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. Continue reading
My parents right now are really hurting over me becoming an atheist. I feel bad. I don’t like hurting them. I considered not telling them at all so it wouldn’t hurt them. But I knew it would come up sooner or later, and that they would have to be told. I, personally, would rather be told that someone disagrees with my core beliefs at the beginning, rather than have it hidden from me for years. I think that the distrust and lies of omission hurt more than the disagreement. For them, we’ll see.
But having grown up a Bible thumping fundamentalist and now being an atheist, I would like to prevent other parents suffering the way my parents are right now. And I think I know how. I offer the following in total seriousness, my guide to people in the Church on preventing atheism in her members.
I know that if some pastor reads this, he could very offended. This is not a joke me. I am not saying it to be offensive. I am truly offering this as advice to pastors and evangelists. If you don’t want people to de-convert like I did, listen to me. Some of these things are going to be hard for you to read, because they are very irreverent. Remember the person you are attempting to save has no idea what you hold reverent.
(1.) I can’t stress this enough. You must truly believe that some people are called to be God’s and some aren’t. No, seriously, you have to accept that. (Romans 11:7, Acts 13:48,)
(2.) As such, you must accept that fact that witnessing consists of laying the facts on the table. If the person is called by God, they believe them, if they’re not, they don’t. (Romans 11, Acts 4:4, Ephesians 1:13)
(3.) Accept the fact that the “facts” are ridiculous. Talking donkeys (Numbers 2:28), the sun stopping in the sky (Joshua 10:13), floating cities (Revelations 21). Don’t pretend that they make sense on their own, because they don’t. They make sense only to the Chosen. Don’t pretend it’s all about Jesus. It’s not. Jesus only matters if the Bible is true. If it’s true when it says “Jesus Saves”; it’s true when it says sheep copulating in front of spotted sticks makes spotted sheep. (Genesis 30:38-39) Pretending this sort of thing is rational will make someone doubt their sanity. Admit frankly that these things are irrational, on purpose, because God has chosen the foolish things to confound the wise. (First Corinthians 1:27, First Corinthians 2:14)
(4.) Don’t lie when you witness. Make it clear that you are going to have to believe the whole Bible to be a Christian. (2nd Timothy 3:16) When it says that a woman who files a false rape report must be beaten to death (According to Deuteronomy 22:25, the penalty for rape is death. According to Deuteronomy 18:18-19 a false witness must face the punishment that would have been given to the accused.) or that priests can’t have bruised testicles (Leviticus 21:20) you must accept that and believe that it is really important or it wouldn’t be in there. The ideal witnessing method would include every odd claim and bizarre thing in the Bible. Let new believers know what they are getting into so that when someone presents them with this data, they aren’t surprised. Surprised believers feel betrayed by the church.
(5.) Don’t explain God in terms of personal relationship. A reasonable person would expect a personal relationship with supernatural being to involve supernatural actions. But that’s not how God works. Many believers will go their whole life and never see a single “New Testament” style miracle, like a regeneration of a limb, or reanimation of the dead. “Personal relationship” misleads people into thinking that God shows up regularly on human terms. He doesn’t, and people who expect it will become disillusioned. It takes several years of normalization in the church before the phrase “personal relationship” means “vague feelings in response to readings of scripture or singing of hyms”
(6.) Don’t explain God in terms of love. Love to normal people does not include the statement “…or I’ll roast you alive forever.” Explain God purely in terms of salvation from deserved misery. People who think they are sinners will get it. People who don’t consider themselves deserving of eternal damnation when they are presented with the idea are NOT savable, because they don’t accept the truth of God. It takes years of time in the Church before people accept the idea that the Divine death threat “Love me, or I’ll kill you.” is a moral highpoint, not low point. You can’t protect new converts from this truth, so tell it up front and don’t evangelize in terms of “love”.
(7.) Accept that fact that God says “Love me, or I’ll burn you alive forever.” (Romans 6:23, Mathew 5:22, Mark 9:43, and many, many more.) Yes, that is a gross oversimplification. It’s still what he says. If you disagree, you’re not savable; it’s that simple. Either you don’t believe that God commands you to love him, or you don’t believe that he cast those who don’t in to hell. Both are basic doctrine.
