Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

High School Sexual Culture

The trip had begun like most of our church youth group trips had, with me working on the 1970-too old, Dodge Crap-O-Van. Was it a new water pump that time or a bad alternator? I can’t remember. I do remember the crunch of gravel under my feet and the singing of the cicadas from the church parking lot’s only tree, so I know it was in August. I remember praying to God for the strength to get through the whole repair without using sinful language, but I prayed that prayer frequently working on old vans.

I can’t remember what the trip was for, either. Were we going to some Bible college? A Christian rock concert? Or was it the trip to Denver where we spent two weeks doing vacation Bible school puppet shows? It’s been so long since then, but those youth groups trips were incredibly important to me, at the time. My father’s post traumatic stress and my mother’s agoraphobia created a home where friends weren’t very welcome. We lived deep in the cornfields, where dad could shoot paper targets until the fear went away and mom could drink in the sun and trees until the strain of normal life was lifted. I came of age not at school, not hanging out with my friends, but at Bible camp, in Sunday school, and on the sticky vinyl seats of our church’s 15 passenger van.

For whatever reason we’d gone, I will never forget the trip back. We were exhausted, and all of us were fading in and out of sleep. The engine was a continuous roar, drowning out conversation and the tires droned out a hypnotic hum down the interstate. I was in the first passenger seat, in the middle between several thousand dollars of sound equipment on the right, and Darcy Trigg was on my left. I laid my head against the cold, hard fiberglass of the roadie boxes, and closed my eyes.

We hit bump and I awoke, conscious only of scratchiness across my face. I moved my hand up to the scratchiness, and confusingly found something soft and warm. The fog of sleep clearing, I realized that in my sleep I had turned away from the hard case, and turned instead to Darcy. My eyes fluttered open, and I froze. The scratchiness was the collar of Darcy’s sweater, stretching across my face from chin to widows peak. Not only had I turned to her in my sleep, I had laid my head on her chest and slid down. One eye looked down the front of her sweater, but the other was on the inside, her ample breasts and white satin bra, cast a warm pink by the sunlight shinning through her top.

She must be asleep, I thought, and there is no way, that if she wakes up she is going to believe this is an accident. She’s going to to know what a disgusting pervert I am, and no girl will ever talk to me again…I will be “that guy.” I closed my eyes, and very carefully and very slowly moved away, sitting perfectly straight, and not opening my eyes until I was in a position to stare straight ahead. Then, and only then, did I slowly turn my head to Darcy.

Her chin was in her left hand, her elbow on the window sill, watching the cornfields shoot by. She’d been awake the whole time! Clearly she hadn’t pushed me off or woken me because she was mortified with embarrassment. I was so ashamed, and yet I didn’t want Darcy to think that I thought she was ugly. I wanted to say that I thought she was beautiful but at the same time I was terrible sorry for violating her. My mouth was dry and I felt shaky.

“Darcy..” I whispered loud enough for her to hear, but too quiet to carry over the road noise to any other listening ears, and leaned towards her for greater privacy.

“I…I was asleep…I…didn’t…” I stammered.

She turned to me slowly, her eyes big and kind, bashful from underneath her brow, a slight smile upon her lips. She leaned toward me, closing the space between us I’d made by sitting up straight, and laid her hand on my knee.

“I didn’t mind,” she said softly. She searched my eyes, her serenity and kindness pitying my confusion and fear. Squeezing my knee, she sighed contentedly and returned to watching the landscape out the window, giving me a last over-the-shoulder smile.

I sat in total confusion. Darcy was the kindest, most gentle soul I knew at the time. Growing up in a world that divided women into nice girls and sluts, Darcy’s credentials as a nice girl were impeccable. She was quiet, demure, modest, and serious. She knew the Word, and walked the walk…and she told me that I had done nothing wrong and she enjoyed me having my face down her shirt. I realized then that maybe good girls did want to be kissed, held, and touched. Maybe, just maybe, good girls might have sex drive, and maybe a girl could want me, the geeky guy with the thick glasses, because I was OK, and not because she was screwed up.

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November 11, 2009 Posted by | atheism, Christianity, feminism, Politics, Religion, Self discovery, Slice of life, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Super Atheist III

So what ties the previous two blogs together?  In the first blog, I talked about sometimes missing the comfort the church provided me.  I spoke of speaking in tongues and the joy of sharing spiritual experiences with others.

In the next, I wrote about one of the best nights at house church.  What happened that night felt wonderful, a pleasure not entirely unlike the non-sexual part of one’s wedding night.  When you get married, there is this joy that seems to exist independently of the joy of sex . It’s the joy of belonging to someone totally and them belonging to you.  There is a spiritual sharing, a knowledge that this person is really, finally, yours.

And that was the feeling I felt that night.  My life would forever be tied to those people in that room.  We had all adopted each other, so to speak.  We had committed ourselves to love them, to care for them, to help them be the best they could be, and they committed the same to us.  There were perhaps 30 of us in that room, and we conscientiously decided we were going to be the early church together, God’s little point of light in Westport, Kansas City.

The feelings I felt that night were real.  The elation, the warmth, the affection.  All of those feelings were real feelings.  It’s just the premise which was false.  None of us really loved each other, not like that.   We all thought we did; I don’t doubt anyone’s sincerity that night.  It’s just that our hearts were writing checks our lifestyles couldn’t cash.

I remember once taking an old, rotten wood and canvas canoe down a river.  My father and I began with the feeling that everything would be OK.  The boat fell apart over a little 3 day trip, patched beyond repair. The next year we began another river trip, this time in a heavy aluminum jon boat.  Again we began with the same hope, excitement, expectation and the feeling that everything would be OK.  That trip was OK because our feelings were founded on solid fact, unlike the first, when the feelings were not.

The comfort of the church I miss is the false comfort of kindly lies.   I do miss the comfort of naivety, but not at the price of living a lie.  To be naive because you are ignorant of the truth is a normal part of youth.  To be naive because you choose to believe lies rather than truth is the first step toward mental illness.

