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Trying to Help an Evangelical Pastor See the Light

jesus teaching

I am not a fan of Twitter discussions. While I typically respond to people who tweet about one of my posts, I usually don’t engage in long, drawn out discussions — especially with Evangelicals. That said, if I sense I can be a help to someone, I try to interact with them.

Several weeks ago, a young Southern Baptist preacher contacted me via direct message. Since then, we have had several thoughtful, polite discussions. I am of the opinion that he genuinely wants to understand my story. And I want to do all I can to help him see the light.

Yesterday, Pastor J sent me the following message:

Bruce, if okay, I would like to continue our conversation. What in your life at age 15 compelled you to be saved, baptized, and begin preaching?

I replied:

Conviction of the Holy Spirit and calling by God.

Here’s some of the relevant discussion that followed:

J: Respectfully, may I ask — those same things do not compel you now?

Bruce: No. I now understand such things are psychological, environmental, and cultural in nature.

J: So what you deemed as “conviction of the Holy Spirit” and “calling by God” then, you deem as perhaps a religious delusion now?

Bruce: Religious belief is psychological in nature, driven by cultural, societal, and tribal norms. How we were raised, where we lived, and the expectations of family, friends, and community deeply affect and influence what we believe. Why do most Americans (74%) self-describe as Christian? Why do most Indonesians self-identify as Muslim (87%)? The answer is found by studying religion from a sociological perspective. Whether God exists, matters not. What matters is external influences.

J: I don’t disagree to an extent that we are influenced by those around us and where we live affects how we believe. The statistics you provided intrigue me. I’d be interested how they collect that data. I’ve never been polled personally, or known anyone who was polled. I do think it’s somewhat preposterous to suggest countless people, across thousands of years, have merely gone into a psychological delusion in believing in the God of Christianity, when He doesn’t exist (in the minds of some), and you were somehow duped by your own mind for some 25 years before you had an epiphany.

Bruce: Do you believe Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses are Christians?

J: I believe anyone who is regenerated by the Spirit of God, repents of their sins, and places their trust in Jesus Christ’s redemptive work on the cross is a Christian. Most denominations differ on secondary matters, but hold to the core beliefs of the gospel — the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

Bruce: Please answer my question. Your dodge is telling. Do you believe practicing Mormons/Jehovah’s Witnesses are Christians? I don’t know of one IFB church/pastor who believes such people are Christians. Are they not cultists who believe in and worship a false Jesus?

J: To be honest, I don’t know all the ins/outs of their religious beliefs. I know more about the Baptist, and Methodist denominations and “charismatic” types like the Church of God, Assembly of God, Pentecostal, etc. With that being said, what specific tenets of their faiths are you asking if I agree or disagree with? I am in the SBC, but came up Missionary Baptist, which differs slightly from IFB.

Bruce: My point is tens of millions of people follow the false Jesuses of these sects. The same could be said for one billion Roman Catholics. This fact directly contradicts your claim that it is preposterous to think Christians are believing in and following a mythical being. If Mormons/JWs/Catholics are following false/mythical Jesuses, why can the same not be said about Evangelicals? (Other than you pleading that your Jesus/God is the “right” one.) The number of people believing something proves nothing.

J: Great point. One way I know Mormonism differs is that one particular individual, Joseph Smith, claimed he received a special vision/revelation from God and that’s how the Book of Mormon was developed. I think you would agree that the same cannot be said of the Bible. 1,600 years, 40 authors, and one central message of Jesus Christ. That the Bible is divinely inspired is not questionable in my opinion. I know many will say that some books were left out (apocrypha) and they do have historical value, but I believe the Bible to be the true words of God and without error.

Bruce: You missed or cannot see my point. The only difference between Mormonism and Christianity is time. What about Islam or Catholicism? Both are ancient Abrahamic religions, each with their own religious texts. Why should I consider them “false” yet consider Christianity true?

