Hello…It’s Me…

 

It’s been awhile.  For about a year now, I thought of abandoning my blog for good.  I simply couldn’t find my creative spark anymore.  It was like a fight every time I would try to write here and I started avoiding it to prevent beating myself up and the frustration of what direction to go.

Well, I’ve been on a bit of a journey of reinvention lately.  I know–so deep.  It all started on my 58th birthday.  Over the past year or so, I kind of lost my mojo, so to speak, but when I turned 58, I realized that it’s either give up and grow feebly old, or keep fighting.  I am after all a fighter, so I made the decision to work on becoming the best I could be by the time I’m 60.  You know, make a comeback and not just physically, but mentally and emotionally-to connect to the world and find my center, to use a hackneyed phrase.

Anyway, as I began this journey, I knew I needed to make some changes (more about that another day) and I thought a lot about my love of writing and my blog. When did I get waylaid?    When I first started Blinders Off, I had a focus and an outlet for all my feelings and the writing just flowed. I loved it.  It felt so right.  I see now that my problem started when I tried to maintain that focus and when I couldn’t, I thought I needed to find another one–I don’t.

What is wrong with writing what ever I want, about what ever I want and see what it becomes?  So simple, yet I couldn’t see it.  I need to relax and breath and let my naturally creative juices flow.

I am enjoying my “journey of reinvention,” so corny.  I’m not going to call it that anymore–I promise.  Happily, even at this stage of my life,  I am learning so much about myself and others. That’s pretty cool.  There are some big changes heading my way, (more about that another day too) but instead of white-knuckling it, or saying I’m too old for this, I’m calling the changes adventures and am preparing myself for the ride.

For now, I’m leaving you this video here, which I would like to dedicate to The Church of Jesus Christ and its leaders.  I remember feeling this way when I was in The Church and also as I was leaving it.  I feel compassion and empathy for those who are still deep into it and are struggling.  Some day when you have had enough, you will walk away, then  you’ll skip, and then you’ll run and then life will begin.

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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…

Santa Baby

Jesus-and-SantaMy kids weren’t raised to believe in Santa.  At first it wasn’t really about Jesus or religion, it was mostly because of how I had felt as a child when I found out there was no Santa and my parents had been lying all of us.  It really impacted me and I could not rationalize lying to my kids like that.  So, they always knew.

As I became more and more entrenched in Christianity, Christmas became more of a religious thing.  We basically ignored Santa and focused on the “reason for the season,” Jesus.  Why put any energy into someone who was make-believe when you had the savior of the world to celebrate?  I know…I know.  And yes, I did make a cake on Christmas Eve and yes, we lit candles and sang Happy Birthday to Jesus.  It was always red velvet cake too—you know, to represent his blood shed for us…ugh, I feel like I need a shower now.

It gets worse.  First though, I want to touch upon another cringe-worthy symbol, one that is seen around Christmas time–the Santa kneeling at the manger of Jesus.  When I was a Christian I didn’t like it because, you know, Santa’s not real.  I know…I know.  As a non-believer, it actually makes sense.  You know, two pretend characters coming together—one brings toys and the other brings peace and salvation, kind of like the dynamic duo…yes, indeed; it makes total sense.

Now, let me get to the “worse” part.  As I considered the ridiculousness of Santa worshiping the baby Jesus, I unfortunately remembered something that happened when my older daughter was about two. We had just finished up Christmas shopping at Target and she was getting a little antsy.  We were at the check out counter and I was trying to get her to sit down in the cart.  That’s when the cashier said to her, “You’d better be good.  What would Santa think?”  My little girl looked utterly confused.  My kids always thought it was weird when adults would talk about Santa like he was real…pshhh, ridiculous!  I stopped and looked at the cashier and valiantly said, “We prefer to worry about what Jesus would think,” as I smiled at her, took my receipt, and walked piously away.  Ahhhhhhh…slaps self on forehead…I did NOT say that to her…yes I did.  I can’t even express how obviously ironic that statement is to me now.

What is that sound?  Why it’s the cringe heard ‘round the world…

A Bully By Any Other Name

facebook_like_butonWell, my family (parents, sister, brother–in-law, and brother) all got together for Christmas.  I was not invited.  That’s not really a surprise, but I won’t lie; it hurts deep down, kind of in a place that I don’t let my heart go very often, but I have gotten used to it and it’s easier than spending time with them, the way things are, what with them practicing unconditional love and all, but I digress.

