Human experience and/vs. memory.

comments 4
the godless side

My life philosophy now, “live in the moment,” is pretty much the only one that makes sense of a life typically only lasting 80 years and much shorter for the unlucky.

But I’ve always had this lingering dissonance with that philosophy: Memory.

What is the point of an experience if there is no memory of it later?  If I had no memory of my life before this point, what would my life be?  I wouldn’t be able to reminisce on my childhood family camping trips and dance recitals and BFF necklaces.  I wouldn’t remember my wedding day, honeymoon, life as a missionary overseas, and the birth of my children.  I wouldn’t remember what it felt like to be scolded to tears when I accidentally left my books in my locker at school or when my first baby first cried.  I wouldn’t be able to see my daughter’s squinty eyes as she smiles, or my baby’s tongue sticking out the corner of her 4-month toothless grin.  I wouldn’t remember walking on a glacier in barefeet, bounding through the leaves as a 6th grader with my new puppy, or speaking in tongues for the bondage of my in-laws to be released.

Obviously, the list goes on forever.  The human experience, my human experience, consists of as-close-to-infinite as it comes of moments.  But will all of those moments become memories?  No.  And even those that do, will those memories even be accurate? No.

Death scares most people.  But for me, a loss of memory while I’m alive absolutely terrifies me.  Because a loss of memory means a loss of my life. Living does not just mean having a heart beat.  I won’t recover experiences in an afterlife.  There won’t be a big movie screen playing in heaven for me to be publicly shamed about that time I stole my friend’s toy from her or praised for the hours I spent on my knees praying.  If I lose a memory, in many ways it’s as if it never happened.

So this begs these two questions:  What is experience if not memory?  And what is memory as it is unreliable?

This brings up deep questions about consciousness, about self, about experience.  If we really are just a collection of cells and chemical reactions, what does it mean to be “me”?

Silver and I had a long conversation tonight about this and it came down to this question I asked him:

“Would you rather have an experience and have your memory wiped of it entirely, or never have experienced it but have a memory implanted in your brain that it did?”

If we live only in the present, then of course, bring on the experience.  But our present is also a collection of our past in the form of our memories.  Yet, our memory fades and has been studied to be incredibly formative and unreliable.  Check out this TED talk and this Rationally Speaking podcast to hear about memory from the experts.  Basically, human memory is terribly inaccurate.

This is actually incredibly disheartening to me.  I don’t even know what to do with it.  I was telling Silver tonight that this is the reason why I sometimes obsessively take photos and/or videos of our life.  I’m documenting it so I can reliably remember it later.  Because if I don’t remember it, it’s gone.  And even if I do, in a very real way — it’s still gone.  And that terrifies me.

I don’t want to spend my life behind a camera lens or screen and miss the present.  But every time I don’t, I’m robbing my future of my past.  The same can be said of any art, actually.  Is art any more than just a form of desperation, frantic attempts to capture and preserve moments of the human experience upon which future selves and persons to reflect?

I am gone in a maximum of 60 years.  Will I spend that time enjoying experiences or making memories?  And how is it that those two are both exactly the same yet mutually exclusive??

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The final Nail.

comments 10
the godless side

I’ve moved a lot, travelled a lot, visited many many places inside the USA and several countries overseas.  But every. single. place I’ve lived was due to my devotion to the cause of Christ.  I never set down roots, even if temporarily, anywhere that I didn’t believe I was called to, that I didn’t believe I could further the Kingdom of God, that I didn’t believe I could live as a missionary.

Since I was a child, my heart has always been along the coast.  But god called me to be a missionary to Mormons in Utah.   And that was the end of that dream.  Until now.

My husband and I picked up our two girls, packed up our apartment and business, and moved to Oregon.  Two days ago.  And this was the very first time I’ve ever travelled for the cause of Teal.  I’m doing what I want to do, for me, for the first time in 28 years.  You guys!!!! That’s CRAZY!

Even though we transitioned out of faith about two years ago, Utah continued to be our home, despite the pain and lack of community.  Ever since god called me to it, Utah was “my goal in life” for a long time because it was always My Place to live as the Anointed One among the Deceived to help bring them into the Freedom of Jesus Christ.  Leaving Utah this week was the final nail in the coffin of religion for me.  It felt uncannily emotional for that reason, but incredibly freeing.  I didn’t even know that I was still living under the oppression of religion until we were finally on the road away from it — in a very literal way.

