Tag Archive: Pascal’s Wager

Quote of the Day: Why Don’t You Just “Believe?”

bart ehrman

What do you have to lose by having faith and believing that Christ was born supernaturally as a result of a virgin birth to Mary, that Christ performed miracles, that Christ died by crucifixion and came back to life from the dead, and that Christ went back into heaven in a supernatural ascension into heaven? I don’t see any downside.

I get this kind of question on occasion. Usually when someone asks it they tie it to “Pascal’s Wager.”

….

The first question I would ask this person is: Are *you* able to believe something that you honestly do not think is true?

The question itself raises a much bigger issue: what does it mean to believe? Does anyone really and genuinely think that authentic faith means mouthing certain words that you don’t actually subscribe to in order to be let off the hook? Would God be convinced by that? Wouldn’t he, uh, see through it?  I assume so. So what good would it do for me to say that I believe something I don’t actually believe?

And how can I force myself to think something is true when I don’t think it is? Belief isn’t mouthing words or lying to get off the hook.

 

The second question I would ask is, for me, the real zinger: Can it really be a simple case of either/or?  Either you believe or not?  In other words, is it really a case that if you choose to believe and you’re right, you may be saved, but if you’re wrong you will be damned?   Doesn’t that assume there are only two options: believe in Christ for salvation or don’t and be damned?

That may have made sense for Pascal, who lived in a world where, for all practical purposes, there were TWO options. But what about our own world?  We don’t have two options. We have scads of them. And it is literally impossible to take them all.

That is to say:  If you want to make sure you cover your bases when it comes to salvation: WHICH religion do you follow? Suppose you decide, OK, I’ll take Pascal’s wager and decide (somehow) to believe in Christ? What if, it turns out, Christ is NOT the right option?  Or even, say, the only/best option?

In concrete terms:  what if you decide to believe in Christ and then it turns out the Muslims are right? You could be damned forever for choosing the wrong option. So how do you cover the Islamic option as well as the Christianity one? And … well …  there are lots of religions to choose from.

Even within Christianity: I know some Christians who have an entire detailed list of what you have to believe to be saved. And I know other Christians who have a *different* list. It is impossible to believe both at once, since they are at odds with one another. On a most simple level, I know different Christians who believe that if you do not belong to *their* denomination, you will be damned; and even Christians who say that you have to be baptized in *their particular church* to be saved. So what’cha gonna do?

On this logic, do you become Mormon to cover your bases? And Catholic? And Southern Baptist? And a Jehovah’s Witness? And an Independent-Bible-Believing-Hell-Fire-and-Brimstone Fundamentalist? And …. ?

— Dr. Bart Ehrman, Why Don’t You Just Believe?, December 1, 2019

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Evangelical Man Says Christopher Hitchens is in Hell and All Atheists Hate God

peanut gallery

Email From the Peanut Gallery

Warning! Buckets of snark ahead.

An Evangelical man by the name of Stephen left the following comment on a post titled, Christopher Hitchens is in Hell. It’s the only post Stephen read, so I assume he was searching for a writer who told the “truth” about Hitchens’ eternal destiny. I am sure he was disappointed to find out that I, too, am an atheist. Rather than approve Stephen’s comment, I thought I would turn it into a post. My comments are indented and italicized. All grammar in the original.

Hitchens is short for hell’s kitchen

I just love it when a Christian zealot starts his screed with an attempt to be humorous or cute. Sorry, Stephen — epic fail! That said, I do suppose that Christopher Hitchens would enjoy hanging out in Hell’s Kitchen. I hear the food is awesome.

…and he [Hitchens] put himself there out of sheer desire too since he could not be honest and man enough to admit he just hates God and the concept of Him, just like all atheists do

Evangelicals believe that Hitchens died in his sins and is currently residing in Hell — a place where the Christian God tortures non-Christians for eternity. Hitch didn’t have much good to say about Christianity. My God, he even eviscerated Mother Theresa in his book, The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice.

Wikipedia describes Hitchens this way:

“As an anti-theist, he regarded all religions as false, harmful, and authoritarian. He argued in favour of free expression and scientific discovery, and that it was superior to religion as an ethical code of conduct for human civilization. He also advocated for the separation of church and state. The dictum “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence” has become known as Hitchens’s razor.”

It’s not enough for Stephen to attack Hitchens’ atheistic beliefs. Stephen goes after his character, saying Hichens is not man enough, not honest enough to admit that the real issue he has with Christianity is that he hates God.

Atheists hate God. Where oh where have I heard that before. *sigh* Instead of thinking about why someone might not believe in the existence of deities, Stephen says ALL atheists hate God. Note that he doesn’t say, atheists hate all deities. For Stephen there is one true God, his, and it is that God Hitchens and all atheists hate.

I wonder if Stephen hates Allah, Buddha, or the plethora of other deities humans worship? I doubt it. He would likely say that hating such deities would be stupid. “Who hates imaginary beings?” Exactly, Stephen. Atheists don’t hate your God any more than they do any of other Gods in the panoply of deities. It’s silly to hate imaginary beings, and that’s why most atheists do not hate God — whatever name he may go by. Now, asking if atheists hate Evangelicalism, Christianity, or other organized religions is another question altogether. Many atheists hate religion in general. However, many atheists do not hate religion as a social, cultural, tribal construct. What they do hate are the harmful behaviors committed in the name of this or that God. As a humanist, my concern is with the effect of religious faith and not religion itself. Many atheists agree with this sentiment.

Of course, Stephen will likely reject what I have written here, saying that atheists, deep in their heart of hearts, hate God. No matter what atheists say to the contrary, for the Stephens of the world, atheists hate God.

– imagine up as many logical fallacies you can think of to justify themselves…the human heart is desperately sick, who can understand it?…,

I am not sure what to make of what Stephen says here. He says “the human heart is desperately sick, who can understand it?” This is a loose rendering of Jeremiah 17:9: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

Evangelicals believe humans, by nature, have been ruined by the Fall; that everyone is born into this world a sinner; that without the salvation offered through the merit and work of Jesus, all of us will spend eternity in Hell (Lake of Fire).  As a Christian, Stephen believes he has a golden ticket. His heavenly reservation is secure. When Stephen dies, he will live on in Heaven with Jesus and his fellow Christians. I wonder if the food in Heaven’s Kitchen is better than that in Hell? I doubt it.

Perhaps Stephen might enlighten readers as to what these “many logical fallacies” are. Most atheists value rationalism, skepticism, and intellectual inquiry. Our goal is to construct a logical, consistent worldview. Evangelicals, on the other hand, are required to follow a God-ordained, Bible-based worldview, regardless of whether it squares with science or history. No Christian comes out a winner when arguing worldviews with an atheist/humanist. There’s too much craziness in the Bible for an Evangelical to hold a logical, consistent view of the world. Viewing the world through Bible-colored glasses will always lead to a warped, anti-human viewpoint.

Most unbelievers as atheists themselves might even forget that at one time they had to have chosen to and that must have been out if a high magnitude of shear ignorance if they knew what they were missing..it’s like refusing to believe Gravity exists then jumping of the Empire State building to prove it but never being able to because at the time you find out you were wrong you’re dead.

Most unbelievers (non-Christians) are not atheists. This is a common misconception. Unbelief is not the same as atheism. Most unbelievers are indifferent towards religion or know nothing about it. An atheist is someone who has made a positive affirmation of his denial of the existence of deities. While an argument can be made for all humans being born atheist, it’s preferable, at least from my perspective, to limit the term “atheist” to those who intellectually, rationally deny the existence of gods.

Stephen says that atheists are ignorant. How else can one explain all that atheists give up by not being Christians? Here’s the thing: eternity in Heaven does not sound that attractive to me. What will Evangelicals be doing in Heaven for all eternity? The inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God gives us a good idea. The triune God expects Heaven’s inhabitants to spend their days in worship and praise. Imagine how sore your back will get prostrating yourself before Jesus day and night! Compare what’s going on in Heaven to the atmosphere in Hell. Party Time! Sure, Hell will be a bit warm for my liking, but I sure prefer Hitchens and his crowd to Stephen’s group. Who in their right mind wants to spend eternity in church? No thanks!