Above all, I guess what I missed was the friendship, but upon reflection I realize, I didn’t have real friendship, but rather real feelings about non-friends.   An acquaintance asked me the other day if I still wanted to be friends with her.  I laughed out loud.  Real friendship isn’t something you choose to do, it’s something you cannot chose not to do. And that sort of friendship takes time measured in years and decades, not months.

Let me plug my friends Jason, Paul, and Ben here.  I have known all of them for 16 years.  Any of them would lay their lives down for me, and I for them.  We aren’t friends because we know how to be, we are friends because we don’t know how not to be.  All saw me through an awkward adolescence, the turbulent nine years of teenhood, 3 failed attempts at college, a failed engagement, marriage, fatherhood, ministry, and finally atheism.  And nothing I have done has made it possible for them to stop loving me.  That’s friendship.

I am not super atheist. I do miss the comfort of the church sometimes, but it was real emotions based on false events.  I miss the feeling, not the falsehood.

June 20, 2009 Posted by | atheism, Christianity, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Totally Unsubstantiated Parallels to the Church

First of all, the modern Church could not exist without the New Testament (Or New Covenant as it is properly called).  I am fascinated by the Bible as a human artifact.  First off, the Bible is open source.  Think about it.  There was no top down command structure that caused the Bible to be developed on certain lines.  The “design” was open source.   All kinds of people wrote their stories, their advice, their point of view.  The word Gospel means good news, but it doesn’t just mean that in the sense we mean it today.  It was a common way for a traveler to begin a positive story.   The Gospel according to Mark could be changed into the expression “The Big story, according to Joe”.   Tons of people wrote original work, many more people copied the original work and made minor changes.  A lot of the original work was not that great and many of the changes were pointless.   The really good stuff was kept and the not so great stuff discarded. Eventually a certain writing style, presentation, and language developed.  Sound familiar?  The Bible was the original wiki!  (You might consider the Koran the original Linux. The source document was written by one vision, but the most of the Koran is actually inspired commentary on the source.  The inspired commentary was written by experts of the source document in collective, co-operative, and Darwinian manner.)

Then there is the early Church.  The church began with a handful of true believers, profoundly affected by what they had seen.  Each formed his own following, a small group that respected and obeyed him.  In modern middle eastern cell ideology this called the cell ring: the core cells in the center of the org chart that basically independent but lead with a connection to each other.  The churches under them met in houses, this would be the secondary cells.  Rituals began to develop that encouraged a sense of intimacy and family between people who had not previously been related.  (The siblinghood of all man under God and through Christ encouraged this.)  Then, increasing notoriety and public knowledge resulted in increasing religious cleansing. The movement went underground.  The leaders began to die, and the cell structure split into two separate cultures depending on local tradition and local acceptance. One was leaderless resistance movement, where the cell don’t communicate much, but work independently towards the same basic goals. The other movement became more of a top down cell group structure of a Western rather then middle-eastern tradition.  Sound familiar?  It’s the same with every small group of political or philosophical resistance fighters world over.   It is how terrorists organize their cells, how the special forces organize theirs, how the NVA fought in Vietnam, how the Communist fought in China, and so on.  It is the premiere method of organization for asymmetrical warfare.

Then, when the church became accepted, the western style bureaucratic cell structure prevailed, gradually absorbing the leaderless cells, and setting up a chain of command.  There was the individual, the decons, the elders, and a bishop.  Due to the social welfare provided by the church, a geo-political government formed, with a chain of command and hierarchy.   Everyone paid the church (tithes were not voluntary, making them de facto taxes), but not everyone one in leadership.   The church was divided between clergy and laity.  The low level clergy had some say in political issues, and were appointed from the top down.  Because this was a source of wealth and power, becoming part of the clergy was the route to wealth and power.    Sound familiar?  It’s the communist party in Russia.   Just as junior level party members had some power, and high level ones all the power.  The discongruous enormous personal wealth, power, and luxury of senior level party officials was identical to that of senior level Church officials.

Then the Church grew into a machine that took and took.  The message of all the world under one cross was taken to the farthest corners of the world, and the old states of the Roman empire became the Satellite states of the Church.  The Church provided military aid and advice to accomplish it’s goals.  Improper expressions of the Gospel (ie, ones that didn’t pay tithe to Rome or refused to serve the Church’s armies) were viciously eradicated.  Sound familiar? Soviet history anyone?

During this time the Church maintained itself as the world’s first multinational brand, with immediately recognizable franchises in every city of any importance in Europe, and small branch centers is smaller towns and villages.  (Read the history of McDonalds)

Then, the Reformation.  The massive bureaucracy was unable to respond to the new paradigm of freer, more democratic leadership selling a religious experience for the individual rather than the city or village. (IBM vs Apple, Cars vs. Trains, landlines vs. cell phones)

Everything you need to know about business, about management, about wealth, about power, about technology, about organization, about counter culture, about revolution, about change, is all there in the history of the Church.

April 19, 2009 Posted by | atheism, Christianity, Linux, Politics, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Slice of life, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Competing worldviews within the Church.

It’s Sunday, and I would rather hang out with my family that edit this blog.  So here it is is first draft glory.

My sister noticed a few blogs ago that I had repented of my vicious anti-Christian stance, but felt that I had not articulated it clearly enough.  She wanted me to expound on the theory a bit.  I’m not going to delete any blogs I’ve already done about Christianity and the church.  There’s two kinds of truth in the world.  Objective truth, and subjective truth.  Objective truth is truth that conforms to tangible, anybody-can-see-it reality.  Subjective truth is truth that conforms to intangible reality.  Emotions are intangible truth.  They are real, but not the same kind of real as the sun or the earth. My emotions about christianity and the church are real.  They are the true statement of how I fell, and conform to the reality of my mind, but they don’t nessisarily conform to objective reality.

