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My Responses to Dr. Michael Brown’s Seven Questions for Atheists

i have a question

Recently, Dr. Michael Brown, an Evangelical Christian apologist, asked atheists seven questions. Brown explains his reason for doing so this way:

If you consider yourself an atheist today, or if you considered yourself an atheist in the past, I’d love to ask you some honest questions.

But I do not ask these questions to win a debate. Or to be antagonistic. Or to buttress my own beliefs by exposing alleged weaknesses in your position. To the contrary, I ask these questions so I can better understand your mindset as an atheist.

What follows are my answers to Brown’s seven questions. I will send my responses to Brown after this post goes live.

Before I answer Brown’s questions, I want to share with him my background.

I was part of the Evangelical church for almost fifty years. My parents started attending Tim LaHaye’s church, Scott Memorial Baptist Church in El Cajon, California, in the 1960s. Both made public professions of faith and were devout Christians until they divorced in 1972. Our family attended church every time the doors were open. At the age of fifteen, I went forward during a revival meeting and one of the church’s deacons led me to saving faith in Jesus Christ. Two weeks later, I stood before the church and confessed that I believed God was calling me to preach. Several weeks later, I preached my first sermon.

At the age of nineteen, I enrolled in classes at Midwestern Baptist College, a small Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) college in Pontiac, Michigan. While at Midwestern, I met a beautiful dark-haired girl named Polly. She was the daughter of an IFB pastor and the granddaughter of a United Baptist preacher. Two your later we married, and on July 15, we will celebrate forty-four years of marriage. We are blessed to have six grown children, thirteen grandchildren, and an old cat named Joe Meower.

After leaving Midwestern in 1979, I started working for a GARBC (General Association of Regular Baptist Churches) church. Over the course of the next twenty-five years, I also pastored two IFB churches, a Sovereign Grace Baptist church, a Christian Union church, a non-denominational church, and a Southern Baptist church, all in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan.

In 2005, I left the ministry, and in 2008 I left Christianity altogether. In early 2009, I publicly professed that I was an atheist. My wife would also later confess that she no longer believed in the Christian God.

Now that I have given a brief summary of my past, let me take a stab at Brown’s questions.

Question One: Would you say that you are (or, were) an atheist based primarily on intellectual study or based on experience? Or did you never believe in God at all?

While my personal experiences as an Evangelical Christian and a pastor certainly played a part in my deconversion, I primarily deconverted for intellectual reasons. My journey away from Christianity began when I concluded that the Bible was not inerrant or infallible. From there, I took a careful look at my beliefs, particularly the central claims of Christianity. I concluded that these beliefs could not be intellectually and rationally sustained. Once I came to this conclusion, I recognized I could no longer call myself a Christian.

Question Two: Would you say that even as an atheist you still have a sense of purpose and destiny in your life, a feeling that you were put here for a reason and that you have a mission to accomplish?

We give ourselves meaning and purpose. There’s no external force — God, the Universe, the Holy Spirit — that gives us meaning and purpose. While I recognized external human forces affect my life and the decisions I make, I am the captain of my ship. I see no evidence of an otherworldly being or force affecting my life.

Do I have a reason for living? Sure. This is the only life I will ever have, so I am in no hurry (most days) to die. I want a better tomorrow for my children and grandchildren, so I work to that end to affect social and political change.

Do I have a mission? Sure. I think Evangelicalism, especially in its Fundamentalist forms, is harmful, causing untold heartache and damage. As a writer, my goal is to tell my story and expose the abusive, harmful underbelly of Evangelical Christianity.

Third Question: Would you say that you are 100% sure there is no such being as God—meaning, an eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing being? Or would you say that, for all practical purposes, you have concluded that this God does not exist, although it is impossible to prove such a negative with absolute certainty?

I am an agnostic atheist. I am agnostic on the God question. I cannot know for certain if a god of some sort exists. The evidence suggests such a being does not exist, but it is within the realm of possibilities that a deity may one day reveal itself to us.

When it comes to specific religions, say the Abrahamic faiths, I am confident these religions are myths.

Because I see no evidence for the existence of a deity, I live my day-to-day life as an atheist.

Fourth Question: Do you believe that science can provide answers for many of the remaining mysteries of the universe, including how the universe began (including where matter came from and where the Big Bang derived its energy), the origin of life, and DNA coding?

I don’t know. Science continues to give us answers to previously unanswerable questions. Whether science ever explains to us what happened before the Big Bang is unknown. Science does adequately explain our world from the Big Bang forward, and that’s enough for me. Unlike many Christians and atheists, I have little interest in philosophical debates about the existence of God and the beginning of the universe. I’m dying — literally — so I choose to live in the present. I am far more interested in balancing our checkbook than I am the Kalam Cosmological Argument.

