My husband and I were having an interesting conversation the other day about pet peeves. We weren't talking about stupid shit like which way the toilet paper rolls, but more like the peeves that turn you off from people. That person that, if you find out this thing about them, you may not continue to be friends with them because it is something that drives you bonkers. My husband says his three are willful ignorance, entitlement, and aggressive drivers. I'm afraid my list is a bit longer. Most of the time I keep my issues (which are really non-issues) to myself. I know that these things only bother me and they don't matter in the grand scheme of things, but I find them to be annoyances none the less, like a fly buzzing in a room.
Gym Rats - I am not against people who like to work out. My husband and I go to the gym several times a week. I have issues with people who take videos of themselves working out, show it off to other people at the gym, and then upload to YouTube. I loathe those Cross Fit videos of people doing burpees or jumping really high onto things. Nothing turned me off faster when I was dating then a guy who took selfies of his muscles. I have nicknamed the group of guys at my gym who do it, The Showoff Brigade.
Extreme Selfishness That Affects Many People - Blaring music in the middle of the night because your music is more important than everyone else's sleep in the neighborhood. Walking down the middle of the street and not moving aside or faster when a car comes by. Standing in the middle of the road. Parking in the middle of the road or parking lot because parking in the parking space three feet away would be too much of a hassle. These people don't think about other people. Ever. In fact, it almost feels like they go out of their way to make other people's lives miserable. It's entitlement to the extreme. I'll walk in the middle of this road because it's my road and fuck you for trying to drive on it. I'll blast my music in the middle of the night because my music and machismo is more important than your insomnia or sleeping children.
Aggressive Drivers who brag about it. No, it is not a badge of honor to get eight speeding tickets in a year. That's called stupidity and a giant waste of money, especially if you are a grown ass adult. I know who you are. You are the guy who almost caused a 10 car pileup (and will eventually) because you decided that the cars going 75 mph weren't going fast enough for you so you whipped around them, squeezing in between to semis in order to get where you are going 30 seconds faster. You are the woman who is shouting in her car and riding someone's bumper because they are slowing down in a school zone. Look, I have looked at my GPS. Do you know how much time you shave off of your drive when you drive fast and fierce? Usually a minute. Maybe two is you are exceptionally speedy. Where do you need to be in that minute that you are willing to risk your life and that of everyone on the road? Is it worth it? Is going fast worth a life?
Essential Oils. If lavender oil really cures snoring, I am sure that every Somnologist in the world would be handing it out. The idea that every doctor is crooked and in the pocket of BigPharma is ridiculous. You know what holistic medicine is called when it works? Medicine. Your cuts are not healing faster, your son's bellyache is not cured by oregano oil, and it isn't disease prevention. It's a snake oil placebo that only works because you want it to.
Stay-at-home-Moms and pyramid scheme home businesses. You are being scammed. You will not make money selling tupperware or nail polish or diet shakes. Ever. The least you can hope for is a bunch of free samples. To be successful at these business, you will have to treat it like a real 40 hour a week job. Which kind of defeats the whole "I'm a stay-at-home mom thing" in my mind. And it will alienate your friends. Seriously, if one more person tries to sell me fucking Jamberry nail wraps I'm going to unfriend them, online and in real life.
People who anthropomorphize their pets. "Dear Mom, I see birds outside, can I go outside?" accompanied by a picture of their dog staring out the window. They aren't funny like 'I Can Haz Cheeseburger'. They aren't even mildly entertaining. Never mind that no matter how many ways you take a picture of your dog, they pretty much always look the same with varying backgrounds. These people also will whip out photos of their animals whenever someone is talking about a pet and/or their children. Frankly, there is a point where it crosses over into the weird. I know you love your pet, I adore my cat, but she is an animal. She doesn't understand English as far as I can tell and I don't believe she is capable of love in the way that humans understand the word.
Insiders Only Club. There's this new guy in my office who is obsessed with Jazz. He is a jazz musician, loves Jazz bands, and has a rather deep knowledge of the subject. He and another co-worker hit it off immediately. During a work party, I (mistakenly) sat down at their table, interested in getting to know this new guy. These two sat there talking about Jazz for 30 minutes and barely acknowledge my existence. (I would have moved but all the tables were full) Didn't even ask my name. And here's the real kicker, I am a classically trained musician with an extensive knowledge of Jazz, musical theory, and the history of music. These guys were so into the thing they were talking about though, that they refused to let anyone else into their conversation. We all have our obsessions, but with these kind of people, it seems like they are rudely assuming that no one else but them can know about a particular subject. Caveat: I work for an academic publishing company so intellectual elitism is a disease here.