(8.) Accept the fact that God can do whatever he wants. Do not pretend that God is held to any standard, even the standard he reveals in scripture for himself. (Job and Eccleisaties) He can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants. He has ordered the slaughter of woman and children (Deuteronomy 3:6). It was holy, and if you disagree that all the actions of God are Holy, then you don’t accept him as fully God. In which case, you aren’t savable.
(9.) Do not reason with the converting, it makes lousy converts. If a person can be argued into belief, they can argued out of it. Further, it creates a false expectation that the faith can be reasoned through. It can’t. By definition, the supernatural does not follow the rules of the natural. As such, tools of analysis like reason or science won’t work on it.
(10.) Science is the universe in the absence of God. Science is the study of nature. God is supernatural. Accept the fact that science is merely the absence of the miraculous or demonic. Studies, science, and reason cannot be trusted. They are rough approximations of the universe that are accurate only because God does not manifest miracles all the time, and the Devil, unlike God, is not everywhere at once.
(11.) Going from that, only studies which confirm the church’s point of view are true, all others are false. This is called data mining. Make it clear to the converting, that data mining, like homicide is bad only when people besides God do it. In this way, Christians can trained to see data mining as bad and spot it (as they have on the global warming debate), but are not left with the idea that it would wrong for the church to do it. If they thought data mining was intrinsically bad, they will be disillusioned when they find how much the church does it.
(12.) Don’t teach apologetics. Ever. Most De-cons were trained apologists. Apologetics teaches people that God can be found with reason. Any god that could be found through human facility is not much of God. It encourages people to think that the Bible is true because of evidence instead of authorship. Elevating evidence over God is idolatry. Further still, where there is evidence, there is no faith. The conversion of people with an interest in apologetics or converted by apologetics cannot be trusted. They believe that God is reasonable. God isn’t. They aren’t savable if they don’t repent of this false belief about God.
(13.) Don’t teach them to witness to people of other faiths. It seems like a good idea: teach believers about other religions so they can witness to people of those faiths. But it’s a terrible idea. (Exodus 23:13, Deuteronomy 13:1 through 8. ) First, it works from the idea that there are specific arguments that can talk people out of specific faiths into believing the true faith. But as said before, those reasoned in, can be reasoned out. Reason is an idol. Second, since there is only one way to God, all other ways are tricks of Satan, and meditating on them is meditating on the Satanic. The usual approach to this is to data mine the information about these religions, but this is not a perfect strategy. Should the believer meet a person of a different faith and find that Church data mined the information on that religion they will feel hurt and betrayed.
An atheist is person who does not find compelling reason to accept the God hypothesis. De-converts are special, I think, because most of us became atheists not because we disbelieved in God, but because we believed so much. One cannot be disappointed by a fictional character. The God hypothesis broke our hearts because we believed it, not because we doubted it. I searched out God. I looked for him desperately, searched the Scriptures, searched the great works of Christian literature, searched everything, everywhere for God. Because I believed God to be real, his enormous contradictions of character and schizophrenic mood swings terrified me. I began to increasingly doubt that God was real. There didn’t seem to be objective evidence for him. With all the blessings of God which relate to material things, (healing for instance) there should be objective measures of Christian health which would prove this blessing, and thus serve as objective proof of God. Yet there was none. If fact, the more I thought about it, the more Christians were just like everyone else, showing no blessing that made them special.
I decided that to heal my flagging faith I would read the Bible again, cover to cover. I wanted to do it in a short time, so that I could remember my thoughts from the beginning when I got to end. I read it in 3 months. But instead of healing my faith, it shredded it. When the Bible is read as a continuous narrative, not dissected bit by bit into numerous sermons, the full humanity and the total lack of the divine cries out in every page. The Bible, when read like a book, instead of read with the assumption that it is the book of God, it is indeed just another book. Desperate to believe in God, I decided that perhaps the Bible had been corrupted. I began to search out the history of the Bible itself. Again, nothing relating to the canonicity of the Bible gave me any compelling reason to believe in God. I told myself this was because of God’s deep seated love of freewill. He allowed errors in because he loved freewill so much he would let his perfect message get lost. I began to search out the history of the early church, hoping that maybe God had revealed himself to those people, given them something special, only the message had been twisted. Tragically, a search of the early Church did not yield the results I’d hopped.
