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Tag: Prayer

How Does God Do It?

all powerful god

Warning! Honey wagons full of snark ahead, sure to offend Evangelicals, MAGA supporters, and prayer warriors.

Have you ever wondered how God does what he does — allegedly, anyway? God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. According to Evangelicals, their deity is an all-powerful God who is present everywhere, and sees, hears, and knows everything. Think about all the things we humans do each and every day, including the stuff we don’t want anyone to see. No matter where we are, the Evangelical God is watching us, and recording our thoughts, words, and deeds — pen and paper, digital or VCR? This God is also, supposedly, in the prayer-answering business. Now, the Evangelical God doesn’t answer Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Catholic, or Mormon prayers; that is unless their prayers are for forgiveness of sin and salvation. God only answers the prayers of True Christians®. Think, for a moment, about the billions of prayers that are sent Jesus’ way every day; every prayer a demand for a blessing, help, forgiveness, or travel directions. And if Evangelicals are to be believed, EVERY prayer is answered one of three ways by God: yes, no, not now.

It seems to me that there is not enough time each day for God to get his work done. Maybe that’s why most prayers go unanswered, and those that “seem” answered sure look a lot like self-fulfilled answers. Perhaps God is too busy watching our every move and recording each of them with indelible ink into the Book of Life or some other divine book to be bothered with feeding the hungry, ending war, stopping mass shootings, and healing the sick. Are not cemeteries flashing advertisements that remind us that God is a lousy faith healer; that God is best known for being deaf, blind, and indifferent?

President Donald Trump — a Christian and frequent metaphorical sex partner of Jerry Falwell, Jr. — believes he is the hardest working man to ever live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Yet, we know better. Trump is a slacker who spends his days watching Fox News, tweeting, eating fast food, playing golf, and undoing everything President Obama did during his presidency. So much Trump should be doing, yet he spends most of his time saying and doing things that help no one, ignoring the pleas of the poor, sick, and homeless. Much like God, wouldn’t you say? God doesn’t heal your dying loved ones, but blessed be the name of the sweet baby Jesus, he sure helps countless grandmas find their lost keys or snag parking spots by the front doors of their favorite grocery stores.

praying pope francis
Cartoon by David Granlund

Catholics say that Pope Frank is the vicar of Christ — Jesus’ representative on earth. Now, according to Evangelicals, Catholics aren’t Christians, so the Pope CAN’T be Jesus’ right-hand man. That got me thinking. Maybe, Donald Trump is Christ’s representative on earth. He’s a Christian man. Eighty-two percent of voting white Evangelicals voted for him in the 2016 presidential election. Trump’s been compared to some of the great leaders of the Bible; a man who is unusually blessed and empowered by the triune God of Christianity. And if Trump is the God-ordained CEO of planet Earth, is he not, as God is, accountable for all the unanswered prayers? Trump can do anything but fail. Evidently, anything doesn’t include the prayerful pleas of immigrants. Surely, this is enough of a reason to vote the man out of office in 2020. Not that anything will change, prayer-wise. If God is anything, he’s fair when it comes to ignoring prayers. Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and Independents alike find that God is nowhere to be found.

It’s possible, I suppose, that God uses his angels to keep the machinery running. He might even use Satan and demons to help. Is that not what God did when he wanted to teach a man named Job a lesson? It was Satan who meted out God’s punishment of Job, including afflicting him with boils, killing his children, and destroying his residence and means of income. The Bible says Satan walks about the earth seeking whom he may devour. Evangelicals don’t believe that Satan can hear their prayers, but what if Jesus and Lucifer — brothers according to Mormonism — have an old-fashioned country party-line; and Lucifer is always on the line listening to the secret prayers of Evangelicals. This might explain why so many Evangelical preachers plead with God to deliver them from pornography and other sexual sins, yet they keep committing the same bad behaviors over, and over, and over again. These men of God ask Jesus to keep them pure, but sneaky Lucifer hears their prayers and somehow, some way, causes their holy fingers to type hotchristianbabes.com in Chrome and click GO. If only God had a private line.

