Lately, I've seen a lot of the non-religious rejoicing over the fact that religion, particularly the more conservative Evangelical types of Christianity are on the decline. Now, I personally have not seen much evidence of this. Then again I live in the Bible belt where Jesus and cornbread go hand in hand and the chances of people deconverting from religion are extremely low. I also live in a state where, if religion continues to go into more of a decline, there may be a serious vacuum left behind when it comes to social justice and services for the needy. Where I live almost every area of care is dominated by religion. Foster care, adoption, soup kitchens, battered women's shelters, halfway houses, pregnancy care for the impoverished. If the groups are not run directly by a church or religious organization, then it is guaranteed that the volunteers within them are religious. At our local soup kitchen, churches and religious small groups take up the majority of slots for volunteers. I've seen the list. Such and such Methodist church is serving breakfast (10 volunteers), First Baptist Church youth ministries for lunch (14 volunteers), Main Street Lutheran Church for dinner (8 volunteers). Our local homeless shelter is run by a Christian family and they consider it a ministry. They have a shelter, soup kitchen, battered women's shelter, employment help. You name it, they are doing it. They have several thrift stores as well. Both Goodwill and Salvation Army are also religion based. The Salvation Army requires their employees to sign statements of faith. I just met, for the first time in four years, another foster/adoptive parent who isn't religious. That's rather telling I should think. Let's also not forget the various churches who do things like feed the homeless at a local park every Monday night or the ones who do coat drives for the school down the road. Several churches in my area have clothing and food pantries as well as help to pay bills for their parishioners in need. (we'll ignore the fact that many come with strings attached)
Now, I'm sure you are wondering about one of my earlier posts when I spoke about how many of the churches in my area could shut down and it wouldn't affect anyone. This is still true. There is such a glut of churches in the Bible belt and so many are insular to the point that their presence makes absolutely no impact on the community around them. However, within that glut there are a handful of churches that are really living out the calling to take care of the "least of these". Their contribution is considerable and cannot be scoffed at or ignored, even if they may have ulterior motives (evangelism) at their core.
The truth is, if Christians go into the decline, we still need people to step up and take over these much needed organizations. We still need volunteers. And here's where I am going to be really honest. I do not see enough people doing that outside of a church. My work used to organize regular volunteering events, but once the woman who organized them left, they disappeared. There was no mandate by the company or any kind of religious/moral reason to do it, and so it just stopped. No one wondered or seemed to care if a vacuum was left if we stopped. Only 2% of the US population adopts children. The vast majority of the people who do are religious and say that they are adopting not only because they want children, but because it is important to their religion. I fear that the current foster care crisis will only grow larger if there are less Christians working in it. Do I think we would be better off without a whole bunch of Christians doing "orphan" care that is really just extreme evangelizing and indoctrination? Sure. But kids deserve families and I don't exactly see people in the atheist community stepping up here. I can't name a single soup kitchen in my Tri-city area that isn't run by a church or religious organization and I do NOT see non-believers making their own.
Here's what I do see. I see a bunch of social justice warriors pulling down statues because statues of dead white southerners offend people. I see people stopping traffic over the fact that the big university nearby isn't diverse enough, completely ignoring the homeless man on the corner. I see people so concerned about gender politics and putting people's pronouns in their emails, but don't help out the LGBTQ kid who is homeless down the street because they look dirty. I understand we can't all care about everything. I know we can't champion every cause. What I have noticed though (and done some research too) is that the things the Christians are doing for their community are very different from what matters to those outside of it. If religion continues to decline, someone has to pick up the slack. And frankly, I doubt someone who flees in the middle of the night from their abusive spouse with three kids in tow gives a damn whether you use their proper pronouns or if the statue down the street is of confederate general. And while we are all busy talking about whatever hashtag social justice trend is in the news at the moment, there are real people in crisis now. It very much seems like the non-religious community is happy to allow the Christians and inter-faith ministries to worry over things like the homeless and poor. This is going to bite us all in the ass in the future if we can't figure out ways to shift that load off the churches. We can't rely on the government either, because anyone can see that our leadership cares more about staying in power then they do about the least of these in our nation.
Disclaimer: I absolutely think that things like confederate general statues belong in museums. I also think that if I had to choose between two things to be outraged over, I'm going to go with the increased homelessness in my city hands down. I can care about both, but I'm not putting all my energy or anger into an inanimate object.
