Tag Archive: Probabilities

How Can I Be Certain the Evangelical God is a Myth?

certainty erich fromm

A regular reader of this blog sent me an email and asked the following:

I am unsettled by the notion that there is a possibility that the bizarre God of fundamentalism might exist. The idea that YHWH exists as described by Dan Corner, Jack Chick and their ilk terrifies me. Because that means we are dealing with a being that is irrational, uncaring, inconsistent, and quite frankly confusing in every aspect. It is that particular aspect of Christianity that I fear being true.

This person is “almost” sure that there is no God, but his need for certainty continues to plague him. I am sure that many readers can attest to having similar feelings at one point in time in their journey out of Evangelical Christianity. What this person continues to struggle with is doubt and fear. What if the fiery God of Jonathan Edwards really is as advertised? What if countless bellowing Evangelical preachers are right about God, sin, judgment, and the afterlife? Surely, there’s some test that we use to prove once and for all whether this God is the one true God. Surely, in this day of modern science, we have some sort of test we can use to finally and authoritatively rule out the existence of the Evangelical God. Unfortunately, the best that science can do is tell us that Evangelical interpretations of Genesis 1-3 are false; that the universe was not created in six literal twenty-four hour days; that the earth is not 6,022 years old (as of October 22, 2018). These facts do, however warn us about how Evangelicals interpret the Bible; that their Fundamentalist literalism, hermeneutics, and presuppositions don’t stand the smell test. And if Evangelical interpretations are false on these fundamental issues, what’s to say that their concept of God is not also without merit? The question we must ask here, then, in the one asked by Satan, the walking snake: yea hath God said? Is the Bible a supernatural text? Is it divinely inspired and inerrant? Settling these issues — read Bart Ehrman — will go a long way in burying Jesus in the sands of Palestine. That said, concluding that the Bible is NOT what Evangelicals claim it is, and that its words were written by humans, will not erase all doubt one might have about the existence of God. Answering these questions will get a person almost to home, but there could still be, as in the case of the person who emailed me, niggling doubts.

These doubts are the vestiges of Evangelical indoctrination. Sunday after Sunday, these “truths” were preached from the pulpits of the churches we attended. Spend enough years hearing such sermons, and you are going to think these beliefs are true. The essence of faith is believing without seeing. Evangelicals believe in God, Heaven, Hell, and the afterlife, not because they have ever seen them, but because their churches, pastors, families believe them to be true. Surely, all these people can’t be wrong, right? Actually, they can be (and are) wrong. Faith, for the most part, bypasses reason and intellectual inquiry. Evangelicals believe what they do because everyone they know believes the same. It is only when Evangelicals step outside of the Evangelical box that they see their resolute beliefs are not as solid as they think they are. (Please see The Danger of Being in a Box and Why it Makes Sense When You are in it and What I Found When I Left the Box.)

I cannot, for the letter writer, tell him what to believe. He must walk his own path and come to his own conclusions. The doubts he still battles are emotional in nature. Telling him to read yet another book will not drive away the fear and doubt that afflict him. His immersion in Evangelicalism has left deep scars that might take a long time to overcome. All any of us can do when it comes to religion is ask ourselves, how probable is it that Evangelical beliefs are true? What evidence is there for their truthfulness? It is “possible” that a commercial jet flying over my house could lose one of its engines, and that engine would fall on my house and kill me. Possible? Sure. Probable? No! I don’t go around worrying about a jet engine falling on my head. That would be stupid. I am confident — 99.99999999 percent that I will live out my entire life without a jet engine falling from the sky and killing me. With all the things that could kill me, it is irrational and a waste of time to worry about falling engines.

So it is with the Evangelical concept of God. I am confident that the Evangelical God is not who and what Christians claim he is. Reason, skepticism, and intellectual inquiry has led me to conclude that the Evangelical God is a fictional being, not one I need worry about lest he rain fire and brimstone down on my head. The odds are such that I don’t worry one whit about this God’s existence. If I was going to “worry” about the existence of a Creator God, I would mentally afflict myself wondering whether the deistic God exists. But why worry? This God is unapproachable and unknowable. All any of us can do is LIVE! It is primarily the Abrahamic God that keeps some people up at night with his threats of judgment and Hell.

Surely, if the Evangelical God is real he would help the letter writer with his doubts. He is slipping away, Lord. Do something! Of course, God is silent. Why? He is a fiction of the human mind. Once this fact becomes rooted in your mind — and it might take years — gone are doubts about this God’s existence.

Well, Bruce, what if you are wrong and you die, only to find out God is real? All I know to do is to say to God: My bad, Jesus!  I am 99.99999999 percent sure that is one apology I will never have to deliver. Could I be wrong? It’s possible — as in .00000001 percent possible, but I don’t plan on wasting my time on things for which there is no evidence.

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

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.

