The Resentment of God

Like most people I wear many hats and I tend to wear mine proudly. I’m an atheist, a lesbian, a liberal, a humanist and a history nerd. I’m also a recovering alcoholic. And since I put my entire life on display, my sobriety is just another topic I openly discuss. I tried a lot of different ways to get sober. A lot. Finally AA worked for me. I don’t speak for AA, no one does. I only speak for myself. And I also suggest that people use whatever program or avenue works for them. But since I mostly use AA, I talk about that in my recovery posts. 

This week has been interesting for me. I wrestle a lot with the way god is constantly shoved down our throat. And I hate the fact that when I say I’m an atheist, someone  always pulls me aside afterwards and explains that god will come if I ask. Lately I’ve felt this even more keenly. It’s definitely fostered a resentment and disenchantment with the program; and while I’ve had no thoughts of relapse, I have wondered how important it is to have a recovery group. Then the other day at a meeting I heard a man adamantly insist he does not believe in a god and then go on a bit of a tirade about the subject. Most people were visibly uncomfortable, but I was alive. I always identify with people but still often feel alone. In that moment though I felt that I had a real friend in AA. Not simply someone being patient so they could change me, but a person who recognized that I could be good and sober without a god. Sometimes I wonder. I must admit that despite the evidence of countless atheists who have stayed sober without a “god of their own understanding” I’ve wondered if my lack of faith will hinder me. In some ways I’m sure it does. A constant skeptical mind is often a hindrance and not an asset. 

But then in addition to being reminded that I’m not a lone, I was also reminded of the true loneliness of alcoholism and lack of a program. Another man shared his story a few days later. He had been sober for 4 years and the night of his fourth anniversary he picked up a drink. I realize non-alcoholics/addicts cannot understand this behavior. But every person in that meeting got it, trust me. For the last year and a half he’s struggled with getting sober again and as of today he had 12 days alcohol free. He tried many different methods to regain his sobriety  but finally went back to AA because that’s what had worked the first time. Again, whatever works for a person, do it. His story shook me though. He spoke of his resentment and how it drove him from AA and I thought of my own resentment. I cannot afford to go out again. My life was a living hell and I prayed that if there were a god, may he simply let me die. 

But there was no heavenly help for me. I had to do the work. I had to get up every day and go to a meeting. Many days I went twice, occasionally I went three times. I had to reach out and ask for help when I just wanted to isolate. I had to get into a meditation habit and a journaling habit. I had to be honest with myself and adress my character defects. And today I have to continue doing the work. I don’t have to do it alone though, I’ve chosen a method that gives me a support group. And though I don’t agree with everyone, and on some days want to walk out because of religious nonsense, the truth is I need to be sober. The truth is my life is shit without recovery. And the truth is this program works for me most days so why am I letting my personal feelings drive me away? I don’t have to believe in a god to be sober. And I don’t have to believe in a god to have a god centered program help me. Some would disagree. To each their own. This is the recovery that has worked for me and the only thing that’s worked so far. I tried rehab, spiritualism, therapy, online forums, books, family pressure and more. But a 12 step program with too much god and shitty coffee is what has worked for this proud atheist-alcoholic. 

If you’re struggling in AA as an atheist, I encourage you to remain strong and remember you can do this and it’s worth it. And I promise you’re not alone. And if you’re in recovery and believe in a god, I challenge you to allow others to have their own recovery and beliefs. Don’t tell them how they’re doing it wrong, none of us have the answers. We wear our hats and not only do they help define us but they allow others to recognize our differences. Most importantly they allow us to gain a wider perspective on life and that perspective is invaluable if we use it. Stay strong my friends. 

-H

The Rights of Children

The controversy of two parents who ran a YouTube prank channel, which focused mainly on pranking their children, erupted this week when two of the children were taken out of the parents custody for allegations of child abuse. Below is a link with the story from USA Today. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/05/03/youtube-stars-lose-custody-children-after-controversial-prank-videos/309560001/

Of course this incident sparks a debate about a parents rights vs a child’s rights. The truth is I believe these parents truly love their children; however we live in a society where the rights of children are rarely championed as equal to the parents. In fact, many pastors still hail the Biblical admonition “Spare the rod, spoil the child” (Proverbs 13:24 and 22:15) as proper parenting advice. In the U.S. children do not have the right to an accredited education, they don’t have the right to life saving vaccines, they can be hit and beaten as long as you call it spanking, and those who are LGBTQ can be forced to undergo conversion therapy. These are all choices we allow the parent to make, but they each have lasting ramifications on the children who bear the brunt end of these choices. 

