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Showing content with the highest reputation since 07/05/2009 in Blog Entries

  1. 10 points
    I've been seeing more and more of these sorts of blogs: "How To Share the Faith With Your (Friend, Loved One, Spouse, Colleague)." "How to Talk to An Atheist." The only thing that they share is a uniform ignorance of other points of view and a manifest deceptiveness with regard to their intentions and agenda. So here is mine, and hopefully it isn't quite as ignorant or ill-considered. I present for your pleasure: HOW TO TALK TO EX-CHRISTIANS, FOR CHRISTIANS 1. Don't. 2. No, seriously, don't. If your goal is genuine dialogue, then proceed to 3. If your goal is not actually "talking" to non-Christians but converting them, then go to item 11. 3. We know more about the Bible than you do and know, based upon years of evidence, that it is not true, reliable, accurate, or even as humane and loving as you desperately hope that it is. So don't argue the Bible at us, because we will bury you under demands for real evidence that, simply put, do not exist. 4. We're probably as moral as you are, and maybe even more so. We do not believe that morality comes from a God who thought it was cool to drown an entire world for not being good little slaves; we do not think Christians, as a whole, have the faintest idea how to live morally. Don't take our word for it; look at crime and domestic-abuse statistics in states that are very fundie. 5. We don't have "something missing" from our lives. The vast majority of deconverts are much happier as deconverts than we ever were as Christians. Claiming otherwise will make you look like a tool. The chances are good that we're a lot happier than you are. Scary, isn't it? 6. Don't tell us you'll pray for us, especially once we've bruised your feelings by demanding evidence and proof of your religion's validity. It sounds like a breathtakingly arrogant presumption of superiority, and we take it for what it is: one of your last salvos in a fight you've lost. Your own holy book commands you to pray in private, so doing it without telling us won't make it any less effective. 7. Don't tell us we'll "learn one day" that we're wrong. This also sounds breathtakingly arrogant, but we know it is also the last tool in your toolbox, the last detonation in the battle. Many of us know that Christians will mew and wheedle about Christ being that sweet boyfriend who sleeps on your doorstep hoping you'll just open the door and give him ONE MORE CHANCE, JUST ONE MORE, PLEASE BABY, WE CAN WORK THIS OUT, but when we refuse such emotional manipulation, it doesn't take long for the Christian to yank out that sweet widdle Boyfriend Jesus' threats of violence. In the real world, we'd call a boyfriend like that a stalker and hardly worthy of worship. 8. Don't demand we read books you think are convincing. Chances are we already know the arguments your favorite apologetics author uses, and we've already seen those arguments deconstructed and refuted thoroughly. Let me be plain here: There are no apologetics books on the market at this time that are actually convincing to an educated, science-savvy, historically-aware ex-Christian. We've already done a lot of reading, a lot of praying, a lot of soul-searching. What you're really doing is demanding that we jump through a hoop to justify our decision to you. But it won't work--even if we read the stupid book, if we didn't convert instantly based on its faulty logic, you'd just say we were "closed" to its message. Don't waste our time. 9. Don't make the mistake of thinking we do not love or hope. Not having Jesus in our lives doesn't mean we don't have hope or that we're incapable of love. I'm sure that'll be news to the millions of Hindus and Buddhists in the world! Most of us found that once we abandoned the false theology of Christianity, that our capacity to love only increased. So if you make assumptions about that, you're going to look awfully stupid. 10. Learn about logic and debate techniques before you broach the subject of religion with us. Learn about cognitive biases, logical fallacies, and the common apologetics arguments and how they've been refuted. "What if you're wrong?", aka Pascal's Wager, is a common one we hear, and we all have a very ready answer for it. I'll warn you, though: learning about these things may undermine your own faith once you realize how many of them you buy into yourself. Too many Christians embarrass themselves by not realizing they're being illogical, irrational, or otherwise biased. It's okay to ask why something like Pascal's Wager is false, but embarrassing to see you to trot it out like it's a magic sword that can destroy all foes and then discover it's really a plastic spork from KFC that shatters on first impact with anything harder than mashed potatoes. "Ha-HA! WHAT IF YOU'RE WRONG?!? ... oh, wait, never mind." 11. Lots of don'ts in here. What's a "do"? DO love your friend, loved one, colleague, whatever just as you did when s/he was a Christian. We're still the same people. Chances are you've known us for years without knowing that we were struggling that whole time, and you thought we were good people then. We still are. In short, how do you talk to your ex-Christian? You say this: "If you ever want to talk about Christianity, I'm here for you." Then you walk away from the subject forever and love us just like you did when you thought we were still Christian. Be the example of love, openness, generosity, kindness, and forgiveness that you wish Christianity really truly was. If you can't do that, then I'd question what business you have "talking" to us about anything, much less trying to get us shuttled back to your threat-filled, totally-disproven religion.
  2. 9 points
    "I miss the good old days. You know, when things were simpler and purer. Like Mayberry was." A good friend of mine laments on this idea every time we get to drinking and talking about our childhoods. He genuinely misses those days in our lives when life was simple, and common decency ruled the land. The funny thing about his pining for this era of yesterday is that it never existed. Wanting life to return to the ways of The Andy Griffith Show is probably one of the most ridiculous notions in America today. Seriously. What makes it worse would be the fact that many Americans believe things should return to Mayberry-like conditions. They wish for this small town's worldview whenever they hear news about legislation that favors quicker immigration being considered. They cry for Mayberry's Christian family values whenever they hear that another state is willing to allow gay marriages or offer benefits to these couples. Even politicians use the good old times excuse when passing discriminating legislation. Take Asa Hutchinson, governor of Arkansas, for example. He was going to sign into law one of those Religious Restoration Acts that have been growing in popularity lately. After receiving backlash in Indiana, he became nervous about what he was signing in to law and ultimately decided to send the legislation back for revision instead. Hutchinson isn't the only example of politicians trying to pass zealous legislation across our great country. Many of these bills are passed through state legislatures at an alarming speed all across America right now. They are being promoted under the guise of protecting personal freedoms. Measures like these so-called Religious Restoration Acts are nothing new, but there are also a few types that are narrow and explicitly targeting minority groups like the LGBTQ communities. Child Protection Acts aim to prevent same-sex couples from adopting children because conservative groups believe that not only is it immoral, but these couples are forcing unnatural ideals on their children. At the end of the day, and a lot of wasted taxpayer money fighting them, these bills generally do not get very far. After deciding to back away from signing the Restoration Act, Asa said that "... In ordinary times, this bill would not be controversial, but these are not ordinary times." When one talks about ordinary times, s/he is referring to the charmed life portrayed by shows like Mayberry. I hate to break it to you, but the circumstances in Mayberry never existed in America. Never, ever. Never, ever, never, ever, ever, EVER. People watch that 1960s family show and treat it as an honest representation of the all-American family formula for success: god, common sense, and small government. This governor I was mentioning had grown up watching this show, as well as other programming with similar themes. He didn't understand that Mayberry, while being set in the 1960s expanding economy, was based on the simpler times of the 1930s. There was a desire for nostalgia to be brought into the show, and that is why folk music, church, and focus on the family was incorporated. So, what does this have to do with America's attitudes today? Let's go back to the 30s and have a look. Many say these were the good times, but how accurate is this statement? The main point of success when talking about the 1930s would be the increased desire for simple living, and that was out of necessity. Passion for simplicity brought an increasing demand for folk music and art. Jobs were scarce thanks to the Depression. Add an agricultural disaster like the Dust Bowl on top of it, and food had become scarce, too. Tradition became king during that decade before WWII broke out, and so did a tough as nails attitude when faced with the desperation to survive in a wrecked economy. Mayberry never bothered with any of this information. It used the 1960s as the story's backdrop to help keep the ugly realities of the Depression away. The Andy Griffith Show was brilliant in its almost seamless meshing of our conservative past with the modern societal trends of the 1960s. Writers of the show used earlier traditional values and the modern conveniences of the future to create an idealized example of American life to entertain us. Americans everywhere watched this show and considered it a standard of reality. But in truth, it was an illusion. It was a cushion for the depressing news of Vietnam's bloody loss of lives. It was an escape from the television coverage of the draft, desegregation, and riots in the streets at major university campuses. Mayberry never truly existed in our history. The good old days, depending on which generation you look to, never had it as good as Mayberry. The entire purpose of The Andy Griffith Show wasn't to highlight reality but to soften it. It hid the ugly racism that demanded blacks to sit at the back of the bus. This show avoided the sexual revolution occurring across the US and instead focused on what was perceived as wholesome. This is what television shows were supposed to do back then: provide a feel-good atmosphere to distract its viewers from the harsh reality of the world around them for a little while. I doubt the writers ever intended for its young audience to actually twist that small town into a distorted remembrance of a real time in history, but that is what happened. Indeed, the producers never intended for their little-imagined village of impossibility to become an actual goal for modern society. Still, that is what many who long for the good old days want to see us become. They want modern convenience, traditions of the past, and all the issues of the world to resolve themselves via a limited standard of reality. If you don't want to play along, go away and be quiet so everyone else can be comfortable. If you don't be silent, then they'll legislate your silence. These ultra-conservatives refuse to accept Mayberry's perfect storefronts, comical barber, and admired sheriff as the illusions they truly were. Much like their Bibles, conservative Christians cling to the idea that simpler times are a panacea for all things wrong in the world. After all, on the streets of this Vermont town, there is less temptation and less opportunity to wander off the divine path to Heaven. There is also the assumption that if everyone is godly, then society will automatically improve. This is something that Mayberry never remotely insisted upon in any of its episodes. Thankfully, Mayberry had several individuals that never quite fit in. Despite not fitting in, or even genuinely conforming, one character really did have a positive impact on the town. I think you all know who I am referring to in particular. Yes, Ernest T. Bass is who I'm talking about. Deputy Fife saw him as a nut. Myself? I think Ernest was an innovator. He showed ingenuity, determination, and a knack for making people think outside their own interests. This outcast even managed to garner support from Sheriff Taylor himself, all while clashing with the fundamental principles the town operated on. Of course, he wasn't the only one who showed doubt about the moral reasoning of his fellow townsfolk. Fife's character would often challenge reason. There is always wiggle room in the relationships depicted on the show, and even a willingness to understand different points of view on issues. One episode, in particular, demonstrates this dynamic of the show when Barney believes in psychic powers. You see that Andy indulges Barney's agnosticism about Aladdin's lamp. While this particular scene tries to be humorous, it shows a willingness to meet in the middle, and at least discuss why a person feels a certain way. On top of that, you also see it is okay just to agree to disagree and still be friends. This is how society should work to be successful. How all these genuinely beautiful examples of functioning society have been blatantly ignored in favor of an impossible one-size-fits-all lifestyle is beyond me. Many evangelicals band together because they share a common belief structure, with little care of how crude and divisive their behavior is to the society around them. They isolate themselves from the rest of America's citizenry. When one would rather be pit against the entire world than be willing to compromise, one will learn that this mentality will cost them dearly in the future. Someone needs to conclusively demonstrate that strength isn't necessarily in just numbers anymore but in that of overall unity on issues and goals which are inclusive. Being contrary simply because of cultural differences is both foolish and costly for our future. Will ultra-conservatives ultimately decide to leave our shores and found their own country like the Pilgrims or Puritans? I hope not. The Pilgrims at first found England too corrupt and oppressive, so they tried to immigrate to Holland. But once in Holland, their children began assimilating to Dutch culture, and this was unacceptable, so they returned to England. Over time, they left again, this time hoping for a possible future in North America. What happened once arriving in America? They started to divide against each other and formed their own separate churches. You had witch trials. Heresy charges. Adultery. Capital charges included methods that gave one jail time, public whippings, and more. The bottom line here is that Christianity has to quit running away from the world and consider picking up a few lessons from other cultures. This doctrine and its leaders obviously can't handle it out there on their own. They are continually running away from accountability and insisting everyone else must conform to their standards to avoid it. It's time for them to make reasonable accommodation for the world around them, not the other way around. Also, ultra-conservatives must begin to acknowledge the harm being caused by their repressive legislative tactics against those who don't follow their ideology. There isn't a stretch of land large enough or a television show whose interpretation is well-written enough to give these political zealots the perfect theocracy they desire. They are often the authors of their own misery, eating their own when confronted with non-conformity within their ranks. This constant demonstration of cognitive dissonance is foolhardy and oh so limiting in understanding how the world they live in actually works. Here's a reminder of what the 1930s simple life involved:
  3. 9 points
    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. 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. 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. 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." 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. 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. 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. http://projectrising.org/domestic-violence/types-of-abuse/spiritual-religious-abuse/ http://projectrising.org/domestic-violence/state-coalitions/ http://recoveringfromreligion.org/hotline-project/ http://www.thehotline.org/ 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. ****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 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. 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. 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. 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.
  4. 8 points
    I have no idea. I used to know. I used to have a clear and complete picture of who I was, what life was about, how the universe worked (roughly), and what my future would be like. This has been thrown around and smashed into pieces several times, a bit like a vase in a washing machine. I'm currently piecing it back together, throwing out the parts that no longer work and adding new parts that I have found along the way. This much I know: I was born in 1987 in the English countryside about an hour away from London, the middle child of a psychologist and an IT manager. None of my family or extended family were religious. I was taught to be grateful for what you've got, pursue what you enjoy, be open to new ideas, and be tolerant of others. I went to a good state school and sixth-form college, where I became friends with some very devout evangelical christians who were always nudging me to take a leap of faith to believe in their god. I resisted but we remained close friends as we went our separate ways. I went off to university to study foreign languages with the hope of living abroad, having as many interesting experiences as I could and meeting as many interesting people as I could. I drank a lot of alcohol, fumbled my way through a broad range of sexual experiences and found some time to write some essays, which I quite enjoyed and was actually quite good at. It was in my second year that I gave in to my friends and 'found God' whatever that means. To me it meant committing to a personal relationship with a very mild, relevant Christian deity, but nevertheless adhering very strictly to the evangelical view of the Bible. It was like falling in love for the first time, but somehow better because it was a secret love that only certain people knew about. I threw all of myself into it, heart, soul, and even head. It was predominantly an emotional experience. I think I saw myself as mathematical and logical, perhaps to the extent of suppressing emotions up until that point, and this was my way of setting all of that aside and opening the floodgates so that I could feel something very raw and very intense. Throughout my time at university I became increasingly fervent in my doctrine and my actions, moving into youth and student leadership roles at church, playing and leading in worship bands, and using my language skills on short term mission abroad. I paid less and less attention to my university work and became ever more distant from non-christian friends. When it came to my year of study abroad in continental Europe I saw it as an opportunity to witness to people in countries that I considered to be two or three times more secular than my own country. The Christians I met there were incredibly strong. In my mind this was either because they had to be to thrive in such a 'spiritually dry' environment, or due to the influence of the many missionaries from the US, many of whom were Bible-Belt fundamentalists. Because I was still learning the language, these guys became my best friends. We would joke about how when they would say pants I would say trousers, we would pray together for revival in the countries we had come to love, and I turned into one of them. I mean in pretty much every way: eating sloppy joe's, cornbread and peanut butter, learning how to play american sports, and I started a relationship with a blonde girl from rural North Carolina. I quickly became accustomed to what for me was a very rule-based subculture. Don't drink, don't swear, don't read Harry Potter. Guys and girls were segregated, and everybody wore checked shirts, had army haircuts and carried a Bible around everywhere. The values my liberal secular parents had tried to instill in me were a thousand miles away. I got back to the UK, broke up with my girlfriend and had a conversation with an atheist friend on a 2 hour train journey that would change my life forever (again). I spent the next 4 months reading everything I could get my hands on, attending debates, hounding pastors and hapless street evangelists, and generally obsessing over finding out what the truth was. This wasn't an important question in my life, it was the only question. I said my last prayer at the midnight service at my local church on Christmas eve 2010. I had now graduated from uni, and had lost touch with all the christian friends I made there and abroad, including the Americans, and countless others I knew from or through church. I was living in London, sharing a place with strangers, and I felt utterly alone. On top of that I had no idea what the point of my life was now. I had planned on planting a church or becoming a missionary. At the very least carrying out God's will and living in Christ until I got to heaven. Now what? No eternal life. No point to the universe. No point to my life. And worst of all, as I grappled with these realisations, I had lost all community, routine, support network and even friends. My flatmates could never understand, my parents could never understand, and my old christian friends could never understand either. I began having anxiety attacks and not wanting to ever go to sleep because it felt like a mini-death now that there was no one in control of the universe or my life. I experienced some mild depression, and began a course of cognitive behavioral therapy. It helped reduce panic attacks and some of the symptoms of depression, but all I wanted was to talk to someone about religion, but someone who understood what I was going through. That's when I found this site in the summer of 2011. I read testimonies, watched videos and read articles by Marlene Winell among others. I have come a long way since then. I've been gradually repairing relationships with friends I had neglected either as a result of my conversion or my deconversion. I have taken up all sorts of new interests, like writing, drawing, running, politics and the environment. I've done another round of CBT and will soon go for some counseling. I still want to change the world for the better, but this time I want to engage with reality. Fantasy makes for great art, but the truth is always a better guide. So now I live my life the way I want to live it. Recognizing that I don't know anything like enough to not change my mind, as Hitchens said, taking the risk of thinking for myself every single day. I create my own meaning, I create my own identity and I'll even change the world. One of my favorite quotes is by George Bernard Shaw: "Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything." You might wonder after all that, am I really happier? As a matter of fact, yes, I am. Why? Because when you look at it in the cold light of day, it really is a wonderful world. I certainly wouldn't have it any other way. Here's to life, the universe and everything. Cheers.
  5. 7 points
    Normally, I try to focus thought and discussion on religious themes. This is due to the fact that I host my blog on this similarly themed website. Not the case today, though. Based on just my title, you might think this will be an abortion piece. Maybe I might be referring to all the police shooting deaths as of late. The reality is I'm discussing the value of my own life. Well, actually, how some in my life seem to have put a value on me, and how I mistakenly agreed their valuations were accurate. Worse, the most recent experience with being told my worth was quite literally in a monetary sense. And even more worse than that, I actually allowed this to be true for a very long part of my life. "Oh my God, Miss Z! Did someone put a hit contract out on you??" Yeah, I'm kind of infamous, but certainly not that inspiring. No, I've just had some experiences over the last decade that really kind of culminated into a single sentence I received in a text message this week. It was kind of amazing how just cold and uncaring these words were, and it made me seriously reflect on relationships I currently have. I was told,"You've been my kept woman for years." Essentially, that I am bought and paid for based on money that this person has spent on my behalf during an on and off relationship of fifteen years. Bought and paid for physically, by the way. I literally had been reduced to chattel. It doesn't matter any sacrifices I might have made, abuses I had tolerated, and blame I always just accept as automatically being mine. I cost this person a dime, therefore I am in debt, subject to flimsy conditions of reimbursement. And for the longest time, this has been acceptable in my book. My always being there when needed, focused recovery of my mental health, and dogged rationalizing of me being responsible for us to get along? Worthless. This is incredibly painful. Also, it is like hitting the bright red button on a Looney Toons show that sends the rocket from Marvin the Martian's lab to blow up Daffy Duck. I was seeing red. Enraged would be a wonderful word to describe my state the other night when reading the message I'd received. Enraged at such shallow disrespect towards me, and further indignity at my own fault in allowing such relationships to even exist in my life. A lot of you that read my blog are familiar with my situation with family. I deal with manipulative ex lovers, abusive parents that are in denial about how toxic they are, and so much more. And being on the outside looking in on my life, you have said to me,"What made you put with all of this?" Simply put, I put up with this treatment because I agreed I was such a screw up, that the people who act like this type of loan sharking of friendship had me convinced me they'd done me incalculable amounts of good. So much for using logic, guilt reigned supreme in my mind for many years. I devalued myself to the point of a paid whore. How could I be anything but? I hurt my kids. I hurt myself. I hurt my finances. It's the whole "once a fuck up, always a fuck up" mentality. Even more ridiculous is that, on principle, I never apply or believe this type of thinking about people. I am forever the optimist when it comes to human nature. Despite my own upbringing in a fairly sheltered home life, I saw the error of my parents' constant alienation of family and friends. Everyone makes a mistake, even the same one time and again. Does that equate a death sentence for their success in life? Of course not! Humans are notorious for changing and maturing. Yet, I never applied this reasoning to myself. I constantly denied myself the opportunity to pursue nicer goals, firmly believing my chance was already blown. I'd put my life to the value of zero without having a fair chance to even attempt living. Thankfully, years of therapy started to plant seeds of doubt about just how rational I was being about my mistakes in life. Ultimately, I have reached a point of zero tolerance for this type of thinking, and treatment. It took me the last three years or so to finally be comfortable with who I am, where I have been, and gain the confidence to know I can be successful and deserve it. Taking the rockier path has never been easy, but that's the road I took. Getting off the super highway of punishment hasn't been easy either. All the usual roadblocks tell me I can't exit, but the potholes are fewer as I keep crashing through the barriers. "You aren't anything without me." I hear this at least once a month. My goodness, the level of absolute disregard for anything I have ever done in this world is so sharply heard in such a statement. It's almost God like in the argument that is made. "I am Alpha and Omega. The beginning and the end." I could never be what I am today without these people, yet according to them, I am nothing. It took me forever to realize there was a huge contradiction in their attitudes. Just like Yahweh, the true contribution in my life by always being a liability was at best double edged. While supposedly protecting me, I was at the same time being controlled with guilt and money. When did my freedom become a bargaining chip? I can tell you. The day I deified these people in my heart. The day I took their verdicts on my life as gospel. But like all gods of ages past that are now insignificant tales of creation and lost power, so have these people been relegated to my personal history. They are nothing more than dim shadows in the bright adventure of my life. My life is finally relevant to me. And I owe it all to myself.