Stephen tries to use a variation of Pascal’s Wager to warn atheists of the danger of unbelief. As usual, its use is an epic fail. I would ask Stephen, have you applied Pascal’s Wager to all other deities? Surely, that’s the prudent thing to do right? Stephen can deny Allah exists, but when he jumps off the proverbial Empire State Building, he will quickly know — albeit too late — that Allah exists. The only safe thing for Stephen to do is to believe in every God, covering all of his bases. Better safe than sorry, right? “No, no, no,” Stephen says, “there is only one true God — mine!” And there goes Pascal’s Wager up in smoke.

one thing we know, there’s no atheists in hell.

Finally, Stephen says something I agree with. There are no atheists in Hell! Of course, Stephen means something different when he says this. He means every atheist in Hell is now a believer; that burning in Hell f-o-r-e-v-e-r will teach those awful atheists the TRUTH about God. Regardless, the reason there are no atheists in Hell is this: There is no Hell, no Heaven, no afterlife, and no God. Atheists aren’t worried in the least about going to Hell. Hell, with its eternal punishment, is a religious construct cooked up by clerics and theologians to keep congregants in line and keep money flowing into church coffers. Remove the fear of Hell and judgment from the equation and most people will  trade sitting on hard pews for sleeping in on Sunday mornings. The salvation game only works when humans are viewed as broken and in need of fixing — or as Stephen said, “desperately sick.” Once humans figure out the concepts of sin, salvation, and eternal life are myths, the game is over.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Two Out of Two Christian Fundamentalists Agree, Bruce Gerencser is Headed for Hell

no atheists in hellMy life continues to be of prurient interest to many Evangelical Christians. Countless Evangelicals, lurking in the shadows, read this blog on a regular basis. Whether they have questions and doubts about Christianity or they see me as a colossal train wreck in the making, many Evangelicals frequent this site, wondering what I will write next. Other Evangelicals consider me a threat to the continued existence of Evangelicalism. In their minds, I am angry, bitter Evangelical-turned-atheist who hates God. I am an ex-preacher who is being used by Satan to lead Evangelicals astray, and they must do everything they can to negate my influence. So they pray (to no avail), write blog posts about me (to no avail), preach sermons about me (to no avail), and gossip about me in private forums. Believing that I am a reprobate who is beyond the reach of God’s saving grace, these Evangelicals see nothing wrong with attacking my character, lying about my past and present beliefs, and even going so far as to attack my wife and children. Revealing their true nature, these zealots rail against me, damning me to Hell and condemning anyone who turns a sympathetic ear towards my words. In behaving this way, they remind Evangelicals-turned-atheists of one the reasons why they walked (ran) away from Christianity.

Recently, a Fundamentalist woman by the name of Vicki stopped by this blog to share a message with me that God had given her. Evangelical commenters are ALWAYS given one opportunity to say whatever it is they believe God had laid upon their blessed little hearts. I have never in ten years of blogging preempted someone from commenting. Got something to say, Evangelicals? By all means, speak your mind. In fact, I will even let you write a guest post. Say whatever you want (need) to say, but just remember, you only get ONE opportunity to do so. I will, in some instances, grant Evangelicals continued commenting privileges IF they demonstrate they can be kind, thoughtful, and play well with others. Most Evangelicals, once given additional opportunities to put in a good word in for Jesus, will eventually either give up or become frustrated and angry, giving yours truly and the readers of this blog a double barrel shot of Bible as they back their way out of the saloon door.

Take Vicki. Starting a month ago, she left a total of seven comments.  On October 6, Vicki wrote:

Well bottom line, I believe the Bible is the word of God and atheists do not so guess I’m done here. Have a nice day.

And with that, she was done until November 3 when she posted the following, using a different name (IP addresses are a bitch):

Interesting that he and Bruce had things in common but each came to different conclusions. Sounds like some similarities they shared. It seems Mr. Breeden recognized something many do not.

https://howtofalldown.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/wwere-apostates-ever-truly-saved-are-they-saved-now/

I responded:

You will find few Tony Breeden fans here. He started his blog as an attempt to deconstruct my life. In doing so, he puts words in my mouth, judges my motives, and denies me control of my own narrative.

In the end, he concludes that I never was a Christian; an absurdity to be sure. I have little respect for people who refuse to let me tell my story on my own terms (and accept it at face value).

Five hours later, Vicki tried to post her previous comment again on a post I had written about Breeden: Fundamentalist Tony Breeden Returns to Deconstructing My Life After a Four-Year Absence.  Here’s the text of that post:

On February 12, 2012, a man calling himself Preacher started an anonymous blog, How to Fall Down, so he could methodically deconstruct my past and present life. I did a bit of digital snooping, hoping to find out who this Preacher guy was, and it took me all of a few days to discover that it was the one and the only Reverend Tony Breeden. Breeden used to comment on a previous iteration of this blog until I banned him. Breeden’s deconstruction of my life lasted all of one month and thirteen posts.

Four years later, unable to get visions of me naked out of his mind, Breeden has decided to continue his voyeuristic peeking into my closet. While I don’t like his doing so, I know, as a public figure, that I must endure such inquiries into my life, beliefs, and motives. The difference between four years ago and now is that I no longer feel the need to correct those who view my life as a pornographic centerfold while they play with their Bible tool. Readers who have followed along with me over the years know the kind of man I am, as do my friends and family. That’s all that matters.

You can check out Breeden’s latest post here. I hope you will read it.

After Vicki’s last comment, I banned her for violating the comment policy.

Evidently, Vicki did a web search on my name, finding Breeden’s blog and a Christian apologetic blog operated by a man using the moniker SpaniardVIII. Much like Breeden, SpaniardVIII is preoccupied with my writing (and atheism in general).  On a post titled, (Part Two) The True Darkness of Atheism, Vicki and Spaniard VIII have a “discussion” about the atheist Bruce Gerencser. I have reproduced their discussion below, adding my comments as warranted. Enjoy!

Vickihttps://brucegerencser.net/?s=Vicki&searchsubmit=U  Scroll down and you’ll see where he quotes me and there’s a place at the top where you can click on comments for responses. Well, you’ve been to his blog. I wasn’t about to use his blank checklist form to say what I felt I should because that, to me, is just a mockery of Christians. So basically if a Christian goes there and says anything, we’re rude and inconsiderate because we’ve been basically asked not to speak. After all, he knows it all and has heard it all. Sad.

Bruce: The blank checklist Vicki speaks of can be found here: Dear Evangelical.

Here’s the text of the form:

Here’s the form that should make things simple for you:

Name: (Put in fake name because you are so fearless)

Email Address: (Put in fake email address because God knows who you are)

Reason for Contacting Bruce Gerencser (Check all that apply)

_____To tell him he is wrong

_____To preach to him

_____To quote Bible verses to him

_____To evangelize him

_____To tell him he doesn’t know anything about the Bible

_____To let him know God still loves him

_____To let him know I am praying for him

_____To tell him he never was a Christian

_____To tell him he is going to hell

_____To tell him he is still saved and can never be un-saved

_____To tell him he was/is a false prophet

_____To tell him he was/is a wolf in sheep’s clothing

_____To tell him he is angry

_____To tell him he is bitter

_____To tell him his writing shows he has been hurt

_____To tell him he is fat

_____To tell him I hope he burns in hell

_____To tell him that I am praying God will kill him

_____To tell him that he has a meaningless, empty life

_____To tell him he is going to die soon and then he will find out THE TRUTH!

_____To tell him that I know THE TRUTH about him!

Once you have completed the form, cut and paste it into your email or comment.

This form pretty well covers everything Evangelical zealots have said to me over the past decade. That Vicki thinks it makes a mockery of Christians says more about her faith than it does me. She might like to know that NO Evangelical has ever used this form. Oh no, their messages from the Lord can’t be reduced to single sentences on a form letter. What they have to say to me (and to my godless readers) is far too important for them to just put a check-mark on a form. They demand access and pulpit time, as if this blog is some sort of public space where anyone and everyone is free to say whatever the Hell they want to say.

SpaniardVIII: I just read it, so so sad what he said. he is for a rude awakening when he dies.

Bruce: Subtle threat number one: Bruce is in for a rude awakening (Greek for Hell) when he dies.

Vicki: Yes and telling him that is useless……even tho I’ve read on his blog that he admits that he could end up in hell.