Religion bashing by people who don't understand religion. I grew up in an Assemblies of God Pentecostal Charismatic Evangelical background. I was homeschooled. We didn't own a television. At one point my mother grew her hair long and only wore dresses. They have since slacked up a bit, but it is still common for me to call my mother, tell her I have a headache, and the next thing I know she is praying for my healing. Even though I am no longer religious, as someone who grew up around this, I completely understand their mindset. Sure, there are things that drive me nuts about religion too. What is not cool is when you overhear your coworker going on a diatribe about how weird all homeschoolers are and how they just know (based on pure instinct) when a person has been homeschooled because they grow up to be religious nutjobs. (I have no idea how I made it back to my desk without exploding.) Or the person who makes a blanket statement about Evangelicals, but has never actually met anyone who is an Evangelical, let alone bothered to try and understand where they are coming from, whether they agree or not. I don't make blanket statements about Muslims or Hindus because my knowledge is limited and I know it. It is better to learn than to act like I know so much about something I do not. This does not mean you cannot criticize, only that you must realize and acknowledge your limitations. Also, be willing to learn. And no, my co-worker still has no clue that I was homeschooled, despite her supposed perfect radar.
Judging something based on public opinion. We all read that news article, watched that video, heard that interview. Yet somehow, no one can agree. Did they or didn't they? Once the "official" story comes out, the opinions shatter further. Some people become conspiracy theorists, others believe the official report, while others use their own personal experiences to color the story. After all, because they have experienced an anecdotal moment that could be vaguely seen in this light, this situation was probably the same. And although they have never worked in the particular field that is in question, they know an awful lot about it based on armchair reading. In this Age of Opinion, the masses have become the judge and jury before all the facts are laid out and once they have made up their minds, nothing will change it. Guilty until proven innocent. It makes it just that much harder for the professionals to get to the truth. You may be right, you may be wrong, but none of that matters because your personal feelings and experiences are more important than the truth of any given situation.
Believe it or not, despite these daily annoyances, I manage to lead a fairly drama-free life. When the fly buzzes by, I acknowledge that it is there, that it does in fact bother me, and then move on. Deep breath. Don't take it personally. Your co-worker does not know that you were homeschooled for seven years. Don't get too upset. Moving on. But I also admit that I will probably not be developing any deep friendships with these people either. And here's the thing, I know that there are other people out there who would never be friends with me based on their own pet peeves. Perhaps they can't stand people who interrupt when they talk (I don't mean to, I've just got so much to say) or they don't like talkative people. Maybe opinionated people bother them. Or they feel uncomfortable around meat eaters. Whatever it is, we all have things that bother us and people we wouldn't be friends with. For some people that list is very short. I'm okay with my little group of friends.
Jehovah's Witness woman from last week dropped off a "packet" this morning. This included a two page letter concerning our conversation, in invitations to a fall festival, along with two six page print-outs about how a god exists and the historical accuracy of Jesus. I threw it away. My husband had no issue with this. In his words, "What does she even know about you or us? Nothing. This is why I would never prosthelytize to a stranger. She doesn't know about your journey, your faith, what you have been through, or even how you were raised. A ten-minute guarded conversation resulted in her thinking she accomplished something and you being annoyed. What does she know?"
Folks, I have been searching for truth my entire adult life. It led me to some hard places. Now, I'm not going to walk around saying that there is no god, but I also know that the religious are unable to provide me with the truth that is necessary to believe there is one. Biased computer print-outs supporting your ideas are what I read for decades and I believed it. I was convinced that when the History Channel or a documentary questioned the validity of a historical Jesus...well, those people were just asshole atheists. It took me a long time to actually look at those people and accept that there may be some truth to what they were saying. You, a religious zealot who feels the need to knock on people's doors, are certainly not going to be the one to prove there is a god. People have been trying to do it for thousands of years. Learned people with years worth of learning. Philosophers, psychologists, theologians, pastors, Bishops, the Pope himself. None have proved the existence of a god. You think you can do this with two computer print-outs and a ten minute conversation? No. At this point, if there is a god, I'm going to need some proof, not philosophy. And I want to go on record as stating that if there is a god, and that god is the Christian god, he is an absolute asshole and I don't know if I would be all that keen on worshipping him. I used to, because I put more weight in the language of love from Jesus. But this also meant I ignored all the horrible god-sanctioned things in the Bible. If you believe the whole Bible is true and shows the character of God, then you must also know you are worshipping a god who told the Israelites to wipe out entire people groups, encouraged hostile takeovers, condoned slavery, and helped create laws in which women were nothing but property. So yeah, even if there was a Christian God, I'm not at all interested in jumping back on that bandwagon.