  6. 7 points
    "The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living... as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language. Thus Luther put on the mask of the Apostle Paul...Entirely absorbed in the production of wealth and in peaceful competitive struggle, it no longer remembered that the ghosts of the Roman period had watched over its cradle." Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon. I've dwelt a lot on Karl Marx the last few years. Like many philosophers of his time, there was a recognition of the re application of past control tactics to shape the future, and I am sure we can all see this trend even now, some 150 years after Marx wrote the above quoted work. This particular analysis of revolutionizing of society really came into sharp focus while I watched news coverage of Indiana's Governor Pence sign in to law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) on March 26, 2015 (S.B. 101 https://iga.in.gov/legislative/2015/bills/senate/101). He was surrounded by representatives from the American Family Association, Franciscan Monks, nuns, orthodox Jews, and lobbyists who contributed to the writing of the bill. Micah Clark, most notably, was in attendance, who is the leader of the Indiana branch of the American Family Association, as well as Curtis Smith (President of the Indiana Family Institute), who actually helped write this bill. From the just the presentation of the situation, you get an icky feeling. Still, I held out hope that the war cries of "discrimination", "legalized hate bill", and "Jim Crow is back act", were misunderstood and overblown. It isn't uncommon for both sides of an issue to misrepresent what an impact of new legislation is, would, or just could be. Here is the digest of this controversial bill: "Religious freedom restoration. Prohibits a governmental entity from substantially burdening a person's exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless the governmental entity can demonstrate that the burden: (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering the compelling governmental interest. Provides a procedure for remedying a violation. Specifies that the religious freedom law applies to the implementation or application of a law regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity or official is a party to a proceeding implementing or applying the law. Prohibits an applicant, employee, or former employee from pursuing certain causes of action against a private employer." I'm going to call this for what this is. It's a line in the sand. It's the trench being dug in before a big battle. It's the grim determination as one is facing that fateful hour of fighting against the inevitable. And it isn't just in Indiana that the line has been drawn. In fact, these RFRA laws have been around for decades, it's just that Indiana has gotten more creative and has pushed the envelope a bit further than the rest. As everything in legislation, the devil is in the details, specifically I think it's just the last couple of lines, coupled with existing anti discrimination laws in Indiana: "Specifies that the religious freedom law applies to the implementation or application of a law regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity or official is a party to a proceeding implementing or applying the law. Prohibits an applicant, employee, or former employee from pursuing certain causes of action against a private employer." I will try to keep this from being overly legal-ese in language, but no promises. To understand how Indiana's RFRA is different than that of, let's say the state of Maryland, you have to first look at the anti discrimination laws that are already on the books. These laws are pretty similar to legislation in every other state, except when you start looking at what classes are protected. Race? Check. Gender? Check. Disability and age? Check, check. Sexual orientation? Uh....no. According to NOLO , these are the protected classes in the state of Indiana. You cannot discriminate against anyone in these classes. Race Color National origin Religion Sex Disability: physical or mental (15 or more employees) Age (40 to 75, applies to employers with one or more employees) Ancestry Off-duty tobacco use Sealed or expunged arrest or conviction record (Courtesy of NOLO, http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/indiana-employment-discrimination-31981.html) Now, compared to Maryland. Race Color National origin Religion Sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions) Disability: physical or mental Age Genetic information Marital status Sexual orientation (Courtesy of NOLO, http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/maryland-employment-discrimination-31809.html) This is a huge deal. Legislation like that of RFRA are always trumped by anti discrimination laws, but what happens if LGBTQ has no class protection in that state? This is where Indiana is taking things further than any other state ever has. Now, this isn't an automatic pass to just start denying service to those who are objectionable to your religious beliefs. You can, and probably will, be drug into court for denying services or showing disfavor to an employee based on sexual orientation, differing belief system, or what ever it is you didn't like about that person. Essentially, this legislation is going to test every possible instance of denying services based on religious belief since there isn't any existing class protection for LGBTQ in the state of Indiana. All in hopes of finding just that one single case, or scenario, that holds up and provides a bit of an umbrella for the evangelicals to hold onto their version of America underneath of. My gut says that these cases will more than likely find for the side of the one being discriminated against, though I imagine there will be some judges who will initially support the right of the believer first, and let appeals sort it out over the course of many years later. The mess from all these cases, in the meantime, will be costly, polarizing, and just plain ugly. There is no way to convince me that this isn't directly aimed at the same sex marriage cases that are winning all over the United States right now. This bill's success hinges on the fact that there isn't any class protection for sexual orientation. Indiana is trying to hedge its bets by leaving the LGBTQ community as an unprotected class and pursue preemptive legislation that they think somehow protects the rights of the religious. What these politicians fail to comprehend is that the right to to your beliefs is already protected to some degree. Religion is a protected class. I can't deny a job to a Christian. I can't give promotions to atheists over Christians just because of a shared common lack of belief. I can't deny a loan to a pastor because I think it is bullshit that he won't have to pay taxes on the church he is getting a loan to build. I certainly can't be hired on as a mail carrier and then turn around and selectively choose to not deliver mail to the Christians on my route simply because I find their beliefs offensive. This is what class protection is all about. Not to give protection to your personal efforts to make every aspect of a person's individual freedom fit neatly in the square peg hole that you personally find palatable. What has been even more disturbing is the almost stoic behavior of the larger evangelical associations since the bill was signed this past week. While there were a few enthusiastic social media posts about the bill's passing, there weren't too many shared thoughts on the act being signed from the larger advocate groups. There wasn't any major chest pounding incidents by the local churches, AFA branches, or even by Pro Life Indiana. It has seemed oddly quiet, other than the general public doing the gloating or decrying of SB 101. This silence isn't from fear of being bullied or turning the other cheek. No longer willing to stamp their feet and throw tantrums to get their way, conservative evangelical power players are settling in for the long haul. It's a grim determination you can see and feel in their posturing, as these politicians, lobbyists, and followers, see the looming storm of change coming at them. They are going to find themselves on a peg board with different sizes all around them. This isn't good for their constituency. You see, It isn't enough to just fit in the life style that is so desired to be lived in by these people. Their surrounding scenery has to match what they envision for their lives. The old meme about making donuts illegal since one is on a diet always comes to my mind when I see this kind of demand for accommodation. That's all this bill, and other similarly motivated legislation which are claimed to "protect religious liberty" really are designed to do. It is an extra accommodation to keep the pot kind of sweetened when other classes start to reach the same level of benefit. It's outright indulgence in special interest pandering, which is exactly what a protected class is not about. Protecting a class of people means ensuring their constitutional rights are equal to that of everyone else, not enhanced to allow rights that circumvent the laws or offer exclusive perks. It gives the opportunity for the public to start segregating legally, no matter how misguided their intention to buffer their world to only one type of peg hole truly is. It is a stubborn irrationality that is determined to keep itself entrenched in government legislation in a last ditch effort to save their pristine beach front view of divine living. May their God forbid having to actually agree to disagree and carry on with an unsightly difference in lifestyle living next door. So, in a nutshell, Indiana Senate Bill 101 does not automatically allow shop owners to put up "No Gays Allowed" signs in their windows. It does open the door for easier legal challenges, though victories are certainly far from guaranteed for the religious trying to escape the rules of the proverbial playground sandbox. The move to keep one of the core values of a religious person's sanctity has moved from the public referendum to the majority rule of right wing dominated congressional buildings. The reality that there isn't a majority of public support has motivated this change in field of play. I don't know if the rationale has to do with the idea that somehow just getting the law on the books will unite the rest of the nation and turn it into the perfect representation of what our founders intended. Or maybe it is the idea that they can unite the rest of the splintered religious groups under one party and then more conservative politics can rule the land. I think it all has a ring of truth to it. I do know it has little to do with being closer to God. This is simply because the long run goal to being religious is Heaven, and one doesn't need to legislate religious law in order to get into the blissful graces of divine companionship. A simple prayer and heart felt talk to those you love would fulfill the demand of sharing the "good news". A propaganda laced call to unify isn't the answer, and I really think they are missing the clear disconnect that is going on between the general public and their efforts. Propaganda is scary, and the younger generation has picked up on this quite clearly thanks to the access of information out there. Mom and Dad's Fox News channel isn't going to be enough anymore. Long term, bills like RFRA will require a lot of clarification and trial by fire in the courts. They won't hold water for very long either as the discriminatory days of the past being revisited will be too obvious to deny. As Martin Luther put on the mask of the apostle Paul, eventually, politicians like Governor Pence will not be able to look in the mirror without seeing the likes of Ross Barnett or George Wallace smiling back at him. A daunting visage of times past being used to justify the repression of the future rights of America's billions. All in the name of religious pandering. ***Want to read more? Check out my short compilation with an additional nine new essays not published anywhere else. http://www.amazon.co...dge of survival ***
  7. 7 points
    This poor kid's parents told him he just wanted to sin. The Church Lady thinks it's because the pastor offended someone or there wasn't enough parking. This guy claims that people "tell him" they're just too spiritual, darn it, or they'd rather do yoga at home. (Note to the preacher: this is the Christian version of friendzoning.) And this blog cites a chain letter that blames ungratefulness--that people who leave church are just too used to God's "blessings" and get all complacent about them being showered down on them all the damn time. No, really. Read it; it's a hoot. I read a number of pages and studies about "why people leave Christianity" and the one thing that really springs out at me is that all these "reasons" are made up by Christians with, it seems, very little honest input from the actual deconverts. I'm not surprised, of course. If someone leaves the fold, Christians bash their brains out trying to figure out what was wrong with that person that he left. There's this insatiable need to figure out a reason, push the whole issue into a file folder marked "resolved," close it, and put it away and not ever have to think about it ever again. I used to do it too, and I really think the reason why was I was terrified of finding out there might have been a damned good reason that person left. The problem might not be the person leaving, but with the message itself. And that's what turned out to be the case when it came to be my time to walk away from it all. We all have different stories, but Christians don't tend to want to hear those stories. They may say they do, but really they just want to hear it so they can discount it or try to explain it away. No matter how many hours or weeks or years you put into researching your decision, they are the magic Christian who will explain it all away and it'll all make sense and you'll leap back into that church pew and give thanks for having such wonderful Christian friends. They don't listen; it's a lot easier to just make stuff up, and when you do that, you don't have to worry about engaging with the real reasons people leave. And when you make stuff up, what you're really doing is comforting yourself: you're assuring yourself that YOU'D never leave. YOU'D never deconvert. YOU'D know better. YOU'RE the true Christian. The apostate is clearly deluded, stupid, vain, arrogant, or just wasn't a "real Christian" (like you are), or didn't know the Bible (like you do), or was in the wrong denomination (ie, not yours). When you're tilting at windmills, you don't really engage with the message you hear. Stop listening to that craziness and really listen to what we're saying here. This is why we're not coming back, and this is why we left. I do not speak for all deconverts, but these are the common threads I see in deconversion stories: 1. To our shock and pain, we discovered that the Bible isn't true at all. Not even a little. There's no evidence that prayer works, no proof that miracles ever happen, and every time history examines a Biblical question, the Bible turns out to be almost completely mythical. Not a one of its dogmatic claims holds up to even cursory argument. Very liberal Christians may not care, but for ex-Christians from a conservative evangelical background, discovering that there couldn't possibly have been a worldwide flood or a person fitting the background given for Jesus is devastating. Not for nothing do atheists claim that the easiest way to make a Christian deconvert is to make that Christian read his or her own Bible; some of the most prominent ex-Christians ever were people who went to seminary to learn more about their beloved Bibles only to emerge with their faith destroyed by simple reality (like Charles Templeton, one of the founders of Campus Crusade for Christ!). Most Christians have no clue in the world what's in there: God condoning--even ordering--rape, slavery, murder, trickery, witchcraft, incest, genocide, abortion, war, abuse, infanticide, and more. Most ex-Christians, however, are very familiar with these myths and commandments. We're not idiots. We studied the Bible and found it full of contradictions and monstrous, inhuman crimes against mankind. We read the apologetics books and found them struggling to doublespeak themselves into a god against all evidence to the contrary. We attended revivals to try to recover our faith and heard ignorant speakers misstate science or parrot claims we knew weren't true. We prayed, and nothing we prayed for happened even though the Bible says it always will. We begged for a sign, and got none even though God did tons of signs just like what we'd requested in the OT and in Jesus' day. We wept and we fasted and we drilled down on acting right and talking right and doing right, and nothing changed even though change is promised if we do those things. There's no amount of arguing that'll change the simple fact that the Bible is a book of myths, and nothing it really happened, and nothing it promises really comes true through any means other than human effort or coincidence. 2. Christians aren't better people with Jesus, and non-Christians aren't worse people for not having Jesus. For a religion that stresses "spiritual fruits," Christians have next to none; states and countries that are known for having a lot of Christians in them do worse by every conceivable measure than those who are more secular. The news is filled with "god-fearing Christians" tearing each others' faces off, abusing their kids to death, or getting caught in this or that sex scandal. We realized that there can't be a god inhabiting us and informing our every move, because if there were we'd sure expect to find Christians to be at least as good as non-Christians. But arguably they are, by and large, worse. Every ex-Christian has horror stories about abuses at the hands of Christians (more on this further down). We heard the platitudes about Christians not being perfect, just forgiven, and we heard about how church is a "hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints." And that was obviously horseshit to everybody but the pious Christians trying to explain away their total lack of fruits. Whatever you gotta tell yourself, sparky. But we know the truth: there is no god inhabiting Christians and making them wonderful people, and there is no devil influencing the lost making them worse. When we do run across Christians who are genuinely good people, we are forced to conclude that it's not an invisible sky friend making them so, but the sheer fact that they are good people regardless of what religion they follow. Once the threat of becoming a murderous, raping arsonist upon deconversion is removed, a lot of the scariness and Otherness of deconversion is gone. 3. We learned logical fallacies and cognitive biases, and we learned how Christianity uses all of them. We also learned that this faith that we thought was loving and caring is in actuality controlling and callous, even resorting to threats and cruelties to keep its members' butts in seats. If your religion is true, it shouldn't need to threaten a person's reputation, his/her connection to family and friends, his/her livelihood, his/her home, even his/her job to maintain compliance. These maneuvers did a lot to show us how false the religion must be if it stoops to such low levels of shoddy reasoning and cruel behavior. Christianity is a supremely manipulative religion. As any blogger can tell you, anybody who speaks against Christianity is lucky if all s/he gets are a barrage of death threats and insults from those who follow the supposed God of peace, love, and mercy. The threats are designed to chill us and silence us, to scare us into at least acting compliant even if we struggle with the certainty that it's all fake. If we're quiet, it doesn't matter. If we speak up, we become the enemy, and Christians know what to do with those who are different. They've had two thousand years to practice. For all the "it's not you, it's me" breakup statements Christians may hear, it really boils down to a few: we realized the Bible wasn't true. We realized that Christians don't act like they're inhabited by a god--most don't even act like they really believe in most of the myth at all. We realized that Christianity's arguments were shoddy and that its treatment of dissenters was nothing short of inhumane, making its validity highly suspect. The awful truth is that almost every one of us would have gladly welcomed an argument that actually made sense, or believed in evidence once it was provided. We would have gladly accepted the truth had Christians had any to present. I'm probably spitting into the wind here when I tell Christians that we know the Bible very well; we understand it perfectly well; we have looked at the "evidence" and found it seriously lacking. But Christians don't want to hear that. They have to cover that up somehow. It's terrifying to imagine that we might know the Bible better than they do--that might mean the fault isn't ours for leaving. So they cloak these simple truths in belittling us, or claiming we're stupid or misinformed or rebellious or "too spiritual" (seriously, WTFH). Of course they do. The truth is dangerous. It's scary. It's messy. And breaking free of living a lie, with all the threats and cruelties Christians have in store for the unwary deconvert, is so very, very difficult. Yet more and more of us are doing just that. And we will continue to do so. Ignore our real reasons for leaving at your peril, churches; the more you ignore and misstate our reasons, the more you demonstrate how totally out of touch you are.
  8. 7 points
    As a recent ex-christian (6 months sober), I am still waking up to the utter lunacy of the majority of our population. Even as a True Believer, when I saw things like this I was able to call bullshit. I would get aggravated by believers who seemed to check their brains at the door, and felt like they made the rest of us look bad. I feel like a self-righteous ass to admit that. But if you were to get them to admit it – there are many Christians who feel that way. Even though I kept more of my common sense intact than many other believers, I was still much more in the dark than I realized. I didn’t recognize the tremendous scope of absolute idiocy that resides in the majority of this country that I love so dearly. Now, don’t get me wrong. I believed in my share of poppycock! I bought into god’s supernatural intervention, I just tried to balance it with some sense of reason…which eventually led to the undoing of my faith. What is so shocking to me now is the stuff I chose not to pay attention to. I chose to see my brothers and sisters in the faith as people who were good, god-loving and who would eventually “change the world”. Even though many of my fellow Christians may have been of a different religious stripe, I considered that we were all unified because of our belief in Christ. So when believers did bat-shit crazy things, I tried to give them the benefit of the doubt. After all, it was “us” against the world. Now that I’ve moved over to the “dark side”, I am able to more fully grasp the deficit of critical thinking skills that resides among believers. I must admit that as I sat and read through the comments on the above photo this morning, I was shocked. It’s not that I haven’t seen this sort of ignorance before among Christians. I guess it just sank in to a new level for me. Maybe for the first time I really let myself see these people as completely separate from me. I allowed myself to scorn them and their ignorance. I am just now getting to a point where I truly see this vast chasm between myself and my former Christian family. I must admit that in a strange way this saddens me a little. I realize that I will never again be a part of that greater family. But that sadness is quickly followed by a sense of relief. I no longer have to check my brain at the door. I no longer have to feel like the odd person in the room and the only one asking questions and thinking rationally about things. And I’ve realized that leaving my faith doesn’t mean I have to be alone. I’ve discovered a whole world full of amazing people…people I never would have considered “friend material” as a Christian. I’m now part of a group of beautiful, loving, accepting heathens! So, without further ado, here is the epic Facebook thread that pushed me over the edge this morning... The caption for the photo above was "Click share if you see the angel and Jesus!". It originated from the "I Love Jesus" FB page (which you should never visit unless you want an ulcer!). This photo had over 1700 comments. The majority of them were people who seemed to ACTUALLY believe that someone ACTUALLY caught Jesus and an angel at the scene of this accident. Of course my first thoughts were the logical arguments, such as “If Jesus was there, why were these people in a near-fatal crash?”, and “If Jesus was there why did the EMT’s need to help the victims? Weren’t they instantly healed by Jesus?” Nope. No one seemed to have the balls to ask those questions (or maybe the page administrator deleted such comments). As I read through them, I was amazed and appalled by the fact that most of the commenters didn’t show compassion for the injured people in the photo. Also, I did not see even ONE comment by someone thanking the EMT’s who were there (in real life!) to rescue the victims. And, surprisingly, most of them didn’t mention the very obvious ass-crack in the photo. No, they were all too busy giving praise to god for…um….letting these poor people get seriously injured or possibly killed? Here’s a sampling of the comments… The True BelieversTM: "aye he goin to heaven now thats cray and scary!!" (WTF?!) "amazing grace!" "just what I needed!" "wow! amazing!" " One day, we will all have to give an answer to our maker. Amazing picture, thanks for sharing! ” (Sure, why not take this opportunity to proselytize?) "breathetaking!" (Why can't these people spell?!) "gave me goosebumps!" "they are always there when you need them!" "why can't we just believe" (In response to those calling "photoshop") "he's always there and loves when you talk to him" "please send to my phone or fb wall" (Apparently this person does not understand how to share or send a photo. Shocking.) "Beleving &Haveing faith" (Again with the spelling!) "an ever present help in danger" (HOW is helping these victims?) "amen. guess john sullivan does not know jesus" (John Sullivan commented with "nice photoshop", so I guess he deserves to go to hell?) "padre eterno que tu anjel cuide mis hijos no nos desanpares telo pido con toda la fe dios mio." (No idea what this says, but I'm sure it's really stupid.) "WOW! MAKES YOU BELIEVE" (No, it makes me ill.) "De Javu" (Because you were once at the scene of a horrific accident accompanied by Jesus and an angel? Do you even know what déjà vu means? If so, maybe you could learn to spell it.) As I skimmed through the comments I found a few made by people who may still have their brains intact. Only a small percentage of the 1700 seemed to understand this photo did not actually depict Jesus and an angel. This seriously makes me afraid for this country! The Brave Naysayers: "plumber's crack!" (This guy was one of only a few who caught that.) "you people are retarted" (of course they misspelled retarted!) "it's photoshop my friends" "potato!" (LOL!) "good graphic" "you people are freaks" (Ahhh so refreshing.) "amen to shitty photoshop!" "photoshop and butt crack" "hail satan" (This made me laugh! It actually got 11 likes!) "science!" (LOVE this one.) "So sad... " (This was the ONLY comment I saw where someone seemed to actually understand what was really happening in this photo.) "awwwwwwwwwwwww im sorry that happed amen" (Well, this guy almost got it.) And my comment: “Maybe instead of ignorantly praising god for this photoshopped pic, you guys could ask yourselves why he would allow these poor people to get critically injured? Don’t you think if Jesus and an angel were ACTUALLY there that they would have prevented this horrible accident, or at least instantly healed the victims? How about instead you actually thank the EMT’s for being there to rescue the victims and SAVE THEIR LIVES? The EMT’s are the only people in this photo who should be praised. Use your brains, people!” (SOMEONE had to be a voice of reason!) So, there you have it. I feel like I need a shower to wash off the stupid.
  9. 6 points
    Dear Cute Guy on the bus, Today's ride home seemed like it would be the usual fare of crowded seats, faux fur hood linings tickling my shoulders, coughing behind my left ear, a man preaching about this holiday's "real" reason, and a driver frustrated more and more with every time he had to slam on his brakes. And this expectation held true all the way until the Kroger stop, when half the bus unloaded. Then with the sudden opening of empty spots, everyone reshuffled and there you were across from me in the aisle giving me an oddly familiar smile. To your defense, it might not have been as odd a smile as it seemed. After all, you ride the same route all the time, and I'm usually oblivious and writing by the time we hit the next stop after boarding. But I digress. You lean over to me, and wave a hand to get my attention to remove my headphones. You have a very genuine and disarming smile. Your hair is dark, matted down, and a mild ring around your crown can be seen from a hard hat you probably wore all day at your job. But nonetheless, your interest and inviting smile puts your whole approach together perfectly. As you are tilting forward to talk over the noise of the bus roaring off from that fateful Kroger stop, you playfully pulled at the gray edges of your work shirt collar, casually looking side to side for a moment as if you don't want to be overheard revealing some interesting tid bit of news. When you do this, I notice the lightly bristled edge of your jaw squaring up for a second, and your dark brows and green flecked hazel eyes focus right into mine, and I'm completely entranced with amused curiosity in this social spectacle that lasts all of five seconds. And you speak; a deeper baritone escaping from your throat than I could've imagined coming from such a treat to watch, but it works for you. A complete picture of a man with intent, and I like it a lot. Your lip pulls away from teeth whiter than I could ever hope to scrub my bathroom tiles, and you introduce yourself. And with the utterance of your name follows a monstrosity of a conversation starter that riled every red flag in my mind. Three words shattered my ballooned anticipation of experiencing a possible kindredness on an average Thursday bus ride. I heard these words and I immediately damned my pensive mind. I cursed my hyper active reasoning. I loathed my damaged experiences and the wisdom they lent me. A perfect five seconds demolished by the quick firing response of my synapses and protein transfers thanks to three poorly timed words. All because of three lousy words that conveyed an intent that means the shallow acquaintance at a bar before a drunken fuck at two in the morning. Words that don't mean "I want to know you", but "I want permission to justify expectation". Consonants and vowels that are arranged in a manner to dictate whether I have an owner or not. Yes, my flirtatious man about town, I am single. Why does that matter right now, in this moment of everyday meetings and conversation? Is it really that necessary to clarify I am worth talking to based on whether I have a current lover or not? In what world do we live that even in America people see it as disrespectful to possibly befriend a stranger who has a lover? Some would blame women and the "games" we play, but asking a person's relationship status as a qualifier for even engaging in conversation isn't just consent to converse. It's affirmation of sexual availability before ever even considering sharing what music I like! I find it absolutely detestable the need to clarify ahead of time whether my vagina is already an assigned sperm catcher. Even worse, is one determining I am not worth further conversation unless my vagina is unclaimed. Whenever I am asked if I am single before even engaging in casual conversation, it feels like I am being asked for some type of consent. Consent to be approached sexually. A mutually understood agreement of having "a fair chance" at dating me. Consenting to a societal standard that I don't even want to be subjected to. "Are you single?" My stomach knotted up when you asked me this. It's an uncomfortable question that I see many people treat others with suspicion if the woman doesn't want to answer, or hesitates before answering. As if this anxiety to respond is something to be ashamed of. I realize that it is important to know if someone is in a relationship if your intent is to date that person, or just offer a flirtatious greeting. I understand that there are some out there who become highly offended at even being simply approached in conversation by the opposite sex. But there are many women, like myself for instance, who understand asking me my relationship status immediately upon approach is code for,"Am I allowed to approach you sexually." Handsome man, I am never going to fault you for the social construct you are programmed with, but I will fault you for refusing to consider my side of the equation when being approached. I certainly do understand yours so show me the same grace. Honestly, those three words immediately told me I probably didn't want to even answer you and just disengage from the moment. There is a time and place for wanting to know if someone is available for dating, sex, and whatever else. The opening greeting is certainly not the right time. Yes, I'm single. No, I'm not constantly looking and wanting to try on every guy or gal that approaches me with interest. My being single NEVER equates to consent of anything, and it doesn't commit me to your expectations of availability. Cute Guy on the bus, you spoke to me briefly on the bus and had asked me if I were single. And as soon as I answered yes, you told me how attractive I was, said I should have a "guy that wants to treat me out", and then asked me out on a date, which I politely declined. I don't know you, and I'm not comfortable with this initial approach towards me. I even suggested that maybe we can talk more during the commute tomorrow, but you wouldn't hear it. "But you said you are single," you whined, an annoyed grimace deepening the shallow laugh lines around your cheeks. Your eyes went from open and inviting to incredulous and suspicious. You wondered aloud if I were really even single, or if I was just flirting with you to get my kicks. You felt that I was indebted to you since I had, in your mind, given consent to be pursued by stating my relationship status. You are sick of women leading you on you tell the guy behind us, which confirmed my identifying was giving you the unspoken nod of sexual intent. So, of course I just laid my head back against the window I was sitting next to, pulled my earphones back over my ears and went back to the monotonous bumps, coughs, and brake slamming that I had grown accustomed to expecting on my evening commute. I know I am going to see you on the bus again Monday morning. Maybe I will explain to you that looking for women to date is different than shopping for a coat. You can't seriously believe women want to try men on and off like a coat at a department store until we find one that fits. Some coats are just not my style, and I wouldn't even bother to try them on. Kind of like you. .
  10. 6 points
    We've all been there at some point. You log onto your favorite social media website like Facebook, and as you scroll through the many status updates in your news feed with highlights about your Aunt Martha's cat, or your friend's son that lost a tooth, you see this: If you are irreligious like myself, all you see is this: Why do people do this? Where is this urge to shout from the digital rooftops about God's touching one's soul coming from? And even more importantly, do these folks even realize that their pious platitudes and preaching are nothing more than selfish cries for attention? Everyone learns something differently in church when it comes to appropriate social protocols when witnessing to the masses, publicly declaring your faith, and celebrating the glory of a god. One thing has always been made clear to me though during my 20 years in a pew. I was always told in the 6 different churches I attended that one should unequivocally be only giving the glory to God. God's amazing invisible finger of knowledge will automatically follow and anoint those you addressed if they are willing with little to no effort on your part. There was no telling someone how sad you were that they had no faith. It wasn't necessary to insist that you would pray for someone if they didn't want to hear your message. One certainly didn't have to debate for hours on end with atheists and other religious groups on Facebook in order to convert a few souls. No. My mere channeling of his divine presence would be enough to effect change in the person(s) I was engaged with. If I had to do more than just share a brief five minutes of His word, then I wasn't doing it right. What on earth has changed? Anymore, I feel like whenever I see a long copied post on my news feed, I am dealing with a Jim Jones wannabe. I mean this most sincerely, and I know this is not the intention of the witnessing spokesperson of Yahweh. These people really come across like charismatic psychopaths who think they can draw few flies in for dinner before mass. Quite literally they are pulling a Jim Jones maneuver from the man's own playbook. Let me explain. It is never enough to just have attended church, accepted Christ, and have lived as righteously as possible. It's enough for God in Heaven, but not enough for the interpreted version of Him within the church walls. This is especially so with all the constant nonsense about a war on Christianity that has started permeating the news. Last I checked, Christians are not being purposely put to death in this country. Hardly a war, but it makes for interesting talk around the Communion trays. Couple that with declining church attendance? Well, it's time to get the word out! At least, that is the mindset I had always come across. Proselytizing on Facebook isn't just about sharing faith, sharing joy, or sharing eternal life. It's a rallying cry to sign up. And like Jim Jones, while these social media soap boxers are full of scripture, they really don't want you to read it. As soon as you start asking about the scripture, you get rants about politics, disease, sexual abomination, and overall fear of Satan ruling the Earth. They literally pull a Jim Jones. They throw their Bibles down on the ground, insisting that you pay more attention to them than their original source of information. This same thing happens on discussion boards, even here on Ex-C. Someone posts a long opener about the seamless genius of a preferred deity. "It's so simple and clearly laid out, even a grade schooler can understand," this person says. Lines of scripture follow, including poorly made flow charts of historical context. Your eyes glaze over, but you manage to point out a number of errors in the flow chart by using the Bible said chart is based off of. What happens? Slam! Bible is on the floor, the patronizing insults of "You are over intellectualizing what I am saying" or "Your lack of faith is disturbing, I will pray for you" begin to flow. The focus has left the shared data and compelling arguments, with all attention shifted to the proselytizer. God is back in the wispy realms of fantasy, only being brought up as a holy reference to add to the pious demeanor of your rabidly biblical preaching poster. You will manage to somehow go in this discussion from lack of faith to the End Times, where all prophesies become interpretive dancing of fantastically hopeful outcomes. There might even be a bit of frothing as the witnessing individual's mind leaps from one potential sign of the times to another, as the influx of far fetched links begin to work this person's brain into an almost crack fueled frenzy. So, next time you have the urge to engage a lengthy Jebus post, realize it is just a psychiatric need for strength in numbers playing out on your wall. To solve this problem, and if you are on Facebook, do the following: If you are in a regular discussion forum, show restraint and leave the conversation. No matter how you engage, in the religious gladiator's mind, he's victorious. Either you didn't engage because of his awesome faith, or you didn't engage because Satan compels you to leave him alone. Those who engage in this type of behavior are addicted to this type of attention. They are usually very charismatic and have some very lofty ideas of how convincing their faith is on its own merits. Religious preaching on social media is a clear sign of addiction to the holy crack they are sucking in. Holy crack being fantasy and escape from a world that one is finding too difficult to reason out alone.
