Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

My Beloved, the Whore

This is going to be a deeply personal post, sort of a public “Dear diary”, so if that’s not your thing, please don’t read it.  All others, I post this publicly to receive a public review of my thoughts and keep a record of the process.  Feel free to comment.

I have recently told my parents  I am an atheist.  Now, I know that this is very painful for them, but I’m finding the post closet experience particularly frustrating (and ultimately painful) for several reasons.

They don’t really know what an atheist is, so they alternately (a.) don’t think I am really an atheist or (b.) ascribe to me the beliefs that they think an atheist has.   They (c.) don’t really understand why I became an atheist, and as such (d.) think it is because they were bad parents.

(a.) They see that I am still spiritual, ethical, and looking for truth and they assume that it is a vestige of Christianity.   Number one, wouldn’t that mean any moral person was some sort of a partial Christan?  “Christian” is not, last time I checked, a substitute for “moral”.  Ideally, yes, all Christians would be bastions of morality.  Some are, many aren’t.  Further, ideally, all Muslims, Buddhists, and Pagans would be intensely ethical people.  Some are, many aren’t. Number two, it says “All those years that you were moral?  Yeah, that doesn’t count, because that wasn’t the authentic you, the authentic you is incapable of morality without Christ.”  And as a logical extension of that belief, then all the emotions I had were inauthentic as well.  Morality isn’t free.  Sometimes we want to do immoral things, and there is a cost to being moral instead.  Moral means desires differed, sometimes forever, and to have the work I put into being moral just written off kinda sucks.   To be told either the “Christian me” or the “atheist me” is less than the authentic me is very insulting.

(b.)To a Christian, atheist means one who wishes to reject God.   So they ascribe to me the beliefs of one who, in their heart, believes in God, but desires not to.  It’s not that I wish to reject the God hypothesis; it’s that evidence compels me to reject God.  Working from the assumption that I wish to reject God they think I believe things that I don’t.   They make assumptions about why I became an atheist and what atheist means.  Which goes right to (c.)  I publicly profess atheism because it is the cry of my heart and mind.  I can no more just wake up a Christian that I could just wake up gay.  This is what I am.  To public state otherwise is to live a lie.  I expected a lot more “Good job, son.”  It takes a huge amount of courage to challenge everything you were ever told and disagree with 96% of the population.  I thought the attitude would be a lot more, “Well, we disagree with you of course, but we understand why you believe what you believe, and we’re proud of you for having the cojones to admit it.”   I am proud of having this courage, and I feel like someone who really knows me and loves me would feel the same way.

It leads me to believe that my parents aren’t responding to who I am, but rather to who they think I am.  Which is terrifying because it leads me to ask the question, “Did they ever…?”  Did my parents ever really understand who I am?  I think, sadly, but reasonably, no.  It wasn’t even their fault exactly.  Even I didn’t believe the evidence of who I was. I was suicidal in high school.  My usual day consisted of waking up, putting a loaded gun to my head and trying to find the courage to kill myself.   Accepting my total failure of inner strength, I could then find a reason to eat breakfast and shower: maybe I would get laid that day, and then I would either go crazy with lust and die in a whore house in a few years (suicide on the installment plan) or I would be so disappointed for pointlessly giving my virginity away that I could pull the trigger and, of course, I would have gotten laid.   This is not the thoughtscape of a Christian.

Several thoughts prevented me.  Putting a hollow point in your brain is an ungodly mess.  It didn’t seem fair to have my parents come home to find my head inside out, running on the wall.  I didn’t want to make them suffer, I just wanted to not hurt inside anymore.  It didn’t seem right to kill myself in some odd way that hid the body either, because I heard from people whose kids were never found, that the not knowing is horrible.  I was a little concerned about hell, because no “real Christian” would want to kill themselves for years on end, but I predominately worried about two things.  One, that I would give myself a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and make myself a quadriplegic.  Two, that there was no sex in heaven.  I was worried about TBI for two reasons: one, I’d never get another chance to kill myself because no one would kill me just because I asked, and two, I wouldn’t be able to feel my penis anymore, again preventing sex forever.  For probably 3 years or so, I couldn’t make myself get out of bed without holding a 9mm and saying something like, ” I can get up today, because no matter how much this day hurts, I am in control.  I can always end it”…and they never noticed.