Bruce: And yet, much like habitual masturbators, they continue to tell me that I am a servant of Satan, an evil man, a reprobate, and headed for Hell. I have never admitted that I could end up in Hell. Evidently, Vicki doesn’t understand sarcasm. Neither does she understand probabilities. Thus, she conflates possibility with probability. Let me be clear, I have no doubts about where I will end up after I die: the crematorium, with my ashes spread along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. Thus will end the life of Bruce Gerencser, save for the writing he leaves behind and the memories of him held by family and friends.

SpaniardVIII: Wow, how can someone take a chance like that? That is insane.

Bruce: Subtle threat number two: Bruce is insane to risk his eternal soul burning forever in the Lake of Fire. Always nice when an Evangelical trots out Pascal’s Wager. I have only heard it ten gazillion times.

Vicki: Yeah, he doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Vicki: Notice in comments how they put words in your mouth and twist what you say? Like I’m really gleeful about what will happen to Bruce when he takes his last breath. You know I’m am not any such thing. I just know the truth of the future of those who die outside of Christ. It’s tragic but atheists will make fun of any concern you say you have for them.

Bruce: Vicki, much like other Evangelical zealots, believes she has been commissioned by Jesus to share the “truth” with atheists; “truth” meaning her peculiar interpretation and understanding of the Protestant Bible. I don’t doubt that she is sincere, but so was the Evangelical lady who drowned her children because God told her to do so.

Vicki wrongly thinks that Christians have the right to say whatever they want to say on atheist blogs. How dare I stop her from putting in a word for the man, the myth, the legend, Jesus H. Christ. What Vicki fails to understand is that this blog is not a public forum. I am the owner, the God of this blog. I have a particular audience I have targeted with my writing: people who have doubts/questions about their Christian faith or people who have already left Christianity. This blog has never been open to Fundamentalist apologists wanting an open forum to attack atheists, agnostics, and non-Evangelical people of faith. There are plenty of places where such debates are welcome, but not here. This is all spelled out in the comment policy, yet Evangelical zealots think I am not talking about them. Memo: I’m talking about YOU!

I wonder if Vicki would be okay with me coming to her church and, from the pulpit, preaching atheism/humanism? I wonder if she would be okay with me coming back week after week, preaching the good news of godlessness? Of course not. She wants access that she would never grant on her own turf.

This blog is and will remain a safe place for Evangelicals to work through their questions and doubts about Christianity. It will remain a close-knit community of atheists, agnostics, humanists, pagans, stray Evangelicals, liberal/progressive Christians, and other non-believers. I make no apologies for what I have built here.

Let me give Vicki the same advice I give to other zealots: Don’t like what I write? Want to set me straight? Want to pummel me with “truth?” Start a blog. It takes all of five minutes to do so. And then you can rage against the atheist to your heart’s content.

SpaniardVIII: Sometimes when a person is determined to stop their ears to God’s Word, they must be left alone to their own destruction.

Bruce: Subtle threat number three: Bruce is an apostate headed for eternal damnation.

Vicki: Sadly true

Vicki: I’d forgotten that I also participated in the comments/response section so you may want to definitely look at that. It really doesn’t seem to matter what you say to them…… Do you recall what they said to you or do you have a link to your comments?

SpaniardVIII: Yes, I have a link, here it is: https://brucegerencser.net/2017/02/randy-the-atheist-turned-evangelical-talks-smack-about-bruce-gerencser/#comments

Vicki: Thanks, I’ll check that out.

Vicki: Sorry to keep posting but found an atheist blog of someone influenced by Bruce Gerencser.

https://lutherwasnotbornagaincom.wordpress.com/

Seems to be a nice guy but read those Ehrman books which destroyed his belief. I will never read those books. Of course, I don’t believe this man was ever Christian, just as I believe Bruce never was. He is definitely influencing some into full blown atheism.

Bruce: Vicki, after doing a web search comes upon Gary’s blog. Gary, a medical doctor, was a one-time zealot for Evangelical Lutheranism. He stopped by this blog years ago to set me straight about my past and present beliefs. He was quite the evangelist. I pointedly and politely challenged some of his beliefs, asking him to read several of Bart Ehman’s books. After that, I didn’t hear anything from Gary until he sent me the following email:

Dear Bruce and Bruce’s readers:

I am the obnoxious, self-righteous, judgmental jerk mentioned in Bruce’s article above.

I came across Bruce’s website by pure chance one day. I think I had googled “ex Baptist fundamentalists” out of curiosity as I was a former Baptist fundamentalist. I was very surprised to find an ex-fundamentalist Baptist pastor turned atheist! As I read Bruce’s blog I realized Bruce’s “problem”: Bruce had not been exposed to the RIGHT form of Christianity…MY form of Christianity…orthodox Lutheranism!

So I tried to “help” Bruce. I tried to share the “truth” with Bruce. But Bruce simply told me that my “truth” was just another form of Christian fundamentalism, not really any different from Baptist fundamentalism.

I was insulted.

As I tried to “share the truth”, Bruce continued to shoot down my assertions…and my assumptions. He told me to go read Bart Ehrman and once done, come back and then he would talk to me.

So I did.

And I was blown away! I was taught as a fundamentalist/evangelical Christian that God would preserve “every word” of his Word. Therefore, the existing manuscripts of the Bible, in the original languages, MUST be inerrant. Well, I found out quickly that they are not. And then, more and more beliefs that I had never questioned were shown to be false assumptions. I finally had to admit that the Bible is full of errors: the Resurrection stories in the Gospels, Acts, and I Corinthians are completely irreconcilable to any thinking human being (who has not been brainwashed by fundamentalist Christianity). Hades (Hell) and the Lake of Fire were ancient Egyptian and Greek concepts long before the Jews picked up these beliefs under the Greek occupation of Palestine just prior to the Roman occupation. And finally, the realization that there is not ONE shred of archaeological evidence of the two million Hebrew slaves living in ancient Egypt for 400 years, nor their wandering, and all but TWO of those 2,000,000 dying, in the Sinai. There was no Exodus, no conquest of Canaan, no great David and Solomon empires. They are all just Jewish fables.

Fundamentalist/evangelical/orthodox/catholic Christianity is one big “house of cards”. It is based on so many ignorant assumptions that it is baffling how educated, civilized people living in the 21st century still believe it.

So, first, I owe Bruce a HUGE apology. And I should have come back to his blog to apologize a lot sooner than today. I’m really sorry, Bruce! I’m sorry for behaving like the stereotypical hateful, self-righteous, judgmental fundamentalist Christian. I was an ass. I was a jerk. Please forgive me!

I have deconverted from Christianity. I have deconverted from the superstitious, ignorant, bigoted belief system of fundamentalist/orthodox Christianity. And I owe a lot of that to Bruce for opening my eyes to the TRUTH. There may be a God…but it’s not the Christian god, because the Christian god does not exist.

If it means anything Bruce, despite all the hate mail you receive from Christians, know this: You have rescued one man and his family from this false, ancient, fear-invoking, middle-eastern cult.

Thank you, Bruce!

Gary later posted the letter to his blog.

As Gary will tell anyone who asks, I didn’t try to evangelize him. I am not, nor have I ever been, an evangelist for atheism. I have corresponded and interacted with countless Evangelicals over the years. I never try destroy their faith. I ask questions, share my thoughts, and suggest books they might find helpful. It is true that this approach has led to more than a few people — including pastors, pastor’s wives, missionaries, and evangelists — losing their faith. Their deconversions are on them, not me. Unlike Evangelical evangelists, I am not counting souls saved. In fact, I have encouraged more than a few people to stay in church, be it for their family’s sake or personal emotional wellness. Any move away from the cultic tendencies of Evangelicalism is good in my book. To quote a worn-out cliché: it’s the journey that matters, not the destination. I believe this to be true. If I can help someone on their journey, great. Wherever she ends up is right where she needs to be.

That Vicki is afraid of Bart Ehrman’s books is troubling. Surely Evangelicalism can withstand careful examination. Vicki says she is a “truth” seeker, so why not follow the “truth” path wherever it leads? Ehrman is not the enemy, ignorance is.

Let me make this offer to Vicki: I will purchase and mail to you any two of Bart Ehrman’s books. All I ask is that you read them and honestly engage and wrestle with what he writes. Follow the path wherever it leads you! Surely, if God/Jesus/Holy Spirit is all you claim they are, they will protect you from harm, right?

