America’s secular populace is beyond mere secularism [proof for this claim?]. Over 40% are fully prepared to submit to Antichrist [proof for this statistic?]. A large percentage [again, proof for this claim?] are hedonistic [like John Piper with his Christian hedonism?], anarchist, licentious, have the mind of Satan, promote infanticide, promote or practice sexual perversion, image mutilation [I have no idea what this means. Messing up a photo in Photoshop?] and gender alteration, et cetera [proof for this assertion?]. In short—they are demonic. They have elected politicians that would destroy this nation in an instant [lie] and some are fully involved in that process [bigger lie]. Their hatred for anyone and anything Christian is flagrant, ominous, and explosive [Trump-sized lie].
This quote is from C.H. Fisher is what is commonly known as Grade A bullshit. This is what people say when their minds have been taken captive by right-wing extremism and Fundamentalist Christianity. Fisher is so “pure” that he had to start a church in his home for like-minded zealots.
It concerns me that more than a few atheists dismiss religious beliefs as quaint, silly relics that pose no threat or concern to them. Unfortunately, ignorance and indifference about religious beliefs can and does have catastrophic consequences. One need only to look to the election of Donald Trump to see what happens when religious beliefs are ignored. More than eighty percent of voting white Evangelicals voted for our pussy-grabber-in-chief. Trump, ever the con-man, used Evangelical beliefs about social hot-button issues to his advantage. Trump is no more a Christian than I am, yet he and his handlers knew that exploiting Evangelicals religious beliefs would help them gain the White House. While some Evangelical voters have buyers regret, many of them continue to support Trump, regardless of how many prostitutes and porn stars come out of his closet. All that matters to them is that Trump supports their values and ideals. You see, beliefs matter.
As an atheist, I believe that Evangelical Christianity is built upon numerous lies; namely that the Christian God exists, Jesus is God, Jesus was resurrected from the dead, and that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. These four lies in particular fundamentally and ruinously affect the lives of those who believe them, especially those who spend decades as Evangelical believers. These lies affect how Evangelicals think about the world and their place in it. These lies affect how Evangelicals view others, especially those who don’t believe as they do. And most importantly, these lies affect how Evangelicals vote and engage the political process.
I am well aware that Evangelicals are somewhat diverse in belief and practice. I also realize that a smattering of Evangelicals hold progressive/liberal values. However, in the main, Evangelicals are united when it comes to the four lies mentioned above. These lies, along with others, are what make them Evangelical. If a person professes to be an Evangelical, yet rejects one or more of the aforementioned lies, then it is fair to say that he or she is Evangelical in name only.
Of these four lies, two of them have the potential to cause the greatest harm. I want to conclude this post by briefly examining these two lies.
First, the lie that Jesus resurrected from the dead fundamentally affects how Evangelicals view life and death. Why aren’t most Evangelicals concerned with global climate change? Why do they show little interest in ending war, famine, and violence? In the resurrection of Jesus, Evangelicals see the power of the Almighty on display. Their God has power over life and death. Their God controls everything, and if Jesus is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end, and he holds the world in the palm of his hand, why worry about the future? In their minds, God has an unalterable, unassailable plan for everyone. We live and die when God says we do. What happens between life and death is up to God. When you believe your God can do anything, well, anything and everything is possible. No need to worry, the one true God is always on the job.
Jesus, of course, did not rise from the dead. Jesus was human, just like the rest of us. When he died on a Roman cross, he stayed dead, never to rise again. Understanding this fact causes people to behave differently. If Jesus was a mere mortal who lived and died, then there is no hell to shun and heaven to gain. All we have is the here and now. What matters, then, is how we live in the present, knowing that what we do affects future generations, for good or ill. There’s no God coming to our rescue. There’s no God who is going to make our lives brand new. It doesn’t take much imagination to understand how different the thinking is between someone who believes the resurrection lie and someone who doesn’t.
Second, the lie that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God materially affects how Evangelicals live their day-to-day lives. People’s beliefs that the Bible is some sort of divine roadmap or blueprint for life affects the choices and decisions they make. The Sounds of Fundamentalism and Christians Say the Darnedest Things series aptly reflect what happens when people really, really, really believe that the Bible is a direct message to them from God. Why are Evangelicals endlessly up-in-arms over hot-button social issues? The Bible. Why do Evangelicals believe that the United States is a Christian nation and that the separation of church and state is harmful to their faith? The Bible. Why are Evangelicals anti-woman, anti-abortion, anti-birth control, anti-LGBT, anti-gun control, anti-same-sex marriage, and anti, anti, anti? The Bible. From invectives against how women dress to calls for Muslims/illegal immigrants to be sent back where they came from, the justification for such violence against people is found in the Bible.
