Tag Archive: Purpose and Meaning

Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Atheists Live Purposeless, Meaningless Lives

During my debate with Bill Nye “the Science Guy” on February 4, 2014, Bill was asked where matter came from. In his answer he said it was a great mystery, but he loved the “joy of discovery” as he pursued such questions. In my responses to Bill’s answers, I asked him why the joy of discovery mattered to him. I explained that from Bill’s perspective, life is the result of natural processes and there is no biblical God, so when he dies, he won’t even know he ever existed or knew anything. Then, when others who knew him die, they won’t know they ever knew him, either. Eventually, from his perspective of naturalism, the whole universe will die and no one will ever know they ever existed. So what is the purpose of this “joy of discovery”? Really, the naturalistic view of life is ultimately purposeless and meaningless!

Think about the well-known atheist Richard Dawkins. Why does he spend so much time writing and speaking against Someone (God) he doesn’t believe exists? Why is he so aggressive against biblical Christianity? In an ultimately purposeless and meaningless existence, why does it matter to him if people believe in the God of the Bible and the account of creation as outlined in Genesis? Why bother fighting against such people when, from his perspective, eventually no one will even know they ever existed?

They claim that they care about people and argue that believing in creation is harmful to society. But something deeper is going on. They aren’t fighting for the truth, but suppressing it.

….

Really then, when Bill Nye, Richard Dawkins, and others so aggressively oppose biblical Christianity, what they are doing is this. They are covering their ears and closing their eyes and saying, “I refuse to submit to the God who created me. I refuse to acknowledge that God is the creator. I refuse to accept that I’m a sinner in need of salvation. I want to write my own rules! Therefore I must oppose anything that pricks my conscience and aggressively suppress the truth to justify my rebellion.”

….

So why do these who so aggressively oppose Christianity care? They care because they are desperately trying to justify their rebellion against the truth. They don’t want to admit that they are sinners in need of salvation and thus need to submit to the God who created them and owns them.

— Ken Ham, Answers in Genesis, Why Do Atheists Care?, January 1, 2015

Wasted Years, Oh How Foolish . . .

all about jesus

Evangelicals would have non-Christians believe that life without Jesus is empty, worthless, and without meaning. A popular song years ago was Wasted Years by Wally Fowler. Below you will find the lyrics and two music videos: one by the Blue Ridge Quartet and another — quite masturbatory — rendition by Jimmy Swaggart.

Chorus:

Wasted years, wasted years
Oh, how foolish
As you walk on in darkness and fear
Turn around, turn around
God is calling
He’s calling you
From a life of wasted years

Have you wandered along
On life’s pathway
Have you lived without love
A life of tears
Have you searched for that
Great hidden meaning
Or is your life
Filled with long wasted years

Search for wisdom and seek
Understanding
There is One who always cares
And understands
Give it up, give it up
The load you’re bearing
You can’t go on
With a life of wasted years

Video Link

Video Link

In the eyes of Evangelicals, non-Christians live lives of wasted years; years that could be spent  worshiping Jesus, praising Jesus, singing songs to Jesus, bowing in fealty and devotion to Jesus, giving money to Jesus, winning souls for Jesus, and doing good works — drum roll please — for the man,  the myth, the legend, the one and only King of Kings, Lord of Lords, giver of life and death, the one true God, Jesus H. Christ. What a life, right? Die to self. Sacrifice your life, ambition, wants, desires, and dreams, giving them all to Jesus. Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. Everything in this life and the life to come is about Jesus. This, according to Evangelicals, is a life of meaning, purpose, and direction. This is a life focused on what matters: meeting Jesus face to face in the sweet by and by. Everything pales — including families, careers, houses, and lands — when compared to Jesus. To Evangelicals, Jesus is their BFF; their lover; their confidante; their therapist; their physician; and their spouse. He is their e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.

Everything I mentioned in the previous paragraph can be found in the Bible. With their lips, Evangelicals say these things are true, but how they live their day-to-day lives suggests that their lives are every bit as “wasted” as those of the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. Evangelicals yearn for Christ-centered lives, but “life” tends to get in the way. They spend a few hours on Sundays (and maybe on Wednesday) having preachers tell them what life is all about, only to spend the rest of that week’s 168 hours living as if they didn’t hear a word their pastors said. And their pastors, by the way, do the same. Oh, they preach a good line, abusing congregants for not measuring up to the Biblical standard for a life of meaning, purpose, and direction. Do better, they tell believers; yet try as they might, those pastors — even with much grace and faith — fail.

It seems, then, at least to me, that a life of “wasted” years is the norm for believers and unbelievers alike; that life is only “wasted” when measured by the words of an ancient Bronze-age religious text. Perhaps what is really going on here is a long con. Most Evangelicals are born into Christianity. It’s the only religion they have ever known. From their days in the nursery forward, Evangelicals are taught that they are worthless, vile, broken sinners in need of saving; that the only place salvation can be found is in the Christian church; that only through the merit and work of a God-man named Jesus — who is the second part of a triune deity — can humans be “saved”; that all other religions but Christianity are false and lead to an eternity of torture in a God-created Lake of Fire; that until you believe this message and put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, your life is, to put it simply, a waste.

