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Tag: Morality

Doing Good Because it is the Right Thing to Do, Not Because Jesus is Watching

Imagine for a moment that you find a wallet someone has accidentally dropped on the ground. In the wallet are the person’s ID, credit cards, and $300. What would you do?

I suspect most of us would attempt to track the person down and return the wallet. Why? Because it is the right thing to do.

The Christian Post reported a story about an anonymous Christian finding a wallet and returning it to its rightful owner. The Christian did the right thing and he should be commended for doing so. If you have ever lost your wallet or ID, you know how stressful and gut-wrenching the experience is, especially in this day of identity theft.

The problem I have with the Christian Post story is the motivation the Christian had for returning the wallet. Instead of it being a good, decent, honorable thing to do, the Christian had a “Biblical” reason for returning the wallet.

The Christian attached a Post-it note to the wallet:

returned wallet

The Christian who returned the wallet stated that the following verses were his reason/motivation for returning the wallet:

And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. Luke 10:27

He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much. Luke 16:10

That men may know that thou, whose name alone is Jehovah, art the most high over all the earth. Psalm 83:18

In other words, the Christian’s act of decency and kindness was all about God.

From my seat in the atheist pew, it seems to me that religion and the Bible complicate the issue. Would the Christian have returned the wallet if these verses weren’t in the Bible? Would he have returned the wallet if he weren’t a Christian? While these questions might be viewed as trying to turn a good deed into an argument, I think motivations are important.

This story is connected closely to arguments over morality and ethics. Most Christians think morality and ethics require religion — theirs — and a supernaturally written book, the Bible. They think they do good because of their religion and its teachings. It is God that keeps them from being bad people. If it weren’t for Jesus, the world would be overrun with thieves, rapists, and child molesters.

It is not enough, then, for an act of goodness to be performed just because it is the right thing to do. Instead, it is God who gets all the praise and glory because, without him, humans would do bad things. In other words, without God, the Christian would have kept the wallet.

If the Christian had left a Post-it note with these two verses:

And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. Luke 6:31

Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Matthew 22:39

. . . perhaps I would see this story differently.

All of us should treat others as we would want to be treated. Isn’t that a universal moral value?

I commend the Christian for returning the man’s wallet. It was the right thing to do, whether the man was a Fundamentalist Baptist, an Episcopalian, or an atheist. Would an atheist have returned the wallet? I’d like to think so. But I know among atheists and Christians alike, some would have viewed the lost wallet as an opportunity to steal. Finders keepers, losers weepers, right? As we all know, religious belief does not inoculate someone from being a bad person. (Please see the Black Collar Crime Series.) The religious and godless alike have the capability and power to do bad things. Why? Because bad people do bad things. A narcissistic view of the world often motivates people to only think of self. When presented with an opportunity to return the lost wallet, the narcissist is only concerned with what he can gain. In this case, he gains the money that is in the wallet.

We should all strive for a higher ideal regardless of our religious beliefs. As a humanist, I try to treat others as I would want to be treated. If I lost my wallet, I hope someone would return it and I would gladly offer the finder a reward. Far more important than lost cash is lost ID. And I know if I found a person’s wallet, I would return it to the owner. How do I know I would do this? Because that is what I have done in the past. It is the moral/ethical code I live by. I know how panicked I get when I can’t find my wallet in the house, and I can only imagine how stressed out I would be if I knew I had lost it at a store or parking lot somewhere.

Here’s the point I want to make — good people do good things. Yes, sometimes good people fail and might, at times, do bad things, but the arc of their lives is toward good. The same can be said of those who lack moral and ethical character. They may sometimes do good things, but the arc of their lives is toward bad. Religion does not determine goodness or badness, though it certainly can, for some people, play a part. What determines the kind of person we are is our character. People with good character do good things like returning a lost wallet. People with bad character, don’t.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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Atheists are Children of the Devil

atheists mike stanfill
Cartoon by Mike Stanfill

Jesus said to a group of Jews:

Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. (John 8:44)

It is not uncommon for Evangelical zealots to tell atheists that their real father is the Devil, old Satan himself. What naturally flows from this line of thinking is that atheists live lustful, licentious, lives; that atheists are liars because there is no truth in them. No matter how atheists live; no matter how atheists treat others; no matter how kind, decent, thoughtful, and loving atheists might be; they are, without exception, the lying, deceitful children of Satan.

