Recently USA Today released an article concerning adoption agencies and Catholic charities. It was basically in defense of religious bigotry because "at lease they are helping children get homes." Of course, it ignores the families who are being turned away for not being the right religion or having lifestyles that the church considers sinful. Warning, if you go searching for this article, you will bump into my comment where I am not exactly being incognito so you will learn my "true identity". I made the following comment:
The problem lies in that in some states, all the private agencies ARE religious. So you have the choice of working with either the state (who focuses primarly on foster care and reunification) or a private religious agency (who does both foster and adoption, sometimes focusing on babies). And if those agencies refuse to work with you because you aren't religious or because you are some variation of "sinful" in their eyes, then you are just out of luck. That makes me question whether they really care about finding children homes or if they are more concerned about conversions and maintaining their religion. In my state there are several agencies that require prospective parents to sign "statements of faith". A problem for me since I am not religious. This left us with only two choices of private agencies, both of which are still religious, but don't seem to care so much about my personal faith. We adopted a teen in April and I find it appalling that any child would be denied an opportunity to have a family because someone's personal life doesn't line up with a religion. Bigotry is still bigotry, even if the organization is doing something charitable.
Someone, of course, replied with a "But what about standards? Shouldn't there be standards?" Sure. Absolutely. My husband and I had to do a 30 hour training course mandatory for all foster parents whether they plan to foster or adopt. We also have to do an additional 24 hours of training over the 2 year period that our license is open. Our home was inspected by a case worker who went through our drawers and asked us dozens of questions. We had to fill out a 30 page questionnaire that asked questions about our philosophy of parenting, what our relationships were like with our parents & siblings, what our support network looked like, hobbies, any infertility issues, and even our sex lives. I had to hand over tax returns and list out, in detail, our monthly budget. We had to be fingerprinted and then state and federal background checks were run. (in some states you have to pass a drug test) In our home, which was inspected by a case worker, we have to have two fire extinguishers, a double-locking case for all medication, a locking case for the refrigerator, knives in a drawer, and an escape ladder in the kid's bedroom. I had to have a fire inspection and escape routes hanging up in our house. Dangerous chemicals have to be locked up. On top of all that, we have to fill out a mountain of paperwork each time our child went to the doctor, dentist, hospital, or took any medication, of which he has several. A social worker then came once a month to review our paperwork and to ask more questions to be sure that we weren't abusing our kid and were meeting his needs. Most biological parents will never have to go through all that to have a kid. So yeah, I would say there are a lot of standards in place. Do crappy parents still slip through the cracks? Sure. Some of those people lie because they know how to swindle people. Some may start out as decent parents or thought they would be good parents and then quickly discover that they aren't, and then instead of quitting the system, they stay in and just become abusive. Those people are problems, but not the ones my commentor was referring to.
No, he is suggesting that the standard by which we judge someone as being a fit parent IS religion. That despite all the rigorous things that a foster/adoptive parent has to go through in order to be a parent, those aren't good enough if you don't worship God. And you know and I know that they only mean one particular God. They aren't going to accept a Muslim adopting at a Catholic adoption agency. I've been around the religious most of my life. I've heard this rhetoric before. I absolutely know that the aim, the goal, is not just to find families for kids, but also Christian families.
I also know that religion doesn't make a person a good parent. My mother, despite loving us dearly, was abusive when I was younger. She screamed at us all the time, called us names, and was verbally abusive. It took me a long time to come to terms with that, because I love both my parents dearly. Mom also resorted to hitting when angry and would aim at whatever was in reach, meaning that spankings often turned into getting hit on the arm, shoulder, back, head, or legs. Spankings were often done in anger and in the heat of the moment, which means instead of one or two swats you could get upwards of 12-15. Eventually my parents took some parenting classes and learned some techniques for better parenting and things got a lot better. But there are still some incidents that happened well into my teen years that we just don't talk about today. Incidents that most definitely would be considered abuse by anyone's standards. Religion didn't magically make my parents better at parenting. All it did was make them self-righteous about it. I got punished for being sinful, disobedient, or wicked. I was reminded that in Bible times rebellious kids like me would have been stoned. I was prayed over in church to remove the spirit of rebellion from me. Mine is not an isolated past. Most of my friends grew up in very similar environments. Between all the hugs and guidance and family times, there was also an underlying threat. It's why so many people justify and normalize spanking, because it happened to so many of us. And for the record, my husband is not a better parent than me simply due to his religion.
