What’s the Harm?

babyjake

As soon as the news of the miracle went out on facebook, the thanks and praise began: “God is so good, so merciful, the answerer of prayers, the performer of miracles.

The Christian community had been praying for days after young Jacob was found unresponsive in the family pool. The doctors said that it would take a miracle to save him and it appeared that God had performed one.

Even though for years after leaving Christianity I consistently said that believing in a god is damaging, I found myself wondering, what’s the harm in believing such a thing? Jacob is alive, conscious and out of ICU, off the breathing machine and on the mend. Who cares if people prayed to an imaginary person for a miracle. Is it harmful to believe in something that isn’t real if gives people a common hope or if it brings comfort?

The answer became clear to me in the following days.  Without much warning, Jacob crashed, waking off and on in pain, panic and fear. It was absolutely horrible for his parents. They sedated him, put him back on the breathing tube, ran tests, but he was never to regain consciousness again. Evidently, god is not so good after all, but was it harmful for them to believe he was?

After all the prayers and praise, and now that their supposed miracle had been stripped from them, I knew the comments would take  a turn and I cringed at the thought.  Here is a couple of examples:

“Your beautiful son is with Jesus now, so run to Jesus. He will fill you with PEACE that passes all understanding, wrap His COMFORT around you, and hold you tight in those moments you feel like you’re not going to make it. He’ll give you STRENGTH to continue on when you want to quit, and allow you to experience the JOY that comes from knowing Him, our savior, and the PROMISE that one day, you’ll all be together again.”

What the holy f*ck? Let’s see, this Jesus did the worst possible thing he could do to a mother an act of cruelty beyond compare and now, NOW, she is to run to him, bending and scraping for his comfort. If an abused woman, runs back to her abuser people thinks she’s crazy, but when it comes to Jesus, well, he loves her and knows what’s best for her so…

Here’s another:

“May you find joy that little Jake is now bright-eyed with wonder at the sights of Heaven, and he is full of joy to be right there with Jesus….better than any Candy Shoppe or Toy Store full of Leggos & balloons & bubbles & MatchBox Cars. Take joy for him…and may God’s Grace shower down on each of you.”

It’s like telling someone that yes, your child has been stolen, but he’s going to have so much fun there! Be happy!

Not only do these people appear delusional, they sound crazy!  Beyond that, what they are saying is cruel and extremely damaging to this young mother who just lost her baby boy.

After watching this whole thing unfold via social media, this much I know:  To believe in a personal god, one that can answer your prayers and perform miracles is beyond harmful for so many reasons, but in this case most destructive to Jacob’s  mother. She is ruined, of course. Her life will never be the same. Statistically speaking her marriage may very well end and her little girls have forever lost the mother they once had.   On top of all that, because of the “supportive words” of her Christian community, she now she has to contend with the idea that she is to thank her god and find comfort from him, believe that he loves her and knows what’s best for her.  As a good Christian, she is to find joy that her baby is gone forever, because he is now with the god that let him die, let his mother beg for his life, give it back to her and then take it away and not just quickly. She had to watch him suffer unbelievably before he finally died.  Way to go god.

Without even realizing it, her “supportive” Christian community has added grief upon grief and when she is tempted to shake her fist at their god,  question his existence, or even just want to ask why,( which is a normal response) she will feel guilty and think that she doesn’t have enough faith or belief. Think of the emotional toll it’s going to take on her trying to convince herself that losing Jacob in the way she did was all just part of god’s loving plan for her. What plan might that be anyway?  I grieve for her and even though those Christian’s delusional motives may be pure, or whatever.  Their words are disgusting.

If I could talk freely to this mother I would tell her that horrible things happen in life. I would tell her what happened to her and her family is unbearable and I’m with her in her pain.  I would put my arms around her and tell her it’s okay to be mad and to turn her back on the supposed god that abused her so and that there is not lesson to be learned or something she did to deserve this tragedy.  I would tell her to embrace her grief and yell and scream at whomever she chooses and do her best to heal.  I can’t do that though, because her Christian family and friends would call me a monster.  I’m no monster. Their god is.