For those who have exited stage left from Christianity, it is not uncommon for them to look back on their past and ruefully say, what a waste. When I deconverted a decade ago, I struggled with the fact that I had wasted five decades of my life chasing after a lie. Just thinking about this would bring waves of self-judgment and depression. How could you have been so stupid, Bruce? How could you have been so blind? How could you inflict such harmful nonsense on your wife and children? How could you lead thousands of other people down a path that goes nowhere; that left them with lives they too wasted serving a mythical God?

There were times when I would dwell on these questions, bringing myself to tears. Finally, I realized that lamenting the past was going to psychologically destroy me. I sought out a professional secular counselor who helped me come to terms with my past. He wisely encouraged me to be honest with and embrace the past. My past, he told me, is very much a part of who I am. At the same time, he encouraged me to look to present and future and use my past to benefit others. Through writing, I am able to embrace my past for what it is and turn it into words that I hope are helpful to others. In many ways, I am still a pastor; a man who wants to help others. What’s changed is my message.

Let me be clear, what I lament about the past is the wasted time, not necessarily the experiences. I met a lot of wonderful people during my Christian days — and a lot of mean, nasty, judgmental, Jesus-loving sons-of-bitches too. I had many delightful experiences, including marrying my beautiful wife of forty years. It is important for me to make clear that my life as a Christian was not one long slog of drudgery. That said, I can’t help but regret the time wasted chasing after a myth. All I know to do now is take my past and use it to help others. If nothing else, let my life be a warning to others: Stop! Turn Around! Go the other way! If you must believe in God, then find a religion that affirms life and values the present and hopes for tomorrow. There are, even in Christianity, kinder, gentler expressions of faith. There are even sects such as the Unitarian Universalist church that embrace the humanist ideal. Once someone dares to see beyond the Evangelical con job, he or she will find endless possibilities. While I wish I had back a few of the years I wasted serving Jesus, I am grateful that I have time left to live a life worth living; a life focused on family, friends, and — dare I say it? — self.

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.

The Sounds of Fundamentalism: The Absurdity of Life Without God by William Lane Craig

william lane craig

This is the one hundred and eighty-seventh 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 of William Lane Craig explaining the absurdity of life without God — God meaning the Christian deity.

Video Link

Who or What Gives Life Meaning and Value?

meaning of life alan watts

Evangelicals believe that it is God and the salvation they find in Jesus that give life meaning and value. I have had numerous Christians tell me that they would kill themselves if this life was all that there is. Paul echoed this thinking in 1 Corinthians 15:17-19 when he said:

For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

For Evangelicals, life without Jesus is miserable, one not worth living. The sum of their existence is wrapped up in believing that God has a super-duper, awesome, wonderful plan for their lives and that there is coming a day when he will reward them for obediently sticking to the plan. Life is viewed as preparation to meet God after death. The goal is the divine payoff that awaits them in the sweet-by-and-by. Or so the official press release says, anyway.

Paying attention to how Evangelicals actually lives their lives tells a far different story. If life is all about God, you would think Evangelicals would spend their waking hours worshiping Jesus, praying, studying the Bible, and doing everything in their power to evangelize the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. If life is all about J-E-S-U-S, you would think Evangelical churches would have worship services every day of the week and twice on Sunday. If, as Evangelicals say, the second coming of Jesus is nigh, shouldn’t Evangelicals be about their Father’s business, working diligently, for their redemption draweth nigh?

What we find instead is that Evangelicals live lives no different from those of their non-Christian neighbors. I have been told countless times by Christian zealots that my life as an atheist has no meaning or purpose. I am just biding my time, living out a miserable existence until I die. However, when I carefully examine how Evangelicals live their lives, I quickly see that their wants, needs, and desires are no different from mine. I can’t help but notice that Evangelical homes have all the material trappings their unsaved neighbors have. It seems that Evangelicals have forgotten what the Bible says about loving the world and craving its goods and pleasures. Just yesterday, I perused the Facebook page of an Evangelical who loves posting Christian memes. And then, smack dab in the middle of his wall was a post about him looking forward to attending a KISS concert!  Oh, the irony, but that’s Evangelicalism to its core. The followers of Jesus talk a good line, but when it comes down to practicing what they preach, well they are no different from atheists, humanists, agnostics and other heathens who supposedly have empty, meaningless lives.

How about we agree that all of us — saint and sinner — find meaning and value in the same things; that all of us seek love and social connection; that all us crave to feel wanted and needed; that all of us enjoy the pleasures this life has to offer; that all us desire peace, comfort, and prosperity. No God needed. The fact that we are alive — think about THAT for a moment — is enough to fuel our quest for purpose and meaning. One need not turn to religion to find these things. All any of us needs to do is take a deep breath and LIVE!

