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Having a friend make headline news by becoming the embodiment of everything wrong in the world was not how I imagined my evening would begin. Scott Smith, one of the hosts of the Recovering From Religion podcast, top dog activist for Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF ), father of three, and all around good guy, turned a very dark corner earlier today. He shot and killed his wife and then took his own life just as police arrived. Three school age girls are going home to relatives instead of their own bedrooms and welcoming arms of their parents. The footsteps of mom and dad in the hall to tuck them in are now permanently relegated to memory and dreams. The loving smile of dad is now a porcelain veneer of menace boiling beneath. Some might take offense to all this imagery, but the reality is whether mental illness was the primary cause or not (many say it was his losing to ptsd), he murdered his wife. He committed domestic violence. I feel that the constant woe of his ptsd being the cause removes some accountability from Scott's plate, and I am not going to have that. We can discuss this reality without eviscerating him. This was a man who was keenly aware of how ptsd affected him. His years in the military and then learning to live as a civilian activist out there to protect vets and bring further understanding to ptsd is important. He is not without his own weaknesses, and maybe the news of his wife's divorce pushed him to an edge he had never traversed before. This does not lessen or change the fact he committed domestic violence. He murdered his wife. He took an opportunity to control his life how he saw fit, and forced his soon to be ex-wife to follow. He even called the police and told them what he was doing. Once again, someone burned it all down because it wasn't going their way and they had to have absolute control. Does it really need to be said for the millionth time that mental health is a huge issue that is still taking baby steps to become a mature discussion in this country? And right now is the time in our community of freethinkers to seriously evaluate this issue in our own ranks. We cannot always see or know what is going on behind closed doors in our friends' lives, but we can consistently promote a very personal avenue of communication to find these dark moments in our impulses and try to diffuse them before they become tragedy. We can be active participants in our local communities to demand better crisis services without stigma. We can educate our communities that staying in the hospital for mental health reasons is not a thing to be embarrassed or ashamed of. Self-care must happen or we cannot take care of those we love. We will hurt them as we hurt ourselves. I have personally been to that dark edge and back, and luckily my family and I walked away intact. I didn't hide, but embraced help for once. But that was only after barely waking up from an intentional overdose because I couldn't process my guilt. Some might look back and say Scott was a good man who had his own demons that got the better of him. Some might look back and say he was a bad man, letting this murder define his legacy. What we should be looking back on is how we can help prevent more of these types of violent episodes from occurring due to any number of reasons, simply by being present and demanding we all take care of ourselves through proper programs and resources instead of the way Scott did it in the end. PTSD didn't kill his wife. He did. Let's prevent this from happening again.
Thanks in advance for all who take the time to read this. I apologize for the length but felt I needed to include at least the thoughts related below to properly convery my situation. Thanks again. Grew up Catholic-school, alter boy, the whole bit. Had a typical born-again conversion experience at a "parachurch"; ministry function when I was 16. My doubts arose soon after but was already engaged socially/emotionally to others in the group. Having had a crazy childhood didn't help. I am an now attorney, in my mid-thirties, with one young son and have been married since my early 20s. My wife is a die-hard believer who would never understand my doubts. I have been faking for some time (and sort of believing a la carte). I left the faith in my own mind and spirit a while back, but have not pulled the trigger publicly with family and church. My reasons are similar to many I've seen stated here regarding the truth of the Bible, contradictions, and the whole weirdness of the faith when you step back and view as a casual observer. Mostly though, I am not comfortable telling my agnostic friends and coworkers, many of whom are more intelligent, thoughtful, and ethical than I, that they will burn in hell if they just don't see things the way I do. I've never been able to do that, even when I thought I was truly practicing the faith. I am at a point where I cannot take it anymore and have said to my wife that "I have struggles with doubt...etc". My wife thinks I am going through a phase and states that I just need to read the Bible more and that we need Christian counseling (we also argue a bit). I responded that we should see "any" kind of good professional counselor. She responded that is not acceptable. She became very emotional and I backed off and said I still believe but do struggle with doubt, as if it's a sin and not simply my mind working things out for truth. We had similar conversation and she stated that if I decide, in the end, that I do not buy into the whole thing and no longer wish to be involved in church-related activities etc. we must separate. Again I chickened out. I have a 2 year old son, which is part of what lead me to make this decision. Shortly after we had him, we moved to a different part of the state (NJ) and began attending a church, seemingly moderate, but the emphasis of which is largely on salvation, more so that any other church we've attended. Also, prior to his birth, we were pretty half-assed about going to church. Now we are very involved. While our church tends to focus on loving people out of sin rather taking any kind of socio-political approach it is the things said as an aside (particularly by our pastor) that has given me pause, e.g., "I know some of you struggle with children who are not saved". Sorry dude, I will not tell my son he is going to hell if he does not say the right words. I will not pin him down with irrational expectations. My wife envisions that he was sent to us to be a "warrior for Christ." (she stated, very emotionally, that very thing to some church friends and that is when I snapped inside). Anyway, I am tempted to play along with the wife/church on this stuff and have my own friends, thought life, etc. and when the time comes tell my son what I really think (which at this point is a formulating as some kind of hopeful agnosticism (but maybe even atheism)) damned the consequences. But that time won't be for many years. Until then, I'd be living a lie and I have to deal with the subtle mind-control bs. I just don't want him having divorced/separated parents and I do not want to miss out on too much of his childhood. Also, I am the breadwinner so there are financial considerations- I do okay but do not have an empire to divide. I also don't want him growing up in a house of lies and tension. This sucks ass. As a final note, I should mention that whenever I bring up any doubt, my wife becomes very emotional and tends to talk over me. The encounter becomes an argument centered around feelings rather than an adult discussion of thought, truth, and belief. Just looking for you insights and support and just a place to rant.