These days when I read friends' posts where they claim God told them to do a difficult thing like quit a job or praise God for doing something like giving them peace in a tough situation, my first thought is automatically, "God didn't do that. You did."
Since I lean a bit more towards atheism than theism, I don't believe these people are getting divine revelations from God. You are the one who convinced yourself, for whatever reasons, to quit your job and pursue an art career. Which would explain why you failed so miserably too. Because here is my biggest thing, I do not believe for a second that if an all-knowing deity asked you to do something like that, that you would fail. Theologically, Christians have a way around this claiming that God could be testing them or that you obviously weren't completely obedient, but both of these things are cop outs when things don't work out.
If we were honest, I imagine the rationale is something like this: I hate my job. Each year it gets worse and worse here. The one thing I do love is art, but with a wife and kiddo on the way, there is just no time for me to dedicate to my craft. Perhaps I should quit my job and focus on art? My wife doesn't make enough to sustain us financially, but I am sure that once I can devote myself full-time, it will work out. And if anyone questions my decision, I will say that God told me to do it. No one can argue with God. In fact, that little part of me that really wants to be successful artist must be God talking to me. Fast forward to three months later. Oh shit, what have I done? Our electricity has been shut off. My friends and family think I am crazy for doing this. I have a baby on the way. No one is buying my stuff. Maybe I am not as good of an artist as I thought I was. Perhaps it's because I lack some key ingredients to being a successful artist like PR & marketing skills, networking skills, and showmanship. I'll just get a part-time job because this starving artist thing actually sucks. Hey, this job isn't so bad. Maybe it was just that crappy job I had that made me think that quitting my job and being an artist was actually feasible. But we will still say it was God, even though this venture actually failed miserably. I mean, we didn't starve to death and I learned some valuable lessons, so it must have been God, right. God was teaching me a lesson about failure. Yeah, that's it.
When someone says that God got them through a tough time, I often wonder if it was just the idea that there is something out there controlling the puppet strings that makes people feel better. A placebo effect of sorts. After all, I know people with some pretty shitty lives who still insist that God is in control and everything will work out for good. A woman I went to church with died of cancer recently after battling it off and on for nearly twenty years. Yet, when she died her family stated God had been so good to her. Really? Twenty years of cancer is good? What the hell does bad look like then?
Have I ever heard God or felt like he was urging me to do something? Sure. Of course, all those things happened to be things I wanted to do, which is reasonable as I believe it was my own inner voice all along. It's an easy out and a good way circumnavigate your intellect. I wanted to go back to school and major in something I loved. God told me to do it. With that I was off to one of the most expensive private schools in the country (outside of ivy league) and got a degree in a field that will never pay well. I didn't stop and really analyze my decision because I had convinced myself that God had told me to do it and who was I to argue with God.
But what about those people who go do crazy hard stuff, like missionary work in Iran or giving away all their money to charity or moving to Africa to start health clinics. Are those people hearing God? Here is where I believe a lot of psychology comes into play. Some people are gluttons for punishment. They get a thrill out of doing dangerous things and if they are doing it for Christ, then they get a two-for-one bonus. There are others who are all about showmanship. They want people to see how holy they are. I would put the two Duggar kids who went to South America to be missionaries into this category. So far, it seems that the idea of being a missionary and telling people about it, far exceeds the actual mission work they have done, which is zero. There are others who are truly selfless. They see all the zeros in their checking account and then turn on the news and think, "What the hell am I doing? These people need help and I can be that person." Others don't know of any life beyond mission work. Perhaps they grew up with parents who were missionaries, or they began doing service at a young age and rather than go to college, they pursued ministry. Now they are in their thirties and the thought of doing something else is terrifying. After all, their entire skill set is grounded within ministry. And there are some that may be genuinely crazy and misguided. They will convince themselves that to be a good Christian they have to become missionaries and even when things don't work out, even when the worst has happened, they pat themselves on their back for their extreme martyrdom. Look at what a good Christian I am. God has surely blessed me.