Books by Bart Ehrman

The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why

How Jesus Became God : the Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee

Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior

Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them)

Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth

Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are

God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question — Why We Suffer

Subtle threat number three: Bruce, you never were a Christian and are headed for Hell.

SpaniardVIII: Just read his post, very sad indeed. I grow up in a home where my family did Santeria. It is like Voodo [sic]. I used to see demons walking in my house. I am previlaged [sic] to have seen the spiritual war that we as Christians face. No Atheist can ever say that the super natural [sic] doesn’t exist because my own eyes has seen it. God’s Word is the truth and everything written in it.

Bruce: SpaniardVIII says “No Atheist can ever say that the super natural [sic] doesn’t exist.” Bruce says, “Dear SpaniardVIII, the supernatural does not exist.” There, an atheist said it. There are countless explanations for miracles and supposed supernatural events. And the few that can’t be logically explained don’t prove the existence of the Evangelical God. All they prove is that we “don’t know.”

As far as SpaniardVIII’s claim that “God’s Word is the truth and everything written in it.” I have two words for him: Bart Ehrman. No honest reader of Ehrman’s books can come away believing that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. His books are death to the notion that the Bible is a supernatural text written by the Christian God. Now, this doesn’t mean loss of faith. It does mean, however, that the Bible must be approached differently from the manner in which Evangelicals approach the text.

Vicki: Tried to share a link with Mr. Gerencser from a blog where the person had things in common with Mr. G and similarities yet came to a different conclusion that Mr. G and all he could say was I broke the comment policy rules. The Christian blogger recognized something that many don’t, that you can live a Christian lifestyle and not be Christian. I guess we’re supposed to take the word of those who claim they were once Christian over what God says about it. I don’t know why I keep attempting to reason with atheists except I sometimes feel compelled. I have doubts as to whether Mr. G even read the testimony.

Bruce: Tony Breeden’s post was an attempt to paint me as always being an unbeliever. In other words, he attempted to control my storyline. When I rebuff such attempts, Evangelicals get upset. How dare I not let them change my story or put words in my mouth.

Vicki asks, “I guess we’re supposed to take the word of those who claim they were once Christian over what God says about it.” Yes, I expect you act like a decent human being and accept at face value what I write about my own life. I do the same for Christians. When someone says, “I am a Christian,” I never “doubt” their profession of faith. Who better to know whether one is a Christian than the person professing to be one.

I hope Vicki knows by now that I read Breeden’s post. I read everything the Reverend writes about me, including the post he published today: Are Children Born Atheists? Science Suggests Otherwise.

SpaniardVIII: Just continue to walk in the path that the Holy Spirit takes you.

Vicki: Yes….I’m just sad for atheists plus have a desire that God’s truth be vindicated before them…..but won’t happen in this life for many of them.

Vicki: …..let God be true, but every man a liar…Romans 3:4

Bruce: Vicki gives her motive away when she says, “[I] have a desire that God’s truth be vindicated before them [atheists].” And therein lies the real reason many Evangelicals comment on this blog. They want to be vindicated, proven “right.” I have long argued that Evangelicals don’t give a shit about me as a person or what I have to say. All that matters is the orgiastic feeling they get when “defending” Biblical “truth.” In slaying the atheist Bruce Gerencser, they are showing the heathen world that their beliefs are oh-so-right. Little do they know that the only people buying their “truth” are those who have already slurped the Kool-Aid.

Subtle threat number four: Bruce is a liar who will die in his sins and go straight to hell. Booyah, told ya!

Still with me? Wasn’t that fun?

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

I May Burn in Hell, But Until That Day Comes. . .

homosexuality hell

I am often contacted by Evangelical zealots who purportedly are concerned over my lack of belief and my indifference towards their threats of judgment and hell. Bruce, aren’t you worried that you might be wrong? Evangelicals ask. And right after they ask this question, they follow it up with an appeal to Pascal’s Wager (the number one apologetical argument used by defenders of Christianity). Evangelicals use Pascal’s Wager to attack the agnostic aspect of atheism. Since no one can be absolutely certain that God doesn’t exist, it is better to be safe than sorry. Of course, GOD in this equation is the Christian God. Evangelicals have deemed all other Gods false, even though they themselves can’t be certain these Gods do not exist. If Evangelicals were honest with themselves, they would do what they ask of atheists: embrace ALL other Gods just in case one of them might be the one true God. Better to be safe than sorry, right?

As an agnostic atheist, I can’t be certain a deity of some sort doesn’t exist. Of course, I can’t be certain that life on planet earth isn’t some sort of alien experiment or game. Perhaps, life on planet earth is more Westworld-like than we think. How can we know otherwise? Assuming that we are not AIs in a multilevel game, how, then, should rational beings deal with the God question? All any of us can do is look at the extant evidence and decide accordingly. I am confident that the Christian God of the Bible is no God at all. I don’t worry one bit over being wrong. Now, there’s .000000001 percent chance that I might be wrong, but do I really want to spend my life chasing after a deity that is infinitesimally unlikely to be real? I think not. Now, if I am asked whether I think a deistic God of some sort exists, that’s a different question. Not one, by the way, that changes how I live my life. The deistic God is the divine creator, a being who set everything into motion and said, there ya go, do with it what you will. This deity wants nothing from us, and is quite indifferent to the plight of the human race. Whether this God exists really doesn’t matter. She is little more than a thought exercise, an attempt to answer the “first cause” question.

Is it possible that I am wrong about the God question, and that after I die I am going to land in Hell? Life is all about probabilities, so yes anything is possible. However, when governing one’s life, our focus should be on what is likely, not on what might be possible. And what is likely is that there is no God, and it is up to us to make the world a better place to live. Evangelicals look to the Eastern Sky, hoping that Jesus soon returns to earth — thus validating their beliefs. This other-worldliness makes Evangelicals indifferent to things such as suffering, war, and global climate change. Jesus is Coming Soon, Evangelicals say. Fuck everything else! As an atheist, I live in the present, doing what I can to make a better tomorrow. I dare not ignore war and global warming because the future of my children and grandchildren is at stake. I want them to have a better tomorrow, knowing that all of us have only one shot at what we call “life.” It is irresponsible to spend time pining for a mythical God to come and rescue you. First century Christians believed Jesus was returning to earth in their lifetime. They all died believing that the second coming of Jesus was nigh. And for two thousand years, the followers of Jesus Christ have continued to believe that their Savior will come in their lifetimes to rescue them from pain, suffering, and death. Listen up, Christians. Jesus is dead, and he ain’t coming back.

I may land in hell someday, but until I do I plan to enjoy life. I plan to love those that matter to me and do what I can make this world a better place to live. I have no time for mythical religions and judgmental deities. I am sure some readers are wondering how I can live this way without knowing for certain that nothing lies beyond the grave. None of us knows everything. Those who say they are certain about this or that or know the absolute “truth” are arrogant fools. What any of us actually “knows” is quite small when compared to the vast expanse of inquiry and knowledge that lies before us. I know more today than I did yesterday, but that only means I learned that McDonald’s has added new menu items and the Cincinnati Bengals aren’t as good as I thought they were. Life is winding down for me, so my focus on family and friends. Well, that and photography and writing. One day, death will come for us, one and all, and what we will find out on that day is that most of what we thought mattered, didn’t. Perhaps, we should ponder this truth while we are among the living, allowing us to then focus on the few things that really matter. For me personally, God and the afterlife doesn’t make the list.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

A Social Media Discussion Between an Evangelical and an Atheist

pascals wager

What follows is a discussion between an atheist friend of mine and an Evangelical. I no longer engage in such discussion on social media, choosing to focus on my blog, but the following discussion reminds me of the discussions I once had with Christian zealots on Facebook and Twitter. In just but a few comments, the Evangelical trots out an interesting version of Pascal’s Wager, threats of judgment and hell, with a zesty seasoning of you are angry and bitter to round out the discussion.

Enjoy!

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According to Evangelical Dax Hughes, Life Without Jesus is Disastrous

life without Jesus

A common trait of Evangelicals is their insistence that life without Jesus is miserable, meaningless, empty, and void of happiness. Now, thanks to Dax Hughes, associate pastor of Heartland Worship Center in Paducah, Kentucky, we have a new word to add to the list: disastrousHughes writes:

Life without Christ is disastrous. Check your soul and you will see it is true. We all know this deep down that there is something more for us beyond ourselves and his world.