J: Christianity is distinctly different from the other religions. Salvation is based, not on anything meritorious on our part, but simply in placing faith in Christ to obtain eternal life. Islam believes that Jesus was a prophet, nothing more. The fact is, when comparing Christianity to the other major religions like Islam and Buddhism, neither of the latter can stack up to the former. There is an empty tomb in Jerusalem. No traces of Jesus’ physical remains are there or have been found. Shrines have been set up for the bones of Mohammed and Buddha. Detractors must explain the empty tomb. Christianity hinges on the truth of the gospel — the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Eyewitnesses were so convinced that Jesus rose from the dead that they went about preaching the gospel and lived and died championing this cause. Either Jesus Christ’s claims are all fabricated and everyone was deceived by this masterful con artist, or He is exactly as He says He is — God Incarnate, the only Savior of the world, and will come again to judge the world in righteousness.

Bruce: Except, it’s not, and that’s my point.

J: We must respectfully disagree sir.

As readers can readily see, Pastor J is steeped in Evangelical dogma and talking points. He wrongly thinks that my facts are just opinions; that statements of faith are empirical facts. Once you reach a point in a discussion where one party thinks facts and evidence is “opinion,” it’s impossible to move forward. I appreciate J’s genial tone — a rare character trait among Evangelical preachers — but I do hope that he will think about what I said: that he will ponder and wrestle with the truthfulness of my claims. I’m not trying to convert Pastor J to the one true religion of atheism. My goal is to get him to critically think about the things he believes and the arguments he makes for his peculiar religion.

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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Evangelical Twitterer Says God is Losing Patience with Me

a-message-from-god

Warning! Bucket loads of snark ahead.

Recently, I engaged in a short-lived Twitter discussion with an Evangelical man going by the handle atheismbut. His goal, I believe, was to sling lies, half-truths, and religious clichés at atheists. I am not sure what he hoped to accomplish by doing so, but I decided to play his game for a bit. After failing to drag me into a mud-fight, this man unfollowed me. He then refollowed me, and a day or so later unfollowed me again. He has now blocked me, so I am unable to see his tweets, respond to him, or notify him of this post.

This man doesn’t use his real name on Twitter, choosing instead to list his name as Atheism Be Damned. Catchy, right? *sigh* After unfollowing me the first time, this man sent me a direct message (DM). I had in our Twitter conversations called the man an apologist and a zealot, both of which offended him. His DM, however, only proved that my assessment of him was spot-on. Here’s what he had to say:

I’ll take this offline. I say what God directs. See, I absolutely do not care what people think of me, say about me or say to me. What I truly care about is what My Lord sees of me. His good and perfect will is what I care about. Here’s His word to you: (I have given you the time you sought. I have been patient. I have stood near all this time. I have not abandoned you. My patience wears thin son. The time has come to choose. Return to the anointing I have placed on you and fulfill the call or forfeit your inheritance. I wait no more.)

Bruce…as your brother created in His image…please stop what you are doing. Repent of your apostasy and declare your faith in Him for all to witness. Your 25 years of faithful service only counts if you reclaim it. Do not allow the enemy to steal what God has given to and through you. Sto [sic] listening to the lies of the world. There is no true wisdom in the fallen ones [sic] domain. Anyhow, that’s it. It’s on you sir. Your call. I pray and hope you make the right decision.

As is common among zealots, they believe that God speaks directly to them. This man certainly did, telling me that he just says what God tells him to say. And how can any of us know this to be? ‘Cuz he says so. He says that he doesn’t care what people think or say about him, yet for no good reason, he unfollowed me twice and blocked me. Evidently, he DOES care about what people say about him.

Supposedly, this man’s God gave him a message he wanted to be delivered to me. Here’s what it said:

I have given you the time you sought. I have been patient. I have stood near all this time. I have not abandoned you. My patience wears thin son. The time has come to choose. Return to the anointing I have placed on you and fulfill the call or forfeit your inheritance. I wait no more.