The only way atheists can change their family designation is to be adopted into the family of God through the merit and work of Jesus. No matter what atheists say or do, Evangelicals consider them enemies of God and the one true faith. If only atheists would admit the existence of the Christian God, pray the sinner’s prayer, and vote Republican, they would, with open arms, be welcomed into God’s blood-washed family. Because atheists refuse to bow to Jesus, they are forever condemned not only to the Lake of Fire, but also to being disparaged and lied about by so-called men of God.

All atheists can do is live according to the humanist ideal. Several years ago during the Pandemic, I bought groceries at the local Meijer. The store was jammed with panicked, irrational shoppers. The shelves were empty of items such as toilet paper, paper towels, bleach, hand sanitizer, Lysol, water, and, oddly, chicken. Yes, chicken. There wasn’t a piece of fresh chicken in the entire store. Checkout lines were backed up, and over the store intercom came messages asking shoppers to please be patient. The humorous part of me want to scream, “WHERE’S THE CHICKEN? I WANT SOME FUCKING CHICKEN RIGHT NOW!” I said nothing, thinking to myself about how irrational many people are when facing a crisis. I have seen this kind of panic numerous times over my sixty-sixty years of life on planet Earth. Seemed a little more intense this time.

As I was pulling out of my handicapped parking space, I noticed that a young woman had dropped a 24-pack of diet Coke and the cans were rolling everywhere in the parking lot. Several people drove by the frustrated woman. I put my Ford Edge in park, told Bethany I’d be just a minute, and got out and helped the woman retrieve her pop cans. She sheepishly said, “Thanks.” I replied, “No problem. Have a good night.” And with that, I got in my car and drove off to the gas station before heading home to Ney, nine miles away.

If, as an atheist, I am, to quote the song by George Thorogood and the Destroyers, bad to the bone, why didn’t I selfishly ignore this woman’s plight and drive away? Here’s why: I am a decent person. When I see someone in need of help and I can help them, I do so. I ALWAYS do so. Picking up pop cans in a store parking lot for someone is a trivial act of kindness, but what kind of person would I be if I didn’t at least try to help? I am often given opportunities to help and be kind to others. I want to go through life treating others as I would want to be treated, hoping that when it is Polly or my daughter trying to chase down pop cans, someone will stop and help. Small acts of kindness make all the difference in the world.

When Evangelicals try to tar me with the Satan brush and say that I am a vile, evil man, an enemy of God, a hater of all that is good, in my mind I just laugh and give them the finger. Sometimes, I even speak my mind. 🙂 I know the cut of my character. I know what kind of man, husband, father, and grandfather I am. I don’t care one whit what the Bible or Evangelical preachers say about me. Instead, to quote an Evangelical children’s church song:

This little (atheist) light of mine,

I’m going to let it shine.

This little light of mine,

I’m going to let it shine.

This little light of mine,

I’m going to let it shine,

Ev’ry day, ev’ry day,

Ev’ry day, ev’ry day,

Gonna let my little light shine.

