It's Halloween again and once more, I will be doing the most boring thing in the world...nothing. Having not celebrated the holiday growing up, this holiday means absolutely nothing to me. I have no fond memories, no favorite costumes, no traditions. I've tried to create some of my own by carving pumpkins, going to the pumpkin patch, dressing up at work, but I'm usually the only one and it just makes me feel lonely. I also don't like scary movies and find things like zombies to be grotesque and pointless. Nevermind, I have a kid who is obsessed with the occult and has trouble distinguishing between fantasy and reality. If you only knew how many conversations have resulted in me firmly reminding him that, "Zombies are fantasy. They are NOT real." I DO watch Supernatural, but can't watch it anywhere near my kid. After all, he has used Supernatural as one of the cornerstones of his made up religion.
There's a part of me that is sad that this holiday will always be tainted by the way I was raised. The Satanic Panic was real when I was a kid and we went to extraordinary lengths to not celebrate it. One of my strongest memories of my parents irrational behavior concerning all things Halloween had to do with a "spooky" hay ride where my dad ended up shouting at the driver, made all of our family disembark, and then walk a mile back to our car because my dad thought spooky=Satanic. It was beyond embarrassing and I remember thinking, I love my parents, but these people are nuts. There's also another part of me that is just like, whatever. I don't celebrate Diwali either, even though there are celebrations in my city. It just wasn't a part of my culture growing up and therefore has little meaning now.
All that said, we are buying this house and I may just consider doing a Halloween party next year. I love dressing up and a fancy dress party would be fun.
Husband and I are under contract for a house. This is exciting and although not a done deal as we have three weeks before closing, I don't forsee this going south on us. It's a huge house and although I really like the house, I am still mourning the fact that we won't be building our dream home. This home has a lot of what we want, but not everything and that makes me a little sad. I posted a little bit about this on social media and as you would expect, there had to be one person who says, "Sometimes God completely changes the direction of what we thought we wanted or needed, into something just as beautiful!"
Now, I agree that sometimes Plan F can be as awesome as Plan A. Rarely is it something better, but it will do just as well. This house IS beautiful, but it is also three stories on 1/3 of an acre with a ton of carpeting that my cat will most certainly tear to shreds. Not the one story house on 3 1/2 acres with hardwood floors that we could grow old in. We will have to sell this house when we are old because I will not be climbing those stairs at 80. Obviously, I don't believe that God was the one who orchestrated this change. I can also already see the downsides of this, the first being that our friends who were going to build a house next door to us are now going to be a 15-20 minute drive away. This makes me incredibly sad. It also means that we are still in a bad school district, which isn't great for any future kids we adopt. No. We made this choice. We could have chosen to wait and get a different house. We live in an area that has a lot of great houses on the market in our price range. But we decided to jump on this one.
Also, the idea that there is a god out there controlling where people live is absolutely ridiculous. I've been following Humans of New York (HONY) for years on Facebook and this week he is in Rwanda. The stories are horrific. Are you telling me that a loving god who cares what neighborhood I live in, didn't think it was important to control where Tutsis were residing right before the genocide that killed over a million people? You mean he didn't tell all those people, some of which were surely Christian, to move? Or for a closer to home example, I have some friends who moved into a house that they were told was pet free. This is important because my friend's husband is deathly allergic to cats. Turns out, this was a lie. The second day there he was cleaning out the basement and went into anaphylactic shock. Turns out the people before them had a cat and the landlord thought that if he cleaned it good, it wouldn't matter. It did. Landlord ended up paying the medical bills and let them out of their lease. Did this god not care about this man's life? They could have chosen other places? If there is a god out there who truly cares about where people live, then why would he put them in such a situation? To me the answer is simple...if there is a god, he doesn't give a flying shit about where you live. It doesn't care about what you want or need, nor does it have any cares about whether your living situation will harm you, make your life miserable, or even kill you.
At almost every intersection of life, we human make choices that create ripples out into the universe. Since we have no idea what those butterfly effects are, we can only do our best. The purchasing of this house could be great for our family, or it could be a terrible choice. Time will tell. Either way, I rest easy with the knowledge that I am the orchestrator of my own destiny and future, for good or bad.
Recently, my husband and I were having a conversation about Catholic hospitals who refuse to perform certain procedures on the grounds of religion. "They have a right to follow what they believe," he quipped. I could immediately think of a half dozen responses to this, but decided that arguing about it was pointless. Do you have the right to follow your heart and religion? Absolutely. For me, that right ends when it infringes on the rights of others or when you are providing a public service.