Hughes asks readers to check their souls. Fine, where is my soul? How can I access it? Is my soul like the check engine light on my car, where when something is wrong with my automobile the electronic control module (ECM) trips a code and causes the orange CHECK ENGINE light to appear? If the answer is yes, where is my CHECK SOUL light? Maybe the reason I can’t see it is because my soul is black like my heart.

There is no evidence for the claim that humans have a soul. Evangelicals insist that everyone has some sort of ethereal eternal soul that leaves our body when we die, only to be reunited with our body when our bodies are resurrected so we can stand before God and be judged. According to Hughes, everyone KNOWS deep down — wherever the heaven deep down is — that is there is more for us than the here and now. Sorry Dax, I don’t know any such thing. All I “know” is that life is short and then we die. I have plenty of evidence for this claim of mine. What does Hughes offer up for his claim? Assertion. That’s what Evangelicals do — they assert without proof that their beliefs are infallibly true. Filled with self-righteous certainty, zealots such as Hughes cannot imagine any other truth claim but their own. I know, based on what I can see with my eyes and understand through observation, that humans are born, live, and die. End of story. There is no evidence for the claim that life continues in some other form after death. No one, not even Jesus, has come back from the dead. After thousands of years of people living and dying, it is safe for us to conclude that when people die they stay dead. It is for this reason that I give the following advice on my ABOUT page:

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

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

Hughes goes on to list his top ten reasons life without Jesus is a disaster:

You need to be perfect to meet God’s standard and you can’t even get close by your own efforts.

There is no God so we need not worry about meeting “God’s standard” — Greek for Hughes’s personal interpretation of the Christian Bible. Humans are infallibly flawed. The best any of us can do is to love others and treat people with kindness, decency, and respect. When we behave badly, we need not seek out a mythical God’s forgiveness. Instead, we should seek out the forgiveness of those we have offended. God and religion are middlemen that complicate relationships.

You waste your whole life pursuing stuff and people that never brings you real joy and peace.

Remember, Hughes thinks life is disastrous without Jesus. Would he listen if I told him that atheists and other non-Christians have joy and peace, along with meaning and purpose? Probably not. Evangelicals are walled off from any worldview but their own. For Evangelicals, life begins and ends with Jesus, the Bible, and faith. Think for a moment about how much of life Evangelicals miss when they narrow their living down to only Jesus matters. Think of all the stuff and people they miss out on because they are busy brown-nosing Jesus. It is Evangelicals who have shallow lives, lives un-lived because of what this or that Bible verse says. In what other realm of life do we think it is okay for a bronze-age religious text to dictate the terms of life? The world would be much better off if the Bible was put on the shelf with other ancient, outdated, irrelevant books. At the very least, Christians should update the Bible so that it is applicable to the 21st century. Evangelicals need to stop trying to convince themselves that the Bible is a timeless book filled with unsearchable riches. I know that this claim is not true because I, unlike many Christians, actually took the time to read and reread the Bible numerous times. I don’t need to read it again to know what it says.

You are trying to find purpose in life without ever connecting with the only one who can give you real purpose. (It is like playing chess without the king on the board.)

*Sigh.* Hughes cannot imagine any other way of looking at the world but his own. If he could, he would notice that the majority of the human race finds meaning and purpose in life without “connecting” with the Christian God. I have no problem with people such as Hughes “connecting” with their God, but it is offensive for them to suggest that the lives of others have no purpose without becoming followers of Jesus and Hughes’ flavor of Christianity. Billions of people are a living testimony to the fact that what Hughes says here is not true. It might be true for him, but most people have no need for Jesus or Christianity. Life is good without God.

Being religious in order to clean up is about as beneficial as putting perfume and nice clothes on a corpse and calling it full of life.

Hughes is attempting to advance the claim that what true Christians have is a relationship not a religion. I hate to break it to Hughes, but Christianity is a religion made up of thousands of sects. Suggesting that Christianity is not a religion is as absurd as playing chess without a king (see Hughes’ illustration above).

Your enemy is stronger than you and can beat you down every time without divine intervention.

Who is this enemy Hughes speaks of? Satan? Carbohydrates? I assume Hughes is speaking of the Devil, another mythical being in Christianity’s panoply of myths. As with the existence of God, there is no evidence for the existence of the Devil. Saying THE BIBLE SAYS is not evidence. If Hughes has evidence for the existence of Lucifer, by all means he should share it. The existence of evil is not proof of Satan’s existence. All its existence proves is that humans are capable of doing bad things — no devil needed.

You were made to bring glory to God and you are trying to give it to someone or something else and it’s making you miserable inside.

I was made through my father and mother having intercourse. An egg united with a sperm and nine months later Bruce was born. If anyone deserves credit for my existence, they do. Mom and Dad are dead, so I can’t thank them for bringing me into this world, but I can spend the rest of life giving credit to whom credit is due. As a humanist, I believe that I should praise, compliment, and thank people who do well. When a server at a restaurant takes care of our dining needs, should we dial up the restaurant’s corporate office and thank them for the great service? Of course not. It is the cook who made our food and the server who brought it to our table who deserve credit for the quality of our dining experience.

Hughes wrongly thinks that non-Christians spend their lives being unhappy and miserable. Perhaps Hughes should spend some time talking with atheists, agnostics, and other non-Christians. I think he will find that we are, for the most part, a happy lot. Yes, chronic pain and illness make my body feel miserable, but I choose to embrace and enjoy life despite my pain.

You place all your emphasis on living it up for the 70 years or so on earth and give no emphasis or preparation for the eternity you will have left after this life.

Hughes is correct on this point. I plan on living it up until I die, knowing that this is the only opportunity I will have to do so. If not today, when? I feel sad for Evangelicals who choose to refuse themselves the pleasures of this world in the hope that they will get some sort a divine payoff after they die and enter God’s Trump Tower — Heaven Location®. Of course, dead Evangelicals will not know what they have missed out on. They will, like all of us, die, and that will be the end of the matter. They will have no chance to reflect on an un-lived life. Henry David Thoreau was right when he said, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” I fear that many Christians will come to the end of life only to find, as Thoreau says, that they have not lived.

You are blind, unaware, ignorant and deceived and you think you can figure out your meaning on this earth on your own.

To this point, all I can say is that the grand project of humanity is to find meaning and purpose. We need no God or religion to guide us. All that is necessary is that we open our eyes wide and walk forward, embracing the tests and challenges that come our way. If we live long enough, we will most likely learn something about ourselves, others, and this planet we share. My grandchildren marvel over Grandpa knowing so much stuff. Well, I have been walking the path now for almost sixty years. I would hope, by now, that I have learned a thing or three. There is much that I do not know, and I will likely run out of life before I figure out the ways of women, but I can humbly say that through hard work and diligence and hell of a lot of reading, that I know a bit about this life.

I find it offensive that Hughes suggests that I and my fellow heathens are blind, unaware, ignorant and deceived, all because we reject his anti-human religious beliefs (and we reject Christianity because we have weighed it in the balance and found it wanting).

You will face a terrible judgment by the most powerful judge of all time who has overwhelming proof against you and can give the most devastating punishment and you are willing to take a chance that it will all go in your favor without any real reason to believe so except that you want it to be ok.

Hughes attempts to uses the well-worn trope Pascal’s Wager. Memo to Dax: Never, ever use Pascal’s Wager. It is a lame, dumb, stupid, ignorant, silly, and asinine argument. How can anyone know that Hughes’ deity is the right one? To be safe, shouldn’t we embrace all the religions of the world? Shouldn’t Hughes become a Buddhist, Muslim, and a Catholic just in case the one true God is NOT the Evangelical God? Better safe than sorry, right?

You think you are pretty good compared to most of the world when your wickedness just looks different than yours [sic].