I don’t need religion to be a good person, and you don’t either. In fact, I would suggest that Fundamentalism often turns people into arrogant, hateful, belligerent, self-centered assholes. Remember, the goal of Evangelicalism is to exclude; to separate the saved from the lost, the sheep from the goats, the sinners from the saints. How can such exclusion not lead to bad behavior? Humanism, on the other hand, says, “We are all in this together.” There’s no Heaven, no Hell, and no God coming to deliver us. It is up to each of us to do what we can to make the world a better place to live. And, may I humbly say, it begins one pop can at a time.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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Charisma Denounces Incest, Ignoring God-Approved Incestuous Relationships in the Bible

biblical marriage
Biblical Marriage, God’s Unchanging Moral Standard

According to Jessilyn Justice, a writer for Charisma News, the United States is facing a perversion tsunami. Several years ago, the Daily Mail reported that a man who was given up for adoption now wants to have a sexual relationship with his birth mother. Monica Mares, 36, gave Caleb Peterson, 19, up for adoption at birth. She was sixteen at the time. Nineteen years later, mother and son reconnected, fell in love, and are now facing criminal charges due to their incestuous relationship. Here’s what the Daily Mail had to say about their relationship:

GSA [genetic sexual attraction] is defined as sexual attraction between close relatives, such as siblings or half-siblings, a parent and offspring, or first and second cousins, who first meet as adults. Mares said: ‘He is the love of my life and I don’t want to lose him.My kids love him, my whole family does. Nothing can come between us not courts, or jail, nothing. ‘I have to be with him. When I get out of prison I will move out of Clovis to a state that allows us to be together.’

Incest is a crime in all 50 states, but the specifics of the laws and punishment vary greatly from state to state. Mother-of-nine Mares said she would even give up the right to see her other children if she was asked to choose between them and her lover. The couple who currently live separately in Clovis, New Mexico – and are banned from having any contact with each other by the courts – first embarked on their love affair towards the end of last year.
….
The couple was charged with incest – a fourth-degree felony in New Mexico – following the February 25th incident. They were arraigned and appeared jointly in court in April – but were held in custody for breaching their no-contact order. They were released on $5,000 bond and now face a trial by jury in September.

Currently Mares is not allowed to see any of her children or have any contact at all with Peterson.Yet she maintains that is has all been worth it. ‘It is every bit worth it,’ she said. ‘If they lock me up for love then they lock me up. There is no way anybody could pull us apart, and I really do love him. ‘It hurts he is far away. It hurts really bad. I wish I could see him, talk to him, but I can’t risk it.’

Peterson said he started falling love with his mom about a week after meeting her – but claims as he grew up with an adopted parents he never really saw Mares as his mother. ‘I never had anyone cook me meals or give me anything,’ he said. ‘I never got anything my entire life and she went out of her way to make me happy and after about a week or so I started having feelings for her and I guess I fell in love. ‘It went beyond a mother-son relationship I never really viewed her as my mom. In certain aspects I do but mostly I don’t. ‘I never thought I was crazy for having these feelings because I didn’t see her as my mom, it was more like going to a club and meeting a random person. It didn’t feel wrong, it felt normal.’

Peterson claims it was him who made the first move not his mom. He recalls: ‘We were hanging out just talking and I looked at her and she looked at me and I kissed her. ‘It was a real kiss it had feelings behind it, there was a spark that ever since then it just stayed. ‘Honestly I never thought we would get into trouble for our relationship. We were both consenting adults – when it comes down to it.

‘She’s adult I’m adult I can make my own decisions. I never thought it would blow up into something like this.’
….
Despite the immense opposition to the couple’s relationship, Mares and Peterson do have supporters in the community – including Dayton Chavez, Mares’ ex and father to two of her sons Moses, nine, and Joseph, 12.

He said: ‘I’ve told them I still love you guys either way. I support them. ‘I would like to see the government get out of their business and let them live a normal life – let them live how they want to live. ‘It would be different if it was a domestic violence situation but it’s not. ‘My point of view is they need to be allowed to live just how they are that’s what America is built on.’
….
The couple – who both have roots with Native American Apache tribes – is also being supported by Cristina Shy who runs www.lilysgardener.com, a support and advocacy website for related couples, also known as consanguinamorous people.

Cristina, who is involved in an illegal relationship with her half brother in Minnesota, said: ‘Our whole community is watching this case and looking for updates. ‘It needs to be brought to the attention of everybody in the country and people need to start thinking differently. ‘It was the same with gay people just a few years ago and now they can get married they are accepted. ‘Well why not consanguinamorous people like us? We are all adults. We are not pedophiles, there’s no domestic issue we are in love, we want to be together but we are related. That shouldn’t be a deciding factor.’