Which leads me neatly to (d.) They think I am an atheist because they were bad parents…

Ok, in several ways my folks were not bad parents.  I was never sexually abused.  I was never physically abused (though I did see some in our home).  I was never verbally abused.  They made sure I knew the Bible.  That’s a fantastic start. The world needs more parents who don’t rape, hit, or ridicule their kids.  I no longer believe the Bible is inspired, but they did, and I understand and respect their motivation, if not their application.   The thing is….um….that was sort of… it.   When I was 8 years old, I told my mom that I was planning on killing my sister because she was sadistic bitch.  My mom told I loved my sister and I didn’t mean that and made no effort to put away any of the loaded guns littering the house. I mean, I’m not a perfect dad, but I’m pretty sure if my daughter said she was going to kill someone, I might, oh, I don’t know, put away the guns (if I had any).

Number of times my dad played catch with me? Asked me what I was doing in piano? Asked me who my hero was? What I wanted to be when I grew up? Asked me what I learning in school?  Yeah…never.  Number of times my Mom taught me to cook?  She didn’t. I taught myself (much to her surprise).   She never asked me why I wanted to play piano (because I wanted to play jazz).    Neither parent ever asked me what I planned on after high-school, where I wanted to go to school, what I wanted to do with my life.   They made sure I was fed, clean, and educated.  They made sure that certain tests (my ACT) were done, and paid for my health care.   They were the best foster parents the state could have appointed.  Except, they weren’t foster parents.  They are my blood parents who brought me into this world at least partially on purpose.  And as far as what makes me, well me, they never gave a damn.  Some of this is explainable by the fact that my dad was pretty invested into drugs and my mom into codependency in my early life.  Fair enough.  But why, my senior year did they not say “Hey, where do you want to go to college?”  They never asked.  They never asked where I wanted to go, what my major might be, never asked a whole lot of things.  Nothing that would really mark me as me, my dreams, my hopes, was ever talked about.   They had no interest in knowing me at all.

For years, I’ve struggled with these memories of my first girlfriend.  Which, honestly, makes me feel like a doofus.  28 year old men do not pine away for the 18 year old they dated 10 years ago, at least healthy ones don’t.   She and I were both very lonely, very sexual people, but because we were Christians, we never slept together.  A lot of the obsession went away when I called her a few years ago.  We talked about the breakup and the relationship and how we had both hurt each other.  We parted not-quite-as-hurt anymore and accepting that we had other lives now that couldn’t reasonablely include each other.  But, I still think wistfully about making love to her more than I am comfortable with, and I’ve never understood why.

Then this week I got it.  I did a lot of the things I did to impress my parents.  I read Brave New World as a nine year old so I could impress my parents with how smart I was.  In fact, reading was about the only thing I ever got positive feedback for, and read like crazy.  I read to find something smart to say, so I could get some parental approval.   I aced algebra because my mom said her kids weren’t good at math.  I graduated with a 4.0.  I went to bible college instead of a engineering school because I wanted my parents to be proud of decisions, and nothing else I wanted to do would have pleased them as much. So what happened when I brought the woman I wanted to marry home from Bible college, the woman that I loved sacrificially as Christ loved the church (I wanted to marry her to redeem her reputation)?  They called my beloved a slut, said she dressed like prostitute (she wore silk pajama pants and a camisole to bed), and refused to leave us alone together so we wouldn’t have sex.   When I went to stay with her in her hotel (She was fairly offended and left) they commanded me to come back home.  I could have disobeyed, but I did not, because my father was appointed over me by god.  To disobey him was to disobey God himself, and he told me so when he commanded me to come back home.  They called my beloved a whore and told me it would be best if I broke off my engagement.   So I did.  10 years later, it still hurts because I showed them the one thing in the world it was most important to me for them to be proud of and they said….nah, she’s a whore.  It’s the rejection by the people I loved most in the world that made the wound so deep.