Dear Christians, if your god is real, he is monstrous, cruel and immoral.  Is this the god you want to praise and worship?  Suit yourself; I’d rather go to hell.

 

 

 

Going Dark

dark_on_social_mceoIt’s that time of year again—the holidays. It’s the time of year when loved ones, or not so loved ones, get together. It seems that many families, even ones that have major disagreements, or issues, still find a way to bury the hatchet, so to speak and enjoy one another’s company. You know how it is, the uncle that gets drunk and the police have to be called or the bipolar son who stands up and decides now is the time to let everyone know just how unsupported he feels. In the end though, everyone forgives and forgets and loves one another and when the next holiday rolls around, you are all back together. It’s not like that for all of us though.

For many who have left the faith,  what we have done is the one thing that simply can’t be forgiven.

I have not heard my sister’s voice in over five years and I think it’s been longer since I talked with my mother. Sometimes, like this time of year, I find myself wondering how they can be without me, because even with all their rejection and abusive behavior I endured before saying enough is enough, I find it so, so hard to be without them. I think that is why this is the time of year I go dark. I know that others do too.

The good news is, things get better. Like waves, I go down and then come back up and crest and for me, I don’t go down as far anymore. Once this time of year is over, I’ll be fine.

You know, it really is their loss (I know I’ve said that before) but it is. I was a good daughter and a good sister–a super fun and loyal friend, but they’ll never let themselves see that, because now I’m an atheist and how can an atheist be good, be moral, love anything really? They don’t trust me and in some ways I understand. I was one of them once.

So tonight and tomorrow, I will be with my beautiful kids, whom I love with a vengeance and they love me the same.  I have My Man, who is amazing and his awesome kids, who think I’m pretty cool, and we will all drink and laugh and the darkness will lift. I wonder if it ever will for my mother, my sister, my old friends.

I hope so, but I’ve stopped holding my breath.  I had to.

 

It’s Not Me, It’s You

familySince my last post, I’ve thought a lot about how atheists are spoken of, how we are treated, how demonized we all are. I don’t have a persecution complex or anything like that. As much as I would like to say it’s not all that bad, I know that it is. The reality is, we are so maligned that even the people closest to us can rationalize turning their backs on us. I believe they feel righteous in some way.

Today I’m going to share a letter my sister wrote to me soon after I had started doubting my belief in god and while I was going through one of the most difficult times in my life.I do this because I want others, who have had their families turn their backs on them, to know it’s not them and they are not alone.

I’ll spare you the background for now, except to say that our relationship had been extremely close up until I shared my doubts about god. I think the letter speaks for itself. Here it is:

I don’t want to hurt you with my words, but I have to speak the truth. I’m tired. You’ve never made it easy to talk with you about my feelings regarding our relationship. I send you these words from my heart. I can no longer hide from the truth of my feelings and I want to be up front and honest with you from now on. I’m tired of being ‘fake’ due to fear and I certainly no longer want to patronize you. That isn’t fair to you.

I love you very much because you are my sister. I forgive you. I have no ill will towards you, just deep sadness for many reasons, most of which we’ve discussed already. I am deeply sad because I have developed a wall between you and I that I cannot seem to break down. I have trust issues with you that hopefully will one day go away. That in no way means that I don’t love you deeply and cherish you as my sister. That will never change. Also, I love you with a deep love that can only come from Christ.   My heart breaks over hearing what you have to say about our Savior, but that is not why I am choosing to distance my self from you. Hopefully you will search your heart and discover what you need to do to repair our relationship.

Just so you know, the reason why I have never questioned your beliefs, and this may sound harsh, but over one year ago I was advised by several trusted people who know me and are familiar with our relationship, not to speak with you about why you have hardened your heart towards God because you’ve had such a strong influence on me over the years and it is dangerous to speak with you about the ‘earthly wisdom’ that you claim that you’ve been enlightened by. I can’t put it any other way. I have to be open and honest with you.