Reading the Bible cover to cover had revealed gaps in doctrine I was unaware off. Studying the history of its translation revealed ghastly, purposeful mistranslations. Studying the canonicity had revealed a far deeper commitment to contemporary orthodoxy than to truth. So, for the first time, I no longer implicitly trusted Christian authors. They were, as Acts said, “men of like passions”, and had no more guarantee to be right than I. Everything I read about early church history, I source checked. I went through the bibliographies of the books, and read the oldest books that came up the most often. Or, I did as long as I could stand it. Church history, not properly sanitized to fit post Victorian Christian norms, was appalling.
Oh, I knew about the Crusades and the Inquisition. What shocked me was the total fluidity of doctrine. Church doctrine was not a solid thing, but a sickly, taffy like mass. The early Church was the measuring stick of Christianity, the Holy standard which all churches tried to adhere too, and their doctrine was not, by any normal sense of the word, Christian. I didn’t know this because I had never read Church history from any perspective other than supporting an argument for doing church a certain way. Pre-Constantine Christianity is a lot like pre-Ford automobile manufacture. Before the Model T, cars could have 3 wheels or 4, levers or steering wheels, engines could be anywhere. Ford created the standard, what we think of as “car”. Before Constantine, Christian doctrine could be whatever you wanted. The Gospel could be whatever good news you liked. You didn’t like a trinity? No problem. Open marriage? We’ve got that. Nudism? Go for it. Communism? Why not? Jesus was purely spirit? Got that too. Heresy did not exist. It was not until the Church had political power to harm heretics that suddenly it had the will. Heresy suddenly became very important, because it made it acceptable to kill people and take their stuff. The road to orthodoxy is apparently paved with tombstones.
I studied more, hoping desperately to find God. The church had lied. Over and over again. She had claimed things as truth which were wrong. Unbiblical organizations, unbiblical norms, based in unbiblical doctrine, based on imaginary standards of canon. I got mad at God. He didn’t seem to do anything about the atrocities committed in his name, and didn’t even seem to have much a hand in witting the Bible. God just didn’t seem to give a damn. I wanted to be wrong. I wanted to believe. I wanted every hurt I had ever been given in Christ’s name to have been a mistake. So I told my Christian friends what was going on in my heart. How hurt I’d been by God and by the Church for lying to me about him. It seemed as if I was an abused wife, finally finding the courage to talk with the police, expecting help, but horribly wrong. They would look sympathetically at each bruise and gently explain, as if to a child, that it really was my fault and didn’t I know, if I would just do what he told me, this wouldn’t happen anymore? It was terribly painful.
And then I got it. I didn’t matter what evidence I had. To Christians, the sickness of the things that surround God could never be God’s fault. Christianity was not at fault, I was. It was all my fault. God is not accountable to anyone, that’s Christian Doctrine 101. No evidence, no source, no study, nothing would change their minds because nothing bad is God’s fault. “Blameless” is not beautiful; “blameless” is as ugly as death. When I was a Pizza Hut shift manager, if a cashier’s drawer was off by a dollar, I was accountable. It was on my watch, I had the power to do something about it, I did nothing, and I was responsible. Yet, the immortal, all knowing, all powerful master of the universe was “the blameless one” who stood watching every atrocity, or worse, stood by wanting to stop it, but waiting for more prayer. That was Holiness and if I didn’t like, well I could just burn in Hell.
I used to tell the people I was evangelizing to, trying to convince them of the personal nature of a relationship with God, “There is no difference between a God who will not act and cannot act because he isn’t real.” I swallowed the bitterest pill of my own advice I had ever given: I reluctantly accepted the fact that I was an atheist. Surprisingly, the world did not end. I was pleasantly surprised to find I was still capable of basic acts of morality. I didn’t cheat on my wife. If fact, I loved her more. Without the pressure to be “Christ to the Church” to her, I enjoyed spending time with her more. Without wondering if I was enjoying sex from fleshly desire instead of Holy love, martial relations were delightful. Between wanting to spend more time talking to her and wanting to spend more time with her in bed, our relationship blossomed.