  11. 6 points
    After the birth of my son in 1997 I began to have some health problems. Over the next several years my health declined very gradually. But by around 2007 I was nearly bedridden. Over the following 2 years I went to a couple of different doctors and only improved slightly. Despite all of this, my faith was strong. I was frustrated and wondered why this was happening, but I never doubted that God loved me and had some kind of plan that I just couldn’t see or understand. In 2008 we began attending a church that taught the “goodness and grace” of God. They were ”kingdom now” believers, meaning that they believed everything Jesus spoke of as part of his Kingdom was real and available to believers right now. I learned that it was indeed God’s will for every believer to be well and that Jesus “paid for my healing on the cross”. I learned how "powerful" and "interactive" God was. I fully believed that God was absolutely good and wanted only good things for me. I had what I felt was a very real and interactive relationship with him. I genuinely loved God and often felt what I believed was his presence. I fully believed he was going to heal me. We loved our church and the people there were our family. I had many “prophetic words” given to me confirming things I believed God was showing me in my own time spent with him. I lived in this “supernatural reality” where my life was part of this great plan and my future held all of my hopes and dreams, if only I believed and trusted. I spent most of my time going to church meetings, “spending time with God”, studying what the Bible said about “the kingdom” and healing, watching or listening to Bible teaching, and watching videos of people testifying about their own healing experiences. My favorite thing to do was to “be in God’s presence”. All of this culminated in my attending a 3 day “healing conference” in September of 2009. The conference was about an hour from my home, so I booked a hotel room so that I could be closer to the church where the meetings were held. I was excited to have that time with just “me and Jesus”. During the conference meetings there were moments where I experienced such intense bliss and euphoria. This was mainly during the worship times. At one point as I stood and worshipped I felt as though I left my body and was looking down over the auditorium. It was the most strange and amazing experience. I remember in that moment asking God why it was happening and what he was saying to me. But I heard nothing. Another intense experience was when my friend and I became overwhelmed with laughter. We laid on the floor laughing so hard we were crying. I had seen this happen to others and had always been skeptical of it. This was the first time it happened to me. I also experienced a “tingling” sensation in my hands and feet. This sensation would come on me days and even weeks later whenever I would worship God. I felt as though God was confirming to me that he that he loved me and that he was real. Despite all of these seemingly wonderful experiences I was having, I had not gotten the healing I so desperately desired. On the last day of the conference one of the ministers was teaching about how “words of knowledge” are actually “prophetic words”. He said that when you hear a story of someone who’s been healed, it is an “invitation” for God to do the same thing for you, so just “grab onto it” and believe it for yourself. Then he began rattling off a bunch of “testimonies” of people who had been “healed” at other conferences where he and this team had ministered. As he shared the stories, he named many of the health problems I was experiencing. I began to weep and tremble. I just KNEW this was my answer! I fell to the floor and wept. I was absolutely overcome with emotion. I fully believed God was healing me. I was overwhelmed with gratitude and love for God and his love for me. It was like he had created this moment just for me. That night after the conference was over I drove an hour back home crying and praising God all the way. I didn’t physically feel any different, but that didn’t deter me. I believed I was healed. When I pulled into my driveway I sat in the car for a moment before going inside. I wondered what I should do now regarding the strict diet I’d been on and the medicine and supplements I’d been taking. I asked God what I should do, should I stop doing all of those things? I felt so strongly that he said that I was now free from doing all of that. I cried and thanked him and went into the house. That night I stopped taking my medication and supplements, and began eating the foods I’d been avoiding. I honestly wish I could say that from that moment on I was healed. But that is not the case. For the next 2 years I ignored my symptoms, believing that I was “being healed gradually” and that what my body was “manifesting” wasn’t “reality”. But I struggled painfully with my faith. I lived on an emotional roller coaster. I was in a constant cycle of being frustrated, confused and hurt over my ongoing illness, to surrendering all over again and trusting God. But I just couldn’t get past the feeling that if what I believed was true I shouldn’t be feeling sick! I felt like God was abandoning me. How could such a good God who loved me so much allow me to suffer so much? How could I go through such an amazing “healing experience” and still be ill? At times I literally felt like I was going insane. Looking back, I can see that my rational mind was screaming at me to face reality. But every time I came to that point of frustration, I would squash all of those rational thoughts. I would fall back on my belief that God was good and that he was working in ways that I didn’t understand. But in October of 2011 rationality finally won. My health had deteriorated further and I could no longer ignore it and convince myself that I was getting better. I had to come to terms with the fact that I WAS NOT HEALED and that I was not GOING to be healed. Despite my many “experiences with God” and all of my prayers and the prayers of others, I was still sick. I realized how depressed I had become. I spent many days in my bed crying and praying and trying to understand what God was doing in my life. Why was I living this way? I knew it was time to ask some hard questions. I knew that I must allow myself to really doubt…to really evaluate what was happening to me and what I believed. Ironically, during this time an evangelist couple we know invited my husband and I to a church where they were ministering for the weekend. At this point, we were both at the breaking point with our faith. As we say in Texas, it was “shit or get off the pot” time. Either God healed or he didn’t. Either he was good or he wasn’t. And either what the Bible said was true or it wasn’t. And if God did heal people, we needed to actually see evidence in our own lives. Both my husband and I hoped that God would finally “show up for us” at these meetings. To our surprise, our friends asked us to minister with them. Even though we were struggling, we believed God must be calling us to do this, so we went for it. This was a small church in a little West Texas town. The people there were the real deal, down to earth, sweet people. Many of them were there because they were desperate for a miracle. I stood in front of that church with a group of church-goers gathered around me and prayed a prayer with them. I said, “God we are all here because we choose to believe that you are real, that you love us and that you do what your word says you will do. Some of us have been disappointed and hurt, but we choose to trust again. We know that you love us and we are asking you to intervene in our lives.” Many of those people cried as I prayed. The room seemed filled with love, hope and expectation. If there was a more perfect moment for God to “show up”, I don’t know what it could have been. Later on at the meeting I was praying for a young boy. As he looked at me with his big blue eyes filled with anticipation, I could feel all of the faith I had left drain right out of me. I found myself saying the “right things” but inside knowing it was wrong. I felt sickened by the thought that I was standing there giving him false hope. Later that evening my husband and I sat and prayed with an older woman who was in tears because of the amount of pain she was in. She had severe pain in her knees and was telling us she just couldn’t understand why God hadn’t healed her when she’d been asking him to for years. (She had surgery on her knees a few days later.) On the way home I cried as I realized that I had more compassion and love for those people than God did. Over the course of the next few weeks I continued to doubt and to question. For me it became no longer a question of whether or not God was “good”, but instead a question of whether or not God was REAL. I was amazed by the fact that my initial reaction to the thought of God not being real was a sense of relief. Suddenly I realized that if he was never there, that meant he wasn’t just sitting by watching me and others suffer. My husband and I went online and quickly found a community of Ex-Christians who had been down the same road we were now walking on. We were amazed as we read their stories. At this time we were still leading 2 very active groups at our church. But we knew we could no longer do that with all of the doubts we were having. We took a “sabbatical” from church and continued reading everything we could about the origins of the Bible and the errors it contained. We looked intently at the parts of the Bible we’d ignored our entire Christian lives (that alone would have been enough to turn us!). At first it was difficult for me to digest all of it. While these things did bring a sense of relief, I also grieved over the loss of my “father”, “friend” and “constant companion”. It felt strange not to think of myself as “special” and “called”. I wasn’t sure how to think about life and the world. It was a strange mix of emotions. But that quickly gave way to a feeling of peace. My mind became so much calmer and clearer. After only a few weeks my depression lifted and I no longer felt like I was on that emotional roller coaster. So, it’s been almost 4 months now since I jumped off the Jesus-train. I have been taking good care of myself and seeing a great doctor. I have already had some improvements in my health and believe that with time and some hard work I will make a full recovery. I no longer see myself as incapable and overwhelmed with life. I have a new sense of confidence and appreciation for life, relationships, and living in the moment. I see the importance of making good choices and believe in my own ability to create change. Ironically, I’m a much more optimistic person now than when I was a believer. Now I’m just enjoying the simple life…living and thinking freely for myself!
  12. 5 points
    The following is adapted from my blog website. By now I've transcended opposing religion and go against ideologies as a whole. Imagine if you will two very different college students, we shall call them Mary and Jake. They're starting their first semester and find the dorms lacking opting instead for small apartments near the school. All utilities are included with their rents except for cable and internet. With that said, they decide to head down to the Comspaz office (the local cable and internet provider). Jake is a big sports fan. He played on the high school football team and is an overall athletic person. He also enjoys having friends over to watch the game. Comspaz offers a premium package that includes ESPN, ESPN2, etc. However there’s content that Jake knows he’ll never see such as a cooking channel, a reality TV channel, etc. The package is expensive for a college student but it’s the only way he’ll be able to watch what he wants. He inquires “why cant I just get the sports channels I need?” The salesperson apologizes and tells him “unfortunately, that’s the only package that offers that content.” Jake begrudgingly signs the one year contract and a tech is dispatched to get his service up and running. Mary shows up an hour later. She doesn’t watch television as her parents never had a set at the house so her only need is fast, reliable internet. The Comspaz employee tells her that she’ll get internet at a lower price by bundling it with the premium package that Jake has. Her apartment doesn’t even have a TV but she also begrudgingly signs the one year agreement. When she gets her fist bill, she’s upset that she has a “sports broadcasting fee” and other taxes. She grills the Comspaz employee by asking “why do I have to pay for something I have no interest in?” Nobody likes these types of combined products/services. I’ve worked in sales positions in different industries and everyone (save the impulsive shopper) just wants to buy exactly what they need/want and nothing more. When it comes to the beliefs that form the foundation of our lives however, we gladly accept any bundle. Jake is a Christian from a small town and the Baptist church he attends now offers what he’s looking for. He has a place of community with like minded individuals. He has an outlet to help poor children in the city and also joins a ministry where he helps the homeless attain employment. Unlike his church back home, this one is well funded, organized, and actually accomplishes what it sets out to do. Of course, anyone familiar with religion knows it isn’t all love and compassion. Jake sits through sermons condemning the LGBT community for example and the pastor also breaks into “fire and brimstone” warnings for the unbeliever. He’s also forced to listen to anti-science diatribe on a regular basis. Sometimes, the message is about theological issues that have no relevance to daily life whatsoever but this is the “bundle” he must accept if he is wants to be a part of the congregation. Jake might be a loving person but these ideas slowly poison his mind. He begins to see the LGBT community on campus with a sense of disgust. He looks at students of other faith with suspicion and/or targets of conversion. He becomes weary of scientific discoveries if they so much as slightly contradict scripture. I’ve publicly acknowledge that sometimes religion has the potential to create changes for the better (to an extent), even as an atheist. However, this type of toxicity will be always be there in one form or another. Mary’s story is different but also veering off course. She’s in an atheist, pro social justice, pro feminist group on campus. The group has programs that encourage young girls to take interest in science. They also help with a woman’s shelter and empower victims of abuse to confront their abusers while bringing awareness these types of issues on a local, national, and international level. The organization branches off into other areas such as environmentalism. Their activism has managed to get the city to reconsider selling the nearby nature preserve to the school for development among other things. Furthermore, they also address income inequality and childhood poverty (what initially drew Mary in the first place). From the outside, everything looks positive (much like the work of Jake’s church). However, even here a “bundle” also exists and the group has become more and more radical in recent years. Many of the leaders believe that men are the problem in society, that we actively oppress women, that we’re all potential rapists. The organization has also taken inequality too far and have adopted outright communists ideas. They also see everyone who subscribes to religion as the enemy since it’s typically been used to justify oppression. These ideas also poison Mary’s mind and she starts seeing every man with suspicion. She walks past the campus ministry booth by the student union area and looks with utter disgust. He looks back at her with equal disgust as he sees her as a wayward heathen. The saddest part about this interaction is that if you removed all the ideological crap, both would get along well with each other and work towards similar goals. I cannot ignore the countless individuals who’ve been hurt deeply by religion. I cannot ignore my own experiences in this area. I won’t turn a blind eye to the abusers in this world either or the injustices many face. I can understand the reasons why people gravitate towards such extremes. Like part one, the scenario presented here is worst case. Everyone will fall somewhere along the spectrum between neutral and Jake’s/Mary’s mentality. Bundled ideologies can often introduce people to new concepts. Jake initially learned about helping others through Christianity and Mary through activism. The problem is, there are also vile, poisonous details tossed in there. It’s like ingesting 99.9% food and 0.1% rat poison, you still die. The same applies to what we are taught, it doesn’t take much to kill your mind. No sane, respectful man wants to see a woman abused or oppressed. Many of us have or will put ourselves in physical danger to protect them from psychopathic males. Most feminists don’t hate men and will often reach out to us as allies. In fact, this a positive trend that I’ve been noticing. Extremists get all the attention these days but more and more people are rejecting the bundle. I’m seeing Christians who outright reject the condemnations LGBT, atheists, or other traditionally reviled groups. I know believers who take very progressive stances. I’m seeing some liberals acknowledge that capitalism has problems but it’s better than the alternative. Conservative atheists also exist, they just focus on the role of government and don’t give a damn about your personal life. People are starting to wake up to the fact that just because you accept idea A, doesn’t mean you have to go with B, C, and D. I can only hope this trend continues. The solution is readily available information and freedom of choice. Will this concept dawn on Jake and Mary? We shall see…
  13. 5 points
    Death for me over the years has rarely been difficult to process and move on. I've buried quite a few, only mourned a couple. The two I mourn are now memories I guard so earnestly a mother bear could not rival my ferocity. These two people immediately bring on the wet eyes and short tight breaths when I just so much as think on their lives, their influence, and my loss. This past January I experienced a third loss of someone very important in my life. It's hit me very hard, and I am surprised it's taken me this long to be able to pick up a pen and put it to paper finally. It's been thirty days, and this is still difficult to even bother to proof read. I did pour out my initial shock and pain all over social media. I tracked every article on his death I could find. I even found video from where he was that day and watched a VBIED explode in the distance. I had to somehow be there. Witness his chaos, hear the intensity, and visualize the finality that damage brought on in the war he volunteered to fight in. Albert Avery Harrington had volunteered to fight with Kurdish forces against ISIL two years ago. When he had initially announced his plans, I debated, I argued, and I even pleaded for him to reconsider and find another way to render aid. I knew he would end up severely injured, or worse, dead. But he went anyway, fully accepting the almost guaranteed risks that would change his, and the lives of all who loved him, forever. He sought life and purpose on his own path, and if death found him, at least it was while he was in pursuit of what made his existence fulfilled. This outlook on life is the only reason I can accept his death without anger or regret. No anger at his dying in a situation that he willingly allowed danger to follow, or regret that I never convinced him to put down this flag for a noble cause. Our last goodbye was back in September. He'd asked me if I could use my press privileges and get him in to Kurdistan. I'd laughed him off, quietly relieved he wasn't currently in harm's way for the moment. I knew it was only a matter of time though, and once again I would get erratic messages from the front lines in Kurdistan where he would complain about needing sleep and I would promise him the juiciest burger money could buy once he got back. If. But he didn't make it back. January 18th he and four others were hit by not one, but two, VBIED (vehicle-borne improvised explosive device) during a special offensive titled "Wrath of the Euphrates" in a small village called Suwaydiya-Saghirah village in Raqqa. The goal was to cut off the supply line to ISIS's stronghold in Raqqa. Three men were instantly killed, and Avery succumbed to his wounds in the morning hours of the 22nd at age 50. He is listed as a martyr with YPG/MFS Kurdish forces and buried in the land where he fought to defend innocents against ISIL's tyrannical cult. It appears their sacrifice has paid off since Kurdish forces have wrested control of Kukhkhan and Bir Said villages from ISIL in northern Raqqa. While the progress made since his death has been bittersweet, seeing the word martyr was a difficult thing to process at first. See, like myself, Avery was an atheist. He was living proof of atheist in foxholes and he was very much a humanist. One I try to model myself after. Honestly, I don't know how he gave so much of himself to so many. I get exhausted, but Avery thrived on it, I believe. "Give me a mission," he would say. So, when I saw him being referred to as a martyr, my teeth began to grind. The days to come proved even harder when others began to share their own pain and thoughts on his passing. As I followed up on news posted on his remembrance page, I began reading the thoughts and prayers comments. I also had to walk away from my computer a few times when I read speculation about whether he'd gotten right with god or turned back to Christ on his death bed. At first, I interpreted this kind of talk as an affront to what he stood for. His legacy should not be tarnished with the idea he was going to Hell unless he managed a last minute conversion. Could people not see the insult to everything he stood for by questioning his very humanity based on a belief system he did not even ascribe to? Those questions and speculations made me cry. They made me angry. I felt Avery's very purpose of pursuing a larger case for compassion on the world stage had been overshadowed. And after my rage subsided, I realized what was wrong with all these thoughts that were screaming in my head. The word "I". The long and the short of it all comes down to the fact Avery is dead. He can no longer be personally offended. He can't feel. He is oblivious to the world as he lays in his box under hundreds of pounds of dirt and rock in Syria. This is about my desire to preserve his memory in my life as I feel it should be. When the desires of other's to do the same do not match up to mine, then I want to stomp them out. And this is incredibly unfair. It minimizes the grief of others, it alienates in a time when coming together is most comforting. The desire or belief that Avery found God and is now in Heaven does no harm to his memory in my life. It puts a comfort to the personal loss of another, and I don't have the right to control another's grieving process by demanding their hopes be dashed. Just as Avery showed understanding for religious culture and customs of those he sought to protect, why can I not afford the same respect to those who now have a gaping loss to deal with in their lives like I do? This is a practice I will struggle with for years to come, as do all of us, but for those of us who do not believe in a hereafter, we feel the loss even more permanently than those who do believe. Why should I make a demand for conformity on behalf of those who are dead? Why allow the anger to take away from what we have lost? Do I really need to ask them why their God saw fit to allow such atrocity that eventually motivated Avery to protect those God would not? No, I won't do that. Even if when some say this god supposedly had a plan for Avery. Grief and loss do not belong to only one individual, though the process is individually different because of perception of the relationship one shared with the deceased. All of us who loved and cherished Avery have one thing in common, his death. Some of us will look forward to dining with him at the table in Valhalla, the rest of us have only his influence to pass on through our own actions so he may life on in the life of others - even if some who will be influenced by him, won't even know his name or know he is the source of their benefit. I can honestly say that my relationship with Avery ended with no regrets, and the past is forever the past, and tomorrow will always show me where we once were together. I love you, Avery. We miss you.
  14. 5 points
    I don't know how well this blog is going to go over, and I probably haven't thought this completely through, but I am posting it anyway. I have to get this off my mind, and I am sure just the idea of what I am suggesting will infuriate a few out there, but hopefully if read all the way through, I make sense, just not articulated well. This all began earlier this week when a friend of mine, our very own Brother Jeff, was being persistently pursued about the concept of Hell, and the need to open his mind to the possiblity because of NDE experiences that incorporated the fiery land of sulfur. These experiences should be considered as proof of the reality was essentially what the poster was insisting on. Further than that, he even made the assumption that Jeff is far too involved with atheist acquaintances, which might be why he doesn't believe in the concept at all. Atheist friends like myself. While this commentator's blame laying on atheists for being part of the main reason Jeff had left behind religious belief (see what I did there?) and lava filled oceans was flattering, his accusations were at best desperation. Even more desperate? He was hell bent on convincing Jeff to at least just visit a particular website called http://www.hellisreal.net, because the internet must only have accurate information and evidence. As is typical of such proselyting tactics, when Jeff remained unfazed and determined in his views, the poster went the last desperate step in argumentation. Desperate equates to fallacious, of course. "What about all of the Islamic terror and political bias? You aren't being fair in your slander." This type of tu quoque argumentation is a favorite of mine to read. It's classic avoidance by meeting criticism with criticism instead of actually answering to the charges. And it's an easy one to fall into. Meeting criticism with much of the same is a great way to avoid talking about topics you are hard pressed to defend rationally. Ironically, his accusation that my friend only feels comfortable criticizing Christianity brings up an interesting perspective about showing preference. First, I think it is plainly obvious why one often focuses on the majority religion in their communities. The majority religion has the largest impact on day to day life, upbringing, and political ideology. Christian extremism has affected my life 99.9% of the time. I am in a country that truly believes that the Christian god is personally blessing our nation in particular, every day. (C'mon, share the wealth with livable wages then, right?) Islam? Hasn't played a significant role in my day to day life until the last decade, and even then the footprint is minor, but somewhat significant in my relationship with our nation's evolving obsession with Christian culture and rules in our everyday society and government. Now, when I read interactions like that of Jeff and a religious commentator and the accusation of sympathizing with terrorists for not equally criticizing Islam, I start to bristle at the absolute ridiculous comparison. Are there terrorists who are Muslim? Absolutely, I won't deny it or defend it. As this commentator should acknowledge there are Christian terrorists today. The Identity movement, evangelical pastors convincing African nations to pass "kill the gays" legislation. Potential vice presidents of our nation wanting to jail gays for even applying for a marriage license. Every group has extremists, but the ones that have truly influenced your life are likely the ones you will focus on. And that is okay. Lack of focus on other religious extremists isn't a denial of what they have done. If one cannot relate to the substance of particular sects of violent ideology, why is one obligated to give it equal air time? Personally, extreme political cults like ISIS and Al Qaeda have had an unusual positive impact on my perception of the world, and influence of belief within politics. I could actually send a thank you note for the awareness their extremism has introduced into my once clearly biased attitudes. My bias had always allowed me to minimize the damage our country's majority Christian outlook has wrought against those who wouldn't conform. But no longer. Children killed in the name of teaching Syrian parents they must follow ISIS. Children killed by their own mothers in America because they were not following God's laws. Muslim children being denied vaccinations because it was considered worldly and an affront to Allah. Christian children denied vaccinations because God supposedly condemns worldly intervention over divine providence. Gay Muslim men thrown from rooftops in Iraq for their sexuality. Then I remembered having read about James Byrd Jr.'s dragging death in Jasper, Texas for being gay. He was drug to death by Christian white supremacists. I listened to Muslim clerics explain to fathers in Afghanistan that their women and daughters should not go in public without a family member, or they would invite sexual assault and be permanently dishonored. I watch Christian fathers in our country tearfully accept their daughters' promises of virginal purity until marriage because these young girls' sexuality belongs to their fathers. I cried as Boko Haram handed out school girls as sex slaves, and I cried as my Christian politicians condemned abortion in cases of rape because babies are gifts from God, regardless of how conception occurred. Up until the daily news casts started sharing with me the extreme imposition of theocratic policies in extreme Islamic belief, I was able to rationalize that we could be a lot worse here in America, and that it wasn't so bad. And it is true, we could be a lot worse, but there is so much we suffer under today that is outrageously unconstitutional and is still permitted because we are a supposedly "Christian Nation" even though our Constitution tells us otherwise. When I had a daily visual to compare our own nation's attitudes and practices against? I realized we put up with a lot of unfair demands for conformity or face retribution on many unimaginable levels. While it is very true that extreme Christian acts of violence like mothers and fathers murdering their families are met with judicial justice head on, we still allow deprivation of legitimate education, deprivation of necessary medical care, and theocratic conspired laws to force submission in matters of family law and women's autonomy. If it weren't for extreme groups like ISIS, Osama Bin Laden, or the Taliban, I don't know if I ever would have seen the horrifying depths we have allowed Christian extremists to dive to in the name of belief. I hear all these arguments that we are allowing too many special exceptions for Islam, and that we are inviting extreme views and practices from Muslims to start taking root. All I can say is that in order to prevent extremists, you have to enforce the boundaries of church and state. By already allowing blatant preference for Christian agendas on every level of federal, state, and even local government, you have already set the precedent for other extreme religious ideologies to have their fair place too. So at the end of the day, maybe Jeff's persistent cheerleader for Christ might take his own advice and pay more attention to the similarities between his belief system and that of every day Muslims. He ought to be grateful that the majority doesn't act as depraved as the extremist minorities in either version of God. Most importantly, maybe he ought to hold the same standard against his personal belief as he does Islam and see how the two ultimately are similar in goals, and even methods, in order to secure authority in community.
  15. 5 points
    "Anyone who believes in that shit is an idiot. Feeble minded and stupid." Man, that is pretty harsh an assessment of those who believe in religion, isn't it? It's even harder to hear when you don't share the same attitude towards theists. Worse? What if that was your lover talking to you? These type of atheist attitudes can be difficult in a relationship with a friend, family member, or lover. I've found myself in this type of scenario, and in public no less, and it completely jived against everything I felt towards the religious. It's a broad encompassing judgement. As I have matured over the years, I have tried really hard to put the huge paintbrush of stereotyping away, and limit it to some extent when using it. The problem is that both of us grew into our atheism, and how we practiced our non belief. So what do you do when your partner is content to be almost Hitchen's like in demeanor towards religious believers, and those who won't outright condemn belief? I varied between completely disassociating from his displays, including not following his FB feed any longer, to trying to point out that it wasn't a fair analysis to relegate religious practitioners to complete dumb ass status simply for their beliefs. There wasn't a happy medium to be found though. I really was not comfortable with his level of vitriolic condemnations of the faithful. He didn't appreciate my own diplomatic thoughts on needing to tone it down. We were clashing in our disbelief. It changed my view of him. It changed my valuing of his opinions in my own atheism and thoughts on humanity in general. I didn't trust him with my own opinions and thoughts on the subject any longer, and quite literally declared it to be an almost off limits subject. It can be said he probably felt the same on some level. At some point, he definitely thought I couldn't stand his views on religion and thought little of him for being so arrogant. I know he was aware of the various groups and blogs I would post to, and he certainly felt like an outsider before too long since I would rather discuss with complete strangers than the man I shared my bed with. Of course, we also quit playing chess and Monopoly because of conflicts over how it should be played. He was also big on conspiracy theories, and I was always debunking his claims with Snopes and other sources. There were definitely other conflicts going on, but this was a pretty big one. It's like a Baptist being married to a Methodist. Their belief styles can be vastly different in practice which can cause some stress. Sometimes to the point that you have a difficult time even accepting that person in your life anymore. I know that back in 2008, Barna had conducted a research on marriages with atheists and religious, and had concluded atheist marriages last longer. They also concluded in a 2003 study that the irreligious get a tad bit more stressed out than the religious do. Essentially, this study (https://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/5-barna-update/119-views-on-quality-of-life-are-most-influenced-by-money-and-faith#.VO-tWSxO1pM) pointed out a few findings about how atheists and religious folk look at stress, and what things stress them out. Atheism has a large number of built in stress factors, the top reasons being public distrust of who we are, public scrutiny of our lack of belief, and religious fear mongering about how horrible we are, along with the more common stress of simply hiding our faithlessness in order to preserve our community we are dependent upon. Everyone deals with such stressors differently, including how to react and treat such horrible response to our unbelief. Coping mechanisms include fight or flight, pacifying and instigating, along with hiding or being open about our lack of faith. What do you do when you are in a relationship with someone like myself who is openly godless? What if you are not open about it? Do I have to censor my own relationship with you in the public eye in order to preserve your sanity from insane evangelical relatives that would put you on a published prayer chain in six different counties around you if they found out? This is what unequally yoked atheists deal with. One might be an anti theist by nature, while his girlfriend might be more humanistic. How will this affect children being raised in the relationship is a huge clash factor. One parent might feel it is essential that the child stand up against indoctrination in the classroom, and the other parent might completely take the attitude of wait and see. These are serious relationship issues any atheist couple can and probably will face at some point if they are with someone who is a polar opposite in atheistic practices. Unlike religious doctrine, there isn't a set of rules to follow. There isn't a right or wrong way to be an atheist, but like other social behaviors we look for in a potential mate, one should carefully consider the situation when dating a fellow atheist. Take myself for example. I'm openly atheist. I'm politically active. I have a blog spilling a lot of personal experience and information for all to see and judge. There have been a few blogs I've posted that have made a partner flinch due to the raw and uncut nature of the entries. An incredulous level of disbelief that I would put something so intimate in the public eye seemed to just flow out of this person in response. I'm not with this person anymore, and have made a point to make it very clear with others I might date that this is who I am, and I share it all. I'm taking my time finding the right people to be around me. I love my godlessness, and thoroughly enjoy my humanistic tendencies. This is something I hope to find with others, especially someone I share my most intimate of life experiences with. I also want to make sure that I can handle how others display their own disbelief. Hopefully I find someone who is either just as enthusiastic as I am, or at the very least doesn't see a big deal about it and lets me continue doing what makes me happy: writing, sharing, and being active in furthering understanding of non belief. I've come to accept that this desire is a deal breaker for me, and while that might seem like an extreme attitude, it's who I am. I figure the sooner I warn someone about that particular trait, the better chance we have to find a happy medium....or not. Still, I know that this particular discussion might be a "well no shit, Sherlock" type of entry, but I do find a bit of arrogance about atheist based relationships. It's a given that atheists dating the religious usually leads to very stressful relationships. We also know that religiously based relationships have their own set of stripes to bear, inflicted by the doctrine they choose to follow. Yet, it is hardly discussed what type of relationship woes atheists run into. Most assume it is your typical run of the mill problems like bills, kids, family, etc. Rarely do many blogs, forums, or atheist foundations speak on mismatched practices of disbelief, and I hope this changes. Evaluating the healthiness of godless relationships is very important as we see the trend of long term relationships without marriage continue to rise, along with how many identify as irreligious. There are plenty of pressures added on a couple's shoulders simply because they don't believe or ascribe to any kind of idol worship, and it's important that they have support out in a world so biased towards sanctified unions.
