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Bruce, Has Your Story Won Any Converts to Atheism?

peanut gallery

Recently, a Seventh-Day Adventist pastor emailed me and asked:

You certainly are preaching your good news still, eh? Once a preacher, always a preacher I guess. I read some of your site and I find it intriguing, if a bit … missionary … in its atheistic zeal. I’m curious if your message about your personal journey has won any converts to the atheism cause. Or did most former Christians just come to your site because they already had one foot on the way out and saw you out here? Like you, I’m sick of the lies inside the churches. But its clear I don’t hate the same set of “lies” you do. Unlike many Christian pastors, I have no interest in converting anyone and never have. I write only because I went through this same journey (and its subsequent fallout) with a fellow pastor in the Seventh-day Adventist church, Ryan Bell, and I am gathering information as to why these journeys take place at all. So thanks for taking the time to write down why you left. It actually strengthens me in staying.

I have always been passionate about whatever I do in my life. So, what might be perceived as “missionary zeal” is actually just me being me. As a writer, I believe I have something to say that matters, so I put my whole being into my work. That said, my goal has never been to be an evangelist for atheism. My target audience remains the same today as it was a decade ago: those who have questions/doubts about Christianity and those who have left Christianity. I see myself as a facilitator. My goal is to help people distance themselves from Fundamentalist Christianity. (Please see Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?)

The letter writer asks if my story has won any converts to atheism. The short answer is yes. Numerous ex-Evangelical pastors, evangelists, missionaries, and laypeople say that my writing was instrumental in their deconversion. While this is not my goal, I am humbled by the fact that many people find my writing helpful. That thousands of people read this blog still blows my mind.

The readers of this blog are quite eclectic. While I am an atheist and an agnostic, many readers are not. Evangelicals and liberal Christians, along with atheists, agnostics, pagans, and other non-Christians read my writing. Many of them have both feet firmly planted in their religious traditions. Others do not. Questioners and doubters, along with people seriously considering leaving the fold, often find that my writing resonates with them. My words ring true.

Of course, I also attract Evangelical apologists and critics, along with Muslim and Catholic zealots. Countless Christians have sent me emails or left comments on a particular post, hoping to bring me back into the fold, deconstruct my life, or discredit my story. In my early blogging days, I thought that if I just openly and honestly shared my story apologists, zealots, and critics would, at the very least, understand where I am coming from. Those days are long gone. Instead of engaging in endless debates, I give such people one opportunity to “share” whatever it is God as laid upon their hearts. If they play well with others, I might approve further comments from them. Unfortunately, most Evangelical commenters are terrible representatives of Christ on earth. (Please see Dear Evangelical.) Even if they could mount an effective defense of Christianity, why would I ever want to be around such nasty, arrogant, mean-spirited people?

As far as the “why” of my deconversion, here’s my stock answer:

I no longer believe that the central claims of Christianity are true. I came to a place in my life where these beliefs no longer made sense to me. (Please see The Michael Mock Rule: It Just Doesn’t Make Sense.) I reject all the miraculous claims made for Jesus, from his virgin birth to his resurrection from the dead. I do believe Jesus is was a real flesh and blood human being who lived on Palestine 2,000 years ago, However, as with all humans, he lived and died, end of story.

Over the years, I have corresponded with hundreds of clergy who are either no longer believers or have serious doubts about Christianity. Our numbers are increasing daily. Why is that?

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Dear Ward

peanut gallery

Recently, a Christian man by the name of Ward left a comment on the post Dear Jesus. Instead of answering him in the comment section, I thought I would turn his comment and my response into a post.

I feel sad for you Bruce . . .

Typically, when a Christian begins a comment with “I feel sad (sorry)” or makes some sort of psychological judgment, it is a sign that the commenter is here to evangelize, correct, or excoriate. Remember, thousands of Evangelical commenters have come before you, so you bear the weight of their collective assholery.

When I read this line, I thought, why should anyone feel sad or sorry for me? All things considered, I am quite happy. I have been married almost forty-two years, have six grown children, and thirteen wonderful children. Sure, life has its difficult moments, and recent years health-wise have been challenging not only for myself, but also for my wife. Yet, in every way, my life today is better than it was when I was a follower of Jesus.

Imagine if I started a conversation with you that intimated that I felt sorry for you because you were a Christian. How would you feel and respond?

[I feel] sad for the things you endured . . .

I realize that you are basing this judgment on reading the post Dear Jesus. Unfortunately, when people only read certain posts it is easy for them to come to wrong conclusions. Yes, from my childhood forward I have endured trial and adversity. However, all in all I had a happy childhood and ministerial career. (Please see Bruce, Were You Happy in the Ministry? Part One and Bruce, Were You Happy in the Ministry? Part Two.)

[I feel] sad for the path you chosen.

Why? If you had a blog, I would never leave a comment that said I felt sad (sorry) for you because you were a Christian. In the twelve years since I divorced Jesus, I have never left such a comment anywhere on the Internet or social media. Every person is on a journey. Each of us has a story to tell — Christian or atheist. I accept at face value that you profess to be a Christian. Who am I to question your story? Unfortunately, scores of Evangelicals have attempted to deconstruct my life. I have had blog posts written about me, and several preachers have even preached sermons that suggested I never was a “real” Christian. (Please see Gone but Not Forgotten: 22 Years Later San Antonio Calvinists Still Preaching Against Bruce Gerencser.)

I am one man with a story to tell. All that I ask of Christians is that they accept my story at face value and not fling theological epitaphs my way. Unfortunately, most Evangelical commenters don’t play well with others.

Your story of lost faith sounds as familiar as many others I’ve read such as Charles Templeton.

I am not sure how closely my life tracks with that of Charles Templeton, but I am one of many Evangelical preachers who are atheists or agnostics. Our number increases daily.

I understand and agree with many of your criticisms of the American evangelical movement and the professional church, but what I don’t understand is the decision to become an atheist.

You are certainly not the first Christian not to understand why I deconverted. Usually, a refusal to read my writing or an inability to square one’s theology keeps Evangelicals from truly understanding my story. Unable to make the square peg of my life fit in the round hole of their theology and experiences, many Evangelicals just dismiss my story out of hand by saying, “Bruce, you never were a real Christian.” Or worse, they say that I am still a Christian; that I am backslidden. How about letting me tell my story and accept it as told? Why is it so hard for Christians to accept that I once was a Christian and now I am not? “But Bruce, the BIBLE says ________.” Sorry, but it is not my problem if Evangelicals can’t square my storyline with their peculiar interpretation of the Bible. There’s no question that I once was a Christian, and I am sure as hell not a Christian now.

As others I’ve read it usually revolves around the theme of “If God is good why does he allow evil?”. I can see the move to the left in a way, though politically they are no better than the right, as there is a growing leftist “evangelical movement. You said you served God from a leftist perspective for a time and I see others who maintain a sense of fulfillment in that place without rejecting God. Is it just as simple as God allowed bad things to happen in your life?

There are many reasons people walk (run) away from Christianity. That’s why I point people to the WHY page — a collection of posts that explain why I am no longer a follower of Jesus.

If I had to pick one reason for why I am not a Christian it is this: I no longer believe that the central claims of Christianity are true. I came to a place in my life where these beliefs no longer made sense to me. (Please see The Michael Mock Rule: It Just Doesn’t Make Sense.) I reject all the miraculous claims made for Jesus, from his virgin birth to his resurrection from the dead. I do believe Jesus was a real flesh-and-blood human being who lived on Palestine 2,000 years ago, However, as with all humans, he lived and died, end of story.

I want to conclude this post by responding in part to your response is Grammar Gramma.

Wow gramma you are exactly the type of person I would expect to encounter when engaging atheists, arrogant, rude, dismissive.

I hope what I have written above might cast some light on how your first comment might have been perceived by the atheists and agnostics who frequent this blog.

Why did you comment on this blog? If you believe that atheists are arrogant, rude, and dismissive, what’s the point of leaving a comment? While Grammar Gramma can speak for herself, I can confidently say that she is neither arrogant, rude, and dismissive. I suspect much like me and other unbelievers, she is weary of Christians who don’t invest the requisite time necessary to understand my story or who begin their comments with judgments or psychological analysis. Most atheists and agnostics I know are plum wore out by Christians who judge and criticize their lives instead of taking the time to truly understand their story.

I hope I have adequately answered your questions. If not, please let me know.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Advice for a Young Evangelical Bible College Student

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I receive all sorts of emails every day, everything from personal attacks to honest questions. Rarely does a week go by where I don’t receive an email that deeply affects me emotionally. Several days ago, I received one such email from a young Evangelical Bible college student. After reading and pondering his words , I thought his email would be a great subject for a blog post.

