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The Safety Dance For When Christians Don't Want To Dance

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It seems with Easter, and the improvement of weather from freezing to tolerable, that there is an uptick in religious pursuits. As if after getting through the last rather heavy Christmas and Easter seasons, the rekindling of faith hits a critical mass and a bunch of stupid just starts flowing out of religious mouths with increased zeal. I tried to see if any research has popped up on what time of year is also more common for atheists to come out of their closets and put a stop to the social pressures of religious dogma. I couldn't find anything at all. I highly doubt it's coincidence that in my own wanderings around the various atheist websites and forums that I peruse, I have seen a lot of recent activity of those who are dealing with increased pressure to convert, increased insistence to fall in line with family, and thoughts of escape. All of this right after the last six months of holidays is hardly a coincidence in my book either. So, we'll just call it a hunch that this time of year, many of us reach a burn out point.

 

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In all honesty, this is the time of year I go meticulously through my various social media news feeds and stop following certain friends. It's a smart way to help me avoid "Good news" burn out. In fact, I jokingly refer to it as my safety plan. It protects my acquaintances from my own "tired of Jesus" attitude being shot their way after reading the same chain letter about divine glory three times a day for a month after Resurrection Day.

 

If you haven't guessed, having a safety plan is the topic du jour. Often we read how to shut down unsolicited religious recruiting, or how to protect ourselves from discrimination in the work place. This is only a small part of the social blending many of us have to do in order to live in our communities though. At some point, many of us can't pretend anymore. We feel disgusted with ourselves for hiding, and are tired of having to bask in holy celebrations. We're leopards that can't change our spots, and like any other species, we can't be our best when we can't even be in an environment that will allow us to survive and flourish. But revelation means consequences, and for some, their very freedom is at stake.

 

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Recently, I became acquaintances with a young college age woman. She lives at home, mom pays for college, and she came out as an atheist not too long ago. She couldn't take the mandatory belief that was being required of her anymore. Her mother didn't take the revelation very well at all, and the situation at home has degraded to communication being restricted, and even talk of the daughter being possessed by demons has started floating amongst the family.

 

This is a very serious threat to the young woman's human rights being violated, and her mother holds all the cards to her current state of living. We're talking college financing, room and board, and so much more. This is turning into an extortion scenario. Fortunately, this college student planned ahead a little bit by making others in our community aware of her predicament, and actively sought advice on how to deal with it all, as well as trying to understand what resources are available to her if she were to be on the street or unable to leave.

 

Another online contact of mine in Nebraska had an intervention put together by his uncle and the church he was required to attend. He is twenty-four years old, living with his uncle while he finishes school. He didn't see the harm in pretending until school was completed, but his relative figured out he was an atheist, and took action. No less than twenty church members showed up at the relative's home that day, convinced there was a terrible evil at work in this man's life. They wouldn't let him leave! Instead, they made him sit there for hours, being prayed upon until they thought they'd convinced him he needed God. As soon as the parishioners left, this kid left as quick as he could, happy to couch surf with friends until he could arrange campus housing.

 

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Both these examples illustrate the need for safety plans. Especially if you are covert about your disbelief, and kind of have a good idea your lack of faith could cause a huge fluster within family or church communities. The reality is many believers think they own a monopoly on keeping their flock in the pasture. Lawmakers and pastors alike have skewed their understanding of religious freedom to include having little consequence to worry about if too forceful in their practice of faith.

 

"Oh, they didn't mean any real harm by cornering you. Your family just was trying to show concern."

 

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Do not tolerate this kind of thinking from anyone! Here are a few things to do if you are living as an atheist in secret due to fear, or if you decide to come out to an unwelcoming crowd. These are basics, and always see room for improvement depending on your situation.

 

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Buddy Up! Even if only via internet, a larger social group of the same ideology is always a benefit when in a jam and looking for options. Sometimes you need to just become friends with someone local, and they don't have to necessarily be an atheist. There are many moderate Christians out there who absolutely abhor the abuse they are seeing in their faith. Reach out and meet people. Share your story. You might just find a rock to hold on to.

 

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Have a resource list for other human service agencies. This includes domestic abuse hotlines, shelters, and even secular advocacy groups. If you are attending college or school, have your counselor numbers on hand. Here are a few links that can help you out to understand what constitutes actionable abuse, and ways to deal with it or escape.

 

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Do your best to keep a bug out bag somewhere accessible that only you and a trusted person know the location of. A bug out bag is a lightweight emergency bag that you can grab and go with little notice. Include items like food, bank information, prepaid phone minutes, and even documentation of your housing situation. Try to also include in that bag any updated documentation of abuse you've suffered.