I didn’t think this move would become our reality so soon.  I wrote the following only a few months ago: “My dream is to drive up the Oregon Coast with my family and eventually to live there someday, and for someday not just to be ‘someday.’  And to own a teahouse there 🙂 Redwoods.  Ocean.  Rocky Coast.  Sunshine.  Storms. Gorgeous Rain.  Open-minded people.  Hippies 😉 . Tea drinkers. Coffee lovers.  Community-builders.  Activists.  Progessively-minded.  Gender equality.  Support for one another.  I long for these things, and feel they are more prevalent out northwest.

I want [my baby girl] to be free.  Completely.  Free to be, act, dress, think, live how she wants.  I want her to feel fully loved and supported by us.  And I want us to provide a safe haven for her, free from all fear.  I want her to know true, unconditional love.”

 

Here’s to a life of making dreams a reality.  Here’s to full, authentic, Real Glory in the Pacific Northwest.  And here’s to you finding and fulfilling your own “Pacific Northwest.”

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Pentecostalism = Paganism

comments 6
the godless side

Something just occurred to me: Christians claim contradictory things: (1) No miracles are necessary to prove that their god is the one true god because “faith,” yet (2) they use miracles as signs to justify that faith.

So, if a miracle occurred inside the faith, then *boom,* all of the thousands of claims of their doctrines are true.  But if a miracle occurred outside their faith (in other religions, such as paganism), then they would use Satan as an alibi.  “Satan can do miracles too.” Miracles were only ever used to validate their claims, regardless of where they occurred.

Pentecostalism is an interesting breed of Christianity.  Life for a Pentecostal isn’t just about following religiosity such as the reading of holy text, the discipline of prayer, the practice of fasting, the attendance of church service, the participation in community, etc., all of which are more universal practices among various religions.  In addition, Pentecostalism defines itself by a very physical engagement with the supernatural that manifests itself in what normal life would categorize as weirdness.  Some examples: speaking in tongues (babbling incoherent syllables that make no linguistic sense, also called glossalalia), miracles of physical, relational, sexual, and spiritual healing, exorcism (although we never would have called it that), uncontrollable shaking and trembling, uncontrollable laughter, vivid hallucinations (dreams and visions), fortune-telling (prophecy), psychic readings (another form of prophecy), out-of-body experiences, and group hypnosis through chanting, repetitive music, and hypnotic tones (praise/worship service) to achieve the above.  There are many, many more of these weird manifestations to include pretty much anything someone can dream up.  Seriously, I’ve heard of a pastor who got under a table and barked like a dog because the Holy Spirit asked him to.   ?????   But this isn’t just an athropological explanation based on observation.  This is a personal memoir based on my own experience.  Coming from a Pentecostal denomination (Assemblies of God), I have engaged in each and every one of the above — both as the recipient and as the “giver” unto someone else.

Yes, I’ve had demons cast out of me and I’ve prayed for them to be cast out of others.  Yes, I’ve prayed for a man with a broken knee to be healed, causing him to be able to jump around, and I’ve been prayed for and experienced physical healing with my carpal tunnel in my wrists.  Yes, I’ve led worship music playing and singing to “get the congregation drunk in the spirit,” and I have been in the audience of thousands as we experienced a group hypnosis — a hypnosis that caused mass fainting, falling, babbling, visions, trembling, shaking, laughing, on and on and on for houuuuuurrrs. I didn’t eat for days.  Barely slept for days.  And was as high as a kite on the “spirit.”

After the group hypnosis ended, I would still give myself another hit on my own by going for a drive, putting on the same hypnotic music, and gettin’ all manifest up in the drivers seat with a plethora of personal weirdness pentecostalalia.

My disbelief in god crashed, burned, and obliterated this truly magical world in which I lived.  Everything used to be colorful, sparkly, purposeful.  In a very real way, I had rainbow-colored glasses that made everything glittery.  I was chosen, important, the anointed one– prophesied to me over and over about how magically endowed I was.  Divinely called and equipped to transform the world.  I was living in a fairy tale in which I was the hero, through Jesus.

