It's a tale as old as the church. A pastor, almost always a man, is caught doing something that God & the church would deem to be sinful. Homosexuality, infidelity, molestation, embezzlement. Sometimes the "sin" is less insidious like when a pastor begins firing anyone under him who questions his authority or when a pastor is caught with pornography the week after he ranted and raved against it. These indiscretions sometimes catch up with them, although I suspect many take it with them to their graves.
Those in the church often appear to be devastated as many pastors earn an almost cult following in their churches. For those of us outside the church, who have watched quite a few of these grenades blow up, we aren't so surprised. Wait...you were surprised that Marc Driscoll turned out to be a megalomaniac who bought his way onto the NYT best-seller list and encouraged the practice of shunning those who left his church or were fired? Did you read the man's books or listen to his sermons? Of course, that's the person he was. He wasn't even hiding it very well. Or Ted Haggard who ranted and raved against homosexuality while being diddled by male prostitutes on his down time. At this point, I suspect anyone who is that homophobic is probably struggling with feeling of same sex attraction. We know all about the various Catholic priests who sexually abused the children under their care. Even Martin Luther King Jr., this supposed paragon of virtue, was an adulterer, the truth of which only came out after he died although all accounts seem to point to that situation reaching a tipping point anyway.
Perhaps the strangest after-effect of these serious missteps is that within the Christian religion is a mechanism called forgiveness. Now, unlike the coloquial understanding of this word, this isn't about forgiving a person for a misdeed so that you can move on. This is about redemption and afterlife. This is the kind of forgiveness where you could commit a murder and if you just say the sinner's prayer and ask for forgiveness, the religion not only teaches that you will get into heaven, but here on Earth you are seen as a success story. I grew up hearing about these stories. The redeeming power of the blood of Jesus.
A guy once came to a youth convention and talk to hundreds and thousands of teenagers about how he used to be a gang banger and killed people and his mom was a witch, and then one day he met a pastor who never gave up on winning him to Christ, and eventually he saw the light. Of course, these stories were littered with things that were suspect. That gang banger admits to killing people. He knows the names of the people he killed. But he never went to jail for any of his crimes. But it's okay because he became a Christian and Jesus changed him and he would never do any of that now. Him being in jail for murder would be a waste because his testimony has more of an effect outside of prison. Of course, there are plenty of other people who did go to prison and are serving out sentences for gang related murders, but they deserve to be in prison. Unlike this guy who the Christian community has forgiven. And this guy, this avowed murderer is hanging out with kids. He admits that he still has extreme anger issues and at one point had to separate from his wife because of his issues, but get this, he chalked it up to demons and once they had a good old-fashioned exorcism, he's all better now. And people believe this shit! They gobble it up.
You had an affair with a teenager and sexually groomed her for two years? No problem, as long as you asked for forgiveness in front of the church, all is forgiven. Your old church may kick you out, but nothing is stopping you from starting a new one and several people who feel like you were done a disservice will follow you. Dude feels up a teen and shows her his dick, but it's alright and even deserving of a standing ovation as long as he said he is sorry and looks repentant.
Don't get me wrong. I am all about redemption. I absolutely believe people can modify past behaviors to the point that they are safe to be around, BUT I would be very very careful about what that looks like. If you are caught sexually grooming a teenager, then you should never again be in charge of teens in any way shape or form. You may never do it again. Perhaps you learned your lesson. But you should also not be put in a position where you could do it again. If charges can be brought against you, they should. The Catholic church swept their improprieties under the rug, shuffling known child molesters off to other churches where they would absolutely have to opportunity to commit their crimes again. They hid the crimes from the authorities and all of this was done under the authority of a god and pope. Forgiveness should never mean that a person is allowed to continue to work or function in the same position they did before, with the opportunity to commit the same indiscretions again. That's the appropriate response from people who care. If you care about teenagers or children being abused, you should not allow opportunities for it to continue.