 

 

 

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****EDITED TO ADD UPDATED HELP INFORMATION***

 

Did you know, as a minor, you don't have to have parental permission or knowledge to get a post office box????? It's true! I confirmed with my Post Master a few days ago this fact. The only way the post office can deny you a box is if your parent writes a letter of objection to the office...but that's only if they find out! I'm going to update this in the blog, but wanted the information in plain site here so it doesn't get lost in a comment.

 

http://about.usps.com/forms/ps1093.pdf

 

 

 

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Talk with the local police or sheriff in your area about your situation. Just asking questions doesn't mean you automatically have to do anything. Ask them if you happen to be living with family, can they just throw you out? Can you prosecute them if you aren't allowed to leave at will, or are being harassed all night? Is a driver' license enough to prove you legally have a right to stay in the home and not be thrown out? Think about what you might have to face if church members or family call your boss? Can you have the police write a harassment report? Know your rights so you can handle possible situations.

 

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If you are being threatened with an unwanted intervention, exorcism, eviction, job loss, or anything along a menacing line of action, try to get it documented. Even if simply via text messages or emails. Save those voice mails where Aunt Sue says you have to talk to the pastor or you're kicked out of her house. This is evidence for abuse and extortion. Save it all! When you have to deal with Aunt Sue, possibly with the police involved, or in a court setting, you can smash her "good Christian woman" image with her threats and manipulation in black and white.

 

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I really want to say use this option as a last resort, but sometimes, you just can't. If at any point you fear for your safety with family, friends, or church members, Call The Law.

 

I can't stress this enough. Worse case, the police can at least calm things down, and this can buy you some extra time to search out options to exit. At no point is it acceptable to abuse someone because they do not believe in the same sky fairy as you. You do not give up your personal freedom simply because someone is doing you a favor or service. Never. A little reality check from the authorities will also help reinforce your right to be who you are. Boundaries are tricky, and sometimes a police cruiser pulling up will encourage a bully to back off, even if long enough to let you safely leave on your own terms.

 

In addition to calling the law, and how law enforcement can calm things down, keeping calm is something you need to focus on. There is only one rational person in the room during a "crisis of faith" scenario, and that's you. As much as it hurts, as much as you are offended, angered, frustrated and just sick of the bullshit, do not lose your control. Any moment where you sink to their emotional lows of "concerned" interventionists, you immediately confirm their neurotic claims and beliefs. Just quietly remove yourself from the situation if possible, or call for help.

 

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In closing, you might not be able to avoid the parallels between escaping religious abuse and domestic abuse. Honestly, there isn't a difference in practice, it's just society doesn't see religiously motivated control measures as abuse. Yet, a husband restraining his wife against her will is abuse. It's a scary double standard, flimsily protected as a religious freedom to some extent. Times are changing though, in that children are dying from simple disease because of faith healing, LGBTQ are being discriminated against in business, and women's rights are being legislated away, and the courts are starting to step up. And the change in thoughts can be seen in the court rooms.

 

Children that have died thanks to faith healing are now having their parents prosecuted, and civil suits against bigoted business practices are awarding those who were discriminated against. This shows that the definition of abuse is broadening, and religious oppression within Christianity is being seen added in to some cases that are being tried now. And this broadening figures into your safety plan.These ideas for a safety plan involve thinking ahead, understanding what constitutes abuse, and some preparation for the worst case scenarios. Even if you can't use all of the suggestions listed, to utilize just a couple will still aid in your journey to live freely.

 

We are guaranteed the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in this country, but sometimes you have to keep fighting for it. I hope some of the tips and resources I listed here will help maybe even spark a few more ideas not mentioned here. I really hope there will be recognition that what some view as acceptable behavior to keep religious members in the spirit actually are abusive control measures, and are not acceptable at all.

 

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You are sooooo right about the on the edge behavior that happens around Easter. On "Good Friday" I had a co worker, on my personal Facebook "sadden" that my daughter might marry her girlfriend and made it clear how bad this would be. I have learned not to counterattack in these circumstances; it just escalates things and gives them a standing (in there mind) of being attacked and "persecuted". So instead, i wrote a paragraph directed toward both of my kids and their SOs assuring them that they were very special, that they were not to allow anyone to make them feel or believe otherwise, and, most importantly, if they were ever to get, married they would be adding joy to the world and that they would definitely would not be doing anything that could be considered either immoral or wrong.

 

Shortly after my show of support for my adult kids the co workertook down/deleted what she posted and immediately changed their ptofile pic to a cross and their background to a pic of an empty tomb. Why the deleted comments? I don't know, one would have to ask them. Having "been them" in the past i still have a bit of empathy and understanding, but, I find it becoming increasingly difficult when they directly go after the ones I care most about.

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You should make a post on the forums of your "Resources" section. I'd suggest that the mods sticky it, actually. Some of it is really helpful stuff for those in certain situations, particularly younger folks who may be at the mercy of abusive families or controlling churches.