So, for her and anyone else who might be interested I clarify my position.  I don’t believe that the Bible is the perfect, inspired, word of God.  I see nothing in the Bible that offers any evidnece that it is anything but collection of myths and stories.   As such, I reject the Bible as a scientific document.  I accept it, however, as a historical document.  Even if nothing the Bible said was true it would still be incredibly important because so many people believe it is true.  What people believe is reality is usually more important than reality itself, but, in fact, a lot of the Bible is true.

There really was a nation of Israel, it really had the Kings described, they died when it says they died.  Much of the moral advice is good too.  The ten commandmants offer sound words to live by.  Not murdering, not stealing, not fantasizing about your neighbors wife, and not fantasizing about having all your neighbors’ stuff are all great ideas.  Jesus’s teachings are almost all centered around the idea of treating people the way you want to be treated, regardless of tradition, which is a fantastic teaching.

The test of a worldview is does it do good to the believer and to those the believer associates with.  A wonderful worldview can be created from the above teachings.  Following those ideals will lead one away from social and legal trouble.  However, to create that worldview, one must believe that certain teaching are more important than others.  If one believes that all teachings are equally important to forming the worldview, then God’s rules for the nation of Israel are still important, even if we are no longer under the impetus (due to Jesus completing the Law) to follow them.

A worldview created with the kind teachings at the expense of the cruel ones makes for a good, long, and happy life for the believer and his fellows.  This worldview  includes no “personal God”.  It is a simple ethical code followed with thoughtful self interest.  But the introducing the aspect of personal God suddenly complicates things. The question of “How should I treat my fellow man?” is replaced with the question of “What must I do to please God?”

Obedience to the rules of “don’t murder” and “don’t steal” is not remotely enough for God.  One must not obey these laws out of self interest, but out of knowledge of thier writer, or one will be just as damned as one who never obeyed them, leading one to another question: What benefit in this life is there to following the rules of God?  The answer: blessings.  At the end of this life, those who know God will go to heaven and those who do not will go to hell.  In this life, there are blessing over and above the mere protection of consequence to following God’s rules out of fear of God rather than because they are ethical rules.

The worst extreme of this worldview is, regardless of what people wish to do (since, of course, they wish to sin), there is corporate blessing available to groups (including nations) who follow God’s commands.  This is the worldview which says that since God doesn’t approve of homosexuality, making it illegal to be a homosexual would be ideal, and making homosesuals second class citizens is a good compromise.  Or, that since God doesn’t approve of abortion, making it illegal would be ideal, and making it complicated, inconvient, and expensive is good compromise.  Ultimately, this is the view that says making it illegal to be anything but a Christain would be ideal, and codifying Christian morality is a good compromise, sure to bring as much blessing as possible.

The trouble with this worldview is the idea God’s actions towards all people are controlled by those people.  The final resting place of that idea is that human beings are responsible to do God’s work.  Teen pregnancy up?  It’s because we are to soft on homosexuals.   That logic leads to murder eventually.  Even if you believe in God, any person who claims to act for him is a danger to himself and others.

So here are two worldviews on opposite ends of the spectrum.  One concerns itself with question “How should I treat others?” and answers it “The way I wish to be treated.”  The other asks “How do I please God?” and answers it “By acting out his heart upon others”.   They can lead to the exact same place if one believes that God’s heart is to treat others the way I want to be treated.  Or murder and misery if the what is on God’s heart is his hatred of sin and desire to punish sinners.

Christianity believes that the goal of man is to obey the heart of God.  Within that spectrum there is every kind of worldview, based on what the person precieves to be the heart of God.  There are Christians who are models of ethics.  There are Christians who are models of hate and extremism.

I no longer hate Christianity because when it is working right, it provides the exact same ethical framework that all ethical people believe in. It certainly provides better answers to life’s questions than nilhism. It’s OK.  Some people want to hate.  The approach Christianity to hate, and find validation.  Some people want to love, and they find in Christianity a validation of love.  Since the God of the Bible is construct of man, we find in Him whatever man needs to validate his point.

Christianity is above all, a world view.  And an OK one.  Not the worst.  Not the best.

December 14, 2008 Posted by | atheism, Politics, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Slice of life, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Marriage, Porn, Romance, and Partnership

My wife and I had a long argument about Romance novels today. Not like a fight, we rarely fight.  There was no name calling, just a lot of relatively healthy debate about what romance novels say.  I had to step out of it for a minute and ask myself what bothered me so much about it.

It’s the stereotypical female complaint about a man’s pornography.  It makes me feel inadequate. I’ll never be that rich, that mysterious, that or that romantic.  I don’t mind her reading them, I just don’t like to have it really brought to my attention. Which, of course, is how she feels about pornography.   We realized after much thought and arguing, that the real issue is the feelings of inadequacy, not the object of them.  So we talked about that some more.

Inadequate to what?  Well, to meet every possible need, of course.  This is a complicated topic.  I love my wife, desperately.  Sometimes I do wish that I could have sex with other women.  I don’t want the enormous baggage which that would bring, I don’t really want to sleep with them, I want to sleep with them is some magic universe where everything I want is somehow right and good for everyone.  Sometimes, she wants to be swept into a romance.  That doesn’t mean she really wants to deal with the non-communication, control issues, drama, and complexity. She want’s to, for a bit, live in a magic universe where everything she likes is right and good for everyone.

Neither one of us, being real, can ever meet the real, and acceptable need for the fantastic.  Sometimes I wish I could be a Jedi.  Sometimes she wishes she could be Kaylee Frye.  That’s OK and we have to accept the fact that we can never meet all of the persons needs.

And then we talked some more and asked “Why do feel we have to meet each other’s needs in the first place?”  In no other relationship to deeply concern myself with meeting the other persons needs.  Why in this spousal relationship do we feel this way?

Culture.  The world view expressed by most modern media, songs, movies, etc, is a mix of judeochristian humanist values, taking, I’m afraid, the weaknesses of both world views, and few of the strengths.  Combined with growing up in the church, we’d come to believe in our hearts that it was our job to meet the other person’s needs.