Bruce, you are quite a snarky smart ass tonight. What point are you trying to make? Do I always have to have a point? Okay, you got me. Yes, I have a point. I want Evangelicals to think about the claims they make when it comes to their God. Is God really an all-powerful deity who is present everywhere, and sees, hears, and knows everything? What evidence do they have for making such claims? Doesn’t the evidence suggest that God is not omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient; that the only God answering prayers is us? Doesn’t the evidence tell us that the change we want in the world will only come through our actions, and not those of an invisible, non-involved God? If we want Trump removed from office, it’s up to us to do it. Hunger, poverty, war, global climate change, sickness, disease, and the Cincinnati Bengals winning the Super Bowl? None of these things is the purview of the Gods — be it the Evangelical God or any other deity. We alone have the power to make the earth a better place to live. We alone have the power to restore sanity to Washington. We alone have the power to provide every child with a better tomorrow. We know, based on the evidence at hand, that the Evangelical God is not the answer. And it’s a pretty safe bet that none of the other extant Gods is the answer either. Perhaps it is time to chuck organized religion in the dustbin of history and chart a new course. If scientists are right about global warming and unchecked population growth, time is running out for the human race — and dogs and cats too. Perhaps it is time to give the humanistic ideal a spin. Christianity, along with its Abrahamic brothers Islam and Judaism, has had centuries to make the earth a better place to live. Surely, it is fair to say that on balance these religions have failed, and they know it.

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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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.

Prayer: Asking and Receiving

asking-and-receiving

Evangelicals believe the words printed in red in the New Testament were uttered by Jesus himself. Thus, in John 14:13, Jesus says to his followers: whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. Jesus’ unambiguous statement makes it clear that whatsoever Christians prayerfully ask in his name, he will do. Awesome, right? Mark 11:24 records Jesus saying: Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. Jesus’ statement in Mark 11:24 is even more extreme. Whatsoever Christians desire and pray for, if they will really, really, really believe that God will give it to them, Jesus will affirmatively and fully answer their prayers. If only this were true, why I might become a Christian again. I have a lot of things that need fixing in my life. I am more than happy to let Jesus take the wheel! But, alas, the Jews buried the steering wheel with Jesus in an undisclosed location, so I am on my own.

Decades ago, Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) evangelist John R. Rice wrote a book titled, Prayer: Asking and Receiving. Rice, the long-time editor of the Sword of the Lord newspaper, believed that “getting” what you wanted from God was as simple as praying and asking God to deliver. Granted, Rice, and others who followed in his footsteps, had all sorts of explanations for “why” God failed to come through, but these Fundamentalist men of God sincerely believed that getting what they needed in their ministries and personal lives was but a prayer away. Rice believed that the primary hindrance to answered prayer was “sin.” He advocated praying for forgiveness as soon as you became aware that a behavior or action was sin. “Keep your sin lists short,” Rice said.  The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians 5:17: Pray without ceasing. Rice believed that Christians should always be in a spirit of prayer, ever-ready to shoot a prayer up to God. In Asking and Receiving, Rice wrote:

The normal Christian life is a life of regular, daily answer to prayer. In the model prayer, Jesus taught His disciples to pray daily for bread, and expect to get it, and to ask daily for forgiveness, for deliverance from the evil one, and for other needs, and daily to get the answers they sought.

For many years, IFB churches, parachurch ministries, and education institutions grew numerically and financially. In the minds of many IFB Christians, this proved Rice’s contention that prayer was believers asking and God delivering. Today, the vast majority of these churches, ministries, and schools are shells of what they once were. Many of them have closed their doors. What are we to make of their precipitous decline? Did Rice’s prayer formula no longer work? Or, perhaps, it never did work, and answered prayers came from and through human instrumentality, not God.

In the 1980s, I pastored a rapidly growing IFB congregation. Starting with 16 people, in four years the church grew to 200. I thought, at the time, that God had answered my prayers. I pleaded with God to save the lost, stir the saints, and cause Somerset Baptist Church to be a lighthouse in the community. And for five or six years, it seemed God was coming through every time I asked him to do so. Not that I was ever satisfied. I remember Rice saying, “It is not wrong to have a small church — for a while.” I attended numerous IFB preacher’s conferences and Sword of the Lord conferences in the 1970s and 1980s. The theme was always the same: building large churches for the glory of God. I was never, ever happy with the numbers. I took it personally when people skipped church. How dare they miss out on what Bruce — uh, I mean God — was doing at Somerset Baptist. I would learn, over time, that it wasn’t God that “blessed” my ministry, it was me and a handful of dedicated volunteers. One day, I looked behind the vending machine IFB preachers called God, and I noticed it was unplugged. Prayer wasn’t asking and receiving. At best, it was asking, asking, and asking, and then acting accordingly. I found that it was humans, not God, who answered prayers; that I was asking “self” for this or that, and “self” gave me what I asked for.

Rice went to his grave believing: “According to the Bible, a genuine answer to prayer is getting what you ask for.” If he had any doubts, he never uttered them in public. While John 14:13 and Mark 11:24 are clear – that if Christians ask, they will receive – evidence on the ground is clear: God doesn’t answer prayer. Either God can’t answer prayer because he doesn’t exist, or Christians live such sinful lives that their God has turned a deaf ear to their petitions. My money is on the former.