First, why didn’t God deliver this message herself, instead of using a middleman? Have you noticed that God always uses middlemen to deliver his missives; that he never, ever speaks directly to the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world? Come on God, just send me an email or a text message.

Second, I didn’t ask God for time to consider my past/present/future life. God and I have not spoken to one another since November 2008. Since then, I have concluded that the God I thought I was speaking to for fifty years was just a voice in my head; that I was the God I was speaking to.

Third, if God was standing nearby, I never saw him. This leads me to believe that Atheism Be Damned is seeing things — a common Evangelical malady. The only place this man’s God can be found is within the pages of the Bible — a bestselling storybook. Jesus said, seek and ye shall find. Sorry, Jesus, but everywhere I look you, are nowhere to be found. Perhaps Jesus is much like Baal in 1 Kings 18: 25-29:

And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under. And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made. And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked. And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them. And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.

The prophet Elijah mocked the prophets of Baal saying: Cry aloud: for he [Baal] is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked. In modern English, Elijah mocked Baal’s non-appearance, saying” perhaps Baal is busy talking to someone else, taking a shit, on vacation, or sleeping. Elijah, of course, was right about Baal, but these same words aptly describe the non-existence of the Christian God too.

Fourth, Atheism Be Damned warns me that God is running out of patience with me; that he’s tired of me not listening to the Baalam’s donkeys he has sent my way. (Numbers 22:21-39) Again, if God is upset with me, he knows where I live. No need for Atheism Be Damned to deliver a message that God is supposedly capable of delivering himself.

Fifth, according to Atheism be Damned, God wants me to return to Christianity; to return to the “anointing” and “call” he has placed on my life. In other words, God wants me to return to peddling the Evangelical gospel — or else! Or else what?

Sixth, Atheism Be Damned claims some sort of familial connection with me — spiritually, I suspect. Sorry, but I have no interest in having such a relationship. I am quite content being a part of the fallen one’s family. That’s Satan/the Devil/Lucifer/Beelzebub for you unaware of Evangelicalese. If given a choice of spending eternity with the Atheism be Damneds of the world or spending eternity in Hell with Christopher Hitchens and my dear friend Steve Gupton, along with my wife, children, and the fine folks who frequent this blog, give me HELL every time. Sorry, but there’s nothing appealing about kneeling as if giving a blow job before God and worshiping for all eternity. Imagine how much fun Hell will be compared to the Evangelical Heaven. Who in their right mind, save those who have been scared with fear and threats of judgment, would want to spend every day and night for a million years singing praises to a narcissistic deity? No thanks. Bring on the whiskey, beer, and cigars, and let’s have a rip-roaring time fishing the Lake of Fire.

Finally, Atheism Be Damned says, he has said all that God intended for him to say, and now, it’s up to me to choose between the Evangelical God and reality. He signs off by saying, “I pray and hope you make the right decision.” I thought it was God who saved sinners? I thought that salvation depended on God giving sinners ears to hear and eyes to see. I tried to tell Atheism Be Damned that I was an apostate and a reprobate. I even quoted Bible verses from Romans 1 and Hebrews 6, proving that I am beyond hope; beyond the saving grace of God. Hebrews 6:4-6 says:

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

I was once enlightened, having tasted of the heavenly gift and having been made a partaker of the Holy Ghost for over thirty-five years. I had tasted the good word of God and the powers of the world to come, yet in November 2008, I fell away, renouncing Jesus and Christianity. Thus, according to the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God, it is IMPOSSIBLE to renew me again unto repentance.

Hebrews 10:29 says of apostates like me:

Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?

Evidently, I believe the Bible more than Atheism Be Damned does. I am sure zealots shudder at my impudent treatment of their God and the Bible. However, I am not a believer, nor shall I ever be. The believing, preaching days are long gone. I have no intention of returning to slavery, to the fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic of Egypt (Numbers 11) . I have found the Promised Land. Its streets are paved with reason and freedom, and an endless buffet feeds my every intellectual want and need. Why in the world would I ever want to become a Christian 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.