I have a friend who is in a country I can't talk about doing work that I can't talk about either. If the reasons she was in this country were to be found out she would either be deported or jailed. There is a possibility of death. I used to joke that if her entire family was transported back in time to 1750 they would get along just fine. This has served her well in the environments she has been in as she knows how to cook with unconventional ovens, knows how to sew, and isn't really attached to electronics the way many people are these days. In short, what she is doing in the place that she is at, are perfect for her. And yet, I also see that it is extremely stressful. She often doesn't feel like she is part of the team since her role is more of support than direct ministry. And she seems a bit stuck. Every year she comes back to raise more funds and every year there is this uncertainty as to whether she will return. She pursues short-term jobs, not knowing if she will be leaving again. Although there are a number of careers that I believe she would find success in, they are more like pipe dreams because of the call to missions. She is starting to think about retirement and how that will actually work for someone in her situation and it is a bit scary. Every time she comes home I kind of hope that she won't be successful with raising money, partially because I worry about her safety, but also because I worry about her future.
We must also discuss the people who claim to hear from the Lord and then are clearly wrong. Just plain old wrong. I am not talking about crazy doomsday predictions, although this does fall into this category. I am talking about people like my mother who claim that God told her and her best friend that her husband would come back to her one day. Although the man moved back in for a month (which both claim was the answer to the prayer after the fact), he did end up filing for divorce, remarried, and is not remotely interested in getting back together with his ex-wife. At the time though, everyone knew what they meant. God would restore their marriage. That didn't happen. So were they actually hearing God or were they just saying God told them something that they themselves wanted? This kind of shit happens all the time though. Some Christians call these things prophecies. To be fair, when these prophecies don't come to pass Christians call them false prophets. A good friend of mine had a man "prophesy" over her when she was a teenager. He said she was a great woman of God who would marry a great man of God and they would work in ministry together. He claimed this revelation came straight from God. Only problem was....my friend isn't straight. There will never be a "man of God" in her future unless he was referring to the drag shows she has done occasionally. But what about the smaller things. The people who say that God told them to have more children even though it endangers their health. What about going back to school or quitting school? What about those who say God wants them to stand outside the abortion clinic and pickett. Or the people who swear that God told them that they should disobey the law in order to live by God's law? And what happens when these things don't work out?
Some will explain this by saying that we have free will and so we can thwart God's plans, but this is ludicrous to me. God is all-knowing. He is supposed to see our future so it would stand to reason that if someone was in direct contact with him, that God could tell you your future and it would be right. 100% correct. All the time. And yet these things are often vague. I don't believe it is because there are agents of Satan sent to lead Christians astray. No, these people actually believe the bullshit that comes out of their mouths. What I see are brainwashed people with overactive imaginations who come up with crazy scenarios about the end times or what will happen in the future and then confuse those thoughts as being from God. On some level, it is madness.
And it makes me worry about my friends because if there is no God, it means that they are doing some rather dangerous crazy shit based purely off their own imaginations with little to no rational thought behind it. They are quitting their jobs to pursue being an artist rather than just setting aside a little more time to actually doing art while still working. For some, this gamble will pay off, but for others they live in a sea of uncertainty that went past normal, several decisions ago. Some may be living in extreme poverty in their old age, their only comfort as they get their Meal on Wheels is that they did something for God.
Why can't we just admit that sometimes the things we want to do are what we want to do and stop attributing it to a deity? Why can't helping others for humanity's sake, be enough?
I have read the entire Bible through twice. Last year, when my doubts became more and more overbearing, I read large chunks of it again, mostly in hopes that those doubts would be assuaged. Obviously, this didn't work out. Now, I am listening to a youtube series by the Bible Reloaded called The Atheist Bible Study. It is irreverent and dirty and I absolutely love it. Working my way through the Old Testament, now through the eyes of being an agnostic, I find the God of the Old Testament to be absolutely appalling. He is vengeful and cruel, supportive of rape, genocide, infanticide, and slavery. All my life I was taught that God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, but we can explain away his cruelty in the Old Testament with one word--Jesus. By Jesus coming, God no longer needed for people to die by the sword, because he had a better punishment for them. Hell. There is salvation of course too, for everyone, even the people that God would probably have killed before.