The next time an Evangelical says to you, THE BIBLE SAYS __________, ask him about John 14:13 and Mark 11:24. Do your own version of THE BIBLE SAYS __________. Ask him if Jesus meant what he said in these verses. The answer that comes next will likely prove to be long on obfuscation and theological gymnastics and short on, The B-i-b-l-e, yes that’s the book for me. I stand alone on the Word of God, the B-i-b-l-e. BIBLE!

How did your pastors and churches handle verses such as John 14:13 and Mark 11:24? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

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.

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.

You Better Pray for Your Food or God Will Choke You!

praying for our food
Cartoon by Mark Lynch

I grew up in a dysfunctional Evangelical home. We attended church every time the doors were open, read our Bibles, invited our friends and neighbors to church, and practiced the Christian art of praying. I want to focus on the art of praying in this post. I hope what I write will resonate with readers, and provoke their own thoughts about their past prayer experiences.

As a child, I was taught to pray every night before I went to bed. The first prayer I remember praying went like this:

Dear God,

Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my Soul to keep,
If I should die before I ‘wake,
I pray the Lord my Soul to take.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen

As I grew older, my prayers became more extemporaneous. I would confess my sins, thank God for saving me from my sin, thank God for my parents, family, pastor, church, pray for the missionaries and lost sinners, and finish off my prayers with a few personal requests. Still waiting for that new Schwinn 3-speed bike with a banana seat and sissy bar, Lord. As a teenager, my prayers became more elaborate, often taking minutes to recite. I wanted God to know I was serious about my faith; that I was serious about making my petitions and requests known to God. In my late teens, as I became more involved with girls, I would ask God to keep me morally pure. Two serious relationships, one at age 18 and the other with the woman who is now my wife, brought frequent prayers for moral strength. I was a virgin when I married, but I suspect had Polly and I waited much longer, we would have rounded third and slid into home. I can remember to this day, kneeling before God, still sexually aroused, and thanking him for keeping me from fornication. I know now, of course, that what kept me from sexual sin was religious indoctrination, threats of judgment and Hell, and fear.

I was also taught the importance of praying before every meal. As a child, I prayed:

Dear God,

God is great,God is good.
Let us thank him for our food.

In Jesus’ name,

Amen

On more than a few occasions growing up, I started eating before the prescribed prayer was uttered. This would usually elicit a stern warning from my mom:

Mom: Did you pray for your food?

Bruce: Uh — mouth filled with food — I forgot.

Mom: You better pray right now lest God chokes you.

Bruce: (Who had never seen a non-prayer choked by God) bows his head and silently mouths a prayer of thankfulness to God.

I had drilled into my head by my mom and pastors that God gave me food to eat, and that if I wanted to continue eating beans and wieners or chipped chopped ham/gravy over toast, I better thank God for meeting my sustenance needs. This training stuck with me, and I continued to pray over meals until I was almost fifty years old.

Over the weekend, we visited Polly’s Fundamentalist Christian parents. Polly’s dad is a retired Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor. Mom is an excellent cake maker, and she had made a double-chocolate cake for us and my oldest son and his children, and my youngest son and his fiancée, who accompanied us. As we were preparing to eat the cake, my father-in-law said to my oldest son, “Are you going to pray for the cake?” We all sat there stunned, not knowing what to do. You see, desserts were never prayed over. Never made sense to me why we prayed for the pot roast, carrots, and potatoes, but never for dessert. My son quickly avoided the prayer question, and Dad decided to go ahead without out it. Crisis averted. When Polly and I left Christianity, Dad would frequently ask me or one of my oldest two sons to pray for the food. Such requests were quietly and respectfully rebuffed with a “Why don’t you pray, Dad/Papaw?” To this day, I am not sure he truly knows and understands that his daughter and son-in-law, along with their children, are not Christians — or, at the very least, not his kind of Christian. Certainly, Polly and I don’t prevent anyone from praying at our table as long as they do it silently. God hears silent prayers, does he not? Yeah, I know, not really, but from an Evangelical perspective, he does. Want to pray for your food at atheist Nana and Grandpa’s table? Bow your head and silently shoot a prayer to Jesus. That’s all that matters right? If not, it would seem, at least to me, that meal prayers — especially in public settings — are meant to be statements instead of acts of piety and devotion.

These days, I am with Jimmy Stewart when it comes to praying for our food:

Video Link

What were your praying experiences as a child? Did you pray over your food? Always or did you make exceptions? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

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.

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.

Prayer Warriors

prayer

A guest post by ObstacleChick

There are a lot of people from my Evangelical past with whom I am connected on social media. A few of them never post anything at all that is religious. It is clear that some folks left Evangelicalism for a more progressive, inclusive Christianity. But there are quite a few who are still deeply rooted in Evangelical churches and beliefs. The majority of those who are still deeply rooted in Evangelicalism are also politically conservative. Not only are some of these folks posting about hell, but they are also supporting gun ownership, anti-immigration sentiment, and anti-abortion stances. Sometimes when I can’t take it anymore, I unfollow people.