So, am I an atheist because my parents were bad parents?  Absolutely not.  Had my parents been really great supportive people instead of emotionally distant and judgemental people I probably would have realized I was an atheist by the time I started high school. I can’t and do not blame them for any of the really stupid decisions I made after I was 18.  But up to 18, they were my life, and I do blame them for a lot of the guilt I felt and the stupid things believed.  They asked me recently to forgive them for “any harm we caused”.  Which, I can’t really do.   A bit because an open ended request for forgiveness is worthless: “I’m sorry that vague things I don’t care to understand and refuse to accept responsibility for hurt you for some odd reason.”   Ahhhhh, no.

But mostly, because a request for forgiveness is saying to someone “Teach me to treat you better”.  I really should carefully and lovingly delineate to them how they messed up and how this doesn’t relate to atheism, the opposite really, but I don’t believe them yet.  They didn’t care about my core identity for 28 years.  Now they respond to me the way they think an atheist feels instead of the way they think a Christian feels, but they still seem to have no real interest in understanding what makes up my core, my true self.   They ask me no questions about why I believe, or even the specifics of what I believe. Instead of talking to me about what I believe, they would rather to talk to to others about what they think I might believe.   They knew I was blogging, and that my blogs were asking hard questions, yet were completely surprised by my confessions of non-faith.  Why?  Because my blogs made them uncomfortable they stopped reading them.

There is a chance that they will read this, and  feel they must ask me questions about myself.  Then they will most likely be offended when I don’t want to answer.  A date you have to tell to compliment you isn’t much of a date, is it?  The time to care about what made me me was a good quarter a century ago.   I’m very selective about my friends, and they don’t make the cut.  I will continue to be kind and friendly, and call at appropriate holidays, but I no longer care about their approval one way or the other, and I could care less about really trying to have relationship with them.  Perhaps most tragically of all, since they never knew what a constitutes a real relationship to me they will probably never notice the difference.

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January 20, 2009 - Posted by | atheism, Christianity, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Slice of life, Uncategorized | , , , , , , ,

11 Comments »

  1. This is an extremely powerful post. We do not know each other, but your post has touched me. I’m not exactly sure why, but it has. I do not share your views, but I can tell you that I admire your courage in standing up to your parents. It’s not an easy thing to do; and I applaud you. At least know that, somewhere, a complete stranger thinks that what you did was gutsy.

    Comment by Mary | January 20, 2009 | Reply

  2. Hi Israel –
    I stumbled on your blog tonight and my heart goes out to you, for many reasons. While I may not agree with your choice of worldview, I can certainly understand your frustration at not being truly known by the people who should know you the best. That it itself is a real loss, with a grieving process all its own.
    Anna

    Comment by annaldavis | January 20, 2009 | Reply

  3. This is to let you know we read this. I once burned my hands in flaming jet fuel at a helicopter crash and spent the next 6 hours kneeling with my hands in cold water trying not to scream. This hurt more.

    I never played catch, you said, though I think I did, I also took you year after year on river float trips, shared fires and storms and laughter and tears with you.

    We never showed interest in your college choice? Yes we did, only asking you take a year of Bible school first. And when the public school shrink said you were illiterate and ADHD we refused to drug you and instead home schooled you from 4th grade through High School. And drove all the way to Chicago so you could graduate in a cap and gown.

    We told you we loved you. We bragged about you, telling how you’d described the meaning of life at age 4, made your own glider and flew at about 10, gave the score of God Vs. the Hairless Bipeds at about 12. How they wanted you to go into special ed. and instead with work and time that left your mother crying taught you through to a 4.0 How did you do on the Armed Forces Qualification Test,son? How much did all that reading help?