In the videos posted by the owners of YouTube channel Daddy O’five, the parents have fun at the expense of their children. Which is mostly disturbing when you watch several videos of the children crying and begging their parents to stop pranking them. The videos have since been deleted; however, YouTube self proclaimed anchor Philip Defranco did an excellent segment on the pranksters. Check it out if you get a chance. https://youtu.be/fvoLmsXKkYM

The point is we need to have an honest conversation about how children’s rights in this country. And no, I’m not a parent. I can’t comprehend someone telling me how to raise my child. However, as a child that was denied a real education which has handicapped my professional growth, a child that was rejected for being gay, and a child that was subjecated to the humiliation of being spanked by my 60 year old male principal, I do have a clear perspective on the situation. Children are our future and deserve the best future we can provide. This begins with giving them a future through mandatory vaccines, equipping them with an accredited education, and protecting them from abuse. These are basic rights to which all adults are entitled, so why not our legacy as well?

-H

The Butch Girls Tale

The blurred lines of cults and religion

It’s odd how things all come together at once. Today I was doing some research for a future post about the rise of Protestant Christianity in America. I stumbled upon a New York Times article from 1993 about a “renewed debate on the word “cult” in religious circles”. A few weeks ago the new book Road to Jonestown by Jeff Guinn popped up on my suggested audible books (I guess that tells you what kind of books I read). My girlfriend and I were on a road trip and decided to give the book a try. I didn’t know much about Jonestown other than it’s infamous end and this book did not disappoint. A few days later the anticipated release of Hulu’s The Handmaids Tale premiered and again, I found myself fascinated with a story I had somehow missed. Two stories of the extremes of religion. One real and one fiction, yet the similarities and present day possibilities were unnerving to say the least.

I commonly refer to my past church as a chult (a church/cult mix). I do this because people find it too offensive to have their faith called a cult. Sure everyone is mindlessly following the same rules, wearing the same outfits, abiding by one mans interpretation of “gods truth” but no, that’s not a cult. We seem to have the idea that unless you’re buried in a bunker and married to a guy with 15 wives you cant possibly be in a cult. But what’s interesting is we find that even those buried in the bunker with 14 other sister wives ALSO don’t believe they’re in a cult.

With the recent break in the silence surrounding Scientology we are given a prime example of true cult behavior. People like Leah Remini, Mark Rathburn, Mike Rinder, Marc Headly and more reveal a religion that most of us thought was strange yet harmless (references below for these stories from Scientology). These people lived open and successful lives. They weren’t hiding away, they didn’t dress in outdated clothing, they were just like everybody else. Until we realized they weren’t. Until they spoke out about the abuse, the lies, the manipulation, and the loss of control over their lives. They spoke of friends and family members who had completely disowned them simply because they no longer believed that little aliens were living inside of them. That sounds ridiculous right?

Yet the other day, I spoke with a man who keeps his atheism a secret because he doesn’t know how his family will react if he tells them he doesn’t believe in a magic man in the sky. If you can not accept that a talking snake brought about the fall of man or that the ark housed ALL the species of the world then what happens to you? If your loved ones aren’t biblical literalists, yet firmly believe there is a god in the heavens directing our lives, how do they react to your non-belief? It’s true that in today’s form of modern religion we see a more open-minded approach to the concept of god. Yet just as strongly as the left swings left the right swings right, and today we live in a country where a reality TV star is our president because religion still has power. It has great power and the world in The Handmaids Tale doesn’t seem as far fetched as it did at its release 30 years ago

And yet for decades journalists have avoided using the word cult for fear of offending the religious right. And it’s true that this word is an easy out occasionally tossed around. The excerpt below is part of the NYT 1993 article that opposes the use of the word cult.


My favorite word is “exotic”. Is that the term we’re using to describe the subjugation of women and rampant sexual abuse? Exotic? Hey, I guess anything is better than the word cult right?