I have no idea what Hughes is saying here. Do I think I am better than some people? Absolutely. Do I think I am better than everyone? Of course not. Believing so would be arrogant, especially since I know quite a few wonderful people — starting with my wife, children, grandchildren, and many of the people I have met through this blog, to name a few. The world is filled is with godless people who just so happen to be kind, loving, and compassionate. Their wonderfulness needs no deity or divine instruction. I would argue that Evangelical belief often makes Christians unkind and unloving, lacking compassion for anyone who is not like them. One need only look at the culture war and the recent presidential election to see that many Evangelicals are mean, nasty, arrogant, self-righteous, hateful, and vile. What religious group is at the forefront of the war against LGBTQ people and same-sex marriage? What religious group is behind the anti-immigrant hatred that currently permeates our culture? Everywhere I look, I see a religion that is all about power, wealth, and control. If Evangelicalism is all about Jesus, Evangelicals might want to figure out where they left him. Evangelical behavior suggests that Evangelicals practice a do and I say, not as I do religion. As long as Evangelicals continue to wage war on those the Bible calls “the least of these,” it has nothing to offer the American people.

For the Thousandth Time: Bruce, What if You Are Wrong?

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Recently, a commenter asked me three questions (slightly edited for grammar):

  • What if you die and find out you were wrong?
  • What if you find that Jesus (the true Jesus of course, not the religious/perverted Jesus) is the true God and you simply refused to accept his offer of eternal life?
  • What will you do?

For the seemingly thousandth time, let me answer these questions.

What if you die and find out you were wrong?

Well, this is most certainly a possibility. I am not infallible, nor do possess all the knowledge that can be known. As I continue to read, study, and understand, I add to my cumulative knowledge. Unfortunately, advanced age and cognitive loss fights against me increasing my knowledge. I do what I can to better my understanding of all that it means to be human. The questioner, of course, is only concerned about me being wrong about her version of Christianity.

As an atheist, I believe life ends the moment my heart stops beating and my brain ceases to function. That’s it, end of story. As such, there is no right-beliefs test after death, no did I believe in the true Jesus, not the religious, perverted Jesus? All I can do while I am among the living is attempt to intellectually, rationally, and honestly understand the world in which I live. For example, I know that most people are to some degree or another religious. Having spent fifty years in the Christian church, twenty-five years in the pastorate, and eight years studying why people are religious, I have come to several reasoned conclusions.

First, all religious belief can be explained from a sociological perspective. Find out where a person was born, who their parents and grandparents are, and what culture they are a part of, and you can determine, for the most part, which religious cult they embrace as the one true faith.

Second, the central tenets of Christianity are irrational. As Michael Mock often says, Christianity doesn’t make sense. Having spent thousands of hours reading and studying the Bible, theology, and church history, I can confidently say that Christianity (in all its forms) is false. Simply put, Jesus died, end of story. Without a miraculous birth, atoning death, and resurrection of Jesus, the God-man from the dead, Christianity is little more than a social club. I see no evidence for Christianity being the one true faith.

I can then confidently say that Christianity is false. Thus, I have no fears or concerns about being wrong about Christianity. The same goes for all the other extant religions humans have concocted throughout the annals of history. Could I be wrong? Sure. I try to live my life according to probabilities. It is probable that I will die within the next twenty years. I have carefully examined the available evidence and concluded that sooner, and not later, death is coming my way. I can confidently say that I will likely be dead before 2036. When it comes to  Christianity, after carefully looking at the extant evidence, I have concluded that there is .000001 percent chance that the Christian God exists and that Christianity is the one true religion.

I suppose this commenter could say, but Bruce, are you willing to risk an eternity in hell, even if the probability is .000001? Yes, I am. The greater question is why Christians do the same. I suspect this commenter believes all religions but hers are false. How can she possibly know this? Has she studied these religions? Shouldn’t she play it safe and embrace ALL religions? Better to cover one’s bases than end up in hell because you failed to choose the one true religion, right? Christians are hypocrites, demanding of me what they are unwilling to do themselves.  Why is it that Christians continue to use Pascal’s Wager to evangelize me, when they are not willing, for safety’s sake, to embrace Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Hinduism, or any of the other countless human religions?

What if you find that Jesus (the true Jesus of course not the religious/perverted Jesus) is the true God and you simply refused to accept his offer of eternal life?

The previous answer adequately addresses this question.  I am certainly willing to believe IF Christians can convincingly show me that their religious claims are true. Quoting the Bible, giving a subjective personal testimonies, or making appeals to nature are not proof. Each one of these evidences can be satisfactorily overturned. Ultimately, Christianity rests on a foundation of faith, not evidence (Hebrews 11). Christians believe because they want or need to do so. By faith, they believe. And that’s fine — for them. However, I don’t have the requisite faith necessary to believe. I am unwilling to surrender my life to a fictitious God who wrote a supposedly divine book that is actually an offense to modern thinking. Filled with discrepancies, mistakes, and errors, the Bible teaches that there  are multiple Gods and ways of salvation. Thousands of religious sects appeal to the Bible as THE source of their beliefs. How is possible that each sect’s beliefs differs from that of others? The Bible says that there is one Lord, one faith, one baptism — one Christianity — yet there are, if truth be told, millions of Christianities, with each believer shaping a God and Jesus in his or her own image.

If the commenter’s God is the one true God and the Bible is said God’s divine message to humanity, why did he write such a confusing, contradictory message? I’ve spent eight years poking holes in the Evangelical Christian narrative, coming to the conclusion that all the Christian sects are right. The Campbellites and Baptists are right. The Calvinists and the Arminians are right. The Catholics and the Lutherans are right. Every sect appeals to the Bible as the foundation of their faith. All of them can PROVE they are right, so I just agree with them. The Bible can be used as proof for almost any and every belief. Again, if God wanted his soul-saving message to be clear, he should have written it in such a way that no one could possibly doubt his words. That the Bible is a hodge-podge of nonsense is convincing evidence for Christianity’s sacred text being a human, not divine text.

What will you do?

Just for fun, let’s assume that I am dead wrong about this commenter’s God, and that when I awake in eternity I find myself standing before the Big Kahuna. What would I say?

  • Shit, I got that one wrong.
  • Hey God, why did you write such a contradictory and confusing book? Bad day? Too much to drink?
  • Hey God, did you see all the good works I did? Surely, my good works outweigh my bad works. After all, I was a Jesus Club® member for 50 years. The way I see it, Lord, is that I spent five-sevenths of my life doing good and believing all the right things. And even now, as an atheist, I do a lot of good works. My good works should at least be enough to get me a log cabin on the outskirts of Heaven. Surely Lord, you value good works far more than right beliefs.

I have no worries about what I will do because worrying about fictional things is a waste of time. This would be like me worrying that Daenerys Targaryen (Game of Thrones) might send her dragons to turn me into a roasted wiener. Not going to happen. Life is short. I choose to worry about things that matter, things rooted in reality. I have no interest in wasting my time wondering about whether I am saved or lost or whether my beliefs will land me a room at Trump’s Heavenly Hotel®.

[signoff]

Sacrilegious Humor: Pascal’s Wager Taken to Its Logical Conclusion by Edward Current

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This is the forty-seventh installment in the Sacrilegious Humor series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a comedy bit that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please email me the name of the bit or a link to it.

Today’s comedy bit is by Edward Current. Current brilliantly takes Pascal’s Wager to its logical conclusion.

Warning, many of the comedy bits in this series will contain profanity. You have been warned.

Video Link

According to This Christian, Atheists Live Hopeless, Senseless Lives

empty life

I recently received an email from an Evangelical named Preacher Dog. Here’s an excerpt from his email:

1. In stating you are an agnostic, although you think it is highly improbable that there is a God/creator, is it logical to think that the creature can possibly exceed its Creator in terms of intelligence, wisdom or virtue? I mean, if you are actually leaving the door open to the potential that God might exist, then it’s fair to say that the clay cannot be superior to the potter, right? Think about it. When people shake their fists and [sic] God, scream at Him, curse Him, or question Him, etc., what they are really claiming is that they are superior to Him. They are charging God with having less love, or less righteousness, or with caring less, etc. Of course, this is a very silly premise, to say the least. So if you are leaving the door open to the possible existence of God, and God does indeed exist, then you must admit and concede to God’s superiority to yourself on all fronts. Do you see my point? You are a personal being, so can God be any less personal? If you are a loving being, is it reasonable to think God is some cold, heartless, unfeeling entity?