So no, religion should not be the standard in which we judge whether someone will be a fit parent. There are a billions of people on this planet who are religious and some of those are also some of the shittiest human beings you will ever meet. I had a friend at fifteen, who told me that her step-father was sexually abusing her. He ended up going to jail for 5 years because of it. He had also been a deacon at his church and was training to be a pastor. He would have passed any religious standards to adopt. Religion is probably the least reliable "standard" for deciding whether someone will be a fit parent.
With over 107,000 children in the US available for adoption and waiting for families, I find it criminal that any organization would deny them that opportunity based on personal opinion and bigotry. I absolutely believe those organizations that discriminate based on religion, sexual orientation, or marital status should not be tolerated, in the same way that we wouldn't tolerate them discriminating based on skin color. And I think atheists and other non-religious organizations need to start stepping up and creating organizations that are open to all. If religion, particularly Christianity, is going to dwindle and die, the non-religious must step up and fill those voids. We need humanist or even more interfaith organizations that will meet these great social needs. I'm afraid my gifts and talents do not lie in starting my own non-profit business, but I would definitely volunteer with and champion the cause of those organizations. We, the non-believers, HAVE to stop allowing the religious to dictate charity.
My sister-in-law is not well. She hasn't been for quite sometime. Despite being in her late twenties, her body is slowly but surely shutting down on her. My SIL has epilepsy, a condition she was born with but went undiagnosed until her early twenties. People just assumed she was clumsy, forgetful, not paying attention. But all those episodes where she seemed to zone out or where she would fall down, we know now was a result of seizures. At one point it was determined that she was having anywhere from 9-12 micro-seizures every hour. These don't look like your "typical" TV drama seizures. She doesn't fall down or foam at the mouth, although she has been known to black out. (subsequently she can't drive anymore) Instead, her hands shake, she loses focus, her speech slurs just a bit. The worst part to what is happening to her is inside. Her body is so busy trying to repair the damage that constant seizing is doing to her brain, that it is neglecting all her other parts. Her joints have become loose, she has difficulty exercising, she's constantly tired. Seizure medicine is not helping and now the doctor is talking to her about death. Yes, death. She's in her late twenties with four children and her doctor is trying to prepare her for the idea that if this continues to progresses, eventually she will become brain damaged and then her body will shut down. This is terrible knowledge for anyone to process, particularly someone so relatively young. They (my brother and SIL) have been exploring their options.
They traveled to a state where cannabis oil is legal to see if it helped. It did. Are they willing to uproot their lives and move away from family for that? Perhaps. I would greatly miss my little nieces and nephews, but I would completely understand if they decided to do this. SIL is determined to not let this stop her from enjoying life either. Last time she visited us we went to the science museum and pushed her around in a wheelchair. This isn't the life she wants, but it allows her to spend time with her kids and husband. Someone once shamed her by stating that if she was so sick what was she doing going out all the time? What they didn't see or know was that she spent the next three days in bed after that little adventure, in pain and barely functioning.
I have not always gotten along with my SIL, but I also don't harbor her any ill will nor would I want my nieces and nephews to grow up without a mom or my brother to not have his wife. I'm also really glad that despite her being an essential oils enthusiast, she still goes to the doctor, takes medication, and is looking for alternative solutions for her problem. Of course, as you would expect of the devout, she also believes that God can heal her. A part of me understands. It's the reason why people play the lottery. Even if there is an infinitesimal chance that you may win, it's still a chance, so why not? Prayer and healing seem to meet that same need.
As we are talking on the phone the other night she said that the reason she posts about her health on social media is because "I believe in the power of prayer." Except I don't think she does. Traveling to another state to try cannabis oil and going to the doctor, sometimes weekly, tells me that you know that you have to do more than pray. What I think she likes is the idea that people are praying for her. It makes her feel loved, especially since she doesn't get out much anymore. If people are praying for her, then they are thinking about her. That means she is not forgotten. That her problems aren't too much that people are abandoning her. I completely understand that feeling. I imagine how nice it must feel to have someone take you aside at a party (the first time you've gone out in weeks) to tell you that their daily prayer list that they faithfully pray over. And not just them, their sisters also pray for you.