  16. 5 points
    I am a survivor of religious brainwashing and amplified abuse due to religious influences in my childhood household. I was trained from an early age that life was a constant battle between the divine and my imperfect flesh. I was regularly made aware that there would come a day when I might wake up and find everyone I loved gone; vanished from the very face of the Earth. If this happened, then I was obviously a failure in God's eyes and had to face the Tribulation period. I would have to willingly be executed in His glorious name if I wanted to make the final roll call. I was spanked. I was whipped. I was beaten. I was degraded. My faith scoffed at. I was molested, and I was eventually abandoned. All by the time I was sixteen years of age. This type of constant conflict and abuse requires focused recovery. There isn't a self help book out there which will make me feel safe when I wake up every night at midnight, momentarily hallucinating the sound of heavy footsteps approaching with an imaginary belt in hand to beat me. Weekly counseling sessions will not begin to put a dent in my reflexive urges to hide what my plans are for my future because I worry about being laughed at, being told I am a joke, that I am not ever going to be good enough. And there isn't a pill in a bottle anywhere that will eliminate deep seated anger at the irrational fear of everyone I love being taken from me. A fear that has been pounded into my mind since I would comprehend basic language and emotion. No, religious recovery is difficult, and at times, torturous. Professional help is never a bad idea, but seeking that out has its challenges. How easy is it to find a doctor that is even willing to acknowledge the abusive cycle of religious doctrine? It is quite the task. That is why I never fail to offer large online forum information of other religious survivors, in hopes who ever is looking for help, shelter, and understanding, will find a few people to be with them through the process of deconversion. But what about once one has gotten to the stage where a love interest comes along? A desire to expose oneself into the world of another? Couldn't atheism be the tie that binds a couple together? A liaison between two individuals, much like religion does. I am not so sure about that notion lately. There is only one definition for atheism, but like any simple concept, it is applied in many different ways, even in romantic relationships. Some atheists are extremely vitriolic against organized belief. A constant barrage of intense anger filled discussion can wear on a person's good mood after awhile. Then again, the more gentler atheists seem to be humanistic in practice, while others just don't care at all anymore and have no interest in discussing the subject of non belief. For myself, recent dating experiences have been interesting ones. Most I've had meet ups with are recovering from one religious belief or another. Well, except for one gentleman I've been around the past three months or so. And as our time together has continued, where I am constantly impressed with how much we share in common, I realized the other day there is a pretty large elephant in the room that could make or break our romantic relationship, though I doubt our friendship. To the short of it, he never experienced indoctrination. In fact, the whole notion of being fearful of demons, having night terrors about a rapture, losing family over lack of belief, or just being a recovering ex Christian, are completely foreign concepts to him. He really cannot wrap his head around such psychological damage being caused by belief. And with a lack of comprehension comes a shortcoming in the amount of empathy to be given to the victim's plight. This is the first time I have met someone who had no real first hand experience with religious indoctrination, and the resulting psychological damage that can be caused by it. When I recounted to him my father's suicidal phase after Jesus didn't return in 1988, he was at a loss, unable to appreciate the level of disappointment on my Dad's part. It isn't that this fellow I am seeing isn't empathetic to the suffering of others, he just doesn't appreciate the depth of damage that has been wrought against former believers, including myself. If you've never been a part of the Jesus Christ or Prophet Mohammed fan club, how could you know? You are always just a casual observer, watching a weirdly fascinating obsession with ritualistic fantasy. Because you are never participating, you never quite figure out if people truly believe what they are worshiping. And, if you live in a country that only associates positive events with organized religion, then what? You never see the rotting trail of abuse, deceit, and paranoid escapism. In his case, he is not from the U.S., but Europe. A very secular country in Europe. This inexperience on the part of my new found beau is also making me lose confidence in myself and the ability to not scare him off. Not only do I worry about the inevitable occurrence of a night terror during an overnight visit, but what about a trigger event like a street preacher announcing the end of times getting me upset to tears? Additionally, I worry about the fact that I might be too socially active in helping to dismantle religious influence in American culture. I am very big on educating the youth about appropriate time and place for belief. I won't sit by and allow the continued abusive programming of young children to happen anymore. It has to be stopped. Even if one child at a time. Yes, an activist girlfriend, one who lampoons cause after cause that you hardly can relate to, can make for a difficult time. I haven't worn down his tolerance of religious discussion.....yet. I still think our being together is a truly wonderful thing, and it has reminded me just how insidiously quiet American culture is with the dishonest portrayal of religious faith and the side effects it has had on our country. This is something he does seem to acknowledge. Being from out of the U.S., he never sees any major news discussions about how unhealthy it is to program our kids with preset guidelines from the Bronze Age on how we are supposed to behave and think. You can watch two hour long documentaries on the horrible results of Islamic radicalization, but nothing on Christianity. On top of all these musings, I admitted to myself that I am incredibly jealous of his irreligious upbringing. All his exposures to church were simply perfunctory in nature to appease an old relative, and his parents never made it mandatory. To have such freedom! To be raised without the constraints of dogma governing every aspect of your being. Thinking on it makes me want to cry in frustration sometimes. Luckily, my own children are being raised much the same as this man I've met, and knowing they have the open expanses of free thought to explore possibility after possibility as they see fit is a huge boon against my struggle with melancholy. Knowing I managed to bring mentally repressing dogma to a grinding halt in my children's lives is so rewarding. I would pay with my life if I could guarantee everyone else in the world could have the same, and this type of thinking will probably cost me a truly inspiring lover, but certainly not a friend. Fathoming not wanting to live anymore is yet another aspect of recovery that he will never be able to identify with, as my children will not either, and that is truly a huge relief in my heart of hearts. I know that as far as recovery goes, I'm only a little over a decade in now. I didn't really start dealing with all the abuse I was subjected to until I was thirty years old. The reality is that I will never regain what I have lost over the years. Forgiving and moving on are two very different beasts to deal with. While moving on isn't as difficult for me as it used to be, forgiving is an in the moment process that keeps being repeated over and over. Every time I face the gaping chunks stolen from my innocence, I am having to acknowledge that those chunks are gone forever. There is no restitution for what is gone, and I have to decide in the moment I am faced yet again with what is lost how I want to process the pain. Dating someone who doesn't have a similar background, or at least hasn't even been exposed to this type of damage will have a hard time dealing with that aspect of who I am. Especially with the fact I tend to embrace the depression anymore, and also try to be creative within its gut wrenching waters instead of drowning in sorrow. Irreligious or not, it's a tough thing to watch a friend go through. Though, experience has taught me that the irreligious person will likely not offer empty platitudes and consoling prayers which are insulting beyond words. Here I am, damaged and dating, and hoping I've reached a state of being that which is tolerable enough to find the right person to call mate at some point in my life.
  17. 5 points
    This weekend was a personal test for my parenting. As an atheist parent, I am pretty adamant in presenting both sides of an argument and using context when discussing religious belief with my kids. The only confirmation of how fair of a job I am doing is when the kids end up in awkward situations of religious types where I am not present. I eagerly wait to hear about the results later. Before I go into my eldest son's adventure in the land of Woo, I should probably elaborate on the foundation I've helped him create for his basis of logic. Much like newly minted adult atheists, my kids went through a lot of similar rationalizing, denial, and even outrage of religious doctrine. Fortunately, secular kids get to excel through those stages much quicker than indoctrinated adults who are fresh off the biblical ark. One of the most important life skills is free thinking, and I encouraged this so much in my own children that it is intrinsic to their thought processes now. One effective method of encouraging and teaching free thought processes actually has nothing to do with questioning religious doctrine. That is just one path that develops later. No, you encourage your children to think outside the box by allowing them to explore your authority. You, the parent, are the leading role model and authority in their lives, and while your children must respect that authority, never discourage them from questioning and verifying your role outside your own declarations. When you use the attitude of "Because I said so", you are actually stunting the learning curve. One learns best by exploration in thought, so allow these trips outside your constructed realm of parenting. Additionally, respect is very important; I doubt I need to dedicate a whole paragraph to this pillar of self, but one thing should be said. Respect, while given, does not always need to be earned either. Esteem for something and respect for it are very different things. Not everything in life is give and take. By insisting respect must be earned you make the willingness to give respect a commodity to be traded for unnecessary platitudes and ceremony. Essentially, unless otherwise known, assume everyone deserves respect. Finally, I breed self appreciation in my children. This is an essential piece to being secular, in my own personal opinion. I want my children, as cliche as it sounds, to appreciate who they are. To appreciate who you are, why you are, strengths and weaknesses, teaches empathy and accountability. You can fully appreciate a larger portrait of what individuality truly means. And by having the ability to look at the whole in oneself means one can do that in relating to others. All of these main pieces to my parenting has rendered open minded inquisitive children, who decisions are mostly well informed and extremely fair. I have little to no worries about how they handle awkward religious situations overall. So, back to my eldest son's experiences at a charismatic (Pentecostal based) church this past weekend, and how he carried himself during the two hour service. I had planned to take him to a charismatic service myself, but my fundamentalist parents beat me to the exposure when having him over for a night. It should be noted the grandparents know damn well my kids are secular. I've made it clear I didn't want my children exposed to this sort of thing without me present at first, as well. So much for that. Undermining me is nothing new in their play book, but ultimately, I think it worked out. My thirteen year old got the full Pentecostal sideshow. Anointing of believers, prayer circles complete with talking in tongues, music induced spirit slaying, choreographed interpretive dancing, a five minute lesson on the Trinity, and Jesus tag. It couldn't have been more perfect. Oh, it was. He mentioned he really enjoyed the refreshments. Can't be a good service without a snack and some juice, am I right? He found the lesson on the trinity boring, and could barely control his laughing when telling me about Jesus tag. Essentially, the goal of the game is to infect (tag someone as it) with the Holy Spirit. He thought that was semi perverted in a funny way, and I agreed it was a good thing they called it Jesus tag and not something like "clergyman tickles". "Talking in tongues was really weird," he said,"because Grampy is a steward, so he was in a prayer circle around some people, talking that nonsense." He also felt awkward with his grandmother next to him with arms up high, doing the same as Grampy. My son knows it isn't a real language, and struggled to reconcile this kind of clearly misguided emotional abandon. These are two grown adults he just spent the better part of a day with. Ate dinner with. Played video games and fed chickens with. People he can laugh, cry, and joke with. And here they were, disconnected with reality, participating in rituals. My son better understands someone moved to tears by the vast beauty of a starry night over the Grand Canyon than a group think situation in a tiny church building. This teenager is learning how to view, and treat, irrationality in those he loves. And unlike diagnosed mental illness or drug abuse, he has a completely invisible adversary. An adversary that stole two hours of his visit from his relationship with his grand parents. Truly, he was mildly incensed that his grand parents chose a two hour church service as a priority above a rare visit from him. The music and prayer was annoying, and he said most of the kids were glad to go to youth class so they didn't have to witness the adults' service. "Those kids were NOT happy to be there. Seriously, they were miserable." Seeing one's parents jumping, writhing and dancing in the spirit of the Lord put performance pressure on these other kids. "Someday," I explained,"they will be out there doing it too." "Do they have a choice?" "What do you think?" He didn't answer me on that one, possibly he already knows and is glad he had a choice. Either way, he left there with independently gained knowledge, confidence in his lack of belief reaffirmed. He doesn't debate anyone yet. I discourage that until he has studied what he wants to argue, and he seems content with that. For now, he just hones his religious shut down skills.
  18. 5 points
    So back in February of this year, I stepped on a scale and noticed that I weighed more than I ever had in my life and I was not happy about it. My life was already in chaos because I had made the decision to deconvert from the faith I had followed for the vast majority of my life and I was a father to a one year old little girl. Things in my life were very crazy. But something about my weight at that time really concerned me. My father died at 46 years of age and I was about to hit 41 in a couple of months. I have always had this morbid thought about turning 46 years old and as I grew closer to it, it scared me more and more. I made a decision at that time that I needed to make changes. I looked at my BMI and then where it needed to be to be considered a "healthy" weight and then set a goal to reach a weight that I felt was good for me and how I would look when I was skinnier. Today, I stepped on my bathroom scale and the scale read the lowest weight I have been in about 20 years. I am only 10 lbs from reaching my goal weight and I have lost 36 lbs so far. I can truly say that I have never been happier in my life with who I am. I am more confident in my belief system and am now happy with my health and, although 46 still scares me, it doesn't scare me as much. I get to share the weight loss thing with everyone openly on Facebook and in real life, but adding the changes of my deconversion to the mix is something that I can only share on here. But all of it has made me better as a person. I just wish I could share it all with the people I care about the most. Maybe one day. So kudos to me! I've kicked butt so far and I have a little more to go. I just wanted to share some happiness with people.
  19. 5 points
    I've been absent from this forum for a little while, hoping that perhaps a short break would help me order my thoughts and calm the internal battle that has been raging within me for some time now. Unfortunately, such a ploy hasn't worked all that well and I find myself back here, hoping that pouring out my thoughts in this entry might help. So here goes. I find myself torn, my thoughts wrenched between the attachment I have to my faith and the information that I have been absorbing within the last few months. It is a true battle between heart and head, been emotions and cold, hard logic. While I feel myself slowly coming to the point where I could relinquish my grasp upon a faith I have clung to all my life, something deep within cries out that I need it, that I can't live without it, that I am damning myself to an eternity apart from God. I have no idea where to even begin to build a world view void of God. What would such a world even look like? Can such a life have meaning and value when it is devoid of God's purpose and plan? Please do not understand me, I wouldn't dare to suggest that an atheist's life has no such meaning, that would be an extremely arrogant and inaccurate statement to make. I simply do not know how one goes about finding that value and purpose when you find yourself dwarfed by the expansive universe in which you live. What possible meaning could my life have in the face of such insignificance? During the long nights I lie awake and rehearse conversations with family members and friends, playing out the various reactions each might have to what now seems to be my inevitable de-conversion. I find myself both wishing that my mum was here and being grateful that she is not - if she was here perhaps she would have some words of wisdom for me or simply tell me that she loved me whatever I decided, yet I can't help but think that all of this would bring her a great deal of pain. My rather limited social circle feels as if it has shrunk still further, not because anyone has reacted badly to my doubts, but because they simply are not aware. I cannot bring myself to bring this topic up in conversation for fear of their response and my currently limited ability to defend or articulate my thoughts or beliefs. Other than my younger brother (who is aware of my current position and is very supportive) and my counsellor, no one is aware of what I am currently wrestling with. It has become all consuming. The first few weeks of my questioning were a flurry of reading and researching, I was desperate for information, to absorb everything I could get my hands on that questioned or challenged my faith. Now I find that I struggle to even pick up one of the many books I have waiting for me to read, barely struggle through a page before I have to put it down again. My mind seems to hum with a multitude of thoughts; What if you're wrong? What if God is real and He's as cruel and cold as you feared He was? What if you are damning your soul to hell for all eternity? If God isn't real then what's the point of life, is it just a pointless struggle for nothing? What reason to you have to keep on living if your life has no intrinsic purpose, if it is not part of a grand design? (That latter question/issue is no doubt related to my ongoing battle with depression, one that I am winning for the most part, though this questioning/doubting has perhaps pushed me backward a little). What if you lose everything and everyone? How could you have wasted so many years believing in a fairy tale? If this life is all there is then you had better get living before you are dead! You are responsible for finding your own purpose and creating meaning for your life, what are you going to do with it? Why should you have to hide how you feel or what you think? Screw what everyone else thinks, they can either accept you or get the hell out! It is exhausting. A part of me simply wishes to state - "I no longer believe!" Yet there is another part of me which continues to cling desperately to all that has been called into question.
  20. 5 points
    Christians are rather fond of parroting the tired old excuses for why we left their obscene religion, and one of the lamest of the lot is this one: "You just didn't want it enough." You just weren't trying hard enough. You didn't want God enough. You didn't pray enough. You didn't love God enough. You weren't submitted enough. You just didn't want it enough. This is one of the cruelest and most wrong of everything they could say, but it does show a number of holes in their bizarre worldview that I want to dissect. Let's take the first assumption: That I didn't want God enough. This assumes so much about me--the speaker has no idea how much I wanted God, how sincere I was, how active I was in the faith, what sacrifices I made for that faith, and how much I did to try to hold onto my faith when I realized it was fading. Whatever it was, it wasn't enough, and he knows that--why? Because I'm not Christian anymore. He assumes that if you just "want it" enough, you can surmount any doubt and any discovery of fact. And clearly I did not "want it" enough because here I am, doubting and knowing all these facts in my little pink ladybrain. However much this amount is, it is less than he "wants it," because here he is still believing. And let's consider the second: that sincerity itself can keep faith alive, and that lack of sincerity is what destroys faith. And the third, implicit assumption: that someone can know, objectively, just how sincere another person was or is in believing something, and assess the amount of it on a scale. Alas, this is all self-serving, ego-defense bullshit. I can see why Christians have to attack sincerity, because they've got nothing else really except emotional manipulation. They themselves can't even imagine not feeling sincere in their faith, and they can't imagine that the message itself has flaws. So if someone leaves, clearly the problem is with the person: she was tricked, or she just wasn't dedicated enough, or she misinterpreted something, or she just didn't want it enough. And it's a lie, a cruel lie, and does nothing but illustrate that the Christian has based his worldview upon a lie that requires his suspension of logic and rationality. I'm going to let you Christians in on a secret that all ex-Christians know: Sincerity has nothing to do with faith. When I was a young child, I desperately wanted to be a unicorn-riding space princess. I'm not kidding. I fantasized about it all the time. If you're thinking right now "wow, I bet she had a HORRIBLE childhood," my response would be to laugh, because buddy, you have no clue. Every day that I survived was a damn fine day. I'd have gone to any lengths whatsoever to become that princess; I lived in hope that one day I would see the cosmic emissary who would announce who I "really" was and whisk me out of my daily reality of poverty, violence, addiction, and abuse. I believed this fantasy with a strength that makes my mouth water just remembering it today. In the middle of a beating, I remember glaring at my abuser and thinking, "One day, one day, I will preside over your execution... so enjoy this while you can." It was all I could find refuge in. Eventually I realized there were no such things as unicorns and if there were space princesses, I certainly was not one of them. My sincerity is not something I doubt even today, and had nothing to do with losing my faith in this fantasy. As belief systems go, this one was doomed from the start. There was no possible way it was true, and once I realized how impossible it was, I had two choices. I couldn't drill down on being an exiled noble daughter for too long when I knew I wasn't, so I went for Option Two, which was to figure out another way to survive and get through what was happening to me. And I did. (And then dove right back into a similarly ridiculous compensation fantasy later when I became fundamentalist, but that's a topic for another day.) What killed my faith in this little fantasy was not lack of sincerity, but lack of truth. But if someone told me, "You just didn't want to be a space princess enough--that's why you lost faith in it," I'd probably stare at him like he was insane before laughing at him--or slapping him. I lost faith in my fantasy not because I wasn't sincere enough in wanting it, but because it just wasn't true. If I'd been a real space princess, my sincerity in believing it would have nothing to do with its truth. We live in a society filled with people who don't accept science, but that doesn't make it untrue. Millions of people sincerely believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim Kenyan, but their sincerity doesn't make that true. My beliefs do not in any way impact what is real and not real. Nor does my sincerity in those beliefs. So as the Camel with Hammers had to once, I now announce, formally, that attacking my sincerity as a Christian does not in any way constitute a legitimate attack upon my disbelief. Attack my ideas. Attack my facts. Attack my evidence. But Christians, you are not now, and never will be again, allowed to attack my sincerity ever again. You will not be allowed to make assumptions about my level of faith or how much I wanted God to be real. You will never again be allowed to impugn me, malign me, and belittle me to prop up your own faith. So find something else.
  21. 4 points
    I am reading a blog post on Patheos by an Evangelical author, Philip Yancey, called "A Time to Doubt" here. The post doesn't allow comments, which is not unexpected given the subject and some of the things he says. The comments section could easily get out of hand and really would serve no purpose, but I want to comment on the article on my own blog, so here goes: One paragraph says "Often seems silent." I would have worded it this way, also, when I was a Christian. Jehovah often seems silent. But eventually I realized that those times he seems silent are the times I'm expecting an answer. All of the times I'm expecting an answer. The times you don't notice Jehovah's silence are the times you're not expecting anything. In other words, the reality is that there's never actually a word from Jehovah. When I was a believer I didn't actually go through many periods of doubt that Mr. Yancey is describing here, because I didn't actually need anything. And when I first deconverted, it had nothing to do with Jehovah's silence, but shortly afterward I realized the truth -- that (as Annie Laurie Gaylor says) nothing fails like prayer. As a Christian, convincing myself that "God's will is always done" was pretty easy, and so when any struggles didn't actually get resolved (simply delayed for later) I accepted the caveat that it wasn't the god's will, and that it would make me stronger, or more patient, or some such. Only afterward did I realize the obvious -- that nothing magical or supernatural ever actually happens. Life is just life. Yancey writes about the Jews who had escaped from Egypt: Of course, the author of the books of Exodus and Numbers are writing many years later of the legends passed down to them, not about current events. For the most part, historians doubt that the descendants of Jacob were even in Egypt. But even if they were, go back and read the accounts in the Bible! The Bible says these people doubted even though they'd seen obvious signs of Jehovah helping them. I can't help but think that this is the author's perspective, passed down to him through many generations, and specifically related to him by a believing elderly relative. The more likely conclusion is that the people who doubted never actually saw any evidence. If anything like the events recorded as the Exodus actually happened, the people caught up in it very likely saw nothing that made them think this god of theirs was real. Further in the article, Yancey says Again -- proof within the Bible itself that the evidence isn't actually there, and wasn't there during the time the events were supposedly happening. And there's the real evidence against there being any such being as Jehovah. The people alive at the time weren't convinced. The writers who came along later claim that the evidence should have been enough to convince anyone alive, yet they admit that those living at the time didn't actually find it to be convincing! It's only by asserting, after the fact when no actual witnesses to the time are alive, that all of the miracles happened, that people can be convinced. The people who were alive at the time saw only life as usual with nothing supernatural going on. Yancey makes the typical objection that we were all taught to make as Christians: It's nothing but a "get out of jail free" card for Jehovah. The truth is that the Bible makes specific promises about what this god will do. When those things don't happen, Christianity has evolved the mechanism of accusing the accuser -- of saying "you have no right to 'test' God". That came along early, too -- before Christianity even -- in the book of Job, where the god basically tells Job he's just a stupid human and has no right to question the god. A paragraph further on, in his outline of an article, is entitled Now here, Yancey is correct! The famous statement in Hebrews about faith ("faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen") makes it clear, if you pay attention to what the author is actually saying, that faith is a substitute for substance and evidence. As a Christian, I'm not sure I ever had faith. I was most certainly a believer -- a true Christian! But I thought there was evidence for my beliefs. Faith is what happens when you just assume something to be true without evidence. It's belief for no reason other than that someone told you so or you read it. Yancey then makes a blatantly false assertion: No. "Unbelief" is honesty. "Doubt" is the path to unbelief and honesty, but that path is often not traveled due to the fear instilled by the religion itself. The meme of Christianity has evolved to continue to exist by overtly stating that doubt is caused by external, evil forces -- by a powerful being (somehow not credited as being an evil god) who has the power to literally plant thoughts in people's heads. "Reason" is of the Devil, Christianity asserts. The moment you start to wonder whether the god is real, your Christian indoctrination makes you think that doubt has been implanted in your head by the evil god Satan. But that's not what's happening. The god Satan isn't real. The gods Jehovah and Jesus aren't real. You're doubting because you can plainly see that the claims of the Bible about Jehovah and Jesus are simply untrue. Yancey then talks about Mother Teresa: She knew! She knew it wasn't real! She knew Jehovah wasn't there, doing anything at all on the Earth. Yancey goes on: She conducted her life in order to help people, "despite her doubts". I would say, "despite her eventual coming to terms with the fact that her faith was baseless". In the end, she was good without god, as we all are, really. People are generally good -- no gods required.