Not believing in Hell changed how I treat people. Never realizing I was afraid to truly love non-believers because it would hurt so much to know they were burning in hell, I’d never had a non-Christian friend in my adult life. Now, I had non-christian friends. Because I didn’t spend half an hour in prayer for them before they came over, I invited them over more often. Since I no longer looked in the mirror and saw a filthy disgusting sinner, I had a lot more confidence. I made new friends quicker. Because I didn’t think I had to “life style evangelize” them, I was free to be myself when they were around, something I had never felt with most Christians.
I no longer constantly questioned whether or not I was “pursing God’s will” in my education, which made me stress less about college, and in turn, get better grades. In fact, the lack of worrying about God’s will allowed me to effectively plan my life for the first time. I’d never been able to make long term plans out of the terror I would do so out of God’s will and derail my life. Believing that perhaps I didn’t know everything I needed to know about parenting from a few sentences in a very old book, I read books on parenting, and became a better father.
After my marriage and my daughter, atheism is the single greatest thing that has ever happened to me. I have done more to achieve my dreams and experienced more joy and peace in the year or so that I’ve been an atheist than the prior twenty-seven. I love more deeply. I make better decisions. I have better friends. My only regret is that I waited so long. I feel like a grown man who finally realizes that there is no Santa. I’m a little embarrassed that my disbelief in an imaginary character was this healing, because it only reveals how emotionally, morally, and intellectually bankrupt I was before, a fault I cannot place on Christianity, but rather my adherence to it.
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.
So, tonight, for therapy, I write yet another blog about sex and fidelity.
I grew up in an ultra-conservative home, in an environment of paranoia, violence, and manipulation. I don’t know how these things came together to create the person they did, but somehow, in a blender of guns and Bibles, there developed in me this need, this need to be touched.
I don’t mean touched in the physical way though, though I include that. I mean touched in the way they say Mother Theresa touched people: her presence moved them. I need to be touched, and to be moved. I never had many male friends. I just didn’t want them, really. Females were so full of mystery and drama. I loved the drama and the histrionics because only when the person I cared about it was at the knife edge of sanity did I feel real. I always had my girls. Few actual girlfriends, mind you, I wasn’t capable of the sort of sustained attention and maturity that a real relationship required.
I’ve grow up now. I have a wife and a beautiful daughter. But when times are rough, when I feel stressed, I miss having my “drama girls”. I miss the way their weakness needed me. That’s always been with me as I’ve grown, so the burden is not so very great. Drama girl here is not an insult, by the way. I’m not talking about being totally psycho here, I’m talking about a person who lives there life like it was movie, with pining sighs dramatic falls onto couches.
But there is something else, two somethings really. One, I am not a Christian anymore, not for lack of study but from great study. I just can’t trust the fate of my life to an old book, albeit a fascinating and sometimes lovely one. That change modifies the very lens through which I view the world. Not believing in Christianity changes almost everything, but one of the hardest things to deal with is how it changes my view of my past.
The things I did and felt guilt for, the things I wanted and felt bad for wanting (but never got), and the things I did and was proud of, all look different now. A man is the sum of his memories. Changing the way one looks at his memories…well, that changes the whole man.
So, change number one: I no loner consider many of the ‘virtuous’ things I did nearly so good, just as I no longer consider some of the ‘evil’ things I did not do, nearly so evil.
Change number two: I understand that I am getting old. I am 27, quite young by any standard. I have the body of a man who hits the gym 3 times a week and gets a two 30 minute sessions of aerobics a day, because I do. I love my body. But when I look in the mirror, I see crow’s feet when I smile. There is no hair left on the crown of my head. I am, in short, getting old. That’s life. I should accept it, move on and enjoy whatever life I might have ahead of me.
It’s just… change one + change two, that’s what gets me. I’ve only ever had sex with two women. I’ve only kissed three. There is a certain kind of beauty that comes from youth. In 4 to 5 years, I won’t have it anymore. I won’t be a good looking guy any more, instead, I’ll become.. good-looking-for-a-dad. So too, my female peers will go from being “gorgeous” to being that “that-mom-who-always-brings-brownies, you know, the-sort-of-cute-one.” That youthful beauty fades.