Fifth Question: Have you had any experiences in life that caused you to question your atheism? Has something happened to you that seemed genuinely supernatural or otherworldly? Or have you been confronted with some information that shook your atheistic foundations, such as a scientific argument for intelligent design? If so, how have you dealt with such doubts to your atheism?

No. One step in my deconversion was giving an honest accounting of the “miracles” and “answered prayers” in my life. My wife did the same. We concluded that we could rationally explain all but a handful of experiences. This was not enough evidence for us to conclude that the Christian God of the Bible did it. Unexplainable? Sure, but I reject the God of the gaps argument Evangelicals often use to explain the unexplainable. I am content with saying, “I don’t know.”

Sixth Question: Are you completely materialistic in your mindset, meaning human beings are entirely physical, human consciousness is an illusion, and there is no spiritual realm of any kind? Or are you superstitious, reading horoscopes or engaging in new age practices or the like?

Yes, I am a materialist.

I see no evidence of a spiritual realm or souls. I believe that new age practices, horoscopes, Tarot card readings, and homeopathy, to name a few, are in the same category as prayers and miracles: unsupported by evidence.

Seventh Question: If you were convinced that God truly existed—meaning the God of the Bible, who is perfect in every way, full of justice and mercy, our Creator and our Redeemer—would that be good news or bad news? And would you be willing to follow Him and honor Him if He were truly God?

I am already convinced that the God of the Bible does not exist, and I can’t imagine any evidence will be forthcoming to change my mind. Thousands of Evangelical zealots and apologists have tried to evangelize me, without success. It has been years since I heard a new argument for the truthfulness of Christianity. As Solomon said, there’s nothing new under the sun. Every few days, I will get an email, message, or social media comment from an Evangelical who is certain they have the remedy for my atheism Alas, they fail every time.

Even if I could be convinced that the God of the Bible is real, I still wouldn’t worship him. Richard Dawkins was right when he said:

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

Such a deity is unworthy of my worship. The only god I worship is my wife. 🙂

If you would like to answer these questions, please send your responses to info@askdrbrown.org.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

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You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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Evangelicals Try to Distance Themselves From the January 6, 2021 Insurrection

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Evangelical apologist Michael Brown wants the world to know that it wasn’t Jesus-loving Evangelicals that fomented insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. Ignore the Evangelical rally that preceded the insurrection. Ignore the incendiary words for months by prominent Evangelical leaders, preachers, and writers. Ignore the Jesus flags, crosses, and Christian apparel. Ignore the Christian music that wafted across the concourse. Ignore the social media posts from Evangelicals who proudly shouted, I WAS THERE! Brown wants everyone to know that the violent, murderous insurrectionists were not real Evangelicals. This was not, according to Brown, a Christian insurrection.

David French calls bullshit on Brown’s disingenuous, facts-challenged denial. (And Brown ignores his own culpability in stoking the flames of Trumpism over the past four years.)

French writes:

We have to be clear about what happened in Washington D.C. on January 6th. A violent Christian insurrection invaded and occupied the Capitol.

Why do I say this was a Christian insurrection? Because so very many of the protesters told us they were Christian, as loudly and clearly as they could.

….

I saw much of it with my own eyes. There was a giant wooden cross outside the Capitol. “Jesus saves” signs and other Christian signs were sprinkled through the crowd. I watched a man carry a Christian flag into an evacuated legislative chamber.

I could go on and on. My colleague Audrey Fahlberg was present at the riot, and she told me that Christian music was blaring from the loudspeakers late in the afternoon of the takeover. And don’t forget, this attack occurred days after the so-called Jericho March, an event explicitly filled with Christian-nationalist rhetoric so unhinged that I warned on December 13 that it embodied “a form of fanaticism that can lead to deadly violence.”

Are you still not convinced that it’s fair to call this a Christian insurrection? I would bet that most of my readers would instantly label the exact same event Islamic terrorism if Islamic symbols filled the crowd, if Islamic music played in the loudspeakers, and if members of the crowd shouted “Allahu Akbar” as they charged the Capitol.

If that happened conservative Christians would erupt in volcanic anger. We’d turn to the Muslim community and cry out, “Do something about this!” How do I know we’d respond in that manner? Because that’s what we’ve done, year after year, before and after 9/11. And while there were many times when Christians painted the Muslim world with an overly-broad bigoted brush, it is true that violent insurrections do not spring forth from healthy communities.