But if God is the God of yesterday, today, and tomorrow then that means that he is still supportive of genocide, rape, slavery, and infanticide. Did you know that there is an okay reason for abortion in the Bible? (Numbers 5:11-31) Have you seen the amount of times where the Bible says that God commanded them to put every man, woman, and child in a city to the sword or encouraged mass executions? (Genesis 7:21-23, 19:24, Exodus 12:29, Numbers 14:41-49, Deuteronomy 2:34, 3:6, 7:2, 13:15, 20:16-17, Joshua 6:21, 10:10-11, 10:40, II Kings 2:23-24, 1 Samuel 6:19, 15:2-3, 2 Chronicles 13: 15-18) There is more about the approval of genocide in the Bible then there is about disapproval of homosexuality. Imagine for a moment that a group of people came into your town, conquered it, and then announced that God told them to kill every person who lived there. We have a name for those people. We call them terrorists. The Israelites of the Old Testament were terrorists. No wonder the Israelites were so confused when Jesus showed up and said he didn't come for bloody revolution. I mean, that was what the other judges, prophets, and kings had done in the past. No wonder the Jews didn't trust this man. He certainly didn't act like any of the great leaders of legend and his version of revolution still left them under the burden of the Roman Empire. Why are we so surprised that the Jews refuse to believe that the Messiah has come?
My favorite interesting tidbit that never fully occurred to me until now is to when these "historical accounts" accounts were written. How often does the Bible say things like, and he reigned in peace for 80 years? That means that, at the very least, that part of the Bible was written 80 years after the actual events. 80 years?! That's three generations. Three generations of word of mouth, for people to get wrong information, to embellish and misconstrue. It's not like these people had a whole bunch of books to help with their research of historical accounts. There was no Google. They were completely reliant on word of mouth. This is worse than the telephone game because these stories very quickly turned into myths. There is one historical reference for King David in all of archaeology. One. Yet he is touted as this great king. Was he really? Or perhaps Solomon needed to make himself sound better than he actually was. Perhaps it was part of a PR stunt, one in which no one could verify facts, to give himself a pedigree worthy of Israel. History is written by the victors. We will never know the real story.
Have you ever heard of King Omri though? You probably skipped over it while reading your Bible. After all, he is only mentioned in 1 Kings 16 and his reign was brief. Yet there is massive amounts of archaeological evidence for King Omri and his reign. Also, even though the Bible doesn't mention any lineage, we have evidence of him having children and those children carrying on the dynasty. There is a negative tone in the Bible in reference to Omri, which is probably why the Bible seems to gloss over his reign and dynasty even though archaeological evidence shows that he was a great warrior king with quite a kingdom. So King David, who there is hardly any evidence gets chapter after chapter devoted to him while King Omri gets a few throwaway verses and Christians don't seem concerned about it at all.
What I learned about oral traditions was that word-of-mouth stories were so important to ancient people, seeing as it was their only way to pass down stories and history, that you weren't allowed to change a single word. You would study under masters who would make you repeat everything verbatim before releasing you out into the world to tell the stories of your people. Except that isn't quite right. It was understood that each storyteller would have their own personal flair. The Odyssey is considered a poetic narrative masterpiece, yet by the time it was written down, there were several different versions floating around, some better than others. Christians and Jews assume that the Bible is difference because it is God-inspired and therefore nothing in it can possibly be wrong, embellished, or made up. Here is where faith lies, because despite modern archaeological evidence, one must continue to believe in something that is full of inconsistencies and errors and ignore those things in order to continue believing. I can no longer do this.
The Bible is a very interesting historical document, but it is no better or worse than a historical fiction novel. Fact and fiction are so intertwined that it is nearly impossible to separate the two. What I do know is this, a God that commands and supports the murder of entire towns is not one that deserves to be worshipped.
I have had a lot of bad roommate experiences, some worse than others. One interesting thing that one of my roommates did was that, as the time for her to move out drew near, she began to treat me like I was some kind of villain. She would find reasons to be angry with me, reasons that often made no sense. I went on vacation and came home to find the trash in the middle of the floor with a note that said, "It's your turn to take out the trash." Considering that I was the only person who cleaned the house every week and regularly took out the trash as well as a number of other household tasks, this behavior was simply absurd. It got worse and worse until I finally realized what was going on. My roommate owed me some (a lot of) money for unpaid bills. I had been firm about her owing money, but not a nag or unfair about it either. She was not going to be able to pay it. She knew it. I knew it. And in order to not feel bad about moving out and never paying me back, she was trying to find a way to hate me. This would make it okay then because at least then I would be a horrible person who deserved it. The next time she picked a fight with me, I politely informed her that I understood that this was what was going on and it wasn't necessary. That was the end of picking fights with me, thank goodness. Two days after she moved out, she called to inform me that she would never pay me back because she didn't like me and there was no way I would be able to find her (she left no forwarding address). I ended up not pursuing a legal case against her, although it would have been easy since I did know where she worked, but a kind person in my church heard about this and gave me the money that she owed me. I decided to let it go. Also, fuck her.