Here are a few quotes from the book, A Better Life:100 Atheists Speak Out on Joy and Meaning in a World without God:

“I look around the world and see so many wonderful things that I love and enjoy and benefit from, whether it’s art or music or clothing or food and all the rest. And I’d like to add a little to that goodness.” — Daniel Dennett

“I thrive on maintaining a simple awe about the universe. No matter what struggles we are going through the miracles of existence continue on, forming and reforming patterns like an unstoppable kaleidoscope.”  — Marlene Winell

“Math . . . music . . . starry nights . . . These are secular ways of achieving transcendence, of feeling lifted into a grand perspective. It’s a sense of being awed by existence that almost obliterates the self. Religious people think of it as an essentially religious experience but it’s not. It’s an essentially human experience.”  — Rebecca Newberger Goldstein

“There is joy in the search for knowledge about the universe in all its manifestations.” — Janet Asimov

“Science and reason liberate us from the shackles of superstition by offering us a framework for understanding our shared humanity. Ultimately, we all have the capacity to treasure life and enrich the world in incalculable ways.”  — Gad Saad

“If you trace back all those links in the chain that had to be in place for me to be here, the laws of probability maintain that my very existence is miraculous. But then after however many decades, less than a hundred years, they disburse and I cease to be. So while they’re all congregated and coordinated to make me, then—and I speak her on behalf of all those trillions of atoms—I should really make the most of things.” — Jim Al-Khalili

You can read other powerful quotes here.

I know that I am in the waning years of life. My body is telling me that time is short, and it could be shorter yet if I have another fall like I did last week at my in-law’s home: full body slam, face first on a cement floor. The good news is that I saved my phone from getting broke! Talk about things that matter, right? I know that osteoarthritis continues to eat away at my spine. I was in college — a slim, trim, fit young whippersnapper — when I first consulted a doctor for my back. I have narrow disc spaces in my lower back, and age and arthritis continue to lessen that space, causing nerve compression. Several weeks ago, I saw my orthopedic doctor about a problem I was having with my right hip. I would stand up and start to move and then, all of a sudden my hip would give way and I would fall. After careful examination, my doctor told me my hip was fine; that it was my lower back that was causing the problem. Any one of these falls could do me in. I know that, and I do all I can to avoid hitting the deck. Try as I might to push back against the ravages of time and physical debility, I know, in the end, they will win. They ALWAYS win. Knowing this helps me focus on the things that really matter to me

Let me conclude this post with several quotes from an article by Tom Chivers titled, I Asked Atheists How They Find Meaning In A Purposeless Universe:

“The way I find meaning is the way that most people find meaning, even religious ones, which is to get pleasure and significance from your job, from your loved ones, from your avocation, art, literature, music. People like me don’t worry about what it’s all about in a cosmic sense, because we know it isn’t about anything. It’s what we make of this transitory existence that matters.

“If you’re an atheist and an evolutionary biologist, what you think is, I’m lucky to have these 80-odd years: How can I make the most of my existence here? Being an atheist means coming to grips with reality. And the reality is twofold. We’re going to die as individuals, and the whole of humanity, unless we find a way to colonise other planets, is going to go extinct. So there’s lots of things that we have to deal with that we don’t like. We just come to grips with the reality. Life is the result of natural selection, and death is the result of natural selection. We are evolved in such a way that death is almost inevitable. So you just deal with it.

“It says in the Bible that, ‘When I was a child I played with childish things, and when I became a man I put away those childish things.’ And one of those childish things is the superstition that there’s a higher purpose. Christopher Hitchens said it’s time to move beyond the mewling childhood of our species and deal with reality as it is, and that’s what we have to do.” — Jerry Coyne

“Life is a series of experiences, and the journey, rather than the end game, is what I live for. I know where it ends; that’s inevitable, so why not just make it a fun journey? I am surrounded by friends and family, and having a positive effect on them makes me happy, while giving my kids the opportunity, skills, and empathy to enjoy their lives gives me an immediate sense of purpose on a daily basis. I can’t stop the inevitable so I’ll just enjoy what life I have got, while I’ve got it. I won’t, after all, be around to regret that it was all for nothing. ” — Simon Coldham

“It’s honestly never bothered me. I suppose that’s because my definitions of ‘meaning’ and ‘purpose’ are pretty thoroughly rooted in the world I know. I know what happiness is, and love, and fulfilment and all that; these things exist (intermittently) in my short earthly life, and it’s from these things I derive my ideas of what a meaningful, purposeful existence is.

“I am, like anyone, staggered when I consider my tininess in the multi-dimensional scheme of things, but – and I know this sounds a bit silly – I don’t really take it personally. Meaning has to be subjective; atheism actually makes it easier to live with this, as who is better placed than me to judge the meaningfulness of my work, or my relationship, or my piece of buttered toast?” — Richard Symth

“People ask how you can find any meaning in life when you know that one day you’ll be dead and in due course nothing of you will survive at all – not even people’s memories. This question has never made sense to me. When I’m reading a good book, or eating a good meal, or taking a scenic walk, or enjoying an evening with friends, or having sex, I don’t spend the whole time thinking, Oh no! This book won’t last forever; this food will be gone soon; my walk will stop; my evening will end! I enjoy the experiences. Although it’s stretched out over a (hopefully) much longer time, that’s the same way I think about life. We are here, we are alive. We can either choose to end that, or to embrace it and to live for as long as we can, as fully and richly as possible.

