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.

 

 

 

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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.

Suffer the Children

67938_305412512908484_1193109497_n-1Today’s post will be short, because most of the work was done for me.  Thank you Crazy, Sappy Christians, on facebook.  Anyway, so this picture and the following poem were on the wall of a friend and it pissed me off so much, I had to comment.  I didn’t want her to be all hurt and mad, so I found the original poster’s wall and commented there. You would not believe some of the comments people wrote–embarrassing.  There’s not enough room to share them, but I wanted to share my comment because it is exactly how I feel.  I’m going to post the poem first, to give context and then I’m going to share my comment, with commentary.

Here’s the poem:

Twas’ 11 days before Christmas, around 9:38

when 20 beautiful children stormed through heaven’s gate.

Their smiles were contagious, their laughter filled the air.

They could hardly believe all the beauty they saw there.

They were filled with such joy, they didn’t know what to say.

They remembered nothing of what had happened earlier that day.

“Where are we?” asked a little girl, as quiet as a mouse.

“This is heaven.” declared a small boy. “we’re spending Christmas at God’s house.”

When what to their wondering eyes did appear,

but Jesus, their savior, the children gathered near.

He looked at them and smiled, and they smiled just the same.

Then He opened His arms and He called them by name.

And in that moment was joy, that only heaven can bring

Those children all flew into the arms of their King

and as they lingered in the warmth of His embrace,

one small girl turned and looked at Jesus’ face.

And as if He could read all the questions she had,

He gently whispered to her, “I’ll take care of mom and dad.”

Then He looked down on earth, the world far below

He saw all of the hurt, the sorrow, and woe…

then He closed His eyes and He outstretched His hand,

“Let My power and presence re-enter this land!”

“may this country be delivered from the hands of fools”

“I’m taking back my nation. I’m taking back my schools!”

then He and the children stood up without a sound.

“Come now my children, let me show you around.”

excitement filled the space, some skipped and some ran.

All displaying enthusiasm that only a small child can.

and i heard Him proclaim as He walked out of sight,

“in the midst of this darkness, I AM STILL THE LIGHT.”

Written by Cameo Smith, Mt. Wolf, PA

— with Andrea Marie.

Here is my original facebook comment:

“There are so many problems with this:  First, so Jesus has the power to protect and alter things and yet he let the children be slaughtered. Second, he promises that he will take care of the one little girl’s parents after he stood by while their lives were decimated?  What kind of monster would do that? Third, he’s going to retake “His Nation” now? When is he going to retake the nations where women are treated like animals and children starve to death in the arms of their mothers by the hundreds? And finally, I don’t get accompanying picture.  Do the little children have to go to school in heaven or was Jesus in school with them and stood by as a young man mowed them down? Perhaps he’s decided to start hanging out there again. I’m not sure why this would comfort anyone and why anyone would consider this beautiful…I guess it’s just me.”

It’s obvious that the idea that the massacre was due to god’s judgment is the underlying theme in the poem, because it says that Jesus is now going to deliver the country from “the hands of fools” and he’s now decided to let his “power and presence, reenter this land.”  So, evidently we were bad and so he wasn’t here.  Also, where are the adults that were killed?  What about Ms. Soto, the teacher that hid her children and lied to protect them and lost her life?  From some of the comments I’ve read about her, made by Christians, she showed way to much cleavage and supported gay rights…Well, I guess we all know where she went.

I’m sorry.  I’m not feeling very empathetic today.  Christianity is gross

God’s Little Slap On the Wrist

Don't Make Me Come Down ThereThere has been oh, so much commentary on the Sandy Hook massacre.  I’ve heard it from all sides and right now, I don’t even care what agenda is being put forth. I feel uncomfortable with the way pundits are promoting their agenda off of the backs of 27 slaughtered women and children.

For now though, I really want to address what Christian leaders are saying and they are saying a lot.  The main theme is that God is pouring out his judgment on us for various and sundry reasons: Gay marriage, abortion, divorce, the removal of God and prayer from the schools and the teaching of evolution.  Of course they are all wrapped up in the fall and tied up with a big freewill bow.

I would like to comment on each of the reasons put forth by these spokesmen for Christian Church, but for today, I want to address one comment in particular because it was said by a man I used to have tremendous respect for, Dr. James Dobson.  This is what he said on his radio program on Monday:

Our country really does seem in complete disarray. I’m not talking politically, I’m not talking about the result of the November sixth election;  I am saying that something has gone wrong in America and that we have turned our back on God.

I mean millions of people have decided that God doesn’t exist, or he’s irrelevant to me and we have killed fifty-four million babies and the institution of marriage is right on the verge of a complete redefinition.  Believe me, that is going to have consequences too. 

And a lot of these things are happening around us, and somebody is going to get mad at me for saying what I am about to say right now, but I am going to give you my honest opinion: I think we have turned our back on the Scripture and on God Almighty and I think he has allowed judgment to fall upon us.  I think that’s what’s going on.”

Yes, you read it correctly.  Our country has gotten so bad, what with marriage equality and keeping abortion safe and legal, that “God” decided that having a 20 year old man decimate 27 women and children, along with their families, and consequently an entire town, was a bang up idea.