I have removed all personally identifiable information. People who email me in good faith can rest assured that I will always protect their privacy. Here’s what this young man had to say:

I am a Biblical Studies major in pursuit of becoming a pastor. Growing up, faith was all I had and everything that I held onto. Over the past year, I have learned things about the faith and the church that have left me confused and hurt. I am going into student debt to pursue this “calling” I feel in my life. Yet, this calling has slowly faded away and I am sitting here writing this, confused on what to do or where to go. I am scared to let go of my faith, although I am not sure why. It is hard for me to ignore hard facts and scientific explanations. They just make sense. I know you said you have 25 years of ministry, and my whole life has been built up for me to go into ministry as well. I am looking for answers, and I do not know who to turn to as all of my family and friends are believers, and I honestly do not feel comfortable coming to them. Please write me back any advice, book to read, or just honestly someone to share experiences with.

I want to applaud this man for being willing at such a young age to question his beliefs and seek out answers to his doubts and questions. I wish I had the courage this young man has back when I was a student at Midwestern Baptist College in the mid-1970s. Sadly, I was a true-blue believer, and with nary a question or doubt, I continued on a ministerial path that led me to pastorates in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. I was fifty years old before questions and doubts overwhelmed belief and I deconverted.

My objective in responding to this man is NOT to convert him to atheism. I have never been an evangelist for atheism, and I don’t intend to be one. My goal remains the same as always: to help people who have doubts and questions about Christianity or who have already deconverted. I see myself as a facilitator. To use a worn-out cliché, life really is a journey. Evangelicalism teaches — dare I say demands — believers to focus on the destination — Heaven or Hell, and not the journey. Life is little more than preparation for meeting and living with God in the life to come. I challenge people to see that life is all about the journey. Your destination is immaterial. Walk the path that is in front of you, following its course wherever it leads. In doing so, you will end up exactly where you need to be. My only regret is that I waited until I was in my forties before I realized this grand truth.

This man comes from a family who is devoted to Jesus. I can only imagine how painful his doubts and questions are as he thinks about how seeking answers might affect his relationship with his family. As many readers of this blog know firsthand, daring to step outside of the prescribed rut of Evangelical faith can lead to catastrophic consequences. Verbalizing such things can lead to estrangement and excommunication. That’s why I warn people in the post Count the Cost Before You Say I Am an Atheist to carefully consider confessing unbelief to Evangelical family and friends. Once you share your doubts and questions or admit you no longer believe, you no longer control what happens next. That’s why several commenters on this blog call themselves atheist Christians. Family (or economic) concerns prevent them from being out and proud. I would say to this young man: ponder carefully what you say or do going forward. Weigh the consequences carefully.

The email writer mentions having a “calling,” that he is attending an Evangelical college to pursue that calling. Evangelicals believe that men are “called” by God into the ministry. I wrote about that very subject two weeks ago in a post titled, I’m a Prophet, Preacher, or Evangelist Because I Say I Am. When you believe that God is “calling” you, it can be quite a struggle when you begin to doubt not only your call, but also your beliefs. I remember the struggles I had over trying to reconcile what I believed was a divine calling with my waning faith. In the end, my slide down the slippery slope of unbelief destroyed any notion of a divine calling. As an atheist and a humanist, I still have a sense of what I consider a “calling.” Not in a supernatural sense, of course, but I still feel drawn to helping others — Christian or not.

I am more than forty years older than this young man. I try to picture myself at the age of twenty-one sitting in my dorm room questioning my faith. This man is surrounded by people who appear resolute in their Christian beliefs, yet he has doubts and questions. Is there something wrong with him? Of course not, though Evangelical zealots will say that this man is being tempted by Satan, battling “secret” sin, or is not a True Christian®. Remember, questions and doubts are not really permitted in Evangelical circles. Oh, apologists will beg to differ, but the fact remains that doubts and questions are permissible only if they lead to Biblical answers. Straying outside of the safe confines of the Evangelical box is verboten, as is asking an ex-Evangelical-turned-atheist preacher for help. (Please see The Danger of Being in a Box and Why it Makes Sense When You are in it and What I Found When I Left the Box.)

When doubting Evangelicals ask me for advice, I typically suggest that they read Dr. Bart Ehrman’s books. The reason I do so is because Ehrman, a professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a leading authority on the New Testament and the history of early Christianity, is a former Evangelical. Ehrman began his ministerial training at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, and Wheaton College, in Wheaton, Illinois — both staunch Evangelical institutions. He finished his M.Div. and Ph.D. at Princeton Theological Seminary. Today, he is the author of numerous books on the history of the New Testament.

Evangelicals typically believe that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. This belief is foundational to Evangelical faith, and that’s why I point doubters to Ehrman’s books. Written on a popular level, Ehrman’s books lay siege to and destroy the Evangelical notion that the Bible is in any way inerrant or infallible. Inspired? That’s a faith claim. Inerrancy and infallibility, on the other hand, are matters of facts and evidence.

I would suggest that this man read several of Ehrman’s books. Here’s a partial list of his works:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ehrman recently released a book titled, Heaven and Hell: A History of the Afterlife. I am currently reading through this book. Fascinating, to say the least. I have concluded, so far, that there’s a lot I don’t know about Heaven or Hell from a historical or Biblical perspective.

I am confident that reading Ehrman’s books will disabuse all but the most stubborn of Evangelicals of their belief that the Bible is an inspired, inerrant, infallible text. While coming to an enlightened conclusion about the Bible does not necessarily lead to unbelief, it does render Evangelical dogma untenable. Once this happens, an Evangelical is ready to take a hard look at what it is he really believes. Once the Bible loses its power and authority over a believer, he is free to let facts and science determine the validity of religious beliefs. For me personally, skeptically and intellectually examining the core tenets of Christianity led me to conclude that these beliefs could not be rationally sustained. Your mileage may vary. Many ex-Evangelicals find ways to hang on to some sort of Christian faith. Any move away from the Fundamentalist tendencies of Evangelicalism is a good one. (Please see Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists?)

I hope this young man will continue to correspond with me. I sincerely wish nothing but the best for him, realizing that difficult days lie ahead for him if he continues to walk the path he is on. Unlike Evangelical family and friends, I am more than willing to help regardless of where his journey takes him. I have six grown children, all of whom were raised in Evangelical churches. Not only was I their father and prison warden, but I was also their pastor. After Polly and I left Christianity in 2008, I have watched as my children have struggled with matters of faith. Their respective journeys have taken them away from Evangelicalism, but not necessarily towards unbelief. The unbelief of their parents, especially their preacher father, gave them the freedom to wander; to seek knowledge and understanding outside of the narrow confines of Fundamentalism. I wish the same for this young man.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Why Do Evangelical Pastors Think They Know Everything?

know it all

Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected. 

Several years ago, Scott asked:

More of a philosophical/mindset question. I subject myself to the local “Christian” Radio station from time to time and I’m curious as to why pastors preach on/think that they know “everything” once they become a pastor. I’ve heard a number blather on about science when I know 8-year-olds with deeper knowledge. One radio show seems unable to have A) hosts who read more than the “Drudge Report” and watch Fox “News” and B) Show absolutely no interest in wanting to learn science, even at the “Buck Rogers” level. I know that I, like you, have a voracious interest in learning new things, old things and different things. What kills the curiosity in them?

I doubt you can find an Evangelical pastor who will publicly admit he knows everything. In fact, most will likely strenuously object by saying that they are but humble servants of the Lord, and only God knows everything. However, in many Evangelical churches, the pastor is viewed as an oracle, a divine answer machine, always ready to spit out the correct answer to every question.

When’s the last time you’ve heard an Evangelical pastor answer a question with I don’t know? Church members expect their pastor to know everything. They expect him to be able to answer any and every question. Pastors routinely counsel church members on spiritual matters and beliefs. If they stopped there, all would be well. However, many pastors are quite willing to answer questions and give advice on virtually any subject. (Please see Why I Thought I was “Qualified” to Counsel Others, Beware of Christian Counselors, Questions: Should People Trust Christian Counselors with Degrees from Secular Schools? and Outrage Over Christian Counselor Post.)

How does an Evangelical pastor get to the place where he arrogantly thinks that he is some sort of super-duper, always-right answer machine?

Evangelicals believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible word of God. The Bible is a supernatural book breathed out by God, and is meant to be read and understood by God’s chosen ones. When people become Christians, the Holy Spirit indwells them (lives inside of them) and is their teacher and guide. Indwelt by the Spirit, Evangelicals read and study the Bible, finding everything necessary for life and godliness. Some Evangelicals are called to be pastors. This calling — some sects call it an anointing — comes from God. Every God-called pastor has been gifted by God to preach, teach, and lead the church. While most Evangelical pastors will tell you that they are first among equals, in real life the pastor is considered the king of the hill. He is the hub around which everything turns. No matter how many elders, deacons, or boards a church might have, the pastor stands above them all. He is God’s man, chosen to lead the church.