The Roy Moore vs. Jimmy Kimmel Fight: Never Pick a Fight with a Comedian

roy moore

Comedian and late-night  TV host Jimmy Kimmel has mentioned Alabama senate candidate and Evangelical Christian Roy Moore several times on his program, Jimmy Kimmel Live!  Yesterday, Moore decided to “fight” back by tweeting on Twitter:

If you want to mock our Christian values, come down here to Alabama and do it man to man. #ALSen

Kimmel responded:

Sounds great Roy – let me know when you get some Christian values and I’ll be there!

Moore replied:

Despite D.C. and Hollywood Elites’ bigotry towards southerners, Jimmy, we’ll save you a seat on the front pew.

Kimmel, showing why it is never a good idea to get into a fight with a comedian, replied:

OK Roy, but I’m leaving my daughters at home! P.S. – wear that cute little leather vest.

During Thursday night’s monologue, Kimmel said:

I accept the invitation. I’m going to come down with a team of high school cheerleaders. … And when the girls and I show up, if you can somehow manage to keep little Roy in your cowboy pants, you and I will sit down in the food court and have a chat about Christian values.

There is no one I would rather fight. I will put my Christian values aside to fight you. I’ll wear a Girl Scout uniform, so you have something to look at. Whoever wins the fight, we’ll donate the money from tickets we sell to whatever charity we want. I’ll donate mine to the women who claim you molested them.

Smack! Checkmate!

Video Link

If you have not seen the Anthony J. “Tony” Barbieri (AKA Jake Byrd) video of Roy Moore’s recent rally at Magnolia Springs Baptist Church in Theodore, Alabama, please check it out below. It provides a serious, yet funny look into the minds of Moore supporters. It also shows how homophobic and bigoted Moore really is.

Video Link

Twitter Discussion with a Christian: Accusations, Threats, and Silence

lisa elise on twitter

What follows is a brief discussion I had on Twitter with a Christian by the name of Lisa Elise. Lisa objected what I wrote in the post Jesus is the Only One That Matters.  Like all such discussions, this one ended with a threat and silence. Usually, I don’t respond to tweets from Christians. Discussions with Christians are 100% of the time, each and every time, an exercise in futility. In Lisa Elise’s case, I thought I’d twitter a bit and see what came of it. (slight editing for readability)

Lisa:Wow, bitter much?

Bruce:Ah bitterness, the first word used by zealots to marginalize a person and dismiss their argument out of hand…. what’s next? Anger,jaded, hurt? Anything but engaging the person’s argument.

Lisa:Or…You just seem bitter. Btw, liberals are the EXPERTS at marginalizing those who disagree with them.

Bruce:I just spent the day with my wife of 37 years, six kids, ten grandkids. Such a bitter experience I have without your Jesus.

Lisa:Then go to bed and relax. You seem quite angry and bitter, attacking a dead person and a person u don’t know on Twitter.

Bruce:Public writers, public critique, that’s the way it works. Want a private life? Don’t put stuff on the Internet.

Bruce:Evangelicals seem to get butt hurt anytime someone pushes back at their beliefs and ideas. Don’t like it? turn of the Internet

Bruce:I believe you tweeted me, yes? I didn’t attack you. I challenged your faulty judgment. Doesn’t the Bible say you should…refrain from judgment until you know a matter?

Lisa:U should know.U preached the Bible most of ur life,things didn’t go the way u wanted.Now u mock those who believe what u did.

Bruce:Critique, not mock. A fair number of Christians read my writing and find it helpful.

Bruce:I don’t have a prob with critique. Plenty of it on the Internet, including sermons that have been preached about me.

Lisa:You’ll meet Jesus 1 day. What a tragedy, to have preached him all your life & denied him in the end.

Bruce:Ah yes, the parting threat of judgment and hell. Sorry, I do not fear. 8 years of people like you have made me immune to threats.

Lisa:When u preached the gospel all ur life did u see it as threatening people with hell?

