I started listening to a new audio book this weekend called A People's History of the United States. The book promises to show history from different perspectives other than the traditional hero's and conquerers. This is an intriguing concept, one that I think is important. Of course, as soon as I told Facebook I was reading it, someone immediately commented that it was revisionist history. I didn't reply because I hate arguing with people, but what I wanted to say was, "Telling history from a different viewpoint is not revisionist. Especially if you have facts to back up those viewpoints. You may not like those viewpoints, but that doesn't matter. Ask ten people about what is happening right with the upcoming election and you will get ten different answers. Those answers are different viewpoints of the same period in history. They are not necessarily right or wrong, but they do help paint a larger more complete picture." I am only two chapters in and it is a huge book, but so far I am fascinated and horrified. Did you know that all the native people who were on Cuba when Christopher Columbus arrived were systematically wiped out within a few decades by Columbus and those who followed him? Not a single descendent survived the rape, torture, enslavement, and outright murder brought by the Spaniards. Worse, even Columbus admitted that the people were exceptionally kind, generous, and loving. Instead of working with them though, he saw their kindness as weakness and niavity, to be exploited as quickly as possible. Worse yet, he used scripture verses to back up his atrocities, believing that God gave him the authority to enslave and kill those who stood in the path of God's chosen. (him)
It is no surprise after reading some of this book yesterday and the events with my family on Saturday, that I would have a semi-nightmare concerning some of these topics. In my dream, I was hiding in an old building from Christians who were looking for non-believers. If caught, I knew I would be killed. At one point, hiding beneath a table, a box cutter my only weapon, I managed to escape notice. But then they came back. I took off running. The people in pursuit were all people I recognized, people who I consider to be super religious, but had once been friends. Most had knives as weapons and a few lunged at me. I swung my box cutter wildly, slicing at anyone who came too close. I was a wild woman stating over and over, "I don't want to die." In response, they quoted scripture at me. One girl named April had a knife and kept lunging at me. "You're going to murder me?" I asked. "Thou shall not murder." She stared at me for a moment before dropping her blade. I managed to finally make my way towards some woods. Another "friend", a guy who in real life quit hanging out with me when I decided not to go to his church when I moved to the same town as him, kept trying to cut me with a knife. I managed to get a good cut to his arm. "You cut me!" he exclaimed. "You want to kill me," I said back. "But you deserve to die. I'm a Christian. I don't deserve this."
Then I ran. I ran to the woods. I climbed tries to avoid detection. Eventually I found a river which I followed to a lake. The Christians had drones so I knew I had to very careful in a more open space like a lake. I found a few lake houses, but knew I couldn't stay there. I did find a map that looked like the US, but it was split up. The southeast US was called, Constantinople and was a country run by Christians. My only salvation would be to travel south and then west to Mexico. The Catholics in Mexico were apparently much more moderate and would help non-Christians who were being caught up in Constantinople's net. They would help me get to the west where only moderate religious peoples and non-religious lived.
I have rather epic dreams like this on a fairly regular basis. It's actually a bit disorientating to wake up from such detailed dreams. Upsetting too since they feel so real and logical. Even more upsetting when they include people you know trying to kill you. Obviously, we can see what is going on with my subconscious. I don't consider super religious people to be safe. Not that I think any of them would kill me in real life, but the feeling of safety around them is non-existent. I know as a closeted atheist, I must remain silent. I cannot give myself away. It's frustrating, but as I have stated before, I do actually have a good relationship with my parents, siblings, nieces, and nephews and it simply isn't worth it right now to tell them. Nevermind that I only see these people bi-monthly. Those who are close to me are either very moderate Christians or not religious at all. Only one regular friend is still unaware of my non-religious status, but she isn't a close friend so I am not too concerned about it. We rarely discuss religion. Unlike my family in where it permeates every single area of their lives.
Family get togethers are fraught with peril for this closeted atheist. I must keep my emotions in check, not roll my eyes at certain Christian-isms, remain silent when I don't agree with something, and often end up leaving the room to play tickle tag with a four-year-old because I just can't stand it any longer.
Last night I failed. Last night I finally told my brother and sister-in-law, with both my parents in the room, how frustrating it is that their kids are so extremely sheltered. It happened because I was repeating a joke. The joke was clean (otherwise I would not have shared it), but one that I thought my family would like and was in context with a subject we were talking about. My brother stops me in the middle of the joke , shushing me and telling me there were "little ears around".