Evangelicals value those who are successful, those who do great exploits for God. Go to a Christian bookstore and see how many books focus on success. Most church members don’t want to hear about their pastor’s failures. No one wants to hear their pastor confess that he looked at porn on Saturday night, drank two too many beers, or had a bitter fight with his wife. They want a man who is a pillar of virtue and righteousness, a man who is a shining example of what a successful Christian should be.

Having said these things, I want to now answer Scott’s question. The reason many Evangelical pastors think they know everything is because a supernatural God wrote a supernatural book and gave it to a man who has a supernatural calling to speak supernatural truth to Evangelical church members. The pastor is the mouthpiece of God, one chosen by God to speak on his behalf.  Since congregants want assurance of belief, the pastor is quite willing to give it to them. Since doubt is of the devil, the pastor papers over the doubt with answers he finds in the Bible. As a pastor ages, reads more books, and studies the Bible thoroughly, he is more likely to answer a wider array of questions with “Biblical” answers. As the church sees he is capable of answering their questions, they continue to bring the pastor more and more questions.

Evangelical church members wrongly believe that because their pastors went to Bible college or a seminary, they are uniquely qualified to answer their questions. Rarely do they ask what their pastors studied in school. Members go to their pastors for counseling, not thinking for a moment about whether they are qualified to counsel them. Just because some men are pastors doesn’t mean they are qualified to counsel people having mental health issues or sexual problems. In fact, the average Evangelical pastor doesn’t even have a thorough education on the Bible. Let THAT sink in for a moment. Go take a look at a Christian college/seminary catalog and see what classes prospective pastors take. You will be shocked at how little they study the Bible before they graduate. Yet, when they start pastoring churches, they are expected to KNOW what the Bible says and be able to answer EVERY question church members might have.

Years ago, I preached several times for a friend of mine who pastored a Baptist church in Utica, Ohio. Every Sunday he would pass the offering plate, collecting an offering from the 20 or so people sitting in the pews. One Sunday he told me that when he didn’t have any money to put in the offering he would fold over a blank piece of paper and put it in the plate. He thought it was important to give church members the appearance of giving. As many former Evangelical pastors will tell you, perception is everything. My friend wanted to be perceived as a giver, even when he had nothing to give.

So it is with pastors and questions. They want to be perceived as knowing everything. Older pastors become expert question-answer game players, often giving shallow, bullshit answers to any question they don’t have an answer for. Sometimes pastors deflect hard questions by appealing to faith or saying God’s ways are not our ways. Most often though, Evangelical pastors are ready and willing to answer what questions come their way, even if they have little knowledge on that particular subject.

I am not saying that Evangelical pastors are not experts or knowledgeable about some things. They may be, but my challenge is to the breadth of their expertise and knowledge. Rather than worrying about perception, pastors would better serve their congregations by saying I don’t know or referring them to experts who do.

Scott asks, what kills curiosity in many Evangelical pastors?  (Please see Curiosity, A Missing Evangelical Trait.) The short answer is . . . THE BIBLE. When a pastor views the Bible as the answer to every question, there’s no need to be curious. GOD SAID IT, I BELIEVE IT, AND THAT SETTLES IT FOR ME!  No need to study science because God mapped out the creation of the universe in Genesis 1-3. History becomes HIS-story. Instead of trawling the depths of human knowledge and experience, many Evangelical pastors stick to a handful authors that reinforce their beliefs. This breeds intellectual laziness.

Granted, many Evangelical church members are lazy and can’t be bothered with searching things out for themselves. They view their pastors as a divine Google, ready to spit out the correct answer to any search input. No need to think. Just listen to Pastor Billy Bob, and all will be well.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome 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.

Are you on Social Media?

Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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 Disconnect Between what Christians Say and How They Live

christian hypocrisy

Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected. 

Several years ago, Chikirin asked:

Jesus said that if someone asks for your coat, to give them your cloak as well. Shouldn’t Christians therefore not only cater gay weddings, but cater gay birthdays as well? Why are Christians so stinting and stingy when Jesus said to give without thought of reward? Why are Christians always outraged when they are supposed to have peace and meekness?

The short version of this question is this: why are many Christians hypocrites?

Evangelicals frequently demand that everyone live according to their interpretation of the Bible. Evangelicals believe that morality is derived from the teachings of the Bible — God’s absolute standard for behavior. Pastors spend significant amounts of time preaching sermons on living the Christian life, reminding parishioners of what God expects of them. Despite all the preaching, videos, books, and conferences on living the Christian life, Evangelicals are unable to live according to the teachings of the Bible.

In Galatians 5:22,23, the Bible says:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

How many professing Christians do you know whose lives demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit? Supposedly, Evangelicals have the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16), and the Holy Spirit lives inside of them (1 Corinthians 3:16), teaching them everything necessary for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). Yet, there is no difference between the way Evangelicals and the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world live their lives. Why is this?

Christian apologists will likely say that many “Christians” are not True Christians®; that they have a cultural form of Christianity. When pressed to give a clear statement of what a true Christian life looks like, most apologists quickly appeal to “grace” or suggest that every Christian is a work in progress. Sometimes, apologists say non-believers are hypocrites for demanding Christians live according to the teachings of the Bible when they themselves are not willing to do so. However, it is Evangelicals who claim the high moral ground, and in doing so, they shouldn’t be surprised when non-Christians expect them to practice what they preach.

How many Christians do you know who live according to Galatians 5:22,23 and Matthew 5-7, the sermon on the mount? I suspect you’ll have a hard time coming up with anyone who actually lives their life according to these two passages of Scripture.

How about pastors? In 1 Timothy 3, Paul gives the qualifications for being a pastor. Note that he says a pastor (bishop/elder) MUST be, not hope or aspire to be:

This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be

  • blameless,
  • the husband of one wife,
  • vigilant,
  • sober,
  • of good behavior,
  • given to hospitality,
  • apt to teach;
  • not given to wine,
  • no striker,
  • not greedy of filthy lucre;
  • but patient,
  • not a brawler,
  • not covetous;
  • one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity;  (for if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)
  • Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil.
  • Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

Do you know of ONE pastor who meets these qualifications? I certainly didn’t when I was a pastor, and neither did any of my fellow pastors.

Now, to answer Chikirin’s question. Christians are human just like the rest of us. They are capable of doing good and bad, and on most days their lives are an admixture of good, bad, and indifferent behavior. They are not morally/ethically superior, regardless of what their pastors, churches, and Bible tells them. They are, in every way, h-u-m-a-n. When the news reports stories of Christian malfeasance, infidelity and criminal behavior, we should not be surprised. Humans can, and do, fail morally and ethically. None of us is without fault and failure.

Christianity would be better served if believers dismounted the moral high horse, returned it to the barn, and joined the human race. As long as they continue to think they are morally superior and demand others live according to the moral teachings of the Bible, they should expect to be mocked and ridiculed when they fall off the horse.

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so. Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Five More Questions from an Evangelical Pastor

good question

An Evangelical pastor whom I have known for over forty years recently sent me some questions, the answers to which appear below. He previously asked me some questions which I answered in a post titled, Four Questions from an Evangelical Pastor. I found his questions sincere and honest, unlike many questions I receive from Evangelicals. Far too often, ulterior motivations lurk behind some questions, but I don’t sense that here. Hopefully, readers of this blog will find my answers helpful.

Are there different levels of atheism? 

The short answer is no. Atheism is defined thusly: disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods. That’s it. Unlike Christianity — a hopelessly fragmented group — all atheists agree on one thing: atheism is the disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods. From that point, atheist beliefs go in all sorts of directions.

There’s also what is commonly called the Dawkins Scale: the spectrum of theistic probabilities. Famed biologist Dr. Richard Dawkins spoke of this seven-level spectrum in his popular book, The God Delusion:

  • Strong theist. 100% probability of God. In the words of Carl Jung: “I do not believe, I know.”De facto theist.
  • Very high probability but short of 100%. “I don’t know for certain, but I strongly believe in God and live my life on the assumption that he is there.”Leaning towards theism.
  • Higher than 50% but not very high. “I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.”Completely impartial.
  • Exactly 50%. “God’s existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.”Leaning towards atheism.
  • Lower than 50% but not very low. “I do not know whether God exists but I’m inclined to be skeptical.”
  • De facto atheist. Very low probability, but short of zero. “I don’t know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.”
  • Strong atheist. “I know there is no God, with the same conviction as Jung knows there is one.”

