A (former) Christian’s Argument for Atheism

This was so important to me I decided to blog it. It’s about something the Pope, my most favorite person in the Universe, said.

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The quote and the article have nothing to do with each other, except being said by the same wonderful man. Okay, maybe there’s a tiny connection.

“How many times have we all heard people say ‘if that person is a Catholic, it is better to be an atheist’.”
~ Pope Francis

http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/pope-suggests-better-to-be-atheist-than-hypocritical-catholic/ar-AAngu7y

 

I’ve been running this blog for about five or six years. About a year or so ago, I stopped posting. I’ve considered sending out an explanation, but my readership is pretty small, no one was clamoring for an explanation, so I let it be.

When I read the article about what the Pope said, I decided to write a post because his comments touched on something I felt very deeply. It was as if I finally had permission to speak about something I was ashamed to know.

Separation of the Church and the State of Being:

I’m not the same person I was three years ago. I came across a recent blog post the other day and I was reminded that my faith and love for God were so profound …

“Faith that can not withstand the light of reason, is not Belief, but mere Supersition.” ~ John Donne (I think).

                                                  … and so utterly out of touch with reality.

For new readers, or readers who haven’t read this, my family experienced and lost a brutal and abusive adoption battle, complete with corruption, harassment, one assault (albeit not an injurious one) against me by a social worker, and even abusive and neglectful treatment of the children by the system. I’d relied on my faith in family, people, the justice system, my understanding of God throughout the whole process.

That turned out to be a huge mistake.

In the ruins of what used to be my life, some of the little gems of non-wisdom I’d held on to couldn’t stand up to any rational examination.

So many things I’d been taught about God and told about God and encouraged to believe turned out to be just – in my world anyway – well, bullshit. All those pleasing, palliative platitudes were as useless as the pledge of allegiance during a frontal tank assault: “God has a plan,” the frustratingly misleading “Prayer Works” and “Things always happen for a reason.” Then there’s its fraternal twin “Things always work out for the best,” and my personal favorite “God never gives you anything you can’t handle.”

There was a reason for an entire loving, healthy, safe, law-abiding family, including innocent and vulnerable children, to be traumatized and destroyed by corruption on the possible scale of Pennsylvania’s Kids for Cash scandal? God had a purpose in me feeling like my whole gut was ripped from my body with bare hands and have the people who were supposed to be helping me treat me with complete contempt? God had a plan to traumatize and scar innocent little children?

Really?

If there was a purpose, maybe I could’ve been told about it. It might have helped me all those dark days and nights for God to let me in on His Little Secret. Knowing the Grand Plan might have helped me put my body soul back together a bit sooner and a bit better, but apparently He didn’t think it was important enough to tell me about it.

God’s supposed to be loving, and I’d always heard God loved me, but none of that sounded very loving to me. In fact, it sounded pretty manipulative, if we were all permanently traumatized in the service of a whole cosmic plan that benefited someone else but left us hanging.

And if prayer worked, and people were praying for us, why wasn’t it working in our lives? Does prayer work for others but just not for us? Where does that put us in the cosmic scheme of things?

payer-works
So does this mean I just didn’t pray hard enough?

It wasn’t long before my brain took all these questions and went global. It seems none of that stuff works out for a shitload of other people, either.

Taken to their logical conclusion, these soothing little bromides must mean: there is a reason that millions of women are raped and terrorized every year, God has a plan for children who die from childhood abuse or neglect, people who suffer indignities, abuse and/or illness to the point of suicide are simply chosing not to handle it, because God wouldn’t allow it if they couldn’t really handle it. Then there were the implications over centuries of genocides (including one itsy bitsy little Holocaust) that some people might argue God, in His infinite wisdom and omnipotence, might have let go on a wee bit too long.

In this light, some of those platitudes people say every day, and I’ve heard for forty some odd years, sounded downright cruel.

