I have an online acquaintance who is disabled. She speaks often of a struggle she has, which she calls the “Super Cripple” complex. (Read her blog here). Are you familiar with positive stereotypes? A positive stereotype is a belief which infers imaginary abilities to a group or subgroup, such as black people being better at sports or Asians being better at math, etc.
She deals daily with the struggle to accept herself as she is, rather than a Hallmark Movie caricature of herself crafted of positive stereotypes. She calls this caricature “Super Cripple”. SC never gets tired of campaigning for human rights. SC can wheel-up gradual stairs. SC is super, she doesn’t need help from ANYBODY! The reality, of course, is that disabled means “less able” and she does need help. The real strength is accepting the reality of needing help, rather than trying to pretend she doesn’t by playing the fictional part of SC. Accepting this every day remains a challenge for her.
My struggle, or one of them, is to not be Super Atheist. Super Atheist finds purpose and joy without God or religion. Super Atheist doesn’t need faith; Super Atheist has reason! Super Atheist never believes sincerely with one part of his mind something that another part of his mind knows is actually false. Super Atheist finds happiness in holidays like Easter and Christmas, because even though he knows there is no God to celebrate, he is with his family and that is what really counts. Super Atheist never wants to go to church, or take communion, or pray for the broken of the world. Super Atheist can do anything!
But the thing is, I’m not Super Atheist. I miss the comfort of the God hypothesis. The idea that I am here for a capital “P,” Purpose, a participant in a grand narrative. I miss the afterlife hypothesis. The idea that what we do on earth has a greater meaning than the handful of lives we touch, and that evil which is not caught in the here and now, will someday be punished in the after life.
I miss crappy church. I miss getting dressed up and going and singing once a week. I miss real church…a lot. I miss sitting in a room full of adopted family, and singing and praying and feeling loving and loved.
I miss speaking in tongues and the emotional high that it brings. Actually, come to mention that, I really miss it. Someone would come forward and we would all put them in a group hug. We’d all go around the circle and “pray a message of God’s heart for that person” which amounted to telling the person how valuable they were, how loved, how special. It felt great to do and to have done to you. Then we’d pray in tongues. The reason part of the brain idles down, and the emotional part revs up. I’ve never taken 3,4-methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine (Ecstasy) but speaking in tongues seems to have the exact same effects. From wikipedia:
- Mental and physical euphoria
- A sense of general well-being and contentedness
- Decreased negative emotion and behavior such as stress, anxiety, fear, and paranoia
- Increased sociability and feelings of communication being easy or simple
- Increased urge to communicate with others.
- Increased empathy and feelings of closeness or connection with others
- Reduced insecurity, defensiveness, and fear of emotional injury
- Decreased irritability, aggression, anger, and jealousy
- A sense of increased insightfulness and introspection
- Mild psychedelia (colors and sounds are enhanced, mild closed-eye visuals, improved pattern recognition, etc)
- Enhanced tactile sensations (touching, hugging, and sex for example all feel better) Ask any married Pentecostal if you don’t believe me, by the way, sex after praying in tongues is an amazing spiri-sexual experience.)
And I miss them all. Above all I miss feeling like I was apart of something really special: a 2000 year old Royal guard, still fighting the rebels to have the kingship of the true and most high King recognized. There is a romance to words like “Kingdom”, “Knight of the Cross”, “Sacred purpose”, “Most High” that words like “country”, “community advocate”, “special reason”, and “President” simply cannot match. Though administratively identical, they are rhetorically worlds apart.
I am not Super Atheist. I confess, I have a desire in my heart to gather with believers, to sing songs of worship, reverence, sorrow, penitence, and heroic victory. I long to kneel, to dip the broken crust in the wine, to speak the words of my heart to a friend and Lord. My only caveat is that he not be imaginary. I desperately want to sing, worship, kneel and gather my community around a real God.
I long for a god, a religion, a purpose, and grand narrative. I long for everything worthy religion gives man. My disbelief in God is not the result of a lack of longing, but a lack of God.
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
So, this is tomorrow blog today. I’ll be on the road tomorrow going from KCMO to Mississippi. I want to write about miracles tonight. Some of the people who read this blog are Christians, and for them I say, I mean no disrespect. I am not saying that I am right or that others are wrong, I merely state my confusion.
The laws which physics describes are the engine of the universe. It is these laws from which develop our concept of faith. Faith in physics in the metric for faith in God. It is because the universe functions consistently rationally that we even have a concept of faith. The fact that one second at my apartment is equal to one second at work is both why I am able to get work on time, and why my employer is able to to have the expectation that I do so. I never look at my clock and think, “Perhaps time is faster at work today than it is at home. I should call them and see if 0630 has come quicker there and I need to go earlier.” All of us human beings have such faith in the non-subjective nature of time, that we can all use schedules, send messages, use phones, etc.
Miracles are a suspension of physics. Be it the physics of water, physics of entropy, physics of time. Miracles are the laws of physics being stretched and bent.
