Some Thoughts About Atheists + Christian Friendships

unnamedOh the places this blog has gone. I can’t even begin to tell you (and I won’t bore you with a long list of that shit). But suffice it to say I’ve been busy and euphoric and all of that in the past few months. I know I’ve written a lot about my anxiety and not wanting to be so public, but for now (and probably because so many of you have awesomely supported me in that), I’m better. I’m even posting a self-love selfie to prove that I’m feeling much better and okay with people seeing me/talking to me/etc. I’ve explained this before, but after starting this blog I went into a very dark place and those who weren’t entirely supportive only threw me into a darker place. Coming out against Master’s Commission isolated me even more; so few people from that group would publicly support my efforts and private support only goes so far when it’s you against the world. I got into a big fight with my family over the things I post on this blog: namely being so atheist and so feminist and outspoken about both. It was a really challenging time for all of us and we’re in a much stronger place now (our family has always been very tight) but it hurt all of us. So I took a break from all things politics and I started reevaluating my message and presentation. If being so outspoken and angry about religion was hurting my relationship with my family (and many close friends), maybe there was a way I could still stay close to those I cared about and still be authentic about my anger. After all, my anger is important. Being radical or offensive isn’t.

With anything, there’s always ways to be better so I took that whole situation with my family to reflect on what I really felt was important to say and how to maintain my message without sanitizing it. One thing my brother (who I’m very close to) pointed out was that I was lumping every single Christian in with Master’s Commission. As I thought about it, a professor I had pointed that out years ago. Without knowing it, I was doing that. I definitely didn’t feel like I was doing that, but I looked back at a lot of things I’d said and that was true. In a world with so many good Christians, it was important that I start considering my choice of words more carefully. I also needed to start thinking about how I talk about other religious beliefs. I’m a major fan of some other religions, but I’m not sure that sentiment comes out in things I posted.

friendship editMy beliefs are what they are. Most of all, I think most atheists want to be accepted for our beliefs and not criticized for them. Last night I was talking to someone who is a Christian (maybe even a fundamentalist) and he started asking me why I was an atheist. He and I are in a good place and it’s an important point in my healing to note that I’ve reached out to a Christian as a friend and feel comfortable talking with him about faith. So I answered him and then told him that I don’t believe in a male God (the Christian God). He asked about a female god and I said no. The way I phrased it was passive (like I do–and need to fix) and was “I’m not sure there are female gods either.” So of course he thought he “got” me and said, “Oh you’re ‘not sure’? So you’re not as staunch of an atheist as you think?” (or something along those lines). That was a bit offensive. There should be no “getting someone” or “catching” them when you’re talking about faith openly; especially with those who are different faiths/non-faiths. There should be an appreciation or respect for the person (maybe not the beliefs) and an ability to overlook some things in order to have a strong friendship. That’s what I’ve aimed for in friendships I care about that I nearly lost from being so outspoken about my criticisms of religion. Mind you, I believe much of Christian ideology is abusive and harmful and many ministers and Christians twist it to be even worse, and I think Christians should be able to look past my opinions and still be my friend, but the truth is, that’s not always the case. With most people, I don’t care to remain that close to them, but with a few of my college friends who have grown MORE religious over the past few years, I do care. I want to remain friends and if that means we’re not Facebook friends that’s fine. Or if that means I simply limit my posts to my fan page, or don’t argue under their threads about Jesus, great. Whatever. I’ll take one for the team.

In all this, of course, I feel like it needs to be mutual. Otherwise, I don’t think that’s a fair compromise.

Atheist Mega-Churches? Say It Ain’t So

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According to Yahoo News, atheist mega-churches are popping up around the world. The article only focuses on one and it’s in LA. I live in the LA area and I’ve never heard of it, nor have I heard of the people who ran it, BUT Yahoo is telling me it’s a thing, so the question is would I ever go? Probably not. They lost me at the singing part of the service. It just seems weird to sing random songs for no real reason, unless the reason is purely to mock church…then go on with your bad self. But I couldn’t do that pointless faux worship session more than once.

Now That I’m Atheist, How Do I Explain “Moments With Jesus?”

Below is part of an email I received (the quoted section) from an old ministry acquaintance and my answer back to him. He wanted to know how I explain the “moments with Jesus” I once had and why that doesn’t influence my faith now. 

My reply is as follows:

So, as far as I can tell, these are your main questions. Let me know if I’m getting them all:

did u never meet with God? Did he never show Himself to u or touch your heart when it was just the two of u? No coercion or big show…just you and your creator. I was an atheist until i was 19 and then God revealed Himself to me and spoke to me and has showed up and provided and rescued me many times since. I just wonder if all those years in ministry ripped away the memories of when you first fell in love with Jesus?