Today I made the mistake of opening the door for a Jehovah's Witness. We were expecting some friends and I thought they were early so I eagerly opened the door and was a bit annoyed by what I found on my doorstep.
Now, if I thought Jehovah's Witnesses were insufferable when I was a believer, they are ten times worse when you don't believe. You could almost see the hunger in this woman's eyes when I honestly replied that I don't believe in Jesus. She tried to hand me something about how Jesus did exist and I asked her if it mentioned anything about the gospels lying about the census and how there is no Roman, Jewish, or Greek records recording any census. She smiled this beautiful and annoying as fuck smile and said that she would love to talk to my about my questions. I politely declined. I have studied sources from antiquity to historian, theologian to atheist and the truth is, the only reason to believe that the census happened the way Matthew described it was because it's in the Bible. So fuck that.
We went back and forth. Me trying to close the door without being impolite. She smiling this condescending smile. She tried to tell me that my foundation must not have been very strong in her faith, I told her she was very very wrong about that. I was well-indoctrinated. I used to prosthelytize for my religion just like she did and I believed it. All of it. I know she doesn't believe me. Just like I used to believe, if you are no longer a believer it must mean that you never believed or at the very least, your faith was weak. She must have said she understood a dozen times, which I seriously doubt because if she did, I don't think she would be knocking on my door.
Frankly, it was an annoying conversation. In the past all I had to say was, I am a Christian and I'm not really interested in converting. If they pushed, I mentioned their cult status and again said I was not interested in converting. Conversations end pretty quickly when you suggest someone is in a cult. But by mentioning I didn't believe anything, it was seen as an open invitation, as if I must have a hole that needs to be filled.
Next time, I'm just going to pretend we aren't at home. I live on the third floor of an apartment complex. I don't have time to have stupid conversations with brainwashed idiots who pretend to understand my faith journey. By the end of the conversation, I was cold and five seconds away from slapping that stupid pandering smile off her face. Fake smiles bug that absolute shit out of me.
Two weeks ago I wrote about how I refuse to be anything like the judgmental asshole I used to be, more concerned with being right than being there for my friends and family. A conversation I had last night with my best friend only solidified this.
I have known my best friend for almost eighteen years now and we were pretty much good friends from the beginning. At the time, I was a more than a bit judgmental and learned quickly that if I didn't hear from *George for a while it usually meant he was doing something I wouldn't have approved of. Sometimes, because we had many mutual friends, I knew what it was. Sometimes I just guessed. Now, when I don't hear from him for a while it means he is wallowing.
George and his wife had a baby back in July. A few months before that, George quit his job in a fit of anger. An action that he regrets and doesn't regret, depending on his mood. He is married to a basic bitch who tells him it doesn't matter one sentence and then dumps machismo societal expectations of the male bread winner in the next. Add to this the fact that George did not want to have a baby, but as with most things in their relationship, she wore him down. As you can imagine, he is a bit resentful about that. And he still doesn't have a job and any efforts to study for a new career have failed miserably. Now, I am not going to lie and tell you I don't have some strong opinions about all this. He shouldn't have quit his job, no matter how angry he was because he had a baby on the way and it is easier to find a job when you have one. Particularly, when you have no actual job skills that would get you anything beyond minimum wage. And you have the worst temperment for retail. It takes at least two people to make a baby and he needs a serious attitude adjustment when it comes to this kid and his wife in relation to the baby. He is heading for a quick divorce and parental estrangement if he keeps up with this attitude.
Did I say any of that to him? Not so much. What I did was listen to him. I listened as he explained why he was so frustrated by his job search and finding a babysitter. I listened as he told me how their friends will babysit (for money mind you) if he is working, but refuse if he wants to study. "I'm moving backwards. The job I have lined up pays $8.25 a fucking hour. If I could just study, I could make three times that in three months." But he can't do that because instead of thinking six months down the road or having a five year plan, his wife is thinking about right here and right now. And right now he doesn't have a job, isn't providing for his family, and he friends have made it clear how shameful that is. I get it, I told him. I went back to school so I wouldn't have to work retail. Four months after graduating from Grad school I was laid off from my first (in my field) professional job and had to go back to working retail. Despite getting a managerial position, it felt like a setback and I was miserable. I did not tell him how stupid he was to quit, I didn't chastise him for not having life goals, I didn't put down his wife for not supporting him, nor did I tell him that he should just suck it up. These are his frustrations at this moment.
We then talked a bit more about his marriage, the baby, and giving up. At this point I encouraged him to get counseling, before things get worse. That the resentment he is carrying around is affecting his marriage, baby, and outlook on life. I told him that we don't give up because there is light at the end of the tunnel, even though he can't see it. It's also not about just him and his wife anymore.