Anyway, my baby brother, who still loves me and wants to spend time with me, (he’s an atheist as well) told me that my name came up over Christmas dinner and my brother-in-law said that I was hectoring on my facebook page…hectoring.  Words mean things and that is a pretty strong one.  It means to treat with insolence; bully; torment, to act in a blustering, domineering way; to be a bully.  Wow, I am hectoring people on my facebook page.  I have to admit I was surprised to hear him say that.  I can’t, for the life of me, why me voicing my opinion on my personal facebook page, would be seen as hectoring.  The funny thing is, the status update he referenced to my parents, was when I said,  “Happy Winter Solstice.”  Wtf?  That’s hectoring?   Truth is, I love the Winter Solstice.  It means that spring is coming, and then summer. I can’t begin to understand how that could be construed as hectoring.  What the heck?

I do write things that confront Christianity and I do post things that Christians have said or done that are embarrassing for other Christians to read, but I am the first one to admit that I have said and done many of those things.  I have also posted things that I personally don’t like that Christians have done to my family or me, and I don’t like what Christians say about non Christians and when they do, I will confront it, BUT I don’t post anything on my family’s or friend’s walls that is controversial or confrontational in any way, so the strong reaction confuses me.

I was thinking that if I were a Christian and had de-converted from some other cult, all my Christian family and friends would LOVE it if I spoke out against my former belief system and attacked it.  They would go out of their way patting me on the back for revealing a false religion and standing up for “truth.” Yet, because I openly reject THEIR belief system and expose the problems with it, or even acknowledge a non Christian holiday, I’m a bully—mean, negative and hateful.

Christians think it’s my right to believe or not believe.  They tell me that all the time, but what they don’t want is for me to talk openly about it.  If I do, all bets are off.  They can write lame things like they are praying for a sports game or they prayed for a parking place at the mall and god provided one; they can say mean things about atheists, or things that could totally be refuted, even on MY wall, and that’s okay, but if I ever respond…well…that’s just mean and negative.  Double standard much?

I’m Just a Soul Whose Intentions Are Good…

156416_476006925752847_33225970_nI read an interesting article this morning, entitled “In a Crisis Humanist Seem Absent,” by Samuel G. Freedman.  It was in the New York Times and I found it pretty thought provoking.  I’m just going to cover one of the issues I have with this article today, because there are many, and of course, I’m hoping to glean several posts from it.

The first issue that caught my attention was found here:

“It is a failure of community, and that’s where the answer for the future has to lie,” said Greg M. Epstein, 35, the humanist chaplain at Harvard and author of the book ‘Good Without God.’ “What religion has to offer to people at moments like this — more than theology, more than divine presence — is community. And we need to provide an alternative form of community if we’re going to matter for the increasing number of people who say they are not believers.”

First, What Epstein fails to understand, and he claims to be a humanist himself, is that without their theology and their belief in a divine presence, there would be no community. The religious community is predicated on the idea that you believe what that community believes, or, guess what?  You are no longer welcome in that community.  It is a community made up of rules and regulations, and goes after the most wounded and vulnerable in order to convert them into their community. Yes, I am certain proselytizing took place as these so-called communities “reached out,” to the victims of Sandy Hook.

As I read this, a question came to my mind: Why must we, as non-believers, provide an alternative form of community, as this fellow humanist suggests? What does that mean anyway?  We should start organizing, perhaps meeting together once a week, or we start making up rules, or even better “bylaws”? Maybe make some sort of a pact or “covenant”? I don’t know…that kind of sounds like…church, doesn’t it?   We don’t have a “humanist community”;  we are IN our communities as humans.  I’m willing to bet that non-believers, atheists, agnostics, humanists, “nones,” what ever, were very present at Sandy Hook, they were just not standing under a god banner, or preaching from a pulpit, or praying at candlelight vigils.  Yes, I’m sure they were there.

Proof of that is found right in the article itself, when the author writes:

“While tacitly excluded from religious coalitions, humanist groups did respond to the Newtown killings. The Ethical Culture Society chapter in Teaneck, N.J., helped organize a gun-control rally there. The Connecticut branch of the American Humanist Association contributed about $370 to Newtown families from a winter solstice fund-raiser. The organization American Atheists reports on its Web site that it has collected more than $11,000 in online donations toward funeral expenses in Newtown. A secular support group called Grief Beyond Belief operates on Facebook.”

So, with that said, I am a bit confused.  How were we absent?  Did we appear absent because we failed to  have an alternative community in place?  I do not believe that is the case.  I believe what humanists, atheists, agnostics, etc., provide something much more valuable and that is physically and monetarily reaching out to those in need, not out of obedience in the hopes of being rewarded by a mythical god, to bring the “lost” to Jesus, but to reach out in genuine care and compassion to hurting, fellow human beings.  Can we do better?  Of course, all of us can do better, but for me, it’s a quality over quantity thing.

One of the things I came away with from this article was just how misunderstood we, as non believers, are.  It’s pretty clear that part of the problem is that so many look at us through the lens of religion and when they do that, we cannot be seen. Until our country learns to take the “god glasses” off, we will never be fully understood, or appreciated.

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