Tag Archive: Sin Nature

Stuart the Evangelical Asks Bruce the Atheist a Theological Question

naked adam and eve

Comic by Hilary Price

The most-read post on The Life and Times of Bruce Gerencser is the post titled, Why I Hate Jesus. Written four years ago, this post is also the most misunderstood post. Many Evangelicals wrongly believe I hate the man, myth, and legend named Jesus Christ. Bound by a literalistic approach to life, they fail to see that the post is really about their religion and not a flesh and blood dead man named Jesus. As I shall make abundantly clear in an upcoming post, there are many, many, many Jesuses; that every generation of Christians shapes and molds Jesus into their own image, according to their peculiar theological, political, and social beliefs. To deny this is to deny reality. To suggest that you worship the first century Jesus and practice Christianity (Judaism) just as the Apostles did in 35 CE is ludicrous and a denial of 2,000 years of Church history. Christianity started evolving the moment Jesus called twelve illiterate men to be his disciples. These men and other followers interpreted and reinterpreted the life and words of Jesus, fashioning their own versions of Christ and what it meant to be a follower of him. This evolutionary process continues even to this very day.

An Evangelical man by the name of Stuart left several comments on the Why I Hate Jesus post. Standard Evangelical stuff. I tried to blow off his first comment with a bit of snark — suggesting I was a porn star — but Stuart was bound and determined to put in a good word for Jesus. In his second comment, Stuart wrote (in response to Zoe, a fellow Evangelical turned atheist):

I no longer believe in the existence of Santa, therefore i wouldn’t go to the trouble of creating a website explaining how i came to no longer believe in Santa, simply because it would attract attention from people who do believe in Santa. And frankly i have no appetite for engaging with such people.

Bruce, by creating this space has invited interest from the vast internet audience on the matters he discusses on this site. It would be naive to think compassionate Christians would not do their duty and offer support in the only way they know how in trying to heal the wounded or help pick up the fallen. Bruce knows that, you likely know that, so really, what else do you expect?

If i didn’t believe in something i wouldn’t waste a single moment on it. Atheists are a different breed though. They are evangelical in their denial and latent hatred of God. Personally i love engaging with intelligent people regardless of their ideology or belief. I have yet to meet ANY atheist with any meaningful grasp on theology.

But I guess when even atheism’s poster boy Dawkins is a theological illiterate there is little hope for anyone following in his footsteps.

There was only ever one Jesus, there is currently only one Jesus and there will always forever be only one Jesus. Anyone who tells you different is like an atheist – they simply fail to understand Scripture

And Bruce’s story isn’t wrong, but it is clear he has been deceived. And knowing that there are many many more like Bruce is honestly heart breaking to me.

I responded thusly:

I grew up in the Evangelical church, attended an Evangelical Bible College, and pastored Evangelical churches for 25 years. Yet, according to you, I have no meaningful grasp of Christian theology. I spent thousands and thousands of hours studying and reading the Bible, yet, according to you, I don’t have a fundamental understanding of Christian belief. Surely, you see how irrational and stupid such a statement sounds.

The real issue here is that you don’t like my interpretations and conclusions. Thus, instead of meaningfully interacting with them, you rage against Bruce, the man.

The purpose of this blog is to help people who have doubts about Christianity or who have left Christianity and are looking for support. You, my friend, are not my target audience. I let people such as yourself comment because you provide reminders to ex-Evangelicals of the arrogant, self-righteous beliefs we left behind.

Please keep preaching your gospel, Stuart. People such as yourself win more people to atheism than I ever could.

Earlier today, Stuart sent me a question: Why were the fig leaves not acceptable? I assume his question is some sort of test to see if I really know anything about Evangelical theology. What follows is my answer.