I have several thoughts on this. First, (setting aside the idea of a god that even exists) this is God’s judgment falling upon us?  Wow, seriously, us? In reality the pain and suffering falls to 27 families.  Yes we all are sad about it, but when all is said and done, they are the ones that will never be the same, not “us.”  So, I seriously doubt this is God’s judgement.  He’s a big idea man.  Remember the Ark?

Second, Newtown, Connecticut?  Really?  God is angry and so he brings down judgment on a sleepy little place called Newtown?  A town full of church going, god fearing, and for the most part, traditional, heterosexual families. Seriously, if there was a god that desired to pour down wrath on the sinners of the world, I think he would go bigger, say Las Vegas,  New Orleans, or at least San Francisco, not Newtown, Connecticut. Perhaps he’s just slapping us on the wrist.  Oh yes, that will teach us.  “We get it now god, please forgive us; we will love you now.”

Third, the idea that our country, at this time and place, has so grieved “God,” that he is now judging us.  I’m sorry, this just seems ludicrous when you consider our history.  I mean, this is a country that, at it’s inception, gained prosperity by decimating an entire culture of people, and then by beating, raping, and enslaving fellow human beings, because they weren’t really human, and even subjugating their own women, who were basically their property.

I would think that if there was a time in our country’s history that deserved the judgment of god, it would have been then, right?  Seriously, what kind of a god, would turn a blind eye to, or worse, endorse such things as genocide, slavery, rape and abuse of women?

Oh wait, scratch that.  Perhaps Dr. Dobson is on to something after all.

No Jesus?

fear-of-flyingWhen I was a Christian I had so many fears.  I was afraid of everything, and that included flying.  I thought of this yesterday as I was flying home from New Orleans.  A storm was moving in as we were leaving and it was pretty turbulent throughout the flight. When I was a Christian anytime there was turbulence during a flight, I would immediately start praying and I still remember what I would pray.  It went something like this:  “Dear Lord, (I always started that way—very formal don’t ya’ know) if I have done anything to cause you pain, or if I am in sin in anyway, please forgive me.  If this plane crashes I want to know that I will be with you…blah, blah, blah, confession of sins, blah, blah, blah.” Oh, and I always ended with “in Jesus name, amen.”  You had to end that way, or Jesus wouldn’t hear you (thanks for that mom).

I remember the first time I flew after de-converting.  The plane dipped really fast and kind of shuddered.  I stopped and almost started to pray and then I sat back and thought, “Oh, that’s right, there’s no god to hear, no god who cares, no heaven and no hell, no god to make things right with.  I love my family.  I love my kids.  They love me, and I’m doing my best—I’m good.”  I smiled to myself and for the first time ever, drifted off to sleep and didn’t awake until we were ready to land in Boston.

I’ve heard so may Christians say that atheists must be so hopeless and they wonder how we even want to live, since we have no heaven to hope for.  They couldn’t be more off base.  You see, there may not be a heaven to hope for, but we also have no hell to fear.  We simply live our lives and for the most part we do it hopefully and happily in the here and now.

Christians have it all wrong.  It’s not “Know Jesus, no fear.  It’s “No Jesus?  No fear.

…And yes, I am fully aware I missed a day…I make no excuses and will now be continuing my challenge into January.  This is more difficult than I thought.  I guess that’s proof that I chose something that is truly a challenge.  I now have more respect for those who bang out daily blog posts and do it well.

Our Two Selves

_The_art_of_pretending__by_Nonnetta“It would mean a lot to me if, you would reach out to Jane while Mike and I are at the meeting this morning,” he said off handedly, as he finished tying his tie.

“Ohhhh, please, please don’t do that to me, “ I cried, as I curled up on the bed.  “I just want to relax and do my own thing today, maybe she does too, and besides, why can’t she reach out to me?

“She socially awkward I think,” he said with a smirk.  “She’s a very private person, but she’s really nice. You guys should really hang out today.  I think it would mean a lot to Mike too.”

My man never asks anything of me.  I think this may have been the first time he specifically asked me to do something for him like this, and, in the end, I knew that I would.  She is nice enough, and we’re about the same age, but she’s a New Yorker, with kind of a hardened exterior.  Maybe I was intimidated by her, I don’t know, she seemed so strong and self-assured. As it turned out, before I had a chance to reach out to her, she actually reached out to me:  “Want to meet for breakfast in 45 minutes?”

I texted back, “Sure.”  Dang.

So there we were, sitting across from each other, eating breakfast. It felt a little awkward at first, but I have to admit it was better than eating alone; in fact, I probably would have just eaten Hershey’s Kisses in my room, or raided the mini bar. Anyway, just because of the type of person I am (innately curious about people), I began interviewing her.  It’s funny, when you begin to ask people about their lives and you are genuinely interested, they open up.  As she let down her guard and let herself be a little vulnerable, a different Jane emerged, and that strong exterior began to melt away.