Obviously, based on how often there is miraculous healing, this isn't going to do a damn thing, but people are thinking about her. Since she does believe in a god, there is also that tiny bit of lottery hope that this god will listen to your prayers and magically heal you even though he never has before and there is no evidence he has done it before either. Being pragmatic, I am worried. I am worried that they don't have a living will. I'm worried that her health, which has been quickly declining, will send her into an early grave. I'm worried that my brother will become a widower in his thirties and that my nieces and nephews will lose a mother. And based on all the available data, that is looking like a very real possibility.
Husband and I have been hosting a once a month game night for almost three years now. It is a nice time to get together with friends and an interesting mixture of people show up each time. Sometimes there are only three or four of us, sometimes there are ten. Some of the people who come know about my deconversion, some don't. We play games, so it's not like the subject comes up often and it's certainly not a church-affiliated event so no one cares. I recently invited a friend who admits that he really separated himself from friends due to a controlling wife and some depression issues and now that he is divorcing said wife he is trying to reconnect with old friends. He is also an open atheist, which I am a little jealous about, but it seems to have caused him a great deal of heartache in the beginning.
So there we are, learning a new game, and a friend asks how we know each other. I told the truth, we met at a youth group we both used to attend. To me, this was all the information they needed and it would have made him more accepted by the group if he had left it at that. But he couldn't. I'm not sure why but he apparently felt compelled to tell them all about his deconversion, the problems it caused, and his issues with the Bible.
Holy fuck people. It was awkward. They were uncomfortable. He was uncomfortable. I was uncomfortable. I felt torn between completely agreeing with everything this guy is saying and trying to shut him down because I could feel the tension from two of the ladies at the table. They were NOT okay with him speaking against the Bible. One quipped, "Well, you can believe in science AND the Bible." Another added, "I studied those things and still found faith." You could tell they felt attacked even though all he was doing was stating what he believed. But here's the thing, it was an attack of sorts because no one asked him why he wasn't a Christian anymore. No one asked him to go on a rant against the Bible and their religion. And they are looking at my like what in the world and I'm in panic mode because I'm thinking, these people don't know I'm not a Christian anymore and I don't really want them to know. I ended up changing the subject back to the game and he apologized later stating that he never knew what to say in those situations.
So here's the advice I would give him if I was a bit more confrontational: Nothing. You say nothing. You nod your head and say, "Yes, we met at youth group. I definitely don't go to that church anymore because I had some issues with it." And then you leave it the fuck alone. You play your games. You laugh and joke and you don't offend people you don't know. And here's the thing, I would expect the same from my Christian friends. No Christian at any game night in three years has gone on a rant about religion and why they are a Christian and what they believe. Ever. That's not what that night is about.
And I wondered, is this what it's like to be openly atheist? Feeling the knee jerk need to tell people that you don't believe and why? Or is it this guy's experience and insecurities that leads him to do this? Now, don't get me wrong, I had an hour long conversation with one of the girls after game night in the parking lot and she didn't say anything about him. It was a blip on her radar. But if you feel the need to interject your beliefs or non-beliefs into a situation that doesn't call for it....well, don't. You aren't going to earn brownie points for making sure everyone knows you are an atheist/religious/liberal/conservative/etc. I know there is a case to be made about being up front with who you are, but a simple, "I'm not religious anymore" would have sufficed.
Today my husband sat down and talked with a friend (let's call him John) about a "missions" opportunity. The idea actually came from my husband who years ago told his small group that the churches should be more concerned with the care and keeping of others, than prosthelytizing. That a church's charitable nature shouldn't have strings attached and that people were now wary of the church because of this. The commandment to take care of the poor, widows, and orphans didn't include a mandate to covert those people. You should love out your Christian faith in your actions, now just with words. Husband also discussed that one shouldn't have this savior complex where you come into a new place with the assumption that because there are non-Christians there, the current organizations are not doing a good enough job. You should be partnering with people and learning from them when you can. John was one of the few people within the group who took this to heart and pondered over what that could actually look like.