The Bible says in Genesis 3:1-7:

Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

In Genesis 2, the Bible tells us that Adam and Eve were originally created naked, without sin, and unashamed before God. In Genesis 3, a walking, talking snake came to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and questioned the command God had given them to not eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The snake — whom Evangelicals believe was Satan — said, “Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” Eve replied, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.” The snake replied, “Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” Eve looked at the Tree’s beauty and saw that it was good for food and would make her wise — the Ginkgo Biloba of the Garden. She picked a fruit from the Tree, took a bite, and gave it to Adam to eat too. And just like that, Adam and Eve plunged the entire human race into sin. Since that fateful moment, every human is born a sinner, alienated from God. Humans have no choice in the matter. We are forever doomed by a man and woman we don’t even know taking a bite from a piece of fruit. Or so the story goes anyway.

adam and eve wearing fig leaves

Immediately afterward, Adam and Eve realized for the first time that God had created them with genitals. Ashamed that they were naked, Adam and Eve gathered some fig leaves, sewed them together, and made themselves aprons to hide their genitals. Later, God came to the Garden of Eden and took a stroll in the cool of the day. Fearing God, Adam and Eve hid among the trees, hoping that God would see not see them. Alas, God, after playing a quick game of Where’s Waldo (Wally), found them. Adam said to God, “I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.” Wait a minute, I thought Adam and Eve sewed fig leaves together for aprons. Why weren’t they wearing them when God made his appearance in the Garden? Maybe the leaves caused chafing, and Adam and Eve decided to return to their natural state. Whatever their reason, God was none too happy. To the first man and woman he said, “Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?” A rhetorical question? Or did God not know? Regardless, Adam replied to God, “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” Ladies, want to know where Evangelical men blaming you for everything comes from? You need look no further than Genesis 3 and Adam blaming Eve for his errant fruit-eating.

talking snakes

God then turned to Eve and asked, “What is this that thou hast done?” A rhetorical question? Didn’t God know what Eve had done? Regardless, in classic Flip Wilson style, Eve responded, “The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.” In other words, the DEVIL made me do it! God, pissed off at Adam and Eve’s bad behavior, cursed all humans and cursed the earth. Ever had to pull weeds from a flower bed or garden? God’s doing. Worse, God condemned all humans to death; instead of unending life, we would now have a fixed time to live and die. And then, to put an explanation point on his anger, God killed a bunch of puppies, skinned them, and made fur loincloths for Adam and Eve. The first person to shed blood of earth was God, not man. In fact, it can be argued that God has shed more blood than all of humanity combined. Either by direct action or commanding his followers to do so, God had slaughtered millions and millions of people. Yet, Evangelicals say he is a God of love, peace, and guacamole.

Genesis 3 ends with God throwing Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden, leaving them and their progeny to fend for themselves. That is, until God got tired of having no one to play with and decided to make Abraham and some of his descendants his playthings. Or so goes the story anyway.

Stuart wants to know, “Why were the fig leaves not acceptable?” The correct answer from an Evangelical perspective is that Adam and Eve sewing fig leaves together to cover their genitals was a picture of human self-righteousness; an attempt by Adam and Eve to cover up their “sin” on their own terms. The thrice holy God would have none of that. According to a plan cooked up by him from before the foundation of the world, sin had to be atoned for with blood; that Adam and Eve’s sin could only be covered through God killing and skinning some puppies and making fur loincloths to cover their sins. The Bible says in Hebrews 9:22, 27-28:

And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission . . . And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.

The Abrahamic religions — Christianity, Islam, and Judaism — are, according to the Bible, blood cults. You can come to no other rational conclusion IF you read the Bible as most Evangelicals do — literally. Now, if you see Genesis 3 as a fictional story meant to impart a greater meaning, well anything is possible. It’s 2019, and thanks to five centuries of literalistic interpretations of a book they believe is an inspired, inerrant, infallible text written by God, Evangelicals are forced to defend all sorts of absurdities. And I get it. People such as Stuart have to preach the party line. Otherwise, they are admitting that Evangelicalism is built on a foundation of lies and misinterpretations. Without a real Adam and Eve created by God in October 4004 BCE, the Evangelical house of cards comes tumbling down. A real New Testament God-man requires a real Adam and Eve. The Last Adam needed a First Adam for the Evangelical gospel to make sense. Without original sin, there was no need for Jesus to take a thirty-three-year vacation on earth. If Adam and Eve were metaphors as liberal and progressive Christians allege, then it can be argued that Jesus was a metaphor too. Upholding what Christians will celebrate come Easter Sunday requires a literal reading of the Bible. Without it, the Christian gospel of atonement for sin and redemption makes no sense — at least to me, anyway.