I will continue to pray that you find Jesus Christ in the midst of your pain.

As a follower of Christ I would be doing you an injustice if I did not give you this verse: John 15:5 – ‘I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.’ I have attached John 15 that I am praying you will read.

All my love, Brenda”

So there it is. Retyping it is like reading it for the first time–painful. When people you love reject you for being an atheist, it’s the most helpless feeling in the world, but like they say on The Sopranos, “Whad’ya gonna do?” Nothing, but know it’s not you; it’s them. The truth is, although I miss my sister, I would not give up the freedom I have in the hopes that one day, she will consider me once again worthy of her love. I tried that a for so long and all it did was leave me broken.

My advice, move on. Stop trying to get loved ones to stop rejecting you.  If they truly love you, they will find you.  Instead surround yourself with people who love you for who you are, and you in turn love others for who they are.  There is nothing like it–I promise.

 

Why So Angry?

angry atheist

“Why are atheists so angry?” It’s the age-old question that Christians like to ask. I’ve thought a lot about it and that question doesn’t make any sense to me. I’m an atheist and I’m not angry. I get angry sometimes, like when my cat throws up on my kitchen counter. Seriously, of all the places. There? Jesus! I wouldn’t say I’m excessively angry though.  I certainly don’t walk around in perpetual state of anger–not even close. I have to say the same for all the atheists I know and I know  a lot of them these days.

It seems to me that Christians take comfort in labeling us atheists angry. Maybe so they can say, “See what people are like when they don’t have god and Jesus?”

Anyway, I was reminded of this, when I saw that very question asked over and over again on a recent social media thread. I thought, why do they keep asking that question? How could they not see the answer that is right in front of their faces? “Read your comments,” I suggested. They didn’t seem to like that, what with it coming from one of those angry atheists and all.

You see, if they read the comments with an open heart and mind, the answer they would find would not really put them in a good light, you know, the WWJD kind of light. It would make them look, let’s see, how to I put this…not Christlike?

I could include all the pertinent comments in their entirety here, but instead I’m going to summarize them. That’s because there were so many–literally hundreds(And this is on just one thread). Some were very protracted and it would have taken too long to correct the spelling and grammatical errors. Seriously, I’m not trying to be mean or anything, just honest. I’m thinking they were just so very “passionate,” that they stopped worrying about being literate. I mean, who needs grammar when you’re spewing the sweet, sweet love of Jesus? Am I right?

So, Christians, why do we seem angry?

Maybe it’s because you said we:

  • Should go to Hell, or Islam, Syria, and/or Isis.
  • Are messed up in the head, alone, miserable, unhappy, possessed of        demons, children of Satan, cowardly, ridiculous, ungrateful, spoiled, liberal and raised by single parents (I’m surprised they did’t say wolves).
  • Should shut up, leave the country, or be deported to Iraq.
  • Should commit suicide, or die, and some said they would be more than willing to help us accomplish that.

The last quote I read, not that it was the last one there, but the last one I could stand reading, was this:

“Merry Christmas and may you go to hell and die.”

So, dear Christians, we atheists aren’t really angry people, you just catch us at our worst moments. It’s kind of like when you walk up and punch someone in the head and after they hit you back, you say, “Why are you so angry?”

Yeah, it’s like that.

One thing I’ve learned since I started calling myself an atheist, is that Christians can be as mean and hateful (righteous anger) as they want to, but we atheists just better keep our heathen mouths shut.

Jesus said it best when he spoke of atheists: “Snakes! You offspring of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?” Oh, wait, he was talking to the religious leaders there…never mind.