Because of this knowledge, I am also aware that it may be a defect within us humans to want to do things like this. I have seen in a number of deconversion stories, people who felt the need to demonize the churches they attended in order to feel better about leaving and ending friendships. For those of us who have abandoned faith, there is a certain amount of anger there because we do feel like we were lied to and duped for so long. I must temper this anger with the knowledge that these people truly believe these things and are not willfully being misleading. Quite the opposite, they believe they are pointing their way to truth.
This morning, as I sat in service, I tried to remind myself of the good things about this church that I have attended for nearly four years. Although I have not made any deep friendships here, there is not a single person in the church who I believe speaks ill of me or has treated me badly. The church culture does not put up with things like gossip, a blessing both personally and for the church as a whole. People don't speak ill of one another and see the community as a team. I wish there was more of a culture of outreach, but I will take what they are doing now over some of the churches out there that are completely against outreach, ministry, and helping others. Give me a church who prays for refugees over one that spouts "America for Americans" any day of the week. Like all churches, there are problems, the biggest being our inability to hold onto worship pastors or even pastors in general, but I am proud of how this church handles crisis.
There are frustrating things about Christianity and religion, but these are not the fault of the people who attend this church. I will not turn them into villains in order to make myself feel better about leaving, even now when they are in a bit of a worship leader lurch. No one is making me feel guilty about leaving and there is no reason for me to put that guilt on myself.
I have spent four years with a wonderful group of dedicated people and it wasn't a waste of time.
For some reason my phone didn't charge overnight, which means that about halfway through the day it turned itself off and had to be recharged. Normally, I don't get phone calls so I don't worry about it. Of course, when I turned it back on I had four new voicemail messages. Two were from the local charity that was picking up our old couch, one was from my mother, and the last was my Pastor. In a serious voice he asked me to call him as soon as I could because he needed to discuss something important with me.
My first thought: He knows. Somehow he has figured out that I am no longer a Christian. He has found this blog. Someone I know has has told him. I don't think anyone I have told would do that, but thoughts are irrational sometimes. If anyone did inadvertently find out, it would probably be because they found this blog and through the situational clues figured out that it was me.
Instead, when he did call me back, he told me the sad news that they had fired our worship pastor. Now, if you have read previous posts you would know that I have spent a good deal of time with this man and his family. It makes me incredibly sad that the pastor, board, and him were not able to decide what role he should play as a pastor in the church or agree on certain fundamental issues when it came to the worship service. Although my church has always been very good about not gossiping or even complaining, I am sad that there wasn't a hint of this coming. Worse yet, compared to our previous worship pastor, he was so much better. He was kind and professional, which is what I expect from someone in a position of authority whether they be a manager or a pastor. In my mind, he did the job well.
Here's where things got a little weird though. "We'll get through this," the pastor said. The pastor then went on to tell me that they will be hiring someone to fill this part-position and then said, "You have musical experience right? Maybe we won't even need to hire someone from outside." This is when I had to tell him that we would no longer be attending come December.
And then I lied. Partially.
I told him that we would be moving in December and then beginning the adoption process for foster care in January. Both true. I also said that we would be seeking out a church that had more of a support base for adoption, not that my current church would be unsupportive, but we have seen how important a strong support network is. He completely understood. Of course, I will be seeking out a support base. I already have a number of people who are going to be a part of that, but it won't be in a church. It will be through the adoption agency, parenting classes, online forums, and meet-up groups. If I do attend a churche's adoption group, it would only be for the group itself, not to attend as a regular.
"Well you know what he was doing?" my husband said afterward., "He wanted you to be the worship pastor. Of course, given your....circumstances...that would be unwise."