It took time to adjust to reality. Not unlike CS Lewis’ Great Divorce in which heaven is so real it’s painful, so I experienced pain as I adjusted to the new sharpness of reality.  But now, I’ve been able to take my own paintbrush to make my world colorful.  Appreciation is deeper and more meaningful.  And mostly, I’ve stayed away from crazy magic.

Until last weekend.

I attended a Mother Circle for a pregnant friend of mine.  It was a baby-shower alternative, a celebration of the mother and baby to come.  As each of the many women attending came from different walks of faith (most either “True Blue” Mormon or post-Mormon/agnostic/atheist), paganism was a safe median.  Wait, what?

It was a flashback to my pentecostal days.  The rituals may have been named differently, but the physical engagement with the supernatural was extremely similar.

I honestly have no idea how many of those women actually believed in the magic they tried to create, but it was an obvious escape from the cold, patriarchal world outside her doors by giving each woman the power of “the divine goddess.”  It definitely pumped me up.

The squeals, the shivers, the tears as The Universe and Mother Earth brought together meaningful gifts, herbs, crystals, and words for this woman reminded me of spiritual moments at an intense Bible study.  Girls would wave their hands like they were fanning their faces with pure, magical glee.  “God is just sooooo amazing!! Jesus did this tonight FOR US!” we would comment about silly coincidences and “blessings” of abundance.  The same thing happened here, just with a differently named god.

This very pregnant woman cried from all the glory of the “good energy”and “good juju” in the room.  “Wooooooow!!!” we all ooh’d and awed as the yet another woman adorned the salt bowl with rose petals.  Mother Earth must really be trying to send a message with rose petals to the birthing mother, they all agreed.

“The rock you gave me matches my mandala rug!!” more squeals and tears.  I was trying to get caught up in drifting through the dreaminess of the magic of the moment, but a big part of me was desperate to keep from rolling my eyes and bursting out laughing.  Were they serious??

Yes.  “You guys, you are not alone.  Mother Earth loves you SO MUCH! Because you ARE her, and she is you!”  Those words blew me away.  Wait, Jesus? Mother Earth? Wait… this is the SAME EXACT thing that I experienced as a Christian, just with different labels and different lingo!

We chanted, meditated, danced in circles, healed, prayed.  And during the times of meditating about my female anatomy parts, I was immediately brought back to moments in which I was enlightened by the Holy Spirit.  It was very surreal.

My Christian friends would say what I experienced last week was satanic.  My universalist friends would say that it’s all just different paths to the same god.  I say the disparity and stark contradictions between the various explanations is evidence that such experiences are merely made up — even if subconsciously– in our heads.

Everyone thinks they are unique.  That their magic is somehow different.  But if a Pentecostal would be able to experience the glimpse into paganism that I witnessed with any sort of open mind, it would shatter all facades of uniqueness.  Christianity is not the only place to find the miraculous, or even the only place to find a god that loves unconditionally (which I can actually make an incredibly thorough argument about why YWHW and his son are anything but full of unconditional love).  Point is: beneath the surface, no religious claim or experience is unique.  It’s the same concoction of chemicals in our brains regardless of the name.

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My first real experience with alcohol

comments 15
the godless side / the post-God side

brandy-585796_1280I’m 29 and I’ve never had as much alcohol as is in my system now.

I just wanted to write down my observations while I felt the substance.