Atheists debate amongst themselves Dawkins’ scale, and whether agnostics are, in fact, atheists. Agnostics believe that the existence of God, of the divine, or the supernatural is unknown or unknowable. (Wikipedia) Another definition of agnosticism is as follows:

In the popular sense, an agnostic is someone who neither believes nor disbelieves in God, whereas an atheist disbelieves in God. In the strict sense, however, agnosticism is the view that human reason is incapable of providing sufficient rational grounds to justify either the belief that God exists or the belief that God does not exist. In so far as one holds that our beliefs are rational only if they are sufficiently supported by human reason, the person who accepts the philosophical position of agnosticism will hold that neither the belief that God exists nor the belief that God does not exist is rational. (Richard Rowe, Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy.)

I should mention in passing what I consider a distant third cousin of agnosticism: deism. Wikipedia describes enlightenment deism this way:

Enlightenment deism consisted of two philosophical assertions: (a) reason, along with features of the natural world, is a valid source of religious knowledge, and (b) revelation is not a valid source of religious knowledge. Different deist authors expanded on these two assertions to create what Leslie Stephen later termed the “constructive” and “critical” aspects of deism. “Constructive” assertions— assertions that deist writers felt were justified by appeals to reason and features of the natural world (or perhaps were intuitively obvious) — included:

  • God exists and created the universe.
  • God gave humans the ability to reason.

“Critical” assertions— assertions that followed from the denial of revelation as a valid source of religious knowledge— were much more numerous. They included:

  • Rejection of all books, including the Bible, that are claimed to contain divine revelation.
  • Rejection of the incomprehensible notion of the Trinity and other religious “mysteries”.
  • Rejection of reports of miracles, prophecies, etc.

True Christianity

All deists rejected the Bible as a book of divine revelation. If you define “a Christian” as a person who accepts the stories in the Bible as true, divine revelations, the deists were not Christians. They rejected the miracle stories in the Bible and rejected the divinity of Jesus. Many, however, accepted Jesus as an actual historical person and held him in high regard as a moral teacher. (This position is known as Christian deism and was Thomas Jefferson’s motive for assembling his famous Jefferson Bible.) On the other hand, if you define “a true Christian” as a person regards the historical human person Jesus as a great moral teacher and attempts to follow Jesus’ moral teachings, many deists considered themselves to be true Christians. Some deists were of the opinion that Jesus taught timeless moral truths, that those moral truths were the essence of Christianity, and since those truths are timeless they predate Jesus’ teachings.

I have long believed that someone could look at the night sky and conclude that a deity of some sort created the universe; and that after creating the universe, this deity said, “there ya go boys and girls, do with it what you will.” This God is unknowable and non-involved in our day-to-day lives. Believe in this deity or not, it exists. Some readers of this blog will call this deity divine energy or power. Of course, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that what we call “life” is, in actuality, a Westworld-like alien game simulation. Once I was freed from the authority and bondage of the Bible, I was free to think more freely about human existence. Who knows, maybe “reality” is an illusion.

Here is my take: I am an agnostic and an atheist. I cannot know for certain whether a deity of some sort exists. It is possible, though unlikely, that a deity of some sort might reveal itself to us someday. Possible, but improbable. For me, it is all about probabilities. (And the probability of the existence of any deity, let alone the Evangelical God, is minuscule.) On the Dawkins scale I am a six. The currently available evidence leads me to conclude that there is no God or gods. I am open to the possibility of the existence of one or more deities should evidence of their existence ever be provided, but, until then, I live my day to day life as an atheist. The only time thoughts about God enters my mind is when I am writing for this blog.

That said, let me be clear: I am not an anti-theist. Some atheists are vociferously and stridently anti-religion. I am not one of them. This has led to all sorts of criticisms and attacks from what I call the fundamentalist wing of atheism. On occasion, I have had anti-theists tell me that I am not a True Atheist®. I laugh when such arguments are made, thinking, “is this not the same argument Evangelicals use against me when they say I was never a “True Christian®?”

Do all atheists rely strictly on science and history for answers?

Strictly or solely? No. Once we move from the base definition of atheism, atheists go in all sorts of directions philosophically, politically, socially, and even religiously. Yep, you will run into atheists who view themselves as “spiritual.”  I have been blogging for almost thirteen years. I have met all sorts of atheists. Recently, several pro-Trump, anti-abortion, anti-homosexual atheists/agnostics have commented on this blog. I don’t understand their viewpoints and logic, but I don’t have to. Atheists are free to meander every which way from “atheism is the disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.” One can be an atheist and be irrational; and believe me, more than a few atheists are as dumb as rocks. Some atheists will comment on this blog and leave me scratching my head and saying “huh?” I rarely respond to such people. I let them say their piece, hoping my silence will tell them all they need to know.

This would be a good point to mention the fact that many (most?) atheists are humanists. There’s nothing in atheism that gives a person moral or ethical grounding. Atheists look to humanism to find a framework by which to live their lives. The Humanist Manifesto remains the best summary of humanism:

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.

To answer my friend’s question, the Humanist Manifesto states:

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.

Do all atheists believe in evolution?

Since I am not party to what all atheists believe, I can’t speak authoritatively on the matter. I can say that all of the atheists I know generally accept biological evolution as a scientific fact. While the word “belief” can be used in a variety of ways, in the context of evolution, atheists don’t believe in evolution. Belief, in this context, much like with religion, implies the use of feelings to come to a conclusion. Most atheists I know would say that their acceptance of evolution and other scientific conclusions rests on evidence, facts, and probabilities, not their feelings.

For most of my life, I was illiterate when it came to science. I believed that Genesis 1-3 told me all I need to know about biology, cosmology, and the like. God created everything just as it is recorded in the inspired, inerrant, infallible Bible — end of discussion. I had a few creationist-oriented Evangelical apologetical books in my library. All these books did for me was affirm that I was “right.”  It wasn’t until I was disabused by Dr. Bart Ehrman and others of the notion that the Bible was some sort of perfect, supernatural book that I was able to question what it was exactly I believed about science.

One of the first books I read on this subject was biologist Dr. Jerry Coyne’s book, Why Evolution is True. Another helpful book by Coyne is titled, Faith vs. Fact: Why Science and Religion are Incompatible. For someone still in the Evangelical tent, books by physicist Dr. Karl Giberson might be helpful: Saving Darwin: How to Be a Christian and Believe in Evolution and The Language of Science and Faith: Straight Answers to Genuine Questions. Giberson’s support of evolutionary biology ultimately led to his dismissal from Eastern Nazarene College in 2011. Both Giberson and Dr. Francis Collins remain controversial figures within Evangelicalism, with more than a few Evangelicals saying that neither man is a Christian. I have my own doubts about whether Giberson or Collins are actually Evangelicals, but I am content to let people self-identify as they please.

Bruce, what do you believe about our existence?

Let me be clear, I am not a scientist. I know a hell of a lot more about science today than I did a few years ago, or when I was a Bible-believing preacher, but that doesn’t mean I can speak authoritatively on matters of science. I continue to educate myself, but at my age, I will likely run out of time before I master any specific scientific discipline. I hope that that one or more of my grandchildren will do so and become what their grandfather could not. Many of my grandchildren are straight-A students, so I have high hopes that some of them will enter STEM programs post-high school.

I know where I am lacking knowledge-wise, and I do my best to not speak beyond that which I know. Want to talk about the Bible, Evangelicalism, theology, photography, or Windows-based computers? You will find that I generally know what I am talking about. However, when it comes to biology, astronomy, cosmology, geology, archeology, and other scientific disciplines, I am, in every way, a novice. It is for this reason that I rely on experts to tell me what I need to know about science. Smart is the person who values expertise. I have certain scientists I trust to tell me the truth. “So, Bruce, does this mean you put “faith” in what they say?” Yes. Many atheists shy away from the word faith because of its religious connotations. However, I refuse to let religion hijack certain words. Faith means “confidence in a person or plan.”  There are scientists that I put great confidence in; when they speak, I listen. No, these men and women are not infallible, but they have given their lives to understanding this or that science discipline, so I trust what they say.

In Christianity, there is so much disagreement! How about among atheists?

There’s no doubt that Christianity is the most fragmented religion on the planet. I have long argued that if Christians were unified theologically that I might at least pause for a moment when considering the “God question.” However, there are thousands and thousands of Christian sects, each with its own version of the “faith once delivered to the saints.” This disunity says to me that Christianity is very much of human origin.