I’d gone from seeing God everywhere to not seeing God anywhere.

In fact, I came to believe, maybe if I hadn’t had such profound faith in Divine Intervention, that “prayer works,” that “there is always a reason;” if I’d trusted God a little less and my instincts a little more, I’d had kept my family, those children would have kept their safe and loving home. Hell, I might not be blogging right now – I’d be outside playing with my children.

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The only Divinity I can be sure about anymore

My faith in God, Divine Inspiration, Divine Intervention fell apart. The only Divinity I believed in anymore was an old Southern recipe that overpopulated 1970’s church bake sales.

Even so, far be it from me to rain on anyone else’s theological parade. I can’t lie and pretend to believe this anymore, but each person has to come to their understanding of their world in their own time, and it’s not up to me to drive the faith and belief out of anyone. Even I’m not that bitter, yet. So I kept my mouth shut. It kept the bitching and moaning about my blog in my personal life down to a minimum, so that was an added perk.

All of that said, I have always loved Pope Francis, and still do. I admire the shit out of that man. I think he’s probably more Godly than our constructs about God. So when I saw the article, I was inspired to write again. Maybe it was validation, maybe it felt like  permission, but I was inspired all the same.

The Pope spoke to what I believed.

The Pope had spoken to my heart. He put the Papal Seal of Understanding on the second reason I left religion and belief behind: the failure of so many of Christianity’s self-avowed devotees to even faintly resemble what Christ taught in the New Testament.

In my old days, I walked around in a rosy cloud of thinking everyone had to be so wonderful and I was so … not wonderful, lacking somehow in some way each and every person I met was superior. Nagging, pesky little questions and doubts popped up in my brain, but I took care of them because whatever they were, they were mine, and ergo, wrong.

I knew (and tried to please) people so toxic they should’ve come with their own warning label. “Devoted” religious people who could be the meanest, most spiteful, most selfish people I’ve ever encountered. In my low self-esteem fugue state, I could be convinced by them and myself that the problem was me – not them.

So, when I started to wonder, what the fuck is up with this? Why were some of these people just so friggin’ mean? I pushed all those clearly rational thoughts back down again with a “Shush, these are Nice Anglo-Middle Class People because they dress in nice Anglo-Middle Class clothes, they have nice Anglo-Middle Class jobs and go to nice Anglo-Middle Class Church. These are the Right Kind of People.”

Eventually, riding that train of thought down the track led me straight to a derailment disaster complete with metaphorical and psychological toxic waste spill requiring the complete evacuation of everything I once believed.

The new me is a thankfully bit more skeptical.

Once I separated my unicorns-and-rainbows myth of Church People from my life experiences, I saw that the reality was less Carol Ingalls and Olivia Walton and more Bravo Real Housewives. Now, I knew some wonderful, loving, selfless, truly Godly women in the Church World. Ironically, though, these weren’t the women who sought prominence, and they didn’t wear their religion on their sleeve like a badge. Some of the most visible, prominent women showed themselves to also be the shallowest and meanest, once I got to know them. It wasn’t how it was supposed to be, it probably isn’t that way everywhere (I hope), but it was that way in the world I lived in. Given that I don’t have enough time or money to travel the globe, get a representative sample and do a full statistical analysis, I figure I have to base my new understanding on the data I have at hand.

Soooo ….  I looked around with a willingness to be brutally honest, and I saw:

561639e64cfa04814a58fbe186f3dae8People who’s actions bordered on theft, who exploited the poor for financial gain (then bitched about them), touted bigotry and misogyny. There was the one who never missed a service then tried to undermine a loving marriage with lies and manipulation out of jealousy. The one who taught Sunday School then harassed and bullied family members anytime a fit of pique struck. The ones who leveraged their positions in the church to promote themselves, their personal causes, and practice nepotism. Public advocates of Christ’s teachings while turning their backs on injustice or exploitation unless it impacted their own identity group. And I was supposed to be the spiritually inferior being here?