If we want a better tomorrow, secularists and progressive people of faith must attack and destroy the lie that the Bible is in any way some sort of supernatural message sent to humans by a supernatural God. While the Bible certainly has teachings that have cultural and social value, in the main the Bible remains a Bronze Age religious text that has little relevance for today. In fact, the Bible is one of the most dangerous books ever written. When literally believed, it becomes a weapon with the power to kill and destroy. Religious Fundamentalism (and Evangelicalism is inherently Fundamentalist) harms everything it touches. We must not allow the lie about the nature of the Bible to go unchallenged. Ignoring the power the Bible holds over Evangelicals will only further our democracy’s demise. When people who believe the Bible is divine gain the power of the state, we shouldn’t be surprised when the United States becomes a theocracy. If we don’t want the Christian flag flying over the White House, we must muster every available tool in the secularist, rationalist toolbox to expose the lie that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God.
I realize my words might seem harsh to some of my Evangelical readers. But, recent battles over gun control, abortion, LGBT rights, same-sex marriage, and immigration have taught me that this is not the time to live and let live. If truth is to prevail, then lies must be exposed. If truth really matters to Americans, then exposing Evangelical Christianity for what it is — a religious political party — is essential. All one needs to do is look at the Ohio legislature, Congress, and the Trump presidency to see what believing lies can do. Sitting idly on the sidelines watching Bart Ehrman debates on YouTube or reading the latest, greatest book on atheism is not the answer. Like it or not, non-Evangelicals must educate themselves about Evangelical beliefs and practices. In doing so, we are better equipped to wage war against the cultural genocide being waged in the name of God. One of the reasons I continue to slog through Evangelical blogs, websites, and social media is because I know it is important to do so; not so much for myself, but for my children and grandchildren. By exposing what it is Evangelicals say and do, I shine a light on their absurdities and lies. Just remember, Evangelicals really do believe the words they write and speak. That alone should scare all of us into action.
Remember, beliefs matter.
Takeshi Kovacs is a character in books written by Richard K/ Morgan — Altered Carbon, Broken Angels, and Woken Furies. Altered Carbon was recently turned into a Netflix series starring Joel Kinnaman as Takeshi Kovacs. I watched the first season of Altered Carbon and found it to a delightful, yet complex futuristic drama. I heartily recommend it for your viewing.
About Bruce Gerencser
Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven 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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Having been an Evangelical pastor for twenty-five years and now a card-carrying member of Satan’s atheistic horde, I have gained a bit of notoriety that attracts people doing studies about clergymen who have left the ministry and lost their faith. I am a rare duck in one respect: most men and women who leave the ministry do so when they are younger. In my case, I was fifty years old before I turned in my ministerial union card. My counselor told me that it is rare for pastors my age to walk away from a lifetime of ministry, even if they no longer believe. (Please read Leaving Christianity: Why I Was an Old Man Before I Deconverted.)
When asked to give interviews or participate in studies, I always say yes. Ever the preacher, I want to tell the good news of atheism far and wide. I want doubting and unbelieving Evangelicals to know that there can be life — good life — after breaking up with Jesus. Last year, Dan Delaney — who was working on his Master of Arts in Sociology thesis at the University of Louisville — contacted me and asked if he could interview me for a study he was conducting. I gladly said yes, and now Dan’s completed study has been published.
Dan recently emailed me to let me know that his study had been published. Here is some of what he had to say:
A lot of very interesting concepts came out of it that I never anticipated. I also had the good fortune of being able to present portions of it at the Association for the Sociology of Religion conference last August, and at the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion conference last November, and it was very well received. Everyone at both conferences was extremely interested in the results. I’m now going to start the arduous process of trying to break this thing down into small chunks to get published as journal articles.
Dan’s thesis is available on the internet. You can read it here. Dan used pseudonyms in his study, so my name is Stephen.
Secular but not Superficial: An Overlooked Nonreligious/Nonspiritual Identity Abstract:
Since Durkheim’s characterization of the sacred and profane as “antagonistic rivals,” the strict dichotomy has been framed in such a way that “being religious” evokes images of a life filled with profound meaning and value, while “being secular” evokes images of a meaningless, self-centered, superficial life, often characterized by materialistic consumerism and the cold, heartless environment of corporate greed. Consequently, to identify as “neither religious nor spiritual” runs the risk of being stigmatized as superficial, untrustworthy, and immoral. Conﬂicts and confusions encountered in the process of negotiating a nonreligious/nonspiritual identity, caused by the ambiguous nature of religious language, were explored through qualitative interviews with 14 ex-ministers and 1 atheist minister—individuals for whom supernaturalist religion had formed the central core of identity, but who have deconverted and no longer hold supernatural beliefs. Te cognitive linguistics approach of Frame Semantics was applied to the process of “oppositional identity work” to examine why certain identity labels are avoided or embraced due to considerations of the cognitive frames evoked by those labels.