This morning I wake up to a text that says something like: Thanks for calling me yesterday and listening to me bitch and stuff. It's crazy but after I ranted and then talked to [wife] about some things I felt better. I guess I don't realize how much of a social creature I really am and when I have to stay home with [son] I guess it makes me feel cut off from the world. Plus stressing about work and stuff and hopefully it will work itself out today. I found my light at the end of the tunnel. But I am very happy to be a daddy and I wouldn't trade my son for the world. I've just been stressed about things and he's an easy target to blame.
This was followed by a baby photo and the caption read: How can you be mad at a face like this?
I know some people think that being a good friend is telling people the hard truths or being the only one who speaks up when no one else will. There may be a time and a place for that, but experience has taught me that listening goes much further. I have also learned that those "hard truths" people have a tendency to burn through friendships fairly quickly as people get tired of the judgmental friend who tells it like it is. Eighteen years is a long time to maintain a friendship. I'm aiming for eighteen more.
Motherfucking son of a bitch pastor who preyed on my young friend when she was a teengaer, sexually groomed her, and had an affair with her has opened a new church. Of course, when it came out that this sexual predator tried to pursue a relationship with a teenager in his church, starting at the age of fourteen and continuing on until she was nearly seventeen, he was removed as a pastor. When he refused to take ownership of the affair, mostly through denial and then later, complete lies, he was asked to leave the church completely. There were people out there who were angry about it. People who insisted that my friend should have stayed silent, that she should have let him tell the truth "when he was ready". Some didn't believe her of course. And in true Christian fashion, there were some that felt that since he apologized so nicely, he should just be allowed to keep being the pastor. But the lies continued and my friend kept being dragged in front of the board to tell her story again and again until she finally put her foot down. No. You know what happened. My story isn't changing, has never changed. His story however is obviously suspect, otherwise why would you have brought me here again. So she moved away, far away to start a life over, free from church members who blamed her for the loss of their handsome charismatic pastor.
Now, despite everything, he is starting a new church. Because in the Christian community, as long as you apologized and asked for forgiveness, it's okay if you are in a place of authority over families. Over teens. Most of his parishioners will never know. They'll assume their pastor is a good wholesome family man, just like the last church did. Since these non-denominational churches have no heirarchy, there is no one overseeing any of this. A pastor who flirts and pursues relationships with teenagers can bounce from church to church. As long as the guy is handsome and friendly, no one will care.
Do I think he will do it again? Yes. Because he wasn't sorry about it. He was sorry that she told someone and that he was caught, but based on the lies, I doubt if he really thinks he did anything wrong. Maybe the next girl will be a teenager? How old will she be when he starts to talk to her? How will he hide it from his family? Convince his wife that it's no big deal that he is seeing an awful lot of that teen girl? Will he tell her that she is "almost as beautiful as his wife, although not as skinny"? Here's the bigger question...was my friend the first one?
A little backstory: This man was never charged because like a lot of sexual predators, he is smart and patient. The law in my state says the age of consent is sixteen. So for two years he developed a very close relationship with her, but never did anything. He told her how beautiful she was. He encouraged her not to date anyone outside the church. He knew her very troubled history of abuse and neglect and took advantage of it. By the time she turned sixteen, he was ready to make a move. And he did. She knew it was wrong, but loved the attention from this handsome, charismatic, older man who told her she was beautiful. Of course, even that was twisted. He would tell her that she was beautiful, but not as beautiful as his wife because she wasn't as skinny. My young friend desperately started to lose weight, trying to compete with a woman that she should never have been in competition with. I didn't know any of this was happening btw, but I could see how unhappy she was and made an effort to befriend her. When she cut if off with him, she didn't tell anyone. She didn't tell anyone for four years because she was afraid of the repercussions, of being cut off from his mother who had become a grandmother to her. When this woman died, my friend knew that she must say something. This was a secret that would eat her alive if she didn't. When she told her parents, the first thing they did was go to the police, but since she was of an age to consent and admits that she wasn't raped, there was nothing to be done. He did try to lie about it at first. That is until she came forward with evidence. Photos, emails, letters. Even then, he tried to suggest it was a one time thing, a momentary lapse in judgment on one day. He never owned up to the fact that this happened for years, not just one day. He got up in front of the church and assured his congregation that it was an "emotional affair" only. I'm sure this is what he told his wife too. Of course, people in the church stood by him. There was a petition at one point to reappoint him as pastor. In a church of almost three hundred, it got twelve signatures. The board brought in three independent investigators (pastors) from other churches to get to the bottom of the truth. In the end, they ruled unanimously that this pastor should be removed as pastor because he had 1) preyed on a teenager knowing that she was an easy target for his advances 2) was unapologetic about it and did not think it was that big of a deal 3) had willfully lied and tried to deceive the members of his church, the board, and his wife and 4) had actively tried to discredit my friend in order to make her testimony sound false. All sound reasons for someone not to be a pastor. But here we go again, because he wasn't charged and there are far too many Christians out there that think forgiving erases all. I can forgive people, but it doesn't mean I'm going to give you the opportunity to do what you did again, especially if you are completely unapologetic about it. The original church is still having a hard time handling this whole thing. Some of the people in their church are related to him and his family through blood or marriage. They play music together. My friend kept being dragged in front of the board for what I'm not sure. To see if she would drop her allegations? Hoping her story had changed? Hoping that something she said would somehow make this whole thing better? Eventually, she just cut herself off from them. No, you don't get reassurances from me. Your pastor/friend did a bad thing and you need to rectify that in your own mind. It isn't the job of this now young adult to fix this for you. The evidence is clear and the man you thought was so righteous, isn't. Deal with it. I don't interact with any of these people anymore because of the way this was handled. And it obviously makes me angry that so many people are still so supportive of him. This man should be working at a construction company not as a pastor.