So one of the downsides of being an Atheist, is that apparently you aren't allowed to have problems or bad days. If you do you will run into several kinds of Christians with several interesting bits of advice:
If anyone says this bullshit to you, you need to recognize it for what it is--manipulation. Our lives and bodies are complex. Throughout our lives we will have ups and downs. Illnesses, unexpected deaths, job loss, frustrations, struggles, etc. There is not a human being on this planet that doesn't have some kind of problem, although some are certainly more serious than others. For every American Christian who says God provided them with extra money to buy groceries last week because they prayed, there is a mother in another country who is mourning the loss of their child who starved to death. That other mother prayed too, but there were no magical dollars or middle-class parents, to bail her out. For every atheist with cancer, I can assure you that there are a lot more Christians with it. God isn't punishing them nor is this a test. They got cancer because the human body can suck sometimes and we haven't figured out how to stop all the sucking. Not eloquent, but you understand.
Take responsibility for the things that actually are your fault, work on growth in that area, and ignore the people who think that a god who punishes people with bad times is anyone worth worshipping.
Today we went to a Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. It should be called a church, because that's what it is, but we'll just call it a UU for simplicity. Now, I had always imagined a UU as being the kind of place where people of all religions come and worship together. They bang a gong and do some ooomms, followed by a singing of Amazing Grace and maybe an Islamic chant, followed by a self-help sermon that talks about how you can be a better person so you can make the world a better place. We went because our son is still very unsure about what he believes, but needs to be around more normal teens and we thought that since he isn't really very religious, a UU would be a kind of neutral ground.
What I was surprised to find was basically a Baptist church that had been scrubbed free of all mentions to any particular god. There was a gong, but for no discernible reason. No one explained what it was for, what it meant, and it seemed to more like a school bell to tell you class was now in session. The hymns, some of them familiar, had been re-written to remove any reference to god. The "sermon" was the reading of a quote from a more famous UU member, followed by a few words about the quote. Other than being vaguely uplifting, there was no substance to it. The pastor (or whatever you call her) had this weird spoken word type drone as she read the passages, as if this was some kind of performance art piece. I found it mostly unsettling.
There were a lot more older people than I expected. I mean, my experience living in the Bible Belt is that old people are often neurotic, fundamentalists who tell people they are going to hell and are intolerant of anything that didn't exist "back in their day". I know this is stereotypical, but this was (and is) all my relatives and how all the old people I grew up around were. But I am also aware that there are a bunch of old people out there that were liberal in the 40s, 50s, and 60s. People who weren't religious even back then, who were tolerant of other people, and fought for the right's of others and themselves. And those people have to be somewhere, right? So I guess I shouldn't have been so surprised to find a plethora of them at the local UU.
That said, I realized this about myself: I do not need empty ritual in my life.
Singing Christmas songs that have been scrubbed of all god references, seems stupid and pointless, not progressive and inclusive. I don't know how anyone got anything from that service, but it mostly felt like a waste an a good hour and a half. But we are doing this for our kid, right? My hope is that after a few weeks, he will be okay with us dropping him off rather than feeling the need for us to be in the same building while he is at youth group.
I hate the mythicism that has arisen from the gospel accounts of the wise men. Well, most of the nativity story really. Of course, I'm not even convinced that any of it happened and if it did, a lot of it was exaggerated, but the reading comprehension of modern Christians is astounding. For example, show me a passage in the Bible that says there were three wise men? Go ahead. I'll wait. You won't find it because it isn't there. There is a mention of three gifts, but there could have been two guys or a hundred. The common narrative also puts the wise men at the birth of Christ, but reading the actual written story, it seems that they wandered around for a bit, asked for directions, and eventually stumbled upon the child thanks to a meteorite hanging about the house for an unspecified amount of time that no one else noticed. I've read this part several times because it just doesn't make sense and hasn't since I was a teenager. Did it really say it hovered over the house? Or were they astrologers who were reading the stars? And how does that work if you are a Christian, because I was taught that astrology was witchcraft and mostly fake. But folks, it says "...and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was." (Matthew 2:9) This implies that the thing was moving ahead of them and stopped over the house. Not a sign from the heavens, a literal object. Let's also not forget their quick-stop at Herod's palace because they were originally mistaken and thought that an actual Prince had been born to the King. Another one. By the by Herod had many sons and it was well-known that this was not really a source of pride for Herod. All it was was more competition for the throne and he had several of his sons (along with other various family members) killed. And once they were set straight the guy got super suspicious and then tried to kill a whole bunch of babies. There probably weren't that many young babies in Bethlehem....but WHY were they still in Bethlehem? They were supposed to be there for the census or taxes or somethign. The census (which historically we know didn't take place at this time anyway) only lasts a few weeks at most, it's not a year long process. It's only a 33 hour walk (with no animals) from Nazareth to Bethlehem. At most it would take 4 days to get back and forth. Even if you gave Mary a few weeks to heal, eventually you have to go home. I mean, did Mary and Joseph move to Bethlehem or were they there for the census? Make up your mind Bible.