"What are you talking about?" I asked him.
"Oh, We don't talk about R-A-C-I-S-M around the kids."
"We don't want them to know about..."
"No, I get that. What does that have to do with the joke I was telling?"
"Well, I thought it was going 'there'."
"You thought wrong. Let me finish the joke now that you ruined it." I finish the joke, completely pissed off at this point.
"Sorry," he says, "We just don't want our kids exposed to stuff having to do with that."
"This is getting ridiculous," I more than mumbled.
And then I went on a bit of a tirade. Do you know how careful I am around your kids? I feel like I am walking on eggshells all the time. All the time! They can't know about anything remotely negative. You know this is why [my husband] doesn't even interact with them. He is sure he is going to say something you don't agree with and that you are going to cut us off for it. You don't want to talk about prejudice. How lucky are you that your kids are so insulated and white that you can get away with that.
Among some of my more favorite Christian-isms and right-wing white priviledge that came from them:
"We are raising our kids in the Biblical tradition."
"Our kids don't see color."
"You know [our son] loves science, but we have had a hard time finding science books in the Biblical tradition." (aka: young earth creationism)
"We are homeschooling them for the sole purpose of protecting them from the world."
"We want our children to remain as innocent as possible for as long as possible."
"I don't remember getting mad at you for telling them about cancer."
"Well, we finally did tell [the oldest] about divorce because he met someone who was. All my fears came true because he was afraid we would get divorced. This is why they don't go to school."
"Adam and Eve are really the ones who messed this all up for us."
"I wonder how long Adam and Eve were in the garden? 70 years? 1000? Doesn't matter. We'll know when we get to heaven." (my though: Zero)
"It's not that we won't tell them about this stuff one day, but we will wait until they come to us with questions. We want to tell them though. We want to make sure that they know what we believe."
"We are like any other parent, we want to raise our kids to believe what we believe. Just like you will do with your kids."
Among the favorite things I said:
"I don't always agree with you, but I do try to honor you as parents. You should also know that sometimes I am diametrically opposed and I think I am an exceptionally good person for not saying anything about it."
"It makes me sad sometimes that your kids will never be the ones raising money for kids with cancer or volunteering at a homeless shelter, because you don't even want them to know those things exist. I see such compassion in them, but they have no outlets outside of their family to express that."
"You know there are Christians out there that are not young earth creationists right? That you can teach real science and God and the two can be compatible?"
"You are so lucky that you don't have to talk to your kids about prejudice. You know that right? That by being white, you don't have to?" (they actually acknowleged and agreed with me on this)
"Your kids aren't blind. They see color. They just haven't been taught about the history of prejudice on our world. How are you going to explain to them about the Holocaust or the 60s, without talking about prejudice and racism? Are you going to pretend like it didn't happen so they can remain blissfully unaware that human beings suck sometimes?"
"You telling them when they ask questions works for now because they are young, but one day they are going to quit asking you and will seek answers somewhere else. If you are lucky it will be church, if you are unlucky, it will be friends, books, internet. Although, since the only friends they have is their family, I'm sure it will be fine."
"We do not want to raise our kids to believe what we believe. We are not missionary adopting. We want to raise them to think for themselves, have analytical thought, and be respectful of others. I don't care if my children grow up to be Christians." (you should have seen the shock on their faces)
In the end, I assured them that we would honor their wishes as parents, agree or not. They promised they would never cut us off if we slipped up. The conversation then shifted into picking chapter books for the seven-year-old that didn't deal with all the scary subjects they are avoiding. Of course, my husband and I discussed it on the way home as he overheard the conversation from upstairs. He is in full agreement with me on this one. We both agreed that if they knew I was no longer a believer or even what he believed, that we would definitely have more limited access to the kids, especially as we got older. We also don't think that they will allow us to babysit anymore once we adopt. They seem very open to adoption, but due to the sheltering and the hard life our kid will have lived, I don't think he/she will ever be allowed to be alone with their cousin. Consequently, I do think that if anyone rats our my atheism to my family, it will be my adopted kid when they are mad and trying to hurt me.
