Facing the Past

I feel like I should apologize for disappearing. I was on a thinking sabbatical. Not a sabbatical from thinking but a sabbatical TO think.

My last post was about my nostalgia for my old faith. That ended up dragging me down into my core with deep thoughts about my old faith, thoughts of spirituality and the whole rest of it. I get overwhelmed and feel like I need an answer NOW. Usually at that point, where my anxiety levels are too high for me to cope with, I remind myself that I have my whole life to figure this out.

That very morning I got an IM message from a woman I adore who is also now an apostate. She informed me a woman from our old church had died young, leaving behind a devastated husband and 2 small children aged 3 months and 2 years. I was stunned. They have no cause of death aside from the standard heart attack, which is technically what everyone dies of. She laid down for a nap and never woke up again. When my friend told me I dissolved into bits at the harsh reality of life and how quickly death can come. It was especially heart breaking because the woman who had died was so incredibly kind and gentle hearted. For all the negative christian examples out there, this woman was an incredibly positive example. She was simply a beautiful pure soul.

After finding out I immediately called another mutual friend who still attends the same church. She was in bits as well. She said through her tears that God must have a plan, that it just must have been her time and that we just had to trust God.

After I pulled myself together a few hours later I was laying down replaying the conversation in my head. I felt such disquiet. It was Gods plan and we just had to Trust him? Then I realized what was wrong with this comment and so many others I had been hearing right up until my loss of faith. So very many things said to explain God and His actions sound exactly like the victim of abuse defending their abuser. In society anyone who decreed and carried out the death of someone who was a young mother and wife would be a sadist and trusting him with that decision and carrying it out would make us certifiably insane. So why is this an acceptable justification for God? How about the many other ones that are uttered in justification or even thanks for God? About how we’re nothing without God, unable to function? About how even though He gives such incredibly hard trials (or absolutely mind numbingly bad circumstances) he must have a reason and we should trust, he is doing it for our good. Without him I am nothing, I have no worth and I can do nothing.

It all sounds like a day time drama about abuse victims who suddenly idolize their abuser.

After several days of shocked mourning I was informed last-minute of her funeral arrangements. I intensely dislike the idea of funerals. I have only been to one and avoided all others like the plague. Furthermore I did not want to go to this one because it was being held by my other church. However, even though I had lost touch with the woman who had passed away, she was such a testament to living life well and full of love and gentleness that I felt the urge to go simply to honor her. And to support my friend who originally told me because she was devastated at the news.

I hesitated for days to blog about this because it feels almost voyeuristic or inappropriate. I finally decided to because the funeral did have a big impact on me.

The thing that had a positive impact on me was hearing her sister eulogize her. That was incredible. She shared so much of her life so eloquently that I was mesmerised listening to her. I felt, not like so many do – that I wished I’d known her better, but so deeply happy that she had led such a full and happy life herself, surrounded by so many who loved her and being such an incredible influence to those around her. That woman was deeply and sincerely loved by so many and that was incredible to realize and watch them say goodbye.

The thing that had the most negative impact on me was listening to the pastor speak. It was more or less impersonal despite him having known her for 10 years. He read bible verses and spent so so much of his time speaking of her faith in such forceful terms it was as if it was the only thing that truly counted about her. I found that distasteful and yet if you ask believers they will say it WAS the single most important thing about her, because choosing to follow God is the single most important thing you can do with your life. I also found it extremely distasteful that he used the opportunity to evangelize unbelievers with the promise that if they too believed, they would see her again in heaven. Wow. Nothing like making the most of a vulnerable state of mind.

I also got the message loud and clear that if you were not a believer then you did not matter. You were nothing. Worthless. You would not know any of the peace and comfort the believers had while dealing with losing their loved one who was also a believer.

*sigh*

I do not begrudge them their solace. I never will. I just disagree with it completely. However, I find it draining to analyze their faith and their grieving process so I will move on.

For me personally, facing death that way when I usually go to significant lengths to avoid it, was liberating. I am not afraid of my own death… I am, however, not ok losing anyone around me. While occasionally I can logically reason that it is part of life and that I would want to turn my grief into a celebration of their life, other times I find the concept so frightening it paralyzes me. Do. Not. Like. Watching people mourn and let go and also letting myself mourn and saying good bye had a very liberating effect on me though and I am glad I went to honor her.

The most interesting thing for me, finally, was the realization that I have fully let my faith go. I do not hold onto even a shred of it. Nothing the pastor talked about or other believers talked about rang true to me or hit home. It was familiar but foreign. I have no issue, whatsoever, with the concept of simply ceasing to exist. I find the fact that my body will be consumed by the earth and re purposed for whatever nature deems necessary to be a deeply comforting reality. I have no qualms with mortality and not living forever in heaven. That my body will be reused to create more life is honor enough for me. The only way I now seek to live on is in memories of everyone I love and that when I leave, the ones I leave behind know how deeply and fiercely I loved them and they carry that with them til their own end. I want to be mourned and celebrated at my death for being exactly who I am and all I care to leave behind is a legacy of intense love.