“Obviously this means that we all have different meanings in our lives, things that give us pleasure and purpose. The most meaningful experiences in my life have been relationships with people – friends and family, colleagues and classmates. I love connecting with other people and finding out more about them. I enjoy the novels and histories that I read for the same reason and I like to feel connected to the people who have gone before us. I hope that the work I do in different areas of my life will make the world a better place for people now and in the future, and I feel connected to those future people too, all as part of a bigger human story.” — Adam Copson

You can read other wonderful meaningless quotes here.

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

Life After Jesus: Moving from a God-Shaped Hole to a Knowledge-Shaped Hole

god shaped hole

Snark and R-rated humor ahead. You have been warned!

Those of us raised in Evangelical churches often heard our pastors speak of unsaved people having a God-shaped hole in their lives. Where this hole was exactly never was explained. It couldn’t have been in the heart. Surgeons can repair holes in hearts — no God needed. Perhaps, this hole was in the soul — another thing pastors never could explain. Where, exactly, does the soul reside? How can any of us know we have a soul, or a spirit, for that matter?  And I have to ask at this point, if unsaved people have a God-shaped hole, does that make them HOLY?

Regardless of wherever said hole is located, Evangelical pastors assure sinners that it exists, and that God, on purpose, created this hole in every human being. In other words, all of us were born with a birth defect. Supposedly, God created this hole so all of us would one day want and need him. Well, except for the non-elect — according to Calvinists. They go through life with holes that can never be filled by God because God put a steel plate over their holes. (I am restraining myself here. All this hole talk makes me want to talk about sex.) Arminians, on the other hand, believe all humans are born into this world with a God-shaped hole in their lives. But, even for Jacob Arminus’ clan, if sinners repeatedly reject God’s plan for hole-filling, God will pour cement into their hole — giving them a hardened heart. Having committed the unpardonable sin, sinners with cement-filled holes can never, ever be saved.

The Bible, of course, mentions nothing about unsaved people having a God-shaped hole in their lives. That unbelievers have one is based on inference; a common way that Evangelicals use to construct new doctrines. Take a verse here, a verse there, and another verse over here, and BOOM! there it is. Surely you see it, right? Evangelicals often use inference to prove various points of their eschatological beliefs. For example, the Bible does not mention the rapture — the moment when Jesus will come again (no sex joke here either) in the clouds and gather up all the Evangelicals to take them home to Heaven. You will search in vain for a verse, any verse, that says Jesus will soon return to earth’s atmosphere to catch away the saved. If you start pressing Evangelicals on some their beliefs you will find that their interpretations are based on presuppositions. We believe that the rapture of the church is imminent, says Pastor I.M. Fullashit, and this and that verse — twisted, contorted, and pressed — proves it! So it is with God-shaped holes.

The implication of the God-shaped hole is this: unsaved people live empty, hopeless, desperate, unfilled lives lacking in meaning, purpose, and direction. Without God filling the pothole he created in your life, you are vile sinner who hates God. My wife and I went to the hospital today to visit grandchild number twelve. Ezra was born seven weeks early so he is in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Here was this precious, wonderful little boy. I shed a tear as I looked at him sleeping, wondering what he would one day become. I wondered about what kind of world he is being born into now that Donald Trump is trying to burn the United States to the ground. So many questions Grandpa has about his future, but for today, he’s my grandson, my daughter’s first child, and I love him.

If I were still an Evangelical, perhaps I would have uttered a prayer, asking God to quickly fill my wicked, vile grandson’s life with the presence of the Holy Spirit. You see, Evangelicals believe that infants, too, have a God-shaped hole. King David, a murderous, adulterous man who supposedly had a heart for God, had this to say about himself: Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. (Psalm 51:5) Evangelicals extrapolate from this verse the belief that ALL children are conceived in sin and shapen in iniquity (the doctrine of original sin). Of course, this is a conclusion without evidence. All that can be said here is that David thought he was wicked from birth. Press Evangelicals on the notion of original sin and you will quickly find that this doctrine is built upon a rotting foundation; that this doctrine requires playing Bible gymnastics to affirm its teaching. If you want a good illustration of how this game is played, please read John Piper’s post titled, What is the Biblical Evidence for Original Sin? Now, without the doctrine of original sin, there’s no need for human redemption and salvation. Evangelicals need the human herd divided into two groups — saved and lost — for their salvation scheme to work. Without this division, why, we would all just be humans, each capable of good and bad behavior. If there’s no sin, there’s no need for Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection from the dead.

Piper sums up his nonsensical defense of infants being born hellions with these two points:

  • Infants die, therefore they are not innocent.
  • If humanity is not born in sin, wouldn’t we expect there to be some people who have “beaten the odds” and never sinned?

Makes perfect sense to Evangelicals. But, to those of us outside of the bubble, we know that infants are fine just as they are; that what they need is LOVE, and not salvation. What, exactly, has my grandson done to need redemption? So far, in the first week of life, all he has done is sleep, eat, occasionally cry, poop, and pee. Fortunately, his parents will not be taking him to a Christian indoctrination center any time soon. I had to stop attending religious rituals for my newly-born grandchildren after almost having a stroke when a priest said my granddaughter was possessed by the Devil and must be exorcised — which he promptly proceeded to do. Quite frankly, I wanted to hold that priest’s head in the baptismal font water for about five minutes. There, another demon exorcised!

