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Tag: Violence

For the Sake of My Children and Grandchildren: I Hope and Work for What Might Be, Not What Is

military industrial complex
Cartoon by Matt Muerker

Evangelical Christianity taught me that humans are fallen, broken people, the world is sinful and wicked, and there’s no hope for a better tomorrow. Salvation through the merit and work of Jesus was personal, a promise of a better life after death. Until then, endure. Eschatologically, things are going to get worse and worse until Jesus comes again. Some day soon, God will unleash terror upon the earth, slaughtering billions of people. Blood will flow three feet deep in the streets as God violently kills virtually every living thing on earth.

Such beliefs lead to cynicism and fatalism. Why bother to do anything meaningful to change and transform our world . . . Jesus is coming soon! And after God is done burning the earth to the ground, he will make a new heaven and a new earth for Christians, a place void of sin, non-Christians, atheists, Democrats, and Bernie Sanders.

In recent years, Evangelicals have left their eschatology behind, seeking a theocracy on earth. Using raw political power, they hope to first make America Christian, and then the world. How will they accomplish this goal? Violence. The January 6, 2021 insurrection was just the first, not the last, attempt by right-wing extremists (who are largely Evangelical) to assert their theocratic will. What I find ironic is that Evangelicals have abandoned the hope and promise of a future heavenly kingdom for a bloody, ruthless, violent kingdom on earth. Instead of waiting for a divine payoff in the afterlife, Evangelicals want to cash in their life insurance policies now.

Evangelicals have become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead of following in the steps of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, Evangelicals follow after political leaders, generals, and preachers — men who, themselves, crave power and authoritarian control. None of this is surprising. One need only read American history to see that this has always been our path, one paved with the blood of innocents, one where “might makes right.”

I have long advocated for a better way. Long before I became an atheist, I embraced pacifism and socialism (properly defined and understood, not as the words are ignorantly used today). I began pondering if there was any hope for a better tomorrow. Were Evangelicals right? Was the human race headed for destruction, doomed because of original sin? Should I bother trying to make the world a better place? As a cynic and a pessimist, it is easy for me to think, “fuck it, why bother?” Solomon was right when he said, “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” Reading the news only makes matters worse as the worst behaviors of humans (mainly men) are on display. From endless wars to stubborn inaction on global climate change, it seems the human race is determined to obliterate itself. Come, Lord Jesus, Come, right?

But then I think of my six children, their spouses, and my thirteen grandchildren. I will be dead in a few years, but they could live on another forty to eighty years. What kind of world do I want for them? It is for this reason I hope and work for what might be, not what is. If nothing is done about America’s war machine and its imperial ambitions, decimation and decline are sure to follow. If nothing real is done about global warming, my progeny will be left to live on a planet that is increasingly inhospitable and lifeless. If we don’t lay down our weapons of violence and turn them into plowshares, world war is inevitable. Donald Trump famously asked what good are nuclear weapons if you can’t use them. Imagine having such a megalomaniac so close to the switch that could destroy the world (see the recent season of Fear the Walking Dead to understand what such a world would be like or read Cormac McCarthy’s book The Road). The next time, we might not be so lucky. Just last week, several Republicans were clamoring for war with China. I can imagine no scenario where that ends well for the United States. Arrogance and pride lead to destruction.

I don’t have all the answers for what a better world might look like. All I know is that hard decisions must be made if we want a safe, prosperous future for our children and grandchildren. How about we start by banning the use of coal and halving the indefensible, immoral defense budget? How about a living wage and health insurance for all? How about finally coming to terms with the systemic racism that plagues our nation? And finally, how about free and fair elections, term limits, and breaking the stranglehold right-wing extremists have on our political system? These would be a good start . . .

Or maybe Evangelicals are right. Jesus is coming soon. The world is fucked. Grab what power you can, kill those who stand in your way, and ride out the apocalypse until Jesus shows up on a white horse.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Lori Alexander Says Beating Children is God’s Approved Way of Controlling Children

spanking with belt

Several years ago, Christian Fundamentalist Lori Alexander took to her blog to promote beating children as God’s approved way of controlling children.  In particular, Alexander objects to Dr. Spock’s no-violence approach to effectively raising children into responsible adults. Alexander will have none of that. Beat your kids, she says. God demands that parents use a rod on the backside of rebellious children. Not beating your children means you love them more than you love God; that you are more concerned with their welfare than you are being obedient to the violent tribal deity of the Bible.