That’s true abroad, and it’s true at home. During this summer’s riots, I wrote multiple posts detailing the extraordinary difficulty in quelling urban unrest once violence starts. Sometimes the unhealthy community is suffering from the effects of systemic injustice. Sometimes it’s dominated by outrageous and unreasonable grievances. Sometimes it’s infested with unhealthy fears and grotesque ambitions. Often there’s a combination of all these factors in play. But the violence always has a cause.

….

The problem is that all too many Christians are in the grips of two sets of lies. We’ll call them the enabling lies and the activating lies. And unless you deal with the enabling lies, the activating lies will constantly pollute the body politic and continue to spawn violent unrest.

What’s the difference between the two kinds of lies? The enabling lie is the lie that makes you fertile ground for the activating lie that actually motivates a person to charge a thin blue line at the Capitol or take a rifle to a pizza parlor.

Here’s an enabling lie: America will end if Trump loses. That was the essence of the Flight 93 essay in 2016. That was the core of Eric Metaxas’s argument in our debates this spring and fall.

Here’s another enabling lie: The fate of the church is at stake if Joe Biden wins.

And here’s yet another: The left hates you (this sentence sometimes concludes with the phrase “and wants you dead.”)

I could go on, but the enabling lies that have rocketed through the church for years share important characteristics. They not only dramatically exaggerate the stakes of our political and legal disputes, they dramatically exaggerate the perfidy of your opponents. Moreover, when the stakes are deemed to be that high, the moral limitations on your response start to fall away.

After all, when people believe our national destiny hangs in the balance, they often respond accordingly. Or, as I said in a December 4 newsletter warning about potential violence, “if you argue that the very existence of the country is at stake, don’t be surprised if people start to act as if the very existence of the country is at stake.”

….

And so the enabling lies spread. They poison hearts. They poison minds. They fill you with rage and hate, until along comes the activating lie, the dangerous falsehood that pushes a person towards true radicalism. How does a person come to the conclusion that cannibal pedophiles dominate Hollywood? Or that a vast conspiracy of politicians, lawyers, journalists, and tech executives (including conservative politicians, lawyers, and journalists) brazenly stole a presidential election?

You believe that when you know your enemy is evil. You believe that when you know they will destroy the country. In that context, fact-checks and rebuttals aren’t just wrong, they’re naïve. All too often, when you’re arguing with the person who believes the activating lie—the falsehood that immediately motivated them to take to the street—then you’ve already lost.

If the church plays whack-a-mole against Q and Stop the Steal while it tolerates and spreads enabling lies, expect to see the insurrection continue. Expect to see it grow. After all, “they” hate us. “They” will destroy the country. “They” will stop at nothing to see the church fall.

Rebutting enabling lies does not mean whitewashing the opposition. It does not mean surrendering your values or failing to resist destructive ideas. It does mean discerning the difference between a problem and a crisis, between an aberration and an example. And it means possessing the humility to admit when you’re wrong. It means understanding that no emergency is ever too great to stop loving your enemies and blessing those who persecute you.

And the rebuttal has to come from within. The New York Times isn’t going to break this fever. Vox won’t change many right-wing minds. But courageous Christians who love Christ and His church have a chance. 

While I do not agree with everything French writes in his article, his central premise rings true. Central to the events of January 6, 2021 is American Evangelical Christianity.

Emma Green describes the connection between Evangelicalism (and Conservative Catholicism) and the insurrection in an Atlantic article titled, A Christian Insurrection.

Green writes:

The name of God was everywhere during Wednesday’s insurrection against the American government. The mob carried signs and flag declaring Jesus saves! and God, Guns & Guts Made America, Let’s Keep All Three. Some were participants in the Jericho March, a gathering of Christians to “pray, march, fast, and rally for election integrity.” After calling on God to “save the republic” during rallies at state capitols and in D.C. over the past two months, the marchers returned to Washington with flourish. On the National Mall, one man waved the flag of Israel above a sign begging passersby to Say Yes to Jesus. “Shout if you love Jesus!” someone yelled, and the crowd cheered. “Shout if you love Trump!” The crowd cheered louder. The group’s name is drawn from the biblical story of Jericho, “a city of false gods and corruption,” the march’s website says. Just as God instructed Joshua to march around Jericho seven times with priests blowing trumpets, Christians gathered in D.C., blowing shofars, the ram’s horn typically used in Jewish worship, to banish the “darkness of election fraud” and ensure that “the walls of corruption crumble.”