My “exotic” religion covered up countless cases of physical, verbal and sexual abuse. Much like the Catholic Church out leaders moved an offender from one parish to the next rather than hold him accountable for his actions. (I use the pronoun him because I have yet to find a case within my former cult where this applied to a woman). We were taught that women were created specifically for men (Genesis 2:18-20) and therefore should be in submission to men (Ephesians 5:22-24 ). We were not allowed to listen to music post 1950, were forbidden from going to the movies, were held to strict dress and appearance standards and were encouraged to “pull away from” (i.e. shun) those who left gods will. Incredibly gods will aligned perfectly with whatever the pastor believed at the time. And as some read this they say “that sounds like a cult”. Yet I wasn’t locked on a compound, I could marry whom I pleased (provided he was of the male variety) and I had free access to the outside world. But I was not free. I knew this. No matter how many times the preacher screamed from the pulpit that if we didn’t like his sermons the door swung both ways, I KNEW it wasn’t that simple. Telling people they are free and allowing them to be free are two very different things. In the above excerpt we see that Dr. Richardson goes on to say “We must remember that 99 percent of minority religions are benign and peaceful and just want to be left alone. When they abide by the law they have this right.” The problems with this are first, that many branches of major religions are the ones actually doing the most damage. And second, much of this harm is able to be done thanks to the law. The law doesn’t protect people from being brainwashed. It doesn’t protect a woman from being culturally bullied into giving over her money to her husband, or from being taught to acquiesce every time he wants sex (marriage rape). Children are not protected from fraud educations, abuse under the guise of corporal punishment or lack of proper medical treatment. Even in cases where religious parents have been held accountable for abuse or poor medical treatment, its usually done so AFTER the child is critically injured or dead. The law doesn’t protect students of Scientology from signing a billion year contract that enslaves them to the whims of their leaders. Yet we all know that these things are wrong and most of us understand that these people are not truly free.

There are those of course who will read this and say “But they ARE free! The wives can leave at any time, the students of Scientology can simply walk away and even the children can report abuse to a teacher or leader.” I imagine these are the same people who believe that turning one’s life over to Jesus under penalty of eternal damnation is actually a “choice”. These people I do not debate because we are arguing with two completely different mindsets towards two completely different end results. . As for the problem of  religious cultural intimidation in our country one may ask “Well then what is our option? To monitor every household and every religious place of worship?” No, I believe in the rights of Americans and the freedom of worship and that is an issue I will address in a post soon to come. Today I am simply asking people to be honest and aware of the affects of these so called “minority” religions on our society.  I 100% concede that there are millions of Americans that belong to a church or a faith that in no way could be construed as a cult. I absolutely understand that religion in itself is not a cult and in fact brings much comfort and positivity to countless lives. I have never been on a crusade to erase personal religion or beliefs and I never will. But there is a rise in extreme religion in America and this rise cannot be ignored nor tip toed around.

-H

 

References:

New York Times: Debate over ‘cult’ is renewed More say religion is important in their lives Two groups speak as one against violence (1993) search.proquest.com/…D4940C28C6047FFPQ/11

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015 Documentary) – Available On: HBO GO / iTunes / Google Play Movies

Leah Remi: Scientology and the Aftermath – Available on iTunes / Amazon Video / Vudu

Handmaids Tale by Margaret Atwood (1985)

How atheism caused me to put more value on life

By seeing how morals evolved with the evolution of mankind, I could trust that religion was not necessary for morality.

I often hear the argument that atheists believe in nothing and therefore have no purpose in life. It’s really a transparent lashing out by those who cannot fathom purpose without a god. The truth is that I found a freedom and renewed zeal for life once the boundaries of religion were broken. To be fair, I was part of the extreme version of Christianity. My life was nothing but rules and fear of harming my relationship with god or losing it completely. The messages and lessons taught in the church and my Christian college classroom constantly reminded me that I was no good and only gods grace and mercy made my life of any value. Those who had turned from god had lost their purpose and fellowship with them would ultimately harm my purpose. I became obsessed with a never ending pursuit of imperfect perfection (because true perfection can never be achieved but damn you if you don’t hopelessly strive for it).

Even once I accepted that I was an atheist, I did not believe there was measurable evidence of a god or creation, I still wondered if my morals would suddenly tank. The book Origins of Virtue by Matthew Ridley helped me immensely in the beginning. The book detailed how humanity has created and evolved the morals of thriving and compassionate societies. It really comes back to survival of the fittest and and the way in which the human race has become the dominant species. Empathy was developed as our ancestors realized that by working together we succeed. By seeing how morals evolved with the evolution of mankind, I could trust that religion was not necessary for morality.

Of course some of my ideas about what was and was not moral changed. Many views about sex shifted to amoral, while I adopted human rights as a value over biblical demands of obedience. I found that my relationships with people mattered more. In the past, I had no problem abandoning a friend who had strayed from my beliefs, today I enjoy the variety of perspectives and lifestyles my friends lend to my growth. The biggest gain I have found is the drive to enjoy this one life and my one moment to leave an impact on my world.

When I believed in an afterlife, I spent my time worrying about that life instead of this one. Was I doing everything right? Was I doing everything wrong? What happens to my loved ones if they get off our path to heaven? Now I find immense joy in living today with no worry of a judgement day or eternal damnation. I can prioritize what is important to making life count instead of building my life around the guidelines of a fairytale.