The only hole Christians have is in their minds; a hole made in their intellect by religion. I am not saying that Evangelicals are stupid or ignorant, though more than a few comments left on this blog over the years might lead me to conclude otherwise. What I am saying is that Evangelical beliefs cripple the minds of believers; that their minds are shut off from certain paths of inquiry. Instead of following the path wherever it leads, Evangelicals, much like the Israelites wandering in the desert for forty years, intellectually wander within what they believe is a God-approved box. Their pastors warn them if they dare to peek over the top of the box or wander from its confines that they risk falling into heresy or sin; that only within the box will their soul and life be safe and secure.

Evangelicals have what I call the Christian Ghetto®, a world where Evangelical versions of everything exist. Evangelical congregants are encouraged to only read Christian books, attend Christian movies, and watch Christian TV. I remember one congregant whom I tried my darnedest to convince to read the Calvinistic books I was recommending to members, She would take the books home, but never read them. One day, I stopped by to visit her. Usually, congregants would hide anything that would lead me to conclude that they were not following the commands, edicts, rules, laws, and regulations of Pastor Bruce, uh I mean God. On this particular day, this dear woman forgot to hide the reason she wasn’t interested in reading the latest, greatest eighteenth-century book by a dried prune of a Puritan preacher. On her living room table sat a large stack of true-crime books. I looked at the books, picked up one of them, briefly leafed through it, and said nothing. Back then, I could do passive-aggressive quite well. Point made, preacher, point made. You see, she wanted to roam outside of the box. This woman found theology books boring, whereas true-crime books were filled with all sorts of exciting stories.

As an Evangelical pastor, part of my duty was to make sure people stayed within the confines of the box. People who dared to leave the box often did not return, putting their eternal destinies at risk. The Bible says in 1 John 2:19:

They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.

Let me translate this from the original Hungarian:

Those people who left our church were not True Christians®. Had they been True Christians® they would have kept their asses in the pew and continued to listen to Pastor Bruce’s Holy Spirit-filled sermons, obeying his every word. But, they left, and this is proof that they never were really True Christians®.

Evangelicalism is all about obedience and conformity. Independent thinking is discouraged, and is often taken as a sign of a person who is not right with God. Congregants are expected to believe, by faith, that whatever the Bible says is true (inspiration, inerrancy, infallibility). While doubts and questions are tolerated to a small degree, True Christians® are expected to eventually, after being properly schooled and corrected, toe the line. And if they can’t or won’t, these rebellious church members are expected to leave the church. Of course, by leaving they prove they weren’t True Christians®, or at the very least prove that the pastor was right to have serious doubts about their salvation.

Fortunately, an increasing number of Evangelicals (and Christians of all stripes) are propping up a ladder on the inside wall of the box and escaping into the night. Once free, these escapees wander the wild, woolly, dangerous streets of the world. (See What I Found When I Left the Box.) No longer bound by church doctrine, orthodoxy, and the like, these people are free to follow the path of life wherever it leads. Few ever return to the box. Most of them find homes in progressive/liberal Christian churches, Unitarian Universalist churches, or embrace non-Christian beliefs. Some of them say they are spiritual and have no interest in organized religion. An increasing number of these runners become agnostics or atheists. You see, once you are truly free, life becomes all about the journey and not the destination. Evangelicals fixate on right beliefs and practice because where they spend eternity depends on them believing and practicing the right things. Believe the wrong things and Hell awaits. Believe the right things — by faith — and put those beliefs into practice (good works), and a room in God’s Trump Hotel awaits you after death. Life, then, is just preparation for eternity (Amos 3:3). Life is all about getting ready to meet God and move in to the room Jesus has spent thousands of years preparing for you.

god shaped hole 2

Cartoon by Dresden Codak

 

Once free from the pernicious, intellect-killing, mind-rotting grip of Evangelical dogma, people feel a great sense of freedom, yet, at the same time, they, once again, sense a hole in their lives. This hole, however, is real. It is a knowledge-filled hole, a hole located in the mind that only can be filled with intellectual inquiry. Most former Evangelicals lament the fact that they had so many bat-shit crazy beliefs. Who among us hasn’t said, I can’t believe that believed THAT! I see all those hands! For those of us who were Evangelicals for years, we realize that we burned a lot of brain cells (and daylight) searching after “truths” that were mirages; “truths” that were passed down from generation to generation by the tribal elders of our blood cult; “truths” that have no grounding in facts and evidence. Once we reach this point, there’s often a mind-flushing of sorts that takes place. For some of us, we had to push the handle numerous times before our minds were free of a lifetime of detritus. Once cleansed of Biblical “truth,” former Evangelicals realize that there’s a lot they don’t know about the world. Spend your life having truth defined by the Bible and God-ordained men alone, and you are going to miss out on a lot of important stuff.