Bruce:Of course it is a meaningless threat. No God, no hell. The only person I fear is my wife.

Lisa:Why would u preach a false threat for 25+ yrs, yet now mock those who believe same thing? Seems strange.

Bruce:At the time I believed it to be true. New evidence, new conclusions.

Lisa:Evidence? Constantly criticizing those who don’t yet have your new found “evidence”. Hmmm.

Bruce:Evidence meaning investigating the claims Christians make for the Bible…evidence meaning taking a fresh look at Christian…belief and practice. Held up to the light of skepticism and reason, Christian belief comes up short.

Bruce:Constantly? A few hours a day is constantly?

Bruce:The Bible is not what Christians claim it is. Once free of its bondage and authority, I was free to see life in a new light.

Lisa:Bible can be hard to understand. Yet makes more sense than ANYTHING the world offers as answers to my existence.

Bruce:I don’t find it hard to understand. Spent thousands of hours reading and studying it, preaching over 4,000 sermons…but, by all means, show me that my reasoned conclusions are incorrect. (And show me doesn’t mean quoting the Bible)

Bruce:8,000,000 people think Mormonism make sense, yet Evangelicals consider them a cult. Hundreds of millions of people say Islam makes sense, yet Evangelicals say it is a false religion. When it comes to our existence, all we can know is what we see.

Bruce:Anything else requires faith, a faith I do not have. The central claim of Christianity is that a dead Jesus came back to life.

Bruce:Everything I see and know tells me that is not true. Feel free to believe this by faith, but I shall not do so without proof.

Silence

Rapture?

Silence

Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube

 

facebook twitter youtube

Last week, I cleaned up my personal Facebook account and  inadvertently unfriended some of you. Please accept my apology for treating our friendship so carelessly. My intention was to remove those I have no meaningful interaction, not remove those who interact with me from time to time or on a regular basis. If you find that I have unfriended you, please send me a friend request again.

If you just want to FOLLOW me on Facebook, then you can LIKE my page. I post everything I write to my page and I try to respond to everyone who comments there. In fact, I’d appreciate it if readers and Facebook friends would let others know about my Facebook page. I have had recent posts read by thousands of Facebook members who have never been to this blog. While I am not a huge fan of social media, I do know that Facebook and Twitter drive a lot of traffic to this site. Like every writer, I want my wonderful, delightful, poetic prose read by one and all.

Recently, I surpassed 1,000 followers on Twitter. I am still trying to figure out how best to leverage Twitter, increase readership, and connect with readers at the same time. I have found Twitter to be a challenge, but I continue to work at being a better Twitterer. I find 140 character discussions frustrating, but I have met quite a few wonderful people on Twitter. Of course, I have also come in contact with people who remind me of jock itch.

In the near future, I plan to do some YouTube videos featuring some of my writing. I have all the necessary equipment to produce top-notch videos. I just need to carve out some time to get it done. I do worry about YouTube comments and whether I should enable them. My experience has been that YouTube comments are, the majority of the time, worthless. Is that your opinion too? If you have experience making videos, especially for YouTube, and have any expertise or advice you are willing to share with me, I’d appreciate it. I think this is an untapped resource and I want to see if I can use it to become, as the Apostle Paul said, all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.  Except, I want to save women too. 🙂

If you want to follow my YouTube channel, click here.

Bruce

Facebook and Twitter

facebook and twitter

I decided I need some virtual human contact so I signed up for a personal Facebook account. This will be the place I hang out with family and friends, so don’t expect deep discussions about atheism or religion. Expect light discourse, pictures of the grandkids, and exposure to the “rest” of what makes up Bruce Gerencser. If you would like to be friends, you can friend me here.

As far as Twitter is concerned, I am not a big Twitter fan but I know others are, so I will do my best to accommodate the Twitterites by posting my writing to Twitter. You can follow me here.  Please don’t expect long 140 character discussions. I am not built for such discussions. I get too snarky. I am better suited for long, friendly discussions over coffee, wine, or a good meal.