All the Christians that I know believe in the power of prayer. They are convinced that their deity wants to hear from them and wants to help them with their issues, provided of course that the person praying is “right with God” and that whatever the person is asking is within God’s will. I don’t know any Christians who would state with certainty that they are “right with God” or that they know conclusively what is God’s will, but they certainly do throw their prayers out there in case all the right circumstances converge to produce the desired outcome. It’s a little like playing the lottery, except with the lottery someone will actually receive a payout at some point.

As someone who no longer believes in deities or the power of prayer, it is interesting to me to see what Christians post on social media when they are seeking a desired outcome to a situation. Some will post a cryptic notice to their “prayer warrior” friends that there is a situation requiring prayer. Inevitably, dozens of people will respond “praying,” while some include heart or praying hands emoticons. Others will post a specific event for which they would like their friends to pray, typically something to do with illness or financial/employment situation. The posts regarding cancer or terminal illness are the most heartbreaking for me to read, as the person posting often will state that they are putting their loved one’s well-being (or their own well-being as the case may be) in the hands of their deity. All of them do seek the best medical care that they can find or afford, so at least they are aware that physical treatments are necessary to treat disease. However, they ask for prayers for “getting an appointment soon,” “getting treatment right away,” “seeing the best doctor,” and so forth. Picking up the phone and talking with someone who can actually make that happen for you might be a better option than talking to an invisible deity and asking all your friends to talk to an invisible deity.

I feel for those who are reaching out for prayers. They are afraid, concerned, sometimes grasping with their last hope that their deity will show favor and perform a miracle to rectify the situation. Yet I just cannot bring myself to say that I am “praying.” I have not prayed in many years, even before I acknowledged that I was an atheist and no longer believed in any deities. I believe that if I say I am praying that it is a lie even though it is an expected response that might make the person feel better.

What prompted this post is seeing a series of posts from Evangelical Christians over the past few months regarding illness and death. A friend’s mother died after deciding to discontinue chemotherapy as her cancer had progressed too far. Another friend’s father died after years of cancer and remission; he was a pastor, which goes to show that the Evangelical deity does not favor his mouthpieces when it comes to cancer. Yet another person posted that her husband was experiencing unexplained blindness for which doctors, after several months of tests, have not found the root cause. My sister-in-law’s year-old grand-niece suffered a seizure, and doctors could find nothing long-term wrong with her. Another friend just posted yesterday that his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer and is starting radiation therapy today. And the most heartbreaking of all is a friend whose husband had surgery for a glioblastoma, was sent to Duke Medical Center to be evaluated for an experimental program, and the day before the appointment, was rushed to Duke where doctors performed emergency brain surgery to alleviate swelling where a new faster-growing glioblastoma has taken root. It took several days for the family to secure transport back home to Georgia so he could begin radiation treatment.

All of these people asked for prayers, and they received hundreds of responses such as “praying” or “praying for you,” or longer versions that include some sort of Bible verse and “praying,” or a long-winded monologue “lifting you up in the name of our Lord and Healer Jesus Christ.” Very few people actually offered something useful in return.

What I did notice was that hardly anyone who posted responded to those who commented “praying,” but everyone responded to my comments which usually involved saying that I hoped their medical team could find out what was wrong or made some other comment that had nothing to do with Jesus or prayer. My comments gave them the opportunity to express their thankfulness for their medical teams and to explain what had been accomplished so far. My goal when commenting was to show empathy, and I suppose that was also a goal of those who responded that they were “praying.” The difference is that I know and accept that there is very little actionable that I can accomplish to help these people with their issues while those who pray think they are doing something important and useful by appealing to their supposedly omnipotent, omnibenevolent deity. If the person does show improvement or recovery, the deity is thanked and held responsible for the “great things he has done.” Sometimes the medical team is thanked, but they are typically an afterthought in the process. And if the outcome is not favorable, then it is attributed to “God’s will, praise His name, glory hallelujah.”

In closing, I would like to mention the way a nonreligious friend is posting on social media about her husband’s bout with a brain tumor. They were on vacation in Italy when he collapsed. Hospital tests showed he had a brain tumor that required immediate surgery. When he returned to the US, he started radiation and physical therapy. All of her posts have been pictures of her husband with his medical team, with physical therapists, with friends and family who have visited, with many thanks for these professionals, family, and friends who are working with him. Not once did she mention a deity or ask for prayers.

If you are nonreligious, how do you deal with people asking you to pray for them regarding an issue? Do you tell them you are praying, or do you do as I do and mention how you are thinking of them and hope they have good resources? I would be interested to hear other ways that might convey empathy.