Thoughts About Life and Death: God Kills Aspiring Model by Hitting Her With a Train

fredzania thompson

Last week, aspiring model and college student Fredzania Thompson was tragically killed when a train hit her while she was standing too close to the tracks. CBS News reports:

The mother of a 19-year-old Texas woman says her daughter was killed when she was struck by a train while having photos taken of her on the tracks in a bid to launch a modeling career.

Hakamie Stevenson told The Eagle newspaper that her daughter, Fredzania Thompson, attended Blinn College in Bryan, Texas, but wanted to put her education on hold to begin modeling.

Authorities say Thompson was standing between two sets of tracks on March 10 in Navasota when a BNSF Railway train approached.

She moved out of the way of the train but was apparently unaware that a Union Pacific train was coming in the opposite direction on the other tracks and was struck.

In this post, my objective is not to focus on the nature of Thompson’s death as much as the reason given for her demise. Sambreia Glover had this to say about her 20-year-old cousin’s death:

Everyone knew the real Zanie … very free-spirited, just goofy. Everyone loved her. She never met a stranger. She was just very friendly and sweet. it’s tough, but God makes no mistakes. It was just her time, but she will be truly missed.

According to Thompson’s cousin — who is likely an Evangelical Christian — God — who supposedly makes no mistakes — killed Thompson because it was just her time to die. She’ll be missed, Glover said, but hey the Giver and Taker of Life knows what he is doing.

What reason could the Christian God possibly have for killing a bright, energetic 20-year-old girl? Does God assign death dates to every human life at birth? If so, and if, as pro-lifers say, life begins at fertilization, that means God assigns a death date to every aborted fetus. This also means that children who died of cancer did so because it was their time to die. According to many Evangelical pastors, everyone has a divine appointment with death. The Bible seems to be on their side. Hebrews 9:27 says:

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment

This verse can be interpreted several ways. One way is to say that the appointment in question is the death of all humans, not anyone in particular. After everyone is dead and the events of the book of Revelation are fulfilled, everyone will be resurrected so they can stand before God and be judged. Another way this passage is interpreted — the one most commonly used by Evangelical preachers — is that everyone has a set-in-stone death-day. In Thompson’s case, March 10, 2017, was her day to die.

Let’s assume, for a moment, that the notion of everyone having a set-by-God death-date is true. What does this say about God? Think of all the various ways humans die. Think of all the suffering, pain, and agony people go through before drawing their last breaths. Think of all the bizarre ways people die — wrong place, wrong time, BAM! you’re dead! What kind of monster is God with his macabre, psychopathic, torturing-kittens ways of strangling the life out of those whose creation was supposedly his crowning achievement? If death is a divinely ordered necessity, why not let people on their death-day die in their sleep? Surely that would be good not only for the dead people, but also their families. Instead, God — the First Cause of everything, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last — throws people off cliffs, murders them in dark alleys, blows them up in crowded bazaars, drowns them in swimming pools, fries them with lightning, and, as in Thompson’s case, hits them with trains.

Some Evangelicals will argue that God, as creator, can do whatever he wants to do. The Apostle Paul makes this very argument in Romans 9God is the creator, Paul said, and we are the created. How dare we challenge God’s right to do whatever he wants.

Another argument made for God’s chosen methods of human-killing is that the more graphic, violent, and awful the death, the more likely it is that people will pay attention to it. Who wants to watch the Hallmark Channel when you can watch HBO, right? Since heaven or hell awaits everyone and this is determined by whether people are Christian or not, news-worthy deaths are warning signs from God. On Sundays, countless Evangelical pastors use this very approach in their sermons, giving graphic illustrations of people who died horrible, untimely (from a human perspective) deaths. The goal is to scare people into getting saved. I used countless such illustrations, hoping that congregants who consider their frail mortality, soon death, and eternal destiny. Such illustrations in the hands of skilled emotion manipulators usually lead people — with tears streaming down their faces — to put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ.

Thompson’s cousin also said that “God makes no mistakes.” I wonder if Christians, in light of the Bible, consider whether statements such as this are true. According to the Good Book, God created Adam and Eve. How did that work out? If God is the First Cause, isn’t he responsible for the fall of Adam and Eve into sin? If God knows E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G, he must have known Adam and Eve were going to eat of Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, and, according to orthodox Christianity, plunge the entire human race into sin. Think of all the evil, violence, and suffering on display in this world of ours. Evangelicals trace all of these things back to our sinful nature. Surely, it is fair to say that God screwed up big time when creating Adam and Eve as he did. In other words, God made a colossal mistake.

Several thousand years later, humans had procreated themselves into a six-million or so species. Also roaming the earth were fallen angels. These angels were having sex with human women, resulting in the birth of angel-human hybrid children. Bizarre TV show from the SyFy channel? Nope, straight from the Bible, Genesis, chapter six:

And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.