I wish I could say that atheism is monolithic, and everyone thinks and believes the same things. Sadly, atheism is quite divided too. Not so much on the core belief: “atheism is the disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.” Every atheist I know believes this statement to be an accurate definition of their view on God or gods. However, recent years have brought attempts by some to expand the definition of atheism to include social justice issues. This spawned a group called Atheism+. While there was a moment when I thought Atheism+ might be worthwhile, I quickly thought better of it after seeing who it was that was driving this attempt to redefine atheism. Socially and politically, I am as liberal as you come, but I saw Atheism+ as a purity test; an attempt to divide atheism between us and them. I concluded that the proponents of Atheism+ were using methodologies eerily similar to those I saw in Evangelicalism. No thanks. And let me be clear to Atheism+ flag-wavers, I have zero interest in re-ligating this issue with you in the comment section. Been there, done that, still bleeding.

Here’s one thing I know about most atheists. We can heartily disagree with one another and later enjoy each other’s company at a pub or restaurant. Back in my Evangelical days, every disagreement had eternal significance. Not so with most atheists. I don’t understand how an atheist can support Donald Trump or the present iteration of the Republican party, but I am not going to let that affect our relationship (if we have one). I have booted several pro-Trump atheists off this site, not because of their politics, but because they were assholes. And as much as I hate to admit it, there are atheist assholes; people who don’t play well with others; people who think throwing feces at people on social media is “good conversation.”

I hope I have adequately answered my Evangelical friend’s questions.

About Bruce Gerencser

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

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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.

Four Questions from an Evangelical Pastor

questions

Several days ago, an Evangelical pastor whom I have known for over forty years sent me some questions, the answers to which appear below. I found his questions sincere and honest, unlike many questions I receive from Evangelicals. Far too often, ulterior motivations lurk behind some questions, but I don’t sense that here. Hopefully, readers of this blog will find my answers helpful.

Bruce, do you ever feel like you’re wrong?

I am sixty-two years old. I have been wrong more times than I can count. Over the past decade, I have, on occasion, written about my wrongness, be it beliefs I held or decisions I made. As a pastor, my beliefs evolved over the course of the twenty-five years I spent in the ministry. One of the mistakes my critics make is picking a certain point in my life, and judging me from that moment in time. In doing so, they mistakenly or deliberately ignore what has come before and after. Yes, I entered the ministry as an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist. Yes, I at one time was a Jack Hyles supporter. However, my beliefs and associations continued to evolve. By the time I left the ministry in 2005, my beliefs were, compared to those I entered the ministry with, quite liberal. I entered the ministry with a narrow, judgmental view of people who called themselves Christians. I believed that my little corner of the Evangelical tent was reserved for True Christians®. Twenty-five years later, the front door of the church I pastored said, “the church where the only label that matters is Christian.”

The same could be said of my evolution politically. For many years, I was a diehard Christian nationalist who only voted Republican. I listened to Rush Limbaugh every day. In 2000, for the first time, I voted for a Democrat. By the time I moved to my current home, I was a liberal and a democratic socialist.

And finally, the same could be said of my social beliefs. I entered the ministry as an anti-abortion, patriarchal homophobe. I pastored a Baptist church in southeast Ohio for eleven years. I was well-known for my public pronouncements against abortion, women’s rights, and homosexuality. Yet, two decades later, my views have dramatically changed. I am now considered a defender of choice, women’s rights, and LGBTQ people.

People who have never changed their minds about anything — a common trait among religious Fundamentalists — look at my journey and see a man who is unstable. I, on the other hand, see a man who is willing to change his mind when confronted or challenged with facts and evidence that render his beliefs untenable.

Intellectual and personal growth only come when we are willing to admit we are wrong. Closed-minded Fundamentalism stunts our thinking. One need only visit an IFB church to see what happens when people shut themselves off from the world and refuse to investigate and challenge their beliefs.

So, yes, I have been wrong, and I have no doubt that I will continue to be wrong. A well-lived life is one where there is ongoing progress and maturity. If I regret anything, it is that I waited way too long give in to my doubts and questions; that I waited way too long to expose myself to people who think differently from me; that I waited too long to admit to the love of my life and my children that I was wrong.

Bruce, have you ever hesitated at all in deciding to become an atheist?

The short answer is yes, especially when I first deconverted. For a time, my mind was plagued with thoughts and fears about being wrong and God throwing me in Hell. I feared God punishing me for disobedience. I lay in bed more than a few nights wondering, “what if I am wrong?”

Over time, my doubts and fears faded into the fabric of my life. It’s been years now since I had such thoughts.

Perhaps, this pastor is asking me a different question, wondering if I was hesitant about publicly identifying as an atheist. I have never been one to hesitate when I am confident that I am right. I am not the type of person who hides who and what he is, even if it would make life easier for me if I did so. In this regard, my wife and I are as different as day and night. Now, I don’t go through the streets screaming, “I am an ATHEIST,” but I don’t shy away from the label. I have often warned people who have contacted me about their own questions and doubts to NOT look at my life as a pattern to follow. (Please see Count the Cost Before You Say I am an Atheist) Each of us must choose our own path. I don’t judge or criticize atheists who choose to keep their unbelief private. Each to his own.

When I started blogging in 2007, one question I asked myself was whether I wanted to write anonymously. I chose to use my real name, but there have been moments when I wondered if I made the right choice. I have been brutally attacked and threatened by Christian zealots. The pain these people inflict leaves deep, lasting scars. Two weeks ago, this blog celebrated its fifth anniversary. Anyone who has ridden Bruce’s crazy train for years knows that me making it to five years is surprising. On at least three other occasions over the years, I have stopped blogging and deleted all of my posts due to savage attacks from Christian Fundamentalists (and, at one time, Fundamentalist atheists).

My life is pretty much an open book. I try to be open and honest, owning past mistakes and transgressions. Are there moments when I wish I had used a pseudonym instead of my real name? Sure, but it’s too late now to do so. The horse has left the proverbial barn. Even if I stopped blogging tomorrow, it would be impossible to erase my Internet footprint.

Bruce, was your transition difficult for you to accept?

I want to answer this question from two vantage points. First, was my transition from Christian to atheist hard for me to accept? Not at all. I have always believed truth matters. My life appears to my Evangelical critics to be one of a wanderer, a double-minded man (whom the Bible says is unstable in all his ways). My battle with depression is a sure sign to them that I am weak-kneed mentally. Perhaps, but I am the kind of person who is unafraid of changing his mind or being viewed as odd or different. In 2005, my mother-in-law and I had an epic blow-out. I believe I have written about this in the past. (This blow-out, by the way, totally altered our relationship — for the better, from my perspective.) Several days after our titanic battle, my mother-in-law called me. We talked about many things. During our conversation, Mom said, “Bruce, we always knew you were “different.” And she was right. I have always been the kind of person who follows the beat of my own drum, both as a Christian and an atheist. I have no doubt that my singular drum beating has caused me problems and affected the relationships I have with Polly, my children, and my extended family. I am who I am, and I have reached a place in life where I no longer apologize for being Bruce Gerencser.

Second, was my transition from a pastor to a commoner hard for me to accept? Absolutely. My entire life was wrapped up in Jesus and my calling to preach the gospel. The ministry was my life. I enjoyed being the hub around which everything turned. I enjoyed the work of the ministry, especially studying for and preaching sermons. To this day, I miss standing before people and saying, “thus saith the Lord.” I miss the love and respect I received from congregants. I miss the place I had in the community due to my position as a minister.

Walking away from the ministry and Christianity meant abandoning my life’s calling; abandoning everything I held dear. Doing so meant, at the age of fifty, I had to answer countless questions that I hadn’t thought about in years. Fortunately, Polly walked hand in hand with me when I deconverted. I can only imagine how different our lives might have been had I became an atheist and Polly remained a Christian. I highly doubt our marriage would have survived.

Do I still miss certain aspects of the ministry? Sure. Fortunately, writing has become a ministry of sorts for me. This blog and its wonderful readers are my church. I digitally preach sermons, hoping that people find them encouraging and helpful. The traffic numbers suggest that a few people, anyway, love and appreciate the content of my post-Christian sermons. And all Loki’s people said, AMEN!

Bruce, do you wonder at all about any form of an afterlife?

I do not. I have come to accept that life is short, death is certain, and once we draw our last breath we cease to exist. There was a time, post-Jesus, when I hoped there was some sort of life beyond the grave. It’s hard to comprehend not existing. I have had numerous thoughts about non-existence; about going to bed at night and never waking up; of being alive one moment, and dead the next. 2019 was a tough year physically for Polly and me. I thought about how life might be without Polly lying next to me; of not hearing the keys in the door late at night and her voice ringing out, “I’m home.”

As much as I might want for there to be life after death, the facts tell me that no such thing exists. What evidence do we have for an afterlife? None, except the words in this or that religious text. I am no longer willing to build my life and future on what the Bible does and doesn’t say. This is a good spot for me to share the advice I give on the About page:

If you had one piece of advice to give me, what would it be?

