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Tag: Purpose and Meaning

Do All of Us Long to Know the Meaning of Life?

meaning of life

Listen to notable Evangelical apologists and you will think that all eight billion people on Earth “long to know the meaning of life.” This line is repeated over, and over, and over again. No one ever asks apologists what evidence they have for this claim. They assume that, because they long to know the meaning of life, everyone does.

.his may be true for many people, but not all of us. I, for one, don’t waste my time pondering the meaning of life. There’s an assumption made by apologists that searching for meaning means looking for someone bigger than us: namely God. In their Bible-addled minds, mere mortals cannot have meaning and purpose in their lives without acknowledging the existence of God. And make no mistake, when they speak of God, they are talking about the Evangelical God of the Bible.

My advanced age, poor health, and love of family lead me to focus on the present, the here and now. Sometimes, I might even think about next week or next year, but to sit around pondering life’s meaning? I simply don’t have the time or ambition to do so.

Several months ago, an Evangelical tried to goad me into a debate about the existence of God; about what happened before the Big Bang. His balloon quickly deflated when I said to him, “I don’t care.” And I don’t. I don’t criticize others who do, but, for me, I am content to live in the present.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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According to This Evangelical Christian, Atheists Live Hopeless, Senseless Lives

empty life

Several years ago, I 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

Preacher Dog 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 yet unknown deity created the universe. Unlikely, but within the realm of possibility. 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 God because I see no evidence for his/her/its 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 can read and study the Bible, the odds are even less that the Christian God — in all his various iterations — exists (and is personally involved in our lives). Having spent fifty years in Evangelicalism and twenty-five years as a pastor, I think it is safe to say that I know the Bible inside out. I can’t remember the last time I 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 do not 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 a 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 as 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 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, namely Jesus. 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.

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 something 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 for 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 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 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 things 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, then, to think that there is 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 out. 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 this another way. Suppose a man is driving down the road with his eight-month 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, 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, most 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 Preacher Dog’s baseless 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. 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 the time necessary to enjoy life. Being human and alive is enough for me. Having a wonderful wife, six children, and sixteen grandchildren is 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 there is life beyond the grave, but based on evidence found in cemeteries and 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 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 sixty-seven, just a hop, skip, and a fall to seventy. 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’d 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 rearview mirror and I have no desire to turn around.

Let me finish this post with a story from my teenage years. When I was fifteen, 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 seemed to go on forever. As I looked 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.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Is Atheism Meant to Offer Answers for Human Meaning and Purpose?

god made me an atheist

The reason new atheism has lost its mojo is that it has no answers to the lack of meaning and purpose that our post-Christian societies are suffering from. What will fill that void? Religious people have their answer. Do the rest of us?

Konstantin Kisin

From the ashes of 9-11 arose what is now called new atheism. Popularized by men such as Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris, new atheism adopted a polemical approach to religion — especially Christianity and Islam. In the mind of these men and others like them, many forms of religious faith deserved ridicule and mockery. From writing books to podcasts to debates, new atheists directly challenged Christianity and Islam, saying that it was time to abandon tribal religions and embrace science, reason, and skepticism.

A decade ago, some new atheists proposed a new atheism called atheism+. According to these atheists, atheism was more than the absence of belief in the existence of gods; that atheism included various social justice issues. This led to a horrific split among atheists: those who embraced atheism+ and those who held that atheism was the absence of belief in the existence of gods, nothing more and nothing less.

While atheism+ certainly appealed to me, I rejected the notion that atheism proper required certain social and political beliefs. Atheism described my view of deities, and that’s it. My moral and ethical framework came not from atheism, but from secular humanism. So to Konstantin Kisin’s claim I say, (new) atheism was never meant to provide “answers to the lack of meaning and purpose that our post-Christian societies are suffering from.” Humanism, in both its Christian and secular forms, can and does provide answers to questions about human meaning and purpose.

Politically and socially atheists believe all sorts of things. I embrace many of the same things that the proponents of atheism+ do. I have been called “woke” or a “social justice warrior,” to which I reply, “and your point is, exactly?” I have nuanced political and social beliefs. However, none of these beliefs is dependent on atheism. What I found with atheism+ was a fundamentalism of sorts, not much different from that which I experienced in Evangelical Christianity. And when I pointed out this fact, the evangelists of atheism+ jumped on me with both feet. These preachers of the infallible, inerrant atheism+ gospel let me know, in George W. Bush fashion, that either I was with them or against them.

Atheism is not meant to answer any other question except does a god or gods exist? If you are looking for meaning and purpose in a postmodern world, you are going to have to look elsewhere. For me, secular humanism (and other non-religious philosophies) gave me what I needed to find purpose and meaning in life.