Well....duh. It didn't even occur to me to consider it. I did tell him that I would be available for the next few weeks and would be happy to help (and I am), but that the moving on is definitely going to happen. His response, "I guess we have a few weeks then."
I really hope they find somebody who can fill the position and the responsibilities it entails. And as much as I like singing, I am glad this will be a thing of the past in 11 weeks.
A friend posted an old video from England featuring hard-line Muslims who want to impose Sharia law in their area of England and everywhere else if they have their way. I watched the video a few years back (or maybe just last year) and although the things they are saying are shocking, they should in no way be taken as how all Muslims are or how they all believe. Which, knowing my friend, if definitely what she is implying. See, in Christian circles the whole Muslim Islamaphobia goes far beyond just the terrorism thing. I mean, that is enough to upset any sane person because it is real and it is scary, but the real issue is that the number of Muslims in the world is growing and they are in almost every country in the world, which American Christians see as an invasion of territory and their own religion. How dare those Muslims come to America and wear their headscarves? Don't they know they live in a Christian country now? Don't they know it is the Christian laws that should rule the land?
Now, just like Christianity, there are Muslims who were simply born into the faith and don't actually attend prayers or follow any of the Muslim laws. Some, simply choose to follow their religion differently. Perhaps they believe certain tenants of the faith, but can't stand by other areas, particularly the stuff that encourages violence. You know, like how Christians do when they tout the message of Jesus but conveniently ignore all those parts of the Old Testament where the Israelites murdered men, women, and children in the name of God. American Christians are adept at seeing Muslims as OTHER. They are so other that even when we watch them climbing under border fences with a newborn in their arms, carrying a small pack on their back that contains all their worldly possessions, all we see is the label "Muslim Terrorist" as if it is branded on their forehead. They don't see the child or the desperation. Don't agree with me? Go read the comments section of any news article on the refugee crisis in Europe. The comments are full of hateful vitrol, going as far as to accuse these mothers and fathers of small children of purposefully putting their children in harm's way in order to get free money off the backs of Europeans and then...when no one is watching anymore...they will kill you. Or convert you.
Here's my real issue though. For some hard-line Christians their faith looks almost exactly like the hard-line Muslims. The woman in Kentucky who is refusing to issue marriage licenses stating that she is under God's law and not the United States' laws is a prime example. She is doing the EXACT same thing. She not only is refusing to obey the law (the reason she was jailed), but is blatantly claiming that God's Law (Christian Sharia Law) is more important than the laws of our land. We balk when a woman in a burka says it, but a white woman with long hair and a skirt? Well, she's a martyr for the cause, right?
Want to know what I see when I see a Muslim? It is a mixture of Stereotyping and pity. Unlike Christianity, if you leave the faith, other than some judgmentalism and broken relationships, nothing will happen to you. Muslims don't have that choice. Not only is deconverting not even considered a thing (if you are born Muslim, you are always Muslim, especially if you are a woman), but to be apostate could mean death. I see homosexuals and agnostics and atheists who have to live in the shadows for the fear of death. I see people who probably don't believe in the religion any more than they believe in Santa Claus, but questioning such things could have dire circumstances. I see women who believe that wearing a headscarf (or more) brings them closer to God. And I see others who have no choice. (there is a difference) I also see that it is a religion that, despite moving into the 21st century, upholds laws that are congruent with the 4th century. It is also a religion that can be easily intrepreted into a world of violence and hate. Just as it is impossible for Christians to explain away genocide in the Bible, the Muslims can't ignore their own Holy Scriptures either. And so I am also cautious.