Through the constant comparative method of grounded theory, a host of useful theoretical concepts emerged from the data. Several impediments to the construction of a “secular but not superficial” identity were identified, and a framework of new theoretical concepts developed to make sense of them: sense disparity, frame disparity, identity misfire, foiled identity, sense conﬂation, and conﬂated frames. Several consequences arising from these impediments were explored: (1) consequences of sense conﬂation and conﬂated frames for the study of religion; (2) consequences of conﬂated frames for religious terminology; and (3) consequences of the negation of conﬂated frames for those who identify as not religious, not spiritual, or not Christian. Additionally, four types of oppositional identity work were identified and analyzed: (1) avoidance identity work, (2) dissonant identity work, (3) adaptive identity work, and (4) alternative identity work. Finally, the concept of conﬂated frames was applied to suggest a new interpretation of the classic Weberian disenchantment narrative.
Now, I’m glad the Bible’s not a textbook of science like those used in public schools, because it would change all the time. Many ideas have come and gone. For example, most of the evolutionary beliefs used by scientists in the transcript of the Scopes Trial have been abandoned—but God’s Word remains the same. It is the infallible Word of God—the true history book of the universe.
Secularists often accuse us of reading Genesis literally but not other portions of the Bible. We point out that we should read the Bible naturally. There is history (e.g., Genesis), poetry (e.g., Psalms), prophecy (e.g., Isaiah), and so on. Different genres of writing require different interpretative methods. Historical documents such as Genesis are not intended to be taken figuratively.
Secularists also attack Christians for not following Old Testament laws. But most secularists have no understanding of the Old Covenant and New Covenant—and they don’t want to. They want to distort and attack the Word.
I’m burdened for those described in the Bible as “having no hope and without God in the world”, which is why we boldly proclaim truth. My challenge to secularists is this: the evidence of creation is obvious, so “do not be unbelieving, but believing” and “lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light”.
When you reject God’s Word in Genesis and interpret it through the lens of man’s fallible, opinionated word, more and more compromise is sure to follow. You see, when you start compromising in one area of the Bible, it isn’t long before compromise shows up in other areas. My challenge to all believers is this: believe all of God’s Word!
People are born and die, but “the word of our God stands forever” — and no person can ever change that! Secularists can’t change this: “The entirety of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever”.
Many people try to change God’s Word, particularly in Genesis, but “forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven”.
Little by little, the secularists have been outlawing Christianity from the culture. Through misinformation, bullying, and intimidation, they have been succeeding. And because so many Christians have been so secularized by the public education system, they have largely not put up a fight.
And if this trend keeps happening, do you want a picture of where America is headed in the future? Just look at England. …. Warning! What is happening in the United States has already happened in Britain. That’s where America is heading.
I would say the decline is happening for the same basic reason: God’s people didn’t stand on God’s Word from its beginning. In this era, the compromise between evolution/millions of years and Genesis began in England and spread around the world. Really, what’s happened to the church throughout England is actually the outworking of a church that has compromised God’s Word with man’s fallible ideas. Furthermore, the church has largely handed over the education of generations to the state.
This same compromise is rife in the church in the United States. At the same time, generations of children in America have been educated in schools that have increasingly outlawed anything Christian.
I believe this is why the Lord has raised up ministries like Answers in Genesis, the Creation Museum, and the new Ark Encounter. God is using these outreaches to equip Christians to stand against the secular attacks of our day and to challenge (in a very public and bold way) non-Christians with the truth of God’s Word and the gospel.
God has allowed AiG to build the Creation Museum and the Ark because I believe there are many godly people who will take a stand on the authority of the Word of God.
While we still have the freedom to boldly proclaim the message of God’s Word to the world, I pray you will support us in prayer to do whatever we can to embolden God’s people and reach millions with the saving gospel. I urge you to help us to stand against those who would try to completely outlaw Christianity from the culture. ….cc If God’s people don’t contend for the faith, we will see Christianity outlawed even further in our culture! I implore you to stand up for your faith. In a very public way (with an increasing number of scoffers trying to stop us), AiG is contending for the faith through many ministries like the Creation Museum and now the Ark Encounter.
Is Christianity being outlawed? Of course not. Christians are free to worship whenever, however, wherever, with whomever. Christian public school students are free to individually pray and read the Bible in school. Evangelicals are free to send their children to Christian schools or home school them. Christians are even free to build monuments to ignorance such as the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum. Evangelicals are free to evangelize their neighbors and stand on street corners preaching the gospel. Christianity is freer here in America than any other country on earth. Christian ministers get special tax exemptions/deductions, as do the churches they pastor.
Despite freedom of belief, worship, and practice that all Christians (and non-Christians) enjoy, charlatans such as Ken Ham continue to say that their brand of religious Fundamentalism is under attack. Ham says secularists are trying to ban Christianity. Knowing everything that I have mentioned above, how can Ham continue to lie about this? The very fact that Ham can build a damn wood boat on dry Kentucky land and say it is a testament to God’s saving grace is proof that secularists are NOT trying to ban Christianity. Most secularists don’t care about with whom, where, and how people worship their respective deities. Simply put…WE DON’T CARE!