It was an infuriating conversation. One full of so many statements concerning indoctrination that it made me dizzy. Is this how my aunts and uncles felt when my parents talked? Is this how they felt about our homeschooling? I used to tell people I was homeschooled because our school district was so horrible, but this was only a half truth. The full truth was that my mother, by that point, had instilled in me a fear of the world and other people who weren't Christian. I was happy to be homeschooled because I saw those heathens as scary. I think it is horribly sad that my nephew, who tells people he wants to be a chemist when he grows up, is learning young earth creationism and will probably never fulfill that dream. Let's face it, he would be laughed out of any mainstream science program in the country...as he should be. I have no way right now to talk to them about those things because they are so young that they instantly go tell mom & dad everything I say. By the time they start seeking answers outside of mom & dad and know how to keep a secret, it will be too late. It was for me. By the time anyone started challenging my beliefs in my late teens, I was fully entrenched. Last thing, my brother and sister-in-law absolutely believe this. They were fully indoctrinated just as I was and unlike me, neither is interested in reading, intellectual pursuits, logic, or analyzation. They will be Christians until they die because their parents (my parents) taught them how to be from the time they were very young. They know nothing else and they will never question those beliefs because neither are the kind of people who question things. Their children, unlucky for them, will follow the same path. Perhaps they will be like me and my siblings, two atheists, one agnostic, and a die-hard conservative Christian, or maybe their parents will be more successful with the brainwashing.
I have to wash my hands of this though. I love my nieces and nephews, but I have to not care. I'm related to those monkeys, but they are in a different barrel. I can no longer care if they grow up to become Christian imbeciles or not.
Adoption is a big thing in Christian circles. I know this because every church I have ever been a part of has made a huge deal out of orphans and adoption. They believe God has called them to adopt children. One question though: If God is calling you to adopt, why does he seem to have a preference for babies?
Only 1% of women in the US give their babies up for adoption. (a huge drop from the almost 9% in the 1990s) By my rough calculations that is just over 39,000 babies a year available for adoption. Experts state that there may be anywhere between one and two million people who are waiting for a baby. Well over the amount actually available, which is why so many people go overseas looking for babies. Yet, there are roughly 100,000 waiting children in foster care, most over the age of 4, waiting for families. There are more than enough families wanting children so what is the problem?
Well, the first is obvious. Teenagers and ten-year-olds aren't nearly as cute as a newborn. They also come with baggage. Contrary to popular opinion not all of these kids are so damaged that they would make life a living hell though. Many of these kids are good kids who just need some stability and discipline. It's also true that some of these kids are really damaged by the things that brought them into care. But I find it very hard to believe that of those one to to million people, there aren't some people who wouldn't be good for those kinds of kids too. A few more stats for you. Pastors like to tell their congregations that if 7% of the world's Christians each adopted a child, regardless of age, there would be no more orphans. Of course, this number is reliant on all sects of Christianity and those who are cultural Christians. If you only were factoring in US Christians, nearly half would have to adopt orphans in order to end the orphan crisis. That is never going to happen.
With the majority of people who adopt still being Christian though, this raises a lot of questions. It is also why I find it hard to believe that a god is telling you to adopt. The logic would then go a couple ways:
1) God told you to adopt, but didn't specify age so you just assumed baby.
2) God told you to adopt and said to adopt an "older" child and you ignored him in favor of an infant.
3) You wanted a baby sooo bad that you convinced yourself that God told you to adopt one.
4) You wanted a baby sooo bad that you would never consider anything else no matter what a god told you.
5) There is a god and she/he doesn't give a shit what you do. After all, if it cared there wouldn't be orphans in the first place.
6) There is no god and you are just following your own desires.
7) There is no god and if you just had a bit more information and were less fearful, you may actually consider adopting older children.
8) You are one of the very small percentage of god believers who didn't take a baby.
9) You are one of the even smaller percentage of non-believers who adopted.
10) You are of a tiny tiny minority of non-believers who has adopted an older child.
Does this seem harsh? It should, because it is. I'm tired of hearing Christians talk about how God told them/led them to adopt and yet, somehow that same god is allowing 20,000 teenagers to age out of the system every year without a family. If you are going to pretend to talk to an imaginary being at least be a bit more honest about it.