Here is a scenario that my writer self came up with in order to put myself in the shoes of these refugees:
I imagine living in an America where hard-line right wing Christians now control the land. I am forced to wear a dress, can't cut my hair, have no access to birth control, if I am caught with birth control I would be thrown in jail or stoned to death. Women are checked to be sure they are virgins before they are married. Levitcal law is loosely followed. I am charged a tax for not being Christian. Then some really radical group claims that God has given them control of this land, this Christian nation, and they will wipe the servants of Baal from the face of it. All non-Christians, this would of course include Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Catholics, will be killed. Of course, Christians themselves are also collateral damage, but that is okay because they were Christian and are in heaven now and so they were martyrs for the cause. Whole cities are bombed and wiped off the face of the earth. Suburban homes are just rubble, the families living in the ruins with no running water or electricity. I am living in my parents living room because they have a fireplace to cook with. The government, what remains of it, has holed up in the North and only protects the people that live there. Those who are outside their bubble are accused of being with the extremists. And so those people pack of their families and head south. Some go to Florida and pay a smuggler to get them to Cuba or Dominican Republic or even to South America. Others walk thousands of miles to Mexico. Of course, we don't want to be in Mexico. We really want to get to South America because Brazil and some other countries have promised us safe refuge if we can just get there. Those who had some savings may be able to pay a smuggler or perhaps get airplane tickets out, but for the average middle and lower class American, they are forced to walk. And then Guatamala, who is poor and doesn't like the hundreds of thousands of Americans coming across their land, puts up a barbed wire fence. At the same time, these countries that are mostly Catholic are holding rallies demanding that we should send all those Americans back to their war torn country because they are just going to bring more of that extreme Christian views with them. I mean, an extremist could be hiding among them, sneaking across the border with all the other refugees. That's true, it could be happening, but do you deny the families and the children access based on this unknowable? Europe offers to take some people, which sounds awesome for some people, but for the most part, most of us refugees just want to go home. We want to return to South Carolina and Missouri and Texas. We want to go back to our homes, where our families are buried, where we want to be buried, hopefully when we are old. Will there be jobs for us in Brazil or Uruguay? What about the language barrier? Will our children be safe there? Will people hate us? Will they think that because I am an American, I am a murderer too? The only thing keeping me from giving up are my nieces and nephews, because they deserve peace and love and security. They deserve a chance to become wonderful people, people who would not grow up surrounded by extreme Christians who are killing people. And when I think about this, it is easily to see Muslim refugees as someone like me. Even though we don't have the same skin color, language, beliefs, or lives.
The problem with sharing something as big as a deconversion is that you become hyper-vigilant to everything anyone does, particularly those who know. For the past few weeks, my husband and I have been tiptoeing around the religion subject, always with this uneasy truce between us. Or so I thought. Turns out that although he is having a difficult time with the revelations, it really hasn't added much undo stress on his part. He thinks about it sure, but he says that he isn't thinking about it all the time. Not like I am.
"I don't know what it is you expect of me," he told me. Herein lies the biggest problem. He has reassured me that he would not divorce me over something like this, yet doesn't reassure me that everything will be okay. He says I love you when I head off to work, but there is now this thing between us and he has made sure that I know this. He isn't being mean or anything, just ambivalent in his affection. This has affected our relationship, but in a way that confuses and saddens me.
What do I expect? I expect him to say, I love you. I love you and there are so many wonderful amazing things about you that make being married to you worth it. This is a big deal, but doesn't really affect the core of our marriage. You are worth it, even with this speed bump on life's road. It's not what I would have wanted to happen, but it has and I still love you. No matter what.
Even when I vocalized this today, he couldn't really say that to me, which makes me feel insecure and hurt.
Side note: He is definitely not supportive of me continuing to go to church now that I have revealed this to him. He understands my reasoning, but thinks it is wrong to continue to lead worship when I am no longer a believer. Even though there are only 2 1/2 months left before we move, he thinks that I should back out now and fade away. In my mind, I have to sing four more times, maybe five and then I am done. That isn't too big of a deal in my mind. So against his advice, I think I will stick it out until Thanksgiving.
Today I walked into the church and saw that two tables had been set up at the front. Communion tables. Because we do communion so little in my church it wasn't until that moment that I realized how much I was dreading this moment. I know I can't take communion. I am no longer a believer and to do so, even for appearance sake, would be wrong. How was I going to get out of this? I began to run through scenarios in my mind. I could just stay in my seat, but then people would think something was wrong and want to talk/pray about it later. I could conveniently go to the bathroom right before it starts, as everyone is standing up to get in line, and then not come back until it is over. Hide out in the bathroom, if you will. Or...
My rescue came in the form of my volunteering. They wanted us to sing during communion, which meant that I wouldn't be able to participate in communion even if I had wanted to. Hallelujah.
Three more months. Three more months of this charade and then I can let all of this go. The Christian conversations will still happen because I am not coming out to all the people in my life. However, the pretending to worship, pretending to be a fellow Christian, pretending that I don't think everything the pastor preaches is completely suspect would be over. No more worrying about communion or whether I should be a kids mentor or avoiding small group because I don't want to watch another dumbass Christian sermon series. No more.