There is some small, primitive, part of my brain that is panicking right about now.
Sleep with them! Seduce them by any means! Lie, cheat, write poetry, and/or sing! Do whatever you must, because the clock is ticking. This is your last chance to sleep with women under the age of 30. If you can’t get sex, then see them naked, if you see them in person, then get pictures, if you can’t do that, try phone sex, if you can’t get that, try cybersex, and if that doesn’t work you must have constant sexual banter! Go! Fly! Go now and never stop! You must outrun getting old!
And even farther back, waaaaay back, is that part I mentioned first, the part that wants to touched. Touch me! Love me! Please, for the love of God, just reach out to me a little bit.
It’s weird. The first part tells me to prey on my single friends, to do whatever I need to do to get those panties off! I was robbed, it says. I should have been fornicating like a wild monkey since I was in 8th grade, and I was robbed! The second part then says “Anything is OK, any line can be crossed, please, please, just love me.”
Between those two feelings, it’s really hard to see my female friends as friends and not like walking sex/affirmation dispensers. Mix in the fact that I do sincerely care about my friends and honestly do think they are beautiful and it gets really difficult to know what the heck is going on. Its like “Oh, look here is this person I love and think is beautiful. I want to tell them how beautiful they are. How much I enjoy talking to them. How I have always wanted to know them better than I do…” Now, none of that untrue, and it is exactly the sort of thing that good friends tell each other. But the motivation isn’t to be a good friend. The motivation is a desire to use them to me feel like: I could sleep with anyone I want to but choose not to. Rather than the truth: I can’t really bed anyone I want, and even if I chose to, I would get turned down sometimes, maybe (probably?) often.
Long story short: I’m going through a lot of stuff and I’m afraid of getting old. I want to sleep around to prove that I am young. I am way too big a wuss to go compete with real players and besides, I don’t want to ruin my marriage, so I prey on my female friends, by walking as close to the line as I can get away with. It makes me feel sexy and loved.
Um….I guess I should talk to a shrink or something. I will seriously.
And to my close female friends….um….keep being my friends, please. Just, you know, remember that I am pretty goofy right now. I am sorry. I don’t like being like this and its not permanent. Remember, I do really care about you all, its just sometimes I turn into a ass.
Egads, now it sounds like its OK that I do that, and of course, its not. Um….Ok. I officially don’t know what the hell is going on.
So, I live on the Gulf Coast. Right now, a malstrom of destruction named Gustav is pointed straight at the heart of the Gulf Coast. Straight. At. Me. Now this is bad for a lot of reasons.
(1.) We are probably going to have to evacuate, which is a pain.
(2.) My sister moved. Since I can’t list my evac address there, I have to find someone to live with. The only person available is a very long drive.
(3.) This means the international trip I was going take is probably going to go down the crapper with post Gustav clean up.
(4.) If our international trip is not canceled, we will have at least a week taken out of our too short thirty days to prepare.
But two good things. One, I am getting a pretty good raise. Two, even though I admit I am a Deist, I still view the world around me in atheist’s terms.
Why would believing that there is no God involved in this storm make me happy? Thanks for asking. Because there is NOTHING I can do about it.
See, before, I would have felt that there was some higher purpose. I would have thought the beautiful morsel of this oversees assignment dangled in front of me and then (probably) yanked away to break my heart on purpose so that God would have a chance to deal with my prideful heart.
Then, I will feel awful for being so selfish. I mean a hurricane is heading straight for me and I am not even thinking about what this means. It’s the wrath of God, you know.
I would be desperately praying that the hurricane wouldn’t hit, then praying that I would accept God’s will, and praying that God would forgive me for being so attached to what I wanted, and forgive me for setting my heart so much on this plum assignment I wanted instead of what He wanted. Guilt. Frustration. Fear. Self loathing. Pretty much a whole gamut of negativity.
So, you know what I am doing now? I am chillin’. There is a hurricane coming and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. I don’t feel any guilt for not somehow relating to this hurricane in a morally correct manner. I am not responsible for this in any way. If it hits and destroys my apartment, it’s not my fault. If it hits and doesn’t destroy my apartment, that’s not my fault either.