Here’s some of what Alexander had to say:

Dr. Spock: “[Physical punishment] certainly plays a role in our acceptance of violence. If we are ever to turn toward a kindlier society and a safer world, a revulsion against the physical punishment of children would be a good place to start.” (p. 173)

Lori Alexander: This is in direct contradiction to what God tells us in His Word. “Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.” (Proverbs 22:15) “Oh, but the rod isn’t a physical instrument,” people will tell me. Really? Please study all of the verses that mention the rod and you will see that this isn’t true. How does God discipline us? Is He only positive and encouraging? No! “For whom the Lord loves he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives” (Hebrews 12:6). Chasten means “to correct by punishment; to punish; to inflict pain of reclaiming an offender; as, to chasten a son with a rod.” Scourge means “to afflict for sins or faults, and with the purpose of correction.” Who are we to think we know better than God? No, God doesn’t mean that we should physically abuse our children in any way. [actually, he does] We use the rod of correction as a tool to make them obey and this teaches them self-discipline which benefits them for life. Many things in God’s Word have been taken to extremes and have caused harm for people. This is not God’s way. His way ends in peace and goodness not in evil and harm.

Spock: “My other reasons for advising against physical punishment are, in brief, that it teaches children that might makes right, that it encourages some children to be bullies, and most fundamentally, that to the degree that it results in good behavior it’s because of the fear of pain. I have a strong belief that the best reason for behaving well is that you like people, want to get along with them, want them to like you.” (p. 173)

Alexander: On the contrary, pain and fear are great motivators for good as I shared in the above verse about how God disciplines us. My children were all spanked when they sinned against us or others and none of them were bullies or got into physical fights with others. They were kind to others, respected authority, and were a joy to raise. A one year old can’t comprehend “liking people” as much as they can quickly comprehend a small amount of pain that is swiftly administered for disobedience.

Spock: “I don’t think physical punishment is necessary or particularly effective.” (p. 215)

Alexander: It sure has been for centuries before you wrote your book, Dr. Spock. Children were much better behaved than they are now. God’s ways will always trumps man’s ways.

Spock: “All schools should be friendly, creative places like the best I’ve seen. We should wean ourselves away from physical punishment.” (p. 33)

Alexander: When I went to elementary school, the principal had a wooden paddle in his office and he used it! Children were well-behaved for the most part. There was nothing going on like there is in the schools today. A swat on the back side is a quick, effective method against disobedience.

Spock: “Recently I visited a small private school . . . with the idea of asking children . . . what advice to parents they’d like me to incorporate in the forthcoming revision of Baby and Child Care. In a thoughtful mood, the class was unanimous that parents should not hit their children. . . One child added that if you’re crying and your parent tells you to stop and then hits you when you don’t stop, it only makes you cry more.” (p. 229-233)

Alexander: And asking children how they should be disciplined is a wise thing? If he asked adults how they would like their government to run, I’m sure some immature adults would say that they shouldn’t be put in prison for abusing drugs, driving drunk, and getting tickets for speeding and running red lights. Children do NOT know best how they should be raised. Why not interview parents of adult children who are now upstanding citizens and ask how they raised their children instead?

Spock: “I hope American parents can outgrow the conviction . . . that physical punishment is necessary to bring up well-behaved children. . . There are parts of the world where it has never occurred to any adult to strike a child. I have known personally or professionally dozens of families in which the parents never lifted a hand–or otherwise punished or humiliated their children–and yet the children were ideally cooperative and polite. Children are eager to be ever more grown up and responsible.” (p. 13)

Alexander: Yes, I am sure parents can raise good children without ever spanking them but it takes a lot more time, energy, and effort and to tell you the truth, I haven’t seen many who are successful at it. In order for spankings to work, a parent must be consistent, firm, and loving. It doesn’t work without these three key ingredients. [In other words, busy parents beat their children so they will have time to do other important things such as reading the Bible and going to church.]

Spock: “There are several reasons to avoid physical punishment. It teaches children that the larger, stronger person has the power to get his way, whether or not he is in the right. Some spanked children then feel quite justified in beating up on smaller ones. The American tradition of spanking may be one reason there is much more violence in our country than in any other comparable nation.”

Alexander: No, it teaches children that they must obey and respect the authority in their lives, whether they be parents, teachers, coaches, bosses, and government which is a good thing. My children never beat up on the smaller ones. If they did, they would have been spanked and would have never done it again!

The patriarchy lives on, and the children cry.