In the more conservative Christian circles, education is often viewed through a very skeptical lens. A means to an end. On the one hand, it is very important and many parents sacrifice a great deal to make sure that their child's education is the best, either through private schools or homeschooling. Of course, the added caveat is that those educational systems also promote their brand of Christianity. Admittedly, there are some of these Christians who are more concerned about the insulation and indoctrination of their children then they are about education, but my experience as a homeschooler says that those people are few. Among my many home educated friends and private schools friends (both of which I did), I know very few who didn't go on to college. Now, those friends fall into a couple of categories. They either went to extremely conservative Christian colleges, lived at home while attending college, or went to a state college. I am the only person I know of who attended what would be considered a very liberal college. I chose my college because they had an undergrad program that I wanted to do and I had heard of them. I did not, not once, consider the political and ethical makeup of the college I was attending.
I didn't begin my undergrad degree until I was twenty-three, by that point I had abandoned many of the things my parents had taught. By this time I believed in intelligent design evolution, heresy to my young earth creationist parents. I no longer believed in faith healing, was skeptical of being slain in the spirit, didn't think homosexuality was a sin. I found a church in my new city that was much more liberal in thought and focused on racial reconciliation and community outreach, both things being very important to me. My mother visited once and I had to tell her that she couldn't dance at church. She balked and demanded to know why I would pick a church that was so "oppressive". I just rolled my eyes, knowing that what she meant was why didn't I pick an charismatic church where people do whatever they want, no matter how ridiculous. That too I had abandoned, when I realized that the only reason I was closing my eyes during worship service was because I couldn't stand watching these people gyrate like a bunch of fools.
Most of my classes were literature, writing, or publishing focused. I already had an associate's degree and my new school took almost all of my credits and so I had 2 1/2 years of classes focused in my major. But there were a few exceptions. One was psychology. My sociology credit didn't transfer over and I was required to take one philosophy or ethics course. I chose Contemporary Ethics as it seemed interesting. I think it was after the second class, I realized that announcing I was a Christian would probably not be in my best interest. The first reason being just the educational environment I was in. The second was because there was a super Catholic girl in the class who kept using the Bible to back up all of her viewpoints and she sounded like a complete fucking moron. People treated her like she was one too. And so I convinced myself that God told me not to tell anyone that I was a Christian. What I told myself though, was that I was going to attempt to argue my own ethical viewpoints without using the Bible. And so the semester moved on.
Here is what happened though. By the end of the course, I had successfully argued from a principle-based ethics approach for the entire semester without using the Bible. When my classmates found out on the last day that I was a Christian, they were completely surprised because the Catholic girl had essentially made all Christians sound like idiots. I was so proud of how I had shown them that Christians can argue for the "right" things without resorting to "because the Bible tells me so" as an answer.
It was then that I also realized that one could have morals and values, strong ones too, without being backed up by a religion. It was a small moment, but it was another seed of doubt to add to my growing garden. I had, without the Bible, proved that you didn't need religion to be a good ethical person.
My parents feared how higher education would change me, sure that this would be like God's Not Dead where an atheistic professor would try to convince me that there is no god. I went to an extremely liberal school and that never happened. No professor even suggested it and only one liked to complain about the president and conservatives. Believe it or not, I actually shut that shit down with a, "Aren't we here to learn? Why are we spending so much time bashing the president? Can we move on now?" And we did, because my professors were awesome like that. My parents fears were unfounded. I didn't become an unbeliever because of a professor or even a particular class. The seeds of doubt were created through me. They happened because I was fearful to be open about my religion because I could see how stupid it sounded and a bit because it was a hostile environment for the religious. My school definitely loses points on that front. It wasn't hostile in a physical sense, but in a, if you want to be seen as smart you won't announce you are religious.