Since I don’t trust God to deliver me if I do the right things, there is no way I can “fail” this hurricane. I have total peace with Gustav.
October 1949 is the official birthday of the People’s Republic of China. Any student of history can tell how poorly planned economies work. One needs only to look at the Great Leap Forward to see how badly planned economies can fail. And yet, for the first few years after the Communists won, things went better. Why?
Well, it’s not that Communism is that great. It’s not. It’s simply that the system of overlapping warlords it replaced was so truly awful that anything, even Maoism, was a distinct improvement. Within about 5 to 10 years, Chinese Communism had reached its systemic limits and began to deeply hurt rather than to help China.
The point here: it’s not that Communism was so good, it was that the existing system was so bad that even Communism was an improvement.
Atheism is not a perfect fit for me. I can’t honestly say I am an atheist. But I can honestly say that not expecting God to help me with day to day struggles and challenges has been one of most rewarding experiences I have ever had. I am thus, presented with a conundrum: I believe that God is very likely but find the less I have to do with Him the more joy and happiness I experience.
So why believe in God at all? Why do I wish to believe in God? Well, to be honest, though intellectually weak, one reason is because my parents do. I’m not pleased with that as an answer, but honestly, if my parents were conservative Muslims instead of conservative Christians, my philosophical struggles would be of a different nature. Had my dad been an astrophysicist and golfer with a penchant for tintinnabulation instead of charge nurse and Sunday school teacher with itch for IV Demerol, I would be a very different person. So if I am going to be honest with myself, at least one of the reasons I believe in God is because I always heard it at home. I can’t reorder my intellectual DNA anymore than could my physical DNA.
I shave the stubble of my brain with Occam’s razor. To quote Wikipedia… “This is often paraphrased as ‘All other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best.’ In other words, when multiple competing theories are equal in other respects, the principle recommends selecting the theory that introduces the fewest assumptions and postulates the fewest entities. It is in this sense that Occam’s razor is usually understood.”
Occam’s razor applies to two instances for me.
The first (the objective one) is the huge amount of evidence for the big bang theory. The big band theory is not a perfect explanation for the the origin of the universe. It is certainly not nearly so complimentary as the idea that the whole universe is a vast and complicated diorama created with humanity in mind to help them mark the changes of seasons and draw their attention to God. Regardless, it is the best available theory.
Its weakness is that parts of the theory seem to operate in a manner inconsistent with the laws of thermodynamics. Matter cannot be created or destroyed, yet the matter had to come from somewhere. Until further evidence is available, I say God seems a likely candidate. Yes, I know this is the “God of the Gaps” theory; that we invoke Gods to explain things we don’t understand and if we do, those Gods’ jobs gets smaller every year. So what? To me Occam’s razor says, considering the evidence, there was most likely some force which existed before force existed. That sounds like the realm of the Divine to me.
The second and final one, is an answer to a prayer I received. I know this is subjective, but subjective doesn’t mean false, it just means subjective. You see, after many days of some really horrible experiences that I am not going to detail here, I pulled into a grocery store parking lot. I needed to get another week’s worth of groceries, but I couldn’t make myself get out of the car. To me, at that moment, buying another 7 days of groceries would be saying that I could carry on for another seven days, but I couldn’t, not alone. So I prayed for a friend. I needed a friend whom I could trust enough to be myself around. Someone who would love me and let me love them. Someone I could be vulnerable with. Someone I could hold and touch and be held and touched in return. So I prayed for it. I prayed for the love of a kindhearted woman.
And having prayed that, I walked into the grocery store. And I met this beautiful checkout girl. We’ve been together for almost 8 years now.
Now, I could believe that my subconsciousness did this and that, and that in an infinite number of universes representing an infinite set of possibilities that this is mere chance. I asked an invisible being for something and got it 30 seconds later. I take 3 possible routes with this.
(1.) Pure coincidence. (2.) Invisible workings within me. (3.) Invisible workings outside of me.
I find the first to be unlikely. So, it’s a battle between the second and third. To me, the second seems unlikely because I have the happiest marriage of anyone I know. I work hard at my relationship with my wife with enormous rewards, but I had worked hard on my relationships with the girls I knew before her, too, and without the rewards. My (now) wife had prayed earlier that week for a man to really love her. It seems like this relationship was very special, from day one. To me, Occam’s razor here again says God.