  22. 4 points
    But we're the ONE TRUE CHURCHTM! We have to save them from Hell! I still go to a Church of Christ for reasons that I've explained before. They would consider me a "struggling christian," I suppose, because I was outed as an atheist and managed to convince them that I was going to try to believe again. In the year and a half since that happened, nobody has questioned me. I kind of hate it but it keeps family relationships smooth. Anyway, being that I'm still a member, I'm still on the email list. Monday, the following email (names redacted) was sent to the congregation: This was out of the blue. We weren't there Sunday night, so I have to assume that an announcement was made. This couple are not members of our congregation! James 5:20 is the verse that says if you turn a sinner from the error of their ways you'll save them from death and cover a multitude of your own sins (and I thought God didn't keep score!). So, two hours later: As I said, this couple are not members of our congregation; yet this elder, in his concern for their "souls" (they've joined the Catholic church! We have to get them back to the Lord's church!) published their email addresses, phone numbers, and home address to the entire congregation (everyone on the email list, anyway). You can see the polite reaction of the man, saying essentially that they don't want to be bothered, they just want to figure this out, and that their searching for the truth is long overdue. I doubt they would sue, but if contact from people they've never met becomes a big enough hassle, they might be seriously tempted. I don't know how this happened, but I would speculate that the woman mentioned as having received the text must have been really worried about her friends from another congregation, and brought her concerns to her own church, asking for prayers, and the elder(s) decided it would be good to be proactive. (After all, nothing fails like prayer.) I'm just guessing, here. It could easily have been someone else asking for prayers, and this woman just happened to follow up. People in the NI-Churches of Christ know a lot of people in other local congregations. (I'm surprised I don't know this couple; I would bet that my sons and their wives do, though.) I don't know if I'll ask anyone how this came about or maybe just leave that up to my wife. I try to be as uninvolved as possible. But I'd like to send this couple a card congratulating them on their decision to pursue their doubts and try to figure out the truth!
  23. 4 points
    I don't get on here very often, in fact the last time was sometime in November. Whoops! Anyway, since I have had some conversations with some of you, I thought I would share an update. Still an atheist, although I call myself an apatheist - I don't really care if God exists or not. In December, my wife left me and took my daughter with her. There are a lot of reasons why, but one of them is that the church world is all she's known since she was a pastor's wife and us losing all of our friends and connections - essentially our entire world - has taken a toll on her. We are separated but are about to start getting into talking about big issues and seeing if we can come back together. I am a mailman during the day, and by night I was working at a grocery store, but in January I was able to quit that job and have been working part time for my friend Bart Campolo, who is the humanist chaplain at the University of Cincinnati and the son of famous preacher and author Tony Campolo. I mainly produce and edit his podcast, run his social media, and update his website. His podcast is called Humanize Me, and I'm pretty proud of the work we've done on it. He has some really good conversations with people. You can find it here: https://bartcampolo.org/humanizeme I'm doing a lot of "soul"-searching, lots of reading (working through all of the Ehrman books again), and spending time with my two cats and a bunny. Every other Sunday I help Bart put on a humanist community dinner in Cincinnati. It's been a great way to connect with people and I'm excited about the future.
  24. 4 points
    What are you known for? Is it your love for others? If someone were to read your social media posts, what would it reflect? What about your comments? Christians, I'm talking to YOU. It seems the ship has sailed on loving others. Especially other Christians with whom you disagree. I truly believe that social media has shone a stark, bright spotlight on the hearts of men (and women) and the verdict is in: Christians have just as much hate, anger, judgement and vitriol in their hearts as everyone else. Let that sink in. And then get angry. But not at me. I have to call it like I see it (or in this case, read it). Every. Single. Day. Obviously, everyone is human. We all have those emotions and feelings. What I'm talking about is if you call yourself a Christian, you are held to a higher standard. Especially where your behavior towards others is concerned. But I have a question for you: Are you the called ones? Or the ones tasked with calling everyone out? I'm weary. Really weary. Weary of seeing your Bible used as a weapon. So much so, that prior to my deconversion, when I did still did devotions, I would come across verses that are typically the "clobber verses," and I couldn't focus anymore. It destroyed the Bible for me. [Cue the judgmental rant: "Well, that's YOUR fault! It must be YOUR relationship with God. YOU need to work on that!] No, it could not possibly be the effect of other Christians' behavior. Nope. I'm so weary of the superiority and judgement of believers. [Cue the proof texts about why it's OK to do this....] I'm sick of the Christian double standard which goes something like this: "I'm on the side of God, therefore when I call you out, it's a holy calling. My behavior, however, is not up for discussion." I see this play out day after day online. And in real life too. I'm weary of seeing Christians nod in agreement about loving others during a sermon, and go home to eviscerate someone on Facebook who dares to have a different opinion. Especially political. Sit tight Christian. Buckle up. I've got some news: God is not a Republican or a Democrat. When your church becomes a mouthpiece for a political party, you cease to be the church. In the words of one of your own pastors, Carey Nieuwhof: I could not feel more strongly about this. Especially in political discourse. Every day, I see people with little to no understanding of theology use the Bible as a weapon to make a point or win an argument. We call it "proof texting." You know what? It's destroying your witness. It's destroying other believers, and it's destroying any chance someone wants to jump into your cesspool of hate. The rhetoric I see vomiting out of Christian mouths every day turns my stomach. The message, more often than not, is "I love you, as long as you agree with me." If not, all bets are off. I don't recall Jesus saying that. In fact, he talked about enemy love. Another long-lost Christian command that no longer exists in Evangelical America. What happened to being peacemakers? Instead you pledge allegiance to America First. It seems the "kingdom" that holds first place in your heart is not God's. It's man's.
  25. 4 points
    From a Church of Christ preacher's post on Facebook: "Even an atheist doesn't want to be punched in the face. If there is no God, then there are no moral absolutes. Yet 'no one ever hates his own flesh, but provides and cares for it' (Ephesians 5>29, HCSB). This instinct for self-preservation is the basest, most universal expression of self-love. Atheism cannot explain why or how people know it is wrong for others to hurt them." I don't know that I've ever seen a more ignorant statement. We'll disregard the mistaken idea that atheism attempts to explain anything and just deal with what he says here. Is he saying that if there were no god to give us moral absolutes, we wouldn't know that we need to respond to a punch in the face? Yes, that's exactly what he's saying. While atheism doesn't explain things, the need for self-preservation is one of the most basic drivers of evolution. And even more obvious: We can feel pain! He's saying that without a god to give us moral absolutes, we woudn't have the urge to retaliate because we wouldn't understand that the other person had no right to cause us injury. Christianity, on the other hand, eschews the idea of self-love. Christianity says "turn the other cheek" when someone punches you. (And while there may be expedient reasons for doing so, it is not our nature.) That instinct for self-preservation is anti-Christian. To top it off, the absolute statement that no one ever hated their own flesh is false, as well. It may be true that most people do not hate themselves, but it is not true that no-one hates themselves. He goes on to say "the universal law of 'ought' shows 'the work of the Law written in their hearts' (Romans 2:15), which points to a universal lawgiver." Again, this is a statement that sounds "thoughty" but which turns out to be shallow, what Daniel Dennett refers to as a "deepity". Yes, we have a sense of right and wrong, but if a person thinks this wouldn't have evolved, they don't really know much about evolution or about memetics. Organisms live to reproduce if they have a way of defending themselves. Societies thrive if the members of the society defend one another. The Bible even says so: Ecclesiastes 4:12 -- " And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken." That's memetics in a nutshell, right in their own "holy" book! When people started farming, when they became stationary and began to live in communities, writing was developed and rules were written down. Communities where everyone pitched in to hunt and farm, and for defense, thrived. And while selfish individuals never disappeared and could actually thrive within a community, the community itself had to comprise mostly altruistic individuals in order to thrive, which resulted in our current mix of individuals today, comprising mostly altruistic people with some selfish people in the mix. This isn't hard, but if you start by saying there's a creator and that you must base all of your beliefs on that, then you have to come up with deepities to allow yourself to continue without experiencing significant cognitive dissonance, and you never think you need to find the truth or question your beliefs. You're looking for a quick and dirty "answer" that doesn't have to be a real answer at all, just a place for you to stop thinking about the subject. If you start with the real world and try to understand why things are the way they are using forensics, you'll always have unanswered questions and you'll sometimes have to change your beliefs, but you'll generally be on the right track and there will be a lot that you can know for certain. But you never stop thinking about the subject because you have a thirst for knowledge.
  26. 4 points
    I lay next to my boyfriend, he to my right and the window with pale sunlight to my left. I watch him sleep, his back to me. It's a quiet Saturday morning. I look at where we are now, 2.5 years into our relationship. He's back in school looking to earn his Bachelor's degree, maybe even Master's. I'm almost 2 years into my first professional job, which has been a great success overall. You could say we are the epitome of a healthy relationship. We care for each other when we are sick. We never go longer than 5 minutes upset with each other, always working to improve our communication with each other. We say "thank you" when completing household chores. We have hobbies together and hobbies apart. We've had a few critical points in our relationship, such as finances and future goals. Everyday I wake up thinking that I made the right choice to be with him, and that firmness grows stronger moment by moment. We have our moments, of course. Sometimes we are worn down and exhausted; sometimes we say things out of frustration, without thinking. But in the end, we always end up back in each other's arms, learning and growing through each obstacle and experience. Yet sometimes I recall two years ago, when I was still a Christian. My boyfriend was an atheist at that time, and I went through one of the deepest bouts of anxiety when struggling with the thought of loving someone who would be doomed to hell when they would die (I was raised with conservative Christian, bible-based teachings). I remember being so distraught that I couldn't eat. I remember trying to break up with him three times over three days just to escape the anxiety. I remember being unhealthily obsessed with researching the Christian concept of hell. I felt eternally stuck - after all, how could I talk myself out of the deeply held conviction that hell was real? What triggered it? My former best friend, also a conservative Christian, disapproving my decision to enter a serious relationship with him, all based on the fact that he was not a "fellow believer." Mind you, I had been so supportive of her when her and her now-husband started dating, and even got married. But of course, since I wasn't following the bible-based teaching of dating and marrying a fellow Christian (a debatable tenet, but still taught and maintained in my religious circles), I didn't deserve the same support. Looking back, I wonder: perhaps I should thank her? It was really the Christian wake up call I needed that ended up driving me to losing belief altogether. See, it's easy to believe in hell when everyone in your closest circles believes in Jesus, constantly reaffirming your belief system. But what if you have many close family members who didn't believe to the same extent as you, or even at all? I'm grateful that my boyfriend and I ended up working through my religious difficulty, and we came out all the stronger. I had a kind religious mentor in my life at the time that was helping me navigate, with prayer and fasting, the emotional difficulty of dating a non-believer. She was sure god was at work, you see, and was sure that our relationship was happening for a reason. I am grateful I had someone like her ground me in faith and maintain my relationship. Though after a few months, the thought of hell started haunting me, not just with my boyfriend, but with my extended family as well. How could god banish one of my aunts to hell, just for not believing? This aunt who is like a mother to me. I started having questions to the tenets I used to hold so dearly, questions that the usual Christian answers didn't seem to satisfy. Eventually, after more breakdowns and lots of research, I lost my belief altogether. But I look back now, and my heart breaks for anyone who makes a decision on behalf of a religion that is not true. Whether it means breaking off a great relationship for a difference in beliefs, or behaving a certain way because you believe that "god" wants you to? Why is it religion gets the exception of understanding? Is it because we humans are so sensitive, so afraid of the unknown, of death, that ignorance is essential in living a productive life? I don't get it, and looking back now, I don't feel it was fair that I was blindly mislead, made huge decisions in my life in that blindness that I would not have otherwise decided. Some might argue that it's all part of the human experience - we change over our lives, make decisions differently than we used to. But I can't help but wonder how drastic those decision-making skills would change if religion didn't exist at all... Food for thought. -B.
  27. 4 points
    I've started to say this in the threads, but it's not enough, I want to dedicate a whole blog entry to it. I've started to find it increasingly insulting that Christians seriously think we just never had any idea how to be Christian the right way. That we somehow expected God to be a miracle machine or expected everything always to be perfect and then left the church for utterly selfish reasons, such as giving in to the temptation to sin. Oh yeah, we totally abandoned eternity in heaven because we want to be promiscuous and then make up reasons to not believe the truth. No, what? Really. That is SO insulting, it's revolting. I know I was extremely serious. I wanted God to guide my EACH AND EVERY STEP. I constantly prayed under my breath that he would. I worried that I would go wrong in "trying" to do something "by myself" when I wanted to be sure I had the blessing of Jesus in everything I did. I repeated and repeated in my thoughts, "Not my will but Yours". And I followed what I thought to be the voice of Jesus in my mind till my life was a complete wreck, and I woke up wanting to die right then. Yes tell me again that I just didn't understand how simple it is to be a believer. Yes tell me again that you would have known that the things I took for signs from God Himself were of the Devil. Yes tell me again that we never know what is a blessing in disguise and that every difficulty is a test from God and I just simply failed it and I just need to apologize and come back to Jesus. F*ck. I need to apologize? What the actual f*ck? That's like apologizing to someone who tried to murder me and I ran off at the last possible moment, and even then I nearly murdered myself. God promises in the Bible that the old me dies and a new one is born. I wanted that to happen. I wanted all of the old me to die. I did not care one bit about most of worldly stuff. It scared me to begin with and I thought it was a sign that I was meant to walk with God. I will not apologize for choosing life. I will not apologize for choosing life. I will not apologize for choosing LIFE. I do not mean drinking, doing drugs, humping everything that moves, and taking taking taking from everything and everyone around me. If you dare to suggest that that's what I actually do mean by "life" without a god, I will be holding myself back from hitting you. Don't you f*cking dare to tell me that. I also will not apologize for allowing myself to be angry over this. I've been much too nice all my life. I've not been able to defend myself because I thought I didn't deserve to do it, at most as a believer I thought Jesus would do it for me. The result? I am mentally very ill and need a lot of therapy, I need to learn to accept all of me, all the people I created in my head to stay alive, all the people I created to hide the emotions that I thought I wasn't allowed to have. Sadness is a sin. Anger is a sin. Just be pleasantly thankful in advance that Jesus will make everything right. Just be pleasantly thankful of your past that made you the unbelievably awesome weapon of God that you are now. Be pleasantly thankful of your past of years of bullying, illness in the family, breaking of sexual boundaries when much too young for anything sexual at all, loneliness, self-disgust, and that for some reason Jesus never did a single thing to help before a magical moment years later! NO I AM NOT THANKFUL. I also am not a survivor. I am trying to survive right now. Being alive does not mean I HAVE survived. These things still come to torture the people in my head and I need a lot more time and effort to actually heal. The day I don't get flashbacks anymore and the fear turns into just a memory, just a part in the story of my life, then I will say I have survived. Yeah pray for us. Pray, pray, pray, pray. Come tell me that Jesus "forgives" us. Come tell me that we make Jesus cry and his wounds bleed. Come tell me that we crucify Christ over and over again by not accepting his sacrifice. Come tell me that I am forgiven for all the filthy sins that I have done. Come, come, come on, do that. Yes, do that. Signed, Yunea - and also Nora, Meri, Cyan, Hate, Minttu, (takes deeeep breath) and some others who are too shy to give their names.
  28. 4 points
    *This is an edited and expanded version of my "Free Hate Speech" topic, which is why they're similar in parts. I'm going to post it on my regular blog, not affiliated with Ex-C. Your comments are appreciated! **Much thanks to RealityCheck for editing suggestions. As concern for the humane treatment of LGBT individuals grows in modern Western society, freedom of speech and expression are often perceived to conflict with sensitivity toward this group of people. On June 12, the deadliest mass shooting in American history took 49 lives and wounded 53 other victims in a gay bar, yet has opened the door to a discussion about the appropriate response to people who celebrate national tragedies. Pastor Steven L. Anderson posted a video to YouTube saying that it least it was "sodomites" and "pedophiles" who died. He said that he does not support civilian killing of gay people because it is against the law, but that they should be executed by the government "through the proper channels." YouTube has removed Anderson's video for violating its policy against hate speech. Here is YouTube's "Hate Speech" policy: https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/2801964?hl=en&ref_topic=2803176 Notice that it claims YouTube supports freedom of speech, including generally disliked opinions, but immediately states that "hate speech" is not allowed. The Constitution prohibits the government from restricting freedom of speech, except when that speech directly threatens others or poses a threat to their safety, i.e., is a "clear and present danger." Legally, YouTube is entitled to make and enforce its own policies, but by removing videos based on their ideas, it violates the principle of allowing freedom of expression. Preaching the murder of gay people was once acceptable in American culture, while advocating for sexual equality was seen as disgraceful. Attacking words, not actions, sets a precedent for prosecuting thought crimes and whatever we subjectively find harmful. The argument can be made that Anderson poses a danger by supporting violence against gays, that homophobic people may be incited by his vitriolic comments to begin carrying out murders as the Orlando shooter did. It is true that this may happen, but nevertheless, Anderson is not responsible for others' actions, and idly claiming that certain people should be killed is not equivalent to actively planning and executing the killings. Prejudice doesn't need censorship to be brought down; in a rational society, a bigot will be reduced to a small, sad pile of bitterness when the majority of people agree that his opinion doesn't merit consideration. The Westboro Baptist Church is a prime example: When they protested American soldiers' funerals and shouted their signature line, "God hates fags," they advertised themselves as hateful and made their name synonymous with everything that decent people despise. By deleting Anderson's video, YouTube is protecting him from himself. Despite its malevolent origin, intolerance serves as a warning. When we know which people want to harm us, we know who is dangerous. We need to stay alert to what is happening around us, not shut our eyes and plug our ears and then wonder what went wrong when people end up dead. If we squander every chance to prepare ourselves for an attack, we will be to blame when we never saw it coming. Silencing Anderson will not make him stop having his opinion. It won't change the minds of people who think like he does or of people who actually plan to kill gays. But it will make him and others feel they are being persecuted, cause them to become even more determined to hang on to their bigoted beliefs, and feed on each other's sense of victimization. Furthermore, trying to destroy expression of an opinion shows fear of that person's belief. Are we going to respond to evil people by not only making them unite, but by showing them we fear them? That is how people like Anderson and the Orlando shooter gain control. But the fundamental reason not to deny an individual's right to expression is that it undermines the freedom that is central to our society. When someone shows meanness, rather than muzzling him, we should respond with the opposite of his actions. Donate blood, volunteer at a shelter for gay homeless children, even write a letter to Steven Anderson expressing hope that he changes his mind, rather than returning the contempt that he spews. For a nation that values each person's autonomy, the only response to liberty being taken away is to liberate others. In the aftermath of one of America's worst terror attacks, constraint is an ally of violence. We need to have faith that compassion, not censorship, can beat hatred.
  29. 4 points
    Today I clocked in 129.1 kilograms. That's about 284lbs for you yanks Now, I realise this is still fat as fuck, but I was at one point 165 kilograms so I'm pretty chuffed at the moment. I still have about another 29 kilos to go until I am anywhere near a healthy weight but at least I'm past the halfway mark. As it stands now, I am lighter than I have been in years. In fact I think when I first joined ex-c, I was probably about 10 kilos heavier than I am now, to help put it into perspective. Anyways, I know I don't post often here anymore but I know I sometimes wonder how things are going with people. No one likes being left in suspense Anyways, I'll try to remember to post again soon to fill y'all in about how I am going. I'm hoping to be 100 kilos by january next year, but let's see how this pans out. I think it's possible, but I'll need to be disciplined. Anyways, that's it for now. Catch y'all later
  30. 4 points
    2015 was an interesting year, chalked full of rich lessons, memories, and life changing moments for me. I am pretty surprised at the large amount of things happening in the short time span of 1 year. This is definitely not a year I will forget. One main thing I learned was putting self-care as my top priority. I tend to worry what others think or I lean towards people pleasing, due to my past conditioning. But this year especially...I have truly learned the value of caring for myself. I fell face-first into moments where I wasn't practicing good self care, neglecting my own needs in favor of others...and there were moments where I took ownership as the Queen of my Life, nurturing myself like a mother would for her child. I have to be caring for myself at all times. What is right for me might not be right to other people, but that's their opinion and it's their choice to have it. I don't need to let it effect me. I learned the value and importance of being aware of the present moment, and how practicing mindfulness skills can drastically improve moments of stress/anxiety. Taking a moment to stop, and observe your surroundings, or to take in the scent in the air, or to listen to the wind blowing the tree branches, etc...just being aware of the present moment, can bring peace and clarity of mind. So many other things I learned this year..I'll list them Not jumping into a relationship with high expectations Having a plan B in case a current situation falls through Giving myself credit for how strong I am and how far I've come Embracing who I am, and loving myself, inside and out Accepting the fact that the healing process takes time, and I must take advantage of tough times to grow from them, and come out a stronger person. Coming to acceptance of every element of my life, including the unpleasant ones. Seeing each day as a celebration of life, another chance to enjoy it somehow. The art of acceptance in general...not trying to fight away the things I can't change Not settling with people or situations that cause me to feel like I'm less Taking a risk for my own happiness Being ok with it when I make mistakes, or take a couple steps backwards, or mess up. Patience. Kind of ties in with #5 Self care was still the top one I learned. I already knew this...but this year it hit me like a baseball bat the seriously heavy value of caring for myself. The issues I struggle with, they all kind of tie in together...I'm a perfectionist, sometimes I get defensive when someone tells me I've done something wrong (even if I know theyre just trying to help, it's my habitual reaction), I worry what others will think or are thinking of me, I want to please people, I avoid confrontation at all costs until it's no longer a choice, generalized anxiety..etc. It all ties in with caring too much for other people, and not enough for myself. I need to establish a more level balance, which is one of my goals for this year. I want to get my liscense and car this year, and I've found a couple people who offered to help me practice (once the weather quits being shit). I also want to break my bad habits, one at a time. I want to start journaling again, to write about my progress and to just get things off my chest. Finally, I want to finish my poetry book and publish it, and find a way to get my music into studio recordings so I could sell albums, and play live shows. Now It's no guarantee that all of these things will happen this year, but I'm realizing how short life is. Every day is a new opportunity to do something great...and many of us just live our lives wasting away, dancing the same weekly dance and repeating the same routines. Life is so much more than that, and I realize how much I could have done with all the time I've wasted. I seriously want to seize every opportunity to enjoy my life, to do things I've never done, to learn new things, and appreciate the little things...like taking a walk on a brisk sunny day. I'm ready to quit fretting so much and to focus on my goals and self care, so I can truly experience inner happiness with myself, and life all around me. I'm ready to take the steps I need to care for myself better, to go after the goals I've had for many years, and to simply BE. To BE myself and to take advantage of this gift called life, focused on the present...One day, one hour at a time. Moving forward. The only time I will look back will be when I see how far I've come from there. It might just be me,...but I have a feeling that this year will be much different than the last. I've went through some major transitions, took in some intense lessons, and now I'm eager to apply them to my life...and to truly grow from my hardships and become stronger. I'm thankful for my mother and my family and friends who have been rooting me on, including you guys. Many of you have heard part of my story, things I've battled and went through, and it means a lot that you simply showed your care and support. I show my care and support for you all too..and may this year be a good one! To new beginnings!
  31. 4 points
    When I was a Christian, I: Constantly felt guilty for the "sinful" things I kept doing, such as pre-martial sex, drinking, masturbation, etc. Kept asking God to take away my desire to "sin" and to live in the "spirit", not the "flesh" Distanced myself from non-believing friends and prayed for them to come to the Lord. Tried to not participate in dirty/vulgar language and jokes Did not watch certain shows or listen to certain music or read certain literature because it went against the Bible,. Constantly felt "convicted" by the holy spirit to change my ways, to preach the gospel to people (even though deep down i didn't want to, but I convinced myself it was God's will and it would be worth doing) Let people "walk all over me", example I had a guy move in with us temporarily because he was trying to look for a job and had nowhere to go. Well, weeks went by and he wasn't on a persistent job search. Instead of standing up for myself, I allowed him to continue to stay there because I believed that I had to offer hospitality and compassion like Jesus did. I came up with excuses for why it was ok for him to continue staying with us, even though deep down I wanted him to leave. (in a nutshell, i repressed my true feelings to be "christ like") Had doubts and nagging questions about my faith lingering in my mind, and I kept asking God to help me with them so I could have more faith in him. Felt obligated to go to church, to read my bible every day, and to pray every day. I wanted God to transform me into a "new creation" so badly, I cried and asked for him to help me overcome my issues, and it didn't seem like anything happened. I told myself "i am a new creation" but it was all in my head. Not much changed about me at all and the people around me didn't notice much either. Now that I have left the church and the faith, I: Do not feel guilty for the life I lead, unless I do something fucked up like seriously hurting someone's feelings I use my own moral judgement to make decisions, and learn from mistakes, forgive myself, and move on. Do not evangelize my spirituality to people, nor do I feel obligated to Stand up for myself way more than I used to, I don't tolerate people's shit if they take it too far. am no longer bombarded by nagging doubts and questions because I have my own views, opinions, spirituality, ideas, etc...and they don't have to match up to an old book anymore. Do not feel obligated to go to church or do anything religiously. I do what I want to do on sundays. Am not trying to become a "new creation" but instead, I accept myself for who I am while improving on things that could be improved on. Am not worried about afterlife, or any kind of eternal heaven or hell, because I don't know what's on the other side, I'm only human. rely on and believe in myself more than ever Overall, I feel free. My life is more enjoyable, less stress and worry and tension. I even took up daily meditation to clear my mind of any stress and it's been effective for me. Deconverting was painful and kind of heartbreaking, but in the end I came out feeling much better about myself and life.
  32. 4 points
    So today I once again attempted to find where my mom hid my birth certificate and SSN card. She had mentioned that she had it all together for when we would go to get my passport. I know it has to be somewhere. So, I often go hunting for it when my mom is off somewhere. I often find stuff like drawings, crafts, school assignment, papers, and progress reports from preschool. This stuff eats me up. I feel really guilty for want to leave and rebelling against my family's wishes. I know I need to press forward but, it just eats me up. I'd like to think my mother has two sides to her. One side, is a scary wave of anger that breaks me down to nothing. The second is a mother bear who ferociously protects her young. I do know she loves me to death and when I leave it will break her heart. I know she loves me because I am a stranger's child and she chose to adopt me. Her insistence of me having a conservative faith is evidence she loves me. Even if it's hell for me. Being an atheist makes me realize that life is a precious commodity. I still need to get out of here before it's too late. I can't spend another minute trapped in a place that renders me mute and frightened. She would be likely enraged if she found out I was on a site like this. She will be likely enraged when I ask her for my papers. I'll ask anyway. If she doesn't give them to me I will get certified copies. This will enrage her. I'll do it anyway.