  1. How could anyone drive like this?? I am extremely aware of the fact that I can’t move normally.  Do people get less aware the amount that alcohol affects them the more alcohol they have?
  2. I feel clumsy and like the world around me is spinning.  My head moves much faster than the environment in which it is (don;t know how to word that better right now), so it feels very much like I’m in a spinning, confusing deep water pool or something.
  3. This doesn’t feel good to me.  It doesn’t feel bad either.  But it’s definitely not something I feel like I need to experience often other than just the fact that its a human experience and I want to participate in it since this is the only life I have.
  4. I like the relaxation that alcohol provides, but I feel the same level of relaxation on a much less disturbing-of-normal-things amount– meaning, I can still feel relaxed without feeling out of control.
  5. I actually really hate that my movements and thinking are slow.  My typing is slow.  My fingers don;t wrk as well.  My actions aren’t as quick to ensure I can handle things correctly.  Mywalking is difficult. And that’s incredibly annoying to me. I want to live clear headed and not take 10 minutes to make homemade popcorn on the stove to ensure I don’t break anything or burn myself.  Annoying.
  6. Out of control is fun  .  Maybe? But more just as an experiement, like I was saying above.  This isn’t in any way shape or form the way I want to spend my life perpetually.
  7. What does it mean to be drunk? Buzzed? Tipsy?  Idk where I am because I don’t know those standards.  I don’t like that my vision doesn’t keep up with me, that my movements don;t keep up with me, but I don’t feel like I’m completely out of control.  So…. I don’t really know if this is what its’ like “to be drunk.”I only know this is the most experience with alcohol I’ve had.
  8. The end. I’m tired of writing now.
  9. Bullet point observations:
    1. my tongue is loosed
    2. everying blurred
    3. i just want to laugh and cry my emotions are right here so surfaced.  bt i am in th eback, held, controlled, trapped
    4. thick tongue.
    5. wan to speak in tongues
    6. numb mouth
    7. wriling world
    8. first really frustrated.  now like a circus
    9. tngue is super thick. wants to be loosed

—–

Sober now, I’m reflecting on my experience.  I remember actually hating it a lot.  I love so many things about being alive in the human experience, and I like things that make that experience heightened, but this felt like it dulled and dimmed and slowed the human experience for me in a negative way.  I felt like the real me was trapped in a body that wasn’t working correctly and nothing that I did could get it back on par.  Talking was difficult.  Thinking was difficult.  Simple tasks were difficult.  I didn’t trust myself to hold my baby unless I was securely sitting on the couch.  Everything about that felt really annoying.  I hated feeling trapped in my own body and mind.  The definition of impaired means weakened, damaged, disabled.  That sounds like the opposite of what and how I want to live my life.

How could that get addicting??

If it’s to let off some steam or relax, I feel like there are a million other things that I would rather do.

Does this mean I’ll never have a drink again?  Certainly not.  Does this mean I’ll never have enough to “get me drunk” again?  I don’t know.  Not any time soon.  It just wasn’t a positive experience for me.

One positive reflection, though:  It was really nice to feel completely free to make that choice on my own without having any sort of guilt.  And I am equally as free to not choose to do that again.  Freedom really is quite wonderful.

Christianity, not atheism, has broken my family.

comments 15
the godless side / Uncategorized

I don’t want to spend any more energy on this than I already have, but I need a place to express frustration with my sister.

For the first time ever in our lives, she didn’t call me to wish me a Merry Christmas.  Or answered my call when I tried to call her.

Both Silver and I received “Christmas” cards from her and her family (husband and kids) in the mail.  But she was very careful to say “Happy Holidays” and not mention Christmas once, to either of us.  She hates the phrase “Happy Holidays” because she sees it as a secular infringement upon a religious holiday — something she knew that I know, so her writing it to us reveals a subtle attempt at a passive aggressive alienation of me from the family.

She signed her card to me, “I love you and always will.”  Always will?? Oh the condescension! Of course, from her perspective, she’s being as good of a person as she can, even going above and beyond to say that she loves me “no matter what.”  What self-righteous bullshit.  What “always will” implies is a “despite” claus.  I love you DESPITE your disgusting journey to hell.  Which actually, to me, is no form of love at all.

And let’s talk about love for a second.  What exactly does she mean by that?? Since my coming out to her a year and a half ago, she has never once ONCE asked me why.  She has never begun to try to understand me.  Never a single question about my journey away from faith or what I believe now.  In fact, she hardly calls me at all.  Once every two months maybe, MAYBE and the conversation always centers around her.  Always.  Our lack of reaching out to eachother is mutual.  I call her just as often.  But at least when I do, I actually talk to her.  I ask her with interest in what’s going on in her life.   Does she have any clue who I am or what I am doing or what my life is like now? No. Then how can she possibly, possibly love that which she does not know or care to know???