Now, this hardly means that Evangelicals are off the hook. Literalism can be a real bitch. In fact, I don’t know of one Evangelical who is truly a literalist from Table of Contents to Concordance. All Evangelicals — when it suits them — spiritualize scriptures that don’t “fit” their literal reading and interpretation of the text. Evangelicals have what I call theological schizophrenia. Granted, Evangelicals try to make their peculiar interpretations mesh with one another. Countless Christian books have been written about Bible hermeneutics, systematic theology, and harmonizing the Biblical text. Try as they might, however, Evangelicals fail at this task. The Bible is an incoherent mess of contradictory texts, and if taken and believed literally, they lead to all sorts of nonsensical and harmful beliefs.

Yet, when I challenge Evangelicals to take EVERY word of Genesis 1-3 literally, they either say they do or start making excuses for while they don’t. I have challenged countless Evangelicals to let the words of the unknown author of Genesis stand on their own, and in doing so see that it is impossible to square Trinitarian Christianity with the text. In fact, honesty demands admitting that there were actually at least THREE Gods mentioned in Genesis 1-3, and that Christianity does not, in fact, rest on a monotheist foundation.

I double-dog dare Evangelical readers of this post to read the Bible as it is written, and not let theological presuppositions get in the way of what the text says. Read each book by itself and ask, “what is the author is trying to say?” Dare to ask yourself, as the talking snake asked Eve, “yea hath God said?” Just asking this question is the first step towards intellectual freedom; the first step towards freeing oneself of Evangelical bondage.

If you are an Evangelical who has stumbled upon this post, I am so glad you stopped by. Let me recommend several books you might find helpful as you weigh some of the claims I make in this post. If the Bible is “truth,” surely it will withstand intellectual investigation. Don’t take your preacher’s word for it. To quote the Good Book, seek and ye shall find . . .

Books by Robert Wright

The Evolution of God

Books by Bart Ehrman

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

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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Knowledge

tree of knowledge

Guest post by ObstacleChick

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:32

Where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise. — Thomas Gray

A little learning is a dangerous thing. — Alexander Pope

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. — Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance. — Confucius

Knowledge is a weapon. I intend to be formidably armed. — Terry Goodkind

No thief, however skillful, can rob one of knowledge, and that is why knowledge is the best and safest treasure to acquire. — L. Frank Baum

Not to know is bad; not to wish to know is worse. — African Proverb

Knowledge is power. — Francis Bacon

In Sunday School, children learn the story of the Creation and the Fall of Mankind. When I was a child, the Sunday School teacher would read the story to us – and if we were lucky, she would populate a felt board as the story unfolded. Typically, after the story, some sort of craft or game would follow, helping to reinforce the lessons contained in the story. Sunday school was fun, but as an adult I can see how much indoctrination occurs in such a setting.

The story of the Creation and the Fall of Mankind is quite brilliant in that it attempts to explain the following to people who lacked explanations to their questions about their origins. The story tackles the following topics:

  • the origins of humans;
  • the presence of good and evil in the world;
  • what happens if people disobey their deity;
  • why women have been treated as second-class citizens;
  • why people desire to have sex;
  • why childbirth is so painful;
  • why the serpent slithers on the ground and why so many people have an antipathy for it;
  • why there is death;
  • why people wear clothes;
  • why we cannot return to a perfect world on earth;
  • why we have to work and why it is hard.