  33. 4 points
    Come with me, to visit the rambling past of an irrelevant human female.... ----------------- As a teenager, I had a tough time fitting in. I was quiet and withdrawn. I had issues being around boys due to being sexually abused for years by neighborhood boys as a child. In grade 8, my mom made me join a youth group at a church near our new home. They kids there weren't bad but I just didn't fit in. I slept next to the girl's youth director and her two little girls when we went on trips because I didn't feel safe for whatever reason. I remember one boy was really nice to me. He went to my school and even though he was kind of popular (B team footballer, member of the school's Young Christians club, and so on), he went out of his way to talk to me, a freakish outcast. I remember walking home to my sister's house after school. I baby-sat for my oldest niece who was in elementary school at the time. From 4pm to 630pm, Monday-Wednesdays and occasionally Fridays. Thursdays, she had Girl Scouts and I was usually not asked to baby-sit. Most teenagers would have hated that sort of responsibility but I liked it. I was always very close to my niece Nikki. We are only 6 years apart in age and were raised together for the most part. I started high school and my sister broke it off with her long-term live-in boyfriend at the time. She moved to another town and I was no longer able to watch Nikki after school. Instead of hanging out with friends or getting a job, I just rode the bus home and spent most of my time online. I played Ultima, Warcraft and Starcraft. I participated in RP games on message boards and spent a lot of time on early music file-sharing sites downloading classic rock and metal. I would chat in Yahoo Chat and joined a mixtape/cd trading club online. Sometimes I worked at part-time jobs long enough to buy something I really wanted, like expensive sneakers or parts for my umpteen computer rebuilds/mods that slowly took over the basement at my parent's old house. I made a few friends despite my lack of social skills and extreme nerdiness. At some point during my junior year, a former 'friend' started a hateful rumor about my sexuality. I spent a lot of time in the company of two female friends. One was just a friend; the other I had feelings for and eventually we would be something more than friends. (*Mariah, for the purposes of this story) The latter was the child of a strict immigrants who also happened to be Mormon. Mariah was an outcast for those reasons, along with her nerdiness. She was devoted to a certain boy band (WAAAAAY obsessed ). She was also a squeaky clean straight A student who wore bottle bottom glasses and high water pants. She and I were in most of the same classes freshman year, which is how we had become friends. She crushed on all of these unattainable boys, some of whom she'd went to temple with when her parents were feeling 'temple-ish'. Mariah's family were in the process of becoming lapsed Mormons at that point. They had separated like 10 times and her older brother was 'bad news' by Mormon standards. (He was wannabe gangbanger who routinely got into fights at our overwhelmingly white and preppy high school.) I remember how she would cry and cry about how those boys wouldn't look at her. She'd write them long notes in her most careful girlish handwriting and slip them into their lockers as we walked the halls of our high school during our lunch period. Outcasts didn't get to eat at our school. Not unless you wanted some pretty rich bitch to 'accidentally' lob trash at you since the only tables we were allowed to sit at were next to the trash cans. One day, Mariah and I were in the bathroom by the shop class wing where we always went to hide from the teachers who patrolled the halls. I pulled my cigarettes out of the ceiling tiles and was sitting on the counter smoking while she sat on the floor crying about some jerk named Jeremy who wouldn't give her the time of day yet again. She got up and started pacing as she plotting a new strategy to get him to notice her. I knew he wouldn't turn his head in her direction. It wouldn't matter if she got contacts or wore a 'sexy' dress or whatever. He was a cross country team preppy bastard who lived in a big house in a gated community that we'd snuck into a few times just so she could drive her dad's car past his house in the slim window between us getting off of work at the local sandwich shop and her 11 pm curfew. When she passed me, I grabbed her hand and told her so. We were there in that moment, I was holding her hand and I realized it felt good, natural. I wanted to pull her close, but I didn't. She didn't move away and that was the first time I knew that I was 'different'. If only it were that easy to be 'different' in a small conformist town... Mariah and I were pretty close sophomore year. We spent the nights at one another's houses a lot. We lived close enough to walk to each other's places when she couldn't borrow her dad's car. We would go to the movies a lot and sometimes during the movies, we'd hold hands. I would hold her during scary parts sometimes too. When we stayed at my house, we'd sleep together in my queen sized water bed and she'd giggle and say that 'the wave motion tickles me!' She would take off her glasses and I would stare into her eyes...she had sad, deep eyes. Tired face most of the time from spending too much time reading and studying. Her breasts were big and when she'd take off her bra, they were just....BAM! In your face. Sometimes she'd let me touch them, but nothing else. She found it strange that I wanted to, but seemed to be okay with it. In retrospect, that was probably when I crossed the line that led to the rumors starting. The summer between sophomore and junior years, we went to summer school. Mariah was on her quest for extra credit and I was there because I had failed math and wanted to avoid gym class during the school year. Being in the locker room with other girls was very...let's say...challenging for me for obvious reasons. A mutual friend (*Kate, for the sake of this story) was also there and the three of us were kind of a clique that summer. Mariah and Kate had been good friends prior and their parents actually liked them being friends. No one's parents seemed to like me. I was 'odd' and a 'bad influence' because I didn't go to church and wasn't all that academically inclined despite being in advanced classes and well-spoken. Plus I was a goth kid whose parents allowed her to smoke and listen to heavy metal including the big bad Marilyn Manson! Being around the both of them made me confront my burgeoning sexuality. They were both very attractive to me. I have a thing for abnormally tall women. Mariah was 6'1. Kate? She was 6'3. They should have been athletes, but they were nerds. They were both so chesty it hurt. Bursting at the seams. The three of us were in gym class together. Can you even imagine how excited I was? That was the only time in my pathetic nerdy life that I was ever excited to run laps. Bounce bounce bounce. Bounce bounce bounce. If I were a guy, I'd have had a raging boner the whole time. But since I'm not, I didn't. I did spend a lot of time masturbating to the visions at home though. Everyday, we'd go out to lunch together. Wendy's or Pizza Hut since those were walking distance. We would sit there and talk and eat. Mariah would push her glasses up her nose like 500 times as she gasped between bites of whatever. Kate would listen patiently like a wise old sage and then deliver some witty remark that would have us laughing afterwards. I was merely a spectator and occasional interpreter between the two of them. Kate and I started spending a lot of time together. She had a car, a white '83 Mustang GT. It had been her stepdad's pet project for awhile, then it was her mom's 'fun car'. Her parents were loaded. They lived out in the middle of nowhere on a ranch and they had all kinds of crazy shit out there. A garage full of her stepdad's projects, a 'lounge' built onto the front of their house that included pool tables, a jukebox and fully stocked bar and god knows what else. We would go out there while her parents were at work and spend our days sipping Long Islands and Jack and Cokes while she rolled joints. We would smoke the joints as we relaxed in the lounging chairs on the back porch. She'd crank up the volume on the ancient boom box. We sang along to old songs and sometimes she'd sit on my lap as we sang and passed the joint back and forth. Other times we'd reverse hit as she straddled me. She rarely wore a shirt when we were at her place. Always bikini tops or ittybitty wifebeaters. Her girls were just THERE, in my face. How could I not look, not touch? There were a few times when played 'teasing' games like 'Pass the Cube' where we'd take ice cubes dipped in whiskey and pass them between our mouths until one of us missed or choked and spit what was left over the railing. One time we played strip poker. Another time we got really fuckin' blazed at like 10 in the morning and snuck into her neighbors pool to go for a midday skinny dip. Crazy shit like that was common when we were together. A weird tension developed between us. I had strong feelings for her, wanted to do things with her...especially after I saw her in cowboy boots and a hat with not much else in between. BUT...she had other people. An unrequited love with a fellow member of the academic elite. (Later on, she'd spend several years with him only for him to come out as gay.) There was also a strange relationship between her and her forensics partner Whitney. Whitney was bi and open about it. I'm pretty sure her and Kate were a thing around that time. -------- Besides fapping a lot, I began to question where I stood in terms of sexuality. I knew I couldn't come out in school. Or at home. My school was conservative and this was back in the early 00s, right before gay became somewhat okay. My parents, despite being permissive and lax about most things, were not cool with gay either. I felt alone and had terrible anxiety. I quit my job and reverted back to playing computer games 24/7. Mariah and I maintained a close relationship. She couldn't get a guy to look twice at her even after she lost 40lbs and got contacts. She was sexually frustrated and I was willing. We spent some time 'practice kissing' in her basement bedroom. At my house, we got drunk on Smirnoff Ice while listening to The Cure and The Get Up Kids. She would let me do other things once she got to a certain point of buzzed. The lights went off. I would listen to her moan and I'd crank the music up. 'Oh God....' I can hear her now. She was a slow starter and I was inexperienced and a bit too eager. I remember kissing her ears because she liked that and I remember how she would squeal if I got a little too nibbly on her neck. Hands on breasts, hands on waist, hands on thighs, and whatever comes next... Those were good times, times when I could be honest about how I really felt and want I really wanted. I trusted and I was legit in love. Big hearted me. The rumors started junior year. I guess Mariah or Kate had leaked my secrets to other people. Maybe someone else had figured them out. I don't know. Suddenly, I was a 'dyke' and a 'lesbo'. All of the good times stopped happening. Mariah and I quit going on our weekly journeys to the record stores to hunt for new sounds. We quit hitting the thrift shops and vintage shops. She quit calling me and eventually we drifted apart after she got accepted into Honor Society or whatever it was called. She finally got one of those preppy fucks to pay her some attention and that was good enough for her. Kate had her shit with Whitney and the two of them were on the DL. They kept their distance and I secretly hated them for being able to have what I wanted. I ended up at the alternative school for 'fuck ups' because the rumors turned to bullying. I lost all of my friends. I hated school and attempted suicide. You hear a lot about how bad gay boys have it, but lesbian girls have it bad too. It's easy to assume that girls who like girls can just keep it a secret and they have more opportunity to be intimate and so on. I guess that was true, but we still pay a price. Some of us pay more than others. Some of us will never outlive our pasts. Senior year was miserable. I met a guy at the alternative school and decided that I was going to be straight. I pretended to like him and lost my virginity to him. I hated myself. I didn't even want to be with him. But I felt like I had to pretend to care. That year was hard anyway. My mom had a nervous breakdown and I was living with my sister and her two daughters. Money was tight and I was basically playing Mommy everyday after school. I cried myself to sleep on a crappy loveseat covered with cat hair most nights. Sometimes I'd go home to my parents' house. I had a bedroom there, and high speed internet. A computer. I'd escape into music and Warcraft III and feel like I was okay for a little while. I wasn't allowed to be there with just my mom though. She was unstable. Plus I was needed at my sister's house...so my adolescence was pretty much over at that point. ---------- Towards the end of my senior year, Mariah and I 'made up' or whatever. We ended up going to prom together. I had my first slow dance to some forgettable early 00's pop hit whilst my head was buried in Mariah's cleavage. She wore a beautiful vintage gown, black body with a white silk collared top. Form fitting in all of the right places. I wore a dress (last time I did! ) and combat boots. A disco ball twirled above us and the two of us sat a table by ourselves, save for the only out lesbian at our school. She was a junior and she had come with a senior friend who had left early for some reason. I didn't know her well, but we had a good time chatting. Mariah and I left and faced the long drive back to our hometown. We stopped at a park and sat in her new car listening to pop punk hits of the time. Such as: AND The lyrics to which I still find hauntingly telling: "This may never start. I'll tear us apart. Can I be your enemy. Losing half a year. Waiting for you here I'd be your anything. So get back, back, back to where we lasted. Just like I imagine. I could never feel this way. So get back, back, back to the disaster. My heart's beating faster. Holding on to feel the same." We kissed in the front seat and held hands as she drove one handed all the way home. I spent the night at her house and that was the last time we ever did anything. In fact, it was one of the last times I talked to her. I will always remember her and wish that we could've been a real thing. Maybe if I had been a guy or she had been a lesbian, we could've been something. She was my first love. ---------- And that's where I end this long ass rambling blog.
  34. 4 points
    It was one of those little paper cups that one can put ketchup or tartar sauce in. A white little bowl of pressed edges and a crimped rim. Almost origami like. Just a shallow condiment cup that, at its bottom, held two impossibly small pills that held too many promises to believe. Help me sleep. Help me calm down. Help me have control. Help me feel normal. "Help me," I said to myself as I swallowed them down unquestioningly. This cup was my first introduction to psychiatric care when I was twenty-five years old. All these promises contained in a cup that was the size of a tablespoon. Goals of recovery pressed into the shapes of oddly colored tablets. I numbly took those medications, thinking at least for a few days I could get my bearings within the controlled confines of the hospital psychiatric ward. I would have one on one interviews with a doctor everyday for the three days I was under evaluation. Group therapy twice on each of those mornings. Arts and crafts for relaxation. After my three days were up, I might be forced to stay longer, or be released back into my world of fucked up living with nothing but referrals I couldn't afford to use. Welcome to the American mental health system. You could always get a diagnosis and medication in an emergency, but unless you're a danger, good luck after your hold was up. My own visit to the ward had to do with depression, scary thoughts, and an irrational desire to just run away from the world. Literally go back to the streets. For a long time, my rationale had always been survival. I didn't know how to exit that mode of thinking. I didn't really put any roots down and had little problem just moving on to new environs. That wasn't working out for me very well since I would struggle to hold on to jobs thanks to depression leaving me too miserable to even show up for the day's work. And the thoughts of death were almost hypo manic at times. It was literally driving me crazy. I didn't comprehend why I was experiencing all this, and assumed I must be genetically off balance. Every where in my family there was depression, suicide, violence, and so on. Obviously I must be a chip off the old block. At this first stay, the doctor did his best to help me sleep. Remeron, Respirdal, and Geodon were what I ended up taking and it barely snowed me under to sleep. Acute bipolar disorder with hypo manic tendencies was the cause explained to me. I lived with, and accepted that diagnosis without question, for nearly six years. Six years of failed medication attempts. Six more years of temporary homeless episodes. Six more years of suicide attempts to avoid feeling useless. Six more years of angry rant filled outbursts at family and friends. Six years of intense self loathing. I hardly remember those years. Probably because I barely survived them. What I remember most clearly was my last actual suicide attempt. I've never been able to go the pain route in death. My goal had always been to just not wake up anymore. Pills and alcohol were my usual instruments of self destruction, and in the midst of my family completely imploding after relinquishing my daughters, I tried again. To be honest, I think I succeeded momentarily. The doctors who examined me later agreed. My heart did stop at some point, and why it fired back up is a mystery. I remember all the bourbon I'd finished off that night. Had to be at least two fifth size bottles. Then I grabbed some Risperdal and Vicodin, and washed them down as I lay on the floor near my computer desk. I was happy in the moments before I blinked out, but only because I thought I was truly free at last. No more waking up. That was my last thought. It was about a day later when I woke up, and it was a struggle. My vision was watery black. Reminiscent of looking through a dirty periscope, it was an off center view and appeared tunnel like. My brain seemed to process my surroundings at a three second delay. It was hard to breathe too. That sensation of my chest feeling too heavy to inhale must have kick started adrenaline, and I managed to roll onto my side, barely feeling the rough textured carpet against my face. But as I lay there, straining to breathe, my eyes seeming to drag slowly back and forth in my eye sockets, I saw a piece of paper across from my face on the floor by my desk chair. It was a picture my oldest daughter, then about eight, had drawn for me. Just a simple drawing of me that she'd given earlier that month, but seeing it there discarded on the floor just hit me so hard. The way it just lay forgotten and taken for granted seemed to crush my spirits even more into dust. I was so ashamed of myself and my selfishness. I don't know how I did it, but I managed to get my phone off the desk and call for help. This suicide attempt didn't land me in a psychiatric hold. No, they sent me home the same night after that one. For about two more years I continued accepting the bipolar diagnosis, but instead of mostly focusing on the right medication combination, I prioritized self management and self awareness. I did have another hospitalization in that time, but not for being suicidal, just irrational thinking. That stay was more beneficial than any other because I realized my warning signs much sooner. Eventually I found a great therapist, and we realized I was not dealing with just mania, but PTSD. In fact, the mania was related to it. Three years of behavioral therapy, cleaning out of my emotional closets, and here I am now medication free. I have complete control and pretty much know how to manage in trigger situations. I also eliminated a number of people who would purposely trigger me in order to have control over me. I removed my mantle of illness. I let it be the definition of who I was for so long, that I had allowed it to relegate me to a non contributor in my own life! I believed I would be hindered forever, and it took a third of my life so far to find out it wasn't true. But that is how mental illness is treated in this country. I hope it changes. Not everyone can make a good recovery, but the lack of quality care and comprehension of mental illness leaves many hopefuls lost in the dark and feeling like there isn't a chance for real living out there. This has to change. We shouldn't rely on luck . There needs to be better standards of care with more than just medication goals and brief well checks. There needs to be future prognoses that are promising functionality and independence, not a non stop regimen of being treated like an invalid. ***Want to read more? Check out my short compilation with an additional nine new essays not published anywhere else. http://www.amazon.com/Badge-Survival-Amanda-Ashcraft-ebook/dp/B00UY2FOAU/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1426995310&sr=8-3&keywords=the+badge+of+survival ***
  35. 4 points
    I wrote an introductory thread where I tried to explain my extimony, but it was poorly written and even more poorly thought out. I included details I didn't need and left out important details, so here's my official story. I was born with a disability called spina bifida. I can walk, albeit with a limp, but I do have other, more embarrassing problems with it. I was ridiculed in school for my disability, as well as for being a young, outspoken Christian in a Christian family. When the ridicule began in first grade, I tried to take solace in my family and my church. During that time, I was sexually abused by a family member. I also began to display signs of bipolar disorder, in addition to the PTSD that was growing worse as my circumstances persisted. My Dad became abusive, and I developed passive aggression. Our relationship deteriorated as my Mother stood by as the good submissive wife. My sister and I had the normal sibling rivalry, but we never really grew close. At church, my family put on a good face, but I was labeled as a mild troublemaker as time went on. I began to get in verbal and physical fights, and I resisted going to the kids' programs like choir (run by the wench of a pastor's wife). At one point, I was literally tackled by five or six of the kids at church and dragged into the sanctuary for choir. As things deteriorated, I became more hostile toward life itself. I made almost three dozen attempts to kill myself up to this point (and that's where the attempts will end). My sister became the preferred child, taught all the lessons she needed to succeed in life. I was essentially left in the pool to learn for myself--lessons I did not learn well. Guilt and shame were the weights on my shoulders. I was made to believe I would never be good enough for anyone, and it was my fault. I tried saying the Sinner's Prayer multiple times. I answered every "altar call." The more I worshiped, studied, praised, and prayed, the further away from God I felt. I fell into a pornography addiction, self-injury, suicidal depressions, manic--borderline psychotic--episodes, and my criticism of the Church began to flare. I fought back against the idea that I was a wreck entirely by my own hand. I was constantly told to shut up, sit down, and behave. I prayed to God and sought out subcultures of the Church I might fit into. I wanted help. I tried to find a therapist. I researched mental illnesses on my own--because I felt something was different about me--and tried to present my parents with evidence for bipolar disorder. "We're tired of your rebellious attitude. You need to pray and ask God to correct your attitude." Finally, in May of 2014, I was diagnosed with help from my mentor. I stayed at the "mental hospital" for almost two weeks, and I've met with my therapist for over a year. Finally, I've dealt with the PTSD, and it's managed (not cured). The bipolar is managed as well. My therapist encouraged me to really consider what the beliefs at my core were, and what I might need to change. That's when I really took a good, hard look at my faith. I had figured out at that point that the Southern Baptists were wrong. I had left them when I was 18, though I considered them "Brethren" until last year. It took me a few more months to realize the Church itself was corrupt in its entirety, despite the legitimately good intentions of many of its members. I saw few differences between Christians and non-Christians. They were all seemingly blessed and cursed alike, despite how much they prayed and petitioned God (or didn't). The dominant difference I saw between the two groups was in their attitude toward life. Christians are by far the most judgmental, self-serving, backstabbing people I have ever met. They want control of it all. Period. End of agenda. In August 2014, I declared myself an agnostic--to myself. I now do not believe in a god I'm willing to follow, even if the Judeo-Christian God exists. I don't know what title that makes me, but I am not so concerned about the title. The belief (and lack thereof) is more important. I have met only three Christians I still trust, and all three of them describe themselves as "Christians who hate Christians." They may be misguided, but their intentions are sincere, and they're what I would describe as good people. As for me, I want no part of the Church. I want no part of God's "love." I only want to live my life, which I am finally able to do, free of the guilt and shame I endured for so long. I am done trying to chase God like a puppy chasing a dump truck, only to get run over and dumped on. I'm done following an imaginary thing's rules. To quote "Serenity:" No more runnin'. I aim to misbehave.
  36. 4 points
    The Girl That Shouldn't Be Here Into this world I came. Unexpected. It was my grandpa's worst nightmare. So bad, he told my mom to never come home pregnant. And as you so often get what you fear most, thats what happened. Because of the absence of love she saw no other way then to run away. The only reason to go back home was, to give birth. And then he made her stay. There was no help. Only desparation. Finally she got to know some people who helped her out. With her troubled soul she could not recognize those folks had weird believes and their motives where not in the right place eiter. So there I came. Into this world. Unexpected. And not to be undone. In contrast to my innocense there was only blame put on my mom. Instead of celebrating her and the miracle she was performing in creating a child she experienced her life turning into hell even more. How in all the world did you think I would not be affected by that blame? How in all the world did you think I would feel welcome when treating my life giver like dirt? How in all the world? Adoption came to discussion. No, my mom was not ready. Her dad did not take care of her concerns. The appointment at the office was not made by her. My mom was sent there, talked into signing a paper that made it clear, we would lose each other. Everybody was convinced, this was the best for me. Only she left that place full of doubts and already great regret. How did no one care about what's best for her too? How did no one understand that her wellbeing was linked to mine? There has been so little creativity in all that matter. So little love. There they where. Adopting a child. Because christians had to be social. Helping other people. Obviously it was the best for me. So everybody told themselves. I needed to be protected. From my own blood. My mom lost her right to see me when I was four. The confusion was huge and no one dared to explain. Only God. He was now very present. Jesus here, Jesus there. I was scared. But even more I was concerned about hell. So young and so vulnerable. How could you think to tell me about your God and all would be beneficial for me? How could you think I was not aware of your rejection of my mother? How could you think I would accept your love when you denied it to my mother? Was it love anyways? They sent me to sunday school. Told me about that loving father in heaven. Why wasn't there a loving father on earth in the first place? Would that be so hard? Those morals you had. How did you think they where any good? To call a girl in a news story a pig because she got pregnant at age 12. How dare you! You don't even know her story. And to me this gets personal even if you don't mean to. Don't call me too sensitive. Rather call yourself unloving and stone-hearted. And stop telling me about a loving father in heaven. And Hell. How much trouble and fear can a child take? Yes my school career started off bad. How could I be interested in education when so much was going on? And no one even asked me what I thought about all of it. No one wanted my opinion. Four year old have no opinion I guess...opinions come when you get a job and move out. But Hell. Heaven and Hell and God and Jesus. That's stuff four year olds can process. God loves everyone. He has a plan for everybody. Oh, my life had a purpose. Just how in all the world could he plan my coming before the foundation of the world if I came the way I should never have come? How can you say something like this, if you put blame on the people who brought me into existance? How can you believe that and at the same time reject my mother? I would not be here without her. If you don't love my mother, you don't love me. You don't believe in a loving father in heaven either. Because if you did, you would not find excuses for not loving. So don't expect me to believe something you don't. To hell with your expectations! To hell with your hate! To hell with your ignorance! To hell with your believe! To hell with your morals! To hell with all that keeps you and me from having a relationship. Something real. Something deep. To hell with all that keeps love out of the spectrum! I don't fucking hate you. But I hate the way you treat me. I hate the way you think. I hate the way you think you did your best! Yes, maybe you did. Maybe that's all you could. My past is past. I know. At the same time I deal with it's consequences on a regular base. Depression. The feeling of not being welcome. Not being wanted. Being a mistake. Not knowing what I want to. Feeling all alone. Having trouble to establish healthy relationships. Finding friends. Deep pain. No, I don't hold on to it. It holds on to me. I tried to let it all go. It keeps coming back. Drives me crazy soemtimes. Tears. Lots of tears have been cried and still run down my cheeks. Stop blaming me. Stop telling me God heals all the weary. Stop everything that is not love. Well, I should not be here. According to your morals. According to the way you dealt with my arrival. With my mom. I came anyways. You don't have to love me. Love is not a duty. And I guess you can't. That would be fine with me. If you could just admit it. If we could just be real.
  37. 4 points
    Someone I know recently was involved in an "altercation" that left them pretty badly injured. As he lies in intensive care his family updates everyone on the situation and all I see are messages thanking God for helping him recover and all that shit. The only thing I can think of reading these messages is this same piece of shit who is apparently helping him recover also caused him all this harm. In the book of Job, it opens with all that Job had and details how he lost it all. The book ends with him apparently getting everything back plus more. What the author believed, and what Christians believe is that if God harms you, then fixes you up then y'all are even. I mean, how does getting more children make up for losing the ones you had? How does recovering from life threatening injuries make up for suffering them in the first place? These people are fucking warped and it infuriates me thinking about it.