A question came up the other day on an atheist podcast I was listening to. The question was: Do you look at the world differently now that you are no longer religious? This question, though answered well on the podcast, made me begin thinking about all the ways in which my deconversion has changed the way in which I view the world. In some respects nothing has changed. Work for example is exactly the same. The way I interact with my coworkers and my productivity have not been affected. However, there are a number of things in which I now think about completely differently.
1. I'll Pray for You. This used to make me feel good. It let me know that someone was thinking about me and keeping me in mind. However, I realized in my twenties that this is a Christianeze statement akin to saying 'God Bless You' when someone sneezes. It means nothing. They don't actually pray for you. I have known very few Christians in my life who actually keep and maintain a prayer list and pray daily. As someone who is nonreligious, I now see it as an empty phrase. They may as well say, that's so sad. I'm sorry. Because that is about all they are doing.
2. Miracles & Healing. I used to believe that God healed people. I began to doubt that when people I knew began to die of cancer. Yet, there were all these stories out there of healing and so a part of me hoped it was true. That God was still in the healing business and every once in a blue moon, would heal some religious person because he has a grand plan for them. What I found through my research was that those stories are often unsubstantiated and the ones that have some "proof" of being ill and then better, were often being treated by a doctor anyway. Now, I always make sure my friends are getting the best care they can get and if they are Christians, are relying on more than miracles and essential oils to get them through.
3. Divorce Proceedings. In my extreme Evangelical conservative upbringing, divorce was almost as bad as being gay. The ONLY time it was okay was if your spouse was cheating on you and even then, you should at least try to work it out before divorcing. Just yesterday my mother was talking about a mutual friend whose husband is actively and openly cheating on her and she (my mother) more than implied that my friend must be doing something to drive him to it. I told her off. My sister-in-law also believes this and is, in essence, the absolute worst person to ever ask for marriage advice particularly if you are dealing with serious issues. She is absolutely against divorce in any way, shape, or form and makes sure the person she talks to knows it. Although I most certainly think that marriage is a commitment and a bond between two people, I am also very aware that there are people who enter in some extremely unhealthy marriages. Perhaps the person is co-dependent, they have anger issues which lead to abuse, they are borderline psychotic, have mental health problems, or simply are not capable of loving another person. Of all the people I have known who have been divorced, there have been very few who didn't have a legitimate reason.
4. If I Should Die Before I Wake. When I was a Christian I used to think about what heaven would be like. Now that I don't believe in heaven and I believe that life just ends when I die, I find I live more in the now. If this is my one life then I need to make it the best it can be. This means that I don't give a shit about some things and that is okay, because I only have one life and I can't care about everything and everyone. It also means that I think a lot about aging and how to make sure that I live my best life all the way until I die. It means that I am taking better care of my body. It means that I think about what I will do when my husband inevitably dies before me. I consider how I feel about plastic surgery, wheelchairs, nursing homes, retirement communities, senior travel groups, etc. This doesn't mean that I will accomplish all the things I want to in life, but I'm sure as hell going to try.
5. Separation of Church and State. Growing up, the Christians surrounding me made a huge deal out of the whole separation of church and state thing. They didn't actually believe that the two should be separate and would make a big deal about the fact that it was only in a letter and not in the constitution. Didn't matter that the letter was written as a clarification to the constitution. This meant that my family and church absolutely believed that prayer...Christian prayer...should be not just allowed in school, but led by teachers in front of the classroom. The reason our country is going to hell in a hand basket is because that isn't allowed anymore. Screw the minority of people who are Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Taoist, Wiccan, non-religious, or atheist. Any news story concerning Christians not being allowed to do something they see as their sacred duty was considered persecution. This includes not being allowed to tell gay people they are going to hell, being forced to work in customer service and serve people who you don't agree with, and anytime a person questioned their beliefs. Now, I see a lot of these tactics as societal bullying. One group treating other people badly and thinking it is okay simply because there are more of them. I don't quite agree with atheists efforts to remove all traces of any religion from city/state/federal buildings. Yet, when you have a presidential candidate stating that he wants to unite the whole country under one God...well, fuck it, all bets are off.