Atheism tells me there is no God. Humanism tells me I don’t need a deity to provide meaning and purpose in my life. Over the past sixteen years, I have repeatedly answered and rebutted Evangelicals who say that without Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you cannot have meaning and purpose in life. My life, and that of numerous people who read this blog, suggests otherwise.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Why It is Important to Talk to Someone if You Are Suicidal

bruce gerencser 2023

For the person contemplating suicide, he (or she) feels alone. He may be physically surrounded by his family, friends, and fellow employees, but psychologically he feels as if he is stranded by himself on a remote island without supplies. Depression is akin to darkness; a darkness absent of light, even the faint glow of a night light. Everywhere he looks, it is dark.

One of my favorite TV shows is the Showtime hit Dexter. Dexter is a blood spatter expert for Miami Metro Police Department. He is also a serial killer. Using a moral code taught to him by his father, Dexter murders people who “deserve” it. His need to do so Dexter calls “my dark passenger.” Depression is my dark passenger. It lurks in the shadows on “good” days, but on days when I feel overwhelmed and oppressed by things that non-depressives might think are insignificant, my dark passenger envelopes my thinking, telling me life isn’t worth living. My dark passenger pushes me closer and closer to the cliff’s edge, so close that a gust of wind or a stumble will send me careening into the chasm.

Most people who attempt suicide don’t want to die, they just want the pain to stop. Sometimes, people will kill themselves for the silliest of reasons. In the 2000s, I conducted the funeral of an eighteen-year-old man who drove his pickup into a field and killed himself with a shotgun. Why? His girlfriend broke up with him. I suspect this young man felt very much alone. Maybe he tried to share his feeling with his parents, friends, or a guidance counselor. If he did, I suspect they blew it off as the angst that comes when the girl you thought would love you forever wasn’t really into you; that she wanted to play the field or she was interested in dating someone else. Who hasn’t gone through such experiences? Eventually, we moved on; we survived. For this young man, however, his grief overwhelmed him, and he decided life was no longer worth living.

I certainly don’t want to die. I have much to live for: Polly, our six children and their significant others, and our thirteen grandchildren. Two of our grandchildren will graduate from high school this spring. Both are straight-A students and plan to further their educations this fall at major universities. I want to see them walk down the aisle and get their diplomas. Our oldest grandson has a hankering to become a writer. I want to read his first book. Four of our grandchildren are in middle school. Good students, the lot of them, and I want to see how they develop and mature over the next four years. The Cincinnati Reds show promise this year. Is a World Series championship possible in the next few years? And what about those Bengals? They are playing the best football in the history of the franchise. Is a Super Bowl win near, just a Joe Burrow touchdown throw to Ja’ Mar Chase away? Polly turns sixty-five in October. Sometime after that, she plans to retire. We have plans … You see, I (we) still have a bucket list; places to see, and things to experience.

While I don’t want to die, I want my pain to stop — or at the very least lessened to a degree that it doesn’t dominate every waking hour of my life. Of course, that’s not possible. My body doesn’t care one whit what I want. My bones and muscles are waging a zero-sum war where death is the only outcome. I fight back with narcotics, muscle relaxers, NSAIDs, and other drugs, hoping to lessen the pain enough that I can have some sense of meaning and purpose in my life.

As I previously mentioned, when facing deep bouts of depression, it is small things that threaten to push me over the edge. Take last night. We put our mattress and box spring on the floor so it would be easier for me to get in and out of bed. On my side of the bed, there is a 100-year-old oak mission desk. It’s quite close to the bed — about 2 feet away. During the night, I rolled out of bed, smashing ribs-first into the desk. More pain. I swore profusely, dragged myself off the floor, and got on the bed. I quickly fell back asleep. Come morning, I picked up my iPad Pro, only to find that the bottom of the case was wet. That’s when I found out that the half-filled can of Pepsi I left on the desk had toppled over, spraying the wall and leaving a sticky pool on part of the desk. Fuck, I said to myself. Polly came to my assistance, helping me to clean up the mess. What a start to the day.

Polly . . . the one person who truly knows me. She can read me like a book and knows when I am really struggling psychologically. My former counselor told me not to tell her about my struggles with suicide; that it was too much burden to bear. Both Polly and I disagreed with him. Without her, I have no doubt I would be dead. Our lives are very intertwined. When Polly had to have part of her colon and bladder removed and had to have a colostomy, the “care” shoe was on the other foot. Polly spent three weeks in the hospital. Afterward, she was weak and deconditioned. I was the one who had to push her to get up and move; to walk ten laps around the dining room table; then twenty, and so on.