Note carefully what the Bible says: And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart…. And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth. This sure sounds like it is saying that God is admitting that he made a mistake in creating humans, and that the only way to fix his mistake was to kill everyone (save Noah and his family, eight in number) and start over.

The most humorous part of this story is that after God flushed the earth and started over, the first thing that Noah and his sons did was commit some sort of sexual sin (Genesis 9:19-24). Poor God, he can’t seem to get it right. He should have killed Noah’s family too.

Evangelicals are fond of saying, PRAYER CHANGES THINGS! Implied in this statement is that through prayer God can be moved to act on their behalf. Need something from God? PRAY! Need a job, home, money, car, a wife? PRAY! Need deliverance from alcohol, heroin, or porn? PRAY! Pray long and hard enough, the thinking goes, and God will come through for you, giving you that which you ask for. God, then, is some sort of divine vending machine. Keep putting quarters in the slot and pulling the handle, and God will sooner or later drop a package of Peanut M&Ms from Heaven.

If prayer can indeed change things, wouldn’t this mean that God changing his mind about a matter is him admitting that his first plan of action/inaction was wrong? If God is perfect, the same yesterday, today, and forever, doesn’t the very act of answering prayers say that God is NOT any these things?

If God is all that Evangelicals say he is, shouldn’t we expect God to get it right each and every time? What does it say about a supposedly all-knowing, all-powerful God that he is neither? What it should say to anyone who is paying attention is that this God is a figment of human imagination. People desperately want to believe that there is some sort of higher power controlling the universe. They also want to believe that their life matters to God and has meaning and purpose. Life isn’t worth living, Christians say, if these things are not true.

Of course, the mere existence of atheists, agnostics, pagans, humanists, and countless other non-Christians, suggests otherwise. Earthly, godless life can be and is filled with wonder, meaning, and purpose. Evangelicals may not be able to wrap their minds around this fact, but that doesn’t mean it is not true. Millions and millions of people live in the present, acknowledging that death lurks around the next corner. Today, tomorrow, or 50 years from now, death — the great equalizer — will claim us all. The difference, of course, is that unbelievers know that to some degree they can control when and even how they die. Yes, genetics, environment, and luck play a big part, but we are NOT passive players in the drama called life.

Every day, all of us make decisions based on the evidence at hand and probabilities. Living on Earth is both wonderful and dangerous. Having lived for almost 60 years, I can say that I am lucky to be alive. Forty-five years ago, 15-year-old Bruce was walking home from the YMCA one evening with his friends when a stopped train blocked his path home. After 10 or so minutes, the daredevil boy with flaming orange hair decided he had enough and started to climb underneath the train. My friends laughed and cheered me on, but none of them was willing to following me across the tracks to the other side. Perhaps their reason for not doing so was the train lurching forward as I made it halfway to the other side. My friends’ laughs and cheers turned into screams, fearing that the train was going to crush me or cut off my legs. Fortunately, I safely made it to the other side. (And astoundingly, I waited until the tracks were clear so my friends could praise me for my bravado, forgetting that my reason for doing this was to save time.)

The story of Fredzania Thompson’s tragic death and my story of keeping my legs for another day have much in common. Both of us foolishly thought that it was okay to play on train tracks. Both of us, filled with youthful life, had no thoughts of death. Thompson just wanted a picture, and I just wanted to get home. Thompson’s roll of the dice resulted in her death, mine became a story to tell forty-five years later. The difference between the two stories? Luck. I could just as easily have been killed or turned into a legless example of youthful stupidly.

At the time, I thanked God for saving me from the train, but now I know that I was one lucky boy. Had my life ended that night, none of what I have experienced since them would have happened. Surviving many such experiences has taught me the importance of carefully considering possible outcomes. Not that I still don’t make stupid decisions. I do, and perhaps one day I will die, the result of one stupid decision too many. (Please see Death by Duck: The Photograph that Almost Killed Me.)

I certainly empathize with Thompson’s family. Her death came way too soon, long before it should have. She should have had a full life ahead of her, including a modeling career and perhaps a husband and family. So much potential, snuffed out in an instant because of a thoughtless choice to have her photograph taken on busy railroad tracks. God is not to blame (or credit), because he doesn’t exist. The blame squarely rests on Thompson, and to some degree, the photographer — who should have assessed the risk involved in taking the photograph. All of us know that train tracks are dangerous, yet every year hundreds of Americans are killed by trains. We KNOW, yet we allow the thrill of the moment or lateness to override our thinking, resulting in death and serious injury. One thing is for certain, future Thompsons will be warned about the danger that railroad tracks present to them. This is how we survive as a species. Not by attributing everything to God, but by learning from our ignorant, foolish, ill-advised decisions. Much of life and death rests with us. If we want to live long, fulfilling lives, we must learn to assess danger, weigh probabilities, and act accordingly. We still might end up dead, but it won’t be because we threw caution to the wind and put ourselves in harm’s way.