Now, husband and I do give to charitable organizations. We are willing to fund Christian ones if we support the ministry or effort. One thing we both agree on is that if someone is marching over to a foreign country to try and convert the godless heathens, then we want no part of it. We did not support John and his wife when they decided to go to Europe to become missionaries. I did not agree with the organization they were teaming up with and I absolutely believe that this couple very much had a savior mentality. They were going to go to Europe, learn a new language, partner with the local churches there, and win people to Christ. Being the good Evangelicals that they are they went to a country and city that is 73% no religious affiliation and 23% Catholics. (Catholics aren't really Christians in Evangelical circles. Just don't tell the Catholics this of, course.) So they are already on my list of not-so-awesome Christians because their lives revolve around witnessing and how to be "better witnesses". Due to unforseen medical issues, they returned to the US and are looking for a new ministry opportunity. Of course, like any good prosthelytizer, you can't just start a ministry that will feed the poor, or become foster parents, or start a charity for single mothers. No, you have to figure out how to prosthelytize, but not in too open a way.
John wants to create a fun space on college campuses that would be a sort-of safe space for people to come and talk, play games, hang out, and ask questions. Husband reminded John that this would mean being a space for everyone...LGBTQ, heathens, Christians, non-religious, etc. If people catch wind that you are a religious organization bent on conversion masquerading as a fun space, people will get mad. I know I would be pissed if I showed up for a game night event at college only to end up with someone asking me if I was religious and what I believed. I would have been mad even when I was a Christian, because it would have felt like I was being tricked. I would also never have returned.
I know John. John is SUPER religious. I don't believe for a second that he just wants to partner with some Christians and create a fun new club on college campuses to help students. I don't think he gives a fuck about students. He just knows that statistically if people don't convert when they are relatively young, they probably never will. He knows that many young people fall away from their Christian beliefs in college. And he knows that there are a truck load of "lost" people that he could get his hands on. John never went to a normal college btw. He went to a Christian college followed by seminary. He has no idea what they teach at so-called regular schools, but he's basically a God's Not Real (the movie) truther and obviously college students are being led astray right and left.
I told husband that John will need to have a fully formed business plan and some partners he wants to work with before I even consider donating any money. More than likely, we won't give any money because I doubt John will be able to come up with a solid business plan that doesn't read like a Youth With a Missions or Campus Crusade for Christ pamphlet. But we shall see. Maybe he'll actually listen. Maybe he learned something in Europe. Or maybe there will just be another crappy college group that will use board game nights and book clubs as a way to get their foot in the door to preach at people. Backdoor evangelizing. I also want to point out that we live in a predominantly Christian area in the Bible belt. I rarely meet atheists or ex-Christians. Even the people who have a problem with organized religion can't quite bring themselves to not believe in a god. So John will be preaching to people who, even if they aren't going to become preachers when they graduate college, they are probably not going to denounce religion either.
Personally, I would love if more people did denounce religion altogether, but I am certainly not going to try and evangelize non-belief to people. Such things could make a person a social pariah and people have been known to lose jobs, friends, and family over such things. On a very personal level I hate the idea that John wants to go minister to college kids. I hate that people who may just be beginning to think for themselves, could be sucked back into religion by a well-meaning dude with a savior complex who thinks everyone needs Jesus in order to live happy and fulfilled lives.
I've mentioned before that I think my dad suspects that I may have fallen away from the faith. It is important to describe the kind of man my father has become in more recent years, from of the more legalistic dogma that plagued him growing up.
My dad is a musician, a baby boomer with a love for blues and making guitars. His idea of a good time is hanging out at Blues clubs and open mic nights and listening to musicians play. On the weekends he goes to local events and craft festivals to sell his handmade guitars. (which are amazing btw) I highly approve of this new hobby turned lucrative business. On Sundays my parents flit from church to church, visiting friend's churches, going to events, or sometimes going to a local megachurch. Once a month they host a backyard jam where my dad has built a stage. They invite all the neighbors. My dad worships God through his music and rarely is demonstrative with his faith these days. He is still a young earth creationist (see previous post on The Days of Peleg), but seems torn between science and faith.