This is not something I have ever challenged a Christian to do, to argue certain ethical standpoints based purely on logic and not religion, but it is something people should all do. For some people, it will just be a series of justifications and rewordings, trying to make the Bible not sound like the Bible. But for others, it may be that additional seed and provide them some insight into the idea that you don't need religion to believe certain things are right or wrong.
I get Christians. Because my beliefs used to be their beliefs, I understand their insane leaps of logic and the constant justifications. I can understand other religions that follow holy books as well as I know where they are deriving their understanding of a god. It might not make sense, but at least you can see where it is coming from.
I don't understand the "spiritual". I have a close childhood friend who knows about my atheism. We often have interesting exchanges regarding religion since we grew up in similar households, with similar mothers, who believed very similar things. While I have abandoned religion and spirituality all-together, my friend has created an odd mish-mash of religion that relies heavily on Christianity, but ignores anything she deems ridiculous or constrictive. This means that while she likes the concept of a god being in control and having an ultimate purpose, she had no problem with pre-marital sex or regularly getting drunk, despite how we were both raised. She talks about prayer in more of a meditative way, but is convinced that if people pray/meditate enough or know someone is meditating/praying for them, they can be healed. For example: She has a horrible narcissistic father who runs hot and cold and often treats her like an afterthought. One day she was so angry with him and then, when she prayed, it was like a switch was flipped and she was able to forgive him. So that must be god because there is no way, in her own power, she would ever be able to forgive him like that.
Even though there is no evidence for this kind of prayer working other than what Christians (and the spiritual) like to claim. Actual scientific studies have come away with no evidence that prayer helps anyone, whether they know they are being prayed for or not. I questioned her (and this supposed divine being) as to why there are babies with cancer? People starving to death every day? People dying in hospitals, sometimes of curable diseases that just weren't caught in time? And considering the statistics of people who pray and believe in a god, it is safe to assume that many of those people are crying out, desperate for divine intervention, and never receiving it. If this unnamed deity cares so much about your relationship with your father, why is that caring not extended to other people? "Don't you dare say God works in mysterious ways," I warned. "If we are saying there is a god, but he isn't the Christian one, then we cannot use Christian-isms to explain behavior of a deity." She tried to say, well human beings have free will and those people who are starving are starving because someone took their food or won't give them food or they made a choice that brought them to that point. What about babies born with diseases or disabilities? I asked. They didn't do anything wrong and often disabilities have nothing to do with anyone's choices. Why would a loving deity who cares about your relationship with your dad, allow a baby to be born with Progeria?
That whole free will thing falls apart rather quickly if you don't have the Bible to back you up by the way. Because if you don't believe in Adam & Eve, Original Sin, a fallen world, redemption, Jesus Christ, and the resurrection, then there just isn't any reason to believe that a god cannot act because of "free will". If you are letting go of any written god, then you begin to understand why the Greeks and Romans believed the way they did. Because if we think of a god as being petty and not caring about humanity's problems, it makes a lot more sense then an all-knowing all-powerful god caring but not doing anything. But with the "spiritual" it's like they are writing their own god rule book and pulling from other religions. Ladies and gentlemen, this is how new religions are born. Some goober with some sense of a god starts spurting out gobbly gook in an effort to explain the world around them and even though it doesn't really make sense, they still convince themselves it is true.
My friend, for all her good traits, is not a thinker. She wants to believe in a god because she wants that hope in her life, but also knows that the other faiths available to her are not right either. So she makes up her own. And I don't get it. Why make up your own religion? What is the point? If you truly believe that there is something out there, but is unknowable, then why try to create rules for it? Why try to define it using a holy book that you don't believe in?
I hate politics. I don't mean this in a this-election-cycle-sucks kind of way. For me, politics are probably the least interesting thing I can think of right next to Calculus and Football. There is not a single part of me that enjoys learning about it. I have never watched a single debate because frankly, how well two people argue with each other will not sway my vote in the slightest. Also, I own about 800 movies and the worst one in the bunch is better than watching two old people talk over each other.
I do vote. I vote in almost all elections, including local and primaries. The only reason I vote is because I know how hard women fought to vote and I feel like I owe it to them to make an educated vote. As a cynic, I don't actually believe my vote matters in the slightest. At all. I don't think it matters who I vote for as president. It matters a bit more on the local level, but even then, I usually don't see it mattering that much, especially when you are a liberal minded person living in the Bible Belt. I mean, I'm not part of the electoral college system and with millions of people in the US, one vote doesn't mean diddly.