We do, however, care about Evangelical (and Catholic and Mormon) attempts to breach the wall of separation of church and state. We do care when Evangelicals ignore the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, saying that God’s law trumps man’s law. We do care when Evangelicals attempt to sneak creationism and its gussied-up sister, intelligent design, into SECULAR public school classrooms. We do care when Evangelicals wrongly assert that America is a Christian nation and that the Bible should be the law of the land. And most of all, we do care when Evangelicals attempt to hijack local, state, and federal government for their own purposes.
Secularists stand resolutely against ANY attempt to merge church and state. We are students of history, knowing that when church and state are one, freedoms are lost and people die. If anyone is a threat to America and human freedom and liberty, it is theocrats such as Ken Ham. Does Ham want more or less freedom for those who do not share his religious sentiments? Less! Does Ham support the wall of separation between church and state? Does Ham think people should be free to live godless, heathen lives? Does Ham think consenting adults should be free to do sexually as they please? Does Ham support fairness, justice and equal protection under the law for all? No, on all counts. It is Ham and his Fundamentalist horde who want to rob Americans of their freedoms, not secularists. The real enemy, Ken, is You!
What will be the final death stroke for America? From one perspective, only God knows what instrument of death He will use to bring about America’s demise. There are a number of powerful international leaders (along with some in our country) who are collectively working untiringly to bring about the final death blow to America. For America seems to be the last bastion of morality, truth, absolutes, and the dignity of liberty remaining on the earth. It is the final obstacle against a long-desired New World Order. Many ideological diseases have been inflicted upon this nation to weaken its strength. The strong man has been bound from within; we are now witnessing the death of this strong man. But amidst the counsel of the wicked, only God will bring the final death blow to America. His judgment will be because of our overwhelming sins and our covenant with the Prince of Darkness.
We have observed the rise and fall of communism, and the implementation of socialism within this country. We have also observed the trilogy of God giving up a society according to Romans 1. But another aspect to be addressed is the acclimatization of America to secularism. …. When Liberalism and Modernism made their debut during the mid-1800s, they created a destructive force against the Bible’s literalness; this attack in return destroyed the authority of the Bible in man’s thinking. Thus, in time it destroyed the place of God’s presence and authority in man’s living. These were the early stages of secularism. Once such a reality was evident among the leaders of the Church, the momentum of secularism over-whelmingly increased.
Charles Robert Darwin brought another dimension to the process through his presentation of evolution. Although evolution had been known through the writings of Lamarck, Darwin added a philosophical context to the view that went on to permeate not only science but also all of the social sciences. By the mid-1900s, after the forces of Neo-Orthodoxy through Existentialism kept pounding away at the literalness of the Bible, Radical Theology gave its contribution to secularize the secular. It called for the “death of God” in everything including religion. Even John Robinson in his writing Honest to God called for a secularizing of religion. Neo-Evangelicalism brought the conservative church closer to the world’s thinking by doing away with biblical separation. Following hard on its heels was the Charismatic movement which made the feelings of man equal or even synonymous with the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
We cannot blame the world for secularism; it has been the mutating of error within the Church that has cast God out. The Laodicean Church Age, because of its emphasis upon prosperity and physical health, has become a Christless church; its embrace of the secular has become more powerful than the spiritual. Most Christians today have no vision for God; such a vision certainly is not evident in secular society. Western civilization no longer has any remote concept of who God is, what He is, and how He acts. Outside the walls of the church God is absent and obviously omitted. People are crying out today that if God did exist why would He allow all of the violence that is found throughout the land. Well, we must remember the courts banned God from our schools; therefore, we cannot blame Him for what is happening. The daily newspapers have their society pages, their sports page, their entertainment section, and even the religious section. But nothing is said about God. The media through television and cinema are conspicuously silent in their treatment of God. Such silence about God reigns in all of the sit-coms while the sodomy theme pushes the envelope of the final frontier of immorality in the media.
The contemporary view of the supernatural is now through the eyes of Harry Potter, where it is evident God is not to be found in his supernatural world. The primer of God consciousness that was found in most children is now being interpreted through the occult. The present generation is allowing nothing to have the presence of God; nothing is allowed to speak of God unless it is in a damning way. Everything in our contemporary which speaks in the schools, in the medical world, in the entertainment world, the science world, the art and music world, and even from the religious world have all labored at keeping God out of the conversation. America has been secularized in its lifestyle and philosophy. The secular world has become secularized. We are in the final throes of its acclimatization before the coming of Christ and Antichrist. …. There are other symbolic powers that may become part of the dismantling of America in the providence of God (which we will discuss in the next issue of Straightway). We now face a presidential election like none before, which may plunge us into the final destruction of our nation (as we have historically known it). We will be thrust into a greater global interdependence that could result in a complete global takeover. There is also the total collapse of morality in our country that has become such an aggressive, terrorist force that it is contributing to an emotional retaliation among the grass-roots of society; this unrest could easily lead to a mutinous rise against the government producing wide-spread disintegration of the fabric of America. Yes, there are a number of scenarios that God could use, even the combination of a number of them, to bring about the final judgment of our once beloved country. The Secretary of State John Kerry pressed in his recent address to the graduates of Northeastern University the hope of the coming New World Order. One of the aspects he announced was the hope of a “borderless world.” The Utopians of our day have promised a “Land of Canaan” in a world without God. This is their vision, their dream, and they are calling upon the world to imagine such a world without God and religion.