I DO have memories of times when I was a Christian before Master’s and moments with Jesus. I prayed a lot, and read the Bible a lot prior to MC; but I also remember my first few moments in church around age 15 and the FIRST time I doubted in church and what was told to me. I was a sophomore taking a Biology class where we learned about evolution. It wasn’t a big deal until I went to church and they contradicted what I was being taught in school. Never before had I had someone question what I was being taught in school, but now that I was in church, the youth pastor would insist that schools were bad and only Jesus, the Bible and the church were good/truthful. This simply is not true, but I was 15.

During my sophomore year, I was new in church and I was reading the Bible from start to finish like I did any book. And side note, I’ve been an aspiring writer since I was able to read and I read everything I could get my hands on. The Bible was something I was interested in reading, but like any book, you don’t just believe what you’re given. You look up words you don’t understand or historical references and events. If the book claims to be true, then it should be able to be proven true.

Starting on page one, the Bible didn’t make sense, and as an inquisitive person I asked my youth pastor why the Bible seemed made up. This “Creation” story–how could we believe it? “It sounds like a fairy tale or something,” I said. As a former atheist, you understand it literally is impossible to believe what you’re reading in the Bible when you’re newly converted and that’s because the Bible requires faith (in other words, suspending your disbelief) and without it, you can’t believe it’s “true.”

Do you know the answer I received from my youth pastor about everything I doubted? Just have faith.

That’s NOT an answer.

I’ve spoken with many other youth pastors since starting my blog and Evangelical youth pastors insist that they’re taking a far more intellectual approach, yet they’re not. Even the most intellectual Evangelical youth pastor still insists that kids abstain from sex and push the Purity Movement. That’s not intellectual and it’s also one of the problematic areas of modern Evangelical society today–no boundaries and control of their members. To tell a teen what to do is out-of-bounds for a youth pastor. An intellectual approach would be level-headed and not based on all the learned hype that we’ve patterned our behavior after. The Evangelical community claims that society is so bad and tells people what to do, but that’s actually the pot calling the kettle black. Secular society doesn’t dictate what people believe in or don’t believe in. Who does? The Church.

So the moments with Jesus–here’s how I explain what really happened. It’s all hype and it’s LEARNED behavior. You weren’t born instinctively knowing how to praise Jesus or talk to him because someone had to tell you that he even existed. This is the same with any religion in any culture. No one was born a Buddhist or a Muslim or a Jew; it’s instilled in us by our families and culture. So someone taught you how to praise Jesus and you mimicked them. You watched them pray or cry or be loud or somber and you did what they did because that was the “way” to reach out to God. That was the same with me. I learned this behavior in church. God isn’t real; moments with God aren’t real.

We were followers.

moments with jesus

READERS: Do you get these kind of questions? How do you answer them? 

Feel free to share the picture above.

Sexism in the Atheist boys’ club

Anyone who doesn’t know that atheism is a dick-only club is about to find out that it nearly exclusively caters to penis. Women are talking about it and women I’ve been talking to have been wondering why they aren’t included in the atheist dialogue or why there aren’t leaders in the atheist community that look like them. The blunt answer-you’ve got the 4 Horsemen (4 Horsemen is a name for the supposed atheist leaders: Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, the late Chris Hitchens and Daniel Dennett) and some of them are rumored to be sexist.

Since when is the atheist community a) so fucking fundamentalist and b) such a little dick club? They took the bros before hoes thing way too seriously.

I am only recently an “out” atheist, so I’m incredibly new to this community. But immediately it sounded a little tired–science is the only argument against why there’s no God? Yawn. Science is extremely important and epidemiology is one of the most fascinating subjects I’ve ever stumbled upon. But, there seemed to be a great deal lacking in the atheist/anti-theist discussions. Then, I figured out why: men with limited expertise were running the show and almost exclusively men with a background in science, which seemed odd to me because I know a great deal of atheist women with better messages than just “evolution is cool”. On another note, there have been a lot of criticisms of the atheist community being too fundamentalist.

So, confused, I sat back and watched. Then, in May of this year, I made a friend in the Flagstaff (AZ) Freethinkers Group, Brian Wallace. He asked me to speak at his group upon publication of my book, which is about my life in a cult. Then, he proceeded to hit on me. This wasn’t totally weird…until it turned weird. It quickly became predatory and really disturbing. He said his girlfriend (Serah Blain?) wanted him to meet a woman and have sex with her. He didn’t even know if he wanted to (lies). They were in an open relationship, he tells me later. Then, he said she was interested in bringing that woman (presumably me) into a threesome in a hotel at the upcoming atheist convention (which I think was this one). What was weird wasn’t that I was asked to be in a threesome. That’s so three years ago, though, and I’m over it. What was weird was the amount of charm and lies this dude Brian piled up just to convince me to sleep with him and his girlfriend.