I seemed to remember reading something discouraging all that in the Old and/or New Testaments. But what the hell did I know, right?

We’re not just talking Catholicism here. It’s no one religion’s fault. There are mean little assholes in every religion. While I know there are mean little assholes everywhere (I worked in the banking/finance industry, after all), church is supposed to be the one place working to eradicate that kind of thing, not enabling it.

If someone keeps telling you they’ve got the cure, but it sure as hell looks like they’re still sick, who in their right mind is going to think that cure works? That might be what the Pope’s talking about.

And, as before, my brain’s newfound superpowers decided to take on bigger challenges and look around in my world. I didn’t have to go too far.

The Power of Prayer to do absolutely nothing.

prayer-is-useless
More and more, every day, this was pretty much my sentiment. Except I would have preferred a petition to a sandwich. A call to a representative, a written letter of protest. Those would have been good sandwich-alternatives, too. Prayers – eh – not so much.

It was the spiritual cowardice I saw and completely resented. People  wept crocodile tears and made public prayers about the poor, downtrodden, suffering people “over there” somewhere, always thousands or millions of miles away, but their response to our exploited children and destroyed family in their own community was a pat on the head, a prayer, and any combination of the aforementioned platitudes. I didn’t necessarily need a hug, although it felt nice, it didn’t put my family back together again or clear my name. I needed activism and advocacy.

I guess all the prayer and beatitudes gave people some sense of agency (and it was supposed to make me feel loved) in an overwhelming situation, but that wasn’t supposed to be the goal. It also serviced a sense of compliance and complacency that perpetuated the problem, honestly. Because, and let’s face it here, when the rubber hit the road and it was time to be counted, like Peter, they didn’t want to be caught in the crossfire of the controversy with authority.

The worst part was and still is to see almost everyone’s revulsion when faced, not with the horrible crap my family had to face and withstand, but faced just with the reality that we had to. Not everyone, but almost everyone I’d expected better from, and some people who owed us better. It was surprising to see the very few people who tried to actually help in a meaningful way. Only one would could be described as religious.

Everyone quickly become more pre-occupied with other problems. Short attention spans notwithstanding, the change in focus was, from my point of view, to causes more appealing because they were either immediately solvable (a few hours), or quite frankly, trendy, in-the-news social ills that played well to a the liberal identity, but many of which didn’t really solve anyone’s problems.

I’m not saying some individuals didn’t benefit, but these were drop-in-the-bucket feel-good gestures, some of which only had a fleeting Look-At-Wonderful-Us quality. When it came time for real action in a real situation of injustice, something that meant involvement and engagement for the long haul, in our situation … it wasn’t there.

In that light, I was disappointed.  I didn’t see much of what Christ taught. I didn’t see much of what the Old Testament taught. What I saw was the same old thing I’d seen in office politics and secular community groups dressed up in a cross. The Bible might have been the platform, but it wasn’t the foundation.

ghandi
I don’t know if Ghandi really said this or not. Like all my pics, I got it off of Google. But it does sum up my theological sweet spot right now, in fewer words than I ever could.

Why I stopped blogging:

Truth, sometimes, is not pretty. Oh hell, often it’s downright ugly, thanks to the dank, toilet-like nature of humanity most of the time. Deep down, I’ve always known this. I knew this before I knew how to sign my name in cursive. As a young girl, I was privy to the darker side of people, and fought hard to believe it wasn’t people’s only side. In ways I won’t get into, that need ironically led me to find mostly people with mostly dark souls, if they had any souls at all.

I’ve always felt strongly about writing the truth. I don’t always mean the factual truth, although accurate representation of the facts is important – no one knows that better than I do. The rest of our culture seems to be learning that Life Lesson about six months too late. I mean the truth about life, what we know, what we should know.