Bruce, Have You Ever Had Any “Miracles” Happen in Your Life?

miracle working god

Recently, a reader by the name of Jay asked me:

I struggle with my faith often.

But when I think of the times that my life has been spared I can’t /won’t shrug it off to coincidence.

Have you ever had miracles happen in your life? Have you ever or a family or friend come out of situation that could not be explained?

Do you believe in miracles?

I was in the Christian church for fifty years, and I was an Evangelical pastor for twenty-five of those years. For most of my life, I believed the Bible was the inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God. I believed God heard and answered my prayers, and in some instances miraculously intervened in my life. According to my worldview at the time, God was a supernatural being who supernaturally intervened in my life on a daily basis. He was very much of a hands-on deity. I preached thousands of sermons, believing that the words that I spoke came straight from God himself. God worked in and through me, and, at times, did things I couldn’t even imagine. Miracles, right?

During much of 2007 and 2008, I undertook a painful and thorough examination of my life and beliefs. In November 2008, I concluded that I could no longer in good conscience call myself a Christian. In early 2009, I sent a letter to my family, friends, and former parishioners that detailed my loss of faith. It was not long after, that I began calling myself an atheist.

One area I paid close attention to during the deconversion process was answered prayers and miracles. I claimed that God had answered my prayers countless times and had worked miracles in my life. Could these things withstand rational, skeptical scrutiny? (Please see Prayer: Explaining the UnexplainableDoes Praying for the Sick and Dying Make Any Difference?A Few Thoughts on a Lifetime of Praying to the Christian God) After countless hours spent combing through the minutiae of my life, I concluded that most of the answered prayers and miracles in my life could be explained away solely through human means and intervention. In other words, the prayer-answering, miracle-working God I worshipped most of my life was, in fact, quite fallible and human.

But, Bruce, shouldn’t these unexplainable things be called miracles? Shouldn’t you give God his due for answering one out of a million prayers and throwing a miracle bone or two your way? You know, all praise to Jesus for saving one out of four hundred passengers in a plane crash; for saving a Bible while a tornado destroyed everything else in its path; for healing a cancer patient here and there?

In any other setting, someone with such a miserably low success rate would be fired or kicked off the team. The Christian God, truth be told, is batting well below the Mendoza line — a below .200 baseball average. Instead of praising Jesus for occasionally coming through, perhaps there are a few questions that need to be asked.

First, how can we know for certain something is a miracle? Are we to assume that anything we can’t understand or explain is a miracle? Second, how can we know for certain that what we called miracles were performed by some sort of God? Third, how can we know for certain that the God who worked these miracles was the Christian God? Humans have worshiped countless deities over the centuries. How can anyone know for sure that their God is one true miracle-working God? Set the Bible aside for a moment and try to clear your mind of whatever religious indoctrination clutters your thoughts. Does it sound reasonable to say that the “unexplainable” is best explained by attributing credit to a deity no one has ever seen? Or, does it make more sense to explain what we call miracles by saying, “I don’t know.”

I am comfortable with saying, “I don’t know.” I don’t have to have an explanation for everything that happens in my life. Using the Bible and religious dogma to “explain” such things is a cop-out. It allows people to avoid accounting for the unexplainable by saying, “God did it!” I would say to Jay and others like him who are struggling with their faith: “Carefully examine your life. Examine whether what you call answered prayer or miracles can be explained by or through human means. Once you complete this examination, ask yourself, should I still think of the Christian God as a prayer-answering, miracle-working deity?” I think you will find the answer is NO. Now, this doesn’t mean that you are an atheist. Many people, after such careful self-examination, become deists, believing that there is a creator God of some sort who set everything into motion and then said, “there ya go folks, do with it what you will.”  What you can be certain of is this: the personal God of countless Christians who is involved in their day-to-day lives hearing and answering prayers and working miracles is a myth; that we are each accountable for our own lives, and that humans collectively, according to the humanist ideal, have an obligation to make the world a better place to live.

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.

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.

The Biggest Lies in the Bible: Ask and It Shall be Given to You and Seek and Ye Shall Find

god is a liar

There are lots of lies in the Bible; promises made by God that he does not keep. The two biggest lies in the Bible are found in Matthew 7:7-11:

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

According to the Bible, God, the Heavenly Father, gives good things to those who ask him to do so. Ask, and it shall be given to you. Have a need in your life? Seek God and your need will be answered. Find yourself standing at a proverbial closed door? Knock on the door and God will open it for you. No qualifiers here. Ask and God will give, and seek and you will find. Yet, honest Evangelicals will tell you that they have asked God for this or that and nothing happened. Honest Evangelicals will testify of seeking and not finding; of endlessly pounding on Heaven’s door without anyone answering their knock. Of course, it is not God’s fault for his stinginess. It’s not God’s fault he can never be found. Oh no, the blame is always on the Christian. “You need to have more faith!” “You need to pray harder and longer!” “There’s sin in your life that is keeping God from blessing you!” The excuses and justifications are endless. God is a divine vending machine standing ready to dispense answered prayers and blessings. Yet, when Christians pull on handle or push the appropriate button, nothing happens. The vending machine eats their money and dispenses nothing in return.