Most Evangelicals are creationists. No need to study science, right? The Bible says, in the Beginning GOD CREATED the heavens and earth. What else is there to know? Come to find out, a hell of a lot of stuff. I have spent the last decade trying to educate myself in matters of biology, archeology, geology, and astronomy, to name a few. The same could be said about history and the social sciences. So much to learn, but here’s the problem: I am sixty-one years old and in failing health. I do what I can, but I am so grateful for the fact that my children and grandchildren are free from the cult; that they value intellectual inquiry; that they are skeptical — and often humored — of claims made by Christians. It thrills me down to the deeps of my painful feet that my grandchildren are voracious readers; that they are not held captive by the Bible or Christian books. Freedom, for them, yea, for all of us comes one book at a time.

The impetus for this post came from an email I received from a friend of mine. She told me of a discussion she was having with a sibling over the plurality of Gods in the Old Testament — specifically the Hebrew words Yahweh and Elohim. Evangelicals, of course, believe that these words are the same name for their God. There is ONE God, Evangelicals say, yet they worship a triune God — Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Well, God is three in one, Christians say. Three, yet one. Makes perfect sense, right? Anyhow, my friend, as I do, thinks that the Old Testament Gods were plural in number. A natural reading of the text, without pushing it through a Trinitarian sieve, reveals that Christianity rests on a polytheistic foundation. My friend’s sibling would have none of her “worldly” thoughts, reminding her that pride was man’s first sin and that pridefully attaining “worldly” knowledge is futile. Her sibling told her that he was focused on his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who is his all-in-all; the only person who can fill the God-shaped hole in his heart.

My friend said to me, “His God-shaped hole is filled with God, but I don’t have a God-shaped hole; I have a knowledge-shaped hole and I am having fun filling it.” She sure hit the proverbial nail on the head! With no thoughts or worries about God or eternity, we are free to read and study that which interests us. The goal is to be a more informed person today than I was yesterday. I will never become as competent in matters of science as younger skeptics will, but I can, by the grace of my almighty intellect, know more about how the world works today than I knew as a card-carrying member of the Ken Ham Were You There? Club®. Much like my friend, I intend to fill the hole in my life with knowledge. I invite Evangelicals to dare to scale the walls of the box. Freedom awaits, as does a library card.

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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Quote of the Day: On the Shortness of Life by Seneca

seneca

It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.

You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire.

There is nothing the busy man is less busied with than living.“The greatest obstacle to living is expectancy, which hangs upon tomorrow and loses today… The whole future lies in uncertainty: live immediately.

People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.

Even though you seize the day, it still will flee; therefore, you must vie with time’s swiftness in the speed of using it, and, as from a torrent that rushes by and will not always flow, you must drink quickly.

It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested.

The part of life we really live is small. For all the rest of existence is not life, but merely time.

— Seneca, On the Shortness of Life

You can purchase On the Shortness of Life here.

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.

Do We Need to Believe in the Christian God to Have a Meaningful Life?

jesus all about life

Do we need to believe in the Christian (Evangelical) God for our lives to have meaning? Larry Dixon, professor of theology at Columbia International University in Columbia, South Carolina thinks so. In a post titled Man’s Significance, Dixon stated:

Why does man consider himself such a “big screaming deal”? Is there no basis for our thinking we are unique in the universe, that there is something about man that shouts “You have value! You have worth!”

Evolutionary theory essentially argues that man makes up his own significance. The Bible teaches that we are made in the image and likeness of GOD — and we, therefore, have meaning.

How sad to miss that fundamental truth of our creation, and to simply sit back in despair and entertain ourselves to death with our machines!

Listen carefully to what Dixon is saying: Those who deny that meaning is derived from belief in God, live lives of despair, spending their brief sojourn on this earth entertaining themselves. Dixon, an Evangelical, shows that he is clueless about how secularists, atheists, agnostics, humanists, and other non-Christians find meaning and purpose. One can reject a created by God anthropocentric view of life and still find great satisfaction in living life to its fullest. In fact, it is unbelievers who often value and cherish life the most because they only get one opportunity to walk the path of life. If you have taken the time to read my ABOUT page, you likely read my answer to the question If you had one piece of advice to give me, what would it be?  Here is what I said:

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.

Another explanation of how non-believers view life can be found in the Humanist Manifesto:

Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.

The lifestance of Humanism—guided by reason, inspired by compassion, and informed by experience—encourages us to live life well and fully. It evolved through the ages and continues to develop through the efforts of thoughtful people who recognize that values and ideals, however carefully wrought, are subject to change as our knowledge and understandings advance.

This document is part of an ongoing effort to manifest in clear and positive terms the conceptual boundaries of Humanism, not what we must believe but a consensus of what we do believe. It is in this sense that we affirm the following:

Knowledge of the world is derived by observation, experimentation, and rational analysis. Humanists find that science is the best method for determining this knowledge as well as for solving problems and developing beneficial technologies. We also recognize the value of new departures in thought, the arts, and inner experience—each subject to analysis by critical intelligence.

Humans are an integral part of nature, the result of unguided evolutionary change. Humanists recognize nature as self-existing. We accept our life as all and enough, distinguishing things as they are from things as we might wish or imagine them to be. We welcome the challenges of the future, and are drawn to and undaunted by the yet to be known.

