Saturday, November 10, 2012

Honesty About My Anger Towards Religion, the Church, and the People of Faith I Trusted

Just today, I read a blog post by Camels With Hammers, blog of Daniel Fincke over at Patheos.  He is an ex-evangelical Christian who is now an atheist.  In this post, he talks about his journey from anger immediately following his deconversion, to a place of reasonable civil discourse with the religious folk.  His post really resonated with me, because I have also gone through a similar process.  Though I am not at the point he is yet.  I hadn't really wanted to be at the point he has reached, being able to civilly discuss things about religion without lashing out and crying 'abuse!' 'abuse!' 'You're wrong, dammit!' 'Stupid!' 'Wake up!'

I am very glad for his honesty.  Here are parts of his post that really stuck out to me:

I have a fair amount of heated philosophical disputes and occasionally, if we really are digging into something contentiously, I can get fairly worked up. But I don’t typically become mean or uncivil or unpleasant. I can get loud and I can get visibly intense, sometimes even agitated, but the times where I blow up are relatively rare. Nonetheless they happen.
Oh, that I were there.
To be sure, there are a lot of philosophical, political, or ethical truths worth getting passionate about and emotionally investing oneself in. But I was still typically embarrassed afterwards on those rare occasions that I wasn’t just angry but was reduced to a frothing rage.
So, phew, I'm not the only one who has frothed at the mouth in self-righteous anger and indignancy at being lied to and suppressed all my life?  Being told that there is a thing called Hell and I'm going unless I love Jesus enough, being tortured for all eternity by a God so loving he sends people there?

He goes on to explain why being so attacking and full of rage in a discussion is actually abusive, and has been learned by being abused (here he is liking it to the abuse of religion):
Rather than learning to assert himself in ways that respect others and cultivate healthy mutual admiration and collaboration, he takes self-assertion to simply be brutally dominating and demoralizing others, physically and emotionally. Rather than coming to affirm himself positively and become independent of his abuser’s opinions and maltreatment, he displaces his rage at feeling powerless onto others, he spoils for fights in which he can vent the rage meant for his abuser, and he repeats his abusers’ ugly pattern of behavior in his own life, thereby letting his abuser live on through him, consume him, and determine his own character.
None of that is healthy. And it’s not healthy either if the sexually abused become sexual abusers, the emotionally abused become emotionally abusive, the socially abused become socially abusive, etc.
Ouch. That hit home, right to a point of truth somewhere in my conscience of my new ethical system that is forming. And common sense, of course. And decency to other humans. Have I just been repeating the abuse I learned? Here he shows how you can empower yourself to channel the anger and make a positive difference in a non-abusive verbal form:

I think a healthy and flourishing sense of power and pleasure comes from creativity, autonomy, personal independence, love, and the ability to empower others through what one does. This is because we are most powerful when we make others powerful. In these cases, their power is to that extent owed to our influence and is therefore a multiplication of our own power and an extension of it–in all of which we can justifiably take pride. By contrast, when we damage, distort, or outright destroy others’ abilities to function powerfully, this is, in most cases, only our ability to decrease the powerful, constructive, healthy functioning in the world, and that is to our ultimate discredit, on the ledger of power itself, and so it is our own ultimate loss.
He's making more and more sense. Dammit. He is being a good human being. Taming his anger into calm but powerful action without demonizing people. Oh, conscience, oh conscience, wherefore has my conscience been?
In all things we should have our enemies’ good in mind as much as possible, lest we become them, and thereby fall into the dialectic of abuse, according to which we confuse power itself to be the ability to hurt others in perversely satisfying ways that express displaced, sublimated, uncontrolled rages given to us by our abusers.
Sounds suspiciously like a Jesus teaching.  But it is a good teaching that is emphasized in most religions. The Golden Rule was actually around before Jesus anyway. For lack of a better source right now here's your answer.  For a comical version of the history of the Golden Rule, the Friendly Atheist has a comic version.  So, ok. He's starting to overcome my indignant ego.