This wasn’t something we had considered intellectually until today, so if you asked me if I believed it, I might have said no, but our expectations of others often reveal what we really believe.   I was hurt that a fictional character was meeting a need for fiction, because I believed it was my job to meet every possible need my wife had.   How silly.

We realized that a lot of what we have joking called the “blessing of godlessness” in our lives since we started walking out an atheist worldview, has come from a non-cognitive dropping of this I meet your needs you meet mine theory of marriage. 

And now, we drop it purposely.  We are partners, not in meeting the other persons needs, but partnering to help them meet their own needs.  In retrospect, it seems impossible we ever considered anything else.  Of course, I can’t possible meet all my wife’s needs.  She’ can’t possibly meet mine.  No one person could ever meet all of someone else’s needs, and to attempt so would be sick. 

The freedom this brings in delightful.  We don’t have to feel guilt for not meeting the other persons needs.

December 4, 2008 Posted by | Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Church, Parenting, Teenagers, and Atheism.

Two big thoughts today.

Part I

My deconversion story: I’m beginning to understand my teenage years. (I’ve been reading parenting books, more on that in part two)  I sincerely wanted to be a Christian when I was a teen.  The thing is, I also sincerely wanted to be a fighter pilot, rock star, pornagraphic model, cult leader, cat burgler, mercenary, repo man, special forces troop, artist, automotive engineer, truck driver, therapist, hit man, mafia boss, and, of course, Jedi Knight.  The Teens are the time in our lives we try different identities and see what fits.  Many of these identities were mutually exclusive.  I could not be a Christian and porn star for instance.  Also, in the case of “rock star”, there was the question of would I be a Keith Richards sort of rock star (not compatible with following Jesus) or a Phil Keaggy sort of rock star, which is more Jesus friendly.   To consider some identities I had to consider the rejection of Christ, and the (perceived) ramifications that would bring.

I always considered myself a Christian, and yet had my private doubts about whether I was or not.  Sometimes, I loved to do things that fit well in the 90’s Christian teen persona.  I was a Youth Ministry Team member and worship leader, for instance (played guitar).  I really, sincerely liked doing that.   Other times, I loved to do things that did not fit well in the 90’s Christian teen persona, like hardcore bondage porn. I really enjoyed doing that too.  I was enormously concerned with which actions sprang from the authentic me. Which upon reflection, I think, is what all teens are doing: trying out different patterns and thoughts and seeing which one seems to be the authentic self.

It seemed, as I was writing the story, I couldn’t really say Christianity was that important to me as a teen.  If it had been, I would have confessed to someone that I was masturbating, looking at pornagraphy, hurting myself, and often suicidal.  Suicidal above all, is not an OK way for Christian to feel.  We even had a little talk about it in youth group.  (I think a kid at the local high school had killed himself.)  Iremember everyone going around the circle in small group saying “Oh, I can’t even contemplate what it would feel like to even want to contemplate suicide.” I never told anyone how much I wanted to kill myself because if they knew, they when I finally got up the nerve, they would stop me.

Those thoughts and actions are so out of tune with what is acceptable behavior for Christians, that I am tempted to say that I never took Christianity seriously.  And yet, I know I did.  I would often not take communion, because I took Paul’s warning that taking communion when one has unconfessed sin could result in God killing you.  I didn’t commit suicide primary because I wanted to have sex first.  Even if by some not understood way, I made it to heaven, there is no sex in heaven.  Heaven or Hell, no sex.  So I would just tell myself to endure another day because maybe tomorrow I would meet someone…

So, in one way it is true, I never took God seriously until after I broke up with my first girlfriend. It’s because  I never really gave up on all those other identities, heroes and geniuses, until after I had sex. Then I resigned myself to being what God wanted me to be, since I had made such a mess trying to be what I wanted to be.

Part II

All that just sort of reinforces my new level of chill with the church.   It’s OK.  The church didn’t hurt me.  I hurt me, and the for the last 3 years the church was easy to blame for that.  Now, over the last three years, my pain was constructive, it helped me discover a lot wrong with the Bible, and ultimately reject the church’s beliefs, but it’s important to accept that I am responsible for my life.

However, I have yet another beef with the Church.  I’m reading Raising a Daughter by Jeanne and Don Elium.  The church told us we were prepared to parent if we just trusted Jesus and the Bible.  Oh, there is so much  I didn’t understand about parenting and am only now just begining to learn.  I’m so glad I deconverted when my daughter was young, and I hadn’t really messed up yet.   This is just one book, one set of experts.  I’ve so much to study, so much peer review and sources to check.  Perhaps the most dangerous thing the church does is assume it knows anything about raising children.  *sigh*

December 3, 2008 Posted by | atheism, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Well meaning harm, the church in a nut shell

For several days now I’ve trying to write my de-conversion story. I wanted to take the time to round the corner, to mark the old part of my life from the new, and to celebrate my giving up on pondering my past.  Though you could say that my de-conversion began over 20 years ago, it began in earnest about 3 years ago.  Much of the struggle over the last three years was to be objective.  I wanted to look at the church with total fairness, separating out the well meaning harm of the church from the well meaning harm of the culture I grew up in, my parents, and even myself. After about 4 days of trying to write this over and over again, I’ve simply had to accept the fact, as the primary observer of my childhood, my views of it are pretty biased.  No amount of careful codification and fact checking can give me an objective view of the thing I experienced: The church hurt me a lot.

This makes me a somewhat poor representative of atheism.  Ideally, for the cause of de-converts everywhere, I would be able to perfectly separate the hurt I experienced into convenient causes, with titles like: Biblical doctrine, which correctly followed hurts people, common but unbiblical doctrines which also hurt people, painful church traditions, and people who call themselves Christians but act in a way to contradictory to scripture.  But I can’t.  And I won’t try anymore, for reasons I will explain shortly.  Apologists can attack my positions about Christianity as the embittered cry of a broken heart and not the calculated thoughts of a reasonable mind. They’re partially right.  My beliefs are both the calculated thoughts of reasonable mind, and the embittered cry of a broken heart.