I am my father's daughter. We are both logical people. (and musicians) Religion is approached from an analytical angle and we used to talk for hours on end about various theological points in the Bible. Those conversations began to change when my own beliefs began to evolve from YEC to intelligent design to evolution. I no longer feel comfortable talking about those things with either of my parents because I respect them and don't believe that at their ages, they will ever change their minds.
The other day I am on the phone with my dad and out of the blue, he brought up one of Mayim Bialik's video concerning how she rectifies religion and science in her mind. He really wanted me to watch it. I am subscribed to her YouTube channel and have seen the video a few times now. My dad sounded so disappointed that I had seen it. As if this video would somehow help me to rectify god with science.
Firstly, I believe Mayim believes in god because that was what she was raised to believe in. Period. That is the major reason why any of us believe or believed in a god. We are taught that Santa Clause exists and continue to believe unless someone we trust says otherwise. Second, the god she believes in is very different from the god I was raised to believe in. A mystical wish-granting prosperity-doctrine superstitious super being who sends people to hell. Jews don't have a hell. She is aware of this. She knows that her definition of God is very different from the Christian majority in our country. Thirdly, she sees the worship of God as recognizing that there was a creator and reveling in that creation with gratitude and humility. This means that in her version of her religion, it is okay to study science because that is simply learning more about God's creation. What she doesn't address in her video is that when you study science you run into some fundamental problems with the Judeo-Christian account of creation and you then have to address literal vs. figurative interpretations of the Bible. My dad would not have liked that video if Mayim had admitted that she believes in evolution. (which she does btw) Finally, Mayim addressed the idea that God gives her purpose and she finds some kind of comfort in knowing that everything and everyone has a purpose. Personally, I like the idea that we find our own purpose as we move through life. There is no big plan, which may upset some people, but I find it freeing. There isn't some plan out there that I may be missing because I haven't prayed enough or am not obedient enough. And those terrible things that happen? That's life. By being living sentient beings we run the risk of getting hurt, sick, run down. Things will happen to us that are outside of our control. Sometimes we can rise above it. Sometimes it kills us. If the problem lies in other humans then the fault lies squarely on the shoulders of those who do the hurting. Some of those people will receive justice and many won't. Our brains want to make sense of it, to find a pattern, to believe that those who do us wrong will receive some sort of punishment. That helps some people sleep at night. Not me.
My dad suspects. That's obvious now. He isn't sure what exactly I do or don't believe in, but he suspects something. Perhaps my kid has said something, slipped up as I suspected he might. It's a big secret to ask a kid who already doesn't agree with it, to keep.
I know. I know. Eventually they are going to find out. My mom's righteous indignation is something I can deal with. My dad's quiet disappointment will be hard.
This where the stories of Atlantis came from, which would be from around the same time period, give or take a few hundred years. I mean, logically (ahem) the only way a man as old as Noah could live as long as he did is if they had advanced technology. Also, it would explain why one man was able to build such a sturdy boat. He had power tools! Yes, you read that right. But here's the thing. My dad was right about one thing--You have to make these mental leaps in order to make the story work. One farmer at the age of 100 couldn't possibly build an ark the size described in the Bible by himself without serious help. Since the Bible does not specify if anyone helped him, and based on the recent pitiful museum built in Kentucky, there really isn't a way for someone to build that monstrosity without help of some kind. Hence, this idea that Noah was part of an advanced civilization that lived hundreds of years and still had the raw intelligence that God gave Adam & Eve. In other words, those early people were smarter than us.
Now, let's jump ahead to Genesis 10:25. As a kid, my dad told me that this was referring to the splitting apart of the continent Pangia into the continents we have today. Later, he changed his mind to say that the divide was one of language, not geography and that he believed the continents split during the flood. We are not going to go into the fact that such a vast upheaval of land in one go would have caused a catastrophic effect on our planet to the point where it would not have been habitable 40 days after the floor. The volcanic activity alone, nevermind the tsunamis would have been awful. And there is absolutely no evidence that this all happened at once since we do actually know how these things work. So back to Peleg. My dad now believes that this verse is referring to the Tower of Babel and everyone getting a different language. This was actually one of the first Bible stories I rejected as it is obviously an attempt by ancient peoples to explain why there were so many different languages. Looking at the etymology of words we can see how language changes and grows. Linguists can look back at language and trace its origins. We may not speak Egyptian now, but we can look at some of the dialects and languages spoken in that region and come up with a reasonable approximation of how the language sounded.