The other day a woman on my Facebook thread, a Christian, admitted she was finding inspiration from different versions of the Bible. If you know anything about fundamental baptists, they believe the King James Version is the ONLY authority from god. So for the entire day I watched this woman get shredded by her Christian friends for veering away from gods word and I thought, what an awful way to live. For a person to spend their lives living in past beliefs or obsessing over a future afterlife, how frustrating and depleting. Atheism allowed me to live in the now and I’m incredibly grateful for this new perspective on life.

– H

“United”: how the concept of god prevents questioning authority 

Thoughts concerning the United Airlines debacle

I’m sure by now most people have seen or heard of the man who was assaulted and dragged off a United Airlines Plane. Of course this has been met with great outrage across the nation; but the Right quickly follows this outcry with a defense of law enforcement. There were two culprits in this open violation of an individuals rights. The first culprit was United, who refused to take responsibility for their own problem of overbooking. The second culprit was O’Hares aviation police, a branch of the Chicago police department, which used unecessary and aggressive force in order to remove a man that refused to give up a seat for which he had already paid. To add insult to injury, the police department then issued an incredible statement that the victim was carried off the plane after he fell trying to leave. I mean by now half of the world had viewed the video, we saw the men grab the customer, heard the victim scream, saw one officer bash his head into the seat, then watched them drag a limp body off the plane. On top of this, additional footage emerged of the bloodied and dazed passenger returning to the plane, insisting he must go home and terrified for his life. But sure…. he fell. And my friend with the abusive boyfriend ran into door…again. 

But despite ALL of this clear evidence there were STILL people questioning the victim. “Why didn’t he just take the $800 the airlines offered him?” “Why not just comply once the police arrive?” “Is he really even a doctor or did he just say that to avoid being kicked off?” I have to wonder if people would have thrown these same questions had the man been a white, straight male with clear English. But I’m not jumping into that topic right now. The real question is, how can conservatives, the lovers of liberty, side with law enforcement when they were clearly out of bounds? Beacause of god and country. 

The two have been synonymously linked since the 1950’s when Eisenhower merged religion and politics. This was reinforced by Nixon, Reagan and George W. Bush each time they wanted to overstep their boundaries. Remind the people that we are a Christian nation, led by god, and therefore the government can’t be wrong if god is leading us. To question the police is to question government which in America means to question god. How far we have come from the Patriots who boldly called out the abuse of the government appointed British soldiers stationed in the colonies. America was not a nation founded on blind allegiance to authority, in fact we were traitors fighting to win a war just so we wouldn’t be hung for treason in the end. And for almost two centuries we placed the individuals freedom first. Until the branches of government learned what so many civilizations before them had learned. Tell the people that god is leading you and they’ll follow you to slavery and death. 

And of course we know that there are countless good public servants. Local heroes who put their lives and livelihood on the line every single day. I for one am eternally grateful to the soldiers who have fought to keep America free, to the police offices who protect us at home, to the firefighters who rescue us and so many more. I am truly grateful. But I am an American through and through and the injustice shown on United Airlines and throughout the country weekly cannot be ignored. If there were a god defending these actions then he would not be worthy of respect. And if there is a god disapproving of these actions then why are we shrinking from disapproving as well? But if there is no god, then why hasn’t our own sense of humanity and justice kicked in?

Is America afraid to question authority because the god of the Bible is never questioned? He slays an entire race in Genesis with the flood and no one questions. In Exodus he wipes out thousands of Jews because they no longer wished to follow him, and no one questions. His great plan in Revelations is to destroy most of humanity for the wickedness he allowed and chooses to judge and no one questions. Religion and nationalism have much more in common then we admit. 

– H

Resources: One Nation Under God by Kevin M. Kruse / KJV Bible / CNN (Original News Story)

Attis, Jesus and the Easter Bunny

a post from the Journey Series

As I mentioned in the post Why I Became an Atheist, it all started with this book God’s Lunatics by Michael Largo. Interestingly enough, my first jolt of awakening had to do with the story of Easter. And since Easter is only a week away, I guess you could say god meant for this post to be ;). The book is simply an A-Z account of 1,001 world religions and its not nearly as offensive as the name suggests. Anyway, I started at the beginning and very quickly came to the story of the Greek God Attis.