We finally talked on New Years Day, after two a failed attempts at trying to reach her.  “Merry Christmas Kali, and Happy New Year!” I said to her.  “Happy New Year,” she said to me, blatanly leaving out a holiday.  Despite my questions about her family and their celebrating of Christmas, how it went, my interest in their entire holiday break together, about tradition and presents and anything else, she never once, ONCE in the entire conversation asked me about our Christmas.  She never said that word to me.

I hate her selfishness.  I hate that her righteousness and sorrow for my soul blinds her from seeing her selfishness.  And from seeing this terrible irony that has separated us as sisters:

My a-theism isn’t what keeps me from enjoying a relationship with my family, or from participating in special holidays and traditions.  It’s her DAMN Christianity!!!!  SOMEONES beliefs in our family have created a chasm or broken relationships.  But it isn’t mine!!!!

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I can’t believe what just happened. Or some other click bait. Because THIS.

comments 11
the godless side / the post-God side / Uncategorized

I’m still sweating.  That kind of nervousness that lightly gathers on your forearm, the back of your neck, your upper lip.  That kind that is preceded by a hot wave reddening your cheeks and followed by a large unsettling sickness in your belly causing your heart to race and fingers to shake.

My husband comes from a fundamentalist Mormon (polygamist) sect.  We are spending Christmas with them.  And every night, their family gathers in a circle on the floor and his father, as head of the house, asks one of those present, usually one of their ten children, to say the nightly prayer.

Silver’s sister came into the game room and said, “Hey, come in for night prayer if you guys want.”  I glanced at Silver.  Should we?  We agreed to at least kneel with them out of respect.

But what happened next shocked me.  “Teal, will you say the closing prayer tonight?” his father asked me.  ME!! Completely and entirely unprepared for that, I agreed out of habit of being agreeable.  Did he have no idea we were unbelievers???  Was his family really that oblivious and out of touch with us?? My mind began to race.  It had been years since I prayed.  And technically this wouldn’t even be a prayer, as I wouldn’t actually be thinking anyone would listen.  I would just be reciting words they would want to hear.  But I felt SOOOO weird about it.  I glanced at Silver again, “Do what you want,” he whispered.  I felt extremely awkward and unsure and untrue to myself.  But I figured I could withstand that for a few moments if it meant I didn’t have to face even further awkwardness by now refusing to pray.

So I did it.  “Dear Heavenly Father…” I started.  I felt sick.  What the smell was I doing.  What was I reinforcing.  I rambled on with some “thank you’s” for family, living a fortunate life, time together, and some other junk that my mind tried to recall from my zealous religious days, and then… because of the Christmas season and the social pressure I felt to say it, “for sending your son on this earth to die for us that we may celebrate his birth tomorrow.” My ears were ringing so loudly I wanted to puke.  I hated these words.  I hated that they were coming out of my mouth.  I hated the reinforcement of lies and misplaced hope and excuses for self-righteousness, judgement of others, the extreme sexism of the culture I found surrounding myself.

My mind is reeling.  I immediately came to the computer to try to debrief with myself about what just happened.  I feel so deceptive.  I DECEIVED a FUNDAMENTALIST RELIGIOUS group into BELIEVING in GOD even more!!! OMG!!!!!  ON CHRISTMAS!!!

WTF!

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Christmas for an a-theist

comments 3
the godless side / Uncategorized

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Freshness.  Reflection.  Hope.  Celebration.

This is what Christmas is to me now.

Freshness comes with cleansing.  Before the rebirth, things must first die.  But beautifully, wholly, like the snow-covered mountains painted across our horizons in the west.  But instead of focusing on the presently hidden nature of life, I see it as a promise of what’s to come.

Last Christmas was our second one as atheists.  The first?  Stifling, meaningless, tragic.  But I was beginning to emerge in my new self our second Christmas, and we started the simple but incredibly meaningful tradition of gathering around the tree, sipping eggnog (or a different favorite drink), and under the twinkling lights of the tree and our newly lit candles, we reflected upon the favorite and not-so-favorite memories of the past year as we took turns writing them down in a special journal.  Reflection is powerful.  It reveals our strength, our endurance, our veracity.  It reveals how meaningful life can be.  And it brings up that which can be improved in a healthy, nostalgic way.

