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Tag: Morality

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, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Bruce, 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, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

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 quite closely to arguments over morality and ethics. Most Christians think morality and ethics require religion — theirs — and a supernaturally written book, the Bible. In their thinking, 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 Baptist Fundamentalist, 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, there are those that would have viewed the lost wallet as an opportunity to steal. Finders keepers, losers weepers, right? As we all well know, religious belief does not inoculate a person 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 belief. 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. (Think Donald Trump) They may, at times, do good things, but the arc of their lives is toward bad. It is not religion that determines 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, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Because I Can

because I can

Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected. 

Evangelicals are primarily known for the things they are against: abortion, same-sex marriage, homosexuality, premarital sex, pornography, socialism, atheism, humanism, liberalism, Democrats, and former U.S. president Barack Hussein Obama. The further you move to the right of the Evangelical scale, the longer the list become. Growing up in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement, I heard countless sermons about this or that “sin.” Years ago, I heard a preacher deliver a sermon based on the text, neither give place to the devil. After reading the text the preacher spent the next forty or so minutes listing all the things he was against. (Please see An Independent Baptist Hate List.) Most of the preachers of my youth believed the following were sins: women wearing pants/shorts, men having long hair, dating couples have any physical contact before marriage, listening to rock music or contemporary Christian music, going to the movie theater, using non-King James version translations, and cursing. Awful sins, right? As a teenager, I believed that my pastors were against e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. I am sure the teens of the churches I pastored said the same about me.

One of the first challenges I faced after leaving Christianity was determining a moral/ethical framework by which to govern my life. Let’s face it, having an inspired, inerrant, infallible Bible as the moral arbitrator makes life easy. No need to think about or ponder certain behaviors. God said ____________________, end of discussion. Lost on people who think this way is that it is not God speaking. If sermons are anything, they are preachers giving their personal opinions about what this or that Bible verse means. Opinions vary wildly, leading to one group of preachers saying particular behaviors are sinful and other groups of preachers saying they aren’t. They fight among themselves, each certain that their interpretation of an ancient religious text is infallible.

When I first deconverted, I was blessed to have for a friend a charismatic pastor who had also told Jesus to take a hike. He and I spent countless hours together, talking about Christianity, the Bible, and the ministry. We both laugh at how we acted and reacted back then. My friend got his ear pierced. He also got a tattoo. One day we were out and about and we saw a sign in a church parking lot that said, Parking Reserved for Pastor. A photograph was taken of middle fingers extended as we stood in front of the sign. I know, quite juvenile. But remember, Evangelicalism robbed us of much of our lives. We came of age in the late 1960s and 1970s. While our non-Evangelical schoolmates were enjoying free love, drugs, and rock and roll, we were in church praising Jesus. So in many ways, we are living our teenage and young adult years now. We are experiencing things that our contemporaries experienced forty plus years ago.

Now that Jesus, the Bible, and the screaming voices of preachers no longer guide us, we are free to do what we want. Several months ago, a Fundamentalist family member asked me why I was growing my hair so long. My response? Because I can. And when they see me again and notice that I am now sporting a bald head again, I am sure they will ask me why I shaved my head. The answer is the same. Because I can.  The answer to every behavioral question is the same. Because I can.

Now, lest Evangelical zealots say I am preaching nihilism or licentiousness, I want to be clear: just because I can, doesn’t mean I will. What I am saying is that I don’t need a deity, a religious text, or pompous, self-righteous Evangelical preachers to tell me how to live. Using reason and common sense, I weigh each and every choice and decide accordingly. Well, most of the time, anyway. I can, at times, be impetuous, making decisions without taking time to weigh the consequences. Most of the time, I survive my impetuous behavior with nary a scratch. There are, however, those times when making rash decisions has had poor outcomes. When this happens, hopefully I learn from it. If my poor judgment harmed someone else, I do my best to make things right.

I think I will end this post here. Why? Because I can. 

Do your Evangelical family and friends “question” some of your post-Jesus decisions? Have you ever said, because I can? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Bruce Gerencser