    So when you said you wanted to kill your oldest sister as virtually any boy with an older sister has said at least once, many more often. We didn’t hid all the guns. Or think you might blow your own brains out. I am a psychiatric nurse. I’ve seen that someone who is determined to commit murder of himself or others doesn’t need a gun to get it done. Your mom gave it serious consideration and decided that hiding the guns would be an insult to you and also show that she was taking it way too seriously. Yes, shooting and reloading and collecting are my hobbies. Yes, I raised you to treat every gun as loaded and to handle them responsibly, and that they are tools, not toys. Tell me, when I was gone and a group of outlaw bikers came to the house to tell your mother she was going to “sell” them my Triumph motorcycle whether she wanted to or not, were you glad there were loaded guns in the house?

    When you brought your fiance’ home I told her that every parent hopes for a Christian girl to marry his son and that I was happy it was her. You and she were sitting at the table when I said it. We loaned you the money to buy the engagement ring. Did we leave you alone in the house when you were obviously all over each other? No, what responsible parent would? And when she dressed in our home in a manner we found offensive from a single girl visiting our son, did we call her those names and tell her to go change? Or did we speak to you alone about it? Did we approve of her? No. Did we smell a big hairy rat with the story of her “adopted” “little brother”? You bet we did.

    You have a daughter now. When she is in her late teens or early twenties and you find out she’s a a local motel with a guy you know wants to use her, will you drive by and wave at the window or will you tell her to get the heck out of there? Or do what I was ready to do, go kick in the door and drag her out?

    Yes, we are hard corps, Bible Thumping Fundamentalist Christians. Yes, we raised you to believe in God and the Bible. Do we apologize for that? Absolutely not. Did we make serious errors in our child raising both of omission and commission? Of course we did. So did our parents, so did theirs. It’s an unfortunate, terminal, incurable malady called humanity, exacerbated by a Fallen Nature.

    Do I have some excuses? Sure. I was a drunk and a junky till you were eight. I lived in a twilight world where every cobweb was a trip wire and I worked only at night because then was when I didn’t dare sleep. But in 1988 I found sobriety and I’ve kept it for over 20 years. One step at a time I’ve tried to change who I am and what I do.

    That doesn’t excuse some of what you had to go through, but it doesn’t mean us grovelling either. We did the best we could with what tools we had available at the time. When I went to your Air Force basic graduation and you stood tall and proud and held your attention till you could salute me and I saluted you back and then hugged you,I cried like a baby I was so proud, I thought we understood each other.

    I’m not making blanket apologies, or scattered ones either. I raised a man and I got one, I just wish he was as proud of me as I am of him. And I wish he shared my faith in our Creator.

    I love you… Dad

    Comment by Dad | January 20, 2009 | Reply

  4. To Mary and Anna, thank you for your kind words.

    Dad, I made my response to yours a blog of it’s own. I love you dearly and I’m sorry this hurts so much.

    Comment by truthwalker | January 21, 2009 | Reply

  5. Dear Israel. I am not proud of you for becoming an athiest, I am terrified for you. I was not proud of you for accepting the free gift of Salvation either. I was happy and relieved because it meant to me that my son had Jesus Christ within him to rule his life and help guide his steps and he had heaven to plan on.

    Being an athiest and trying to live without God does not seem possible, normal, or rational to me. Why, why, why would I be proud of you making that decision?

    I am a cancer survivor, which means I passed on to my children the genetic tendency for cancer. At the same time, I was suicidal from the time I was 4 years old up through my children’s childhood. I have worried that the inborn tendency for that would pass on to my kids also and because your father had the same problem from a young age that you all were doubly suseptable. But because I and your father had both been able to work through it, I assumed that you and I could.

    When you told me about your suicidal thoughts, I was worried, I prayed for you. The evening you were so angry that you told me you wanted to kill your sister, I was VERY concerned, I took you VERY seriously. I saw the rage in your 11 year old face and the fire in your eyes. But I also had two angry children, you AND your sister. I may not have the facts exactly right, but this is how I think I remember it…

    I did not want to cause more acting out by showing my anger and emotional fear. I reasoned that, yes, you were serious and meant it, but that your anger and hot rage would pass if I could calm it with my own calmness and my physical presence. I do know with absolute certainty that I either knelt by your bed or lay down with you on it and held you for a couple hours till you seemed calmed and ready to sleep. I was talking to you and praying that every word out of my mouth was the right word to say to you.