But last weekend my dad threw me a new doozy when he suggested that not only was language divided in the days of Peleg, but that was when human beings also developed an in-group/out-group mentality. Say what now? His logic was that because human beings could all speak the same language at one point, they all got along. It wasn't until we couldn't speak the language that we began to form psychological connections with people who are the same as us and shun those who aren't. Now, the Bible itself contradicts this notion. I mean, Cain already killed his brother fairly early on in Genesis and it suggests people were living in cities already and would kill him if they knew of his terrible dead. That's basic otherness. People build cities to form groups.
Now, not liking to argue I said to my father, "I'm not sure about the days of Peleg, but it is a natural human instinct to want to group yourself with people who have common interests and beliefs." I wanted to insert, it was a safety measure created by evolution, but I'm not stupid. The interesting part of this whole conversation is that my mother was giving me some serious side eye the entire time because she knows that I think most of Genesis is a load of hooey. We've gotten into it before.
Several years ago, I had a friend who had begun to drift from the fold. He started dating a woman who *gasp* had a child out of wedlock AND wasn't religious. The relationship wasn't meant to be, but when said friend (we'll call him M) announced he was atheist a few short months later, the blame was shifted to this woman. Her brother said, "I warned him that she was bad news." The woman wasn't exactly the most stable person, but from what I can tell, her brother thought she was bad news because she was not a Christian. A mutual friend said she just knew something was "off" about the relationship. Rumors swirled and R began to distance himself from his Christian friends. A lot of newly deconverted do this as being preached at isn't exactly what one wants to hear from people who are supposed to love you unconditionally. My only request to M was that he not treat me like I was an idiot for still believing in God. Even as a Christian, I had given up so many of my fundy beliefs and considered myself to be fairly rational, so although I was very accepting of his atheism, my only fear was that he would have some kind of intellectual superiority complex. What I didn't know, what none of us bothered to ask, was whether he was okay. His deconversion process was rather quick and it left him in a very dark place. Depressed and suicidal, he had to start going to counseling over the loss of his faith. It was really rough for him because he had wrapped up much of his identity in his religion. The loss of which threw his entire being into question. Although, I could certainly have been a better friend at this point, I wasn't a bad friend as I never tried to preach to him nor was I accusatory. My thought process was, this is my friend, Christian or not.
But M needed distance and Christians were no longer a part of his in-group. He began attending atheist meet-up groups, something I am a bit jealous of now since my husband would be very non-supportive of this. He found a woman who shared similar views. They got married. We talked every now and then via instance messenger and whatnot, but it was at best, an old friend turned acquaintance. Then I deconverted. And he was my ONLY friend that I knew who was an actual atheist. None of this agnostic, kind of spiritual, not really sure bullshit that half my friends have. So I told him. He listened. And confessed that he really had just cut ties with me because he assumed that he already knew how I felt and what I believed. I confessed to him that by the time he deconverted, I had already moved into a very liberal form of Christianity and believed more than half of the Bible had been mythologized. It's also why I was so understanding of his atheism, because I too had doubts. We chatted a bit more.
Today I was in my hometown visiting with friends and asked if he wanted to catch up over lunch. He agreed. Unknown to me, his wife is one of the jealous types who freaks out about men and women being friends so he showed up super tired because wife had kept him up until 1 in the morning fighting with him about going to lunch with me. The only way she "allowed" is was for him to reassure her that my husband was coming. Unknown to him, my husband needed a break and had no intention of leaving our couch that day. Folks, if you are reading this and you are the type who gets jealous, then I'm telling you right now that you have some control and trust issues and you should get some help for that. I can understand if your spouse has cheated on you, but if they have been friends for a long time, you're just being an asshole for trying to control that situation. I have known this guy since I was 17. I was never interested in him romantically and if I had been, I had plenty of opportunities to pursue that option had I wanted to. I did not. M is a nice guy, but not my kind of guy. Contrary to some people's opinions, men and women can be platonic friends simply because you enjoy each others company. I have several male friends who I have maintained a decades long friendship with and all of us are now happily married to other people and also quite comfortable hanging out alone without those spouses.
