Earlier, I posted an article about how many Evangelicals contend that I never was a True Christian®; that I never met the REAL JESUS. Unsurprisingly, I often get similar treatment from hardcore — dare I say, Fundamentalist — atheists. According to these atheists, I am crypto-Christian, posing as an atheist; that deep down I am still a follower of Jesus — or at the very least want to be. In their minds, all religion is bad, and the Abrahamic religions are the worst of the bunch. That I am an accommodationist and believe Jesus was a real, flesh-and-blood historical figure says to them that I really haven’t left Christianity behind. That I have good things to say about my Christian past, and I am willing to commend Christians when they do good in Jesus’s name, is more proof to them that under my atheist veneer beats the heart of a man who is having a secret affair with Christianity.
Years ago, I attended an atheist meeting in Fort Wayne, Indiana, that featured theologian and atheist Robert M. Price. I thoroughly enjoyed Price’s lecture. During the Question and Answer period, one man — an outspoken atheist — challenged Price’s respect for certain aspects of Christianity. The man said, tell me one good thing Christians have done in 20 centuries that couldn’t have been done without religion. This led to a brief back and forth between Price and his accuser. Sadly, nothing Price said made any difference to this man. He was a Fundamentalist, and one of his cardinal doctrines was that all religion was bad. He was settled in his beliefs about Christianity. He and I later got into an email skirmish about the matter. I concluded, then, that I was an atheist, but I am was not one of THOSE atheists. I hold to this sentiment today.
Tim O’Neill, an acquaintance of mine, is also often accused of being a crypto-Christian. Tim blogs at the History for Atheists website. If you are not a reader of Tim’s writing, I encourage you to check out his site. Good stuff. Mythicist Richard Carrier says this about fellow atheist O’Neill:
Tim O’Neill is a known liar …. an asscrank …. a hack …. a tinfoil hatter …. stupid …. a crypto-Christian, posing as an atheist …. a pseudo-atheist shill for Christian triumphalism [and] delusionally insane.
I have received numerous emails over the years from atheists angered over my friendliness towards Christianity (or my liberal political beliefs). Funny, isn’t it? Evangelicals think I am hostile towards Christianity, and some atheists believe Jesus is my secret fuck buddy. Can’t win, so I don’t try. Both sides use the No True Scotsman argument to suggest that I never was or I am not part of their club. Fortunately, my mother and my Evangelical training taught me to stand on my own two feet and not be a company man. I am more than willing to listen to honest, thoughtful critiques of my beliefs, but demand that I believe this or that or risk losing my Atheist Card, and you will learn how recalcitrant I can be. Evangelicals can at least threaten me with their mythical Hell. What are atheists going to threaten me with? Loss of their support? Loss of their comments? Please. I am almost sixty-two years old. I am a confirmed curmudgeon. Want to be friends with me? Fine, but you take me as I am. If not, that’s okay. I have more than enough atheist, agnostic, humanist, and pagan friends to carry me safely to my grave. I am too old to worry about making new atheist BFF’s.
I will continue write about the excesses and dangers I see in American Evangelicalism. I will continue to point out hypocritical clerics in the Black Collar Crime series. I will continue to push back against the unholy alliance between church and state. And yes, most of all, I will continue to tell my story. What I won’t do, however, is hate people just because they are religious, even if they are Evangelicals. I live in an area where seven out of ten people are registered Republicans and virtually everyone believes in Jesus. If I want to happily and quietly live in rural northwest Ohio, then I must be willing to get along with people of faith. I choose to love my neighbor as myself. I choose to have a good testimony before my Christian neighbors. I want my way of life, my words, and my friendliness towards them to be confusing. I want my life to be in direct conflict with what their pastors say atheists believe and how they live. Does anyone seriously think that I would make any difference in my community if I loudly, publicly, and angrily preached from the housetops, Jesus Never Existed! Why, they would think I was a loon.
The other day, a local Democratic party worker, who is a devoted Catholic and a friend, stopped by my home while she was out canvassing. She told me as she leaving, Bruce, you may be an atheist, but you have gospel values. I smiled as she said this to me, thanking her for the kind words. Should I have given her a lesson on where atheists derive their morals and values? Of course not. What she was telling me is that she appreciated my pro-human progressive values. I am sure my atheism doesn’t compute for her, but the manner in which I live my life and the way I am willing to speak out when it matters tells her what kind of man I am. That Fundamentalists — Christian or atheist — can’t or refuse to see and accept me as I am is their problem, not mine.
On occasion, I am asked why I seem to live on the fringe of the atheist movement. Perhaps, this post better explains why I do so. I have decided to be my own man, tell my story the best I know how, and leave the results up to God, uh I mean . . .
About Bruce Gerencser
Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.
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