Most readers of this blog likely think — at the very least — that this is a bizarre story. I have mixed feelings about the mother/son sexual relationship, but I suspect my discomfort is the result of my Fundamentalist Baptist upbringing. If I believe that consenting adults should be free to have sex with whomever, wherever, and however, then, despite my conflicted feelings, I really should have no legitimate objection to Mares’ and Peterson’s relationship.

As soon as this story hit the news wire, Christians such as Jessilyn Justice were screaming, SEE! This is what happens when we let same-sex couples marry, legitimize homosexuality, and allow Transgenders to use the bathroom of their choice! Unable to comprehend any other sexual relationships besides what they “think” is decreed in a bronze age religious text — the Protestant Bible — people such as Justice warn others about the dangers of the slippery slope that ultimately leads to every sexual perversion imaginable. Why, what’s to stop people from marrying their dogs, right?

Justice focused on the incest component of this story:

Paul specifically warned about the evils of sexual immorality throughout his letters to the Corinthians and Romans.

Now, perversion rises as a mother wants an incestuous relationship with the son she gave up for adoption, according to The Daily Mail.

“If they lock me up for love then they lock me up. There is no way anybody could pull us apart, and I really do love him,” 36-year-old Monica Mares tells the online paper of her son, Caleb Peterson.

The couple faces a charge of incest, according to the Clovis News Journal. If convicted, they face hefty fines and years behind bars.

“I never had anyone cook me meals or give me anything,” Peterson tells the Daily Mail.

He continued: “I never got anything my entire life and she went out of her way to make me happy and after about a week or so I started having feelings for her and I guess I fell in love. It went beyond a mother-son relationship. I never really viewed her as my mom. In certain aspects I do but mostly I don’t. I never thought I was crazy for having these feelings because I didn’t see her as my mom, it was more like going to a club and meeting a random person. It didn’t feel wrong, it felt normal.”

Perhaps the book of Romans is at play here, as Paul warned in chapter 1 that God would give people over to the lust of their hearts.

I find it laughable and quite entertaining that Justice opposes incest, yet she worships a God that used incest to advance his divine agenda on earth.

The Bible — the original Kinsey Report — certainly condemns incest. God, the arbiter of all things sexual, had this to say in his inspired, inerrant, infallible word:

None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him, to uncover their nakedness: I am the Lord.The nakedness of thy father, or the nakedness of thy mother, shalt thou not uncover: she is thy mother; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.The nakedness of thy father’s wife shalt thou not uncover: it is thy father’s nakedness.The nakedness of thy sister, the daughter of thy father, or daughter of thy mother, whether she be born at home, or born abroad, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover.The nakedness of thy son’s daughter, or of thy daughter’s daughter, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover: for theirs is thine own nakedness. The nakedness of thy father’s wife’s daughter, begotten of thy father, she is thy sister, thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father’s sister: she is thy father’s near kinswoman.Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy mother’s sister: for she is thy mother’s near kinswoman.Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy father’s brother, thou shalt not approach to his wife: she is thine aunt.Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy daughter in law: she is thy son’s wife; thou shalt not uncover her nakedness.Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of thy brother’s wife: it is thy brother’s nakedness.Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her daughter, neither shalt thou take her son’s daughter, or her daughter’s daughter, to uncover her nakedness; for they are her near kinswomen: it is wickedness.Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time. Leviticus 18:6-18

See! God says incest is a sin! Right there in the B-i-b-l-e. End of story. Later in Leviticus 18, God also condemns homosexuality, bestiality, adultery, and having sex with a woman when she is menstruating. In Leviticus 20, God says certain incestuous relationships — along with adultery, homosexuality, and bestiality — are capital crimes punishable by death. Strangely, if a man has sex with his uncle’s wife or has sex with his brother’s wife, their immorality is not punishable by death. (See Wikipedia article on Incest in the Bible.)