Reflection automatically ushers in newness, and thus hope.  There is hope in death.  Hope in winter.  A New Year would be impossible without first experiencing Christmas.   There is hope in a clean start.  New beginnings. And I think it not coincidental that “Christmas” falls right on the time of winter solstice.  The days only get brighter, literally and figuratively, from here.  Sun will come.  It WILL come.  So much expectance, wonder, and joy to excite as 2016 nears.  Every year brings promises.  And promises beget hope.

And we celebrate.  We celebrate with family.  With generosity.  With meaningful, intentional, authentic sharing of life with the people that mean the most to us.  We celebrate with warm drinks.  Spicy smells.  Engaging our senses inside warm homes and bundling up to brave the crisp outdoors.  We celebrate with sparkling laughter.  With delicious food.  And with long toasts into the night.  We honor life with our experiencing it as fully as we can.  Because life itself is the only thing worth celebrating.

 

Damned by a Tattoo

comments 2
the godless side / Uncategorized

I have worn eyeliner most days of my life for the past 15 years, and I started years before that (when I was somewhere between 3 and 7!) because of dance competitions and recitals.

Although I no longer feel dependent upon eye makeup due to development in my security in myself, I still prefer the way I look with it on.  Three problems with eyeliner:

Time.  Toddlers. Smudging.

As a mom of two babes and business owner, time is extremely precious.  I hate wasting it on making my eyeliner perfect.

My toddler imitates everything, EVERYTHING about me.  My shoes, my hair, my morning routine, my words, the way that I sit, what I eat and drink and do… It’s honestly adorable and incredibly heartwarming.  But every morning that she follows me into the bathroom and watches me paint my face, she cries in desperation to paint hers, too.  Sometimes I allow it and end up with a Picasso face for a daughter.  And sometimes she secretly grabs it anyway and I end up with abstract art all over our furniture.

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Also, either my eyes produce extra oil or my eyelids just like to hug themselves a lot.  No matter what type of eyeliner I wear, at the end of the day it’s off the rims of my eyes and has seeped into the various creases of that thin skin above and below them.

So.  I decided to get “permanent cosmetics” in the form of eyeliner– an eye tattoo.  My appointment was set for yesterday, so I went.  I did it.  And I’m very happy with the results.

Like other beauty manipulations, this isn’t necessarily something I want to brag to the world about but would rather just go about my business looking hot 😉

But as I sat in the coffee shop next to the tattoo parlor, feeling the burn of excitement on my eye’s skin and waiting for my hubby to pick me up, I decided to text my parents.

I seriously don’t know what’s wrong with me.  It’s like I’m so desperate for intimacy — rather, ANY sort of deeper relationship with my parents — that I convince myself I live in this delusional world where I can actually tell my parents things going on in my life and receive something other than criticism or remorse.

So I did.  “I got my first tattoo 😉 ” I said to them both.  They would be two of the very few people that would know this little beauty secret of mine.

My dad responded first with a sad face emoticon.  “:(” My heart jumped into my throat for a moment because I truly had no idea he was against tattoos.  I tried to lighten the mood by texting back that it was just eyeliner that I would wear normally and would save me a lot of time and hassle.  No response.

My mother?  “Oh, no, Kimberly.  Why?  That breaks my heart again.”

Shocked again at the fact that I have been their child for 28 years and never knew of their disgust for tattoos, I sent her the same text I sent to my dad explaining it.

But the “that breaks my heart again.”  AGAIN??  As if this is on par with not believing in god anymore.  As if I’m always responsible for my parent’s feelings, especially their tragic heartache and despair.  I felt sick with flashbacks to my coming out as unbelieving a year and a half ago.

Her next text was her last to me, “I’m too shaken up to reply.”

Again.  Again there were no questions about me, how I felt, what it looked like.  Dialogue was completely cut off.  The relationship completely on halt.  Because my actions ruined it.

Except it wasn’t my actions.  It’s their fault.  Their pain is a result of misplaced identity and security.  And their expression of it to me in that way is doubly dysfunctional.

Although I know that, I wish I could say I felt that way.  I wish I could say I have a good enough head on my shoulders that I just shook off their negativity, their projection, their guilt-casting.  But I still carry the weight of feeling like all I do is I cause them deep pain, not only despite my efforts to be close to them and allow them into my life, but because of it.