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Quote of the Day: The Violent Warrior Cop

warrior cop

Quotes from a “33-page slide show used to train cadets for the Kentucky State Police encouraged ethical and moral decision-making, selflessness, pride and honor.” ( The Washington Post)

“The very first essential for success is a perpetually constant and regular employment of violence.”

— Adolph Hitler

“A warrior must possess certain traits, protect certain things and have the courage to do both at all costs.”

— Unknown

“Private and public life are subject to the same rules; truth and manliness will carry you through the world much better than policy, or tact, or expediency, or any other word that was ever devised to conceal a deviation from a straight line.”

— Robert E. Lee

Be a loving father, spouse, and friend as well as the ruthless killer.

[The page also includes instructions on how to effectively use violence, recommending that cadets are] “able to meet violence with greater violence” [and have] “a mind-set void of emotion, where perception, analysis, and response merge into one process.”

— Kentucky State Police Lt. Curt Hall

“It is always more difficult to fight against faith than against knowledge.”

— Adolph Hitler

bruce-gerencser-headshot

Bruce Gerencser, 64, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 43 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen 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.

You can email Bruce via the Contact Form.

Your comments are welcome and appreciated. All first-time comments are moderated. Please read the commenting rules before commenting.

Against the Next War by Paul Sunstone

no more war

The internet has made it now

Bound to happen

Tomorrow or the year after.

Bound to happen.

Maybe.

Up to you.

The politicians and the preachers,

The two dogs of the capitalist class,

Will once again want a war,

Just as they always do.

War to them is a gift, you see,

It’s not personal, it’s not their blood.

But war makes some folks rich

And you will never change that,

You will never change that,

Though the dogs will bark it’s not so.

A war of aggression

Against some people somewhere,

Most likely brown,

Most likely poor,

Most likely weak,

Most likely no real threat.

War for the sake of the banks

And for the merchants of death.

War for the sake of the pulpit,

And for the corridors of power.

But not a war for the sake

Of you and of me. We don’t count.

Our side is the one side

That has never counted.

Never.

That’s how war goes, it’s always been so

And it’s bound to happen again,

Soon happen again.

This is your world,

How it really is —

The world you think,

The world you were taught,

The gods want you to live in and love

Them more than you love each other.

In your world are great nations:

Nations the greatest in history,

Nations with the power of suns,

A thousands suns,

To do good, make truths come true

For even the poor man, the poor woman,

The poor child. Make truths come true.

But these nations,

Nations great and greatest,

Act only like whores,

Filthy whores,

Fucking folks raw,

Spreading their diseases,

Recruiting new girls,

Ever younger girls

To fuck you, to fuck all of you,

To fuck everyone.

This is your world

Your world without end.

But now someday you see

Someday now for once it will happen

For once it will stop

Stop the day they give a war

And you

You rise up, join hands

By the millions, possibly billions,

Linked together by the net

And by love, and by common sense.

At last,

At last you will rise, singing

“At last my spirit shall have water!

At last my cries shall be heard!

At last my thirst shall be slaked!”

Yes, you will rise up and you will say

In a voice thunderous and magnified

By the whole world joining in,

Say, “Those people are our friends,

We chat with them by day and by night.

We know their hopes, we know their dreams,

We know their troubles, we know their fears.

We know them, we know their names.

“Jane and Matthias. Terese and Sindhuja.

Mark, Parikhitdutta, and Min.

We even marry them now and then —

They shall not this time be murdered.

“You will not touch them,

Our brothers, our friends;

This once the bombs won’t fall.

This once the bombs won’t fall.

You politicians and preachers,

You capitalists and bankers all —

This once the bombs won’t fall.”

Yet you know it will ever be a dream

Just a dream, just a mere dream.

It will ever be a dream

If you, if we, keep on dividing,

Never uniting, never joining,

But instead just staying, just keeping,

To my echo chamber or to yours.

So let’s come together

Let’s come together,

Let’s come together.

So let’s come together

Before the nukes fall,

Before the demons fall.

Before we die in the winter,

And we come together

Never once come together at all.

 — Paul Sunstone, Against the Next War

Songs of Sacrilege: God is On Our Side by Roxanne Cote

god is on our side

This is the one hundred seventy-eighth installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please send me an email.

Today’s Songs of Sacrilege is God is On Our Side by Roxanne Cote.