At this point, the whole story just sounds so far-fetched. Even if your reading comprehension is excellent, the story itself in a historical context just doesn't make sense. It reads like someone who was writing something 70 years after the actual events and realized there were some plot holes so they tried to fix all the plot holes in one short chapter.
My husband hates buying religious gifts for people. This may come as some surprise to some as he is still a professing Christian, but in his mind it is just part of a subculture that Christians use to set themselves apart while using mainstream culture to steal ideas. You know what I mean, A Nike swoosh that says, "Jesus, Just Do It" or a famous painting that has been re-rendered to be more religious. You've seen them, at your grandma's house, walking around at the mall, on highway billboards. Christians love to talk about not being in the world, but they have absolutely no problem stealing ideas from it to "connect" to a wider audience.
The one thing my husband hates more than anything is Christian fiction. We aren't talking about the occasional decent book like Narnia or Frank Peretti. We're talking about the trash romance novels that feature pioneer women and the Amish, which make up the majority of religious fiction at the bookstore. Christian Porn as my husband likes to call it. My mother-in-law loves it. She has at least a half dozen bookshelves full to the brim with this Christian fiction and she reads them over and over again. She reads these books searching for a good Christian fantasy man because she clearly doesn't think she got that when she married my father-in-law. I know this because she has emasculated him to the point of just existing. And they serve the same purpose as porn.
From the Christian viewpoint: Porn degrades women and alters the way consumers think. It hinders men from developing mature emotional relationships with women. It reinforces and super charges the notion that sex is a commodity over which the consumer has complete control.
This idea is taken from several Christian articles I have read on the subject. The problem is that these fantasy romance books aren't any different than actual porn, sans actual sex scenes. Since women are stereotypically ties more to their emotions, it would make sense that more women would connect to a love story rather than through the visual stimuli created by porn. This is not to suggest that women don't watch actual porn, but the numbers have been crunched by numerous studies and the consensus is, men watch more porn and women read romance novels. In the Christian books, the women are shown in a very vulnerable light, with a good Christian man being the necessary factor to complete them. They live simple submissive lives as pioneer women or Amish, slightly rebellious but only because they haven't been able to find a man who will marry them. It alters the way women think about their roles and the roles men should be playing in their lives. It reinforces and super charges the notion that sexuality and spirituality are one and the same and that by consuming these books, one is in complete control and is even doing something righteous by reading them.
"Can I come with you to run errands," my teenager asked me the other day.
I should have been suspicious. What teenager wants to go run errands with their mom on a Saturday morning rather than sleeping in. We climb into the car and head to the Library with Michaels, Best Buy, Total Wine, and Target next on the list in that order. "Well, I wanted to talk to you about something..." he says as we are heading out of the apartment complex. I don't know what I was expecting. Perhaps he wants to share some intimate detail about his life that he doesn't want to share with husband. Perhaps he has a Christmas gift plan for husband and wanted to come along in hopes that we would buy it. Nope.
"Have you ever considered that God might be real." This insulting question has been asked before in my home by this same kid. "Ummm...I used to believe he was real," was my reply. "So yes, I considered it and believed it for a very long time." He then proceeded to try and convince me that because he was convinced there was a god, because he "just knows" I should believe too. I calmly explained to him that personal experiences are just that, personal. Just like I can't ever understand what he is going through as a kid in foster care, I also cannot form my beliefs around someone else's experiences. Now, I know (and you do too if you have been reading this blog for any significant amount of time) that this kid doesn't know shit about what he believes. Sure, he believes there is a god, but he has never read a single holy book, has never had a any kind of spiritual awakening or encounter, knows absolutely nothing about philosophy, theology, or tenant of faith. He hasn't attended a church in over two years and seems to be unconcerned about connecting to one. In fact, I would say that he has basically created his own religion that centers around horror movies, urban myths, with a smattering of Christianity thrown in there so we know which god he actually wants to believe in. So my respect for this kid's "beliefs" is admittedly low.