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.

I do my best to live by this statement. If, perchance, I learn after I die that there is an afterlife, fine my me. I have no worries about the existence of the Christian God and his Heaven/Hell. I am confident that the only Heaven and Hell is that which we make in this life. That said, is it possible that some sort of cosmic afterlife exists? Sure, but I am not counting on it. I am not going to waste this life in the hope that there is some sort of divine payoff after I die

About Bruce Gerencser

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

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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.

Questions: How Would You Respond to Someone Who Rejects Your Advice?

i have a question

I put out the call to readers, asking them for questions they would like me to answer. If you have a question, please leave it here or email me. All questions will be answered in the order in which they are received.

Anonymous asks:

How would you respond to someone who rejects the advice on your About page?

Let me be honest with you, I found this question to be strange. Not sure what to make of it.

On the About page, I offer the following advice:

If you had one piece of advice to give me, what would it be?

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.

What would I say to someone who rejects this advice, Anonymous asks. The short answer is “okay, be well, my friend.” I give this advice freely, and whether someone accepts it or finds value in what I have written is up to them. If they don’t, no skin off my back. I am not some sort of deity declaring his law. I am just a feeble, frail, fucked-up man who has learned a few things in his sixty-two years of life. The aforementioned statement reflects my experiences and the lessons I have learned as I motor through my oh-so-short existence.

I try each day to live by these words. I am certain that come the end of the day, I have, to some degree or the other, failed. All I know to do is try again.

About Bruce Gerencser

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

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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.

Questions: How do You Deal with Evangelical Family and Friends?

i have a question

I put out the call to readers, asking them for questions they would like me to answer. If you have a question, please leave it here or email me. All questions will be answered in the order in which they are received.

Jen asks:

How do you deal with Fundamentalist/Evangelical family and friends? I’m surrounded by them. Now that I’m an evil Liberal, I’m not taken seriously. When I do speak up, they use silencing techniques. I haven’t been outside the fold for very long, so I have a knee-jerk reaction to their control tactics (I hate them). I’m hoping we can find a way to have a peaceful relationship, but everything is so one-sided. It’s their way or else. I think part of the issue is that I was always the silent submissive one. Now that I can think for myself and speak up, they don’t know how to handle it.

Jen, a self-described “evil liberal,” is having trouble getting along with Evangelical family and friends. I am sure scores of readers understand Jen’s predicament. She wants to get along with her Evangelical friends and family, but she’s having difficulty doing so due to their incessant need to dominate and control things. She suspects that her outspokenness after being silent and submissive in the past is perhaps part of the problem. Her family and friends don’t know what to do with the “new” Jen.

jumping man

Evangelicals are inherently Fundamentalist. If you have not read the post, Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists? I encourage you to do so. Many “enlightened” Evangelicals hate being called Fundamentalists. They will stomp and scream, objecting to being lumped together with the Steven Andersons, Fred Phelps, and Franklin Grahams of the world. Imagine a toddler jumping up and down, screaming, I’M NOT A CHILD. That’s many “offended” Evangelicals. As my previously mentioned post makes clear, true Evangelicals are theological and social Fundamentalists. If it walks, talks, and acts like a Fundamentalist, it is a Fundamentalist. Part of the problem is the far left of the Evangelical tent is inhabited by Christians who are not theologically or socially Evangelicals, yet they claim the Evangelical label. These Evangelicals are actually liberal or progressive Christians, but, for some reason, perhaps familiarity or family connections, they refuse to abandon Evangelicalism.

Jen’s family and friends sound like they are typical Evangelicals, so I am going to assume that their beliefs are Fundamentalist. What do we know about Fundamentalists? First, Fundamentalists believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. Second, Fundamentalists tend to interpret the Bible literally. Third, Fundamentalists have a black and white view of the world. And fourth, Fundamentalists crave certainty. These four things breed arrogance and often lead to the boorish behavior Jen describes in her comment. Fundamentalists aren’t interested in seeking truth. In their minds, they have already found it. Fundamentalists think their beliefs are one and the same with the mind of God. How can they not think this way? God, the Holy Spirit, lives inside of them and is their teacher and guide. Armed with an authoritative, infallible book, Fundamentalists are certain they know the answers to every question. Doubt this premise? Ask yourself when is the last time you have heard a Fundamentalist say, “I don’t know,” or “that’s an interesting question, let me think on it and get back with you.” Never, right?

Certainty stunts or retards intellectual growth. That’s why many Evangelical preachers haven’t changed their beliefs in years, if ever. One of my favorite U2 songs is “I Still Haven’t Found What I am Looking For.

Video Link

Evangelicals typically don’t say they haven’t found what they are looking for. Instead, they believe they hit the knowledge jackpot when Jesus reached into their wicked, sinful lives and saved them, imparting to them new life. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says: Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.  At that moment, all things became new, including their knowledge and understanding of, well, e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.

Imagine, if you will, a room of Evangelicals having a discussion about any of current social hot button issues. They are in agreement, say on abortion or same-sex marriage. God has spoken, end of discussion. Thus saith the Lord, right? Into the room walks liberal Jen, the Jen everyone has been praying for; praying that she will see the “light.” Jen thinks that her Evangelical family and friends might appreciate her view on the subject being discussed. So, she shares her progressive viewpoint, and just like that, the oxygen is sucked out of the room. The looks on the faces of her family and friends tell her all she needs to know: “I have spoken out of turn. How dare I share a different opinion. How dare I suggest that there are other ways to look at issues such as abortion or same-sex marriage.” “What’s next,” they think. “Is unsaved Jen going to tell us that LGBTQ people are fine just as they are?” God forbid, right?

And therein lies the problem when it comes to trying to get along with Evangelical family and friends — especially when there is a herd of them. Dissenting opinions or “unbiblical” speech is NEVER welcome. Everyone is expected to kowtow and conform to Evangelical truth. So what are the Jens of the world to do?

First, Jen can shut up and refrain from entering discussions. She can continue to be a quiet, submissive wallflower. No one should have to do so, but countless non-Evangelicals, not wanting to have conflict, choose this path.

Second, Jen can say, “dammit, I have just as much right to speak my mind as anyone else! I am NOT going to be silent!” While I admire such resolve, such an approach is not without danger. I have corresponded with numerous ex-Evangelicals who were ostracized or banished the moment they dared to pet the proverbial cat the wrong way. Readers might find, Count the Cost Before You Say I am an Atheist helpful. In this post, I detail the dangers of speaking your mind. Just remember, once you open your mouth and say _________________, you no longer control what happens next. I know former Christians who spend the holidays at home alone because they have been excommunicated over their heretical, liberal beliefs.

Let me share a personal story:

With my parents being dead, we spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with Polly’s parents. This abruptly changed in 2010. I left the ministry in 2003 and abandoned Christianity in November 2008. In early 2009, I sent out my family-shattering letter, Dear Family Friends, and Former Parishioners. This letter radically changed our relationship with Polly’s Fundamentalist family.

Christmas of 2009 was best remembered by a huge elephant in the middle of the room, that elephant being Polly and me and the letter I sent the family. No one said anything, but the tension was quite noticeable.

2010 found us, just like every year since 1978, at Polly’s parent’s home for Christmas Eve. This would be the last Christmas we would spend with Polly’s parents and her extended family. We decided to blend into the background, and besides short pleasantries, no one talked to us. Not that they didn’t want to. We found out later from one of our children that Polly’s uncle wanted to confront me about our defection from Christianity. Polly Mom’s put a kibosh on that, telling her brother-in-law that she had already lost one daughter and she was not going to lose another. (Polly’s sister was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2005.)

I appreciate Polly’s Mom being willing to stand up to the man who is generally viewed as the spiritual head of the family. I am glad she put family first. If Polly’s uncle had confronted me there surely would have been an ugly fight. Whatever our differences may be, I deeply respect Polly’s parents. They are kind, loving people and I couldn’t ask for better in-laws.

Christmas of 2010 was two years after President Obama was elected to his first term. Polly’s family didn’t vote for him, and through the night they made known their hatred for the man, Democrats, and liberals in general. Polly and I, along with many of our children, voted for Obama, so the anti-Obama talk and the subtle racism made for an uncomfortable evening.

Most years, a gag gift is given to someone. This particular year, the gag gift, given to Polly’s uncle, was an Obama commemorative plate one of our nephew’s had bought on the cheap at Big Lots. One of Polly’s uncle’s grandchildren asked him what the plate was for. He replied, to go poo-poo on, poo-poo being the Fundamentalist word for shit.  This was the last straw for us.