Sunday after Sunday preachers tell congregants that their lives would be shit without Jesus. Such statements are taken as facts without ever being questioned. Perhaps it is time for followers of Jesus to put their God to the test. Stop asking, stop seeking, and stop knocking. Stop dialing God’s hot line and asking for help. Just stop all the incantations and exercises of faith and see what happens. I’m confident that Christians will find out that there is no material difference between asking/seeking/knocking and not doing so. God is silent either way. The cupboards are empty either way. Pray or don’t pray, it matters not. Why is this? Most Christians will put the blame squarely on self, but I would like to suggest that perhaps there’s another answer; that perhaps the real answer is that God doesn’t come through because he can’t — he’s dead.

I was a fervent seeker of God for almost thirty-five years. I prayed thousands and thousands of prayers: long prayers, short prayers, prayers filled with pathos, and prayers filled with faith. I believed I served a great God, the creator of the universe, a God who held my life and life of everyone else in the palm of his hand. For most of my Christian life, I was convinced that God was answering my prayers. I never doubted that he was fulfilling that which he promised me. Such is life in the Evangelical bubble.

However, once I began doubting what the Bible said was true, everything changed. I carefully examined all the prayers I had prayed over the years, all the requests I made before the throne of Heaven. I pondered all the dying people I prayed for. Every one of them died. I thought about all the sick people I prayed for, wondering, did God heal them or did doctors, medicines, and natural processes do their job? As I combed through my prayer catalog, I came to a startling conclusion: virtually every “answered” prayer could be attributed to natural causes — no supernatural intervention needed. Sure, there were a couple of circumstances that “seemed” supernatural in origin, but is that all I get from God after thirty-five years of devotion and self-denial? Sorry, but luck is a better explanation than God. One of the surest proofs of God’s non-existence is the lack of answered prayer. God made promises and didn’t keep them. God couldn’t keep them, of course, because he was a human construct. There is no deity sitting in Heaven waiting to answer your prayers. Pray, don’t pray, it matters not. Silence is sure to follow. We’re on own, folks.

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.

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The Sounds of Fundamentalism: Pastor Randall Snipes Goes Out of His Way to Offend Non-Evangelicals

randall snipes

The Sounds of Fundamentalism is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section.  Let’s have some fun!

Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a video clip of Fundamentalist Baptist pastor Randall Snipes preaching a “prayer” before the Virginia House of Representatives. Snipes is the pastor of Oak Grove Baptist Church in Colonial Beach, Virginia.

Video Link

Transcript of Snipes’ prayer

Let us pray. Heavenly Father, we bow before You, Lord, and we proclaim now… that you are God, and there is none other than You, and there is none like You.

God, we ask that, as a nation, Lord, we would not seek our own pleasure, our own preferences, or our own praise, but that, God, we would seek Your pleasure. That God, we would seek Your praise. Lord, that we would seek Your will.

God, we ask you humbly today that you would convict us. Lord, if you’d send your Holy Spirit to convict us of sin, and the righteousness, and of judgment. God, the sin that that we commit, the sin that we celebrate, the sin that we allow, the sin that we promote. God, convict us of that. Lord, convict us of righteousness. Lord, Your holy standard. God, and how far short we are of that on so many occasions. And God, convict us of the judgment it is to come, the day that you have already set before, for we will give an account for every action, every deed, and every word. God, a day that you have set aside where every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that “Jesus is Lord.”

God, I pray that you would convict us of that day where those who love you will be rewarded, and those who reject you will be sentenced.

God, give us that conviction this day. And Lord, we ask that you would grant us wisdom, that this group of people would have supernatural wisdom today. Lord, of wisdom that begins with the fear of you. God, we ask… for forgiveness. Lord, forgiveness for the millions and millions of innocent lives that have been murdered for the sake of convenience. God, we ask you for forgiveness for the bloodshed that is on our hands as a nation. And Lord, we don’t deserve it. God, we confess before you that we do not deserve it. But Lord, we have nowhere else to turn but to you, and to ask as humbly as we know how, God, that you would forgive us. That you would help us turn from our wicked ways. God, that we would seek Your face.

God, we pray that this day you would begin a spiritual revolution, an awakening, a revival in our nation, Lord, that you would deliver us from evil, not just of our nation might be exalted, but God, that you would create in us once again a nation that exalts You.