    When I left your room I spent the night on the couch just outside the door to your room so that if you left the room I’d know it. I took you seriously, Israel. I intended to die that night if I had to in order to stop you from killing your sister. I wanted to protect both her and you from the consequences of that. I slept hardly at all and prayed all night.

    Now, the girl you wanted to marry. I did NOT give her or you my blessing, though your father did. Yes, we did loan you the money. Not because we wanted to but because you were determined to marry her. To be honest with you, I would have given you that money because I wanted to keep a relationship with my son and future daughter-in-law and step grand child. We would have supported you and her and her small child emotionally and, if needed financially, had it become necessary. Yes, we would have worried and sought the counsel of others like preachers, our families, friends, even your siblings. And yes, that could have been interpretted as talking behind your back. The issue was so emotional and you were so determined to marry who we were so determined was not right for you I’m not sure we could have really heard each other. So of course we would have had to talk to others to help us understand… sharing problems with others is how human relations works.

    I am so glad you married who you did. I think the world of Becky. I love her.

    When we visited with you in Biloxi, you seemed so upset and angry. You said you might seek counselling once you got to Germany. It seems like that anger is still there. If you don’t want to get counselling, you might consider that like the problems above you also inherited the genes of two people with alcoholism and addiction on both sides of your family. Your Dad is a recovering Alcoholic and Addict and I am a recovering co-dependent. You might want to consider visiting Alanon or Adult Children of Alcoholics. Both programs are bound to be around any military base.

    You Dad tells me that from his experience in 12 Step meetings you’ll find lots and lots of people dealing with the same issues with their parents that you have with us.

    Love, Mom

    Comment by Mom | January 21, 2009 | Reply

    • You are not OK.

      Comment by truthwalker | January 22, 2009 | Reply

  6. Wow, I do not know where to begin. You asked me to read this and this is not what I expected. First off I am not as impartial as you may like since I really like your parents and if I had to choose them over my own I would. I think I understand them even if I may not make the same choices they have made but then again I have never walked in their shoes or have been brought up the way they were. I would think for your own emotional healing forgiveness is not for the benefit of the person receiving it as much as it is good for the person giving it. when you let go of the bitterness through forgiveness it really helps deal with the true actual problems with out being warped by an impossible emotion. Sorry but yes you are kind of coming across as bitter and yes I think it is a little much and I it comes across to me like it is getting in the way. I have a dad that beat me every day of my life until I was about eight. I was exposed to some pretty terrible stuff as a child and have a lot of reasons to be bitter and I will say it is not an easy emotion to deal with. At some point in my life I had to let it go and the only way I know how is through forgiveness. The reality is you can not change your parents you can only change yourself. You are not responsible for your parents you are only responsible for yourself in this case (having children you are responsible for them till they reach an age a majority). You have no idea how many conversations I have had with my parents and how frustrating it can be when the party you talk to doesn’t see how beating you black and blue from head to toe with a belt is wrong because you missed the trash can peeling a carrot. A part of me is still kind of wounded about those experiences but I no longer can hate my dad as I have found that after I forgave him even though he has never acknowledged his wrong doing I could let that part of it go because it was only hurting me. We victimize ourselves way more than we should and it can cloud our perceptions and can get in the way of the good things. I have a lot in life to be thankful for and I focus on that. We can never change the past but if we let the past stand in the way of the future you will continue to be hurt by the past. You know I do have fond memories of my past in spite of my horrific abuse as a child even fond memories of my parents. I have acknowledge the pain of my past and I know it will always be there but in doing so I have to acknowledge the joy as well. Those experiences help define us as individuals. I like who I am as an individual so if I didn’t accept my past I feel like I couldn’t accept myself as who I am today. Someone asked me if I could change the past if I could and I had to honestly answer no because it has made me the person I am today. I don’t think I want other people to go through what I did and will fight to help the abused and down trodden but for myself I am a survivor and an over comer and that is something to be very proud of. Israel you are a survivor and an over comer as well. I am proud of the efforts you have made in your life but I can still see that your past is hanging on like a rotting corps. Let it go dude.