  38. 4 points
    Today's little blog entry is a deep one. It speaks to the effects of a religious upbringing on children's sexuality, focusing in particular on the children who don't receive the necessary confirmation within their flock and start looking for it anywhere they can. Specifically, I wanted to share a story I'd heard from a close friend who suffered a lot of rejection from her parents and the majority of fellow peers within her church class. It is astounding how she, and several others, shared a very similar fantasy. Along with other incidents of deviant desire in order to somehow provoke a direct response from God or Jesus, they simply sought the confirmation they needed that there was indeed a supreme power in the Universe. And that they would be okay despite the turmoil in their life. I haven't heard from this girl in many, many years. At least twenty-five years I would say, and not a day goes by that I don't think on her experience. She was part of a Pentecostal church, much like myself. Her home life was difficult. On the outside, they looked like an all American family, with a hardworking blue collar father, and her mother was teaching at a school nearby. They had a great house, the daughter had her own room, a nice play set out in the yard, and a dog to play with. Hardships were rare. Now and then the family would pass on going out to eat for their weekly dinner, usually because of an upcoming house project in the budget, but overall, things were beautiful. All the way down to the lovely iris beds that lined the fence next to the sidewalk that followed alongside their two story house in a small county capital in Ohio. Loyal church members for at least a decade at the point of this story's telling. Yes, for intent and purposes, their family was ideal. Like a lot of families, family business stayed in the home and wasn't supposed to be discussed with anyone outside the home. The daughter learned early on that she was a burden. Her father was fickle in his attentions, and her mother was constantly depressed and uninterested in having much to do with her after getting home from teaching a large classroom of children everyday. There were many instances of verbal abuse, and at times, this child would act out, trying to get whatever attention she could at this point. Innately she knew it wasn't natural for her father to reject her like he did, nor for her mother to just lie around the house, showing little interest in what her daughter was doing. Eventually, the verbal abuse became physical. Sexual abuse occurred by the hands of her father as she got older, and the daughter struggled to find anyone she could connect with at her church. She would try to hang out at friends' houses, willing to even massage a parent's feet one time in order to secure permission to stay the night and not have to go back to her own home. She loved staying away from home, being an adopted child for a night elsewhere. This child would do anything the host home asked of her. Washed dishes. Ran errands. Anything, and these homes shared a love for God and firm belief that all things come to those who waited. This daughter of God waited. Having the Bible thrown in her face when she made mistakes. Being told that she didn't love God when she would show signs of stoic resignation as her parents screamed at her when she didn't behave honorably. She began to have doubts. After the abuse started in her home, she wanted to have proof. She started daring God to hurt her. Having already experienced what she thought was God's closeness when she prayed, her reasoning led her to believe that God would physically manifest and speak with her one on one if she committed heinous sins. Surely He would help her be better. She couldn't help herself when it came to lying. She couldn't help herself when she stole her mother's jewelry and destroyed it. Surely He would deprogram all these desperate rituals for attention out of her and help her parents understand she needed help. She knew what the ultimate sins were. She heard it every week in Sunday school. One of the worst things she could do would be to deny his existence, but she didn't feel He wasn't real. This daughter thought He didn't care, and she couldn't believe this was true. Surely not. So she at first began talking out loud to God. Saying how she hated her mother and wanted to kill her. How she wanted to peel the skin off of her while still alive. God didn't calm the rage, and when she said these things, she could visually see these things happening in her mind. She would stare in her dresser mirror for hours, studying her face, and one day she saw something. Her face, while her own, wasn't her. There was a hardness in those eyes. The girl touched the glass, hoping in her deepest thoughts that the creature in the mirror would reach through and grab her. Nothing grabbed her. The glass still felt cool to the touch, smooth and lifeless. There was not another side to the looking glass for her to escape, but she swore to herself that wasn't her looking back in the mirror. She realized a few weeks later that what she was seeing was a demon. This was classic Sunday school demon encounters. They didn't just haunt the invisible dimensions around us, but held onto us. Possessing our flesh. Was this the confirmation she had been waiting on? If she had proof of demons, then that meant proof of God, right? This eleven year old daughter of disdainful Pentecostal parents completely believed she had received a small window into the supernatural world of biblical reality. It wasn't enough though. Everyday she would have a few moments in front of that mirror, and everyday this stranger would stare back at her. Unemotional, cold, calculating. Mimicking her every movement and mouthed words, but watching her, intentions masked in cold observation. What would it take for this girl to bring this thing out into her world and prove once and for all that everything she had been taught in church was real? It wasn't enough to talk to it. The "who are you" and "I see what you really are" statements didn't seem to do anything. The girl thought she felt the environment around her change a bit, similar to what she felt when deep in prayer at church. So, there was some effect, but nothing that triggered an outright reaction from it in the mirror. During this time, sexual abuse took place and she became keenly aware of what her body felt with certain touches, and while secretly exploring her body in the dark at bed time, she would look over at the mirror, wondering. She started to challenge in hushed whispers for the evil thing that would watch her from the mirror to come and attack her. Reflecting on her own experience at the hands of her father, she would try with all her might to summon this thing forward. Demanding it prove itself or she would no longer think it were real. Willing to allow herself to be sexually assaulted in order to receive confirmation that God was real, even if by the hands of his fallen minions. This demand went on for years. YEARS. When she hit fourteen years old, she didn't notice it in the mirror any longer. It had progressed into something that was following her around. Manifesting in the paneling of her room. I remember her room pretty clearly since we spent a lot of time up there together. Her walls were covered with that 70's style dark oak wall paneling, with the rough surface that had the wood grain look to them, and her door to her room was also a wood grain door, but a lighter pine finish. I remember how odd it was going up there to her room. The outside of her door had a little loop and hasp lock on the outside of it. Apparently her dad put it on there to make sure she didn't sneak out when grounded, preventing her from accessing the restroom. Luckily she had figured out how to slip a piece of construction paper through there and pop it out when she needed to really go to the toilet, but then would get in a lot of trouble when it was found undone later on when her dad would let her out. Truly a messed up situation. Regarding the paneling and her door though. She began to see faces watching her in the swirls of the wood grains, one in particular on her door. I remember her talking about this, and looked at the swirl she was talking about. It was spooky and I can see how she thought it looked like a tormented face, but the rest of her experience was disturbing as well. Not only did she see these faces watching her, she would masturbate in front of them demanding they come out and punish her. Prove they were real and that God did mean business when it came to belief and sin. She would cuss at them. Claim they had no power or weren't real. Purposely seeking to provoke a reaction of any type in order to give her conscience ease. Again, for a few years, nothing would come of it, but she wouldn't give up. Convinced they were toying with her, waiting until just the right moment to pop out in front of her and prove their reality by heartlessly torturing her for her grievous behaviors. The time came when everything between her father and mother blew to bits. She was sweet sixteen. She demanded freedom. She demanded respect. She declared she didn't have to put up with their mistreatment anymore and that if they didn't let her move out, she would end her life. They took her to a mere two visits of crisis counseling, and faced with long term therapy costs opted to let her leave the home and venture out on her own. Essentially washing their hands of her and opting to save their marriage instead. It was an amazing triumph for this young woman. And do you know what happened the same night she left that house filled with trauma and haunting demonic influences? All of these behaviors ceased immediately. Her doubts about God's true power had lessened. What changed her? I honestly believe it was the relief of the stress she was enduring. This little girl, since the age of eight, was desperately seeking anything in her life that would give her attention and assurance about how the world truly was that of the Bible. She needed proof that she deserved her suffering. Even if it meant courting Lucifer himself. Once she got out of her parents' home, she had less pressure to seek relief from the conditions she was living under. She had a boyfriend to love, a new place to live without fear of a father hurting her or a mother just standing by while it happened. She had a future in front of her with friends around her that didn't judge her and offered advice outside the normal realm of Pentecostal guidance. I went to the same church as her until she was eleven. I left the church about the same time, and knew several people who suffered the similar struggles with getting confirmation in their beliefs any way possible. Some would try to kill themselves, others did deviant sex acts involving relatives, objects or animals, and one in particular delved into drugs and higher consciousness to seek out God. I never saw her again after she turned sixteen. I talk about this girl so much because she was me. I really don't know who she was when I look back on it now. Seriously, I have zero connection with who that was. Sometimes, I wonder if that hard faced nightmare in my skin that was staring at me from the mirror is the person I am now, only muted due to the then current terror of a life I was living. Maybe it was just my disassociated self making an appearance. I know one thing, I was desperate for proof, willing to be hurt by the baddest of the bad in order to receive it. I was desperately Lucifer's little offering for the taking, and even he wouldn't have me, and for the longest time the reality of the rejection crushed me because it led to a deeper understanding that I wasn't going to accept until I entered my twenties. There is no God, and that is a good thing because now I don't have to tolerate being hurt anymore. There's no Kewpie prize for being a martyr in this world unless you are rich or religious. Count on that.
  39. 4 points
    There is more than one way to live your life. There is more than one way to find peace. There is more than one way to form a family. There is more than one way to show respect to fellow man. There is more than one way to be successful. There is more than one way to be happy. There is more than one way to raise a child. There is more than one way to learn. There is more than one way to comprehend. There is more than one way to share your views. There is more than one way to engage discussion and understanding. There is more than one way to love. All of these different ways of doing something can all be done correctly- IN MORE THAN ONE WAY OR APPROACH. Don't let your understanding of the world around you be confined to one point of view. Do not ascribe to just one school of thought. Make your choices, discard the ones that don't fit your life, modify the ones that might, and share the ones that work. Grow the knowledge pool in the world around you. Never hold others to your personal standard. Like you, they are individual, and do not necessarily operate the way you do. Stand up for your standards, for you. Offer insight, offer discussion, and offer contrasting opinion.
  40. 4 points
    I don't know what it's like to not think about Christianity. Having been told the Bible was non-fiction from the time I was old enough to understand, and then in my 50's realizing that it's really just a book of myths, legends, and embellished history, it has thus-far been impossible for me to let go of this near obsession. Christianity affected nearly everything in my life, and realizing that it isn't true does not lessen the impact of it on my life in any significant way. Living in a place where nearly everyone believes it doesn't help. What must it have been like for the Romans and Greeks who first realized that their gods weren't real? I suspect that I can identify with them to some extent, except that they may have been in danger of being arrested. 500 years ago a person who told the truth about the Bible might have been arrested, too, but fortunately that isn't so today (at least not in the U.S.A.) What I really hope happens soon is that I forget about all of this, that I do not spend so many of my waking moments obsessing about Christianity. It's a mentally exhausting preoccupation. I hope that writing about it here provides the catharsis for me to put it in the past. Now that I'm on the outside (mentally at least, though being in the closet I still go to church), it occurs to me that there are some words and phrases I used as a Christian that make no sense any more, and ways of expressing thoughts that now seem bizarre. These terms and phrases were designed to keep people in, and from the outside they're meaningless. Here are a few of them, with an explanation as to why they're so strange to me now. 1. Lost their faith As a Christian, I don't think I even understood what this meant. When someone quit going to church, we said they had lost their faith whether they publicly declared that they didn't believe the Bible or not. If they quit going to the Church of Christ and started going to the Methodist church, we still said they had lost their faith. I don't think I ever thought about what faith really meant in this context, if it was a thing that could be lost or found. Mark Twain is wrote the following: Now that I'm no longer a believer, I realize those who quit Christianity don't do so because they've lost anything. OK, maybe Twain was wrong, because a person who believes the Bible to be the word of Jehovah doesn't know it isn't. The sad thing here is that we're warned so much about losing our faith that we go to great lengths to protect it. When we start to question, we do not launch an investigation to determine the truth. Instead we buy books and talk to people who are supposed to understand the Bible better with the goal of convincing ourselves that it's all true. Faith requires ignoring the cognitive dissonance. When you realize the truth the phrase "losing your faith" no longer makes any sense, because all you've really done is realize how foolish (or simply fooled) you were before. To borrow another Biblical term, faith isn't a thing to be grasped. That isn't to say that faith isn't real. My wife has faith in me and I in her, faith that we are both as committed to one another as we claim to be. This faith comes from experience, having developed trust in the other person. That faith can be destroyed by the other person, but we can't simply lose it. To make that more clear, I would not suddenly wake up one day and wonder whether my wife would cheat on me. I would not even, over time, begin to wonder whether she would cheat, eventually losing my faith in her. This could only happen if she were to do something to destroy that faith. Faith in Jehovah can't be "lost", either, and Jehovah can't destroy it, because it was based on fiction in the first place. Once we no longer have faith in the god of the Bible we can't say we've lost anything, only that we've learned the truth. 2. Fell away I picture an open airship of some sort that a person can accidentally fall off of. Maybe I should picture a cruise ship, as drunk passengers do occasionally fall off of them. They fall away and get left behind, and it's a tragedy. I get it. I've been on the end of having someone I cared about "fall away". From the inside it literally feels like a death in the family! But from the outside you realize that no such thing has happened. From the outside, being mourned for realizing there are no gods makes about as much sense as going into a deep emotional pit because your child realized that Santa Claus isn't real. To the person who supposedly "fell away", what really happened is that their eyes were opened to the truth. It's a time of rejoicing, because I'm no longer deceived. And it's a time of rejoicing because I'm no longer afraid that my relatives who "died without knowing the Lord" are in torment awaiting Hell! I haven't fallen: The scary ride just finally stopped and I got off. 3. Believe in As a Christian I thought (like everyone around me) that you could choose to believe in things, and that you could reject a god that you knew was real. If a person who had been a Christian "fell away" it was probably because they didn't want to live according to Jehovah's rules. There must have been something they wanted to do that was sinful, so they just said "I don't believe in Jehovah" as a way of deceiving themselves. Now I understand that the term "believe in" doesn't even apply to things that are real. A child believes in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. If Santa Claus was real, they wouldn't have to believe in him! A person doesn't believe in their house or their job or their spouse, because they know their house and job are real and their spouse is a part of their life. There are even things you can't see that do not require the phrase "believe in," such as bacteria. But a person who says that Jehovah is real must say they believe in him. 1 + 1 = 2. I don't have to believe in that, I simply understand it. Though I had to be taught what the symbols meant, the concept is intuitively obvious. Not so with Jehovah. Jehovah must be taught. Jehovah must be imagined. The most important thing here is that you cannot choose whether you believe in Jehovah or not. You believe in Jehovah only because you've chosen to ignore evidence to the contrary (or perhaps never paid enough attention to notice it), and generally you seek out reasons to believe. Once you become aware that there's no such thing you don't choose to not believe, you simply cannot force yourself to believe something that isn't true! 4. Atheism is a religion 5. Evolution is a religion Atheism is by definition not a religion. Atheism is the understanding that there are no gods. Atheism does not require one to pursue it. Although I'm a bit consumed with it now, atheism does not need me or anyone else to follow it. And there's not any such thing as an "evolutionist"! Evolution is simply a field of study. Nobody worships Charles Darwin, and people who study evolution are quite aware of where he was right and where he was wrong. He did a really good job at getting the field started, but science is about learning, about understanding, and it requires knowing that there's always more to learn. Science, and in particular the field of evolution, can be pursued, but nobody thinks of it as a god. By the way, there are plenty of Christians (who you, if you are a fundamentalist, might refer to as "so-called Christians") who accept evolution. Michael Behe, the fellow behind the "irreducible complexity" theory that "Intelligent Design" people love to use, believes in common descent. Young Earth Creationists quote Behe, but only so far as irreducible complexity is concerned, because he believes that evolution was guided by Jehovah. 6. Money or fame or fancy cars or television or celebrities are gods It's good not to get too wrapped up in stuff. A person can get obsessed with things and lose sight of what is most important in life, namely, relationships with other people. To say those things are gods can only come from a religious perspective. That saying implies that the person pursuing those things is substituting them for Jehovah. They aren't, because there are no gods. The problem with saying these unimportant things are our gods is that, from the Christian perspective, even things that are truly important are seen as usurping Jehovah in our lives, therefore becoming our gods. If we spend time with our families, whether it's Wednesday night Little League games or vacation in a place where we may not go to an "established church" on Sunday, our family has become "our god" and we have sinned. Family is not a god, but family is important. The same is true of caring for other people. Some really good teaching on this is attributed to Jesus. The person who pursues material goods in this life to the exclusion of relationships may be selfish or simply clueless when it comes to establishing priorities, but those things aren't a substitute for "Jehovah", they're a substitute for the better things in life. 7. "This life" I actually typed "the person who pursues material goods in this life" above, then I realized what I had done. There's no reason to specify this life, because there is no other life. This is all we have, so we'd better try to make it as pleasant as we can for ourselves, for people around us, and for the generations to come. To do good is not to try to get a reward in a future existence whether that's a better position in a reincarnated life or a place in Heaven, it's to go through life spreading happiness. 8. Without the objective standard that the Bible gives us, nobody can say what is good and what is evil. This. Is. HUGE. There are more people in the world who do not claim to be Christians than there are who claim to be. There are people who practice Buddhism and Hinduism who are very kind and good people, and they don't look to the Bible to find out what is good and what isn't. The saying among Humanists is "be good for goodness sake", which sounds like a Christmas song. But the Christian says we cannot know what "good" is. The Old Testament actually condones evil in some cases. The case of Israel being told to kill every man woman and child among the Amalekites is literally genocide. If a nation at war were to do that today, we would try the generals, corporals, and even some privates for war crimes. Why? Because even if they were just following orders, they're supposed to know better. It is immoral to kill non-combatants, downright evil to kill children except in self defense, and we know this. But if we were to depend on the Bible for our moral code, we would allow such horrible things. But that point is not necessary to reach the conclusion. Even if there was nothing evil in the Bible attributed to Jehovah, he wouldn't be necessary for us to know the difference between good and evil. There's a very good question that has been asked, but is hard to word coherently. I'll try here: Is a thing good because Jehovah says it's good, or does Jehovah inform us of what is good because it is inherently good and he wants us to know? If it's good because Jehovah says so, then it's arbitrary: Capital punishment for adultery is somehow "good". But if Jehovah tells us what is good because it is inherently good, then his existence is not necessary for there to be such a thing as goodness. The truth is that we know what is good and what is bad. Yes, there are sociopaths who seem to have no concept of right and wrong, but most people know that if you do something hurtful to another person, that's wrong. And you don't have to have religion to know this. Evolution actually explains this quite well: Those members of the species who cooperated fared better than those who were selfish. Some people insist that "survival of the fittest" means "might makes right" but the overly selfish animal or person is not particularly fit. The Bible even says "if two lie together they can stay warm." Evolution agrees. If what you do harms another, it's bad. If harm cannot be avoided, for instance if you have to choose who to favor, then do as little harm as possible. But causing deliberate harm to another is evil. Speaking to the reverse, we really should be trying to help, not just avoiding harm. We should be doing good. And billions of people around the world know the difference even without the Bible.
  41. 4 points
    Right now, I am pounding these keys. Pounding them hard. Pounding them like my heart would pound in the wee hours of morning as a child. Pounding these lettered plastic keys like they are bones being turned to dust. And this pounding will not yield much relief or vengeful satisfaction because, as Chaucer put it so simply,"Forbid us something, and that thing we desire." Still, I am slamming away at my Logitech K260 Model keyboard with heated thought. Each slam of the space bar is my mind willing its force towards that which I despise so much for the turmoil and pain I will never get complete closure to. Every time I harshly tap the period key, it is one more moment of emotional wounding tearing through my physical form when all I want to do is banish these things from my daily contemplations of "where to go from here". One would think if relief were surely desired, I would "man up" and move on. Sweep the nasty little shards of broken years under the rug of my stubborn headed skull. Sadly, I am human, and we are known for our lack of follow through in almost anything, depending on our mood that day. Sometimes, I look at this mess I have been cleaning up for the last 35 years, and I wonder if it isn't almost like an addiction. You lock up all the hurt, unresolved conflict, and hopeless hopes, and every now and then, you just have to wallow in them. Boy, am I wallowing tonight. So where did all of this start? Well, I think what started my official filling of the sorrowful bathtub to lounge around in began with a posting by my father this afternoon, but we all know that is probably just what snapped my limits and caused me to unbolt the doors of my pain filled closets. And I say closets, because one couldn't hold all my skeletons. Really though, I think this has been working on me for a couple of weeks now. Earlier in this month, I had posted about my mother giving my eldest son a call after a nearly 3 month hiatus of communication with him altogether, on her part. Then, about a week and a half ago, my father called, inviting my eldest to an event for cleaning up a local waterway. Not too eventful a phonecall. Said he would call him back with the actual day and time, which I told my son shouldn't be a problem either way since his grandfather promised to not make a big deal about his bug phobia this time. Then, just last week, I fielded a call from my youngest boy's father, asking if I had plans for the weekend since my father had called asking to take our child out to a movie or something. I already had plans of course, so I advised to say not this weekend. Now, this was slightly irritating. They have my number, my email address, and my father tries to go around me, and get my ex to cut off my weekend time without me being asked first. Stil, I let it roll off. Today, I get a phonecall from my ex again. My parents called him asking to let me know they had been in a terrible accident, the truck was totalled, and they were on their way by ambulance to the hospital, though they are sure they will be fine. While it is true I could give a shit less their condition, it bothered me my ex was being used as a go between of sorts. I made it clear to my ex that they have not been forbidden to leave me a voicemail or email and that by no means should he feel obligated to be a third party to all of this. He didn't seem to mind since he is currently keeping a foot in their ass to see our son, but he promised he wouldn't try to negotiate any "peace talks". Relieved he understood the boundaries, I hung up. Fast forward to a few hours ago, and my oldest son logs on to FB. Mind you, he is friends with them on there, which I do not mind or care. None of my business is my attitude so long as they communicate to him, about him, and not weed out information about me. I've always told my son to advise nosey folks to go to the source, and if they don't get an answer, tough nuts, it isn't your problem. My kids and I like this arrangement and takes the pressure off of them for the most part. I digress, sorry. So, Sean mentions that Grampy is posting on Granny's FB page, and he shows me a new picture of the cat, something mom baked recently, etc. No big deal until the almost journal like entries pop up. And it pains me to tears that I actually read this one: "As I awoke this morning I found a mess our aging dog had left in the family room. Needless to say it was not solid. I cleaned it up and then used the rug cleaner to take care of the rest of the matter quickly. It was very early at the time and Marquita was in bed and I knew she would awaken from the noise but it had to be done. Three hours later another 'accident' happened and Marquita found it and was not happy about it. While helping her we also talked about what we go through physically at our ages as each of us found bruises on our feet but were clearing up. I said we were very fortunate, that, at our age, we were more well off than others who could not walk or live a more active life in various ways. And I said we still had the joy of God in our hearts. As I went outside to attend to something the Lord spoke to my heart and reminded of how many people are living today without joy, instead prefering to live a life of complaining and hurt. They don't realize they actually 'nurse and nuture' those feelings simply by keeping them in their hearts and thinking about (meditating) and speaking about them daily. It was at that moment that the Lord brought to my attention that we can also give our joy nuturing as well by thinking on what blessings we have and not allowing hurt feelings to overtake our thinking, no matter how those feelings came about. It was something I had not realized before. I had already determined long ago that things like worry, guilt or condemnation from the past or present were not going to rob me of my joy. I was the one, and only I, who could decide what to think and not to think. If you're having trouble living a joyful life and your thoughts seem to center around things that make you feel badly about life then check out what your thoughts are. What you think has a big impact on the way you live. In Proverbs 23: 7 we find 'For as he (man) thinketh in his heart so is he." This passage really hurt me to the core, and elicited such a blinding anger - outrage even - it took everything for me to not call this bastard up. Just typing this has my throat feeling constricted, eyes tight, and shoulders frozen with such pain. I look at this particular part of the message and I just cry with hopeless angst because he will never see what he has done. He applies blind Christian faith tactics to his wrongdoings. I had already determined long ago that things like worry, guilt or condemnation from the past or present were not going to rob me of my joy. I was the one, and only I, who could decide what to think and not to think. How does one get joy by avoiding responsibility for transgression? I have had to look at every single one of my family members over the years, knowing they were well aware of my having stolen money, my impulsive lying, sneaking out of the house, and having the police at their home throughout my childhood and early adulthood. I know these family members have listened to my mother crying about how I nearly drove their marriage into the ground just to get out of that horrible home. And while I stand in front of these relatives who have my complete history of malfeasance, I don't say a word in my defense. I don't cry about what my father did to me, how my mother neglected my mental illness as a child, or how I have struggled and won the fight to control my anger. I realize I go on and on about how I want to clear my name. I want to show that while I am ultimately responsible for who I am, my parents neglected issues that could have resolved long before I reached adulthood and hurt my own family. I don't understand how he cannot understand emotional scars and trauma. He is the product of an abusive childhood, so I know he deals with irrational thoughts, memories that haunt his daily life, and probably nightmares/sleep disturbances. To this day, once or twice a week, I will wake up horrified that I might have wet the bed again. Absolutely horrified, and embarrassed upon waking only to find that it didn't happen. This is an occurrence I cannot seem to get rid of, but after spending the first 12 years of my life wetting the bed, I guess I might not ever get rid of the feelings associated with it. It would be nice if it would stop haunting my sleep though. There's my instant fear and dread when I hear men raise their voices in argument. I still get that queezy feeling in my stomach when in those situations and am shaken for at least half an hour after the incident is over. My job, with angry truck drivers and dispatchers was really starting to take a toll on my every day nerves. So much baggage to sort out in this life, and he gets to go nimbly pimbly along like nothing will bother him because he has decided he won't let his joy be robbed of him. I just cannot believe that because I have these issues, I am "nurturing" these feelings by acknowledging them and confronting them. If I didn't do so, I might still be physically violent. To think, even though he physically, verbally, emotionally, and sexually abused me, he shouldn't let those things bother him. He DESERVES joy, he says. The Lord told him so he said. Well, the "Lord" told me to NOT forgive his self-righteous, self-worshipping, self-serving ass. I don't want him asking me for forgiveness. I wanted him to see what harm he has wrought in my life, see the legacy of abuse he helped to spread through me, and maybe, just maybe, offer some support in getting control. All I have ever been told is that I am a free loader, a joke, a fake, a liar, a failure, a sinner. I realize now he is jealous. Everything he has ever thrown at me has been without any grounds. He says I am a failure. He never finished college, and retired from a shitty machinist job after 30 years with a whole whopping $216/month as a pension, having never earned more than $13/hr. I on the other hand have TWO degrees under my belt, along with multiple certifications and have put my education to use in jobs that I have mostly enjoyed and earned a hell of a lot more at. He says I am a joke. He abused his child on every level possible, and says God spoke to him and encouraged him to be have joy in life. THAT is a joke. I could go on and on. He has no merit, and I know this. It has to be jealousy. I have been in relationships with people I actually LIKE. I do things that make me happy, and despite what he thinks of it, I have a lot of support and appreciation for what I do. My kids can actually approach me now, and I am honest with them when given the chance. He could never say he has any of these things. He is downright psychopathic to think if God is real that he is forgiven and has entrance to Heaven. You cannot repent to this so called God without being genuine of heart and intention. I know this because he would preach this at me every time I screwed up. Same rules apply asshole.
  42. 4 points
    A year ago I sent my wife an email telling her that I no longer believed in God. I had been in hiding my atheism for about two years, at that time. We have two children. When I stopped believing in God my biggest fear was that my wife would leave me and that we would have to raise our kids in a split family. Not only that, I love my wife. I absolutely do, but I didn't know how she would react. I've heard story after story of marriages ending when one person loses their faith. And, I was raised in the faith, so I heard every single week what was preached from the pulpit about those who lose their faith. The only reason why anyone would leave the church was because of sin. The thing I never heard in church was that anyone would leave the faith do to an intellectual difference between what Christians accept as evidence and was is considered evidence in a scientific sense of the word. I won't rehash why I lost my faith, I've written several blog posts that cover that in detail. What I think I've failed to talk about clearly in past posts was how completely trapped I felt once I lost my faith. When I got married, I believed in God so thoroughly that it was how I defined myself, above all else, I was a Christian. I told my wife that I would have never even considered marrying her if she wasn't a Christian. And, of course, she felt the same way. My biggest fear when I lost my faith was that this would destroy my marriage. And, coming to terms with realizing that everything that you've believed in for the majority of your life is completely false, feels a lot like the floor below you just dropped away. I was frustrated and angry, and I felt completely alone. Even talking about this with the one person I love the most, would change our relationship forever. So, I had no choice, but to hide my loss of faith. That might have been what was driving me and my wife apart. Something was very wrong in our marriage, even before I lost my faith. It became harder and harder to talk to each other. Our marriage had become distant, and I hated the direction it was going. Talking about the problems only ignited another volley of angry nights. The catch 22 of the whole thing was I didn't want to talk to my wife about my faith because I didn't want to lose my family, and not talking about my faith was causing me to lose my family. It's a whole different perspective on this side of the fence. What was it that was really the problem? We have a difference of opinion about the existence of a God. We're talking about a difference of opinion. That's it. Not spousal abuse, not adultery. It's not even in the same category. We are talking about different ideas about what we think of the world around us. Is that worth destroying a marriage for? Imagine if it was political and not religious, would you divorce if your spouse changed political parties? Don't get me wrong, I know what it's like to be a Christian. I know how important faith is. And, I know that in the Christian faith, they are told that everyone who does not believe in God will spend eternity in Hell. Just the idea of Hell alone is enough to not ever question whether or not it's real, isn't it? I mean to question it, could cause you to be kicked out of Heaven, and who wants that? I understand what it's like, being that Christian who is terrified that all of your family members that you love, and aren't Christians, are going to Hell. And, it really is a huge leap to ask someone to step back from that belief and accept that it's ok for others to not believe in any of it. It's just as hard to realize that people who aren't Christians, aren't evil, they are good people, honest people, kind people ... just not Christians. I felt the same way. Anyone who isn't in the faith, isn't really to be trusted. Like I said, I didn't know how my wife was going to react when I sent her that email. Emotionally, I think it was one of the hardest things I've ever done. She went through all the emotions I was afraid of. At first she was angry, but she also felt betrayed. I'm sure she was confused, and then she just felt like the trust between us had been broken. I titled this post "For Better or For Worse" because going through this, I thought a lot about what my marriage vows really mean. When I got married, I had certain expectations of my wife. I wanted to marry a Christian. I wanted to raise our kids in a Christian home. What I had never really thought about is that people can change over time, sometimes dramatically. The person that you marry could change so much, that they might not even resemble the person that you married. The other thought that I hadn't considered before was, what if it's you who changes? And, also, when is a change like that enough to consider divorce? My wife told me that last year, she started making plans for a divorce. My worse fear was about to come true. Somewhere in the midst of all that we were going through, our relationship began to change. We began to talk, really talk. I know I opened up like never before, and so did she. Looking back now, I was absolutely right, talking about this did change our relationship forever. My wife would probably describe it more like a miracle. It sort of feels like a miracle to me. My wife now accepts that I don't share her faith in God anymore, and she's come to terms with that. She knows that I love her and that I would do anything for her and for our kids. I am really looking forward to this Valentine's Day. It's a special day for us to take the time to truly appreciate that we have something special. It is something special to have someone to love. And, if that isn't living happily ever after, I don't know what is. Happy Valentine's Day, everyone.