May God bring us through these troubled and perilous times. Our only hope is for the Lord to come and take His waiting people home to heaven, knowing that one day we will return to this earth with Christ Who will rule with His saints. This is the New World Order for which we are watching and waiting.
This is the fifty-fourth installment in The Sounds of Fundamentalism series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a video clip that shows the crazy, cantankerous, or contradictory side of Evangelical Christianity, please send me an email with the name or link to the video. Please do not leave suggestions in the comment section. Let’s have some fun!
Today’s Sound of Fundamentalism is a clip taken from a Pat Robertson interview of Jerry Falwell. These words were uttered two days after 9-11.
What follows is a video produced by Tim Wildmon and the American Family Association. This video purports to “explain” to Fundamentalist zealots the true nature and ideology of secular progressivism. What the video really does is show that Wildmon and his costars either know very little about secularism and progressivism or they are deliberately lying in hopes of providing yet another red meat meal for culture warriors. My money is on the latter. This video is 3 minutes long. Enjoy!
Arizona House Democrat Juan Mendez. Representative Mendez is an atheist.
What follows is a video of Arizona House Democrat Representative Juan Mendez offering a secular prayer at the start of the legislative session. The video also shows the reaction of Christian Republican legislators to Representative Mendez’s prayer. Only one legislator defended Mendez’s prayer — assistant Democratic leader Representative Bruce Wheeler. I was astounded to hear Wheeler — a Roman Catholic — state that Catholic legislators are not permitted to attend the weekly Arizona House Bible study. Let this video be a reminder of what happens when Evangelicals ignore the law and carve out special rights for their religion.
A top House leader slapped down a Democratic lawmaker today for using the time set aside for prayer to instead give thanks for diverse beliefs — including the belief there is no higher power.
Majority Leader Steve Montenegro declared that Rep. Juan Mendez, D-Tempe, had violated House rules that require that each day’s session begin with a “prayer.” That’s because Mendez, an atheist, used the time to talk about the “pluralistic society.”
And he made a point of saying that, from his perspective seeking divine intervention or hoping for a place in the afterlife is unnecessary.
“We need not tomorrow’s promise of reward to do good deeds today,” Mendez said. “For some may seek the assistance of a higher power with hands in their air, there are those of us that are prepared to assist directly, with our hands to the earth.”
That invocation, Montenegro complained, left the House without the required prayer. So House Speaker David Gowan, who clearly was prepared for the dust-up, called the Rev. Mark Mucklow — who conveniently was on the House floor — to fulfill the obligation.
Mucklow obliged, with a lengthy prayer asking God to direct and lead lawmakers. And to put a point on what was missing before, he asked that “at least one voice today say, ‘Thank you, God bless you and bless your families.’ “
Then other lawmakers began piling on Mendez.
Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, said the time at the beginning of the session is set aside for prayer. He said lawmakers have a right to say anything else they want — but only after the prayer.
“I’m saddened and offended that a member of this body would knowingly disregard our call for prayer and our House rules,” he said. Finchem said there needs to be a time for prayer, “lifting this body up to the God that we speak of when we say our Pledge of Allegiance.”
“We are ‘One nation under God,’ “ Finchem said. “This republican form of government came out of the Book of Exodus,” he continued, saying “it is a matter of fact.”
Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, said she believes the First Amendment is important.
“Not everybody in this room is Christian or Mormon or Jewish,” she continued. “I think it’s important we respect each other.”
But she said Mendez was wrong in using the time for the prayer for his invocation.
“It’s not time to be proselytizing even if you’re proselytizing something that’s not a religion,” Townsend said.
“I personally took offense at some of the words that were said,” she continued.
Rep. Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, said he was upset about Mendez saying that while some look to a higher power that others help directly. He said Mendez was “impugning not me, but in a small way millions of people, women and men that are part of our pluralistic society that use their faith and their belief in a God … they allow to guide them in serving directly, every day and all day.”
Rep. Bruce Wheeler, D-Tucson, said he doesn’t personally believe as does Mendez.
“But he has every right to say and voice what he said on the floor today,” he said.
Montenegro pointed out that he put out a memo earlier in the session spelling out what is acceptable as a prayer under House rules. And he said what Mendez said does not comply.
“Prayer, as commonly understood and in the long-honored tradition of the Arizona House of Representatives, is a solemn request for guidance and help from God,” Montenegro wrote in that memo. He said anything else — including a moment of silence — does not meet that requirement.
Rep. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, said he doesn’t need a memo to know that what Mendez said is not a prayer.
“We know what it looks like, we know what it is,” he said.