In the past few years, I’ve gotten to see a side of humanity, government, existence and even religion that most people are lucky enough never to see. Every day I wish I was one of those lucky, sheltered bastards. My truth is, well, a truth that sometimes requires alternating dosages of Nexium and Red Wine. Alternating, remember I said that because that is the key component there.

There is also the real backlash to my blog in my personal life from real people in my real life. These aren’t strangers or trolls, but people I know. I’d like to think I’m ballsy and badass enough to take it, and if I had hundreds of readers out there hanging on my every word, I would. But I don’t. Some days, putting up with the obnoxious and abusive bullshit I have to confront for writing something autobiographical, all because of someone else’s imagination just isn’t worth it. (This time, however, it is.)

I can’t blame it all on them. I’d like to, but I’d by lying to myself and you.

For a while, a brief while, my life was lightness and joy and love. There were patches of unpleasantness, but I could handle them because of the abundance I’d been lucky enough to enjoy. Then the luck ran out.

It pretty much beat the life out of me for a long time. And while I’ve done a badass job of putting myself together again, it has been a DIY project, with DIY results.

Quite frankly, I’ve soured on the most of human race. It makes me wish for life on another planet with aliens. By that I mean THE Ridley Scott Aliens.

alien
I should’ve lined up this Lovely to help with one of the “home visits” and seen how she reacted to a social worker cussing her out in front of her little babies.

The point is, I haven’t written because I don’t believe that anyone wants to hear what I have to say. This isn’t self-pity or self-deprecation; it’s an honest assessment of our culture. Hell, half of what I need to say I don’t want to hear and wish to God I didn’t know. I’ve waged my own distraction campaign with Nordstrom (God Love Nordstrom’s!!!!) online shopping and cake decorating to choke a horse, so I’m not all that superior here.

And if I find the truth so unappealing, how can I expect anyone to want to read a blog about all of that?

 

2105 Badass Winners

I realized that this year, I also needed to invest some time in the positive.

It’s been a rough year for me personally, one in which I learned as much about myself, as I did about the world around me and the people close to me. I was surprised (and proud) of the first. The last two? Not so much in some corners, but way pleased in others.

This year, rather than emulate whatever happened to be around me, I decided to learn from those I admired. I drop-kicked the “but they’re Them, way over there, who am I to emulate them mentality” and decided to learn from my heroes.

Not all these people are from 2015. Some are from 2014. But hey, you don’t tell the Police of the Annual Lists and I won’t either. It will be our dirty little secret.


 

10. Ruth Bader Ginsburg

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Her take on the Hobby Lobby case was enough for me. But as I googled her – mostly for jpegs, I confess – I learned about her, and was amazed. The Time.com photo alone gets her into my menagerie for fishnet gloves.

See also the New York Times online article.

 

9. The Writers and Producers of The Walking Dead.

No, I will not subject my readers to more fangasms in the off-season. I’m correcting a mistake, really. I should have written about this years ago, and I didn’t. Scott, Gale, Robert and Greg, forgive me.

Hollywood women cry out for better roles for women, and grown-up women. According to Hollywood, nothing interesting happens to you after thirty. Interesting things only happen to your husband or kids. The Guardian cites recognition that television does a better job than film.  Then there are the calls for better roles, more interesting roles, for women over … say … twenty-five.

TWD falls into that category for better roles for women, and takes it up a notch. (Battlestar Gallactica demands inclusion here, too.)

Carol Pelletier starts out in the series as a mousy middle-aged, battered wife and mother. That’s where she starts. Baby, that’s not where she ends. (Check out this yourtango.com article). The character has now earned a following in the fan universe that roots for her leadership.

The writers have given her independent storylines in which she has engaged in heroism, villainism, violence, strategy, compassion and stealth. Her arc and these episodes devoted to her have employed all the elements normally given to men.

While I am in the camp that needs the writers to fess up and have her and Daryl get at “it” already, I appreciate that they have not diluted her character by putting her in the “romantic interest” position.