It's Christmas time and you know what that means? Christmas music! I love to sing so really, I love any kind of music I can sing along with, but Christmas music is one of my favorite. Frankly, even thought I am just shy of being an atheist for five years now, I will sing along with any and all Christmas music from Frosty the Snowman to O, Holy Night to Away in a Manger. I mean, I sing songs about Yellow Submarines and Ziggy Stardust and neither of those things are real either. But I definitely have some favorite and I am going to share my top 10 Christmas (non-religious) songs with you.
I've written before about how intimately familiar I am with sickness and death. I've had friends and family die from old age, drunken car accidents, stroke, drug overdose, and lots of cancer. Cancer is horrible. The treatments for cancer are horrible. I've seen enough people die from it to know that there isn't a magic cure through a doctor or a god.
Last night I learned that my aunt, only a few years older than me, probably has breast cancer. This is terrible news for anyone, made worse by her age, newlywed status, and the fact that he best friend just died of breast cancer three years ago. She is trying to find comfort in any way she possibly can. Some of the things she said to me last night: God will be glorified through my death. God will be glorified through my life. I think they already have a cure for cancer. My doctor is really amazing, but she wasn't very reassuring. I'm not going to do radiation, it doesn't work. My mother-in-law is a 15-year cancer survivor and she did radiation. I believe God will heal me. I don't know why God didn't heal my friend. I don't want to be a cancer survivor. This isn't a battle I want to fight.
I tried to just listen to her. I offered one sloppy attempt at reassurance and immediately regretted it. This information is too new. She is testing out what "thing" will make her feel better. Being religious, she'll probably land on something god-related. Even if she is cured through medicine or surgery, she'll still give the glory to a god. I've seen it over and over again. Even on their death beds, these people will say that they know God is going to heal them. When my ex-boyfriend died of brain cancer, people were angry because his wife wouldn't allow any visitors who were coming to say goodbye. You had to believe, or at least pretend to believe, that he was going to be healed. No goodbyes. People were upset because they loved him and in the end, they were denied an opportunity to see him one last time because they didn't believe God was going to magically heal him. Side note: That widow is now an anti-vaxxer who does raindrop therapy and is a vegan.
Watching someone slowly die of cancer changes your view of doctors, medicine, healing, alternative medicine, etc. You realize that doctor's are just people who make educated guesses, which, when you are dying, never feels like enough. You want there to be a bad guy, someone to blame for your illness. Some blame a devil or think that their "sin" created their sickness. Others blame Big Pharma or the unknown researches for holding out on them. "I would be better if only medicine wasn't such a business. Someone has the cure and they are just a money-grubbing asshole who is allowing over half a million people to die every year in order to make money." I personally, find the cure conspiracy theories to be the most ridiculous things because it shows an extreme lack of knowledge in how cancer works. Even if a cure was found for one type of cancer, it doesn't mean for all. For example, we do have a cure for HPV (a fact that many conspiracy theorists seem to ignore). Having a vaccine with a very high success rate doesn't seem to matter though because people still die of brain cancer, therefore all researchers are holding out on us. I also find this thought process personally offensive, because I have several friends who work in various forms of research for cancer and AIDS. They are good people. All of them are Christians too. There is nothing in the world that would make them happier than to see a cure in their lifetime and there is no way that they would accept a pay off if they did. When someone says that Big Pharma already has a cure for cancer, they are also calling into question the character of anyone (my friends included) who are out there doing medical research. There is a fantastic Humans of New York interview series at a children's hospital. One man has been researching the same child brain cancer for 30 years. It has a 100% mortality rate. This man has devoted his life to trying to find a cure. The heartbreak he expresses at not having found a cure and that all his patients die, is terrible. To look at that man and say that you think he is just holding out on you implies that you think he wants his patients to die. It makes him into a monster. Easier to blame a monster than accept that your body is frail. Sometimes our own DNA betrays us. Sometimes it has to do with our environment. It isn't anyone's fault.
My aunt has breast cancer because sometimes, particularly as women age, some women get breast cancer. It may or may not be caused by something in her environment or some drug she has been taking. A doctor will give her options and it is up to her how she chooses to fight, even thought this a fight no one wants to be in. She can work with modern medicine despite its flaws or she can try alternatives which are a crapshoot at best. If she finds solace in a god, then more power to her, but it won't matter. Half a million people dying of cancer every year in the US tells me that this particular god isn't in the healing business.
I love my aunt. I don't want her to die or be sick. I don't want to watch yet another loved one slowly succumb to cancer. There is a very real possibility that this could be her last Christmas with us. This makes me so incredibly sad. This could also be a quick surgery, one boob less, and she is on the road to recovery. But I refuse to play this game of make-believe where I think there are magical answers in either science or religion.
