Family Doesn’t Feel Like Family Anymore

I’ve shared part of my story before, I was raised in an extremist baptist church in Indiana. Half of my family still takes part in that brand of faith and our relationship is strained at best. There’s many things about me of which my family does not approve. They don’t like that I’m attracted to women, they are offended by my masculine persona, and they can’t stand that I’m an atheist. To be fair, there’s plenty about my family of which I do not like. I don’t like that they are zealots, I’m offended by their bigotry, and I can’t stand their denial of science and facts. These issues have continued to divide us over the years, creating a chasm that becomes more and more daunting to cross. 

Every time something’s happens in our country that is driven by hatred, bigotry or denial I cannot help but be reminded of my family. I feel guilty as if my ties to them link me to this kind of behavior and then I become resentful of these ties. Two events very recently have stirred up these emotions inside my heart and head. The banning of transgender individuals in the military and the Charlottesville Nazi Riot. Let me state quickly that my family memebers are not white supremacist and I am certain that they condemn such violence and blatant racism. However like many white, conservative Americans, they are in denial of their own racism and the affects of their actions on minorities. That is why they make no apologies for voting in a president of such low character and open bigotry. And as much as they silently support measures that hurt minority races, they very openly cheer on the discrimination of LGBT individuals. It’s frustrating, and I take it personal. I can’t seem to help myself. 

My family no longer feels like my family. Yet we have these amazing memories from my childhood that tear at me at different times, especially during the holidays or at a function with my fiancées family. These memories play over and over in my head so distant yet I’m present with them. And I wonder why I do this, why I hang onto people who have rejected me at my core and only want me because I remind them of their past. I guess there’s guilt about my mother. She and I were close when I was young and she’s still a woman I admire in many ways. And my siblings bring a smile to my face if anyone asks me about them. I love them, and yet I resent them so forcefully sometimes. 

My favorite movie is It’s A Wonderful Life. In it the main character, George Bailey, wishes he never existed. Not that he could die but that he simply never was. This best describes how I feel about my family some days. I don’t wish to cut them off and leave them, yet I often wish I had never existed in that family at all. As the saying goes though, you can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family. So for now I’m the liberal, lesbian atheist stuck with an ultra conservative, baptist family. And how will I handle the mixed emotions that rack my brain? A day at a time, and hopefully in the same tolerance and love I want for myself. 

– H

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

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