If I was to chose one phrase to describe the whole Christian experience, the beliefs of people, their actions, the social constructs they made, and even the book stores, it would be well meaning harm. I tried at first to start from childhood and work through the specific harm which happened step, by step, carefully assigning fault where appropriate.  With each step, I put on my apologist hat, and picked apart my complaints.  This heartbreak was my fault, for not searching scripture, that heartbreak was a pastors fault for not following scripture, and that other heartbreak was the fault of institutional traditions which had grown more important than the love of Jesus.  

I know, from being an apologist, that for every cut a person receives in Jesus name, there is a corresponding bandage that explains how it wasn’t really Jesus, but some kind of false representation of him.  Jesus himself, and his word, can never be held accountable. That’s a doctrine in fact.  This filled me with rage as I tried to write.  I knew that for every pain and heartbreak the church had inflicted on me, the committed Christian could explain it away by saying “Well, that’s not really Christianity.”  To know that my 25 years of misery would simply be dismissed by saying that I never experienced the right kind of Christianity, filled me impotent fury. 

Masturbation and the guilt I felt about it was the centerpiece of my teen years.  I tried to write this into my de-con story. Like a lot of adolescents, I masturbated and looked at online pornography frequently.  Unlike a lot of adolescents, I was frequently suicidal and occasionally self harming about it. I know that an apologist would here say “Masturbation is not expressly forbidden in scripture, it’s the lusting that is a sin and God would never want you to commit suicide, or cut yourself.”

But if I said to a Christian that after I was done lusting I felt like a million bucks so I didn’t want to stop they would respond with “Oh, you’ve seared your conscience. The Lord loves a contrite heart.”  Well, how contrite?  Sometimes I felt so bad that it seemed the only thing that will take the hurt away was cutting myself.  “Oh no, you are a temple of the Holy Spirit, and God would never want you to harm yourself.”   Christians would demand that I hurt, but not too much.  How would I know how much hurt was the right amount?

This lead me a single fact which explained all the confusion and hurt I had experienced at the hands of Christians.  Though there are clear standards of what it means to be a Christian, the measure of whether one meets those standards is totally subjective, in short there is no objective measure of what a Christian life looks like, it is totally dependent on local group conditions.

I could go into great detail about how I tried desperately to be Christian, and how I hurt people and myself in the process, but it doesn’t really matter which standard I didn’t meet, because they are all arbitrary anyway.  I could talk at length about how I, a critical thinker, become a foaming at the mouth Pentecostal, in the desperate hope that exchanging one set of arbitrary norms for another would result in me feeling the peace, hope, and joy that Christians are supposed to feel, but I never got.  

But, instead, I just accept the fact that I wasted the first 25 years of my life.  I masturbated alone when I could have been making love.  I qualified to enter MIT and failed out of a private bible college instead.  I beat myself up over meaningless infractions of imaginary, uncodifiable social norms. I accept all this, and take full responsibility for it.  I’ll not blame my parents, or the church.  Reason shined a light and I hid from it because I was afraid.

A personal relationship with God is life with the cheat codes on. He slants the odds in your favor, and softens the falls.  That girl didn’t break up with you because you were unsupportive and neurotic, she broke up with you because she wasn’t God’s best for you.  You got that job because it was gift from God. It was not Christianity that hurt me, but my fear of living without it, and my insistence on giving it every possible chance.  The fault of my fuckeduppery was not God, but fear of facing the great gamble of life without loaded dice. 

 

I will publish my decon story when in few months  when I think I can write it without the impotent rage.  Please all, feel free to comment.

November 27, 2008 Posted by | atheism, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Of Sex and Sin

Published with typos and without editing until I have more motivation.

When I was kid, growing up in the church, world view was very important.  If the basic world view of a person or group fit the Church’s, that person or group was seen to be basically good.  Rush Limbaugh and Doctor Laura are both good examples of this.  Both treat callers in an abusive and vindictive way totally incongruous with teachings of Christ, but both have managed, to one degree or another to remain the darlings of the Church.

Feminists stood up for things that Church cared about like abused moms and not objectifying women, but also things that Paul commanded the church to care about which weren’t always followed, like feeding the children of the poor. The Church held against feminists their pro-abortion stance and their anti-patriarchal leanings, and could never find anything good to say about them.  I remember Rush Limbaugh’s old saw “Feminism was created to put ugly women in power” being repeated often.

Dr. Laura’s belief that there was no Messiah (She’s Jewish) was remarkably, not an impediment to her heroization by people who believe that “If you deny the son you deny the father.”   People who aligned themselves with the world view of the Church were courted by it, and people who did not were ostracized, in both cases, totally regardless of theology.  (Bill Clinton, seen by many people I knew at the time as a harbinger of the Antichrist, was a Southern Baptist.)

The world view the Church gave us was a comprehensive package, with something to think about every issue we might run into.  Sex, of course, is of utmost importance to the Church’s world view.  There was an unofficial party line to every issue that might relate to sex in even the tenuous way.  Sex must be with the right person (your wife) at the right time (after marriage), in the right emotional way (out of love, not lust) and the right physical way (un-protected or barrier method birth control only after hours of prayerful consideration).

There were also a lot of “gray” areas that would be stated gray, but preferred action was black and white.  Masturbation was a good example of this.  The view was that while the Bible did not expressly forbid masturbation, it did forbid sexual fantasy.  Thus, masturbation is not being per say condemned, but of course it is.  What would be the possible point of masturbation without some kind of sexual thinking behind it.

Even sexual fantasies about one’s spouse were discouraged, again by the same gray-stated-black-and-white applied principals.  The argument went like this: Sexually fantasizing about your spouse acting a in manner your spouse would not normally act, was projecting the sexual heart of someone else into your spouses body.  Thus you were, in fact, not fantasizing about your spouse, you were fantasizing about someone else, (who just happened to look just like them) which was lust, and thus a sin.