The Jericho March is evidence that Donald Trump has bent elements of American Christianity to his will, and that many Christians have obligingly remade their faith in his image. Defiant masses literally broke down the walls of government, some believing they were marching under Jesus’s banner to implement God’s will to keep Trump in the White House. The group’s co-founders are essentially unknown in the organized Christian world. Robert Weaver, an evangelical Oklahoma insurance salesman, was nominated by Trump to lead the Indian Health Service but withdrew after The Wall Street Journal reported that he misrepresented his qualifications. Arina Grossu, who is Catholic, recently worked as a contract communications adviser at the Department of Health and Human Services. (Weaver and Grossu declined to comment. “Jericho March denounces any and all acts of violence and destruction, including any that took place at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, 2021,” a PR spokesperson for the March wrote to me in an email after the publication of this article.) Still, they will have far more influence in shaping the reputation of Christianity for the outside world than many denominational giants: They helped stage a stunning effort to circumvent the 2020 election, all in the name of their faith. White evangelicals, in particular, overwhelmingly supported Trump in 2016 and 2020. Some of these supporters participated in the attack on the Capitol on Wednesday. But many in the country hold all Trump voters responsible—especially those who lent him the moral authority of their faith.

….

“This is bigger than one election,” Grossu says on the Jericho March website. “This is about protecting free and fair elections for the future and saving America from tyranny.” Paranoid thinking abounded among the protesters in D.C.; the QAnon conspiracy has circulated within some evangelical circles. On Wednesday, the Jericho March account tweeted a screenshot of Trump condemning Vice President Mike Pence for not stopping the certification of the Electoral College votes. “A sad day in America,” it said, along with prayer-hands emojis. The march organizers were not mourning the attack on the Capitol. They were mourning the vice president’s refusal to help the president overturn the election.

Were all the insurrectionists Evangelicals? Of course not. That said, Evangelicalism was on prominent display, and those of us who have been following and writing about Evangelicalism for years knew that the baby birthed on January 6th was conceived decades ago in the rhetoric of Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, and the Moral Majority. Over time, culture warriors dropped all pretenses of spirituality, trading their Biblical beliefs for a bowl of political power. In 2016, 82% of voting White Evangelicals voted for an immoral, godless New York con-man named Donald Trump. In 2020, most white Evangelicals — knowing all they now know about Trump — voted once again for him.

Early in Trump’s presidency, Evangelicals tried to convince the American people that Trump was a Christian. James Dobson called the President a “baby Christian.” Trump gathered together prominent Evangelicals — led by crazed charismatic Paula White — and presented them as his “spiritual” advisory board. These preachers sold their souls for bowls of pottage. Trump, of course, was using them for political gain. He knew he needed Evangelicals to vote for him again if he hoped to win re-election.

Evangelicals have pretty much given up on calling Trump a Christian. All that mattered to them is that Trump delivered culture war victories on issues such as abortion and restoring Evangelicals to the head of the cultural table. Decades of separation of church & state progress went out the window, with Christianity being granted unprecedented access to government services and programs. Numerous federal agencies and cabinet positions were headed by Evangelicals and Conservative Catholics.

Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 6-3 vote, voted to require:

a pill used in medication abortions must be distributed to patients directly by health providers and not by retail or mail-order pharmacies. A lower court temporarily suspended this requirement during the pandemic; the Supreme Court’s decision effectively reinstates the requirement.

Thanks to Trump, the Supreme Court now has a solid conservative Christian majority. It is likely, that the Roberts court will, in time, overturn Roe v. Wade — fulfilling the wet dream of millions and millions of Evangelicals, Mormons, and Catholics. We can also expect to see frontal assaults on same-sex marriage and LGBTQ rights. Trump may have lost the election, but he’s given Evangelicals historic victories in the culture war; victories that will negatively affect us for decades.

It should come as no surprise, then, that millions of Evangelicals who recently voted for Trump believe that the election was stolen from Trump; that the “deep state” is out to destroy all they hold dear. While they certainly weren’t the sum of the insurrectionists, they made up a substantial percentage of the white Americans who stormed the Capitol eight days ago. Apologists such as Brown are living in denial of what happened on January 6th. And until such men and women are willing to admit that they are a cancer eating away at the heart of our democracy, there can be no forgiveness or unity. I find it laughable to hear Evangelicals who encouraged sedition now calling on Democrats and people of color to ignore their treasonous behavior and unify with them for the “good” of our Republic.

What’s good for the United States is the arrest and prosecution of those who invaded the Capitol. Hundreds and hundreds of prosecutions should be forthcoming. Members of Congress that helped foment the insurrection should be immediately expelled, and, if warranted, prosecuted. Many of the shrillest voices promoting conspiracies in the Senate and House of Representatives were card-carrying Evangelicals. Ted Cruz? A Southern Baptist. Josh Hawley? A Fundamentalist Calvinist. Evangelicals are everywhere if you dare to pay attention.

