@%&#*!

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.

…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.

Emptier Words…Part 2

I'll Pray for You

Yesterday, I talked about how shallow the words “I love you” can be and how evident that shallow love is in the Christian Church.  Today, I want to concentrate on more empty words: “I will be, I have been, or I am, praying for you.  Now, I realize that some people actually do pray for people after they say those words, (I’ll set aside the reality that prayer doesn’t work) but I have found that most church-going Christians say, “I am praying for you,” and then first, never do, and second, do nothing tangible for the person they are “praying” for, simply because they have already done their part by “praying.”  In my experience, it’s a lot like, “I love you,” in the sense that, like I love you, they think by saying “I’m praying for you,” their work is done.    I could give you many, many examples, but I’ll just mention a few, because those who have been in the Christian world know what I say is sadly true.  Heck, I did it myself and had many Christian friends admit the same. Even if we did pray about it, that would usually be as far as it went.  We had done our part, right?

I’m sure that’s what my sister was thinking when she sent me a scathing letter, basically ripping me to shreds and then telling me she loved me and was praying for me.  I guess that was a double whammy of empty words!  Did she call me and ask me to go have lunch or just hang out, or if I needed anything?  No, she turned her back on me—wouldn’t even have me in her home–but I took comfort in the idea that she loved me and was praying for me—right.

When my son was in the ICU, suffering from a brain injury, I sat there, for the most part, alone.  When, after having no sleep for two days, I stopped by the school to let the principle (a devout Christian, by the way) know how he was doing.  Granted, he hadn’t called to ask, but I thought he would want to know.  Finally, he took time to talk with me, and after I told him how things were going, he said, “Well, I’ve been praying for him.”  Exhausted, I looked at him, and although I didn’t say anything, I remember thinking, “So that’s what empty words feel like.”  I said, “Thank you,” and wanted to vomit.

During that time, after growing weary of “I’m praying for you” comments on my facebook, I posted a quote there: Praying is like a rocking chair – it’ll give you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.”  You would have thought I had posted that I liked cooking babies and eating them for dinner.  The point of the post was to let my Christian friends and family know that we needed more than their words, but they couldn’t hear me; they were too offended.  The attacks from Christians, during that trying and scary time, were shocking.  My own nephews publically attacked me—saying really hurtful and untrue things to me. It’s still hard to think about, even today.  In some ways I think all the defensiveness posted there was born out of guilt, but I also think they didn’t know what to do when their shallow words weren’t comforting to us.  Maybe they were nervous that they might have to do something outside of their comfort zone and, of course, Jesus would never endorse such a thing.  Sadly, for the Christian, it was my non-Christian friends that cooked dinner for us and cared for us and I will never forget that.  And people wonder why I want nothing to do with the Christian community.

My final example happened just a few months ago.  I had stopped by my apartment manager’s office (again, another devout Christian) and somehow it came up that my son is permanently disabled by his accident (he has no sense of smell or taste). I told her that we are hoping that medical technology will come up with a way to stimulate the damaged nerves so that they can grow back.  She smiled and said, “I’m going to pray for him.  I believe god can heal him.  …What’s his name again?”  There was so much I wanted to say: “You mean you need to know his name otherwise god won’t know who you are talking about, or do you need to know his name so that you can share the request at prayer group so god will know who they are talking about?”  I thought about saying, “Oh, I never thought of doing that, I’ll tell his neurologist.  He’ll be so relieved, so will my son. Oh, happy day!”  I didn’t say any of those things though.  I did what most non-believers do when faced with shallow religious ignorance.  I said “Thank you,” and walked out, fairly certain she would not pray or even remember my son’s name, for that matter. Some might wonder what I would have wanted her to say.  I have thought about that.  I guess it would have felt good to hear her say, “Oh I’m so sorry. That must be difficult.  I hope he will be okay. Is there anything I can do for him?”  Maybe that’s just too intimate for the Christian to say—too real.

So FYI dear Christian, when you say, “I’m praying for you,” to a non-believer, we hear “I’m going to go talk to myself about that later.”  We want to see and feel care, not hear it.  We’re kind of evidence based.  We’re weird like that.

Above The Fray

searching__but_not_seeing__by_lyndzieWhen I have talked about the problems within the Church and religion as a whole, I tend to get the same reaction from Christians—they deflect.   I don’t think there has ever been a situation where a Christian has actually owned the bad behavior that is rampant within the Church.  They always act like the bad things that happen are merely isolated occurrences.  When I’ve shared specific incidences that I and others have experienced in the Christian Church, the typical response from them goes something like, “Oh, I’m so sorry that that happened to you; that’s not representative of true Christianity though.”  It isn’t?  That’s weird because, that has pretty much been my experience.  To that, a finger is usually pointed right back to me.  You know, “Maybe it’s you—perhaps something you have done wrong, because I have just never encountered anything like that.” Words like that, responses like that; they wound and they wound deep.  It doesn’t bring the broken back into the fold, it sends them limping as far in the other direction as they can go.