So now I must admit, I believe in God. But despite me belief in God, I believe that my life goes best when I live like there is no God. I believe in God, yet persist that the atheist perspective brings freedom.
Well, I wrote the blog before to complain about a world of miracles. This was the world I tried to inhabit before, a world which was influenced by my beliefs themselves rather than how my beliefs affected my actions. It was a horrible place to live. Everything bad was my fault, for not believing right. Everything good was a miracle I could not claim credit for.
Every single negative thing in my life became my fault for not believing right. Every good thing was God working. I could not like myself for what I did right, only hate my self for my constant failure. I wasn’t poor because I couldn’t get a good job. I was poor because God had something to teach me. I needed to suffer more to get enough of God to be happy. I wasn’t unhappy because my life sucked, no, no. My life sucked because I was unhappy. If I had only had the discipline to make myself be happy when my world was spinning apart then my life would be great. I would be OK that I didn’t make enough to feed my wife and daughter, because God would provide. It would be OK that we couldn’t afford health insurance because God would either heal us or miraculously provide for us.
When I was eight I prayed that God would make mommy and daddy stop screaming, would make mommy stop breaking things, would make daddy stop hitting sister, would make mommy stop hitting daddy, would make brother stop cutting himself. Home schooled and living in the country, I would pray for a girlfriend, so lonely for human touch that I would have panic attacks when I saw two girls hugging. Later on, a charismatic acolyte, I prayed for a paralyzed woman. Marked her forehead with olive oil, laid hands on her and prayed she would walk. I am to this day haunted by the vacant, pained look in her eyes as she sat and tried to get up (“Raise up and walk, in Jesus name!”) and found herself no more healed than when her husband laid her in the chair.
Researching afterward I found that God’s likelihood of “healing” someone is directly proportional to the likelihood of spontaneous remission for their particular disease. Spontaneous remission is not the same as placebo, and is most common among “debilitating and progressive diseases such as cancer and tuberculosis.” But totally unheard of for people with amputated limbs. Not surprisingly there is no verifiable case of limb regeneration, leading some to ask what God has against amputees.
If there is a God out there, as I believe there probably is, he has enormous respect for entropy, physics and freewill. Such that 99.9% of the time it’s just like he’s not there at all. I leave 0.1% for highly subjective experiences like mine, and other experiences that I have heard of from people.
But one does not dare trust 0.1% to save their life. I don’t think God’s 0.1% miracles are enough to protect us from our own stupidity. I don’t earn a lousy paycheck and expect God to foot the rest of my bills. I used to. Thats how I ended up $12 G’s in debt. (Which I worked my ass off and repaid, btw.)
Further, if we, as a species, are looking for improvement, it will not come from any number of prayer meetings or prophecies. They will come by working really hard for change. The early church (which changed the world) was different from today’s church, not primarily because of belief, but because of behavior. They didn’t have canon to argue about. They didn’t have a professional clergy sponging off the laity. They didn’t have buildings to pay for. In short, they focused on being loving and easy to get along with and taking care of their poor. They were the change they wanted to see. The early church only trusted God to take care of the poor after the the church’s money had been spent.
Now, if the world around us will not be changed despite sincerity of belief, can we ever change it? What comfort can there be in an indifferent universe? How ever much we choose. True, physics will not be bent for you, though you may pray frequently. True, God either does not act or will not act (if you are are a Deist) or does not exist (if you are an agnostic or atheist). But we choose whether we will care about our fellow man. If the world is indifferent to our suffering it is because, by and large, people have chosen to be indifferent.
Does this mean I am saying I put my trust in man, rather than God? A qualified yes. History shows God cannot be trusted to stop wars, famines, and plagues. Though man can be trusted to start them, he can also chose to fight them.
So, I am a weak Deist. I believe the only sane world view to have is that God pretty much leaves this earth alone and I reserve the right to say he may influence people’s hearts once in a while. But when someone tells me they have message from God, I will respond with Luke’s famous line to Vader in Robot Chicken, “That’s very… unlikely.” I will not trust God to do anything for me. I will not give him credit for the good that happens to me, nor blame him for the evil.