Ahhhh....Sunday. The day of the week when I feel the most like a liar and a charlatan. Before church, but after rehearsal, I was sitting in the back, talking to a few of the ladies and the conversation went something like this.
Lady #1: Have you seen War Room?
(I am familiar with this film because of my mother. It sounds and looks terrible. I wouldn't pay a dog to go see it.)
Lady #2: No. But I really really want to. I was going to go on Friday, but the kids...blah blah blah.
Lady #1: What about you, would you like to see it?
Me: Not really. My mom said it was really good, but I'm not very interested. It's not my kind of movie.
Lady #2: Is it because it is a Christian film? Some of them are pretty terrible I know.
(Yes, an out that could be considered acceptable.)
Me: Yeah. I mean, most of them aren't done well and they remind me of bad sitcoms with cheesy writing and problems that get solved easily and quickly.
Lady #1: Some of them are really good though. God's Not Dead and Heaven is for Real were great.
(unable to hide my disgust of either film, I make a face.)
Lady #1: What's wrong with God's not dead?
(still trying to be charitable and PC)
Me: Look, I went to an extremely liberal college. Extremely. The joke was that our school was left of the left of the left. I took philosophy class. No Philosopher would be worth his weight in water if he walked into a class and demanded that all the students just admit that God is dead. Second, the movie was full of horrible logical fallacies. And last, the man admits in the end that the reason he says such things is because he is angry with God. This makes him an anti-theist, but not an atheist because he is admitting that he does believe in God, but he is too angry with him to worship him. It stinks of Christian manipulation and moreover it is misleading about who and what atheists are. Either that or the makers really believe that atheists are people who just hate God, but secretly believe.
(surprisingly, this little tirade was treated well. As if I had said something rather learned even if it isn't mainstream Christian thought)
Lady #2: I have a problem with Heaven Is for Real.
Lady #1: What why?
Lady #2: We did a Bible study of it during small group a few years back. I haven't seen the movie, but the book really bothered me. Not only did I find the kid and his family rather annoying, but I am not convinced that he wasn't influenced by his family.
Lady #1: Well, his parents said that they were just as shocked by his revelations as anyone else and didn't believe it at first.
(Finally going to jump in because I think 'Heaven is for Real' is complete and total bullshit)
Me: That's the trouble right there though. They said. They have made a lot of money off of this and it is completely reliant on the word of the parents. They said they were shocked. They said he told them these things. They claim they never talked about God or his grandfather around the kid, yet the man was a pastor of a church and I don't believe for a second that this kids grandparent was never mentioned in the home. I mean, kids really soak things up. Even if he did have this dream, it could very well have been created from the snippets of life he heard around him.
(A fourth lady has now joined us who is nodding her head in agreement. She chimes in once or twice with, yeah and I wondered that too)
Lady #1: But these kinds of things happen. My son saw a ghost. (insert shortish story about three-year-old seeing a ghost) My other son has trouble sleeping because of spirits. (insert another shortish story about eight-year-old needing to pray every night because he is afraid. I mean, you guys have seen spirits before right?
Lady #2: Well, sure. I mean, I know there is stuff like that out there. I just don't know if I trust this book.
Lady #1: What about you Lady #4?
Lady #4: Seen a spirit? Like with my eyes? No. But I have felt demons and evil forces in my life and have prayed against them. So how did we get on this topic, out of curiosity.
Me: Oh we were talking about Christians movies. They want to see War Room.
Lady #4: Yuck. Don't bother. It's sooo cheesy. Christian cheesy you know.
Lady #1: What? Why?
Lady #4: You know, like they pray and their prayers are answered rather quickly and in the exact way they pray them, which is completely unrealistic. It had that Hollywood cheese factor, but lacked in any real depth.
Lady #1: I think I'll go see it anyway.