One thing that I do find fascinating about this particular election cycle though is the mental gymnastics people are doing in order to favor one candidate over the other. If this was just about policies regarding abortion, guns, gay marriage, and illegal immigration, I would understand. I get it. You think abortion is wrong and you want a candidate who, if they aren't going to outlaw it, will at least legislate it to death. One issue voters annoy the shit out of me, but at least they are consistent. But the problem for many of my conservative Christian friends seems to lie with the fact that they have to choose between two liars. So then they have to start playing a game of "Who is the Worst Sinner?". A pastor of a friend wrote recently that he was going to vote for Trump because "Hillary is a liar" and "at least Trump is open about his sin." This is a fascinating justification to me. So, lying is now a worse sin than prejudice, adultery, divorce, tax evasion, and treating immigrants badly? All of those things are expressly mentioned in the Bible btw. But it's okay because at least he is open about it? And never mind that Trump has done his fair share of lying and stretching the truth. Let's also address the fact that every single human being on this planet has lied. Some do it more than others, but there is not a single person who hasn't done it. Not even this pastor. If he says he hasn't, then he is undoubtedly a liar. Lying, although certainly not a kind act towards our fellow man, is part of the human experience.
Did I miss something with this whole open sin thing though? I mean, I attended churches for almost three decades and those who were openly living in sin, often found themselves not welcome in the church anymore. If they weren't kicked out via some form of "church discipline", then they were pushed out by sharp judgment. Now, to be clear, I went to and grew up in extremely conservative Evangelical churches. Not these moderate churches that allow homosexuals and unmarried couples who live together. My pastor growing up wouldn't marry you if he found out you had already slept together or lived together. Same church denomination wouldn't allow our associate pastor to ever be a senior pastor because he had been divorced. But now we have these same pastors (and Christians) making allowances for Trump because they can't bring themselves to vote for someone that is okay with abortion? Which honestly, although I don't agree with it, I would at least understand if they just admitted that this is why they are voting. It does feel a bit like being in Bizzarro land.
If we are using the Biblical definition of sin to measure political candidates and their eligibility for presidency, then I think Clinton actually wins hands down. Sin is sin right? This is a common phrase from Christians to point out that all sin is equal in the eyes of God. If this is the case, if it is all equal, then the issue is really the amount of it and whether they are relishing in it (and possibly repentant), not the content of the sin. I hear a lot about Clinton lying about emails and my mother mentions Benghazi occasionally, although the second I haven't heard in quite a while. But Trump has a list of sins and lies that go on and on. When called out on them, he doubles down and speaks even more lies and slander. Things that the Bible expressly forbids. Trump basically does everything listed in Proverbs 6:16-19. The Jesus of Matthew 25 wouldn't be too happy either. The Bible is also extremely clear on rich people and their boasting.
I think most Christians know Trump is not a Christian, no matter what they say, but if you are one and insist that you are voting your conscience based on the Bible....and still want to vote Trump...then you are a hypocrite. This post isn't about being for or against anyone, only pointing out the hypocrisy of using the Bible as your system of belief and then ignoring it completely when the candidate in your party doesn't line up with it. And yes, I do think a lot of this boils down to prejudice and Christians having a false martyr complex. And when push comes to shove, I think many of these conservative Evangelicals just can't bring themselves to vote pro-choice even if it means voting for a person who goes against all of their other values and beliefs.
Finding out your brother is an atheist and you aren't the only one in your family. Awesome.
Finding out your brother was suicidal after coming to this realization. Awful.
Me and my siblings get along fairly well. Even with the sheltering thing from one, autism in another, and one who is very secretive. Of course, the one who is secretive (we'll call him *Andrew) was only that way because he felt like he couldn't be himself in our family. And he couldn't. When I was eighteen and nineteen, I was just then hitting my "teenage stage". I never even considered doing drugs or having sex. At that age though, Andrew began to live two lives. One was the perfect Christian kid who never did anything wrong and had the sweetest most virginal Christian girlfriend ever. Behind the scenes (most of this came to light years afterward) he was smoking weed among other various drugs, developing a cigarette addiction, sleeping with his girlfriend, cursing, hanging out with people who were definitely not Christian, and lying the entire time.