“We also know what it looks like when someone is desecrating or mocking someone else’s beliefs,” Petersen said. And he said those who want to do that using his or her freedom of speech, they can — but not during the time reserve for prayer. ….
I am of the opinion that the advent of the internet is hastening America’s march towards secularism and unbelief. Prior to Al Gore inventing the internet, knowledge was controlled by academic institutions, libraries, churches, and mainstream media outlets. Today, Americans are exposed to dizzying amount of data. Thanks to Google, known as GOD at our house, the answers to every question are but a search away.
Before the internet, Evangelicals relied on their pastors and Sunday school teachers to tell them the “truth” about God, Jesus, church history, and the Bible. Questions and doubts were taken to pastors for resolution. These men of God were expected to speak authoritatively and put church members’ doubts to rest. Doubt is a tool used by Satan to rob Christians of their joy, peace, and happiness, countless Evangelical pastors told their congregations. If in doubt, just BELIEVE! The problem, of course, is that most people, Christians included, do have doubts and questions. Now that three-fourths of American homes have broadband internet access, doubting and questioning Evangelicals no longer have to rely on their pastors for answers.
I started blogging in 2007. At the time, I was still a Christian. On the last Sunday of 2008, I attended church for the last time. Filled with questions and doubts that had been percolating for years, I came to the realization that I was no longer a Christian. The internet played a crucial part in my deconversion. It connected me with like-minded people, those with similar doubts, questions, and fears. Thanks to internet (and search engines), hundreds of thousands of people have come to this blog (or one of its previous iterations) seeking answers to their questions and interaction with like-minded people. I have been blessed to meet countless people from the vast corners of the world. I have hundreds of what I call digital friends, people I likely will never meet, but who play an important and helpful part in my life. And I hope that in some small way, telling my story and critiquing Evangelical Christianity has been a help to those who visit this site.
Recently, I stumbled upon a post by Joel Miller. Miller’s blog is hosted by Patheos on the Evangelical channel. In April of 2014, Miller wrote a post titled, Is Internet Porn to Blame for the Rise of the Nones? He later changed the title to How Internet Porn Explains the Decline of American Faith. Miller, who is vice president of acquisitions for Nelson Books at Thomas Nelson, doesn’t think the internet plays an instrumental part in the rapid rise of the NONES, those who self-identify as atheists, agnostics, or indifferent towards religion. Instead, Miller blames porn. That’s right. It is not doubts and questions that have caused a loss of faith; it is easy access to internet pornography.
Since the early 1990s, there has been a significant uptick in Americans abandoning their faith. After crunching the numbers, one researcher says contributing factors such as upbringing and education only explain part of the increase. What about the rest?
After controlling for variables like income, environment, and so on, computer scientist Allen Downey of Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts found 25 percent of the decline can be correlated with Internet access. More Web, less faith.
Why? Here’s Downey’s stab at an answer: “For people living in homogeneous communities, the Internet provides opportunities to find information about people of other religions (and none), and to interact with them personally.” So increased exposure leads to doubt, disagreement, disenchantment, and ultimately to discarding your faith.
Disaffiliation should come as no surprise. We’ve already seen that porn makes prayer and beneficial contemplation impossible. Given the Christian understanding of the spiritual life, we’re not capable of simultaneously pursuing our lusts and sanctification. Such a pursuit causes internal dissonance, and the only resolution involves eventually conceding to the pull of one or the other.
If the rise of the internet has anything to do with a loss of faith — and it’s an interesting thought — the role of ideas is likely minimal. Arguments don’t cool many hearts, but sin surely does.
While I certainly agree that the internet gives us ready access to a wide array of eroticism and pornography, I seriously doubt that the road out of Christianity is paved with YouPorn videos and JPEGs of naked men and women. Miller, a committed purveyor of endless books that are meant to answer Christian doubts and questions, dares not admit that the real problem is one of knowledge. Doing so would put the blame for the NONES squarely back on Christian sects, churches, and pastors. Doing so would open pastors up to charges of deceit and promoting ignorance. We can’t have that, so those who have exited the Evangelical church stage left and found purpose and meaning elsewhere, are doing so because they are lustful.
Is this your experience too? Are you an unbeliever today due to your insatiable desire for porn? Or did the internet and sites like this one play an instrumental part in your deconversion? Please share your experiences in the comment section. I am certain that Miller is far afield in his assertion about the NONES, and I ask that readers educate him about the real reasons people leave Christianity.
I plan to pin this post to the top of the front page for a few weeks, giving infrequent readers a chance to share their stories.
Evangelicals are having an identity crisis. Sensing that they are losing their grip on the American political and cultural scene, notable Evangelicals increasingly resort to fear-mongering and shrill rhetoric in an attempt to remind the public that they are still alive and kicking. I read a number of Evangelical blogs and news sites. I have noticed in recent months, especially since the legalization of same-sex marriage, Evangelicals have become increasingly agitated over American politics. If I didn’t know any better, I would conclude that, based on their articles and emails, Evangelicals believe that the United States is on the verge of total collapse. Some Evangelicals think secularists and socialists will soon take over America, resulting in civil war.