Omg how cheezey eh? It’s true though šŸ™‚

I drove home after that feeling intensely free. I saw what I could have been a part of and it held no sway for me anymore. I went home and laid in my hammock and watched the sunset feeling a weight had been lifted off my shoulders and was happier than I had been in a long time.

RIP D. Your memory will be well honored. ā¤

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Losing My Religion

How cliche is that title? I had to, there was no helping it.

I might break this into several posts because there is a lot to it. I will try and be succinct though, and not waffle on.

There were several… parts if you will, to my loss of faith in the Judeo Christian God and Faith. It began over 2 years ago. I had managed to hold onto my faith in God through an abusive marriage, through being abandoned, through separation and finally divorce. Through eating disorders and trauma and bla bla bla. I would have to say, however, that those things were the catalyst to what became my journey away from Christianity and God.

Previous to my marriage falling apart and all the aforementioned crap happening, I was a born again Christian attending an evangelical pentecostal church. I went every single sunday, helped with admin and helped start their very successful youth group. I was considered a woman of God/a woman after Gods own heart/a woman with a heart for Gods causes – the poor, orphaned, widowed, destitute, etc. Basically I am an activist to my core and always have been. I was quiet about my faith but served diligently from the time I got saved til my marriage fell apart which happened at the same time I questioned the direction of the church and it’s new found connections to a movement I disliked immensely – Willow Creek.

After the majority of the dust had settled from my separation, I came up for air and decided I needed community and support. A church. I had stopped going because my ex had deemed our last church to not be teaching the Word of God correctly or deep enough and he disliked their new connections to WC. I found a sweet little church with people my age and started attending. I literally have nothing bad to say about that church or the people who attend it except possibly the pastor who told me the following. I had been dating a Christian and the pastor knew we were quite smitten with each other (Uh, try an unhealthy rebound >.< yuck). He decided it necessary to inform me what his thoughts on divorce and remarriage were. He explained that while I was ok before God to get divorced due to the abuse I sustained, it was not ok for me to remarry. Ever. I had mad a commitment before God and while it sucked that it didn’t work out, I had to honor it until his or my death. Peachy.

Hearing that devastated me. I had married way too young at 19 and while I had meant my vows I had no idea WHO I was marrying as I would later find out. I could not believe God wanted me to be alone and never experience a full and loving marriage. That my only experience of marriage would be one of continuous abuses. That my daughter would never have a two parent home again and that I would be destined to struggle alone and achingly lonely to be everything for both of us. None of it made sense and my instincts kicked against it violently.

I began researching. I found loads and loads of Christians who disagreed with that pastor and allowed, encouraged and condoned remarriage, especially in my case where infidelity and abuse were present. Luckily that rebound relationship didn’t work out (he was a fundie – YIKES!) and suddenly the pieces fell into place for me to make some big big changes for me and my daughter. We moved and settled deep in the countryside, started attending a new church where I felt relatively welcome and unjudged.

But this new church had different doctrines. And friends in real life and Online had different doctrines too. Everyone seemed to have them. I was definitely not new to the concept of doctrinal differences, but it was the first time I had been so personally affected by one or the other being right. I wanted one way to be RIGHT but if the other was RIGHT was I condemning myself and my new partner to hell? Then I came across an incredibly well outlined doctrine which made a case against the existence of a literally hell. It outlined how Noners would simply be annihilated and believers would spend eternity with God. I was taken aback. Which was right?

I became deeply concerned with finding out the Truth. Which of the many sects of Christianity had the right story? What if none did? What of these Gnostics? How did I know they didn’t have a corner on the truth? How could I reconcile the way I was being treated as a divorced woman with the Jesus I followed and how second class I was constantly made to feel? How could I be part of a church that reveled in such abject wealth and riches while so so so much of the world wallowed in poverty? What about the disgusting ways the LGBT community were treated? What of the inconsistencies in the Bible? How could God leave behind such confusion? Why would he leave things so ambiguous. If God is the same yesterday, today and forever… then… that means at one time commanded a raped woman be stoned to death and babies and women be slaughtered… wtf? And this was the doozy – why was he SO fucking silent and inactive to the mind blowing amounts of injustice happening all over the world?

That is just a very small taste of the questions that swirled and swirled and swirled around my head constantly. I began hungrily reading. My goal was simple. Find out which sect was right. Find the right theology/doctrines/beliefs and I would have my answers. Find out if the Bible had to be taken literally or metaphorically. Find out if it was some kind of cryptic guide to a deeper understanding and spirituality that not everyone was privy to. Find out the TRUTH.

Three main areas of discovery followed. One was scientific. One was instinctual. One was based on the validity of the Bible itself.

At this stage I will leave those three sections for future posts (they’ll be up shortly), because then I can address them deeper.