Now, my thought process during this exchange is, "don't reveal how much you loathe these piece of shit films that are made with the sole intent of pleasing the Christian masses and their brand of morality." They are usually written terribly and are made for Lady #1 who believes that demons come to visit on a regular basis and need to be prayed away. However, I am a bit too opinionated for my own good and if I see an opening where I won't be given too much side eye, I may give my opinion although in a more subdued fashion. The result is usually like this. Now, I was still a Christian when Heaven for Real came out and I absolutely believe his parents are two big fat stinking liars. Oh, but they are Christian? And? That doesn't make them any less liars. I believe that their son probably had a dream while he was being operated on. It was probably something vaguely heavenlike based on his parents telling him things about heaven or it being a general topic of discussion in the home. From there, they began to embellish the story and then wrote a book about it. It has been over a decade now and I absolutely believe this kid believes it. But he doesn't remember it. None of it. It has become a story that has been told to him so many times over and over again that he knows all the details, yet doesn't have an actual memory of it. I have a few of those "memories". I think I remember my third birthday party, but most of those "memories" are in direct correlation to photographs I have seen and stories told. I don't actually know if I am remembering the story or not.
All that said, I think the more worrisome part is where these people actually believe and are telling people that there are demons and ghosts out there, prowling around. Now, I am still a little unsure about the whole ghost thing because I myself have experienced an incident that cannot easily be explained away. It is the reason why I cannot fully devote myself to an atheist philosophy. I also don't immediately attach this moment to a demon out to get me. But I remember my mother teaching me this stuff and me believing it too. And it embarrasses me.
When I was a teenager, I was babysitting my brothers and we kept hearing sounds in the attic. Now, since I had never been taught actual rational thought, I immediately guessed that it was a demon in the attic fighting an angel to get into our house. I sat in the hallway with my four brothers and cried and cried as the sounds continued and we prayed for more angels to come down and fight this demon who was trying to get in. At no point did it occur to any of us that this could have been an animal in the attic. None. We knew what it was because my mother told us this stuff all the time. That next Christmas, when we opened up the Christmas ornament box, we discovered a family of squirrels had been living in our attic. They had used some of our stuffed Christmas ornaments as filler for their nests and had eaten all the playdough ornaments we had made. More than likely they were in the attic that night, playing or some-such, as we say in the hallway terrified out of our minds and assured in our knowledge of demons.
If this is the kind of bullshit you are teaching your children, and reitterating my believing every little bullshit thing they convince you of, then that my friends is straight of brainwashing. The other stuff, teaching your children scripture verses and songs, reading the Bible with them, and taking them to church are what any sane person would do if they believed a certain religion. Convincing your children that demons are real and are capable of coming into your house and possessing you is a whole different level of crazy.
Finally, as I walked away from this conversation, I had to tell myself...You are not one of them anymore. This is no longer your barrel of monkeys. If they believe this, let them. You aren't going to change their minds. And frankly, pretending like are one of them is wrong.
We may have an opportunity to get the exact sectional we wanted from Pottery Barn for about 1/5 of the price. After talking to the lady on the phone, I hung up and sent a quick prayer up above. "Lord, please let us get this couch and please don't let them have been smokers or for it to be down-filled." And then I stopped, shocked at myself for praying to someone that I really don't believe in. It was such a normal thing to prayer for stupid things that I did it out of habit.
Here is the pep-talk I gave myself afterward: What did that prayer matter? The woman said the couch was still available. Even if you pray, that will not magically make the owners non-smokers nor will the pillows miraculously turn into polyester instead of down. The couch will be what it is. If it is what you need, perfect. If not, it doesn't matter because we can afford to buy a full-priced sectional.
My mother taught me to pray for everyone. Parking spaces, openings in traffic, ambulances as they drove by, homeless people on the street. The truth is though that the opening in traffic will happen eventually because that is what happens with traffic patterns. My prayer for the ambulance isn't going to change the outcome of where they are going or what is happening inside. And that prayer for the homeless person won't help them with their mental illness, give them something to eat, or a warm place to sleep that night. I see prayer more as a placebo effect. It makes us feel better to say the prayer, but the outcome really isn't going to change. If there is a God, he isn't going to make a car disappear from a nice parking spot just so you can have it. If he did then he is focusing on the wrong things. I mean...parking spaces over HIV+ orphan in the Congo?
It was a slip-up, but it my mind, one of the most ridiculous ones. I have not believed in the power of prayer in a very long time, yet when I really wanted something, I automatically jumped to my placebo. Indoctrination is a bitch.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.