The recent demise of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has stirred up a new round of hysteria. Fearing that President Obama will nominate a left-leaning judge, Evangelicals are asking their congressional leaders to abdicate their constitutional responsibilities and stop the nomination process. Some of the talking heads on the extreme right of Evangelicalism are suggesting that Scalia was murdered by Obama operatives, paving the way for the socialist takeover of the Supreme Court.
Part of me wonders if uproar over Scalia, same-sex marriage, Planned Parenthood, and the 2016 Presidential election is really all about keeping Evangelicals in the fold. People such as Franklin Graham, Tim Wildmon, Tony Perkins, and James Dobson know that Evangelicalism is losing young adults at an alarming rate. Even when young adults remain in the church, they are more likely to support same-sex marriage and abortion rights and are more likely to vote Democrat. These liberal-minded Evangelicals helped put Barack Obama in office in 2008 and 2012. Knowing they cannot retreat from the culture war, Evangelical parachurch groups increasingly resort to using methods meant to keep their supporters in a constant state of spiritual and political agitation. Anything that is perceived as an “attack” on Evangelical Christianity is quickly reported and added to daily email missives sent to supporters. From the war on Christmas to cries of religious persecution, Evangelical leaders paint a dire picture of the future for American Christians. Some even go so far as to suggest that Evangelicals will soon be rounded up and jailed for their beliefs.
One thing is certain, stirring up the faithful is the key to raising money. Evangelical pastors and leaders of parachurch groups frequently remind supporter of the secular/humanist/atheist/socialist/communist/liberal threat. If Evangelicals fail to support these beacons of hysteria, America is doomed. Evangelicals such as Franklin Graham and Tony Perkins are warning supporters that if Bernie Sanders wins the election, the United States will cease to be a democracy and constitutional protections will be lost. Appealing to the Fox News demographic, these preachers of gloom and doom warn that secularists will not rest until they have upended the first and second amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
Evangelicals see groups such as the Freedom from Religion Foundation, American Atheists, and the American Humanist Association challenging government’s preferential treatment of Christianity and Evangelicals wrongly think that their rights and freedoms are under attack. They are not, as any constitutional scholar can tell them. What is happening is that secularists, atheists, humanists, Satanists, and other non-Christian groups are no longer willing to let Christianity unduly influence local, state, and federal government. These groups are no longer willing to idly stand by while Evangelicals trample the First Amendment, Establishment Clause, and the separation of church and state. No longer willing to lurk in the shadows of American life, non-Christians are asserting their right to be heard. Thanks to the internet, these formerly marginalized groups have found their voices. Non-Christians, once a scattered demographic, can now join together in the fight against those clamoring for a Christian theocracy.
It should not surprise us then that aging Evangelical leaders are scared by what they see taking place on the American political and religious scene. I am sure that privately some of these leaders are wondering whether Evangelicalism is dying. Can it be resurrected? they wonder. Or is the sun setting on the movement birthed in the fundamentalist-modernist war of the 1920s? I wonder if they will dare to ponder where things went wrong? Will they conclude that selling their souls to the Republican party and attempting to win the culture war at any price has cost them their future? Or will they continue to demand that people pay attention to them? Dammit! We are relevant! We still matter! Mess with us and we will_________. Will what? Send out voters guides that are little more than endorsements of Republican candidates for office? Write blog posts? Write editorials? Hold rallies? Aren’t these the things that Evangelicals have been doing since the days Jerry Falwell birthed the Moral Majority? Yet, their support base continues to erode and grow more gray hair.
Generally, Evangelical pastors and parachurch groups have supported climate change denial, creationism, and racist Republican policies concerning immigration. Their support of these things puts them at odds with younger Evangelicals who think science and social justice issues are important. Younger Evangelicals are increasingly embarrassed by the political, social, and scientific ignorance of their pastors and leaders. These policies also put them at odds with those who are not Christians — the very people Evangelicals feel duty-bound to evangelize.
So what should Evangelical pastors, parachurch groups, and universities do to stem the decline of Evangelicalism?
It is time for Evangelicals to drive a wooden stake through the heart of the culture war. Evangelical leaders stubbornly refuse to admit that the 35-year culture war has weakened churches, alienated people, and turned Evangelicalism into a group that is roundly despised by non-Evangelicals. I recently wrote a post titled, The Christian God has an Optics Problem. This optics problem extends to Evangelical churches.
Evangelicals wrongly think that people hate them because of their beliefs. While this perception is to some degree true, what most people despise is how Evangelicals incessantly prattle about homosexuality, same-sex marriage, abortion, fornication, and adultery. In other words, people are sick of Evangelicals sticking their noses in what goes on in the privacy of non-believers’ bedrooms. They are tired of Evangelicals beating them over the head with the Bible, all the while failing to practice what they preach. Non-Christians see daily reports of Evangelical pastors and church leaders who have a problem keeping their pants zipped up. They read reports about Evangelical sex scandals and child abuse problems. They wonder, who are these people who think they have a right to say to Americans, “do as I say, not as I do?”