Other phenomenal characters: Maggie, a southern woman who is not a “belle,” but a tribute to the southern women in my own family tree. (Kudos to Lauren Cohan for getting the accent right.) Michonne, a fierce woman of color who is not diluted as “girlfriend,” and who is smart, sexy and strong. Rosita, a Latina character that does not take a side in some false dichotomy of sexy OR smart. Deanna: a great character of age. Most typical producers or writers would have cast a thirty-something. Tara Chambler, a lesbian that is not presented in stereotypical terms of “butch” or “femmy.”

So, the feminism of TWD is on the list.

 

8. Dolce & Gabbana

Yeah, like I can afford that stuff.

I tweeted a few weeks ago about their decision to form a line of fashions for Muslim women. Cynics can argue that this was a crass economic decision. I’m sure it was motivated by growing market share and an opportunity to enter into a new sphere. But the clear economic advantage of creating goods for a group has not always won the day. Think Plus-size fashions that aren’t black mumus.

So, someone was thinking inclusion, respect, and perhaps, in this age of rampant reactionary racism against arabs and anti-Muslim sentiment, fueled by a mangy old man with too much money and not enough brains …

Oops, I strayed into the Zombie Bait List again. My bad.

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What was I saying? Oh, in this ideological climate, the decision to create this collection is itself an ideological statement, make no mistake.

 

7. Muslims

Yep. Your garden variety Muslim, your faithful, obedient, disciplined follower of Islam made the list. Why? Because right now the whole world is dumping a whole ton of undeserved bullshit their way, and Muslims are no more to blame for ISIL or Al Qaeda than Christians are to blame for the Branch Davidians.

I see Muslim women in the store, the mall, the gas station and I want to say “I am so sorry for some of the jackasses running around who claim to be members of my faith/color/class. Please forgive us.”

I want to talk about how much I admire the courage, commitment and discipline it takes to wear a hijab or an abaya. I want to talk about how little I know about their faith, but what little I know tells me that their faith demands far more daily discipline and commitment than I put into mine.

And they do all this while they are reviled by a political candidate, misunderstood by the media, and as I have seen with my own eyes, feared by their communities.

Instead, I just say “hello,” or “nice day,” hoping that somehow they’ll know everything else is tucked away surreptitiously into that little salutation.

These people get up the next morning, put one foot in front of the other and do what they gotta do and keep their faith – publicly.

That alone makes you a badass.

 

6. Pope Francis

It rankles the hell out of my devout in-laws when I call their Pope “Frankie.”

I love this guy. Truly, I love this guy. I believe he is the one who will put Christ’s message back into Christian religion. I love his take on poverty, I love that he chose not to live like a King as Pope (not living in the Papal Apartments), but like a servant of Christ. I love his courage to defy old ideaologies and be a real LEADER of the people into the message of love and justice. I love his love for people.

And I firmly believe that behind the scenes, sure as God made little green apples, some of the old Establishment in the Church is not too happy about him. Others probably blocked him.

I would make this man my famous tortilla soup. I don’t even do that for my husband (and I do hear about it).

I’m just gonna say it with jpegs.

whatever popeman   download (9)pope-francis-awesome-7

 

5. Hillary Clinton

Okay, who among my reader(s) is surprised here?

The surprise is that she’s not on the list for her politics, but for her effect on me as a role model.

No matter what anyone has thrown at this woman, and Trump has managed to create some pretty big balls of shit to throw her way, she has remained poised, calm, deliberate and focused. While everyone in the GOP is snarling and biting with rhetoric (not just Trump, but Christie, too).

Where the rest of the players have confused bravado with confidence, Clinton has displayed the true confidence of being level-headed in the shit-storm – something I had to learn the hard way to do.

When asked in one news interview about Trump, she laughed light-heartedly. When that bonehead moderator started the debates before she’d returned (clearly from the bathroom), she made a little joke. She never get flustered. She never crumbles.