Ahhh, Thanksgiving. A time for food, family, and awkward conversations about religion. To give them credit, my in-laws are actually pretty good about avoiding politics and religion. My mother-in-law is a staunch Trump supporter who hates Obama/democrats and yet manages to not bring this up 97% of the time. So I'm okay with this.
My husband's cousins on the other hand, just can't help themselves. *Abby is one of those people. She once came in while we were on the couch and was weeping over how wonderful the church service she just came from was. She was also the person who talked about there being a "witch" that they prayed over in service. Abby was concerned that our son has been going to a Unitarian fellowship. "Aren't you worried that those other beliefs will rub off on him." I'm counting on it. She was surprised by this. I explained that my kid has made up his own religion that is absolutely ridiculous. I hope people challenge him in those beliefs. I hope people call him out when something sounds religious. I'm glad they are encouraging him to learn more about all religion because he knows nothing about any of them and refuses to learn from me. I didn't bother to mention that the kind of church she goes to, the one that believes in demons and witches, is the exact kind of church I am avoiding. Since I don't feel like vetting every Christian church out there, it felt smarter to take him somewhere where he would be free to explore his beliefs in an environment that doesn't play on his dark fantasies.
Then she shifted the conversation to talking about hearing the voice of God when it came to jobs. Now, this is where I should let you know that Abby has had a rather tumultuous professional life. She doesn't have a career and bounces every few years to various clerical jobs. Nothing wrong with this, but there is clearly no plan in place on her end. Her past two jobs have ended because of layoffs, which she admits that she saw coming but didn't "feel peace" about leaving. This is Christian-eeze for, I felt uncomfortable leaving and didn't have another plan so I just stayed. It doesn't matter if things worked out well or not, these people always find a way of spinning it so that their decision was good.
Which explains why she was so miffed when I told her that I have never heard the "voice of God". Ever. Even when I was a Christian, I never felt like God was speaking to me. In fact, it often made me wonder if I just wasn't praying hard enough or not listening hard enough. What I didn't trust were my own thoughts, because those sounded suspiciously like my own thoughts and almost always aligned with what I wanted. From what I read in the Bible, it seemed to me that if God wanted me to do something really important, that not only would I know that it absolutely came from him, but it may not always align with my own feelings on the matter. Of course, I used to Christian-eeze phrases like "the Lord led me" and "I felt called". In truth, those were just decisions that made sense. So I told Abby this. That I have never heard the voice of God. "But, how do you make decisions?" she asked, completely mystified. Easy. I weight the pros and cons, talk it over with friends & family, and make the best choice based on the available data. I don't trust my own gut feelings, because life has taught me that feelings are fickle and should only be used when feeling danger. And just like Abby, some of those decisions have been beneficial and some have not.
Here's an interesting thought experiment: Where do you think you would be right now if you only listened to your gut feelings and inner voice?
I live in the Bible belt, which means that there are five churches within one mile of my home. One in particular has had the same thing on their church billboard since we moved in almost three years ago. All it says is 'COGIC FIRE'. That's it. So one day I asked aloud, "What in the world is that?" A quick Google search revealed that it stands for Church of God in Christ and 'Fire' was a conference that was done in 2015. Now here is my question, what is the point of that sign? Why advertise something that is basically in code? Obviously the sign doesn't change that often, but someone at some point thought it was a good idea to make sure that the people who drove by knew about it. Not all of it, but they felt the need to let everyone know about it. This inevitably led me to a bunny trail where I started to pay attention to church signs.
Now, I don't give a shit about the dumb quotes that are posted. I know for a fact that they make books full of them, just for churches to copy. They aren't original or interesting. No, what interests me is the advertising. A Pentecostal church down the road from me had an advertisement that read: Brother Greg Coone. Friday, September 18. 7pm. Who has ever driven down a street, seen an advertisement for some random traveling preacher and thought, I don't know who that person is but I am going to that? A church right up the road from me is constantly putting up expensive looking banners about BBQs and Men's Breakfasts and Homecoming. Has anyone who doesn't go to that church thought, hmmm....I would love to go to that random church where I don't know anyone because I might get some free BBQ? Okay, there probably are one or two, but your average person just isn't going to do that. I used to be a Christian and I NEVER drove past a random church advertising a revival, preacher, group, or event and thought about going. It didn't even cross my mind. So who are those signs for?
My working hypothesis is that those churches are using these signs as a lazy form of evangelizing. Anyone who lives in the south knows that the churches here are segregated and insular to the extreme. If all five of the churches down the road closed, it would have absolutely no impact on our community whatsoever. The members would find other places to go and their minimal impact on their communities would be absorbed by other churches doing the exact same thing.
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.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.