 

 

 

@%&#*!

anger-enjoyIt’s been such a busy time.  School’s out now. There was graduation, then college orientation, and to top it off I am selling my house.  I’ve thought about my blog every day, but just had no time to write.  Not that there hasn’t been lots of things to write about and when I am unable to put down in writing my thoughts, they race through my mind like a whirling dervish and I have little peace.  Thankfully, as I was confronted with some mind numbing stuff this morning, I made myself sit down and open my laptop.  It was either that or have my head explode.

As I watched the news this morning and saw that 19 firefighters lost their lives in a wild fire in Arizona—a special elite group of firefighters that all died together when the fire turned back on them–I was deeply saddened.  How very tragic.  As an atheist, I think about how nature sucks sometimes and there’s just no making sense of why.  It happens—bad stuff happens and there’s no god causing it or able to stop it.  Knowing this feels so much better than trying to do mental gymnastics to make sense of a “loving, all-knowing, all powerful god,” allowing or causing such a tragedy to happen.  My heart goes out to the families and I hope they have loved ones around them to comfort them in a time when there really is no comfort, just grief.

Unfortunately, I logged on to facebook and was immediately confronted with all the prayer posts.  I knew I would be, but it’s all good; “Let them pray,” I thought.  Then there was post from one of my facebook friends that sent me over the top. She had lost her ferret on Saturday and then this morning, she found him.  She posted, “I found my ferret.  Thank you Jesus.”  THANK YOU JESUS?! WTF?  You simply can’t make this stuff up. First I laughed, then I got angry and the anger grew.  It took everything in me not to comment on her post, “Oh, now I know why those firefighters died, God was busy looking for your effing ferret. Jesus must really think you are special.”  Why didn’t I?  As an atheist I have to think about everything I say.  Do they?

Do Christians even think about what they say?  As a non-believer it is so upsetting to see and hear Christians say mindless, imbecilic, and insensitive things like what the ferret owner said.  Sadly, as an atheist, I cannot say anything back, because suddenly I am a hater.  I’m trying to steal people’s faith away.  I want to ask her, since she seems to believe that God found her ferret, why he didn’t save those brave young men who were fighting to save others?  Of course there would be no answer, unless you count, “It’s just a mystery, or who are we to question god, or our finite minds just can’t comprehend the workings of god.”  What a bunch of ignorant BS!  If I did ask that question, she would think, “There she goes again.  She’s so mean.”  You know what?  She’s mean–mean,ignorant and delusional!  There, I said it.

Christians wonder why atheists seem so angry, and to be honest, we are sometimes, but we don’t start off angry; we honestly don’t.  We just want to have the same rights that Christians have when it comes to voicing our opinion, but we don’t and it gets frustrating.  When we say something they think is mean, or offensive, they point their fingers at us and say, “See? See?  Look how angry and bitter atheists are without God,” but let them say something so utterly ignorant and stupid as “Thank you Jesus for helping me find my ferret, while young fathers, brothers, and husbands burned to death,” and we had just better respect their faith.  We just need to be nice, fold our hands and nod our heads with a smile, so they will see we really are nice, caring people.  Fuck that.  Fuck them.

The Truth About Love

love-2I’ve been thinking a lot about 1 Corinthians 13.  People, not  always Christians, use this part of scripture as a reading for weddings and other events, regularly. When I heard it the other day, I realized how profound it is, and of all the scripture I have read, 1 Corinthians 13 is actually something I can hold onto as a guideline for my life:

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails…And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

Interestingly, these principles are the ones I have rarely seen in the Christians in my life, especially the ones that are closest to me. There have been a couple of times where I confronted my sister with these scriptures and let her know that when she says she loves me, but continues to be cruel and rejecting, she isn’t living out 1 Corinthians 13, which is part of her holy book.  Her response to me has always been the same; “I do love you, I just can’t be around you, or I don’t trust you, or I have a wall up between me and you,” etc., etc. Well, what is love then?  The apostle Paul seems to make it clear.  Maybe in “the original language” it means something entirely different.