While some on the Evangelical-left have reinterpreted the Bible, making it more homosexual friendly, most Evangelicals are unwilling to condone same-sex carnal knowledge and marriage. Driven by a pathological fear and hatred of homosexuals, most Evangelicals are incapable of seeing same-sex relationships as loving and life-affirming. Now that most Americans support same-sex marriage and know people who are homosexuals, Evangelicals are forced to either double down and continue to fight against progress or surrender what they consider the moral high ground. Sadly, Evangelicals, for the most part, are unwilling to cede Mount Morality to what they perceive are the whims of American postmodernism. In failing to understand how much American thinking has changed, Evangelicals have relegated themselves to fringes of American society.
Those on the Evangelical left also reject the anti-science views of mainstream Evangelicals. They are increasingly embarrassed by Evangelical monuments to ignorance such as the Creation Museum and The Ark Encounter. These left-leaning Evangelicals, many of whom are under the age of 35, want churches and leaders who embrace science. They want leaders who are willing to banish creationism and its ancient sheepherder ignorance to the dustbin of human history. These modern Evangelicals have embraced evolution and love modern preachers of science such as Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye. Most of all, these Evangelicals are allies of progress.
I am of the opinion that mainstream Evangelicals will never embrace those on the left of the Evangelical tradition. They can’t. They have too much political, social, and theological capital invested in maintaining the status quo. To move beyond the certainty of their beliefs means admitting that they are wrong. It means admitting that the culture war was as every bit as disastrous as America’s wars in the Middle East. Since it is doubtful that mainstream Evangelicals will admit these things, perhaps it is time for left-leaning Evangelicals to exit stage left and move on to the friendlier confines of liberal and progressive Christianity. While I have numerous problems with how liberal Christians interpret the Bible, I have no doubt that this infusion of young blood into the church will benefit everyone but Evangelical churches, whose favorite hymn is I Shall Not be Moved:
I shall not be, I shall not be moved; I shall not be, I shall not be moved; Just like a tree that’s planted by the waters, Lord, I shall not be moved.
I have no doubt that the next year is crucial for Evangelical culture warriors. Sensing that their grip on American culture is slipping, many Evangelical pastors, parachurch leaders, and government officeholders are calling on Evangelicals to rebel against the federal government, going so far as to encourage people to deliberately break the law. Pastors are being encouraged to endorse specific candidates, putting them in direct conflict with federal laws prohibiting such endorsements. Since the IRS has been obscenely lax in prosecuting pastors and churches who violate the law, these so-called patriot pastors rightly assume that they can violate the laws governing religious nonprofits. While it is likely the IRS will ignore these lawbreakers, their lawlessness could prove to be deadly to Evangelicalism. Surrendering the high moral ground for the sake of political power will only further alienate Evangelical young adults and non-Christians. If mainstream Evangelicals fail to win the presidency and turn America back to the right, their cultural death is assured.
The David of progress and tolerance will slay the Evangelical Goliath of bigotry and extremism. Secularists and non-Christians will rejoice over the giant’s death, ever aware that there will be other fundamentalist warriors to stand in Goliath’s stead. Every generation will have to fight its own Goliath. Those of us who value secular progress and tolerance must always be vigilant. While throwing the last shovel of dirt on Evangelicalism’s rotting corpse, we must be cognizant of other ism’s that threaten our future. We dare not rest, thinking the battle is over.
This is the time of year when Evangelical soothsayers, psychics, and Nate Silver (ESPN 538) make predictions for the coming year. I thought, in keeping with the spirit of the New Year, that I, the atheist version of Carnac the Magnificent, would make a few predictions of my own. Here’s my 15 Astounding Predictions for 2016.
Richard Dawkins will say something stupid.
Neil deGrasse Tyson will say something brilliant.
The Pope will not get laid.
Evangelicals will continue to say the rapture is nigh.
At least three Evangelical preachers will be arrested and charged with molesting children and 25 others will be accused of sexual misconduct.
Evangelicals will continue to say atheists hate God and secretly want to have wanton, immoral sex.
Franklin Graham will be exposed as a cross dressing transvestite.
Evangelical Calvinists will continue to say their critics don’t understand Calvinism.
Donald Trump will say bat-shit crazy stuff and his followers will love it.
Evangelicals will continue to think that Christianity is under attack and that secularists are trying to make Christianity illegal.
Tea Party Republicans will continue to think that the lame stream media controls America and that Muslim socialist Barack Hussein Obama is coming to take their guns.
The day after Thanksgiving, Fox News will say that there is a War on Christmas.
One Million Moms will continue to be outraged over nudity, cursing, and gay kissing on TV. This year they will find their lost remote and learn that if they push the channel button it changes the channel.
Democrats will win the presidency, a sure sign that the Antichrist is preparing to usher in the new world order.