By this token pornography was definite no no.  Pornography was a great evil, at a personal level, and a social one.  First off, to look at it was the sin of lust.  Second, to look and masturbate was equal to having sex with that person.  Didn’t Jesus say if you looked at a woman to lust, you had committed adultery in your heart?  Third, it was addictive.  Once you started looking at it, you couldn’t stop.  You would start missing work to masturbate and look at porn.  I was totally possible you would leave your wife if you looked at porn.  Forth, masturbating while looking at porn was giving a sexual experience that was rightfully your wife’s to a whore.  (This was true even if you were not married, because you were say, 14 years old.  God had a planned spouse for you, to “emotionally have sex” with any other was a form of adultery.  Fifth, porn would destroy you ability to have normal relationships with woman because you would  objectify woman and see their only purpose as meeting your sexual needs, instead of considering their needs. Sixth, by purchasing pornography, you were supplying helping keep woman in sexual slavery, and seven, by looking at pornography at home, you opened a pipeline of the demonic that would attack your whole family.

Hearing feminist demonized as I did, I was puzzled to find there is a group within the feminist movement as radically opposed to pornography as the Church, and with some minor restatement, for almost identical reasons.  When I began to read Christian books about the destructiveness of pornography, (I was terrified I was addicted) I was very surprised to find radical feminists, rejected even by mainstream feminist radicals, as the primary source of this information about how destructive porn is.

When I came to the conclusion that, if Christianity was true, the form I had been taught was at best, compromised, sexual behavior, and thus pornography was one of the first issues I had to deal with.

I wanted to reevaluate everything, start my world view with a clean slate.  I would, I decided, do what ever I wanted, regardless of whether it was a sin or not.  The first couple days, I was (pleasantly) surprised to find, that even with out Christ holding me back, I didn’t solicited a hooker.  I’d always been told that without God, one’s desires couldn’t be controlled and I knew I really liked sex, so I was surprised.

I decided that I wasn’t going to feel guilty for looking at porn anymore.  I was man, God made me a man, made me straight, and for thirteen years, had never provided me with any victory over this sin.  Those first day, I looked at a lot of porn.  It felt wonderful.  Since I was 12, I had looked at porn.  I’d felt like shit afterwards every time. To look at it and not fell bad was wonderful.

And then the next day… something strange happened.  I had the house to myself, I could look at porn all day, which is probably what I would have done the week before.  But the knowledge that I could look at it whenever I wanted changed something.  The internet would still be there latter that night, and latter that week.

Once I didn’t think it was a filthy, horrible disfiguring sin, I had no reason to never do it again.  And with no reason to never do it again, I had no reason to make every chance I had an all-you-can-view pornothon.

It’s been three years since that first “victory over sin”.  For awhile I thought porn was the coolest thing in the world.  I guess I was just growing up late. That’s a totally normal feeling for a 17 year old, though unbecoming in a grow man. Now, even though I still look at it from time to time, I see where the anti-porn people are coming from.  I know guys who really get into porn, it’s their whole life.  There is something not-quite-right in them.

I always looked at porn from a desire to be with women, not a desire to hurt them or master them.  So, I didn’t really understand what people where talking about when they said that porn is about men dominating woman.  Now, because I get to talk to a lot more people about a lot more things than I did when I was a Christian, I’ve talked to men who watch porn because they hate women, though rarely would they put it that way.

I think they hate women because they are jealous of them.  They would do anything to have sex with attractive famous women, yet the women do nothing to try and have sex with them.  At some deep level, it offends their sense of reciprocity.  They talk about it at work often.  They make masturbatory motions and say things like “That’s what you get, bitch.”

So, to the radicals who say porn is purely about hurting women, and to the radicals who say porn has no effect, I say, you’re both wrong, and I offer my explanation: Pornography is art and art has a message. When art must sell that message must be something that people want to hear.  Sadly, the message that a lot of men want to hear is “Woman are just here for you to use.”

But the fact that most purchasers want that message does not mean that all who enjoy the art do.  As I’ve grown as a person, pornography has become increasingly less satisfying to me.  I don’t look at it nearly as much as I used too, because for me, the message is wrong.  But if there was porn made with the message that I want, I want to look at it all the time, and I refuse to be ashamed.

The message I want is this:  one, that all woman are beautiful and two, that two people meeting sexually as equals is beautiful. I will not apologize for thinking that that is a beautiful statement, and I will not apologize for wanting to see art that celebrates it.  Most of the negative things said about porn are true.  Life doesn’t imitate art, art matches life’s message. The kind of people who really like the message “Woman are for me to use” are abusive little jackals, and the porn they like isn’t the only indicator.

But it’s not what I like, and I’m not going to pretend that I think seeing a real woman with the shape  that life and her choices have given her is bad just to not be confused with the jackals.

November 22, 2008 Posted by | atheism, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Church Eats Her Young.

Posting poetry pretty much kills activity on my blog.  I just can’t tag the poems well to get them read.  Atheism, religion, faith, skepticism.. these are things which people want to read about.  I generally don’t have the skills to write poetry about things like that, but I am working nights of late.  On my days off, I can’t sleep, and since I have 8 hours to write, I took the time to write a poem about my experiences in the church.

I’m not sure how good of a poet I am, so I’ll spell it out a bit before hand.  I was raised a Christian, from day one.  I prayed the sinners prayer as a 2 year old.  My whole life was struggle. I struggled constantly to be the person I was supposed be, to love Christ as he loved me, and do with my life things that would please him.  This was pure misery, but I kept with it because I loved God and wanted to do Right.  I was searching my whole life for people who had something about that God that they could give me so I could enjoy being who God wanted me to be, instead of working so hard for something that only brought me heartache.   Since God is the giver of good gifts, I knew that my pain must come from my failure to love him and not any fault of his.

I now know that I was so unhappy not because I didn’t trust God, but because I tried so hard to trust him.  Had I committed my life to the the ways of Superman, Marge Simpson, or Paul Bunion (other imaginary people of impeccable morals) I am sure I would have had the exact same experience.  Trusting someone who isn’t there to save you isn’t going to work.

