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.

 

 

 

@%&#*!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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