On our way home the next day, I told Polly that I couldn’t do it anymore and she said neither could she. So, we decided to stop going to Polly’s parents’ home for Christmas Eve. We do try to see Polly’s parents during the holiday, but we no longer attend the family gathering on Christmas Eve. Making this decision saddened us, but we knew we had to make it. (BTW, our children still attend the Christmas Eve gathering.)

After Polly and I deconverted in 2008, we decided to take the “seen, but not heard” approach when around her family. Everyone knew we had left Christianity, yet that fact did not get in the way of their assaults on our beliefs and politics. Ever been around people who were making a “point” without addressing you directly? That was family holidays for us. After a while, we got tired of being pummeled; tired of being treated as problems that needed fixed. We loved being around Polly’s family — food, fun, and fellowship, right? Well, that ended the moment we dared to step outside of the confines of approved family beliefs.

You see, that’s what Fundamentalist certainty does. Polly and I were forced to forge a new path and start new family traditions. Sure, we miss the “good old days,” but life moves on. Polly’s family — those who are still among the living, anyway — remain staunch Fundamentalists. It is unlikely that they will change their minds any time soon. Yes, Polly and I changed our minds, and many of you did too, but we are the exceptions to the rule. Once Fundamentalism takes root, it is almost impossible to change your ways. When you are totally invested in being “right,” admitting you might be wrong is damn near impossible.

Jen is in a difficult spot, and I can’t and won’t tell her what to do. She has to survey the land, so to speak, and determine what she can live with. It is unlikely her Evangelical family will change, so she has to weigh what comprises, if any, she is willing to make. Is she willing to be silent, submissive Jen? If not, can she live with the conflict that is sure to follow? Is she willing to risk losing the relationships she has with family and friends? Choosing the latter will most certainly cost her — painfully so.

Are you an ex-Evangelical? How to handle your relationships with Evangelical family and friends? Please share your sage advice in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

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

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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 Man With No Butt

Bruce Gerencser, early Spring 2015
Bruce Gerencser, early Spring 2015

Originally written in 2015. Edited, corrected, and expanded.

Recently, I asked readers for questions. Ed asked:

As a person of similar age and girth as Bruce Almighty…… belt AND suspenders or suspenders/belt alone?

Some things are far more relevant to our daily life than institutionalized fantasies.

I thought the following post would more than answer Ed’s belt and suspenders question. Enjoy!

I’m a big guy. 6 feet tall, just north of 360 pounds. Thanks to my recurrent battle with only Loki knows what, I have lost 25 pounds since last September. No one who knows me has asked if I’ve lost weight. I have an odd body shape for a man my size, and unfortunately, weight loss or gain goes unnoticed. Unlike most men my size, I don’t have what is commonly called a beer gut. Instead, from my size 8 head to my size 10 feet, I am shaped like a fire hydrant. I do have some belly fat, but I am pretty much a cylindrical mass of human flesh. I have ruddy complexion and beard color to play Santa, so in recent years I have finally embraced my inner Claus. Come Thanksgiving, it will be impossible for me to go in public without multiple people calling attention to Santa-like looks.

Most men my height have a 32-35-inch inseam. Not me. I have a 29-inch inseam. Even worse, I have no butt. No woman has ever complimented me for having a nice ass, mainly because my shirt is usually hanging out the back. I have spent much of my life tucking in shirts that are not long enough. Buying XXXL shirts is a challenge because clothing makers assume that every XXXL man has a big gut. The shirts are long enough, but often they are way too big in the chest. I finally found a t-shirt that fits me well. Made by Key Industries, I can buy them for less than $14 on Amazon. (Short Sleeve, Long Sleeve) The t-shirts are well made, don’t feel cheap, and have a pocket on the front. This pocket works well when I need someplace to put my lens cap or cellphone.

Last year, my oldest son introduced me to Van Heusen no-iron Traveller (Flex) shirts. Nice shirts that never need to be ironed provided they are removed from the dryer on time. Polly wishes I had “discovered” these shirts back in the day when I was wearing white pinpoint cotton oxford shirts. Those shirts ALWAYS needed to be starched and ironed — another of the many reasons my wife is a saint. These shirts have longer tails, but I’ve found that I have to order one size larger than I normally do.

polly mom and dad 2018 (2)
Bruce and Polly Gerencser 2018

Even when I get shirts that fit, I still have a problem keeping my pants up. Most people have hips and a butt they can hang their pants on. Not me. Since I don’t want to make the local news, Atheist Moons Shoppers at Meijer, I not only wear a belt but I also wear suspenders. Wearing only a belt is an invitation for embarrassment, especially now that I have lost weight. I put two new holes in my belt so I can cinch it up tighter, but even then, my pants tend to work their way down. If you are a local reader and have seen me at Meijer with my hands in my pockets, it’s not because my hands are cold. When I feel my pants following the path of least resistance, I pull them up Grandpa-style and put my hands in my pockets to keep them from sliding back down.

perry suspenders
Perry Suspenders

A few years back, I found the perfect suspenders for a guy like me. Most suspenders have a clasp that is snapped on the pants. Over time, these snaps get weak, tend to come unsnapped, and smack the wearer in the face. Thankfully, I found Perry Suspenders. Perry Suspenders, which come in 2 widths and 2 lengths, hook on your belt, providing a second layer of butt exposure security. You can buy a pair of Perry Suspenders for $13-18 on Amazon. Since wearing Perry Suspenders, I no longer fear being the subject of a YouTube video shot by a local resident at Meijer. Nothing like fame for having your pants drop down to your knees in the middle of the store. It’s never happened to me, but I have caught them well on their way to embarrassing me.

I buy most of my clothing and shoes on Amazon. I am not a big fan of Amazon, but their selection of big and tall clothing is second to none. When it comes to jeans, I typically buy Levi 550s or 560s. When I find something that “fits,” I tend to stick with that brand. When it comes to shoes, I buy them either through Amazon or its affiliate Zappos. My snowboard feet take a 10-EEEE shoe. I buy two brands: Skechers and New Balance. Again, I buy what I know, what has fit me in the past. At my age, I have no interest in redesigning the clothing wheel. (I did learn several years ago, that I was washing my jeans way too often; that as long as they aren’t dirty or smelly, jeans can be worn for weeks at a time between washes. It took me a long time to buy into this idea. I was used to washing my jeans after every wearing. Now they last a lot longer.)

I buy well-made leather belts made by YourTack in nearby LaGrange, Indiana. So far, I have bought my belts online, but I do hope to visit their store someday. Last year, I discovered how much I love wearing fedoras. Depending on whom you ask, I either look like an Amish man or a mobster. We have Amish communities nearby, so I tend to get second looks from people trying to match my Amish-looking hat and beard with my English-looking clothing. After buying several inferior hats on Amazon, I decided to look elsewhere. My search took me to the Village Hat Shop in San Diego, California. When it comes to wool/felt hats, you get what you pay for. The Village Hat Shop carries a large selection of hats, in a variety of sizes. Shipping is free, and most orders are delivered in 5-8 days.

So there ya have it. All you ever wanted to know about the man with no butt.

About Bruce Gerencser

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

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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.

Questions: Was Biblical Inerrancy the Primary Reason I Deconverted?

i have a question

I put out the call to readers, asking them for questions they would like me to answer. If you have a question, please leave it here or email me. All questions will be answered in the order in which they are received.

Emersonian asked:

I suppose, not to assume that I understood Steve’s question better than he does (especially since he’s commented above) — the follow-up question is this: was there a line for you between rejecting biblical inerrancy/Christ’s divinity and embracing atheism? Obviously there are many folks (myself included) who believe in a concept of “god” without the trappings of evangelical Christianity . . . so I’d say, even if this wasn’t the question Steve was really asking, do you feel that you went through multiple stages of detachment from religion (rejecting evangelical Christianity, then Christianity as a whole upon further examination, then rejection of the concept of a God of any kind) or was it all a package deal — if the evangelical view isn’t true then all of it must be BS? I know that you and Polly did attend non-evangelical churches of various types after your departure from your former congregation: how did that inform your eventual acceptance of your own atheism?

Perhaps what Emersonian wants to know is whether I think I threw out the proverbial baby with the bathwater; that in abandoning Evangelicalism (the bathwater), I threw out God (the baby) altogether. I certainly understand how someone might read my story, miss a few of the connecting dots, and come to this conclusion. However, this is not what happened, as I shall explain below.