In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul rebukes the Church at Corinth for having in its membership a man who was having sex with his mother. 1 Corinthians 5:1 states:

It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife.

Paul commanded the church to excommunicate the man, delivering him to Satan for the destruction of his flesh. Surprisingly,  Paul considered the incestuous man to still be a Christian (to deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus).

The Apostle Paul, along with Jessilyn Justice and others like her, seems to be ignorant of the fact that the Big Man Upstairs approves of incest — at least in certain circumstances. Here are six of the numerous incestuous stories recorded in God’s perfect Word:

  • Genesis 4 — Where did Cain’s wife come from? Either Cain had sex with an unnamed sister or he had sex with his mother Eve.
  • Genesis 9 — Ham has sex with his father, Noah.
  • Genesis 19 — Two daughters have sex with their father, Lot, a man the Bible says was a righteous man.
  • Genesis 20 — Abraham has sex with his half-sister Sara.
  • Genesis 38 — Judah has sex with his daughter-in-law Tamar (the daughter of adulterous, murderous David, a man after God’s own heart).
  • Exodus 6 — Amram has sex with his father’s sister Jochebed. She bore him two very famous sons, Aaron and Moses.
answers in genesis incest
How Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis “Answer” the Incest Question. Incest was okay until it wasn’t.

Christians are certainly free to object to incestuous relationships such as the one mentioned in this post. However, they don’t get to claim the high moral ground, saying that God says incest is a sin punishable by death. As I have clearly shown, God, at certain times and in certain circumstances, approves of or ignores incest. So much for God’s law being the perfect moral standard for all peoples, at all times. Evangelicals box themselves in when they demand that the Bible be recognized as the sole arbiter of morality. They are forced to come up with all sorts of creative ways to “explain” away the contradictions and absurdities found in the Bible. Christianity would be better served if Christians just admitted that there is some crazy shit in the Bible — especially in the Old Testament; and that the morality code of ancient sheepherders and fishermen has little relevance today.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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Is the Bible the Answer to Everything?

joshua 1 8

According to Joseph Parker, director of outreach and intercession for the American Family Association and host of the “Hour of Intercession” radio program, the Bible is the answer to E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. Not just questions about God, Christianity, or faith, but E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G.  Parker, like every Fundamentalist who spouts such nonsense, doesn’t really believe this, but it is a great slogan to rally the troops around. In Parker’s Bible-saturated mind, secularists, atheists, humanists, evolutionists, homosexuals, abortionists, socialists, communists, Democrats, liberals, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Bernie Sanders, and Joe Biden work day and night to destroy Christian America, and the only way to combat this onslaught is to return to a steadfast, ignorant belief that the Bible is some sort of divine answer book. All we need to do is check page 34 or some other page and we will know exactly how the Christian God wants us to live.

Parker writes (link no longer active):

Who decides what is right and what is wrong?  The Government?  Men? Women? White people? Black people?  Hispanic people?  Asian people?  Wise people?  Rich people?  The majority?  The minority?  Who?

Who decides what is true and what is not true?  Would it be any of the above mentioned people?  What do you think?  Well, does truth vary from one person to another?  Does it vary from one group of people to another?  Is it relative to the situation and the group involved?

Truth is not relative.  Truth is God.  Truth is Jesus Christ.  Truth flows from the mind and heart of God.  And truth does not change.  Truth is what it is.  Truth is right and good and fruitful.  Truth is good for us. Truth sets people free.

The Word of God is truth.  It teaches us what is right and what is wrong.  It teaches us what is good and what is evil.  It teaches us about reality.   It teaches us about life, people, and human nature.   The Word  of God teaches us and helps us understand the laws of nature, the laws of the universe, what is correct and what is false.   The Word of God is our instruction manual for life.