I’ve learned from her: how to handle my opponents, that if I’m doing the right thing I will have opponents, not to believe the B.S./P.R. my opponents throw around about me. I’ve learned that being tough means being calm, going to the back room, pulling your team together, and planning your next move.

I’ve learned that being smart and being tough are nothing to be ashamed of.

I think she has superpowers. I think the real scandal will be when we all find out she was in a scientific accident as a child and it gave her super psychological strength, because when it comes to composure, she’s Wonder Woman, SuperGirl and Carol Pelletier all wrapped into one.

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iagreetosee.com

Day-um. I wanna be like that when I grow up.

 

4. German  Chancellor Angela Merkel

All it took was one thing. Even though I knew vaguely of her involvement in the Greek financial crisis, this woman was on my periphery until just one thing got her on this list.

Even after she was Time’s 2015 Person of the Year.

One thing caught my attention.

She welcomed the refugees. Merkel is quoted in the New York Times:

I am convinced that, handled properly, today’s great task, presented by the influx and the integration of so many people, is an opportunity for tomorrow

Merkel’s generosity has been so immense, that, according to Roger Cohen:

The United States would have had to admit about 4 million refugees this year to take in a similar proportion of its population. It has fallen more than 3.9 million short of that mark.

 

3. Malala Yousafzai

She is the young girl in Pakistan who spoke up about education for girls.

So the Taliban shot her. In the face. On her school bus.

What did she do?
She spoke up again. Louder. Fiercer. At the UN.

Speaking up is hard when you’ve been punished for pursuing what you have a right to, be it education or motherhood. You get punished.

A thousand experts will tell you not to speak up, as I’m sure many did with Malala. Friends and family will run when the fit hits the shan. In her case, I’d completely understand: for God’s sakes, she’d been shot. In the head. But it seems her family stood by her.

And stood she did. She didn’t back down. She never will. Check out her story in-depth at BBC online.

 

2. President Barack Obama

Gun Control. He manned up. He has taken on all this bullshit about gun control. I hope he uses that executive order and milks it for all it’s worth on this one.

Sometimes, you have to govern for the best interests of the many, not just the wishes of the many.

In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, President Obama addressed opponents’ fear that they will have to register their firearms. As an aside, are these the same people clapping and cheering when Trump wants to register Muslims? Just a thought.

I suspect the NRA is fueling all these ridiculous, absurd, emotionally-driven fears about gun control.

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from unkown source; see cartoon for copyright

Do you want some kid to drive a car down the road without being tested and cleared as being safe to do so? No.

gun - evil quote

So let’s make sure that whoever owns a gun is cleared as being safe to do so, and keep the guns out of people who would pull the trigger for evil purposes. It’s called a background check.

One question to opponents: are you worried you won’t pass?

Jeesh.

 

 

 

1. France.

All of France. The whole country.

This year, France taught us what a true badass is. They suffered horrendous terrorist attacks, and what was their immediate response?

Politicize the tragedy into a ridiculous argument about the second amendment?
Seize the moment as an opportunity to transform latent rage and fear into racism?

No.

First, they responded appropriately and definitively. They let the terrorists know they were strong, they were not to be trifled with. Their responsive attack was swift, certain and clear. It was necessary to send a message on behalf of all targets of violence over this globe.

Sometimes, there just have to be consequences.

Then, they opened their hearts and their homes to the displaced.

 

French online planned interfaith gatherings, in the face of a ban on gatherings. From the Huffington Post:

By Sunday, 3,000 people had pledged to attend a multi-faith “Rally with Muslims of France for Peace and National Unity,” scheduled for the end of the week near Paris’ Grand Mosque. Another 6,000 said they were interested in going.

I swear I read that there was an online effort to open homes and hearths to people who were stranded in Paris because of the attacks.

Mercy and Strength all in the face of random, brutal attacks.

France taught us everything.