We do not ask these things based on our own merit or in our own power. But today, God, we evoke their precious and powerful and Holy Name of Jesus. In His name we pray. And to Him be glory and power and honor, forever and ever. Amen.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

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

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The Sounds of Fundamentalism: Tony Hutson Prays in a Restaurant — Supposedly

tony hutson
Tony Hutson

This is the one hundred and eighty-third installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section.  Let’s have some fun!

Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a video clip from a service held by Tony Hutson, pastor of Middle Tennessee Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Hutson is the son of the late Curtis Hutson, editor of the Sword of the Lord. — an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist periodical started by John R. Rice. In the video clip Hutson mocks people of Asian descent, shows his disdain for alcohol use, and shares a prayer he prayed at a Japanese restaurant — supposedly. I say “supposedly” because Hutson’s sermon illustrations — much like his morbidly obese body — are often bigger than life. In other words, Hutson embellishes — Greek for lies — the truth so he can make a point.

Video Link

Dear Mrs. C, a Guest Post by ObstacleChick

prayer in schools
Cartoon by David Horsey

A guest post by ObstacleChick

Mrs. C: Recently, you posted on social media a statement to which I really wanted to respond, but I chose to refrain. Why? Because I know that social media is a poor place to debate political, religious, or social issues, so I remained silent. Your post is as follows: “How to fix America….put Jesus back in all the places you asked Him to leave: Home, School, Government, Church and Your Heart.”

For four years, you were my high school math teacher at a K-12 fundamentalist Christian school. Starting my senior year, you had just retired, yet when your replacement — a former student with a master’s degree in math — could not handle five preparatory classes and quit after six weeks, you came back to finish the school year. In fact, I heard that you continued to teach for fifteen years after your originally planned retirement date. You were committed to teaching students, and I’m sure you could have told us a lot about your religious beliefs had women been allowed to speak in chapel services at school. As it was, all teachers were required to be Christian and to follow certain rules of conduct even outside school (like not going to movie theaters), so there was no doubt that the “witness” of the teachers for Jesus was apparent to students both inside and outside campus boundaries.

With regard to your post, I’m sure that the sentiment makes complete sense to you, living in a suburb of Nashville where the majority of your neighbors identify as some sort of Christian – specifically Evangelical Christian. Sure, you may disagree on finer points of doctrine such as whether musical instruments should be used in worship service, or whether women should wear skirts/dresses to worship services, but I suspect that the vast majority of your neighbors would agree (or at least state that they agree) that Jesus should be present in all aspects of private and public life, and that America is going to hell in a handbasket because the Evangelical God is not a mandatory part of public life.

I would like you to think about other areas of the country, areas which are more diverse in population. For example, I live in a town in New Jersey, just 20 minutes from Manhattan. Our town was settled by mostly Italian Catholic families. As time went on, more and more residents moved in with names like Torres, Patel, Silverstein, and Qureshi. Today, about thirty percent of the town is populated by families with names like Kim, Takahashi, and Chang. While the majority of residents are still Catholic, there is a large demographic of protestant Asians, a smaller demographic of Jewish residents, and a handful of Hindus and Muslims, as well as a few non-religious or atheists like my family. Our elementary school used to start teaching Italian to students beginning in third grade, but parents petitioned the school to begin teaching the arguably more useful Spanish instead. Our school district is made up of seven towns with demographics similar to our town, and we have a large enough Jewish population that the school district is closed on Jewish holidays.

Mrs. C, you speak of bringing Jesus back to the schools, and I assume you mean you would like to see mandatory prayer in the schools. For the sake of argument, let’s assume that mandatory prayers would occur during homeroom, and the prayers are supposed to be prayed to generic “God” and not specifically to Jesus. Under this scenario, Mrs. Shapiro or Mr. Elqariani could lead prayers to a generic “God” and not necessarily feel offended. However, I’m not sure to whom Ms. Patel would pray as Hindus have many gods. Would she just pray to a generic “God” even though her gods have many names? Maybe I’m overthinking this. Maybe just a generic prayer over the loudspeaker system each morning would suffice. But, I’m not sure that solves your issue of putting Jesus specifically back into schools.