At the end of this discovery time, which lasted over a year, I was left without my faith, much much more peace and contentment and a freedom from so very many unhealthy things in my life that religion had imposed on me. I felt so incredibly free. The end result was also scary because having been involved in the church for 10 years, I knew what happened when people walked away. Rejection. Gossip. Supposition. Judgment. Condemnation. Guilt. All of these things were things I had to deal with. I lost a lot of “friends” (they weren’t worth the time and effort I had invested to begin with) and many of my closest friends still do not know the completeness of my loss of faith. I am gentle on them because I know how they will react and how they will worry and I spare them that. They know I have lost my faith but I spare them my rage at the faith and it’s leaders. I spare them the rage at feeling 10 years of my life were wasted in deception.

Among some of the harder things I had to face were the douchebag bastards who were very detailed in explaining how much I was hurting my daughter and letting her down. The pastor of my last church very gently and supportively and lovingly told me how I was hurting my daughter and depriving her and how badly I was regressing. My response? stfu and gtfo of my life. You’re done. Emotional manipulation and coercion are NOT ok with me. I’d come too far to put up with that load of horseshit.

In the end out of many, many friends I kept 4 from my real, every day life. My Christian friends I had made online were much more loving and accepting of me and it was never a problem. One of the real lifers has abandoned her faith as well. The subject is skirted around and that is ok with me. They very considerately asked if it was ok to be honest about their faith around my daughter. I said of course! It’s who they are and I love them, be themselves. While they never try and push her towards Christianity or indoctrinate her, they do occasionally give her overtly Christian things which grates on me. We deal with that as it comes up, which is usually painfully honestly on my part.

For my part I have both remained myself and changed significantly. I find my status as an agnostic free thinker allows me delve into subjects I never thought possible and consider an incredible amount of new things from a detached outside perspective, giving them each careful thought and rarely passing judgment unless it directly effects my life and how I want to live/raise my daughter, etc.

The biggest changes in my life are as follows:

  • I am an unabashed feminist and am no longer afraid to call myself one. You’ll be exposed to my rage against Christianity’s treatment of women shortly as well as general patriarchal bullshit too.
  • I no longer have a cognitive dissonance about the LGBT community and consider myself an activist for their rights. Love the sinner, hate the sin? I call BS. Had it pulled on me and it is a sickening feeling. So wrong and am so deeply sorry for not addressing my attitude to their community sooner.
  • I am personally pro-life but politically pro-choice.
  • I will never, ever again get married. For many reasons including that there is no equality in marriage right now. Only straight hetero-normative people can marry and until there is absolute equality then the whole institute is a means for discrimination. There are other reasons like rejecting the idea that being married lends some kind of validity to a relationship and disliking the government involvement as well.
  • I am no longer wallowing in cognitive dissonanceĀ  and no longer ignoring what I completely and utterly disagree with in terms of biblical issues and the culture that is coupled with Christianity.
  • My views on what it means to be a steward of the earth have changed drastically but they are not necessarily in conflict with the faith itself.
  • I am unapologetic in my swearing and firmly believe they are just words – occasionally appropriate, often not! ^_^
  • Sin = human nature and it is neither intrinsically negative or positive.
  • I no longer apologize for who I am anymore or feel like I am constantly failing or disappointing God. (Fuuuuck that noise!)
  • I accept the theory of evolution. Before I thought God started the whole shemazzle – now I am decidedly agnostic on who, if anyone, started the process and just enjoy that it produced what it has.
  • I now honor myself more, my daughter much much more and anyone who’s path I cross more – their journeys are their own and it is no longer for me to enlighten them or save them. I am not perfect and I still argue and debate with people, but I am now a facilitator and an observer more than anything else.

On the whole? I am still me. I am still trundling along working and trying to raise my daughter while moving towards a self sustained life. I am and always have been an Activist… I just don’t have to try and convince the believers that THAT is what Jesus said was important (they never listened anyway). I still donate more than I can afford to the charities I have researched and have found to be doing good, effective work. They have changed since I was a Christian. I still celebrate holidays but have reverted to the Pagan festivals, not because I have become a witch/pagan but because I have found them to be the most relevant for myself as someone who is so ecologically aware – living in tune with the seasons and nature is a truly enjoyable thing. I leave out the magic ^_^ lol because this world IS magic all on its onesies.

So. Highly unexciting. Well for anyone other than me. It was extremely painful and hard in parts. I will write about the most brutal realization for me personally in another post (click the link – it’s up now). Very, VERY liberating experience as well. I deeply value my ability to think critically and question now and to not have to believe what some random authority figure has deemed “truth”. I found it next to impossible to do these things while trying to hold onto my faith.

I do feel like I broke free of an oppressive religion. Part of me wants to apologize to any Christians who may read this for saying that but it is true. You may say “I am sorry your experience was bad, or that you encountered bad teaching, spiritual abuse, etc – my experience is MUCH different.” but rest assured, I used to say that exact thing myself. I feel like I have escaped, not unscathed and am better for it, and am now much more aware. I am now Agnostic. That means, when it comes to the question of whether or not God exists, my answer is I do not know. However, I do not, under any circumstance believe the God in the Judeo Christian Bible to exist as outlined in the Bible, nor do I believe He is the only way to any kind of salvation or that we even need salvation in terms of salvation from innate sin.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.