When people or governments or societies try to ignore God and the Word of God, they get in trouble.  When men and governments avoid the wisdom of God’s Word and try to make up their own rules, it will lead to disaster one hundred percent of the time.  We as human beings, often think we know what is good for us, what is in our best interest, and what will “make us happy”.   Often, we think that behavior that we want to carry out, though it may go against the Word of God and the wisdom of God, should be okay.  Behavior that goes against and violates God’s Word is sin.    And, the truth is that sin, sooner or later, will lead to death.

The Word of God is good for you.  The Word of God is good for your marriage, and it is good for your family.  It’s good for your children’.   It’s good for you physically, mentally, spiritually, etc.  The Word of God is full of grace and truth.   The Word of God is anointed.  God’s Word is PREGNANT with the ability to bless.

So, because God’s Word is all of this, we must be very serious about reading and meditating on and studying God’s Word.   God’s Word has wisdom, counsel and insight, in direct statement or in principle, about everything, every situation and every matter…

…there are many other topics and issues anyone could look at and find out what the Word of God has to say about them.  But , basically, there is simply a great need for us to read the Word of God and listen to its wisdom and counsel.   Once, again, we should be mindful that in direct statement or principle, God’s Word speaks to every issue, every topic, and every concern in life.

We are wise to make a habit of reading the Word of God daily.  Reading at least three or more chapters a day is a good spiritual “diet” to help us grow in our understanding of God’s Word consistently.    And the fact is, we NEED to be faithful students of God’s Word.  It is a guide book for life and it is a source of spiritual nourishment that we desperately need  every day of our lives.

Equip yourself daily by spending time reading the Word of God.  Parents, help to equip your children daily by having them to read the Word aloud to you every day.   Encourage others you know to make it a habit to spend time reading God’s Word every day.   Nothing will prepare and equip you better for the challenges and issues of life than – the Word of God.

fred flintsone and barney rubble
Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble, authors of Genesis and Exodus?

There is absolutely no way to reach people who think like this. Their minds are walled off from reason and reality, in bondage to the ancient ramblings of unknown authors from the era of Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble. If this belief is taken to its logical conclusion, it can result in emotional and psychological harm, and in some cases child abuse, spousal abuse, rape, and murder. Think I am being hyperbolic? Consider this news report about Rob and Marie Johnson:

21-year-old Indiana woman has accused a couple who she lived with in Port St. Lucie, FL of physically and sexually abusing her for five years and using scripture from the Christian Bible’s Old Testament to justify it.

WPTV News reported that the accuser says that she was sent to live with Rob and Marie Johnson after the death of her mother nine years ago. The then-13-year-old was sexually abused by Rob Johnson virtually from the day she arrived in the home.

Detective Daniel Herrington of the Port St. Lucie Police Department told WPTV that the woman first went to the police in Indiana where she lives now.

“She ended up hearing stories of other women who had come forward, hearing also the stories of women who did not come forward, to tell about their abuse,” said Herrington.

Rob and Marie Johnson reportedly believe in Old Testament law regarding marriage, under which a man can have many wives who are ultimately his property. The girl was ordered to call Jeff “Master” and to submit to his and Marie’s sexual advances whenever they ordered her to.

The Johnsons reportedly preyed on the young girl’s fear of being abandoned by telling her that if she wanted to be part of their family, she had to have sex with them…

While I certainly think the Bible can provide *some* spiritual value and moral instruction, it is filled with behaviors and practices most of us consider barbaric and immoral, and when in the hands of a literalist it can be deadly. While many Christians do their best to perfume the manure pile, a shovel and five minutes quickly reveals God-approved immorality and abuse. From incest to polygamy and from rape to genocide, God’s answer book rightly deserves every bit of the scorn we skeptics heap upon its God-inspired, inerrant pages.

bible literalism

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

2000 Bryan Times Editorial by Pastor Bruce Gerencser About True Christianity

i am god

Published on August 17, 2000. At the time, I was the pastor of Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio. This is a good example of how I  used to think about life, God, the Bible, sin, and culture. This was not a Letter to the Editor. I wrote it for the Community Voice editorial column on the editorial page of The Bryan Times.