There was a day when the religion of a politician was off-limits. We can no longer afford to ignore the connection between theological beliefs and political ambition. Josh Hawley, for example, is a Rousas Rushdoony-loving theocrat. His theological beliefs are a direct threat to our Democracy. And he is not the only Senator or Representative with such beliefs. We must not play nice with such people, all because we supposedly shouldn’t criticize the religious beliefs of others. Their beliefs are fair game, as are the beliefs of all of us. If beliefs affect how we think and act, should we not pay attention to them? After the events of January 6th, the answer to this question should be obvious.

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

Connect with me on social media:

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Satan Behind Protesters

michael brown

It’s no surprise that rioters in Portland burned Bibles this past weekend. As I’ve said for weeks now, the spirit behind the riots is the spirit of lawlessness. It is anti-God and anti-Christ, and that’s why synagogues and churches have also been targets.

When it comes to the Bible, for some, it is the ultimate symbol of oppression. Of religious tyranny. Of abusive authority.

It is the evil book on which America was founded, and it should be burned, along with the American flag. It is racist, homophobic and misogynist. It supports genocide and apartheid, and it the divinely sanctioned manual for slave owners. To the flames!

Such is the mentality of the radical left, as reflected in groups like antifa and Black Lives Matter (speaking, again, of the organization, in distinction from the truth that Black lives matter).

….

There is something else that is animating these rioters and, as we have argued before, it is not from above but from below. And, just as an ideological line can be traced from Saul Alinsky to the leadership of Black Lives Matter, an ideological line can be traced from Alinsky to Satan.

….

What we are seeing, then, in these riots, is ultimately an attempt to cast off the rulership of God. In the words of the rebellious kings in Psalm 2:3 (NIV) (speaking against the Lord and the Davidic monarch who ruled over them): “Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.” We will not have God rule over us!

That’s why Bibles are being burned. It is an open expression of hostility to the Judeo-Christian God and Judeo-Christian values. It is the thumbing of the nose to divine authority. It is overt rebellion.

— Michael Brown, Charisma News, And Then They Burned the Bibles, August 5, 2020

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: How to Effectively Reach the ‘Nones’

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An important new survey by Pew Research asks why people who were raised in religious homes but who now identify as religious “nones” – having no religious affiliation – decided to leave the faith of their childhood.

The results were varied, but according to the survey, “Half of ‘nones’ left childhood faith over lack of belief, one-in-five cite[d] dislike of organized religion.”

Of this half (more exactly, 49 percent) of “nones” who say they no longer believe, many “mention ‘science’ as the reason they do not believe in religious teachings” while others “reference ‘common sense,’ ‘logic’ or a ‘lack of evidence’ – or simply say they do not believe in God.”

Of the 20 percent who cite their dislike of organized religion are “some who do not like the hierarchical nature of religious groups, several people who think religion is too much like a business and others who mention clergy sexual abuse scandals as reasons for their stance.”
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What is God’s solution to this growing problem of religious “nones”? It can be summed up in three words: truth, encounter, and consistency.

Specifically, I’m referring to biblically-based, academically-sound truth that answers the questions and refutes the lies; divine encounter, as in a real, life-transforming experience in God; and a consistent, Christian witness full of integrity and authenticity.

Of course, even with all this, there will be people who disbelieve and reject the faith, just as there have been in every age. But as we do a better job of disseminating the truth, as we help people come to know the Lord for themselves (as opposed to simply knowing about Him), and as we live out our faith without hypocrisy, many of these “nones” will return to God, while some will genuinely come to Him for the very first time.

With regard to truth, I am convinced that the more scientific discoveries we make, the more we must realize that there had to be a Creator. As expressed by the British astrophysicist Fred Hoyle, “A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”

There is today a robust field of Christian apologetics focused on the questions of the origins of the universe and the claims of Darwinian evolution, and it includes highly-respected scientists and scholars who affirm unequivocally that all the evidence points to the existence of an intelligent Creator. There is also a growing body of learned Christian philosophers who are responding with clarity to the great moral questions of human suffering and apparent divine indifference.

Along with this are the many solid teachers and professors and authors who are providing sound responses to the wide-ranging attacks on the reliability of the Scriptures and the exclusive claims of the gospel.

So, there are answers to the many questions that are being raised on university campuses and on the internet. We just need to do a better job of getting those answers out, thereby helping many of these “nones” regain their lost faith (and helping others not to lose their faith in the first place).

— Michael Brown, God’s Solution to the ‘Nones’ Who Have Left the Faith

Bruce Gerencser