A month later, I realize exactly why this fucks with my head still. Brian was a sexual predator–manipulating and lying to get in the sack with a girl looking for love. There wasn’t any honesty in the dialogue. It was pure sociopathic manipulation. My real issue, though is that these people, Brian and Serah, are leaders in the atheist/freethinking community. I was even friends with Serah on Facebook and that’s where I think she got the idea to target me. Yes, target.

Later, I realized the men-run (read: all) atheist conventions have been told for years that sexual harassment has been happening and have not done a damn thing to implement a sexual harassment policy? How can you when Dick-y Dawkins is sexist and thinks women should just get “thick skin” and suck a dick it up. Oh, PLEASE don’t tell me to suck it up. I don’t care if you think you run the world, Dawkins. That’s so 1950’s you remind me of the Catholic Church with that type of rhetoric.

At some point in between all this, I join The Clergy Project, where I get interviewed for an hour, but sadly, the interview consisted of bragging about self. Cool story bro. Yawn. You’re running up my phone bill for this? I’ve got shit to do and I’m trying to join a community here, and you’re telling me how awesome you are. Weird. My response to him: “Where are all the women in the atheist community?” Stutter…”Um, oh, yeah.” I’m disappointed.

My atheist role models aren’t necessarily outright atheist, but they stand for human rights issues, secularism, and take an active role in stopping the abuse of the church. Marci A. Hamilton and Anne Rice…these women are passionate about putting their reputation on the line while fighting the Church policy of covering up hatred and abuse. They’re the ones who are admirable in my opinion. All these other boys really don’t do it for me. They’re just not my style and quite frankly, I’m over the frat party mentality (a view of nipples if you’re an atheist). I think I just puked in my mouth.

Atheist Labels can be Confining

I’ve been a blogger for almost two years. When I first “came out” as an atheist, I started with a broad statement “I’m not a Christian anymore.” I realize that was a little ambiguous but it’s okay to sort out your faith or loss of faith as you go, piece by piece, day by day. There’s no right way to become an atheist.

I immediately ran to all the atheist communities online, hoping to find…I’m not sure what I wanted to find-answers, new bff’s, deep discussions? I visited just about every atheist online community, including the assholes on reddit.com/r/atheist (and they are truly assholes), and landed in Think Atheist. I liked it the best, but my interest faded with time. All of the communities serve a purpose, but few people had stories like mine (former reverends join a coercive religious group; minister for seven years; can’t date, etc.) so it was difficult to find people to relate to. I started blogging more about being atheist and as it turns out there were a lot of agnostic or atheist or skeptic friends on my Facebook, so that ended nicely for me.

Blogging is something that requires you to categorize yourself and label yourself, mostly so people can find your expertise or opinions in the vast sea of blogs. Of course when I came out, I wanted to rush to label myself as atheist…because I was.

How did everyone else do it? Oh, big red A’s? 

Ew.To be honest, those red A’s that everyone puts on their blogs are just tacky. And then there’s the rumors of Richard Dawkins being sexist. I’m feminist before I’m anything because I left the church for being so damn confining and oppressive to WOMEN, so when I heard that, I definitely wasn’t a fan and won’t be wearing the Dick Dawkins red A or anything related to him.

Plus, my writing is much more comprehensive than just atheism and I think that’s what I don’t get about the atheist community. Aren’t we people with a wide range of talents and interests? Why just stick to one single subject daily? It’s almost as boring as Christianity and the same old recycled sermons. Yawn. I would bore myself to tears if that’s all I wrote about everyday. To be honest, I started this blog to get my story out and I’ve attracted quite a large amount of Christians. We don’t necessarily get along all the time, because they don’t like my profanity or my attitude, but I still try to find a way to offer them resources because I realize they are hurting because the person they trusted most (a clergy person) abused them or misused them.

I get it, the word atheism is a label and sometimes that’s important. But there’s something important to me about the ability to change and be flexible, especially after being so tightly wound as a fundamentalist. When people ask me if I’m an atheist I like to say that I can be agnostic, atheist and anti-theist all in a weeks time. If I ever become comfortable with medication meditation or something spiritual in nature, then I’d like to explore that without another label being in the way (living life as a “I love Jesus. Do you?” Christian will do that to you).