6. Blessings and God's Will. Everything happens for a reason. God will bless you with the kids you are supposed to get. Your steps are ordained. Everything that happens in a person's life is supposed to have the fingerprint of God on it. And if something bad happens, well God has a plan for that too and it will all turn out all right. In my twenties I began to question this simply because, although that may be a reality in our first world country, it doesn't work well in a lot of other places. Look at South Sudan, a country full of Christians, where violence and starvation have marked their country for decades. Thousands upon thousands have died in absolute agony, fully believing in God and the only good that could possibly be garnered from their experience is that they are no longer suffering. Stating that a person is now in heaven being God's will also makes God a monster because it means that there are also thousands of orphans, traumatized after watching their parents die. Knowing that there is no actual plan, that things happen because the world is full of assholes and illness, is actually comforting. It comforts me to know that the death of a child of starvation is because human being suck and can do better, rather than a cosmic plan in which a god shows that he has very little concern for the beings in his creation.
7. Lions and Tigers and Demons, oh my. I was reminded of this one today while outside talking to some of the neighborhood kids. We were bonding over a very friendly stray cat. One child repeatedly mentioned that cats could look like demons, especially at night. "What does a demon look like?" I asked. "You know," was the response. Now, this could very well have been a child who has seen a few too many horror films and has an active imagination, but the way this child worded it, it was clear to me that demons are a regular topic of conversation at home. I get it. As a kid, demons weren't fantasy, they were real and they could come into your house and do horrible things to you. You had to pray against them, anoint your home with oil, and even then they might ride piggyback into your home on someone else's back. We believed this. At church, the pastor would declare that people had the demon of poverty on them or the demon of rebellion. Congregants would scream and pray in tongues, casting out the demon. When people tell me now that they sensed a demon in their house, it takes everything in me not to respond with extreme sarcasm. If someone tells me that they have physically seen a demon with their eyes, I have to resist calling them a liar or a lunatic. If you are seeing demons then you need to see a psychiatrist, not a preacher.
8. The Continuous Sin Loop. I was taught from a young age that I was a sinner. I spent much of my life trying very hard to live up to Godly standards, failing miserably, and asking for forgiveness on a continuous loop. I often asked God to forgive me for things that, in hindsight, weren't shameful. I used to masturbate, something my mother told me unequivocally was a sin and basically adultery against my future husband. I never stopped, but it wasn't until I was in my twenties that I stopped feeling guilty for doing it. Truth is, many of the things I was taught were sinful were really just human nature. Society has also helped shape what modern Christians think are sinful. Human nature can be fucked up, for sure, but not everything we do as people is wrong. I was told that by existing, I was an affront to God because I couldn't help but sin. Yet, when I began to examine my life and my days, there were days and days that would go by without me "sinning". And as I got older and stepped away from religion, I began to see those things that had once bound me on a continuous sin loop were just chains keeping me in fear. It was freeing to realize that ethics and sin are different. One has supposed eternal consequences, but if you no longer believe in the eternal then what you are left with is logic and ethics. I like logic.
9. Use It or Lose It. Okay, try to follow this exceptional logic: The only reason you are good at anything is because God put that ability in you. You owe any gifts or talents to God. As such, you should use those gifts and talents for God. Play violin? Well then you should be playing at church, in a Christian band, or teaching children music at a Christian school. If it isn't necessarily Christian, you should be witnessing somehow either by playing Christian music or sharing the gospel as part of your music. At the very least, you must assume that your talent has led you to a place that God wants you to be in order to share the gospel. If you don't use this talent for the Lord, he will take it away. Use it or lose it. I really believed this as a kid and I was that violin player. Even though I was classically trained, I was encouraged to play Christian music, apply (vaguely...my parents didn't exactly encourage college) to Christian colleges for music, and play for the church. I cannot tell you how many times I played in front of the church. The threat, that God would take away this talent, was always there. Since I couldn't unlearn how to play violin, I always assumed this meant that this meant God would cause me to get in a car accident and I wouldn't be able to use my hands. Or I would be stricken with arthritis at a young age. Of course, this logic didn't really pan since I had a very devout violin teacher who was definitely playing for the Lord and had horrible tendenitis in her hands, which would cause her to drop her violin if she played too much. The idea that you will suddenly not be good at the thing you are good at because God is punishing you is one seriously fucked up theology, especially considering there is not a single scripture to back it up. Obviously, I no longer agree with this and I believe there are a great many people out there with some pretty incredible talent who are being wasted on the church. Have you seen some of these people on worship teams? Incredible singers and musicians whose abilities will never see the outside of a church because they have been taught that the only way to use their gift is in service to a god. It's all rather sad really. And to be clear, anything can be a gift or talent. You could be incredibly good at organization, a whiz with numbers, able to learn new languages easily, hysterically funny, or even good at remembering stats. And those abilities aren't going to go away just because you didn't bring them to an alter and sacrifice yourself to a god.