2. Okay, let’s assume God doesn’t exist. If such is the case, then where then does this leave you? Well, it leaves you stuck in the hopeless, senseless, futureless bog of mere naturalism. Yup, stuck in the mud, as the old saying goes. All of life is the product of mere time and chance. Everything is therefore “natural” ( including religion), and there’s no sense putting morality to anything, because authoritative morality doesn’t exist under such a naturalistic worldview. Hey, the only difference between man and all other creatures is conscience and a greater dose of  intelligence, right? But as soon as chickens develop self awareness and start talking, then it will be a heinous, murderous act to sit down to a chicken finger dinner with coleslaw and a thick strawberry shake.

Bill, as I see it, abandoning a belief in God has left you greatly wanting. Throw God out of the equation of life and you will not be able to define your origin, meaning, purpose and destiny. Well, you can define it, but not properly, sensibly or logically.

Bill, you are not a glorified frog.

Think about it.

meaning of life

He later emailed me and apologized for calling me Bill. Bill, Bruce, it matters not. Let me attempt to answer his questions.

In admitting that I am agnostic on the God question, I am in no way suggesting that a God of some sort exists. Since I lack absolute knowledge, it is possible that some sort of deity created the universe. In determining whether a God exists, all any of us can do is weigh the available evidence and make a rational decision. Since all of life is based on probabilities, all I can do is look at the evidence and make a decision as to whether some sort of deity exists. Having done so, I have concluded that God does not exist. Let me put it this way. It is possible that if I step outside my back door at a certain time a falling piece of an aircraft engine could hit me in the head and kill me. It’s possible, but not likely. I can, with calm assurance, walk out my back door at a certain time without a glance to the skies to see if something is hurtling my way. So it is with God. I have no thoughts or worries about the existence of Gods because I see no evidence for their existence.

I suspect that Preacher Dog thinks that I am leaving the door open for believing once again in the Christian God. I am even more certain that the Christian God is a fiction conjured up in the minds of humans millennia ago. Since I am able to read and study the Bible, the odds are even less that the Christian God — in all his various iterations — does not exist. Having spent 50 years in the Christian church and 25 years as a pastor, I think it is safe for me to say that I know the Bible inside out. I can’t remember the last time I have discovered a new “truth” about Christianity. The Bible is not an inexhaustible book. It can be read and studied to such a degree that one can fully comprehend its construction, message, purpose, and teachings — along with the various sectarian interpretations of Christianity and the Bible. I have no doubt that the supernatural claims of the Bible are false. While I think there was a man named Jesus who lived and died in first century Palestine, that Jesus bears little resemblance to the Jesus of the Bible. At best, Jesus was some sort of Jewish prophet or teacher who lived and died 2,000 years ago. His miracles, resurrection, and ascension should be rejected by rational thinkers and viewed no different from countless other mythical stories passed down through history.

People such as Preacher Dog are often clueless as to their own atheistic beliefs. While most Evangelicals — having been raised in Evangelicalism — reject all other religions but their own without studying them, some Evangelicals do study other religions before concluding that the Christian deity is the one true God. While I do have my doubts about whether someone can study world religions and still think that only one religion is right, I have had Evangelicals tell me that they had done their homework, so I am taking them at their word. Regardless of the path to Evangelicalism, once people embrace Christianity they are, in effect, saying that all other deities are false Gods. This makes them atheistic towards all Gods but their own.

Much of what Preacher Dog says in his first point doesn’t make sense to me. I think he is saying it is ludicrous for humans to say that they are morally superior to their Creator (assuming that their Creator is the Christian God). What reveals to us the existence of the Christian God? Not nature or conscience. Nature can, depending on how one views the universe, testify to the existence of some sort of deity or creating energy. However, there is zero evidence in the natural world that proves that this deity is the Christian God. The same could be said for human conscience. At best, all we can say is that some sort of God exists. I have written numerous times on the lack of a bridge that connects the God of nature to the God of Christianity. The only way that people come to believe in the Christian God is through the teachings of the Bible. Perhaps nature reveals A GOD of some sort, but the Bible reveals THE GOD.

Since the Bible reveals to us the Christian God, we can then determine the nature and morality of this God. Those who read the Bible without filtering it through the various Evangelicals interpretive filters, will conclude that the God of the Bible is an immoral monster. He is a misogynistic, violent, capricious psychopath who uses suffering, pain, loss, and death to teach frail humans so-called life lessons. While this God gets somewhat of a moral makeover in the New Testament, by the time we get to the book of Revelation, the nice New Testament Jesus-God has reverted to the moral monster of the Old Testament. Look at all the things God does to people during the Great Tribulation. Such violent behavior makes the Christian God a perfect candidate an episode of the TV show Criminal Minds. There is nothing in the behavior of the Christian God that I find appealing —  or moral. Where is this God of mercy, kindness, and love Evangelicals fondly talk about?  When I compare the behaviors of Evangelicals with those of their God, I find that Christians (and atheists) are morally superior to that the God of the Bible. And the world should be glad that this is the case. Imagine what would happen if Evangelicals started acting like their God. Why, there would be blood bridle deep in the streets (Revelation 14).

In his second point, Preacher Dog regurgitates a well-worn Evangelical trope — that without God life would be senseless and meaningless. This is notion is easily refuted by pointing to the fact that the overwhelming majority of world citizens are not Christians. And if the only True Christians® are Evangelicals, then 90% of people are living sinful, meaningless lives. Preacher Dog cannot intellectually or psychologically comprehend the idea of the existence of morality apart from the teachings of the Bible. If all Christians everywhere had the same moral beliefs, then Preacher Dog might be on to something. However, even among Evangelicals — people of THE Book — moral beliefs widely vary. Christians can’t even agree on the Ten Commandments. (Please see Letter to the Editor: Is the Bible the Objective Standard of Morality?)

Evangelicals believe that the only things keeping them from being murderers, rapists, and thieves, is God and the so-called objective Bible morality. For the uninitiated, this argument makes sense. However, for those of us well schooled in all thing Evangelical, we know that Evangelicals incessantly fight about what the Bible does or doesn’t say. Just stop by an Evangelical preacher’s forum and watch them go after each other about what is the “law” of God. God may have written his laws down on stone tablets, but modern Evangelicals, just as their Pharisaical forefathers, have developed lengthy codes of morality and conduct. It is laughable to think that there is some sort of universal Christian morality. Christians can’t even agree on whether there are TEN commandments in the Decalogue. Some New Covenant Christians think the Ten Commandments are no longer binding A careful examination of the internecine wars Christians fight over what the Bible says reveals that Evangelical beliefs are the works of men, not God. There is no such thing as objective or absolute morality. Morality has always changed with the times (or with new Biblical interpretations). Behaviors once considered moral are now considered immoral. As humans adapt and change, morality evolves. There was a time when it was moral for men to have child brides. Most countries now have laws prohibiting such marriages. We wisely recognize that it is not a good idea to allow grown men to marry 12-year-old girls.

It should be obvious to everyone that morality flows not from the Bible but from the minds of humans. We the people decide what is moral and lawful. Our objective should be to build a moral framework on the foundation of “do no harm to others.” Of course, this maxim is not absolute. When a nation-state attempts to assert its will over another, war often breaks outs. Settling things often requires violence. People are injured or die as these nations settle their differences. This is regrettable, but it serves as a reminder that the maxim of “do no harm to others” can never be absolute. Let me explain matters another way. Suppose a man is driving down the road with his eight-months-pregnant wife. A car hits them head on, severely injuring the wife. Her injuries are so severe that doctors tell the father that he must choose between the life of his wife or the fetus. No matter who he chooses to save, the other will die. The father can choose to “do no harm” to one of them, but not both.