And for whom? For God. For his designs. Through out the Old and New Testament, miracles happen to those who please God and those who don’t. Physics are bent to make a away.
I’ll be honest, I don’t want to live in world prayer changes things. Oh, sure it sounds great at first. My dad, like a lot peoples dads, is dying. I love for him to be cured. But if the laws the physics are suppended, if entropy is stopped for me, is that the sort of world that I, or anyone else, wants to live in?
I imagine 2 applicants for a job, one the best candidate, the other not. And the inept one gets the job, becase he prayed about it.
Two people work hard to provide for their families. One gets food miraculously multiplied, the other starves, because the first believed in God and the second didn’t.
This is a world hard work means nothing, and were the faith we have in physics suddenly ceases to exist. How would we work? How would we survive? How would we make it?
Its so much easier to define yourself by what you hate rather than what you love. Hate reveals almost nothing about the man who does the hating. A man may hate for many reasons, but he will only love because his heart moves him to do so. When you are honest with people about what you love you are honest at the most core level, you reveal your identity. I talk about what I hate so much specifically to avoid revealing my identity.
This is because I have something to hide. I grew up in the Fundamentalist Christian movement and came of age among radical charismatics. My friends and my memories are all made up of these people who are passionately religious, despite the fact they share opposite sides of the Christian path. I have betrayed them all to chase one thing.
That one thing is this: it is more important to me to know the truth than to belong to a group of people who claim they have it. Truth is more important to me than any person, group, or judgment. I decided to understand God by understanding martyrdom. I don’t really understand God, but I do have a handle on believing something so much that it was worth your very life. Truth is that which conforms to reality. Truth, I have decided is worth my life.
If this sounds beautiful, it can be. It is often very lonely. Truth, to me, is bigger and better than Faith. In fact, I hate faith. Faith is not an acceptable way to understand the world, it is merely a bridge to fill the gaps between what you know and what you don’t know. So that is my dirty secret…
I don’t believe anymore.
I still know what Christianity claims, I just don’t have faith in Christianity to represent God to me, or anyone else. To those who I have hurt by my pussyfooting around and talking about what I hate (blind faith) instead of what I love (searching out truth) I’m sorry. Its just hard to be open with people you care about. Only people you really love have the capacity to hurt you. I haven’t been open about this because I didn’t want to deal with the flak which will result. The statement “I don’t believe anymore” will make people who have previously claimed to love me suddenly reject me. People who have trusted my perspective for years will suddenly and ironically distrust the destination my perspective has taken me to.
For that cause I have hidden my disbelief for about 6 months to a year now. I could explain in detail exactly what I mean by “I don’t believe anymore.” Obviously, I still believe in some things. But I am not going to explain which right now. A precious few of my friends will read it and say, “If that is part of the road you have to walk, walk it well, and I will still be your friend.” Most however will chose one thing they want to know if I believe. They will ask. I will say yes or no, and they will decide if they are going to pray for me or weep helplessly depending on the question they ask.
I will say this about my love. I love truth. I love the search for truth. I love these things more than I love my own life.
I had an incredibly lousy weekend. First, a moment of silence to remember “The Joy’s of Coffee”. Joy’s not only the greatest coffee shop on the Gulf Coast (which is sort of like being the smartest kid on the short bus) it was the greatest coffee shop of all time. Ever. I have drunk expensive coffee in San Fransisco, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington DC, Monterey, and Minneapolis. Joy’s served a cup of Americano for which you would sell your mortal soul. My wife hates coffee. She doesn’t even like the limp wristed so-called coffee beverages that Starbucks sells for such unholy amounts of money. But Joy’s americano? She smelled it and said “That smells amazing.” She tasted it and said “I think I could learn to like coffee if it was always served like this.” But Joy’s is closed and some ignorant baboon bought it. The woman who bought it doesn’t know how to make americano. In fact, I really doubt she knows how to make anything but Foldgers instant crystals. In the world of real coffee, Foldgers instant crystals (FIC) occupies a position of legendary evil, not totally unlike the Antichrist in Christianity. To those who truly love coffee, FIC isn’t just whats wrong with coffee. Its whats wrong with the Establishment. Its whats wrong with this country. It is, in fact, tangible proof of evil. And this lady had Foldger’s Instant Crystals carved into her tiny, bourgeois skull with Dollar Store never-needs-sharpening steak knife.
Second, I got a nasty case of the intestinal flu. I don’t know if you have ever had the intestinal flu, it is to paraphrase Douglas Adams, rather unpleasantly like being drunk. Whats so bad about being drunk you ask? Ask a glass of water…
Third, since I had nothing else to do than lie on the floor near my toilet, I finished reading the Bible this weekend. This should have been a fairly spiritual experience but there is just something about spraying pure liquid poo while having horrible, horrible cramps that sort of robs it of the majesty. Reading the Bible cover to cover instead of building my faith largely demolished it. This is actually a good thing, its happened before, and every time I develop a much deeper understanding as part of the process, but it feels like getting hit with a train.
So, no more good coffee, intestines in revolt, Christianity on the skids. All in all, a really lousy weekend.