I have no problem with an individual Catholic refusing to take birth control and not ever having an abortion. That's awesome that you are living by the truths you believe in that govern your life. On the same note I take no issue with a Jewish or Muslim person not eating pork, a Hindu being a vegetarian, Mormons wearing special underwear, Amish people refusing to use technology, and New Age enthusiasts using crystals and Raki to align their Chakras. Where I take issue with those things is when you are providing a service to the public.
Let's create an example using a devout Catholic man. His name is John and he grows up in a mostly Catholic town in New England. It is there that he is instilled with the idea that birth control is a sin and he should never have sex outside of marriage. Fast forward to his late thirties. John has a gaggle of children and now owns a rather successful music store chain that sell everything from guitars to saxaphones to pianos. People love shopping at his store and he never asks any of his customers any questions about their sex lives in order to do business with them. However, because John is so anti-contraception, he has decided that the insurance plans he provides for his staff will not cover birth control for women. It doesn't matter to him if those women are Catholic or not. He feels that by allowing an insurance company to provide this medicine, he is somehow supporting the practice of it. It also doesn't matter that although people may use his instruments at night clubs or gay bars or for a striptease, he continues to sell his products to them no questions asked. Of course, there is the very real possibility that if he found out that someone was going to use an instrument for something he didn't agree with, he may refuse to sell them the item in question. Where in that scenario does John's rights end and another person's begin? I would say that his rights end at his body. If he is usurping his will and beliefs on another person, particularly one who doesn't believe the same as he does, then he is wrong. Period. It is wrong to force someone to follow your religion, particularly if you have a public business that hires people of multiple belief systems and provides products and services to people of the same.
It is wrong of Catholic hospitals to refuse to treat a patient over a religious belief. It is okay for an individual doctor to say no, I can't do this personally, but there should always be someone else on hand who can and will.
Disclaimer: Although it may seem by this blog that my husband and I argue a lot, that would be untrue. There are certain things that we disagree or don't see eye to eye on. I was aware of most of these things before we got married and decided that they were not deal breakers for me. They drive me nuts sometimes, but on the whole we agree about more than we disagree and get along very well.
I am in the middle of reading The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins, an interesting book that lays out a fairly succinct argument in defense of evolution. Full of studies, statistics, and information, Dawkins walks through the various elements of the theory of evolution from fossil records to carbon dating to what the word theory means in a scientific context. Some of it is information I already knew, but what I like about this book in particular is that occasionally it mentions the Young Earth Creationist (YEC) arguments that are used in an attempt to discredit whatever information is being laid out. For example: The chapter I am in currently is discussing "The Missing Link". What does that mean exactly? Do we really have gaps? Where are those gaps and what does that tell us about fossil records? Can we accurately look at the fossil records and make the types of claims that Darwin and his successors have used concerning the origin of the species? Having grown up in an environment where YEC was paramount and facts were ignored if they didn't line of with a YEC way of thinking, I find this type of book useful. I began to reject YEC in my late teens. I knew that a young earth didn't match archaeological data. Yet there was a part of me that was afraid to explore further. I knew one could believe in an old earth and God, but the two seemed incongruous. If the earth itself, and every species on it, formed on its own for millions of years, what did that mean about God? I knew this kind of questioning would not lead to a deeper belief in God so I left it alone. It wasn't until my late twenties that I actually started to read books about evolution or science books that just assumed evolution was fact.
One area where my husband and I often have disagreements is this very subject, which is surprising because this man claims to believe evolution is true. From my perspective it seems that, although he understands there is a lot of science to back up evolution, enough of the church has weaseled its way in for him to be very skeptical of it. "I'm a skeptic," he claims, followed by something like, "It's only a theory, not a law." Here's the thing about skepticism. I absolutely believe you should question everything, particularly things that you have been taught that have very little evidence. You should seek out that evidence and if there is none, move into the category of I-need-more-evidence-before-I-believe-this-is-true. But if there IS evidence to back up a claim, then, at the very least, it needs to be moved into the this-is-plausible category. At the very least. A few days ago my husband started ranting about carbon dating and how scientists had been wrong about the age of the Earth because of it. Woah woah. Slow down buddy. Scientists didn't use carbon dating to determine the age of the Earth. Scientists use radiometric dating, not carbon dating to determine the age of things older than 12,000 years old. Carbon breaks down at a faster rate than uranium and can only be used to date relatively young things. Radiometric breakdown can be tested and is proveable. We know how long it takes to break down. It isn't a guess. If you had the right tools, you too could watch and estimate this on your own. That is what makes it into a scientific theory, which then makes it a fact. Because in science, theory is a homonym. It has more than one meaning. It does NOT mean guess work. It means that someone had a hypothesis and then they proved it using measurable data that was then peer reviewed and tested by other independent parties. With this information in hand, knowing all the facts about how it works, I have reached the conclusion that the earth is therefore roughly 4.3 billion years old as scientists now estimate. They didn't make a guess, it isn't a hypothesis. But to hear my husband talk about it, you would think it was a bunch of idiots sitting around holding rocks and going, "Yeah, that rock seems really old. I'm going to guess it's a billion years old." And that's the YEC pseudo-science creeping in. You aren't a skeptic, you're a Christian who doesn't accept scientific facts. That thing about carbon dating is straight out of the YEC handbook, so don't act like you know all about science when you are still using Christian pseudo-science talking points.