Attis was an odd god to be sure. There’s about 4 different accounts of his story, which isn’t unusual for a god, but they all somehow involve his penis being cut off. I always found the Old Testament’s Hebrew obsession with circumcision disturbing but apparently they weren’t the only folks concerned with hacking away at genitalia. But what stood out to me about Attis story was that he was born of a virgin, was murdered, and resurrected annually (a little much if you ask me). This was the first time I had ever read of a god having the same story line as Jesus. I would later learn that many gods shared similar accounts but I’ll delve into that some other time.

Additionally I learned that Attis died on a Friday and was resurrected on Sunday. Apparently this all happened between March 22-25 and each year was celebrated by his cult followers. These ceremonies were done for hundreds of years before the story of Jesus and would later conflict with Christians celebration of Easter. A few other interesting facts, Attis was known as the Shepherd, The Tree of Life and The Son.  He is usually depicted with a staff and often with sheep. If you’ve ever read the Bible, you see these attributes often given to god, Jehovah or Jesus. 

   The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters.

…. for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me (Psalms 23:1-4)

Of course the original story of Easter seems to be rooted with the goddess Eostre; however, if your newsfeed is anything like mine, you’re sure to see about half a dozen articles on this over the next week. This is my simple beginnings of truth. Most gods/goddesses share similar storylines, heroic attributes and celebrations by their followers. Almost ALL Christian holidays are simply pagan holidays commandeered by Christ’s followers through the centuries. Which is why it’s odd when they’re treated with such reverence and respect.  

While this post is more of a personal anecdote of my journey of unbelief than a study of religion vs paganism, I wanted to share it with my readers. I hope the truth may truly set us free; and I hope you enjoy sleeping in Sunday morning while others sit on a hard wooden bench tuning out a monotonous homily. But don’t forget the Easter baskets! We may be heathens but we still need chocolate. 

-H

You Get a God and You Get a God! Everybody Gets a God!

Dealing with the concept of a higher power in recovery. (A selection from the RECOVERY SERIES.)

In my recovery, the absolute most frustrating step has been the concept of a higher power. I don’t believe the concept itself is hard for me. I, in fact, do a have a concept that I understand very well. No, I struggle with the fact that people often tell me I can have my own concept of a higher power, while only ever referring to a christian god when speaking of a higher power. Twelve step literature is filled with this kind of double sided talk. “Use whatever god works for YOU!….. now lets talk about the judeo christian god”. Even more annoying is stating that I don’t believe in a god and then having someone come up to me later and say, “you can borrow my god” or “give it time and He’ll find you”. And I admit that I feel guilty calling out a program that has literally saved my life. But since I have struggled so much with feeling isolated in a program of my peers, I feel it is helpful to reach out to other lost and recovering heathens.

First, my concept of a higher power is very simply Truth. I do not refer to my power as god. It is not a Being and does not grant magical powers of will or protection. It is very simply its name, Truth (No, I couldn’t resist capitalizing the first letter because yes, when I think of Truth I think of more than a word). My first sponsor taught me that there are three forms of truth. There is your truth, my truth and the Truth. I have to be careful not to get caught up in my truth or another’s truth. Reality is what grounds me and it’s not always easy to find. I have to work at it. I guess you could say I have to stay in conscious contact with Truth.

Second, no you do NOT have to believe in a god to stay sober. I don’t say this just from my limited experience. I say this from decades and decades of sobriety from other atheists who are in recovery. This is a Truth. When I am in doubt because I’ve heard an old timer INSIST one can not get sober without god, I remember that’s his truth and not the Truth. aaagnostica.org and aabeyondbelief.org are just two of many sites that will lead one to other freethinkers in sobriety.

Third, my sobriety isn’t any less because of my lack of belief. As I’ve studied recovering alcoholics and addicts I’ve come to the same realization about them as I have about all other people; our morals make us better people, not our religion. There are certain people in recovery that I admire who are ardent believers in a god. There are a few atheists in recovery for whom I have little respect. And the same goes the other way around. Belief in a god does not make people better outside of recovery so why would it make them better inside recovery? Most people believed in a god while they were drinking and drugging and lying and cheating and stealing. Now they’re sober and suddenly it’s a belief in a god that’s changed them? Or adherence to that voice in their head that they claim is god? Whatever helps a person stay sober I suppose.

However for my sobriety and sanity I had to accept that I just do not believe and that is perfectly fine. Truth keeps me grounded and support from other recovering addicts keeps me motivated. If you’re new to recovery or just in a rough spot, here’s one fellow atheist telling you to keep going. There’s nothing left for you in the past. There is no hope in the bottles and track marks of addiction. So keep treading that path forward and know that while there is no god to carry you, your fellows in recovery are there to walk beside you.

 

-H