However, it comforted me that he said THIS:

In more vulnerable and more emotionally immature days, if my only psychologically realistic choice was between lashing out to defend myself or feeling disempowered, then it is for the better that I went through this “lion” stage, this liberatingly defiant “no-saying” stage of personal development. If I really needed this to be the rebellious, self-discovery stage that I missed as an overly obedient adolescent and to extricate myself from a deceitful and manipulative religious institution, then sobeit. And, I get it when others, in the process of liberating themselves from their own demons, go through this dark stage of lashing out. I don’t begrudge them this, even as I encourage them, like I encourage myself, to extricate themselves as much as possible from the abusers’ dialectic as they can and never turn their abusiveness itself into a point of pride or principle or identity or indifference. It’s for many an unfortunately unavoidable dialectical stage of growth, but one to overcome and outgrow.
I am comforted because I also recognize that I went through this very roaring "Lion Stage", even rage, to separate myself clean-cut from the church and the faith. To have a bit of righteous anger.  Leaving the church and the faith shattered my worldview.  I realized I was extremely ignorant in science, politics, injustice, and reason.  I felt liberated, believe me, but dismayed at the amount of fearmongering, censoring tactics, and sheltering from the 'world' that was absolutely a way to keep me from losing faith.  Reading this post hit home for me and inspired me to really work on my anger and turn it into something good for the benefit of others.  My puddle of rage has now been freezing into a solid bitterness, and it is time to move forward.  I wrote a response to him in his comment section, and then decided to blog about it because I want to be honest about my struggles with deconversion.  It has been and still is a rather sharp rocky road but is getting better.

 Here is my response:
Dan,
I have been reading your blog for a few months. I came out of a missionary evangelical family and community only five years ago. At first I was so angry, (“frothing rage” as you perfectly put it) that I couldn’t even talk about Christianity, or listen to family members and friends say the word “God, Jesus” etc, without dialing into a violent, bitter rant, at being fooled and duped for so long. I too have felt completely justified in my triggered outrage. It has dialed down a bit, since finding the world of atheist/skeptic/secular blogs that show me I am not alone. When I first discovered your deconversion series, I was indignant at your calmness, and calls for civility. I still am, sometimes. I completely felt justified and self-righteous about attacking others’ faith and superstitions.
I want to thank you. Especially for this post. I am being forced to think about my ethical values and behavior, and the possibility that I have used rather abusive techniques and words to figuratively punch someone in the face, demanding they wake up, listen to me, because they are in the wrong, blinded, and duped. It is a righteous anger for justice and truth, but I have let myself become vehemently bitter and unforgiving towards those I had trusted my entire life. I have quite a temper. I am coming to respect the calmer discussions. I also am recognizing that yes, my lashing and anger was a stage I needed to go through to rid myself of the indoctrination in my life and not fall back in response to guilt or fear of Hell if I was wrong. But I want to move beyond the anger and bitterness that has eaten me alive, and I appreciate your points of view and calls for civility and well articulated responses to misinformed, hateful power-attacks from the other side.
Thank you, thank you for your honesty.
I also would like to add that I have felt a need for self-satisfactory revenge upon the church and abusive teachings. Revenge. Ah, it sounds so sweet. But it has not enabled me to dissipate the bitterness, the anger. I am realizing the best revenge is to rise above the hateful attitude of religion, and to live a free, happy life, and hopefully being able to calmly reason with those I love to show them that discourse and skepticism is a good, healthy way of attaining freedom from fear of eternal Hell.
I am moving forward. Slow pace, maybe, but reading posts like this, and others in the atheist blogosphere is helping me to grow and broaden my mind to rational discourse and reason.  I am getting better, but there is so much to learn, as I was in a bubble of lies so long.

I still invite anyone to follow my journey here. Don't run away, I'm not a monster, I promise. I care about truth and justice, and compassion for fellow human beings that I refuse to give up on.