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I respectfully don’t believe, thank you.

comments 3
leaving Christianity / the godless side

I made a comment to my dad the other day about something I heard on NPR.

“No wonder you’re so liberal,” my dad said.  “You listen to NPR.”

Reflecting on his comment a few days later, I realized why it bothered me so much.  Instead of giving me the respect of an adult with critical thinking skills who can come to her own conclusions, he assumed I’ve been blinded and brainwashed, jumping on various bandwagons of opinions.  Weak minded.

Of course we are all products of our experiences and our beliefs form as a result of them.  But I wish he would give me more credit.  I DON’T BELIEVE IN GOD not because I am hurt by the church, disillusioned with religion, listen to atheist podcasts, or brainwashed by the devil.  I don’t believe in God because it just makes so much more sense to me that he wouldn’t exist.

I felt similarly when I talked to a Christian friend of mine recently.  She wanted to know the details of my unbelief, so I explained how it came from experiences we had overseas.  The suffering of masses, extreme poverty, pain of children (specifically, their being raped and sold for sex), and anthropological history of religion creating an extremely low probability of the truth being in Christianity (and even if we just so happened to be the very very very few lucky ones, what does that say about all the others who never heard?)… This last one can be represented in the following picture:

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However, these things would be better described as catalysts for my disbelief rather than its source.

“God can handle your fear, Teal.  He can handle your hurts, your pains, your questions.”  My friend responded to my explanation of “what happened to make you not believe” similarly to how my dad responded to my listening to NPR.  It felt so condescending, a lack of acknowledgement of myself as a valid free-thinker coming to her own valid conclusions.

Yes, those things did bring me to the point to be able to say, “Either God loves white middle-class Americans more than anybody else, or he doesn’t exist.”  But that question was just the beginning.  Over the next days, weeks, and months, a cascade of a shift in my perspective — let’s call it an Awakening, and Enlightenment– occurred.  Now my disbelief comes from a logical assessment rather than just from a sense of injustice.  I’m not afraid, I’m not hurt, I’m not in pain (though I certainly was at the beginning of this journey).  In fact, I feel much freer, more whole, and infinitely more present now than during my missionary days.

A religious neighbor of mine asked me, “What would it take for you to believe in God again?”  That question alone indicates a chasm of a lack of understanding about my perspective.  It’s like asking a passerby, “What would it take for you to believe in a giant teacup orbiting Jupiter?” First of all, which god?  And what IS god, for that matter??  His question was actually, “What would it take for you to believe that the Judeo-Christian God as manipulated and prophesied by Joseph Smith to create Mormonism exists how the LDS church practices in 2015?”  So much.  SO MUCH.

Not only would the existence of the spiritual realm need to make logical sense to me, but the existence of a divine being, that being as a personal one, that personal being as loving, Creator, and father figure, that being as revealing himself to specific peoples in specific ways, that being having a son named Jesus who died as a sacrifice for the wrongdoings of humanity, etc. etc. etc. (list other specific attributes of thus god).  So each and every one of those things would need to make sense to me in order for me to “believe in god” again.  And what would that take? So much. SO MUCH.

What would it take for you to believe in a giant invisible teacup that orbits Jupiter that was put there 6.5 million years ago by aliens who once walked upon earth and harvested the dinosaurs for their bones with which they made the teacup as a representation of their power over earth?  SO MUCH.

I still like praying before a meal

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the godless side

Eating a quiet, incredibly delicious meal all by myself at a local restaurant and pondering about the beautiful community of people required to produce it. I would like to say thank you. Thank you to the server who brought it to me. To the chef who displayed the food so artistically, using bits of finely chopped up carrot and parsley to confetti the outside of my plate. To the cooks who grilled the chicken, chopped the vegetables, boiled the noodles, created the sauce. To the dairy farmer who milked the cow to produce the cream for the sauce. To the chicken farmer who tended the chickens as they grew, keeping them healthy and strong before being eaten. To the field workers all over the globe to pick the spices used for seasonings. To the farmers who planted and harvested these fresh vegetables. To the owner of the restaurant who first had the vision to make this all possible. And so, so many more. The fruits of your labors are making me very happy. Amen.

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