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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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.

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.

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.

Emptier Words…

Christian loveAfter a recent encounter with my mother, I got to thinking about how shallow words can be and just how prevalent that shallowness is in the Christian church, where love, true love, is supposed to abound.  Here are two examples that came to mind: 1) I love you, and 2) I am, or have been, praying for you.  Today, I want to focus on the first one: “I love you,” Now, back to my mother.

When I first started this post, I found myself going into every sordid detail of the past two years involving my relationship with my mother.  I suppose it was cathartic, and in some ways I wanted others to understand just how horrible her behavior has been, but no one else needs to read all that.  So let’s just say she would tell me that she loved me “unconditionally,” but then act as if she wished I did not exist. To date, she has no idea why I gave up Christianity and she has no idea why my marriage of 24 years ended.  She claims to not understand the changes that have taken place in my life, but continues to refuse to discuss them with me and continues to basically ignore me; yet, she contends that she loves me “unconditionally.”  Maybe it’s just me, but isn’t that something you say to someone who has done something really horrible and you want to let them know that in spite of that, you love them? Otherwise, why would you feel the need to add the “unconditional” caveat?

Anyway, we are officially “estranged.” Our last conversation ended with my mother saying, “I love you and always will,” (At least she didn’t say “unconditionally” this time) to which I responded,  “Emptier words have never been spoken to me mom.”  She countered:  “So be it.”  Now, if one of my daughters had said something like that to me, I would have been devastated and done everything in my power to make things right.  Not my mom, my Jesus loving mom.  I picture her saying “So be it,” and then skipping off,  tra la la la la.  She had done her duty as a Christian mother.  ~The End.

Over the past few years, I can’t tell you how many Christians have told me they love me; this would include my sister, as well as my mother.  In spite of all this “love,” they have been absolutely absent from my life.  Well to be fair, they did show up occasionally, usually to crush my fingers as I clutched weakly to the edge of the emotional abyss, but mostly they were absent.

The thing about Christians is they think that by merely saying they love someone, they have done all they need to do.   This has not been my experience alone; it is wide spread. I saw it in my daughter’s youth group.  They would tell her they loved her, but when she was struggling and needing love the most, all she had was words.  They couldn’t be bothered with any awkward problems.  They needed to plan the next trip to Mexico, or make their next promotional video.  The sad thing about that is these youth leaders are teaching the young people to do the same thing—how to give Christian lip service.  They model the very idea that saying I love you is enough, nothing more needs to be done, and they wonder why young people are leaving The Church in droves.  I used to see the same thing on Sunday mornings in the worship service, during the “meet and greet” time—words of love were everywhere.  There was no love, just words—empty, empty words.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying that Christians are incapable of love.  They love, but most of the people they express love to, they couldn’t care less about.

Love should be an act, not a word.  As a non-believer, that is the way I want to live my life.  My daughter recently said to me, “Mom, if you never told me you loved me again, because of the way you love me, I would still know beyond the shadow of a doubt that you did–more than anything.”

That, my friends, is love.

Footprints

footprints 2Wow, I haven’t been here for a while.  Not even a 30-Day-Challenge could keep me honest.  You wait though, because I am going to blog 30 in a row.  I really am!   Anyway, I just got back from a few days in Laguna Beach.  It was an incredible time I have to say.  I didn’t realize, until I was there, just how badly I needed a beach fix.  I did gain some insights while I was there and I will share them with you in the next couple of blogs.

The first one hit me as I was walking alone on the beach.  As I looked back and saw the long trail of footprints I left behind, it called to mind that poem.  You know the one, “Footprints.”  It’s where “The Lord” tells the poet that when there was only one set of footprints in the sand,  He (god) was carrying them through their most challenging times.  As I considered my own lone footprints, I thought, “That is such bullshit.”  I also thought about how I would revise that “poem” if I could.  I decided that the only thing that needed revising was the last few lines.  Here is the poem with its revisions:

One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord.
 Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky. In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. 
Sometimes there were two sets of footprints; 
other times there were one set of footprints. This bothered me because I noticed
 that during the low periods of my life,
 when I was suffering from
  anguish, sorrow or defeat, 
I could see only one set of footprints. So I said to the Lord, 
”You promised me Lord,
 that if I followed you,
 you would walk with me always.
 But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life
 there have only been one set of footprints in the sand.
 Why, when I needed you most, you have not been there for me?”

The Lord replied, 
‘The times when you have seen only one set of footprints in the sand, 
that is when you realized I was never there; I was a figment of your imagination and it was you and only you who stood strong and persevered on your own.  It was your resilience and strength that carried you through. You thought you needed someone bigger and more powerful outside of yourself, but you didn’t.  There was only you.”

Many find comfort in the old version of that poem.  I do not.  It is much more comforting and also empowering to know that we are all we need. We are enough.

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