lie. In my day-to-day relationships with my wife, children, grandchildren, and my fellow homo sapiens, I do my best to be truthful and honest. I expect the same from others.

Over the years, I have developed skills that help me detect when someone is lying to me; when they are spinning a yarn; when they are regaling me with Grade-A bullshit. With family, I am pretty good at reading their body language. Polly, in particular, is not a very good liar. I can usually spot her untruths from a mile away. Me? I am not a very good liar, either. That’s why we rarely lie to each other. Oh, we might color the “facts” to present a certain narrative to each other, but generally we are plainspoken.

Now that I have that out of the way, let me address the Evangelicals who think anything I say that doesn’t fit within their narrow, defined theological and cultural box must be a lie. When it comes to telling my story, I try to be a truthful, honest storyteller. Granted, I don’t tell readers e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. I have secrets; things I have never told anyone, including Polly and my counselor. No, I haven’t murdered anyone, molested children, or robbed a bank, but I have done embarrassing things in my life that I am not comfortable with sharing with others. That said, I do my best to be an open book; transparent and honest. Thus, it irritates the Hell out of me when Evangelicals question, doubt, and deconstruct everything I write. Instead of accepting what I say at face value, zealots are Heaven-bent on stripping my story bare and exposing me as some sort of charlatan or deceiver.

Several years ago, one Evangelical preacher told anyone who would listen that I had NEVER been a pastor; that he had talked to someone who lived in rural northwest Ohio during the time I was pastoring churches, and that person had never heard of me! In his mind, that meant I was a liar; that I had never been a pastor. I have had more than a few pastors attempt to discredit me, telling people that I was a liar. At first, such accusations bothered me, but not any longer. I have learned that two people can look at the same events and circumstances and come to different conclusions. My siblings and I have different views of our childhood. Sometimes, I wonder if we are even related!  People can see things from different perspectives, and this colors their understanding. I am sure that can be said of the people I pastored over the years. Congregants who loved/liked me generally spoke well of me. Those who hated me or really, really, really disliked me tended to say negative things about me. I’m sure it’s hard to believe, but I know several former parishioners who would accelerate, hoping to run me over, if they say saw me in a crosswalk. Such is life, right? I used to care incessantly about what people thought of me. Today? Not so much. If being a public writer has taught me anything, it has taught me that I can’t please everyone. Read my writing long enough, and you are sure to see something that will piss you off.

I have concluded that Evangelicals who call me a liar do so because it allows them to dismiss my story out of hand. What better way to not have to deal with the truth, than to attack the messenger and discredit him? There’s nothing I can do to stop people from attacking my character. That said, one fact remains: thousands of people read this blog, and that suggests to me, at least that many readers think my story is true and helpful. And that’s good enough for me.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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 Clergy Project will Soon Pass 1,000 Members

the clergy project

The Clergy Project, a non-profit organization started in 2011 to provide support, community, and hope to current and former religious professionals who no longer hold supernatural beliefs, will soon pass 1,000 members. While I was already out of the ministry (2005) and a vocal atheist (2008), I was one of The Clergy Project’s early members. Over the past eight years, I have recommended several liberal, mainline, and Evangelical clergy to the Project. Most of these contacts came through this blog. Today, I continue to correspond with a number of doubting/unbelieving pastors and church leaders. Several years ago, one Evangelical preacher told me that I was a liar; that “Bible-believing” pastors would NEVER leave Christianity. I said, “what about me?”  “Well, Bruce,” he replied, “you never were a Christian, so you don’t count!” Whether ex-Christian pastors such as myself “count,” an increasing number of clergy are walking away from the pastorate and Christianity. Others, having lost their faith, are still active in the ministry. “What hypocrites,” I have been told. “If they no longer believe, the fakers should immediately resign.” Easier said than done when your family, career, and entire life are wrapped up in the tentacles of the church. I don’t know of a sect that has an exit program for clergy who no longer believe. In most churches, professed atheism or agnosticism — or even doubts and questions in some settings — is a one-way, same-day ticket out the back door of the church house. I know men and women who were ruined financially after being exposed as unbelievers. Many pastors live in church-provided housing. Imagine being told you have to immediately move out of the parsonage. Where do you go? Where will you find shelter for your family? How will you pay your rent and utilities? Often medical insurance and retirement income play a big part in unbelievers deciding to “fake it until they make it.” It’s no simple task to extricate oneself from that which has dominated your life for years. In my case, I was an Evangelical pastor for twenty-five years. While I didn’t have concerns over income, insurance, or retirement, (I was paid poverty wages, never had insurance, nor did I have a retirement program. I was trusting Jesus to care for me until the end; he proved to be a deadbeat caretaker.), I did wonder and worry about the future. My life was so wrapped up in the work of the ministry that I didn’t know what I was going to do post-Jesus. Scores of clergy find themselves in similar circumstances; no longer believers, yet still financially and materially connected to the church. It is for people such as this that The Clergy Project was created. If you are a current or former pastor who no longer believes, I encourage you to join The Clergy Project.

While I am no longer as active in the Project as I would like to be, I fully support their mission and work. These days, my focus is on Evangelicals who have doubts or questions about Christianity or people who have left the faith altogether. When I come in contact with pastors, evangelists, missionaries, worship leaders, deacons, youth pastors, or Christian college professors who no longer believe, I encourage them to check out The Clergy Project. Once they have gone through the approval process, unbelieving church workers have access to all sorts of help, including a private, secure forum. While I don’t participate in the forum as much as I would like, I have found it to be an excellent source for friendship and camaraderie.

The Project has a private Facebook group for its members, as well as a public page. You can find the personal stories of some of the Project’s members here.  And finally, Linda LaScola, one of the founders of The Clergy Project, operates a blog titled  Rational Doubt: With Voices from The Clergy Project.  Rational Doubt features posts by Project members — including yours truly.

If you have any questions about The Clergy Project, please leave your question in the comment section or send me an email.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve 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.