Definitely, I AM overthinking this. Since I’ve been out of Evangelical Christianity for twenty-five years, I almost forgot the number one rule of Fundamentalist l Christianity: that it is imperative to proselytize anyone who doesn’t believe in the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. That is, no matter how devout or moral people of another religion or no religion might be, if they have not made a confession of sin and profession of faith in the life, substitutionary atonement of Jesus and his resurrection three days later, they are lost and require evangelistic intervention from believers. Without Jesus, they are destined for eternal torment in hell. I was going through different scenarios where prayers could be given in public schools, thinking of allowing Muslim students to pray to Allah, allowing Buddhist students to offer prayers as they wish, and for Hindu students to pray as their belief allows. But that isn’t what you want, is it, Mrs. C? When you say that Jesus should be put back into schools, that is LITERALLY what you mean. Not that students of other religions should be mandated to pray, either in general or to the deity of their choosing. Not that volunteer imams or priests or rabbis should visit the school and offer prayers. No, those clerics are unsaved or apostates. You believe that the number one priority of Evangelical Christians is to witness to the “lost.” And while you may grudgingly permit those of other faiths to pray in an occasional gesture of ecumenicism, what you really want is your version of Christianity to be the one faith to which everyone is exposed. Most of all, you want public school students to hear prayers to YOUR deity –the Evangelical Christian God.

How about we look at a different scenario, Mrs. C? Let’s say your grandson goes to my district’s high school. He plays soccer and really wants to make the varsity team. He goes to tryouts and notices before practice that most of the boys who were on the team last year are kneeling on prayer rugs and praying to Allah with Mr. Assad, the coach. Your grandson notices this happens every day. He and the other boys really want to be favorably noticed by Mr. Assad in order to secure a spot on the team, so your grandson goes home and asks his parents to buy him a prayer rug. I suspect, Mrs. C, that you would have a fit.

Maybe these questions are part of the reason why judges saw the merit in upholding the establishment clause in our Constitution. Why don’t we leave Jesus where he belongs — in the privacy of your home, heart, and church — and let our public spaces be free of religion.

Thoughts and Prayers Won’t Solve Gun Violence

thoughts and prayers
Cartoon by Kristian Nygard

Mass Shooting in the United States from 1990-February 2018

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mass shootings 2

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Source: Mother Jones

Three decades of mass of shootings; over 300,000 homicides; over 600,000 suicides. According to Wikipedia, 1.4 million Americans have been killed using firearms between 1968 and 2011.Wikipedia also states:

Compared to 22 other high-income nations, the U.S. gun-related murder rate is 25 times higher. Although it has half the population of the other 22 nations combined, the U.S. had 82 percent of all gun deaths, 90 percent of all women killed by guns, 91 percent of children under 14 and 92 percent of young people between ages 15 and 24 killed by guns. In 2010, gun violence cost U.S. taxpayers approximately $516 million in direct hospital costs.

By some estimates, Americans own over 300 million firearms, yet most households and individuals do not own a gun. Surprisingly, at least to me, is the fact that most Americans are reticent about banning guns or enforcing strict firearm laws. This disparity shows how effective the NRA and gun lobby are at getting their message out. Like it or not, the United States is a nation of guns. Add to our personal weapon caches the vast weapons of violence, carnage, and death used by our military, and it is hard not to conclude that we are a violent people who love weapon of mass destruction. The U.S. government searched everywhere for Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. They, of course, found none. Perhaps the search for such weapons should start here within our borders and homes.

What is needed is comprehensive gun control legislation. (Please read Another Day, Another School MassacreBruce, you are WRONG! Guns don’t kill people, people do! Really? Are you so stupid that you cannot see the insanity of such an argument? Cars don’t kill people, people do!  Yet, we have all sorts of laws and regulations that govern car ownership and use, including testing and licensing requirements. We wisely, in the name of public safety, regulate automobile ownership and use, yet many gun owners demand the right to own any kind of firearm, without restriction. Such thinking is a threat to public health and safety in much the same way as are people driving unlicensed, unregulated automobiles on highways, streets, and country roads.

Month after month, year after year, angry, often mentally ill, people use firearms to slaughter their fellow Americans. Every time such carnage happens, Republican/conservative political leaders offer up “thoughts and prayers” while reminding us that guns are not the problem. If the outrage from the survivors of the latest school shooting is any indication, younger Americans are waking up to the reality that guns ARE the problem. Emperor NRA stands before them and says, the Second Amendment is sacrosanct and banning guns won’t stop mass shootings. These angry students wisely reply, BULLSHIT! They can see that the Emperor has no clothes. They see, oh so clearly, that unrestricted gun use and ownership is one part of the problem, along with the lack of mental health care for troubled teens and adults.

These young people are saying, NO MORE THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS! We want immediate and decisive action on gun control. It remains to be seen whether their outrage can be turned into a movement, one that perhaps mimics the student anti-war protest movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Back then, protesting students helped to bring an end to the Vietnam War — a decade of immoral American violence and bloodshed in Southeast Asia. I hope that today’s protesting students can put such pressure on the U.S. government that it will force our political leaders, after hundreds of thousands of firearm deaths, to finally enact strict, comprehensive gun control laws.

Bruce Gerencser