My point is and has been, for a while now, if there really was a holy spirit that dwelt within Christians, my dear Christian friends, there would be a difference that could be clearly seen within the Church.  The divorce rate, teen pregnancy rate, the victimizing leaders, the shallowness, dishonesty, disloyalty, and bigotry found in the church is staggering, and yet just about every Christian I have brought this up to says, “Well, those things are not representative of true Christians,” and of course, they, personallyare not guilty of such things.  They consider themselves above the fray and, sadly, they take comfort in that.

In some ways I understand this reaction.  If Christians would allow themselves to open their eyes and take a good hard look at their religion, their leaders, and their churches, it would be a bit like seeing behind the scenes at Disneyland.  What they told themselves was reality is really only a fantasy and they have guided their entire lives under the delusion that the Christian Church is the happiest place on earth.  Of course, it isn’t.  Reality, being right in the middle of the fray, showing empathy to those that question their faith, or can no longer believe, rather than sympathizing from afar, that’s being human; that’s what life’s all about.

Oh Yes, I Remember It Well

false-memoriesI was having a conversation with my older son, Rob, the other day and the death of my best friend, Melanie, came up.  She had passed away when my younger son was 4 or 5 weeks old.  Rob began to tell me about the day I received the phone call informing me of her death.  He said that he started questioning God that day, because he knew she wasn’t a Christian and he couldn’t wrap his head around someone as good and kind as Melanie going to Hell.  I was surprised to hear him retell the details of that day—not because of his questioning god, because that would have been understandable, but because he wasn’t there when I got the phone call.  He wasn’t living with us when she died.  If fact, he didn’t come back to visit until my younger son was almost a year old.  It wasn’t that he was lying.  I could tell he truly believed what he was saying.  It could be that he remembered me calling and telling him about her dying or hearing me talk about that day later, but he was not there when it happened and yet he told the story, with great detail, as if he had been.  If I was not positive of the timeline, I would have believed him, without a doubt.

This got me thinking about how unreliable our memories are, which reminded me of when I began to doubt the infallibility of scripture.  When I first started to research the Bible and its roots, I was surprised to learn just how much of the Holy Scriptures came from the oral retelling of the facts and none of it was written down as it was happening, or even soon after.   So, the Bible is based on stories that were passed down from generation to generation. Ever heard of the game telephone? I was also surprised to find out how long after Jesus’s birth, death and resurrection the gospels were written.  There is even debate as to who the true authors of the gospels were–that they could have been written after the disciples were long gone.

That’s just the gospels.  What about the foundation of Christianity, the Old Testament?  I remember a discussion I had with my sister.  I asked her if she knew who wrote the book of Genesis. I wasn’t sure; she didn’t know either. Some say it was Moses, but that wasn’t my point.  I pointed out to her that whom ever wrote it, was not there at creation—couldn’t have been.  So, I asked her, how could Moses have known what happened?  She confidently told me, “God told him.” Hmm…that’s exactly what Joseph Smith and Mohammed say about their revelations.  The truth is that the stories of creation, Noah’s Ark, Sodom and Gomorrah, etc., were stories passed down through families orally.  So, long story, short; if my son creates a false memory from a situation that took place just seventeen years ago, How can anyone believe that the Bible, most of which was written well over 2,000 years ago, is infallible, or reliable at all?  Why don’t Christians think about that?  Why do they continue to live their lives in obedience to this book and most importantly how can they condemn to Hell, anyone who can’t? Maybe I should stop thinking so much…someone actually said that to me once :).

God of All Comfort

sunbreaksthroughOne caveat before I begin:  I am fully aware that the antidote to depression and anxiety is not always cut and dried or easily attainable.  Sometimes people need medication to treat it successfully and should not forgo that when it is warranted.  With that said…

Becoming an unbeliever brought many changes in my life, most of which I expected and was ready for. One positive and unexpected change was overcoming my struggle with depression and anxiety and I can’t really explain why.  As a believer, and early on in my deconversion, there were times when I would be in such a dark place, I was afraid I would never come out. Being a Christian and suffering from anxiety and depression is a double burden, because not only are you hurting, but the inability to overcome is evidence that you aren’t trusting in God and thus disappointing him, perhaps even sinning against him. Once I lost my faith, those horrible dark times have never returned. Do I get blue sometimes or worry?  Yes, but it is nothing like it was.  Not even close.  Now I have a hard time even remembering what it was like to be in a dark place or be consumed with fear and anxiety.