I am many years removed from learning these Bible stories and more than a decade removed from church attendance. Looking at some of these stories years later, as an atheist, I see aspects of the story that I had not considered before. It is also interesting to look at these stories in terms of mythology and not as the literal historical fact that Biblical literalists profess.

One thing I find fascinating today is the concept of the Tree of Knowledge. In Sunday School, it was described as the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam and Eve were instructed that they could eat of any tree in the garden except for this tree, for if they did, they would “surely die.” It is hard to understand how newly-created humans who have no experience, no education, no knowledge, could comprehend concepts such as “good,” “evil,” and “death.” Maybe the deity or deities “created” their brains already programmed with certain concepts, instincts, tools necessary for survival, but the story does not explain any of that. Carl Jung posited the concept of “collective unconscious,” the supposed part of the unconscious mind that is derived from ancestral memory and experience and is common to all humankind, as distinct from the individual’s unconscious. There is no evidence of the existence of “collective unconscious,” though it is an interesting concept to ponder.

But let’s return to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The phrase literally translates as the tree of knowledge of good and evil from the Hebrew language. But the pairing of opposites may be an example of merism, a literary device that depicts meaning by pairing direct opposites – and in this case, it could be a merism that denotes “everything.” Some scholars believe that the merism does not denote a concept of morality but is merely inclusive of “everything.” In any case, many Christian sects teach that Adam and Eve were punished for their disobedience, and that the punishment carried forth through all Adam and Eve’s descendants — including those of us who are alive today. I have not heard preachers expand upon the concept of Adam and Eve being punished for seeking and acquiring knowledge, though some may have. It is true that there are plenty of Bible verses that warn against seeking worldly or carnal knowledge, and knowledge of content outside the spiritual is denigrated. Human knowledge itself is denigrated as being inferior to the knowledge of God. I searched online for a comprehensive list of Bible verses that denigrated knowledge and could not find one such list, but I found many verses in both testaments denigrating knowledge. I also found a variety of verses that state that true knowledge can only be found through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

If one considers the Tree of Knowledge as symbolic of knowing everything, then why was it that god or gods did not want the humans to have knowledge of everything? Was God meaning to protect the humans or was he trying to prevent them from attaining knowledge? And why would God try to prevent humans from acquiring knowledge? There is so much good that has come from humankind’s attainment of knowledge. We have learned more about how the world works, how to prevent diseases, how to harness the earth’s resources for better living conditions, how to increase our crops and how to supply fresh water. However, we have also learned more efficient ways to kill our fellow humans, and we have polluted the earth. We have created borders to exclude our “tribes” from one another. It is said that with much knowledge comes much responsibility. Perhaps the creators of this myth, ancient though they were, understood the great power and great danger of knowledge when conscientious stewardship is not applied.

From my own personal experience, knowledge of the world outside the Evangelical bubble was key to my deconversion process. In fundamentalist religions, people are warned against the outside world, often prohibited from owning certain books or gaining access to the internet and discouraged from attending secular schools. The outside world is labeled as evil, with pastors/rabbis/imams railing against the dangers to be found in the outside world. Some religions scare their members with images of demons and hell lurking around every corner, to be found in each book or library or website. The goal of fundamentalist religions is to retain its membership — to indoctrinate a new generation — and to do that, they must convince their followers that TRUTH can only be found within the safe confines of their fundamentalist religious world. As my friend who was raised in Reform Judaism commented when I told her the story of my upbringing in Evangelical Christianity, it’s a cult designed to keep its members trapped within.

The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil can be, then, symbolic of all the exposure one encounters outside the confines of fundamentalist religion. I have eaten from that tree. I can no more unsee or unread or unlearn the ideas I found outside those confines any more than I could uneat a fruit. I could try to purge it from my mind as one might try to purge a food or poison from one’s body, but the effects of exposure are not easily reversed. At least, for me they could not be. Nor would I desire a different outcome.

What do you think about the myth of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil? Do you see this story as a warning about misuse of knowledge, or do you see it in another way? Please let us know in the comments.