Video Link

Lyrics

Can’t you see the starving child?
Can’t you see the corpses piled?
A comedy of dirt and blood
And God is on our side
Sex slaves and trafficking
Broken homes are for bidding
Love at a price to buy
And God is on our side
Day and night
I yearn for you
by the dimmest light
And I know
I’m bearing my greatest fight
Where religions were made to divide
My brother and I
For all the love we tried and
Prayers we lied and
God is on our side
Monks and kings are born heartless
Living in wild circus
But your myths are here to guide
And God is on our side
Governing a red madness
Fruiting a black sadness T
he faith in me has died
And God is on our side

Christopher Hitchens Monologue

Is it good for the world to appeal to our credulity and not to our skepticism? Is it good for the world to worship a deity that takes sides in wars and human affairs? To appeal to our fear and guilt, is it good for the world? To our terror, our terror of death, is it good to appeal? To preach guilt and shame about the sexual act and the sexual relationship, is this good for the world? And asking yourself all that while, are these really religious responsibilities, as I maintain they are? To terrify children with the image of hell and eternal punishment, not just of themselves, but of their parents and those they love Perhaps worst of all, to consider women an inferior creation, is that good for the world? And can you name me a religion that has not done that?

Are you gonna hide forever?
Are you gonna hide forever?
Are you gonna hide forever?
Are you gonna hide forever?
Are you gonna hide forever?

Matthew 25: Will There Be Any Evangelicals in Heaven?

evangelicals-heaven

Warning: I paint with a broad brush in this post. If you are not the type of Evangelical mentioned in this post, no need to whine, complain, moan, and object to my unfair characterization of your tribe. Perhaps you should ponder why you are still an Evangelical instead of feeling butt-hurt over being unfairly characterized. When Donald Trump was elected, that was your cue to run, run, run. Unless you have no legs or wheelchair, I can’t think of one reason for thoughtful, decent, socially aware Christians to remain Evangelical.

Many critics believe that Evangelicalism is imploding; that the baby birthed by the Moral Majority decades ago has now turned into a full-grown, power-hungry monster. Drunk with political success, many Evangelicals have abandoned all pretense of being followers of Jesus. Eighty-two percent of voting white Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump, arguably the most unqualified, most vile man to ever sit in the Oval Office. Trump made and continues to make a mockery of virtually everything Evangelicals supposedly hold dear, yet the president continues to have widespread support in the Evangelical community. Trump is a pathological liar, capable of repeatedly contradicting himself in a matter of minutes. Showing all the marks of being a sociopath, the president has no regard for women, children, the disabled, or, quite frankly, the human race. Trump is a one-man band, and all that matters to him is the fawning love he receives at campaign rallies and from positive news coverage. Trump continues to attack the very foundation of our democracy. He daily lashes out at the media — except for Fox News — calling them fake, threatening them with punitive action. It is clear to all who are paying attention that the president’s election campaign was in bed with people out to destroy our country. Winning at all costs is what matters to Trump, and one has to wonder if this approach will one day lead to another depression or world war. Recent news reports reveal that President Trump, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions — all of whom are professing Christians — think it is moral, decent, and right to separate children from their parents in their zero-tolerance pursuit of shutting off the flow of undocumented people coming into the United States. Despite all these things, Evangelicals still overwhelmingly support porn-star-loving, pussy-grabber-in-chief, Donald Trump. It seems the president was right when he said that he could murder someone and people would still vote for him. It leaves me to wonder if there’s anything the president could do that would cause Evangelicals to turn on him and demand his removal from office. I have come to the conclusion that, for the most part, the pathological desire for a return to the mythical days when America was white, Christian, and great precludes most Evangelicals from ever seriously asking themselves the question, what would Jesus do?

The current state of affairs has me wondering if there will be any Evangelicals in Heaven? I have my doubts. Consider the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:31-46:

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.

According to this passage of Scripture — and yes, I am well aware of all the ways Evangelicals use to get around the clear intent and implication of this passage — there is coming a day when Jesus will return to earth with his angels and sit upon the throne of his glory. At that time, he will gather humanity together and judge them, dividing them into two categories: sheep and goats. The sheep will be rewarded with eternal life, whereas the goats will receive everlasting punishment as their reward. How will Jesus determine who is in what category? Will it be, as Evangelicals contend, right beliefs that put them in the sheep pen, and wrong beliefs that land most of the human race — past and present — in the goat pen? Is right belief the true gospel Evangelicals preach? Or is there some other standard by which Jesus will judge the dead and the living on judgment day? The aforementioned passage of Scripture is clear; it is good works and not right beliefs that determine our eternal destiny. I have long argued that one must ignore much of the Gospels to conclude that good works have nothing to do with salvation. Note carefully what Jesus said would be his standard of judgment:

  • Feeding the hungry
  • Giving drink to the thirsty
  • Taking in strangers and caring for them
  • Clothing the naked
  • Caring for the sick
  • Caring for those in prison

Considering the current state of affairs and Evangelicals’ continued support of the Republican Party and Donald Trump, it’s fair to ask if there will be any Evangelicals in Heaven. In fact, I wonder if the largest section in Hell will be reserved for American Evangelicals. Using Jesus’ standard of judgment, there will be few Evangelicals in God’s eternal sheep pen. And it’s just not their support of Republican policy and President Trump that will land them in Hell. For decades now, Evangelicals have increasingly found themselves on the opposite side of the teachings of Christ. While Evangelicals revel in their love for zygotes, many of them show little interest in life after birth. Once born, children are left to the wolves, expected to pull themselves up by their bootstraps before they even own a pair of boots. Evangelicals overwhelmingly support government-sponsored violence. Ever the flag wavers, Evangelicals continue to support the murderous actions of the U.S. military in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and countless other countries. Drones rain violence and death from the sky, and Evangelicals say nothing, believing that part of making America great again is fighting them [Muslims] over there [Middle East] so we don’t have to fight them here. Evangelicals seem indifferent towards the maiming and killing of hundreds of thousands of children, women, unborn babies, and innocent bystanders. I wonder what Jesus, the Prince of Peace, would say about Evangelical support of these things? Something tells me that, much like asylum-seekers on our southern border, Evangelicals will be turned away at St. Peter’s gate. You see, it’s behavior that matters, not beliefs. Don’t tell me what you believe, show me!

Evangelicals not only support the American war machine, but they are staunch supporters of unbridled capitalism and its immoral destruction of our planet. Jesus had a lot to say about money, and something tells me that if Jesus were alive today, he and Bernie Sanders might be best friends. Greed rules virtually every aspect of American life, yet most Evangelical preachers never say a word. How can they, with their fancy churches, stained-glass windows, and million-dollar church budgets. Something tells me that these modern moneychangers would find themselves at the end of Jesus’ whip as he overturned their media tables and soundboards. Think of all the good that could be done with the money Evangelicals spend on buildings, staff, and incestuous programs that do little more than entertain fat sheep — or fat goats. Evangelicals support the rich getting richer at the expense of working-class people. I wonder who Jesus would hang out with if he came back to earth today? The ruling class? The rich? The powerful? Big name preachers? I suspect, as the Joshua series of books — written by Catholic priest Joseph Girzone — so aptly showed, that Jesus would be found hanging out at the local pub and caring for the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, and the imprisoned — the very people Evangelicals have no time for. But Jesus, some Evangelical might say, we are having a worship service in your name tonight. Surely you will want to spend your time with us. Why, we even pray for the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, and the imprisoned. And you know Lord, once a year our church has what we call Serve Day (a local church does just that). For five hours, we do good stuff for people. Don’t you want to join us, Lord, as we take five hours out of our busy masturbatory Jesus-worship schedule to give back to our community? I suspect that Jesus might inquire as to where all their money went; the money he gave them to do good works; the money he gave them to, you know, care for the weak, the poor, the disadvantaged, and marginalized.

Thanks to widespread ignorance concerning matters of science, many Evangelicals are also global climate-change deniers. Believing that the earth is six thousand twenty-two years old, created in six literal twenty-four-hour days, will ruin the best of minds. Besides, why worry about increasing sea levels, increasing temperatures, and wildlife habitat loss when the return of Jesus is eminent? To heck with the world, Evangelicals say, God is in charge of the weather, and if he wants increasing sea levels and increased temperatures, who are we to object?

Everything that I’ve written above will likely just piss off Evangelicals. I’m an atheist, humanist, pacifist, and a socialist, so Evangelicals will likely ignore what I have to say. I’m just a guy with an axe to grind. I hate God, so it’s no wonder that I have it out for God’s chosen ones. However, Evangelicals might consider that perhaps I am right, and that their continued support of Republican politics, Donald Trump, capitalism, and a host of other anti-Christian behaviors might earn them a bunk in Hell. Perhaps Evangelicals need consider Pascal’s Wager — you know, feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, caring for strangers, and all the other things that Jesus said are the markers of a man or woman who follows after him, just in case Jesus really meant what he said. Yes, I am an atheist. The miracle working Jesus of the Bible is a myth, but the human Jesus who walked the streets of Jerusalem and the shores of Galilee said some good things that Evangelicals might want to put into practice if they expect to be singing with the Angels in the sweet by-and-by. And even if there is no Heaven or Hell, no afterlife, no judgment — don’t you want to kind, thoughtful, and helpful to others? I know I do.