I didn’t spend much time thinking about this happy change, until I received an article from a friend the other day entitled “Great Bible Verses for Depression.”  When I read the title, I got that sick, sinking feeling inside.  I remember reading articles like that—the ones that brought no comfort to me and I blamed myself for it.   It contained all the usual suspects, especially the verse from Philippians.  The one I had memorized and recited to myself over and over again, to no avail: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything…And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds…” blah, blah, blah.  Anyway, the other verses from the article were from the Book of Psalms and one from Deuteronomy—Deuteronomy?  Really?  This got me thinking.  Maybe that is why those verses, and others, never helped me, never brought me peace. Maybe it was because I knew the Bible too well and knew of the other verses that surrounded them.  Maybe I couldn’t blindly pick and choose the “feel good” parts without, at least subconsciously, remembering the others.

Take Deuteronomy, for instance.  The article included Deuteronomy 31:8:  “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be.”  That’s pretty comforting, right?  What Christians fail to think about–and think is the operative word here–is all the verses surrounding that little tidbit.  Verses that lay down impossible rules and regulations and then, there’s the hatred and violence.  In Deuteronomy 20, for instance, it reads, “However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them….” Ah, yes, I feel better already, don’t you?  Then there is the Book of Psalms, or as I like to call them, “The rantings of a spoiled king.” The article sited several passages, none better than Psalm 34:  “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” That’s a good one.  I can almost feel God lifting me up out of the darkness…wait, what about Psalm 137?  “Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is the one who repays you according to what you have done to us.  Happy is the one who seizes your infants
 and dashes them against the rocks.”  Wow, Fundamentalist Muslims have nothing on those Old Testament believers…

I realize that some Christians actually do get comfort from selected verses in the Bible. I think the only way they can, though, is to ignore the majority of the Bible and just grab a happy verse here and there as they continue to tell themselves that God is a god of unconditional love (as long as you obey, believe and follow accordingly, of course) and all you need is the Son.  Yes, that does work for some, but I think the true healing and comfort comes when you do what I did—begin thinking, face reality and watch the true sun break through.

Well…He says He’s a Christian…

LINCOLN BIBLE-AP PHOTO-OBAMA OATHMark Driscoll is the pastor of Mars Hill, a mega church in Seattle. One Newsweek blogger, David Sessions, writes that Driscoll is “a testosterone-oozing Calvinist bruiser who shouts at his congregation, swears from the pulpit, and sometimes seems to think that if you’re not cut out for the locker room, you’re not cut out for heaven. If you’re a woman, you’d better make sure you keep your husband fed and serviced.”   I thought that sounded a bit harsh, so of course, I did my own research.  Come to find out, this particular blogger was way too kind.  I was shocked at what Driscoll is quoted as saying and writing.  Even as an ex-Evangelical, who has dealt with more than a few narcissistic pastors.  I want to spend some time on Driscoll in upcoming posts, but for now I want to touch upon one of his recent tweets and one of my pet peeves about the Christian community and more specifically Christian pastors.

Here’s the tweet: “Praying for our president, who today will place his hand on a Bible he does not believe to take an oath to a God he likely does not know.”  

There it is.  Pastor Driscoll knows the hearts and minds of men and has deemed Obama a non-believer.   Well, he did say, “likely does not know,” psh! When I read that tweet, I got so angry and I’m learning that if I have a visceral response to something, a tender, and not yet healed area in me has been jabbed at.  I figured it out pretty quickly.  It reminded me of how important it was to look and act like a “Christian,” in the Christian community:  Show no cracks, have no struggles, unless they were acceptable struggles, follow the rules, and most importantly, you and your kids better “look” Christian.  Driscoll’s whole attitude brought to mind how Christians constantly judge other Christians and, as a Christian, you are always on your guard, because you certainly don’t want to be judged and your authenticity questioned—but it is; it always is.

The associate pastor at my old Church, Parkway Community Church, was always saying, “Well, they say they’re a Christian,” which always suggested that their salvation was in question for myriad of reasons.  These reasons, of course, were confidential and so you wouldn’t find out just what they were until your small group offered them up as vicious pieces of gossip—oops!  I mean prayer requests.

Christians who would say that this does not take place in their church on a regular basis, is lying to themselves, or…they are the one who is most guilty of doing it.  To be fair though, some churches are worse than others.  I have found it more prevalent in Calvinistic churches.  Calvinists are just meaner than your average run-of–the-mill Evangelical, and I say that having been one—an Evangelical and a Calvinist.  Looking back, I can see how the more Calvinistic I became, the meaner I became—seriously mean and judgmental.  I saw it happen in others too.  I wonder why that is?

As far as Driscoll’s tweet on Inauguration Day goes, I hope he is right about Obama.  I would feel better knowing that our President doesn’t live his life according to a book of myths and seek help from an imaginary friend, but as awesome as Mark Driscoll thinks he is, in the Christian world, he can’t know a man’s heart.  No one can.  He’s in my cross hairs now and I will have more to reveal about him very soon.   I mean, I’ll have some prayer requests to share…

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