Ethical values are derived from human need and interest as tested by experience. Humanists ground values in human welfare shaped by human circumstances, interests, and concerns and extended to the global ecosystem and beyond. We are committed to treating each person as having inherent worth and dignity, and to making informed choices in a context of freedom consonant with responsibility.

Life’s fulfillment emerges from individual participation in the service of humane ideals. We aim for our fullest possible development and animate our lives with a deep sense of purpose, finding wonder and awe in the joys and beauties of human existence, its challenges and tragedies, and even in the inevitability and finality of death. Humanists rely on the rich heritage of human culture and the lifestance of Humanism to provide comfort in times of want and encouragement in times of plenty.

Humans are social by nature and find meaning in relationships. Humanists long for and strive toward a world of mutual care and concern, free of cruelty and its consequences, where differences are resolved cooperatively without resorting to violence. The joining of individuality with interdependence enriches our lives, encourages us to enrich the lives of others, and inspires hope of attaining peace, justice, and opportunity for all.

Working to benefit society maximizes individual happiness. Progressive cultures have worked to free humanity from the brutalities of mere survival and to reduce suffering, improve society, and develop global community. We seek to minimize the inequities of circumstance and ability, and we support a just distribution of nature’s resources and the fruits of human effort so that as many as possible can enjoy a good life.

Humanists are concerned for the well being of all, are committed to diversity, and respect those of differing yet humane views. We work to uphold the equal enjoyment of human rights and civil liberties in an open, secular society and maintain it is a civic duty to participate in the democratic process and a planetary duty to protect nature’s integrity, diversity, and beauty in a secure, sustainable manner.

Thus engaged in the flow of life, we aspire to this vision with the informed conviction that humanity has the ability to progress toward its highest ideals. The responsibility for our lives and the kind of world in which we live is ours and ours alone.

That Evangelicals can’t wrap their minds around this fact is their problem, not ours. Perhaps Evangelicals are unable to comprehend a meaningful, purposeful life without God is because life before death is viewed — in theory — as little more than:

I say in theory because — as observers of Evangelicalism know — God’s chosen ones love THIS life as much as atheists do. Christians profess to be ready to go home (Heaven), but few of them are lining up to board the next bus to the pearly gates. Blissful, pain-free eternal life might await Christians once they cross to the other side, but they don’t seem to be in a hurry to experience the pleasures of Club Heaven®.  Simply put, Evangelicals say one thing and do another.

life all about jesusBelievers and unbelievers should alike admit that this life matters, and how each of us finds meaning and purpose is no one’s business but ours. My wife’s parents are 80 years old. Their world revolves around Jesus, the Bible, and their church — the Newark Baptist Temple. Nine months ago, Polly’s father had his hip replaced. The surgery proved to be a disaster and he is now in a nursing home. My in-laws were forced to sell their home — a place they have lived for 38 years. Knowing that they had to move, Polly suggested to her Mom that they move near our home so we could take care of them (We live 3 hours Northwest of their home in Newark, Ohio). Polly’s Mom replied, I can’t. My church is here. I have known Polly Shope Gerencser for 40 years and I have NEVER seen her so devastated as she was by her Mom’s words.

Polly’s sister was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident in 2005. (Please see If One Soul Gets Saved It is Worth it All)  Polly is her parents’ only living child. Both Polly and I thought that they would not only want to be closer to their daughter (we see them 5-6 times a year), but also near our children, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren. When Polly’s Mom said I can’t. My Church is here, Polly heard, My Church is more important than you! My “real” family is my church.

And Polly’s parents have the right to choose what matters most to them. When Polly and I returned to rural NW Ohio, we did so because we made a conscious choice to be near our children and grandchildren — all of whom live less than 20 minutes from our home. Family matters to us. For me personally, I know that chronic illness and pain have likely shortened my life expectancy. Knowing this, I want to spend as much time as I can going to races with my sons, watching my grandchildren’s school and sporting events, and doing all I can to leave those I love with a lasting memory of a husband, father, and grandfather who lived life to its fullest. Some days, all I can do is sit quietly by and watch my grandchildren play. Other days, infused with a false sense of energy and vitality, I play hard, laugh, argue and debate, and remind my children that I am still the intellectual king of the hill (I can hear them snickering). Regardless of how I feel, it is my family that gives my life meaning and purpose. It saddens me that my in-laws have chosen a contrived family — one that will dump them if they ever fail to bow in obeisance to Jesus — over a flesh-and-blood family that loves them. It is, however, their choice, so I must live with it. Their decision is yet another reminder of the fact that Christians often forsake the earthly for what they think will improve their room size in God’s mansion in the sky.

Now, let me get back to aimlessly living a life of despair.

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.

 

Pastor Davey Blackburn: Don’t Let My Wife’s Death Be in Vain

davey and amanda blackburn

Amanda and Davey Blackburn


On November 10, 2015, Amanda Blackburn, 3 months pregnant, was shot to death in an Indianapolis, Indiana home invasion. Blackburn’s killer, Larry Jo Taylor Jr.,18, and his accomplice, Jalen Watson, 21, have  been charged with murder and a host of other crimes.