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Argument for Atheist+ and Secular Humanism


Here's another reason why I support Atheism Plus, a new movement within the Atheist movement that focuses on feminism and social justice, and well, humanism. I really like Bill and Melinda Gates. Why? Because they are not only atheists, but they are philanthropic. Again, why? Because they have money, and they use it to better the world. And they have a foundation to do that.
"Our belief that every life has equal value is at the core of our work at the foundation."
This is what sums up their foundation's purpose. And they do it with Optimism, Collaboration, Rigor and Innovation. They have an honest, proactive and infectious drive to their goals.
Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life.
Now, why would an atheist believe in helping people? Aren't atheists supposed to be amoral, selfish pigs? Well, some may be. Some who adhere to the principles of Ayn Rand, who said that an individuals
"exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself"
But most atheists I know or follow on blogs are secular humanists, believing that the universe is so amazing, so beautiful, the world so worth saving, that they can't help but try and make it a better place for us, and for future generations. When I lost my faith, and I say lost because I had reasoned and carefully thought through both sides of the argument until I realized I couldn't force myself to believe anymore, a beauty and love for life burst forth in my mind. Suddenly the desire to live a full and rich life shot up like a rocket, knowing that I have one life to life. One life to experience, to love, and to learn about.

This is the beauty of not believing that this life is a test and our real life will finally begin once we die. No, our life here is beautiful. Our life is what me make it, through our choices. We can choose to ride through, hating this supposedly sinful world, thinking we are horrible creatures that won't be happy till eternal bliss, and that this life is not the one we want and is not real. To me, and to many people I have heard expressing this same passion of living the life you have to the fullest, is the most beautiful thing in being human. With us, the universe is worth exploring.  Humanity is worth saving. I believe society and community is what makes us successful. I mean, we made it to the moon out of curiosity of exploring our universe! We have a kick-ass Mars rover called Curiosity that is exploring the red planet as speak.  How cool is that? Imagine what more we could do!

There is a theory called social evolution theory published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology argues that group cooperation has been biologically ingrained through natural selection to make us successful as a species. Altruism helps us survive, rather than living in a dog-eat-dog world of annihilation by individual competition. Our species developed altruism, and consciousness, and compassion for one another. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy also gives an argument for biological altruism, listing altruism in other species as evidence for group survival.
So back to Bill and Melinda Gates. This is why I love them. They are philanthropic atheists, who act to lessen suffering to populations and survival of the human species across the world. And they have progress reports, success stories, and statistics to back up their progress. For example:
"In northern Ghana, for example, farmers harvested three tons of maize per hectare with ISFM compared to only half a ton per hectare without ISFM. In addition, soybeans grown in rotation with maize in these farms yielded three times more with than those without ISFM. And in the Kilombero region of Tanzania, farmers witnessed bumper rice harvests ranging from three to six metric tons per hectare using ISFM and irrigation. With two good crops per year, they are now producing 10 to 12 tons of rice per hectare, significantly improving food security and incomes."
Another thing the Gates Foundation is working on is in bettering women's lives by providing access to birth control in developing countries.  They created this video to explain in simple terms how a woman's right to plan her family increases not only a woman's happiness, but the economy of an entire society.
.
You do the math.

Atheism Plus and Speaking Out Against Hate

 

Atheism Plus is a new movement within the Atheist community created by Jen McCreight, and feminist, atheist Freethought Bloggist.  It is an offshoot of the 3rd wave Atheist movement across the world, which promotes feminism, social justice, and more.  Here's some of the first definitions of Atheism+ It is still being worked out, as it is only a few weeks old.

There's been major push-back within the atheist community from those who are claiming it is causing divisions in the atheist movement and distracting from the purpose of the movement.  And this push-back is from many atheists within the community that have been increasingly hostile towards feminist bloggers who are protesting the treatment of women within the atheist community.  The violent language and abuse towards these feminist, female bloggers has reached a vitriolic, threatening, and abusive stage, and Jen made a brave move to start an offshoot of the movement that would support things that atheist feminists care about, such as social justice and minorities within the movement who have been feeling overlooked by speakers and influential atheists.  But now Jen has taken a break from blogging because the hate that has been flying at her for the creation of this branch of atheism has been absolutely poisonous and she needs to focus on her mental health.