I have been asked on several occasions if I thought I would still be a Christian had I begun life in liberal Christianity instead of Evangelicalism? This is a good question, but one, of course, that I cannot answer. Playing the “what might have been” game is an interesting endeavor, but it is impossible to know how things might have turned out had I walked through door number one instead of door number three. I am sixty-two years old. The sum of my life is a long string of choices. Each choice sent me down a certain path. A different decision along the way would have sent me in a different direction. Maybe I would have married a different woman, gone to a different college, chosen a different profession, or lived in a different state. The fact remains, however, that I made certain choices that resulted in certain outcomes. So it is with me being an Evangelical Christian for 50 years of my life. I was born to Evangelical parents, grew up in an Evangelical home, attended Evangelical churches, went to an Evangelical college, and married an Evangelical woman. We spent the next twenty-five years ministering in Evangelical congregations, gave birth to six Evangelical children, and had numerous Evangelical cats and dogs.

My life was so deeply immersed in the Way, Truth, and Life of Evangelical Christianity that even today, eleven years removed from the day I walked out the Ney United Methodist Church for the last time, I wrestle with the vestigial remains of Evangelicalism. Now, this does not mean that I, deep down in my heart of hearts, still yearn to be a Christian. I don’t. What it does mean, however, is that five decades of Evangelical training and indoctrination left a deep scar upon my life; a scar that is fading with time, but will likely never totally fade away.

It is certainly true that coming to understand that the Bible was not an inspired, inerrant, infallible text shook my religious foundation. “If the Bible is NOT what Evangelicals claim it is,” I asked myself, “are any of its teachings true?” Answering this question forced me to re-study the central claims of Christianity; especially beliefs that were supernatural in nature. From creation to apocalypse, I took a careful look at the doctrines I once held dear. I painfully concluded that the central claims of Christianity could not be rationally and intellectually sustained.

I have always been the type of person who follows the evidence wherever it leads. This is why my theological foundation shifted several times when I was a Christian. I entered the ministry as an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher. Over time, I abandoned cheap grace, one-two-three, repeat-after-me soteriology and embraced Calvinism. A decade or so later I abandoned Calvinism. When I left the ministry in 2005, I was preaching what some of my critics called a social, works-based gospel. I was a far different preacher and man in 2005 from the one I was when I enrolled in classes at Midwestern Baptist College in 1976. Time changes all of us, and I am no exception.

Take my eschatological beliefs. For many years, I held to a dispensational, pretribulational, premillennial eschatology. Once I embraced Calvinism, I adopted a posttribulational, amillennial eschatology. Countless other beliefs changed over the years. The more I read, the more my beliefs evolved. This approach to gaining knowledge continued as I contemplated leaving Christianity. The goal has always been the same: to know the truth.

“Why didn’t I become a liberal Christian?” you might ask. Surely, I could have abandoned Evangelicalism, yet held on to the Christian God. Maybe, but I doubt it. I value truth more than many liberal/progressive Christians do. Liberals seem willing to jettison virtually every Christian belief save believing in the existence of Jesus/God. Their beliefs can fit on the front side of a 3×5 card. I find myself asking, “why bother?” Such people are usually universalists, so there’s no concern about unbelief landing anyone in Hell. I suppose there is value in the social aspects of belonging to a church, but I enjoy sleeping in on Sundays far more than I do listening to terrible, lifeless sermons and attempting to sing songs best suited for the Vienna Boys Choir.

After I left the ministry and before I deconverted, our family visited over 100 churches in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Arizona, and California. (Please see But Our Church is DIFFERENT!) We attended churches across the sectarian Christian spectrum. The only churches we avoided were IFB congregations. Our goal was to find a church to call home that took seriously the teachings of Jesus. After three years of searching, we concluded that all the churches we visited were pretty much the same. Sure, we experienced different liturgies, different worship/preaching styles, etc., but at a foundational level, these churches differed very little from each other.  I know, I know, every church thinks theirs is “special.”  Every church thinks their buffet is better than those of other churches. Every church thinks their flavor of ice cream (please see My Heart Goes Out to You or Please Try my Flavor of Ice Cream) is better than any other flavor. That’s what happens when you spend your life in inbred relationships; when you spend your life in religious bubbles that give the appearance of rightness. Ultimately, it was exposure to the “world” that led me down the path of deconversion. Once freed from the authoritarian hold of the inerrant Word of God, I was free to read and study whatever I wanted. I was no longer walled in by Evangelical beliefs. I was free to follow the path wherever it went. This led to where I am today.

About Bruce Gerencser

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

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

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.

Questions: What Happened?

i have a question

I put out the call to readers, asking them for questions they would like me to answer. If you have a question, please leave it here or email me. All questions will be answered in the order in which they are received.

Steve asked:

What was unanswered for me by your comments on faith and the loss of your faith in God, is what happened. I wrestle with confusing contradictions of definition and practice in my own life, but for me God never got lost in that ongoing struggle. In fact, my frailty and understanding of my human weakness has come clearly into view while the faithfulness and forgiveness of God is my only hope. I just want to understand what happened on the path from your faith in God to atheism. Maybe how did you come to faith first and what dissolved it?

Life has been very hard, but God is still real. What made that different for you?

Since December 2014, I have written 3,545 posts, totaling 2,963,575 words. Suffice it to say, I have written extensively about my journey from Evangelicalism to atheism. I have told, re-told, and told again what led me to file for divorce from Jesus. Yet, despite all of this, many Christians still don’t understand WHY I am no longer a Christian. Steve is one such person.

Why do some Christians have such a hard time understanding my story; understanding my loss of faith? The main reason, I believe, is their inability to wrap their minds around the fact of a devoted, committed Evangelical pastor turning his back on everything he held dear. Jesus is the everything of Evangelicalism. He’s a lover, savior, friend, and confidant. He is the alpha and omega; the first and the last; the beginning and the end. I am sure Steve wonders, “why would anyone ever want to walk away from Jesus; walk away from the forgiveness of sins and life eternal; walk away from a life filled with meaning, purpose, and direction?”

I pastored thousands of people over the course of twenty-five years in the ministry. More than a few people struggle with accepting that I am no longer a Christian; that I am no longer a pastor; that I am no longer the passionate lover of Jesus they warmly and lovingly called Preacher. These people reflect on my sermons, passion for evangelism, commitment to sound doctrine, and tireless labors and ask themselves, “what happened?”

What happened, as I have detailed numerous times, is that once I no longer believed that the Bible was an inspired, inerrant, infallible text, I was then free to re-examine the claims of Christianity. I spent countless hours pondering the beliefs I once held dear. Sure, there were emotional aspects of my deconversion, but ultimately my decision to walk away from Christianity had to do with one simple fact: I no longer believed the central claims of Christianity to be true. I concluded cardinal doctrines such as the virgin birth of Jesus, his resurrection from the dead, and the miracles recorded in the gospels could not be rationally sustained. (Please see The Michael Mock Rule: It Just Doesn’t Make Sense) Once these beliefs fell by the wayside it was clear to me that whatever I was, I wasn’t a Christian. So, on the last Sunday of November in 2008, I walked out of the back door of the Ney United Methodist Church, never to return.

Yes, Bruce, I get all that, but WHAT happened? And therein lies the problem for many of my interlocutors. They have convinced themselves that I am hiding a secret of some sort — the REAL reason I deconverted. What such people want is an emotional explanation for my loss of faith. Surely there’s a trauma of some sort buried deep in the recesses of my story. I hate to break it to people, but there’s no untold secret. I have done all I can possibly do to honestly, openly, and completely tell my story. I don’t know what else I can say to people other than to say, read my blog! (Start with the WHY page.)

Part of the problem for Christians such as Steve is that they compare their lives to mine. Steve speaks of living a hard life, yet knowing that the Christian God is real and ever with him. Surely, it should be the same for me, right? I am not one to compare my life to the lives of others. Life is complex and messy, and each of us has unique circumstances and experiences. Instead of trying to find the one thing that led to my loss of faith, I wish Christians would just accept my story at face value. Many Christians cannot square my story with their own stories and beliefs. That’s not my problem. All I know is this: I once was saved, and now I am not. I once was a follower of Jesus, and now I am not.

Christians often look for defects in my story. Steve asking about how I came to faith is a good example of this approach. If a defect in the conversion process can be found, then my story makes perfect sense. I never was a Christian! See, I didn’t follow the right steps. Of course, such thinking is absurd. In the twenty-five years I spent pastoring churches, not one congregant, Christian friend, or ministerial colleague ever doubted my salvation or commitment to Christian orthodoxy and the teachings of the Bible. It’s disingenuous to say I never was a Christian. Nothing in my frail, imperfect life suggested that I was anything but a Christian.

I can’t keep Christians from combing through my life, looking for glosses, weaknesses, and contradictions. I know what I know, and that’s all that matters. I have published enough information about my life for anyone so inclined to come to a conclusion about my faith and subsequent atheism. People looking for secrets are sure to be disappointed. Well, except for my “secret” life as a pole dancer and stripper. Coming soon to a strip club near you! (Please see the ABOUT page.)

About Bruce Gerencser

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

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