I bought my misery with my faith.

The last few years has seen me become a progressively more liberal Christian, then not a Christian at all, and finally, now an atheist. With each shedding of lies and mistruths, my life became more joyful. My highs got higher, and my lows got higher too.

Right now, I am pretty lousy atheist, not in my belief in the Divine, which I think I can safely reject, but in my bitterness at the church. I’m not bitter at Ford for trying to tell me that my life would be better if I drove one, or bitter at Coors for telling me that if I drank their skunky beer, I would be surrounded by beautiful, half dressed woman.  Those too are lies that large organizations tell people to get them to give away their money.  I should have the maturity to shrug my shoulders at the church, and write of the time I spend there chasing unicorns and dragons as a learning experience.  Someday I will, but as of today, I still have to much of my identity invested in the wasted 25 years of my life.

This poem is an attempt to put some of my impotent rage behind me, that I feel for allowing myself to be treated the way I was.  I also write to accept my part in the spiritual abuse of others. Abuse I approved of by continuing to participate in being abused and allowing others to abuse.

I write as tribute to the following people, broken for, by, and near the Church:

Jason, who never gave up.  Paul and all other Z kids who suffered for no good reason. Kat, who prayed everyday for a conscience. Christopher, who joined a cult.  Mom and Dad, who did their best.  Lydia, who endured more pain than I can ever imagine.  Travis, who will never understand.

Holy and true were we

Heads and hearts bowed low

Broken hearted, on bended knee

Our source to you did go

We were born for You

A generation set apart

Our first breath for You

Always seeking Your Heart

We grew up in Your house

Clothed in Your words

Worldly desires doused

For Your presence we burned

Our youth, one dream chased

To live our lives true to Faith

First there was our Father

The reigning King of All

Who’s love and wrath ran like water

Beating us, breaking Adam’s fall

To save us from His wrath

He sent His only Son

Bloody death, His ultimate task

Our sins murdered the Holy One.

And to keep us Right

He sent his Holy Spirit

Teaching us Love’s flight

Lest we fear it

Our youth, one dream chased

To live our lives true to Faith

Last we loved our Divine Mother:

The Church, His Son’s Bride

His Love through Her, our cover

and to one another, our hearts tied.

In each other we saw God

Our love was His reflected

When on each other we trod

The failure ours, God neglected

In Her, His Beloved

We would stay forever curled

Side by side, we Beloved

Loving, apart from the world

Our youth, one dream chased

To live our lives true to Faith

But the eyes grow old

Though the heart does not

Truth be told

Our brothers and sisters fought

And did everything

Which our Father had banned

Sex and drugs and anything

A devious sinner could plan

The Bride was filthy

Her gown in tatters

Tithes and taxbreaks made wealthy

But bankrupted spiritual matters

Our youth, one dream chased

To live our lives true to Faith

We could not complain

The Bride was each other

If she was roughly arraigned

We were failing one another

If Father took away

If Spirit did not heal

All was His any way

Everything in the world

The pot dares not whine

To it’s master the Potter

He made and makes things fine

To Him we would totter.

Our youth, one dream chased

To live our live true to Faith

Led by Fools

With used carman smiles

We buried our tools

And deleted our files

Mastered by louts

And ruled by musicians

We hid from our doubts

And murdered statisticians

The facts were Bible

Anything which disagreed

Was prone to be libel

And not guarenteed

Our youth, one dream chased

To live our lives true to Faith

Questions were good

When they lead right directions

Encouraging one to “Should”

And not source inspections

We, the young set apart

With sharpest of minds

with purest of heart

Were told doubt is what one finds

In a heart full of lust.

Such thoughts were not level

“You’re not one of us…

Your of your father, the Devil.”

Our youths they were wasted

Desperate dreams, never tasted

Sweet mother Church,

You call this defection?

You and us these questions hurt!

We need Your affection

She threw a holy fit

and said, “We will be One.”

I watched in amazment

As she ate us, her young

Our youths, they were wasted

Desperate dreams, never tasted

Unity at any cost?

Dissent must be crushed

We were damned, lost

Under the rug, our questions were brushed.

On the outside

Afraid and alone

Learning she lied

My reason was honed

Free at last

Her “teachings” but splatters

Faithless, with happiness

I know now what matters

Our past, it was wasted

But I sip the Real, a wine rarely tasted

November 9, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A godless sexual epiphany

So here it is. Yet another blog about sex. Let’s go waaaaay back.

Since I was a kid, I always knew that woman were somehow special and different. I also knew that I wanted to something special with a female, even if I was too young to understand exactly what that meant. I watched and heard my parents fight constantly, which sort of led me to the idea that men and women think very differently.

Around the age of eleven or so, I felt like the one thing I needed in the world was a girlfriend. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to get laid as much as the next adolescent, but I didn’t want to just have some lousy sex with some girl. I wanted a girlfriend, with drama and hand holding, and disapproving parents; the whole nine yards. As I mentioned just above and many others times on this blog, my parents fought constantly. This put me in a ticklish situation. I really wanted a woman in my life, but I didn’t want to be treated the way my dad was treated.

Also around the age of eleven, the Church begins to notice her daughters are getting boobs, and her sons are casting longing glances at the girls and spending a suspicious amount of time alone. The quest to be loved and desired are enormously strong forces on human beings, particularly strong in the high school crowd. The Church knows this and begins building a lens for you, through which you will view the human sexual experience, lest anything you see lead you away from her. (I note here, other people grew up indifferent sects than I did, so I can only speak for the lessons I learned as a Dobsonite.)

1. God made sex

2. He made it to be fun

3. He made it as a special blessing only for married people, just as kids are special blessing only for married people.

They start teaching this around the time you are twelve. Now, it is made clear to you that sex is only for married people. It is also made clear to you, that only married people get to think about having sex. ( But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Math 5:28 ) So, now you have a problem. You have an physiological need to think about sex constantly, and a subculture that tells you that doing so is sin. Sin of course, is that which makes God (who loves you) sad. He loves you, but hates sin. You have this thing that you want to do, want to think about, want to see, but everytime you even think about it you are hurting the person who loves you most in the world.