I support Jen.  I understand the mental health issues, and it's not fair for her to take so much abuse alone.  I'm ready to speak out.  Many others are as well.  If you check out the comments under her last blog post.  This is a time to become vocal and fight back.  Fight for equality and justice.  Fight against those who are slamming and violently bullying online bloggers.

I support Jen and I support Atheism Plus, because it aligns with my secular humanist, feminist, AND atheist viewpoints.  And I support her right to opinions and ideas without being bullied into depression.

A new forum has been created to discuss the creation and ideas of Atheism Plus.  If you would like to join or check it out, here's the link.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Dr. Who and the Celts

 

Well, today is just a day in this big universe.  I don't have much to say, but I do have a few things on my mind.

I've become a hopeless "Whovian."  Yes, I am addicted to Dr. Who.  I have just started Season 4.  I love love love it!  It makes me think alot about humanity, where it's come from, where it's going (it kinda does that to you, you know time travel and all).  And it makes me want to BE a time traveler.  Anyone care to invent a time machine?  I'm in!

I think if I could travel in time, as a historian, I would of course love to visit EVERYTHING in human history, from 200,000 years ago onward.  I would be a bit apprehensive about the idea of traveling forward, however.  I definitely have hope for the human species, however I am afraid to hope that we could survive if religion continues to dominate the political realm.  Sorry, but it just seems it is holding us back in every way. (Women's rights, science, gay rights, SCIENCE, and oh, yeah SCIENCE.)

But anyway, I suppose I would take the plunge if given a chance, to see what has happened to ourselves.  Also, seeing our little Earth eventually swallowed by the Sun and disappearing and cooling into a white dwarf would be quite a sight.  Almost a peaceful and serene event, once the fireworks have gone down.  I often think about that - the earth disappearing into the Sun.  No, our world will not last forever.  It will burn.  Which is funny when you compare it to the book of Revelations.  Oh, the Apocalypse.  So many cultures, peoples, and holy books have prophesied this.  Death is a natural part of the Universe.  Deal with it, people.

So, back to time travel.  I think the time period I would most like to visit right now would be...let's see...(difficult decision).  Aha!  Yes, I would like to go to the Iron Age of the Celts.  Because their mythology is AWESOME.  I have always been fascinated by pre-Christian Ireland, and would like to check it out.  Oh yeah, and to meet a Druid? Faeries and spells...Oh and by the way, fairies are EVIL. So, fairy-tales...are usually graphic, originally.

Here is an excerpt from my book called "Irish Fairy Tales" by Jeremiah Curtin:

The Midwife of Listowel

There was an old woman, a midwife, who lived in a little house by herself between this and Listowel.  One evening there was a knock at the door; she opened it, and what should she see but a man who said she was wanted, and to go with him quickly.  He begged her to hurry.  She made herself ready at once, the man waiting outside.  When she was ready the man sprang on a fine, large horse, and put her up behind him.  Away raced the horse then.  They went a great distance in a such a short time that it seemed to her only two or three miles.  They came to a splendid large house and went in.  The old woman found a beautiful lady inside.  No other woman was to be seen.  A child was born soon, and the man brought a vial of ointment, told the old woman to rub it on the child, but to have a great care and not touch her own self with it.  She obeyed him and had no intention of touching herself, but on a sudden her left eye itched.  She raised her hand, and rubbed the eye with one finger.  Some of the ointment was on her finger, and that instant she saw great crowds of people around her, men and women.  She knew that she was in a fort among fairies, and was frightened, but had courage enough not to show it, and finished her work.  The man came to her then, and said:

"I will take you home now." He opened the door, went out, sprang to the saddle, and reached his hand to her, but her eye was opened now and she saw that in place of a horse it was an old plough beam that was before her.  She was more in dread then than ever, but took her seat, and away went the plough beam as swiftly as the very best horse in the kingdom.  The man left her down at her own door, and she saw no more of him.  Some time after there was a great fair at Listowel.  The old midwife went to the fair, and there were big crowds of people on every side of her.  The old woman looked around for a while and what did she see but the man who had taken her away on a plough beam.  He was hurrying around, going in and out among the people, and no one knowing he was in it but the old woman.  At last the finest young girl at the fair screamed and fell in a faint-the fairy had thrust something into her side.  A crowd gathered around the young girl.  The old woman, who had seen all, made her way to the girl, examined her side, and drew a pin from it.  The girl recovered.

A little later the fairy made his way to the old woman.
"Have you ever seen me before?" asked he.
"Oh, maybe I have," said she.
"Do you remember that I took you to a fort to attend a young woman?"
"I do."
"When you anointed the child did you touch any part of yourself with the ointment I gave you?"
"I did whithout knowing it; my eye itched and I rubbed it with my finger."
"Which eye?"
"The left."
The moment he said that he struck her left eye and took the sight from it.  She went home blind of one eye, and was that way the rest of her life.

Isn't that awesomely creepy?

Now all I need is a Doctor.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Interesting Jimmy Carter article on Equality

Although I don't agree with Jimmy Carter's statements that certain verses in holy scriptures have been seemingly cherry-picked to exert power and abuse over women (I think religion (majority) has been responsible for misogyny in a lot of ways), I was surprised and rather impressed at this article he wrote called "Losing my Religion for Equality." He actually severed ties with the Southern Baptist church and moved to work with other (non-Christian) leaders to end the mistreatment of women around the world. That is actually really awesome. He even went so far as to say the idea that Eve caused Adam's (and all of humanity's) Fall (thus why she needs to be subjugated) is wrong. Again, I think this is one of the main points of the Bible, but still, good going, Jimmy! Baby steps, baby steps... Here's the Article: Losing My Religion for Equality

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Social and Professional Suicide due to Being “Outed” as an Atheist

I've been thinking about the process of leaving a religion.  It can be social and professional suicide.  I recently was denied a recommendation I needed for a graduate school application because of my lack of faith.  That was a blow!  Yes, professional suicide, if your degree came from an evangelical university.  I'm thinking of writing an Op-Ed article about it.  I've also come to the conclusion that I need to start all over from scratch, since I do not have support anymore.  I will probably go get another bachelor's degree and work up from there, this time from a SECULAR and intellectually stimulating university.


I've also joined r/atheism.  It's been an eye-opening experience.  I've read countless stories of young adults and teens who have been 'outed' to their parents as atheists, and responded to with violence, threats, and verbal abuse.  Some have even been kicked out of their own homes as minors.  What the hell?  Aren't Christians supposed to love people (especially their own children) unconditionally?


Ok, from my former point of view as a missionary kid and active proselytizer, I understand that having an atheist in the family would be shocking, depressing, heart-wrenching, etc.  But what I didn't realize was how much of a threat Atheists are to Christians.  Ok, I can imagine it.  'Atheist' was such a horrible word in my previous life.  Full of mystery, bad connotations and all.  But I have found atheists to be some of the most sympathetic, humanitarian, genuine, hilarious, and intellectually stimulating people on the planet.  I've met some atheists I want to strangle, too, with their lack of concern about society and injustice, but for the most part, they are good-hearted. Infinitely more than the religious crowds.  So, how can you convince a family member that you are not a threat to them?