Is there science I am skeptical about? Sure. The multi-universe hypothesis is interesting and has some mathematical data behind it, but as of yet, it is nothing more than an interesting guess. Therefore, it goes into the I-need-more-evidence-before-I-believe-this-is-true category. Technically a hypothesis is never 100% proven as there could be some variable that the experiment has not encountered that could render it untrue. That is what I love about science though. It is always open to being proved wrong. Sure, the scientific community might fight against it sometimes, but a good scientist should be open to continued peer review and testing. We all know there were a number of scientific "theories" from yesteryear that were treated as fact even though they often had very little evidence and couldn't be repeated by another independent party. Take the maternal impression theory that concluded that a mother's thoughts created birth defects. There was absolutely no experimental support and was rendered obsolete by genetic theory, which has a mountain of data to support it. The Azoic hypothesis, which was at the time considered fact, stated that marine life couldn't exist below 200 fathoms. This was quickly disproven in 1850 with the discovery of Conocrinus Iofotensis.
The Bible is not open to being proven wrong. It claims to be 100% right and demands it's followers find ways to prove it. They work backwards. Instead of coming up with a hypothesis and then trying to prove it, they give you the "fact" (the Bible is true) and then force you to find a way to prove it. And this is nearly impossible. They use archaeology like a weapon. See, Ur is mentioned in the Bible and we found the city of Ur, therefore the whole of the Bible is true. See, Solomon's temple is mentioned in the Bible and since we can see the remnants of Solomon's temple, all of the stories in the Bible about Solomon are true. No one could have possibly made them up after the fact. There's no way Solomon lied about his father in order to make himself more important sounding and to give him credence to take over the throne even though he didn't have royal blood. Mount Olympus is a real place and people really did once worship Zeus. Does the fact that it exists and had devout followers, make it true? A Christian would tell you of course not. Don't be ridiculous. I was even taught that the people back then didn't really believe in the Roman and Greek pantheons. But that isn't true. I've read several historical contemporary accounts and people really did believe. They were convinced that this is how life came to be and it is no wonder they rejected the Christians only-one-god claims when they first started shopping their religion around. For years archaeologists believed Troy wasn't real because it was in The Illiad. That is until they discovered the remnants of Troy. Does that make The Illiad true? I don't think there is anyone out there who thinks it is. It's just a story that happens to use a real place as a way to anchor the story to our world.
I honestly think my husband is in the same place I was at one point. I was interested in science, but scared to learn more about it as I feared it would drive me further from my faith. I knew enough to sound like an idiot and definitely made the carbon dating argument at one point. My husband did not like it when I corrected him on this fact and immediately jumped into the "I am a skeptic" mantra, trying to make himself sound smart by rejecting science he doesn't understand. I would give him a pass on this if I saw him actually studying and trying to understand the science. For example: We watched The Cosmos together and instead of looking up some of the information he didn't understand or wasn't sure about, he just pronounced that he didn't think something was true based one....what...his armchair science degree? He claimed he already knew all about this and he didn't deem the science to be factual. I on the hand read articles, studies, research papers, journals, in an effort to understand the concept I wasn't understanding. I didn't accept the science blindly, but I also didn't reject it out of hand simply because it didn't match up with my religious views. If you really are a skeptic, then you should also be a seeker of knowledge. This may mean that you, just like science, need to be open to change. This does not mean you will lose your faith, but it may mean you have to admit that science does actually have some answers and they may not align perfectly with your holy book.
Last week I traveled with my husband and son to the mid-west to visit with some of my in-laws. My sister-in-law, brother-in-law, and six nieces and nephews to be exact. Family is extremely important to me, particularly my nieces and nephews and so it was long overdue that we took the trip. We were also aware that this would help our son feel more connected to the family since four of these nieces and nephews are adopted. So we hopped on two planes and made our way to the middle of the country where it rained 6 out of the 7 days we were there. I didn't mind so much because I like cold rainy weather. Yes, I am aware this makes me a weirdo.