 

I'd suggest adding a section to teach people how to back up voicemails to a hard drive. You can then upload them to a thumb drive, Google Drive or OneDrive account in case you lose access to the original phone. There are several tutorials out there on the web and a few services that will do it for you if need be.

 

If you're in a really bad situation, I'd recommend documenting as much as you can. Especially if finances are involved. Keep those bank statements, student loan documents, important medical records/insurance proofs and other things safe by scanning them and uploading them to an encrypted folder on a thumb drive. Take pictures of any injuries or damages and upload those to a safe place (NOT social media!)

 

Just my 2.5 cents. Keep up the writing roll, Z. :)

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That is so.e seriously passive aggressive behavior with the tomb and removing her comments, CTS. I am surprised she would be assholish enough to put the comments on your posts. She needs to learn some etiquette...

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Eh, I'm not aware of a "resources" section. Probably best posted to Ex-Christian Life sub. Margee is the mod there; she's pretty cool. She'd probably be willing to pin it if you PM her with your request.

 

I may be able to pitch in to help you add on to it, add some specific resources for tech-related things and such.

 

Let me know if you're interested. 

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Knock yourself out! I think a topic forum dedicated to dealing with control is important. In fact, you should do a tech article! Lots of folks don't realize how easily they can be monitored!

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Great post. I completely agree with Seven that the advice in this post should be a pinned thread over at the forums.  

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Great stuff! There are a couple of links that need to be fixed in the article, under Project Rising. Two of the links have too many "http://" so the links don't work.

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///It also depends on the people, the article above seems to be depicting fanatics. Not everyone is running around turning the screws on people to convert. On the flip side, these people really do believe there is a place called hell and that everyone is going there unless....(insert religion and doctrine of choice here)///

 

That is very true, and if I gave the impression that everyone is trapped and needing to escape, I apologize. I didn't realize I came across that way. There are those who are suffering in captivity so to speak, and that was the purpose of my blog. Some are wanting out, and at the same time, have zero idea where to truly begin or how to go about it. Fear of losing their shelter, food, and freedom hold them back.

 

///I feel really bad for people who have to believe in order to keep the things their parents are giving them. But, i just couldn't do it. If i were in their shoes, I would simply say something like, i am not really sure i believe it anymore, i don't see any proof, since you (parents etc) say it is true, can you please provide me with adequate evidence for said beliefs? This usually shuts people up and they walk away without further repercussions.///

 

That's a very black and white view to a very fluid situation. Some can't choose to be a beggar in the street. Medical conditions, being disadvantaged and abused, unknown of how the world works, etc. I understand standing by "your dump" is important, but if you could've left with conditions that didn't put you precariously at the risk of living on the street and being used sexually because you were so unprepared for the world? This was my case at 16. I think it makes sense to be there for those who need help. The goal is to work them into society and learn how to function outside their family network and control. That isn't easy, and taking an attitude of "you made your bed, now you have to lie in it for awhile" seems a little like tough love that really isn't necessary in situations where folks are escaping.

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Sorry i will delete my above post and won't come back to this blog site.

 

I humbly apologise.

 

-Cat

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I'm horrified about "coming out."  I hate being fake and sooner or later I'm going to be found out as a nonbeliever.  Likely to end up without a home if that happens and I already struggle with feeding and clothing myself.  My biggest fear is violence.  A-parents are not emotionally stable and are very aggressive for Christ.  They also would force me into Christian counseling at their church.  I've been wanting to ask them to stop praying for me and stop speaking to me of Christ, but that would put me at risk of being found out. 

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Oh sweetie!!!! This is not good at all. Aggressive parents are hard to deal with, and I am assuming you are just barely legal age so they can basically own you into doing whatever they want or face homelessness?  You definitely need an emergency plan, Rach, just in case. And you need to figure out what resources you have available in your town, county, and state at your disposal. You might be surprised what is out there. PM me if you want help figuring out a back up plan. I'm pretty good at researching options when in a jam.

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Zomberina - I just lurve this post. I never had to face such fear and uncertainty when I came out, being an independent adult with a wife who had already found her way out. But when we were young and in, we were spiritually abused and controlled by our leaders for a time, and the power they can wield is sometimes terrifying. 

 

On the blog I post on now and then, I get comments from occasional people who are truly alone, who can't tell others, who are struggling, and I can just imagine how hard it would be to have to face that kind of opposition just for finding reality. Good.. no, Fantastic job. You are a saint.

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You are too kind, Toon.

 

It's ridiculous the amount of pressure lobbed onto followers when they are so young. Discovering you do not believe, and then hiding the disbelief sometimes for an entire lifetime. It's sad.

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