Well, I was recently 'outed' to my sister and one of my best long-life friends.  It was sort of an accident.  But they asked me point-blank and I answered honestly.  My sister took it very hard.  She cried bucketfuls, afraid for my soul, and yes, I understand her position.  But she refuses to talk about it.  At first I didn't hear from her for over half a year.  Then the next email I got from her, she tried witnessing to me.  That was very frustrating, because she knows me so well, knows how much of a Christian I was before, and that I know the Bible even better than her.  Her best argument was that she knew that I "believed Jesus was just a good person who lived a long time ago, but that was 'just not True.'"  And then proceeded to tell me the basic Christian message.  I was offended.  Offended that she thought I just 'forgot' the gospel message.  So next time I saw her (another six months) I tried to gently tell her I was hurt and disappointed that she had reverted to a tactic she should have known wasn't the issue.  Sigh.  Bucketfuls of tears again.  Maybe that wasn't the best way to approach the subject, but she refuses to talk about it.  I told her to ask me questions, if she liked.  She asked 'what if you're wrong.'  I returned the question to her.  And then she shut down, refusing to 'debate my sister.'


Well, communication has been a little broken, but I think I'm making progress with her.


So, with that frustrating experience, I still haven't 'come out' to my parents, my brother, and my other sister.  I don't know if or when that will happen.


Why does it have to be this difficult?


Here's why, I think: By declaring yourself an atheist, you are immediately a threat to their faith because of their own doubt.  Many Christians spend their lives in doubt.  They wake up every day and try to suppress their rationality, re-read their Bible, and convince themselves that there truly is a loving God up there who cares about them and their daily activities.  Hell is a reality, and Heaven is bliss.  But with so many controversies in the Bible, they have to warp their brains to keep believing a message of love and truth.  They ignore verses talking about God condoning rape, slavery, child abuse, incest and murder.  They read and reread the happy verses, the Jesus verses.  That's what I did back in the day!  So when you say you are an atheist, you are hitting a chord of rationality that they refuse to look at out of fear. Fear of hell and eternal judgment.  Also, they’ve been taught to ‘beware’ of the wolves of the world, and an atheist is the epidome of the ‘the world.’  So, they think an atheist can infect them, like a disease, sucking them into a hole bound for hell.


A second reason I think the term "Atheist" is so threatening to the religious, is that they are convinced that without God, there is no morality.  They fight their daily 'sinful' thoughts by cleansing themselves with thoughts and prayers to God. Pleadings, really.  They think they are innately sinful, because it is what has been forced upon them from the top down in religious groups.  Unfortunately, I bet that the sinful struggles they fight against are really not wrong!  Homosexuality, sexual feelings and thoughts, pornography, and doubting God.  Bible-based morality is warped.  It leads to sexual repression, low self-esteem, and thinking you are a worm, bound for hell because God does not like what you think or do.  In my undergraduate studies I went to chapel and listened to a horrifying lecture called "You are a Worm, deserving of Hell."  Great, huh?  I remember stalking out of the building, angry as Hell.  But unfortunately, they also think that without God, they would start wanting to murder people, rape women, and other such horrible things.  They truly believe they will do these things if they do not have a god to tell them what to do.


So, when a family member exposes themselves as an atheist, their feelings of being threatened rise up like a storm against their loved one. And they are afraid.  Afraid of hell for their family member, afraid they have failed, and afraid for their own belief system.


Unfortunately, this is what we have to face when we are 'outed', whether by choice or accident.  The best thing to do?  Well, keep being nice, keep interacting as best as possible, keeping yourself out of harm, and insist that you are the same lovable person they've always known.  And hopefully things will improve.  If not, well, you may end up ostracized.  But there is a huge uprising of atheists contactable on ex-Christian forums online, YouTube channels, and sites like Reddit (r/atheism).  Look it up if you need the support!


As for me, I am dealing with the question of whether to 'out' myself to my parents.  I am afraid for my mother, because she is mentally fragile.  She went into a deep, suicidal depression when her dad almost died without accepting Christ.  So....it's a touchy business.  If it does happen, however, I will definitely be blogging about it!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Secularism

I found this video on the blog of "Friendly Atheist"... and loved it. It sums up very nicely what I 'believe' or stand by as my ethical code in life. Apparently the words were taken verbatim from Robert Green Ingersoll from 1887.