  43. 4 points
    Not long ago I was cruising a Christian news site talking about the anti-gay bigotry of Chik-Fil-A and was surprised when the comments turned from the usual comedy gold ("ITT: CHRISTIANS WITH NOOOOO IDEA WHAT'S IN THEIR OWN BIBLE") to a woman pining openly for "the good old days." That's what she called it. And suddenly the whole comments segued into everybody waxing nostalgic about how awesome these "Good Old Days" were. Men were all strong-jawed family protectors. Women knew their places. Everybody had 2.4 kids, and those kids roamed freely with their unleashed dogs and baseball-carded bikes through neighborhoods of freshly-painted white picket fences full of people who meant them only good. And on Sunday all of these fresh-faced Mayberry residents were in church pews absorbing the Good Word of the Lord. I don't need to mention that anybody with half a history education knows that these mythical Mayberry days didn't exist for most of the American population. If you were white, straight, Christian, middle-class or better, cis-gendered, and either the beneficiary of the patriarchy or a woman who bought into it, then yes, those were likely wonderful days for you. The world was your oyster. You expected to be the dominant, if not the only voice in government and society; you expected to be welcome wherever you went and your opinion heeded in whatever forum you cared to voice it. If anybody felt differently about it, they were clearly just deviant perverts, and they had the good grace to keep quiet about their demonic behavior and let the Mayberry residents have their day in the sun. If you were black or some other minority, poor, a woman who had the nerve to believe she should have the same pay for the same work or any kind of say in her own reproductive capacity, a non-Christian, genderqueer, or gay/lesbian/bi/asexual, then you, my friend, weren't having such good old days at all. You faced discrimination on a constant basis. You were treated unfairly with no recourse whatsoever. You had no rights. You could even be killed for being an outsider. Even daring to raise your voice against the dominant faction could lead to ostracism or worse, and if that happened, there wasn't much you could do about it. In Boise, just the thought that a gay witch-hunt was coming led to good men committing suicide rather than face the wrath of the KKK-like Mayberry hordes. (Read that link, good Christians. That's what your "Good Old Days" is all about.) I'd say that something can't be really "good" if it was only good for a certain very, very narrow segment of a population. How utterly, inhumanly un-empathetic can one person be, to take such horrible, flagrant abuses of human and civil rights as acceptable and even wish for a return to the days when they were common? There's a deeper horror behind these heart-hungry sighs for these mythical "good old days." It is a horror that we need to understand and call out into the light to expose. What Christians don't realize they're saying is this: They miss the days when they were allowed to hurt, mistreat, imprison, or even kill those who weren't part of their clique. They miss the days when they could force their religion on other people on a constant basis, and ostracize or hurt those who didn't believe the same way. They are angry that they are no longer allowed to run roughshod over those who feel differently about things. They are ego-stung about not being allowed to push their backwards, antiquated idea of "morality" onto others. They are most especially livid that their voices are no longer the only ones being raised, much less being heeded, and that they are no longer the only ones who matter. The world is changing, and they are no longer the dominant people in it--and they do not like that change at all. What we are witnessing in these moments are people who once had dominance and privilege who are seeing those things very rightfully taken away from them. Just as a controlling, abusive husband gets more violent when he sees his wife trying to escape, just as a government clamps down all the harder when its citizens try to get free, just as bigotry becomes more virulent and violent the more people speak against it, privilege tends to react poorly--even explosively--when it is threatened. When you hear someone sighing wistfully over these "good old days," know that you are dealing with someone who is bitter and angry about nothing less than the loss of their unwarranted dominance and privilege. It's the signal of a Christian feeling bitterness over that loss, just like the term "micro-evolution" is the signal of a creationist who has no idea what biology is. We need to call out this "good old days" myth for the cruel barbarity it is, and we need to press the point home that only those who are completely divorced from empathy for their fellow humans think these days were any kind of good. What a disgusting "god of love" these Mayberry Christians follow.
  44. 4 points
    They really hate it. They may even hate US. We are free and our presence, our joy and our peace, which DOES NOT COME FROM CHRISTIANITY; irks them to NO end!!! We are a CONSTANT reminder that we are NO LONGER BOUND by the "christian contructs" nor do we have to live within the "christian box". They have learned to DEPEND upon God, calling themselves weak (and He is strong...yeah) and totally defiling their own power as human beings to "be a christian" to gain some sort of "worth". It is ludicrous. They are really jealous. I can see with the few friends that I have told that they are NOT comfortable knowing that I "no longer believe as they do"...really??? Was our friendship BASED on sharing "our faith?"...if so, then it was NOT a friendship but a SHARED DELUSION that I no longer will subscribe to. We are FREE...we no longer feel obligated, guilty or compelled to "do good" because jus because it would not be a good "christian witness" to do otherwise. HOW CONTROLLING!!! As christians, we controlled ourselves with this LIE and christians who know us NOW are wanting to STOP our freedom so that they can be comfortable in their "christian box" and not feel so "offended". Please. I am really thinking about how I PUT MYSELF DOWN in order for Christ to LIFT ME UP...I was not LOW to begin with but I had to MAKE MYSELF LOW AND UNWORTHY in order to "be worthy?"...That is CRAZY!!! If there is a god and he does not love me AS I AM, then I am NOT interested in becoming less just so he can "make more out of me"...that is truly for the mentally ill and NOW I know it.
  45. 3 points
    "I'm going to Kurdistand in March. I'm going to fight ISIS." Not something you want to hear from a long time friend. Especially when it is followed up by, "This is something I believe in." Plenty of other platitudes followed. Empty assurances of safe zones he would be assigned to, all the while I am well aware of the ground war going on in Kurdistan, and know damn well what he thinks will happen isn't even close to the truth. Yet, this is a noble thing to do. Fight a treacherous, unconscionalbe enemy who must be stopped at all costs. It's the noble thing to do. I think it is extraordinarily foolish. The Kurdish forces battle against ISIS isn't anything more than defending a territory that isn't recognized as theirs, having grabbed large amounts of land as ISIS decimated other regions of Iraq. Both sides of this coin are somewhat rigid in their belief systems. The only difference between the Kurds and ISIS would be that the Kurds want to secede from Iraq and become their own state, not caring what happens to the rest of the world around them. ISIS is on a rampage, spreading Islamic law, or at least their version of it. It's an ideological war. And I refuse to believe it is noble to sink to the level of both parties involved. No, I don't think so. As I see it, there aren't any good or bad guys in this conflict. In fact, I would argue, they are both quite bad, and one is notably more violent than the other. Will my friend be able to handle the fire fights? Will he be able to kill the scourge called ISIS that stones women, hangs gays, and shoots dissenters? Will he be able to do this and turn a blind eye to the Kurds doing the same to their own people as he fights for their freedom to do so from the oppressive force known as Deash? The whole situation seems utterly useless and a waste of time for a foreigner to participate in the turmoil. Simply put, how do you justify killing one to allow the other to essentially be doing the same? Still, he wants to do something about all the carnage he is seeing. An atheist, completely wrapped up in the media storm of pain and suffering in the world. Wanting to do anything he can, even if it means giving his life. All under the notion of being noble. And what does it mean to be noble? What exactly is an act of nobility? Honestly it isn't much different than being moral, and we already know that the standard for that varies person to person. Much like the guidelines set out by many religions and cultures in this world, the concept of being noble follows along the same line. A preconceived idea of what constitutes a morally sound person or act. It's religious dogma 101, straight out of Phillipians. Killing doesn't seem to fall under the word noble. Seems killing for a moral cause would fall under vigilanteism. And even worse, if this killing is a desperate attempt to feel like you are making a difference in the world, then you aren't doing anything more than committing a self serving sacrificial act. Almost a Constantine type of move that will give you near martyrdom if you die. What's noble in that? This desire for martyrdom to gain recognized accomplishment in life is a big problem on both sides of the belief system in America, and globally for that matter. Everyone wants to run out there and be a hero. Running headlong with blind ambition into war zones filled with starving children, mourning mothers, and slain fathers. A conflict ravaged country side filled with underage rape of parentless children, puss filled bellies from starvation, and deadly disease that a five dollar prescription normally would cure within a week. It isn't just the dread Deash forces committing the atrocities. Many of these civilians die by the hand of their own countrymen who are fighting desperately to survive in a treacherous time of land wars. He can't just stop at killing the baddies on one side. To be noble would to show no quarter to anyone who participates in any type of inhumanity against the innocent, and the Kurdish forces would not stand for him to shoot their own too. One man's idea of beauty is different to the next. So is the idea of nobility, and how such an act is to be carried out. Regardless, I hope he doesn't get his head sawn off with a shitty field knife in the deserts of Iraq. I hope he makes it home. He won't ever be the same from it though, and I think he underestimates how bad things are. I sincerely hope this noble cause provides enough of a fuzzy blanket of denial for when he sleeps at night, so those dead empty eyes of those he killed in a religious war aren't haunting him with the purely futile and unconscionable behavior that he participated in. I love you, Ave. But there aren't any respawns in this game, and you can't repair your COH in the real world. Shits ethereal.
  46. 3 points
    When I was a Christian, I read the book ''A Grief Observed,'' by C.S. Lewis. C.S. Lewis was once a self-proclaimed atheist, but as his life took many turns, he was drawn to Christianity. He is often quoted by many Christians, as being a poignant voice for them. Frankly, he still is one of my favorite authors. He has a way with words that is not only convicting, but also comforting. In ''A Grief Observed,'' C.S. Lewis talks about loss, pain, suffering, and the process of grieving. "Nothing will shake a man -- or at any rate a man like me -- out of his merely verbal thinking and his merely notional beliefs. He has to be knocked silly before he comes to his senses. Only torture will bring out the truth. Only under torture does he discover it himself." ~ C.S. Lewis What is this truth that he's talking about? For him, it must have been Christianity. It must have been a belief in the supernatural, and a god...and somehow, this helped him grieve the gut-wrenching loss of his wife. This 'truth' as he calls it, must have been pretty damn comforting, during a time of great sorrow and pain. Truth with a capital 'T.' I once accepted C.S. Lewis' truth, as my truth. Prayers and supplication were my truths. Suffering once had redemptive value, as that too was another one of my truths. But, a few years ago, I embarked on a journey away from this truth, and traveled down a stark, lonely path towards a new one. When I discovered what it meant to call myself an atheist, it felt like someone had given me a great gift that had been sitting in front of me all of my life, waiting to be opened. Also known as ''reality,'' this gift provided me the keys to freedom, to living my life authentically, and learning to trust my own intuition. When practicing religion, especially one of the Abrahamic versions, you need to realize and accept that you are no longer in charge of your own life. This 'god' that you've agreed to follow, is going to guide you, comfort you, and shelter you from every frightening storm imaginable. But, in return, you will be obligated to 'serve' this god, and that can be the tricky part. I was indoctrinated at a young age, into Christianity, and children are human sponges, as they say. I was a good girl, all of my life...followed the rules, and all of my choices, were based on how I could put others' needs above my own. (to a fault, at times) I've talked to lifelong atheists both here, and in my offline life, who have a somewhat dark opinion of Christianity - that it is steeped in deception, fear and depravity. As an atheist now, I can identify with them, but having been a zealous Christian, I remember making excuses for those things. We are only deceived, because evil is present in the world. We fear that which we don't fully understand, and how can we ever fully understand the mystery of faith? And, depravity is part of the sin complex. Religion isn't depraved, it is mankind that rejected God's gift...and thus, depravity exists. See? One can make up a lot of seemingly convincing and viable excuses to stick with religion. The brain is an amazing organ, and it will find a way to process that which is unfathomable. (How can one fathom lies? Call it religion. lol) So, today, is one of those days that I thought blogging about all of these thoughts, might be cathartic for me. I'm an atheist, but there is something that I can't quite fully let go of, when it comes to my former self as a theist. I don't quite know anymore what that something is, even though I've done much self reflection. Bur, then it dawned on me today, that maybe I will never know what that something is, and I must find a way to accept that I was duped by religion, nothing more or less. Perhaps, this is what C.S. Lewis meant by suffering, and how it will lead you to truth. The road has been illuminated for me, and if I dare to look over my shoulder at how far I've come, there is still this part of me that wishes to run back over all that trampled ground, back into the waiting arms of theism. The comfort of nothingness, as compared to the vast potential that awaits me. I know what I've left behind, so why do I still look back? Therein lies the process of grieving. It is a push-pull paradigm that one must go through, in order to grow, learn and emerge a butterfly. I'm not there, yet. I'm still grieving. As futile as it seems on some days, I cannot move forward until I allow myself to grieve the loss of my faith, fully and deliberately. My deconversion will be complete, when I've fully processed and made peace with the fact that religion was never my friend. Never my saving grace. Never my Comforter. I'm almost there, but not quite yet. I sometimes think it would be easier, if it were all true.
  47. 3 points
    **Part of the "Reasons Why I No Longer Believe" series Yes. YES. This is how I feel most of the time. I left Facebook once my friends started getting married and having kids ~3 years ago. At the time, I was still in the church and pretty actively so. I had temporary custody of one of my sister's sons. They were my everything at that time. I am infertile and have known that kids were never going to happen for me since I was a teenager. I have a rare genetic condition called Nonclassical Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia. I don't want to bore anyone, but basically what it does is screw up my hormone levels. I am cortisol insensitive and diabetic. I have high testosterone levels and have developed severe cysts on both ovaries. I take medications and eat a restricted diet. I do my best to live my life, but there was always this ONE thing that hung over my head. "You'll never have children..." that's what the doctors have told me over and over again for years. I accepted it as fact and tried to go on with my life. When I was younger, it didn't matter much. I didn't really want kids, wasn't into relationships or marriage. That's not to say that I didn't date or whatever. I did. Having a family wasn't really a priority, so I didn't think much about it. After a couple of years in the church, I noticed that a lot of my friends and family members were settling down, starting families. First, there was Mariah. She had her son Jules and did a 180 from wild party girl to uber-responsible workaholic single mommy. Then there was Andrea. She had her daughter Mona and we fell out of touch for awhile. She was staying at home, breastfeeding, trying to make things work with her new husband. Then there was Alex. She had her son Ryan and was all "oooh and ahhh" for awhile. Total mombie. Then my ex-girlfriend Red got pregnant. That was really hard to take. We had been together for ~6 years and I loved her so fucking much. I knew she was messing with this guy from work but she swore they were using protection. I saw myself building a life with her. Red was my best friend, my lover, all of it. She put up with me during my righteous child of Christ phase. She went to church with me sometimes. We did have our differences, separated a dozen times in the time we were together, but I felt what we had was fucking legit. Then she got pregnant... We drifted apart despite my taking her to doctors appointments, going to the ultrasounds, helping her pick out names, buying shit for the baby. My heart was wrecked when she chose to move in with the baby daddy. We quit speaking around the time her son was born last spring. I still hear about her from time to time, but things are not the same. After that, my younger sister Beth had a baby. My little nephew Elias. Such a beautiful little boy. I look into his eyes and I love him, but I know in the bottom of my heart that I can't have it. That motherly love. And I wonder why it fucking matters. Why are my eggs crying out to be fertilized? I'm a lesbian, for fuck's sake. I don't even like men, not in that special way that leads to sex and babies. Yes, that's the solution. A nice drink or 5. If I get hammered, I won't have to think anymore about this bullshit.... At church, I'd look around. All of the people my age were sitting with their partners, holding hands and here I was, by myself. Some of them had kids, babies, swollen bellies. And here I was, sitting in the back of the room by myself, hood up and ducking out to smoke every 20 minutes or so. Church was supposed to be like Disneyland, a happy place where we were at peace for at least 1 hour a week. Singing and dancing, surely God heard us all. For me, church was like a graveyard of a dream that I didn't even know that I had until I was there. I'd spent 5-6 days a week in a world where I was a-ok being a single 20-something woman with a job that I hated and then I'd go to church and be sad about the baby I'd never hold. I hate screaming babies and yowling toddlers, but I'll be damned if an hour in a church full of smiling, reproducing Christ-bots didn't make my eggs itch in a peculiar way. The ticks and tocks of my biological clock was never as loud when I found myself in that room full of dull cut and paste folks. When I had my nephews, I was instantly accepted in that fold. People thought I was a mommy. They greeted me with knowing looks and held doors for me. I loved those two boys and I let that love blind me. I'm not going into all of that here, but I did want to point that out. That hypocrisy. Good ol' Paul in the book of Timothy! Women are saved through childbearing. The barren woman is one who cannot be saved, or so it is implied. Of course, no good church will say that because single women and childless widows usually make up a significant portion of their body. They tithe dutifully and that's part of the economical equation that makes the church machine go, go, go. Even if they don't say it, they believe it. The toxicity of that teaching permeates the depths of all that is within the church. A woman without children is suspect. She is just waiting for the right guy to come along, get it in and pull it out, and 9 months later, a little one falls out and the church knows she's more likely to stick around and raise her brood with a generous helping of Jesus. It's all a racket, old as time. Mothers are respected and if a woman is going to get anywhere in the church, she has to be married and preferably have at least one child. If you don't, you are weird, not really a woman at all but held in some precarious pre-saved state. Of course, you can earn your penance by serving God, but in non-Catholic contexts that is verboten. After all, free will and all that shit means that you can totes serve God without moving into a convent and pledging eternal servitude to the Trinity. I will end this by saying that reason #34 why I left the church was that I knew that I could never be a member of the fertility cult. I prayed for healing and miracles, got two, and lost them both. Maybe I was a sinner, maybe I was never really saved. I can't say as much. But this I can say: I am no longer willing to be a member of an organization that teaches that the highest calling for any woman is that of mother. if a woman wants to be a mother, there is no shame in that desire. Likewise, if a woman does not desire motherhood, she should not be ashamed. /rant over.
  48. 3 points
    When I was 13 or 14, there was a television show on one of the networks. There was a guy on, I don't remember who now, but he claimed that we all have powers of the mind. If we think hard enough, if we focus our energy, we can unlock these powers, he did various demonstrations. He talked to audience members and told them about their personal lives. He claimed to have read their minds. He also performed other stunts. About midway through the show he said, "I'm going to demonstrate to everyone out there today that they, too, have powers they can unlock." Well, this, obviously grabbed my attention. He told everyone at home to find something that isn't working and put it near them. Then he told the audience at home to shout, "Work! Work! Work!" over and over again. Keep focusing on the object. Keep shouting. Unlock the power of your mind. No one was in my house at the time. I had a broken watch that quit working months ago. So, I did what he told me to do. I focused every thought on the watch working. I shouted (wonder what the neighbors thought). After a few minutes he stopped and said, "Now there are those at home that know they have power. I want those people to call the number at the bottom of the screen and tell us what happened." My watch didn't do anything. But, I kept watching the show. People started to call in. "I had this blender, it hasn't worked in months. But, I focused my thoughts on it and shouted, 'Work!' and when I plugged it in, it worked!" one caller said. Another call came in and they had lawn mower, and it started working after years of sitting in the garage. Caller after caller told how they unlocked the power of their mind. Why didn't it work for me? Do I discount their claims? There were a lot of people that called in. A few years ago, when I started listening to skeptic podcasts, one of the podcasts talked about a similar incident on a foreign tv channel. Just like my experience people began to call the show with similar claims. How could the skeptic podcast deny what had happened? What was their explanation? Well, the various stunts from the show were tricks of cold reading and other similar things. Things that are well known to magicians. A magician started the podcast to explain how magicians fool people into thinking that they can read minds. The part about the audience calling in, they explained, is a game of odds. The audience for this performer is in the millions. If only a small percentage of people in the audience had some unexplained phenomenon occur, they would see that as proof for what the performer was claiming. A very large number of people would experience what I experienced and nothing would happen. But, if you take that small percentage and showcase them in front of the others, that small percentage can convince millions. With such a large percentage of people there's bound to be a few people that experienced something. They would have screeners to make sure only the most convincing stories would make it on air. I'm sure a lot of people leave events like that completely convinced in the power of the mind. But, when your anomaly hunting, and there's no pass or fail requirement, eventually you will find something to confirm for you your belief, no matter what that belief is. I've had several Christians tell me about how they've experienced a miracle. Sometimes, it's just getting a job at the right time. Or receiving a check in the mail they weren't expecting. But, a lot of times it's about how they prayed for something and it happened. And, that for them, that is all the convincing they need to believe God is real and he did something for them. But, it's no different than having a million people shouting for something, anything, to happen and believing they have special powers. There is no criteria for what counts as a miracle. A miracle is whatever they want it to be. If it means that you found a leak in a pipe before it burst, that's God. If it's a narrowly missed car accident, that's God. There is no way to test whether or not it's actually God. It's God if you believe it is. There is no false criteria. If you pray and nothing happens, that evidence will be ignored. If you pray and something happens, then your bias to believe is confirmed and you will use that as an example to all your non-believing friends. The problem is subjective testimony in and of itself isn't very convincing evidence. To be convincing, you would have to have an objective demonstration or an explanation about the mechanism that makes the testimony plausible. If you were to tell me that you can read my mind, I'd doubt that. Because that isn't my experience of how the universe works. But, you told me that you have a functional MRI that can read brain patterns and will allow you to piece together a pattern on a computer that can be compared to other patterns that will give you an idea about what I might be thinking, that I could accept. You've given a plausible mechanism that would, in fact, allow you to read a mind. "But, God isn't a mechanism, He's a being and he can't be expected to give you reproducible results in a lab. He may act when someone prays, he may not. You can't ignore all the testimony that God acts in others lives even in this day and age." When any evidence is exempt from confirmation through some sort of objective filter, I question the testimony. Confirmation bias is a lot like throwing darts at a wall and drawing bulls eyes wherever the darts happen to land. There is no way to verify the claim. There is no way to reproduce the claim. There is no way to demonstrate a cause and effect relationship. And, in the end this sort of testimony, simply isn't convincing in any way.
  49. 3 points
    I think the picture says it all. I know this person (father) and it just angers me to no end when folks share stories of "miraculous" recoveries and leave out all the background detail. In this case it would the medical community, and all the hard work he put into his health to get where he is now. This type of testimony gives a false sense of hope to those who read it. At the very least he could say the fruits of his labors were rewarded with a stellar recovery. By only discussing what God has shown him in a "vision", he is leaving out some very important details. How overwhelming would it be to fill your head with half truth stories of divine healing to only go through the intense surgeries and find out there is a long and painful healing process entailed? I hate false prophets, false worship, and blatantly misleading testimony. And yes, he still has diabetes. Why wouldn't God have given him a full recovery you think?
  50. 3 points
    For such a very, very moral people, Christians don't seem to believe in their own hell much, do they? Last week, a smirking teenager hit the news with the tidbit that he was being suspended from school for wearing an innocent l'il yellow t-shirt advising students that their lives were "wasted without Jesus." He stamped his widdle fets and bawled (still smirking the whole time of course) that he was being victimized. Persecuted. The mean ole school was singling him out for being brave enough to take a stand for Jesus. Of course, "taking a stand" nowadays just means putting on a T-shirt or copying-and-pasting a Facebook post; ah, how times have changed from when it meant risking your life for your faith! But I digress. No, William Swiminer was absolutely convinced that this was just a horrible act of suppression. When he was finally allowed to return to school, his father made sure to hang around long enough to find out that the school had arranged for an assembly of students so they could discuss how to respectfully share one's opinions and ideas in the modern world. That was just too much for the control-freak father, who yanked his still-smirking 19-year-old man-child back into the car, pointed a lot and waved his Bible and generally acted like a Big Man, and eventually got upset about being questioned and drove off in a roar. Alas, his righteous indignation about how schools should just teach"good old-fashioned academics" was largely lost and wasted on the world, which had by then realized that Mr. Swiminer hadn't had a single issue with his kid preaching his lungs out at his peers. Indeed, young William had been regarded as a huge pest. He'd been a constant source of aggravation for his put-upon schoolmates, who were all heartily sick of his constant threats of hell and his harrying evangelizing. One of them complained about the shirt and the school finally put its foot down. Indeed, Mr. Swiminer didn't have any trouble with this non-academic behavior as long as it was his kid who was doing it for his God. That, and William was flat-out deceiving everybody by trying to claim that he was just a sweet innocent little boy who got picked on out of the clear blue sky. At 19, he's old enough to know better than to lie to make himself look better. No, man-child William Swiminer. You were not being repressed or persecuted for your beliefs; you were being a jackass and your school finally came to its senses and reined you in before they got their butts sued. No, control-freak dad. You were not being fair or reasonable in demanding the school abstain from non-academic subjects when you yourself didn't care about such niceties until you found yourself on the receiving end of hearing stuff you didn't want to hear. Most of the time when Christians think they're taking a stand, they're just acting out in ways that they know they won't be called on--like that old joke about how to tell when someone's about to tell a racist joke: they look around to make sure no minorities are around. And most of the time when Christians say they're being persecuted for their beliefs, a little probing establishes very quickly that the belief had very little to do with what happened.

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