Regret…Part One

erasing-regretThe details of her death were relayed to me after she was gone.  I wasn’t there—wasn’t welcome.

“Dad just kept saying, over and over to her, “Forgive me! Forgive me!  It was awful,” my sister said.

It wasn’t the first time he had asked our mother for forgiveness, but it would be his last and his words fell to the ground, unheard.  All those years of regret must have flooded over him and through him with no remedy.  I suppose his ever-increasing dementia will be his only mercy.  In some ways, I envy him.

Regret.  We all have it, some of us more than others, and regret does not die with the one we harmed or were harmed by.  It lingers, and leaves us broken in a way that feels excruciating.  There will be no making things right, or talking things out.  There will be no chance of asking for or receiving of forgiveness–no reconciliation.  What was done, or not done remains that way, for good.

When my mother died, I had only spoken to her once in about 8 years.  The reasons for that remain a bit of a mystery to me really.   I do have some ideas, but I’m unsure of the true reasons because she would not talk with me about it, only to say, in a facebook message, that I had “moved away” from what I had always believed, to “just go live your new life” and “Can’t we just agree to disagree?” That was about it.  When I pushed back and said that if we couldn’t talk then she would be out of my life, because the pain of being rejected and ignored was too much for me, said she had “wounds that had healed and she didn’t want to open them up again.” I begged her to have a conversation with me, so that we could possibly have relationship again, but she would not.

There were things I wanted to know. Had I caused those wounds? What were we agreeing to disagree about?  There were things I wanted her to know too, like why I no longer believed, what the price for that was and how scared I was, but she refused to discuss those things with me and the cost was our relationship. So, for about eight years, there would be the occasional private message from her on facebook, telling me she loved me or happy birthday.  When I needed my mother more than anything in the world, she was not there.  My brother said she had been praying for me—there’s absolutely no comfort in that.

Herein lies the devastation for me:  I will never have the opportunity to have that conversation with her now.  She has no regrets, she’s dead, but I’m here and the regret I feel is overwhelming at times.  I regret I didn’t just go to Arizona and make her talk with me or swallow my wounded pride and pick up the phone.  I regret the words I wrote back to her in anger, anger born of hurt, but anger none-the-less.  I regret that when I did talk to her, after almost 8 years, right before she got sick, that I didn’t say more.  I regret that we talked about nothing, but surface stuff, as if we were strangers.  I regret I didn’t tell her that I had missed her every day.

What does one do with regret like that?  Well, we need to find a way to move on from it at some point–if we want to remain mentally healthy anyway, but as with most emotional pain, there are lesson to be learned. I’ve been thinking a lot about it and I feel, very strongly, that I need to make sure that I don’t leave words unsaid—forgiveness unasked for and forgiveness not given.  I need to know that when I close my eyes for the last time, my regrets will be few, and the people around me that I love will feel the same. I need to do this while there is still time.

I have my work cut out for me.

 

 

Shoot me down, but I won’t Fall

I was trying to decide which song I wanted to post first and decided on this one.  I prefer the EDM version, but for this post, I think this video is better. It’s not really on the unrequited love theme, but definitely love lost—friend and family love.

Listening to this song made me think of all the friends I’d lost and how my mother and sister treated me.  In my early posts I wrote of  the suffering I went through from the loss. At times it was almost unbearable. I ran and hid. I was always on the offensive and always feeling like I had to be the one to mend those relationships, because I was the bad one—the one who no longer believed.

Of course, at some point I realized that it didn’t matter what I did, I was no longer a Christian and so I no longer had a place at the table—figuratively and literally.  They were done with me, but not before they did their “Christian duty.” I love the one line in the song: “Stone hard, machine gun, firing at the ones who run, stone-hard as bulletproof glass.”  They do fire at the ones who run, don’t they?  Thankfully, I kept running–in a zigzag pattern, of course, as to survive.

Most importantly the song continues to remind me of just how far I’ve come.  I’m stronger now—Titanium.  Those people can’t hurt me anymore.  They may pity me, but they are the ones who should be pitied.  They are the ones who now no longer have a place at my table and you know what?  It’s their loss.

I’m bullet proof, nothing to lose.

 

@%&#*!

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.

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.

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?

Socks

socksOnHomelessMan200wYesterday, I had the privilege of helping out with a group called “The Homeless Project.”  A young, non-believing woman in our area, Amanda, recently took it upon herself to collect items such as socks, gloves, scarfs, canned food, and blankets, and then she would go to the homeless encampments in our area and give them out, all by herself.  She started doing it because it has been extremely cold here at night–well below freezing—and she felt like she needed to do her part to help those who are down and out.  She has now recruited others to help her.  She’s not part of a church group, she isn’t doing community service for college or high school. She just hated the idea of fellow humans freezing and going hungry right under her nose.

Anyway, while my daughter and I dropped off the things we had gathered and/or purchased, I mentioned to a young man that was helping, that I had lots of socks.  His eyes brightened and he turned to a homeless man that was kind of hanging back said, “Tom, did you get any socks yet?”  The older man said that he hadn’t and that he could really use some.  As the young man handed Tom some brand new socks, he smiled. As the little  old guy walked over to a place where he could put them on, I thought of my brother, who is homeless.  It felt so good to see this man get socks–my socks.  Last night as the temperature began to to drop, I remembered Tom and thought about how his feet are going to be warm and dry because of my socks.  Something else struck me as well.  When I encountered that homeless man yesterday, I never once wondered if he was “saved” or if I should share Jesus with him.  I also never wanted to figure out why he was on the streets just so that I could judge whether he was worthy of help.  All I really cared about was that I got to help a fellow human being be more comfortable for a little while.

Amanda, my daughter, and I, are all atheists.   Christ does not dwell in us, nor does the Holy Spirit.  How can it be that we would want to reach out to help others?   How can it be that I felt such joy helping someone less fortunate than me?   Is it possible?  Can one really be and do good without god?  Christians say no; they are wrong. Doing for people feels so much better than doing for Jesus…any day of the week.

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.

Previous Older Entries