    I know this blog is about your beliefs and how it has changed your life but it seems you have not dealt with your past in a manor that will allow you to move on and enjoy what you have. You have a beautiful wife you get to make a different life with and enjoy a different relationship with than your parents did. You have a daughter that you get to raise in a manor that you know is better. That is huge and you should be happy not sad because people just don’t understand you. Screw them. No one understands anyone else besides themselves so don’t take anyone personally. You know I have a personal relationship with Christ and call myself Christian and think you are wrong in your Atheistic beliefs yet we can communicate. We actually have fun doing so and I think in spite of our beliefs about God we do have a lot in common. You know I love you like a brother and I want the best for you so I will be praying you can figure this out in your heart and mind and you will be able to make peace with the past as it seems to still be affecting you. The past may make us what we are as individuals but we do not have to let it define our future. I think you are making a start but remember not everything in your past was wrong and you can take the wrong from your past and not make it your future. Good luck with your faith may it guide you as well as mine has.

    Comment by Anna Alvarez | January 22, 2009 | Reply

  7. Dear Israel… this is a VERY important correction to the information in your blog above. My father did NOT beat me until I peed blood. He did use his belt to spank me and yes, I got a lot of spankings, and yes two or at the most three times it left abrasions that bled a little. I do not excuse him or want to minimize it, but he never beat me with his hands or fists.

    Oddly, I never held the bitterness and anger toward him, but I was toward my mother till long after she died. That was because when I was nine she let me take the blame for separating us permanently from my father as though it was MY decision. I prayed continually to God to help me forgive her. I felt deeply guilty for my anger at her. For me, forgiving her was a long difficult job. It was several years before I was able to give it to God and not take it back.

    Finally I also came to understand that for me, forgiveness was not for my mother. It wasn’t for her, she was already in Heaven worshipping God. I was the one miserable because I could not give it to God and leave it with him. Forgiveness is really for the one needing to forgive, I found out. It was a wonderful release of a heavy, heavy burden.

    And this helps me to understand how you could see me as emotionally distant… because I never shared with you some of these things you’ve learned about me in these last comments. I’m searching my heart and soul and am ashamed of what I already knew and am discovering more about how I have been emotionally distant. But I thought by not talking about these things I was being strong and protecting my kids from the ugliness of life.

    I love you Israel, Mom.

    Comment by Mom | January 24, 2009 | Reply

    • I’m confused about what your saying about your dad, because I asked you clarify that before, and you said that you did pass some blood. This was a statement you made not only to me, but also to Becky, Heather, and dad. But you were there and I wasn’t. So I’ll let it drop.

      Thank you for trying to reach out to me and trying to see where I am coming from. I love you a lot.

      Comment by truthwalker | January 24, 2009 | Reply

  8. It is very interesting to read of the 18 year old man and the young girl as this time has passed. I’m sure she is in a very happy place now, and hopefully, all else aside, so is the young man.

    It’s painful to read of the struggles of that relationship and the rejection of the parents. Something I’m all too familiar with. But I am sure the girl is at peace now with the events that unfolded. While heart-break is a bitch, I believe that all things happen for a reason. Nothing happens by chance. I only see your blog ever blue moon, but it’s intriguing to see your thoughts on this girl every now and again. Keep it up…

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts… 🙂

    Comment by Sui Generis | February 17, 2009 | Reply

  9. You comments are always welcome Sui Generis.

    In a perfect world I think she and I would still be close friends, but it’s not a perfect world. We make decisions that make decisions for us, and we end up not having options we want, to make sure that we can keep the options we want the most. You right, though: I am happy now, and she is too. It’s really good to hear that.

    Stop by anytime.

    Comment by truthwalker | February 17, 2009 | Reply


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