Preacher Dog thinks that atheists are incapable of defining their “origin, meaning, purpose and destiny.” Again, another worn out, shallow understanding of how atheists and other non-believers understand the world. While Preacher Dog will appeal to the Bible as “proof” of his origin, the fact is he is making a faith claim. Atheists do the same. We do not know what took place before the Big Bang. How life began is beyond our understanding — for now. Unlike those whose minds are chained to the pages of an ancient religious text, atheists put their “faith” (confidence, trust) in the scientific method. It is the best vehicle, so far, for explaining the universe. We may never have all the answers, but we will continue to seek out as much knowledge as we can. Evangelicalism, on the other hand, leads to lazy thinking. Genesis 1-3 is given as proof of how the world came into existence. Science easily shows such claims are false, yet Evangelicals are content to say, God or the Bible says ___________ (fill in blank with statement of fact not in evidence).

atheist life has meaning

As far as meaning or purpose is concerned, Evangelicals such as Preacher Dog have been duped into thinking that the Evangelical God alone gives their lives meaning and purpose. Again, billions of people live meaningful, purposeful lives without believing in the Christian God, so what does that say about this Preacher Dog’s assertion? I know P Dog can’t wrap his mind around what I am going to say next, but it is true nonetheless. I am a contented, happy person. In fact, atheism and humanism have, in every way, improved my outlook on life. No longer facing the moral demands of a deity is a big relief. Not having to devote my waking hours to slavish  worship of God allows me to have time necessary to enjoy life. Being human and alive is enough for me. Having a wonderful wife, six children, and eleven grandchildren are more than enough to give my life meaning and purpose. I challenge the Preacher Dogs of the world to examine my life and conclude otherwise. I suspect most atheists, agnostics, humanists, pagans, and non-Christians would say the same. Life is what you make it.

What lies behind Preacher Dog’s statement is the need for some sort of divine payoff. Evangelicals are told that suffering and loss are the price they pay for admission into God’s gated community. Life is, in effect, offloaded to the afterlife — an afterlife, by the way, that no Evangelical knows for sure exists. Yes, the Bible says that there is life beyond the grave, but based on evidence found in cemeteries and on obituary pages, such a belief is little more than fanciful thinking.  One thing is certain, dead people stay dead. To use a bit of reverse Pascal’s Wagers…are Evangelicals really willing to risk (and forego) the pleasures and joys of this life in the hope that there is life beyond the grave? What a waste if this life is all there is. Think of what you could have been done with all the money donated to the church or the hours spent in church services. And please, don’t tell me that living life according to the Bible is a better way to live. It is not, and if it wasn’t for the promise of eternal bliss and happiness, most Christians would abandon their houses of worship for the prospect of sleeping in on Sunday, followed by a relaxing afternoon spent with family, friends, and NFL football.

I choose to embrace THIS life as it is. Yes, life brings pain, suffering, and loss. In June I will be 59, just a hop, skip, and a fall to 60. I know a good bit about life, and here’s a nugget of wisdom I would like pass on to Preacher Dog and his fellow zealots:

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

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

If I died today, I would die knowing that I had lived a good life — one filled with meaning, purpose, joy, and happiness. Preacher Dog’s religion has nothing to offer me. Like the Israelites of Moses’ day, I have shaken off the bondage of Egypt. Why would I ever want to leave the Promised Land for the squalor of Egypt? As the old gospel song goes, I have come too far to look back now. I may not know what lies ahead, but I do know what’s in my rear view mirror and I have no desire to turn around. Let me finish this post with a story from my teenage years. When I was 15 my parents divorced and my Dad packed everything up and moved us to Arizona. I wept many a tear as we drove farther away from all that I had ever known. Somewhere in the Plains states, we drove on a straight road that seem to go on forever. As I looked off into the distance, I could see how the road went on for tens of miles. And then there was a slight grade and the road disappeared. This is how view my life. There’s a lot of history behind me. Plenty of good and bad experiences lie in the rubble of my past. However, in front of me all I see is a long road. Where will this road take me? What lies beyond the horizon? There are experiences to be had, joys to be experienced, and questions to be answered. It is these things that still, even at my age, excite me. Possibilities, to be sure, but I will never know unless I put the car in drive and move forward.

[signoff]

Air Force Chaplain Jerry Fogltance Reveals How Much He Doesn’t Know About Atheism

closed minded christianity

Air Force Chaplain Jerry Fogltance Reveals How Much He Doesn’t Know About Atheism

In a recent guest editorial in the Colorado Springs Gazette, retired Air Force chaplain Jerry Fogltance regaled readers with how much he doesn’t know about atheism. In fact, I found Fogltance’s screed to be a compendium of virtually every lame Evangelical argument against atheism. Fogltance is a 1968 graduate of Talbot School of Theology, an Evangelical institution associated with the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA). His editorial reveals that he has spent little time reading any of the leading atheist authors of our day. Had Fogltance done so, he would not have written this:

Pascal’s Wager

Atheists take pride in claiming that what they believe is based on scientific evidence while religious dogma is based on myth. But the atheist’s position that “I don’t believe in God because science has not proven that God exists” is not a default position. The position that “I believe in God because science has not proven that God does not exist” is just as valid. The question then becomes: Which position carries the greatest risk if in the end proves wrong? Obviously, the atheist takes the greatest risk for the very God he has denied may hold him accountable.

Atheists are Immoral

Larimore Nicholl declares that he does not need God to deal with life’s challenges, i.e., “we never wait for divine intervention to solve our problems.” This statement reflects the atheist’s claim that belief in God is a crutch for the weak and ignorant. But atheism is also embraced as a crutch by those unable to live up to their own moral standards and afraid of being accountable to God.

Furthermore, rejecting belief in God because one cannot explain who created God begs the question. Christians believe God is transcendent; that is, he exists outside the system of the universe, beyond the reach of microscopes and telescopes. That’s not to say that real knowledge about God cannot be known. The complex forms of the universe reveal that he is personal (an intelligent designer) and the immense size of the universe that he is all powerful. But because God is infinite and we are finite, we may never know some of the deepest mysteries of his nature.

There are also things in the universe that cannot be explained apart from the existence and creative power of God. None can explain by natural evolution where the personal qualities of humans came from – like love, creativity, the ability to communicate thought verbally, musical expression, moral motions (sic) and free will. When Nicholl says that “humans were made by the natural forces of genetics,” he infuses the personal into natural forces where it does not exist. He was correct to refer to genetics as natural forces; he was wrong to say that those natural forces can make life as though they possess the ability to think and design.

Atheists Live Meaningless Lives

The worst consequence of Nicholl’s atheism is that it leaves humans without meaning. Exactly how does one actualize all potentialities when human life in the end turns entirely into dust? Israeli professor Yuval Noah Harari, also an atheist, has written a book titled: “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.” The title of Chapter 1 reads “An Animal of No Significance.” Harari insists that “human life has absolutely no meaning. Humans are the outcome of blind evolutionary processes that operate without goal or purpose. Our actions are not part of some divine cosmic plan . Any meaning that people ascribe to their lives is just a delusion.” Such is the ultimate outcome of the atheist philosophy of life.

Atheists Killed Millions of People in the 20th Century

Professor Nicholl is quick to blame religious people for killing others while ignoring the fact that atheists like Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot are responsible for history’s greatest atrocities. These committed atheists get credit for killing millions of innocent people. The atheist idea that death ends it all implies that they will never be brought to justice for their evil, an idea that is morally reprehensible.

Atheists Suppress Their Knowledge of God and His Moral Law

Nicholl says that the ethics and morals of atheists arise from the practical necessity that no society can be run without laws against murder, assault, etc. This is a weak basis for ethics and morals as the law of the jungle has resulted in some tribes eating their neighbors to survive. And modern complex societies have been known to create crematoriums and killing fields to annihilate entire ethic groups. A better basis of ethics is to acknowledge that universal moral laws, some of which Nicholl references, have been written on the heart of every human being by the creator. When, however, humans deny God’s existence, their accountability to him, and suppress the inner witness of his laws, evil then has no constraints.

Atheists are Deluded

My philosophy of life and death is stated in the Bible this way: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” I have come to know and be reconciled to the God behind my existence through faith in Christ. Every day I experience the grace, forgiveness and love of God. I experience purpose in life by helping those without meaning realize it by also trusting in Christ. Furthermore, there is gain in death. There is the gain of heaven, which means that what I do in this short earthly life has eternal implications and reward. Meaning for the Christian is no delusion.

Jerry Fogltance

Fogltance’s scurrilous claims have been repeatedly and thoroughly debunked over the years. Those of us who are atheists tire of hearing the same lame arguments over, and over, and over again. I am to the point in life where I tell Evangelicals to talk to the hand when they make these kind of claims. Blinded by their religious beliefs and narrow worldview, Evangelicals refuse to accept as valid any viewpoint but their own. Their Fundamentalist intransigence closes their minds to any belief that doesn’t fit in the Evangelical box. Until Evangelicals are willing to truly understand atheism (and agnosticism, paganism, and humanism), philosophical, moral, ethical, social, cultural, and scientific arguments supporting atheism will fall on deaf ears.