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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Christians Say the Darnedest Things: Michael Anthony Says God’s Inaction to Blame for School Shootings

michael anthonyTuesday’s shooting at Great Mills High School demonstrates that America’s violence with guns problem is not about the kind of weapon, but the kind of assailant. Tuesday’s events did not involve an assault rifle. Every gun requires an angry or mentally unstable person to pull the trigger, and people would use butter knives to vent their anger if guns were not accessible.

A society that applauds violence on television, computers and gaming (where teens now spend more time on electronic devices than they do sleeping), cannot help but reap what it sows. Is it a coincidence that we are seeing so much violence with guns these days, or is there a correlation between the demonization of God and religion, and the acceptance of violence in nearly every facet of life? Not at all. The correlation should be obvious. Violence with guns is high because morals are low. Morals are low because we got what we asked for: a society where God and religion are demonized, not respected.

In colonial days, young colonists were required to own muskets—but we didn’t see colonists shooting up the local one-room schoolhouses, did we? [No, they just herded 400 Indian men, women, children into a building, locked the door, and burned them alive.] That should not be seen as a coincidence. America does not have a gun violence problem [say this does not make it so]. We have an increasing inability to express our disagreements and frustrations in healthy ways. If we deal with the root problem, the violence subsides.

Violence with guns is a symptom of a deeper and growing trend throughout America: When God is demonized, attacked as the enemy rather than our friend, society grows increasingly evil, not good. The instability, division and anger in our nation will only rise as long as we continue to bully God, insisting he has no place in the classroom, the football field, in civic meetings and a host of other public arenas [God is welcome, but government sponsored sectarian religion is not. Read the U.S. Constitution and reacquaint yourself with the separation of church hand state.] If we want a safe society, it’s time to invoke the author of peace, God Himself [According to Evangelicals, there was a time when God was honored in America. Yet, during that time people still committed violent crimes, mobsters ruled the roost, and the American government killed millions of people in the name of democracy.] As long as we keep him at arm’s length, and continue to demonize and bully Him, we can expect more of the same. [In other words, God isn’t going to do anything about school shootings until everyone is nice to him.]

….

Michael Anthony, Charisma News, When God Is Demonized, Evil Gains Ground, March 21, 2018

Note

Anthony does not say, as headline suggests, that God’s inaction is to blame for school shooting. What I did was take his nonsensical argument to its logical conclusion.

An Argument Against the Existence of God: The Suffering of Animals

animal suffering

One of the biggest problems Christian apologists face is the fact that there is suffering in the world; that violence, bloodshed, famine, disease and death ravage all living things. The existence of these things suggests, at least to atheists and agnostics, that the Christian God of the Bible either doesn’t exist or he is an absentee creator who have no interest in these things.

When pressed on these issues, apologists usually take one of three approaches:

  • God’s ways are not our ways; his thought are not our thoughts. Humans are finite beings who cannot understand why God does what he does.
  • Humans are sinful, thanks to the fall of Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden. Suffering is the result of mankind’s fallen nature. Want to blame someone, blame man!
  • Suffering is a problem that cannot be totally understood in this life, but its existence does not negate the existence of God. There are other evidences for God which prove his existence.

If you have engaged Evangelical zealots on the issue of suffering, you will always hear one or more of approaches mentioned above. Simply put, God can do whatever he wants to do, and humans are to blame for whatever befalls them, not God. If God is the divine creator, as Evangelicals say he is, then an argument can be made for him doing whatever he wants to do. However, Evangelicals further assert that their God is moral and just, and that his revealed morality and justice is found within the pages of the sixty-six books of the Protestant Bible.

Once appeals are made to the Bible, Evangelicals have a big problem on their hands. According to the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God, nothing happens apart from God’s decree, purpose, and plan. Calvinists and Arminians alike believe that God is sovereign and that he alone controls the universe. Thus, if Evangelical theology is taken to its logical conclusion, this means God is ultimately culpable for everything that happens — including sin, suffering, and death. When backed into a theological corner, Evangelicals will use all sorts of arguments in their attempts wiggle out of the obvious: that God, the first cause of all things, is culpable for everything done on planet Earth.