He then tried to convince me to take a six week Angel Course on-line that is only $147. I told him that it was a rip off and anyone who tells him differently is...wait for it...selling something. Do they have evidence for these angels that you are supposed to be in contact with? "They have personal testimonies." Nope, I need something more than that. I spent my whole life being told to believe in something that there was very little evidence for. I am not going to spend that much money on something, to do something that I don't even care about. "You don't care if you see angels?" he asks, shocked. Nope. If angels exist, which there is no evidence to back that up, I don't really see why it would matter if I did see them. Then I asked him why this was so important to him. "Because I am having doubts myself and I figure if I can get you to believe, then I will too." Ahhh. So I explained again that one's faith is very personal. That I cannot live his faith for him. If he wants to believe there is a god or angels or whatever, he can, but he cannot force me to believe them to make himself feel better.
Then we talked a bit about confirmation bias. You really want this stuff to be real huh? He nods his head. When you go online, you only seek out information that supports what you believe right? Another nod. Have YOU ever considered that you could be wrong? Or ever thought to look for information that doesn't back up what you believe? He stares at me in horror. No. Never. He would never read anything by anyone who told him that god wasn't real. Then you my friend are caught in a trap of confirmation bias. You only read things by people who agree with you, only surround yourself with people who believe like you, only frequent websites with people who believe like you. And you are doing it out of fear that you will lose your faith or that it could change.
Finally, I calmly told him that I know he didn't know me when I was a Christian, but I really really did believe. I had dedicated my life to my religion. I attended church several times a week, volunteered, was a mentor, sang on the worship team, led small groups. I believed all of it. And I surrounded myself with confirmation bias too, because I had been taught that everyone else was wrong and was just trying to lead me astray. You know what really led me astray though? He shakes his head. He doesn't want to know. I tell him anyway. The Bible. I read the entire Bible...again....and this time I was honest with myself about the things that didn't make sense. I don't share those things with you or husband because it is up to you to find those things yourself. I do NOT try to make you lose your faith because I know how important that is to people. How personal. And I'll be honest, I do find that your constant attempts to get me to believe what you believe to be very disrespectful of my beliefs. How about this? After you have read at least three holy books all the way through, and two books by authors who don't believe the same things you believe, you come back and talk to me. I'm sure it will be enlightening.
When I got home, I went to my room to vent to husband, because frankly I was pissed. I do not appreciate this kid who knows absolutely nothing about religion trying to convert me based on a "feeling that there is a god". It's insulting. Husband then tells me that son told him this plan and he has tried to dissuade him, to no avail. Did you tell him how rude it was? Yes, but he wouldn't listen. Did you tell him that I WAS a believer for longer than he has been alive. Of course, but he was insistent. I told him not to. I told him you wouldn't like it.
Son has not had this conversation with me since. He has not tried to convince me there is a god, although occasionally tries to convince me that ghosts, poltergeists, demons, devils, etc. are. I always just ask him to provide me with some evidence by a reputable source. What counts as reputable? Scientific studies, organizations that analyze data, photographs with clear images that cannot possibly have been manipulated by photoshop or CGI. So far, he hasn't even bothered to look. I am just glad he has stopped trying to convert me. We have had a few conversations about religion, but I always come at it from the standpoint that he believes this so here is what your religion says about that.
I've always found it really interesting how obsessed some people are with what high school they went to. As if that matters at all if you move away from your hometown or when you are thirty-six. Seriously, when was the last time someone asked you what high school you went to? Mine was four and half years ago when one of my new co-workers found out I grew up in the same town and wanted to know what school I went to. I told her I was homeschooled, but what school district I was in and the conversation moved on quickly. No one cares. Also, contrary to what they tell you in high school and college, as an adult no one cares about your GPA either.
But when it comes to homeschooling, people have some super strong opinions about it. Almost all of those people are rather ignorant on the subject. Their opinions usually start with, "Well...I have a friend whose nephew is being homeschooled and they are super weird" OR "I knew a girl once who was homeschooled and she didn't know how to talk to people". And this is then followed by, "Kids need socialization, because this anecdotal experience I have is proof that homeschooling spawns socially inept losers." I have heard a lot of this talk because once again, people don't really ask what school I attended growing up and they have a stereotype in their head of what a homeschooler looks like.
Here are the stereotypes that are true to some degree:
64% of homeschoolers are doing so for a religious reason with the number being a little higher for providing a more general "moral instruction"
91% are concerned about the school environment
My sister-in-law certainly fits into both of these. Religious and very very worried about her children being shot at a public school. But homeschooling itself is quite a mixed bag depending on where you live, your parent's educational levels, the child, social structures, family dynamics, drive, disabilities, etc. I grew up in a city where there was a very active homeschooling organization. There were "enrichment days" once a week that consisted of either bowling, skating, or ice skating. A very active teen club that met and volunteered twice a month. Field trips were set up and went to Farms, factories, museums, and concerts. Classes were offered in which another homeschooling mom/dad who had an actual degree in a certain field would teach a small class of students in a subject that other parents struggled with. Among the courses currently being offered right now: Art, Shakespeare, Spanish, Local History, Robotics and Coding, Algebra, Debate, British Literature, Chemistry, Civics, Research Writing, Photography, SAT Prep, Orchestra, Intro to Investing and Budgeting, Food & Nutrition, Economics. This ensures that a student whose homeschooling parent sucks at Writing and Literature has a place they can go to for those classes. I took Science courses with them as science equipment is expensive. Here's the thing though, if you live out in the country or there isn't an active homeschool organization near you, things to get tougher. It's also harder on the child if their parent is a homebody and doesn't take them to these places to meet people. It does not mean the child is socially inept.
What does this have to do with unbelief? Those who homeschool are overwhelmingly concerned about their child's moral well-being. I understand this. There is this misconception from outsiders that if a child is homeschooled, even for religious reasons, that the indoctrination becomes too ingrained. That they are destined to become religious fundamentalists. Or that the child always agrees with their parent's decisions. If you go visit the r/exchristian subreddit, you will find several homeschooled teenagers that are just trying to make it to graduation and college, who disagree with how their parents have raised them, and are socially deprived not socially inept. Four of my nephews and nieces are being homeschooled. They have had absolutely no say in the matter I was a senior in high school when I realized that there were some things about what I was taught that I didn't agree with.
Don't you just love this word? For those not in the know, this phrase or wording originates from the story of Samuel in the Bible who heard the audible voice of God and thought it was his master calling at first and then once realizing it was God, offered himself into the service of the Lord to be whatever God wanted him to be. His calling, to be a prophet of the Lord. Now, no one these days (at least no one I have ever known) is claiming to hear the audible voice of God these days. No instead they say they "feel led" to do something. Or they use a series of confirmation biases to prove they are making a good decision. Maybe someone they know has a dream that could maybe, kind of be interpreted to support this thing that someone wants to do. A pastor will pray over them and say something convoluted like, "The Lord is telling me that you are trying to make a big decision. The answer is yes."
Then these people, using this information set forth to do something that, in most cases, is something they really wanted to do. I've heard people say they were called to adopt. Of course, despite this calling it doesn't always mean things work out and then the Christian spins it to say that God told them to do it to teach them a lesson. An example of this would be a friend who said she was called to adopt teenagers, particularly the ones no one wanted. All three of her teenage placements disrupted and didn't lead to adoption. In the end they ended up with three very young boys. They are much better parents to these little ones then they ever were to the big kids. But what happened to that calling? Well, lessons were learned so that must have been what God wanted. Sometimes the calling just doesn't make sense for other reasons. Like my friend Joy who felt called to be a missionary. She is now a tutor for missionary kids who apparently can't attend the local school because terrorist like kidnapping little white kids. She has no teaching degree, but sure, she's qualified to teach your children because who cares about schooling as long as God called her. She has been in the Middle East for almost a decade now. Although she has certainly taught a lot of white missionary kids over the past decade, she has not bothered to learn the local language in all of that time, lives a very private life surrounded by only the other missionaries, and is never sure if she will be able to raise enough money to remain in the country the next year. Nevermind that the country she is in, prosthelytizing is illegal. Not that she can prosthelitize...she doesn't speak the language. What's the point in going to another country to be a missionary if you keep yourself separate from the people and don't learn the language? What are you doing with your life?
I've written before about how my mom often felt God calling her to do things, but they were often, conveniently things that she wanted to do. "Dear God, should I do this thing, even though it will put a hardship on my family?" Oh, I had a dream where I was doing that thing...God must be telling me to do it. At one point I felt like God called me to go to Northern Ireland for a short-term missions trip. The Assemblies of God had a variety of short-term trips they offered each summer. Maybe a dozen or so. I was instantly attracted to North Ireland, a country with a good deal of violence and mystique. Maybe I should go there, I thought. A few weeks later we had a traveling youth team come to the church for a revival of sorts. One of the guys was from North Ireland. I took this as a sign and signed up for the trip the next week. Was it a sign? Probably not. Just a coincidence that the dude was from a country that I really wanted to go to.
My biggest issue with this phrase though is that it is often used to justify bad decisions. Look, I know as well as anyone that sometimes we make decisions that we think will be good and they don't always work out. It is important for our development as people to analyze the situation and see what you could learn from it. God told me to do it so even if things are going to shit, it can't be wrong. I worry for my missionary friend. I worry that she will one day return to the US with no retirement and a lifetime of regrets. I mean, the chances of her ever meeting a man and having children at this point are dismally slim and although this makes her deeply sad, she isn't willing to give up this "calling" in order to better her life. (to be clear, this is what she says she wants. I don't care in the slightest weather someone has children or is married.) Also, she would make a wonderful school teacher at something like a Montessori or Waldorf school and I hate to see her talents wasted. But she doesn't regret this life, right? Wrong. I've heard her regrets, her fears. She knows that this is not the best decision for her to be a happy person, but she can't let go of this calling because that would mean that either God was wrong or she was wrong in what she thought God said.
And let's not forget some of the super shitty people out there that say a god told them to do really shitty things. Like Abraham who believed God told him to murder his son. Or the 9/11 terrorists who believed a god wanted them to wage war against America in his name. Or a woman who beat her son to death because she believed God told her he was possessed by demons. Christians will tell you that they weren't hearing the real voice of God, that those people were clearly insane. But the truth is, the difference is that you are just the kind of person who, if you had those thoughts, you wouldn't act on them. Because you aren't a shitty human being.
I frequent a lot of message boards and Reddit in concerns to being an ex-Christian, in-the-closet, agnostic, atheist, humanist, unbeliever. Perhaps it is the anonymity that I enjoy, just like with this blog. Or perhaps it is knowing that I am not the only person out there who feels the way I do. I'm not sure, but being able to comment that I was homeschooled and grew up without a television and wasn't allowed to watch movies rated over PG and then have someone say, "Hey, that was me too." That's nice.
I also wish my parents knew how such a restrictive environment forced me to become super sneaky and good at lying. I learned very quickly how to delete browser history on the computer. In the trunk of my car, I stored movies that my mom said "weren't allowed in the house", watching them with friends somewhere else. I would read movie reviews about crappy PG movies and tell my mom I went and saw that instead of the actual movie I went to with friends that was PG-13. My husband has remarked that I am a bad liar, but I'm going to be really honest here...he has no idea when I am lying. He thinks he does because I have learned how to "be caught" so that people think I am a bad liar, but the truth is I am extremely good at it. Luckily for him and others, I don't really make a habit of it anymore, but in my youth....I was good. My parents trusted me to not get in trouble, and for the most part, I didn't. I wasn't partying. I've never tried drugs. Never been drunk. But I certainly did things that my super religious parents would NOT have approved of. For a while there, I felt guilty for this and was always asking for forgiveness from God. Never from them because I never told them. Now, I see that my parents were just super lucky that I was a bit of a perfectionist prude who didn't like being out of control. In other words, their strict religious parenting only worked because I had the personality to not go off the deep end. My brothers were not the same. All three went through some serious stages of rebellion. I did think it led to our deconversions (three out of four of us aren't religious now), but it most certainly led to a lot of unnecessary lies.
I recently read an article where the author tries to justify the degredation and violence towards women in the Bible by saying that God was just shining light on sin. Completely neglecting the fact that there were a number of passages where that same God didn't have a problem with rape or treating women, particularly virginal women, like cattle. Numbers 31 Moses and the priests instruct their people to kill all but the Midianite virgins, blaming the non-virginal women, men, and children for a plague. Because that's how disease spreads, right? Deuteronomy 20 has the LORD giving a town to the Israelite victors with instructions to kill all the men and take the women, children, cattle, and plunder. "You may enjoy the spoils of your enemies that the LORD your God has given you." Of course, in Deuteronomy you also just have to give silver if caught raping a girl. Meanwhile, if she is found non-virginal at a later date (let's say no one believes her or she keeps it a secret) she can be stoned to death. Zachariah 14 prophesies that a day will come when the LORD will give them women to be ravished, as any good god would do, right?
The article states, "The Bible is also clear: God hates inhumane treatment of women."
But that's just the beginning. These first three paragraphs are setting up for the idea that God loves women by asking them to cover their heads and that in a historical context, there was nothing wrong with it and nothing wrong with it now. When you look at the historical context you will see that almost all women in the area and many men wore head coverings, mostly for practical reasons. It's awfully hot in the Middle East. There is no issue with women wearing head coverings...until you make it a mandate of your religion and suggest that their eternal souls (and virginity) hinge on them wearing it. Although I understand that head coverings in Biblical times had a degree of practicallity, Paul very much made them a religious issue too. The man, who was definitely a man of his times, had some strong opinions about women's role in the church and how they should dress. Notice he never said anything about women wearing short dresses because such a thing would have been unheard of in the time. However, he was dealing with several different cultures, many not of a Jewish background, who did not wear head coverings while praying or in the church. So Paul saw fit to make some rules. And most modern Christians ignore these rules, stating that it was only a specific rule for a specific time. I honestly think Paul would find the modern church extremely disrespectful because he was, despite a big conversion, a man obsessed with making rules. He was after all, the leader of a religious movement, second only to God and a few disciples, some of which he didn't get along with.
Even as a Christian, it never sat well with me this idea that women were subserviant to men. Not only were we considered weaker physically, which is not always the case, but we were also inferior intellectually, religiously, morally, and philisophically. In the Assemblies of God churches I grew up in, women were only allowed to teach children and other women. There was never a co-ed Sunday School class taught by a women to my knowledge. The idea was considered absurd. After all, Paul said, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, she must be silent." Again, some churches spin this as meaning that this was just for some specific time, but in context he was writing this letter to his protege, giving the young man advice not just for one community but for building churches in general. In general, Paul who claims authority from a god, is stating that women should not teach or have any authority over men. And this pervasive idea permeated the western world for hundreds upon hundreds of years. Women continued to be nothing more than cattle, a possession to be bought and sold by the men around her.
What I am trying to get at is that the very idea that the God of the Bible cares about women and women's rights in the way we think of in the modern world is absurd. The God of the Bible is not pointing out how depraved (aka sinful) human beings can be, because if he was actually a caring god, there would be explicit passages talking about NOT raping women and how that is abhorrent in the eyes of god. But we know that the reason those passages weren't written is because the men of that time were the ones writing the many parts of the Bible and they didn't give a shit about the other half of the population. They didn't speak out against rape because they didn't have a problem with it. Although some of them knew very intelligent and strong women, this did not change their feelings in regards to being superior. And all those rules that are placed on women in the Bible, like having to cover their heads, can be seen for what it is: An attempt by people of a certain time to continue to assert their authority over a people who had been largely marginalized for a long time. It isn't a lesson about sin, it's a lesson about how people often think that their way of life and their culture are the end all of how things should be done.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.