Although we have not visited too much with this part of the family, my SIL runs a very successful parenting/adoption blog and I know a lot about her family through that. We also chat via instant messenger and a year and a half ago we joined them on vacation, just to see them. It was during this trip that I learned firsthand how sanctimonious this pair are. My husband's family isn't super functional, but they clearly have a very negative opinion of my husband and see him as a bit of a screw-up. They assumed that the only reason we drove 4 1/2 hours to join them on holiday was because we were having marital problems and wanted marriage advice. This is the couple who almost got a divorce over porn. Yeah, okay. Sure. That's why we are here. It couldn't be because of the six adorable people who live with you and I want to have a relationship with.
From their perspective, my husband probably does seem like a bit of a screw up. He's always been a bit of a religious rebel. He had a lot of sex outside of marriage. His first marriage only lasted 9 months and the whole family treated it like it was some kind of failing on his part. Sure, she was cheating on him before and after the marriage, but surely he has some culpability? Right? He dropped out of art college. His career as a decade long cop didn't go anywhere. When he moved to a different state he struggled to find his footing. Of course, this is where the self-righteous duo stopped being in his life. So they weren't there when he decided to go into computers. They weren't there to see him quickly rise in the ranks. They weren't there when we started dating. They haven't been here to see what good parents we are. And so they see him as this screwed up guy from a dysfunctional family who struggled for a long time. I see all of that as the growing pains my husband had to go through to become the awesome man, husband, and father that he is today. I don't wish pain on anyone, but I don't think I would have wanted to marry my husband the way he was at 24.
All that said, it shouldn't come as any surprise that we had a few tense and awkward moments. Most of these moments consisted of either SIL or BIL wanting to talk ad naseum about husband's dysfunctional family. My husband accepted long ago that these were the people his parents were. It is what it is. We don't talk about it often. My relationship with my MIL and FIL are surface level at best. I don't talk to them on the phone and have unfollowed them both on Facebook. So talking about these virtual strangers for two hours straight was exhausting. I wanted to scream, "Can we please talk about something else?"
The most interesting, and by interesting I mean really awkward, was when my SIL began drilling me about church. What church are you going to? What church is your son going to? Why aren't you going with him? I don't like to lie if I can help it, but we were quickly moving into an area where changing the subject would just be suspicious. Husband to the rescue! My husband stands up and basically tells SIL that we don't go to church because he sees no value in it. The people in the church don't follow the basic tenants of their faith, are not open to anyone who thinks just a little differently than them, and asks for obedience in matters that aren't Biblical. As expected, she immediately gave the typical Christian, "Well, the church is full of hypocrites. I choose to stay and try and make it a better place." At this I quipped, "I'm done fighting. They don't want it to be a better place, they want it to remain as it is. I did that for years. I wasted my time on people who didn't care about me at all." We told her that instead of going to church on Sundays, we now drop our kid off at his and then we get some alone time. Sometimes we go grocery shopping. (Sunday mornings are great for shopping) Sometimes we go to a coffee house and just talk. Sometimes we go for a walk together at a park. And ALL of those things feel more filling to my spirit than going to church ever did. I told her flat out that I thought I would miss it more, but I don't. I've quite enjoyed not being obliged to go to church. Thanks to my husband the entire conversation shifted away from me and I didn't have to lie at all about my atheism. All of this went in one ear and out the other, because the next day she invited all of us to church. Ummmm....no. We're good. Remember that conversation yesterday? We really were serious. At this point, the only reason I would ever walk into a church is for a wedding or a funeral.
There were a few other conversations that were religious in nature, but not awkward. Like us talking about my parents and their super-spirituality when I was a kid. Or how the purity culture harmed me. (BTW I bought a bikini today and this matters a lot because I have never had the courage or body positiveity to wear one before. I'm not skinny, but I think I look hot in it.) And the other conversations were about our kids and parenting and books. Mundane things. It wasn't a bad visit overall. The religious talks were inevitable and I was ready for them. In the end though, I suspect that they still think husband is a bit of a screw up. Not because of his marriage or job now, but because he doesn't go to church. There's no winning.