It is time that we make some radical changes to our printed money and the pledge of the Allegiance. Both our printed money and the Pledge of Allegiance give testimony to the historical truth that the United States was a country that believed in God. Not just any God, but Jehovah God, the God of the Christian Bible.

Sadly, we as a nation no longer believe in Jehovah. Due to misguided thinking about pluralism and tolerance, we have become a nation of many gods. Those that dare assert that we were founded as a Christian nation (and a Protestant Christian nation at that) are labeled narrow-minded, bigoted, intolerant miscreants.

The God attested to on our printed money and in the Pledge of Allegiance is no longer allowed to be mentioned in our Country. Recently, a young girl wanted to sing the song Kumbya at a camp talent show. She was not permitted to sing this song because it mentioned the word Lord. Government schools have eradicated every vestige of God from the classroom. The very schools that were founded on Christian principles (Just look at a set of  McGuffey Readers) have not only left that foundation, but try to insist such a foundation never existed. School officials are so afraid of God (or is it the god called the ACLU) that children no longer have Easter break. Instead they have spring break. Children are given two weeks off at Christmas, yet they are never told what Christmas is. Attend the average government school Christmas program and you will come away with the conclusion that Christmas is all about snow, Rudolph, Frosty, et al. Pages could be written on the deliberate banishment of Jehovah from every aspect of public life.

What are the reasons for this happening? They are several. First, there is the mythical, so-called “separation of Church and State.”The separation clause is routinely quoted by government and school officials when they want to dismiss the religious requests and activities of others. Truth is, what is really happening is that Jehovah is the only God not welcome. All other gods are quite welcome.The god of humanism is quite welcome.The new age god is welcome.This past school year, in a Williams County elementary class room, a teacher took class time to teach the children about serial killers. Our children can be taught about such perverse things but they can not be taught the solution to serial killing (faith in God)? Schools try to enforce a moral and ethical code yet they fail. Why? You cannot have morals and ethics without a religious foundation. Morals and ethics demand an answer to the question “WHY is this wrong?” Why is it wrong to have sex before marriage? Why is it wrong to steal? Without God and His standard, the Ten Commandments, we have no foundation for morality and ethics.

Another reason is the myth called toleration. Liberals and conservatives alike bandy about the thought of toleration. The foundation of toleration is that all truth is equal and that all viewpoints are valid. Our country has become one big comparative religion class. Truth is, there is no such thing as true toleration, nor can there be. Christians believe the Bible to be their standard of morality and ethics. They believe the Bible to be, not just one truth among many, but THE TRUTH! Christians are called on to love what God loves and hate what God hates. Yes, we are a narrow, intolerant bunch because we dare suggest there is but one God, one way to heaven. We dare suggest there is but one moral and ethical code, the Bible. We dismiss arguments couched in words “well that’s your opinion“ and we reply by saying “Thus saith the Lord.” Matters such as adultery, fornication, homosexuality, drunkenness, abortion etc. are not matters for political debate. The Bible is clear on such matters.

It is amazing how we have redefined that which God calls sin. Homosexuality is called an alternative lifestyle. Drunkenness is called a disease. The adulterous partner is now called the significant other. On and on and on it goes. God said “Be not deceived…For whatever a man sows that he will also reap.” We are reaping our harvest in America. The foundations are crumbling. Is anyone paying attention?

It’s time we either admit that Jehovah is dead and remove His name from our money and the pledge of allegiance or perhaps it is time we reassert the kingdom rights of the true and living God. God’s people need to stand up and be counted. Not in Marches for Jesus, but in the workplace, the school. the government and in every public arena of life. We need to sound forth that name which is above every name. That name, and only that name, by which men shall be saved.

Notes

This article might shed some light on why local Christians don’t know what to do with my defection from Christianity. I was a leader, a spokesman for the faithful. I wrote what they wished they could say. And now? An atheist? How can such things be?

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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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, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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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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, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 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:

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

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Bruce Gerencser