Anyway, this is the first time since my deconversion that I have spoken face-to-face with someone who is an avowed atheist. Like I stated before, most of my friends are at best "spiritual" (whatever that means) and so I do find myself tiptoeing around the subject of religion in order to not offend. My parents say bullshit and I just let it go. It's like walking on eggshells with my husband because anytime I bring up anything remotely religious, he gets defensive. But here was someplace I could let my guard down and it was fan-FUCKING-tastic. It felt so good to laugh at the ridiculous things the people in my life have said. My dad had just brought something up earlier that day that I shared and M laughed so hard he snorted. And it felt good. It felt so good to know that I am not alone and that yes this is ridiculous and to know that no one was going to be offended by it.
We caught up. We shared our deconversion processes. We laughed some more. Talked about mutual friends. He's planning on divorcing his wife, an imminent thing that she has no clue about it. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about it since I know I am only getting part of the story, but it doesn't matter. I'll be a good friend. I'll listen like I should have done years ago. I won't judge. I won't make it about me or get defensive. This chat only reiterated how much I am in need of an atheist friend who lives nearby. I'm not sure where to find such people, but I need just one friend where I am not either a) hiding my atheism or b) walking on eggshells.
I have never understood people who like to debate and argue. Very early on in my life I learned that arguing with people, whether it was pleasant or not, never got you anything but hurt feelings and broken relationships. Although very capable of defending myself, I prefer to hold myself apart when any kind of drama is going down. I do not insert myself into situations, rarely offer advice, and never ever do I fight with my friends about things we disagree on. If our discussion is turning into a debate, I shut it down quickly. Lucky for me, I am married to man who also sees little value in arguments, although he does like to be right. Well, more like he thinks he is usually right. Now, I am aware that being good at debating can be a strength too. Lawyers, lobbyists, talk show hosts, politicians, moderators, salespeople, philosophers, coaches all have to utilize this trait. But I am none of those.
One of the things that makes me very uncomfortable within the atheism world is how much people debate. Reddit subs are full of people who stumble into debates at Starbucks or randomly at the library. Street epistimology is a thing. Churches and humanist organizations host debates all over the world, usually focusing on one single question. People post videos trying to debate the existence of a god, the validity of their holy book, or some other equally inane thing. Social media is full of regular every day people posting their inane comments supporting their position with the hopes that someone will comment on them. These debates make me extremely uncomfortable. When I was still questioning and seeking, I found that they raised my blood pressure and most of the time I would fast forward through podcasts and call-in talk shows because I couldn't handle the cringy religious people and the arrogant way some of the atheists talked to them. As much as I agree with Hitchens and Dawkins, I loathe the way they talk to people and find their "burns" to be a mixture of cruelty and arrogance.
I dread getting into a debate about religion with someone. Sometimes I will lie and tell people I am religious just to avoid discussion. I've done this three separate times. My one and only experience with a Jehovah's Witness made me angry and uncomfortable. Trying to even explain myself to my husband was hard and not really open for debate. Changing the subject is something that I have become adept at with my Christian friends and family.
Recently, I met an adoptive mom who runs an adoptive mom group. I really need something like this as I am a talker who really needs to talk to other people who understand this crazy adoption life. But when I asked a friend about them, now a co-worker who used to live in their city and also adopted three kids, she warned me that they are very conservative and religious.. This coming from a woman who still thinks I am a Christian and is pretty religious herself. "Well, shit," was my first thought. Come on, I already have enough of these religious right wing fanatics in my life. And now I have to make a decision. Do I do what I do with several of my newer religious friends and just avoid the topic of religion altogether, never professing or denying a belief in a god? Or do I be open and forthright, while also intrinsically inviting debate and drama into my life? Will these women invite me into their homes and lives if they knew I was an agnostic atheist? Will I find myself ostracized within this very small adoption community world? Or worse, will I become the focus of a missionary friendship? I live in the Bible belt, the topic will come up.
I don't know the answer to any of this. I'm not going to change who I am. I'm not suddenly going to become the kind of person who enjoys arguing and debating. But I also know that hiding who I am from people, compartmentalizing friends, is going to eventually bite me on the ass.