Forty-five years ago, we made a vow to each other: in sickness and in health, until death do us part. We meant it then, and still do today, even after decades of challenges, trials, loss, and suffering. Polly, of course, wants me to live. Who will pay the bills, fix things around the house, and operate the remote? 🙂 And besides, there’s the sex (inside joke). That said, Polly knows I am weary and tired, overwhelmed by constant pain and debility. She knows there may come a time when I no longer want to do this. She has a front-row seat to what my life has become. So we talk. She knows it is important for her to stay connected to me; to not let me fade into the darkness. Sometimes, all I need from her is an embrace; like the time she found me sitting on the floor in tears, having a top-of-the-chart pain day — those days when no amount of narcotics will stem the pain. I told her, sobbing, “I can’t do this anymore.” Polly didn’t try to talk me out of killing myself, nor did she utter the cliches that people who mean well say when they don’t know what else to say. She got down on the floor with me, drew me close, and told me that she loved me. She couldn’t help my pain — no one could. But, just knowing I was loved, that I mattered, helped me get off the floor and to the bed.

I have had two therapists over the past twelve years. Two years ago, I started seeing a new psychologist; one who has extensive experience with treating people who have experienced trauma and have chronic pain. I talk to Melissa once a week. She knows me well by now and is comfortable speaking frankly to me. I struggle with the realization that I will never regain what is lost, be it physical or time-wise. The virile, strong-as-an-ox, invincible, work-a-holic Bruce no longer exists. Photographer Bruce? Gone. Athlete Bruce? Gone. Builder and fixer Bruce? Soon to be gone as I sell off or give away my tools and equipment. Even if I were a relatively healthy sixty-six, I still wouldn’t have the strength of thirty-year-old Bruce. One of the keys in therapy is getting me to embrace things as they are, and not how I want them to be. It is what it is, and no amount of wishing will change this fact. When I fall into delusions of yesteryear, it is Melissa’s job to help me return to reality. I have no future if I can’t see things as they are.

I owe my life to Polly and my counselor. Both of them know that if I am determined to kill myself, nothing they can do will stop me from ending my life. But, they aren’t going to make it easy for me. Melissa asked me how I planned to kill myself. After I told her, she suggested that Polly make it hard for me to have access to certain drugs — a small speed bump to slow me down. Good idea.

What I need most from family and friends is connection; small talk or genuine words of concern. Those who know me, know I love to talk. My oldest son came over tonight for an hour or so. We talked about philosophy, religion, economics, and stupid people. Quickly, my depression lessened. Is it really that simple? I can’t say, for certain, but on this day, talking with Polly, Melissa, and my son made all the difference in the world. Don’t underestimate the power of your words in helping people who struggle to make it to sunrise.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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All That Matters is Eternity

eternity

To me, there’s nothing that trumps my faith in Christ — not even an NFL career. Everything I have on this earth is borrowed. All that really matters is eternity. God has blessed me with a platform and with an opportunity to do something that I love to do. Out of my gratefulness, I give all that I have as if He’s the only One watching.

James Laurinaitis, former Ohio State Football Player, NFL Player

Evangelicals often tell atheists that the lives of unbelievers lack purpose, meaning, and direction. However, based on the quote above by Evangelical Christian James Laurinaitis, it is Christians who live empty lives. According to Laurinaitis, nothing in this life really matters. Everything we have on earth is borrowed (from God). Only eternity matters.

Of course, Laurinaitis doesn’t really believe this. He was a three-time All-American football player at Ohio State University. Laurinaitis went on to play for eight years in the NFL. Just today, Laurinaitis was hired as a graduate assistant for the Ohio State football program. Now thirty-five, Laurinaitis has had a full life. The sum of his experiences suggests his life BEFORE eternity matters. If it didn’t; if living in light of eternity is all that matters, then why did Laurinaitis play football? Why get married and have children? Should not the single focus of Laurinaitis be evangelizing the lost? Hell is hot. Death is certain. There are souls to save.

If Evangelicals really believe that eternity is all that really matters, they sure don’t live like it. By all accounts, apart from what they do on Sundays, Evangelicals live lives indistinguishable from the lives of atheists, agnostics, Muslims, Buddhists, and other people labeled Hell-bound sinners by Evangelicals. How about we agree that all humans have meaningful, purposeful lives — however each of us defines these terms? If Laurinaitis wants to spend his days on earth worshipping Jesus and slavishly devoting his life to him, that’s fine. However, just because atheists don’t want to do the same doesn’t mean their lives are lacking in any way.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

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

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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 Wednesdays) 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 fourteen years 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 (mostly) 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 the 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 Polly, my beautiful wife of almost forty-five 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, 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 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.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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According to Evangelical Pastor 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, current or former pastor of Heartland Worship Center — a Southern Baptist congregation — 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. My response in indented and italicized.

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-five 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, 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 wars 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 as 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.

Bruce Gerencser, 66, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 45 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

Connect with me on social media:

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Bruce Gerencser