As his siblings, we were aware that there was more going on then Andrew was telling us. My parents bought the whole thing hook line and sinker. To be fair, they always did. He has always been an exceptionally good liar and my mom was especially fooled by them. My sister-in-law in an act of horrible privacy-invasion looked through my brothers phone and found tons of nude photos of his girlfriend. She freaked out and told everyone about it. My brother was angry at the intrusion, but unapologetic towards the pictures. At one point, despite vehement denials that he wasn't having sex with his girlfriend, I told him to please use protection. Please. I repeated this over and over until his shoulders finally sagged and he said that they always used protection. It makes me sad that my own religiosity, along with that of my family, was the reason he kept all of this so secret.
But I didn't know that within all of that, my little brother was also struggling with his faith too. When he let go of the notion of a god, he said he was confused, angry, and rudderless. He couldn't talk to most of his friends and family because we were all so super religious that he knew what the answers would be. This makes me feel a bit guilty. My brother needed me, but didn't feel comfortable talking to me. That's fucked up. Why did I live that way? Why was I more okay with being super judgmental Christian then I was a support system for the people I know and love? How many other friends and family have struggled with something and felt like they could never say anything because they feared my judgment?
My sister-in-law hates divorce. Doesn't matter how bad things are, in her infatalized Christ-addled brain, she believes that divorce is always bad and avoidable. Always. And so, when her friends come to her and are having marriage problems, she gives them the advice that any judgmental asshole would. Hang in there, doesn't matter how things are, God hates divorce, blah blah blah. Why anyone comes to her for advice is beyond me, but some still do. How many more of her friends need a shoulder to cry on, but can't go to her because they know how judgmental she will be? How many has she convinced to stay in toxic marriages? How many have contemplated suicide because that seemed like the only option out of a horrible marriage?
For the record, I am neither for nor against divorce, although I do have my own opinions. I think that if you are married, that should be treated with a good deal of gravity and you should do whatever you can to make that marriage work. I hate this, therapy-won't-work bullshit that people come up with. I hate how quickly some people throw in the towel. And I loathe the saying "we fell out of love", because I absolutely believe that love is an action and a choice and what you are saying is, you don't want to love that person anymore. In the same breath, I also understand that people get married for the wrong reasons. They have expectations their spouse can never live up to. People change. And there are also extremely abusive marriages that will eventually result in someone's death if they don't leave. No matter what my opinions are though, I rarely share that with anyone and especially don't share it with someone who is struggling in their marriage.
For me, the reason I acted like an ass was because my need to be right and righteous trumped my compassion and understanding. I liked being right and was assured in that rightness by the Bible. But I hurt people. I know I did. My own brother couldn't come to me when he began to have doubts. That is not a life I want to live. I want the people I love to know that they can talk to me about anything. I may not understand or always have the best advice, but I will listen. It is even possible I won't agree, but I will listen. I told a good friend yesterday that whenever she has a little extra money in their month, she needs to get therapy. She needs to do this before she gets pregnant and has a baby. "You need therapy in order to become the best mother you can be, because your mother was not what she should have been. And you need to get that sorted." I wasn't mean about it. I didn't say she was completely screwed up. I didn't try to offer some uneducated friend therapy. When another friend tells me about her on and off again boyfriend, I listen, try to offer a few relateable stories so she knows I feel her pain, and offer to hang out with her.
My best friend is currently a mopey mess because it turns out he didn't magically fall in love with his son when he was born. He is bitter, resentful toward his wife, hates being at home, hates taking care of the baby, and acts as if his life is over. It doesn't help that he and his wife refuse to go on any outings with the baby except to the grocery store. I don't agree with it. It bothers me greatly that this man is acting like a child and whining about his loss of freedom when he was part of this. Blaming his wife is also messed up since he was more than capable of saying no. But here is what I do instead of tell him what a baby he is being about the baby. I listen. I listen to him complain, I ask slightly-leading questions to make him think, I encourage him to do things with his wife AND child. And when he needs a break, he knows my house is always open, and he has used this respite numerous times. The reason I do this is complex. Practically, I know that when people are resentful and angry, they sometimes take it out on their child. I don't want to think that my best friend would ever abuse his child, but I am also aware that parents that don't like their child aren't exactly in their right mind. I also know that, even if this leads to a divorce, I still want him as my friend. Even if I don't agree. And I also know that sometimes people need a place to vent in order to deal with life. I provide him with a safe, non-judgmental place to do that. Mostly, I do this because he is my friend, I care about him, and don't wan to drive him away because I have some deep seeded need to be right. My sister-in-law has lost a lot of friend because of her attitude.
It's hard sometimes. I am an opinionated person. It bothers some people because I seem to have an opinion about everything. But I have learned over the years that if you want to maintain a solid friendship and want people to come to you when they are struggling, you keep your opinions to yourself. What they need is encouragement, support, and occasionally some hard truth, but what they don't need is your judgment.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.