Some Evangelicals will argue that God created humans with free will. This means, then, that humans are responsible for their actions, not God. What a minute. Are Evangelicals saying that human will trumps the will of the Almighty; that humans can subvert what God desires to do; that God is forced to stand by and do nothing while humans exercise their free will? I thought God was omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent? Are Evangelicals saying that God is the biggest bad ass in the universe, yet he is powerless to stop humans from doing whatever it is they want to do?

Other Evangelicals — usually Calvinists — will use various lapsarian (the order of God’s decrees) arguments to extricate God from the vice of culpability.  Here’s a chart that details the various lapsarian views:lapsarian views

Wikipedia

These arguments, of course, are not found in the Bible. They are philosophical arguments used to justify various theological beliefs. Some Calvinists, realizing the huge problem the origin and existence of sin and suffering causes them, will take their theology to its logical conclusion and say that God created sin; that the fall of the human race was decreed by God; that God from before the foundation of the world only purposed to save a remnant of people; that the overwhelming majority of humans will die and go to hell, all because of the sin nature God gave them. Other Calvinists, denying the aforementioned logical conclusions, put their dancing shoes on, and with salsa-like motions attempt to dance around the problems of sin and suffering.

Regardless of the arguments made for humankind’s sinfulness and the subsequent fallout, none of them adequately answers the problem of non-human animal pain and suffering. Animals do not have a will or a soul. Animals have no ability to make moral or ethical choices — at least not in the sense that humans do. Thus, animals, in a Biblical sense, are not sinful. Yet, animals face untold violence, suffering, and death. As anyone who has watched Animal Planet or the National Geographic channel knows, the animal world is violent. Darwin’s theories of adaptation and survival of the fittest are on glorious display as animal species fight to live.

If animals are not sinners and God created them, why did God create animals to be so violent? Why do animals suffer through no fault of their own? Why are billions of animals annually raised and slaughtered using violent, torturous methods by humans who supposedly bear the imprint of God? Why do these same image bearers, hunt down animals for sport, causing untold terror to the hunted? What, if anything, in the animal world says to rational humans that the Christian God of love, mercy, and kindness exists?

In recent weeks, a hawk has been frequenting our back yard. He has developed an appetite for the pigs of the feeder — starlings. Starlings tend to be bullies, forcing other bird species to feed elsewhere. These starlings think they have nothing to fear, so they drop their guard as they voraciously scarf down bird seed. The visiting hawk takes advantage of their carelessness, swooping in and grabbing a starling dinner. One day, I watched him nail two starlings in the space of half an hour.

Now, I am not a big fan of starlings (or grackles). They love to raid our feeders, at the expense of other birds we feed. That said, their death at the hand of this hawk is a reminder of how violent the animal world is. Since sin and free will are not issues, why then did God create animals to be so violent? Why is there so much suffering and death? Billions and billions of animals annually die horrific deaths, sometimes suffering for great lengths before dying. What in this arrangement says to us that the Christian is who and what his followers say he is? From my seat in the atheist pew, it seems to me that there is no God.

Some Evangelicals will agree that animal suffering is problematic; that the violence and death is regrettable and troubling. But, that doesn’t mean the Christian God is a myth. There are OTHER arguments for the existence of God, so no one should reject God without considering these other arguments. God will, in eternity, explain everything to us, but, for now, we must trust that God is working out all things according to his purpose and plan. The problem, of course, is that God’s indifference to animal suffering and death points to the fact that if the Christian deity exists, he is lacking moral character; that he is willing to do nothing while animals suffer; that he has the power to end their suffering, yet he turns a blind eye and says, make my steak rare.

smile god loves you

I can accept, from a theological perspective, that, thanks to sin, humans suffer and die. Their suffering is recompense for their disobedience. However, animals never sinned against God. They’ve done nothing to warrant suffering and death. Thus, a God who created animals knowing they would suffer and die is not a deity worthy of worship. This same God not only killed the entire human race — save eight — by drowning them, he also slaughtered all living things save the few animals gathered up by Noah (and birds capable of continuous flight for a month or longer and sea animals able to live in fresh water). What in the story of Noah says to us that the Christian God is kind, loving, and good? Nothing. God not only killed millions of men, women, and children, he also killed countless innocent unborn babies. He also killed who knows how many animals. Why? Because he could.

Some Christians will ignorantly argue that animals don’t feel pain, so it is impossible for them to, in the classic sense, suffer. Those of us who have spent time around animals, either as pet owners, farmers, or observers in the wild, know differently. Animals can and do feel pain, and they can and do suffer (so much so that we have them euthanized).