10. Love, Sex, and Marriage. This one probably should have come before Divorce Proceedings, but whatever. As part of the purity culture I was told that God had the perfect person picked out for me to marry. He already knew who it would be. If I listened and obeyed God, he would lead me to the right person, in the right place, at the right time. Of course, I must remain a virgin for him although it would be silly to expect him to remain a virgin since boys have trouble in that area. Although I abandoned the idea of a perfect Prince Charming created just for me sometime in my twenties, I was a virgin bride so obviously I didn't let it all go. I am of the opinion that there are a lot of people out there that I could make it work with. I love my husband and am glad I met him, but that wouldn't have happened without online dating and my actively looking for a husband. I regret the virgin thing. I wish I had had sex. There was a guy I was dating about a year before I met my husband. I was his rebound chic and he let me know he wanted to have sex and as stupid as this sounds, I wish I had. Even though I was still a Christian and would have experienced immense amounts of guilt. Going into marriage completely unsure of yourself seems so stupid now. It has caused problems. We are still sorting them out. My Christian friends won't listen to me now, but I tell anyone who remotely asks, virginity is not all its cracked up to be. We are not meant to be thirty-year-old virgins. It goes against our nature. And you are not used goods if you have sex before marriage. It just means you have had a bit of practice.
Yesterday morning I sat in my living room eating a bowl of cereal and listening to my husband talk to his brother about doubt, faith, and tolerance. Since his brother was on speaker phone I got to hear the entire exchange. To paint a picture of my husband's brother *Kurt, he is a belligerent, super-conservative, Christian blowhard who gets along with no one, although my husband treats him with a great deal of patience and love. Kurt is not remotely tolerant of others and expresses his disgust/disdain of others on a regular basis. Dude won't even go see Deadpool because he convinced himself it looked terrible and it doesn't matter how many good reviews of it there are, he thinks we have all been fooled. He doesn't change his mind and heaven help the stranger who is rude to him. Did I mention he has been in the military for twenty years?
So anyway, there they are talking about doubt and all I could think as I listened was that these two guys don't have a clue. Not. A. Fucking. Clue. They talked about doubt as if it was just this little tickle in the back of your mind and if you have enough faith, you can easily overcome it. As a kid I heard my mom often speak the same way. See, doubt is this cute little word that Christians think means to struggle a little bit with whether God actually heals people or not. It is fine to "doubt" in this context because it means your are a thinking Christian who considers the deeper philosophical and theological issues of their faith. And that doubt is fine as long as you end up still a Christian. Heaven help you if it leads to a loss of faith though. And that is how it felt to sit there and listen to my husband and his brother bullshit their way through what doubt means. Real doubt, I discovered is when you question everything you have been taught. When you realize that there is no evidence of Joseph and Moses and slaves in Egypt and there is a very real possibility that those two people didn't exist. And then realizing that the person who you deem as God, Jesus himself, did believe they existed. It is not just struggling with the idea of whether God heals or not, but wondering that if he did, whether he is actually a monster. And if he doesn't exist, how much more sense bone cancer in babies makes.
They continued on with their conversation and discussed tolerance for a bit. Kurt, of course thinks that tolerance is a politically correct buzzword that means that Christians should just allow things they don't agree with. My husband thinks tolerance means that we all have to live on this planet together, but the predominant religion should have more control and atheists take cheap shots of Christians because they aren't "dangerous". I think tolerance means you let people live their lives as long as it isn't hurting anyone. My atheism doesn't hurt anyone. It bothers my husband because he likes the idea of us sharing common beliefs, but it doesn't hurt him. If you have read this blog at all you will see that he has actually been fairly tolerant. More so than most of the Christians I grew up with and around.
I just think it is funny when my husband talks about doubt because in my mind (and perhaps uncharitably so), real doubt leads to some very dark places. Scary places. It is so much bigger than wondering if God really cares about the minute details of our lives. It is wondering if there is a god out there at all.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.