Around this time (11 to 13) I was encouraged to read I kissed Dating Goodbye. The basic premise of which is that one is single for a purpose, and one should enjoy being single. When you meet a girl, just try to be her friend. Get to know her as a person rather viewing her soley in the context of someone-who-can-meet-my-needs. It’s good advice for anyone, Christian or otherwise, but it also has this to say: Since God has a perfect plan for you,with one perfect person, smooching, holding hands or even having emotionally charged conversations with anyone but the person you marry is taking something away from your future spouse. In short, while hand holding, and moonlight walks with a girl you don’t marry may not be per say, adultery, it’s different by degree and not by nature.

I dealt with this the way many of my peers did. We started thinking about marriage. There was no other context in which we could think about sex, or even intimacy, so we thought about marriage. Specifically, we began to prepare for marriage, in any way we could. Many of us were further validated in this preparation by this verse: Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. 1st Cor: 7 8-9. Didn’t we burn? Didn’t we want sex? Only one answer for it then, get hitched. It was this mindset that made my wife, at the age of 15, cry herself to sleep. She didn’t have a boyfriend, and if she didn’t have a boyfriend by the time she turned 16, how could she possiblely get married straight out of high school?

So, to sum up so far, I hated my parents marriage, but I wanted to get married on my 18th birthday if possible, because that was the only way I could have sex without breaking God’s heart. I took the Bible and my religion very seriously, so doing things God’s way was very important to me.

The only form of sexual release I could have without guilt was “preparing for marriage”. My father and mother seemed to have a lot of misunderstandings , and the common cultural message was, “Men don’t understand women.” So, around the age of thirteen, I made understanding woman my secondary purspose for existence. I read Cosmo, Redbook, Child, Family Circle, Woman’s Day, Good Housekeeping, Woman’s World, and just for good measure, Ms., and Seventeen every month at the library. I watched soap operas for many months (Hating every second of them, by the way). I read the best of Harlequin Romances from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. I got college text books on gynecology. I read every two-bit quack who could string enough sentences together to write a relationship book. I read everything the Merck Manual had to say about sex and gender.

I became an expert listener with fantastic advice to give. Throughout highschool, I was surrounded by a cloud of woman of all sizes and shapes. They joking called themselves my harem, and came to me whenever they were sad, or lonely , or needed a back rub. They came to me for any relationship need they had, except a real relationship. I was the guy they called when their boyfriend broke up with them, but when they actually wanted a boyfriend I guess they preferred someone who knew less about yeast infections than they did.

This resulting in a increasing sense of bitterness and confusion about women. According to the all the bullshit I was reading, I should have been exactly what woman wanted, but for some reason I wasn’t. Over the years, I mellowed. I got married, I figured somethings out. I grew up some, but female sexuality still confused me.

Obviously, the Church creates conditions where you are not supposed to do certain things. But she also creates conditions in which you are not supposed to feel certain things. Of course, no one can really control what they feel, only what they do about those feelings. Remember the book 1984? By changing the language, the government sought to keep people from feeling certain things, because without the words, how do produce the thoughts in your own mental dialog, and how would you even think something. Similarly, In the Church certain conversations are forbidden. There were few woman I could talk to about female sexuality, and those woman experienced sexuality purely through the lens the church had given them. Neither I, nor the women I talked to, could feel certain things or talk about them, so I stayed confused. I guess we all did.

I have few friends in the Church now. Most of my friends are Deists, Agnostics, and Atheists. There are no limits on what I can feel now, and the only limits I have on what I can do are the ones I choose. (A note here, that doesn’t magically remove the consequence of my behavior, it just means the plain ol’ consequences are what motivate or de-motivate me and not fear of eternal punishment.) So I have been having some very frank conversations about sexuality with my close friends.

I’ve come to a startling conclusion about men’s and woman’s sexuality: Baring bogus cultural values, human beings experience sexuality in almost exactly the same manner; we all just want to be loved. Slightly different things make us feel loved, but we all just want to be loved.

There is no huge dichotomy between the male and the female sexual experience. We all want to be loved, and we all want have sex with some one we care about, and occasionally, but not most of the time, we all just want to get our freak on with whoever.

Now, I know some people will say that guys want much more of the latter, and much less of the former than woman do. I don’t think so. If guys are so promiscuous, who exactly are they promiscuous with? The same 100 woman worldwide? It takes a man and woman to have sex, folks. If men are unfaithful, so are women.

I think guys have an image to live up to. I have an acquittance who fell asleep at a titty bar. He talks the talk, he looks at porn, he goes to strip clubs, but I have to say, if he falls asleep on the bar he’s going for reasons besides titillation. He’s going because it’s a cultural norm.

Woman also have an image to live up to. Woman are supposed to like cuddling and hugging. They are supposed to like sex when it is part of a loving relationship. They aren’t supposed like sex for the pure experience of it, that’s slutty. So woman have a cultural norm to live up to as well. (My favorite example of this cultural norm stuff is Domestic Discipline. It’s pretty obvious to everyone but the practitioners that DD is a way for conservative Christians to get into erotic spanking [and whole slew of other sexually free behaviors], but do so in away that lets them fit it within their cultural norm.)

I think in a perfect world, men would just be men, and woman would just be woman. Men wouldn’t have to prove their manhood by acting like they want sex without strings, and woman wouldn’t have to prove their femininity by acting like they don’t ever want sex without strings. We could all admit that most of the time we want sex with somebody we really care about, and occasionally we just want to get thrown down by someone we barely know.

Knowing all this, I have a lot more peace about who I am, and the thoughts that go through my mind. I don’t have the bitterness against women that I used to because I no longer see them as failing to meet a certain standard. As is often the case, a godless perspective brings me more peace than a Godly one.

September 27, 2008 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments