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Tag: Morality

Christians Don’t Have the Corner on Selflessness

Here’s a graphic one of my son’s sent me from his Facebook news feed:

selflessness

As they read this, countless atheists hit their heads on tables and mutter, really, this old canard? Let me kill this thinking in one, swift easy statement: if selflessness is consistent with Evangelical Christianity, why are so many Christians selfish? Bam! Shut the door!

People who post things like this have the IQ of a walnut. Rather than THINK, they post. No thinking Christian would EVER claim that selflessness is the domain of Christianity alone. All the Christian has to do is think about all the selfless non-Christians who have helped them over the years and all the selfish Christians who haven’t.

If the question is can the morality taught in the Bible lead to a life of selflessness? then the answer is yes. But, the same could be said for humanism and other ethical and religious systems of belief. Christianity has no corner on the selflessness market. If anything, American Evangelical behavior often reveals a crass indifference to the plight and suffering of others.

Many Evangelicals wrongly think that atheism is a moral and ethical system of thought. It’s not. Atheism is, and will always remain, the disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods. That’s it. If I tell someone I am an atheist, that tells them nothing about my morals or ethics. The fact that I think evolution best explains the natural world says nothing about my morality or ethics either. Evolution is a statement of fact. There are Christians who are evolutionists. A conundrum: Christian=selfless Evolutionist=selfishness. Yet, there are “evolutionists” who are selfless worshipers of the Christian deity. Just another two-cent reason why the whole “Christians are selfless” argument is groundless.

As a humanist, I live my life according to the principles of humanism. These principles are succinctly stated in the Humanist Manifesto III:

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

The lifestance of Humanism—guided by reason, inspired by compassion, and informed by experience—encourages us to live life well and fully. It evolved through the ages and continues to develop through the efforts of thoughtful people who recognize that values and ideals, however carefully wrought, are subject to change as our knowledge and understandings advance.

This document is part of an ongoing effort to manifest in clear and positive terms the conceptual boundaries of Humanism, not what we must believe but a consensus of what we do believe. It is in this sense that we affirm the following:

Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis. Humanists find that science is the best method for determining this knowledge as well as for solving problems and developing beneficial technologies. We also recognize the value of new departures in thought, the arts, and inner experience—each subject to analysis by critical intelligence.

Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change. Humanists recognize nature as self-existing. We accept our life as all and enough, distinguishing things as they are from things as we might wish or imagine them to be. We welcome the challenges of the future, and are drawn to and undaunted by the yet to be known.

Ethical values are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience. Humanists ground values in human welfare shaped by human circumstances, interests, and concerns and extended to the global ecosystem and beyond. We are committed to treating each person as having inherent worth and dignity, and to making informed choices in a context of freedom consonant with responsibility.

Life’s fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of humane ideals. We aim for our fullest possible development and animate our lives with a deep sense of purpose, finding wonder and awe in the joys and beauties of human existence, its challenges and tragedies, and even in the inevitability and finality of death. Humanists rely on the rich heritage of human culture and the lifestance of Humanism to provide comfort in times of want and encouragement in times of plenty.

Humans are social by nature and find meaning in relationships. Humanists long for and strive toward a world of mutual care and concern, free of cruelty and its consequences, where differences are resolved cooperatively without resorting to violence. The joining of individuality with interdependence enriches our lives, encourages us to enrich the lives of others, and inspires hope of attaining peace, justice, and opportunity for all.

Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness. Progressive cultures have worked to free humanity from the brutalities of mere survival and to reduce suffering, improve society, and develop global community. We seek to minimize the inequities of circumstance and ability, and we support a just distribution of nature’s resources and the fruits of human effort so that as many as possible can enjoy a good life.

Humanists are concerned for the well being of all, are committed to diversity, and respect those of differing yet humane views. We work to uphold the equal enjoyment of human rights and civil liberties in an open, secular society and maintain it is a civic duty to participate in the democratic process and a planetary duty to protect nature’s integrity, diversity, and beauty in a secure, sustainable manner.

Thus engaged in the flow of life, we aspire to this vision with the informed conviction that humanity has the ability to progress toward its highest ideals. The responsibility for our lives and the kind of world in which we live is ours and ours alone.

As I try to live by the humanist ideal, I am ever aware of how far from that ideal I am. I would never say to anyone that unless they become a humanist they have no capacity for selflessness. Humans are social creatures who thrive in interdependent relationships. Rare is the person who wants solitude and loneliness. Thousands of people read this blog because they want the sense of community and connections that come from doing so. Facebook is a hit because we desire to connect with like-minded people. We want to belong. As part of a tribe or group, we help those we have a connection with. If I had a serious medical need and required $10,000 to save my life, I know that a mere mention of this by my fellow bloggers and Facebook friends would result in the need being met. Why would people who have never met me face to face selflessly help me? It is our humanness and the bond we have with one another that drives us to help others. Are we always selfless? Of course not. All of us, Christian or not, can be selfish assholes, thinking only of what’s best for ourselves. But, more often than not, atheists, humanists, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, pagans, or Buddhists, when called upon, will selflessly help others.

Years ago, I was at Sam’s Club checking out, and in the line next to me was an Asian young man trying to buy some stuff for his mom’s restaurant. The cashier wouldn’t let him make a purchase because he was using his mom’s membership card. The man spoke with broken English and was thoroughly embarrassed by how the cashier was treating him. I left my line and went over to the cashier and gave her a piece of my mind. And then I told her to put his stuff on my card and he could pay me for it. Now she was the one thoroughly embarrassed, having been called out for her ill-treatment of the Asian man. She quickly corrected course and took care of the man’s order. As he left, he looked at me and said “thanks.” I said, “no problem.” Did I do what I did because I was a Christian? Of course not. I have no tolerance for those who berate and belittle others. In other words, I don’t like assholes, and that’s why I came to the man’s defense.

When I come in contact with others, I do my best to be kind and considerate. Several years ago, I had a meltdown at the local Meijer customer service desk. The young woman running the desk didn’t help me as I thought she should in the time I had allotted for her to do so. I told her, forget it, and walked away.  Everything was fine until I swiftly turned around and went back to the desk and shouted, and you don’t give a SHIT, do you? Polly helplessly stood by while I made a public spectacle of myself. She didn’t say a word, but by the time we were halfway home, I realized that I had acted like a first-class asshole. As soon as I got home I called the customer service desk and talked to the young woman who had been the subject of my anger. I apologized for my behavior. Several times she told me, “that’s okay.” I told her, “no it’s not. No one should treat someone like I treated you.” The next time I was at the store she let me know that she appreciated my apology.  She told me that she had never had a customer apologize for treating her like shit.

You see, I am a saint and a sinner. I can act selflessly and I can act selfishly. No one has the selfless market cornered. Take the drowning story in the graphic above.  Does any Christian REALLY believe that an atheist would idly sit by and so nothing while someone drowns? I am a disabled. Anyone who sees me knows I have problems getting around. I have had more than a few people extend kindness and courtesy to me as I try to navigate a store, stadium, or restaurant. Yes, I have met a few selfish people who wouldn’t offer me help if my life depended on it, but they are the exception to the rule. Even when I complain about how people often ignore someone in a wheelchair, I don’t think they are being selfish as much as lacking in instruction about people with disabilities.

The underlying issue is that many Christians, particularly Evangelicals, believe that morality comes from God, and that without God a person cannot act morally and ethically. When challenged with examples of godless people who act morally and ethically, Christians often attack the motive for the godless person’s good behavior. The atheist is acting selflessly because they have an ulterior motive, they say. How can they know this? Can we really know the motives of others? Besides, isn’t the moral and ethical behavior of the Christian predicated on gaining a divine payoff, a mansion in Heaven, and eternal life? Who’s the selfish person now?

As a humanist, I am deeply interested in seeing my progeny thrive. Because I love them and desire their company, I try to protect them from injury and harm. Because I desire to live in peace and harmony, I do my best to be a selfless member of the human race and the community I live in.  I don’t need the threat of Hell and judgment or the promise of heaven and eternal life to motivate me to act according to the humanist ideal. My country, community, tribe, and family are important to me, and because they are I act accordingly. Why is it that so many Evangelicals fail to understand this? Why do they arrogantly think that morality, ethics, and selflessness are the domain of their religion alone? Why are they deliberately blind to overwhelming evidence that suggests that all people have within themselves the power to act morally, ethically, and selflessly?

Perhaps it is selfishness that drives their blindness? Imagine what would happen if people realized that living a moral, ethical, and selfless life does not require Christianity. Once the threat of Hell and the promise of Heaven is removed from the equation, people are less likely to join up with Fundamentalist religious sects. Instead of looking for the one road that leads to Heaven, they could choose one of the many roads that lead to a virtuous, well-lived life. Imagine people doing good and acting selflessly because it is the right thing to do, not because they fear God or covetously desire a divine payoff after death.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Then and Now: The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue

kate upton 2017 swimsuit issue cover
Kate Upton, 2017 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Cover Model. (See Upton interview here)

Warning! PG-13, slightly adult conversation ahead!

I have on and off over the years subscribed to Sports Illustrated (SI). Published weekly, SI features stories about athletes and sports leagues. One issue every year is devoted, not to sports, but to the wonders of the female body. The Swimsuit Issue, as it is called, is chocked full of photographs of bathing suit-wearing models. SI chooses exotic locations for the photoshoots. The photographer part of me lusts over what can only be described as a dream gig — splendid locations and beautiful women. What’s not to like, right?

Over time, the bathing suits have become skimpier, reflecting our society’s increasing comfortableness with nudity. Every year, Evangelical groups express their outrage over the Swimsuit Issue, and every year countless Baptist preachers rush to the mailbox so they can preserve their SI copy before their wives get a hold of it. But, of course, Evangelical morality police are not the only people who get a self-righteous hard-on over the Swimsuit Issue. So do Catholic groups such as Catholic Youth Apostolate (link no longer active):

That takes us to the other half of your question, one of swimsuit models on magazines. Again, the real question here is one of intent. Swimsuit catalogs exist to sell swimwear for women. One could safely say that these kinds of images should be harmless to someone striving to live chastity [sic]. The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue (we use this example because the SI Swimsuit Issue is the highest grossing, most widely distributed issue of their magazine every year… interesting, for a magazine that is supposed to be supporting a culture of sports fandom) exists to sell supermodels to men. No one purchases that particular issue of SI in order to buy a new swimsuit for his wife. The women in those magazines are styled and posed in such a way that could easily lead anyone viewing them to lust – they’re often topless, sometimes naked; posed not to show off the swimwear, but their bodies.

One might say, ‘But I’m just admiring their beauty, what’s wrong with that?’ The problem lies in JPII’s quote above – you can’t admire their full beauty as a human person, because you don’t know them. All you have to admire is their physical form, separate from their heart, mind, and soul, so it’s impossible not to objectify them. Furthermore, the women in those magazines don’t express the wide variety of God’s beauty in all men and women – all the women in those magazines are roughly the same size and shape, a cultural standard of ‘beauty’ that simply means ‘sexy’ and is impossible for the average woman to achieve. Beauty is much broader than the images displayed in magazines. It’s not that these images show too much, but too little.

Does this mean that if you happen to catch a glimpse of the cover of the SI Swimsuit Issue in the check-out line at the grocery store, you have sinned? Probably not. But in order to grow in the virtue of chastity, it would be wise to not pick it up and flip through the pages. In as little as two-tenths of a second, an image can be emblazoned in one’s memory for years. And Jesus would rather you not risk it, since he said that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Mt 5:28). Again, make no provisions for the flesh…

This could just as easily of been written by an Evangelical preacher.

Back in my Evangelical preacher days, I would watch for the Swimsuit Issue to be delivered so I could throw it in the trash before one of my teenage sons or I was led into horrible sexual sin. One particular year, the magazine never arrived. Hmm, I thought at the time. I wonder what happened to it? Months later, while working on a vanity light in our master bathroom, I found the missing issue hidden above the cabinet. How did this magazine get here? I wondered. Come to find out, one of my sons had intercepted the magazine and hidden it. I made sure my mag-stealing son knew that he had sinned against God, and then I tore the magazine up and threw it away. Today, we heartily laugh about this story, but at the time, absconding with the magazine was viewed as a serious act of disobedience to God. I felt it my duty to ensure that my sons were not exposed to pornography, be it Playboy, Hustler, or the SI Swimsuit Issue.

Fast forward to 2017. The SI Swimsuit Issue arrived in our mailbox. I spent 20 minutes or so looking at the magazine while we were driving to Defiance for our granddaughter’s basketball game. I didn’t have lustful thoughts or feel the need to masturbate or engage in sexual intercourse. Shouldn’t I have been filled with lasciviousness as I dared to gaze upon the exquisite bodies of the fairer sex?  What’s changed between now and twenty years ago? Gone is the fear and guilt caused by the teachings of Evangelical Christianity about sin — especially sexual sin. As many former Evangelicals will attest, once the fear and guilt are no longer a part of the equation, things once considered “sin” can be enjoyed (or not, depending on one’s tastes and desires) without feeling like the reader just committed a heinous crime. Now that God, the Bible, and Evangelical moralizers no longer have my attention, I am free to be a normal, healthy heterosexual man. What is most interesting is that, once something is no longer taboo, it often loses its power and draw.

I will leave it to Evangelical men to guiltily shuffle into the darkness with a flashlight to look at their copy of the Swimsuit Issue. I no longer need to deny myself pleasures, wants, and desires. I know that the Swimsuit Issue is not everyone’s cup of tea. Each to his own, right? No one is forced to look at the magazine. People are free to subscribe, not subscribe, or cancel their subscription over what they believe is Sports Illustrated’s promotion of “soft porn.”

leyna bloom
Leyna Bloom, 2021 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue Cover Model

2021 brings us an SI Swimsuit issue featuring a Transgender woman. Evangelical culture warriors are losing their collective shit over this. OMG, how dare Sports Illustrated portray a transgender person as “normal.” In their minds, this is just another sign of the collapse of Western Civilization, a sign of the imminent return of Jesus. Perhaps, SI should do a Women of Faith swimsuit issue. Would that make Evangelicals happy? Finally, “modestly” dressed women to lust over. Or maybe they should do a Gay Men of Faith swimsuit issue for all the repressed gays in Evangelical churches. Here’s what I know. Preachers Bobs all across America will buy the latest SI swimsuit issue so they can gather “information” for next Sunday’s sermon on the LGBTQ people. And with only God and Satan listening in, these preachers will lustfully say themselves, “I wonder if she still has a dick”?

Did you, or your father, back in your Evangelical days, subscribe to Sports Illustrated?  How was the Swimsuit Issue “problem” handled? Did your pastors preach sermons about the Swimsuit Issue? Do you know of anyone who committed adultery or fornication after perusing its pages? Do you know of anyone who, after viewing the scantily clad models, turned to pornography? (You know, the Swimsuit Issue acting as a gateway drug of sorts.) Please leave your thoughts in the comment section.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Is Incest a Sin?

cain and abel wives

Most Evangelicals believe that the earth was created 6,023 years ago, and the first two human beings on the planet were Adam and Eve.

Adam and Eve had two sons, Cain and Abel. It is assumed that Adam and Eve also had daughters who are not mentioned in the Bible. The reason this is assumed is that Cain and Abel had wives and children. The question then that must be asked is this: where did Cain and Abel‘s wives come from? Since there were no people on earth before Adam and Eve, the only answer is that Cain and Abel‘s wives were their sisters.

The Bible is clear: incest is a sin. If God is a moral being, absolute perfection, explain why he used incest to propagate the human race. Doesn’t this mean that God broke his own moral commandments? If God is against homosexuality, fornication, and adultery — sins which lead to eternal damnation and Hell — as Evangelicals say he is, why would God ever condone or use incest as a means to advance his purpose and plan?

When Evangelicals are asked about why God used incest to propagate the human race, they typically give one of three answers:

  • Mystery — we just don’t know.
  • God’s ways are not our ways, and God‘s thoughts are not our thoughts.
  • God used incest for a time, and once the human race was growing, he banned incest, calling it a grievous sin (only to allow it again after the Flood for a time with Noah’s family).
  • God had not yet given the command against incest (or rape, adultery, fornication, bestiality, etc).

Answering the question, “why is incest wrong?” Christian Fundamentalist “Dr.” David Tee (known in real life as David Thiessen) wrote:

Because God decided to make it wrong at the right time when genetic deformities will arise and ruin his creation. This may seem like a flippant answer but it is not. God was protecting his creation from the ills that come from inbreeding.

To illustrate this sexual harassment was recently made illegal but all those who practiced sexual harassment prior to that event did nothing legally wrong. You cannot judge or condemn people (or God) based upon actions after the fact. In other words, the people who did sexual harassment when it was legal, did not commit illegal or wrongful acts. They are still innocent people even though eventually the act was declared illegal.

Tee states, “this may seem like a flippant answer.” Ya, think? Either incest is immoral, or it’s not. Either God is omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent or he’s not. Supposedly, God is sovereign. He knows everything from beginning to end. If this is so, wouldn’t have God known that there would be genetic birth defects? Couldn’t God have manipulated human DNA to eliminate this problem? Or better yet, couldn’t he have created numerous families, each with unique DNA? Instead, the moral architect of the universe used behavior he says is sinful to propagate the human race.

When you believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, and infallible word of God, such questions pose all sorts of problems for you. When you believe the Bible should be read literally, and that the history and science found within its pages are true, you are forced to defend incest and all sorts of immoral behavior. When you believe God’s moral law is absolute, incest committed by Cain and Abel proves to be an insurmountable problem.

I was an Evangelical pastor for 25 years. The incest question bothered me the entire time I spent in the ministry. I could not square incest in the book of Genesis with God‘s commands other places in the Bible. I concluded this was a mystery, and that someday, in Heaven, God would reveal his reasoning for permitting incest for a time. This is a common hermeneutic used by Evangelicals to not answer hard questions.

Are you a former Evangelical? How did you answer the incest question? Please leave your thoughts in the comment section.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Atheists Lack Self-Awareness, Says Christian Man

peanut gallery

Recently, a Christian man by the name of Roger sent me the following email:

Interesting story. I think you’re right on that fundamentalism is idiotic. You’ve spelled that out quite well. Pastors are mostly egomaniacs as you rightly point out. But you could just ask them to find this pastor in the Bible (along with their whole church edifice and all its trappings) and you expose their empty hypocrisy. You don’t need to pick apart the Bible to destroy fundamentalism. They don’t even apply the Bible they claim to preach.

The problem you fail to see is that atheism is equally if not more stupid than fundamentalism. Why do these annoying atheists keep making moral claims? Why do they whine all day about how unjust hell is or how evil the biblical God is? Who are you, you evolved rodent, to make such an appeal to what is evil or unjust? Good and evil are just socially evolved constructs, right? So stop the whining. But atheists never stop whining. Atheists in my experience are actually highly moral people and constantly appeal to moral / ethical claims. The fact is the notion of morality and ethics is simply hard-wired into the human mind whether you like or it not. But atheists’ lack of self awareness about this is more annoying than fundamentalists telling me the earth is 6000 years old. It’s just theft. They’re stealing from the theists that they mock in this regard. They live in their own bubble, just like you accuse the fundamentalists of.

According to Roger, atheists are worse than Christian Fundamentalists. Atheists lack self-awareness, and have no morality or ethics of their own. Atheists are just stupid people who spend their waking hours whining about harmful Christian beliefs. Good to know, right?

I suspect that while Roger distances himself from Christian Fundamentalism, underneath his liberated self lies Fundamentalist beliefs. He sees himself as an “enlightened” Christian, yet it is likely that his core theological beliefs are not much different from those who proudly wear the Fundamentalist label.

Roger later sent me another email. Here’s what he had to say:

I wanted to reach out again and hope you didn’t take offense at the last message I sent. I read it again after I sent it and realized I probably came across as antagonistic and rude. Tone is absent in email. I was just laying out my general thoughts on fundamentalism / atheism, nothing personal about you or your story. Please forgive me if that was offensive to you and if so, please just disregard the message. I don’t mean you any disrespect or unkindness. I wish you the best on your journey.

warmly,
Roger

Take offense? Of course not. Roger is just another self-righteous, arrogant Christian asshole. I have received thousands of emails and comments from the Rogers of this world. I am of the opinion that people tend to say what they mean the first time. Roger meant for his email to be personal, and I took it as such. It is too late for me to “disregard” his message.

I wish Christians would “think” before emailing me. I wish they would ask themselves what they hope to accomplish by contacting me. I am NOT a prospect for Heaven. There’s nothing Roger could possibly say that I haven’t read/heard before or said in one of the 4,000+ sermons I preached. Wouldn’t it be better to refrain from hitting “send”? Yet, most of the Rogers of the world can’t seem to help themselves. Whatever their motivations, they are driven to set me straight, put in a word for Jesus, or evangelize.

Roger closed his last email with “warmly”. Yep. His email made me feel warm all over. As in wearing dark blue khakis and pissing your pants.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Bruce, If There is No God, Who Determines What is Moral?

objective morality

Recently, I received the follow comment:

Just curious on your thoughts about humans having, wanting and giving of love. Curious on where you believe it comes from.

Also, in your opinion, if there is no God or creator, who makes the morality rules?

Some believe that mankind is ultimately the moral law maker and or compass, in your opinion can anyone change that moral level as they see fit?

If the moral conduct is changed by the masses to whatever works for you, would that be counterproductive to society? Or do you feel mankind is evolving into learning and understanding what is helpful or not helpful to the whole? I hope all this makes sense. If not I will try to clarify.

I appreciate your time to respond.

Generally, I don’t engage is discussions about morality. Been there, done that, so to speak. I have been attacked by Christians and atheists alike over my views on morality. I have been accused of all sorts of “sins.” So, I am not inclined to write about morality, but today I have decided to do so, knowing that new readers have not read my views on this subject.

I am an atheist, so there is no God, no creator, no divine lawgiver. The laws and commands found in the Bible are of human origin. No Christian apologist has provided any evidence to suggest otherwise. Saying, THE BIBLE SAYS, is not evidence; it is an assumption rooted in presuppositionalism. That said, the Bible can be a helpful voice in discussions about morality, showing us how ancient societies viewed morality.

All morality is inherently subjective. There’s no such thing as absolute morality. Even in the Bible, we see morality, including God’s, changing over time. The idea that the Ten Commandments (which version?) or the Bible (which translation?) are an objective moral standard for all people for all time is absurd. History reveals ever-changing moral beliefs and standards. I came of age in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church. IFB churches and pastors believe in absolute morals, yet most IFB churches have moral standards today different from those they had in the 1960s and 1970s. This is especially so for Evangelicals. Yet, these moralizers, with great gusto, proclaim that they are keepers, defenders, and proclaimers of God’s moral standard.

Humans are social creatures, and as such, we need rules by which to govern ourselves. If morality is subjective, who decides what rules to use to govern our societies? We do. There’s no higher standard than “we the people.” If happiness and well-being are our goals — and they are (or should be) — then our morals should reflect those goals. Whether these morals can then be considered objective is a matter of debate, a debate, by the way, that I have no interest in. I know that humans generally agree that murder, rape, child sexual abuse, kidnapping, etc., are morally wrong. We don’t need a deity (or a church/preacher/religious text) to tell us these things are wrong. Why we know these things are wrong is an interesting discussion, one that has provoked much debate. Personally, I am convinced that our moral beliefs are shaped by biology, environment, culture, parental training, education, economic status, religion, and other factors. As you can see, it is far easier to appeal to God or the Bible — no thinking required. However, as stated above, I am an atheist (and a humanist and a socialist). God and the Bible have no place in my thinking.

Since morality is inherently subjective, our morals can and do change over time. And this is what troubles Fundamentalists. They live in a bubble where change is banned (even though a careful analysis shows transformational change taking place in Evangelical churches). Fundamentalists pine for the 1950s, a time when gays were deep in the closet, women were barefoot and pregnant, and Blacks knew their place. The foundation of the culture war is a yearning for what is perceived (falsely) as better times.

Progress demands we continue to examine our moral beliefs and adjust them accordingly. As long as Fundamentalists continue to clamor for, and achieve, a return to “old-fashioned” moral beliefs, progress is impeded. The current spate of anti-transgender, anti-abortion, and pro-creationism laws seems laughable to skeptics and rationalists, but state after state are passing these laws, moving us closer to the “good-old-days.” We must never, ever forget that theocracy (a system of morality) is their goal.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 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.

You can contact Bruce via email, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

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

Bruce Gerencser