All my life my mom has told me the miraculous story of a donut and the almost-abortion. My mother was 19 when she found out she was pregnant with me. Unmarried and dirt poor in West Virginia, one of the poorest states in the US, she thought that abortion was really the best thing she could do at the moment. My dad, always supportive, offered to take her to her appointment. On the way to the abortion clinic, my mom was hungry, so they stopped at a Dunkin Donuts and grabbed some coffee and donuts. When they arrived at the clinic one of the first questions was, "Have you eaten anything in the past 24 hours?" Oh shit, I just had a donut. So they had to reschedule the appointment for the next morning. That evening, stomach growling, my mom was hanging out with a good friend and that young woman asked if my mom was really sure she wanted to have an abortion. "Have you talked to your boyfriend about it?" So that night they had a heart-to-heart and my dad said that he would support whatever my mom chose, but that he would kind of like to keep it. He thought that they could very possibly be good parents and get out of West Virginia if they played their cards right and worked hard. So they kept me.
My mom often tells this story as if some kind of miracle happened in either the donut or the friend. As if God himself reached down and made her stomach rumble so she would buy that donut. It was also framed in a way for me to understand that although I wasn't planned or even wanted at first, my mom is very happy things turned out the way they did. I am too. I kind of like being alive.
One would think with this type of beginning, I would be fully Pro-life. I am not. See, if my mother had chosen to go ahead with an abortion, I would completely understand. There was no guarantee that anything would have worked out, that my dad would have gotten his act together, that their marriage would last, or that they would have been able to escape West Virginia and the pervasive poverty there. For almost all of their family and her friends, things didn't turn out so well for them. And the first two years of my life were rather chaotic to say the least. Having a baby didn't magically make my parents become more mature. Nevermind that my mother didn't have a clue on how to parent and had to deal with the consequences of that throughout most of my childhood.
When a woman makes a choice to have an abortion, it is rarely because they are just using it as some kind of birth control the way many Pro-life people choose to display it as. The circumstances are often dire and the decision is hard. Some people come to regret it. Some don't. Just because one woman is glad she didn't have an abortion, doesn't mean that all women feel that way. Cognitive dissonance also plays a part where, even if you made the "wrong" decision, you continue to tell yourself that you made the right one in order to have peace within yourself. My mother, at the time of her choice, was not a Christian. I don't think that she would have had regrets at the time. However, once she became a Christian, she most definitely would have been told that she should regret her decisions. What I always took away from my story was how loving and supportive my dad was. He was going to support her no matter what her decision was. That's true choice and even though he preferred she have the baby, he was not going to pressure her either way. I love that. I have always loved that.
My husband and I don't really see eye to eye on this matter. He used to volunteer at an adult for a crisis pregnancy center, a Christian-centric organization that has a bad habit of coercing women into not aborting through some very shady tactics. Their motto seems to be, "The end justifies the means." So this has always been an area that we have disagreed on. Personally, I feel like we should measure life the way we measure if someone is dead, brainwaves and heartbeat. There is some debate as to when that happens with a fetus, but most doctors agree that it is sometime between 9 and 12 weeks. The CDC reports that 80.5% of abortions are performed before the 10 week mark with another 8.3% before 12 weeks. The other 10% happen after 12 weeks. For me, this means that the vast majority of abortions are performed on fetuses who are not viable or alive yet. Yes, they have the potential for life, but their potentiality for life doesn't trump the decision making of the person who already exists, is alive, and is making the decisions. The potential for life should never trump already existing life. I don't even bother discussing late term abortions with people because we all know that those abortions are not performed because some woman out there wants to "kill" her baby and just decided too late. I had a friend who had an abortion at 20 weeks when they found out her baby had no brain. She was devastated. The decision to abort was agonizing and horrible. Yet she is somehow being lumped into the same category as women who are using abortions as a (very expensive) means of birth control. I hate that and I hate the people who make her feel shitty for the awful choice she had to make.
Now, here is where I am straddling the fence. I think abortions should be treated like a medical procedure. Just like any other medical procedure there should be strict guidelines for health and safety. Abortion clinics should be run like hospitals. There should be laws in place about what happens when a fetus is born clinically "alive". Teenagers should have some kind of parental or adult consent. I understand that this means that the very person who got them pregnant, like a father, may be the same person giving consent, but I find the idea of performing medical procedures on children without the consent of an adult to be absolutely ridiculous.
My husband, of course, thinks I am wrong. He thinks that I don't value life like I should. That stating one life is more important than another is playing God. Perhaps that is what I am doing. Children can be quite wonderful. I love holding a newborn in my arms and making faces at them in hopes of seeing that gummy smile. But I can think of no greater tragedy than bringing such an innocent life into this world who will not be loved and cherished. There are people who have abortions for the wrong reasons, just as there are people who birth children for the wrong reasons. Those reasons, whether good or bad, are a woman's choice to make. It is not up to me to determine to decide whether she is making the right decision. It is up to me to be supportive, champion for her safety, and listen without judgement. This may mean that my support may lead to someone changing their mind about having an abortion. It may mean something else. I'm okay with this.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.