Peter Singer writes:

We can never directly experience the pain of another being, whether that being is human or not. When I see my daughter fall and scrape her knee, I know that she feels pain because of the way she behaves – she cries, she tells me her knee hurts, she rubs the sore spot, and so on. I know that I myself behave in a somewhat similar – if more inhibited – way when I feel pain, and so I accept that my daughter feels something like what I feel when I scrape my knee.

The basis of my belief that animals can feel pain is similar to the basis of my belief that my daughter can feel pain. Animals in pain behave in much the same way as humans do, and their behaviour is sufficient justification for the belief that they feel pain. It is true that, with the exception of those apes who have been taught to communicate by sign language, they cannot actually say that they are feeling pain_ but then when my daughter was a little younger she could not talk either. She found other ways to make her inner states apparent, however, so demonstrating that we can be sure that a being is feeling pain even if the being cannot use language.

To back up our inference from animal behaviour, we can point to the fact that the nervous systems of all vertebrates, and especially of birds and mammals, are fundamentally similar. Those parts of the human nervous system that are concerned with feeling pain are relatively old, in evolutionary terms. Unlike the cerebral cortex, which developed only after our ancestors diverged from other mammals, the basic nervous system evolved in more distant ancestors common to ourselves and the other ‘higher’ animals. This anatomical parallel makes it likely that the capacity of animals to feel is similar to our own.

….

Andrea Nolan writes:

The nature of pain is perhaps even more complex in animals. How pain is sensed and the physical processes behind this are remarkably similar and well conserved across mammals and humans. There are also many similarities in pain behaviours across the species, for example they may stop socialising with people and/or other animals, they may eat less, they may vocalise more and their heart rate may rise. The capacity of animals to suffer as sentient creatures is well established and enshrined in law in many countries, however we don’t understand well how they actually experience pain.

Some aspects of the experience and expression of pain are not likely to be the same as in humans. First, animals cannot verbally communicate their pain. Dogs may yelp and you may notice behaviour change but what about your pet rabbit, cat, tortoise or horse? Animals rely on human observers to recognise pain and to evaluate its severity and impact. Without the ability to understand soothing words that explain that following surgery to repair a bone fracture, their pain will be managed (hopefully) and will subside, animals may also suffer more when in pain than we do.

The debate around animals’ capacity to experience pain and suffer raged in the 20th century, but as we developed a greater understanding of pain, and studied its impact on the aspects of animal life that we could measure, we veterinary surgeons, along with many behavioural and animal scientists, recognised the significant impact of untreated pain, and we now believe this experience causes them to suffer.

….

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association established the Global Pain Council and released a document detailing the existence of animal pain and how it should be treated. The document’s introduction states:

The ability to experience pain is universally shared by all mammals, including companion animals, and as members of the veterinary healthcare team it is our moral and ethical duty to mitigate this suffering to the best of our ability. This begins by evaluating for pain at every patient contact. However, and despite advances in the recognition and treatment of pain, there remains a gap between its occurrence and its successful management; the inability to accurately diagnose pain and limitations in, and/or comfort with, the analgesic modalities available remain root causes. Both would benefit from the development, broad dissemination, and adoption of pain assessment and management guidelines.

….

The science is clear on the matter: animals do feel pain and suffer. Only those wanting to protect God’s character and moral virtue deny their existence. Thus, because innocent animals can and do suffer, feel pain, and die violent deaths, I am left to conclude that the Christian God is not loving, kind, or good. He is not, for this reason alone, a God worthy of our fealty, devotion, and worship. Animal suffering, then, is yet another reason I doubt the existence of said God. And since there’s no God that can intervene, it is up to humans to do all they can to lessen animal suffering and pain. How we treat the least of these says much about our character and values. Show me a man who mistreats animals and kills for sport, and I will show you a man who is lacking in character. The path to peace requires love and compassion for all living things, not just those who agree with us or who offer some benefit to us.

Let me conclude this post with several quotes from Gandhi:

Strictly speaking, no activity and no industry is possible without a certain amount of violence, no matter how little. Even the very process of living is impossible without a certain amount of violence. What we have to do is to minimize it to the greatest extent possible.

It ill becomes us to invoke in our daily prayers the blessings of God, the Compassionate, if we in turn will not practice elementary compassion towards our fellow creatures.

There is little that separates humans from other sentient beings — we all feel joy, we all deeply crave to be alive and to live freely, and we all share this planet together.

A good read on the issue of suffering is Bart Ehrman’s book, God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question — Why We Suffer.

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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Bruce Gerencser