I sat quietly as she told me how she lost her oldest son in a car accident six years ago.  He was killed in a drunk driving accident, along with his good friend.  He left behind a wife and a two-year-old daughter.  It was heart wrenching to see her relive that day and how raw the grief is, still to this day,  but it gets worse.  Since the accident, Jane has only been able to see her granddaughter a handful of times and the last time was two years ago.  Her daughter-in-law doesn’t want anything to do with them and refuses to let them into her daughter’s life.  This is their only grandchild too.

As she began to talk about it, it was like floodgates had been opened and all her anger, her heartache and her regret flowed out.  My heart went out to her, I can’t even imagine what it must be like to suffer such loss, but I’m glad I could be a sounding board for her.  I’m glad I seemed safe enough for her to share with.  After breakfast, as we headed outdoors to explore, she seemed more relaxed–lighter somehow. My conversation with Jane was just another reminder of the similarities we humans share.

As we walked through the French Quarter later, I looked at all the people that passed us by—all shapes, sizes, colors, and demeanors as well.  We all have two selves, don’t we?  The one that we let the world see, and the one that we hide in fear of what others will think or how they will judge us—even in the secular world.  As I studied the people around me I thought, “Wow, we are all in this together, aren’t we?”  None of us is immune, but we try to pretend that we are. Every single one of us–along with the good stuff–carries heartache, grief, fear, shame, regret, and sadness, and every single one of us needs someone to sit with us and just be with us in it sometimes. I know Jane did and for just a little while she was able to take her mask off  and breath.  I feel honored to have been a small part of helping her do that.

The Year Of Lasts

photoI knew this would happen…the day would get away from me and I wonld not have written anything.  It was a busy day. I’m getting ready to go out of town and my youngest son, Noah, had a Varsity Basketball game, (that’s him in the picture, nailing a three point outside shot) that was supposed to start at 8:00, but actually ended up starting at 8:30 and before I did that I had to go to the gym and before that make dinner, so he would be able to eat before the game.  Why, oh why can’t I be one of those mom’s that says, “Here kid, here’s five bucks go to Subway.”   I just can’t seem to do that, especially this year.  It’s just kind of a special year for us.  It’s my baby boys’s (he’d kill me if he heard me say that) senior year.  It’s a year of excitement and challenge, a little stressful and filled with lots of lasts:  The last soccer game, the last year to be team mom, last basketball game, and driving a car load of smelly, hilarious boys, last Winter Ball, last Prom, and the last of four high school graduations.

I was always the one to scoff “empty nest syndrome.”  I made sure that I always had a life separate from my kids.  I have never been a mom to live vicariously through any of kids.  I always thought, “What’s the big deal? This is what they are supposed to do–grow up and move out, geez!”  I always said that I looked forward to them being “up and out.”  I, for one,  could hardly wait.  Then something weird happened.  It started at Soccer orientation this year.  I had to fill out all the usual forms and as I wrote, grade 12, I felt a little start inside me.  I suddenly realized that my youngest son would be graduating from high school and that would be that.  How could I not have seen this coming?  He was just this little freckled face boy with disheveled hair, riding his tricycle naked down the street , waving at the neighbors as they drove by.  He was the little fatty that snuffled at my breast and slept in my arms…What the fuck?  What the heck was going on?  I was going to have my freedom soon.  No more laundry, no more dirty jerseys and stinky shoes.  No more making sure there was dinner on the table.  I had prepared myself for this…I had!  I needed to get a grip, and yet, there I was, getting weepy at soccer orientation…great.

For a while, I was fine, I hadn’t really thought much about it until the last soccer game of the year.  They stood in their usual huddle, at the end of the game, they put their hands up together and chanted, “Knights on three!  One..two…three..KNIGHTS!”  It hit me like a ton of bricks.  I teared up, I got the biggest lump in my throat…”This is the last time they will do this together,” I thought– the last time.  I see now that it’s going to be this way for the rest of the year.  It’s going to hit me over and over again, the everyday things that this kid has done all his life, are going to end at the end of this year.  I’ve decided that for the rest of this year I am going to embrace every memory as if it were a precious jewel.  As I now watch him play his last basketball season, I drink in every moment, every win, every loss, every three pointer he makes, every smile he flashes when he does, every high five and slap on the shoulder these boys share, I am tucking them all away in my heart, because when the buzzer sounds on that last game of his last season and they chant, “Knights on Three,”  the realization that this part of our lives in coming closer and closer to an end, is going to  wash over me like a tidal wave and when that happens I want to feel certain, that I took in every precious moment of it all.

I no longer scoff at the idea of empty nest syndrome.  I get it now.  Sometimes the idea of coming home to an empty house that lacks stinky shoes and dirty jerseys and a young man’s  voice saying, “why don’t we ever have any food in this house and what’s for dinner?” makes my chest tighten a little.  It’s so enlightening when you realize why people do things that you never understood until you are there yourself, then you have this aha! moment.  It’s great.  I still don’t get why older people wait until their groceries are all rung up and bagged before they start digging in their purse for their checkbook, but hey! Maybe some day I will!    I do look forward to a different season in my life.  This what every mother works for, right?  Raising a child that is healthy and independent, able to get out there and make it on their on…but I am going to miss this, the turkey sandwiches and scrambled eggs before school.  Man, I’m going to miss that boy!

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