Amanda Blackburn’s husband, Davey, is the pastor of  Resonate Church in Indianapolis. Last Sunday, Pastor Blackburn told the church that he plans to step away from the pulpit to grieve and to figure out, going forward, what’s best for him and his son, Weston.

According to Leah Marieann Klett, a reporter for the Gospel Herald, Davey Blackburn wanted to make sure his wife’s death is not in vain. Blackburn stated:

“I don’t want this tragedy to be wasted, so I want to capitalize on seeing more and more people coming to know Jesus as their personal savior.”

Blackburn went on to say:

 “It’s difficult to process through everything right now. One thing I do know and that I’m confident in is that through this entire season, what the Lord wants us to do and what Amanda would want us to do is not give up any ground. I wholeheartedly believe that God has still called me to Indianapolis, that He called our family to Indianapolis, and Amanda gave her life to see Indianapolis changed.”

It’s been four weeks since Amanda Blackburn was murdered, and I think I can safely say that her husband’s aforementioned words were not uttered in a moment of extreme grief. While I’m sure Pastor Blackburn is still grieving, his words reflect the calculations of a preacher who doesn’t want to waste an opportunity to use his wife’s murder as a motivational tool or a “teaching” moment.

Evangelicals are taught to always look for the bigger picture. When life turns on them, Evangelicals are expected to divine God’s purpose and plan. This is why Davey Blackburn said, “I don’t want this tragedy to be wasted, so I want to capitalize on seeing more and more people coming to know Jesus as their personal savior.”  Blackburn believes there MUST be some sort of greater meaning or purpose for his wife’s murder. Pastor Blackburn hopes that, like Jesus’ death, his wife’s death will have a salvific effect on sinners.

My wife’s Evangelical family responded  in similar fashion to her sister’s 2005 death from a motorcycle accident. If one soul gets saved through this, it is worth it all.  “This” being the tragic death of a wonderful daughter, sister, aunt, wife, mother, and grandmother.  Several months ago, I wrote a post about Kathy’s death. Here’s what I said then, about the value Polly’s Evangelical family put on her sister’s death:

 No, it’s not. How dare we reduce the worth of a life, this one precious life, to that which God can use for his purpose. A husband has lost his wife and his children are motherless. Her grandchildren will never know the warmth of her love. Her sister and parents are left with memories that abruptly stopped the moment their sister and daughter hit the pavement.

No, I say to myself, I’m not willing to trade her life for anyone’s salvation. Let them all go to hell. Give us one more day when the joy and laughter of family can be heard and the family is whole; one more day to enjoy the love and complexity she brought into our lives…

And I say the same thing now to Pastor Blackburn and Resonate Church. Using Amanda Blackburn’s death as a motivational tool cheapens her death, reducing her to little more than a prop to be used in the evangelization of sinners.

Blackburn’s death is a tragic waste of precious human life. There’s nothing redeeming about her murder. There’s no possible way to turn this tragedy into rainbows and fireworks. While I certainly understand, as a former pastor myself, the need to  comprehend some greater cosmic purpose in senseless tragedies like this one, I can’t think of one redeeming aspect of Amanda Blackburn’s death. In fact, to put Davey Blackburn’s theological pronouncements to the test, I suspect that Pastor Blackburn would be quite willing to let all of Indianapolis go straight to hell if it meant he could once again wake up in the morning and find his precious wife busily doing her hair and makeup as she prepares to face another day.

Life Without God is Empty: How One Christian Describes the Life of an Atheist

empty life

I saw the following on Facebook:

Life without God is empty. Eventually life without God comes to a very lonely and unfulfilled end – after you die. But life with God – after you die and are raised to life again – goes on forever, in indescribable joy!

The gist of this person’s comment is this…Atheists live empty lives that will come to a lonely, unfulfilled end.

I have given up trying to educate Christians concerning their ignorance about atheists. I have come to the conclusion that they simply do not want to know the truth.

Christians need to think that their lives matter, that their worship and devotion to God will result in a divine payoff in the sweet by and by. They need to think that going to church on Sunday matters, that giving 10% of their income to the church matters, and that doing all the things the Christians do matters. To admit that atheists can have fulfilling lives that matter is to say that a person can have a good life without God. Christians will have none of that. No! No! No! GOD makes life worthwhile. GOD gives life purpose and meaning.

Here’s what I know. People are people, regardless of what they think about God. Purpose and fulfillment are not dependent on God. There are atheists who live unfulfilled, meaningless lives, but there are plenty of Christians who do the same. In fact, since Christianity is the dominate world religion, I suspect there are far more Christians living unfulfilled, meaningless lives than there are atheists.

The atheist is often more focused on this life than the Christian. The Christian tends to focus on the hereafter. Living and enjoying life is offloaded to eternal life beyond the grave. The present life is to be endured, with the result being God gives the Christian indescribable love, joy, and peace that goes on forever. The atheist only has this life.They only have one opportunity to live life and live it well. The atheist is highly motivated to make what they can of this life, to enjoy this life, and to make the future a better place for their progeny.

Most Christians can’t accept this. They are too invested in their interpretation of the Bible, their worship of God, and the mansion that awaits them after they die, to admit that an atheist can have a life that is, in every way, as happy as theirs.