What would you do in this situation?
Quite a storm went across my state yesterday, with high winds and flood warnings. An hour west of me, a EF2 tornado touched down in the town I grew up in. My parents were across the street at a restaurant and hid in a bathroom as the car wash business across the street was ripped to shreds. Someone died. Several houses were wrecked. As I was looking through pictures on-line I ran across a picture with three houses in it. Two had clearly been wrecked by the tornado, while the one in the middle was not visibly damaged from that angle. In their front yard stood a sign that said "Thank You Jesus." (above is the exact image I am referring to) Of course, the Christians in the comments section took this as a sign. Literally. Look at that. It's a miracle. That house wasn't harmed because they had that sign out in the front yard.
So let me get this straight...God spared this house from a natural disaster because they put a sign in their front yard thanking Jesus? Of course, the other two houses could have had the same sign and those signs were sucked up by the tornado that descended on them. But let's say that they are the only people proclaiming their religion, doesn't the Bible and Jesus state directly that you should not be proclaiming his name loudly on the streets? Aren't you supposed to do so quietly, living your life as an example of love? And what about your neighbors? Does God just not love them as much. I'm sure the people in all three of those homes were probably praying? (I live in the Bible belt. Most people are Christian and most people pray) Would God really allow someone's home to be destroyed because you didn't put a sign in your front yard?
Now, the God of the Old Testament would have destroyed everyone's homes. He wouldn't have spared anyone. Whenever the Israelites got out of hand, God punished all of them. Surely, there were some people who weren't all complaining or stealing manna or whatever, but God didn't care. God of the Old Testament also doesn't seem to care about people having homes. After all he destroyed the earth with a flood at one point, kicked Adam & Eve out of their home, exiled his chosen people several times, and most of his people lived in tents for hundreds of years. It must be assumed that at one point, someone's tent blew away in a sandstorm and I don't think God gave a shit. But what about the New Testament? Does Jesus care where people live? Well, he was homeless and told people to give up everything they had to follow him. This included homes and families, so I would say no. Paul would have asked people to open their homes to others if they had it, to be available for communal living.
This story gets more interesting though, because the most extensive damage to occur happened to a church. Now, they were openly telling people about who they believed in and loved and God didn't spare them. So with this logic, God only spares people who put signs in their front yards, but no other kinds of declarations of faith.
Of course, I mention this sign issue to my mother, mostly to gauge what crazy Christians think of this and her response was "miracles do happen". But why? Why would God, who clearly doesn't care about people having houses, spare someone's house because of signage? You know the answer. "God works in mysterious ways. Maybe God has a plan for those people. We may never know." Oh I can tell you...we will *never* know. I have always hated the, this-makes-no-logical-sense-therefore-it-is-mysterious crowd. To me, the answer is simple. If there is a god, he doesn't give a shit about your house, whether it has a sign out front or not. Natural disasters destroy things. That house probably did have damage, it just wasn't obvious from the angle that the picture was taken. It may have been minimal but things like pressure, the materials that the house was made out of, the age & repair of the house, how the other houses protected it, all come into play. Most likely they have insurance on the home and the damage will be repaired within the next year. The houses next door may either be repaired or take the money from insurance as a loss and buy a new house. This may make some people think about their mortality or whatever, but since no one was seriously injured, it will probably get boiled down to an interesting story to tell their kids and grand kids. The butterfly effect from this event may alter someone's life, but it is more likely that it is just a blip on life's road that is full of beautiful and shitty things.
This kind of thinking from the faithful is not good thing. It suggests that some people are better or more deserving of God's grace, even though scriptures tell us that God's grace is for everyone. It suggests that outward signs of faith will somehow cover you, like lamb's blood on your door, protecting you from harm, which is downright superstitious. (something else Christians are told to avoid) It also suggests that when a "miracle" happens, the cost doesn't matter because God spared one of his faithful. There's no way you can't get a bit egotistical if you believe you are the one God spared for a "reason". And although my mom wants to believe in miracles, someone died in this tornado and one house being spared will never replace that life. If what my mother believes is true, then it makes it seem like this god is more concerned about outward confessions of faith then human life.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.