I decided to look up the definition of love and here is a synopsis:  “Profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person, a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection; to take great pleasure in as for a parent, child, or friend.”

Most hard core Christians, my sister and mother included, do not exhibit any of the aspects of 1 Corinthians 13 love, at least not to me.  I’m not sure why.  It’s like the more you study the scriptures and the closer you get to god, the meaner, more judgmental, and more hateful you become.  I saw it in myself and I’ve seen it in my sister.  In fact, seeing it happen to my sister caused me to take a good hard look at myself.  I have to admit it’s easier to exhibit 1 Corinthians 13 love as a secular humanist than it ever was as a Christian. I wonder why that is?  The apostle says that it doesn’t matter whether you have knowledge, or have faith; if you lack love, you are nothing and yet, many Christians are great at attaining knowledge and going on and on about their faith, yet love, real love, is rarely seen.  At least I have not encountered it.

It’s as if knowing and speaking the laws of God, or trotting out the faith card are more important than simply loving.  It’s all so pharisaical and you know what Jesus had to say about them?  Let me paraphrase; they were gross.

…There’s No Heaven

imagineBlaise Pascal believed that it is best to err on the side of the existence of god, because if god is not real, what have you lost by believing in him?  Pascal’s Wager has been presented to me on many occasions since becoming an atheist.  I have lots of responses actually, and one of them came to mind while I was at a charity event a couple of weeks ago.  As fate would have it, I ran into two Christian couples that used to be very good friends of mine.  We went on vacation together; our kids hung out together.  We shared happiness and heartache.  We truly depended on one another.  Of course, that all changed once I gave up Christianity and divorced.  Both couples virtually disappeared from my life.  The last conversation I had with one of the wives was when she told me the reason she didn’t invite me to her daughter’s wedding was because it was going to be a “Christian” wedding and she was “afraid of what I would do.”   The last time the other friend spoke to me was when she told me that she took it personally when I stopped going to church.  The last time I ran into her, she pretended like she didn’t recognize me and turned away.  I was friends with both husbands as well, but because I am now single AND a nonbeliever, I am doubly dangerous in their wives’ eyes, perhaps theirs too.  To be fair, this time both of these couples were more than pleasant to me.   Maybe it was because I was with my man and in a public place. I’m not sure. My friend, that hadn’t invited me to the wedding, insisted that she would love to get together with me and would call.  In my experience, this doesn’t happen. I’ve heard that so many times from old Christian friends, to no avail.

This got me thinking.   Christians believe that in order to get to Heaven, you must believe and trust in Jesus Christ for your salvation.  I do not.  Worse than that (In their eyes), I once professed to believe in all that, but no longer do—making me an apostate. Because of this, they believe they will never see me in their heaven. My Christian friends know this all too well.  They insist that they still want to remain friends, spend time with me, still love and care about me, but I never hear from them.  They continue to have parties and do fun things; I’m never invited.  Here is my point:  If they really do love and care for me and they really believe they will never see me on the other side, why don’t they want to spend as much time as they can with me, in the here and now?  I mean, if they really want to spend time with me and they know time is short, why don’t they?  The same could be asked of my sister and my mother.  I know they believe I won’t be in their heaven and yet they do not speak to me or try to mend our relationship.  The only conclusion I can come to is that they really only loved and cared for me because I believed in the same god as them.  Now that I no longer do and am open about it, they do not want me around.  Every thing I was:  My sense of humor, my wit and sarcasm, the desire to have fun at all costs, everything that made me, me, well that has somehow become moot.  They can’t enjoy my company anymore. I’m sullied. You know what though?  It’s their loss.  I was a good friend, a fun friend, a generous and kind friend and sister and daughter.  They don’t get the benefit of that any more.  Others do now.

So, what does one have to lose by believing in God?  The answer is simple:  Relationships, for one—deep, abiding, loving, and simply enjoyable relationships.  That is one of the prices people pay for believing in a nonexistent god.  I’m not willing to pay that price, but that’s just me.

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